• Published 21st Nov 2016
  • 419 Views, 57 Comments

Because I Could not Stop for Death - ShinigamiDad



Zecora tries to get home with Reaper and Luna's help, while Twilight seeks answers from a dark past.

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Afterimages

Grey Thorn slowly raised his head: “Interesting. Somewhat mis-transcribed, but largely accurate. Where did you get this?”

Twilight stepped up beside the shimmering circles and glyphs hanging in the air between Grey Thorn and her: “Not important right now. This was your final sacrifice circle, your last attempt at control, yes?”

“More or less. I assume you cobbled this together from my notes since it is rather different from the version you saw during your last visit.”

“No. The vast majority of your books and scrolls were destroyed by Celestia when she reached peak power in an attempt to burn through your barrier wall.”

Grey Thorn nodded sadly: “I wondered what she was doing to generate that much intense light and energy. What a loss.”

Twilight chewed her lip: “I tend to agree, but aside from a few volumes I secreted away, everything you worked on is gone.”

Grey Thorn raised an eyebrow: “Even the work table? I can’t believe even Celestia has that much power!”

Twilight tipped her head slightly: “No. It’s a little worse-for-wear, but came through largely intact.”

“No surprise. It is a relic of unimaginable age. I found it on a barren, airless, charred cinder of a world, circling a burned-out sun. Clearly the star had expanded through the system, eons in the past, consuming its worlds. I took that table, knowing it would stand up to anything I could throw at it.”

“‘Throw at it?’ Like what?”

Grey Thorn smiled: “Is that the subject of our discussion this time, Princess?”

Twilight narrowed her eyes: “Sure--why not? What’s so special about that table?”

Grey Thorn raised an eyebrow: “Where did you see that sacrifice circle if not in my notes?”

Twilight grinned: “And is that your question this time?”

Grey Thorn slowly ran his tongue over his lips: “No. I suspect I’ll be able to piece that together myself, given a bit more time. Are you ready to show me how the Harbinger stripped you of his power yet?”

Twilight winced: “N-no, not yet. I--”

“Fine--another time. You recall our battle, yes?”

Twilight nodded.

“I rendered you unconscious, and sent you into a deep dream state. Tell me about that dream.”

Twilight recalled Luna’s words, and frowned: “It was your trap--surely you know what the dream was.”

Grey Thorn furrowed his brow: “I would have thought your time with Luna would have taught you a few things about dreams, child. I only tilled and fertilized the soil, as it were--you brought the seeds and saw them bloom. I have no idea what you dreamed, only that it was designed to be fully-immersive and intense.”

Twilight’s eyes darted to Noble then back to Grey Thorn; a bead of sweat ran down from her temple: “It’s--it’s personal…”

Grey Thorn half-lidded his eyes and regarded Twilight coolly: “This is all deeply personal, for both of us, Princess. Tell me of your dream, or of the Harbinger, or we will have reached an impasse, and I will lounge here pondering where you found my master circle for a very long, very silent time.”

Twilight swallowed heavily and closed her eyes: “Fine. I’ll show you…”

Twilight’s horn glowed and the trap dream flickered alive in the air above her head. Grey Thorn watched with interest, tipping his head side to side as the scenes emerged and resolved.

He tapped his chin: “Stop. Who is this mare? Is she real or a fantasy?”

Twilight glanced up at Moondancer sitting across the breakfast table: “She’s very real. Her name is Moondancer.”

“And I assume you have some sort of intimate relationship with her?”

“No. She was a friend of mine from years ago when I lived in Canterlot. I wronged and hurt her, and only recently made things right between us.”

“I see. Continue.”

Twilight bit her lip and the image sprang to life and tracked across the breakfast nook to the balcony to the kiss, Moondancer’s face filling the frame as the doorway into the bedroom slid by and Moondancer flopped across the bed, legs spread, opening wet and parted as Twilight’s point-of-view pushed in.

