• Published 3rd Apr 2022
  • 1,367 Views, 485 Comments

Alpha and Omega - Revel Montaro



For every beginning there is an end. Princesses Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer stand side by side as the rulers of Equestria, as beacons of hope against those that seek said end, as the darkness closes around them and the walls press in.

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Chapter 5: Bleeding Me

Kingdom of Unicornia: The pre-classical age before the first Hearth’s Warming.

The young unicorn filly helped set the table for dinner. Her mother used to help her, but her health had been failing the mare for some time and she became winded and tired more and more easily. The malnutrition from the food rationing and another cold night were not helping her. The physician had told her father to be prepared for the worst before the winter finished. Much to the filly's horror, her father's preparation was to dig a pony sized hole directly behind their home before the ground froze making digging impossible.

It was another cold winter, the last few winters had been so, bitterly biting cold. At least as far as the filly could remember, but she was only 9 years of age and had not paid much attention to such things until her mother’s health waned and her father's demeanor became colder than the air outside. It had not always been this way. She could not remember when it had started, but she had overheard her parents talking about how it got colder earlier and earlier every year.

“Datura,” her mother said, speaking as if she had run up a mountain when in fact she had gone nowhere, “go... into the cellar and... retrieve the dried fruit and... potatoes for... dinner. Be quick, your farther will be home soon.” The filly did as her mother said without question. She was usually not allowed in the basement cellar alone, her father screamed at her and struck her upside the head last time he had caught her down there. But her mother had grown too weak to climb the stairs. Surely, he would understand. Her mother would say so to defend her, hopefully. Either way, it was best not to dawdle.

Datura raced down the old, bowing wooden steps and went straight for the enchanted storage bins that preserved their food stores in the winter. She had found two of the three bins completely empty. Only the third had what her mother asked for and not much else. Datura could see the bottom of the bin through what little there was. A sense of panic passed through the ochre yellow filly. She could count just fine and knew there were at least several more weeks of hard winter and that assumed the pegasi did their job on time to end it. How was so little going to keep three ponies alive? Did they have a plan?

The thoughts were shaken away and she retrieved what they needed for today and hurried back upstairs. Not more than a few minutes later her father returned. He shook off the snow from his cloak and hung it to dry in the entry way. He set the mostly dry wood down near the fire to use for the night. Neither of Datura’s parents were accomplished spellcasters and knew a mage light spell that also produced heat. Perhaps there were no such spells. Datura had only had the bare minimum of reading even though she devoured any book she managed to get her hooves on. Her most prize possession was an introduction to spell casting book that had been discarded by some spoiled noble brat because it had been dropped in the mud and was, "dirty." She had read it at least ten times.

Datura’s father looked at the food on the table and then at the other two ponies in the one room hut that could barely be considered a house. Still, it was about average size for such a small family living out by the river country and farmland. At least it had a small cellar as opposed to outside storage so no one had to go outside for everything. Her father, Hepto, had said digging in the dirt was an earth pony’s job, but yet that was exactly what he did too. It was all he could do to make coin.

“Father, dinner is ready.”

Hepto glanced to his wife, who was struggling to get out of her chair, then back to Datura. “Who brought the food up?”

“I… told her… to get… it. Do not… pun-punish… her.”

Hepto snorted. “No, I will not. Besides. She may not be our concern much longer.”

Datura glanced to her mother who looked equally as concerned.

“What… did you… do?”

“You are dying. I will starve if I have to feed all three of us on what miserable coin I get from the landlord's fields. So, I sold her to a noble family that wants a daughter. They will take care of her and then after you have left this world I may have a chance to survive myself.”

“You… you would give me away?” Datura croaked. “Do you love me so little?”

Hepto snorted again. “Ours is a world too harsh for love. This was a practical choice so that you might live. Do you want to live? Then you go where you can live. Otherwise, you can stay with us and starve to death. I gave you the greatest gift any parent can give a foal. A chance to get away from all this. You’re welcome.”

“But what if they just sell me to somepony else? Or worse?”

“Then don’t be useless to them. Do whatever they ask no matter what. Take what they give, learn all you can, prepare yourself, and if they try to move against you, flee, or move against them first. Survive, no matter what. This is the last advice I have for you. Survive.”

Datura cried as she slowly ate her dried fruit and nodded. “Yes, father.”

