• 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 Two: Lights in the Wood

They set out from Sugarcube Corner the following morning, taking Twinkleshine’s SUV. They had all dressed for the imminent hike through Whitetail National Forest. Twinkleshine packed a large bag full of water jugs and trail snacks. She had stacked her trunk high with a tent, chairs, and coolers full of lunch fixings.

She asked Vinyl to help keep Minuette out of the food on the ride up. In response, Vinyl opened her laptop, pulled up a set of samples, and asked Minuette what her favorite movie was. Together, the two cut a rough sixty-minute hip-hop concept album about body snatchers in a cyberpunk future.

Shortly after completing the first pass, Minuette guzzled a gallon of water and the two fell asleep.

Lemon borrowed Moon Dancer’s files and read them voraciously. She kept her earbuds in, swaying gently to her own music as she studied, ignoring the chaos in the backseat.

Moon Dancer stared into her phone, watching and rewatching the same video. A small notepad at her wrist collected notes like the odometer gathered miles.

Twinkleshine watched all this from her seat and drove on. After almost two hours, she pulled off the road.

“Alright, girls. We’re here.”

Vinyl cursed under her breath, but slid on her sunglasses and stepped out of the SUV. Minuette was already out, helping Moon Dancer unload her recording gear. Lemon Hearts finished the page she was reading and tucked the folder into her backpack.

Moon Dancer stretched as Minuette and Twinkleshine set up the base camp. “I found where the witnesses saw her last while looking into this over the last few days. Cross-referencing the network data, she had to come through here. We’re going to find her trail.”

Moon Dancer set down kits for each of them and talked them through their contents while Twinkleshine and Lemon handed them out. Soon, each of them was carrying a knapsack with two disposable cameras, a compass, a digital recorder, and a fresh notebook. As they were passed out, Twinkleshine added water bottles, fruit, and small bags of trail mix to them.

“Cameras are to catch any weirdness you see,” Moon Dancer said. “Lights, orbs, shapes in the dust, anything. Recorders are for if we get split, so we have a log, or if you hear something strange. Notebooks are obvious. Come on, this way.”

“Uh, hey,” Minuette chuckled, a tinge of nervousness. “Someone should stay here and, uh, watch all this stuff, right?” She started to sit in one of the chairs. “Yeah. I’ll, uh—”

Vinyl grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her along. “Come on, Min. That’s no way for the savior of the human race to act.”

Minuette struggled ineffectually against her. “But that’s in the dark, pod-dominated future! And that’s something we just made up!”

Moon Dancer huffed. “No one’s forcing you—”

Twinkleshine coughed once and spoke. “Minuette, please. That would mean I’d have to stay, too, to make sure nothing happened to you. Who’d look after the others?”

Minuette’s face lit up, and she pulled away from Vinyl. “Great idea! How about none of us go into the dark and spooky old woods?”

Lemon and Vinyl spoke over each other.

“It’s the middle of the day!”

“It’s not that spooky.”

Minuette stamped her boot and balled her fists at her side. Her eyes shone bright with tears. “Look, I can’t! Something really awful happened in there, and I don’t want it to happen to us!”

There was silence for a while. Each of them looked from Minuette to each other and back.

Moon Dancer sighed. “Fine. If it—”

Twinkleshine cut Moon Dancer off with a wave of her hand, stepped forward, and hugged Minuette. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Minuette’s voice trembled with the effort of holding her tears back. “I didn’t want to let you down in front of the Wondercolt. And Moon Dancer looked like she might eat me if I bailed. But I... It’s weird. Something doesn’t want us here. I mean, it really doesn’t want us here.”

There was a shuffle of canvas, and the click of a recorder switching on. Moon Dancer was at Twinkleshine’s elbow, a look of concern crossing her face. “Hey, hold on. Can you explain how you feel?”

Minuette scrubbed at her face and gave Twinkleshine a brief squeeze before pushing away. “I feel just like an itty-bitty worm on an awfully big hook.”

