• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 26,295 Views, 1,588 Comments

The Monster Below - Greenback



An earth pony seeks to transform himself into an Alicorn, but how far is he willing to go to get what he wants?

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Books, Scrolls, And Hidden Places

Sleep didn't come that night. I lay in bed, thoughts racing through my mind. My little secret was still a secret, but for how long? What if Mangus went to Coin Counter and spilled the beans? What if he told my parents, and they pretended to be calm so I'd be at ease when the cops came? The night dragged on as I tried to figure out how to escape my impossible situation. Sooner or later, Mangus would reveal my secret. Knowing him, I couldn't bribe Mangus or convince him not to squeal. Every option I considered kept coming back to the only course of action I could take:

I had to kill Mangus Bluehorn.

Of course, I wasn't actually going to do it. Breaking into a building was one thing, but killing a pony to silence him was going too far. But what was I to do? I couldn't run away, nor could I say that he was lying, for the librarian could come forward and present whatever evidence she had... which meant that I'd have to kill her too. But I couldn't do that, either. I didn't want to go from being a celebrity to becoming a murderer. And if I had to silence the librarian to keep from squealing, then who would I have to kill to keep the identity of her murderer from leaking out? Would I have to go around killing ponies left and right until all of Equestria was buried under a mound of corpses?

It was four in the morning when I realized there really was only one way to stop Mangus. If I wanted to beat him, I had to go to the police and confess to what I had done at the library, depriving him the satisfaction of turning me in. Considering how long it had been since the break-in, and that no one had been hurt, perhaps the authorities would be lenient on me. Dawn was a few hours off, and there was still time to sneak back into town, take a train, and go to Manehatan. A short stay with Equestria’s legal system, and I would be free of Mangus and the librarian forever.

I almost got out of bed when another thought hit me: Ponies revere those who gave their all to help Equestria, putting them onto pedestals, so to speak. Ponies on pedestals are special. They can't be touched. They're idols, and ponies tend to forget or forgive any mistakes idols did when they were younger.

That was it. That was my answer. I had to elevate myself to the status of a pony that everyone looked up to. If I could become famous for helping the poor, the destitute, and the helpless, who would dare try to prosecute me? Only problem was, how was going to elevate myself to such lofty heights? Oh sure, I could donate to charities, spend time in soup kitchens, and build houses for the homeless, but every famous pony does that. I needed something more, and as the first rays of the sun began to creep over the horizon, I began to connect the threads. I had already gained fame by becoming a quasi-pegasi, but if I could somehow get a horn, I could elevate myself to alicorn status. I could be free to fly wherever I wanted to go, and to use my magic to impress others. Raise a house? How about five at once? Soup kitchens? I could magically create liquid mana to keep ponies from ever going hungry again. I could become a hero, and then no pony, not Mangus, not the librarian, could ever hope to stop me.

That was it. It was so simple. If I got a horn, then I could turn the tide of public opinion, and elevate myself beyond the reach of the law. It was so simple, so perfect.

All I had to do was find a horn.

***

I finally got to sleep, waking up around lunchtime and feeling much better. Breakfast was still laid out for me when I came down, and a search revealed that I had the house to myself. A peek out the windows revealed a shimmering, nearly transparent force field, most likely laid down as protection against hecklers.

Taking advance of the peace and quiet, I headed to the small library on the second floor, finding the shelves full of thrillers, books on gardening, cooking, and the history of Equestria, among other topics, including some of my favorite childhood books. It was tempting to go through them again, but I focused on books talking about Equestria's history, hoping to find inspiration on where I was to find a horn. Sadly, nothing fit the bill. I even tried a few of my old fairytales, where the hero would gain magic to perform heroic deeds, researching to see if they held any basis in historical fact, a search that ended in disappointment.

I was about to leave the library when I noticed a thick box nestled into a corner. Curious, I opened the lid, coughing at the dust that billowed out. Waving it away, I found several old books inside, the titles upon the spine written in a language I didn't understand. Pulling one out, I opened it, only to see the pages fall out, disintegrating as they hit the floor. Whatever those books were, they were old, possibly older then my parents and their parents before them.

