Daring Do cannot believe her luck when she is asked to help explore the most ancient tomb known to ponykind. But terrible danger awaits her, for beneath the earth rests something beyond equine understanding.

Warning: comments contain ending spoilers.

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Alternate ending by Duplex Fields.
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Comments ( 458 )

Aw shit.

That ending was chilling. Well, I hope that shit is nearing its last half-lives, at least.

Chills. Up my back.

Just... wow.

Having read your comment before reading the story, I hate you so much right now. :raritydespair:


I owe you an apology. I thought of adding a warning that comments might contain spoilers, and it somehow slipped my mind. I won't make that mistake again. Luckily, I have other ideas for stories with twists at the end. :twistnerd::twistnerd::twistnerd:

(But why the hay read comments before the story?)

Because I caught it so soon after this story went up; I figured it would be harmless. Curiosity killed the cat and all that jazz.

That said, you don't owe me anything. In fact, I'm actually paranoid that making people think about the ending specifically before starting to read the story might make them figure it out too soon, heh. That said, I look forward to whatever you put out next.

Makes you wonder what's down there.


Didn't you see the image at the end? I ask because it's kind of important to understanding the ending, and I was worried someone might skim over it.

EDIT: radiation symbol removed for being too didactic.

I meant: Makes you wonder what is causing that extreme radiation. I was just avoiding outright saying it.


now to read story...

I suppose this is redundant for anyone reading this far down, but detailed spoilers below.

1039994 While the effects and reach of the radiation may have been exaggerated throughout the story for what it implied the source was(and the half-life made incredibly shorter, for some reason), the purpose of the structure, the incredibly redundant ways of communicating what was contained, the design and placement being made to maximize how long it stood were all foreshadowing for the structure being something that exists in real life: a long-term storage facility for nuclear waste. I say that the effects/reach were probably exaggerated because such facilities have very, very thorough containment for the actual fuel rods themselves completely irregardless of the structure that houses the containers, both of which are graded to last for hundreds of thousands of years, and hoped to last for millions. Meanwhile, Daring Do somehow got a lethal dose of radiation without ever entering the chamber that housed them...

Oh shit, Daring Do with extreme radiation sickness. Take your potassium, Daring! It's your only hope!

Hot damn, that is how you end a story. How chilling... And food for thought: future civilisations in our world may well meet the same fate. Presumably that waste facility has suffered a serious containment breach if just walking into the entrance tunnel is enough to give you a lethal dose.

Actually, Fridge Horror: could that pyramid be our nuclear waste, 71,000 years hence? Stranger things have happened...

Oh crap, that story sent a shiver down my spine.
Doubly so, as after the first third, a nasty suspicion was creeping on me regarding what exactly might be down there - and how seriously screwed Daring Do and the others would be if it turned out to be correct...

TMH #14 · Aug 12th, 2012 · · ·

And this is why you always carry Rad-Away.

Carry On

Comment posted by Alondro deleted Mar 10th, 2013

ugughghghg *shiver*

That is so unsettling. You have nooo idea.

Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

MORE... please:derpytongue2: I love it :raritystarry:can't wait to read more!


Loved the story. Most of the way through, I started thinking back to my lab's safety training and some hideous warning pictures of that kind of thing.

But I didn't see any image at the end- did you take it out, or is it just a problem with my browser?

This story was... chilling. I loved it. 1076155 That link is amazingly informative.


I had to cut it because the pre-readers thought it was too didactic. (It was a radiation symbol.) No biggie; I compensated by putting some more hints in the titular Writing.

Everyone else: I'll address your concerns first thing tomorrow morning.

