• Published 28th Jan 2017
  • 1,496 Views, 45 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 3

Mouse didn’t know how long he ran, how long he rolled in the grass, or how long he slept in the golden light of the sun. When he finally stood, he stank of wild grass and flowers.

He had nothing sweeter in his entire life.

He let the wind play in his mane, letting it dance as fresh scents carried themselves into his nostrils.

This.

This was Equestria.

That word had taken on a meaning now. It meant sunlight, wind, and grass, things that were now more dear to him than anything else he had ever known. It meant freedom, the ability to run, unbarred by walls or bars. It meant that he would never again have to suffer the walls of a prison again.

This was being alive.

He breathed in the smell of the wind, and looked behind him, to see the mountain that he had lived in. A great castle sat, nestled between two walls of stone on the mountain’s side. Tower rose from behind the walls, and a mile of farmland stretched out from in a cone of golden wheat. Red-gold trees stood proud among the fields, and Mouse could only guess this is what fall meant, a time of color and chill, with the threat of winter hidden behind a veil most thin.

At least, that’s how that one poet that got thrown into a nearby cell had described it.

Mouse looked back, at this city that he had been in, before he slowly came to the realization that he didn’t even know he had lived in a mountain. There was only the oppressing, dark walls of the prison, but now he knew.

Simply stepping out of the prison had made him aware of so many things. Things he could never truly understand until now. Things he could not appreciate until he stepped out, and into Equestria.

Into freedom.

He gave another happy sigh before he dipped back into the grass, rolling in the empty field, just to feel the grass against his skin.

After all, there was no one to tell him that he couldn’t. He was free.

“Sir?” a voice said.

Mouse’s head shot up.

A guard stared back at him. The pegasus blinked, confused as he watched a full grown stallion roll in the dirt. “Are you alright?”

Mouse stared at him for a long second, before he turned and ran.

The guard blinked.

Well...that was odd.

It took a while, but Mouse finally decided he would head into town. A part of him wondered what had drawn the ponies there, and likewise, wanted some of it himself.

Besides, there was nothing that said he couldn’t go.

He was free, and no guard or pony could tell him otherwise.

As he got closer and closer to the fortress in the mountain, the houses became more and more frequent, getting denser and denser as he approached the walls. Squat, rough, wooden houses started out in the far reaches of the town, slowly becoming rough, and then smooth stone the further in. The road started a mud, before also becoming cobblestone, becoming more and more civilized as they moved closer.

And the noise.

Noises and sounds he had never heard before, rang in his ears. The hawking of wares, the screams of playing children, the din of work. The only familiar sounds were the clap of hooves on cobblestone and the ring of metal in the air.

Before long, he found himself in a plaza filled with stands, surrounded by buildings that proudly displayed signs that marked their trade.

“My good stallion!” someone called to him. “You look like you could use a nice belt! I have the finest leather in all Canterlot! One silver bit per belt!”

“What’s an armed pony like you doing without armor! Leather, mail, I have it all!”

“Don't waste your time anywhere else! Equestria’s finest rolls are right here!”

“Everyone needs saddlebags! No more than fifteen silver!”

“Pretty necklaces for the wife? Earrings! Bracelets! Everything to keep her happy!”

Mouse blinked wildly as he was assaulted by a thousand merchants, each and everyone selling something they insisted he needed. Clothes, robes, cloaks, bags, bread, knives, and more all were laid before him at the promise of coin, and he felt so overwhelmed by it, he had to duck inside a building.

“Why hello, there,” a soft voice said behind him, and Mouse turned to see a unicorn mare standing behind a counter. She smiled at him softly before speaking again. “Welcome to Opal’s Emporium, how can I help you?”

Mouse blinked, before he wandered over to the counter. “Um...I...I don’t know?” he admitted.

“New in town?” she asked.

Mouse nodded. “Yeah, that’s close enough.”

Opal nodded, and began to come around her counter to lead him around. “We have a little bit of everything here. Weapons, armor, gear, clothes, oddities, jewelry, just let me know, and I’ll get you what you need.”

Mouse blinked, and looked at her wares, eyes glancing over the tools, weapons, and gear she offered. A length of rope was marked for 1GB, and a lamp was being sold for 5SB. The meanings of these weren’t necessarily clear, but from what he guessed, a SB was a silver bit, and a GB was a gold bit, which he could only assume were the coins he had found in the unicorn’s pouch.