Vinyl cracked her fingers before striking a boxing stance. “Hey, tell you what. I’ll stick by you and keep you safe. Anything that wants to spirit you away’ll have to get through me.”

Lemon and Moon Dancer laughed.

Minuette chuckled nervously along with them. “Alright, fine. But you’d better not go anywhere, Miss Scratch, or you’ll have an ex-biggest-fan-ever!”

With that, she followed Vinyl closely as they all entered the cool stillness of the woods. Moon Dancer took charge, parting the branches that hung heavy over the path. Twinkleshine took up the rear, making sure the group stayed together. They hiked in silence for several minutes.

“So,” said Lemon Hearts, “what do you get out of this, Miss Scratch?”

Vinyl hopped over a small stream, helped Minuette across, then rubbed her chin. “The usual, I guess. Justice for Cherry, fixing my rep. Never had a girl taken from one of my shows before.” She frowned and shook her head, wincing at the memory. Shortly, she caught Minuette’s eyes and smiled from behind her large sunglasses. “New friends, I suppose.”

Moon Dancer made a dismissive sound.

Vinyl punched her lightly in the arm and glanced back at Minuette. “How about you? No offence, but this doesn’t seem like something any of you would care about.”

Moon Dancer’s dismissive sound lengthened and deepened.

“You know what I mean, Doc,” Vinyl sighed. “You’re here for the weird woojums. But you three? This ain’t Crystal Prep’s style.”

“What, we can’t be concerned for one of our former rivals?” Lemon said, swallowing a sip of water. She recapped the bottle and tucked it back in her bag.

“The day—” Moon Dancer grunted, beads of sweat on her brow, “— a Shadowbolt— cares for anyone else—”

Twinkleshine cleared her throat. “Miss Dancer, are you alright?”

“Never— better. Let’s— keep going.”

They continued on in silence for a while. The forest darkened around them as the trees grew closer overhead.

Finally, they came to a clearing. Moon Dancer threw herself onto a large rock and tore open her knapsack. She downed her water in several long gulps, then threw the empty bottle roughly back inside.

Twinkleshine raised an eyebrow and handed her another. “Be careful, Miss Dancer. We don’t know how much farther we have to go.”

Moon Dancer took several uneven breaths and ran her hand along her side. “I know. It’s just…” She sighed. “I haven’t done field work like this in a while. I’m a little out of shape.”

“No kidding!” Minuette chirped. “It’s like watching a marshmallow fall uphill!”


Twinkleshine opened her mouth, but Vinyl responded first. She caught Minuette in a half-nelson and ground her knuckles into Minuette’s head. “Alright, hero. That was rude! Apologize!”

“Ow! Ouch! Owie! Okay! Sorry! I wasn’t trying to be mean, but—”

Twinkleshine placed her hand on Vinyl’s shoulder. She stopped mid-noogie.

“Minuette always says what’s on her mind. It isn’t always nice, politic, or appropriate, but she doesn’t mean to be insulting.”

“Yeah!” Minuette said, struggling to get out of Vinyl’s hold. “You goof! You’re giving me too much slack over—” she slipped out and tapped Vinyl’s nose. “—here. Watch your left next time.”

Vinyl laughed, nonplussed. “Y’all are some strange people. Team Mom, Hero, and Bookworm helping Doc here hunt some ghosts.”

“Monsters,” Minuette said, rubbing her head. “Or maybe curses, I guess.”

Moon Dancer opened her bag of trail mix and snacked on a raisin. “So, Minuette. If you’re all about this radical honesty stuff, give it to me straight.”

“Okay!” Minuette said cheerfully. She took a deep breath and spoke rapidly:

“We’re out here to make us look better. Twinkleshine figures that if we help solve this, the nonsense between us and the Wondercolts will blow over. I want to agree, but I’m more curious about the magical logistics. Like, I know about the Friendship Games, but I haven’t seen anything that would convince me that this is related, like Lemon said.”

She paused and gasped for air. “Speaking of, she thinks we’re all wasting our time. And I’m hungry.”

