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Rambling Writer


Our job is not to give readers what they want; our job is to show them things they never imagined. --Walt Williams

T

This story is a sequel to Hinterlands


Two years ago, bounty hunter Bitterroot turned a lich and her necromancer apprentice over to the authorities. Now, that apprentice, Amanita, has been released on good behavior. She has no more interest in necromancy. In fact, she asked Bitterroot to turn her in all those moons ago and helped capture her master. With nowhere for Amanita to go, Bitterroot takes her in until she can get her hooves under herself.

But all isn’t well in Canterlot. A killer is stalking the streets, striking with impunity and leaving no trace. The Royal Guard is befuddled. Bitterroot’s investigations have yielded nothing. And night is turning into a time of dread. Something needs to be done. If only the dead could speak. If only there was a moral necromancer around.

Amanita doesn’t want to admit it, but the part of her past she hates the most might be the most useful part right now. Just because ponies are dying doesn’t mean they need to stay that way. What she buried needs to be dug up again.

Her demons are rearing their ugly heads. It’s time to face them.


Reading the preceding story will provide some context for this, but isn't required. Cover art is modified from this image. Updates Tuesdays and Fridays.

Chapters (15)
Comments ( 129 )

Yo, a sequel to one of my favorite stories of yours?

*adds to tracking instantly*

Wonderful to see more of these two. Looking forward to seeing what nonsense they manage to get themselves into.

Ohhh! Thank you. Always wondered what she would do once out of jail.

A very pleasant surprise to wake up to. I loved the first story so I'm very excited to see what you do with a sequel.

YES! Ever since you name dropped Amanita in Great Minds Think Alike, I’ve been hoping for this to come out! Can’t wait to see where this goes, though judging from the description this story won’t have another necromancer in it… right?

By the way, I wonder how old was Bitterroot. Don’t think that has been mentioned yet.

11068047
I picture Bitterroot as being somewhere between 35 and 45: old enough to have seen some stuff in the world, but not actually aging just yet.

And so it begins! Definitely looking forward to seeing what happens with these two. :yay:

Amanita certainly has a lot of emotional baggage to dead with, even after therapy. All that internalized guilt and fear doesn't just go away. Maybe Moondog can help. I fully expect them to show up at some point, otherwise specifically calling out the shared universe would be frivolous.

11071729
I’d expect their meeting, should it really happen, to be in a separate oneshot or in Moondog’s own anthology. Murder mysteries don’t really suit Moondog’s style, and having her involved might give our bounty-hunting duo too big of an advantage. Also in Great Minds Think Alike it’s already established that Moondog and Amanita share the same universe, here the author is just giving us an exact timeframe.

11071869
They were both name-dropped in that fic by the future villians.

Poor thing. It’ll take more than a prison therapist fof Amanita to fully recover, assuming she ever can. But one of the best things for a reclusive death mage is to simply live. Provided she can allow herself to do so, anyway…

And there it is. Past life, here we come.

Okay I look forwards to the conversation with the guards.

"Hey, who killed you?"
"Oh, it was so and so"
Bam! Job's done.


If Course, it won't be that easy, but I can dream!

Ah, speak with dead, derailing tabletop murder mysteries since time immemorial… when the dead are feelong cooperative. To say nothing of the people who are looking after them. This will certainly be an… interesting conversation with the Guard

This is fantastic, eagerly awaiting Friday now.

At this point i'm wondering about usage limits. Would this work for anyone that dies?

11079651
I suppose it depends what reconstructive necromancy considers "damage", eg. senescence.

I'm really hyped to see where this goes I think that having a Necromancer to prevent death would be neat.

Well, sweet. Aside from the waiting, that seemed like a pretty easy process. Does that deputization come with an official title?

I just found out that Hinterlands has a sequel, and let me tell you I am delighted. I'm ready and eager to see what these two get up to going forward.

One's a bounty hunter, the other a necromancer with a guilt complex the size of the moon. Together, they fight crime!

11079651
Going by Amanita's comments here and in the last chapter, there seem to be two main constraints -- the extent of the physical damage and the soul itself growing disinterested in going back to the physical world. Given that putrefaction is cited as a hard obstacle, I would assume that other forms of pervasive damage and decay -- aging, destruction of the body, extensive burning -- would probably also be impossible to overcome.

