• Published 22nd Apr 2013
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Snickersnatch - SpiralWriter



Oddjob awakens to a much different Equestria . . .

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XVI - Resting Time at the Sleepyhead Inn

[Snickersnatch]

By: Quisky


A C T T H R E E


Chapter Sixteen:

Resting Time at the Sleepyhead Inn


"Um . . . hello? Anybody here?" I called out, only for the symphony of a moonlit swamp to reply. Not a soul in sight other than my companions and the buzzing insects, to which Penny had taken quite an interest in, following them around with a giggle.

"I warned you about how creepy this place was . . ." Goldguard muttered from beside me, looking quite nervous, his armor shaking, melding in with the chirping crickets and the hooting owls. "No ponies around, in the middle of a swamp, and there's ominous cracking of twigs in the distance and a shuffling sound behind us." He complained, said sounds uttering the moment he finished his sentence.

"Maybe we're in a horror story." I joked with a shrug much to Goldy's dismay and his noticeably terrified face. I began to scan the area, noting the buildings nearby. One seemed much larger than the rest, sitting at the edge of what I assumed was Hollow Shades territory, maybe a town hall or something? A marketplace with stands was neatly tucked away into a corner right in the shadow of the larger building, but notably no produce or goods were available, the stands as empty as the rest of the place.

The homes had no visible lights, the windows and doors shut tight. The place felt . . . abandoned, almost as if it were a ghost town. I felt a veritable chill run down the sharp spines on the back of my neck despite the warm atmosphere. I picked up on the padding of Legion's paws, turning to him with a curious glance. His empty eyes and singular face belayed no reaction as he spoke.

"Alpha Oddjob . . . this place smells different. Wrong."

"I picked up on that myself." I replied.

"No. We sense something else."

"Well, what do those thousand voices in your 'sense'?"

"We do not know."

". . ."

"It is a scent we have not come across before. It is familiar . . . but we cannot pin it."

"Get back to me on that." I said, pointing a claw at him. "Sniff around a bit and see what you can dig up. Not literally though. I don't want you bringing me a bone or anything." I stated, to which the diamond dog nodded, pinning his nose to the dirt and began smelling, perking up every once in a while to note the noises around us.

"Maybe this place is haunted." Agatha chuckled darkly, Goldguard shaking his head furiously in reply. "Don't say that! It'll end up being true. We could be on an ancient burial ground or there could be a swamp monster around or . . ."

"Or a creepy old lady could be staring at us from a porch." I interrupted.

"Or a creepy old lady could be staring at us from a porch." Goldguard said, pausing and doing a double-take, following my gaze to possibly the second-largest building in the village. It was about two stories, very wide , a flat porch in the front of it, rickety and dusted. A creaking rocking chair was visible, a fragile, pale pony gazing at us with a cold look. How . . . how long had she been there? I didn't see her earlier.

We all shared a glance, walking over to her cautiously. "Um . . . hello ma'm." I called with a slight wave. The creaking of her rocking chair ceased as she paused at my words, a smile spreading her her wrinkled face, revealing a crooked grin and yellowing teeth.

"Why hello there!" She cackled out in a voice befitting of a witch from any halloween cliche, getting out of your chair and shuffling over to us. You could literally hear her joints creaking with age as bad as her chair did. "We normally don't get many visitors in Hollow Shades."

"We can see that." Agatha replied dryly with a bored expression.

"Well, you're more than welcome to stay here." The old pony wheezed out in half laughter, kicking the wall behind her, sending a spray of rotted vegetation and dust fall from the roof of the old building. I looked up, a once obscured sign now illuminated in the moonlight, outlined by the twisting and reaching limbs of the dead oaks beside us.

Sleepyhead Inn

Quaint. Very quaint. "It would be much appreciated." I said with a smile before furrowing it into a frown. "Oh. I'm sorry ma'm, we don't have any bits to pay you with." I turned to Goldguard, and he narrowed his eyes, shaking his head. Looks like our bank to his pockets just ran dry.

Her smiled never faded, as did her cackle. "That's fine honey, we'd actually enjoy the company. It's been much too dead around here."

". . . Really?"

"Yes honey. My staff's been lazybones, so you all being here will get them back on their hooves."

"That's very hospitable of you ma'm." I grinned.

"It's no problem at all dearie." She replied, turning to head inside, motioning for us to follow her. We all ascended the steps of the porch, making it groan under our footsteps and weight, heading into the small inn with the old woman. "We've been dying to have company for dinner." She added as we entered.

Inside, it was a dimly lit place by candles and flickering lightbulbs. She waddled over behind a nearby counter, dusting it off and smiling. "Hello, and welcome to the Sleepyhead Inn!" She greeted. "My name is Ms. Creaks, how can I help you?"

