• Published 22nd Feb 2021
  • 4,160 Views, 131 Comments

The Endeavor of the Damned Shadows - dannny43

After having been stripped of everything but name, awakening to a strangely familiar world, and having all of his reality turned on its head, Austin Merkelo is determined to return to Earth, sparing no caution, effort, or opportunity.

  • ...

Chapter 2: Developing Difficulties.

"Come with you? Am I being arrested? Did I do something wrong?" I swear I better not be getting detained by fricken ponies of all things. This dream is already a new low for me, I don't want to be hitting rock-bottom too.

Celestia responded with a soft but firm air of authority, "A situation possibly of dire concern has developed, with circumstances that are currently unknown to all parties involved, of which you and your friend are an integral piece. To answer your question, no, you are not in trouble per se, however, please understand our reason as to why both of you require our attention. Equestria has been subject to many villains over recent years, and it is our duty as rulers to ensure the safety of our little ponies. We ask for your cooperation until the conflict, if there is any, has been resolved peacefully."

"And what exactly is this situation of major concern for you?" What angle are you pulling brain?

"In simplest of terms," Luna began, "Your very existence. Never before have there been male alicorns in Equestria's history or before, so you may see the reason for our caution. For example, perhaps you are the harbingers of a coming evil, or simply lost souls within our land. Whatever the case, we seek to understand how you came to be. Once all is settled, we will be willing to provide any aid or assistance you may require."

Providing me an avenue to finally leave this dream, brain? Just gotta play along with the pretty ponies and bada bing bada boom we're done? Ok, I can work with this. "Well, despite what I said a second ago, I'm no ruler, but I can certainly understand and respect your caution in regards to your kingdom. And perhaps you can help me once all of this is done, so I see no reason not to cooperate with you. Lead the way."

Both princesses shared a sigh of relief, "You certainly are better than Blazing Starstriker just by being reasonable alone."

"Huh? Blazing who now?"

"Your friend, the other alicorn. We had a feeling his name wasn't genuine, but he refused to divulge his true alias."

"Blazing Starstriker? Jeez, no his name is Ethan, Ethan Delaunto for his full name."

"Once again, such unique names beholden unto you both. I am most intrigued."

"A topic of conversation for later sister, I feel the Bearers may be becoming restless with our absence."

"Indeed Luna, come Austin we must be on our way. We shall make a quick detour to Twilight's castle, then we shall head to Canterlot." With that said, Both princesses proceeded into a forest clearing where a chariot with two pegasi could be seen. I'm stopped before either one could see any of us. "Before we proceed any further, I must ask you Austin to please wear this cloak from here on out," Celestia conjures before me a charcoal grey cloak that seems to be of my size, hanging in the air by a magical field of gold. "Austin, if I may ask, are you able to relieve this cloak from my magical grip?"

"What?" redirecting my focus on Celestia, I can note how her horn is glowing with the same aura that is currently suspending the cloak before me. Huh, so that must be the magic of a unicorn Ethan was talking about before. Kinda figured it had something to do with my horn. "Oh, if you're asking if I can use my magic horn, then no, I have no idea how to use this thing or magic."

"We had a feeling about that. Another topic we shall discuss within Canterlot. If you will allow me," Celestia gestured to the cloak.

"Oh, yeah go ahead." With permission given, Celestia fiddled with the cloak until it was snuggly fastened around my body. "What's the deal with this cloak anyway."

"It will save us all from much unneeded headaches for the time being," Luna commented, "We'll properly address that question in Canterlot."

"Is Canterlot your capital or something? Ethan only told me you two we're the rulers of Equestria."

"That question will be answered in our throne room in Canterlot," Luna remarked once again, the faintest hint of a smirk encroaching on her muzzle.

With enough said, we three trotted our way into the carriage. A few minutes of preparations later and we were off, bound for a Twilight's castle. The landscape gradually changed from a dense deciduous forest to plains and hills as far as the eye could see. Farms, Homesteads, and rivers dotted the landscape here and there, never-ending fields of life, work, and toil from many generations. 'Twas a shame that I could barely find my balance to even properly observe the beautiful surroundings, the air current proved to be brutal as the carriage swooned this way and that, all the while I was skidding and flipping and bumping from side to side from my respective part of the carriage. I noted the strong sense of pain every time my wings were in the brunt of the impacts. Were they supposed to be this sensitive?

