• 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 34

Mouse stood in front of the door.

It took a long time to travel to Tall Tale, but they finally arrived, before the travel would drive Mouse any crazier. To be fair, Storm had lessened his insults, and Maple’s naïveté offered enough of a distraction to keep Mouse’s mind off of them as he explained the inner workings of Equestria’s wilderness, but that was merely a salve on an open wound.

Now, though, he had something else to face.

The door, with its massive, marble skull, ruby eyes, and crossed daggers, stared at him and the others as they all stood, moments away from stepping into the Assassin’s den. “Well this certainly looks like a place an assassin would live.”

“It does, don’t it?” Cut agreed. “I mean, what is it with assassins and skulls? I mean, sure it’s a bone and ‘ooh, I am death’ and all that, but there are so many other bones. Why not a spine? Or ribcage. Can’t live without either of those either.”

“Are you sure about this, Mouse?” Golden asked, standing next to him.

“Everytime you ask, I get less and less sure,” he muttered back, staring at the door that once served as the entrance to his home.

“That doesn’t make that a bad thing,” Golden replied. “If you’re not sure about this, then that is fine, we can go without her, if we need to.”

“You’re just saying that because you don’t want another assassin that you need to keep an eye on.”

“Well, I mean, you’re not wrong,” she said, before looking back at the others.

“How’s the kid doing?” Mouse asked.

“Hiding and being quiet in the back,” she answered. “I think he’s intimidated by the door, it is pretty creepy.”

“It’s about to get worse.”

She sighed. “Why do you do this to me?”

Mouse didn’t answer, and stepped forward.”Spirit! Spirit answer me.”

The rubies of the door began to glow, and the ethereal mare appeared. “Again. Again you must wake me. Why? Why can’t I sleep?” she whimpered.

“Hopefully only once more, Spirit,” Mouse said, “I wish to enter.”

“Every night, it takes you,” she began to recite. “You may try to escape, but you will suffer. Then it will last forever. What am I?”

“Sleep,” Mouse answered, and the door opened. “Thank you, Spirit. Now you may rest.”

“For how long?” the Spirit cried.

“Forever now,” Mouse said, before nodding to Cut, who merely nodded before he smashed the gems with the hilt of his sword.

The mare watched, surprised as the rubies turned to dust. “I...I get to sleep?” she asked.

“You do. Go rest. You’ve done more than enough,” Mouse said.

A ghostly tear fell from her face and she smiled as she faded from view. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Cut shook his. “Now this is kinda messed up, ya gotta admit.”

“Yeah, but I was more terrified for my life,” Mouse said, before turning to the others. “Alright, we go in, you guys stay together, I’ll be up front, and hopefully far enough forward that you’ll be out of range of any fireballs that could be thrown.”

“You really think she’d do that?” Maple asked.

“She has, several times,” Mouse replied simply.

“That’s mares for ya, though. No offense, Miss,” Cut said with a smirk.

Golden rolled her eyes.

“Let’s go, ponies,” Mouse said. “Before I decide this is a bad idea again.”

They began to move in, squeezing past the now dead door to enter the quiet, empty halls of the Assassin’s den.

The hallways of dark stone were bare but for the occasional red banner, and decorative skull, but anything that was of any value was long gone. Mouse led them through the hallways, keeping his eyes on the walls and the dark corners of the ceiling.

The four ponies behind him watched as they were lead through, past empty rooms, and bare tables. “Not a very happy place,” Cut muttered.

“It’s a haven of criminals and cutthroats,” Storm grumbled. “What did you expect?”

“Hey, just because you’re a criminal doesn’t mean you don’t know how to decorate,” Cut said.

“The both of you quiet down.”

“Why? If anypony’s here, they’ll know we’re here even if we sneak in,” Cut said. “There’s no hiding from someone who knows the terrain, and is an expert on infiltration on top of that.”

Golden glared at him. “I still don’t like it.”

“Noted,” Cut said in a terribly raspy stage-whisper.

Golden glared at him again, before she moved on, moving the smaller group forward after Mouse.

“Wraith,” Mouse called out. “Wraith, are you here?”

