• Published 24th Oct 2018
  • 625 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 Three: Gilded Cage

They walked up the old stairs in the foyer and opened the western door. Beyond lay a long hallway with doors on either side. Some were jammed and steadfastly refused to open, no matter how the girls pulled or pushed on them. Others were locked. After checking each door to verify, they finally found one that opened into another hallway. This, too, had doors, and Twinkleshine had to keep Moon Dancer from trying each of these as well.

This hallway turned to the north, ending at a landing for a short stairwell leading down.

They quickly descended, pausing only to mark it on the blueprints Lemon had downloaded. It wasn’t on their map.

A little pit of anxiety opened at the bottom of Twinkleshine’s stomach.

It widened when Moon Dancer grumbled that over half the doors they’d passed weren’t in the official blueprints, either.

The stairs let out in another short hallway. They followed it to a door.

“Watch, this is locked, too,” Moon Dancer said cattily.

Lemon rolled her eyes as she turned the crystal doorknob.

It opened.

Beyond was a sitting room with two long couches, a loveseat, and three armchairs arrayed around the room. Books cluttered the north and west walls, The east wall was taken up entirely by a fireplace. The scent of burned wood and old books hung heavily in the air. Sunlight streaked through the grimy windows, catching the dust motes’s slow drift.

Twinkleshine traced little lines in them and tried not to think of Minuette. Hopefully, they’d find their way out of the gloom.

“You realize there’s gotta be another secret door, right?” Moon Dancer said, dropping into a chair.

“Of course,” said Twinkleshine. “It’s only a matter of finding it. Do you think it’s the only way into the basement?”

“Or basements?” said Lemon, drawing out the ‘s’. “There’s a lot of space in them thar hills.”

Moon Dancer chuckled, but a hint of panic tinged the edges.

The pit deepened almost imperceptibly.

She drifted to the north wall, and read the titles on the shelves. One bookcase was entirely dedicated to occult esoterica, while the other held nothing but scientific texts.

Behind her, Moon Dancer and Lemon Hearts continued:

“So this is it. Dead end.”

“Not necessarily,” Lemon countered. “One of those other doors might—”

“Yeah? How do we get them open? They seemed pretty stuck. Or locked. Or both.”

There was some silence. Twinkleshine ran her fingers along the hardbound books and tutted. Someone had misshelved a book called Long Lost Friend in the middle of a series of lectures on optics by Professor Crystal Prism.

She lifted it up, and thumbed through it. Strange diagrams, notes in ancient languages, and odd pressings were liberally scattered throughout. From what she could parse, it looked like it was a grimoire, a collection of spells and incantations. The earliest references dated back some four hundred years.

Lemon chuckled. “You know, Minuette probably could have picked those locks. She’s always getting the drop on Twinkle and I, putting stuff in our lockers.”

Moon Dancer snorted gently. “Yeah. Or Vinyl could have kicked one open. She’s pretty strong. It sucks not having them.”


The bookshelf on the other side of the fireplace was filled with other obscure occult texts. Twinkleshine shelved the grimoire with them, placing it between Lilum Lamenta and the Malleus Maleficarum.

There was a nearby grinding of stone on stone.

All three girls started in surprise, Lemon even letting out a little shriek.

The entire fireplace had swung outward from its wall tiles, revealing a dark, cobwebbed corridor.

The three girls shared a look.

“Well, let’s not all go at once,” Moon Dancer said, crossing to the passage. “Better to have someone out here to make sure we don’t get stuck.”

Twinkleshine shook her head. “I’m not going to allow us to split the group further. We go together or not at all.”

Lemon Hearts nodded. “This place gives me the creeps.”

Moon Dancer rolled her eyes and grabbed a thick tome off the reference shelf.

The secret door snapped shut with a boom.

Lemon jumped in surprise. Moon Dancer swore and jammed the book back into place. The door swung open again.

“Fantastic!” Moon Dancer shouted. “Fine! Let’s go.”

Twinkleshine pulled out her flashlight. Almost as one, three beams of light pierced the darkness within the passage.

She smiled faintly.