"Forgive us for not warning you of the troublesome conditions one can face within a royal chariot. Years of practice have allowed us to find our center of gravity here. Do you need assistance Lone Star?"

"There's no need for that yet Luna, the guards can't hear us from there."

Lone Star? Can't hear us? What are they talking about? "Um, no I'm ok, a few bumps won't hurt me too badly. Why did you call me by that fake name?"

"For similar reasons, we said before about the cloak. Both of your real names will turn many heads should others be listening and we'd rather not deal with any curious subjects at the moment. Lone Star is a more familiar name than Austin or Ethan. For all of our sakes, I believe it to be best that we maintain a low profile around your unique elements for now."

No arguments here brain, whatever floats your boat. A moment of silence passed us by until a need to ask a certain question was popped up. "So, I can't help but notice you both are Princesses, and yet are also the rulers of Equestria right? Aren't you supposed to be called queens instead?"

That comment alone garnered a lively chuckle from Celestia before she answered, "A common question I've been subject to for many centuries. The royal titles of king and queen were once used by the pony tribes over a millennia ago, but after the rise and fall of Discord, and the birth of the Kingdom of Equestria, such titles were disused upon our coronation. Afterward, the only ones to use such titles were beings after power and control, tyrants for the most part. As for why they were disused, we felt that 'Princess' had a better ring than 'Queen'. May I ask a question in return?" A quick nod from me was all she needed to continue, "Your wings, what happened to them?"

Recalling back to the pair, I tried my best to emote a human shrug. It worked moderately well. "I don't know at all. Like I told Ethan, I woke up here with them like this, can't move 'em an inch or anything."

"Woke up here? With them you say?" Luna interjected.

Shit! Didn't mean to say that out loud. "Ah well, I guess it doesn't really matter that much if you know or not, don't really think I could maintain this façade anyway. Yeah, I woke up in Whitetail Woods or whatever. Long story short, one minute I'm working in Walmart as a human, the next I'm an immortal horse. I'm thinking the reasons range from I was drugged and all of this is a massive hallucination, or I'm in a lucid dream. I've gone with lucid dreaming for the most part."

Both Princesses stared at me, blinking sparsely until Luna finally regained her ability to speak, "You... you believe at this very moment that...you're in a lucid dream? Oh, this is fantastic sister, just when I thought this would go, how do they say these days, without a hitch? We come to find that one alicorn has no shame and is a menace to our society, and this one is just plain crazy." Luna completed her little rant with an adorable little pout, how charming.

"Come now sister, we've heard and experienced stranger things before and we already know about the mirror world and its other occupants. His claim isn't as far-fetched as you make it seem."

Mirror world, does she mean about Equestria Girls? Despite what I claimed earlier, Equestria Girls is the only thing I remember of anything relating to MLP, maybe because it featured humans. However, the title and premise itself is the only thing I remember clearly, everything else from it is blurry at best. But what Luna just said brought another thing to my attention. "What do you mean, about one of us being a menace to society?"

"Your friend Ethan made his appearance upon the closing of the event, three or so hours ago. What followed could have been described as general Ponyville shenanigans, but it carried no such innocence my ponies there are usually subjected to. Your friend made a lot of trouble for us in a short amount of time, but what was cause for alarm was a certain action he almost committed, the likes of which our society has not dealt with in many centuries, if not millennia. For this reason, did he call upon you for legal help upon being detained in our dungeon, and for this reason amongst others did we set off to find you in those woods."

"Let me get this straight. He caused a bunch of trouble for a society of ponies, enough so to be thrown into jail and now he needs my help?" I'll give credit where it's due, despite how butchered Dream Ethan is, my brain got this part of him correct... the getting thrown in to jail part, not the pony part.

"Quite so. An issue we will tackle foremost upon returning home."

Just then, one of the guards could be heard calling back to us, "We're coming up on Ponyville your Majesties."

A mountain range was the last obstacle blocking our view from the mid-evil-looking town settled down below. Ponies could be seen walking to and fro, going about their day haggling at the quaint market, or enjoying a picnic by the river. It was then that I noticed on one side of the town, that the sky was alive with dozens of pegasi flying and flapping every way, there was quite a bit of damage that plagued a fair amount of buildings and some were even slightly on fire. Trash and rubble littered the ground and many distraught ponies lingered by. "Did Ethan do all of this?"

