• Published 31st Aug 2020
  • 407 Views, 22 Comments

The Pony Loa - Leila Drake

A troll couple accidentally summons ponies to Azeroth. And a flustered human. But for the trip back they need the help of a mage as powerful as Twilight Sparkle...

  • ...

Chapter 8: The Rampant Ghoul

"That was mean." Eclipse turned his head back, casting one last angry look at two Night Elves whose stares were much more hostile than his. The lean bipeds looked a lot like Nylene but their skin and eyes were undamaged. Both were clad in light armour like hunters. Eclipse's attempt at making conversation had backfired as soon as the elves realized that Nylene was with him. With a scoff, they turned their backs on them, not even gracing them with a proper Goodbye or a reason for their sudden hostility.

"I told you, little one, my people shun me. They see only a demon." Nylene's voice was casual but her clenched fist, barely visible under her wide cloak, betrayed her feelings.

"I'm sorry," said Eclipse ruefully, his ears folded back. "I really thought..."

"Never mind those imbeciles," hissed Nylene. Her fist closed and opened, the long claw-like fingernails digging into her palms. She looked as if she wanted to rip something to pieces - or someone.

"Well... how about we try and meet somebody else? There's still many other creatures on this ship we can befriend."

"You have a bit of an obsession, don't you think?"

"What's an obsession?"

Nylene sighed. "Just go to Darren and talk to him for a bit."

"Okay... see you later, then," Eclipse mumbled, his ears drooping. He felt uncomfortable leaving the sad woman behind like this. But she said she wanted him to go so he gave her a little wave and walked across the deck to find his mentor.

Darren sat in the back of the ship, no, it was called the aft. Eclipse passed the only "Draenei" passenger, a blue-skinned female with horns and long, dark green hair, wrapped in a flowing white and pink robe. He could not help but stare at that beautiful, strange face of hers, getting a soft smile from her in return. As Eclipse approached Darren, the clopping of his hooves on the wooden planks must have given him away because Darren turned his head and the corners of his mouth went up.

"Are you meditating?" Eclipse asked.

"Yes. Care to join me?"

"Sure! Last time's been days ago, I miss the good feeling," Eclipse said. He sat on his haunches right next to Darren, closed his eyes and relaxed.

A shuffling and the sound of shifting robes right next to him made him open a single eye and peek to his left. The Draenei woman had sat down a few feet away and was now meditating, too. She was sitting in front of a large tome she had put down on the planks like she wanted to think about what was written in it. Eclipse felt heat creeping up his face as he realized he was staring again. He sat up straight and closed his eyes once more.

Eclipse's left ear twitched. He tried to listen to the calming sound of the sea. But the noisy passengers had been hard enough to ignore before. Now that Eclipse was wondering what that awesome fat book was about he had completely and definitely lost his focus. With a sigh, he reopened his eyes and decided to watch the waves.

There was only water in sight, water, water, water. He never would have thought that there could be this much in one place. It was a lot like snow but so flat and green-blue, almost like the Crystal Heart, but in a darker shade. He knew that the curve in the horizon came from the fact that planets were spheres. It felt comforting to know that Azeroth and Equestria were the same that way.

It was four days since they had boarded the Maiden's Fancy but Eclipse was still far from bored. The creatures on this ship were always doing something interesting and there were so many of them! Also, they were much more different from each other than ponies. Eclipse had already noticed that some people enjoyed each other's company but others didn't. The orcs, for example, did not seem to like humans and vice versa. They avoided each other like identical poles of a magnet. Vol'Shalai was still grumpy about Nylene coming along but at least he talked to her by now, even though they only understood a fraction of what the other was saying. But at least they tried. When the troll passed other Night Elves he either grumbled something impudent or pretended they were air. Most of the passengers were humans or goblins, though: merchants and warriors, a few scholars, one or two small human children who mostly hid behind their parents, intimidated by the other creatures. One particular human, a male with short white hair, was very pale, clad in black steel and carried a large runeblade similar to Darren's. Everyone else gave him a wide berth, except for Nylene, Vol'Shalai and Darren who all pretended not to notice the cold blue eyes or the stinking ghoul that cowered right next to the foreign death knight.

