• Published 14th Sep 2012
  • 4,080 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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Ch4: Fleeting Shadows

MLP: Roses for the Grave
By Mordy

Ch4: Fleeting Shadows

Julius stood up and stretched out as a wide grin appeared on his face. Ecto Burst rose from the ground, her body passing through like she had pulled herself out of water. Her wispy tail flowed fast with excitement and her giant grin that nearly reached both ends of her face made Julius start to chuckle. He was still very much in danger, being captive to Princess Celestia and all, but that didn’t prevent his ghostly companion’s confidence from raising his own spirits.

“Was that Princess Celestia?!” She practically shouted out in a cheery voice, causing Julius to hush her and be thankful that there was a barrier to prevent noise from being heard from inside.

“Yes, so we have to be quiet or else we’re in huge trouble!” He hissed out at her and she nodded, not losing her bright smile.

“Okay Ecto,” he whispered out to her as she approached his cage, “We need to find the key to get me out.” She instead passed right through the cage to get to him. Iron bars weren’t going to stop a ghost from phasing right through. “Okay, well then we need to get the key to my chains along with this blasted collar and ring on my head,” he continued as he rubbed the magic inhibitors around his neck and horn.

Ecto stuck her tongue out and touched the chained cuffs that bound Julius and gave them a tug. They passed right through his legs as if they had been made of mist. A shiver went through his hooves as they went right through. She then touched the collar and pulled it right through his neck, causing him to go real cold for a moment and cause his breath to be icy and visible. She then did the same with the ring making him for a moment feel like he just had brain freeze.

As he regained his warmth, Julius let off a soft sigh, “You know, it almost feels like cheating when you do it that way,” he then chuckled as he saw Ecto Burst undeterred smile.

She then started to tug on him; her touch was cool and felt like morning dew licking at his hair. He always found it fascinating that spirits could pass through objects like they weren’t even there, yet at the same time could physically touch and move them.

He soon shivered again as she pulled him through the iron bars. He passed through just like her, the cold chill whipping through him once more as his body went straight through the metal. Ecto had pulled him through solid walls and objects before, but he never quite got used to the sudden icy chill. It always had a lingering bit of fear attached to it, but quickly vanished as fast as it came. Thankfully it became bearable after happening many times.

“Alright, so how many guards are we looking at out there?” Julius queried as he rubbed himself to get back to a more normal body temperature.

“A lot!” She answered vaguely with a continued cheeriness.

Julius sat there with a bit of an annoyance at the answer, but he should have known better to expect anything else from a child.

“Okay, how are we going to get out of here?” He asked, hoping she at least had a plan.

“I’m gonna carry you out! We’ll go right through everything that gets in our way!” She said victoriously as if it was the greatest plan in the world.

Julius knew it would work to some degree. They would phase through everything that would try to stop them. However, the one problem with that ability was that certain magic’s could still affect them. And he would bet his tail Celestia would know just about every last one of them.

“It could work, but how are we to escape with out being seen? Celestia will easily be able to stop us and even if we avoid her magic we could still be followed,” he questioned as he fidgeted in place nervously, his leg shaking almost uncontrollably.

“Don’t worry! Fe…” Ecto stopped herself and looked around before correcting herself in case somepony was listening, “I mean Mrs. Keep has our escape covered! We just need to wait for the signal,” her smile got a bit sly as she leaned in to whisper all of this.

The chestnut colored stallion’s nerves calmed a little bit and he was glad Ecto was using his Femme’s code name instead of her real one. Caution would be their best friend right now. Julius then asked, “Does she know Celestia is out there?”

“Nope!” she answered brightly, not realizing the gravity of the situation.

He facehoofed with a sigh, “Dear Nightmare Moon please let this work….”

Princess Celestia exited the tent with a great confidence on her tired face. She felt like she had found the rarest gem within a mountain. Not only had she and her guards caught a Necromancer, but she believed she had just managed to convince him to turn over a new leaf and aid her in her fight against dark magic and the Darkmoon Covenant.

She immediately started making plans as to how to help him reintegrate himself into society. The sudden appearance and high ranking he would have might look suspicious to some, but the perks of having a knowledgeable spell caster of the dark arts around would make those worries well worth dealing with.

The best part of all this, to her at least, was that she could sense a very good pony inside of him. One who had simply fallen to the wayside and who she would gladly lead back into the light. She would still need to be careful though. Those who have tasted the power of darkness are more easily tempted to return to it. However, she had the utmost confidence that she could keep him from submitting to those desires.

The encampment was filled with varies tents neatly scattered around. The fabrics colors consisted of white and gold, her signature colors. Some guards had already retired to their tents for the night while others took watch. A few were enjoying a late night meal to help them get through their shift. The guards were of all pony types, leaning more towards unicorns due to the current situation they had to deal with.

