• 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 35

Crickets sang in the night as the crew of six ponies began to slowly approach Baron Jet’s Manor house. The manor stood on a lone hill overlooking a nearby moor, and, in traditional unicornian fashion, it proudly jutted into the sky, leaving black shapes that stood out against the backdrop of stars.

The plan was fairly straight forward. Storm and Golden would approach the front door, asking for help in finding a fugitive rune caster, and capturing him alive. If the baron sent a few ponies to go with them, then there’d be less eyes in the manor to look out for the infiltrators, Mouse, Cut, and Wraith.

If he did not send anyone to help, then this left Maple the chance to begin using magic on the house, hopefully shaking things up and opening paths up for infiltration or escape. “The plan will work,” Mouse said, before silently wondering if the Baron had already read about the plan in the Tome.

He pushed the thought aside as he moved through the grass surrounding the manor, stalking through it like a predator. If Jet already read the Tome, and knew what they were doing, then they were doomed from the start, there was no other chance.

With careful movements, they slowly pushed their way forward, until all three of them were perched, ready to pounce, just beneath the window. Cut pulled a small mirror, and slowly raised it above the windowsill, and peeked into the room. “We’re clear.”

“I got us in,” Wraith said, before her magic opened the window latch.

The three ponies slipped into the house, and Cut closed the window behind them.

Now it was all hoof signals. Cut pointed to the door, and down the hall to the left, before pointing again at Wraith.

She nodded, before she went invisible, disappearing from view.

Cut then pointed to himself, and pointed up, meaning he’d find a way upstairs.

Mouse nodded, before he slipped to the door, and checked the right side of the hallway. He could just barely hear the sounds of ponies talking toward the foyer, the words mumbled by the distance. Checking the left just to be sure, he found the hallway clear, and motioned to Cut that he didn’t see anyone.

Cut smirked, gave Mouse a pat on the back, and took off, hovering along the ceiling of the hallway to stay out of sight best he could.

This left Mouse, just him and the right side of the hallway. Going right seemed like the worst idea, it would head directly into whoever was at the door, and would probably get him caught. However, Mouse was willing to bet a lot of gold bits that he would find himself heading that way anyway, because Seyella hated him.

Well, if he had to go that way, he might as well go now, while the pony in the foyer was still distracted. Considering that, if nothing else, it would get him to a good position to begin shadowing the Baron if he needed to.

So, steeling himself, he cast his invisibility spell, and began to sneak toward the front of the house.

“I’m sorry,” Mouse heard, getting closer to the front door. “The Master is not in at the moment, and I cannot offer any help.”

“Well, that’s unfortunately understandable,” Golden said. “In that case, make sure that you stay inside in case the runecaster makes his way here.”

As Mouse turned the corner, and stepped into the foyer, he saw Storm and Golden standing in the door, staring up at what was presumably the butler, who appeared much like what Mouse thought a butler would. The foyer was fairly large, and gave Mouse plenty of room to maneuver around the butler, though it only gave him two other entrances to check.

“I will certainly take that into account, Officer,” the butler said. “I do hope you catch him, and have a safe night.”

“Thank you, sir,” Storm said with a bow.

Golden offered the same. “Have a good night, M’lord.”

The door shut closed, and the butler shook his head, before moving into the left room.

Mouse moved toward the right, and gave it a cursory glance, before his eyes followed the butler.

He turned, and sat at a nearby desk, and mindlessly filled in a handful of papers, before he checked the window.

Mouse watched with interest, before the butler stepped toward one of his bookshelves, and pulled a book free. It clicked loudly, and a the bookshelf slowly swung open.

“Well,” Mouse thught, “that’s promising.”

The butler took one last look around before he stepped inside the bookshelf, and Mouse slowly made his way closer, before he saw the door begin to close. He rushed for the secret door, trying to keep his hooves from clopping against the hardwood floor as he tried to follow the butler.

He squeezed through the door, just barely, and he was nearly pressed against the butler to do it, but so far, there was no sign that he knew. The butler began to descend the stairs that were hidden away, and Mouse couldn’t help thinking that a hidden basement was exactly the place to find a book like the Tome.

The butler continued down, with Mouse following after him. They moved quickly and quietly, further and further down into the depths of the manor, before they finally came to a single, large room.

The chamber was covered wall-to-wall in maps, charts, and ancient scrolls. Tables filled with plans, letters, and documents, and among them was Baron Jet, staring at a handful of books, notes, and the Tome itself. The Tome was shut, and Baron Jet simply studied the the cover, checking and double checking the artifact.

“My Lord, can I help you?” The Butler asked.

“Reading the Tome too much causes madness,” Baron Jet said. “What I need to do is to find the pages that have what I need so that I may use them, and be done with it. Unless you want to risk reading the pages yourself, I do not have a job that you can help me with, no.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Who was at the door?” the Baron asked.

“An Equestrian Guard and Darkwood Company Member. They apparently have a joint operation to hunt down a rogue Runecaster.”