She sat down in the grass and swallowed a handful of trail mix. “Mm! This is better than your normal stuff, Twinkle. Really looking to impress the new girls, huh?”

Twinkleshine was almost quick enough to hide her blush. “Best foot forward, Minuette. We are—”

“— Shadowbolts, yeah, I know. We all know. So what?”

The heat in Twinkleshine’s cheeks increased as she raised her voice. “We have a reputation, missy. Remember that.”

“Yeah. Nah. See, what actually matters here is that Moon Dancer’s successfully dodged the question about what she gets out of this. Or had. Sorry.”

Moon Dancer groaned. “I don’t think—”

In a burst of motion, Vinyl shoved Moon Dancer off of her rock and snapped a picture of the forest. She wound the film back and cursed under her breath.

The others jumped at her outburst, Minuette landing on her back, while Lemon leapt in front of Twinkleshine.

“What the heck was that?” Moon Dancer shouted from a clover patch.

“Shh.” Vinyl snapped off her glasses and searched the woods.

“Don’t shush—!”

“Sh!” Vinyl glared at Moon Dancer and pressed a finger to her lips, her magenta eyes reflecting anxious concern. She turned back to the woods, keeping her camera ready.

Moon Dancer rolled her eyes, crossed her arms over her chest, and sulked.

The forest was absolutely still. Twinkleshine heard her own breathing, soft and furtive in the silent dappled shadows.

No one moved for several long moments. Slowly, the normal insect sounds resumed, washing over them in a wave.

Twinkleshine felt an odd elation, as if she had just avoided detection in a game of hide-and-seek.

Vinyl kicked a clump of sod and cursed again.

“Care to explain why I’m freezing my butt on the damp ground?” asked Moon Dancer, a little louder than necessary.

Vinyl slid her glasses back on and helped Moon Dancer to her feet. “Dunno. Might have been nothing. Keep it down, though. I don’t think we’re alone out here.”

Minuette kipped up and rubbed her back. “Ow. The heck did I land on?”

She knelt down, ran her fingers through the long grass, and uttered a small noise of surprise.

“Hey, girls? What are the odds that someone else lost their phone around here?”

She held up a narrow black plastic rectangle. The glass face was an intricate network of cracks and fissures.

“Lemme see that,” Vinyl said, crossing the clearing in two long strides. Minuette handed it over, and they peered at it together.

Etched above the charging port was an emblem of two cherries connected by a single stem.

* * * *

They secured the cell phone in Lemon’s knapsack, and continued on. There was no more laughing, joking, or talking beyond what was necessary. All held their cameras either ready, or slung around a wrist for ease of access. Almost half an hour later, they had found the next clearing. After a brief discussion, they agreed that they needed to verify their location. Their phone signals remained dead, despite occasional flutters.

The girls stood around a tall tree, watching as Vinyl scrambled from branch to branch. Minuette rolled an apple down her arm, popped it up into the air with her elbow, and caught it. She did this twice more before crunching into it.

As she watched, Twinkleshine noticed that the sounds of the forest had ebbed again. The only sounds were the scraping of Vinyl’s boots on the bark of the tree and Minuette devouring her apple. She grasped her camera, and glanced at Lemon.

Lemon was already scanning the treeline, camera in hand.

Minuette crunched her apple and pitched the core into the forest.

At the same moment, a shape tore away from the trunk of a large tree and raced into the shadows deeper in the woods. Lemon and Twinkleshine started snapping pictures of it.

Vinyl dropped out of the tree, taking the last ten feet in a single leap. She tore after the form.

“Wait!” called Minuette, chasing after her. “You promised!”

“Idiots!” shouted Moon Dancer, following close behind.

Twinkleshine tossed her camera into her bag, grabbed a small bead from a charm clipped to the front, and fed out some fishing line. She tossed her bag to Lemon, unspooling more of the line. Little colored flags had been tied every five feet or so.

“Just like we practiced for orienteering,” she said, and chased after the other three.