Originally, twelve guards had been sent out to help with the investigation. Not including Details and Giant Wall who were put in charge of the mission. As soon as Celestia had received word that it had been confirmed as Necromancy she flew out here with an extra thirty guards as a precaution. It proved unnecessary and she hadn’t wanted to bring this many at first, but the Royal Guards refused to let her leave without some of their best members for her personal protection. They had arrived late that evening and had taken the time to set up camp. They didn’t make their presence known so they would have the element of surprise if it was needed, which had proven to be a smart move.

Celestia soon approached Detective Details and Giant Wall who were just chatting away. They were just a short trot from the prisoner’s tent that she had just left. Details was first to notice her and immediately turned his attention to her, “How did it go princess?” He asked with a bit of worried eagerness.

She smiled warmly. “I think we will soon have a very powerful ally. He’s still mulling it over, but I believe he is willing to repent for his misdeeds and help us uproot many of the dark magics that hide within Equestria.”

Details laughed triumphantly at this news while Giant Wall was a bit skeptical. “If you don’t mind princess, how did you get that riff raff to agree to that?”

“Riff raff?” she said as if Giant Wall had just called her that. “My dear, you should not be so quick to judge some pony you hardly know. You need to look deeper and find the good within them.”

Giant Wall quickly defended himself, “No mean to offend, I’m just suspicious is all. Those dark casters have been known to be quite deceitful.”

Detective Details pitched in, “I think my friend here would just appreciate it if you could relieve him of his worries and suspicions.” He gave Giant Wall a friendly pat on the back.

Celestia nodded, “Well, I saw a good pony in there that simply made some mistakes in his life. I treated him like I would treat any normal pony.” Her smile brightened and explained, “He was so taken aback by this treatment. I could tell he wasn’t used to it, but he seemed so touched by such kindness that he began to warm up to me. He even told me few had ever treated him like that before.”

Both Details and Giant Wall nodded at her words. The princess had always been talented at seeing the good in others. She was able to find the best in almost any pony.

Celestia then finished up, “I also promised to excuse him from punishment and offer him a position at my school should he help us.” With that statement she once against lost the faith of not just Giant Wall, but also Detective Details.

The detective just stared at her dumbfounded while Giant Wall just shook his head in disbelief, “Princess!” He took a moment to get better control of his voice, “Surely you can’t promise him that! I could understand lightening his punishment, maybe even excuse him from it if the information he provides is incredibly helpful, but to also provide him a cozy job and life?! It would cause a huge uproar!” Giant Wall received a few looks from some of the guards, unable to believe he had just shouted at Celestia like that. He looked to the ground in shame and cleared his throat, “Forgive princess, it was not my place to say that.”

Celestia shook her head and waved a hoof dismissively, “No, it was very much your place to show concern. However, I need his full cooperation and by having him kept close, I will be able keep an eye on him. Think of it like living in a high life prison while serving the community. His contributions will prove to be invaluable and as long as no pony here mentions this night then there would be no cause for an uproar from the nobles.” She gave him a wink.

Giant Wall didn’t like the thought of the necromancer escaping justice, but he understood why the princess was doing this. He also knew why she would want to keep this knowledge from public eye as he had to deal with nobles before and many times he had strong urges to throw their stuffy noses off the nearest cliff or tower. He could only imagine what urges Celestia had when dealing with those aristocrats like Blueblood. He actually shivered at the thought of dealing with that pain in the plot.

With a final sigh he consented, “I will trust your judgment princess, but I urge you on the side of caution.” Celestia nodded to this, fully prepared to deal with anything that was thrown at her.

From the woods a few low curses were whispered from some glowing red eyes. They were far enough away from camp that they couldn’t be seen nor heard. “Well, with the royal pain being here this should make things more interesting...” The mare then proceeded to let out a high pitch noise that could only be heard by certain animals.

Two guards, one Pegasus and the other an Earth pony, stared out into the night with boredom. It was going to be a long night in such a dull country side. Though, it was a beautiful sight when they were looking at the rolling hills instead of the graveyard. Unfortunately it lost some of its majesty after about an hour of staring out at it.

The Pegasus, a stallion, swerved his ear and perked up to listen, “Hey, do you hear something?” He tried to listen more closely by closing his eyes.

The earth pony, also another stallion, looked at him then listened as well. “Hmm, I don’t hear… wait,” he said as he thought he heard something faint. “Actually I do think I hear something. Not sure what it is. Any clue?”

The Pegasus looked up over the woods where he believed the sound was coming from and replied, “I’m not sure.” He peered off into the distance and noticed a bunch black dots barely in the night sky. “Hey what’s that?” he asked as he pointed them out.

The other guard squinted at the dots and answered, “Looks like a bunch of birds to me.”

Suddenly the black dots that were believed to be birds were joined by even more birds rising from the forest.

“A whole lot of birds,” the same guard said again.

Screeching could be heard more clearly now and then even more birds rose to join the group, quickly becoming a giant mass of blackness that now seemed to be heading their way.