"Um . . ." I paused, offset by the sudden employee-turn in the old pony woman. "We uhh...need some rooms. For . . ." I turned, counting my companions. Legion had gone utterly missing. Again. I sighed and turned back. "A room for me and the walking armory here," I pointed at Goldguard. "And a room for our two lovely ladies here." I jabbed a thumb at Agatha and Penny, the griffon's eyes widening in terror while our little automaton giggled in glee.

"I'll see f we have any rooms available sir." Ms. Creaks replied, true to her name, every movement of hers crooked, slow, and shaking. She reached behind the counter, pulling out an equally dusty book as the rest of the place, slamming it down and blowing off what laid on it. She opened it with a thunk and began browsing the pages. "Hmm . . . you're in luck. We're pretty booked tonight, but we have two rooms available."

"That uh . . . that'd be nice."

"Good!" She smiled, pushing the book forward. "Just sign your name into the records, and I'll take you to your rooms," Ms. Creaks then produced an ink quill from under the desk. I took it in hand and signed in scritchy letters. I didn't really have the best handwriting. Once Oddjob was signed onto the literally blank page at the top, she closed the book with a slam, putting it back where it belonged, every movement kicking up dust. I forced myself not to sneeze out of politeness.

Ms. Creaks moved from behind the desk, motioning with her foreleg for us to follow her down a nearby hallway. "Now, we have some set rules here in the Sleepyhead." She said aloud, her voice the only sound, the entire inn strangely quiet, no sound coming from any of the rooms we passed. And where was her help she was talking about? I was seriously beginning to think on what Goldguard feared earlier, how truly creepy this whole place was.

"First of all, utter quiet. No rough-housing in your rooms." She listed off. Okay, I can understand that explaining why it was so quiet. "Secondly, there is a service bell in your rooms. Ring it if you require anything."

She stopped, turning with a smile. "Alright ladies, this is your room for the night." She motioned at Agatha and Penny, opening the door. Agatha shook her head, right before Penny pushed her inside with surprising strength, making her yelp, bouncing inside and closing the door behind her. "Have mercy!" Agatha called beyond the door, only for us to be further down the hall, lead to our own rooms.

Right before we could head inside, Ms. Creaks held a hoof in front of me. "One last thing." She called up, eyeing me. "Under no circumstances should you leave this room past midnight."

"Um . . . why?" Goldguard squeaked out, once again shaking in his armor, making it rattle.

She stared at him blankly, blinking once. "It's for the best, we have night patrons who don't like to be disturbed."

Once again, creepiness factor goes up. "Um . . . okay. We'll keep note of that." I said, Ms. Creaks moving out of the way and smiling her jagged smile. "You all have a nice night. See you in the morning." She chuckled, heading back down the hallway, disappearing into the dimly lit darkness that went beyond the lights.

"Oddjob . . .?"

"Yeah?"

"Will you hold me?"

". . . Get in the room Goldy."

He sighed, walking in, myself following behind and closing the door. After fumbling around a bit in darkness, I managed to flip a switch, the light fixtures in the room barely coming to life, giving the room an eerie glow. Smelling of age, dust, and mold, it was tackily fixated with ugly floral wall patterns. A chair sat in the corner, there was a closet, and a single bed sat against the wall. Wait . . . a single bed?

I shared a glance with with him, and he shrugged. "You don't mind sharing, do you?"

"I swear if you try to fuckin' spoon I'm tossing you out to deal with those night patrons."


"Stay over there."

"But-"

"I said. Stay. Over. There."

"Like this?" Penny asked, facing a corner with her back to Agatha.

"Perfect."

"But how are we going to commence in the 'girl-talk'? I have found many sleepover articles in my databanks."

". . . One: Never say 'girl-talk' in front of me ever again. Two: Stay in that corner." Agatha said, the robotic wonder-mare already moved from her position in the corner to sitting right beside the griffon gal, cuddling up to her.

"So, who do you have a crush on?"

"I've only known you for a couple hours. Please go back to your corner."

"We should paint each other's nails."

"You don't even have nails!"


". . . Oddjob?" Goldguard's voice rang out in the dark after we had somehow awkwardly positioned ourselves onto the bed. We had both stripped our armor and laid our possessions to the side, my large size taking up some of the bed, pushing Goldguard to the edge. Felt kinda bad for him.

"I said not to talk."

"I can't sleep."

"Count sheep."

"Why?"

"Ponies don't do that?"

"We count hay bales. What, you count sheep where you're from?"

"I don't want to get into a discussion about this, just go to sleep."

". . ."

". . ."

". . ."

"Remove your hoof from where it is and cease the cuddling."

"But I'm so scared . . ."