The underbrush crunched and snapped as she raced through the woods. The dusty smell of autumn leaves and the crisp frost stung her nose a little, but she pressed on. She kept Moon Dancer’s irregularly bobbing topknot in view as they chased after Minuette.

Twinkleshine poured on the speed, ducked under a low-hanging branch, and caught up to Moon Dancer.

“What’re— you—” Moon Dancer sputtered, out of breath.

Twinkleshine pressed a small purple flag into Moon Dancer’s hand.

“Stay. I’ll get our friends back.”


Twinkleshine smiled and took off.

She hated running. Thankfully, she knew it would probably be necessary and had dressed accordingly. Her normally free-flowing tresses had been plaited and coiled tightly around her scalp. She adjusted her sun hat so it wouldn’t fly off, but skidded on some fallen leaves. Inattention repaid immediately.

Cursing under her breath, she pulled herself forward on a branch and launched towards Minuette’s receding form.

“Minuette!” she shouted, putting as much authority as she could into each syllable.

Minuette froze, sliding to a stop in a small clearing. Ahead, there was the faint sounds of a scuffle.

Minuette hopped up and down, glancing towards the sounds and back to Twinkleshine.


“Stay,” Twinkleshine pushed a blue flag into her hand. “Put.”

Minuette sat down in a huff and folded her arms over her chest. “Not fair.”


Twinkleshine glanced toward the sounds of struggle, and sighed. A rocky outcrop jutted out beyond the tree line. Somewhere behind the curtain of brambles and broken branches, Vinyl was wrestling someone.

Or something.

She pushed past the undergrowth and leapt from rock to rock, descending as carefully as she could.

A shout of triumph drew her attention, making her final three feet a little less dignified than she’d hoped. She landed in a heap at the base of the hill. Inattention took its toll again.

Vinyl had a figure dressed all in black in a headlock. Their sweater’s hood had fallen over their face.

“Gotcha, you—” she glanced up at Twinkleshine’s impact and winced. “Hey, Shine. That looked like it hurt. You okay?”

Twinkleshine dusted herself off. “Just my pride. What do you have there?”

Vinyl tightened her grip, and growled at her captive, “Alright, you weasel. We’re gonna stand up real slow. Try to get away, and you’ll hurt yourself. Get me?”

There was muffled agreement.

The two stood up, with Vinyl setting the pace. The figure was taller than her by several inches and had to bend at the waist to keep from getting strangled.

Twinkleshine frowned. “That’s not entirely necessary, is it? Surely—”

Vinyl shot her a look, but her oversized sunglasses made it hard to read. Twinkleshine shrugged and shook her head.

“She’s the nice girl, punk. I’m the mudhole stomper. You feel like sharing, or do I get my boots on?”

The figure, clearly male by his stature and silhouette, grumbled a little, but nodded.

Twinkleshine gingerly lifted up the boy’s hood. A small gasp of surprise escaped her before she got her composure.

Glaring back at her was her classmate Neon Lights. His normally perfect black hair had been mussed by his fight with Vinyl. His trademark aviators were nowhere to be seen.

“Hi, Twinkle. Get this gorilla off me, yeah?”

She put a thoughtful finger along her jawline and glanced at Vinyl. “Of course, dear.”

He smiled.

“Provided you can tell us why you were sneaking around back there, that is.”

Vinyl grinned and tightened her hold again. Neon made a sound like air slipping out of a balloon.

“Alright, alright! I was hoping to get a look at the party grounds, but I got lost. I heard your discussion about that Wondercolt and figured you’d eventually lead me to the Witherly manor. From there, I could find my way back easy.”

Vinyl snorted derisively. “Yeah. Right. So why’d you run, idiot?”

Neon locked eyes with Twinkleshine, and gestured to Vinyl. “You think a Shadowbolt could just ask for help from Wondercolts? Especially a guy, all alone out here in the woods?”

Vinyl looked to Twinkleshine.

“Let him up. I know him from school. Neon Lights. He’s on the Dean’s List.”