“That’s… a whole lot of birds,” he whispered with a gulp and a bit of worry.

The Pegasus had sharper eyes and they grew fierce with worry. “Those aren’t birds,” his answer caused his compatriot to shoot a look at him. “Those are bats,” he explained as he looked back at his friend and they both nodded and ran into the camp.

Princess Celestia was confirming plans with Giant Wall on the transportation of their prisoner when a pegasi guard quickly flew up to them and gave a bow. An earth pony guard came up quickly behind him as the pegasi pointed to the sky and exclaimed, “Princess, we might have trouble!”

She turned her head to the sky to see a black cloud of dots start to blot out the moon. She began to hear the constant screeching and she started to concentrate on the individual dots. “Are those…?”

The guard answered her before she could finish, “Bats, princess! I’ve never seen that many gather before.”

She didn’t seem too worried. “The night sky is their domain. As long we don’t disturb them we should be fine,” she reassured the guard, but then noticed that the screeching was getting louder. The group of bats were starting to get uncomfortably close. She could start to make out the details of each winged rat in detail as the moon shined down upon them. They were easily as large as a ponies head and each of them as black as the darkest abyss.

All the guards were looking up at this and they were starting to get on edge. Giant Wall started to breathe heavily as if he was going into battle while Details' horn began to glow with magic. Meanwhile, Celestia remained cool and collected till the very last moment. It was until the creatures of the night were just a little ways from their encampment that they started to dive down into them. She was the first to react and shouted in the infamous Royal Canterlot Voice, "KEEP DOWN AND HOLD STILL!"

Guards got low to the ground and froze up like statues. Details on the other hoof put up an orange shield with his magic, a few other unicorns did the same. Celestia continued to stand and she merely closed her eyes as they were enveloped by the winged beasts, their screeches piercing the night sky.

Ecto peaked out of the tent; the bats had completely enveloped themselves around all the guards and the princess. Vision of anything was completely impaired, especially those with shields, where the bats clung to them in great numbers, giving their wielders a view of nothing, but the black bats and their fangs as they gnawed on the bubbles. They would be unsuccessful in breaking them, but it would provide the necessary distraction. She turned back to Julius within the tent and asked, “Ready to go?”

Julius grabbed his children of the night emblem off a nearby table. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied with a deep breath and sigh. He felt himself grow cold as Ecto easily lifted him off the ground despite their size difference and they phased through the side of the tent, making a break for the woods.

As they passed through he shivered and his eyes grew wide at the sheer number of bats that surrounded the encampment. Julius soon shut them as one flew right in his face and he began to grow cold over and over again as countless bats went right through his body, but it felt more like they passed through his soul.

Only after the chilliness and feeling of the creatures phasing through subsided did he dare take a peak. They were quickly drifting into the woods and broad smile stretched across his face as they reached tree cover. It quickly left as he noticed they smacked head first into a tree, only to pass through and bringing back the icy chill. Ecto was making a beeline through the forest, but he swore she was purposely going through the thickest trees just to tick him off.

Julius looked behind him and noticed they were well out of the camps line of sight. They were practically home free and he congratulated Ecto, “Great, we are out of here!” He regretted making the look back as he turned his head forward and they passed through another tree with his eyes still open. He saw a very disturbed squirrel and passed right through him as well. His eye twitched and Ecto let out a hearty laugh as they proceeded through the dense woods.

Celestia found it odd, they were still surrounded by the screeching bats after all this time, but they hadn’t attacked nor left their campsite. She dared to open one eyelid only to instinctively close it as one flew right in front of her face. She waited a moment before gathering her nerves again and this time more slowly opened her eyelid. She could barely see anything except the black fur and membrane wings of the flying mammal.

With a sigh of annoyance she let a bit of magic flow into the tip of her horn and a brilliant light flashed around her! The beasts that had surrounded her screeched in pain and backed off for a moment. She immediately took in the sights around her and was utterly shock at what she was able to see.

There were still many bats flying around, but every single one of her little ponies was being surrounded by these creatures. Either flying right around their bodies or obstructing the view such as the ponies with shields. She also noticed not one single bat was leaving the campsite. They were refusing to go no matter what. Suspicion entered her mind, but before she could contemplate on another action the bats she had warded off were in her face once again and obstructing her view.

She closed her eyes and concentrated, knowing that these creatures weren't going to willing leave them. The tip of her horn glowed once again, but this time far brighter. She opened her eye, now glowing completely white with the ethereal of magic as she prepared a large spell. One moment the encampment was covered in the darkness of these vile beasts, the next a brilliant light as bright as the sun itself erupted from the center of the encampment. The bats screeched and immediately fled into the sky leaving Celestia and her guards alone as they flapped away while screeching angrily. For a moment they all hovered around in the air above them before attempting to dive at them again.