" . . . Please?" Penny pitifully beeped.

"No." Agatha replied with narrowed eyes and crossed arms.

". . . Please?"

"NO. We are not having a pillow fight. We only have one pillow anyway, and I'm sleeping on it."

"We can use something else!"

"No . . . no . . . no . . . Penny, put the bed down!"


"I still can't sleep Oddjob." Goldguard called from the corner of the room.

I sighed from the bed, not really being able to sleep myself. Between Goldguard, this incredibly uncomfy mattress, the swamp outside not shutting up, and the overall creepy atmosphere of this place, one could barely catch any shut-eye at all. Man I missed my bed way back home, the only place I could actually get some decent rest.

"I can't sleep either." I replied groaning, rubbing my eyes and sitting up. "This place is terrible, no wonder we're like the first visitors in a couple decades."

"Or maybe all of their guests just went missing." Goldguard shuttered. "We hardly ever get any reports from Hollow Shades, the guards that are supposed to visit this place hardly ever do. We haven't had any info on this settlement for years."

"So . . . an entire village goes dark, just like that?"

He nodded. "Oh, it was very busy when it first began. We had very eager volunteers to set up a colony in the swamp. But as time went on, we simply lost contact with them. The letters became more infrequent, coming down to a trickle, then finally nothing."

"Nobody ever thought to come and check up on the place?" I asked, leaning on my elbows.

"It . . . wasn't really a priority." He shrugged.

". . . A town going utterly quiet isn't a priority?"

"We thought it was okay!" Goldguard held up his hooves defensively. "Normally they send a last later stating that they don't need supplies anymore, and are completely self-efficient."

". . . You never got that letter, did you?"

". . . I thought we did. I only visited this place once."

". . ."

"About twenty years ago."

". . . Canterlot hasn't gotten any information on a town . . . for twenty years."

"Well, kinda. You hear ponies talk about Hollow Shades ever so often, and it's on every map. It's just . . . there. Nopony's just visited it I guess." Goldguard paused to contemplate on the weirdness of it all himself.

". . . Weird." I stated the obvious thought, standing up and stretching fully. Least the room was accommodating to my height, my top spine narrowly avoiding the ceiling by a couple inches. "Well . . ." I sighed, sitting down on the floor in front of him. "What do you wanna do?" I asked.

Goldguard shrugged. "Contemplate our place in the universe?"

Before I could reply, a small rattle interrupted me, making Goldguard jump a little. " . . . What was that?!" He exclaimed, eyes frantically looking this way and that in our fairly empty room.

"Sounds like it came from the closet." I replied, standing up and eyeing the door. Sure enough, another rattling sound came from within, Goldy quickly scrambling to his hooves to hide behind me. I slowly approached the door, my footsteps making the ground creak. Every step closer to it seemed to build the tension, and I could almost feel myself sweat as I lifted up my hand to the doorknob to turn it.

While Goldguard's teeth chattered behind me, I creakily turned the knob, ready to punch whatever came out, bear arm cocked back for a sudden blow. Unless it was actually a ghost, then I might need some salt and some iron to help me. With a final turn, I pulled the door open.

A blur of a small body shot out, screeching. I dodged out of the way, shoving Goldguard aside as the form fluttered about, screeching all the while. "Kill it, kill!" Goldguard shouted, magically summoning his golden sword and beginning to wildly slice through the air, nicking me in the arm and making him grab him by the shoulders and shake him a bit to calm him down.

"Would you quiet down mate?! It's just a bat, see?" I said, lifting him up to look at the beastie. It was still shrilly screeching, but flying more slowly, so it at least wasn't a blur.

"Oh." He said simply before I dropped him. "I knew that." He stood up, regathering and dusting himself off. ". . . Not just any bat, a fruit bat." He added with a small laugh.

I examined the creature more closely and chuckled. It indeed was a fruit bat It was bright red in color, having both fur and a strangely strawberry-like texture to its form. The bugger had latched itself to the ceiling, gazing at us warily. I walked over until my head was decently close to it, making it cringe away from me a bit.

"Hello friend." I chuckled. "How'd you get stuck in there?" I asked as if the creature could reply. It merely blinked a couple times with those big dark eyes.

"Looks like it lived there." Goldguard answered my question, looking into the empty closet, a large hole in the corner of it, probably where it nested.

"Sorry for disturbing you friend." I said softly, to which the bat moved a bit closer to me in a much more normal hanging position. I offered up one of my fingers to it in a sort of apologetic way, and surprisingly, it nuzzled against it. The little critter felt warm, and a strange mix of both soft fur and the waxy berry feeling. My heart melted.

". . . Can we eat it?" Goldguard interrupted, to which I turned around and gave him a light blow on the head.