• 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 7

Mouse read the small parchment that Cut Purse had given him. The instructions written on them in a script that seemed a little too smooth and flowing for a thief, but they were clear, and that was perhaps more important.

It said it right there, clear as day, that he should go down to the warehouse district on the west side of town, at midnight. He was to come alone, of course, but he was not to bring any tools with him, no daggers, no picks, nothing. The only thing he was allowed was a cloak, and not an item more.

Mouse was a little nervous about leaving his bag, though. Between its magical abilities and the five pointed star on its side that apparently would make him a target of hatred, leaving it alone would perhaps be the last time he would see it.

Still, this would be his only chance.

If...if he wanted this.

He still wasn’t sure. Was this going to be his life now? Running from the prison and the law just to make a living? Was that going to be his fate? Couldn’t there be another option out there somewhere? Was this all he could do?

He sighed.

It was an opportunity. It was the only opportunity he had. He had no other choice now.

He was going to be a thief, and no matter how much he hated it, it was the truth, and the only truth Mouse could find.

Besides, this was the day, he had spent so long waiting and thinking and debating this fate that he had no more time. It was a few hours till midnight, and he needed what little he had to get back to the It was now or never, as simple as that.

So, removing his belt with the magical bag, and storing it beneath a floorboard that he had worked up off the floor, he readied himself with a long breath, and left his home into the night.

His trip to the warehouse district was uneventful, but he had a short detour as he had a little trouble finding the meeting point that the parchment described. As it was, he was the last one to arrive, with three other ponies already waiting.

One was an earth pony that Mouse recognized from one of the runs Cut had lead them on, but whose name escaped him, if it was ever mentioned. He held a torch aloft, leaving the back alley bathed in a warm orange light. “There you are,” he muttered. “I was beginning to think you chickened out.”

Mouse shook his head but said nothing, joining the other two ponies that all watched him approach. One was a pegasus, grinning ear to ear with the smuggest smirk Mouse had seen in his life. It was the kind of smugness that Mouse had previously thought was possessed solely by guards, and it took only a second of that smirk before the unicorn decided that he did not like the pegasus.

The other pony was another earth pony, she was much smaller than the one bearing the torch, and was almost smaller than Cut Purse, but she had a glint in her eye that spoke of a determination that Mouse had seen in the survivors of the prison. Those who were at the bottom of the pecking order, by determined to rule the jail before the month is out.

She was dangerous.

“Evening Gents,” the earth pony with the torch said. “We have a little test for ya.”

“What do you mean a test?” The pegasus asked.

“Exactly that,” the torch-bearing pony said. “The gang doesn’t have room for all three of you, so we’re going to have a little contest, and I am the proctor of this little event, so if you stop interrupting me, then we can move on.”

The pegasus smirked. “Look, just save us all some time and give me the spot.”

“You don’t get points for being cute,” the earth pony said. “So here’s the deal. Out there’s a pony by the name of Lord Golden Chain, you know the type, snobbish unicorn noble from back west trying to make a fortune in this great land of Equestria. Your job is to rob him blind.”

“Good, because I wasn’t going to give him a tour of the city,” the pegasus said with that same smirk.

Mouse looked at him, but said nothing, and the Earth pony mare beside him shared his look of disgust.

“So what are we taking? His purse? His house keys?” the pegasus asked, turning on his back and continuing to stay airborn.

The proctor sighed, before he nodded. “Yes, I want you to take his keys.”

“Alright, I’m on it!” the pegasus said, before he leapt into the air, and disappeared.

For a second Mouse was worried he had to go, that he had to follow the pegasus or be left behind. He began to move, but the second he lifted a hoof, the proctor shook his head, so Mouse simply froze.

The torch-bearing pony watched him go before turning to the others. “Now that we won’t have to deal with any further interruptions, you’re not after the key.”

Mouse blinked, but stayed quiet while the mare next to him nodded.