Celestia looked coldly up at them as she released the same spell again, blinding a few of the guards while others shielded their eyes with a hoof or wing. The spell made bats fly further away while causing some of them to begin fleeing from the painful light. Celestia released the spell once more the very moment she noticed some of them starting to dive again. This final blast made them screech angrily and they all began to fly off into the night, dispersing from the large group they once made.

The magic glow in Celestia’s eyes faded and she checked around her. For the most part the guards seemed unharmed except maybe a few who had gone temporarily blind and were stumbling helplessly around. Some of the guards who were spared this impairment started to help the blind ones to some of the tents. Giant Wall was shaking his head as he tried to see straight. He hadn’t been expecting a bunch of bats, let alone a light show. Details on the other hoof was able to catch on quickly after the first blast and had wisely shielded his eyes with his hat.

“Well, that was interesting to say the least,” Detective Details muttered as he repositioned his brown hat comfortably on his head.

“I think annoying was the word you were looking for!” Giant Wall corrected in an unintended shout as he stuck a hoof in his ear to clean it, having gone a little bit deaf from the loud screeching as well.

“That’s the strangest behavior I’ve ever seen from those creatures. Not that I’ve seen them that much, but it’s still an oddity in my opinion.” Details tapped his chin with a hoof and he noticed Celestia was glaring back at the tent where they had been keeping their prisoner that they knew as Shop Keep. He immediately knew what she was thinking and exclaimed, “You don’t think he could have done that?! He was still restrained with his magic sealed wasn’t he?”

Great Wall quickly understood what they were presuming and as his eyesight came back he was able to catch Princess Celestia somehow gracefully stomp her way over to the tent. He and Details quickly followed her.

As Celestia entered the tent she let out an exasperated sigh and her eyes saddened to find the cage empty with all his bindings inside, yet for some strange reason still locked as if he had just slipped them off. Details and Great Wall came in and stared in disbelief. Before they could say a word Celestia gave out a stern command as her face hardened, “Find him!” She hadn't shouted, but she might as well have as it felt like one to the two other ponies. They ran out yelling to the other guards to prepare for a stallion hunt to find their escaped prisoner. After they left, she let her face soften again as she frowned in disappointment, a look she used to give her personal student when ever she had done something unbecoming of her. She then whispered to herself, “A good pony who just makes bad decisions….”

After some time, Ecto and Julius floated from the woods and onto a pathway that cut through it. Off to the side of the road was a decent sized caravan more often seen being used by traveling performers or merchants. The trailer was fairly simple with dull wood colors with a bit of red painted along the edges where the carpenters got fancy with swirls or some other shape of mild interest. There were no windows except for a few sliders on the inside so one could peak on out. It was more designed for transportation of materials than for ponies.

Ecto set Julius down gently and he rubbed out the last of the cold he felt due to all the passing through trees and branches and who knows what else. He was surprised to find he had actually gotten a little more used to it after doing it for what he suspected to be the last twenty or so minutes. With a stretch and one last shake he trotted over to the caravan, “Time for me to lose this disguise, keep a look out for guards in the meantime, Ecto.”

He heard a cheerful, “You got Julius!” as he opened the caravan and stepped in while shutting the door behind him. It was very cramped inside, filled with all the ingredients they were able to sneak out of the shop along with books and other valuables that were shrunk down or stored with varies packing spells. He let a dim violet light emit from his horn as he made his way to the back, ignoring most of the items around him.

In the back there was a dream catcher with a soft white gemstone weaved into it. This was actually Ecto’s bed; her spirit could inhabit the stone and rest there. It was a great way to sneak around a ghost and with none the wiser that he was carrying an extra soul on his person. Only certain magics could detect if she was there and most of those spells were in the necromancy repertoire. Thus, making it a non issue unless they had to deal with another enemy necromancer, but as far as he was aware he had no enemies within the Darkmoon Covenant, at least of the magic type and he most certainly wouldn't ever want one.

From the dream catcher his eyes drifted down to the silver pendent with a blue gem encrusted into its center. The necklace he had given Ecto before he got captured. He allowed a slight smile to creep onto his face as he took the pendent and hung it around his neck. He then looked back towards the door with a bit of paranoia. He stared down the door like it was about to burst into a million wooden chips while Celestia’s guards charged inside. He continued this for almost a good minute.

Satisfied that this wasn’t going to happen he then felt along the wooden wall and knocked on a few places before pressing in one certain area which caused a hidden and enchanted compartment to slide out. Inside was a large wooden box with even more enchantments on it. One last look at the entrance and he peaked inside of the mysterious chest.

A wave of relief washed over him as he looked upon his greatest treasure. Something so valuable he simply couldn’t bear the thought of losing it. He smiled sadly and breathed deeply for a few relaxing breaths before he sighed and his smile became a frown. He closed up the box and the hidden compartment as he went back to what he was originally here to do.

