• Published 22nd Feb 2021
  • 4,371 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.

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Chapter 7: Overdue.

"AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHUUUUUHHHHH... oooooh man, I really needed that." The rush of blood pumping and coursing through his freshly stretched body helped ease Austin's transition from his afternoon nap. Never before had a nap been so refreshing and exhilarating for Austin, although with how frequently these naps had happened over the last couple of days, the novelty might wear off sooner rather than later. Credit where credit is due, these royal hosts sure spared no expenses to both comfort and quality. Sheets made from the finest of silk, fluffy pillows literally made of clouds, and a self heating blanket that keeps that just-out-of-the-dryer pitch perfect warmth. If this is as luxurious as comfort gets here, for a guest of all beings, within the castle, I can't even begin to imagine what the princesses have procured just for their own royal bedrooms. Luna sleeping in a cocoon of fluffy galaxies would be my guess. Whatever the case, I won't find out staying in here.

Immediately following the meeting with the princesses, Austin waisted not a moment to sprint back to the only familiar area he had come to know during his time here, his quarters. Once there, so many emotions and questions had flooded his system, so much so that fatigue wrapped an iron grip around his brain, leaving him to unceremoniously flop himself onto the bed whereupon he was immediately out for the count. It has been two days since the question and answers session, or alternatively, it has been two weeks since he arrived in this horse world. Two. Whole. Weeks. Austin still cannot comprehend how time flew past him in the blink of an eye. What felt like a few hours, turned out to be a whole week thanks to his catatonic state. By now, his family should be well aware of his disappearance and there's little doubt that his mom has become hysterical with his absence. ...No, don't think about that, I'll be home soon enough, moms gonna be just fine.

After everything he had gone through, the princesses saw fit to grant Austin his much needed privacy, leaving the past two days to be relatively peaceful. Deciding to isolate himself from the world beyond his room, Austin was left to his own devices, an opportunity he tried to use to calm and distract himself however he could from the notion of being stuck within an alternate reality, but ultimately this led to poor results, as the only actions Austin could take were, frequent naps, battle against his corrupted psyche, and reminisce in his younger years.

Rising from his spot, Austin was able to note that the Sun had only slightly changed its position since when he was last awake, indicating he had been napping for at least an hour, maybe two. With the day still young and with nothing further to occupy himself, he desperately needed to do something, anything, lest he let the madness crawl to the forefront of his mind once more. Even after Luna's spell, it continued to linger within him, never ceasing to probe his head for potential weakness, letting him know that it was always ever present. Astonishingly, he managed to maintain his composure throughout the meeting, a feat Austin was grateful for, but that was only thanks to having himself preoccupied answering questions and telling his life story. But, without something to distract himself soon, he could almost feel the crushing grip of another mental breakdown just being moments away. He could feel the cries and screams of insanity beginning to burn his throat, screeching and clawing at his lungs, ready to erupt from his mouth with shouts and bouts of madness.

Austin shook himself rigorously, if he had let that train of thought continue further, he'd have to be restrained within the ward once more by the days' end, and if he didn't stop himself from overthinking everything at this very moment, his bladder might explode. Rising up from the heavenly soft and silky bed sheets, he shuffled himself into the pristine lavatory. He used such a high society word to describe the bathroom as no other word could do justice to the intricacies held within. Just like in the hallway of the castle, Austin took note of the crystals and gold-coated gems that adorned every surface. Such a good waste of wealth, all for a fricken bathroom. These princesses must be swimming in a huge vault of nothing but money, like that one Scottish duck...or was it Irish? Ah, fuck it, toilet time.

Magic, what a... remarkable, fickle, mysterious, powerful, and dangerous... energy...thingy. Human media often portrayed magic as a skill that needed years if not decades to master. Once done so, you could call upon the arcane energies to rise up an army of snow golems or you could call down lightning and thunder, or rain down a storm of fireballs, and all that jazz. Alternatively, magic could be harnessed within a physical form like for instance, a magic bean that could grow into a giant stalk so you could climb it, kill a giant or something, and find a golden goose. On the other side of that same coin, someone with enough willpower could channel magic into an emotional form like one certain princess who wields the power of love, and another who uses it in the form of friendship, because friendship around these parts, is ma-...


...and you have no idea where I'm going with this train of thought, do you? Look, I just woke up from a two-hour nap, my brain is trying to strangle me with pain and madness, and I'm taking a piss while being a royal mutant magical little horsey, so excuuuuse me if my little bathroom thought so far hasn't made any sense. The only other thing I could possibly do right now is describe to you how going to the restroom as a horse is like, and we ain't going down that road.