“You’re after his chain, it’s his signet chain, and with that in our hooves, we can move some serious cargo. You passed the first test, which is listening, so now it’s down to you two. Whichever of you can steal it from him, or each other, and brings it to me first is in.” He reached into a pouch on his best, and presented them each with parchment. “These are directions to his home. Good luck.”

Mouse and the mare each took a page, with the house marked in red ink.

“Well? What are you waiting for?” the proctor asked.

Both ponies risked one last look at each other, before they broke for it, running for the street, both heading directly for the house of their target.

Mouse ducked down another alleyway, turning away from the mare to be alone with his thoughts for a moment and try to plan without her eyes on him. He ran and slid through the alleys, before taking to the rooftops by a convenient stack of crates.

He had to think. Chances were the pony was sleeping, that would be in his favor if not for the fact that the pegasus would most likely be relying on speed rather than stealth to get the keys he thought were the target. There was no guarantee that the pony would still be sleeping after the pegasus made his run.

He was still unsure about the earth pony mare. He didn’t know how she was going to get in, nor how she was going to go for the chain. Perhaps she would be slower than him. He could pick a simple lock without any picks, and he could try the invisibility again. That would get him through the house simple enough, but if the mare were to follow him…

Mouse frowned.

It seemed that he’d just have to take the chain first.

He leapt across an alley, before dropping back to the earth to cut across a street. He crossed over and soon found himself surrounded by large houses that were forced to be close together by the growth of the town.

He had been told that all of these mansions belonged to the unicorn nobles from the old world. You could tell, he said, by how they’re so close together, and how close they are to the town. Very few of the unicorns thought about sustaining a fortune like the few earth pony landowners that came across the sea. The earth ponies typically surrounded themselves with land, where they could have farmers work the field for wages, and as a result, were quickly gaining fortunes.

The nobles, on the other hoof, tried to surround themselves with their peers, continuing to live of the fortune built by their ancestors. Ironically, Mouse found that this closeness made it easier to hide. More deep shadows and points to leap off of to climb the fences that seemed so prominent here.

Mouse moved as quietly as he could, before finding an alley between two of the mansion, and quickly wedged himself between two of the fences, climbing up between the fences until he could leap over and into the yard of an unsuspecting neighbor.

His eyes found the house, and watched it for any kind of sign of the pegasus that should already be here.

Yes, there he was. The pegasus was flying away from the house as fast as possible, no doubt key in hoof.

And there was Golden Chain, yelling and screaming at the sky.

Now was his chance, he supposed.

He quickly made his way to one of the eves of the building, before he leapt into his target’s yard, sailing over the fence and landing hard in the grass.

The second he hit, he cast his spell, and his body disappeared from sight. He rolled, crashing into a very prickly rose bush, and whimpered as the thorns bit into his flesh.

“What was that?” He heard Chain growl, before he came around to stare at the roses.

Despite himself, Mouse offered a prayer to the goddess of the moon for a blessing, hoping that his spell would hold up against the noble’s eye. He held his breath as the noble glared in his direction, before he grumbled. “That brute ruined my roses! I swear, if the guards do not catch that thug, I will see someone hanged.”

Mouse kept silent, and held his breath as he slowly moved around the noble who was angrily mourning his rose bush, before he quickly made a bee-line for the mansion’s front door.

He smiled when he saw that it was still open.

He slipped inside, and tried to think. “Where would somepony keep a signet chain?”

He ran up the stairs, ducking his head into whatever room he could to try and find the chain that he had been sent to steal. He ran past the kitchen and the dining rooms, past bedrooms and sitting rooms, three studies, each filled with books, scrolls, and magical apparati.

He stuck his head in, looked around, and moved on. He didn’t have the time, nor did he have the magical reserves to keep his invisibility spell up forever, he had to find the chain and get out.

And then he found a locked door. His heart leapt at the sight of that door, and he finally risked dropping his invisibility and cast his lockpicking spell. There was a moment of silence, before the door clicked open, and Mouse rushed inside, trying to hide from the open hallway that would leave him exposed to anypony that would have crested the stairs.

