• Published 21st Nov 2016
  • 412 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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Tearing the Veil

Celestia leapt forward in shock as Luna suddenly collapsed to the floor, eyes fluttering, chest heaving: “Sister! Luna! What’s happening?”

Luna twitched and convulsed as the silver ribbon connecting her horn to Reaper flickered and faded in-and-out. Celestia tucked her legs and dropped down beside her sister, slipping a hoof under a dark cheek and staring into her glazed, aquamarine eyes: “Can you hear me? Luna come back!”

Celestia looked around in panic and saw Reaper’s hindquarters shift and tail flick. She stumbled to her hooves and rushed to Reaper’s side: “Reaper! Can you hear me? Something’s happening to Luna--I fear she’s being pulled in, or is losing consciousness, or I don’t know what!”

Reaper’s ears twitched as he focused on Celestia’s distant cries, which were blotting-out faint sounds from somewhere inside the Void.

He tipped his head slightly toward his shoulder: “What’s going on? I can’t feel Luna as strongly! Did she move away from me?”

Celestia leaned forward, careful to avoid touching either Reaper or the Void’s surface: “No--she just suddenly dropped to the floor, almost as though she’d passed-out!”

Reaper clenched his teeth and tried to focus on the distant commotion that was just beyond his perception: “Shit! I don’t know what to do! I can’t actually go in any further or I’ll lose physical connection with Luna, and her astral form will become untethered!”

Celestia began pawing nervously: “I don’t know how to help! Should I try to wake her?”

“No! Let me try something first!”

Reaper closed his eyes and repositioned his body slightly so Luna’s silver ribbon touched the back of his head and drifted directly into his now-unguarded mind.

He bit his lip and reached out with his consciousness as though he was attempting to transit the dreamscape.

He felt a surge of speed as he was pulled forward into the Void, toward Luna. He swept past a vast, blurry shadow and saw it swirl and twist and reach toward him. He saw a burst of golden light in the distance, then caught the scent of singed flesh.

“Luna! Where are you?”

Reaper stepped through the tent flap and saw Luna, naked, sprawled out in Nai’a’s chair, drinking from a heavy chalice, a bloody, tattered, blue cloak at her feet.

She raised her head slowly and fought to focus on Reaper’s face: “Why have you returned, Harbinger? It is too late--I am where I belong, now. You abandoned me, and now I am Yunada’s.”

Reaper raised an eyebrow: “This is a credible facsimile, whoever you are, but you clearly don’t know me.”

Gerrar stepped out of the shadows: “No, but I do.”

Reaper chuckled and stepped forward toward Luna, who was now rising unsteadily from the chair: “Hardly. You would recognize almost nothing of me anymore. Return to your well-earned eternal exile and leave Luna be.”

Luna staggered sideways and draped an arm around Gerrar’s shoulder, exposing the torn wall behind the chair. Reaper squinted at the silhouettes revealed through the gap.

She took another unsteady swig from the chalice, spilling blood-red wine down her breasts: “No! He now gets to spend eternity with me, just like you wanted!” Gerrar drew his sword.

Reaper smiled sadly: “Right players, wrong scene, Princess. Time to go!”

He dived forward suddenly, ducking beneath Gerrar’s swing, driving his horn between Luna’s breasts with a bloody crunch.

She gasped in shock, and the scene exploded in a burst of crimson sparks and a swirl of impenetrable black smoke.


Bramble emerged from the red haze surrounding Celestia’s mock death scene and stopped short, looking down at Zecora’s prostrate form. He looked up at Gil and Kla’atra: “What happened?”

Gil shook his head and pointed back at through the chamber’s opening: “She passed through Celestia’s form just as Nightmare Moon’s shade completed its routine attack. She was knocked senseless, and has been lying here for several minutes.”

Bramble knelt beside the zebra: “Is she dead?”

Kla’atra shook her head: “No. Have you seen that she should still breathe?”

Bramble crouched quietly for a few moments watching the slow, shallow rise and fall of Zecora’s ribs: “Well that’s good, but what’s going on? Is she asleep again? Knocked-out?”

Gil chewed his lip: “Knocked-out, I would think. The shock of passing through one shade as another violently tore through it was too much.”

Bramble nodded: “So now what? Is there anything we can do, or do we just wait it out?”