The passage traveled down a short flight of stairs, ending in a room caked with cobwebs. Beneath the layers of soft, sticky film lurked musty, moth-eaten robes. These hung on dusty wooden pegs. Below the robes sat squat footlockers. All but one stood open and empty, just as dusty as the rest of the room.

On the opposite wall was a door with an inscription in Latin. Twinkleshine traced the etched glass with a fingernail.

“Ob Futuro Nostro Fabricamus. ‘We build the future?’”

“No,” said Moon Dancer, “it’s ‘We build our future.’ The ‘ob’ is what—wait, or is it…”

She threw her hands in the air with a sigh, her beam lancing around the room like a searching eye. “Whatever, no one cares, Latin is the worst, let’s go.”

Lemon adjusted her sweater vest, and tugged it down. “After you.”

The series of corridors they entered made little sense. Some dead-ended into bare earth, while others seemed to be designed to loop back around on themselves. They even found a staircase that led to a wall of dirt after fifteen feet.

“Either this place had a wicked cave-in…” Lemon started, but trailed off as no other answer came to mind.

“Girls?” A husky voice shouted from somewhere nearby. “Doc?”

They whirled around, three lights in three directions. A few shouted curses and accidental blindings later, they found themselves shining their flashlights at the dirty form of Vinyl Scratch. Behind her, looking very much like a canary staring at a grinning cat, was Minuette.

The reunion was brief but excited. Hugs and promises were passed around as fences were mended.

“About time,” Vinyl coughed. “Good luck for us, you slamming that door a few times. Minnie heard it before I did, but yeah. Nice looking out.”

Moon Dancer froze. “What do you mean, ‘slamming?’”

It was hard to see in the dim light, but Lemon Hearts’s yellow face grew sallow and wan. “What do you mean ‘a few?’”

“I knew it. I knew it!” Minuette stamped her feet in a sudden burst of rage and fear. “We’re trapped down here. It’s got us down here and we’re stuck.”

Lemon Hearts tapped Vinyl on the shoulder and gestured with her head back the way they’d came. Together, they ran back towards the fireplace door.

Watching the two run down the corridor, Twinkleshine wrapped Minuette up in her arms and spoke softly. “No need for that, Minnie. We’re not trapped. There’s always a way out.”

Minuette squeezed Twinkleshine tightly. “I want to believe, Twinkleshine. I do. But it doesn’t want us to escape. It’s mad.”

Twinkleshine met Minuette’s frightened stare. “What’s mad?”

“It’s mad!” She continued as if Twinkleshine hadn’t spoken. “It figured out that I took something and it wants it back, but I don’t think it should have it, and—” She broke down, weeping.

“What’s mad, dear heart? You’ve got to—”

There was a shout of shock and anger from the direction the others had gone. Moon Dancer swore and chased after them.

“Should we…?” Twinkleshine started.

“Nuh-uh,” Minuette said, brushing her cheek dry. “They’re finding your entrance blocked. It’s swallowed us. We gotta find another way out.”

Twinkleshine sighed. “You don’t know that—”

Voices drifting up the tunnels silenced her. The others had returned.

“… no way that’s closed,” Lemon Hearts said, confused. “No way. Doesn’t make sense.”

“Deal with it, Hearts. It’s fact. That door is shut.” Moon Dancer spat each word like it had gone sour.

“I-impossible,” Twinkleshine said. “The only way that door opened was after each book was shelved in alphabetical order by topic. Are you saying someone undid that? It couldn’t have happened by accident. You saw those shelves.”

Moon Dancer shrugged. “Yeah, but we’ve verified. That door is shut.”

Lemon Hearts snarled incoherently. She clenched her fists, took a deep breath, and tried again.

More rage-obscured almost-words tumbled out, five at a time.

“Lemon.” Vinyl grabbed her shoulders, and shook gently. “Breathe.”

Twinkleshine felt Minuette follow Lemon’s breathing. They both seemed to do better after a few moments.

“Neon.” Lemon said around gritted teeth. “I couldn’t figure why he jumped up on that rickety old porch, but what if he was signalling someone? Fancy Pants or Jet Set’s probably in here. They yanked a book or something. It’s all Neon.”

