• Published 24th Oct 2018
  • 626 Views, 15 Comments

Wraith No More - EbonQuill

In an effort to discover the truth behind a recent disappearance at Canterlot High, a group of friends uncover the sinister secrets behind an ancient family curse.

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Chapter One: Stolen Moments

An autumn wind hissed along the footpath scattering leaves around the booted feet of Cherry Berry. The bare limbs of the trees surrounding her twisted in the wind, clawing desperately at the new moon. It had been over an hour since she left the main road and almost thirty minutes since she’d seen any signs of habitation. These backwoods were popular party spots for her classmates at Canterlot High, but dang, it was easy to get lost.

“Come on. It can’t be that much farther…”

She pushed aside another curtain of branches and stepped past it, taking care not to tangle her blonde hair in the cobwebbed twigs. The clearing ahead looked like every other one she’d seen so far.


Her voice sounded oddly muffled in the crisp air, but she strained to hear any response.


She pushed through the glade, grumbling as dry branches tugged at her hair and clothes. She should have gone with her sister, wine coolers or not. Better to risk getting caught with alcohol than getting lost in this dumb forest. Stupid party. Stupid sister. Stupid Shadowbolts—

A chill ran down her back as a small thought blossomed into a sudden concern. Had this been a prank on her and the other Wondercolts? Sure, after the abortive Friendship Games, the students at Cystic Prep—no, Crystal Prep, Cherry, olive branches—had said that they wanted to mend fences. It’d been that weird girl, the one who looked like Twilight Sparkle but had those glasses and hid from everything, who’d suggested a get-together. Pinkie latched onto the idea of a party of course, but it had been a Shadowbolt, a tall guy who never took off his dark shades, who’d suggested moving from the usual Sugarcube Corner to the old Witherly manor grounds.

Neon, or whatever his name was, told them about the large untended fields out near the old, abandoned house. Vinyl had flipped at the chance for a large-scale rave, and Pinkie couldn’t wait to plan a harvest dance near a “real, honest-to-spookiness haunted house,” and that was that.

Had Neon lied? Had the Wondercolts been lured into the woods as some kind of cruel joke?

Cherry shivered as a cold breeze cut through her fashionably thin sweater. Nervously, she checked her phone.

9:29 PM. Twenty-two percent battery. No signal.

She felt a cold panic settle around her stomach, but pushed it aside.

She’d find them. She had to.

Sister of one of the most popular kids in school? She had to.

In her desperation, she didn’t see the rocky outcropping in the gloom before she tripped over it. With a sudden shriek, she tumbled end over end, snagging in brambles and fallen branches.

She hadn’t fallen very far, glancing back up the hillside. A short drop of some fifteen feet.

Sure felt like longer, though.

She glanced around, and froze. Off in the distance, a squat manor sat brooding over the valley she had fallen into. The waxy yellow moonlight spread over a vast cornfield to her right.

This had to be it. She broke into a run towards the house. She’d get a good vantage point, scout the valley, and find the dang party. She could almost taste Berryshine’s coolers.

Ahead of her, the corn parted. A tall figure stood slightly stooped with arms folded across his chest. It crept out of the moldering fields and gazed toward the house.

A jolt of fear spiked through her heart before she realized she was being silly. It was probably just a Shadowbolt. Or some socially maladjusted Wondercolt who didn’t get the memo. Blue and yellow. Show of spirit.

She realized she was twisting her blue jumper in her sweaty hands.

“Hey,” she said, her voice catching slightly.

The tall figure didn’t move. He didn’t seem to hear her.

“Hey!” she called. She might not be on the student council anymore, but no one ignored Cherry Berry. “Is this where the party is?”

The figure let one arm drop from its chest. As it swung loose, it unfolded, stretching out a second elbow. And then another. Its arm was now as long as it was tall.

She watched, horrified, as the figure— the creature— snapped its far-too-long arm back up, unfolding wickedly glistening claws from its slender fingers. They didn’t slide like cat’s claws, but snapped into place like blades.

He— it— turned to face her. A baleful green glow from around its mouth drowned out any other features.

She screamed then, for all the good it did.

* * * *

The normally jubilant air at Sugarcube Corner was thick with the anger bottled within its walls. All around the cafe, lines had been drawn, and ranks were forming. Wondercolt against Shadowbolt.

It was the bad old days all over again.