Heh. Of course phoenix down can streamline the process. I'm pretty sure there's a shop by the airship yards that sells it.

In any case, wonderful to see Amanita work with someone who's both sympathetic and sees the potential here. Let's go revolutionize criminal investigation.

The description of the ritual and all the actions that occurred after it in the end of this chapter is... well, really well written in my opinion. It flows, and captures the mood of an experienced necromancer tampering with the veil between life and death.

The description of the necromancy process is extremely well-written. Bravo. Also:

The unicorn who opened the door was a deep purplish-blue with eyes that seemed a bit too big for her head.

…Just how big was her eyes?

That was quite a ritual. And done in only the span of seconds in the outside world. Dayum. Gonna be interesting to see Cobalt's reaction when she actually comes to.

Now that's some good magic writin'. None of that faffin about with words an incantations, just good old runeage and symbolism. Love it!

The description of the ritual was really well-done. The process and logic behind it all was very well-reasoned and coherent, and the actual writing was wonderfully evocative. This is probably one of the best descriptions of magic in action that I've read in my recent memory.

Ohh dang. Amazing job on this.

The unicorn who opened the door was a deep purplish-blue with eyes that seemed a bit too big for her head.

That’s an impressive feat for a pony.

In any case, brilliant work in capturing the experience of invoking the occult. A reminder that for all of her well-earned issues, Amanita is very good at what she does. Now to see what Cobalt thinks of all of this. And what, if anything, she remembers of what were her final moments.

I sure hope this does not (eventually) blow up in Amanita's face.

Restricted Code just seems a bit... off and sus. Something about the way she acts is raising some "⚠ CAUTION ⚠" flags in my mind (it is not paranoia if they are out to get you...). I know Code has security authority clearance with her rang, but her bull-rushing Amanita's skills and proceedures without regards to the others in her division, Guard procedures, or chain of custody just does not sit well in my mind, like she is rather blasé about the fact there is a necromancer sharing her knowledge and skills.

At any rate, I cannot wait for more!

11084323
Judging from the plot twist in Hinterlands Code being the bad guy is definitely a possibility, but right now we know too little. Why was the killer killing ponies? No robbery mentioned, targets seem completely random, bodies left in the street to be discovered, it seems that the only goal the killer could possibly have was spreading fear, which doesn’t seem quite right to me.

She had no support structure, nothing waiting for her on the outside. Limitless freedom, if she was being optimistic, but that also meant the freedom to bumble cluelessly about for the rest of her life.

Wat.

No "you know an awful lot about necromancy, so despite your sentence served there are a few key ponies you need to be in touch with for reason X, reason Y, and reason Z?" Like, in the eyes of the authorities... her main practical skills are in weapons of terror and mass destruction. Even beyond that, the last story hinted that even defense against necromancy may be under-researched due to needing some necromancy to study in the process. Amanita is a research gold- platinum- palladium mine!

Even if her life has little direction, how is she not loaded with important contacts?

“WHO KNOWS WHAT SHE’LL-”

She'll find out about that time you lost a drunken bet to spend a night alone in that creepy graveyard 'cause you pissed yourself and bolted when a branch fell off one of the trees.

Giving myself some time to think after reading this was a pretty good idea. Not because I didn't like it. No. If I hadn't, I'd probably mostly be following in 11083857 's shoes, talking about how cool and evocative the entire ritual was, and I'd've missed out on posting fun follow-up thoughts.

Like... I bet, given a couple more sequels, Amanita will have pared the ritual timing down so far, that she can just anime-smash the ground with a hoof, circle and runes blazing into existence for a moment as the components evaporate away, and almost instantly the corpse pops back up as a fully-alive, very surprised pony. :rainbowlaugh:

But that's silly...

No, things like, I bet the largest portion of the meeting where Code (and others) considered Amanita was not whether to take her up on the obvious offer. I think they spent most of the time actually deciding public talking points, how to present zombies/thralls, how necromancy might interact with the trial process in the courts, what rights discorporeated spirits might have within society, and well... All the fiddly bureaucracy that'll come into play. It just amuses me that they quickly agreed to utilize Amanita, and then spent forever arguing over the paperwork.

And now...

A whole new brand of paperwork will need to be invented to cover deceased-no-longer ponies.

