• Published 28th Jan 2017
  • 1,695 Views, 54 Comments

The Tome of Faust - DungeonMiner

In the age of Equestria's founding, the world is not at peace. Dangers wait at every corner, and the shadows of the old world wish it dead. And yet in all of this, one pony just wants to live a normal life.

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Chapter 20

“We have another job for you, Ghost,” Oracle said.

Ghost was eager to answer. It had been four new jobs since he fought the Runecaster, and four new ponies that he eagerly sent screaming to the Void. One had been a farmer that cheated his neighbor of some land. One was a small-time murderer that was forcing his way into the “family’s” business. Another was a guard that he had taken particular pleasure in, and the last was a actress who was so desperate for the part of Princess Platinum during the Hearth’s Warming celebration not six days ago, that she stepped over a few of her peers enough to get one angry.

Terrible accident that was.

He had been doing well, and he was honestly proud of what he did. The murders had been either elaborate traps or expertly performed assassinations, if he did say so himself. He hadn’t been found, he hadn’t been caught, no one had even suspected him of being a killer.

It was so much easier than being a thief, and all it took was for him to finally give up, and turn his back on the world that he once wanted to be a part of.

“What’s the job?” Ghost asked, stepping into the office of the madpony that was his boss. Oracle sat at his desk, the Tome of Faust open on his desk.

“Another fool fated for death,” Oracle said, as he read through the Tome. “You must head to Baltimare. A fool has awoken the anger of another, and she wishes him dead. Any more information you must learn from her.”

Ghost blinked. “What?”

“You will meet your contact at th—”

“I’m speaking with a client?” Ghost asked. “I’ve never spoke to a client before. What are you getting at that I need to talk to her?”

Oracle looked up from his Tome, and spoke again. “You’ll meet her at the Fox’s Heart Inn. She will inform you of your job.”

“What are you getting at, Oracle?” Ghost asked. “This isn’t normal, and you know it. What’s the deal?”

Oracle simply stared at him and said only. “It is necessary for your destiny.”

Ghost gave him a deadpan glare before he sighed. “Sure. Whatever. I guess I’ll be off then.”

Oracle nodded. “You will do well, but for that, you will suffer.”

Ghost spared the old pony a glance. “Sure. Whatever you say, Oracle. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“She will ask you if you are there to help her,” Oracle said, “you are to reply that you will help in some way.”

“Got it,” Ghost said, before he stepped away, heading for the Shadowgates.

The Fox’s Heart Inn was exactly like he remembered it, and Ghost quickly took his usual seat outside. As he sipped his tea and watched the ponies walked across the street. He had to say that despite having to meet a client for the first time, she certainly had excellent taste in inns.

He sipped and waited, missing the joy of watching the guards rush back and forth as they tried to catch a thief that had them so thoroughly embarrassed.

Ghost smiled at the thought of maybe bringing his crime streak back for a single night, when a mare approached him. “Sir...sir are you here to help me?”

Ghost turned to look her in the eye, and quickly took her in. A unicorn in her young thirties, with a pale blue coat, stared at him with seafoam green eyes. She was nervous, and had trouble looking him in the eye, but so had he when he first met professional killers.

“I can help in some way,” he replied, motioning to the chair on the other side of the table.

She sat, nervously glancing toward him, before checking around the street that was getting busier as the morning waned. When she spoke, she leaned forward, trying to get as close as possible so that he could hear her whispers.

“I didn't want it to come to this. I tried to solve it another way. I didn't want to hire you.”

Ghost smirked slightly. “Ma’am, if you're trying to save your reputation, I can guarantee you that, I, of all ponies, don't care. None of your friends will hear about this, you’ll still be a mare of good standing. So instead of making excuses for me, why don't you just tell me what I need to do, hm?”

She winced, as though the comment about her reputation stung her, before she whispered again. “He...he beats his foals. He drinks, wanders home, and beats them at night. It got to the point where we...we’re the neighbors, you see, and we hear them every night. We tried to do something but—”

“And now you want me to kill him for beating his foals?” Ghost asked.