The Baron grunted. “Earth ponies with magic was always a terrible idea. They were bound to hurt themselves eventually.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Regardless, I do suppose that I must keep my eyes on this caster. It would not do to have my house simply blown apart by a rogue earth pony that does not understand what he wields. I shall have to retire from this and watch my home, I suppose. Ah, well, if nothing else, if we can capture him, then I will have at least one test subject to read the Tome.”

“Is it wise to give such a pony that knowledge?” the butler asked.

“If they go mad, can they even use it properly?” the Baron asked. “As it was, Oracle was barely functional, and he only managed because his mind would not let him forget what he read. If that was not the case, he would have fallen apart long ago.”

“Of course, sir.”

Mouse watched for a moment more, as the Baron took a step back from the Tome. “Ah well, if we find this Runecaster, then I will have a better chance of working through its mysteries.”

The baron took a step back, and disappeared back up the stairs, followed by his butler. And that left Mouse alone with the Tome.

There was something rather soothing about knowing that the Baron did not yet read the Tome. Though, now that he thought about it, that could simply be a cover. “Oh, of course I haven’t read the Tome, and know that you’re listening, this isn’t a trap, I swear!”

Mouse dropped his spell, becoming visible to the empty room. When nothing jumped up to attack him, Mouse surmised there wasn’t a magical trap waiting for him. Sliding across the room, he came up to the desk, holding the Tome. It had not changed a bit since he saw it last, and the quill and ink that appeared to be stamped into its wooden cover seemed to shine in the darkness.

He slowly, carefully, touched the cover, and the leather felt cool to the touch. A shiver ran down his spine, for reasons he didn't quite understand.

“I shouldn’t touch this,” was the first thought through his head. He knew it was filled with such great, terrible knowledge that could make or unmake the world. He shook as he simply touched the cover before pulling away.

It was a powerful, and terrifying compulsion, because he knew it was true. This was a book of such power and such influence that the world would be a plaything in the hooves that held it.

Mouse became acutely aware for a moment that he just wanted a normal life.

He reached out and touched the book again, and once more there was a flash of terror at the power it could wield. He released it again, almost immediately.

He tried a third time, before he realized that the book was the source of this feeling. Well, beyond its intrinsic, terrible power. There was some kind of enchantment on it, a magic that let the one who touched it know what exactly it was.

Pushing past the fear that took hold of him as he came into contact the book, he slowly picked it up, free from the stand. It felt heavy in his hooves, so unbearably heavy, but he carefully took it up and held to the light.

A terrible thought crossed his mind, an urge to crack open the pages and read the secrets of the universe. To know the future in ways that only the con-ponies that inhabited the cells of the Canterlot prison claimed in order to scam money out of the average pony. He could read it now and simply understand everything that was about to happen. He could read it and find out if someone else would stop the Baron, he could find out if someone, anyone would take up the quest if he just left it now.

He could even read it and find the place where he could get normal job he wanted. He could find the normal life, and the normal home he was entitled to. It was all in there.

But he would go mad.

But if he went mad, he would never have to worry about this stupid Fate of his again. Seyella couldn’t doing anything with an insane piece on her board, he would be free. All at the small, small price of his sanity.

He let his hoof drag against the cover, weighing the terrible options in his mind. There was so much he could learn, so much he could do, and not even Seyella could tell him what to do once he knew what was written in the pages. He would be the master of his own destiny, finally, after all this time.

All it would take is to open the book and read.

And then he’d go mad.

But would he? Even if he opened the pages once? Baron Jet was unsure, but reading it once could mean he’d be fine, and even if this was all some ploy by the Baron, then that meant that he had read it at least once, right?

And...and what if it was a ploy? What if all of this was a trap, set up by the Baron who knew they’d be coming? What if this wasn’t even the real Tome, but a decoy? He’d have no way of finding out unless he read it, right?

He opened the cover.

He had to be sure, right? If nothing else?

He turned the first page.

It was blank.

He turned the next page, blank.

The next, then the next, then the next.

All blank.

It...it was a fake. This wasn’t the Tome! This was a decoy! It—

A sentence appeared at the top of the page. “Mouse stood in the empty room, reading the Tome.”

He blinked.

Another sentence filled in. “Above him, Baron Jet walked through his mansion, unaware of the three intruders, or the plan to secure the Tome.”

Mouse turned back a page, and read about himself sneaking back into the room. He turned back a page again, and read about his journey here. Back again, and instead of hitting the cover, he found another page, detailing the plan they put together. He flipped back more pages. His meeting with Golden, meeting the alicorns, his time running, working with Oracle and the assassins, his time with the thieves, his life in prison, his birth, his parents, it was all there.

Then, he saw something else, a sentence written in the margins, in a different hoofwriting than the rest of the book.

“You realize that all your life you have been coasting along as if you were in a dream. Suddenly, facing the trials of the last few days, you have come alive—Clover”

He started to shake, before a single thought shot to the front of his mind. “You need to know what happens.”

