• Published 1st Dec 2017
  • 1,412 Views, 392 Comments

End Game - Meep the Changeling

When an Old One stakes the future of Equestria on a game, Vinyl Scratch vows to win at any cost. But can she win the game when Hastur the Unspeakable could be anyone at all within the gameworld? Even an ally?

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1 - The Game Begins

Author's Note:

Due to the main villain having several possible identities this story has been written in third person for reasons of suspense and mystery.

This story would not have been possible without the generous contributions from my Patrons.

Thank you very much for the meals and bits of rent. This story is literally here because of you. Your contributions are more appreciated than you can imagine.

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Vinyl Scratch - 6th of Plantation, 29 AE

The void between worlds

Sight and sound were foreign to this place. None of the four could see nor hear their friends as the four souls drifted alongside one another in the umbral nothingness which separates realities.

Each soul could feel the others. A nebulous sense none had ever before experienced allowed them to know their friends were nearby, showing them as small points of something which wasn’t quite light. If not for whatever sense enabled them to know where were others in this desolate nothingness, Vinyl might have gone mad.

<At least I know they’re alive,> she thought to herself focusing a bit more on that thought than she normally would have simply because it was the one thing which brought her comfort.

<Wait, I didn’t think that… Vinyl?> Lyra thought just as hard, her mental voice “sounding” slightly confused.

Vinyl’s non-existent heart skipped a beat. Joy flooding her mind as she heard Lyra’s telepathic voice.

<Oh, for the love of- We can talk to each other telepathically in here!? Would have been nice to know!> Chem exclaimed irritably.

<Shouldn’t you have known we could?> Vinyl asked her pseudo-brother skeptically. <This is your home, right?>

<Normally, yes. We are merely displaced consciousness at the moment. I can’t feel any of my power, so I didn’t think we could talk,> the young Elder Thing answered with a mental shrug.

<So yeah, about us being… Like this,> Sky asked worriedly. <What are the odds that instead of sticking to the deal he’s just stuck us in this void and left?>

A tingle of fear crept up Vinyl’s phantom spine as she considered Sky’s words. <Good question. Also, you seem pretty calm. I mean, with that being what you’re worried about when we’re just sort of… Floating here. In this emptiness.>

<I’ve lived half my life in Ponyville. I’m just as used to strange things happening as any of you,> Sky replied. <Besides… After Has- um, Hatty showed up, drifting through nothing as a disembodied consciousness isn’t really all that scarry.>

Vinyl sighed in relief as Sky quickly stopped himself from saying Hastur’s name. That’s how this whole problem started… Thanks for the nickname for him, Sky. We’re going to get some mileage out of that.

<Could somepony please answer Sky’s question?> Lyra asked fearfully.

Distress flowed through her words. The minty mare had more darkening her mind than their current predicament, through the vague feelings didn’t even hint at what it might be.

<The Unspeakable always sticks to his deals, unless another deal is made. I think he’s just looking for a world for our game to take place on,> Chem replied as soothingly as he could. <He’s not really a creative person, but he won't want to pick a place which will let us win easily.>

<What like, a world you’ve been to before?> Vinyl asked as she pictured them appearing on a world only to be greeted by the remains of one of her “little brother’s” games. <So we don’t pop up and have an army of goblins at our disposal?>

<Exactly,> Chem said. <I did sometimes do real physical stuff to set up my character’s reputation as an Overlord. Not like, hurting anyone. But if he picks a place I’ve been to before, there’s a good chance of us having some artifacts, or an armory, or a castle, or something else of use.>

If only this game was one of his. I might have fun with it, Vinyl wished.

Chem’s games never truly endangered anything. While he enjoyed donning the mantle of an ancient evil and fighting a world’s champions, he only ever liked it if it was all make believe.

His games were just that, games. Illusions of such staggering detail, that no mortal could ever tell they were not real, created expressly for the sake of fun. Both his and theirs.

The fate of Equis rested upon the outcome of this current game. The world it would be “played” in would be a real place and the people who would get hurt were just as real as the world would be. An intentional mockery of Chem’s games. That was the agreement.

Hatty’s twisting of Chem’s rules was definitely an attempt to shake up his most powerful opponent. After all, Chem did this sort of thing all the time, just from the other side, Vinyl mused as she tried to distract herself from the endless emptiness presently engulfing her. Hatty will need to take every advantage he could to beat five opponents without using his eldritch powers.