He knew it would be around here somewhere, but wasn’t sure where it was placed. The unicorns' light drifted over various bottles secured on the shelves. He was looking for a particular unlabeled bottle, but he knew very well what was in it. After a few moments of searching he found it next to a bottle that looked exactly the same, but was empty of any liquid. He pulled the filled bottle up, smaller than a salt shaker he uncorked the lid with his magic and the scentless liquid was exposed.

He took a deep breath and muttered to himself, “Well, bottoms up!” He then started to swig down the liquid, it was cool in his throat and it felt nice to have something to drink after all the chasing and running he had done. However, Julius knew better than to think of this as a refreshing drink. As soon as he finished he felt the potion's magic start to take effect. It was beginning to dispel a magical spell that he had been under for around two years.

It was a powerful transformation spell that he had went under in order to remain hidden and so he would have a way to escape any pursuers who would be chasing a pony with a completely different face. Sure, he could have used illusion spells, but those could be detected and could break if they weren’t properly maintained. Transformation on the other hoof was permanent until dispelled or till one went through another transformation. Unfortunately, such spells tend to be very uncomfortable process to go through. Sometimes they could be downright painful if the new shape was drastically different than the old. It also took a lot more work to make a transformation potion or spell. Thus most went with illusions for the sake of simplicity.

Julius hunched over and clenched his stomach in pain as the elixir began to work its magic. His body trembled and he was far more aware of his nerves than he wanted to be. His physical shape altered as a green glow began to overtake his being and spread. This effect was similar to that of Changelings as one of the ingredients was the mucus that made up changeling cocoons. His true physical make up began to show as he became a little bit less bulky and much leaner. The chestnut color of his coat began to gray, first a light gray and slowly into a color close to ash. His eyes glowed and went from a grass green to a deep violet reminiscent of his magic. As his eyes altered so too did his mane. Starting at the base of his skull, dark blue violet streaks began to move up to the tips of his hair. However, as it reached the tips the color change stopped short leaving some of the ends a faded black. The opposite happened to his tail; the color came from the end and stopped short of the base leaving the base black while the end hairs on his short tail remained the same violet color of his mane. Completing the transformation was a little goatee under his chin and as his mane was became longer and spiky, looking like it had not been groomed in a long time.

He stood up and rubbed his head as the uncomfortable awareness of his entire self finally subsided. Julius proceeded to rummage through some of their supplies finding some warm clothes to replace the all too recognizable robe he had been wearing. He bundled up in a long black coat that also covered up his cutie mark not taking any chances as his cutie mark would possibly cause a little too much suspicion in the current situation.

Julius' cutie mark was of a pearl colored in the deepest blues found in the hottest of flames being circled around by two shadow flames, the innermost of the fires were black and the edges were that of violet purple. One of the firy orbs was below the pearl while the other was above it. The tails of the fireballs encircled the pearl as they chased each other around and around. To sum up what his cutie mark meant, dark magic would say it all. Even though that was his special talent he had taken up deeply studying necromancy in recent years. He had always been very skilled in the other dark magics, but found necromancy a little bit more intriguing. The interest grew even more over the course of the last several years until it became the only thing he focused on.

With a good stretch and cracking a few bones he finally stepped out of the caravan. Ecto was hiding under their ride while scouting the roads and woods. She was able to adjust how much of her could be seen and was near invisible at the moment, only letting enough of herself to be seen so Julius would know she was still there. She gave him a smile and then covered her mouth as she started to stifle a laugh. Before he could ask her what so funny he heard rustling in the woods from where they had been escaping from before.

He turned around expecting the worse, but was relieved as he saw the flash of red eyes bounding through the trees. The eyes approached the road and the moonlight revealed the figure of the crimson irises. It was a pale white mare with black leathery bat wings. She had short locks of hair with her mane; the same color as her eyes which were accompanied by long eyelashes. Her tail was longer than Julius and her cutie mark was on display, a blooming red rose with thorns. Her fanged smile was sensual and her eyes were half closed with a “come hither” look.

Julius returned her smile. “Mrs. Keep,” He said with a bit of teasing. She had been under the transformation spell too, but had dropped it shortly after leaving the town and packed up their stuff in the caravan.

She pouted, yet answered him while still managing to look sexy, “Please Julius, no more fake names.”

He nodded in agreement, “Very well… Femme Fatale.”

Femme gave a warm smile at finally being able to use her real name again and she approached Julius. She then stopped short and looked him over before starting to giggle uncontrollably.

He looked at her with a blank stare and a cock of his head, “What?”

She did her best to answer without causing a laughing fit, “Oh nothing, didn’t realize you were going for the cliché villain look. You gonna give us a maniacal laugh now?” Ecto was giggling with her. Apparently this was what she had been laughing about earlier.

He rubbed the back of his head with confusion, “What are you talking about?”

She trotted up and brushed his goatee with one hoof. He suddenly became aware of it and then brushed it with his own hoof while exclaiming, “When did I get that?!”

