• Published 14th Sep 2012
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Roses for the Grave - Mordy

Dark magic is a powerful and banned art believed to be long forgotten. Unbeknownst to the common Equestrian citizen, that art is very much alive and practiced in secret by less harmonious individuals.

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Prologue: Ghost Town

MLP: Roses for the Grave
By Mordy

Prologue: Ghost Town

In a small, quiet, insignificant town, a cold wind was blowing. It was the beginning of spring, but no matter what time of the year this town always remained cold and a bit gloomy. Most would think it was because it was so close to the Frozen North, and the icy cold winds that would drift from there. Yet there were still farms here and there that still managed to grow food despite the frigid weather. There was even a fairly large forest not too far from the town that still managed to hold lush green trees.

The truth of the matter was not the climate, but the significant presence of death that latched onto this defenseless town. Now this wasn’t because death happened often to the ponies of this town. It was actually do to the fact that the biggest attraction, or detraction depending on whom you asked, was the graveyard surrounding it.

This town had a graveyard many times larger than itself and easily had more residents in their final resting place than the citizens residing there. Not a surprising fact, but the sheer number of buried was far greater than should have been possible for a town this size with such a short history.

In actuality, the graveyard had been here before there was even a town. This was a favored spot to bury the dead and fallen in the distant past. Originally there had only been a single gravekeeper who lived all alone and looked out for spirits. It was a quiet life, with a bit of an eerie calm and peace. It made one appreciate life, but still be constantly reminded of the inevitable end everypony must face. Enlightening and depressing all at the same time.

As time went on, the graveyard kept getting larger and larger, requiring more diggers. Eventually there were enough gravekeepers around that it became an attraction for traveling merchants to occasionally stop by and offer their wares to those that lived there. From there, friends and families of lost loved ones built homes nearby so they could visit and mourn the loss of their beloved deceased. This in turn caused a few merchants to settle in and set up shop. Afterwards, a few found out how fertile the land was and began to harvest various vegetables of surprisingly high quality.

The best grown vegetable within the farmlands were pumpkins strangely enough. Very fitting considering their popularity with the holiday Nightmare Night. Their association with that holiday made the pumpkins from this town extra coveted. Because they were grown so close to such a large graveyard it was believed that the land was fertile due to the buried dead. Normally that would creep out most, but it instead made the large vegetable more intriguing thanks to that eerie creepiness. Many would buy it just to gross out friends and neighbors of other towns and cities. This was because of the semi-famous slogan of the farmers who harvested these pumpkins were, “Grown by the dead!”

Even though their major export was pumpkins, the town itself never really celebrated Nightmare Night. Being surrounded by a giant graveyard, which was at least five times larger than the town itself, made it hard for the average pony that lived there to be afraid of the usual scares that came from the holiday. Most just celebrated with a hearty meal, followed by tales of the local legends and town gossip. It would take something much more terrifying to scare these villagers.

Unfortunately, that was what would happen on this particular night…

Celestia’s sun began to set on the horizon and soon Luna’s moon and stars began to rise for the evening. The lights of the stars twinkled within the night’s sky like a million fireflies and the celestial body began its slow trek across the heavens.

In the town below, the lights of various homes began to go out one by one as the residents retreated to their beds and their dreams. Most of the houses were simple cottages and homes made out of the most basic building materials, while a few places and shops were built from something sturdier. One shop was even inside a large dead tree that had been hollowed out.

The only artificial light this night was that of a lone lamp that illuminated the darkness for the stallion who carried it by the handle in his teeth. He trotted along the crudely placed stones leading up to the main gate of the graveyard. There used to be fences, but were eventually torn down and never put back up, making it easier to expand the graveyard. A few attempts had been made here and there in the past to set them back up again, but inevitably they would have to tear them down as they needed to expand the graveyard once more.

As always, even this late in the summer, the night was cool and a fog was quickly rolling in. Not that unusual for this town, but the murky mists had appeared more frequently in the previous years and only during the night which usually didn’t bother anypony. It did add more to the eeriness of the town’s graveyard, but again, all townsfolk were so used to it now that they weren’t disturbed by it.