“I hate to just wait here. The clock is ticking for her, and I don’t think she can last a lot longer, but since we can’t physically touch her or make a sound…”

Gil shrugged.

Kla’atra tipped her head sideways and worked her mandibles for a few seconds. Her eyes flashed pale blue: “There might have as yet been a way for me to have reached out to her consciousness.”

She settled to the floor as her eyes dimmed to a cloudy gray, and her forelimbs folded across her chest. A pale halo flickered briefly above her head, dissipated, then appeared over Zecora’s head.

Kla’atra’s eyes cleared and adjusted. She stood slowly and looked about a dimly-lit hut, arrayed with gourds and bottles, baskets and wooden bowls, and a low fire burning on a hearth.

She looked at the carved and painted masks on the walls and tipped her head to one side: “Zecora! Are you possibly to have been hearing me? / I had to have come into your mind, yet you I could not see.”

Kla’atra’s eyes flickered back and forth between green and gold several times, and she reached up to rub her mandibles. She turned to her left as she heard voices coming through a nearby door.

She stepped up to the door and pushed it ajar, peering through the gap with a pale-blue. multi-faceted eye. She saw Luna and Zecora together in an empty, white space. She watched their mouths move, but heard no sound.

Kla’atra pushed the door open and began to enter the space just as Luna’s horn began to glow.

Zecora! Kla’atra believes she can reach you. Hold on…

Kla’atra stared intently at Luna; the alicorn’s eyes suddenly went wide and her mouth again opened silently for a moment before she vanished in a swirl of crimson-streaked smoke.

Zecora started, then looked back over her shoulder: “Kla’atra! How did you get here?”

“I would to have reached into your consciousness in an attempt to awaken you.”

“What happened?”

“As you were to have passed through the shade of Celestia, Nightmare Moon’s phantom should have struck at the same moment, shocking you into unconsciousness. It might well have had stripped your essence away, given your weakened state.”

She pointed to the spot where Luna had sat: “Who would that have been? It may have been another form of Nightmare Moon?”

Zecora nodded: “In a way, yes--that was Luna. At least I think that was Luna. I don’t think I’m dreaming this.”

“No, it would be unlikely that I could be reaching your resting mind in such a state--I shall have been probing directly into your consciousness. That having been successful, should we now arouse to wakefulness.”

Her eyes flashed silver and pale blue as a halo formed over Zecora’s head.


Zecora struggled to open her eyes and focus on Bramble’s face: “Whe-where are we?”

The unicorn leaned back and sat on his haunches: “Where you fell after passing through Celestia’s image. I’m glad to see you awake again!”

Zecora struggled to her hooves as Gil drifted closer, nodding: “As am I! Hopefully you didn’t suffer any damage from your encounter.”

Zecora rubbed her muzzle and lifted a vial from her saddlebag: “I hope not, too! I’m just glad Kla’atra was able to connect with me and help me return.”

Kla’atra stood and worked her mandibles for a moment: “It were to have appeared that a form of Nightmare Moon would have been present, sharing Zecora’s consciousness.”

Gil raised an eyebrow: “Luna?”

Zecora nodded

“You said she had reached you through a dream a while back. Did that happen again?”

Zecora quaffed a mouthful of dark green fluid, shuddered, and put the vial back in her bag: “No, Kla’atra is right--Luna was literally with me, sharing my consciousness for a bit. I think she was pulled away by the Harbinger.”

Gil stroked his ghostly chin: “Fascinating. I wonder what this means?”

Bramble stood and tipped his horn over his shoulder toward the passageway behind them: “I don’t know, and I have to more mysteries to toss on the pile.”

Kla’atra’s eyes flashed silver: “Mysteries?”

The colt closed his eyes for a long moment: “As we were making our way across the last chamber, I thought I saw something moving along the floor, in the shadows.”

“Something?”

“I can’t be sure--the lighting back there is tricky and I didn’t want to expend any power, but I tried to track whatever it was.”

He shifted uneasily: “I think it was Squish.”

Gil’s eyebrows jumped: “Here? Away from the Swamp or its stream?”

Bramble chewed his lip and nodded: “Yeah, I know--it doesn’t make any sense. But so many things aren’t making sense lately. Which leads to the second surprise.”

“Yes?”

“He’s gone.”

“Who?”

