• Published 11th Nov 2012
  • 17,169 Views, 263 Comments

Just Human - Lightless Void

There is a reason why there are no humans in Equestria. Allow me to show you why.

  • ...

By Royal Decree

Just Human, chapter 6: By Royal Decree

Princess Celestia stared down into the valleys below Canterlot, her eyes resting nearly unceasingly on the direction in which lay Ponyville. Though she couldn’t physically see the small town, her senses reached far beyond mere sight, and Ponyville appeared to her as a tainted stain in the magic flowing through the land. Some dark force has spread its tendrils through that whole area of her kingdom, and the one reason she wasn’t there to stop it in person was because she feared the effect it would have on her.

“Sister?” she heard behind her. In the doorway to her bedroom stood Luna, whose expression betrayed her concern.

“Has there been any word?” Celestia asked.

“No, we haven’t had more word from Ponyville in some time,” Luna said sadly with a shake of her head.

Celestia nodded, and with a heavy heart she turned back to face the window.

What could be causing this? Discord? Changelings? Nothing I know off has the capacity to affect magic on this scale, but something must be causing this.


Luna had moved to sit next to Celestia, still looking at her with that same look of concern.

“You should really get some rest.”

Celestia looked back at the window, though this time up at the sky. The moon cast its gentle light down on the world beneath it, and she wondered briefly how long it had been since she had gotten any rest at all. From the few reports she’s received from Ponyville, insomnia seemed to be rampant there as well, though unlike with her, that wasn’t due to an inability to stop worrying.

“I will not rest while those in my care cannot do the same.”

Luna looked even more saddened upon hearing that, turning her gaze to the window briefly, before looking back at Celestia.

“Then what do you propose we do?”

“I’ve sent one of my court to Ponyville to investigate the situation. He will come through for us. He has to.”

Twilight awoke as warmth and softness enveloped her body. The world around her had become so serene. She could feel the warmth of sunlight on her face, and in the distance she could hear birdsong carried on the wind.

Her eyes fluttered open, the first thing entering her vision that of a white earth pony with a pink mane and tail, who sighed in relief as they locked eyes.

“Thank goodness, Twilight. You had us all so worried.”

“Nurse Redheart?...” Twilight asked in confusion, as she began to take in the room around her. The pristine whites allowed her to immediately recognize her surroundings. “How did I get to the hospital? The last thing I remember was...” she trailed off as she realised that her memory cut off into a blank after she tried to use her magic again.

“I was hoping you’d be able to tell me,” Nurse Redheart replied with a big smile on her face. “There was a bright flash in the lobby, and suddenly all six of you were there, including that strange creature you brought along.”

Twilight’s eyes widened in response, as her thoughts immediately went to the greatest source of danger.

“What happened to the creature!? Is he alright!? And my friends, are they-”

“Twilight, calm down.”

Twilight looked at Nurse Redheart, suddenly realising that her expression had turned around completely, as the nurse looked at her now with deep concern. A hoof on her chest had stopped her from rising from her bed, an action she didn’t even realise she was undertaking, as she also noticed she had begun to hyperventilate.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Nurse redheart replied as Twilight gently lowered herself back into her bed. “From what I gathered, you and your friends went through a lot last night. You just need to take it easy. You pushed yourself far too hard, and your condition may still worsen if you do it again.”

Twilight nodded slowly. Nurse Redheart had taken good care of her, she realised, as most of the pain she was in last night from the cuts and bruises she suffered didn’t bother her that much anymore, but that sudden surge of activity definitely had an impact, as her some of the wounds on her forelegs began to sting again, while her muscles painfully reminded her that she really had gone too far the other day, even if doing so was absolutely necessary.

“Your friends are fine,” Nurse Redheart replied, a soft smile returning as she noticed Twilight taking her advice. “None of them were seriously hurt, though miss Rarity and miss Rainbow Dash have been admitted and received specialist treatment for their injuries. They’re doing well however, and can probably return home later today.”

Well, at least everypony is okay, Twilight thought, with no small amount of gratefulness for that fact.