He closed the door behind him, leaving him in the otherwise silent room with the single window. Tall bookshelves lined the walls, next to expensive paintings of unicorn mares and statuettes of yet other figures Mouse didn’t recognize.

He took half a second to breath before he began searching the room once more. He needed to get the chain and leave as soon as possible. First were the shelves, all lined with books of various subjects, each labeled with a tiny plaque that decorated the center of the shelves: Magical Study, Law, Biography, and there was even a small shelf labeled “fiction.”

He checked them over, searching for something that could hold the chain. Although he did pause for a second on the fiction shelf when the book titled “The Alicorn Gods” caught his attention. He blinked, before he moved on. He didn’t have time to read a noble’s book. He had to find that chain.

He spun around the room, searching for anything that could hold the chain.

And there it was.

A little chest, with a chain motif carved along the edges and corners, sat beside the window. Mouse immediately cursed himself for not noticing it upon first entering the room. He crossed the study, leaping over the desk to land perfectly in front of the box.

And then a hoof came through the window.

Glass shards flew at him, and Mouse covered his eyes as the hoof of the earth pony mare snatched the box in front of him. She hung on the wall, clinging to the window with all the dexterity a hoof could offer before she gave Mouse a smile. “Thanks for finding this for me,” she whispered, before she dropped to the yard.

“Another one?” a voice said from the hallway.

Mouse cursed, before he cast his spell again, and tried to open the window so he could follow the mare, when the door to the room slammed open.

The noble crossed the room screaming. “My chain!” he yelled, as he ran to the window. “The thieves took my chain!”

Mouse began to back away, under his spell, before his hoof caught the carpet.

He tripped, and in that moment, he felt his heart stop.

He landed hard, and a deep thud sounded in the room.

“What was that?” The noble asked, when his horn began to glow, and a wave of magic washed over the room.

Mouse felt his spell fall as the wave passed over him, and he popped up onto his hooves and ran out of the room.

The noble screamed behind him. “How dare you!”

Mouse didn’t answer, he just ran, leaping down the stairs and throwing his weight into front door.

“Get back here, thief!”

Mouse decided not to, instead, his eyes were searching for the mare that had grabbed his box. The noble was barreling out the door, he didn’t have much time.

There.

She was disappearing down the alleys, running at a full gallop down the streets. Mouse followed, careening after her.

The earth pony was fast, and putting distance between them as Mouse tried to follow. He wouldn’t be able catch up with her at this rate. He needed something to get the edge.

A thought flashed through his head, and his horn shimmered to life.

The mare tumbled as Mouse’s silver magic grabbed her leg, and she tumbled, end over end as both she and box went skidding across the cobblestone path. Mouse ran up, scooping up the box, and booked it down the path.

He heard the mare growl, before he felt the ground shake as she ran. “You cheating, knife-faced, gelding!”

He had been called worse in prison.

She was gaining on him, he could feel it. She was running even faster now that she had all four legs free, and Mouse wasn’t sure he’d stay ahead, not with his treasure in his possession.

He galloped down the street, chest held above his head as he ran, when an idea struck him. He searched for a place to hide, not long, but just long enough.

A long alley. No.

A twisty street. Better, but no.

An alley with an intersection? Perfect.

He dived down the alley, and tried to cast his spell as he careened around the corner.

The spell enveloped him, and he crouched against the ground. He took a quick glance around, searching for the mare when he saw his spell.

It was imperfect. His form shimmered and shook. All it would take was a good look, and he’d be found.

Swallowing hard, he curled into a ball and stayed stock still.

The mare ran in, and paused at the intersection. She looked left, right, ahead, before she cursed.

“Where did he go?” she hissed. She hesitated another second or two, trying to find some sign of him down the alleys before she took off to the left.

Mouse waited a second, before he sighed in relief. He took one second before he went to work, dropping the invisibility spell, and using his pick spell to open the lock. There was a soft click, and the lid came open, revealing the signet chain in all its opulence.

The chain sat on crushed velvet, and shone in the moonlight. The chain was perfectly formed, decorated with spiraling bands of silver that ran through every golden link. The amulet by itself was a masterpiece, with a rampant lion engraved into its face, with the single, exposed eye set with a brilliant, if small, ruby.