<That’s right!> Vi exclaimed allowed as an idea popped into her head. <There’s supposed to be five players on our side. Twilight’s not here. She wouldn’t let herself get dragged into the void without a fight. Maybe she’s kicking the jerk’s plot for us!>

<That would be the best thing ever,> Lyra laughed, some of her despair vanishing. <I can totally see- Wait. I actually can see that happening. I don’t think it would be harder for her than Tirek.>

<Whom?> Chem asked curiously.

<Demon-kaiju centaur that eats souls,> Sky answered. <And you know… She only beat him thanks to a real life deus ex machina. A real life, literal, deus ex machina. Come to think of it, Discord gave gave her a key that unlocked a device that restored her friend’s superpowers.>

<Oh! That’s what he is called? Mmm, I don’t think that’s a good metric for facing off against someone of Hatty’s caliber. Thanks for that nickname, by the way.> Chem said thoughtfully.

<I mean, clearly saying his name is a bad idea. So, you’re welcome,> Sky said.

<Yeah, but she was able to fight him to a stand still. She’s more powerful now than she was back then,> Vinyl pointed out, returning to the topic at hand. <I think there’s a good chance she’ll put a stop to this before it->

The four instantly became aware of a fifth presence within the void, the nothingness seeming to ripple as the new point of light sprang to life within it. A point of light which was brighter than the other four combined.

<D-did I just sneeze myself to death?!> Twilight Sparkle exclaimed in a mixture of shock and panic.

<Whelp, so much for that plan,> Lyra sighed sadly. <Hi, Twi. Welcome to the party.>

Everyone felt a few waves of mixed emotions ripple outwards from Twilight’s soul. Fear, worry, curiosity, irritation… But above all, determination.

<Oh, this is an adventure? Okay. Last month was pretty quiet, makes sense we’d get one this month. Law of averages.> Twilight asked after a moment. <What’s going on? Will it take long? I was in the middle of granting Derpy permission for her younger sister to visit.

<Which is a big deal because thanks to the time delay between her family sending a message and Derpy receiving it, she hasn’t known she even had a sister for the last thirty years and->

Vinyl sighed, wishing she could give Twilight a hug to help make up for getting her involved.

<Chem found out another less nice Old One was on Equis. We got him to agree to “play” us for the world. We win, he leaves. We lose… We die and nothing stops him from destroying the world,> She summarized, hoping to prevent Twilight from rambling too much.

<Odd,> Twilight said curiously.

<O-odd?> Chem asked in genuine shock. <The Unspeakable intends to sterilize your entire universe if we don’t beat him in a game of his own design and you find that to be merely odd?>

Twilight was silent for a moment. <Oh. We can’t see each other. I shook my head. Um, not that I have one… Heh heh…> Twilight giggled, quite embarrassed. <I don’t find this odd. I’ve done similar things before after all. I was just wondering why this year’s End of the World Adventure was a bit late. Most of those happen in Megan and we’re in the second week of Plantation now. That’s all.>

Vi couldn’t help but smirk a little. <We don’t get one EVERY year, Twi. And just because this isn’t the first doomsday we’ve been a part of doesn't mean it’s not serious. I don't know if we’ll be able to stop this one.>

<Why?> Twilight asked worriedly. <What game is it?>

“Dungeons and Dragons!” The void itself seemed to proclaim in a voice composed of ancient power.

A jolt of fear cut through everyone’s mind as the nothingness around them became something. Each of them could feel the environment taking shape, oily shadows sliding over one another as they bubbled and oozed into a simulacrum of a familiar setting. A perfectly ordinary kitchen, the type a pony could find in any modern home.

All specific details about the kitchen simply slid off their minds. There was countertops, cabinets, a sink, a floor, and a large round dining table. Nothing else about their new environment seemed knowable. The five stood within the idea of a kitchen, the conceptual kitchen.

The crude bodies into which they had been placed were much the same. Simple three dimensional outlines. Colorless, featureless. Any four limbed creature could inhabit that space.

Thank god I have SOME kind of body again! VI exclaimed to herself joyiously.

Her joy was shared by everyone else as well. Everyone looked down at the templates they had been given with such relief to have a defined shape again that the lack of any notable features didn’t dampen their joy in the slightest.

More oily shadows oozed around the table, forming chairs which slid out of their own accord, squeaking slightly against the floor with the unmistakable sound of wood on wood.