Rainbow Dash looked up from the cornuscript, puzzled. "I don't get it."
Twilight Sparkle sighed. "The tomb wasn't a tomb, except for those who invaded it. Her crew dies of radiation sickness over the next month."
"Woah, woah," said Rainbow, taking to the air, "You're telling me this isn't a curse?"
"No, it's a natural physical phenomenon. Mare-ie Curie discovered-"
"Too much science," interrupted Rainbow, "Talk smaller."
Twilight sighed. "There are rocks which are constantly shooting out invisible fiery poison."
Rainbow landed again. "In real life, or just in your story?"
"In real life. In fact, the math says that if enough of these rocks are gathered together, they'll make enough heat to boil water and turn a turbine."
"Huh. So the ancient civilization made these badass waterwheels and toasted themselves?"
"Pretty much."
"So how does Daring escape? Does the doctor know of an antidote that she has to find in a crumbling temple?"
"Can she find a cure in the writing on the walls?"
Rainbow grimaced. "You're telling me that Daring Do.... dies? That's horrible! How can you do that to her, Twilight?"
"It's not canon," said Twilight, annoyed.
"Well of course she doesn't get hit by a cannon, she dies of fire rocks that you put there to kill her. Why would you kill Daring Do?"
"It's just a story, based on a story," said Twilight, now exasperated. "Write your own if you want her to live."
"What?" said Rainbow, wings flared, "I can write my own Daring Do stories?"
"Sure. And if you join the fan club, you can get them published in our mailing. You'd like the other stories," Twilight said, pulling a mimeographed stack of papers from a shelf of her reading parlor. "They're mostly adventures with good endings. I just went with the death angle for a haunting tale."
Rainbow flipped through the stack quickly. "Um, Twilight? Why is Daring Do kissing Ahuitzotl in this drawing?"
Twilight blushed. "That's fan art, and not all of it is like that."
Rainbow flipped through a few more pages. "Too bad. I kinda like it."

1076155 Wow, fascinating link. Certainly highlights how different cultures can view things. Leaving a massive monument might say 'Danger!' to us, but 'Cool stuff buried here!' to a future society. Thanks for that! :twilightsmile:

Big thanks to all the responders, and a warm welcome to all my new readers.

Oh dear, I was afraid this would happen. I did do some research, but I might not have read enough sources, and I admit I took some liberties with the effects, since radiation might effect magical ponies differently than humans. As for the half-life, a lot of my information came from this film, and it may have been wrong, or I may have misunderstood something. But I did suggest, obliquely, why containment was breached: the ponies aren't the first ones to break in.

I honestly don't know who built it. But that's pretty much the exact reaction I was going for. :twilightsmile:

Mwahahahaha... :trollestia:

Thanks! Now I don't have to link to that.

Bad news, I'm afraid. You're my first-ever "reader who mistook a one-shot for a first chapter". Although, Duplex Fields seems to have written an epilogue...

There are no words to describe that feel when someone writes a continuation of something you wrote. If you don't mind, I'd like to put this in a blog post.

1080936 :fluttershysad: but it ended on a cliffhanger


A continuation wouldn't be very long. There's only one thing to do after absorbing that many rads: write your last will and testament. Further reading may be found here.

Man... I read this story and gave me chills, similar to the time I read The Cough.

Then thanks to you guys I figured where the message came from and my mind was blown into microscopic pieces.

Good show Horse_Voice! You really made me feel things with this one...


Also, you get some extra cool points for portraying Ahuitzotl as an evil treasure hunter (instead the evil overlord image that the show gave me), I think that alone makes him a better antagonist for Daring.

I am pretty sure this story was inspired by an article once I read, or the report it was about, detailing plans for a long-term nuclear waste storage facility. Spikes all around the facility, warnings in several languages and some kind of universal language, I didn't remember blank walls for translations tho. The quote "This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here. [...]" is also very signature.

That article was very chilling due to it being so apocalyptic and bordering on the science fiction, and even if I recognized pretty soon that it is such a facility in the story, it still gave me chills because it evoked my reactions to the article when I realized the references.

I think this is it but I'm not so sure, there are a few similar articles now that I search for it, Hoarse_Voice will tell the original article anyway :)


Ah yes I see in another comment he confirmed it :)

Damn, still feeling the chills, perfect with the Fallout soundtrack.

I was also wondering whether this was a mistake:

Daring: "They said it's 'the oldest archeological site ever found,' but I know that's not right, 'cause masonry like this has only been around about fifteen hundred years. So..."