----------

Datura closed her book and set it aside with the others that would need to be returned to the library tomorrow. The night was too cold to head out now. She was not certain why her thoughts had lingered to that night. The last night she had seen her parents alive.

That was five years ago. As predicted, her mother had not made it through the winter. She was later informed her father had died less than a year later. She had been allowed by her current family, the head nobles of House Gossamer, to attend to both her birth parents and see them buried properly. Having her mother moved from the shallow grave in the yard to a proper cemetery so that the two of them could be together. It had been generous of them considering how stingy Falcon Gossamer was with money.

Datura grimaced and shuddered as her thoughts lingered on Lord Falcon. He was not a good pony. Datura suspected such when she had first been introduced to him, the way his eyes lingered a little too long on her with a hunger to his gaze not unlike a bear or manticore. He had seen to her education, surprised that she knew how to read at all let alone read so well. He would often read next to her, which was fine... at first.

But then, after she turned twelve. He became more… physical with her. He had always required she call him Lord Gossamer in public, but in private, he insisted she call him ‘Daddy’ and it left bile in her mouth to do so. However, her father’s words rang true. She did what was expected of her, so to not give the perverted lord a reason to kick her out while also learning everything she could get her hooves on.

The Gossamer’s were minor lords but had access to the royal library in the capital city and she took complete advantage of that. Once she felt confient enough Datura had applied to the Unicorn Royal Academy led by the king’s own archmage, Star Swirl. It was an opportunity to keep her away from the house as much as possible as well as further her education. She was enraptured by all things magic as well as scientific and where the two crossed one another.

She had surpassed all the students and many of the teachers at the regular school but did not gloat for risk of being targeted. Datura simply did what she was asked and then did a little more on the side. She had begun to write her own books on her experiments of tweaked spells and curious explorations. Not all the books satisfied her endless curiosity or some of the knowledge was restricted to the upper echelon nobles or senior mages. The royal academy was highly exclusive and her chance to break free. Star Swirl only accepted eight students a year. She needed to be one of them.

The next morning was just as cold the night before even though the winter season proper should have been more than a month away. Datura was not the only one to have noticed that the world had grown colder over the years. Many blamed the pegasi for not controlling the weather properly or accused them of doing it on purpose to punish the unicorns out of jealousy for their wealth and magical power. Whatever the truth was, Datura resented having to kick through the snow to make her application test on time.

She dropped her borrowed books at the library then hurried to the academy where Star Swirl and his current “First pupil” were standing. Datura noticed the young colt’s eyes widen as she threw her hood back. He could not have been more than two years older than her at a guess. Sandy colored fur and short, indigo colored mane that had almost no style to it, ragged and going multiple directions, but in an appealing way. He flashed her a sheepish smile and a wave. Hesitantly, Datura smiled back. There was just something genuine about the colt’s display. Datura had grown accustom to fake displays of affection and attention. Her attention quickly returned to the stallion with the trimmed beard.

“Good morning, young filly.”

Datura curtsied. “Good morning, archmage.”

“Time is short and you are the only applicant that was worth seeing so let’s see what you can do so that you can come join the others or that I ask you to leave.” Star Swirl shuddered and pulled his cloak tighter. “Nasty weather, this cold freezes my bones.”

Datura curtsied again. “Perhaps a warming spell to begin my demonstration.”

----------

Falcon Gossamer grumbled as he shook the cold from his cloak and waited for a servant to take it. When none appeared he growled and hung the wet article himself with a simple levitation spell. It was supposed to be summer. Why were the king’s finest unicorns having such trouble keeping the sun where it belonged and that those cursed pegasi not controlling the biting wind like they were obligated to do? Was this their opening salvo to hostile action?

“If this keeps up the growing season will be too short and the shortages will be worse than they were last year,” Falcon said to himself since there appeared to be no one around to listen, which was quite strange and bothersome. “Dandelion!” Falcon waited for his wife to reply, but none came. Perhaps she had taken the servants out for supplies? He ventured farther into his manor and heard the distinct sound of hooves on laid stone floor. Someone was home.

“I say! I am the lord of this house! Somepony needs to attend me!” He waited, smoothing the whiskers of his mustache. No servants appeared. “Hello?” Frustrated and annoyed the lord of the manor followed the sound of hoofsteps. While not a skilled mage, something tickled his magical senses as he approached the storage den at the back of the house. Strangely, there was an acrid taste in his mouth that only grew stronger as he approached the room.