”Second R’yeth Edition, the voice continued, now coming from a mass of shadows which formed itself into a humanoid shape sitting behind an ancient looking paper Dungeon Master’s screen. ”I refuse to work under any other ruleset. Sit! You have avatars to construct and I refuse to moderate this silliness for any length of time.”

Chem bolted for the nearest chair, nearly knocking it over as he sat down. “Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!” He yelped, giving the shadowy mass a fearful look.

Vi winced and made her way to her own seat. If this game is going to have a Dungeon Master, and he’s this pissed about running it, we’re totaly bucked. Five bits says we’re killed by falling rocks five minutes in.

Twilight took a seat next to the shadowy mass and turned her “head” to look at it. “Were you also dragged into this, Mister…?”

Vinyl felt a tingle of fear in her hooves as she watched Twilight casualty converse with their eldritch host. Twilight… I know making friends is your thing but please don’t- No. she knows what she’s doing. It’s fine.

“That’s Yog-Sothoth. Be polite,” Chem hissed urgently.

”Yes,” the ancient Old One replied, its voice dripping with irritation. ”Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a quiet time to take a nap when you’re omnipresent? Every time I manage to fall asleep you children awaken me for nonsense like this!

No more pleasantries. I’ve made sure Hastur’s Avatar is suited for the world he has chosen, and ensured it is of a fair power level. You will all do the same and then finish your little game before the eon is over so I can at least get SOME sleep this night. Understood?”

Twilight nodded swiftly. “Yes. I’m sorry, I understand how inconsiderate others can be when you’re trying to rest. Don’t worry, I used to play Oubliettes and Ogres with my older brother, Lyra and Vinyl play it weekly, Chem plays it in live action, and Sky’s a geek at heart. He probably plays some tabletop game. So we’re all experienced at this sort of thing. It won't take us long!”

“Actually, this is more like one of my games, Twilight,” Chem corrected before looking down at the floor, twiddling his hooves in distress. “Except in a real place with real people because Hatty is a psychopath.”

Twilight recoiled slightly, horror and disgust flashing across her undefined form. “I- Okay! We need to-”

“Dude,” Sky said as he glared at Chem. “Stop annoying the ancient being from beyond the stars. Don’t chat, make up a character. And um… I don’t actually play any tabletops. Is there a rulebook for this?”

Vinyl nodded in agreement. “Yeah! If there’s actual rules to this we need to know them… Shouldn’t we get character sheets and some pencils? I mean, I get we’re going to actually become our characters, but we still build them first, right?”

“Oh!” Twilight exclaimed happily. “So it’s like that time I played with Spike and Discord? We can just write down a given power and have it?”

”No,” Yog sighed. ”There is no rulebook for you to see. You will not get ‘character sheets. Nor did Hastur. We’re playing MY way. So it’s fair.

“Back in my day, we didn’t let mortals do anything. We put them in a new world with powers and a form we chose and watched them battle. There was none of this “being aware of the game” nonsense...

“I will tell you of the world you will be sent to, and you will choose from the options I give you. I will handle the rest. Understood?”

Everyone nodded slowly. The Old One’s barely contained anger being enough of a ticking time bomb to prevent anyone from poking at it further.

”You are being sent to a place known as the Queendom of Wieav,” Yog said, wiping a simple black and white cloth map depicting the nation into existence atop the table with a wave of his shadowy tendril. ”Wieav is a very old land. The Queendom which runs it now is the twelfth government to rule the region. It’s lands are dotted with ruins, long lost fortresses, abandoned villages, and long forgotten dungeons. All of these places are filled with relics and knowledge long lost to time, and civilizations that have come and gone.

“Wieav is not a consolidated land. It is composed of many small parts spread across it’s holdings. Those places which survived the end of the last regime. The currently populated parts of Wieav are surrounded by vast tracts of harsh wilderness which has long since reclaimed lands once settled.

“These wilds beyond civilization are swarming with dangerous animals, monstrous beasts, and packs of brigands. Those who venture away from the settled portions of Wieav are few, and either brave or foolhardy. It takes certain skills to survive these areas. Which of you wish to be skilled in arcane arts?”

Chem, Twilight, and Lyra each raised one of their blobby limbs.

Yep, I saw that coming. Mages gonna mage, Vinyl chuckled to herself, neeing a little humor to help her get a completely clear head. I need to pay attention to their choices. A well balanced party is what wins these things. I hope I can still make a good PC. I haven’t been a player in decades… Once a DM, always a DM.