It probably would have been easier if the prisoners called them something other than coins.

Three sets of swords hung on a wall, and each set had three swords for a total of nine. They all had shorter blades, yet each one was unique in some way. The first set had long handles, much like the one he had. The second set had a shorter handle, with a large pommel and cross guards shaped like lightning bolts. The third set also had a short handle, but they seemed to glimmer with a strange light about them.

“Um…” Mouse began. “Why are these swords different, if I can ask?”

Opal gave him a look, before she hesitantly offered an explanation. “They’re made in the styles of the races,” she said.

Mouse blinked. “Um...what do you mean by that?”

She gave him another look. “I'm...sorry, do you not know?”

Mouse hesitated. “I—it’s—I—”

"Is this a joke?" she asked, a frown growing on her face as her eyes narrowed.

"No, no, it's not...I..." he began searching for an excuse. "I'm not very well educated is all."

Opal blinked. "O-oh...I..."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"

“No, no, no. I-I-it’s okay,” she offered suddenly, lest she offend her customer any further. “It’s a...it’s not a problem! It was my mistake,” she added with a smile before sliding over next to him. “These,” she said, pointing to the long-handled short swords, “are built for earth ponies. The long handle is there to help an earth pony grip it in his mouth. The shorter ones with the lightning bolts are pegasi-made, they don’t need as much room, since they can balance well, and the last ones are unicorn made, they need a slightly-different way of forging them so they can be held in a telekinetic grip better.”

Mouse nodded. “Different how?” he asked.

Opal opened her mouth, before frowning. “I don’t actually know, to be honest.”

“Well, can I trade?” Mouse asked, motioning to what he now knew was an earth-pony sword.

“No,” she replied. “The Equestrian Merchant's Guild has a policy on accepting used adventuring equipment. It can only be bought by any guild member for half it’s original market value. You can put it down as a partial payment, however.”

“How much would it cost me, then?”

“Another five gold bits,” she told him.

That was all his money.

“I’ll pass…” he said. “Oh! But I have something.” He reached into his bag and pulled one of the cloaks out of his bag. “Will you take this?”

Opal grabbed the cloak and spread it across her counter. “Well, let’s see, some fine silk...and…”

She frowned.

The star faced her, its four points and horn shining proudly.

Too proudly.

“I can’t take this,” she told him.

“Why, what's wrong with it?” Mouse asked.

“What’s wrong?” she repeated. “What do you mean what’s wrong?”

He blinked, at a complete loss for words. “I...um...I…”

“You really don’t know?” she asked. “What did you grow up in the Dark Wood?”

“Uh...yes?” he lied, trying to find an explanation that wasn't “been a convict for my entire life.”

She blinked, sighed and pointed at the cloak. “Where did you get this?”

His first instinct was to lie. To tell her that he had murdered the unicorn who wore it in order to establish dominance.

His second instinct was to slap that first instinct in the face.

This wasn’t a prison. This was Equestria. This was a land of freedom. He didn’t need to say that.

“I found it on a dead unicorn. One of the guards killed him.”

“Good riddance,” Opal muttered. “Look, all you need to know is that the ponies that wear this star are bad news.”

Mouse slowly rotated the bag at his side, hiding the star against his flank.

She sighed. “Look, you probably only kept this thing because you thought you could sell it, so I’ll tell you what. I’ll buy it, but I’m going to spend a good chunk of money so I can sell this. So despite the fact that it’s silk, I can only buy it for two bits. I know it’s not the best, especially for silk, but it’s all profit for you, right?”

Mouse nodded.

“So do we have a deal?” she asked.

“I guess?” he said.

“Deal!” she said, before she took the cloak, and slid a couple of coins his way.

Mouse pocketed them, but not before staring back at the rack of swords.

“Anything else I can do for you today?” Opal asked.

“Uh...do you have any apples?”

Mouse walked down the road, munching on an apple, trying to discover more about this world of Equestria he found himself in.

Another merchant was trying to get his attention as he finally made it past the plaza and into what would have been downtown.