The stupid fucking convoluted point I was eventually going to get around to is that simply put, Austin hates magic. He hated Lord of the Rings even though he couldn't remember a single thing about it, he hated Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Zelda, Mario... wait did that last one have magic in it? Eh, don't care, still hated it. Sci-fi, technology, and guns are Austin's dreams and fantasies, not that abra-kadabra, hocus-pocus, leviosaaa crap.

Finding out that magic is real however is... irrelevant...*cough* Bull-shit, *cough* liar, *cough* completely relevant, *cough*. Sorry about that. Anyway, at the moment, nothing changed for how Austin felt about it, but at the very least, magic had decency. Had Austin chosen to inspect his nether region back in the forest, instead of finding some... unpleasant features, he would strangely find an area vacant of certain organs and... openings. It was during his stay in the medical wing that Austin would ask the embarrassing question of why this was such the case, and it would be somewhat explained to Austin that there was a certain magic background frequency within the minds of all ponies and other sapient creatures alike that for all intent and purposes, blocked these features from being publicly viewed and seemed to also provide a chemical suppressant that blocked certain hormones from forming within the equestrian population. Supposedly this frequency was invented by some ancient unicorn sometime after the formation of Equestria itself. It was done so because as civilization progressed, populations would skyrocket beyond what cities could support back then, eventually leading to mass starvation. The frequency did some magic mumbo jumbo that caused the need for herds and harems and something called estrus to stop forming regularly within society. The result was practically no more herds and fewer babies, while public decency kind of became a redundant thing, so no more need for clothes or some such. For the spell to break, certain requirements needed to be met, like using the restroom, or intimate moments of the bedroom kind. You'd think that something like this would have a drastic impact on the ponies' lives, but from what little I'm told, this isn't the case.

I know, I know, it took three paragraphs just to tell you about this irrelevant spell, that definitely won't be brought up later on, but I figured this would be the best time to explain about the apparent reason why ponies ran around naked in the show, or at least that's the excuse in this world. Besides that, what else could I possibly talk about? Make those paragraphs all about me examining the intricate details of my new foot long? Yeah, no, we don't do that kind of stuff in this story, thank you very much.

Any who, after finally finishing up my business in there, I find myself parked before the door to the outside. I knew I couldn't stay in the room anymore, lest I turn stir crazy, but what exactly was I supposed to do out there? Everything for me is hitched on Twilight finding a way back home, so all I have to do is sit and wait, but clearly, that's not benefiting me anymore, but again, what to do? I mean sure there are like a million possibilities, I'm in magical horsey land for crying out loud! Ultimately, however, they all involve me and other people, other... ponies. I know I've significantly calmed down and have accepted the truth of where I am... kinda... sorta... but do you honestly expect me to just wander around Equestria all nonchalant now that I've had time to process it? No, I'll never get used to this, all of this. It should not be possible, but yet it is. Fact...but fiction, but fa- *Slap!* No! No, no I will not go back into circles again... I'm trying to stall myself from opening this damn door with all these inner thoughts going on, it has been working, but enough. I have to do something, anything, a spa maybe? The cafeteria? Hell, I'd deal with Ethan again, just gotta get out of this room.

Steeling myself, I make my exit as the door swings open, shutting before me as I take in the surroundings. I'm a little surprised to find two guards posted at my doorway, neither of which spare a glance my direction. The hall remains empty despite the time of day, although this is the guest wing, and I doubt the princesses have guests around very often. None of this information changes the fact that I still have no idea what to do with myself. I could go see the princesses, but Celestia is doing her court thing no doubt, and I'd take a guess that Lunas sleeping, it being day and all, and I'm definitely not interrupting Twilight so that options off. Take a walk around Canterlot? Maybe, but then I'd need a guard to come along because I'd probably get lost, but I doubt enthralling myself with a whole town of magical ponies will do me much good. Ethan? ...Despite what I just said a minute ago, no, I don't want to deal with him today. I guess I'll just head to the caf-.

"Ahem, Mr. Merkelo?"

"Fucking shit! Wha? Who?" The inexplicable announcement from the side threw me for a loop. Before I knew it, I lay sprawled on the floor, having entangled myself with my various limbs. A glance around revealed two stoic ponies, all dressed to provide me service of the secrecy kind. What the? They sure as shit weren't standing there a second ago! Quick to reset myself into a more respectful posture, I drew back into my memories, "Mr. Black and White? Da hell did you come from? Damn near gave me a heart attack."

