• 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.

  • ...

Death and Taxes

Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all waved happily as their classmate galloped gleefully away, eager to inform her parents of her recently acquired Cutie Mark. The Crusaders then turned to begin cleaning up the assorted pieces of various board games they had sprawled upon the grass.

"What a changing world!" Sweetie Belle remarked. "I think that's the first pony we've ever seen get her Cutie Mark in game development."

"Yeah!" added Scootaloo "And who would've thought you could make a super-fun board game based on tax evasion?"

Admittedly, the fillies didn't have much clue as to how taxes worked, but their version of it was certainly more exciting.

"We'll definitely have to play that one again!" Apple Bloom said, picking up a large spinner and putting it in a box.

"Hey, we're missing our dice." Scootaloo said, lifting the box and looking around. "Did one of you have them?"

"Oh, no, they got thrown over by the treehouse when Apple Bloom kept rolling threes and landing on the 'go to jail' space, remember?" Sweetie Belle smiled broadly as Apple Bloom curled up within herself.

"I think y'alls gave me loaded dice."

"I'll go get them." As Sweetie Belle cheerfully trotted over in the direction of the dice, she reached out with her magic, the horn atop her head blazing brightly, to try and see if she could roll anything other than three. Upon reaching the plastic cubes, she saw that both of them had come up one.

"Ooh, snake eyes!" As she lowered her head to pick them up, she heard an odd noise, like wind rushing, coming from ahead of her. From the corner of her eye, she saw what looked like smoke. The air around her suddenly felt cold. The young unicorn looked up, her eyes meeting those of one older than she could possibly imagine. The sun-bleached skeletal head looked down with its red, unfeeling eyes, regarding the small, marshmallow-like creature which stood no taller than its knees.

He was as the fall of a thunderbolt to the lordly mountains, the roc to all the birds, the dragon to the assemblies of wild beasts...

Death, in pony form.

Sweetie Belle tried to scream, but it became trapped in her throat. All she could manage was a shudder, and several slow steps back towards her friends.

"Sweetie Belle?" Apple Bloom called. "You find those dice ye--- WHAT THE HAY?!"

Sweetie Belle tried to turn and run but quickly stumbled over her own hooves. She hit the grass, then rolled to look fearfully up at Death, a whimper barely escaping her throat. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo slowly, cautiously forced themselves forward.

Much to their surprise, however, the skeletal being before them did not act harshly. His horn began to glow with a reddish aura, the same color as his eyes, and he lifted the dice to present them to Sweetie Belle. Curious, if still cautious she took them in her hoof and scooched back towards her friends.

"A-are you... here for me?"

"I would have been, had you tried to pick them up with your mouth."

Apple Bloom helped Sweetie Belle up off the ground as Scootaloo took a tentative step forward.

"Are you really... well... Death? The Grim Reaper?"

"Indeed." The frail-looking skeleton replied. "The end of life personified."

"Are you here for Granny Smith?" Apple Bloom asked with a mixture of curiosity, indignancy, and fear.

"Oh Celestia no!" he said, almost recoiling "That mare scares me. I tried to come for her during a bout of illness when you were just a newborn, and she ran me off with her walker and a pitchfork. Kept going on about 'You jist git on outta here, Bonesy! I ain't used it all up yet!' You know she's well over 100 years old? And she still keeps me at bay!"

"How do you know us?" asked Sweetie Belle, head cocked to one side.

"I have a passing familiarity with every living creature in Equestria, because, with very few exceptions, they will all die someday, and will have to keep me company. Also, I can learn about you from your ancestors. They like to keep tabs on you mortals for some reason."

"So..." Apple Bloom began, looking uncomfortable and unsure whether or not to speak. "Why did you... um... take mah… parents?"

Death rolled his head and eyes, the vertebrae of his neck producing a loud sound between a clatter and a crackle.

"Look, child, I cannot explain every death I've come across. And besides, some things are better off unknown, especially to children. Keep your minds innocent while you can."

"You know I'm an orphan, right? I'm not exactly a prissy little pony." Apple Bloom's glare could've cut glass. Sweetie Belle brought a hoof to her friend's chest, pushing her back as she continued to stare daggers at Death.

"Look everypony, arguing isn't going to get us anywhere. Let's just figure out why Mr. Grim is here so he can be on his way... why are you here, actually?"

"Truth be told, I am actually here to see the three of you..."

Scootaloo threw her hooves up in the air in defeat.

"WELP! That's it! We're done! I always knew I was gonna die young. Hey, Mister, if you don't mind, could you at least, like, huck me off a cliff or something so I can say I died while flying?"

Death had a brief flashback to Hearty Hooves, and how it wasn't the fall, but the abrupt stop that killed you.

"I'm not here to take you! I'm here for your expertise."

"Our what now?" said Scootaloo.