And just think of the serial killer. "Wait, didn't I murder that pony last week? Da heck?!"

Anyway, before you ask, yes, these tokens have been stolen recently, as in ‘just a few nights ago’ recently, when somepony broke into the storehouse and made off with a bunch of tokens, rye bread, and grape juice, of all things, but nopony saw anything, I mean, nopony who cared, anyway.

And from Hinterlands:

You can only eat certain things that are metaphysically tied to death, like unleavened black bread or unfermented wine.

Shit's about to hit the fan.

11086828
I did not notice that, I should’ve but didn’t.

11086828
I caught that as well. This is gonna get interesting fast. Especially if her Highness gets informed. I also liked it the description of the lollypops. Candy is weird.

Regarding Code's outburst at Amanita's offer to, ah, send Cobalt back -- it's worth noting that ponies may have to redefine how they view death in the coming future.

I mean, think about it. What is death from our perspective in real life? It's an ending -- a total cessation, the end of a person's life, activity and presence in the world. We can have faith that something exists beyond it, certainly, but it's specifically that -- faith. We can't know for certain until we die too, and once somebody dies they no longer have any presence in the world and we can no longer interact with them. Thus, death is seen as a terrible, fearful thing, and its spreading and causing as evil.

Now, for ponies this is mostly the same -- at a surface level. What I think has been made fairly clear in this chapter is that death simply isn't like this in this world. Death, very evidently, doesn't cause the end of a person's being, or any loss of memory, personality and personal continuity, or really of anything beyond incidental meat. As Cobalt put it, you are a soul, and after death you just... leave you body and go somewhere else. Death isn't an ending, but a transition, and not even an irreversible one -- even if the body can't be resurrected, you can very much still contact a deceased individual and talk with them as with a living person.

This has always been known to necromancers but would likely have remained unknown to most of society -- but for how long will that remain so going forward? Realistically, knowing this information, death loses a lot of its finality and fearsomeness. I think Equestria has some serious metaphysical adjustments to look forward to in its future.

(Also, this makes lichdom seem like a pretty stupid path, not just a cowardly one -- if you're a habitual necromancer, you must know that souls last forever, and that after your body gives out you just move into the afterlife and continue to exist there. Lichdom allows you to tether yourself to physicality, but it also dooms your soul to annihilation -- to actual death -- sooner or later. Even if you prevent your phylactery's destruction, lichdom still makes true death a possibility, whereas before it wasn't. It seems incredibly short-sighted to me.)

11086828
Oh, very good catch.

Cobalt seems remarkably calm and logical for somepony who was just dead. Given that Rambling's stories have historically been Chekhov's arsenal, I have a feeling that's relevant somehow.

11087267

Regarding Code's outburst at Amanita's offer to, ah, send Cobalt back -- it's worth noting that ponies may have to redefine how they view death in the coming future.

Seeing that Tartarus is literally just down the road and around the corner, I could see their afterlife being something like this: (very tougue-in-cheek)
derpicdn.net/img/view/2016/6/21/1183200.jpg

More or less makes the same point as you about death's finality.

11086828

<Chekov's snacks>

Good catch!
Code's candy can be added as well perhaps?

11068047
Also I just knew Amanita being the only necromancer in this is too good to be true.

I’ve officially decided the way I want this story to go: Amanita will get killed by the murderer and have a tearful reunion with her late fillyfriend in Elysium then somehow drag herself back from the dead to become the only lich in Equestria whose existence is legal after which we can have Moondog looking into her dream and finding out how exactly the mind of a lich differs from that of a pony while giving her some maybe still-needed advice on mental health.

Sounds really ridiculous, but one can always hope.

Comment posted by MillionsBane deleted Dec 21st, 2021

Ah, how I enjoy some good manipulation of forces beyond our ken, for the good of our kin.

Equestriangst Games

:rainbowlaugh:

Amanita looked him up and down. His pristine coat was definitely a far cry from the stereotypical battle-hardened warrior. Well, that was Equestria for you. “I could cut your head off and resurrect you,” she said.

“Nah,” Phalanx said faux-casually. “Too much work, and nopony’d believe me.”

Amanita needs her own sitcom.

Alicorns bless our wonderful, socially awkward necromancer.

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