Minuette hoped last weekend would help bridge the gulf between Crystal Prep and Canterlot High, but a girl from Canterlot High had disappeared at the rave. It was five long days of search parties and public service assemblies before she’d been found unconscious ten miles from the party grounds. Her clothes were torn and filthy, except for a Crystal Prep blazer wrapped around her shoulders.

It had been clean.

Worse, it’d been pristine, except for a single cut that had severed the name tag tucked into the collar of each jacket.

The Wondercolts had leapt to the logical conclusion.

In response, the Shadowbolts had circled the wagons.

The longer the girl stayed in her coma, the worse it got.

In other words, all the goodwill they’d built up over the last few weeks after the Friendship Games evaporated like the last memories of a good dream under the morning sun.

She had just started having fun with the Wondercolts, too, that was the worst of it. Pinkie, Rainbow Dash, that big guy, those two little guys… That girl with the eyes, whatever her name was… they were a blast to hang out with, and now…

She slumped into a chair and rested her head on the plastic divider.

An annoyed groan oozed from behind what she now realized was a laptop screen. A shorter girl with unkempt bangs of red and purple tied into a topknot far more functional than fashionable glared out from behind thick glasses taped together in the middle.

“Hey,” Minuette said noncommittally. She nudged her two-tone blue hair out of her eyes and straightened her Crystal Prep uniform.

“Why are you at my table?” The other girl was almost swallowed in a thick purple sweater at least two sizes too large for her.

“Dunno,” Minuette said, drawing herself up and settling into the chair. “I needed a place and this was here.”

“Go away. You’re supposed to be over there,” she said, gesturing to the other Shadowbolts. She kicked her red Mary Janes against her chair legs in agitation.

“What, is this a Wondercolt table?”

“No, it’s a ‘Moon Dancer’ table. Unless you’re Moon Dancer, shoo.”

Minuette seized Moon Dancer’s hand, eliciting a shout of surprise. As she spoke, she shook it vigorously. “Well, put her there, Moon Dancer. The name’s Minuette. Or Minnie, if you’re into that whole ‘brevity’ thing. Pleased to meet you!”

“Leggo!” Moon Dancer shouted, trying to yank her hand free from Minuette’s grip. “Let! Me—!”

Minuette complied. Moon Dancer fell backward, arms flailing. She landed in her seat with a thud and tipped precariously backwards.

Before she could fall, a slender girl with delicate pink hair and dressed in the Crystal Prep mulberry uniform caught her chair.

“Minuette, be careful. You could hurt someone.”

“Put me down!” Moon Dancer hissed, a red-and-purple ball of indignation.

“Oh! Moon Dancer, this is Twinkleshine, she’s my friend.”

“Minder.” Twinkleshine corrected absently.

“That, yes. But we’re friends!”

“Put! Me—”

Twinkleshine slid Moon Dancer’s chair back to the table and set a steaming mug in front of her. “You’ll have to forgive her. Minuette means well, but her sense of tact is somewhat damaged.”

Minuette made a rude sound. “Who needs that? That’s for people who are uncomfortable saying what’s on their mind. Ooh, is that tea?”

Twinkleshine batted her friend’s hands away from the mug. “Not for you. This is for the nice girl you just terrorized. Miss, please accept—”

Moon Dancer hopped up onto her chair and looked Twinkleshine straight in the eye. “Fine! Just go away! You’re interrupting something vital, and I won’t lose more time!”

Twinkleshine joined Minuette on the other side, closed her eyes, and blew on her coffee. The steam swirled around her face and vanished.

Moon Dancer’s eyes flashed from one to the other, increasingly agitated.

Minuette braced her cheekbones on her palms and gazed intently at Moon Dancer.

Twinkleshine dipped a biscotti in her coffee and twisted it gently.

“You’re not leaving,” Moon Dancer grumbled.

“Nuh-uh,” Minuette said, her grin framed by her fingers.

Moon Dancer groaned, grabbed the steaming mug, and settled back into her chair. “What will it take to make you go away?”

Twinkleshine opened one eye and watched Minuette carefully.

“You don’t look like the other Wondercolts I’ve met,” Minuette said.

“Big shock,” Moon Dancer said, turning back to her laptop. “That’s because I’m not. I’ve attended Everton Independent Study for three years now, right out of middle school.”

“Yowza! So you’re like, super smart! That’s great! What’re you working on?”

Moon Dancer closed her laptop with a clunk and glanced away from them, blushing slightly. “Forget it. It’d bore you. Or you’d think I’m crazy.”


“You would! Everyone else does.”