“Well, it’s been a while Julius. Not shaving on your original body can have that kind of effect,” She answered this while giving him a few kisses, trailing down to his neck and kissing him there while whispering, “You know what I want to do right now?” She asked this while breathing against his neck and occasionally kissing it.

He felt he knew this answer as he felt her fangs brush against his fur, but he asked anyway, “What?”

She looked up at him and then her eyes drooped and her smile left her as she whined out, “I want to sleep!” She practically sobbed it out, “I’ve been stressed and working all day and all night. I really need a nap!” She rested her head on Julius’ shoulder and he patted one of her shoulders with his hoof.

He shushed her quietly, “It’s okay, you can go ahead and sleep, you’ve earned it.” He then turned his head to look at Ecto and almost ordered, “You too! I can take care of it from here." This earned him a smile from her and she went up into the caravan to rest in her dream catcher. Meanwhile he patted Femme a few more times before she gave him kiss and walked over to the trailer, swaying her hips enticingly as she finally entered it for a well deserved rest.

Julius took a deep breath and cast a spell called Insomnia on himself. He thought about using a similar spell which had the effect of around eight shots of espresso, but the crash and burn afterwards was a bit too risky right now. Insomnia, as the name suggested, meant he wouldn’t be able to sleep regardless of how tired he got. He’d simply deal with exhaustion instead of a complete crash and shutdown.

He trotted over to the reins and hitched himself up. One more spell to get some forward momentum and another for some extra strength and soon he was able to start pulling the little caravan along with little effort. The only thing lighting his path was the little bit of moonlight that struck through the trees.

It was about half an hour when Julius ran into the first set guards. They had started to patrol the road and unfortunately Giant Wall was with them. He stopped Julius the moment he got close to the group.

“Halt right there!” Wall commanded as Julius skidded to a stop and the stallion examined him over while a mare unicorn magically lifted a lantern up for Giant Wall to get a better look at him.

A knowing smirk came onto his face. “Check him for illusions,” he commanded to another unicorn in the group and she galloped over and started a spell before Julius could even protest. After a few moments she shook her head, “No illusions detected.”

Another unicorn had trotted over to his carriage and was performing a few more spells while a pegasi were flying around and checking for anypony hiding. They too shook their heads as well.

Just as Giant Wall was ready to admit defeat Details showed up and got right into Julius’ face. He swore those two were always together and it was starting to irk him. Details noticed the tips of his hair were black and he exclaimed, “Ah ha!” He tugged on his hair causing Julius to yelp in pain. He had a triumphant smile on his face, but it soon left and he grimaced. “Bah, it’s his real hair color,” he said then stomped off angrily while Julius glared daggers at him for messing with his hair.

He then coughed at the two lackeys of Celestia. “Mind explaining what that was all about?” he asked, playing the role of a normal traveling civilian.

Giant Wall and Detective Details stopped and looked at each other, realizing they had just mistaken a supposedly innocent pony for their perpetrator and had shown disrespect to him. Details being more elegant with words smoothed out the situation, “Oh, forgive us fair traveler! That was rude and inexcusable, but you must understand it was for your safety.” Julius continued to play his role by quirking an eye brow as the detective relayed this information, “You see a dangerous unicorn is in these woods and we must take every precaution to subdue him. We thank you for your cooperation and hope you understand this regretful distrust of you.”

Julius let his face lighten up which caused Details and Giant Wall to be more relieved. “I understand the caution then,” he paused for a moment and a thought came to him, “I’d very much hate to travel this forest alone if this pony is as dangerous as you say. Would it be asking too much to have an escort, at least until I’m no longer in the woods?” He asked politely and restrained himself from laughing at the two stallions’ faces. The two of them shifted their eyes at each other nervously, not wanting to give up more guards in their search.

Giant Wall sighed knowing what Celestia would have wanted them to do. He pointed at an earth stallion and a Pegasus mare, “You and you! Make sure this pony gets out of here safely then meet back up with the nearest patrol,” The two saluted and started to follow Julius as he went on his way. The group of guards then proceeded on their search in the opposite direction.

Having the two guards was quite the boon. The other patrols only stopped them for a moment to make sure they weren’t illusions and then quickly let them along their way without even batting an eye at them. Easily believing they were escorting the unicorn. Julius didn’t make any small talk. He could tell that they were tired and they could tell the same of him. He was glad he put that Insomnia enchant on him, otherwise this would have been a lot rougher if he started to fall asleep while lugging the caravan.

It took almost another hour to reach the edge of the woods, partly from being stopped by other patrols to clear them. He thanked the two guards who managed a small smile at the gratitude and they let him be on his way into the open plains. He was home free at this point.

The plan was to make it to the next town over and figure out what to do from there. He knew a contact was there who had links to Darkmoon and the other underground communities. However, with the night dragging on into the early hours of the morning he knew trying to make it to the town by sunrise was just not within his will power. His enchantments were wearing off and it would just be a good idea to rest now.