“Let’s hope not,” Strom muttered under his breath.

“Wraith, please, I mean you no harm, we just need to talk.”

“To talk?” a voice came from the darkness. “You came to talk yet you bring more murderers here?”

“They’re not murderers,” Mouse said, continuing to walk forward. “They’re ponies who need your help.”

“Like the last ones that came after you? The unicorns in armor that charged through here, and desecrated the bodies of the others?”

“Who? No, Wraith, we need your help. We just want to talk.”

“Just like you talked to Oracle before poisoning him?” she barked back from her hidden hiding place.

“Oracle poisoned himself, Wraith,” Mouse said. “The madness took him and he poisoned himself and everyone else.”

“So you say,” Wraith growled, still hidden. “And how do I know you didn’t kill him the moment he turned his back to you.”

“I don’t know anything about poisons,” Mouse said. “I can’t brew them, Ghoul had to tell me how to use them. I fight things, and stab them in the back, that’s how I work.”

“But you knew you couldn’t take Demon, you had to take him carefully.”

“And using a poison I know nothing about is careful?” Mouse asked back.

Meanwhile, Cut nudged Golden and whispered in her ear. “Demon? Wraith? All these ponies are trying way too hard.”

“You killed them, Ghost! You killed them all!”

“I didn’t kill any of them!”

“And why should I believe you?” she yelled back. “Why shouldn’t I kill you right now?”

“Do it!” he yelled. “Do it and take this from me! I don’t want it!”

Everyone went silent.

“Kill me, and help them. It’s fine. I don’t care. All I need you to do is help them afterward.”

The wasn’t an immediate answer. Instead, the darkness wafted around the gathered ponies. “You want to die, Ghost?” She asked, her voice coming from above and the right. “I can accommodate that.”

A beam shot out from the left, slamming into Mouse’s chest, and he screamed in pain as he was blown from his feet.

He hit the ground hard, the air being knocked from his lungs. Pain flooded his whole body, and wracked him, worse than anything he had ever faced before. Someone yelled his name, but he could not hear them for the sound of the ringing in his ears, and he could not see as his vision went white.

He rolled, agony flooding his every nerve, as Wraith’s words cut through the pain. “I can accommodate death, so long as you suffer.”

The pain faded a moment, and Mouse saw Storm and Golden standing over him.

“You heard him!” Wraith said, standing across from him. “He surrendered his life! I have a right to kill him!”

“I will not have him murdered,” Storm said. “He has crimes to answer for.”

“He will answer to me first!”

“No! We need both of you, so stand down!” Golden barked.

“His life is mine!”

“He will be hanged, not tortured!”

“Shut up, the both of you!” Cut yelled, drawing a shortsword. “Calm down or Ventus help me…”

“Stop,” Mouse rasped. “Stop it…”

The ponies all glanced at him as he slowly stood up. “I’ll take it, alright? I’ll take whatever you have to give.”

“No, Mouse,” Golden whispered.

“I’ll take it. That way I’ll finally get last laugh. I’ll take death here.”

“See! See! He’s my prey, and no one else can take him!” Wraith said with a grin.

“No, he’s not getting out of this that easily!” Storm yelled back.

“I will die, however you want,” Mouse said, feeling his hooves waver beneath him. “But first, I need to know something. Who came? Who came after me?”

Wraith glanced at him, staring him up and down for a moment or two, before she spoke. “They came to kill us. I heard them from the rafters, they said they were glad to see you could finish the job after all. You betrayed us, just like I always knew you would.”

Mouse sighed. “Baron Jet’s ponies then.”

“What?” she asked, confused.

“Baron Jet, our Boss,” Mouse repeated. “He hired me to kill everyone here.”

“So you did kill them!”

“I was hired to,” Mouse said, before shaking his head. “But I couldn’t. Oracle said he did it for me.”

Wraith growled. “I knew he’d call the hit on us one day,” she muttered, “I just didn’t think he hire one of us. Much less that one of us would do it.”

“I didn’t kill them, Wraith.”

“You had to!” She yelled. “There was nopony else!”

“I told you, Oracle did it,” Mouse said, before he smirked. “He probably did it to keep the Baron’s ponies from killing all of us.”