He moved ahead, tracing back along his path, finding the margin notes he missed the first time. “You realize that you are catching on to the secret of success. It's just a matter of concentration.—Clover”

“You've done things the hard way. But without taking risks, taking responsibility for failure... how could you have understood?—Clover”

“You've learned a lot about Equestria... and about yourself. It's hard to believe how ignorant you were, but now you have so much more to learn.—Clover”

Then there were more, as he moved forward into the pages he had not yet experienced.

“Now you just stay at your peek as long as you can. There's no one stronger in Equestia, but there's always someone younger... a new challenger.—Clover”

“You've been trying too hard, thinking too much. Relax. Trust your instincts. Just be yourself. Do the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.—Clover”

“By supernatural effort, you can avoid slipping backwards for a while. But one day, you'll lose a step, or drop a beat, or miss a detail... and you'll be gone forever.—Clover”

And then he came to the end of his life. He read the final pages of his life and that was it, his story was done. There were no more tales, no more adventures, that was it.

But he kept going, kept reading, seeing more and more of the world beyond his death. Equestria rising to a kingdom unlike all others. The rise of the Pillars to form the greatest foundations of the country, the Sun and Moon becoming Princesses to rule the kingdom, the birth of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony, gems that did not even exist yet.

It was all there, in the book.

He shut the book. He slammed the covers shut, and shook. He knew too much now. He knew so much, so many years, and ponies, and events that had not yet come to pass laid open before him. The life of every child, every mother, father, daughter and son was his to behold for the briefest moment. The weight of those lives, literally millions of lives, fell on him and he knew, and suddenly understood, exactly why Seyella hated him so much.

It was either him, or all of them. He needed to make these sacrifices, or the millions of ponies after him would suffer, and he never truly appreciated that until just now.

He was still shaking.

He looked back down at the book.

He...he had to focus. Here and now. Here and now.

He needed to get out. He had the Tome and…

He would lose the Tome. The chaos would be too much, he’d lose it.

Sweet Celestia, there was so much. So much, how would he remember it all?

He had to get out.

Golden stared up at the Manor, before looking to Storm, who was mentally counting the time as it passed. They’d have to send Maple up there soon, but they had to give the infiltrators as much time as possible.

“It’s time,” Storm mumbled.

Golden nodded, before she held up a mirror, and flashed it in the direction of Maple, off in the distance, hidden by the underbrush.

A flash of moonlight from another mirror told her that he received the message, before Maple’s small silhouette was seen, crossing the plain toward the house.

“We need to be ready,” Golden said, drawing her long-handled sword between her teeth.

“Do you think he’s sincere?” Storm asked suddenly.

“What?” she asked, balancing the blade on her back.

“Mouse, do you think he means all the nonsense he’s said. The stuff about rather dying than wanting to kill? About wanting a normal life?”

“I think so,” Golden said. “Mouse is...well, he is a criminal, but even when he was thieving in Baltimare he seemed to have standards.”

“Oh, so because he didn’t steal from those who didn’t have enough to take from, we should fall at his hooves in worship. I see.”

“What do you want me to say, Strom?” Golden asked. “Do you want me to say that he’s just as bad as you think he is? That he’s incorrigible, and irredeemable? Mouse is a pony, and like most ponies he has good and bad in him, there’s nothing new to that.”

Storm snorted, and drew his blade. “Maybe I do.”

Any further conversation was cut short by the house exploding. The eastern wall was torn asunder as Maple’s rune did its work. More importantly, that was their cue to move.

They rushed forward, weapons drawn as they “chased” Maple up the hill.

“Get him!” Golden yelled through clenched teeth as Maple gave his best maniacal laugh.

“Ha ha ha!” the young runecaster yelled aloud. “Infinite power is all mine! You simple mortals are…” he hesitated, “beneath me!” In the defense of young Maple, any speech delivered with a squeak at the end would not be intimidating. Luckily, his spells made up for it.

Fire erupted along the side of the Manor, bruning the walls as his runestones hovered around him, eating the life of nearby trees and grass.

“You’re under arrest!” Golden yelled.

The Baron stepped out burning wreckage, horn glowing.

“You are the symbol of oppression!” Maple yelled, trying to sell his bit, “you are the very—”

“Maple get down!” Mouse yelled, tackling the young stallion to the ground as a powerful beam shot above him.

“He’s not buying it, run!” Mouse yelled, picking up the young caster.


“Run!” Mouse yelled.

The thief booked it down the hill, and the others took a moment to look back at the Baron before running.

Golden sheathed her blade, and chased after the thief, quickly followed by Storm. A handful of beams shot after them, but they were far enough away that the Baron’s aim was inaccurate in the dark.

“What about Cut and Wraith?” Golden asked.

“We’ll have to meet them later, but that’s not important right now.”

“What?” Storm asked.

Mouse suddenly stopped. “Okay, he won’t chase us to this point. Now we need to go around to the North side.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Storm said. “What’s going on? What do you mean it’s not important right now? What is important.”

“What’s important, Storm, is that I was wrong,” Mouse said. “The Baron is not going to manipulate all of the country to make him the leader of Equestria.”

“Then what is he going to do?” Golden asked.

“He is going to literally rewrite history.”