One thing seemed odd to Eclipse: Nobody recognized Darren as a death knight. That brawl in Ratchet's bar had apparently been one Tartarus of a coincidence. Maybe it was Darren's friendliness or maybe because he was wearing light leather armour and his eyes were normal, without that cold glow they used to emit. When Eclipse had asked Darren what leather actually was, his mentor had hesitated. The answer had been appropriately creepy. Skin. Leather was the hide of creatures. Even thinking about it made Eclipse's innards cramp up. Or was it his stomach? Yep, definitely his stomach. Was it lunchtime already?

"Hungry?" Darren's voice made Eclipse flinch. He had been so lost in thought that he had not seen Darren was finished with his meditation.

"Yeah. Today's Vol'Shalai's turn, right?"

"That's right. Let's go to the galley and find him." Darren patted Eclipse's back and the colt grinned.

Eclipse had been surprised by the ingenuity of the goblins. They had installed large steel boxes inside the belly of the ship, with long pipes that led up to the aft deck. Passengers were allowed to cook their own meals there, provided they payed for the fuel. The alternative was the crowded on-board tavern. As they descended the large stairs, Eclipse could already smell the numbingly strong odors of mixed cuisine.

"Oof," he groaned. "I forgot how much it stinks in here."

"Perhaps your mind doesn't want to accept that anything can smell this strong," Darren mused. He made his way along one of those narrow corridors with Eclipse trailing behind. They passed door after door, each one emanating another kind of smell. Eclipse recognized grilled vegetables, fruit juice, mushrooms, meat and several spices. There, Darren had found the right door. They entered the small chamber and found Vol'Shalai standing next to a human woman, sharing a simple stove with her. The room was cramped and hot, there were wooden cupboards left and right. A few pans hung on the tiny bit of wall space that was left. The woman eyed the troll with a mixture of fear and admiration. Vol'Shalai's food smelled really tasty, fruity and fresh but also spicy. It dominated the galley, easily drowning out the smell of the human's much smaller meal. A large bowl of rice sat on a wooden board, already cooked.

"Where's Nylene?" Vol'Shalai asked.

Darren shrugged. "She'll turn up, she always does."

"True. I be almost finished. Gimme five more minutes, den I'll join ya on deck, seen? Take da rice, it be done already."

"Hm," grunted Darren happily. He took the bowl of rice, carefully wrapped it in the towel that Vol'Shalai had shoved into his hands, and motioned for Eclipse to follow him.

"Darren," Eclipse asked as they made themselves comfortable on the wooden planks, "what's an obsession?"

"Huh." Darren put the bowl of rice down and sat on his feet. "An obsession is... when you can't stop thinking about something. So much that it distracts you from important things. It's almost... not you having the thought, the thought has got you. Why do you ask?"

"Just wondering." Eclipse leaned against Darren's knee. They were silent for a while, then Eclipse sat up again.

"I... Do you think I'm obsessing over finding friends?"

Darren chuckled, then grew serious when he noticed the worry in Eclipse's voice. He frowned.

"No. Not really. It's admirable you keep trying. Besides, friendship is important."

"Nylene was angry when I said we could try and make new friends," Eclipse muttered. He dug at the floor, scraping at a notch with his hoof.

"I doubt she was angry at you."

"Yeah. Guess she was sad because the other Night Elves don't like her. I mean, they don't even know her!" He spread his forelegs. "Then how do they know if they like her or not?"

"It's called prejudice," Darren sighed. "They made their mind up before meeting her."

"Oh. Well, that's just dumb."

Darren shrugged. "It's very common. When you don't know other people you often decide how you feel about them based on what you think you know."

"Er... I don't get it," Eclipse admitted.

Darren smirked, rubbing his chin. "Alright," he began, "do you remember when you first saw me?"

"Yeah. Peridot screamed. I was just confused. And a little scared, okay," said Eclipse.

"Why do you think she screamed?"

"Cause you're really tall, compared to ponies? And you look very different from us. Maybe because of the glowing eyes..." Eclipse frowned. "Maybe the armour. And you just came falling down from stars-know-where."

"She might have thought I was dangerous."

"I guess so. I mean, Mom and Dad thought so, too. I was more surprised than anything, I guess I wasn't so scared because I like knights."

"I am dangerous, but never to you. You know that, right?" Darren raised his eyebrows.

