• Published 28th Jan 2017
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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 32

Mouse stared up at the building across the street. Walking in there would be a sure, sudden death. He knew it, they knew it, and Mouse was sure that Golden was more than interested in watching the ponies inside jump him.

“Well are you going to go or not?” Golden asked, standing next to him.

Cut had gone off to grab some supplies, saying he’d meet up with them as soon as he could. This left him and Golden standing alone, in front of the Dark Wood Company building. The wooden edifice stood, looming over the street, and filled with ponies that no doubt wanted Mouse dead. Still, Storm was the best pony he knew alive that would make for a good front-line fighter. They had plenty of stealthier options, but if he was putting together a team, then he’d want Storm in it.

Now all he had to do was convince Storm to actually join that party.

“You know this guy probably wants me dead right?” Mouse asked. “And I only say ‘probably’ because he hasn’t hired anyone to track me down yet.”

“I won’t let them kill you. You’ve cost me enough money that it’s not worth it, yet.”

“Yet?”

“I’m just giving you a chance to prove me wrong.”

Mouse rolled his eyes.

“Just go, I’ll be right behind you.”

“I’d rather you go ahead of me, that way I have a head start on getting away if they cut your head off at the door.”

“Look, I’ll pay for whatever you stole, I have the authorization to—”

“I killed their leader,” Mouse interrupted.

“You what?” she asked, eyes wide, before they turned to an angry glare. “What do you mean you killed him?”

“Being an assassin paid better than thieving,” Mouse said. “That and my coworkers weren’t high on blackglass on the time.”

“You became an honest-to-goodness assassin?” she asked. “And here I thought better of you. I thought that incident on the farm was a job gone wrong.”

“Nope. Hired for it. She paid decently, too.”

She shook her head in disgust. “Maybe I should let them kill you.”

“Well excuse me, but what other job could my talents get me?” Mouse asked. “It’s not like the ability to go unnoticed pays well on the other side of the law.”

Golden just shook her head, and started crossing the street. “Just shut up and come along before I change my mind.”

Mouse sighed, and followed along, walking only a step behind the golden guard as she walked into the Dark Wood Company Building.

The moment Mouse crossed the threshold, every pony inside stopped and stared at him. Mouse tensed even as ponies stood, some drawing blades.

“Put them away, ponies,” Golden ordered. “This is guard business.”

“And what’s the guard doing with a murderer?” Polar the pegasus asked, gripping his sword.

“That’s guard business,” Golden Shield said, staring him down. “Put your weapons away, we need to speak with your leader.”

“He killed our leader!” A pony yelled from the crowd.

“Put your sword down, or I will put you down!” Golden yelled. “I have business with your leader, and this pony is coming with me. Am I understood.”

“And how do we know you won’t kill him, huh?” Copper the earth pony growled. “What if little Mouse came back to finish the job, eh?”

“I’m a guard,” Golden told him. “He’ll be fine.”

“And how can we trust you?”

“I’m a guard,” she repeated.

“And what are you going to do if we stop you?” Another pony said, standing in their their way.

“I. Am. A. Guard,” she said for the third time. “What part of that are you not catching? I will keep your leader safe, I am being held to my word by law, and if you stand against me, you stand against the crown, now step aside.”

A large unicorn stood in front of her. “Guess you’ll have to make—”

“Oh, just let them in,” a voice said from behind.

The ponies turned to see Storm standing on the stairs, glaring at them. “First one to draw on them, is cleaning latrines for a year.”

The soldiers of the Dark Wood backed away from their guests, and Golden Shield gave a smirk before she and Mouse made their way upstairs, following after Storm. Mouse gave her a few directions, but they finally came back to his office.

“Hello, Mouse,” Storm said. “What brings you here?”

“Hello, Storm,” Mouse said, trying to ignore the awkward tension that was growing in the air. “We need a team.”

“Who’s we?” he asked.