“Y-yes…” the unicorn muttered. “Please…”

Ghost looked her over again. “While that's a perfectly justified reason to hire me, that seems a bit much. After all, wouldn't it hurt the foals worse, not having a father to raise them?”

“Don’t worry about the foals,” she said. “I’ll take care of them.”

Ghost shrugged. “Alright, sure, it’s not my problem anyway. Where is he?”

“He lives off of Dogwood Road, closer to the mountain. Past the house with the green door. The one with the blue shutters.”

Ghost nodded. “Alright, I’ll take care of it. You can go now.”

The mare quickly ducked away, perhaps relieved to simply step away from an unrepentant assassin.

And Ghost merely sat there, and sipped his tea, enjoying the serenity and warmth of the mild, eastern winter. As the sea brought in a warm breeze that tousled his mane, and the smell of salt to his nose, he took just a moment to relax.

He almost missed this place.

“Mouse?” a voice called, and he opened sa single eye to see Officer Golden Shield, the earth pony guard that he had teamed up with to stop Sap.

“Officer Shield,” Ghost greeted. “It’s been a while.”

“It has,” she asked, guarded, but not nearly as hostile as she had during their previous conversations. “What brings you back in town?”

Ghost glanced at her, gauging the mare dressed in golden armor. She was somewhere between cautious and...glad? Ghost wasn’t sure, but there was something about her that made it seem that she was almost happy to see him. “Some business, and not the kind you think. I found some new employment recently.”

“Did you?” she asked, surprised. “And how am I to trust that?” she asked, a smile of all things growing on her lips.

It was...kind of unnerving.

“I don't know why you would,” he asked, unconsciously pushing himself away ever-so-slightly.

“Oh, relax. As long as you're not here to do anything that I need to arrest you for, we’re fine.”

“Shame I’m going to ruin that, huh?” Ghost thought, before glancing back up at the guard. “So what made us even?”

“Well, the guy you turned over was a Blackglass addict, and after a few weeks of withdrawal, he gave up the rest of your little thief’s cell for the promise of a shard. The bust was so big, I made sergeant.”

“Really?” Ghost asked, feigning interest. “Well, congratulations, Sergeant Shield.”

She nodded back, pleased, before continuing. “This is only the start, of course, but I was finally able to get my hoof in the door with your help.”

“Are you thanking me, Officer?” Ghost said, sipping his tea. “Me, a common thief?”

“Well, a thief no longer, I hope,” she answered.

Ghost simply nodded.

Yes, he was no longer a common thief.

He was a bringer of death.

The house with the blue shuttered on Dogwood Road was quiet. Candlelight didn’t flicker in the windows, and sound could not be heard from behind the simple brick walls.

The house itself stood beside a large, empty field, farmland owned by the earth pony family that a pony named Mouse once stole the Book of Ancestors from. A farm-worker’s house, obviously, as was the house with the green door, where his client watched from the window.

She couldn’t see Ghost, though. He was better than that.

From the alley just on the other side of the empty field, Ghost watched, slowly piecing together a picture of what exactly was happening. The mother was dead, that much was obvious. If she was still alive, then his client wouldn’t have said anything about what happened to the foals.

So it was just the father, who was apparently holding down a farm worker’s job for Bay Leaf’s farm. Now, working for an earth pony farmer wasn’t a bad job, it was hard, but honest work, if you could stand it, so why beat your own foals?

There was something else that was the matter here.

The sound of off-key singing from down the street caught Ghost’s ear, and he glanced down the way to see a tired pegasus careen through the air as he tried to fly down the street, bottle in hoof. He nearly crashed into a wall as he sang a slurred mess of notes and words that the assassin couldn’t identify.

The pegasus slowly corrected, getting well out of the way of the wall only after coming fractions of an inch within smashing into it. “Sardin’ wallsh!” The pegasus muttered. “Wash where yer goin’...”