"Idn't that one o' them words what Rarity uses?" Apple Bloom spoke in Sweetie's direction.

"I need your help." Death simplified. "I saw how you helped that filly recognize her special talent and earn her Cutie Mark."

"Well... yeah." Apple Bloom said. "Helping ponies with their Cutie Marks is what we got our Cutie Marks in!"

"Excellent." said Death "I believe that I have lost touch with my special talent, and I would appreciate anything you can do to help me find my purpose again."

The Crusaders, needless to say, were all taken aback by this. They shared several confused glances.

"You... you have a Cutie Mark?" Sweetie Belle asked, her squeaky little voice cracking with curiosity.

"...Yeeeeees…?" Death seemed equally confused at her confusion.

"But, like... how?" asked Scootaloo. "You're a skeleton."

"Yet I am also a pony." Death retorted. "A pony who would appreciate any help you can provide."

Sweetie looked to her left and right at the two other girls. Scootaloo seemed enthusiastic to help, while Apple Bloom was still a bit unsure.

"Well..." the unicorn continued after giving it some thought herself. "I suppose the Cutie Mark Crusaders are always up for a challenge... and this may be just the one that puts us on the map!"

"Mister Death, you've just enlisted the help of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Equestria's premier problem-solvers!" said Scootaloo in her best formal voice. "We thank you for visiting us at our Ponyville offices! I'm Scootaloo, and this is Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom, though you probably already knew that. If you'll allow me, we'd be happy to show you around our clubhou----headquarters!"

Scootaloo reached for Death's forehoof, but was stopped by Sweetie Belle's cry.

"Wait!" The unicorn called aloud. "If she touches you, will she... you know... die?"

"Not unless I want her to." He responded.

"Good!" said Scootaloo, grabbing his sleeve with her hoof and guiding him towards the treehouse. "Let's go!"

The CMCs only had a mildly difficult time getting the Reaper of Souls through their doorway. After all, a pony as tall as one of the princesses carrying a scythe as long as he was tall is only likely to hit his head on the ceiling multiple times. Death seated himself awkwardly on a chair far too small for him while the CMCs stood at the front of the room, Sweetie Belle holding a clipboard as she arguably had the most legible penmareship.

"So, Death, is it?" Sweetie asked, holding back a giggle as she pretended to fill out an important form. "What seems to be the trouble with your Cutie Mark?"

"I don't enjoy my work anymore." Death spoke. "I used to take pride in easing ponies into the hereafter, in keeping the circle of life flowing smoothly, but now it's just monotonous and feels like more trouble than it's worth. Nopony seems to appreciate the importance that death plays in our world."

Apple Bloom put her hooves to her chin, analyzing what had been said. She turned to murmur to Sweetie Belle.

"Okay, I heard something about a hay-rafter and a Monoceros."

"Like from Cheerliee's biology lecture? Equus sapiens monoceros?"

"A what?" Scootaloo inquired.

"A fancy way to say unicorn." Sweetie Belle explained.

"Oh." Scoots scratched her head. "I think I fell asleep during that class."

Death waved a bleached bone forehoof to grab their attention. "I don't quite think you understand what I'm saying. My work has become, well.. boring, I guess you'd say. Tedious. It feels like a slog to get through and I don't enjoy it, even though it's something that has to happen."

"Well maybe there's another facet to your... uh... life... we can help uncover!" Sweetie Belle perked up. "Cutie Marks often have multiple different meanings or interpretations. Maybe yours is hiding something from you?"

Death turned his head rearward, his horn glowing softly with light. He drew the train of his cloak up his skeletal leg, before finally revealing a frail-looking equine pelvis. Though he bore not an inch of flesh across his entire body, the light cast upon Death's flank almost seemed to form an ethereal thigh, the ghostly curve of which could be seen sloping around the joint where the leg attached. Upon Death's "flank" stood out a Cutie Mark, almost appearing to float in thin air above the bones: it was a pony's skull resting beside an hourglass, in front of which was a large scythe slashing downwards.

"Oh... yeah, that's... pretty straightforward." Sweetie Belle said, deflated.

"But that doesn't mean there's no hope at all!" said Scootaloo. "You've just gotta do what we did to get our Cutie Marks: try a whole bunch of new stuff every day until you find something that works!"

From outside the treehouse, hoofsteps could be heard coming up the wooden walkway.

"Apple Bloom!" a drawled voice called out. "I brought y'all some o' Granny's cookies and some apple juice!"

"Oh no." said Apple Bloom, realizing how bad things were about to become.

Her older sister's head rounded the corner, topped with her characteristic brown hat.

"Everything's pretty fresh, so it should be---"

Applejack's eyes and mouth fell open and a plate full of food clattered to the floor. The Crusaders and Death stared uncomfortably back at her, silent.

"Wh-wh-wh-what in tarnation?!"

Author's Note:

Title mostly because I couldn't resist.