“And the creature, is he...” Twilight inquired carefully.

“Yes. He was severely injured when you brought him in, and he had lost a lot of blood, but he’s stable.”

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. Though she didn’t know the creature very well, he had gone through extreme lengths to keep her and her friends safe, and she was sure he didn’t mean them harm. Still, she knew what she saw. If that creature really was “Father”, he was still a menace to all of Ponyville, possibly all of Equestria, regardless of whether he knew what he was causing.

“Can I go see him?”

Nurse Redheart appeared pensive for a moment, bringing a hoof up to her chin. “I’m afraid I can’t make that call. You’d have to ask Professor Greymane.”

“Professor Greymane?” Twilight asked, more than a little surprised. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“He arrived last night, not too long after you and your friends showed up. He said he’d come to Ponyville for you, on behalf of Princess Celestia, but when he examined you and realised you didn’t need treatment, just a lot of rest, he turned his attention to the creature. He’s been taking care of it ever since.”

Wait, on behalf of Princess Celestia? Could it be...

“That wouldn’t be ‘the’ Professor Greymane, the physician of Princess Celestia’s royal court?”

Nurse Redheart nodded eagerly and began explaining at length at what an honor it was for her little hospital to be privy to such a visit, but Twilight’s attention quickly slipped as she was filled with a sense of immense gratitude.

The princess must have received my letter, and she sent her own physician to make sure I was alright! The princess really looks after me... No matter what.

Suddenly, the door to her room opened.

“S’cuse me, miss Redheart? How’s Twilight?” Applejack asked meekly from the door opening, before realising Twilight was awake.

“Hey girls,” Twilight called with a wave of her hoof and a smile, as Pinkie, Applejack and Fluttershy entered the room. Without any warning, they suddenly charged forward and jumped, embracing her.

“We were so worried about you Twilight! When you teleported us, you weren’t awake when we arrived!” Fluttershy said. “We thought you might have hurt yourself trying to save everypony.”

“Yeah! And that grumpy old doctor wouldn’t even let us see you! We had to wait forever before we even knew if you were okay!” Pinkie exclaimed loudly, puffing her face up in a mock-angry expression.

“Ah’m just so glad nopony got seriously hurt! Ah’d never have forgiven myself!” Applejack said as she tightened her grip on Twilight even more.

“So, are you feeling any better, Twilight?” Fluttershy asked softly.

“Not if you won’t stop choking me,” Twilight sputtered in the group’s crushing hug, who then quickly let go. “S-sorry,” they apologized in unison, rubbing the back of their heads.

“Alright, that’s enough girls,” Nurse Redheart said, unable to suppress a giggle of her own. “Twilight needs her rest. I’m sure she’ll be in a better state to receive visits later today.”

That was enough to jar Twilight awake. Suddenly she remembered she had unfinished business. The creature was still here somewhere, and she had no idea what was going on with it.

What if he’s already up? Do they know that he’s the cause? If so, what are they doing with him? I have to check! I need to be sure!

“No wait! I’m fine!” Twilight said, as she again began to fumble with her sheets.

“Twilight, stop! You’re not in any condition to be up and about!” Nurse Redheart insisted, but Twilight would have none of it. She jumped out of bed, her friends and Nurse Redheart looking aghast, though she landed on all fours and kept her footing with little issue. Though her friends breathed a sigh of relief, Nurse Redheart sure didn’t.

“Twilight, please! You need your rest!”

“I said I was fine,” she said as she barged past Nurse Redheart. “Have you girls checked on Dash and Rarity?”

“Uh, yeah,” replied a suddenly apprehensive looking Applejack. “They were gonna wait for us in the lobby.”

“Alright then, let’s go find them.”

Though Twilight was already on her way out the door, Applejack shot a nervous look at Nurse Redheart.

“Is she gonna be alright?”

Nurse Redheart sighed deeply, acknowledging a lost battle when she saw one. “Just try not to let her push herself too hard today. She should be fine as long as she doesn’t put herself under any stress.”