Falcon rounded the last corner and found his wife standing off to the side while their adopted daughter Datura muttered under her breath, as she was known to do when engrossed in a project or task. The den had several pages of runes scattered about and a few tomes open on the floor. One looked like it was making a copy of itself with a floating bottle and quill.

“Child, I was unaware you would be home. You stay at the academy so much since your acceptance last year.”

Datura paused to look up and smiled. “Ah, good. I needed another subject to see if I can replicate the effects. Please, come stand next to Dandelion.”

Falcon licked his dry lips, his eyes never leaving his ‘daughter’s’ shapely, fifteen year old flank, which he had not enjoyed the sight of for quite some time. He cleared his throat and said, “Perhaps it would be better if your mother retired for the evening and then you and I could talk about your schooling, privately, one on one.”

“Hmm? Oh, you know, you're right. She should leave the room. Her magical signature and life force could throw off my matrix calculations and I need to repeat the experiment exactly to make sure it was not an accident. Dandelion, go wait in the kitchen.”

“You do not order you m-” Falcon stopped speaking when his wife moved on command, but there was an unnatural lurch to her movement that he would have associated more with a sleepwalking pony than anything he had seen his wife do. Her health had been declining as of late due to the bitter cold, malnutrition, and age, but never with such lethargy. “Dandelion? What is wrong?”

“Oh, she can’t hear you… well, maybe she CAN hear you, but she won’t answer. Her mind is pretty much gone at this point. Just as well. Was not a great deal going on in there to begin with, but she made for a good first test to an adult.”

“What are you talking about?” Datura smiled brightly. Her horn lit up and Falcon gasped and cried out as something pricked his neck. When he looked to his left he found a letter opener floating in levitation magic. He was about to shout when the knife fell to the ground and instead he found globules of his blood now floating from the wound back towards Datura. The blood contacted some of her drawn runes and several others flared to life with boosted magical power. All he could do was gape, unable to speak or move no matter how hard he tried.

“Blood is an interesting substance, wouldn’t you agree, ‘Daddy.’” Falcon’s mouth went dry at the vindictive way she addressed him and his head began to hurt something fierce as if squeezed in a blacksmith's vice. “Nobles see blood as a direct path of privilege and lineage. I suppose that is part true, but others only see it as that sticky red liquid in our bodies. But blood is so much more. Blood is where the magic resides. Blood is life. Blood is power. And in the right hooves it is a means in which to extend complete control over another living being.”

Falcon tried again to speak, but all he could do was huff and sputter as if he had lost the ability to control his functions. His vision began to cloud over and all the sounds became faint and distant. What was he doing again?

“And just like that… your mental defenses are broken as well. Hmm… you put up a bit more of a fight, but I suppose no pony teaches about the mind anymore if they ever did. I found so little reading about it, mostly existential theory and less about the mechanics, but that is why I am writing these things down. If I ever wish to have students of my own they will need first hoof experience to refer to.” Datura returned to her journals and scribbled more down. After another minute Datura turned back to her step father and smiled. Her horn lit with a sickly orange and black color, eyes scanning back and forth as if she were speed reading.

“You are not a good pony, Falcon. I just want you to know that. While I know I should be a little grateful that you took in this filly who would have died without your support your intentions were never pure. I can see it all the more clearly now that I can see your memories, feel your horrid lust. You know, Dandelion knew you had raped me on my thirteenth birthday. Not that she did anything about it, the useless whorse. She knew you had taken advantage of my body again and again and I see… I see I was not the only one, but certainly your favorite.” Falcon sputtered and gurgled some more, his eyes going bloodshot and his body beginning to shudder. “Ah, you do have some fight in you. Your defenses are weak, but I see that one of a strong mind might actually be able to fight back. That is quite interesting and noteworthy. Thank you for that, at least. Come along now. We are going to the basement for some more experiments and to see how you like being helplessly taken advantage of.”

The last thing Falcon Gossamer remembered before all was consumed in darkness was the bubbly laughter that erupted from his step daughter’s throat.

----------

“It should have been me.” Star Swirl rolled his eyes, growled and huffed, then broke into a coughing fit. Once he had gotten control of his lungs she started again, much to his annoyance. “We all know how… demanding the princess is. Considering that along with the fact that I am a mare as well it would have been better to send me.”