Vinyl pulled her arms away and dusted off her jeans. “Well, alright, Lights. But don’t try anything. This is your one.”

Neon rubbed his neck and turned his head about. He rolled his shoulder, and grunted appreciatively. “Heck of a grip. Where’d you learn how to do that?”

Vinyl turned her face to the sky, reflecting the dappled sunlight off her sunglasses. “I perform in some pretty bad locations sometimes.”

Twinkleshine yanked twice on her fishing line, paused, then yanked again.

“The rest are on their way.”

Neon groaned. “That means Lemon, too, doesn’t it? Dang.”

“It does, indeed.” Twinkleshine said, raising an eyebrow. “Why should that matter?”

Neon fished about in his hoodie, snagged his pair of aviators from the pocket and slumped to the ground. “If she hasn’t told you, I don’t know that I’m the one to—”

Minuette broke the treeline with a crash and cartwheeled down the outcrop. “Hi, Neon! You’re the jerk following us?”

Neon slid his sunglasses back into his hoodie, put his hands on his knees, and stood up. “Hi, Minuette. Don’t suppose you—”

A rock whizzed over his head as he finished his sentence.

“— talked her down. Guess not.”

Lemon stood atop the outcrop, lightly tossing another stone in her hand. “Neon.”


Moon Dancer emerged from the trees carrying Twinkleshine’s bag. She sat on a large stone and tried to catch her breath. “What’s— his deal?”

Neon tossed his hands in the air. “Whatever. Look, Lemon, I’m not here to mess with you. I just want to get my bag back from the party grounds.”

Lemon glowered down at him. Twinkleshine couldn’t tell if she was shaking or just trying to catch her breath.

Twinkleshine crossed to Neon anyway. “Neon, honey, where would we find the Witherly manor? With all the racing about, I’m afraid we’ve gotten turned around.”

Neon watched as Moon Dancer and Lemon Hearts climbed down the outcropping. “I think we’re here, actually. This looks familiar. Look, I’ll just be going. I’m clearly—”

Lemon’s rock zipped past his head. “You stay right where I can see you, mister. I trust you about as far as I can throw a piece of cheesecake against a riptide.”

Neon sighed. “Fair enough. I’ll just stand near these Wondercolts, shall I? Away from you and yours?”

Moon Dancer bristled. “I’m Everton Independent Study, buster. The Wondercolt’s over there.”

She waved to Vinyl, who cracked her knuckles and grinned.

Neon sighed, dropped his hands into his pockets, and followed sullenly behind them.

They hiked together in silence, climbing down the rest of the embankment. The eerie edifice of the Witherly manor loomed over them. The shadows cast by the ancient structure fell over them one by one. Twinkleshine shuddered involuntarily as a deeper chill than the woods’s seeped around her jacket.

“Brr. Yup. I wanna go home.” Minuette chafed her arms like she was suddenly freezing.

Neon bounded up the rickety porch steps in one fluid motion, landed with a clatter, and turned to face the others. “I’ve played ball up ‘til now, Lemon. I’m gonna head to the party grounds. I got stuff to do. Good luck on your ghost hunt or whatever.”

Lemon flushed a deep crimson but said nothing.

Minuette waved timidly, “Bye, Neon. Thanks for not being a monster. Well, not a—”

Neon flicked on his aviators and stalked off towards the corn field.

“—you know what I meant.” Minuette finished glumly.

“What was that about?” asked Twinkleshine.

“So, Lemon and Neon—” Minuette started.

“Girls.” Moon Dancer’s voice was flat, but insistent. “You would not believe how little I care. We have important work to do, and I don’t want to have to delay this over some stupid boy.”

The vibrant rage drained slowly out of Lemon’s face. “He’s not worth it. Let’s find a ghost.”

* * * *

The entrance hall had once been opulent. Their footfalls on the marble floor echoed in the dusty air as they entered. Dim sunlight filtered through the leaded came glass panels far overhead, shrouding most of the room in deep shadows. Minuette clicked on her flashlight, and shone it around the massive foyer. Dust and cobwebs danced in the light. The others all followed suit, and soon the room glowed with flitting beams. Minuette glanced from shadow to shadow, only turning to the next when it was clear nothing lurked within.