Grey Thorn glanced back and forth between Twilight, who sat with downcast eyes, breathing rapidly, and Noble who was staring wide-eyed at the scene hovering in the air. The unicorn shifted his hips, spread his legs slightly and licked his lips nervously. A thin smile spread across Grey Thorn’s face.

Moondancer’s cries echoed in the alcove as Twilight’s view shifted from the beige mare’s sweat-and-saliva soaked loins over her ruddy teats, ending with her flushed face and panting mouth in full view.

Twilight began trembling, and squeezed her eyes shut as the perspective panned, catching a glimpse of the window, and the bedside table with its red candle.

“Strawberries?”

Twilight began to pant and bite her lip as the scene continued, focused on the top of Moondancer’s head as she slid her mouth down dream Twilight’s belly, her mussy purple-and-rust-colored mane half-wrapped around her horn.

“Dew--Dew Drop?”

Tears leaked from beneath Twilight’s eyelids as she trembled and struggled to control her breathing through flared nostrils. Noble stared transfixed at the vision of Moondancer burying her face between Twilight’s loins.

The scene rocked back then forward as vision Twilight’s legs spread and rose, and a purple hoof came into view, resting atop Moondancer’s head.

“It’s everything I’ve ever--”

Twilight lurched unsteadily to her hooves and flared her wings: “Stop!”

Noble started, pressed his hind legs together self-consciously, moaned and shuddered.

Grey Thorn’s face went blank: “Is there a problem, Princess?”

“It--it’s e-enough! You’ve seen enough!”

A sly smile broke over Grey Thorn’s face: “How does it end?”

“You know damn good and well how it must end!”

“Oh, the orgasm I assumed--” He glanced back at Noble: “The Lieutenant’s as well. I told you to keep a cloth on you!”

Noble twisted away awkwardly and blushed: “I-I’m sorry, Twilight! I-I don’t understand…”

Twilight steadied her trembling legs: “I do! This place amplifies every image, every sound, every scent, every emotion. It’s like a lucid dream boiled down into a syrup!”

Grey Thorn nodded: “And so I repeat--I assumed your climax, but there was more to it; you were beginning to weep. How does the line end?”

Twilight swallowed and closed her eyes: “It’s everything I ever wanted--but it’s not enough.”

Grey Thorn steepled his hooves: “How telling. You had within your grasp your deepest desires, and yet it was still not enough. That speaks well of you, Princess.”

Twilight chewed her lip and looked down at her hooves.

“So what did you mean by that?”

“I--I don’t really know.”

“We’ll come back to that in a moment. I assume Luna interfered somehow. How?”

“Back when I first met Reaper he shared the only real clue left behind by Dew Drop: a strong scent of strawberries. So Luna injecting the idea of strawberries into the dream was enough to sow a seed of doubt.”

“I see. Clearly I underestimated her ability to transcend both her own trap and yours.”

Twilight looked up with a smirk, but Grey Thorn cut her off with a raised hoof: “Yes, I know--a fatal tendency of mine. We’ve already established that. Back to the bigger question: what did you mean by ‘it’s not enough?’”

“I don’t really know. Maybe I’m starting to accept that I have a bigger role in the world--that settling down and becoming, well, domestic, just isn’t in the cards.”

“What then?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it's highly likely you are now, if not immortal, nearly enough so as to make no difference. What's to be your place as the Princess of Friendship in a world of friends you must watch die over and over for centuries.”

Twilight chewed her lip: “I-I’ll figure it out. Celestia and Luna will--”

Grey Thorn raised an eyebrow: “Do what? Celestia rides above it all, largely divorced from the day-to-day lives and deaths of mortal ponies, and Luna lurks in the shadows, indulging in endless memories and the narcotic charms of sleep.”

Grey Thorn shook his head: “No, child, they will offer you a bit of pat solace as you stand over your friends’ ever-fresh graves, but they will shrug and move on as they always have. You will be burdened with constantly making and nurturing and burying friends--it is your fate, your duty.”

