• 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 36

Golden watched as Mouse paced around the room, and still wasn’t sure how to feel about any of this. Ever since he read the Tome, he seemed more off than usual. He rambled about certain scenarios, and how sure he was that they’d happen, but then he provide an insane, complex plan to negate it.

Even now, he had just described a ridiculously insane, incredibly roundabout plan, seemingly for no other reason than the ridiculousness of its complexity. Even worse, it seemed to rely on a hundred different factors that he simply assumed would happen.

But if the Founders trusted him, then so would she.

“Alright,” Storm said, standing as they gathered in the their planning room of the old assassin hideout. “Just so we're clear, the Baron is trying to rewrite history, and he needs to go to something called the “Tree of Harmony,” am I right so far?”

“Yes, but he doesn't know that yet,” Mouse replied.

“So, then the plan is to tell people to raise an army so we can then face the Baron, who is only going to raise his own army because of the army we are going to raise.”

“Yes.”

“And the point is that while the armies are fighting each other, the Baron will be open to being attacked, which he otherwise won't be because of what now?”

“If he thinks it's just us coming after him, he will focus on us, and will know what we do before we do it. By making him focus on the army, he will not read about us.”

“Right…” Storm said. “So after that, we then take the Tome, which we were going to take the other night, until you stopped us, and kill him. Then everypony lives happily ever after?”

“You all will,” Mouse agreed.

“Yeah, why am I having a difficult time believing that? Just any of it working, why do I have a hard time believing it’ll happen?”

“Several reasons, not the least of which being that I’m the one saying it,” Mouse replied.

Storm raised an eyebrow. “Well, if you’re right, you’re right, but...”

“This will work, I saw it work. I just need you to trust me”

“That’s so comforting,” Storm muttered.

“I know it doesn’t help,” Mouse said, “but I need you to trust me. More importantly, we need to make our first step toward the plan.”

“Yes, and what is that first step?” Cut asked. “Are we petitioning the Founders?”

“Not yet, that’s the next step,” Mouse said. “First we need to make for the Darkwood Forest.”

“The Darkwood? Why the Darkwood?” Wraith asked.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Mouse said. “Goldy, I need you and Storm to come with me on this.”

“Wait, just us two? No one else?” Golden asked.

“Yes, you two will make a better connection than the others.”

“Glad you decided to include me in your plans, Mouse,” Cut said, reclining in a hammock of all things.

“Don’t worry, I’m bringing you for the next one.”

“Yeah, I see how it is.”

“There’s a portal out to wilderness which will get us close, but still a few days away from where we need to go.”

“Wait, when you say the Darkwood, do you mean into the Darkwood?” Golden asked.

“Of course not,” Storm replied. “That’s incredibly dangerous, and there’s nothing in the Darkwood of any note to beg—”

“Yes, we’re going into the Darkwood,” Mouse replied.

Storm turned. “Are you serious? I’ve come to understand that you are a liar and a murderer, but I thought you were certainly better than crazy. There’s nothing in the Darkwood worth the time of going in there. There are just monsters, and a chance to make some gold. What can we get from there?”

“There’s something greater than gold, that much is certain,” Mouse muttered cryptically.

“You know, I think I preferred it when you were smug and a criminal than to this strange, mysterious you that you’ve suddenly built for yourself,” Golden said.

“You’ll get used to it,” Mouse said, before he shook himself, not unlike a dog shaking the water off his fur, before he gave a small smile. “We’ll leave in an hour and half, I’ll get some supplies down in town.”

“Oh, well, I should go with you,” Golden said. “I have the money, after all.”

“As you wish,” Mouse said, before he began to make his way toward the door.

Golden scoffed. “Trust me, I do not wish to be with you.”

They soon made their way to the still-budding town of Tall Tale, which bustled with the cries of nearly a hundred ponies all moving gems and ores. Golden watched them move carefully as Mouse led her down the dirt-covered streets. “There’s a store I started buying from this down this way. He’s...well, he’s not honest, but he’ll be fair. I think it’s because he suspected I worked for assassins when I shopped there the second time.”

“So what happened when you read the Tome, anyway, Mouse?” Golden asked.

“I told you, I read the future, as if it were plain as day.”

“You keep saying that, and I still have a hard time believing you.”

“But you still trust me enough to come with me. To follow my plan. You must believe some of it, at least.”

“It helps that it’s the only plan to actually take care of the problem,” Golden said. “Besides, this is a better deal than wandering behind a pegasus all day.”

“Why Officer,” Mouse asked, “Do you mean to tell me that there are some troubles in the workplace?”

“Alright,” Golden said. “Look, I’m not going to give you, a known criminal, knowledge about what goes on in the guard.”

“Hey, I’m getting a pardon, right?” Mouse asked. “It’s part of the deal, isn’t it?”