Celestia held a grim face while Luna had a faint growl accompany her answer, "And more." Nothing further was added.

The pegasi provided a wide berth for the chariot as our course gradually drew us closer to an eye-sore of a crystal castle that stood out like a sore thumb from all the other aesthetics of the buildings around town. The touchdown was softer than I anticipated for a magical flying chariot. All three of us disembarked and Luna relayed the orders to stay put to the guards. Upon climbing the stairs, the front door is opened by a light-blue aura, whereupon a purpled-haired pink pony popped her head out. "Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, thank goodness you're both back. Twilight is kinda having a little meltdown worrying where you've been for the last few hours, the others have been trying their best, but I think she needs to see you in pony for her to snap out of it, so to speak. They're all in the map room."

"Thank you for letting us know Starlight. While we help Twilight, can you look after our guest for the moment?"

"Of course, anything for you Princess." The Princesses nodded their appreciation and proceeded into some other room, leaving me and Starlight behind, who was examining me with great focus before properly addressing me, "Hello, you must be the other alicorn that Blaze described to us. My name is Starlight Glimmer, head and only student to Princess Twilight Sparkle."

"Uh, hello. The names Austin. I couldn't help but notice a lot of damage outside, must have been a heck of a thing."

"No thanks to your friend it was. Ponyville has had worse though, Tirek destroyed the old library so that scar will be there for a while. Anyways, can I get you anything, food, refreshments, anything like that?"

"Nah I'm good for now, don't think I'm staying for long here anyway. Why is this castle like, the only crystal structure in all of Ponyville? It really stands out amongst everything."

"Noticed that too huh? Twilight held similar feelings herself not too long ago. Well, the short version is that Tirek destroyed the public library and the Tree of Harmony grew a new crystal castle after Twilight and the others unlocked a magical treasure chest? The details are a little fuzzy for me to remember but at the end, the castle stood as Twilights new home, took her a while to get used to it."

"Huh, sounds like an interesting story to hear."

Before Starlight could respond back, the crystal door the Princesses entered through re-opened, presenting the Princesses and six other colorful little ponies, of which a new alicorn was present.

"Now girls, I want all of you to remember, we want to keep his alicorn nature a secrecy for now. From now on in public, I need you to address Austin Merkelo as Lone Star." With each of the ponies giving their acknowledgment, Celestia turned back to me, "Austin, I'd like you to meet the Element Bearers."

The new alicorn was the first to step, taking a deep breath and calming her heart. However, before she could utter a sound, a certain rainbow Pegasus blitzed her way straight in front of Austin's face remarking, "What's your game huh? You gonna flip out and go crazy like the other did? Start attacking and terrorizing the ponies of Ponyville just like he did? Gonna try and get touchy with one of us will ya? Who do you work for!?" She topped everything off with one nasty stink eye, before being pulled by the magical grip of the purple alicorn.

"Rainbow! Enough of that, if the Princesses said he's behaved then you don't start interrogating them like a threat right off the bat." She finished before focusing on me once again, "Sorry about her, My name is Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, and that feisty rainbow-maned Pegasus is Rainbow Dash."

"Hey! I can introduce myself."

"No one's sayin otherwise Rainbow, but I think ya made quite the introduction already. Howdy name's Applejack."

"Heh, Howdy to you too partner. I think I recognize some of ya'll's voices from back in Whitetail," I addressed to Rainbow and Applejack in particular.

"That would be them, those two athletes never back down from a challenge, so uncouth. Oh, where are my manners, I am Rarity, A pleasure darling. Though I must ask what are you wearing? Charcoal grey? Half-stitches and back-stitches like no tomorrow? So plain, so drab, so novice dear, why this simply won't do for a pony of your nature."

"Thank you for noticing my fashion sense Rarity, I take great pride in the article of clothing I've made by hoof." Celestia trolled.

Rarity decided to settled herself to the sidelines all the while babbling incoherently, leaving room for a pink pony to boisterously make her entrance with a fricken cannon and confetti. "Hiya! It's so good to finally meet ya because I saw you earlier today and Sunny Glaze and Hazel Seed waved at you and I thought they were waving at me and then I saw you and I was like 'Oh my gosh! the readers already read the sequence of events that followed in the earlier chapter'! So that happened then and here is now and I just wanted to say hi! Hi, My name's Pinkie Pie!"