No one said anything for a while.

Twinkleshine cleared her throat. All eyes turned to her.

“There is always an answer. I refuse to believe we’ve come this way just to—”

Minuette leapt to her feet and cried out, “Yeah! Wait! I got it! Spit!”

Twinkleshine’s lips curled up in distaste.

Lemon looked at her like she had grown a new set of eyes.

Moon Dancer licked her finger and held it out. “Got it. Breeze coming from this way. Do you think it’s the exit?”

Minuette licked her hand, holding it as high as she could before dropping it almost to the ground.

“Mmm, don’t think so. That feels like a small opening. Here, see?”

She grabbed Moon Dancer’s wrist and held it low to the ground.

“Nothing. But…”

She grabbed Moon Dancer around the waist and lifted her up.

“What are you—?!”

“Hand! Ceiling! Less tacos!”

“… Oh, hey, yeah…”

Minuette put the smaller girl down and sighed in relief. “Ow. Last time I do that for a bit. You’re heavier than you look.”

Moon Dancer stuck her tongue out at Minuette and pulled out her notebook. She flipped to a rough sketch of the basement and handed it to Vinyl.

“Where did you two land?”

Vinyl scanned the sketch and shook her head. “Mins?”

“You bet!”

Minuette took out her pencil, studied the sketch carefully, and added another wing. “I think it looked like this. But…”

She starred two rooms and drew a line between them.

“… these two are the same room and they go here,” as she drew another hallway beside them. “We landed in there, but it has like, two doors that lead in different directions but look exactly the same. So I see how that happened.”

Moon Dancer scowled at the map. “No, they don’t.”

Minuette shrugged. “Not exactly, yeah. But it’s weird and hard to explain. Point being, I think the current up top is from over there. There’s a passage out.”

Lemon looked into the darkened hallway before them, and frowned. “That trap door?”

“No, pretty sure that’s only accessible from that lever,” Vinyl said. “You don’t think—?”

Minuette nodded, and turned to the others. “Wanna see the worst thing?”

* * * *

“Ew, no forever. Are those gutters…” Lemon Hearts shuddered, rubbing her hands against her arms, as if against a sudden chill.

The light from their flashlights played over a cross between a gym shower and the nave of a cathedral. Arranged around a dark green central cushioned carpet was a hard black tile floor and water faucets. Set above those were bas-relief carvings of figures carrying wood, measuring planks, and hammering frames. Set into the opposite wall was another oak door, lurking in the shadows like it was watching them.

Narrow gutters spread across the floor like spider threads. They were bone dry, but the strange juxtaposition still set Twinkleshine on edge.

She could almost hear the echo of Minuette’s scream as she fell. She could almost see robed figures picking up her unconscious form. One of them knelt beside the cushion, and—

She arched an eyebrow and swept aside the cushion.

Below it, inlaid in the tile with gleaming gold, lurked a design resembling a cross between a squashed spider and a bullseye. At its center was a glittering crystal.

“What the heck is that?” Vinyl asked, crouching down beside the diagram.

At the same time, Moon Dancer started taking video of the room on her phone. She spoke low, describing what she was seeing. Behind her, staying in her shadow, Lemon snapped photos on her disposable camera.

Minuette hadn’t entered. She stood at the door, chewing her bottom lip.

“I think it’s for cleaning people. I remember landing on that cushion and feeling a surge run through me, like I’d touched a live wire. I had… really strange dreams.”

Vinyl snorted once in agreement. “Yeah, woke up with a shriek that made me jump. You doing okay, hero?”

Minuette grinned sheepishly.

Vinyl tilted her glasses down, and stared over them. “What?”

“You said you took something, and that something else was mad,” Twinkleshine asked. “What was it?”

Minuette shook her head and turned towards the door on the other side. “Nuh-uh. Not until we get out of here. I’m not giving it back, it doesn’t belong here.”

“But where did you take it from?”

Minuette pointed over her shoulder at an alcove. A plinth sat between two dusty wax candles on iron holders. Something had been displayed on it, once. Something green and glittering.