Well the pegasus was well and truly drunk, that much was certain. He finally was making way back to the house, mumbling all the way, before finally he smacked into the door. He fumbled for his keys a while, muttering something about the demon foal, before he finally slammed his door open.

As the door shut, the client, who had been watching from the window finally disappeared behind her curtains.

And now Ghost could move. He rushed across the street like a shadow of a cloud passing in front of the moon. He slid up next to the wall of the blue-shuttered house, and slid up next to the window. He was looking into the main room, where the drunk pegasus was violently throwing furniture aside, searching for something.

“Where arr ya?” the pegasus yelled, just audible through the glass that Ghost watched through.

“You damned foal...where arr yoush?”

The pegasus smashed through his furniture, throwing aside pots, pans, barrels and chests to search every corner of the bottom floor. “Deshtined to ruin me. To deshtroy us all…”

Ghost blinked at what he heard, but said nothing, before the pegasus took off, leaping into the air and slamming into the ceiling, before bashing into a wall. With his room now well and truly in tatters, the pegasus began to climb up to the second floor, using both hooves and wings to carry himself.

As he disappeared upstairs, Ghost made his move. Slipping the latch open with one of his blades, Ghost quietly opened the window, and dropped down onto the packed dirt floor of the main room.

The whole place stank of beer and mead, and now that he was inside, he could hear the fumbling of the drunkard all the better. “Where ar ya, ya little piesh of manure? Ya shardin’ demon? Yer gonna deshtroy us all, ya know dat?”

Ghost moved forward quietly, up toward stairs, knives drawn and ready to spill blood.

“Shtygian?” the drunkard called in a blatantly deceptive, sing-song voice. “Shtygian, where ar ya, boy? Do ya want ta go fishin’? I’ll take ya down to the shore and we’ll go catsh the biggest fish ya evah shaw…”

Ghost slipped up the stairs, and found the drunkard throwing everything he could find aside to search for his foals.

A door on the far side, open to a small room, revealed a single bed with a pair of foals underneath the frame, hiding from the deranged father.

One was a young filly, no older than five, while the other was a colt only a few years older. She was a pegasus, with a coat like a storm cloud, and mane the color of snow. The colt, on the other hand, was a unicorn with a deep blue-green mane,but a coat just as dark as his sister’s.

The little filly saw the shadow on the stairs, and she gasped at the sight of the assassin.

Unfortunately, it was the father that heard her. “Eh? Ish that you, Shtygian?”

The colt shrunk back, further under the bed as the drunk stallion got closer. Frozen by fear, the filly did nothing as the father reached under the bed and pulled her out. “Rainy? There yoush ar...where’sh yer brother?”

She didn’t anything.

“Ya know where he ish, Rainy?” he asked, as he held the filly up.

She was too terrified to say anything.

“Ya know wha tha oracle shaid about him...ya know he’sh gonna kill ush all. It’sh hish deshtiny...we hash to kill him, before he killsh ush. Itsh tha only way...Ya know that.”

The filly whimpered.

“Where ish he, Rainy? Where’sh tha little Demon foal?”

She shook her head.

The drunk growled, before he threw the small pony across the room, where she hit the wall with a heavy smack.

Ghost watched, images of a smaller, thinner unicorn colt being beaten by angry inmates flashing through his eyes as he watched the filly slid to the floor.

“Why ‘re ya proec’in’ him? What’sh he done? Hash he paid ya ta be quiet ya sharding horn-hugger!” he roared, kicking the tiny, foal.

Ghost nearly moved, nearly leaping up the stairs to end his target and stop the filly’s beating when the pegasus grabbed a sword from off the wall.

Demon would tell him to stop. Fighting an armed opponent was different than kill a shiftless drunk, no matter how incapacitated he was. Ghost could fight, but it would be dangerous, and he did not have the experience to take such a fight head on.

He had to wait for his opportune moment. He had to.

This wasn’t like the last fight where all he had to do was close the distance, the pegasus probably had military experience, almost all of them did, and who knows how good of a fighter he is.