Then, as swiftly as Lyra raised her “hoof” she withdrew it. “A-actually,” she stammered. “I- I think I want to take a break from being a wizard… It um… It just led to, well, this…”

Yog nodded once. ”As you wish. Magic is quite different in this world than the one you are leaving. There are several kinds, Divine Magic, Arcane Magic, and Psionics. You will not be taking Divine Magic.”

Twilight tilted her head. “Why not?” She asked, her featureless face somehow adopting a look which screamed ‘but I want to science it…’

”Divine Magic invokes the powers of the gods. They dislike alien creatures landing upon their chosen world and would expel you from it if they find out. As such invoking their power risks the success of your mission,” came the simple answer.

Chem sat upright in his seat. “W-wait… You’re helping us, sir?” He asked in shock.

He seems to be… Vinyl agreed quietly and skeptical.

”Hastur woke me up. The game must be fair. It would be unfair to allow you to create avatars which would swiftly loose through no fault of your own. Is my position clear to you?” Yog asked, his powerful voice briefly mutating into that of an angry old man before returning to normal. ”Arcane Magic is the closest thing to the magic you know, Twilight Sparkle. I recommend one of these three casting methods:

“Wizards harness the power of magic through scientific study to become masters of the world around them. Sorcerer's wield inborn power through instinct but follow a set path with their magic as it is not theirs to change, it is what it is. Arcanists are sorcerer's who have decided to study magic like wizards do.”

Twilight snickered. “Are you saying that in Wieav, if I want to be what I am now, I would choose Arcanist?”

Yog nodded once. ”Your opponent is more cunning than you may realize. It is best you stick to your strengths,” the Old One advised.

“Then I’ll choose Arcanist,” Twilight said decisively.

“What’s the world look like?” Chem asked.

Vinyl frowned at his question. Why would that matter? She wondered, nearly asking the question allowed.

Yog waved a tendril over the table once more, the map transforming into a picture of endless teal-blue grasslands sitting beneath a pink sky with two visible moons despite the bright sunlight reflecting off the distant deep purple ocean.

Chem nodded to himself thoughtfully. “We’ve got two moons, and the typical sort of magic… I think I’ll use costume 23d. I’ll go Wizard, please,” he decided.

“By Psionics, do you mean like, sci-fi stuff?” Sky asked hopefully. “Medieval fantasy is not my thing. At all.”

”No. Divine Magic came first, a gift to the god’s followers. Arcane Magic was developed by studying Divine Magic. Psionics is merely magic which is not native to the world and thus not derived from the Divine.” Yog informed irritably. ”If you are not skilled in any form of medieval combat, they do have firearms.”

“Which are used alongside magic and swords, and stuff?” Sky asked with a sad sigh.

Yog nodded.

“Primitive guns… Yay,” the inventor grumbled.

Vinyl cleared her throat nervously as she prepared to ask a question of her own. “What non-magical skillsets would you recommend?”

Like many unicorns, Vinyl had never felt all that moved to develop her inborn magical aptitude. If this is a more primitive world like something from sword and sorcery novels, the old school melee combat lessons Luna gave me could pay off in spades. I doubt we’ll have access to the kind of weapons I would normally use when on the job.

”Not at all. Items imbued with magic for casting a specific spell are quite common where you are headed,” Yog said convercationaly.

Vi’s eyes widened. “I um… Did you read my mind?” She asked rhetorically, the question coming out more as a way for her to realize she should guard her thoughts more closely rather than a need for clarification.

”No. I listened to it,” he replied. ”Given your proclivity for relying on Spellrods and melee tools, I would suggest you have your Avatar be a member of the Knights Errant. A militant order of knights known for wielding both spell and steel, in order to honor their founder, Sir Hero Errant.”

Twilight hummed, her chair creaking as she leaned back slightly. “I swear I’ve heard that name before somewhere.”

“Um, because it’s basically the same as naming someone Protagonist Man? Portaganist Man, Champion of Good! Fifty bits says someone probably used it for the protagonist in blah blah blah, insert media here,” Sky smirked, apparently relaxed enough to be his usual self despite two old ones at the table.

Then again… He is Pinkie’s husband. Let’s see, adventure stories… Vinyl thought to herself, starting to wonder what she could do to help, trying to plot out a unique niche in respect to everyone else’s skills.