The dark chocolate coated young stallion trotted right up and under the gate. He wore a gray jacket paired with a white scarf and topped off with a grey cap delivered from Trottingham that covered part of his black mane. His eyes were half closed as his large yellow eyes darted lazily around as he half heartedly smiled and hummed out a pleasant tune. He turned his head to make sure his shovel was still strapped to his back. Satisfied, he began to trot along into the graveyard, still holding his lantern in his teeth as his hoofsteps echoed through the cemetery.

The roads within had originally been built a long time ago when the number of graves had been few and far between, but as time went on and space began to run out, building roads just ate up more potential spots to bury the dead. So, they stopped building more paths and one simply had to watch their step. More than likely you would end up standing right above where somepony had been buried just to get anywhere.

For now though, the gravedigger pony was happy to walk on a more stable path without disturbing the dead. He and the other gravediggers were very respectful towards the those who had entered their eternal rest. They put a lot of work and effort into making the graves and it was common practice in this town to show respect and courtesy to them. Many of the villagers would go out and leave flowers for the older and more forgotten graves. It was believed to help them rest easier and maintain peace.

Tonight the stallion was seeking a new spot to make a new grave; it was his job and even his special talent. His cutie mark, a shovel digging into dirt, made it somewhat of a dead give away. He enjoyed it; or rather he didn’t mind his job. It was hard, but satisfying work.

As he walked along he looked across the names on the many graves, some unrecognizable, some fading away, and some without even a word scratched out on them. The reason for the excessive amount of dead bodies buried here was because of a very simple factor. It was dirt cheap to bury anypony here. So, mostly poor families or families who can’t afford a nice funeral had their loved ones placed here. It wasn’t the most ideal scenario, but life is unfair and death wasn’t any fairer.

The stallion's ears perked up as he turned around a large crypt that held one of the older and more wealthy residents from way back when. A familiar sound echoed through the air, one he was all too familiar with. The sound of metal piercing the earth and ripping it away from the world. The sound of somepony digging.

It was a sound common to hear at this time of night, what with other diggers making more plots for the cemetery's future residents, but this struck him unusual for a few reasons. One, he was supposed to be the only pony working this section of the graveyard this night. Next, this particular part of the area should no longer have any room for graves. Most of the spots now were way in the back, close to the forest, at least in this part of the cemetery. Finally, even if there was by some small miracle an untouched spot so close to the town, he wasn’t anywhere near where any of the gravediggers should be working to have potentially spotted the unused piece of land.

He followed the sound closely as it continued to echo across the area. He soon deviated from the roadside path and was walking on grass in between the graves. A slight chill ran down his spine, a very unusual thing to happen to him. Nervous habits started to pick up as he found his eyes wandering more frantically. The cold slabs of the graves suddenly seemed colder and more of a warning than a marking. What was causing these unusual feelings?

The sound was very close now and something began to come into view within the fog. It was hard to tell, but he could definitely see some pony digging. As he drew closer with his hooves crunching against the grass he noticed something very odd. The pony digging wasn’t making a fresh grave, but was instead digging up one!

His eyes widened, thinking a grave robber was disturbing the dead in hopes of finding something of value. He grit his teeth around his lantern and shouted as best he could with it still in his mouth, “Hey you!” He then began to run toward the grave site.

As he got closer he could make out the desecrator more easily, it was a pale blue, unicorn mare with shoulder length dark blue hair. Her back was to him and when he shouted, she either didn't hear him or she ignored him as she just kept on digging. He shouted again as he approached her, “Hey stop that!” Irritation crept into his voice as she continued to ignore him.

Placing his lantern carefully onto the grass as he slowed to a stop just before the grave. He could see the unicorn’s cutie mark barely in the light now, a piece of parchment with writing on it. Possibly a writer of some sort or it could have meant something academic. For a moment he pondered a peculiar oddity, she was using a shovel to dig, but she used her hooves instead of her magic. She might have not been that magically adept, but a shovel couldn’t have been too hard to lift and use, could it? He was only an earth pony so he wouldn’t really know for sure.

He shook the thought off as chill ran up his spine again, but he ignored it, “Miss, stop this at once! You’re gonna upset the deceased if you dig them up. And I for one am not gonna sit on my flank and let you disturb them. Now get out of here this instant!” He raised his voice as he shouted out at her, as his voice filled with more anger and outrage. Anypony in the small town would be upset by this. To them this was one of the worst things one could do outside of killing somepony.