"Our apologies, Mr. Merkelo. We didn't mean to startle, we have just arrived from the lounge area. We have been frequenting these halls here in the hopes of bumping into you, there is still much business we need to conclude before you are allowed to roam free within the castle and city grounds. Princess Celestia offers her apology for not informing you about our mandatory procedures before you had made your exit back at the meeting. To utilize the royal tab during your stay here, proper C.E.S forms and documents are to be filed and processed before such power can be hooved to you."

After the black pony finished his statement, the white one was quick to insert his own rhetoric, "In conjunction with the C.E.S, the E.R.S will also need to create and merge your royal account to the royal tab. We have both compiled a shortlist of forms you will need to look at and sign. The sooner we can get these forms to our respective agencies, the sooner the wheels of bureaucracy can benefit you!"

Oh now ain't that just some Grade A, BS right there. Taking a second to process their request, I take a gander back at the two sentries not three feet away, both remaining solid as a rock, not having budged the slightest during my little game of charades. Refocusing on the two ponies before me, I can't help but release a steaming sigh. Paper work, bloody paper work, exactly what I need to ease my mind from the magical talking pretty ponies. "Look, guys, I'm not exactly sure you've been brought up to speed with everything that's happened lately, but I'm sorry, I'm not exactly in the greatest state of mind to do things like this. I came out of my room to do... something, anything... besides paper work, something fun or fulfilling."

"Mr. Merkelo, we both completely understand your sentiment. As representatives of the C.E.S and E.R.S respectively, nothing makes us more fulfilled than running a smooth and efficient government, as our shared motto always says, "Efficiency is Everything!" Still, we understand that nopony likes to deal with paperwork, but we can assure you, this is not a stressful process. Boring? perhaps to some, but it is necessary and quite easy! All you need to do is fill out a couple forms, all of which ask only for some provided information here, a signature or two there, and you're done! We did have more files and documents that you would have had to initially go through, but the princesses made sure to cut down only to the ones that mattered the most.

"*Sigh*, Fine, I doubt I could do much to persuade you otherwise. But how about some lunch first?"

Apples. Apples. More apples. Apple fritter here, apple tart there, caramel apples, apple slices, apple sauce... I like apples as much as the next guy, but c'mon! During my two week period in Equestria, I paid little to no attention to what food was served to me, I know Equestria is a herbivore nation so I shouldn't really expect any meat and all that, but it seems to me that regardless, these ponies need to rebalance their food diet. Ya know how humans have that pictogram of the food plate, four corners each balanced out with grains, fruit, proteins, etc? Well, these ponies decided sugar would take three quarters of that plate... although I guess that does make some sense since horses need sugar for their diet... maybe? I don't know. Anyways, if it wasn't an apple or apple-related product, then there were cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies, cakes, ice cream, chocolate, candy, cakes, pastries, donuts, cakes... a hell of a lot of cake for damn sure. The only things that the cafeteria was serving that wouldn't overload my sweet tooth were soup, salad, a daisy sandwich, and... hay, along with hay bacon, because they just had to butcher bacon. Once upon a time, I would have tried out all these sugary sweet goods, but after eating that one cupcake Pinkie left for me when she came to visit, it nearly made me puke my guts out. Girl probably never heard of food being too sweet.

Not willing to risk my stomach against the hay or daisy sandwich, I opted out to take a few salads and a cup of soup instead. If my current body wasn't already fit and healthy, withholding the disease of course, then these would have been a good start for my weight loss diet once more, although magic might've solved that for me in an instant, who knows. Aside from settling my hunger down, It was coming towards the time that I needed to take my meds. I had been prescribed a bottle of painkillers to help when my disease begins to flare. Over the past three days, Austin's disease had begun its cycle of infection as predicted by Doctor Horse. Over the last few hours, the disease was beginning to act up severely, which the doc had to schedule an appointment that settled near midnight. With the operation coming up in the next ten hours or so, the pills should tie the pain down in the meantime. I'm honestly a little surprised they had these over-the-counter medications ready and available to me, given how primitive these ponies can look sometimes. The catch, however, is that with healing magic being so widely known and practiced, the demand for physical medication is significantly lower than Earths', obviously. So while these pills may not be rare, they're not too common across Equestria either, less so outside of said kingdom. A little heads up from the doc in case I somehow lose my prescribed dosage. But boy do they sure work, one cup of water and a minute later, my pain dulls down to an aching throb, and I don't need to worry about puking my lunch up all the time.

