• Published 14th Sep 2012
  • 4,084 Views, 224 Comments

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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Ch3: A Second Chance

MLP: Roses for the Grave
By Mordy

Ch3: A Second Chance

Julius Grave found himself shrouded in darkness and it took him a moment to realize his eyes were simply closed as he tried to recall what had just happened. It was a blur for a moment, but then it came crashing down on him. He had been trying to escape and had raised a small army of undead to ensure his safe leave when the worst possible thing happened. Princess Celestia had appeared and ruined everything, quite literally.

A bit of anger rose in him at the thought of the princess. She was one of the greatest banes of those who practice dark magic and she descended upon him like a terrible plague, burning all his hopes and dreams in a heavenly fire. It didn't help that he had a personal vendetta against her.

His rage continued to well up, but then it suddenly dissipated into a bit of pride. It had taken Celestia herself to stop him. He mused on that thought and found it flattering, yet infuriating. Maybe he was overestimating his abilities and he had just been an unfair match to her lap dog guards that she had sic on him. Still the fact Celestia had to step in to save the day didn’t make him feel any less accomplished in his magical prowess.

It was then his ears flicked to nearby voices. A conversation was going on, but he was still a bit out of it to distinguish what they were talking about. He finally mustered up his strength to open his eyes.

The world around him was blurry and he could just make out three figures not too far from him. He began to lift his head up and then winced, letting out a grunt of pain. He had been hurt before from landing hard against tombstone. Julius' back ached, though he had drained the life from some plants to heal the wound, it hadn’t healed some of the internal damage. What was worse was now that his adrenaline rush had ended the pain was far more noticeable.

His grunt caught the attention of the three who had been looking over him and he heard a slightly familiar voice speak, “He’s coming to.” It was gruff and spoke in a serious and stern manner.

Another voice spoke up, one that he found quite irritating now, “Wakey, wakey Mr. Keep,” Detective Details called out to him tauntingly, “You have a lot to answer for.”

His vision started to clear and he could see Details looked upon him from beyond a cage. A little further away was Giant Wall and with him stood… Julius felt his heart stop and start again. These mini heart attacks couldn’t be good for his health. Standing in the middle between the Details and Giant Wall was Princess Celestia.

Celestia quickly took note of his fear of her. It saddened her that any pony would fear her, but she understood why. She had just unleashed some of her powerful magic upon him earlier and she had been a great threat to those who practice dark magic for a very long time. Strangely though, even as he looked on her in terror, a fire seemed to burn in his eyes. A tremendous rage just barely being held back.

Julius started to get up, gritting through the pain in his back as he did. As he stood, he noticed that his legs had all been chained together to prevent any quick movement. He was inside of cage just large enough for him to move around in, but it looked like it had been built for an animal instead of a pony. Though was he any different from an animal to them?

He then took notice to an orange cloth that seemed to surround the area and he realized he was probably inside of a tent. A slight sigh of relief escaped him as he had feared they had taken him to a prison or Canterlot at first.

Feeling a bit daring, he started to conjure up some magic, but felt like something was pushing his spell down on his horn followed instantly by a slight shock of pain around his neck and he ceased his spell casting. He yelped at the pain and brought one hoof to his neck. As he rubbed around he could feel a collar had been placed on him. He quickly determined it was a collar enchanted with a shock spell set to go off if he tried to cast magic. The collar was only secondary precaution as he looked up to his horn to see a metal ring placed upon it. Such rings were made to prevent unicorns from casting magic and could only be taken off with a key or a very skilled locksmith.

Giant Wall spoke up, “Don’t even think about. We’re not going to let a monster like you cast spells under our watch.” This statement earned him a cold glare from Julius as he continued to rub his collar and horn.

Details backed up from the cage to be next to Celestia. Julius, wanting to stall and prolong finding out his fate, decided to make idle conversation, “So… where did I go wrong?”

“When you started practicing Necromancy,” Details remarked stroking his chin in amusement.

Julius was irritated by this replied. “I meant where I went wrong with my escape.”

Details perked up and seemed happy to explain, “Well, after our little chat at your shop I was able to compare your little pick up order to the apology notes you had left–”

He was quickly interrupted by Julius smacking his hoof against forehead followed by him gumbling, “Of course, the notes! Why didn’t I think of that?”