“Try us,” Twinkleshine said before biting into her coffee-infused biscotti.

Moon Dancer slid her glasses off and cleaned them against her sweater. “What do you know about the paranormal?”

Twinkleshine settled her cup into its saucer and set them on the table. “Miss Dancer, three scant weeks ago, my friend and I witnessed a classmate become a demon bent on controlling magic through rifts she tore in reality. I imagine you’ll not find a better ear than a Shadowbolt’s.”

Minuette nodded. “Except for maybe a Wondercolt’s. They’ve been kicking magic butt all year.”

Twinkleshine raised an eyebrow, but shrugged. “I suppose.”

“You’re messing with me.”

“Call me a janky rope, then, because I’m a frayed knot.” Minuette giggled.

Twinkleshine and Moon Dancer rolled their eyes.

“I’m so gonna regret this.”

Moon Dancer snapped open her laptop and typed away on her keyboard. After a moment, she spun it around with a flourish. The screen displayed the news articles about Cherry Berry’s disappearance, a map of Whitetail National Forest with a portion outlined in red, and what looked like pictures of straight lines at odd angles arranged around a green light.

Moon Dancer hopped back onto her seat and loomed over the laptop. The screen’s glow cast eerie shadows across her face.

“Have you ever heard of the Wraith of Witherly Manor?”

* * * *


“Aw, come on!” Minuette said. She fell backwards into a pile of leaves, scattering them across the sidewalk. “Don’t be such an old lemon, Lemon!”

Twinkleshine chuckled and brushed a leaf out of her hair. “It sounded interesting, Lemon. Minuette notwithstanding—”

“Minuette notwith-falling-into-leaves!”

“That. I know how much you enjoyed working with Twilight and her new friends on your thesis.”

Lemon Hearts stopped walking and slung her bag over her shoulder. Her dark blue hair cascaded across her back as she undid the severe bun she kept it in during school hours.

“She seems better. Happier,” Lemon said around her scrunchy. “Yeah, it was great to see that Twi is doing alright. I wish we could have been there for her back before her transfer, but she’s gone. I don’t see how chasing urban legends with some girl you just met is going to help.”

She brushed some leaves out of her hair and sighed. “It’s not going to bring her back and it’s not going to make me feel better about leaving her to the wolves.”

Minuette made several annoyed sounds that were almost words.

Twinkleshine stepped between the two and placed her hand on Lemon’s shoulder. Minuette jumped to her feet and raced up behind Twinkleshine.

“Lemon, how do you think she feels? She’s the only Shadowbolt there. She’s friends with the main clique there and is the only one of us any of them will see. You know how isolating that can be.”

Lemon Hearts winced and shrank into her blazer a little.

“If we clear our school’s name, don’t you think that would help them accept her?”

Lemon Hearts sighed. Minuette held her breath.

Twinkleshine smiled.

“You’re the worst friends,” Lemon said.

“Yay!” Minuette shouted, suddenly hugging them both.

Lemon made a sound like a frog being stepped on as she got caught in the bear hug.

Twinkleshine cleared her throat. “Minuette. Boundaries.”

“Eep.” She let them go, clutching her arms to her chest. “Sorry.”

Lemon struggled to regain her breath.

“We’re meeting Moon Dancer at Hayseed’s Burgers at six. She says she’s got a friend at CHS who’s willing to help.” Twinkleshine checked her makeup in a small palm mirror and smiled faintly. “I’m going to be there at five. Can I count on you girls to join me?”

Lemon nodded.

“Be there like hair on a bear!” Minuette shouted. She had skipped almost a full block away.

Lemon Hearts smiled wanly and turned back to Twinkleshine. “Thanks for this. Sorry I’m such a terrible friend.”

“No, honey. You’re just tired. This has been a weird couple of weeks. Go home, take a shower, and come with us.”

Twinkleshine laughed, turning towards her own path home. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll even have fun.”

* * * *

The Shadowbolts arrived early, all the better to scout out their new acquaintance. One could learn a lot about someone by how they entered a room.

They had been scooped. Or perhaps they’d been had. Hayseed’s was jumping with a massive party inside.

The only seats were behind a large sign advertising the restaurant’s fifth anniversary. Apparently, Mr. Turnip Truck, the owner, had managed to rope DJ Pon-3 into performing for the event.

Twinkleshine, Lemon Hearts, and Minuette had ordered a large platter of fries and slowly worked through their portion as the concert finally came to a close.