With Twilight on our side we have a way better leader than me. Most of what I can bring to the table is planning out missions and small unit stuff. That’s why Luna put me in charge of her Knights… Wait, there’s more to knighthood than fighting! Assuming their Lord is more invested in the kingdom’s court than Luna is, Vinyl smiled as she realized what she could bring to the table.

“I’ll take that. It makes me a knight in that world, right? We’ll probably need someone with a chance in Tartarus of being allowed to talk to local nobles,” she said happily.

“Good thinking, Vinyl!” Lyra proclaimed, flashing her friend a huge grin. “I wasn’t even thinking about that.”

”It does indeed,” Yog said as he turned to face Lyra. ”I understand you want to change things up. Might I suggest falling back on things you know? That particular idea, while doable, I can not recommend.”

Vinyl's eyes widened in horror. Lyra no! Don’t treat this like any given O&O game. There’s a reason we limited you to playing rouges, bards, and swashbucklers…

Lyra looked down at the table. “Okay… I just… I’m- Never mind. Vinyl usually has me as the designated marksmare when we’re on a mission. I also generally like having a lot of obscure useful little spells I can use. Anything like that?” She asked hopefully.

Vinyl relaxed, letting out the nervous breath she hadn’t noticed holding. Good! No Werewolf Ninja Engineer part two, Vinyl thought. Wait, of course she wouldn’t do that now. The world’s at stake! What was she planning?

”I don’t recommend any of you fill the same role as another,” the Old One warned. ”There are a few sorts of people which work as you desire, though that role is best filled by the Knights Errant. There are the Rangers, you can think of them as sheriffs assigned to the wilderness near settled areas. Game wardens, bandit hunters, that sort of thing. Many professional soldiers specialize in archery, and some might know a few spells.

“Oh, yes… This is Wieav. The Dragon Riders also fill that-”

“The what?” Lyra asked sitting upright as attentive as she ever had.

”The Dragon Riders. A special division of the Queendom’s military which operate independently and serve as law enforcement for remote settlements as well as mission specialists,” he clarified.

Lyra slumped down in her seat. “Oh…” she said, disappointment rolling off her tongue.

”Mmm? No, they do actually ride dragons. It’s not just a na-”

Lyra jumped up out of her chair. “Why the heck didn’t you just say ‘They ride dragons’? That’s awesome! I’ll take it!”

”You wont start with a dragon. All of you, and Hastur, will gain more power as time goes on. It’s simply how skills work in that world. Riders earn their partner by proving themselves to the Order through heroism. You will start as an initiate.”

“Sooo… If I do what we’re there to do I get to be a part of a buddy-cop story where my partner is a dragon?” Lyra asked hopefully.

Yog nodded.

“Pff! Sold!” Lyra exclaimed, waving her forehooves briefly. “Why would I NOT take that option? Especially when if I do good, our team gets a new meb- Wait, are the dragons in that world people or monsters? Cuz in some books they're not intelligent and are just monsters.”

”The dragons there are people, and are not at all what they appear to be on the outside,” Yog said cryptically. ”I will not say more. Telling you more than is needed for creating your Avatar is forbidden.”

“Then I’ll try out for the Riders,” Lyra decided.

“That leaves me then… Please tell me there’s some group that does cool things with guns that don't require a key to wind a spring,” Sky begged, drumming his hoof on the tabletop nervously. “I sort of don’t… I build technology. I can shoot straight with modern weapons. I’ll be useless in a medieval world until I can get my hooves on a LOT of material resources.”

Yog laughed. A dark sound which pulled at their souls, instructing every fiber of their beings to run.

”Funny thing… Hastur brought you to the void with this,” the Old One said, a tentacle extending from his shadowy mass, uncurling to reveal Sky’s toolbelt held within the tip.

Yog set the belt down on the table in front of Sky and nudged it closer to him. ”While the contract you signed with Hastur prohibits the use of items from other worlds, he brought you here with these tools. Clearly he intended to allow you to take them with you. As such, as the game’s overseer, I will allow you to use them. After all, if Hastur didn’t want you to have them, he should have taken you, but not your tools.”

Chem blinked once. “He was trying to get us to instantly lose!”

Yog shook in disagreement. ”No. They were taken with a player into the gamespace, and there’s nothing here which isn’t a basic piece of equipment. You will all be given starting equipment. Clearly Hastur intended for them to be used by Doctor Trigger, and so they will be a part of that starting equipment and therefore valid for use in game. That is my decision as this game’s overseer.”