There was one title that didn't seem as fragile as the others. The book was bare and unlabeled, save for the initials, “QQ” in the bottom right of the cover. Aside from its obvious age, there was little to distinguish the book from the others, but something about it caught my attention. Cracking it open, I found that it was written in Equestria's common tongue, instead of the older, fancier languages I couldn't decipher.

Retreating back to my room, I closed the door and locked it, not wanting to be disturbed as I opened to the title page and found the words: Here within lies the recorded words and thoughts of Quiverquill, scribe and scholar of Saddle Lanka. written within.

Quiverquill... the name seemed familiar. It was only after a few minutes that I remembered him: he was my dad's grandfather, to be precise. I didn't know much about him, except that he was looked upon as a kooky pony, always searching for some lost civilization or treasure, or whatever it was that caught his attention at any particular moment, and that he had vanished when my father was still an infant.

It was interesting to think that I was holding the journal of a pony who was long gone: who knew what my grandfather had to say? As it turned out, quite a bit. Quiverquill wrote at length about treasures and cities that had been lost to time, buried under mountains or at the bottom of the sea, and detailed his expeditions to find them. Yet, all ended in failure, even when he was convinced that every tiny artifact, treasure, or item he found was concrete proof that whatever he was looking for existed.

As a whole, it was interesting reading, but there really wasn't anything was relevant to me... until I got to the last page.

November the 15th: It's unbelievable! Absolutely preposterous! I can barely keep my focus right now, thanks to the ruffians from Canterlot! They came over to my house this morning and destroyed all my research on the horn! I tried to stop them, but several of their guards had magic far more powerful than mine, and held me in place while all my maps, notes, books, and journals regarding the horn were burned to ash, then tossed to the winds. I fought as hard as I could, but they were forced to use a sleeping spell, and when I came to, I found a note apologizing for the sudden intrusion, but that the orders had come from the sisters themselves, saying that it was a matter of safety that the horn not be found. The royal decree from the sisters themselves was there, along with a large bag of bits as an apology for what they had done, but I don't care. Years of work, gone! Reduced to ash because the Princesses apparently are a superstitious and cowardly lot! Thankfully, they didn't destroy this journal, most likely because I have made sure to keep all references to the horn out of it. And if I'm really lucky, not all may be lost. I have yet to check the hiding place in the second story bedroom. Hopefully, it’s still there!

Second story bedroom? From what I knew, our house hadn't been refurbished or touched for decades, perhaps longer. At most, we got new coats of paint, some spells to strengthen the old frames, but that was it. And my bedroom was the only one on the second floor.

My legs felt unnaturally light as I searched my room, looking for a spot where a book could be hidden, but two hours of searching revealed nothing. I was on the verge of giving up when I got a thought: If I wanted to hide a book to find later, I'd do so in the wall, preferably somewhere out-of-the-way, where it'd be inconvenient to track it down. The room's walls and floors were too obvious, but I had yet to check the closet.

Opening the closet, I went inside and turned on the light. The room - if I could call it that - was small and cramped with dressers, boxes, and shelves, but I didn't let that deter me as I yanked, tugged, and pulled them out, tapping the walls in hopes of hearing an echo. An hour of sweat, grime, and tapping brought me nothing, except the need for a shower.

With the walls being duds, I turned my attention to the floor, tapping away. I reached the furthest, darkest corner when a tap on the floor yielded firm wood, but also the sound of a very slight echo beneath it.

I tapped again, and the echo returned.

Grabbing a hammer, I tore away at the floor, breaking into a small, dark, and dirty hole beneath the frames.

There was a cloth-covered object inside, covered with dirt, dust, and grime.

I gave a little shriek of joy as I yanked the object out and brought it to my desk. Unwrapping the fabric, I found a book similar to Quiverquill's journal. The wrap had protected it, but the pages still held the unmistakable smell of mildew. I'd have to be much more careful reading that book, for fear of having it fall apart.

That’s when there was a knock at the door, and my mom called in, saying that Beakbreaker wanted to see me downstairs.