Details continued, only mildly annoyed by the interruption, “Yes, anyway after I confirmed it was your hoofwriting I made sure our pegasi kept an eye on your home along with a few unicorns. We cast a few life detecting spells…” Julius found himself holding his breath. He knew about such spells and they could track how many living creatures were in an area, but the catch was they had to still technically be alive. Details then went on, “…and we only ever detected one presence inside of your home when we started. Our pegasi in the sky never saw your wife leave, so we assumed you had a secret escape way hidden in your home and you had your wife escape as soon as possible.”

Julius released his breath with some relief, glad they had come to a logical, but wrong conclusion. Details then finished his explanation, “So, we had patrols stationed throughout the graveyard that night. You got lucky with that initial fog. You didn’t create that fog did you?” He asked just to make sure.

“No, that was a naturally occurring fog,” he knew the detective had seen him cast a spell to create an artificial fog before and wasn't going to bother hiding that fact.

“Right, so you got lucky, but after that fog lightened up we caught site of you leaving that grave and well, you know the rest.” He gave his trademark sly grin and Julius shook his head in defeat.

It was then Celestia finally spoke up, “Mr. Keep, I would appreciate your cooperation and I think you’ll find your punishment to be far less severe should you answer honestly.” She put on tender smile and he could actually feel its warmth, but to him it felt like he was barely being singed by fire and he didn’t believe the sincerity, regardless of how convincing it was.

“I’ve got nothing to tell any of you, especially you Celestia.” He scowled straight at her, doing his best to hide his fear and show his anger.

Giant Wall didn’t stand for that remark, “Watch your tongue and refer to the princess with proper respect!”

“Calm yourself Giant Wall,” Celestia said softly and he immediately backed down. She commanded much respect among her guards.

Details spoke up again, “Mr. Keep I know you don’t like us and I don’t blame you, but it’s in your best interest to answer us. For one I don’t think your wife has anything to do with this, but we will have to arrest her as an accomplice if you don’t start to answer our questions.” Julius chest ached at the mentioning of his wife. “I’d hate to see such a nice mare as her suffer for her husbands crimes.”

Julius sat in though for a moment before the detective asked, “When we found your lair there was something amiss. There were traces of necromancy, but we never found any sort of research notes, books, or much else. Just a few basic necromancy signs here and there. But from your little show at the graveyard you know far more than a novice Necromancer.” He paused for a moment and continued, “Your home was completely cleaned out so we bet your wife has your supplies or you’ve hidden them. So, if you tell us what you’ve been doing and where we can find your wife along with your research, we’ll lighten your sentence and if your wife has little to do with your little hobby we’ll let her go with a slap on the wrist. Sound good?”

Julius pondered for a moment and considered the option, “What will you do with my research should you find it?”

The detective was about to answer, but instead looked to Celestia, unsure what she was going to do with it. She replied apologetically, “I’m sorry Mr. Keep, but we will have to destroy all of it.”

That settled it, he knew what his options were now. “My secrets belong to the dead,” he answered and held his head up in defiance.

Details and Giant Wall sighed at that choice, while Celestia looked at the two them with what looked like suspicion. She turned back to look at Julius and spoke, but not to him, “Please leave us.”

The two looked at her quizzically. “But princess, we shouldn’t leave you with–" Giant Wall was soon cut off by her.

“Leave us,” she commanded with more force. The two looked at each other before they bowed and left obediently. Details turned around and looked at Julius as he left, seeing a great deal of fear and nervousness in his eyes.

As he left the tent and exited the magical sound barrier that had been placed so no pony else could hear their conversations, he whispered to Giant Wall, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pony so afraid of the princess before…”

Back in the tent Celestia laid down in front of Julius’ cage and she could see plain as day he was incredibly afraid of her while simultaneously furious. He had been able to maintain some of his courage while Detective Details and Giant Wall had been there because he didn’t think she would do anything drastic in front of her loyal subjects, but now he wasn't feeling so confident.

“Now that we are alone and no one can hear us,” Celestia stared which only made Julius have another mini heart attack. Celestia sighed and put on her best and most comforting smile,.“You don’t have to fear me. I have no intention to hurt you. Your secrets are safe here, with me. So, please tell me everything about your research.”

Julius stood by his decision. Dark magic users had become cautious over time and thus developed key phrases that had hidden meanings and only if another replied with the correct response would they know it was okay to talk to them. Was helpful with knowing who they could trust “My secrets belong to dead.”