“Be that as it may—”

“Be that as it may, the pegasi think they’re just better at being a guard than any other pony on the force. They claim Pegasopolis discipline even though most of them were never even in the Old World. All of those old ponies had all retired by now.”

“And how do you know that?” Golden asked.

“It was obvious, just from watching how they treated you. Or the prisoners.”

“That sounds like it comes from experience,” Golden said. “Did the guards give you a rough time in prison?”

“My whole life,” Mouse muttered.

“They were probably just sick of arresting you,” Golden said.

“No, that’s not it,” Mouse said. “I wasn’t arrested the first time.”

“What?” Golden asked. “What do you mean you were arrested the first time?”

“My parents were arrested,” Mouse said. “They were Golden Revolutionaries, and were arrested after making their way here as political prisoners. I was born in the Prison beneath Canterlot only a few nights before they escaped. I was left behind.”

“Wait…” Golden said, pausing in the middle of the street. “You don’t mean that you literally have been in prison your whole—”

“I didn’t walk free until about a year ago now.”

“I...how? You should have been found! You should have been helped! How did no one notice you weren’t supposed to be there?”

“I’m not sure on that one,” Mouse said. “To be fair, I only just learned about my parents when I read the Tome, and I know I didn’t catch everything.”

“That’s...that’s awful, Mouse.”

“It is what it is,” Mouse said. “It can’t be changed. Especially not now, after all these years. What about the future? What are y—”

“It is what it is?” Golden asked, horrified. “You were wrongfully imprisoned! As an infant! What’s worse, no one tried to save you! You were locked in there for years!”

“And nothing can change that,” Mouse said. “Look, it happened, all I can do is move forward. Look, why don’t we talk about something else, alright?”

“I mean...I suppose? This, I don’t know how to process this.”

“Then don’t. Look, what about you? What are you going to do after all this? Are you going to stay with the guard?”

“Well, why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know. I’m just curious. Maybe you don’t want to put up with the pegasi anymore, maybe you’ve just had enough of guard work.”

“No, I’m fine. I enjoy guard work. I want to help ponies, that’s why I joined in the first place.”

“Alright, alright, I’m just curious.”

They finally came to the shop, and Mouse led Golden inside. After a quick shake down, and paying some money for a number of supplies, they left now loaded up, and began to head back. Overall, they had plenty of supplies for their venture into the Darkwood for a fair price.

And Mouse only had to threaten the shopkeep’s life once.

They continued back up the mountain, packs laden with supplies, up until they reached the door.

“I suppose that if I had to pick, I’d be a farmer,” Golden said.

“What?” Mouse asked, caught off guard by the sudden outburst.

“If I had to pick something other than being a guard.”

“A farmer?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Hm...That’s...interesting,” he said.

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t know. It just seems a little...I don’t know, I can’t picture you farming.”

“I mean, it runs in the family.”

Mouse nodded. “Yes, and I suppose family is important to earth ponies.”

Not an hour later, the three of them were moving. Traveling along the eastern edge of the Darkwood, they traveled for two and a half days. After those long, relatively quiet days, they reached the river that Mouse had found not that long ago when he left the Darkwood.

“We’re still another few hours away from our destination, but the Sun’s getting low, so we should probably camp here tonight.”

“There’s the first reasonable idea I’ve heard since we started this ridiculous journey,” Storm muttered.

“I’ll find us some firewood, look for berries, and scout the area,” Mouse said. “You two stay and set up camp. I will be back soon.”

“And there goes our all-knowing hero,” Storm grumbled. “Honestly, he’s going to lead us to our deaths at this rate.”

“I thought the Darkwood Company frequently made their way into the, you know, Darkwood? You are kind of named after it, so why are you so worried about it?”

“Because the Darkwood is dangerous. It’s filled with hungry, wild beasts that will gladly eat a pony without a second thought. Yes, I went into the Darkwood, but there was always a plan. There was an entry point, an exit point, an estimated time of how long we’d be there. Mouse has not shared any plan, so I can only assume he has none. That’s the kind of thinking that will get us killed.”

“He has a plan,” Golden said.

“And how are you so sure? Did he share anything with you?”

“No, but he obviously has one. He knows who he’s bringing and where, that’s not the sign of someone who doesn’t have a plan.”

“If we’re lucky,” Storm muttered.

“He has a plan, Storm. He’s always had one, even as a criminal. He’s too smart to go in without a plan.”

“Oh, and why do you have so much faith in him? Why are you even defending him. He’s a criminal.”

“Because he’s trying,” Golden said. “He legitimately is trying to save everyone, and I’m willing to bet he’s willing to lay his life down to do it, too.”

“And how do you know he’s not going to betray us later? How do you know he’s actually trying? What if this is all some elaborate ruse?”