One of his hooves started to shake.

Taking the sheathed blade in one hoof, the stallion brought it down on the child, straight into her side. The covered sword hit like a club, and Ghost could swear he heard a bone snap.

“Where ish he, Rainy? I gotshta do it. I gotshta kill ‘im.”

The filly merely rolled onto her side, clutching her ribs.

The stallion brought his weapon down again, slamming into her legs. “Where’sh Shtygian?”

Ghost had to wait. He had to wait. He had to wait.

The tiniest peep came from the bed, and the old pegasus’ head jerked in that direction. “Shtygian...Shtygian ish that you, boy?”

Ghost felt sick.

“Com’on, boy,” the drunkard heaved. “Yer Shishter’sh only gonna take sho much fer ya. Ya might ash well come out now.”

Out from the bed, the tiny colt slowly stepped out into the room, and the father immediately grabbed him by the throat.

Ghost had to wait.

“Shtygian...I don’t want ta do thish...but I’s gotshta…” The pegasus slurred as he held the pony up against the wall with one hoof while he held his sword with the other.

The sheath slid to the floor, falling to the floor, and letting the blade shine in the candlelight behind him.

“Ish jusht tha way ish gotshta be, Shtygian…” the pegasus growled, before raising the blade up to the terrified colt that was struggling to breath.

There was a flash of steel, and the whistle of a blade through air, and then everything stopped.

The pegasus dropped the colt, who hit the floor with a thud, and then, he too, fell to the floor, his naked sword as clean as untouched snow. Ghost stood over them all, his knife wet with blood as he gasped for a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

He checked the filly first. She was breathing still, but just barely, the colt was gasping for breath, unconscious from the suffocation.

They were alive.

Thank Luna, both of them were alive.

Why did he care?

The question had been burning in the back of his head since he moved. Why did he care so much about a couple of foals? Why did he rush in to save them? Why?

There was one answer. They reminded him of himself, but so what? Every pony that has ever been in a jail reminded him of himself. That didn’t mean anything! They were were just like the rest of them, they hated him for things he couldn’t control, he knew they would.

Still he collected them, carefully laying the colt on his back and picking the fully up in his arm. With both foals on him, he quickly made his way out of the house, leaving the drunkard to rot where he lay.

Down to the main room and out the door, to the house with the green door where his client lived. He knocked on the door, and once the mare opened the door, Ghost forced his way in, much to the mare’s surprise. “Wh-what are you—?” she began only for Ghost to interrupt her.

“You said you’d care for the foals. Here they are, care for them,” he growled, and shoved the colt toward her.

She glanced down at the colt, who’s throat was beginning to darken through his fur. “Oh...oh, my. C-come in, upstairs.”

The client led the way, up the stairs, where she quickly cleared off a bed. Ghost laid the pair down, watching as the mare quickly looked them over. “What do I do?” she asked.

Ghost shook his head. “I don’t know. I’m no healer.”

“Then what do we do?” the mare asked.

Ghost shook his head. “G-get help. I’ll watch them.”

She nodded, before she started to run out of the house, leaving the assassin alone with the pair of foals.

He should go. He didn’t need to be found by anyone that wasn’t his client. They’d suspect him in the recent murder of the neighbor by the sheer fact that he found the foals if nothing else. He didn’t know how to take care of foals anyway, and he didn’t know what to do about their injuries either. There was no point staying.

Ghost pulled up a chair.

He would be caught and thrown into prison. There was no way he’d get out of this without somepony knowing what he done. There was nothing that could save him from this. Why did it even matter if he watched the colts? If they were going to die between now and when help came, there was nothing he could do to save them. All it would do is get him.

The Baltimare jail was easy to get out of anyway.

He watched the pair as they breathed, as they rested. The filly’s breathing was incredibly slow, much slower than the brother, who was beginning to stir.

The colt sat up, coughing as he reached up to his throat. He whimpered, wincing at the pain, before he looked around. His dark blue eyes glanced around the room, before they slowly fell onto Ghost.