Something those foolish scholars at—

Twinkleshine started as if waking from a dream. “We should go.”

Moon Dancer opened the door across from them and held it as they passed through.

The hallway on the other side looked identical to the one they’d passed through moments ago. The same slight left-hand turn, the same dead-end corridors, and doors that opened into earth.

“See,” Minuette said. “It’s weird.”

Lemon called out from ahead of the others, “Hey! Stairs!”

Twinkleshine felt the cold press of gooseflesh creeping across her skin. She met Minuette’s glance and shrugged.

Minuette only looked more concerned.

Moon Dancer leafed through the increasingly dogeared map and jotted down the door.

“Up?” asked Moon Dancer.

Lemon shook her head.

Moon Dancer groaned. “Of course not.”

Vinyl glanced around at the tunnel. “This might sound weird, but I think this is the same hallway.”

Minuette nodded for a moment before shrugging. “Not exactly, but not no. It’s the same hallway, just a little… behind? Like, not a direction, but almost a state of mind.”

“That makes no sense,” grumbled Moon Dancer.

“Are we going down, girls?” Lemon called back.

Moon Dancer riffled through the map, and found Minuette’s notes. “If Hero here is right, this should… Wait.” She tapped the sketched hallway. “This doesn’t go anywhere.”

“Yeah,” agreed Minuette. “But those stairs weren’t here before either, so who knows?”

Moon Dancer swore under her breath. “Witherly Manor. Gotta love it.”

They caught up to Lemon Hearts. She was leaning against an open door, with a stairwell leading further down.

“After you,” she said.

The stairs creaked and groaned alarmingly, but held.

After crossing a pair of landings with bricked-up passages, they reached another door.

Vinyl pulled it open with a grunt.

At the same time, Lemon looked up and held a finger to her mouth. “Sh!”

Dust trickled down as a board creaked above them.

Lemon looked back to the others, wide-eyed.

Moon Dancer mouthed the words, “We’re not alone.”

“Neon,” Lemon mouthed back. “Gotta be.”

“Payback?” asked Vinyl silently.

Lemon nodded.

Vinyl cracked her knuckles. She squared her stance and gestured to the empty hallway behind her. The others filed past her, preparing to take pictures as Vinyl taught him a lesson.

They gingerly shut the door behind them and waited.

The boards creaked again, this time closer.

“On the count of three,” said Moon Dancer. She had one hand on the doorknob as she pressed herself against the wall.

They all nodded in time with the count.


A creak and the scraping of metal on wood.


The shadows under the door darkened as someone walked up to it.

Moon Dancer felt the doorknob turn slowly in her hand.


She wrenched the doorknob against the other’s turn and shoved the door open.

Illuminated in the flash of three cameras stood a tall, gaunt figure. Almost at the same time as the flashes, it opened its mouth and roared, flooding the room with eerie green light.

Vinyl shrank back away from it, shielding the others with her body .

Lemon and Twinkleshine screamed.

Minuette shouted something, but it was lost in the chaos.

But Moon Dancer didn’t move. Her thick glasses reflected the green light.

The thing before them, a full head and a half taller than any of them, raised an arm with a jerk. Long, thin triangular blades snapped into place, glittering in the sickly green light pouring from its mouth. Each one of them could see the others reflected briefly in the talons’ mirror sheen.

Moon Dancer still didn’t move, staring up at the creature with a look that could either have been joy or madness.

“It’s…” she started.

Vinyl grabbed her arm and yanked her to the ground, just as the form swiped at her.

The blades whistled through the air above them.

“Run!” Minuette shouted, then turned and sprinted ahead.

They did, with Vinyl carrying a stunned Moon Dancer.

The Wraith of Witherly Manor pursued, its long claws digging furrows into the hardwood floors.

The hallway twisted on itself, angling with a hard left away from the other doors. Minuette pushed off the wall to assist with the sharp turn, but the others weren’t so quick on their feet. Lemon tripped and would have fallen, but for Twinkleshine.

They breathlessly shared a nod before chasing after the others.