“Because…” Golden began. “Because...because the Founders trust him.”

“What?”

“Princess Platinum trusts him, and that’s enough for me,” Golden said.

“Princess Platinum trusts him?” Storm asked. “Never have I feared for the sake of the country so!”

“Oh, come off it,” Golden said. “He has the backing of the Founders, so I trust him, and if nothing else, he treats the Founders with more respect than I have ever seen him treat anyone. He honors them in ways I still don’t understand, and that’s good enough for me.”

Strom didn’t respond. Instead, he simply continued to set up the tents, while Golden began to gather water, and stones for the fire ring.

Mouse returned not much later, with the promised berries and wood. They soon had a fire burning, rations in their bellies, and were soon asleep in their tents.

Morning came quickly, and Mouse led them into the open, waiting maw of the forest. The black-barked trees welcomed them with open branches, and thick undergrowth. The distant cries of wild animals, and roars of distant monsters barely reached their ears, just loud enough to break the silence and keep the ponies that clambered through the plant life on edge.

Occasionally, Mouse would stop them, and wait a minute or so, before continuing on. Everytime he stopped, Storm would ask why in words that were perhaps less gentle then they needed to be, before Mouse would simply reply. “It’s better that we wait now than later.”

Before long, it was now the afternoon, and Storm had nearly reached the end of his patience. “Well? Are we there yet? Is there a destination, or are we going to just wait here to die?”

“Almost,” Mouse said.

“See, this is why we need a plan,” Storm said. “Every second we stand here is a second closer to being eaten by something larger than us.”

“Then why haven’t we been eaten yet?” Mouse asked.

“That’s only by some stroke of luck, Praise Ventus!”

“Perhaps it is luck,” Mouse said, before he pushed on.

“Perhaps?” Storm asked. “It’s so obviously luck that—”

“We’re here,” Mouse said, suddenly, before cutting through a bush, and revealing a single ravine, a rope bridge, and a castle.

“I…” Storm began, his voice catching in his throat. “I didn’t know there was a castle here.”

“It’s more than just a castle,” Mouse said. “Come on.”

Both ponies followed as Mouse lead them across the rope bridge.

“See, Storm?” Golden said. “Mouse knows what he’s doing.”

“I wouldn’t go that far, but I do retract what I said about leading us to our deaths, I suppose,” he muttered.

They crossed the bridge quickly, and before long they stood on the open drawbridge, and knocked upon the massive gate. “I suppose the greatest question is who in their right mind lives here?”

Mouse knocked on the door again. “The most important ponies to this whole plan,” Mouse said, knocking on the door again.

“Who?” Golden asked. “Who’s so important?”

And, as if to answer her question, the door opened, and a midnight blue alicorn stood in the doorway.

Storm blinked, mouth agape as he looked up at the goddess before him. Golden, likewise, could not believe her eyes, and stared at the winged-and-horned figure. Neither of them said a word as Luna yawned, blinking blearly as she walked into the afternoon sun.

Finally, she opened her eyes, and gasped. “Mouse!” Luna cried, energy flooding her face. “What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Lady Luna,” Mouse said, with a bow. “We need to speak with you and your sister.”

“What? Right now?”

“The lives of thousands are at risk.”

Luna nodded. “Come inside, all of you.”

Luna lead them up to a room with a single table dominating its center. Not long after that, a fairly annoyed Celestia appeared, earning the shock of the other two ponies, even as Mouse explained what was going on.

“Why are you here, again, Mouse,” the elder sister asked, “and why have you brought more ponies?”

“Mighty Celestia, Lady Luna,” Mouse said with a bow toward each. “We need your aid.”

“And what do you need our aid for?” Celestia asked.

Mouse stood tall as he spoke, looking Celestia straight in the eye, even as she glared down at him from the end of her nose. “There is a danger that threatens Equestria, Your Radiance, which will lead to a greater Doom if left unchecked.”

“Oh, will it now?” Celestia asked. “And how do you know that, mortal?”

“I have seen it.”

“Of course you have,” she replied.

“What did you see, Mouse?” Luna asked.

“I saw the Void. A creature of feathered body, and mismatched limbs, with power unlike any other. He will bring about the end of the world. Equestria must survive, or the world will end.”

Luna shot a glance at Celestia, and the elder system met it, before she turned. “And why are they here?” she asked, motioning to the other two ponies.

“To remind you that I am not the only pony at stake. Hundreds of more lives are at stake, like those of my companions who are honorable in all things.”

“Honorable? If they keep your company, I do doubt it,” Celestia said.

“Tia, that is not the proper way to treat our guests, especially ones that you do not know,” Luna said.