I almost refused, thinking she wouldn't have come over to see the pony who had hit in the nose. Yes, it had been an accident, but I had no idea how she would react to such an act. But ignoring her and trying to pretend the event had never happened would only make things worse.

Putting the book away, I shoved all the cabinets and shelves back into place, wiped the sweat and grime away, combed my hair, took a deep breath, and headed downstairs. Beakbreaker was in the lobby, two large baskets draped across her back.

“Beakbreaker?” I said, unsure how to proceed. Deciding that caution was the best course of action, I kept my tone sympathetic. “You… uh… You feeling better?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “I am." She guested to the baskets. "You busy today?”

I was eager to read Quiverquill’s book, but needing to soothe any hurt feelings between Beakbreaker and me came first. "No, I didn’t have anything in mind.”

“Well, I’d love to go around and see more of Saddle Lanka’s scenery, but I could use a guide.” She popped one of the baskets open, revealing food and a thick blanket. “I thought we could have a picnic while we're out.”

The book called to me like a siren, but I ignored it. “Really? Well… I don’t mind. But getting away from Mangus will be a problem.”

“I doubt it. The last I saw, he was sleeping like a log." Beakbreaker gave a sly smile. "He should probably check his coffee to make sure nothing was slipped into it.”

***

After making sure we had everything, the two of us passed through the barrier surrounding the house and headed into the forests. Unlike the fabled Everfree Forest near Ponyville, the forests of Saddle Lanka are quite tame and with few dangers, so the two of us were free to walk about at our leisure. I enjoyed taking Beakbreaker to the many sites I had frequented as a child, from my old swimming hole to a large outcropping on the side of the mountains that gave a good view of the vast forests. I even took her to the Crystal Caves, which she was gobsmacked at seeing the massive crystals thrusting from the walls, especially in the waterfall chamber.

As noon came around, I took her to a large hill at the edge of the forest, giving us a nearly limitless view of the plains stretching out to the horizon. Long one of my favorite childhood spots for imagining what lay beyond that horizon, Beakbreaker soon had her checkered blanket spread out, and the two of us ate lunch, watching scattered clouds pass through the bright, blue sky.

As I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I noticed something: For the first time in a long while, I had forgotten about the wings, about Medicomp and the protesters. It was just me and Beakbreaker enjoying ourselves.

It felt really good.

“So,” I asked Beakbreaker, “Uhhh… How’s your nose feeling?”

“Well, it itches every now and then, but that’s it.”

I hesitated, unsure on what to say. “Listen, Beakbreaker, I-”

She held up a hoof. “You didn’t mean to hit me. It was an accident, nothing more."

It was a relief to know that Beakbreaker was in a forgiving mood. "It had just been a rough couple of days," I said. "It won't happen again."

Beakbreaker nodded. “A lot of ponies saw your outburst as proof that adding the wings did something to your brain. Made Coin Counter think of canceling the trip."

“What?”

“I overheard him talking to some of his advisers," Beakbreaker said. "With all the heckling we’ve been getting, he’s seriously considering scrapping the whole thing.”

That didn't sound like Coin Counter. While he was one of the best bosses anyone could ask for, he was still a businesspony, and wanted to make money. Giving up on a tour less then halfway through meant things must have been going worse then I expected.

“You think he’s going to do it?” I asked.

Beakbreaker shrugged. “Who knows? I doubt it, but I heard him talking about going to Canterlot and then calling it a day.”

My heart skipped a beat. “You’re serious?”

“Well, it makes sense. If we make a great impression with the princesses and get their approval, that would silence all the critics out there.”

“Unless we make a catastrophic impression instead.”

Beakbreaker nodded. “But if anyone can impress the princesses, it’s you.”

Could I? My talent was useful against most ponies, but the princesses had the strongest wills in Equestria. There was no way I could bend them to my will, and it would be futile to even try.

Noticing my blank look, Beakbreaker said, “Still, Coin Counter hasn’t made up his mind yet. And if he were to try and schedule it, it would probably take a while. And I… Well, I wouldn’t mind staying here a bit longer.” She looked around, admiring the view. “It’s just so peaceful.”