“I would have gone myself if not for this blasted cold cough. Nevertheless, it was my decision and the king agreed with me.” Star Swirl the Bearded huffed as he stepped pass his student. Datura frowned but sighed and proceeded to help with mixing medicine potion that relieved cold related cough. She had mixed it a thousand times before. She could do it in her sleep. Still, with the cold biting so hard many ponies in Unicornia had come down with a painful cold related cough. It was obvious to any observer that the cold was not letting up this time. Hence the call for the tribes to meet to come up with a solution.

Still, the king had not trusted the Earth Alliance or Pegasopolis and sent his daughter Princess Platinum as his advocate. He had also ordered Star Swirl to send a guardian/advisor to protect his daughter in case it did become a trap or hostage situation. For all the good it would do them. It had become obvious to all but the most stubborn that their home was lost and that soon all the tribes would need to flee the unnatural eternal winter. Most likely north as many had done in the past. How had those pilgrims faired? Were they still alive? Were they thriving in greener pastures? Regardless of the outcome of the summit, they were all going to need to prepare for a great exodus. This only sullied Star Swirl’s mood further as he turned his eye to his laboratory.

“Honestly, you are correct. It probably should have been you, but at seventeen you would have been scoffed and dismissed, if not worse, Mother Creation forbid, you had spoken out of turn to the other nation leaders. You are a clever girl and far more intelligent than half the ponies in this kingdom if not more, but Clover has been my first acolyte for some time. He will do fine and knows how to hold his tongue among foppish nobility.”

“I see no reason to listen to bluster and pomp if it solves nothing. How Clover can stand it… his patience astounds and impresses even me most days.”

Star Swirl nodded. “You two work well together. You would do well to follow his hoofsteps on a great many things. Then someday you may have my job.”

“Or perhaps something even better.”

“Perhaps. For now, finish these potions then retrieve my inventory manifests, I think it is high time I began to see about packing.”

“Packing?” Datura looked about the massive laboratory and study of her master and mentor. It was easily the largest room outside of the royal wing of the castle. They would need at least four wagons just for the books and scrolls let alone the various crafting and potion making materials. “As in the entire lab? The entire school? To go where?”

Star Swirl removed his hat and brushed a hoof through his greying mane. “I say this to you in confidence. No matter what His Majesty believes Unicornia is lost to us. We will need to find a new home.” Star Swirl pulled an old tome from the shelf and set it out for Datura to see. She quickly flipped through a few of the pages and realized it was a journal or diary. Judging by the hornwriting, old dialect, and yellowing of the paper she judged it to be at least a few hundred years old.

“I picked this up at the market from a traveler who claimed to have come from a village far to the north called Trot. He said there were a few such villages along rivers and trails beyond our known borders. There was vast wild wilderness full of all manner of beasts north of us and that even still, many, many moons before I was suckling upon my mother’s teats that some ponies had crossed those wilds and continued ever farther north.” Star Swirl turned the page where there were drawing of strange creatures Datura had never seen before, part cat and part eagle. Massive burly creatures called, ‘yak’, and even other types of ponies whose coats could sparkle like crystal.

“You believe this to be true?”

“I believe the world is not so small and simple as many hoped it to be. I believe you understand this as well and that your thirst for the unknown is near if not more so than mine.”

Datura’s smile broadened. “On that, mentor, we agree.”

----------

“If I were not seeing this with my own old eyes I would have thought somepony was playing a prank upon me. Heck, I wonder if the universe still may yet be doing so.”

Datura stood back from her mentor and her now husband, Clover the Clever, lost in her own racing thoughts at what stood before them. The exodus of Unicornia had been underway for more than five years now and was nearing its end. The unicorns had arrived to the warm and fertile land to the north in droves along side their earth pony and pegasi cousins, but integration was slow and while some found common ground and comradery distrust and cultural hurdles remained firmly in place.

The Hearth’s Warming had brought a new understanding and friendship to the three tribes and dispelled the biting winter cold of the Windigos that had plagued them all for so long. However, the lands that had once been the Earth Alliance and Unicornia had withered and died and there was no stopping the encroaching desolation that would soon become a desert wasteland of their former homes. Though Pegasopolis had suffered less physical damage the pegasi as a tribe had been ravaged by starvation, plague, and the constant winds and freezing cold. Many had perished in their sleep on beds made of fluffy clouds, never to awaken. The old city was to be abandoned and left to float away as the mass grave that it had become.