After traveling a few good miles away from the forests edge he finally pulled his caravan under a large lone tree. He unhitched himself and started to walk around to the back and slipped into caravan while locking the door behind him, taking one last glance at Luna’s beautiful night before shutting it away.

He stripped off his coat and cast a deep violet light from his horn so he could see. Femme was sleeping on a makeshift bed that was just barely large enough for two to squeeze in. She was bundled up under the blanket snoring lightly. In the back the dream catcher now had a sea green gem instead of a white one now, meaning Ecto was now sleeping in it.

He let off a soft relieved sigh and got under the blanked with Femme. It wasn’t like the bed they had back at their now former home, but after the long night it felt just as good. Femme felt his presence and immediately snuggled into him while resting her head on his neck. He gave her a hug and they both drifted into a deep sleep.

What felt like five seconds of sleep to Julius, was quickly interrupted by banging at his door. He opened his bloodshot eyes and groaned. Femme also moaned, displeased to wake from her sleep. She covered herself and turned away from him while muttering, “Julius, please go get that.” He wanted to argue, but knew better than that. The banging came again and he shook his head and got up with a yawn.

The banging happened one more time and he shouted, “I’m coming, I’m coming! Hold your horses!” He thought about the irony of that statement as he opened the little wooden slide to peak outside. He quickly shielded his eyes as the morning sun shot right at him. He backed away from it and rubbed them. The light landed near Femme and she let off an angry grunt and tried to cover more of herself from the bright intrusion.

A voice called from the slit, “Sir, please step outside.” It was more of an order than a request.

Julius closed the wooden slide and then unlocked the door and shielded his eyes from the suns rays as he stepped out. He didn’t close the door all the way and the light was pouring partially into the caravan. His eyes were blurry from lack of sleep and it took a moment of squinting and getting his face uncomfortably close to the pony in front of him to finally make out what he was seeing. It took a minute to register it was a guard and he yawned, not caring at all at this point. A boulder could land on him right now and he wouldn't give a damn with such little sleep.

The guard grunted, “We’re looking for a criminal and are asking if any travelers have seen this stallion,” He held up a paper to his face. He had to stare at it for a long time with his blood shot eyes to make out that it was a paper of him when he looked like Shop Keep. It even had his old name on it. Only thing missing was a reward… oh wait there it was. He mused to himself, reading that they were offering five hundred bits for his capture, but then he looked closely and noticed there wasn’t a decimal and it actually said fifty thousand!

“Wow, what did this guy do?” he said, continuing his role of ignorant traveler, but with much less enthusiasm than he would normally have. He admired the reward on his head with a small bit of pride before he had another heart attack for… well he was no longer keeping track at this point nor could he remember them all after such sleep deprivation.

The source of his stress came from a tired and sweet voice behind the guard, “Let’s just say he has very powerful magic and leave it at that.” Looking pass the guard in front of him, trying to make out what it was he was seeing only to finally have his eyes dilate as he saw around twenty guards and Princess Celestia, all staring at him. She approached him and once his heart started to beat again he stepped down and did his best to bow, nearly falling completely. He didn't want to bow to her, but was too tired to even try to resist.

“Please rise!” She said sweetly and he obeyed. He noticed her eyes were tired and bit bloodshot as well. He hadn’t been the only one that had been up all night.

From behind him an annoyed groan called out thanks to the light pouring into the caravan, “Julius! Shut the door…” Femme did not like the morning sun pouring in on her and for good reason.

“I’m a little busy at the moment,” he said forcing a smile at Celestia with a bit of sweat pouring down his neck.

“I don’t care… shut the door,” she wined out.

“I’m dealing with an important guest at the moment!” He turned his head slightly back towards the caravan, still keeping his eyes on the princess.

“Don’t care! Shut it!” She shouted this time.

“Not now! I have to–”

“I don’t care if Princess Celestia herself is out there!” He sighed at Femmes statement as she kept yelling, “So, unless your guest is going to set the sun in the next two seconds, you can tell them to take that oversized candle and shove it where it doesn’t shine!” Femme yelled out with her voice getting steadily louder. Julius facehoofed at the statement in embarrassment. Then in the scariest and most ominous voice she could muster, that unnerved even Celestia’s stalwart guards, Femme roared out the last of her rant, “NOW SHUT THE DAMN DOOR!” She sounded more like a dragon at that point, in fact, Julius was fairly sure a dragon would be less scary right now.

He quickly rushed over to the door, not even thinking of using his magic and he shut it as hastily as possible. With a deep breath he turned back with a fake and sheepish smile. The guards were glaring angrily at him, looking like they were ready to kill him over such disrespect towards the princess. He looked at Celestia, a hoof over her mouth in shock. He gulped thinking this was the end for him. What happened next surprised and relieved him.

Celestia was shocked by the statement, but that wasn’t why she was covering her mouth. It came out as uncontrolled giggles then she couldn’t take it anymore and started to laugh hard, her laughter like the sound of the purest of bells. Julius started to laugh with her nervously, trying to lighten the mood. The guards started to relax, but still glared daggers, only with slightly less anger than they had before.

