• Published 15th Aug 2012
  • 6,668 Views, 299 Comments

Grinding Gears - Speven Dillberg

A dead man in a clockwork pony.

  • ...

The Prologue

Is it what you were expecting?

“Honestly, not really.”

Two figures stood outside a small building, a funeral home. One of them was dressed casually, in jeans and a plain red shirt. His brown hair looked as though it needed to be cut, and his shoes were old and riddled with holes. Half of his face looked to be covered in blood and bruises, and his left arm was mangled beyond belief. Yet, he didn’t feel any pain. Or rather, he couldn’t. The reason for that was his companion.

This fellow was completely different. A skeletal figure wearing nothing more than a hooded black cloak, and clutching a large scythe in his right hand, he stood at close to eight feet tall. As Death, it was his job to ferry the departed from their lives into what lay beyond.

How so?

“I expected something a lot smaller. Didn’t think they’d spend so much for me.”

They truly loved you. A shame your time had to come so early.

“I also didn’t expect you to be so friendly,” the man added, turning to the skeletal being with a smile.

Death shrugged. I am known as the Grim Reaper for my duty is not a pleasant one. It has nothing to do with my personality.

“And someone has to do what you do,” the dead man answered. “Didn’t actually think the whole ‘skeleton with scythe’ thing was accurate, either.”

I am able to determine what you expect to see and alter my appearance to suit. Strangely enough, your kind’s fiction seems to enjoy describing me as you see me now.

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that.”


“Aaaand... done!”

Twilight Sparkle put down the spanner and admired her work. It had taken the lavender unicorn close to a whole month, a whole month spent working in her basement alone, but she felt it had been worth it. Yes, using gears and boilers was nowhere near as efficient as pure magic, but this was more a proof of concept. And she knew that not even she was capable of keeping the pony-shaped automaton operating all day.

It was an incredible thing to behold. Taller than her by around half a head, it was made almost solely from gleaming brass. Many of the actual mechanisms that allowed it to move were hidden behind plates to make it seem more streamlined. In place of a mane and tail was old cloth she had attached after dyeing and enchanting it. It was also as anatomically correct as she could make it, including a mouth and voicebox that was actually capable of speech. It could even see, through the use of enchanted glass in the same place as the eyes were on an actual pony.

It was nowhere near as fast or agile as an actual pony, but she was sure that she could improve on the design. After all, this was simply the protoype.

The most significant part of the automaton, though, was the large gem in its head. It was widely known that gemstones were capable of holding magical charges, but what she had planned was much more ambitious. She touched her horn to the automaton and focused.


“I don’t wanna leave them.”

No-one ever does. It is only natural.

The dead man sighed and watched as a simple casket was carried out into a waiting hearse. His casket. “Well, I guess that’s that, then.”

Indeed. Well, I gave you your last request, now you must - Hmm?

A pillar of lavender light had enveloped the spirit of the recently deceased man. “Err...” he said worriedly.

What is this?

“What’s going on?” he asked, looking around in panic.

I - I don’t know. This has never happened before.

Before either of them could say another word, the beam became even brighter and obscured the man from Death’s sight. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished. So had the dead man.

Hm. Well, that was new.


Twilight Sparkle sat on her haunches, breathing heavily. The spell had taken a lot more out of her than she had expected. At first glance, it seemed as though the spell had failed. Eventually, though, the eyes seemed to glow with light that came from within. She drew a breath and held it, waiting for the moment of truth. A whole month of hard work was about to pay off, she knew it.

Eventually, the eyes shone bright enough to act as small torches. She frowned slightly and made a mental note to find a way to tone that down a bit. She watched as the automaton’s mouth opened, as though it was trying to say something. Her eyes went wide as she realised that it was about to say its first words.

“What the hell!?”


Twilight Sparkle didn’t know what she had expected, but it certainly wasn’t that. The deep metallic voice rang through the basement as its owner seemed to look around in panic.

“Where am I? What’s going on? What are you!?” the automaton screamed.

“Calm down!” Twilight screamed back. She winced when her pet project lost balance and fell over with a tremendous crash. “Oh no,” she moaned, worrying that a whole month of work was being undone in moments. “No no no...”

“What the - !? Am I a horse?” the automaton asked loudly, the panic replaced with confusion. It seemed to be staring at its metal hoof, though the lack of pupils made it hard to tell. “Why am I a metal horse?”

Twilight was simply speechless. She hadn’t meant this. She hadn’t meant to give her creation true sentience.

“Oh my god, I’m a freaking horse!” the automaton rambled. “Why? Why? What did I do to deserve this?” Then, it seemed to catch sight of Twilight Sparkle herself. “What in the name of all that is sane is going on?”