She reminds me of Ethan earlier today, yapping all the way. Taking a Second to process the mess she called a greeting, I return the gesture with a simple nod before awaiting the final pony to be introduced.

Said pony was being coaxed by all her friends, having been declared numerous times of being a pony of the shy nature. It took a little while for the pegasus to finally have the courage to speak for herself... if you call the next thirty seconds of squeaks to be speech. Frankly, it was taking so long for her to even simply say hello that I was becoming irritated. At last, she drew in one big breath and relayed her first audible words. "H-Hello... my name i-is Fl-Fluttershaaahhh!"

If she had anything further to remark, it was interrupted by a mechanical claw, reminiscent of those from old arcade machines, which proceeded to snatch Fluttershy by the scruff of her neck, Like a cat to her young. It proceeded to dispose her into the waiting arms of a slender, slithery, and lengthy dragon thing. Said dragon looked to be the amalgamation of a child's drawing of many varied creatures rolled into one. "Fluttershy! Are you insane!? Don't go near that thing! Do you even know what he is!?"

Quivering in the dragon's arm, the Pegasus could only mutter a meek reply, "N-No?"

The dragon only gave a baffled and incredulous look, hanging jaw and all. "Well, I don't. Figured you lot already knew the answers and could fill me in on them. Regardless you should stay away from him, he reeks of decay, just like his friend reeked of darkness."

"What do you mean Discord?"

"As I said, he reeks of decay, well chaotic decay at least. And before you ask, yes, chaotic decay is a term I just made up now. The point is, that if I get anywhere near him I'll catch whatever he's got. I can already feel my chin hair rotting away now. Do you know how long it takes to style it just like this?"

Chaotic Decay? "I'm sorry, who and what are you? And what do you mean I reek of chaotic decay, am I sick with something?"

"You are graced by the presence of the one and only draconequus of the Spirit of Chaos. Discords the name and fun is my game! I would say it's a pleasure to meet you, but well, by no means is it a pleasure right now, and it certainly wasn't a pleasure with the other one if the damage around is a testament to that. Although I must admit, you two are one of the most remarkable creatures I have ever seen. Take yourself for example, never before have I encountered another being of a chaotic nature such as myself." Discord remarked within a fully insulated hazmat suit people from CDC would wear, "But what makes you unique, is that for some reason you are, for a lack of better terms, corrupted, broken, and toxic to me alone. I can't be in a room with you for more than five minutes before I'm gonna fall apart. As for your friend, I sensed what could only be described as darkness. Make with that what you will."

"Darkness? As in evil? dark magic?" Twilight probed.

"I don't really know. If you count the destruction of part of Ponyville evil then sure. Personally, I enjoyed the sheer chaos he displayed in town at first, he was playing right up my alley! But soon things got physical and not in a good way, then violent, explosive, and fiery and then pony lives were in danger. I'm all for good and harmless fun, these days of course, but this guy was without restraint. He had lost me by then of course, but that was before he tried to get all aggressively touchy-feely with somepony, to put it lightly. I could continue on and on about you two but you're kryptonite to me so I'm going to take my leave while I still can. Too-da-loo!" Various ponies tried to call out to Discord, but all were ignored as Discord snapped his fingers and was gone in a blink of an eye.

I'm beyond lost and confused right now. The hell was that thing, another dream apparition? "So...am I the only one who saw the crane and suit come from nowhere, or is that more magic baloney?"

"No need for worry Austin, that is just Discord's general antics. Now, I believe it is time that we start heading towards Canterlot, Inkwell is for sure beginning to go mad with the many requests to my current whereabouts. I don't suppose any of you would care to join us?"

"Sorry Princess, many folks 'round here still need help fixing the damage, 'fraid I won't be coming along." Applejack replied before motioning herself to the front entrance.

"Same here, I promised Thunderlane to help with the remaining firefighting," Rainbow called out before flying through an open window above.

The other three ponies gave their various reasons before they too left the castle, leaving me and all three Princesses to board the chariot and finally be off to Canterlot. Before we could, however, I stopped all three to ask a question about my nature, "Why exactly is it paramount that we being alicorns remains a secret?"