“Grey Thorn. I went through the last two chambers and back to the temple-library, and he’s--well, take a look for yourself.”

Gil drifted around Zecora and stuck his head through the opening into the previous chamber: “I’ll be damned, you’re right! He’s not there anymore!”

Bramble nodded: “Right. Like I said, I went back out through the front of the cave and ran to the library. His shade’s just gone.”

Gil drifted to the floor and closed his eyes: “I don’t understand it--what could erase a shade? Did they just evaporate? But why just Grey Thorn’s?”

Bramble shrugged: “One good thing, at any rate--”

He stepped through the entryway and returned a minute later, leading a dazed and sullen Green Streak: “I found her slumped in a corner not far from here. I had her wait a few yards away until I could be sure that what had happened to Zecora wasn’t a threat.”

Gli nodded and rose slowly from the floor: “Good thinking.”

He turned toward the disconsolate pegasus: “Come child, we can collectively think and ponder and discuss what all this means as we go, and go we must. Clearly everything seems to be changing for the first time in centuries, and I have no idea how long any of us has left, now.”

The pale shade and Green Streak moved slowly up a narrow path, joined by Bramble and an unsteady Zecora.

Kla’atra stood still as the zebra walked past, then tipped her head sideways, worked her mandibles for a moment, and fell in, bringing up the rear as the gloom swallowed the group.


Luna’s body spasmed and twitched suddenly, and Celestia was down on her knees beside her sister’s head in a flash: “Luna! Can you hear me? Are you alright?”

Luna’s eyes fluttered open and focused for a moment on Celestia’s face before closing again: “Thank the stars, I am back! I feared I might be trapped in, well, I am unsure exactly in what!”

Reaper took a step back, extracting himself from the Void, and turned to face the Princesses: “Some kind of state of altered consciousness, it appeared to me. It wasn’t exactly a dream…”

Luna wobbled unsteadily to her haunches with Celestia’s help: “No, though it seemed to share many features. However, I had no control there. I was--I was…”

She fell silent. Reaper raised an eyebrow: “In the tent again, I take it.”

“Yes.”

Reaper nodded: “As was I. Clearly whatever’s going on in that space we entered can tap into our memories.”

Luna furrowed her brow: “Yet that was not the most confusing aspect of it. I encountered Zecora--”

Celestia’s eyebrows jumped: “Zecora? Was she alright?”

“I am unsure, however her mind seemed sound, at least. I actually shared her consciousness for a short time until I was pulled away.”

Reaper tipped his head to one side: “Are you certain? Perhaps it was another dream-like state…”

Luna smiled grimly: “I am sure of it. I doubt anypony knows more about sharing a consciousness than I.”

She stood slowly and stretched: “In addition, I saw a thing there, just as I was pulled away that I cannot possibly have imagined!”

Celestia furrowed her brow: “What do you mean?”

“Zecora spoke of somepony--at least I assume it was a pony--named Gil, and his friend, Kla-something. I could not quite make the word out, but at the last moment, a door opened and a large insect-like creature began to enter our shared space.”

“How bizarre! Do you think it was real, or something imagined?”

Luna shook her head: “If imagined, it must have come from Zecora’s subconscious. That thing looked entirely alien to me, and I have seen countless creatures in innumerable dreams.”

“It must be the remnant or essence of the creature Grey Thorn slew when he took its ship.”

Three heads tuned in unison as Twilight emerged from the shadows.

Luna tipped her head down slightly in greeting: “Twilight! I am pleased that you were able to--”

“What are you doing here?”

Celestia’s eyes went wide: “Twilight! That was uncalled for! We left you to rest since you were clearly drained.”

Twilight closed her eyes and took a deep breath: “I’m fine. So, what are you all doing here?”

Reaper raised an eyebrow: “You forget yourself, Princess! Who put you in charge?”

Twilight snapped her head to her right and narrowed her eyes: “You did!” She gestured at the Void: “And that thing!” She nodded sharply toward the floor: “And him, down there in Tartarus most of all! All of you!”

She stepped up to Reaper until their muzzles almost touched. Her nostrils flared: “So, what were you doing?”

Reaper sniffed and smiled coldly: “A bit of the hair of the timberwolf?”

“Just some cider--enough to stop the shakes.”