Twilight hurried through the hospital her friends close in tow. Pinkie Pie was already rambling about plans to throw a gigantic party to celebrate their survival, with both Applejack and Fluttershy just politely nodding the whole time. She was pretty sure they just wanted to go home and forget about everything that had happened, at least for a little while. Twilight knew that was exactly what she craved, but right now, she had to remain focussed.

I still don’t know for sure whether that creature intentionally meant to cause of all this, but how else could he have done it? I’ve never heard of a creature that could subconsciously affect so large an area alone. Then again, I’ve never heard of a creature that looked anything like him either...

It wasn’t long before Twilight’s train of thought was interrupted. Both Rainbow Dash and Rarity stood in the lobby, waving and smiling happily at her, no doubt glad to see her again. Twilight couldn’t help but smile in turn. So worried had she been about what condition those two could’ve been in, she felt a massive weight dropping from her shoulders just seeing them alive and well. However, she did notice the bandages wrapped around Dash’s wings and Rarity’s horn.

“Hey girls, are you two feeling any better?” Twilight asked cautiously, to which Rarity immediately struck a pose.

“Why yes of course! We were far more worried about you. They only treated me for a... ‘minor’ case of magical exhaustion,” she said, before very gently prodding her bandaged horn with a hoof, wincing immediately at the touch. “I may have gone a bit too far last night. I have no regrets, but... this is going to sting for a while.”

“Yeah, and look at this,” Rainbow Dash said as she bit into one of the bandages and carefully pried it apart to show her wing. Small, fluffy blue feathers had already grown in the places that had been ugly bald patches before. “They used some sorta ‘growth acceleration’ spell or something like that. Means my feathers will have grown back before next week!”

Pinkie pushed her way in between her friends, running up right next to Rainbow Dash with a massive goofy grin on her face, inspecting the wing. Suddenly Twilight remembered where the last time was that she saw that look on Pinkie’s face. When the Cake’s babies were teething.

“Aww, just look at these fluffy little feathers! They’re adorable!”

Dash’s teeth immediately locked together at hearing the dreaded “A” word, and she rushed to hide her wings with the bandages once more.

“Okay, that’s it! I’m not taking these off until the feathers have grown back! Every single one!”

“Pinkie, put that camera away!”

Watching her friends being themselves again, with Pinkie trying to get a good angle to snap a picture from while Applejack’s trying to stop Dash from tackling the pink prankster to the ground, made the weight on Twilight’s mind lessen.

It really seems like everything’s gone back to normal again. I still want to check up on the creature, if only to make sure he’s alright. But maybe, when all of this is over, everything’s going to be okay after all...

Only now did Twilight realise that she hadn’t stopped smiling the entire time.

“So girls, who wants to go visit the creature that saved us?”

An eerie silence fell over the rest of the group. They looked between each other to gauge the opinion of everypony else, though eventually they all nodded yes. Still, they seemed apprehensive. After what happened these past few days, Twilight couldn’t really blame them.

They walked to the wing of the hospital where they were treating the creature. It didn’t take them very long before they hit the double doors with the big “Quarantine, keep out!” sign posted on its front.

“You sure we oughta be comin’ here Twi’? It don’t look like they’d appreciate a visit,” Applejack remarked. Twilight carefully prodded the door with a hoof, which then slid open with little resistance.

“It’s not locked. They probably just imposed a quarantine as a precaution. Considering we’re the ones who brought him in, I don’t think it’ll be any problem if we check up on him.”

“Wait, Twilight!” Fluttershy called out after her, but Twilight was already through the doors, checking the rooms in the ward for the location of the creature. Her friends followed her closely, but were obviously not as eager to join in the search as she was.

A few orderlies made their way through the corridors, dragging or carrying equipment and materials around to the empty rooms. Twilight didn’t recognize most of it, though a lot of it seemed to be designed to deal with different conditions. Clearly they were leaving nothing to chance, setting up everything they could in case their mysterious patient ended up having a yet undiscovered ailment that needed treatment.

A lot of the orderlies were giving them weird looks, until one of them called out: “Hey, are you even supposed to be in here?”