"Well, as we stated before, never in recorded Equine history has there been a male alicorn, let alone two. You both are an anomaly of circumstances we and all that of Equestria, do not yet fully understand. Despite the many eye-witnesses, we've managed to curb all talk of male alicorns to here say and mere rumors with little basis, not so much for the sake of secrecy, but for the less than ideal questions and subsequent headache-inducing interviews that would hinder our throne and its duties."

"Luna, the concerns of our little ponies should be in no way belittled, no matter how trivial or not their fear is."

"Of course sister, but you and I both know how... easily unhinged they can get. Take those flower ponies from here, for example, you know what I'm talking about right Twilight?"

"Heh, you have no idea."

"Oh, my stars you're finally here. Where have you two been, you were supposed to be back here hours ago!? I've had to make excuse after excuse just to keep everypony from stampeding and declaring Canterlot under siege once again, or that the Princesses were missing, again."

"Oh come now Inkwell, surely it wasn't as bad as you make it out to be?"

"Perhaps not to that extent, but I had the 'pleasure' of being verbose with Blueblood more than once."

"Ah, I see. You will of course be given an extensive leave for your vacation days, as payment for all the trouble."

"All is right with the world once again now that you're here Princess, you can leave the paperwork to me." Inkwell finished with a bow before turning down a hallway.

The whole conversation was ignored by me, however, as I was busy taking in the whole palace and the surrounding area since I first spotted it half an hour ago. Every wall, floor, and decoration seemed to be made from the finest of materials around: Marble, gold, jewels, you name it, these ponies had it. And that wasn't even mentioning the view this castle held being magically fastened on the side of a fucking mountain. The chariot landing platform provided a perfect 360* view of all of Canterlot, just be sure not to look below, cuz that's a mighty tall fall down. Canterlot itself was quite the city to behold. Dream or not I couldn't deny how beautiful everything was here, how beautiful MLP's world was so far: The woods, the farms, and fields, Ponyville despite the damage, and now this golden mountain city. We're here now, time to get some troubles resolved or whatever, answer a few questions maybe, and finally wake up. "I gotta say, ya'll have one heck of a castle. But I'd like to be done with this dream as soon as possible, so can we get to the problems or questions or whatever."

"...Did he just call this a dream?" Twilight asked bewildered.

"Indeed he did, earlier today as well. A notion we or I will dispel later. For now, though, I do believe it is getting late and I must be tending to the moon soon. Austin, would it be alright with you if we postpone the questioning until tomorrow?"

"Postpone? As in you want everyone to sleep for the night and begin tomorrow?" How does sleeping in a dream even work? Maybe this is a way of getting out, maybe I could sleep and end this dream for good, I am beginning to feel fatigued, in a dream no less. "I guess that will be fine for me. It has been a long day, and I do feel myself becoming drowsy by the second. I don't suppose one of ya'll can show me to my room?"

Luna was the first to my side, "If you will follow me."

"Goodnight Lone Star, We will reconvene in the morning, Luna will guide you to the meeting."

"Goodnight Star, I'm looking forward to the many questions I have in store."

"Goodnight Princesses, and thank you for the hospitality."

With our farewells in tow, Luna proceeded to guide me to my designated chamber. Along the way, I regarded what Luna had said a minute ago and became curious, "Princess Luna, If I may ask, you said that you had to tend to the moon. What exactly did you mean?"

"Hmm? Nopony told you of the duties that Tia and I behold? Well, one must first understand that originally, Alicorns were not a species of pony naturally born like the other tribes. Anypony is capable of achieving alicorn-hood, but one must first accomplish a great feat of magic or something else of great significance in order to be even considered. Then, one is judged for their past and based upon whether they are worthy or not, become ascended. My sister and I were worthy when the time came and upon ascension, I became Princess Luna and gained the titles of Princess of the Night, Custodian of the Moon, and Caretaker of the Dream Realm. My sister became Princess Celestia and received the titles of Raiser of the Sun and... actually, that's about it with her. Of course, this was before we knew alicorns could be born naturally like Flurry Heart, or that male alicorns could even exist, so perhaps the circumstances around becoming an alicorn have changed over time or not, we can't be sure. But to answer your question, my duty entails that I must lower and raise the moon at the appropriate time in union with my sister to maintain the day and night cycle."