"Well, of course you aren't!" Eclipse seemed offended by the mere suggestion. "I know you wouldn't hurt me, like, ever!"

"And Nylene? Why didn't you scream when we first met her?"

"Duh, because I know that even though somepony's tall it doesn't mean they're bad. I mean, you're tall and you're nice, so there!"

"See?" Darren said. "You made an assumption based on what you've experienced before. Maybe the Night Elves haven't met any friendly demon hunters before. So they assume Nylene isn't friendly, either."

"They don't know what they're missing, then," Eclipse said.

"No, I suppose they don't," Darren agreed.

It did not take them long to develop a daily routine. After an early breakfast, Darren and Eclipse did their meditation, then they walked around the ship for a while, talking to the other passengers, mostly humans. Darren had hidden his sword in the chest in the hold. He used the chance to find out about the most recent events on Azeroth.

A legion of demons had tried another invasion and failed, an ancient elven city had been revealed and what shocked him the most was that Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee Queen, had become Warchief of the Horde. Darren was less surprised that she had persued her own agenda all along, left the Horde behind and disappeared. Her former home, the Undercity, had fallen and was now filled with blight, resulting in Forsaken refugees making their way to the Horde's capital, Orgrimmar. The humans talked about a great atrocity that Sylvanas had committed but they did not want to tell him the details. When Darren kept asking they grew suspicious of him and he quickly changed the subject.

When it was midday, either Darren or Vol'Shalai cooked something for everybody.

After watching people for a few days, Eclipse eventually grew bored. He wanted to play but who was there to play with? He had seen a few human children but did not dare approach them. Darren noticed that the colt was becoming restless. He decided to teach him about Azeroth and play things such as hide-and-seek with the pony to keep him entertained. Nylene was kind enough to step in once in a while. Hide-and-seek with her was even more fun than with Darren, Eclipse discovered. Even though she was apparently blind she was so incredibly good at finding Eclipse that he had to think of more sophisticated hiding places each time. Vol'Shalai showed Eclipse a game that could be played with fourty-eight peanuts and a drawing of twelve houses on a piece of cloth. It was hard to understand the rules with the language barrier but they had time, lots of it. The whole trip would have felt like a vacation if not for the lack of privacy.

The nights were worse, though. Eclipse slept more or less okay but sometimes he would wake up, remember he was not at home with his parents and sister, and cry. He was so glad that Darren understood him. The knight did not say much about the whole problem but he still listened when Eclipse told him his worries. He and his two friends made sure that the more menacing passengers left Eclipse alone.

That was until one night when Eclipse's sleep was disrupted by a bloodcurdling scream. Everyone in the hold was instantly wide awake. Half of the awakened passengers immediately grabbed their weapons. A mage conjured up a purple light to illuminate the hold. Darren fumbled at the chest's lock and retrieved his runeblade while Vol'Shalai squinted his eyes in the suddenly bright room, his axe at the ready.

"Whu- what's going on?" Eclipse asked and he could hear the same question being asked in all kinds of languages by the others.

Nylene sat up and turned her head as if she was looking around through her bandage. She pointed in the direction of the rooms for single passengers.

"There," she said. "Somebody's hurting."

"Don't feel so good, either," Darren mumbled, bending over and holding his head. A sudden burst of searing pain ran through his body like a shudder but he could not locate where it was coming from.

"You okay, mon?" Vol'Shalai frowned.

"A moment," Darren wheezed. He huffed and wiped his forehead. "Better have a look." His grip on the sword's hilt tightened. "You go ahead, I'll be right after."

Nylene reached behind her back and readied her warglaives. She and Vol'Shalai stalked over to the corridor she had indicated, stepping around sleepy and confused passengers. Since no attackers could be seen anywhere, everybody else was hesitant to do something. Eclipse threw his blanket aside and joined the two.

They followed Nylene who seemed very sure where they needed to go. She led them to a particular door and knocked. No one opened so she spun around and kicked the door open with a resounding thump.

There was a human in the room, the only other death knight they had seen on board the Maiden's Fancy. He was lying on the ground next to a chair, writhing in agony and holding his head. Vol'Shalai ran over to him and put his axe aside. He reached for a small pouch on his belt and withdrew one of his little totems. The troll muttered a short chant and a blue glow appeared around his three-fingered hands. Glittering, clean water formed in his palms and he put them on the knight's head.

