• Published 8th Aug 2012
  • 997 Views, 7 Comments

The Ghost Company - Count Doofus

Twilight, Rarity, Applejack and Spike end up in a seemingly haunted manor and unravel its secrets.

  • ...

Meeting the Family. All of Them.

"Admit it, Twilight: we are lost!"

Twilight Sparkle groaned, and hung her head in defeat. "Alright, fine. We're lost. Happy?"

"No," the purple dragon replied in annoyance, "because we're lost."

At the request of Princess Celestia, Twilight was asked to embark on a diplomatic mission to the faraway village of North Colttown to establish new trading routes. Twilight figured the negotiations would go much smoother with the assistance of Applejack, notoriously known for her ever-genuine honesty, and Rarity, given her swooning ability of handling words. Spike insisted on joining them, not only because it would get him close to Rarity for an extended period of time, but mainly because it always seemed he was left out of everypony's endeavors most of the time.

"Well, shoot ya'll. What do we do now? We can't keep going on forever, especially without food." Applejack said, pulling the carriage that sheltered the other two ponies and the infant dragon. They had brought ample supplies for the long trip they were undertaking, even for after the night they spent at the last inn they came across. But the directions the innkeeper gave them towards their destination were hazy at best. At some point, they must have taken a wrong turn, and were now stranded in the middle of an unknown forest, which wasn't on the map Twilight consulted when plotting their trek.

Applejack was strong, which wasn't surprising for an earth pony, and bucking apple trees only added to that strength. But even she had her limits, so they took turns in pulling the carriage with both Twilight and Rarity together at given intervals.

"Not only that, it is getting dark. I believe I can already see the moon being raised." Rarity pointed out.

"I don't know, you guys. We don't know if we're even heading in the right way, and it's unwise to turn back now." Twilight said.

"I am most certainly not looking forward to spend the night in this carriage," Rarity said. "It cannot possibly be good for my complexion." She received a tiny glare from her traveling companions. "Oh, and there's not enough room for all of us anyway, hehe." She smiled meekly.

Pulling over the carriage and undoing herself of the bridles, Applejack turned to the unicorns. "Well, we better think o' sumthin', otherwise we're in a mighty big pickle. Anypony got any bright ideas?"

"Hey, look!" Spike exclaimed, as he was leaning out the window of the carriage and pointing at the treeline adjacent to the road. "I can see a path over there. That's gotta lead somewhere."

"Well, we're not getting anywhere by just standing here. Let's go, ya'll. Who knows, we might get lucky." Applejack said.

Mere minutes after the ponies and the dragon started walking and left their carriage behind them, the sky above them, invisible due to the canopy, quickly filled with foreboding clouds. A jolt of electricity burst to life as two clouds contacted, lighting up the world and birthing a loud roll of thunder.

"Ya'll heard that? Sounds like a storm brewin'," Applejack pointed out.

"Just as we're walking through a forest, too! That's extremely dangerous! Let's go!" After Spike jumped on Twilight's back, the ponies broke into a gallop, despite having no clue where the road would take them. Somewhere safe, hopefully.

"Look, up ahead in the distance! That looks like-"

Twilight was cut off when another flash of lightning, much closer than before, lit up the sky, and torrents of rain started pouring down. Rarity immediately pouted.

"Rain! My coiffure will be absolutely ruined!"

"Looks like a building up ahead! A castle, or a manor. Let's hurry!"

"RUN! Before that dreaded lightning strikes us!"

"Consarn it Rarity, you're kind of overreacting now!" Applejack shouted over the noise of the stormy wail.

Before Rarity could provide the earth pony with a snappy comeback, a loud crashing noise just behind them caught their attention. They all turned to see the trunk of a large tree now splayed across the road, hindering their non-existing retreat.

"You see?" Rarity said while pointing at the trunk, "we almost got crushed under that! We must find shelter this instant!"

"Well then, let's keep going!" Applejack agreed.

As they kept running, Spike's thoughts were elsewhere, contemplating on a peculiar oddity.

Strange... There wasn't any lightning the moment the tree fell...

If Spike had turned around to grab a second look at the fallen tree, he would have seen it righted again all by itself.