"Caretaker of the Dream Realm? You're in charge of dreams?"

"In a simplified way, yes. I can already tell where your train of thought is going and the answer is no. You are not dreaming, Lone Star, despite your best wishes. As distraught as the truth may be, you will not be able to move forward if you continue to hold yourself to this belief." Luna halted in front of a certain doorway and turned to face me. The surrounding hall was desolate of any souls, "I have lived for many centuries, survived countless generations and experienced many miracles and tragedies Austin. I have met many ponies through my life that after losing a loved one or experiencing something traumatizing, they would ask me the same questions time and again, 'Am I dreaming Princess?', 'Is this a bad dream?', 'This can't be real'. You may not know it yourself, but you are currently delirious to an extent, in a state of shock with what you have experienced, reasonably so if what you claimed earlier is true. You are justified in that you bend your perceived reality to that of a dream to maintain what sanity you can after experiencing pain, hunger, fatigue, hearing the sounds and seeing the sights, using all five senses, but if you wish to have any hope of returning from where you came from, you must first open your eyes to what is real." Using her magic, Luna presented the room and let me enter before uttering some final words, "I will visit you in your real dream tonight, hopefully with my help, you may come to accept the truth. Goodnight." And with that, the door shut and I was alone.

"Getting real meta, huh brain?" Just what in the hell is Princess Luna supposed to be? The only thing I can come up with is she's a representation of my conscience? Fuck it, I give up trying to make sense of anything around here. Despite wanting nothing more than to go straight to sleep, I can't help but notice how dirty I've become through this journey. A quick survey revealed a rather luxurious bathroom with various shampoos and conditioners to one's content. I would have preferred a simple shower, but it seems ponies only resort to baths, leaving me no choice. It took the better half of fifteen minutes fiddling with the water controls to get the bath just right. Once done, I attempted to strip myself of the cloak, only for it to get entangled with one of my wings. Excruciating pain was experienced just by the faintest of touches from the cloak onto my wing, and I was beginning to wonder if I had truly broken it somehow. With the cloak finally off, I had a good look at my left wing for the first time in the past five or six hours and it was not a pretty sight. The skin was inflamed from the base of the wing and the feathers seem to be falling out at an alarming rate, like someone's hair would from being exposed to radiation. Worst of all, blisters and pockets of puss and blood were beginning to dot the inflamed skin like I was afflicted with some kind of plague although not as severely. Oh, what the hell? Taking a look at my other wing, the same symptoms could be noted as well. Oh fuck this, bath then bed. Taking a bath was an arduous and painful task in itself, but eventually, I was clean enough to call it a night. Flopping onto my bed, I laid there for the next half hour going through everything that had happened since I woke up, but focused mostly on what Luna had said, and what I reassured myself back in the woods. I'm not in shock, or crazy, or delirious or whatever! Try all you want to tell me otherwise brain, but this is not real. I'm starting to think that I'm not in a dream any more now, maybe I've been in a coma this whole time. Dream, coma, whatever, I just want this to end. The fatigue was too much for me to think any further and slowly but surely my eyes drooped until they finally shut closed, whisking me away from this dream and hopefully back into the land of the waking.

But Like always, It was simply not meant to be. I opened my eyes to an endless ocean of stars and night sky, stretched as far as the eye could see. I appeared to be standing on an oasis, with the palm tree and beach sand and everything, still as a horse. While not the correct word to use, star-strucked just resonated with how I felt taking in the view before me.

"Speechless? Don't worry, you're not the first to have the same reaction upon arriving here."

Turning around revealed Princess Luna in all her starry glory, her hair seemed to be far brighter than usual. "Canterlot was something, but this place takes the cake. Where is here anyway?"

"Just a part of the dreamscape that I call home and yes, this right here, right now, is truly a dream."

"Huh, wouldn't be fooling me if you said otherwise."

"Precisely. What you see before you is the realm of imagination. Each star out there that makes up the night sky is somepony's dream, and the collective of them is what makes all of this possible."

"Yeah, I have no idea what you're talking about."