After finishing off my lunch, the agents proceeded to herd me towards a secure room for our business to conduct. Continuing to wear the cloak, few if any ponies paid heed to me. The two sentries from before seemed to have orders in regards to keeping me company through my journey in the castle. It's not an issue for me, just another way for the princesses to keep tabs. We finally arrived at a bulky door within one of the ends of the castle wings. In silent unison, both guards resumed guard duty once settling themselves at door sides. These guards are a lot more competent than I thought, based on what I remember from the show... maybe not everything is the same between that world and this one? Nah, I'm overthinking things, there's not enough evidence to suggest that... shit, the agents are waiting for me to enter. Clearing my head of distractions, I enter into the rather impressive office. It looked like any olé lawyer or doctor's office, with the books and piles of paper and that one filing cabinet in the corner, but instead with the added luxurious royal makeover. Instead of gems and gold, the office was made of the finest marble and polished wood I had ever seen before... so yeah, like a regular lawyer or doctors office... and the agents are waiting for me to sit down, I'm just gonna turn my brain off for a second.

As Austin settles himself into one of the provided chairs, Mr. Black and White seemingly whip out a tan folder from nowhere, whereupon they proceeded to lay out a somewhat thick packet of papers... then another... and another... and another. Before long, At least nine thick packets of paper are occupying the desk's surface. Ok Austin, just calm down, don't get angry, it's just a few packets. Just take a quick look, assess what's before you, then you have my permission to go ape-shit. Glancing down at the first two, I see the familiar medical history and disclosure form from back in the hospital, followed by a background information form, citizens application form? Ok, moving on, disability form? Guardian application, Sovereign coronation legislature contract? !...Tax and Revenue report? Royalty Tax and Revenue report!? I gotta file taxes for this goddamn world!? "What the hell! I thought you said this would be quick and easy!? What's all this Papers Please bullshit!?"

Both agents at least had the decency to look a little sheepish with the end of my outburst. Mr. Black eventually cleared his throat before responding, "Mr. Merkelo, if I recall correctly, we claimed this process to be necessary and easy, not quick. Looking at these packets, I understand you may be under the impression that we may have lied, withheld the truth, or twisted our words to give a more... appealing explanation, but our comments still stand to their face value. You need only to apply basic information within a few columns, and a quick signature now and then. The vast majority of the papers themselves are essentially filled with bureaucratic fine print jargon that neither Mr. White nor I are too keen to spend much time with them, but our procedures demand the utmost attention when filling out the forms. Now, the good news is, you only have to sit there and listen to us read off the forms, you don't even have to pay attention if you want to, although it is not legally advised, but given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding you and your upcoming predicted departure from our lands, I doubt there's anything to worry about."

Surprisingly true to their word, filling out the forms was easy, and shockingly quick as well, only taking up an hour, more or less. It probably helped that both agents mumbled and skipped over eighty percent of the print on the packets, but just after the clock struck three, the last of the packets were tucked safely away in the agent's duffle bag. "Alright Mr. Merkelo," Mr. Black announced, "I think that about covers everything we needed. Efficiency being our agency's top priority, you can expect your profile and account to be registered and active within one to two business days. In the meantime, however, the princesses saw fit to grant you early access to the royal tab. Once we conclude our business, you will be able to utilize the tab at any equestrian service provided. To do so, you only need to give your royal accounts pin number, yours is 6264. Before your account is officially logged, both our agencies respectfully ask that any and all purchases made do not exceed the base limit of 1,000 bits. Again we respectfully ask that you do not exceed 1,000 bits before your account is finalized."

Thinking that's the end of it, I nod in agreement as I settle myself off the chair and make way for the door, only to be stopped at the last second by one of Mr. Whites hooves blocking my way. "I'm afraid there's one last concern that needs to be brought before your attention before you are allowed to leave. It's a subject that will most likely upset you, but the princesses wished to make sure that you were aware of the issue. Ethan still needs a verdict on his actions. While we have not been privy to the greater details, the princesses have scheduled a meeting with you in the coming weeks to work out the formalities to Ethan's case."

"... Damnit Ethan. *sigh* It's been more than a week since I last saw Ethan. Has anything happened since then?"

"Aside from his continuously insistent moaning, groaning, whining, and driving the guards up the wall, not really. It seems he has already begun to go stir crazy within his cell, he keeps screaming and demanding to see the elements bearers and appears to have become unhinged. The princesses are worried he'll flip his lid, like a certain other alicorn. Still, he's safely locked away in the dungeons, and the family of the filly have not made any comments, requests, or have filed any charges as of yet. If they don't soon, the verdict of his punishment will be left in your hooves."

