• Published 19th Feb 2019
  • 2,144 Views, 74 Comments

Death has a Cutie Mark Problem - The Mountaineer Brony

Death Himself seeks out the Cutie Mark Crusaders for help getting back in touch with his special talent.

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Sors Immanis et Inanis

It was never supposed to go this way, he thought.

It was just supposed to be a simple trip up to Vanhoover. He and the boys were delivering supplies that they'd need come winter, just like they had for so many years before.

He hadn't expected anything like this to happen.

It was dark that night, very dark, and stormy. The thunder roared overhead, lightning fractured the sky like glass, and the rain drove down with great force. In the middle of his caravan, Hearty Hooves trudged through the mud and grit, burdened by the great packs atop him, as the team of stout ponies and mules traversed the narrow path along a sheer cliff. It wasn't a path they took often, but downed trees had closed off the main road and railways to Vanhoover, and it would have taken a hundred Pegasi to transport so much cargo, so they didn't have much choice.

"Stay close to the wall of the cliff! It shouldn't be long before we find the pass headed back down the mountain!"

Hearty could barely hear the short, bearded pony ahead of him over the night's tempest. He tried to call ahead to grab his attention, but his cry went unheard. The caravan ponies were too far spaced to make physical contact.

He stopped briefly as he felt one of his forehooves sink into the earth. Something told him that this part of the trail wasn't exactly stable. He yelled back over his shoulder to warn the mule behind him, but almost as soon as he could get his word out, a massive snag of lightning descended from the heavens to strike lower down on the mountainside.

The flash was blinding, and the sound was louder than any he'd heard before. The impact of the bolt shook the earth like a tremor.

Then, amidst the water and grime collecting around his hooves, Hearty noticed the ground give way.

The muscular chestnut colt was at the mercy of nature and physics as the portion of trail beneath his hooves crumbled away like a sand castle. His efforts to scrabble back up were to no avail; soon, the target of his team's horrified stares, he was falling through open space, 3,000 feet to the forest below.

They say it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end.

Had Hearty Hooves been able to say so after his fall, he could've verified that claim.

It was an immense, crushing pain that subsided very quickly once his skull had split.

Now an ethereal, bluish specter, Hearty looked down on his broken mortal form, eyes half-lidded and glazed over, soaking in a pool of blood that had been impacted out of his body, no doubt massively bruised and hemorrhaged on the side on which it had landed. A clean crack in the rear half of his skull leaked blood and gray matter onto the hard, grassy earth, littered with pine needles. The rain would no doubt wash it all away, but he doubted that the stains would leave his mane so easily.

"Th-this... this is... it? I'm... dead?" He said to himself, looking at his translucent hooves.

"But I... I'm... I'm too young to..." He tried to touch his own corpse, but his hoof passed through it, a disgusting warm feeling sliding up his foreleg. "How could I be... dead?! It can't possibly end like this! I-I-I shouldn't be dead!"

"Everypony feels that way when their time comes." A deep, gravelly voice emanated mysteriously from the mists.

Hearty Hooves turned to face the source of the voice, a dark silhouette slowly walking forth from the parting fog. It looked like a tall, graceful pony, but from this distance, he couldn't be sure.

"Who are you?"

As the pony stepped into the light Hearty's spirit now cast, he could make out a skeletal unicorn's head emerging from beneath a grayish hood, fringed with purple flame embroidering. Two blood-red eyes gazed out from hollow sockets.

"Take a guess." It spoke.

The voice almost seemed to come from all around them, as the unicorn's jaw did not move. If Hearty still had a physical head, it might've sounded like it was coming from within it.

"Oh..." he said, sounding almost defeated. "I... guess this is the end, isn't it?"

"No... you think?" said Death, whose eyes almost seemed to glow with biting sarcasm. "I doubt even a dragon could survive a fall like that, and they're extremely hard to crack."