Then later...
Thorn: "All of the writing systems you see here are the sole examples known to modern civilization, with a single exception: that at the bottom of the rightmost wall, which according to other experts present at this site, is approximately five thousand years old."

So was the outer entrance 1500 or 5000 years old? I guess the other civilizations from 26k to 5k years ago had enough sense to try to translate the messages before breaking the inner seal.


I think the masonry in that sentence is supposed to mean the actual building, not the seal. ie the style/ability to use this kind of rock/ standard of building is something only invented by the ponies in the last 1500 years.

Also, I too wish to see continuation, maybe with Celestia finding out what they opened and knowing what it is? Or ponies brewing toxin-removers or finding accidentally that something one of them ate reduced symptoms... I was so sad when I saw this was a one shot and not a chapter.


Re: the masonry. You are absolutely right. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

I guess I could try to write a sequel, but my heart wouldn't be in it, so it wouldn't be as good. I want the horse skull to always be a symbol of quality. However, I certainly wouldn't stop others from writing continuations, hypothetically.

"The Writing" was partly inspired by the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Those involved a rising sense of dread, punctuated by a big reveal. The aftermath was often left to the readers' imaginations. They don't make 'em like that anymore, so I have to.


I do love the story as it is, and the saying is that one should leave your audience wanting more.
After all, if you give the audience exactly what they ask for it's never as awesome as they expect.

There is one thing though, and it's probably just me, dense as I am about foreshadowing and suchlike, but I didn't actually twig to the whole radiation thing until I saw a comment a second after finishing the story that mentioned half-lives. Apparently there used to be a big old radiation symbol at the bottom, but I can see that being too garish and too easily skipped to for spoilers accidentally. Other readers might do the same and wonder what this mysterious disease is - though of course once you know what it is the hidden fire bit is rather blatant.


I was afraid of this. The pre-readers told me I could lose the symbol, or lose my chance at being featured. In the grand tradition of writer-publisher relations, I folded like a lawn chair.

I did my best, and I wish I knew how to make things clearer. The problem is, there is absolutely no way ponies know about ionizing radiation, and I can't keep going, because the whole point of this type of story is to deliver the shocking reveal. Once that arrives, you take your hands off the keyboard.

I'm open to suggestions.

Go for it. I wrote it to distance myself from how truly haunting it was. Let's see, how many levels of metafiction is this? In my fanfiction of your fanfiction, your fanfiction is Twilight's fanfiction of an in-universe fictional universe.

0. Us
1. The show
2. My frame story
3. Your story


You could link the inspiring article and documents at the end of the story. The connection between them and the story will be obvious and the chill will be even stronger.

I am a big fan of horror-themes, be they in motion picture, music, literature or whatever other way. You would even say I am a scare-addict. But unlike the straight-forward, in-your-face gruesomeness of bloody Pinkamena fiction or the cheap jumpscares of summer teeny horror movies, your short story gave a wholly different kind of creepy chill I haven’t felt for a while.

Slow, psychological horror, which you can often find in Lovecraftian novels or the occasional Silent Hill game, are hard and rare to pull off. And even if you exaggerated some details, it was all stylistic means to accomplish the goal of making us all shudder in horrifying, slow realization. Due to small, but significant characterization of all ponies involved, you felt genuinely sorry for their fates by the time the end came around.

To wrap this up, this is by far my favorite horror FiM story and I will likely remember it for quite a while to come. In other news, who else feels a bit different about radiation and nuclear waste all of the sudden? :rainbowderp:

Xon #39 · Oct 17th, 2012 · · ·

Despite being an exaggeration*, this type of nuclear waste is only an issue due to political incompetence of those who do not have the political will to use nuclear waste recycling. This recycling use nuclear transmutation to actually breakdown the nuclear waste with a long half-life to something with a shorter half-life which makes the stuff safer in years compared to hundreds of thousands of years.

Nuclear waste storage is actually a massive waste of resources and leaving highly posionious(uranium oxides are nasty and water soluable) and radioactive for longer literial hundreds of thousands of years.