*Sigh*, "Never mind. You believed to be in a dream earlier, well here is the, how do they say, real deal. This is your dream, do with it what you wish. See for yourself the power you are supposed to wield when truly having a lucid dream, all you need to do is think."

Austin stood there staring at Luna for some time before orienting himself towards the ocean, closing his eyes, and losing himself to his mind. A second later, Luna witnessed a gold-veil of light shine over Austin. Once the light had receded, before Luna stood a bipedal creature of ape-like appearance. He... what could only be Austin, stood there basking in his appearance, touching here and flexing there before looking back on to the ocean of stars. Closing his eyes once again, the dreamscape changed into rolling hills holding houses and farm fields, separated by wooden and metal fences alike, but one house stood far closer than all the others. A two-story house of brick and wood with scrap metal and piles of wood littered all about. It was then that Luna noticed that Austin began walking towards the house in a slow manner, as if savoring the ambience. Suddenly, another bipedal ape creature appeared from behind what appeared to be an orange tree off to the right. This creature exhibited an almost uncanny appearance to Austin only far older. Austin had stopped in his tracks and beheld this older creature before resuming his slow trek, only now towards the creature. Before long, Austin was directly in front of the creature, whereupon Luna took note of the stream of tears that fell from his face. And there the two stood, regarding each other in a manner Luna could not decipher. If Luna squinted hard enough, she could swear she saw Austin talking a mile a minute, of what, she couldn't tell from her distance. Eventually, the older creature simply laid its...hand on Austin's shoulder and that seemed to be enough to calm Austin and garner a smile from him. Then like dust in the wind, everything evaporated away, leaving Austin back into his horse form and both of them back to where they began.

Before Luna could even interact with Austin, he appeared to double over onto the floor, followed by severe groaning and was finished off with an evacuation of his stomach contents, before his dream avatar ceased to be, signaling his exit from the dreamscape.

Pain, thirst, a sore-throat, encompassing liquid warmth, and paralysis were among the many feelings I had upon recovering from my slumber. Opening my eyes brought only stinging pain upon them. Is this how people described a hangov-... I didn't piss the bed did I? Forcing myself up from the bed was far more tasking than I anticipated, but upon rising and inspecting the bed, I discovered only a shallow pool of blood staining the sheets and mattress, as if a murder was committed there. A putrid stench was detected coming from the floor where I discovered the remains of my lunch the day prior. Relocating to a mirror, my entire backside was stained with crimson, with all the blood originating from the base of my wings. They looked far worse than yesterday, with open sores gushing blood and puss and the skin changed from an inflamed color to sickly greens and blues. The pain before was nothing compared to now, with pulsing waves of pain that ran parallel to the beats of my heart. Above all else, that tingling feeling in the back of my throat that would warn someone that they were gonna throw up, lingered every second of every minute. "Jesus...Christ, what the fuck." Saving my breath, I decided that I needed to push on through whatever the hell was happening to me. The questions, get the questions done. Fix Ethan's issue. Forget about any of this, it's not real.

Just then, a series of knocks rang out from the doorway, "Lone Star? Are you ok? Last night I fe-"

"I'm fine! I'm good L-Luna, I'm good. I'll be out in a moment."

"Are you sure, Star? You don't sou-"

"Healthy as a horse! One minute, please." No further inquiries were made by Luna, leaving me time to wash most of the blood away, apply a generous amount of tissues, towels, and whatever I could use as a makeshift bandage for my back, covered the blood on the bed with the blanket, and donned my cloak once again, except this time I had settled the hood onto my head to hide my pain more easily. By no means did I look healthy at all, but I was in no condition or mood to do otherwise about it.

I exited my room into the hallway to find Luna waiting for me, accompanied by a few pony maids judging by their outfits. "Lone Star, by no means do you look healthy. What happened last night?"

What happened indeed, my mind was in no condition to remember clearly, "Quite frankly my dear, I don't know. Just a rough night is all. I would like to drop this conversation and be on our way to the meeting," regarding the two maids, I asked, "What's with them?"

Luna could only give a concerned look upon my initial answer, "If you insist, then we shall be on our way. These ponies are here to clean up the guest quarters."

Turning to the maids I gave a slight warning for them, "Mind the bed and floor would you?" I turned away to follow the princess before they could react.