Minuette, who had been bopping her head to the beat and dunking her fries into her chocolate shake by the handful, looked a little crestfallen. “Maybe the crowd scared her off.”

Lemon Hearts, choosing the more traditional single dip of ketchup, said, “Or you did. I bet she’s not used to people being so darn outgoing. Or bubbly. You weirdo.”

Twinkleshine set her phone on the table with a clack. “Six on the dot. She’s—”

A teal green backpack that was more duct tape than canvas slammed into a chair. Moon Dancer sat down next to it. “—Right here. I did say six, didn’t I?”

There were reluctant sounds of agreement.

“Good. Hope you enjoyed the show. Running tech for Vinyl is a pain in my butt and I don’t need the added hassle of complaining EDM nerds.”

The three Shadowbolts blinked at her, varying levels of surprise on their faces.


“You,” Lemon Hearts said.

“Run lights and sound,” continued Twinkleshine.

“For DJ Pon-3?!” gushed Minuette. “Yowza! You’re my new best friend!”

“Ah, dang!” said a dusky voice from behind the trio. “What does that make me, then?”

Behind them, lit by the pulsing stage lights, was Vinyl Scratch. Her trademark purple sunglasses gleamed as she snapped them off. She pulled up a chair next to Moon Dancer and flopped into it.

“Ah, great to be off my feet,” Vinyl said.

Minuette made an excited noise and rocked her chair in a quick staccato rhythm.

Twinkleshine caught her eye and raised an eyebrow.

Minuette groaned, but stopped.

“Now,” Vinyl continued, “Moony here says you three want to prove Crystal Prep didn’t have anything to do with Cherry’s abduction or her coma. Is that right?”

Twinkleshine took a dainty bite of a fry, and pushed the platter towards the others. “We do. It’s uncharacteristic of someone who studied at CPH.”

“And if it turns out you’re wrong? That you go to school with a monster?”

Twinkleshine pressed the memory of the terrifying visage of the beast who had rent realities apart out of her mind, and met Vinyl’s gaze. “We take them down.”

Slowly, Vinyl met each of the other Shadowbolts’s gaze, and nodded. “Then I’m in. This whole feud was finally starting to die, and now this. So. Doc, what do you got?”

While the four were talking, Moon Dancer had set up a small projector. She aimed it at the copious white space on the back of the fifth anniversary poster.

Twinkleshine almost choked on her water. Moon Dancer had planned for them to sit here. The whole concert layout had been designed to allow only one large table away from the crowd to be available. The large poster blocking the view of the stage meant only people not interested in the concert would be seated here.

People like them.

A newfound respect for the scruffy nerd blossomed.

An image of a slender figure shrouded in shadows appeared on the rear of the poster. The only thing in focus in the picture was the glinting metal on the thing’s hands. They looked like claws or knives.

Or both.

Everything else was cloaked in the heavy shadows surrounding the brilliant green light in the center of its face.

“Ladies, this is the only known picture of what local folklore named the Wraith of Witherly Manor. Twinkleshine, Minuette, you may remember our chat at Sugarcube Corner, but for Vinyl and… what’s your name?”

Lemon Hearts sputtered on her soda. “Oh! Uh, Lemon Hearts. Call me Lemon, everyone does. Nice to—”

“I don’t care,” Moon Dancer said. “For Vinyl and Lemon, I’m going to recap some.”

She clicked her laptop’s mouse. The picture changed to a family portrait in the style of the mid-nineteenth century. A large man with a hawk-like nose loomed over his two children, a boy and a girl. His wife, a thin slip of a woman, hugged the edge of the canvas, almost entirely pressed out of the frame.

“This is Mothwing Witherly, patriarch of the Witherly clan and the last to truly bear the name. Back about as far as records go, his family owned practically all of the land our state now occupies. However, by old Mothy’s time, generations of bad management had left him with only…”

Another picture, this of the marked area of the national forest.

“... this much of his ancestral land remaining. Mothwing wasn’t a weak man. Unlike his forefathers, he commanded a lot of respect and used it to brutal effect.”

The slide advanced, showing a newspaper article. The headline read, “Witherly Wins Election, Vows Reform.” In smaller print, it continued, “Gubernatorial Candidates Still Missing.”

“Wow. That’s… overt,” mused Twinkleshine.

“Got it. Bad dude in life, possibly bad dude in death.” Vinyl said through a handful of fries. “Where does this meet up with Cherry Berry?”

Moon Dancer bounced a fry off of Vinyl’s nose. “Getting there. Hush.”