There is only a few hundreds to a thousand of years uranium for nuclear reactors known to exist using single usge fuel rods. But with nuclear waste recycling, it becomes hundreds of thousands of years.

*Nuclear storage facilities shouldn't actually leave the waste in a position to generate ionising radiation at such lethal levels. Current practice is to melt the used rods into a slurry and mix it with glass substance and store it in barrels while being left in cooling ponds for years.

Site Blogger

>She had a personal tradition, when beginning a journey, of bivouacing at the head of the next morning's trail.
"Bivouacking" is the generally-accepted spelling. It appears in Merriam-Webster; "bivouacing" does not. I say generally-accepted because "bivouacking" returns approximately 103,000 results on Google; "bivouacing" returns only 8,000.

"In the grand tradition of writer-publisher relations, I folded like a lawn chair."
I laughed so hard at this I cried. At work. Damn you. I also happen to agree with EqD; the rest of the story is a subtle masterpiece; to include the radiation symbol beats the reader over the head with the "correct" meaning.

I thought your interpretation of the Message was perfectly satisfactory.


One thing a writer dreads is encountering an expert on something he's writing about, because there's no way he'll know as much as the expert. Well, the existence of nuclear waste recycling is a relief, anyway.


Re: bivouacking. I really appreciate you going to the effort to look that up. :pinkiesmile:

>I laughed so hard at this I cried. At work. Damn you.

Oh dear! I hope you didn't get in trouble. But it's funny -- I think you're the first person I know of who's laughed at that.

"Subtle masterpiece"? That's the sort of critical praise one sees inside book covers. May I quote you?

By the way, you recently said this story was 35th on your list. Would I be right in guessing you were looking for something short enough to read over a lunch break?

Site Blogger

Re: bivouacking, it's what I do. Well, one of the things, anyway.

I'm fortunate enough to have my own office. And it was probably reading something so funny right after reading something so... not.

More or less; there were roughly 1.5 million words ahead of this, and you're already in the Vault which should have put you at an even lower priority compared to the dozens on my list I've never read before, but I've wanted to read this story ever since I saw it. Something about the tags, title, summary... basically I got tired of telling myself no. I'm glad I gave in.

Oh, and sure you can quote me. I guess "the story is a subtle masterpiece" has quite the ring to it, don't it?


There are all types of arguements over nuclear proliferation which make nuclear waste reprocessing a political nightmare, because the reprocessing actually increases the fissionable elements which could be "easily" for a nation to overhaul into a nuclear weapons program.

Your fic is a really good treatment of the problems that long term nuclear storage has. Which is still a damn sight better than what we currently do with nuclear waste.

As leaving it in a cooling pond next to the nuclear reactor hoping someone gets around the solving the problem before human civilization goes away, isn't the best solution.

No really, that's the current "solution" for countries which don't use nuclear reprocessing. Because it sure as hell beats moving around thousands of tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste and the political nightmare that would ensue.


If anyone needs me, I'll be under the bed.

God damn chilling, and I didn't notice what was going on until the hidden fire line and that was in spite of having had my last lecture on radiation síckness on tuesday, 3 days ago.
That was rather terrifying, for obvious reasons.

Hey Horse_Voice not sure if you saw this comment.

Link the article at the end for maximum chills instead of the rad symbol.


I tried, but I didn't like the way it looked when it was set up that way, so I removed it. I know that sounds fussy, but every author reserves the right to fuss about his own work. Thanks for the suggestion, anyway.

Gripping and, as others have said, chilling. Even if the speed of decay and storage protocols seem a bit ill conceived, the telling of the story nevertheless makes up for it. I hear that there was originally a radiation symbol at the end of this story, and I'm glad that there wasn't when I read it. I think you did a fine job of leaving sufficient clues as to exactly what horror they were uncovering.


:pinkiehappy: I hope you don't mind me quoting you on my user page.

As for the symbol, you can thank Vimbert for that. Would you believe at the time, I tried to convince him to let me keep it? Well, lesson learned.


By all means. I would consider it an honor =).

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