“It’s fine!” Twilight replied. “Professor Greymane knows who I am, and he’ll want to see me.”

“He does?” the orderly questioned, scratching his head in confusion, though Twilight didn’t pay him anymore attention as she continued her search.

Eventually, she came at a room where the noise was greater than the rest of the ward, with plenty of nurses, orderlies and physicians making their way in and out of the door, closing it before Twilight could get a good look inside. She gathered her courage and knocked, hoping that she was right in her assumption that Professor Greymane wouldn’t mind her interrupting him.

“Professor Greymane? It’s me, Twilight Sparkle.”

A loud crash could be heard from the other side of the door as countless metal objects clattered to the floor, much to the dismay of those who were going to have to pick them up.

Suddenly, the door opened as a grey-coated pony began making his way out of the room, except in reverse... With the wrong end coming out first.

“Yes yes, just clean that up, we’ll sterilise them again later! Just don’t forget to take those measurements again! I can scarcely believe the first batch!”

True to his name, Professor Greymane didn’t just have a grey coat, but also a mane, tail and moustache in a lighter shade of grey. On his head was mounted some ridiculous contraption that held several magnifying glasses in front of his face, magnifying his amber eyes to incredible proportions.

“Oh, Miss Sparkle! I didn’t expect you to be up and about already, you were in quite the condition last time I checked! Do try to take it easy. We don’t want you pushing yourself too hard again!” Professor Greymane patronized as he removed the contraption from his head, revealing that beneath it all it still wore a pair of round glasses and that he was, in fact, a unicorn. Now that the magnifying glasses were no longer between her and the professor, she found it remarkably easier to read his expression. He seemed quite happy about something. Ecstatic even.

“I’ll be alright, but about the creature we found—”

“Why yes, isn’t it exciting!?” Professor Greymane interrupted her, rubbing his hooves together like a little filly about to unwrap her birthday presents. “I dare say your discovery could be the greatest discovery of our generation, nay, of the past century! We’ve only skimmed the surface of this creature’s biology and already we have data unlike any we’ve ever seen in another life form! His immune system, bone structure, muscle tissues and more are true treasure troves of information! And his clothing! Even it is unlike anything we have here in Equestria! Oh, but where are my manners!”

He interrupted his long rant to make a slight bow for the group. “Professor Greymane, personal physician of Celestia’s court, at your service.”

“How is he, professor? Has he said anything at all about where he’s from or what he’s doing here?” Twilight inquired, to which Professor Greymane’s smile weakened, if only slightly.

“Unfortunately, no. He was in critical condition when you’ve brought him in. It took us quite some time to get him stable...” he said, as he took off his glasses using his magic as well as a small handkerchief from one of the saddlebags on his sides, each marked with a red cross. He began cleaning his glasses as he continued, his expression more solemn now. “It was rough going for most of the night, as quite understably, we had no donor blood, and though his physiology follows most of the same basic rules as ours, we were hesitant to attempt more invasive techniques to treat him with. Worse still, he didn’t respond at all to magic. Thankfully, in the end he pulled through mostly on his own! He’s quite resilient, even if he doesn’t look it. To answer your question, he has been unconscious since you brought him in. Though he has been stable for some time now, he hasn’t shown any signs of waking up. However, there is no need to worry! I assure you that as long as he’s within my care, he shall receive the best treatment Equestria has to offer!”

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. She had been very worried that the creature hadn’t survived the mauling it had received. Even now, she didn’t want to think back at the horrible wounds it had suffered, just to protect Fluttershy.

However, if they’ve been treating him all night, why didn’t he mention anything about that... That darkness that I saw? If he is Father, then why hasn’t Professor Greymane said anything about that?

“So, he’s stable right now? There’s nothing else you can tell us?” Twilight asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. That’s all we can say for sure right now. Well, that and that he’s undoubtedly the most remarkable creature we’ve ever seen. How did you even find him?”

Twilight and her friends began to explain the events of the past few days, Twilight withholding her suspicions that the creature was behind the strange affliction that affected Ponyville, up until the point where the chimaera showed up. The professor’s jaw began to drop slowly as she explained the battle against the chimaera.