She clicked the mouse several times, skipping eight or nine slides.

Twinkleshine frowned. One could not make bricks without clay. Perhaps she could get Moon Dancer to send her a copy of the presentation and materials.

Moon Dancer stopped on a picture of a daguerreotype of Mothwing Witherly’s scowling face behind bars.

“Is this—? Okay.” Moon Dancer ruffled through her notes, and took a deep breath. “Okay. Point is, after a few terms as governor, Witherly got nailed selling public land to himself. When the land assessor who caught him disappeared, he was arrested and tried. Nothing stuck, but he still lost a lot of credibility. All the land deals he’d done reverted back to the state, and he retired from public life.”

The picture changed again, now to a large manor overlooking a valley. In the distance, Canterlot itself could be seen.

Twinkleshine had the distinctly unpleasant impression of a large toad squatting over a bog.

“He lived out the rest of his life here, jealously guarding the rest of his holdings from developers. Even after he died, his will had left the land in trust so that no one but an heir of the Witherlys could claim it. If one didn’t return in one hundred years from the date of his death, the land was to be burned and salted. Then, and only then, would it revert to the state.”

“Harsh,” Vinyl said, the last of the fries disappearing into her mouth.

“Hi, me, Lemon again. So, Cherry stumbles onto this guy’s land and just, what, gets kidnapped by his ghost? Is that wraith-whatever Mothwing’s ghost?”

Moon Dancer smiled and clicked her mouse again.

This was a collage of five people dressed in an older style. Three boys and two girls, each in the Canterlot High colors, smiled at the cameras. Underneath each was a name and age.

They had been about the age of the Shadowbolts seated at the table.

“About twenty years ago, a group of students from Canterlot High tried to explore the manor house. They’d been dared to by their rivals at Crystal Prep. On Nightmare Night, they entered the Witherly manor to take a picture of themselves in Mothwing’s personal study. That was where the police had found his body. The thought was that the haunting would be strongest there.”

She clicked her mouse again.

A picture of a hospital room with five occupied beds filled their vision. The sheets, bandages, and tubes made it hard to determine the genders, but something very bad had happened to the occupants.

“They were found three days later after the Shadowbolts confessed to daring them to trespass.”

Minuette swallowed audibly. “So,” she started with a catch in her voice. After clearing her throat, she continued. “Were they okay? Like, they all… lived?”

Moon Dancer shut off the projector.

“Anyone who knows isn’t talking. Due to the fact that all parties involved were minors, not to mention the scandal with Crystal Prep, the media was kept out of it. The news only reported that there were no charges being pressed against the Shadowbolts. The case file on their attack is still open. I can’t even get a glimpse of it.”

“And yet, there’s a picture,” said Twinkleshine.

“There is.” Moon Dancer adjusted her glasses, and slid her laptop into her backpack. “I don’t want to say where I got that. Might not have been entirely legal.”

Lemon dribbled the last of her soda into her mouth and sighed. “So, let me get this straight. You think the ghost of some old jerk hurt this CHS student, what’s-her-name, Cherry. How? This whole thing seems… I don’t know. Really far-fetched.”

Moon Dancer took off her glasses and closed her eyes. “Look. We’re randomly generated carbon lifeforms hurtling through time and space at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour on a silicate rock. That rock is tethered to a tiny ball of flaming gas in the middle of nowhere in an unfathomable universe.”

She put her glasses back on and peered through them, questioningly. “From what Twinkleshine told me, you girls have seen things. Is this too far removed from your own experience?”

The room was now very quiet. The waiter refreshed their drinks twice before the silence was broken.

Lemon frowned. “From what I’ve seen, yeah, this isn’t—”

Moon Dancer dropped her head to the table. “Great, another flipping skeptic.”

Lemon Hearts bounced a ketchup packet off of Moon Dancer’s topknot.

Moon Dancer shot up, face red.

“Hush. I wasn’t finished. This isn’t like the incident with Twilight Sparkle’s evil side, or that other demon girl at CHS, Sunbeam-whatever. They used magic rooted in emotion. Something about friendship, or the lack thereof. I don’t know what kind of magic this is. I don’t know if this is magic.”

She shook the ice in her cup and took a swallow. “But.”

“‘But?’” Moon Dancer asked, a faint tinge of hope in her voice.

Lemon set her empty cup down with a click. “I’m willing to find out.”

Author's Note:

8/28 Edit - A polish pass before the new chapter drops. So many removed unnecessary commas...