Once again though, the mare continued to ignore his presence and just kept on digging. The hole was deep enough that when standing on her two hind legs it was waist deep while she was propped up on her shovel.

The grave digger went from angry to curious and then slowly to concern, “Miss?” He reached out and poked her shoulder, she felt very cold and a bit clammy. She actually turned her head very slightly when he made contact with her. He could see her right light blue eye looking at him just out of the corner. There was an odd glow to it, like it had a spark of magic within it. She seemed a bit dazed and emotionless, as she just looking blankly at his hoof that touched her. He felt himself retract his hoof quickly, and as soon as he did, she went back to her digging as if nothing had happened at all.

That chill once again. “Are you… alright?” He asked with growing concern at this unusual behavior.

She just kept digging.

He waited a few seconds and then he grit his teeth in irritation again. As she tossed some more dirt to the side of the grave again his rage finally won out. He reached over and grabbed her shovel, easily pulling it out of her grip and tossing it behind him. Her fore hooves slumped to her sides as her tool was stolen from her. The young stallion scowled and yelled again, “Will you stop ignoring me!”

She turned slightly again, her right eye looking back at him out of its corner just like before. As moonlight traced over her face through the fog he thought she was quite lovely and he began to relax and calmed down. He began to hope that maybe this was a misunderstanding of some sort.

However, the lovely vision soon became one of horror. As she turned around he could see her face clearly. At least what was left of it. The left side of her face from her eye to her cheek and part of her mouth was completely gone. Only bone and traces of flesh remained. She had no left eye in her socket, but instead a light blue light with glowing wisps trailing out of it. Magic no doubt, fueling this horror.

She reached out over the edge of the grave and began to pull herself out, causing the young stallion, now with a look of terror running across his face to back up frantically, tripping over the shovel he had tossed and landing harshly onto his back. He was doing his best not to scream as she stepped into the light of his lantern and he could see her body more clearly. Bits of flesh missing here and there, revealing bone surrounded by rotting carcass. Her face was void of emotion and almost had a look of some pony half awake, almost like she was sleepwalking.

She made her slow march toward him, her one good eye lazily staring at him. Once she was close enough she began to reach out towards him. At that moment survival instinct mixed with fear rushed through the poor grave digger. He practically jumped onto his hooves, reached around and grabbed his shovel with his teeth. A good tug loosened it from his back and he began to swing it around. His eyes closed as the improvised weapon made it through its arc. He felt it hit something hard and was followed by the loud crack of bone shattering.

He trembled and dared to open one eye. The undead mare was now on the ground, twitching thanks to its broken neck. However, its face no longer was emotionless; it was now a mix of surprise and fear. He opened both eyes and just stood there watching, afraid to make any sudden movement.

The stallion nearly jumped out of his skin when the mare reached out towards him again, but to his relief and surprise she grabbed her shovel he had tripped over. With what little strength she had she pulled it close to her, hugging it like it was a child's stuffed animal. For a moment he thought he heard her cry out in pain as he saw the magical light from her eyes fade out and dissipate.

He fell back onto his flank and simply stared at her, his mouth agape at what he had just seen. Mustering up his courage he dared to get close to her and poke her body with his shovel to determine that she was truly dead now. Looking her over, he didn’t know or understand why, but found himself whispering out to the corpse with a tear forming in one of his eyes, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry…”

Author's Note:

Took some suggested punctuation fixes from a reader. Very minor changes.

Minor punctuation and grammar fixes as suggested by friend. Fixed some other errors when I used to put four periods for dot dot dot when it happened at an end of a sentence. Also replaced colt with stallion or young stallion since colt felt like the inappropriate word for a stallion in his late teens or early twenties. Removed the word "(Updated)" in chapter title since I think I got the point across by now.

Finally proofread and cleaned up this chapter. Wow, there was a lot of mistakes and was able to improve the writing a lot. It could probably be done better, but I have many more chapters to go over. This will do for now. Maybe someone will be kind enough to look it over and see where I can improve upon things or clean up punctuation errors.

Besides improving the storytelling and fixing grammatical errors, I changed the time of year to the beginning of spring from the middle of summer. A few reasons being provides more time before the story would or could hit the winter months and spring represents change, new life or a new beginning. Which is what this is for the main cast.