She sighed and turned back toward Celestia: “I’m sorry, everypony, I’m just pressed for time, and every minute is precious! I should have been here.”

Reaper’s expression softened a bit: “It’s fine, Twilight. To be honest, I’m not sure what you could have done here in any event.”

“So what, did happen?”

Luna gestured toward the Void: “I encountered Zecora’s consciousness after my own was pulled away from me briefly.”

Reaper nodded: “And I was able to project inside enough to make contact with Luna, and help her snap back here.”

Celestia chewed her lip for a moment: “Did you also see the creature?”

“No, though I did encounter something else, something vast and powerful.”

Luna nodded: “The entity.”

“Yes.”

Reaper rubbed his chin: “I don’t believe I’ve ever told any of you about my earliest days on this world.”

The Princesses shook their heads.

Reaper began to pace: “So upon my death on Kur, I was summoned to this world, and was given the form of the newly-ennobled, dominant species.”

Celestia nodded: “Ponies.”

“Right. And when I found one dying at the bottom of a ravine, I finished off my form by adding a horn.”

“So unicorns were the first?”

“Correct--followed by pegasi and earth ponies not long thereafter. Over the centuries, griffons, yaks and others would achieve full sentience and be added to the list of ennobled creatures.”

He turned back toward the Void: “But dragons were a different matter. There were some ancient dragons who never really did achieve full ennobling. They remained, well, for lack of a better term, bestial until their deaths.”

He looked over his shoulder at the Sisters: “The last one actually died sometime shortly after you two came on the scene.”

Luna furrowed her brow: “Interesting, but I fail to see--”

“Bestial. Wild. Clever and intelligent, but not truly sentient. Powerful and ancient and hungry and dangerous.”

He tipped his head toward the Void: “Just like that thing. As it swept past me I felt a vast, primal, savage hunger--not evil, for that requires intent--but no less dangerous all the same.”

Twilight chewed her lip: “So?”

Reaper raised his head high and adjusted his cloak: “I don’t think it can be controlled. I think any attempt to open the Void will end in catastrophe.”

Twilight shook her head: “I know almost everything I need, now. I can control it--defeat it, if necessary. I can--”

Reaper locked eyes with Twilight and circled her: “And I can now enter the Void and resolve this without that kind of risk to you, to Canterlot, possibly to this whole world.”

Celestia smiled nervously: “You can rescue Zecora? Without having to open that dreadful thing?”

Reaper licked his lips and looked away from Twilight, turning to face the Sisters. Twilight’s eyes suddenly went wide: “No!”

Reaper glanced back at the agitated alicorn: “It’s the only way, Twilight. We can’t take the--”

“Fuck you! I won’t allow it!”

Luna looked back and forth between Reaper and Twilight in alarm: “What will you not allow?”

Twilight pointed at Reaper, eyes ablaze: “He wants to kill her!”

Luna’s eyebrows jumped: “What? Is this true?”

Reaper nodded: “I can project in again with your assistance, reap Zecora, and extract her essence.”

He turned toward Celestia: “I know it’s not ideal, but it will allow me to safely send her on without risk to her or anypony else. Then we can dispose of the Void and--”

Twilight flared her wings and dashed between Reaper and the Void: “And her body! And what was the point of all of this, then? Why did we do all this, sacrifice all this?”

“Twilight, I--”

“You don’t care! We’re all so much mulch-in-waiting to you!”

She looked at Celestia, tears welling in her eyes: “She’s my friend and she sacrificed herself, and--and…”

Celestia stepped forward as Reaper moved aside. She draped a white wing over Twilight’s trembling shoulders: “This is a lot for all of us to take in, right now.”

She glanced over at Luna: “Perhaps we can leave this place and go back to my chambers and discuss our options after a bit of rest.”

Twilight took a deep, shuddering breath: “Alright--I’m-I’m sorry. I just, I’m-I’m so close to having this all worked-out, and to just throw it all away…”

Reaper raised an eyebrow: “It?”

“Ze-Zecora. To just throw away her life like that…”

Reaper chewed his lip for a moment and glanced back at the Void as the three alicorns teleported away. He stood in the dark, silent chamber for a moment, then faded out.


A few hours later the dark was pierced by a brief, violet-and-gold flash. A gossamer-thin circle formed on the surface of the Void, then faded a moment later.

The unbroken dark returned.