The human stopped twitching. Still in a fetal position, he opened his eyes and heaved a long sigh of relief. Vol'Shalai kept healing the knight until he was able to sit upright. That undead, ugly ghoul next to them drooled and grunted, unhappy with the world.

"Thank you, troll," rasped the knight, the pain still visible in his cold eyes.

"Sure ting," said Vol'Shalai hesitantly, guessing what the knight had said.

"What happened?" asked Nylene, her glaives still at the ready.

"I..." The knight stood up, still shaking. "That was - the worst kind of pain - I have ever experienced. Including my death. But..." He looked at Nylene, utterly confused. "I feel... different now. As if a weight has been lifted off me. I think I -"

He did not get to finish his sentence. The ghoul that had cowered next to him suddenly leapt up with a snarl. Its rotting arms outstretched, it jumped at the knight, trying to bite his side. The knight reached for his runeblade but Nylene was faster. With one swift strike, she beheaded the creature. Blood splattered across the floor as its head rolled off under the bed.

Eclipse twitched backwards with a disgusted yelp, and tried very hard not to throw up. He staggered, his knees weak, and his foreleg instinctively searched for Nylene's leg to steady himself. She noticed his movement and turned to him with concern.

"Eclipse, please find the human some water," she said.

"Y-yeah." Still fighting the urge to hurl, Eclipse ran out and went to find Darren. The edges of his vision turned grey and he stopped for a moment to breathe, something he had forgotten just now. He stumbled onwards, bumping his flank on the wooden wall, and managed to make his way back to the hold. There, Darren still sat on the hammock, his gaze unfocused, not unlike the knight Vol'Shalai had just healed.

"What -" Darren cleared his throat. "What was it?"

"I don't know," Eclipse said. "It was the death knight, he was hurting but Vol'Shalai healed him with magic. And then his ghoul attacked - and - Nylene -" He bit his lip, bile forming in his mouth. "I need some water."

"Here," said Darren, passing him a flask. "I just drank some, too."

Eclipse eyed the flask. It was still mostly full. He snatched the bottle from Darren's grip and drank so quickly and greedily he almost provoked a cough.

"Actually," he admitted, wiping his muzzle, "I'm supposed to bring the knight water. Guess I'll just bring him the rest."

"It's alright. The ghoul, what happened to it?" Darren asked.

Eclipse motioned his foreleg across his throat. "There's - there's a lot of blood," he stammered hoarsely.

Darren sprang to his feet. "Show me."

They went back to the room, Darren armed with his sword and Eclipse with the water bottle. Eclipse had a strange numbness in his mind. When they entered the knight's room, he felt almost in control again. Then he saw the headless ghoul. Eclipse quickly turned away, holding the bottle in front of him like a protective charm.

"Here you go," he said, staring back at the doorknob. He felt a big hand taking the bottle from him, then the sound of somebody drinking. He risked a look at the knight who was just wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Vol'Shalai stood up and touched Nylene's shoulder. She nodded and sat on the unused bed, next to the death knight. Darren lowered his weapon and used its tip to touch the arm of the ghoul. The creature was definitely very dead.

With admirable calmness, Vol'Shalai led Eclipse outside and shut the door behind them. Eclipse could hear the muffled voices of Nylene and Darren growing weaker as he and the troll left the hold to get some fresh air.

They had to press their bodies against the wooden walls to let a group of armed goblins through. They were all dressed in similar armour and Eclipse was sure they had to be guards. They looked extremely serious and busy as they pushed through the corridor and towards the death knight's room.

"It be alright," said Vol'Shalai, softly pushing Eclipse on.

The fresh air outside felt like salvation. Eclipse took a deep breath and felt that terrible sickly numbness fading away. He staggered towards the railing and leaned on it with both forelegs. On his second day on board, Darren had shown him how to focus on the horizon to steady himself. It was pretty dark, with a few stars dotting the cloudy sky, but one could still make out the thin line where sea and sky met. Eclipse sat on his rump and let go of the railing. His belly contracted, he felt a heavy shiver run all the way up and down his body. His right hind leg twitched and he gasped. It was weird but somehow it felt as if he was letting go of something poisonous.

Vol'Shalai chrouched down right next to Eclipse.