Twilight began to breathe heavily: “But I’ll remember them, and--”

“And how does that help? They’ll haunt you, and even your time as Harbinger brought you no closer to the answer of their ultimate fate. You don’t seem the type who enjoys unanswered riddles, so it will gnaw at you in a way it never has for the Sisters.”

Twilight gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes tight: “It doesn’t matter. That’s not your problem--and it’s not my problem right now, either!”

Grey Thorn smiled lightly: “No, your problem is to save yet another friend for the brief time she has left in this world.”

Twilight opened her eyes and glared: “Yes. So tell me about that fucking table!”

Grey Thorn’s eyes glittered: “You are aware, of course, that much of my magic was dark.”

“Obviously.”

“How deeply have you studied the deep magics, the oldest of the dark powers?”

“Studied? Almost none--the majority of that is locked away and largely forbidden to all but a select few. My experience with dark magic is largely self-taught.”

“As it was with me in the beginning, as well. Then you’re unaware that the most potent of eldritch spells cannot be committed to parchment, or even gold foil.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow: “No--I didn’t know that…”

“The spells themselves attempt to manifest in the very act of transcription, and burn through almost all known materials. It’s why so many of the great, dark spells of antiquity were lost: they had to be broken up across volumes, separated, transmitted orally. Over time, bits and pieces were fragmented, forgotten and lost.”

He locked eyes with Twilight pointedly: “And had to be rediscovered, all across this world, across many eras.”

Twilight furrowed her brow and tipped her head to one side. A look of surprise broke slowly across her face: “The mirrors!”

“Yes. And once I began my own research independent of Starswirl, I realized I, too, would have to find some way of shielding my mind, blotting-out my dreams, and committing my spells to some sort of medium.”

He turned his head and tipped his horn up; an image resolved in the air above Twilight.

The vision showed the smooth, speckled grey-green surface Twilight had seen before, both in earlier visions, and down in Grey Thorn’s burned-out lair. Suddenly the scene flashed a brilliant gold which deepened to a blood-red, then to an oily, iridescent black.

Twilight squinted at the now-featureless black image hanging in the air: “What’s happening? I can’t make out anything!”

“Patience.”

After a few moments a series of blurred glyphs and symbols lanced out of the gloom like lightning, etching themselves into the table for a moment before fading.

Twilight’s eyebrows shot up: “You inscribed them into the table itself? I’ve spent some time working on that table--I never saw any inscriptions!”

“You wouldn’t--they’re trapped inside it, bound between realities. They had to be summoned forth, and even then they would only flicker at the edge of my perception. It was exhausting work, trapping and recalling scores of complex equations and spells.”

“I can imagine. How would you recall them?”

“A death summons. It was the only dark magic powerful enough to recall the images from the stone legibly.”

Twilight shook her head in horror: “No! That means a constant stream of sacrifices!”

Grey Thorn smiled grimly: “Why do you think the bone pit was full?”

Noble stepped unsteadily beside Twilight and scowled: “That’s monstrous! How many ponies died for this perversion?”

“Very few, actually. The majority of my early research and travel and use of the table involved beasts of this or other worlds.”

“That’s not much better! We need to get out of here for a while, Twilight.”

Twilight chewed the inside of her mouth absentmindedly while staring at the frozen image above her head.

“Twilight!”

She blinked and drew a sharp breath in: “Sorry--was thinking. Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

She turned back toward Grey Thorn: “We’ll be back, and I need to know more about that entity!”

The corners of Grey Thorn’s mouth curled upward: “And I need to know how the Harbinger took back his power.”

Twilight glared: “Yeah, tit for tat--I know. Let’s go, Noble…”

They disappeared in a violet flash, leaving Grey Thorn staring intently at the vision of the glyphs and table, replaying it over and over, narrowing his eyes and gritting his teeth in frustration.