“That...that…” Wraith began. “That almost makes sense, for Oracle.”

“Told you,” Mouse said. “Now are you going to kill me, or we just going to stand around?”

Wraith glared at him, for a long moment, before her gaze drifted to the armed ponies around him.

Another beam slammed into Mouse chest. He growled in pain, but stayed standing.

“Maybe I will kill you,” Wraith said, even as both Golden and Storm had both taken a step closer to answer her attack. “Maybe not. You seem to suffer more alive, and that does please me.”

Mouse growled. “Glad I could bring you such joy.”

Wraith had a number of supplies, but more importantly, she had the Shadowgates. With all of the major centers of Equestria open to them, Mouse assured the party that they’d be able to move faster, further, and cover more ground in less time.

The only thing they needed to do now was find the Horn’s headquarters.

A map of known Equestria, bought by Cut, was rolled out across a scarred table, with cities marked with small flags to denote how likely the location of a headquarters would be.

The only problem with the set up was that there were flags in every city. From where they stood they couldn’t rule out a single city. Each and every one of them could be hiding the Headquarters, and that’s assuming there was a centralized headquarters. It was just as likely that they had hundreds of smaller cells all across the country, and could be working from any one of them.

“We can’t rule out Canterlot,” Mouse said. “They could still have a hideout there.”

“Look, Mouse, I appreciate the paranoia,” Cut replied, “but I ran the Canterlot underground. The capitol is clean.”

“They wouldn’t interact with you anyway,” Mouse said. “They’re a Unicronian nobles group. They wouldn’t be underground so much as behind closed doors.”

“And I would know, I’ve been going behind those doors to rob them blind.”

“But that leaves us with checking everywhere, even though Canterlot is clean.”

“We don’t know if Canterlot is clean. We’d have to check anyway. There’s no way we can get around it.”

“They’re too close there, they’d be found.”

“The Horn is trying to kill Princess Platinum. They want her gone, because they hate the idea that their precious Unicorn poster child abdicated the throne for Gold.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because they used to preach that until the guards ran them out of town!”

Mouse sighed, before turning to Golden and Maple, who just entered the room. “Goldie, what’ve you found?”

“I managed to get the door fortified, but Maple said setting up runes would be a bad idea,” she responded.

“Why?”

“Because there aren’t any plants around,” the younger earth pony answered. “If I had something to feed the runes, I could work with it, but instead it’d probably take our life energy instead.”

“Okay, and I suppose buying gems for Wraith to build some magical defenses is out of the question as well?”

“I don’t have that kind of money,” Golden said.

“Okay, and Storm?”

“He’s still cleaning,” she replied. “Apparently he’s not happy with how Wraith took care of things.”

“I was alone,” the aforementioned unicorn muttered, seemingly appearing from the shadows. “It’s harder to move bodies without help.”

“Be that as it may,” Mouse said, “at this point, I think we’ll need to call him in.”

“Why? What’s happened?” Golden asked.

“It’s not that anything has necessarily happened,” Mouse said, “but we’re going to need his help if we’re going to figure out what out next step is.”

“What’s the problem?” Wraith asked.

“We’re trying to find a ring of cultists that are trying to destroy Equestria. Right now, we’re trying to find their main hideout,” Mouse explained. “So far we have very little information as to where they can be, though we do know that the Horn of the Sacred Oath is a Unicornian cult. As such cities with typically large unicorn populations are our best bet.”

Wraith watched, eyebrow raised, as Mouse began scurrying around the table.

“This leaves Vanhoover, Manehatten, Canterlot and Fillydelphia as our main targets,” Mouse continued.

“And Canterlot?” Cut asked one final time.

Mouse turned to glare at his fellow thief. “And Canterlot…” he muttered. “Unfortunately, that leaves us four major cities that we need to search for any sign of this activity, which could take weeks per city, even with the Shadowgates cutting time down.

“So, the question is how do we find these ponies in these cities fast enough that they don’t kill the Founders while we look for them,” Mouse said, pleased at his explanation.