"But I can't afford to die now!" Hearty protested, stomping a cloudy hoof in vain on the earth. "I've got a family to support! I have a foal! She's only seven years old!"

"Then she will have to live without you!" Death raised his voice angrily, though Hearty backed down only slightly. "Honestly, some of you mortals are so selfish! If your filly's life had been in danger, you would not have hesitated to die for her, would you? Or for your mate?"

Hearty opened his mouth, but was unable to speak. He shook his head.

"Then be happy that you spent the life you had on earth so well, and that you knew the ponies you did." Death lowered the great scythe that was slung over his shoulder, looking into the great crystal orb to which the blade was attached. Within it, Hearty saw a reflection of his life's major events.

"You had a happy childhood, found a job you enjoyed, met a mare you'd have given anything for, and started a family with her, producing a beautiful child who knew her father loved her, and will grow up with the hopes of making you proud. I cannot think of a happier life one could have had." Death glanced away from the images in his scrying stone to look at Hearty. The ethereal stallion wiped tears of vapor away from his eyes as he looked upon the sea-blue mare he was wed to and the beautiful little filly they'd created. Death raised the scythe back to his shoulder.

"They will join you someday, and while your mortal descendants may mourn, your spiritual ancestors shall rejoice."

Hearty looked up at the long, pallor face of Death before him, his eyes still moist from the tears.

"They are waiting for you now." He said, in a much gentler voice.

Death extended a gaunt, bony hoof towards Hearty's immortal soul.

"Touch my robe."

Slowly, but unafraid, the colt reached out to brush Death's sleeve with his own hoof, and in a gradual upwards shimmer of light, the specter faded away, and the spirit of Hearty Hooves was at peace.

After the miraculous spectacle before him had subsided, Death let forth a great sigh.

"UUUUGH." He turned it into a groan. "By the Sun and Moon, this job is unbearable!"

He trotted annoyedly around the corpse laying on the forest floor, talking to himself.

"I try to be 'comforting' like ponies expect, tell them that this is just the way things are, that pleasant things await them, but the way some of them act just drives me up the wall! 'Ooh, but I've got a family!'" he took on a mocking, high-pitched tone "'I've got friends and ponies who love me!' Well it must be damned nice, eh? I thought you knew that death is indiscriminate." He thought back to the time that a rather annoying mare tried to convince him that a housefire wasn't possibly a good enough way for her to die, that she deserved something fitting of the silver screen. Even worse were the ancient Coltic warriors-- some of those would actually try to fight him, convinced that it was some rite of the gods. That's why Death started carrying a scythe.

"Maybe I'm just not cut out for reaping souls... or at least, not anymore." He murmured to himself. "But what else am I supposed to do? If I don't do my job, then the circle of life turns into a straight line, and that's not good for anything. Plus, we'd have a bunch of ghosts running around Equestria-- or zombies, or some worse thing I haven't fathomed."

Death leaned his head against his scythe in thought. "Maybe there's somepony somewhere in the world that can help me get back on track." he said as he flew high in the sky as a black cloud of smoke. He left the body where it fell; after all, it wasn't his concern what happened to the mortal form. Gazing out over the moonlit world, which is when he thought the world looked best, his red eyes scanned every hamlet, town, and city in Equestria, looking for some way in which he might find his purpose again. He kept looking until the sun peeked over the horizon once more, when, sometime that morning, something caught his gaze.

Zoning in to a small town in the shadow of Canterlot, he could see four young fillies gathered round a little treehouse. He couldn't quite tell what they were doing, save for it being some playful activity, and all at once the fourth pony's flank blazed with light as her Cutie Mark appeared. The others leapt and shouted with joy as the gears turned in Death's skull.

"Hmm... they may only be fillies, but they do seem capable of bringing one's special talent to light. Besides, perhaps a younger pony's perspective is just what I need: a different, more optimistic outlook on the world and on life." Determined to at least try them, Death's shadow shot across the sky, bound for Ponyville.