Noble and Twilight walked out of the archway leading back to Tartarus’ outer courtyard several minutes later. Noble stopped and faced Twilight: “So that’s a dead-end, then. Our only hope is that Luna can keep getting bits of info back from inside the Void.”

Twilight furrowed her brow: “I’m not so sure…”

“Sure about what? You can’t retrieve anything from that table, and it would take forever to extract all the info he has piecemeal--if he even remembers it anymore!”

“Maybe. There may be a way.”

Noble put up a hoof: “What--no! You can’t mean using a death summons! That’s unspeakable!”

Twilight looked away and bit her lip: “I may be able to work around that.”

“Work around a death summons?! I swear to Celestia I’ll--well--go to Celestia if I have to to stop this madness!”

Twilight glared: “You don’t know what you’re talking about! I can make this work!”

Noble bridled: “Look, I know you’re a princess and a prodigy and all that horseshit, but I’m a unicorn, too! I’m older than you, I’ve completed multiple courses of magical studies--”

“But you don’t have any experience with dark magic!”

Noble frowned: “Well, sort of--you know who did? Solar Gleam. And you recall how that turned out, don’t you?”

“He-he wasn’t prepared. He didn’t know enough…”

“You can never know enough, Twilight! Especially when you have an unreliable source like that monster down below!”

“He’s not lying about--”

“I didn’t say he was lying, I said he’s unreliable! What’s he leaving out? Why does he keep asking you these personal questions? What sort of sick kick does he get out of it?”

“I don’t know--I don’t care! Whatever he’s getting isn’t important. He doesn’t have any access to anything, has no power--”

“Really? He has information we desperately need, and you think he doesn’t have any power.”

“Not like that! And he may have just given me the key to unlock eighty percent of this problem.”

Noble tossed his head back and scowled: “Yeah, if you’re willing to perform death rituals! Are you really going to corrupt yourself for that?”

“It won’t come to that. I think I have a way around the problem that won’t involve the shedding of any blood.”

Noble raised an eyebrow: “Other than your own, I suspect.”

Twilight bit her lip and shrugged: “I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it. Let’s get out of here--I need to visit a place to get some answers. All this may be so much hot air, and I have to go back through some, um, notes to confirm my hunch one way or the other.”

Noble turned away as his horn began to glow: “Fine, but I’m going to talk to Luna and let her know about all this!” He disappeared with a bang.

Twilight stared at the afterglow for a moment: “You do what you have to do. So will I…”

She teleported away in a violet flash.


Twilight slowly closed the door to her room in Luna’s guest quarters and turned the lock. She walked to the foot of the bed and inscribed five glyphs on the floor; they shimmered a faint gold briefly, then faded away.

She sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, summoning a cup of wine from a nearby side table. She drained the sweet, pale-yellow wine in one long quaff, then laid back against a stack of pillows as her eyes fell shut.

Her eyes fluttered open and she gazed around Dux’a’s baths for a moment before rising from the pool and wrapping herself in a robe. She quickly made her way from the bath chambers, turned a corner and appeared on the top floor of Tal’ar’s Inn, facing a heavy, carved oak door.

Twilight took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped into the dark room beyond. Reaper stood there, white cloak pulled around him, eyes glittering in the faint firelight, sword lying on the floor between them.

Reaper glanced down at the floor: “Pick it up. It’s why you came, isn’t it?”

Twilight stepped forward, bit her lip, bent down and took the battered scabbard in her hands. She stood up and pulled the blade from its sheath.

Reaper folded his arms over his chest: “Now what? Are you taking up my mantle again?”

Twilight felt a burn on her right hip, and pulled the robe open to find the 死 symbol emblazoned on her tan skin. The sword glowed a pale crimson.

“Yes. Now take it from me again. Take this troublesome thing, and this time I won’t be surprised!”

Reaper smiled: “Take which troublesome thing? You have two.”

“What?”