"He's going crazy down in his cell? That's not good at all. He still has connection to his magic, he could go insane like me and break out of his jail."

"Don't worry about that Austin. You let the princesses and guards deal with that, right now we are dealing with the judicial fallout."

"...If you say so. Anyway, going back to what you said earlier, isn't there supposed to be a judge and jury for that kind of stuff?"

"Normally yes, but given the extreme circumstances surrounding the both of you, I believe the justice system will have a stroke figuring out how to work the case, given how they have never had to conduct a trial against royalty before. But none of that matters, as the princesses have chosen to intervene in the case, declaring it part of a royal investigation, making this a whole 'nother ball game."

Fucking great. Now I have to officiate as judge, jury, and executioner. Add on more shit I shouldn't have to deal with, but this does bring something I've been thinking about to the forefront of my mind, something that doesn't deserve to be pushed aside. "Tell me about this family, about the filly."

"I wish we could, but again, we've not been granted access to much information aside from the aftermath report of his arrest. It has the address and names of the family, but that's about it. You want to know more, you'll need to take a trip back to Ponyville."

I was hoping to relax for the rest of the day, but this family nearly suffered because of my ignorance back in the forest. Ethan is my responsibility and I failed to uphold that when I left him to do as he wished, there are no excuses on my part. They deserve an apology in person. "Yeah, I may just have to do that."

"Then with that said, our business is concluded. And once again Mr. Merkelo, we're sorry to have disrupted any plans you had in mind for today." Mr. White calls out as he exits first from the room, followed by Mr. Black with his own departing words, "We hope you have a good day, and hopefully we won't be needing to bother you so soon either."

Exiting the room myself, I stop just beyond the doorway, watching as the agents converse with each other before disappearing around the corner. The hallway remains devoid of life aside from my sentries as I stand in the middle, pondering my next action. There's nothing else to ponder about, that family needs some closure that justice will be served to that more than deserving jackass. And besides, I can think of at least one thing I've always wanted to check out at Ponyville, so more incentive to go. "I'm pretty sure this is a no-brainer, but you both report directly to the princesses, right?" I ask, turning to one of the sentries.

Remaining as stoic as ever, the only response I'm given is one crisp and swift nod, no doubt forged from many years in service. "Right, well, I would like one of you to inform them that I will be taking a little trip to Ponyville, and I would like the other to escort me to the... chariot... platform... oooh boy."

By the time the other sentry had made his way to the platform, I had expected Luna to come rushing in and whisk me away from the very edge I had decided to yeet myself off of, and at the moment, I wish she had. Staring down at the falls below, reliving the memories as they happened, I come to a sudden realization about my actions that day. I had 'survived' what no human had before. The Call of the Void. An achievement I held no pride for. The actions I committed that day to Luna, still ways heavy in guilt. I can't help but find it strange how so much has changed in so little time since then. I still have yet to give her my apology. Next time I see her.

As I continued to reflect on that day, the sentry I had sent as an envoy, had finally arrived back. "The princesses have acknowledged your excursion and have wished you safe travels. They said to expect company from the rest of the Element Bearers during your stay there. They also wished to remind you that your scheduled medical appointment is within seven hours."

Right, don't want to forget that, gonna have to manage my time here. "How long does it take to get to Ponyville and back?"

"One and a half hours there and back, depending upon wind turbulence."

"Alright then, we'll have to be leaving two hours before the appointment then. Is everything ready to go?"

Hitching himself to the front of the chariot, the sentry gives the green light, allowing me to situate myself comfortably within the chariot. "Before we go, I would like to have both of your names, if you don't mind. Y'all have done an excellent job keeping sentry over me, I'd like to give credit to the princesses."

"Private Swift Speed, your highness." barks the shorter of the two.

"Corporal Feather Flight. We've been given the rundown on your situation sir. We know the proper procedure when within public space. You need not pay heed to our presence, but if you need anything, we are here to assist."

"Thank you, both of you." Just when I thought our talk was done, I couldn't help but respond after reflecting on what one of the sentries declared. "And you do know Private, that I'm not really royalty at all, right?"

"Well understood sir. Just a matter of showing proper respect. The way I see it, not just anypony pops up as an alicorn for no reason. You must have done something to earn it."

Maybe, maybe not, I doubt I'll find the reason why anytime soon. With that conversation finished, we take flight back to the village that started it all.

Author's Note:

It's good to be back.