The ponies crossed a tiny bridge suspended over a moat and came up to an archway, signaling they were entering the inside perimeter of the manor grounds. A steel gate protruded from the ceiling of the archway, ready to drop down at any given moment.

"I'm glad that gate's opened, otherwise we'd be in real trouble now. I just hope they don't send us back!"

Twilight's words barely left her mouth as the gate came crashing down, missing the last pony to run past by mere inches.

"I guess they won't," Spike deadpanned.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Rarity exclaimed.

"There's no time to worry about that now. Let's keep going!" Applejack yelled.

Just as the ponies, and subsequently, dragon turned around, another flash of lightning illuminated the sky, giving the manor now in front of them an eerie, sinister image. Rarity shivered.

"Ooh... I don't like the look of this place..."

"We're pretty much out of options, Rarity. At least there's lights on inside, so somepony's gotta be home."

"I most certainly hope so. I'm positively soaked to my skin!"

"Just a moment longer, Rarity. We're almost home free!" Applejack said as she started bucking against the front door. Gently, trying not to smash right through it and immediately wearing out their welcome. "Open up!"

A slot in the door opened mere seconds later, the eye of a pony peering at the drenched ponies on the other side.

"What do you want? We don't buy at the door," the pony said gruffly.

"What, ya'll think we like standing out in the rain? Let us in, would ya?"

The pony closed the slot, and proceeded to open the door. The soaked ponies eagerly bounded inside, and shook off as much of the damp liquid as possible. As the colt went to close the door again, Rarity took him in. He was a old earth stallion, with a mane that was more white than gray, indicating he was quite of age. As such, the color of his originally green coat dulled just as such. The wrinkles in his face made him look like he was frowning all the time. The image of a teapot adorned his flanks, and his left ear was wrapped in a bandage.

She leaned towards Twilight, and whispered. "I don't know about you, but he creeps me out a little."

"He's certainly not a thing of beauty," Twilight whispered back, before raising her voice back to its normal level. "Thank you, sir. My name is Twilight Sparkle, and we got a lost on our way to North Colttown. I was hoping you could provide us with proper directions-"

"What in the hoof are you talking about, lady? I've never heard of North Colttown in my life. There's no such place."

Twilight blinked in confusion. "But... Yes there is! I've been sent there on a mission for Princess Celestia to establish trading routes."

The butler pony raised an eyebrow. "Celestia, eh? She's feeling real proud of sending her sister to the moon, I bet."

Now, all the ponies (and Spike) blinked in confusion. "Princess Luna? But... That was over a thousand years ago, and she back to normal now."

"Nonsense," the butler countered. "Princess Luna is beyond the point of recovery when she turned into Nightmare Moon, and Celestia knew it. That's why she sent her to the moon a few weeks ago. Can't say I can blame her."

Before Twilight could speak further, a new voice resonated as another pony walked in the room. "What seems to be the problem here, Pennywell?"

This was a unicorn stallion, far younger than the butler, with a dark red bow tie wrapped around his neck. His coat was sky-blue, while his wavy mane was mostly red with a dash of black running through it. His tail sported the same colors, and his cutie mark depicted a wolf's claw.

"Strangers, Mr. Bristle. They got lost on their way to... Where was it again?"

"North Colttown."

"Hmmm... Very well. We'll grant them hospitality." The new pony then leaned in towards the butler known as Pennywell, and whispered low enough only for him to hear. "But make sure they stay in the dark. Everything must go according to plan."

"Certainly, Mr. Bristle."

Uncaring of their private conversation, Spike was the first to wonder out loud. "I wonder why there's a bandage around his ear?"

As Darkly Bristle returned to the room he emerged from, Pennywell had grabbed a double candlestick, of which only one end held a lit candle. The other, empty end reached just under the butler's bandaged ear.

"Oh... I get it."

"If you'll please follow me," the butler requested.

"I'm afraid you arrived on a grim evening," Pennywell spoke as he lead Celestia's diplomats up the stairs towards the second floor of the manor. Rarity was the first to notice it seemed like every part of the manor they've seen thus far hadn't been cleaned in decades.

"The owner of this manor, the esteemed noblecolt Thunder Thorn, recently passed away in, shall we say... highly suspicious circumstances. The heirs are in the salon right now. By midnight, his lawyer will have arrived to read out his will."