The claws were tiny, curved pieces of ivory, set into the gold so that they just barely domed over the surface. The engraving alone gave the image of a regal, though scarred feline. A long, but definitely intentional wound ran down the lion's side, and a diamond tooth was definitely missing from it's mouth, but even still, Mouse could not help but vividly imagine the fierce, and terrible beast that was so lovingly engraved upon the amulet's face.

"It was no wonder Cut's crew wants this," Mouse thought, as he stared at the jewel in the box.

Wasting no more time, he picked it up, slid it on beneath his cloak, and closed the box.

Now he was ready.

He leapt up onto his hooves and started running in the opposite direction as his competition.

Even if she took the box now, he’d still have the—

Mouse hit the street as something slammed into his back. Both he and the box went sprawling, and he felt the mare roll off his back. “I’ll give you this, you’re good. You’re just not that good.”

She walked forward, grabbing the box, and ran into the darkness.

And Mouse smiled, and took a leisurely walk back to proctor.

The earth pony with the torch shook his head as Mouse returned. “Good news and bad news, new blood. Bad news, you’re too late, the mare got here first. The good news, the box was empty, so you guys can keep going.”

Mouse smiled. “I also have some good news,” he said, as he pulled the chain off his neck. “I emptied the box.”

The proctor smiled. “Well, well, we might actually have a thief on our hooves,” the proctor said as he took the chain. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Mouse,” the unicorn replied.

The proctor looked him over. “You wanna go with that or…?”

“I’ll think of something.”

“Alright then,” the Proctor replied. “Welcome to the gang.”

“You!” a voice called from behind him.

Both ponies turned to stare at the source, and found the mare that was also running the competition.

“He cheated! He picked locks, and turned invisible! We weren’t supposed to have any tools!”

“Spells aren’t tools, kid,” the proctor said. “You can’t lose a spell, just like you can't lose talent. It’s valid.”

“Are you kidding me?” she growled.

The proctor sighed. “Look, kid, if anything he out-lucked, ya. That's nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Luck? You're going to blame luck?” she growled.

"What else? We're thieves, we live and die by luck. His luck was better than yours."

“Hey!” another voice called, and everyone gathered looked up to see the pegasus. “That wasn’t fair! You told me you were after the key!”

“Because you weren’t listening, featherbrain,” the proctor yelled. “If you’re going to join the gang, then you need to know when to shut your trap and listen!”

“You sarding liar!”

“We’re thieves. We lie. If you don’t know when to lie or when you’re being lied to, then you have no place in the gang, now stop yelling before you bring the birds down on us!”

“You’re just building another Order of the Horn!” the pegasus roared.

“Luck my eye! You're after spells and wings more than anything!” the mare cried.

“And the both of you need to shut it, you’re going to draw—”

“Halt in the name of the founders!” a voice said from beyond the torch light.

“It’s the feathers!” the mare yelled.

But the proctor had already dropped the torch, and both he and Mouse were gone.

After the proctor told Mouse to go his own way, he went back to the abandoned house he called home.

And was only slightly surprised when Cut met him there. “So I heard you’re in?” Cut Purse asked.

“That’s what the proctor said,” Mouse said, unlocking his door.

“Brilliant, you're one of us now, Mouse. Just like I'd thought you would. Welcome to the family,” Cut said with a smile. “I’ll get you a ticket out east, so things can cool down here for ya. Then it'll be smooth sailing for a long time for ya.”

Mouse nodded, and smiled.

"I'm serious, three square, a place to sleep, more bits than you can ask for, low security. This is the life Mouse."

The ability to start over in a new city certainly sounded nice. “Tomorrow?” he asked.

“Of course,” Cut replied. “Meet me at the wall their building to the south, I’ll get you a nice carriage out.”

Mouse nodded, said his goodbyes, and closed the door of his tiny abandoned home.

Well, it wasn’t a normal life, but it was the closest he could get.