“You-you mean to tell me that the creature fought off a chimaera, practically on his own, and won?” he asked, utterly awestruck. “Dear Celestia, he can’t weigh more than 180 pounds! I’m not sure whether he had acted on desperation or truly believed he had a chance of winning!”

The group remained silent after that, with Professor Greymane looking as though he had been given enough food for thought to last him a lifetime.

“Professor, those measurements you asked just came in!” a voice called from within the lab. Professor Greymane took a moment to realise he had been called, before nodding to himself.

“Yes, alright. I’m sure you girls have more questions, but I am needed elsewhere. I’d like to see you again for a complete examination tomorrow Twilight. After all, I was sent here specifically to check up on you. However, I fear that beyond that, the creature will be taking up most of my attention from now. I’m sure you can see yourselves out.”

The group nodded in unison, and Twilight finally allowed herself to relax.

Finally, everypony is accounted for. He’s in good hooves. All I can do now is hope he’ll get better soon.

Just as she turned to leave, a strange sound filtered through the noise coming from the creature’s room. A familiar giggle, carried as though from far away, slowly becoming louder until she could make out words being said.

This isn’t over yet, Twilight. We still have a lot of playing to do...

Twilight’s eyes shot wide open. Every suspicion she had up till now had been confirmed immediately, and she rushed to stop Professor Greymane from closing the door behind him.

“Professor Greymane! Have you done magical scans!? Has anyone in your staff noticed weird things happening since the creature was brought in!?”

Professor Greymane looked shocked at Twilight’s sudden change in demeanor, and took a moment to recompose himself.

“Of course we did Twilight, they all came out negative. We have a strong suspicion that he isn’t a magical species. Why the sudden concern?”

Twilight was at a loss for an immediate answer. Just like before, nopony else seems to be noticing the strange voices and hallucinations that Twilight had been seeing.

What do I say? How can I possibly explain that I’m seeing things that nopony else is seeing, and that through that I know the creature is a danger to everypony here?

“Please Professor Greymane! You have to let me see him! I can’t explain it, but he’s somehow responsible for everything that has happened to Ponyville recently!”

Professor Greymane studied her for a moment, as he apparently struggled to conceive what had caused this sudden outburst. His expression hardened as he made up his mind.

“Miss Sparkle, you’re unsettling my staff. If he really was responsible for such a thing, our unicorn physicians would have detected it by now. If he was carrying a disease that’s responsible for such strange behavior, it’s obviously out of his system by now, or we would’ve discovered it. All I ask is that you remain patient until we are sure that he is healthy and sound.”

“That’s not good enough!” Twilight retorted. “If he is responsible for everything’s that happened then there’s no telling what will happen if we don’t find a way to stop it! Just let me see him, I know I can find a way!”

“Miss Sparkle, please, you’re hysterical. Go back to your room and get some sleep. The last days must have affected you more severely than we believed,” Professor Greymane said, more sternly this time. He clearly wasn’t going to budge. She glared at him, even baring her teeth in anger as she raised her voice even more.

“If you won’t let me see him, I will demand that Nurse Redheart will!”

“That won’t be necessary,” the professor said as he used his magic to pull a scroll from his saddlebag. On it was more than Twilight could read so fast, written in beautiful golden text, with a seal depicting Celestia’s cutie mark at the bottom. “I carry the royal seal, which grants me authority over any institution in Equestria. She is no longer in charge here. Now, these good chaps will show you to the door. I’ll see you tomorrow, Miss Sparkle.”

As Professor Greymane shut the door behind himself with a loud bang, Twilight suddenly found herself flanked by two friars. They were both male, and so were just slightly taller than her, but it definitely wasn’t her that was scared of them. They did their best to avoid eye contact. After all, news of Twilight’s magical powers did travel across town. It was no surprise they weren’t looking forward to dealing with the princess’s student when she was in a foul mood.

“R-right this way, M-Miss Sparkle,” one of the friars stuttered. Twilight did entertain the thought to just force herself in, but instead she took a deep breath to calm herself down.