Celestia responded, “Then I shall raise the dead and ask them myself.” A slight smile and she held back a giggle as Julius’ jaw dropped. She had just given him the correct key phrase.

“H-h-how do you?” He stammered out and she quickly answered.

“A necromancer many years back was kind enough to surrender his secrets about Darkmoon Covenant in order to be pardoned. They were quite helpful in uprooting many of you. I’m hoping you will be so kind to share with me even more secrets and update me on the changes in your little secret society. So, while you’re in my custody I’d highly recommend only speaking to me about any of your knowledge.” She took a more serious tone and hardened her look.

Julius started to feel a great weigh placed on his shoulders. He had no hope of communicating with any possible Darkmoon members without risking their identities as long as she knew their secret phrases. He then asked for future reference, “Who was it that told you all of this?”

“He’s long gone, but his name was Black Tail,” she responded, not seeing any harm giving out the name of a long dead stallion.

Julius took a mental note of that name and said, “I’m not gonna talk. If you really do know what all our phrases mean then you know what that particular one implies.”

Celestia did know. It meant he would die before he would ever tell a living soul who wasn’t a part of Darkmoon Covenant. But she had no intention to kill or torture it out of him. She would rely on her diplomatic skills, but she wanted to bring something else to his attention.

She leaned over for an object on a nearby wooden table and pulled it to her with her magic. It was a small badge of the sun and she hovered it before him. He seemed unimpressed by it and she explained, “We found this on you after we had you subdued.” She looked at his gaze and he didn’t seem worried about her finding such a trinket. She continued, “I find it odd someone such as yourself who holds such enmity towards me and my sun to have an item like this.” He started to look a bit more worried now, “Some might think you’re hypocritical or maybe have a love affair for light and darkness.”

Julius fidgeted a little in his cage thinking; Dear Luna, please don’t tell me she knows about that too.

Celestia lowered her horn to the badge and it released a bit of magic on it. Suddenly the sun turned into a crescent moon with teal colored eye with a dragon’s iris in the middle.

Buck my life…

Celestia’s gaze hardened again, “A Necromancer and a Child of the Night. Bad enough you raise the dead, but you worship Nightmare Moon as well? You’re looking at some very severe punishments if you don’t start making some compromises,” a slight smile etched on her face as she said this.

A Child of the Night was a member of the cult known as the Children of the Night. They were known as strict worshipers and supporters of Luna or rather Nightmare Moon. They loved the night for it was beautiful and brought forth the cover of darkness. Members tend to be the more shifty type of individuals such as necromancers, at least in Julius’ case. It was not restrictive to just them. Unfortunately when Nightmare was recently defeated by the Elements of Harmony and returned to ruling along side her sister, the faith of their church waned. Some still continued their praise of Luna while others wanted her to embrace Nightmare Moon once more. Overall, many abandoned the cult, taking with them their contributions that funded them.

Julius shifted around uncomfortably once again, his once obvious choices now starting to blur from what they once were. Celestia spoke up, but with a kinder and more forgiving tone, "It all looks very bad on you, but when I look at you I don’t see some evil or corrupted pony. I see a very kind and good soul that has simply walked down the wrong path.” She smiled as Julius looked up at her in surprise and confusion at this kind of proclamation.

“What makes you say all of that?” He said with bewilderment and suspicion.

“I heard about how you approached the grave of the poor soul who had suffered from your spell. You put a flower down for her and you were apologizing if I’m not mistaken.” Julius nodded to her as she said that. Guilt had driven him to do that, but not for the exact reasons she believed. “Then when you summoned your little army you could have had them immediately start tearing through my guards, but instead you offered them a chance to surrender. You acted in self defense instead of malice. Necromancers I’ve ran into in the past would never offer that.” This had been true. He didn’t have any intention to hurt the guards so long as they backed down. His original plan was to have them distract the guards while he made his escape into the woods. Of course if it had been many years earlier he would have had a lot of blood on his hooves right now. He had changed a lot since then...

Celestia leaned down closer and he actually scooted forward to her feeling more comfortable around her now despite his personal feelings. “You also put your wife’s safety before your own. I doubt a wicked pony would be able to care so much for an individual besides themselves.” There was a bit more to that than she knew. For one, Femme Fatale wasn’t his wife. That was merely a cover story for them living together in that dingy town. However, she was his friend and he made sure she and Ecto got away before he did.