Vinyl gritted her teeth as she hoisted Moon Dancer up into a fireman’s carry. “Minuette’s right, Doc. We gotta talk diet.”

Moon Dancer said nothing, her glasses sliding off her expressionless face.

Twinkleshine caught her glasses as they fell, tucked them into a side pocket on her backpack, and slammed the door behind them.

“C’mon! Move it! I think I got this figured out!” called Minuette from far ahead. She was holding open a door at the end of the hallway.

As Twinkleshine watched, the library beyond flickered twice, and became another room entirely.

This room was lined with shelves of black crystalline growths. An intricate design had been carved in the floor. A large, slightly ajar, metal door dominated the other wall.


“No time! Just go!”

Behind them, the door shattered into splinters. The glass frames of the portraits glinted in the sudden green light as the Wraith roared.

They piled through, racing to the other door. It shifted slowly, but ground to a halt.


Vinyl passed Moon Dancer to Lemon, and ran back to Minuette. She braced against the wooden door, and gestured to the metal one across the room.

“Do the thing you did!” she said.

Minuette shook her head. “Fixed point! Can’t—!”

The upper panels of the door splintered as the Wraith’s claws punched through it. Shards of oak rained on Vinyl’s head.

“—Damn it!”

Lemon passed Moon Dancer to Twinkleshine, who set her down gently on the floor. She patted her cheek gently, whispering softly.

Lemon and Minuette pushed a fully-loaded shelf over to Vinyl.

“Scootch,” Lemon said. “Carefully.”

The door bulged inward as the Wraith threw its bulk against it. For a moment, the green light shone around the cracks. Vinyl pressed against the door until it stopped shaking.

“Now, hurry.”

The three shoved the shelf against the door and ran to the other two.

“We gotta go,” said Vinyl.

“Is she okay?” asked Lemon, glancing back towards Moon Dancer.

“We can find out if we get out of here.”

Vinyl crossed back to the metal door, placed one foot on the door jamb, and yanked hard. It squealed once, the ancient rusty hinges seizing again.

The gap had been widened, but not nearly enough.

The shelf shuddered as the door was struck again. A large crystal fell to the ground and broke.

“That’s probably not good,” muttered Minuette.

Vinyl took a deep breath, gave a couple practice tugs, and then really leaned into it.

The gap suddenly widened with another screech. It slid open another foot.

Twinkleshine glanced down at Moon Dancer. “If we’re careful—”.

She was cut off as another slam against the door shook more crystals to shatter against the floor.

“Shoot. Here…”

Together, Twinkleshine and Lemon Hearts carried Moon Dancer over to the door.

Minuette slipped through the gap, followed by Vinyl.

As Twinkleshine passed Moon Dancer through the gap, the shelf fell to the floor with a crash.

The wooden door was in pieces, but still held. The Wraith roared through the holes in the paneling and started tearing through the rest.

“Go, hurry!” Twinkleshine pushed Lemon through.

Vinyl gripped the door handle on the other side and readied herself.

Twinkleshine glanced down at her chest and sighed inwardly.

Gingerly, she tried slipping through.

She made it halfway before getting caught.

The wooden door fell to pieces.

She took a deep breath, exhaled, and pressed her way through with a groan of pain.

She felt something seize the brim of her hat, tearing it free from her head.

At the same time, Vinyl yanked the door shut with a boom that echoed in the darkness.

For the first time, Twinkleshine realized it was freezing.

“Where a-are w-we?” she asked.

Author's Note:

Latin. :pinkiesick:

Don't worry, Moon Dancer! We'll get the actual translation soon!

Comments ( 3 )

Twinkleshine shelved the grimoire with them, placing it between Lilum Lamenta and the Malleus Maleficarum.
There was a nearby grinding of stone on stone.

Oh no, the Umbrella Corporation designed the locks in this place.

... Oh. Oh wow, this is getting very strange. Definitely looking forward to more.

Finally got around to rereading this in preparation for the new chapter. And yeah, this is tense.

This a thrilling mystery.
I'm exited for more!:pinkiehappy:

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