• Published 1st Feb 2013
  • 1,819 Views, 93 Comments

The Ghost Of You - MadMan



Sequel to Intension. Twilight, Luna, and the Black Berets seek to stop the unstoppable.

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Dead Stallion Carousel

Luna paced restlessly across the ruined room as Twilight and the Black Berets watched quietly. It was now two days since Hawkeye and Nightfury left for Canterlot, and they had yet to return. The sun was sinking lower on the horizon, and Twilight could feel her hopes sinking with it. Nightfury and Hawkeye might be the only ones on a mission, but that didn't mean the rest of the group had been idly waiting at the castle ruins. They had been brainstorming, desperately trying to decide on a contingency for any situation. However, the ideas offered were far greater in number than the solutions, so they quickly put a stop to the depressing debates and settled to wait in silence.

The sun had all but vanished behind the trees when Luna abruptly stopped pacing, her eyes narrowing at the trees off to one side. None of the Black Berets needed spoken orders; immediately jumping up and assuming a defensive stance. Silence reigned in the ancient and crumbled hall for a crushing minute. Leaves rustled in the wind, and somewhere, a twig snapped. Luna snarled and sent invisible magic through the undergrowth, the ethereal tendrils snaking through the dead leaves and detritus, seeking the intruder.

A bird burst from the bushes, chirping madly at the unseen interloper that had forced it from it’s perch. The Black Berets jumped, then sighed in relief as one. Luna cast her magic wider, making sure that there were no other surprises. When none was found, Luna allowed herself to sink to the floor, closing her eyes but for a second.

Luna opened her eyes to see violet. Somehow, in the split second of ignoring the world around her, Twilight had snuck up on her, and was now leaning over the Princess.

“Luna? Are you okay?” Twilight gently murmured. Luna rolled her eyes in a half-hearted fashion.

“I suppose so, dear,” Luna mumbled to the stone floor. “I just need to stretch my legs a bit. Come, let us walk.”

Luna stood, walking past the Black Berets at the entrance to the ruined castle. Continuing down the road, they were soon out of sight of the castle, but still they said not a word. Thin silence followed them, or as close a facsimile could be found in the forest. Birds chirped in the distance, wind rustled the trees, and countless nighttime creatures emerged yawning from their dens, ready to face another night in the woods.

Luna abruptly tired of their path down the worn but clear path, and turned off into the forest. Twilight made to question her beloved, but decided to instead follow in silence. Mile after mile came and went, passing under ever more weary hooves. At length, the two mares found themselves at the edge of a pond. The water was so still and clear, Twilight could see straight to the bottom. At first she thought it couldn't be too deep, but a quick analysis of the size of the fish swimming about changed her mind. Luna made her way to the edge of the pond and sat, gazing at the halcyon water.

Twilight lay beside Luna and spoke, her voice soft as to not disturb the tranquility of the place. “Luna, where are we?”

“I have no idea, Twilight. I simply followed my hooves, and they brought us here. Such a lovely place, too.” Luna smiled and lay down, crossing her legs in the ever so graceful way Twilight envied.

“So you have never been here before?” Twilight ventured, amazed at how such a lovely place could go unnoticed for so long.

“Never. Is it so hard to believe? Even though it is in the center of our domain, the Everfree Forest is vastly unexplored and unknown, even to us Princesses. The final battle with Nightmare Moon cost Celestia much, and such an event was bound to leave long repercussions.” Luna smiled grimly, looking at the newly risen moon. "The laws of spacial mechanics dictate that when two objects collide, there is always damage of a collateral nature."

Twilight shivered as she tried to imagine how much magic had been released to transform an enormous area so drastically.

“A lot.”

“What?”

Twilight was jerked out of her deliberations by Luna, who was now grinning.

“I know you’re trying to imagine how much magic it would take to affect such a large area, and I tell you, quite a lot indeed...”

Twilight felt another twinge run down her spine. At first, she thought it was from imagining unimaginable magics running rampant, but she looked back and noticed it was simply a mosquito biting at her back. She squinted at it, attempting to intimidate the insect into leaving, but there was no reasoning with such simple forms of life. Settling for the violent option, Twilight raised a hoof and swatted the mosquito, crushing it’s life out with a simple motion. Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight saw Luna flinch.

“Why did you do that, Twilight?”

“Kill the mosquito? It was biting me.”

“And?”

Twilight saw Luna’s eyes narrow dangerously, and knew she had crossed some incomprehensible line. She frantically searched her mind for an acceptable answer. “It was preparing to draw sustenance from my blood, and in the process expose me to it’s saliva, which has a possibility of containing blood borne pathogens that can be quite dangerous.”

“So you kill it?” Luna’s eyes lost their narrowed look, but were still accusing Twilight uncomfortably.

“Well, yes, it was the natural response.”

Luna grunted and looked back to the sky. Twilight felt like a physical pressure had been taken off her as the piercing blue eyes left her.

“But does that make it right?”

Twilight was caught off guard by this statement. “I hardly see it as a matter of right or wrong. More like natural selection.”

“So does natural selection make it right?”

Twilight furrowed her brows as she thought. “Right or wrong doesn't quite compute on nature’s scale. Animals only do what is necessary to survive.”

“"Necessary? Does that word excuse immorality?”

“Immorality? I killed a mosquito. Forgive me Luna, but I fail to see how this makes any sense.”