Celestia was one of the few ponies to ever look at who he was instead of what he was. It made him feel warm and safe as if he could trust her. Unfortunately, he knew better than to get too close to the sun. It would only burn you and everything you know and love around you. However, he was willing to get just a bit closer.

“That light show I put on before the fog was cleared was actually a signal for… her…” he almost said ‘them’ which could have been very bad. He was on thin ice as it was. "To run. She’s probably long gone now.”

Celestia nodded believing he was finally starting to trust her. “That’s okay. If we find her I can assure you that no harm will come to her.”

No, you won’t hurt her… that is until you find out what she is.

“I’m willing to offer you something very special, Shop Keep. A second chance,” Julius cocked an eyebrow at Celestia, wondering what exactly she had in mind. She gladly went on, “If you tell me about your research, help us track down your wife, and reveal to me all your secrets about Darkmoon and anypony associated to it, well…” She trailed off a slightly mischievous smile coming onto her face. “We could suddenly find all these allegations to be false and a very capable caster who may just find himself with a very cozy job at my school due to his extensive magical knowledge.” She gave him a little wink.

The hint wasn’t subtle so it was hard to miss, but he couldn’t help but be a smart mouth, “So, you’re bribing me?”

Celestia frowned. “Heavens no, I’m offering you a great opportunity and forgiveness from your past sins!”

In other words, you're bribing me.

He put a hoof to his chin in thought, it was an amazing offer. One, which only a fool would turn down in their current situation. This was an opportunity of a life time. He could forgo everything for the high life. Working at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns would most certainly earn him a very high pay and a very cozy job. He’d probably have to watch his back for the rest of his life if Darkmoon found out he had betrayed them and they would without a doubt find out, thus making him live in paranoia. However, he already had to live like that now so how would it be any different? It was a pretty sweet deal.

There were just a few problems besides assassination attempts on him that made him hesitant. One was his research. Celestia already said she would destroy it, but he believed if he might, given enough time, be able to convince her to spare it. He would be willing to take that risk if it wasn’t for the second problem. The mare Celestia believed to be his wife. She was at an even greater risk and Ecto would also be in possible danger. He couldn’t possibly save his research and them.

It was that moment he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. Celestia took noticed of this and turned her head to see what he was looking at. She saw nothing else in the room of interest and she turned back to him. There was a small smile on face. “That’s a very generous offer Cel…” he quickly corrected himself trying to make a good impression as he got glint in hie eyes, “Princess Celestia.” She smiled when he used her proper title. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like some time to carefully think it over. It is quite the life changing decision.”

Celestia stood with a brilliant and triumphant grin on her face. “Take your time. I completely understand your hesitance, but I believe you will come to the right decision.” She turned toward the flaps, exiting the tent.

Julius called out to her before she left, “Princess!” She turned back to him. “I’d like to thank you for treating me as you did. Very few ponies have ever looked past my talents and at who I am. You’re a far kinder and gentler pony that I was lead to believe, and I thank you for it.”

Celestia’s heart seemed to melt at his kind words and she gave him a most radiant smile that seem to warm up the room. For a moment she thought she saw that hate enter his eyes once more, but believed it to be nothing more than a trick in the dim light. She gave him a nod and left the tent.

Julius smiled and whispered, “I’m also thankful that you’re so trusting and gullible.” His smile turned a bit devilish as he looked to the ground as Ecto popped her ghostly head out from the dirt floor, smiling up at him and giving him a wink.

Author's Note:

UPDATE 7/4/2016:
Removed "(Updated)" from the chapter title.

UPDATE 3/6/2014:
- So, cleaned up dialog and grammar like before.
- Mentioned and added hints that Julius has a more personal reason to hate Celestia besides her being anti black magic.
- State outright that his secret society is Darkmoon Covenant.
- When I originally made some of these early chapters I hadn't decided on names of ponies and things till later. I also didn't have a reason for Julius to fear and hate Celestia more than he already did. I didn't get the idea till later chapters. The reason has yet to be revealed at this time of writing.

- Originally I was going to make the chapter longer, but this seemed like such a perfect stopping point that I couldn’t resist.
- You’ll notice I introduced Julius as Julius Grave. That’s his real name. I revealed it there so people won’t get confused and think his last name is Keep.
- I also Introduce the Children of the Night cult here. I have an entire Underworld planned so it's not just Necromancers the Mane 6 will be dealing with.
- We're almost to the Mane 6, so hold your horses!