The group arrived at a seemingly ordinary door, which Pennywell opened precariously as if it would unhinge if handled too briskly, and walked inside.

"These were the most favored quarters of the late Mr. Thorn, where you'll be staying at your preference."

I highly doubt that, Rarity thought as she glanced around the room. The cobwebs and the coats of dust everywhere indicated this room hadn't been used in decades.

Against the far wall stood a king-size, four-poster bed, a chest sitting in front of it. To the left was an adjoining room, where another, smaller bed stood. Underneath the window to the right was a medium-sized cupboard, and a sizable closet was lined up next to the door, opposite the king-sized bed. A copy of the closet stood across the smaller bed in the adjoining room, accompanied by a writing desk.

Pennywell continued talking as he went to light several candles strewn across the room, and moved back towards the hallway as he finished up.

"It was in this room that I found the remains of the noblecolt..." he pulled the door close to a creak, "... with a knife plunged in his back. I'll see you soon." He shut the door behind him.

"Okay, this place is giving me the creepers," Applejack said as she recovered from the bit of too-much-information. "It's almost like a bad horror movie or something."

"It doesn't make any sense," Twilight said. "How could they not know Princess Luna has been freed of Nightmare Moon? All of Equestria knows it!"

"Maybe... All of us ended up in the same dream, somehow?" Rarity guessed.

"Do you think maybe because this place is so remote, time stood still here?" Spike wondered out loud.

Twilight scowled. "Nah, that's just an old pony-tale."

"You're the one to speak about pony-tales..." Spike muttered under his breath, crossing his arms. Rarity took off into the adjoining room to explore their quarters.

"Can't we like, sneak out and vamoose or sumthin'?"

"Unlikely. You saw for yourself the front gate got shut."

As Spike, Twilight and Applejack talked, Rarity moved over to the closet located in the adjoining room.

I wonder what kind of fashion sense these residents have? Perhaps I can gather some inspiration for a future vintage line...

She used her magic to open the closet doors...

And immediately stepped back, speechless and horrified, as the body of a lifeless stallion slumped from the closet, unceremoniously splaying across the floor.

Rarity found her voice again as she left the body behind her and galloped back into the original room, shrieking at the top of her lungs, which instantly caught the attention of the dragon and the other two ponies.

"The... I... Gah... A... Horri... Heh..." Rarity panted frantically, tried to form a coherent sentence. If she wasn't already white, she would've paled as such.

"Calm down, Rarity! What's the matter?" Twilight asked.

"The-there's... a-a body... Fell o-out the closet... W-with a... kn-kn-knife i-in... it-it's back!" Rarity managed to stammer.

"WHAT?!" the rest of the group yelled, and dashed into the next room to investigate.

They found nothing.

"Rarity, there's no body here. There's nothing to see!"

Rarity peeked out from behind the corner, still scared out of her wits, and stepped in when she saw for herself the body had indeed vanished.

"But... There was a corpse of a pony here! Right here! I'm not going crazy!" She frantically pointed her hoof at the ground, where mere moments ago, there was a body.

"I'm not saying you are," Twilight said as she tapped her chin, "but the butlers story of the murdered noblecolt may have send your imagination go haywire."

"Maybe it hid under the bed?" Spike asked jokingly as he lifted up the sheets to look under said bed. He yelped in surprise as a rat darted out from under it.

"Whatever the case, something weird is going on around here." Twilight stated.

"I second that," Applejack agreed.

"In any event, we should freshen up. I'm quite anxious to meet the heirs of Thunder Thorn."

About fifteen minutes later, the ponies and the dragon moved down the stairs, all dried up and clad in simple garments that weren't uncommon in pre-Nightmare Moon times. Pennywell was waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs.

"If you'll follow me to the salon. The family members of Mr. Thorn await you."

The butler pony guided them into the salon, occupied by six other ponies. To the left, a large casket filled up the otherwise empty space of the room, flanked on both sides by candlesticks sporting lit candles the size of a pony's leg.

As soon as Celestia's envoy walked in, the room's occupants diverted their attention to them. The stallion from earlier walked up to them, smiling warmly.