Closing her eyes, Beakbreaker gave the loveliest smile, her hair billowing in a soft breeze. I was content to just sit and watch her.

Oh Celestia, I wish I could see that smile now, after everything that happened...

***

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Saddle Lanka (taking care to stay away from ponies that might recognize us), reaching the path to the house well after dark.

“I’ll catch up with you later,” Beakbreaker said. “Need to go check in with Coin Counter and catch up on everything.” But as she started off, I thought about what she said and raised my hoof.

“Hey, Beakbreaker! You want a change of scenery? Maybe stay at my parent's place?”

She stopped. "Really?”

“Yeah. My folks have a guest room you can use.” I didn’t tell her that Mangus would have to be kicked out, but I figured she wouldn't care.

“All right!” Beakbreaker said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can!” As she headed back to town, I trotted through the forest, eventually coming back to my parent’s house, lit up with candles in the twilight. Mangus was on the porch, and wasn’t happy to see me.

“Where the hay have you been?! Do you have any idea what-”

I went inside the house, locking the door behind me. My parents were waiting near the dinner table, and I briefly felt like I was a young colt again, and about to be scolded for staying out too late.

“Where were you?!” Mom asked. “Your father and I were getting so worried! Don’t you know the entire town is out to get you?!”

“Dear,” Dad said, “you’re exaggerating.”

“Well… Maybe a little, but there’s still a lot of ponies out there who aren’t happy to see you, Silverspeak. This isn’t the time to be running about!”

“I wasn’t running about,” I said. “I was out showing Beakbreaker around.”

Mom was surprised. “You mean that the two of you were actually out and about all day?”

“Well, yes.”

Mom got a huge smile. “Well, that's good! Where is she, by the way?”

“On her way over. I hope the two of you don’t mind, but I suggested she could stay with us overnight in the guest room.”

“Oh! Well, we don’t mind at all, but I’m afraid Mangus has the guest room.”

Dad glanced at Mom. “He could sleep outside.”

“True… but no. That would be rude. But there’s no reason we have to turn Beakbreaker away.” Mom smiled at me. “Why don’t we have her stay with you, in your room?”

“Wait, with me?”

“Of course! It’d be like a sleepover! I’d better go get some blankets and extra pillows!”

She trotted out of the room, leaving Dad and me behind.

“Well, she seems awfully excited,” I said.

Dad nodded. “Why wouldn’t she be? Beakbreaker’s a star, and a rare one at that. She’s polite, charming, and not a boastful braggart.”

I noticed that while Dad was praising Beakbreaker, he seemed uncomfortable about something, as if there was an embarrassing thought he couldn’t put words too. “Is there something else Mom’s interested in?” I asked. “I mean, I don’t recall her ever getting that excited when I had a slumber party.”

Dad’s awkward silence remained.

“Dad?”

Taking a deep breath, Dad reached besides the couch and pulled out a bunch of newspapers. “Take a look at these.”

I did. They were covering my journey all the way from my reveal in Manehattan, to arriving in Saddle Lanka.

"Look closer. Look at all the pictures.”

I did. Most of them were similar, showing me either heading down a stage, flying, or answering questions from the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary. But when I took a closer look, I noticed something else. In each photo, Beakbreaker was never far from me, and was always watching me with a smile, but there was something about it I couldn't put my hoof on.

“Don’t you realize it, Silverspeak?” Dad asked. “She likes you.”

“Well, we're friends. We've been working together for-”

“I know, I know, but I don't mean like that. I mean, she... you know, likes you.”

It took me a moment to realize what he was saying.

“Silverspeak, she follows you around like a loyal bloodhound. Your mother and I thought you would have noticed by now.”

I didn’t have an answer for him. I hadn’t even thought of Beakbreaker as any more then a friend. To think that she was interested in me…

“Have you thought about if... well, if the two of you would make a good match?”

“What? No, I-”

“Your mother's been wondering why you haven't found a special somepony yet.” Dad gave a sly grin. “She's been dropping hints that how wonderful it would be to have grandkids.”