Luna’s unexpected response was to wrap her wing around Twilight, drawing her close and planting a kiss on her muzzle. “Nor do I expect you to. I just want you to be thinking about it. It may become relevant in the near future.”

Twilight closed her eyes and pressed her head against Luna’s neck, enjoying the peaceful embrace in the moonlight. “Why must we deliberate such morbid matters?”

“I fear we need to now, lest you be unprepared for what may follow in the future. I don’t want to be unprepared, is all. I’m sure you remember the frog. That was unexpected, but necessary. It was also minor on the large scale. Imagine if it had been a pony.”

Speak not so lightly of taking life.

Twilight and Luna both jumped to their feet, startled by the loud voice that had reverberated through the air, deep and sonorous. The source was not immediately discernible, but it quickly became so. The center of the pond began to glow, and from the deep rose the shape of a stallion with his eyes closed, ethereal grey and translucent. His mane was floating about him as of weightless, and he himself stood atop the surface of the pond, not making a single ripple or otherwise disturbing the calm waters. The mares stood on the shore and stared, somehow knowing that this mysterious being meant them no trouble.

The eyes shot open. They were the same shade of grey as the rest of him, except lucid, glowing with an otherworldly pale. The voice came again, but the mouth did not move. The sound seemed to resonate from the very ground around them.

All life is sacred. Mortals are not to judge the worth of death. That is my responsibility, and mine alone.

“Who are you?”

Who? I am no who. I am unbound by your temporal laws. However, if you desire a label, you may call me the Stallion Of Still Waters.

Luna stood, tall and strong as is befitting a Princess. “I am a Princess of Equestria, immortal and divine. I would know who you are and what you mean by judging the worth of death.”

The eyes turned to Luna, and examined her closely. After a pause, the Stallion spoke again.

I see who you are. A remnant. One of the last. You judge life here in this realm. I judge the death of those going beyond.

“What does that mean, exactly?”

I guide those who die to the correct afterlife, as I have done for countless eons past and countless eons future. Every pony, animal, insect and plant eventually passes me.

Twilight suddenly felt very vulnerable about the mosquito she had just killed. The Stallion seemed to notice her discomfort, looking straight at her. To Twilight, it was if her very soul was laid bare before him.

Fear not, young Sparkle. The mosquito held no other roles in this world. It was it’s time.

“I... How did you...”

I am not pony. I operate under different parameters that you could not understand. Time holds no meaning to me, other than to orchestrate passing.

The ghostly eyes shifted from Twilight and back to Luna.

And you, Luna, I see death heavy on your mind. Nightfury and Hawkeye, they are called.

Twilight could see Luna’s throat choke on words she wished to say, but once again, the Stallion seemed to know exactly her thoughts.

Allow me.

The Stallion began to turn without moving, floating and spinning in place until his back was to the pair. Once he was facing the opposite direction, a larger section of the pond began to glow, and a ghostly carousel began to rise in from of him. It was in all grey tones, with the striped top alternating between bone white and foggy grey. Thick chains looped across the lower edge of the top, framing a grisly scene. Around the circumference where there would ordinarily be poles supporting a various manner of mythical creatures and carriages for the young ones to ride, instead there were dead ponies. The bodies were limp, with wide, unseeing eyes and tongues hanging out of languid jaws. The poles were dark metal spikes, impaling the bodies in the middle of the back. Blood ran down the sides of those ponies, looking like nothing more than shadows in grayscale. The bodies swayed gently as they were slowly spun around as the carousel revolved. Twilight watched, horrified, and suddenly realized that no pony ever came around a second time. A pony would come past and as the carousel rotated they would be whisked out of view, never to be seen again, another dead pony taking it’s place.

As Twilight watched, the Stallion lifted his front hooves in the air, and the carousel began to spin fast and faster, until the ragdoll dead were passing in such a blur as to be indistinguishable from the next. Wind began to blow from behind the mares, rustling their manes into a frenzy as the carousel spun. After several seconds of the whirlwind, the air calmed and the carousel slowed back to it’s previous crawl. The Stallion lowered his hooves and turned to face them again.

Nightfury has not passed by me yet. He still exists in this world.

“What about Hawkeye?”

The Stallion turned his head to one side, as if considering.

You should return. Make haste.

Without waiting on a reply, the Stallion Of Still Waters began to sink, disappearing underneath the water’s surface. Twilight and Luna stood stunned for a moment, then looked at each other. Without a word, they turned and began to run through the undergrowth back towards the ruins. Reaching the ancient road, they galloped at full pace until the castle came into view. Barreling through the entrance, the two mares found the Black berets all huddled in the middle of the room. When they recognized their Commander and Princess, they split, letting Twilight and Luna see that they had gathered around a very weary Hawkeye, who saluted and approached.

“Princess, I have bad news. Nightfury was captured in Canterlot. He was able to send me some documents, but was caught by... Something. I know not who or what. We had agreed I was to wait outside and secure our escape route. All I know is that it wasn't soldiers. The magical aura was all wrong.”

Luna furrowed her brows at the news. “What documents?”

Without speaking, Hawkeye reached into his small saddle bag and removed a roll of thick parchment. Luna unrolled it and gasped. Twilight moved closer. “What is it?”

“A map.” Luna examined the map closely.

“A map of what?”

“Invasion plans. It details planned conquests.”

“Starting where?”

Luna lowered the map and looked at Twilight, a strange expression in her eyes.

“Ponyville.”

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