"Greetings! We've already met. My name is Darkly Bristle, and I'm Thunder Thorn's cousin. We stand guard over the remains of our dear departed uncle Thunder Thorn, as it were."

Twilight took command of the situation. "My name is Twilight Sparkle. These here are Rarity, Applejack and my #1 assistant, Spike," she said, gesturing at each pony and the baby dragon.

"Allow me to introduce to you the other family members. This is cousin Solitaire..."

The pegasus mare in question, pink coat, light-green-hair and a golden crown as a cutie mark, bowed slightly. "Lady Solitaire. Charmed."

Bristle continued. "Aunt Solace and uncle Majestic..."

The unicorn couple huffed as they raised their muzzles in the air. Rarity detected their snootiness from a mile away.

"We do not have the honor to meet you," Majestic said, his tone condescending. He had a gray coat and a darker shade of gray hair, the image of an unfolded scroll on his flanks.

"If it even can be considered an 'honor'," Solace added. Her coat was dark yellow, and her red mane was held up. Her cutie mark depicted a closed jewelry box.

"Aunt Agate Wreath."

"A pleasure," the earth pony mare said. She was a bit more voluptuous, and had a purple coat, similar to Twilight's, while her hair was as cyan as Rainbow Dash's coat. Her cutie mark was one of a ring made out of agates. "Please, don't mind my husband."

Darkly Bristle finally introduced said husband, which was also the final pony of the family.

"Uncle Barley Brew."

Like his wife, he was also kind of a portly earth pony. He had a dark brown coat and fiery red hair. As his name, his speech and his state of soberness assuaged, his cutie mark showed a bottle of wine.

"I don't thirst for fame *hiccup*," he said, "but my *hiccup* thirst is famous." He snorted at his own joke.

After exchanging formalities, Applejack noticed Rarity's eyes and mouth going wide.

"What's up, Rarity? You seeing dead bodies again?" she chuckled.

Rarity extended a hoof towards the casket, which, with a unnerving creaking sound, opened up slowly from the inside. "Y-y... y-yes!"

"Uncle Thunder Thorn's casket! Uuuuh..." Solitaire said, just before she fainted and landed in Majestic's forelegs. Solace glared at the unconscious pony.

"Fainting in your hooves. That was on purpose!"

Majestic ignored her. "Pennywell! Some water, quickly!"

"I'll have *hiccup* a cognac, please." Barley Brew said.

"HEAR ME!" a voice boomed. All the ponies in the room (except Solitaire, who was still out cold) turned to look towards the casket, where the remains of Thunder Thorn was sitting in an upright position.

"Uncle Thorn's spirit..." Darkly Bristle gasped.

"SILENCE!" the spirit interrupted. "Before I shed this mortal vessel, I have a score to settle with you all.

"I was killed in a cowardly fashion. Seeing as I was stabbed in the back, I was unable to see my murderer. But I shall not rest before I learn his or her identity."

"It's the same corpse I saw falling from the closet!" Rarity whispered to Twilight.

"Come on Rarity, you know that's an impossibility."

"And I still say it was!" She said a tad too loud.

"Shhh!" Pennywell shushed her as Thunder Thorn kept talking.

"I can sense that the perpetrator is in this very room. With the aid of the manor's spirits, I will expose him or her before night's end. The manor is closed off from the outside world. None shall be permitted to leave until the murderer has been debunked. And don't bother trying to escape with magic or by flying. The manor grounds are enchanted to block spells as soon as you step outside, and the same enchantment will cripple your wings."

As Thunder Thorn spoke, he reclined to lay down again, and placed his hoof on the edge of the lid.

"FARE YE WELL!" the living dead boomed, and slammed the casket shut, cackling manically as he did.

After this, the atmosphere in the room turned to turmoil among the heirs. Solitaire was back on her hooves, Pennywell offering her a glass of water as she regained her senses. Solace was in her husband's face, fuming at him.

"You see?! I always knew your family was a nothing but a bunch of lowly crooks!"

"Hold on now, Solace," Agate Wreath interjected. "Everypony here is a suspect. That includes you." Solace diverted her fuming to the mare.

"WHAT? How DARE you to accuse ME?! Why don't you take a look at that sorry excuse for a husband of yours! I don't understand how one pony can drink so much!"