“The guard,” Golden replied. “And I’m real tired of saying so.”

Storm glanced between them. “It’s rather concerning to me that the Equestrian Guard has stooped so low as to hire an assassin.”

“They need someone who can sneak, it’s a talent that not many ponies have.” Mouse said.

“Do they also need a pony with a talent in betrayal?” he asked, almost growling.

“Storm…” Mouse began.

“Cedar and I showed you nothing by kindness, Mouse. We stood by you, we helped you, we sheltered you, we taught you what we knew and you turned on us.”

“It was a job, Storm. Nothing more.”

“You killed Cedar for money?” the pegasus asked, disgusted.

“I did a job for money,” Mouse answered. “I killed for money, like the Dark Wood company does every day.”

“We’re not murderers,” Storm answered.

“No?” Mouse asked. “Because I remember that we killed living, breathing, speaking, and thinking things almost every day.”

“They were monsters.”

“For money.”

“I’m an exterminator, you’re an assassin,” Strom said, “and you betrayed me.”

“And it was my job. Do you think I don’t understand what I’ve done? Living here was some of the best months of life. It was the closest I had to living a normal life, and I had to give it up because of the job.” Mouse paused, and took a breath. “But I’m not here to debate morals, I’m here to get your help.”

Storm glared at him. “What are you asking?”

“We’re tracking down the The Horn of the Mystic Oath,” Golden said. “They’ve been attacking the castle, and making attempts on the lives of the Founders more than once. The Dark Wood company has a lot of experience with tracking, and hunting them down is our current priority.”

Storm nodded. “And you have him for…?” he asked, pointing to Mouse.

“Infiltration and sabotage,” Golden said. “Considering how viciously he evaded all attempts at capture by the Baltimare guard when he was living there, he has a talent for blending in and hiding. Right now, that’s something we need.”

Storm nodded. “Well, at least there’s one reason keeping him around,” he muttered. “So you need him to infiltrate, you to keep him on the straight and narrow, and you need me to track the murders down?”

“And to fight if things go wrong,” Mouse said. “You’re still one of the best fighters I know.”

“Forgive me if I don’t take the compliment to heart,” Storm frowned.

“What do you say, Mr. Storm?” Golden asked. “Will you join us?”

He snorted. “Not sure I’m willing to travel with a pony that could stab me in the back again.”

“Don’t worry,” Mouse said. “You’ll be safe. After all, that’s the job, right?”

Storm glanced up at him. “I suppose so,” he said, before standing. “Alright, I’ll join you, Miss Guard, but I want in on the record that I am doing this to serve the country, I have no desire to do it for Mouse, if that is his real name.”

Mouse gave a wry grin. “It is, sadly. Glad to hear you’re one the team. Now we need to head to Baltimare.”

“Baltimare? Why?”

“Because we’re going to need a distraction, and I know someone that is incredibly distracting.”

“What does that have to do with Baltimare?” Storm asked.

“I’ll let you know once we’re on the road. I want Cut to hear this too.”

Storm sighed. “Keeping secrets. You’re off to an amazing start, Mouse.”

Walking out of the office, Storm led the way. “Polar!” he called as they walked down the stairs.

“Yes, sir?” the pegasus called.

“You’re in charge till I get back, don’t run us into the ground while I’m gone.”

The announcement exploded in the Dark Wood Company common room, and ponies gawked at him as confusion ripped through them. “What? What’s going on? Where are you going?” Polar asked, slightly panicked.

“I’ve been hired for a critical job,” Storm explained. “I don’t know what information I can divulge, but just know it’s important enough for me to take the job myself.”

“Are...are you sure, sir?” Polar asked, sounding like a pony that did not relish the responsibility thrust upon him.

“Yes, it needs to be done,” Storm replied.

“Al-alright, sir. Thank you.”

Storm nodded before turning to Golden and Mouse. “Let’s go.”