On the ground, unicorns had cut a swath through dense forest to find what was believed to be a good central location to begin rebuilding their capital city. The earth ponies soon began to spread about to find the best lands to begin new fields for harvest. And the pegasi had designed and began to rebuild a new cloud city in the spirit of Pegasopolis.

However, much to the surprise of many, but not all, other ponies already lived in the green promise lands north of the old empires. Small scattered villages of ponies and even a few other creatures that were just as surprised by the influx of refugees from the south as those who traveled of them. For the most part, the culture clash and shock of it all had been unsettling, but manageable. War was always possibilty, but not first on their minds. Until, in the mass of confusion and exhaustion, the unicorns were unable to find enough ponies to help raise the sun.

For the last several generations, it had fallen upon the unicorns to see to the heavenly bodies when the legendary prophet and wife to Gusty the Great named, Giliana, claimed to have been visited by Mother Creation. She passed on to her king and queen that the goddess of creation itself had to relinquish the movement of the sun and moon to ‘her children’ as a means of protecting them from the darkness beyond the stars. And so, the unicorns had done as the prophet said when the sun had not risen on its own for three days. It was a daunting task to move the sun and moon and those that used their power to assist to do so often burned out quickly. Some never recovered their power or their horns were left shattered.

Star Swirl had begun to panic and was prepared to push his elite students and himself to bring about the day when suddenly, the sun rose again without any of their efforts. Some called it a miracle, others proof that Mother Creation had returned. Despite his relief, the archmage sent out feelers, both physical and through magical detection to find out what truly happened.

Soon after, the investigation led him and his entourage to the fabled village of Trot where he came face to face with a young mare with a pristine white coat and pink flowing mane, a bright yellow sun cutie mark upon her flank. She said her name was Celestia and that she felt the call of the celestial body itself when no one had been able to raise the sun. When she listened to the call through the flow of magic of the world it connected with her and a set of wings sprang into being upon her back. With those wings came a frightening increase to her power and she was able to control the movement of the sun all on her own.

After some encouragement, a young filly appeared from behind the white alicorn. Her coat was a midnight blue with accents of black. Her blue mane was short and slightly unruly and her eyes darted about with an untrusting caution. What was most striking were the crescent moons upon her flanks and the fact that the white alicorn had called her “sister.”

“What does it all mean, Lord Star Swirl?” asked a representative of the unicorn king.

The archmage considered the question, but it was Datura that answered, her eyes momentarily locking with a black and white mare who had stayed back in the shadows near the hut house, observing the entire situation. The look the mare gave Datura in that moment felt as if she were staring directly into her soul and, for just a moment, scowled in detest. “It means, that everything we thought we knew and believed in this world needs to be called into question.”

Celestia turned her eyes to the yellow ochre mare and blinked her magenta eyes. The two ponies held one another’s gaze much like Datura had done before with the shadowed mare. The young alicorn however smiled and nodded. “Indeed.”

Clover found his wife after dinner still pouring over scrolls and manuscripts as she had been for days since they had met Celestia. It had surprised many to find that the teenaged mare could move the sun all by herself, but what had truly sent shockwaves through the crowd was that her younger sister, who was only seven years old and appeared to be only a mere unicorn, could move the moon just as easily as Celestia could move the sun. Was she destined to become an alicorn as her sister had? The rumors and speculations did not wait for an answer before spreading far and wide.

When Star Swirl had finally spoken with the girls’ mother they had conversed for quite some time. Afterwards, he set down a few journals that Datura and Clover had inquired about that he said he wished to keep private for the time being. Clover had accepted the wishes of his mentor. Datura had been spurned to learn all she could from the other villagers and any travelers and merchants. Every time she tried to find the mysterious mother of the alicorn the mare was always missing and none of the nobility or the royal guards had allowed her to approach Celestia herself. Not yet at least. That would likely change later as Star Swirl had showed interest in having the sisters further educated and the limits of their power tested.

Datura could understand and respect that as well. They all needed to know how a simple unicorn far to the north had obtained the power of what was once considered divine and only recorded in folk lore and semi-religious text. Was she unique? Were they both? Could any pony achieve such an ascension? If so, how?

“What does it all mean?” said Datura, not bothering to look up at her husband.

Clover smiled and snuggled up next to her which she allowed as long as he did not block her light. “You never stop asking ‘why,’ do you?”