My current state of mind consisted of only pain and nausea at the moment while I used all my focus to keep myself from flopping onto the floor or tripping over myself. Had Princess Luna or anybody else attempted a conversation with me, Silence was my only response. Oh god, it won't end. Why is the pain so real? This needs to end fast! Soon enough I saw Princess Celestia and Twilight outside of some chamber, quite eager for the coming meeting. Almost over, gotta steel myself so this ends quickly, act like I'm fine.

"Good morning, Luna, Lone Star. Are you ready to get this meeting underway?"

"I have reason to believe that it would be best we post-pone this mee-"

"No...no, I said I'm fine. Please, let's get this over with Princesses."

"Are you sure Lone Star? You don't sound too well." A quick nod from me was enough to stow Celestia's worries, "If that is what you wish. Come along then, I do believe there is a certain list that has been worked on for the whole trip from Ponyville and overnight, isn't that right, Twilight?"

Said Princess let out a little squeal of delight before regaining her composure and acquired a level of professionalism that amused Celestia to a degree. The alicorns lead me to what they called an ambassador chamber, to begin with questioning first. The room held the basics, a medium-sized table with refreshments and snacks, plain decorations dotted the room, the perfect little place for a casual meeting. Situating themselves on one side of the table and myself on the other, Celestia was the first to start up a conversation, "Before we begin, is there anything you need at the moment Austin?"

"No, I'm ready when you are."

"Then let us begin. Can you recount your experiences from the beginning?"

And that is was I did, explaining my day at work, suddenly finding myself in the woods, learning that I'm dreaming about a fictional child's cartoon and that this dream is far too real to my liking. "And that's about it. Now I'm currently on a quest to answer your questions, solve Ethan's issue, and hopefully wake up or whatever."

"Um... you said that we're a child's cartoon... what's a cartoon?"

"Just think of it like a child's book series. Point is, this whole dream about all of you, your kingdom, Equestria, everything, is from a fictional world for children." Despite my calm demeanor, the pain and sickness I was experiencing were reaching a boiling point. My legs were beginning to shake uncontrollably, sweat was beading from my face and my stomach continued to churn. Luckily, my cloak covered most of the damage, but my behavior wasn't going to last much longer.

"Well with your story covered... I would have moved on to the questions, but with you still believing all of this to be a dream, I'm not sure how genuine your answers will be. I suppose I will have to ask a few general questions. Do you know what Discord meant when he said that you were of a chaotic nature?"

"I didn't know what he was talking about then, and I still don't know now."

"Alright, let's just say that this isn't a dream for a second, do you remember how you traveled from your world to ours?"

Trying to remember how I woke up in that forest brought only a sense of fear and a freezing chill that seemed to only compound the ill effects I currently had. "No. No, I don't remember, but I get a feeling I don't want to remember. Look I know I said I would answer your questions, but something is very wrong with me right now, not a morning person I guess. One more question then we're moving on to the issue of Ethan."

"Are you sure Austin? We can stop and get you some he-"

"AAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEYYYYYAAAAAA!" The sounds of female screams could be heard coming in the direction of my guest quarters. Not a moment sooner did a guard barge through the chambers, "Your Majesties, a pool of blood was just discovered within the guest bed. Inkwell wished to inform you of the developing scene. What is your command?"

Celestia and Luna both turned to me with a significant face of worry, but my only response was a swift shaking of my head. "Apologies Captain, please inform Inkwell and the rest of the ponies aware, that the situation is a false alarm. Discord is up to his usual antics and played a trick of ketchup in Lone Star's bed this morning. Seal off the room until further notice." The guard swiftly bowed before exiting the room.

"...The question. Now please." I stated tensely

"This cannot continue Austin. You are not well, we must get you to a-"

"Twilight. Question. Now."

Daring the Princesses to make a move with my eyes alone, neither moved nor attempted to interrupted Twilight once she regained her composure.

"Oh, eh um... ok, speaking of Blaze or Ethan, What is your relationship to him? When the guards asked for a parent or guardian, he told us about youuuahhhh!"

The mentioning of Ethan's name for whatever reason seemed to be the last straw for me. Five seconds later I'm purging blood and bile all over the floor. All control of my body was lost at the moment and with a plummet to the floor, so too did I lose control of my consciousness.

Author's Note:

Please let me know if I made any inconsistencies or mistakes, canon or otherwise.