Mouse passed him by without saying anything, and passed into a quieter portion of the town. More permanent buildings, ones built of cut stone began to crop up, becoming more prevalent the deeper he went.

Of course, with more proper buildings came more guards. As soon as Mouse saw even a hint of the armor-clad pegasi, he ducked into a nearby alleyway. He pressed himself into the shadows, and clung to the walls, hiding from the guards.

He didn’t want to be recognized and sent back to his cell, in case the Princess’ pardon was a lie.

He waited until the pegasus passed him, before ducking back into the main street.

Only to meet another patrol of pegasi.

A wave of panic crashed over him, and fear gripped him. His heart began to pound in his chest, and his eyes searched for anywhere he could hide.

An open door offered shelter, and he ran inside. He closed the door behind him, terrified, and stared out the window, watching the guards as they passed by.

“Hello!” a voice said behind him, making him jump.

He turned, and saw an earth pony mare and an older stallion behind a counter.

He blinked, his heart still pounding, before he gathered himself and spoke. “Um...hello…”

“Hello!” The mare repeated, looking at him with a touch of suspicion now. “Welcome to the Keystone inn, how can I help you?”

Like many things, Mouse had heard about an inn from fellow prisoners. Shops were places where ponies bought things, which meant they had money that could be stolen. Houses were where ponies lived, and kept all their valuables. An inn was a place to buy a room, food, and wait out heat from the guards.

And avoiding the guards sounded like a very nice thing.

“Um...yes. I’d like a room,” he said.

“Of course!” she said. “Our rooms are a gold bit per day, and our gourmet chef offers meals at 27 copper bits, or 8 silver for three.”

Mouse nodded. 18 silver per day. That wasn’t bad. Running in here seemed to be rather lucky, all things considered.

It was evening now, and with the sun going down, and his stomach eager for food, everything that the Keystone inn offered sounded exactly like what he wanted. “I can do that,” he said.

“Wonderful,” the mare replied.

Three days passed. Three days of three meals that Mouse could have only dreamed of, and four nights of sleeping on a bed so soft it felt like he was flying.

However, as the fourth day dawned, Mouse became aware of a problem. He had one gold, 6 silver, and 3 copper left.

That was not enough for another day.

That wasn’t enough for today.

As Mouse walked down to the main room which served as both a foyer and dining room, he found Cinnamon Stick, the mare who had greeted him a few days ago, and the daughter of the owner.

“Good morning, Miss Cinnamon,” he said.

“Morning, Mr. Mouse,” she answered.

“Uh...I don’t suppose you can answer a question for me?” he asked.

“I might be able to,” she told him.

“What’s the best way to make some money here?”

"Well, there's always the Dark Wood company."

The Dark Wood Company building stood proudly in the middle of downtown. Cinnamon described them as a mercenary guild of sorts, taking the odd jobs that the guards could or would not. Most of time, according to Cinnamon, that meant forays into the Dark Woods for which they were named.

The building itself was a smooth, white stone. From the front of it hung a pinewood sign, with a black tree burned into its surface to designate it as the Company’s Chapter Headquarters. The heavy oak door towered over his slightly shorter frame, and he could​ swear he heard the sounds of fighting just beyond the door.

Opening the door just a crack, he peered inside to see a small gathering of ponies, two of which were wrestling across the floor. None of the others there moved to stop them, but stood, watching as they punched, kicked, and choked each other as the rolled.

Finally pushing the door open, Mouse stepped in, taking the whole scene in. The smell of booze and the ring of steel practically filled every particle of the air, and Mouse started to get a very “guard” feel from them.

“Easy, Copper,” a giant earth pony said, watching the earth pony and pegasus were beating each other. “We want the both of you walking after this.”

The pegasus suddenly countered with a right hook, taking dominance as he rolled the earth pony under him.

“There ya go, Polar! That’s it! Show him what that pegasus blood gives ya!”

“Hey!” the earth pony, Copper, if Mouse had to guess, yelled even as he was being punched. “I thought you were rootin’ for me!”

“I’ve trained the both of you!” the earth pony laughed. “You’re both my dogs!”

The earth pony drew his hind legs beneath him, and kicked the pegasus into the air, sending him flying into the air, and landing at Mouse’s hooves.