“There is no better word or question in the known universe. Why are we here? Why was our land not spared as this new ‘Equestria’ was? Why did Celestia become what was once considered the aspect of a goddess and at our exact time of need? And then the next most important question… What else do we not know?”

Clover sighed and gently kissed Datura’s cheek. “I know better than to stop Lady Datura Gossamer when she is on a roll.”

Datura scoffed and groaned. “I detest that family name. I am not even the matriarch of the entire noble house, not that I would want the responsibility of such, but I tend to my share duties that my… parents left behind. Still a shame the fire consumed so much of the estate with their lives, but I suppose it gave me less to pack.”

“A horrible if practical way of looking at it. Just don’t stay up too late, I would enjoy your company one of these nights.”

Datura smiled slyly at the stallion by her side. “I suppose I have been overindulging in my studies and leaving you with a cold bed these last many nights. Perhaps I could use the break and the… pleasurable company.”

----------

Ten years following the first Hearth’s Warming: The First Celestial Age

Datura’s cloak billowed with the gusting wind that cut through the barren rocks. The land was a waste, not unlike what had become of Unicornia farther to the southeast. It briefly made the unicorn mare wonder if this land had once been lush and green and full of life as well long ago. The thought passed as her objective was spotted just ahead at the end of the valley of steep cliffs. The Gates of Tartarus.

Datura’s curiosity of investigating the lines between fact and fiction had become her obsession. Well, more accurate, ONE of her obsessions. She had always been obsessed with pushing the boundaries of science and magic. She was certain her mentor and her husband would not approve of her ‘methods’ in such fields. especially if they ever found her hidden laboratory. The thought of upsetting Clover did strike a pang of guilt in her chest, but only because she did truly believe he was genuine in his heart and intentions. He was a good pony, the best she had ever known. Too good for this hard world.
Some would argue that the title of 'best pony' should go to young Celestia, but Datura was still distrustful of the alicorn and her sister and what role the two would play in the new world order.

Her desire to understand it all led the unicorn to follow a lead. A providence government had prospected the barren valley she now strolled through as a possible quarry or gem mine, but said they unearthed a beast some time ago. A trainer had worked with the beast for years and now the cavern was used as a prison far away from any of the regional city states. They named the prison after the theological Hell of the afterlife. Poetic, she thought. But Datura suspected there was more to the story.

The prison door was massive, covering the entire cave entrance, but the locks were not even enchanted or rigged with traps. Datura scoffed. “Dirt ponies. Pathetic.”

With a flick of her horn all the locks popped and clanked as the gears and mechanisms opened. Datura entered the cavern and admired the high ceiling lit by bioluminescent moss. She inspected the geology and noted that some of it was carved by ancient tool, judging by the marks, and some was hollowed by nature or magic. Further study would be required, but that was not why she came to such a desolate place today.

“Halt!” a voice shouted. Two earth ponies scrambled back to their hooves. They had likely been napping. “State your business!”

Datura ignored their hails as she studied the layout and the cells that lined the walls. Some of the prisoners woke at the echoing cry while others just continued to just stare at nothing. There were not many, fifteen or so. She briefly wondered what they had done to find themselves all the way out here. Irrelevant. The thought passed for more important things.

“Good day!” Datura finally said with a wide smile. “I am a member of Archmage Star Swirl’s elite magi casters. I am here to investigate a rumor.”

“Rumor? What rumor? This is a prison, girl. There is nothing here but monsters and hard incarceration until death.”

“Mmm. Perhaps.” Datura moved to step past the two guards and the light earth brown pony moved his polearm to block her. Datura arched her brow. “Problem?”

“You should not be here, but you most certainly should not go THAT way. The great beast will awaken.”

“So, it is true? A massive three-headed dog?”

“His trainer called him Cerberus. She passed on many years ago. No others have tried to tame the beast, but he remains in the back of the caves. You most certainly should NOT bother him less you become a tasty afternoon snack.”

“I am not so easily consumed. Step aside, you might learn something.” Datura stepped by and though the guards grunted they allowed her to continue. She ignored the heckles and whispers from the prisoners as she continued down the path on the right. She could sense something, a magic she had never felt before. It felt foreboding, cold, enticing. She would know what was causing it. Was it a mana fountain, perhaps overcharged crystals in contact with a ley line junction? A growling sound caused the guards to jump back and Datura to look up.