They left the building, stepping out into the street and were quickly met by a smiling pegasus with a pack on his back. A pair of short sword hilts poked out from under the pack, and short-cropped, black hair hung messily from his head.

Mouse blinked. “Cut? Is that you?”

The pegasus smiled. “At your service. Had to go break out my old adventuring gear for this.”

Mouse blinked again. “I...I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a hood.”

Cut shrugged. “It was better that way for my previous employment, but no bird’s going to roost me today.”

Mouse shook his head. “Alright, come on, we’re heading to Baltimare.”

“Baltimare? Why?” Cut asked.

“There’s apparently somepony there worth recruiting,” Storm grunted.

“Who?”

“He hasn’t told us yet,” Golden answered.

“Look, I’ll be open here, I barely remember his name,” Mouse said. “But his skills are what are important.”

“That sounds promising,” Storm grunted, shouldering his pack as he stepped outside the Darkwood building proper.

Cut shrugged. “If Mouse says he’s good, he’s good.”

Storm leveled a glare at Cut. “You trust him?”

“With my life,” Cut answered. “I’ve even done it a few times and my trust wasn’t misplaced.”

“Do you know what he’s done?” Storm asked.

Cut smiled. “Do you know everything he’s done?”

“Alright, alright,” Golden said. “No more bickering until we’re actually on the road. There are too many miles between us and Baltimare for us to be stuck in the city waiting on you two.”

“Speaking of, do you have the cart ready?” Mouse asked.

“I’ve had a captain put it together,” Golden said. “It should be ready.”

“Great, then we won’t need to walk the whole way with our packs on our backs,” Mouse said, as they all began to make their way to the city limits. They moved, walking down the ever-expanding town to the palisade that was still, slowly being built. The need for defense had finally outgrown the need for expansion.

The cart waited for them, packed with a barrel of food and watered-down wine. “Throw your packs in, gentlecolts, we have a long way to go.”

Maple Leaf, son of Bay Leaf, sighed as he came in from a long day in the fields. After the hours he spent out there, supervising the farmers in his father’s employ, and making him proud, he’d finally have the time to sit down and study runes again. It took some time and begging, but he finally convinced his dad to get him another tome of runes to study.

As he walked into the house, he quickly skipped his way upstairs, smiling brightly to himself, and burst into his room.

“Maple!” His father called from downstairs. “Get back down here, you’re not wasting your time on that nonsense until after you do something useful.”

“I already worked on the farm, Dad!”

“Don’t talk back to me!” the father yelled. “Now get down here and start working on the finances.”

Maple groaned, turning from his desk to walk back down the steps, mentally grumbling as he was pulled away from his books again. He shook his head, wishing that he had the time to convince his father that runes were useful, but he had already had that conversation more than once, and could already play it through his mind.

“Runes are useful, Dad! They can help the farm!”

“And kill the rest of it.”

“I can make money selling services, all kinds of ponies need spells like that!”

“And then you’ll be killed. We’re not unicorns, magic ain’t for us.”

“But great grandpa—”

“Your great grandfather was burned for witchcraft! We’re done talking about it!”

So instead, Maple had to go and work the books, clacking against an abacus as his father tried to push him to take the family business. He was eighteen, for Peme’s sake. Most pegasi would have been kicked out of the family house at his age to become their own ponies. Instead, here he was, stuck in his father’s house because he had been born an earth pony.

Then again, Earth ponies were the only ones that could cultivate enough life to make Rune magic work, so it wasn’t all bad.

He walked into the office, and his father met him with a stack of paperwork and an abacus. “Work on these first, I’ll hand you more later,” Bay ordered.

Maple said nothing, but he did mentally bemoan his luck.

He turned away to sit at a desk, and slowly began to work, clacking away at the abacus as he started calculating the value of their latest shipment of beets compared to the cost of manure and labor.

A pony, one of the servants, stepped inside. “Sir? There are ponies outside that would like to speak with you.”

Bay looked up from his work. “I’m busy.”