“Well, well!” The giant earth pony said. “We have ourselves some new meat!”

The pegasus rolled to his hooves. “Heh! More punchin’ bags!”

“He’s not in yet,” the earth pony said, marching up to the pegasus. “We don’t even know if he’s here to join or not, feather brain!”

The pegasus blinked, and groaned. “Right...sorry, sir.”

The earth pony sighed. “Forget him, he’s not the brightest candle here, and don’t let him scare you off, either.”

Mouse stared up at the mass of flesh that was the earth pony.

“Name’s Cedar, Champion of the Canterlot Branch of the Dark Wood Company. The pegasus with the big mouth is Polar Wind, the earth pony is Copper Oak, and the rest of them should be doing their jobs!

A flash of guilt spread across the faces of the gathered ponies before they quickly scattered, all going off to find a job to do.

Cedar smirked. "Now, what can I help you with?"

“Um…” Mouse began, suddenly wondering if this was a bad idea. “I’m looking for work.”

“What?” Copper asked. “A little runt like you?”

Cedar shot him a glare, and the pony withered beneath his stare.

“Don’t mind him,” Cedar grunted. “We’re the Dark Wood Company. We take anyone who’s willing to pledge their blades.”

"Or, you know, we could use someone to sort files for us," Polar said. "He's a unicorn so he should be good at that."

Cedar sighed, and his hoof went to face.

Mouse said nothing.

Cedar recovered. “Come on! Let me show you around! Copper, take this stallion's bag and put it somewhere safe.”

"Yes sir," Copper said, as he looked Mouse up and down a few more times.

"Come on and follow me, Mister..."

"Uh, Mouse, sir."

"Your name's Mouse?" Copper said. "And you want to join us?"

Cedar gave him another withering glare, and Copper ducked beneath it, trying to get out of the champion's sight as fast as he could.

"Come on, then, Mr. Mouse," Cedar said with a smile, "and let me welcome you to the Dark Wood Company."

Mouse followed as the Giant of an earth pony led him deeper into the building.

“We do our best to meet all the needs of company members,” Cedar said. “We have beds, food, we even have our own smith to repair and maintain your gear.”

They came around a corner, and Mouse did, indeed, find himself staring a forge.

“Well…” Mouse began. “I…”

“Look,” Cedar said. “I know that the others think you’re going to be nothing more that a punching bag, but Dark Wood Company was built on the idea that anypony can fight. We’re not the guard, where being anything other than a pegasi means you get stuck with the worst jobs ‘cause they don’t expect you to do well. I mean, it's not like the rest of the Old World didn't have warriors. No, we’re better than that."

And yet, “guard” was the only thing that Mouse could see. The heavy armor reminded him of the crushing, armored hooves that kicked him in the dungeons. The swords became the glistening blades of the wardens, keeping the prisoners at bay. Even Cedar’s heavy build reminded him of a particularly vicious pegasus that made a young Mouse lick his shoes.

But Mouse said nothing.

Cedar led him all the way through the building. Showing him the upper and lower levels, along with the training hall, barracks, and offices.

And Mouse said nothing.

Cedar was beginning to frown as they came back around to the front room, and when they finally made it back to the door, he had almost given up. Still, offering his best smile, he turned and offered a final word to the unicorn. “Well, what do you think?”

Mouse frowned.

He looked left, where the mess hall was, then right, at the training room.

And he felt so wrong.

“I think I’ll pass…” he said.

Cedar nodded, before his smile returned full force. “Ah, don’t worry about it. It's your choice, after all. If you change your mind, we’ll still be here!”

Mouse nodded, before he slipped through the door, and out.

Cedar’s smiled faded, and the giant pony sighed. He let his head hang for a minute, before he turns to the mess hall.

“Polar! Copper! You’re getting latrine duty for a week!”

Mouse returned to the Keystone inn, head hung in defeat.

Cinnamon was waiting for him. “How’d it go?”

Mouse shook his head. “I don’t think it’s for me,” he said.

“Sorry to hear that, do you want me to get you your dinner?”

Mouse paused. “Uh...no, thank you...I...had something while I was out.”

“Alright, see you tomorrow then?”

“Yeah, yeah…” he said as he began to walk upstairs to his room.

It was no big deal.

He had gone hungry before.