"Dat's right, just breathe, likkle pony. Ya gonna be okay." The troll stroked Eclipse's back with his broad hand. The colt spun around and sobbed against Vol'Shalai's chest.

"A'ight, come here." Vol'Shalai hugged Eclipse back, careful not to hold him too tightly.

"I'm s-sorry, I dunno why this is so bad," Eclipse stammered. "I've seen Darren's memories and I've done mean stuff myself but - never - but - I was r-really surprised - his head just - " He made a flying motion and shivered again.

"I can guess what ya just said," Vol'Shalai sighed, patting Eclipse's head. "but what a pity my Common's so shabby." Though hugs seem to be universal, he added in his thoughts.

"What's wrong? Can I help?" somebody asked. Blue cloven hooves and the pink hem of a white robe came into Vol'Shalai's line of sight.

He looked up. The female Draenei that had been meditating next to the boys a few days ago was standing next to him, genuine worry etched into her admittedly pretty face. He jerked his head to indicate that she was not a bother.

The woman sat down and looked at Eclipse. The blue glow in her eyes showed a tint of golden light.

Eclipse hiccupped, then he noticed her. He let go of Vol'Shalai and wiped his eyes with the back of his hoof, wetting his dark grey fur.

"H-hi," Eclipse muttered, trying to smile at her. His mouth only twitched as the muscles failed to complete the task.

"Hello, child," said the Draenei. "I am Miindra. What's your name?"

"So," Nylene said, tilting her warglaive with the black ghoul blood on it, "you are saying that you have been under control of the Lich King all that time?"

The knight nodded. "Until today. I never realized... how strong his grip was. All those years..." He ran a hand through his short white hair. "Damn. He could have made me do anything. Thank the Light he's better than the last one."

"The ghoul probably was not aware, either," Nylene muttered, more to herself. "What a pitiful creature."

"The Lich King got replaced by a new one?" Darren frowned. He cleared his dry throat. "Who... who is the new...?"

"Bolvar Fordragon," said the knight, a slightly suspicious frown on his face.

Darren stared at him. "You're pulling my leg."

"Do I look like I'm in the mood for jokes?" the knight responded sharply.

Darren sighed, raising his brows. Bolvar Fordragon, the former paladin and hero of the Alliance, as the new king of the Undead? He had to admit that, as far-fetched the idea seemed at first, it still made sense. He knew that Bolvar had been there when the old Lich King fell. It was supposed to be confidential but somehow that bit of information had seeped through among the death knights on Acherus. It was possible that the higher-ranked among them had kept Bolvar's new... occupation a secret so that no one else would claim the throne and dominion over the Scourge.

"I believe you," he said curtly. "I'm just surprised."

"You seem to deal with the news quite well," the knight remarked. Darren took a moment to watch the man's movements. He seemed to have died in his thirties so he was probably younger than Darren yet older than Jonathan. Had he been killed and turned in Northrend? Or later on, in Andorhal? There was probably no point in asking. Most death knights turned their backs on their past as if it could shield them from the shame and the loss of all that had once been home and family.

"Lots of death knights used to be paladins. And besides, I was away for a while," Darren admitted. He pursed his lips, wondering how he could steer the conversation away from the delicate subject. "My name is Darren, by the way," he said.

"Nylene," said Nylene.

"Tarik. You're a strange lot. I first thought you were a death knight, too, with that sword. But your eyes are different, normal."

"Yes, I know," Darren admitted, slightly annoyed. He saw the smirk on Nylene's face and bit down the comment that was sitting on his tongue. "We should clean this up," he said instead.

"Don't bother, I'll take care of it," said Tarik. "You didn't need to help me anyway. Where'd that troll go?"

"Vol'Shalai? On deck, I suppose. I better see how the kid is doing," Darren said. "You're alright now?"

Tarik nodded, obviously still unsure what to make of Darren.

Nylene put her blades away and stood up.

"I shall join you. Eclipse seemed pretty disturbed by my beheading of the ghoul. The poor horse... Should I have warned him? I just acted without hesitation..."

Darren shook his head. "What's done is done," he said. "He saw my memories once... But those were memories, not the real thing. The ghoul was a threat, though."

"Very well. Farewell for now, Tarik. If you need anything, ask for us and we shall aid you again," Nylene promised.

There was a sharp knock on the door.