Vinyl smirked. Chem’s right, this was obviously a trap. Good thing Hastur pissed Yog off by waking him up. I don’t think he’d care enough to make sure the game really was fair if he wasn’t angry at him.

Sky looked at his tools and then gave Yog a skeptical glance. “This is the toolbelt I use when working on high-energy prototypes. I can build things like a plasma rifle with these if I can find the right raw materials and get a few hours to work in. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?” he asked.

”No,” Yog replied.

“Cool!” Sky said happily, taking his toolbelt and setting it in his lap. “Um… So, about people who use firearms. Is there anything other than ‘Guy with a barely functioning handcannon?’ I would like to actually hit things I shoot at. Seeing as that’s the point of a gun.”

”There is… But not in the nation you will be working within. Although… The nation in question, Numerica, provides naval defense for Wieav. Yes, it’s not out of the question for you to be a member of the Marksmen. But this choice will require you to be one of The Tainted. You will not be able to choose your species.”

Sky raised an eyebrow. “Good firearms are locked to one species? How do you- So like, do they magically explode if someone else touches one? How do you prevent reverse engineering without-”

”No. It’s religion. While the rest of the world follows the God’s wishes to hold melee combat sacred as a true test of courage and skill, Numerica does not,” Yog wearily explained. ”Please make your decision. I tire of this interaction.”

Sky moaned and covered his face with a hoof. “A medieval world where religion prohibits the development of weapons technology. Okay, good to know. I’ll- Wait a moment, there's only one single species making up the entire nation?”

”No,” Yog admitted, his voice flickering in irritation.

“Are they all slaves or something?” Sky continued, still quite baffled. “Forbidden to travel abroad or join the army?”

”No,” Yog said icily.

“Then why am I stuck to one particular thing!? That makes no Luna damned sense,” Sky demanded, smacking a hoof against the table.

The kitchen darkened, everything become a shade of jet black as Yog grew to impossible sizes, looming above the table.


Sky recoiled into his chair and nodded. “O-okay. That’s fine. Sorry,” he apologised swiftly.

Light returned to the kitchen as Yog-Sothoth slowly shrank back down to the human sized figure he had been before.

”Very well. On to species. This will not take long!” Yog vowed more than informed. ”Wieav has three major species which inhabit it. The Araka, the Elbës, and Kobolds.”

“Kobolds, Mike… Dirty frickn Kobolds,” Sky mumbled quietly to himself, seemly completely by reflex.

I’ll never understand why Sky’s fear and joy response is to make pop culture references for a dead culture, Vinyl thought as she shook her head slowly.

”Whatever species uses the name Kobold on your world, forget about them. These Kobolds are a proud warrior race known across the world as the only people to ever fight the Dragons and win. Calling one dirty in a derogatory fashion will get you killed,” Yog warned the shadows making up his face seeming to harden.

“W-wha? Um, no. It’s just a reference,” Sky mumbled defensively. “Can’t help it. Sorry.”

Yog turned to look at Chem. “You’d know. Is it?”

“Yes. Unforgotten Realms, Episode Eleven,” Chem answered instantly before looking over to Sky. “Remind me to ask you how you even know about stuff like that later on.”

Yog nodded, seemingly satisfied, and waved his shadowy tentacle across the table again, conjuring three tiny holograms depicting each race. ”Behold, the Araka, Elbës, and Kobold. Choose. Now.

The Araka took the form of a centaur-like creature, though based on spiders rather than horses. A scale had been included, showing them to be about six feet tall and three feet wide not counting their legs. Such a creature would be a monster in many worlds, though the fine silken tunic covering the humanod portion as well as the blue eyes which glittered with intellect and cunning gave the Araka an air of unmistakable personhood.

The Elbës were also a tauric species, fusing the body of a whitetail deer with he upper body of an elf. Despite the body’s six limed state and fairly uncommon shape, everything about the Elbës seemed to glow with elegance and grace. Except for their eyes. Even without knowing the magic of their world, the way their eyes glowed with their own internal light betrayed the presence of immense magical power.

The Kobold, by comparison to the other two, looked far more standard. Take a dragon, shrink it to three feet tall, with a tail just as long as itself, then make it humanoid. Add a heaping tablespoon of adorable to banish all the dragon’s reptilian ferocity and replace it with a puppy-like cuteness. Despite the inherent adorable nature, the Kobold still managed to carry itself in a way which gave them a warrior’s air. Though with how they looked it really would only make the average pony ask before scratching their ears.

