• Published 31st Oct 2018
  • 468 Views, 2 Comments

School Stories - Visiden Visidane



A new student to a very old school goes exploring with friends.

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Courtyard

"Second night is out in the courtyard, newbie," Lily Gild said. "Start by the statue of the Great Shield of the Kingdom, then cross the courtyard until you make it to the statue of the King's Mirror by the other side. Shine a light when you make it. We'll be watching~"

"Can you tell me what to expect this time?" Sleet asked. He wasn't convinced that his seniors were not deliberately pranking him with high level illusions, but he was willing to assume the worst.

"The courtyard served as execution grounds during the Unicorn Kingdom's time," Flame Froth said. "I'll repeat my previous advice. Don't. Talk. To. Anypony you find on your way."

"Especially if you hear singing," Lily Gild added. She paused, then held a hoof to her mouth. "Hold on, that's only during the fifth or twenty-third of the month. You should be safe. It's only the fourth..."

"The Unicorn Kingdom executed condemned criminals on the sixth and twenty-fourth," Flame Froth said. "On nights before, there was supposedly an Executioner called Sweet Verse who would stay by the cells of the condemned, and sing for them until the early hours of the morning, after which she took their heads for the royalty."

Lily Gild giggled. "You know what's funny?" she asked. "They converted those very group of cells into the senior dormitories! The first administration for the Atheneum certainly had a sick sense of humor!"

"There are stories of seniors preparing for their final panel presentation losing it upon hearing Sweet Verse's singing," Flame Froth said. "They would rush outside to put a stop to it, only to lose their heads. No proper records for these tales, though. Nevertheless, do not approach anypony singing unless you only have a casual relationship with your neck."

"Why does the Atheneum allow ghosts, if that's what they are, to continue haunting the school grounds?" Sleet asked. "You'd think they'd have abjured these things to protect the students."

"They've tried," Flame Froth said. "Several times. You're underestimating how old this place is, kid. The Atheneum is built on grounds with history going back to a time before Lexarius the Steward or even the Old Kingdom. This place has endured thousands of Unicorn Kingdom executions, the Windigo Massacre, the Old Kingdom, the Troubled Times, and every semester of the Arcanis Atheneum. It's steeped in magic and death, both of which feed these ghosts. The best Abjuration Circles we've come up with can cleanse the grounds for a short period of time, but they always come back. The Prince himself has said that the most drastic method will simply collapse this mountain in the process. We're definitely not having that."

"Relax, though," Lily added. "Lexarius the Steward successfully sealed the nastiest and most murderous ghosts here during his time. Sweet Verse is the about as bad as they get, and there's only stories of her chopping heads off."

"Enough talking, time to walk, kid," Flame Froth said with a firm push. Behind him, Snow Shine gave an encouraging wave.


If the library was like a labyrinthine tomb at night, the courtyard was simply a sea of darkness, a void that seemed to pull at Sleet's hooves, threatening to drag him into nothingness.

The moon still shone brightly, bathing the grounds with soft light, silhouetting everything in silver, and casting some rather lurid and stark shadows on the ancient, gray stones that paved the courtyard. At a distance loomed the massive gatehouse that stood guard between the Arcanis Atheneum and the rest of Arcanotropolis, rising like a grave stone while the moonlight filtered through its rusted, though still sturdy, portcullis bars.

Large pines lined the sides of the courtyad, tracing a path to the main lecture halls and decorating the entrances of dorms and other buildings. At the center, surrounded by a raised stone circle that served as a bench, was a particularly large pine, said to have been planted by Lexarius the Steward himself during the Atheneum's founding. Sleet was going to have to pass by it on his way to the statue of the King's Mirror.

He glanced at the statue of Bell Strike, the Great Shield of the Kingdom, one last time before setting out. Just moving away from it felt like discarding an important anchor. The restored statue of Bell Strike looked past his carved, squid-like helm towards his old friend and partner in rebellion, Blade Gleam, the last King's Mirror. It was through their efforts that—

A series of hoofsteps put a stop to Sleet's reverie, and his cautious walk. What was that? A patrol? The Atheneum didn't use roving patrols of ponies, relying instead of widespread abjurations around campus attuned to students and staff alike. Ponies without that attunement raised silent alarms that would send security groups coming.

So, who was that? It sounded like a pair of ponies. Maybe it was other newbies also forced to undertake this ridiculous initiation. A quick look around was enough for him to spot the source. It was a pair of ponies alright; stallions from the build of their silhouettes. They were walking in a rather urgent pace, and there was something hanging between them...

"Um...hello?"

It was only after that reflexive greeting did Sleet remember Flame Froth's warning. He raised a hoof, as if he could snatch those words back, but it was meaningless. The two stopped to look at him.