Wraith gave him a slow, and unimpressed blink. “I hope you didn’t come all this way to ask me about gathering intelligence.”

“What, don’t you know anything?” Cut asked.

“No, Oracle told us everything we needed to know each time,” she explained.

“Don’t worry,” Mouse said. “I’ve been thinking about this on the way here. If you have no other way of finding where they are. I can read the Tome.”

Wraith blinked. “Oh you do want to die,” she whispered.

“I don’t need to read a lot, just enough to know where they are,” Mouse said, glancing up at her.

“That’s still crazy.”

“Alright,” Golden said. “What I am missing, what is this Tome?”

“The Tome of Faust is a book, in which possibly everything we know or everything that exists is written in,” Mouse said. “I have no idea why, or how, but it’s there. Supposedly, the cost of this is that I would begin to lose my mind, but it would give us everything we need to do.”

“Uh, huh…” Cut said, “and I just happen to have a compass of bastard-finding.”

“I’m serious,” Mouse said. “Oracle ran this place on that book. He hired me through that with the sheer power of manipulation seeing into the future gave him. It works, and I don’t know how.”

“It’s true,” Wraith said. “That book has very powerful magic tied to it.”

“So Mouse isn’t an awful liar, then?” Storm said, walking up next to them.

“Assuming he told you that he was hired by a pony that had a book that could tell the future,” Wraith replied.

Strom didn’t answer.

“So, if worst comes to worst,” Mouse said, “I can use the Tome to find the Horn.”

“No you can’t,” Wraith said.

“Why not?”

“Because the Tome’s gone.”

“What do you mean, gone?” he asked.

“Those ponies I told you about, Baron Jet’s soldiers? They took it.”

“They took it?” Mouse asked.

She nodded. “I was almost positive you killed us so you could sell it.”

Mouse blinked. “That’s...unfortunate,” he said.

“Question:” Storm said. “Why does an Equestrian noble need a Tome that has the future written in it?”

“Oh, he’s not Equestrian,” Wraith said. “He’s Unicornian.”

All eyes went to Wraith.

“Could he be running the Horn, here?”

“No…” Mouse said. “He’s fine with uniting the three tribes. He just thinks that…He just…”

“What?” Golden asked.

“He just feels that Equestria should be built into a more useful state. He...Oh, Sweet Luna he’s using them.”

The others blinked.

“He’s using the Horn to get rid of the Founders. He’s pinning it on an extremist unicorn group, before he’ll sweep in, and save Equestria in the name of Unicornia. He’s going to use Equestria to fight his war in Unicornia.”

“What are you talking about?” Storm asked.

“Baron Jet’s a Golden Revolutionary. He wants to put Princess Gold on the throne of Unicornia. The Horn of the Sacred Oath is a bunch of old money unicorn supremacists, they’re all for killing Silver just because she’s a failure of a Unicornian noble. The moment that Jet comes in, he says that there are Unicornian nobles that want to help Equestria.

“If he wipes out the Horn after they take out the Founders, he’ll be a hero. With that power, and the Tome, he could manipulate the entire country into making him the leader and use Equestria to get Golden back on the throne.”

“That’s...That’s ridiculous, Mouse.” Cut said.

“Is it? All he needs to know is what he wants to do, and then read how he got it to happen.”

“Yes, and what are the chances that this will actually happen?” Storm asked.

“There’s no way of knowing,” Golden said.

“No,” Mouse said. “No there is one way we can find out.”

“How?”

Mouse swiped all the flags off the table. “We steal the Tome.”

“What?”

“We find Baron Jet’s hideout, find the Tome, and if nothing else, we read it. We’ll figure out what he’s planning, and we can prepare for the counter-offensive in a single turn.”

“That’s…”

“It could work,” Wraith said. “It’s crazy, but it could work.”

Mouse looked to the others.

“Um...I guess we can work with that?” Maple asked more than said.

Cut nodded and smiled. “A little B&E will do many good.”

Storm shrugged. “I’ve come this far.”

Golden nodded “We’re with you.”

Mouse nodded. “Then we have a heist to plan.”

“You resolve to continue pushing yourself. Perhaps there's more to you than you thought.”