The moment the holographic depictions popped up, Lyra yelped, her eyes locked onto the Araka ‘portrait’. “AAA! Spider-people!”

“That is straight up a human’s torso growing out of a giant spider,” Sky said in honest surprise, fear banished by the completely unexpected nature.

“Pass!” Chem laughed, grinning ear to ear. “Rule Thirteen, I will not turn into a snake or a giant spider. It never helps.”

“I don't feel like doubling my leg count,” Vinyl snickered to herself. “That’s a pretty awesome look though. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to use that someplace.”

Twilight hummed and pointed to the Elbës, “I think I’ll go with that. As cute as Kobolds are, I went biped last time I had a dimension jumping adventure. Doing that again would make it feel like a rerun.”

Yog nodded and looked over to Chem. “How about you make me whatever Sky winds up being? That way it’s less odd for one of the group to be a random species?” He proposed.

”Very well. It is done,” Yog agreed before looking to Lyra.

“I’ll go with the little dragon-human people,” She said eagerly.

Vinyl nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I can’t say no to that. Besides, I don't want to have to get used to six limbs. I play VR sims, getting used to how hands work was hard enough, and usually play bipeds in those. So I’ll be good to go.”

”Very well. It is done. Your subconscious will shape your Avatar's appearance to your liking. Make Hastur’s death painful, if possible. Good hunting.” Yog said, standing up from the table.

The kitchen immediately plunged into blackness. A cold wind bit deep into everyone’s souls. The floor seemed to collapse, yet no one moved from where they sat. Then, with a flash of gray light, the nothing gave way, sliding aside completely as the four were spat out into a reality once more.

The five stood on the white sandy shores of a sub-tropical beach. The sky above was a pale pink, almost white, and despite the sun sitting directly overhead two large moons lurked just above the horizon, already rising.

A lake filled the space in front of them, eating up an impossibly huge space. If not for the thin strip of land just barely visible on the far side of the lake, the screeching of seagulls would have fooled everyone into thinking they looked out to sea. The sea had to be close, the smell of salt filled the air, much more so than it would if the great lake was filled with salt water.

“Wow… It’s even got an island in it,” Lyra remarked as she looked across the deep purple waters towards the distant island sitting near the lake’s middle.

“I like how you check out the island before yourself,” Vinyl snickered as she looked down at herself.

Her avatar was shorter than the four feet which had been advertised, but not by much. Her colors were the same, white scales, red eyes, blue hair. What hadn’t been advertised thanks to the sample Yog had shown her being male was her breasts. While Vinyl wasn’t naked, they were large enough to make a small bump beneath the chainmail hauberk and thick sailcloth tabard which covered her front, but not large enough to be squished by the straps of her backpack, or the kite shield which was also strapped to her back

Looking at her reflection in the water, Vinyl could tell that she was very thin and lithe. Probably athletically built for a kobold. She lacked any visible ears, but the way her thick yet short pointed horns curved back reminded her a lot of a pony’s ears. Furthermore, at some point her tail had either been mostly cut off or she had a very obvious birth defect since the twenty centimeters or so of tail she possessed didn’t even compare to Lyra’s.

Hearing Vinyl’s remark, everyone moved over to the water to get a look at their reflections.

Lyra had retained her minty green colors as well. She stood taller than Vinyl, had small fin-like ears with only vestigial horns, and an extremely curvy body with hips that would make any mare jealous. Hips Lyra couldn’t help but show off due to being dressed in what amounted to a thick leather breechcloth and a simple blue homespun tunic, leaving her legs completely bare. Compared to Vinyl, Lyra was almost completely bereft of any equipment, with just a massive weapon strapped to her back which appeared to be the lovechild of a lance and a greatsword.

Twilight looked into the water and laughed. “Oh wow… I guess my subconscious isn’t too imaginative. It looks like someone just stuck mirror world me onto a deer and gave me some random clothes from a Reneighsance fair,” she giggled, shaking her head enough to make her long sapphire blue hair flow behind her, much like how the long red silk robes which covered her upper body blew in the breeze.

“Well that is exactly what species to pick-” Sky began, stopping when he looked at his reflection in the water. “I’m a human. Like, straight up just a human. And I’ve got a… M-forty-one-A Pulse… rifle… And like, Swat gear… What?”