“One of them is a guard, sir.”

Bay sighed, and stood up. “Fine, entertain them for a moment.”

Maple didn’t even look up from his work, staying focused so that he could get it done and get back to his tome. Being done with his work was the only way his father would let him get back to his study, and the moment that happened, the sooner he could go back to experimenting with his runes.

Clack-clack. Sounded the abacus, as Maple worked faster, trying to be done as quickly as he could. If they sold another two shipments of beets they make back enough to more than double the expenditures.

“Absolutely not!” his father’s voice suddenly rang from the foyer.

Maple paused. His father was not a man that yelled often. As he put it, he had ponies that were paid to get angry for him, he had no need to yell.

He slowly set down his quill, and slowly made his way to the office door, and pressed his ear to it.

“We don’t even know any of you! How did you…” his father’s voice sounded, trailing off through the door.

Maple leaned closer into the door.

“How do you know about that?” he roared again.

A pause.

“Of course it matters!”

Maple pressed his ear against the door harder, trying desperately to hear the other half of the conversation.

“Absolutely not! I’m not trusting my son to you! I’ve seen the witch hunts in Earthonia! I know better!”

“The witch hunts?” Maple thought before a spike of terror was staked through his chest. “Are they after me? Is it the Earthonian Inquisition? How did they find out? How? Why are they here?”

He backed up against the wall, panic setting in as all the stories his father ever told him, all the ones that ended with his great grandfather burned at the stake rushed back to him. They were hunting him down, all carrying pitchforks and torches.

His heart began to pound, and he glanced down at the necklace he wore, and the fainty growing runes in them. They were only big enough to hold a charge or two, before they started eating his own life. Eating the plant life would take too long, and he was too far away from anything use them anyway.

He began to breathe heavy, only a fraction away from hyperventilating. “What do I have? What do I have?” he thought, trying to take inventory.

He had his fire rune, but he could only get one shot out of that one. He had blizzard, which did better at holding ponies down rather than outright damage, there were two charges of that at least. He also had a quake spell, but that’d ruin the house, and a half-working charm spell which hardly ever worked.

He’d get killed if he tried facing them with just this, he needed to run.

His eyes went to the window, and he crossed the room in a moment.

He turned the latch, opening the windows wide, and nearly jumped out of his skin before the doorknob began to turn. He was nearly halfway through the window, when the door opened.

He didn’t wait another moment. He leapt out of the window, running out of the back of the house even as his father called after him. “Maple! Maple!”

He sprinted out, into the beet field rushing past a handful of farmers as he ran to escape the inquisitorial agents.

“Maple! Peme damn it!”

He kept running, looking behind him to stare down at his pursuers, and an earth pony in armor appeared in the window, leaping after him.

All of his fears simultaneously confirmed, he began running faster, rushing through the fields ready to cast a spell if they got too close before he noticed a shadow pass overhead. He glanced up, and nearly paled when he saw a pair of pegasi above him. His lungs were already burning, there was no way that he could outrun pegasi, he needed to cast.

“Blizz-Blizzard!” he yelled, casting his spell up at the pegasi. The rock around his neck flashed, and a cloud of freezing mist and howling wind shot upward. Both pegasi quickly banked out of the way, and gave Maple a well-earned second to run, before he was suddenly tackled from the side.

He rolled hard, before his fireball spell erupted into the sky, singing the mane of his attacker. “Fire!”

Cold steel kissed his neck, and he froze as his mind suddenly processed the fact that he could be dead.

“Hey kid,” Mouse said, pinning the earth pony down as Maple’s Runestone necklace hung draped around the long curved knife blade. “It’s been a while.”

Maple blinked. “You...what—?”

“Easy, kid, just like last time, I don’t want to hurt anyone today,” Mouse said with a smirk.

“How...What?”

Mouse stepped off of the young stallion and smiled. “We’ll get to that in a second, for now, we need to talk.”