Their princess walked up to him. “My, she’s not a morning person is she?” She was still having a giggle fit. It had been a long time since someone made her laugh so hard, but the irony of his friend's statement was just so perfect she couldn’t hold it all in, especially after the rough night she had.

“Yes, princess you could say she doesn’t enjoy the early mornings,” he said with a long yawn. Celestia beamed at him with a gentle smile and he felt a bit more relaxed though there was an odd glint in his eyes, but everypony was too tired to notice.

“Well, this will make for an amusing story later. So, I guess you haven’t seen that pony we’re looking for?” she asked then tacked on a second question, “Your name was Julius, yes?” she asked, trying to be polite as she got back to the subject at hoof.

He shook his head as he replied, “Sorry, can’t say that I have.” He yawned again and answered her second question, “And yes, the name is Julius.” He didn’t give her his last to be on the safe side.

“Well, thank you for your time. Sorry to have disturbed you.” She waved her hoof dismissively.

Julius nodded back to her. “Perfectly fine princess,” He said with a weak and tired smile as he turned around and slowly tread over to the caravan.

He was quickly stopped by the princess. “Oh, that’s an interesting cutie mark! What’s your talent?” He froze realizing he had walked out without covering his cutie mark representing that his special talent was dark magic. He retreated into his thoughts to think up a plan and soon found himself staring at the ground as he mulled it over.

Celestia noticed this and walked over. “Julius?” She inquired as she turned her head to the side, looking at the mark again with some suspicion rising in her. She poked him lightly and then heard a sound erupt from him. Curious she leaned closer only to hear it again a few seconds later. He was snoring.

He had fallen asleep with his eyelids half open while standing up. She let off a light laugh and shook him awake. His head bolted right up as he looked around in confusion. When he saw Celestia he jumped and yelped out in fear, “GAAHH!” he landed near the guard that had been standing near him as felt another mini heart attack. This was the worst one and he actually had to start beating his hoof against his chest to actually get it pumping again.

Celestia leaned over him in concern. “Are you alright?” she asked in a worried tone.

Julius started to remember what had happened before he had drifted off in mid thought. He stood up with a blush on his face and bowed to her while gritting his teeth. “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting to wake up to the site of you Princess. I probably shouldn’t have overreacted like that,” he said then gave her his best sleep deprived smile, “Though waking up to you in the morning would make many… excited?” He winked at her with the flattered hint, causing the rage of her guards to return. Heck, he was a bit angry at himself for even flirting with that tyrant. If only Deimos could see him now...

Celestia waved her hoof at him with a chuckle, “Oh, such the charmer!” She smiled warmly again and then sighed out, “But I’ve taken enough of your time and I must be on my way. I look forward to meeting you again sometime!” She turned and started to trot over to a golden chariot that was hitched up to two pegasi.

Julius sighed with relief at the stroke of luck he just had and quickly made his way back into the caravan with some of the guards still glaring at him.

Meanwhile as Celestia boarded her chariot she gave an order to the guards staying behind, “I expect the search to continue. Do whatever you can to find him. I will send more squads to help your hunt. If he is he captured he is to immediately be brought to Canterlot and is to only be questioned by me, understood?” The guards she talked to saluted and she nodded to one mare as she gave the command for her chariot to take off.

As they ascended into the sky, her rainbow mane blowing at the same rate as it did on the ground, she let off an exasperated sigh followed by a yawn as she knew that her duties today would be that much longer with such little sleep. “This is going to be a bad day,” she muttered to herself in defeat.

Julius was quick to get back under the covers with Femme after he had locked the door. As soon as he was under she was curling up against him and kissing his neck. “So, who was it?” she asked in mild interested.

“A bunch of guards and Princess Celestia herself,” he chuckled out as he hugged her. Another yawned escaped his lip and he closed his eyes.

A realization hit Femme and she asked, “Wait, your telling me I got to tell Celestia to shove that sun of hers right up her–”

“Yup!” He laughed at how that had happened. At first he was mad, but looking back at the moment, it was pretty funny.

Ecto laughed from her dream catcher and Femme Fatale smiled. “It’s going to be a good day,” she stated as the three of them quickly drifted off into a well deserved sleep.

Author's Note:

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

UPDATE 3/6/2014:
- Moved comments to Authors Notes section that wasn't available when originally writing this.
- Cleaned up everything like previous chapters. Was long enough without me needing to add a new scene.
- Revealed Femme's true form in this chapter instead of later chapters, but don't outright state that she's a vampire.

- This chapter was another long one. Why I ended the previous chapter sooner instead of making it part of this chapter.
- I had a few opportunities to end this chapter and break it up into more, but I felt that would have been to many chapters so you all get one big one!
- Next chapter, after a little more time with Julius we finally get to the Mane 6! Fluttershy yay!