Barley Brew just smirked at her. "If you *hiccup* don't understand it, Solace, then don't *hiccup* talk about it." If looks could kill, Solace would have killed Barley Brew with hers right then and there.

"Alright, everypony, settle down! Let's all keep our dignity." Darkly Bristle intervened.

"Very true, dear cousin." Majestic added. "Moreover, who's to say Thunder Thorn's killer was one of us? He spoke of somepony in this room." He gestured at Celestia's envoy. "They are just as much of a suspect."

"But... we're innocent!" Twilight shouted, astonished by the accusation.

"Mayhap," Majestic continued, "but it's a general rule the criminal returns to the scene of a crime."

Before Twilight could argue further, Pennywell, who had stepped out of the room, walked back in. "Dinner is about to be served, honorary guests. Please have a seat."

After every pony settled down at the dinner table, Lady Solitaire was the first to voice the thought on everypony's mind.

"I get the feeling uncle Thorn didn't use this room very often." Just like pretty much every other room in the manor thus far, this one was too covered in cobwebs and dust. The plates, cutlery and glasses were impeccably clean, though.

A new voice broke the silence in the room, as a servant unicorn pony walked in. "Any volunteers to taste the wine?"

Instantly and without looking, Barley Brew raised his hoof.

"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Silver Platter."

"Shut up. My name is Silver Plate."

"What the... A Siamese twin! He's got two heads!" Agate Wreath was the first to point out the obvious.

"Looks like *hiccup* he's got four to me." Barley Brew said.

The Siamese twin pony stepped up to Barley Brew, and the unicorn's left head corked the bottle.

Silver Platter glared at his neighboring head. "Etiquette says you're supposed to serve wine on the right side of the guest, moron."

"Oh, quit talking out the side of my neck, would you?"

Barley payed no attention to the joined, squabbling twins, as it was directed to his now full glass instead.

"I don't know how old this wine *hiccup* is," he said before taking a swig, "but it won't get much older!"

After the servant poured a glass of wine for everypony (except for Spike, who was given plain water) and retreated into the kitchen, Pennywell emerged from the kitchen door, quickly followed by Silver Plate and Silver Platter, pushing a cart laden with pony skulls.

"Tonight's meal is brains, served Italian style. Bon app├ętit, everypony." Pennywell stated.

"No doubt he doesn't mean your brain, because ours are in my head," Silver Platter smirked at his attached brother.

"Shut up, or I'll file for a divorce," he retorted, as they both got to work placing the skulls-dash-plates on the table in front of the guests.

Once everypony got over the initial disgust of the sight of bare skulls placed in front of them and the name of the meal, Spike was the first to pay his "plate" a closer inspection. He found that the top of the skull served as a lid, which made him conclude the skulls were fake. Same as the meal presented, upon further examination.

"Don't worry, everypony," he said, "it's just spaghetti."

After everypony determined for themselves Spike's words rang true, they started to consume their meals. Most of them, anyway.

"Uncle Thunder Thorn's death affected me so much, I can't eat a single bite." Lady Solitaire said, pushing her skull-plate away.

"And I have a figure to maintain." Solace huffed.

"Please stop drinking so much, Barley," Agate Wreath said after a while. "You're up to your seventh glass already!"

"Look, Agate *hiccup*... If I don't drink it, somepony else will."

Just as the last pony finished with its meal, an ornate bell ringed. Pennywell glanced at the clock, and saw that the time of night neared midnight. He looked out the window to confirm his suspicions.

"Looks like Mr. Thorn's lawyer, Mr. Lavaliere, has arrived. May I ask the honorable guests to please assemble in the salon again?"

Pennywell removed himself from the dining room as everypony else relocated to the salon, and walked towards a large lever next to the front door, which operated the steel gate outside the courtyard.

Lord Thorn said nopony was allowed to leave. He didn't say anything about letting ponies in, though.

Pennywell kept an eye on the lawyer through the slot as he trotted up to the front door, and opened it before he even got a chance to knock.

"Welcome, Mr. Lavaliere. The family has been expecting you."

The lawyer was about to provide an answer, as Twilight, Applejack, Rarity and Spike appeared from the salon and started to make their way upstairs.

"This is a matter for the heirs," Twilight said, "so we'll be in our room."