Lyras head spun around at the sound of the word “human”. Sure enough, Sky stood nearly six feet tall as a human male of fairly average build, dressed from head to toe in rather anachronistic modern era armor hidden from view only by a voluminous tan cloak. Jackboots, hard body armor painted a stealthy shade of dark deep blue. The same blue (only far brighter) could be seen in the strands his hair which poked out from his cloak hood along with fairly pale skin and a slight glimmer of steel betraying the presence of a helmet beneath the cloak.

“I got jipped!” Lyra exclaimed, gritting her teeth in rage as she looked over Sky’s form before pausing suddenly and looking between his legs. “Hey, you’ve got a horse tail!”

“I do?” Sky asked moving his cloak aside to reveal a scaled up version of his normal tail. “Huh… Okay, I guess I’m not human human. But seriously. Vi’s got a great sword, you have that… pole arm, and I’ve got a freaking pulse rifle. What kind of world is this?”

Chem harrumphed, turning around dramatically enough to make his navy blue cape billow dramatically. “The kind which should have let me know technological skills was a choice,” he grumbled. “And also probably has xenomorphs.”

Sky winced and turned around to face Chem. “I seriously hope no-”

He stopped dead, looking at Chem’s completely covered form. Knee boots, loose silken pants, an embroidered vest, a rather nice looking jacket, a nearly black long silken cloth which covered all of his face from the eyes down. His yellow, glowing eyes. Everything a shade of blue except for the faded yellow widebrimed wizard hat which covered his head and a pair of bright glowing yellow eyes.

“Is- Is that a Black Mage cosplay?” Sky stammered incredulously.

Chem sighed. “It is… But if tech is available it’s hardly appropriate. I like to roleplay, darn it!”

Vinyl shrugged. “Yeah well… Sky’s the only one of us to have it. Maybe the religion Yo- um, our DM mentioned is responsible? We’ll need to find out. We should find shelter first though. Maybe we can-”

“I was about to mention shelter, actually!” Twilight said eagerly, holding out one hand to point at the lake’s island. “See that ‘hill’? It’s not a hill. It’s a castle!”

“That’s awesome,” Sky said with a confused laugh. “So… I also have a side arm, and it’s totally the Auto-9…”

Lyra rolled her eyes. “Mysteries for later! Vi’s right, we should find shelter, and if that’s a castle, someone lives there and they can tell us about this world,” Lyra proposed. “Or, there could be danger, and I could stop it, earn a dragon, and then be an adorable lizard girl riding a bigger scary looking lizard, which is too hilarious for me to not be. Let’s go!”

The castle is a good plan, but how to get there? Vinyl mused as she looked up and down the beach. If I built a castle on an island lake I’d put a few docks around the-

“Oh!” Vi exclaimed as she spotted the wreck of a wooden ship in the distance.

The large three masted ship was gray with rot, the cannons poking out of its side were red with rust, and it’s masts sagged downwards, nearly touching the water with not a single scrap of sail remaining on them. However, beside the ship, washed up onto the shore and turned over on it side, was a small sailboat. Just big enough for eight ponies to stand atop the deck. Presumably the ship’s boat.

“Hey, there’s a little sailboat by the wreck over there, but it’s sail is just… Shreds. We can use that. Get some trees, carve them down into oars, row on over,” Vinyl said with a confident grin.

Twilight nodded and turned to look at everyone else. “I don't have any better ideas. Not until I understand what all this… Spell knowledge is, and how to use it. Do any of you?”

Sky shook his head. “Nope. It might need some patching up, though. It looks really old. I don't suppose um, Chem was it?”

Chem nodded. “Mhm… Though this being presumably a fantasy-novel-like universe I will be going by the moniker ‘Lord Zeneanus, the Ever-Living’,” he announced.

"I'm still calling you Chem,” Sky said with a smirk.

"But, fantasy title!" Chem protested, crossing his arms over his chest to pout.

“Nope, you're Chem. Deal with it. Anywho, can you magic the boat better with your Old One powers?” Sky asked hopefully.

“Nope! I’ve just got wizard powers for now and I’m still sorting out how to use them. This universe is… Odd,” Chem said apologetically.

Vi shook her head slowly and began to walk across the beach. “Whelp, let’s go fix a boat.”

As she walked forward, Vinyl looked at the wrecked ship. Noting the large charged holes blasted in the sides and the way the ship rested on the shore, as if a large chunk of it’s stern were missing. But most importantly, how it was pointing away from the distant island.

Something tells me that castle might not exactly be friendly…