Ghost stared back.

Silence floated between the two, and finally, the Colt spoke first. “Did you save us?”

Ghost nodded.

“A-and Daddy?”

“Dead,” Ghost said.

“And you killed him?”

Ghost didn't answer that.

The Colt waited a moment before turning away to his sister. He gingerly ran a hoof along her ribs, and watched her since at the touch. “He hurt her too,” he muttered.

Ghost watched.

The colt looked back at him. “Are...are you a good pony or a bad pony?”

Ghost smiled. “Why do you ask?”

“Because good ponies fight bad ponies, and Daddy was a good pony sometimes, and a bad pony sometimes. So, I don't know which one you are.”

Ghost shook his head. “Neither do I.”

“So...are you going to hurt me too?” The colt asked.

Ghost gave the pony a look. “Why would I hurt you?”

“Because the Oracle said I would try to throw the world into shadow. I’m going to hurt ponies.”

Ghost looked at this little pony, staring up at him with big, sad, blue eyes. This pathetic little colt would doom the world? That’s what his future read? This colt didn't look like he’d hurt a fly.

Ghost shook his head. “No you won't.”

The colt looked up at him confused.

“Do you know what Destiny is, colt? Destiny is luck and it's where you were born. Ask any thief worth his salt and he’ll swear up and down that luck is the most important thing to their job. Of course, those same thieves are constantly making their own luck.

“You can't tell me I didn't choose to save your life. That's making my own luck. The only thing that I can say is destiny, the only thing that I didn't choose was where I was born. Everything that's wrong in my life is because I was born in a jail cell. If I hadn't, I would have an honest job by now.

“Now, you were born to be a jerk. You didn't choose that, that's Seyella deciding to screw you like she did me. Beyond that, the only thing you can do is make your own luck.”

Any further conversation was cut off by the sound of a pony in armor coming through the front door and up the stairs. Golden Shield stepped into the room, and for a brief moment, she sent a look Ghost’s way.

Then she turned to the foals. “Are you okay?” She asked.

The colt nodded. “He saved us,” he declared, pointing at Ghost in the corner.

Golden Shield shot Ghost another glare, but kept her focus on the foals. The colt was cleared with a few bruises, but he was otherwise alright.

The filly on the other hoof was in dangerous condition. After only a quick glance, the partially-trained Golden Shield could already tell that her ribs were broken.

“I’ll call for a doctor,” she said, before finally turning to Ghost. “You're coming with me.”

Ghost slowly stood, and together they moved outside. They walked slowly, with Golden Shield giving him a sidelong glance.

Ghost said nothing, he only stared back at her.

Finally, she spoke up. “You saved the kids?”

“I did,” he answered.

“You killed the father,” she said, her voice almost accusing.

“I did.”

There was a moment of silence. With only the sound of a few night birds and the distant crash of the waves.

She sighed in annoyance. “And here I thought you changed.”

Ghost said nothing.

“Just...just leave, I never saw you tonight,” she muttered.

Ghost looked at her for a moment, before he stepped away, leaving the mare as she began searching for a local doctor.

Under normal circumstances, he might have taunted the guard one last time, or celebrated the freedom he was being given. Instead, he was preoccupied. He was busy running through the little speech he gave to the foal, analyzing every word he said. Because the truth was, no matter what he said to that little colt, he knew that Fate had a bigger hand in his life.

And she was a cruel mistress.

Did he choose to save the foal’s life? Or was that simply what he thought he did? Was he destined to save that foal? Was he always going to save that foal? Was that why Oracle had said it was his destiny?

Is that why he could never get an honest job, because he had to save the foal that would destroy the world? Was this it? Was Seyella going to end the world through his destiny, and he was a pawn in her great scheme?

Was that how he was fated to die? Was this how the world was going to end? Did he doom everyone with a single strike?

Ghost tired to shake these thoughts. He tried to force them from his mind.

But they haunted him long into the night.