Their beams revealed a massive set of stairs that swooped up to a landing above, before branching to the east and west, and ending at a pair of large doors. Shrouded in the shadows below the stairs were another pair of double doors to the north and south.

“Wait. How—?” Vinyl spun on her heel, and shone her light on the front door. “But I thought… how am I looking at four doors in… what?”

Lemon whipped out her notebook, and skimmed it. “Er. Yeah. Witherly was a weird guy. Built the whole house so that it’s never a straight ninety degree angle at any corner. Makes the whole place seem off.”

“Makes it really freaking hard to map, too. You think you’re heading east, all you end up is lost,” Moon Dancer grumbled. “Let’s go, we gotta find the study.”

“And since you’re the best paranormal investigator ever, you’ve got a map, right?” Minuette said.

Moon Dancer’s face flared scarlet, and she mumbled into her sweater.

“… What’s that?”

Lemon Hearts glanced skyward for just a moment, and pulled a blue binder out of her knapsack. She whispered into Moon Dancer’s ear, and pressed it into her hand.

Moon Dancer furrowed her brow, listening. “No way!”

“Yeah, National Registry of Historical Buildings,” Lemon said, pointing at the papers within. “See? They had the—”

Moon Dancer fluttered her hand in front of Lemon’s face. “Sh! Okay! We have a starting point!”

Twinkleshine caught Moon Dancer’s eyes. Slowly, she arched one elegantly sculpted eyebrow.

Moon Dancer swallowed, and adjusted her glasses. A slight flush washed over her cheeks. “And, um, thanks, Lemon. This will really help. I hope.”

Twinkleshine beamed.

Moon Dancer gripped her flashlight in her teeth and flipped through page after page of the binder. After a moment, she paused on one, studied it, and grinned.

“This way,” she said, dropping her flashlight into her hand.

Their footfalls clacked off the large marble floor as Moon Dancer led them to the north-facing door. Beyond was a large dining room, once resplendent in mahogany and silver, but now shrouded in dust and cobwebs. Thirteen seats were arranged around the colossal table, and more than a few had moldering cloth napkins or tarnished silverware still arranged before them. There were huge candelabras positioned between every fourth setting, but these also were cloaked in cobwebs. To one side of the table, a large grandfather clock stood a silent watch.

A gallery overlooked the whole room, running the length of the eastern wall, while the western held massive picture windows that ran the length of the wall. The light shining through these windows bathed everything in a warm glow.

Minuette giggled faintly, and ran her hand through the shafts of light. The dust motes spun and danced around her fingers.

Lemon Hearts and Moon Dancer brushed aside a few place settings near the foot of the table, and laid out the blueprints from Lemon’s folder. They worked at it like a jigsaw puzzle, arranging pieces where they made the most sense.

Twinkleshine drifted towards Vinyl, and smiled.

Vinyl popped out an earbud and smiled back.

“You were pretty quick back there, going after Neon.”

Vinyl chuckled. “Yeah. Didn’t know who it was when I started, though. Hope I didn’t hurt him.”

Twinkleshine turned to face the others. Lemon and Moon Dancer were hunched over the map, twisting pages this way and that. Minuette had paused near the northeastern corner of the room and was gazing intently into the shadows there.

“I’m sure you only bruised his ego. Neon is a bit of a pill.”

“Sorry to hear it. Seemed like him and Lemon had history.”

Twinkleshine watched Minuette as she peered closer at whatever had her attention. “Have. It’s an ongoing mess.”



Minette reached a hand into the shadows.

Twinkleshine raised her voice a hair. “Minuette? What are you looking at?”

Minuette snatched her hand back like it’d been dipped in hot water. “Me? Uh. Just this suit of armor. It looks funny.”

“‘Ha-ha’ funny or ‘whoa, that’s weird,’ funny?” asked Vinyl.