I stared at Dad, shocked at the thought of Beakbreaker trying to come onto me, perhaps for months, or even a year, and that I had been blind to it. Part of me dismissed such a crazy notion; the two of us were business partners, and friends at most, the kind of friends who went out for doughnuts and enjoyed spending time together, not the kind who wanted something more.

There was a knock at the door. I went over and opened it, found Beakbreaker standing there.

“Hello!” she chirped. “Can I come in?”

I watched her for a moment. Outwardly, nothing had changed, but it was like I was looking at her for the first time.

“Oh, uhh... Of course." I stood aside. But no sooner had Beakbreaker entered than Mangus stormed inside, closing the door behind him, ticked off at having been shut outside. His gaze implied that he would make sure it wouldn't happen again.

Mom came in, blankets and pillows slung over her back, which she then transferred to Beakbreaker. “Here you go, Beakbreaker. We'll be getting a cold front here for the next few days, so these should help." Then, to Mangus, "Mangus, here are your blankets.”

I noticed that Mom had given Mangus the thinnest blankets in the house.

“Now, if any of you need something during the night, the toilet's down the hall, and there's snacks and drinks in the kitchen downstairs. Silverspeak, why don't you show Beakbreaker your room? It's been a long day, and I'm sure the two of you are pooped.”

Beakbreaker eagerly headed up the stairs. I started after her, glancing at my parents and their sheepish grins. Mom indicated for me to go after Beakbreaker, and to possibly do more if I could help it.

It dawned on me that Beakbreaker might have interpreted my overnight invitation in a way I had never imagined.

I found Beakbreaker waiting for me at the top of the stairs, and led her to my room, nervous about what was going to happen inside. But there were no romantic overtones, as Beakbreaker whistled upon entering. “Oh, what I wouldn't have given to have a place like this when I was little.”

“You mean you didn't have a room of your own?”

“We had tents and yurts. Never stayed in one place too long.”

Going to a spot next to the bed, I cleared away a spot for Beakbreaker to sleep, trying to keep my mind off what Dad had told me.

“Well, what embarrassing childhood mementos do we have here?”

I turned and saw her going through some of the boxes I had pushed aside. “Uhhh, nothing! Just a lot of-”

“Wow. Never knew anyone who had such a large Celestia collection.” Beakbreaker pulled out several books, posters, and little figures of Celestia I had displayed throughout my room. “You were really into her, weren't you?”

I blushed, silently berating myself for not having put away my things when I had the chance.

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” Beakbreaker assured me. “After all, she is the Princess.”

“I thought she was so cool,” I confessed. Other young ponies decorated their rooms with Wonderbolt memorabilia, or trinkets commemorating their favorite stars, cartoon shows, and books. I decorated my room with memorabilia about the princess who guided the big ball of burning gas in the center of our solar system.

“What about Luna?”

“Oh, I thought she was cool, too. But Celestia... There was just something about her that spoke to me. Like she was the perfect big sister that you look up to.”

Beakbreaker chuckled as she took a clay figure of the princess.

“Oh my gosh!” I said, “I remember that!” I took the figure in my hooves. “I made this for art class back in kindergarten. The teacher told us to make something we really liked.” The figure was crude, barely more then a fat blob with four stumps for legs and outlandish colors to indicate a mane and tail. But I could still see all the spots where a young pony had done the best he could, wanting to pay tribute to something he adored.

“Let's take it with us,” Beakbreaker said.

“What?”

“Let's take it with us! If we're going to Canterlot, you can show this to Celestia."

My cheeks turned redder than a boiled beet. “No! I mean, it's so old. I can't imagine she'd want to see it. Besides, she probably already gets so many of them daily from other children, I-”

Beakbreaker snatched the figure out of my hooves. “Okay then. I'll take it to her!”

“But I-”

“Think about it. If you admired her so much as a colt, then that made you want to be like her. And look where you've ended up.”

I wanted to argue, but realized it was futile. No way was I going to be able to change Beakbreaker's mind, especially if she could get a giggle at my expense.