No point going through with this if it’ll bring everypony against me. I’m just going to have to find another way to fix this.

As she turned around to head for the door, she caught her friends looking at her in complete shock. Even Pinkie Pie stared slack-jawed at Twilight’s sudden outburst, and suddenly she was worried at the damage she may have done.

The friars led the group up till the doors leading into the quarantined ward, at which point they let the girls go their own way. They began to make their way out of the hospital, everypony eager to go home after today. Twilight didn’t dare face her friends, not after going crazy in front of all of them without being able to give a good reason why, so she led at the front of the group to avoid having to look at any of them,

“Uhm, Twilight? Dear?”

“Hm?” she replied quietly, turning back to see a concerned Rarity now walking briskly besides her.

“Were you positive about all those things you said to the professor? Truly positive?”

She remained quiet for a moment, as she attempted to pick together the words to explain it to her friends.

“Do you... Do you remember what I told you after me and Applejack found you girls again? About that strange thing I had seen, like an evil dark cloud?”

Rarity nodded in response.

“When we were carrying the creature back to Ponyville... I noticed that same darkness leaking from his body. I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure how you’d all respond. Even if he is responsible for what had happened to us, he still saved our lives. I don’t think he means to hurt any of us, because why else would he have risked so much to save us? That’s why I need to see him, to figure out a way to stop this from happening all over again. I owe him that much. I owe it to him to give him another chance.”

“So, what you’re saying is, you want to get back in there so you can have a look yerself?” Applejack asked.

“I have too.”

For a moment, there was silence. Twilight finally stopped in her tracks and turned around to face the group, who were all smiling brightly at her.

“Well, gee Twi’, why didn’t you just explain that to us in the first place?” Applejack said as she pushed up her hat.

“Wait, so, you girls are okay with that? Considering that the professor has all that authority, I didn’t think you’d—”

“You’d what?” Rainbow Dash questioned with a smirk, as she propped herself up next to Twilight with a foreleg hanging around Twilight’s neck. “That we wouldn’t try to help you on your mission to help the weird monster that saved all of us? Are you kidding me! I’d figure you’d know us a little better by now, Twi’.”

“Of course Twilight, we’re you’re friends,” said Fluttershy confidently, until she continued. “Even though it might be d-d-dangerous and d-d-difficult—”

As soon as Pinkie realised Fluttershy was hesitating, she immediately took Fluttershy into a big bear hug and began to spin her around. “Don’t worry so much Fluttershy! After all, don’t you know what it would mean if we stop the black gooey stuff from leaking out of him and wake him up?”

“N-no,” Fluttershy responded. Pinkie had since stopped spinning her around, but her eyes hadn’t quite caught up, still rolling in her sockets.

“It means we can welcome another new face into Ponyville, silly!”

“Girls,” Twilight said as she used her magic to gather all her friends around her, before taking them in a big hug, “you’re the best.”

“So, dear, how do you plan on going about this? I’m quite sure that Professor Greymane will not let us in to see the creature before he’s done examining it... And considering his apparent enthusiasm that may take some time, and as we know, he has that royal seal,” Rarity said.

“I’ll look into it. Meet me at the hospital’s entrance tomorrow, and I’ll have something figured out.”

The group nodded, and they all locked hooves together, before throwing them up into the air and cheering loudly.

It was night, and in the Ponyville library, somepony was still reading at candle light.

“The royal seal, given by Celestia only in times of emergency when she herself cannot be present to deal with a situation, gives the owner it was assigned to full authority...” Twilight recited, before groaning in frustration and throwing yet another book on Equestrian politics from her desk. She laid her head down, blowing some of the hairs she might have neglected to groom out of her eyes.

I’m running out of time, and I’m not getting anywhere! There’s just no way around that royal seal. Nothing I say or do, short of bringing the princess to Ponyville, will let me get past Greymane. I can’t afford to wait that long!

Spike placed a steaming cup of herbal tea in front Twilight, shooting her a worrying look.

“Found anything yet?”

“No, not yet, but tomorrow, I’m going to fix this. One way, or the other.”