“Very well, I offer my apologies. The point remains, though, that I do not know why you would come to us for that. The world may be in danger, but it is not our place to save anypony. We are leaving the world, the safety of it now rests in the hooves of those we leave behind.”

“Then we are doomed,” Mouse said simply. “Because no pony can face the Void.”

“You are being overdramatic,” Celestia said.

“We will die if you leave,” Mouse said

“And what happens if we stay?” Celestia asked. “We rescue the ponies, we appear before them, and then what? They make us Queens? We are guardians, not leaders. It’s bad enough that they made us gods! They would give us the country, and expect us to rule with perfect grace, but what do we know? To stay is folly. We are leaving, that is final!”

Mouse sighed. “So be it,” he said. “We will die, and the world will follow.”

“Perhaps we are being a little quick to judge,” Luna said. “This is a serious situation that you bring before us, and the consequences of it are far reaching.”

“Luna,” Celestia almost growled.

“We will have to talk about it,” Luna insisted. “In the meantime, I invite you to stay a while. We would gladly enjoy your company for a day or two, before we give you an answer.”

Celestia glared at her sister for a moment, before she finally sighed. “We would gladly have you as guests for dinner tonight, and we would love to house you for the night as well.”

“Thank you, Lady Celestia,” Mouse said. “Your hospitality is welcome.”

“I’m sure it is,” Celestia said, before walking away.

Storm’s head was still spinning.

Mouse knew two goddesses. The thought was a like a charging manticore, large, loud, and demanding the attention of those around it. Sure, one of the goddesses hated him, but that still left one on Mouse’s side. A goddess was on the side of a murderer and a thief, and she even stood beside him before the other goddess!

The image disturbed Storm to no end. A goddess, a perfect being, earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn, all agreed with a traitor and murderer. It made his stomach perform loops, and twisted his mind in ways he didn’t quite understand. How could she?

He walked down one of the many halls of the castle,wrestling with the idea, trying to comprehend everything, before all of sudden he realized he was walking next to someone.

The Goddess Luna walked next to him, watching him as he puzzled.

“Ah! Lady Luna, I...forgive me!” Storm said, suddenly wondering what he needed to do when speaking to a goddess. “I, uh...didn’t know you were there.”

“It’s fine,” the alicorn said. “I don’t mind speaking as Mortals do. It’s relaxing at times.”

“I see,” Storm said, still not comprehending what he should be doing.

“Is something on your mind?” Luna asked him.

“I...n-not at all, my Lady.”

“That’s not what the world around you says,” she said, before Storm followed her gaze. The castle wall slowly unraveled like a bad tapestry, revealing a room where Mouse was reclining, covered in bloody gold. He laughed as mares fed him grapes, and he proudly spun a dagger in the air.

“What do you mean?” Storm asked, still not completely aware that he was dreaming.

“Just look at him,” Luna said. “Look at what you’ve made him into.”

“But he’s a thief and a murderer,” Storm said. "He’s a pony that stands for everything that I stand against. How am I supposed to view him. What should I turn him into?”

“He stands against what you stand for?”

“He does!” Strom growled. “He’s a thief, and a murderer, he has no regard for the law, no regard for pony life, he has nothing redeemable in him at all!”

“Nothing at all? Because he lied, stole and murdered?” Luna asked.

“Nothing!”

“Much like how you lied, stole and murdered when you sat in that no-name Tavern back on the Unicornian frontier border?”

Strom’s indignation died. “I...Uh...that’s, that’s different…I...I only killed a pony that crossed me in a game! I didn’t...besides! That’s not important, I’m beyond that now.”

“Because you changed. Because somepony came to you and helped you. Somepony told you that you could do better, and you changed.”

“I...I did.”

“Mouse also knows that he can do better, he is also trying to change.”

“But...but he…”

“He betrayed you, yes, but that’s because he hadn’t tried to change yet. Give him a chance, like your knight gave to you.”

And that’s when Storm woke up, with the last words of Luna ringing in his head.

“We will not help you,” Celesita said, as they stood at the gate. “It is not our business to aid you, sadly. We have a greater calling to uphold, though we do wish that we could help. As some manner of aid, however, we have given you supplies and gold in order to fund your work,” she said, motioning to the large haversacks that sat beside the party as they were getting ready to leave.

“I am sorry it had to come to this, Mouse,” Luna said, “but we do have a greater obligation. We need to go, it’s our time.”

“I understand,” Mouse said, hefting a sack on his back. “Thank you anyway.”

“You’ll have my blessing, Mouse, if nothing else,” Luna said.

“And that will be the greatest gift,” Mouse told her.

With that, the ponies made their final farewell, and they were soon on their way, leaving the Goddesses behind them. Golden sighed as they crossed the rope bridge and shook her head. “Well, that could have certainly gone better.”

Mouse smiled. “No, it went exactly as planned.”