Yawning, Beakbreaker put the figure back in the box, then set the blankets and pillows on the floor. I realized that, being a guest in the house, it wasn't proper for her to sleep on the hard floor, and that it was rude to even consider having her do such a thing.

“You can have the bed,” I said. “I'll take the floor.”

Beakbreaker shook her head. “That's okay. Believe me, I'm used to it; spent a lot of time on the floor at my dorm, and on the floor back when I was a filly.”

“Doesn't mean you still have to do it now.”

She chuckled. “True, but it's your house, and I'm your guest.”

“My parent's house, technically.”

“It's the thought counts. And I really don't mind sleeping on the floor.”

“You're sure?”

Beakbreaker crawled between the blankets. “Yes.”

“Well... okay. Just let me know if you change your mind”

Nodding, Beakbreaker settled down, but not quite so much that she went to sleep. She looked up at me for a moment, and I back at her, feeling as if I should say something... Or perhaps ask a certain question.

From the way she watched me, it seemed she was waiting for me to do so.

It was so strange; I could charm and bend others to my will, influence an entire corporation on what path to take, and charm birds from the trees, yet I couldn't find the courage to ask Beakbreaker if she had feelings for me.

The moment passed. Beakbreaker yawned and lay her head down to sleep. Getting into bed, I pulled the covers over myself and did the same.

“Goodnight Silverspeak,” Beakbreaker said. I couldn’t tell if she was disappointed or not.

“Goodnight.”

***

I heard the sound of movement sometime during the night. Waking, I listened, and realized it was Beakbreaker. After my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw Beakbreaker stirring on the floor, turning over and over in an attempt to find a comfortable position.

“Can't sleep?” I asked.

She nodded.

Without thinking, I shifted myself to the side of the bed and pulled the comforter back, inviting her in. After a moment, Beakbreaker did so. It was only when she pulled her side of the comforter up, and I felt her body heat starting to accumulate, did I realize that I had let her sleep with me. While an innocent gesture on my part, I realized she might misinterpret it.

A snore interrupted my thoughts. Beakbreaker had gone back to sleep, romantic interludes not on her mind.

As I settled down to sleep once more, I felt Beakbreaker's hoof touch mine.

Unlike most of my classmates back in school, I had never gone on dates or flirted with other ponies. The world of romance was completely unknown to me, along with all it’s rules, gestures, and flirting techniques. Feeling Beakbreaker's hoof touch mine, even if it had been an instinctive gesture from a sleeping brain, made me envious of those who had experience in dating: It was flattering to think that another pony found me attractive, but I didn't know if I wanted to return the favor. Oh, I liked Beakbreaker as an individual; if anyone were to ask me to a party or social gathering, I would have politely declined. But if Beakbreaker asked me, I'd go along with her. After all, she had given me the chance to follow my dreams, and I owed her so much. Besides, she was charming, and had become quite friendly with me. And whenever she had been close to me, I felt calmer, as if her mere presence was enough to dispel my worries and fears.

And then there was her smile…that beautiful, relaxing smile of hers...

I shook my head. Yes, I liked Beakbreaker as a friend, but I had to keep my priorities in mind. I had wings, but not a horn. If I could somehow get my hooves on one, and get it attached, then my lifelong dream would be fulfilled. Getting into a romantic relationship with another pony would only delay that dream from coming true. Perhaps, after that dream came true, I could pursue a relationship.

I lay in bed, feeling Beakbreaker’s hoof next to mine.

After a while, I reached out and touched it with mine as well.

***

The sleep I had during that night was among the best I ever had, and when I awoke the following morning, I felt ready to leap out of bed and face the day. Beakbreaker was still asleep, her mane lit by the morning light streaming through the window, filtered from clouds moving in, suggesting that we were going to get a storm later in the day.

I slowly slipped out of bed, thinking to go down and prepare breakfast. After all, what kind of host doesn't bring a guest breakfast in bed? I was almost to the door when I glanced at my desk and saw Quiverquill's book. In all that had happened the day before, I had completely forgotten about it, but its pages seemed to call to me.