At closer inspection, Sleet realized that he should have pegged the sight as strange from the start. The two ponies were covered in thick, glistening, metal plates. Those were neither from the Arcane Knights, nor the Legion. And that thing they were carrying...it was long and flat, like a hammock or a...a stretcher. And there was something, or somepony lying on it too. Sleet could recognize the distinct shape of a supine pony. He couldn't distinguish where the head end was.

Sleet's eyes focused on another shape on that stretcher. It looked like a large pouch. The moonlight revealed some very dark stains all around it. His stomach squirmed and his chest tightened. He couldn't move. His hooves stood as straight as pillars. He couldn't say another word while the two ponies looked to each other, said something in some unintelligible language, then trotted, load and all, towards a corner of the courtyard. As soon as the gained some distance, they simply faded away. Sleet blinked and kept on staring. There was nothing else out there though. Finding his legs obedient, if not incredibly shaky, he pressed on.

The goal was the great tree at the center. It felt like he was swimming from one piece of land to another. The wind was starting to pick up when he finally made it to the tree. He was panting when he arrived, odd when he had not really walk— cantered that far. He pressed a hoof against the rough, scaly bark. It felt good to touch something solid and real. The branches above swayed and creaked, the needly leaves letting out a soft rustle as the wind ruffled them. Sleet let out a sigh to help catch his breath.

A loud, heavy creak from above caught that breath in his chest. He paused, his ears perking. No way. That was just a strange branch, that was all. He looked up towards the canopy of branches above him. Nothing but leaves and branches...save for that odd, dark shape far above that swayed erratically. He strained his eyes, but he couldn't make it out. For some reason, a light spell seemed a very bad idea.

Another heavy creak, followed by the slow, tight straining of a rope stretching to its limit. The wind picked up some more, sending the soft rustling into a loud crescendo. The dry rubbing from what was clearly a rope still rose above the noise. Instead of catching his breath, Sleet panted even more heavily. So much for a safe spot!

A loud snap filled the air just as the wind did down. Something heavy crashed noisily through several branches. That was it, Sleet broke into a gallop towards the statue of the King's Mirror. Something heavy landed behind him with a loud thud. Despite himself, he glanced back. There was nothing there at all. He ran anyway. He just wanted to put this night behind him as soon as possible. His hoof struck a jutting portion of the outright ancient stones, sending him crashing hard. He had just enough presience to stretch out his forelegs to break his fall lest his chin hit first.

Hard, cold stone slammed into his midriff, knocking what air he has left in him right out. His forelegs scraped hard on the rough surface, his hide splitting into what was surely a dozen abrasions. At once, he curled into a ball in agony, groaning and wheezing while his shocked abdominal muscles remembered to get back to work with his lungs. As soon as they did, he took a huge gulp of air, then struggled to regroup.

The wind was picking up again, rustling leaves and whistling through the buildings. A small eddy swirled by Sleet's coat as he got to his hooves. Though everything hurt, he had calmed a bit from that encounter. Maybe something did fall from the central tree. His frayed nerves just assumed it was a hanging body, but there wasn't any proof of that. He wasn't going to bother checking now, though. Only a short distance now to the King's Mirror.

Along with the rustling of leaves floated a long, sonorous note from what had to be the most beautiful mare's voice Sleet had ever heard. He froze yet again, wishing desperately that it was his mind playing tricks. It wasn't, and he distinctly remembered that today was the fifth. He cast a detection spell, then a light spell, but panic fumbled both of them, tangling the two basic spells into a jumbled mess. He should run just in case. Who cares if his seniors were laughing at him? They can have their fun. He just wanted this to be over.

The notes blossomed into a song in what Sleet could only guess was the language in the Unicorn Kingdom. He didn't understand, but it was so lovely that, for a while, he was fine with not moving. The voice flowed like water, swirling gently with the wind. The song must be about something somber and tender, like love. His ears flicked a bit, straining to take in each note.

The sharp scrape of metal on stone broke the spell as well as any sour note. With a gasp, Sleet looked down on his hooves. Had he been moving? Unconsciously walking towards the beautiful song? He looked for landmarks. The King's Mirror statue had changed position. He had moved. And that scrape...that sounded like something heavy and bladed dragging along the ground.

Like a large axe.

The song turned into a menacing giggle. Then a phrase in a foreign, ancient tongue. Sleet didn't recognize the words, but his chest seized and his mind somehow filled with understanding. Perhaps, it was simply because his mind held on to the facts that Sweet Verse executed criminals, but the meaning echoed in his thoughts.

"I have you know, traitor to the king!"

The dragging sounds sped up. A single spark flew up from the ground at a distance, and Sleet burst into a gallop. The King's Mirror seemed so far away, but he ran and ran...