"Ah. That'll be the goblins." Darren groaned.

Her voice is so beautiful. That was the first thing that Eclipse thought, forgetting for a second why he was so upset. Now the Draenei stretched out a hand, slowly and carefully as if trying to approach a wild animal. Eclipse swallowed his tears down and smiled at her, this time properly.

"Eclipse. My name's Eclipse." He touched her hand, trying a hoof-fist-bump. She sort of got the idea when he pushed her fingers closed with his hoof.

"What happened? Why are you sad?"

Eclipse looked at Vol'Shalai. Was it okay to tell her? The troll shrugged. Apparently, he did not care or he trusted Eclipse to tell as much as he thought was right.

"You heard that scream, right?" Eclipse asked.

Miindra nodded. "It was a man, I think. Did you see?"

"Yeah. He's a death knight, a human. We went in to help him, he - he was in some kind of pain. Vol'Shalai healed him but his..." Eclipse sighed. "His ghoul suddenly attacked him. Then Nylene chopped its head off. I didn't expect that, it was like - just..."

"Who is Nylene?"

"Oh, she's that nice elf, she's got black hair and a bandage over her eyes and dragon wings - "

"A demon hunter?" Miindra jerked her head back. She looked as if she had eaten something rotten.

"Yeah?" Eclipse confirmed, bewildered. "What's wrong with that?"

Miindra scoffed. Then, as if she had called herself to order, her face became soft again.

"Are you Vol'Shalai?" she asked the troll. Vol'Shalai nodded. "I see," said Miindra. "What did you get this creature into?"

"Hey, don't look at me," said Vol'Shalai, raising both hands defensively when he noticed her angry tone. "I be innocent here."

Eclipse grunted, getting annoyed despite his sadness. He frowned at Miindra.

"Leave my friend alone, lady! He's been nice to me from the start. Darren and Nylene, too."

"I did not mean to upset you. I'm sorry." Miindra seemed confused. There was a thin line between her brows, the same that his Mom got when she was perplexed about something. "I really do wish to help you."

"If you say so," Eclipse muttered.

Miindra sighed. She put the palms of her hands together and took a deep breath. With that soft voice of hers, she sang some calm notes, a tune that reminded Eclipse of home even though he did not know the melody.

Golden light appeared around her hands and she turned them outwards so the palms were visible to Eclipse. The light expanded and a wave of calmness washed over Eclipse.

"Thanks, lady." He smiled. "That felt almost like the Crystal Heart! Hey, can you teach me that? Please?"

Miindra lowered her hands.

"I do not think so," she said hesitantly.

"Why not?"

"You would not be able to wield the Light. I am blessed by the Naaru. Anyone who is not, like the humans, usually undergoes a special ceremony to -"

"Please? I don't mind if it works or not, I just really like how it sounds. It cheers me up. I wanna cheer up my friends when they are sad. Or myself when I'm sad."

A blue wisp of light interrupted them as it whizzed closer and halted close to Eclipse. It circled him a few times.

"Hi, Levinia," said Eclipse. Vol'Shalai noisily cleared his throat for some reason.

"Where have you been? Something bad happened while you were gone."

Levinia stopped circling around Eclipse and hovered in front of him.

"There's this death knight and he had a ghoul and it went crazy and Nylene had to kill it," Eclipse said quickly. "Huh," he added after a pause. "I don't feel sick when I think about it anymore. Still don't like it... but thanks again, I guess." He smiled briefly at Miindra who nodded slowly.

Levinia circled Eclipse as if to say Goodbye and sped away, towards the door to the hold.

"What was that?" Miindra asked, even more confused. Her gaze followed the blue trail that dissipated quickly.

"Levinia," Eclipse said. "She's a ghost but she's our friend. Please don't be scared," he quickly added.

Now that he thought about it, everybody kept behaving weird around his friends. Many did not like Vol'Shalai, maybe because he was so tall and a troll? Darren had been feared on the island and hated in that bar; Nylene was apparently hated everywhere and Levinia had to remain in her wisp form all the time. That was not fair. Eclipse frowned. He would have to do something about it.

Author's Note:

Fun fact:
That shiver Eclipse is experiencing is a natural response animals and children have to relax certain muscles after extreme stress. Adults often don't do that anymore and tend to carry their tension within them.