Beakbreaker snorted, rolling under the sheets. If we were going to spend the day together, I wouldn't get a chance to read through the book. I could spare a few minutes to read through it before she woke up.

What harm could that do?

Pulling up a chair, I took the book and began to read. I had hoped to find a complete copy of Quiverquill’s now-destroyed notes, but was disappointed to find that it was a grab-bag of quickly scribbled fragments, most likely copied in a great hurry. But the more I read, the more a complete picture began to emerge of what Quiverquill had originally researched about. One note near the back caught my attention.

Though it has long persisted in rumor and speculation, I have finally found proof that the legend of the Cursed King is, in fact, true! Ponies have pointed out that there is no truth to the legend, and that researchers and scholars like myself were only wasting our time studying it. But I can now explain why there is no proof: all the evidence has been destroyed!

From what I can tell, the subjects of the Cursed King hated him so much, and yet feared his power so greatly, that they took all manner of steps to ensure that his very existence was erased from history, presumably by destroying his manuscripts and scrolls, along with any visual representation of him. Considering how their civilization itself died out shortly afterwards, it appeared that they would have succeeded.

There was a hastily scribbled drawing of a scroll on the next page.

I found this scroll inside a hidden cave within the Blue Mountains; it is a letter from one of the last living citizens of this long-lost kingdom, who apparently decided that Equestria needed to remember the King's evil deeds, so that they would never repeat those mistakes the King did. I have yet to translate it beyond the first few lines, as the language is fiendishly difficult to decipher, but it gives directions to-

Unfortunately, time and exposure to mildew had rendered the next few pages completely unreadable, and the paper heavily damaged. I had to skip ahead several pages to find the next readable portion of text.

-outrunning the guards, my dead friend had also taken with him, in great secrecy, several tapestries the King had made of himself. But while there, I also found a written history of the King's deeds, which is far too detailed and comprehensive to be a forgery. I intend to copy it fully into this book, but for now, a short summary shall suffice:

Long ago, there was a kingdom on the northern borders of the Blue Mountains. Although not as large or powerful as neighboring kingdoms, it was blessed with an abundance of natural resources that were much envied. To protect itself, the kingdom's ruler, a unicorn of superb magical talent, used all of his skills and magic to enclose his kingdom within a magical dome to protect the kingdom from those who wished to invade and take it all for themselves. And for a time, it was good. But then the King began to change. He grew to see himself as a god. He began to demand tribute, and, eventually, sacrifices. Any who protested had their brains wiped clean and turned into mindless slaves. When that failed to cower his subjects, he then used his magic to enslave their very essences to him, so that he would use their energy to live forever, grow stronger, and eventually conquer all of Equestria itself.

That was the turning point. The king's guards fought back and defeated him. They forcibly removed his horn, and, as punishment for his misdeeds, took him deep beneath the mountains and entombed him, so that he would never again see the lands he so desired to rule. Spells were cast, cursing him to live forever in never-ending silence, so that he could never call for help or speak another blasphemous word. They buried his horn next to him, so that the means of his conquest would always be within reach, yet forever beyond his grasp. And so they left him there, where no one would ever find him.

Such spells are nonsense, of course. No one knows of any such incantations, but it seems that the rest of the text is true. I must try to find out more!

The next several pages were too damaged to read. Only the final page in the book was eligible, containing a single entry.

I have found it! The way into the mountains! A map has led me to the precise location, which, astonishingly enough, is right underneath Saddle Lanka! But I don't want to arouse suspicion, so I have, in great secrecy, begun to dig to this passage from the basement of my home. With any luck, I shall finally break through, and find the Cursed King myself!

Beakbreaker stirred, pushing the comforter aside. I quickly snapped the book closed and pushed it into a drawer.

“Morning,” Beakbreaker said, stretching so hard that I head her joints crack. She slipped out of bed and looked at me. “Well, what's got you so cheerful this morning?”

“Oh, I don't know,” I said. “Just feels like something big is coming.”

“Is it good?”

I smiled. “Oh yes.”

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