Minuette shrugged, leaning back against the suit of armor. “Yes?”

As she did, she disappeared in a shriek of surprise. There was a clattering, like a drum kit falling down a flight of stone stairs.

Vinyl raced past her, diving for the shadows. The others stood frozen in stark amazement before Twinkleshine cried out, “Minnie!”

Vinyl was on the ground, pounding on the wooden floor. “Damn, damn, damn!”

Moon Dancer dropped to her knees next to her, and ran her nails along the old wood planks. “Whoa. No way.”

“What?” Lemon asked, following suit.

Twinkleshine ran her hand along Vinyl’s shoulders. “There wasn’t anything you could have done. We were—”

Vinyl smacked her hand away as she shot up. She sounded like she was trying to swallow something heavy. “I promised, didn’t I? I said I’d protect her.”

Lemon and Moon Dancer continued muttering to themselves. Lemon stood, shining her flashlight on the suit of armor.

“You did,” Twinkleshine agreed. “You failed.”

Vinyl rounded on her, tears streaming from under her shades. “How dare—”

“Do better. Help us find her. Recriminate later. Act now.”

Vinyl’s face twisted as several emotions battled for supremacy. Finally, she snapped her shades off and tossed them into her rucksack.

“Yeah. Fine.”

She stalked over to the suit of armor and punched it.

It rattled apart, falling off of its stand and clattering to the floor.

All but one item, that is. A solitary rod hung where the left arm had been, still sporting its gauntlet.

Lemon pulled this and a trap door whooshed open beneath them.

Below, bathed in the light from above, was the crumpled form of Minuette. She had landed on a carpet, but wasn’t moving.

“Minuette!” Twinkleshine called. “Can you—?”

There was a soft white blur as Vinyl leapt down.

“Are you crazy?!” shouted Moon Dancer. “How are you going to get back?”

Vinyl didn’t answer. She was bent over Minuette’s still form.

Several tense moments passed before Vinyl looked back up at the others.

“She’s okay. Probably just scared. It’s dark as night down here. I got my light, but she— Hey! Toss me her bag, will you?”

Lemon reached down to grab Minuette’s bag and the door slid shut with a rasp.

Moon Dancer grabbed the rod and pulled it down again. The door opened.

“Dang, that’s sensitive. Here…”

Vinyl positioned herself beneath the bag as Lemon dangled it down.

“Got it!”

A flashlight clicked on and swept around the room.

“Oh, wow. Girls, you need to see this.”

“Do you see a door?” asked Twinkleshine.

Vinyl turned slowly, stopping only for a moment before sweeping the rest of the room. “Yeah. A couple.”

“Map it!” shouted Moon Dancer. “We’ll try to meet up with you!”

“But where am I— are we going?”

Moon Dancer looked to Lemon.

Lemon shrugged. “There’s no basement in the blueprints.”

“What’d she say?” called Vinyl.

“Just head west! And map it! We’ll meet up!” Moon Dancer released the rod. The door slid back into place.

The ensuing silence draped around them like a fog before being broken by their nerves.

“Rope. Should have brought rope. Dammit,” Moon Dancer cursed.

“Why didn’t you tell her?” Lemon bit at her thumbnail, agitated.

Moon Dancer sighed and yanked out her flashlight. “A few reasons. One, no need to panic her. Two, as long as she heads west, she’ll keep away from the hills. No telling how far down those things go. And three…”

Lemon, who had returned to the table to gather up the blueprints, looked up. “Three?”

Moon Dancer frowned and withdrew into her sweater. “I don’t want her to know how much she scared me when she jumped in. She’s got enough to worry about with Minuette down there.”

Twinkleshine tutted softly.

Moon Dancer closed her eyes, took a slow breath, fumbled out her compass, and clicked on the flashlight.

“Let’s head west.”

Author's Note:

If you're wondering what leaded came glass is, here you are!

8/28 edit: More commas! More!

I've also retooled some scenes to flow a little better. Gotta love a digital medium!