Towering above her was a massive, black, three-headed dog. Six eyes looked down upon her and for the first time in a long time the unicorn was actually afraid. It was terrifying… and exhilarating. Never had she seen such a wonderous creature!
Datura smiled wide and two of the dog heads looked at her with curiosity. The one in the middle turned its eyes to the two guards.

“You need to back up slowly to us, unicorn.”

Datura looked over her shoulder and narrowed her eyes at the two ponies that were shaking with their spears at the ready. Without a second thought she fired two horn blasts, dropping the guards. She could have killed them, but not yet. They may still have some use. Datura turned back to the guardian beast.

“I read that you were discovered in the back cavern. They named you based on an old legend that the gods created you as the keeper of the dead. I wish to see if this is true. Will you allow me pass?” The dog sat and huffed. Datura took that as acknowledgment and gently rubbed the closest leg. “Thank you.”

Once away from the main corridor Datura had to light her horn to see. The rocks had an unusual smell farther in, similar to samples from volcanic flows more common in the Dragon Lands to the southwest. Sulphur with a pungent, acrid scent that was most common from rotting organic material. Were there bodies down here?

Near the back of the broken opening there was an unusual archway that looked far too clean to be a natural formation yet there were no tool marks either. Upon closer inspection there were only two symbols carved into the rock. One, she knew well. The ancient, universal symbol for Death: a skull. The other looked like a stylized symbol for a city or skyline perhaps. Datura swallowed the pit in her stomach and continued down the path that now clearly had stairs of stone.

Down.

Down.

Down.

She felt as if she had had been walking for hours. Finally, she reached another archway and could easily sense the magic emanating from the formation. With only a moment of hesitation, Datura stepped through and found herself in another cave that might as well have been on another world. It was beautiful... and ominous.

“How could none have known this was here? Were they all so afraid of the guardian?”

“Fear.” Datura swiveled and prepared an attack spell. “Fear keeps them away. And rightly so. While I leave the door open. None have walked the path in quite some time. It was sealed by ponies who feared what they found. The beast remained. As was his choice. I think he misses his master now frozen in stone.”

“Who… who speaks.” The pony shape stepped out from behind the stalagmite formations. He was tall (probably a he) covered completely by a cloak to where even his muzzle was veiled. He kept a respectable distance and made no move to attack or defend. “You… you live down here?”

“This is my domain. I am the keeper of those who have passed. I fulfil my role and watch over the Golden City. I welcome you Datura, daughter of Silvia and Hepto.”

“You… you know me? But… how do you know of me?”

“I know all who stand before me. You have sent a number of souls my way. Some in quite horrific ways. I would imagine your mentor and husband would find that truth quite disturbing.”

“And how do you find it?”

The creature sat and the hood was thrown back to reveal a pony that looked like her father, her real father, just as she remembered him. The monster wearing her father’s face smiled. “Fascinating.”

Datura sat as well and smiled at the creature before her. “Well, in that case, I have questions and I hope you have time to answer them.”

“That depends what you are willing to offer me in exchange for my time.”

Datura smiled all the more sinister. “Whatever you wish, my lord. I am at the service of any whom have knowledge of the unknown and are willing to share. What do you wish for me to call you?”

“I have many names.”

Datura smirked and dared to scoot closer to the cloaked creature who arched a brow at her. “Yes, but what do YOU wish for me to call you?”

The pony’s black eyes seemed to sparkle for just a moment before he finally said, “My chosen name is Samael.”

Author's Note:

Goooood Evening. So, this probably could have been even longer a chapter, but I cut some things down just to keep it moving and not get bogged down of the gritty details of the dying Kingdom of Unicornia and such.

I thought it was important to flesh Datura out so that she does not come off as just a flat, evil cackling villain. She is that too, but she is motivated. Is what happened to her horrible, yes. Was she justified in doing what she did? Debatable.

What I DIDN'T want to do was pull a Cruella here like Disney so recently did. While I want you to feel a little bad for Datura, she is not a good pony and chose to continue on her path. She could have walked away at any time, found more morally acceptable ways to do research, but that was not her way. The world was cruel to her and she was used. So, she bided her time and made sure she would get back at the world in turn.

Did she love Clover? Sure, in her own twisted way, but there are plenty of real horrible people in history who had soft spots for someone. Doesn't make them less evil or manipulative. A great fictional example of this is of course Walter White from Breaking Bad. Society didn't make Walter horrible. He was horrible and eventually just embraced it.

Next chapter up Sunday.

Questions? Comments?

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