“Or will you have Moondancer assist with the other ‘problem’-- or maybe Noble Steel? Once I have the sword back, I won’t really be equipped correctly anymore.”

Twilight furrowed her brow: “I don’t understand.”

Reaper pulled a stone jar from his cloak pocket and flicked a blob of its contents into the fire. Lurid flames leapt up and the room was filled with a heavy, spicy smoke.

“There are a lot of things you don’t understand, Princess.”

She glimpsed Noble Steel in a gloomy corner, nodding.

The room darkened, and bands of black smoke snaked out from the fireplace, swirling around Reaper, reaching for the sword, yanking it from Twilight’s grasp.

She lurched forward, then rocked back, resetting her feet on the cold, dusty floor of Grey Thorn’s creation chamber.

“How-how?”

Reaper stepped forward, borne up on an oily, black nimbus: “How did we get here? You mean the place of your first death? The death you still haven’t come to terms with, and now you want to try to play-act out the second one?”

Twilight fell back, open robe fluttering, the smells of smoke and spices and sweat filling the air: “I-I need to see how Death’s power was stripped from me! I need to understand the nature of a death summons, and…”

“And you cast forbidden glyphs to keep that meddling bitch at bay, and obscure yourself from me for good measure. But what about yourself, Twilight? How will you protect yourself from you?”

Twilight put up her hands and tried to cast a protection spell, but nothing happened, and she suddenly toppled backwards onto Dew Drop’s bed. Reaper was on her in an instant, driving his sword through her thigh, pinning her to the mattress.

She let out a shriek of agony and twisted, trying to pull free as the black cloud descended on her, tearing away chunks of flesh, driving itself into her mouth and eyes like a blast of hot oil.

Reaper hovered above as Twilight was torn to pieces, his eyes glittering with golden fire: “Do you understand now, Twilight? Once again you’ve lost control of a situation, and you hate to lose control! Lose yourself to control! Lose yourself!”

Twilight screamed in anguish and horror as her body disintegrated with a wet tearing sound, and her skull burst from the pressure of the nimbus that had invaded her brain, expanding until her very essence could no longer contain it.

“Oh, Reaper! Was it too much?”

She looked down from above the blood-soaked bed at the smear of entrails, brains, bone fragments and shit splattered for yards across a sandy beach, glittering with golden glyphs and runes everywhere blood had fallen.

She faintly recognized the leg stuck to the bed by a sword, and reached out with a black tendril to pull the blade free, but the inky ribbon passed through the hilt without a trace. She heard someone screaming and sobbing in the distance, but felt nothing, and allowed the cool, dark, gauze-like nimbus to pull her in as her consciousness faded.

"Twilight Sparkle, please report to the Principal’s office!”


“Twilight, wake up! Oh, for pity’s sake please wake up!”

Celestia stood beside Twilight’s urine-and-sweat-soaked bed, shaking the convulsing, screaming, blank-eyed alicorn with her magic.

“Twilight! Please snap out of this! You’re in some kind of trance! Luna--where are you? I need your help!”

Luna appeared in the doorway a moment later and skidded to a sudden stop at the foot of the bed. She furrowed her brow, tipped her horn down and swept the floor with a band of dark magic.

“What devilry is this? There are runes of warding on the floor which prevent me from detecting sleep! I have seen their like before!”

Celestia stepped beside her sister and pointed her own horn at the floor, scorching a yard-wide section of the tile with a pass of white-hot energy. Luna nodded and a silvery ribbon snaked its way from her horn to Twilight’s.

The purple alicorn instantly went still and quiet; her eyes slowly closed. She let out a deep sigh, and began to weep.

Luna knelt beside the bed, wrinkling her nose at the smell: “Twilight! What have you done? I do not understand!”

Twilight’s fully-dilated eyes fluttered open and she stared blankly at the ceiling, a trickle of blood running down from her nose: “I do. I understan-stand now what I have to d-do.”