• Published 24th Mar 2013
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Fallout: Equestria - False Dawn - Requiem Mori



Equestria has fallen, and the pieces are still being recovered. A mare wanders alone, cold and embittered. Perhaps she'll find friendship, even in these dark times... if such a thing is even possible.

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Chapter 18: Road to Eternity

Chapter 18: Road to Eternity

Scatter them to the winds, let none find rest under this accursed sky.

What can be said about a friend? They are there for you, even when you do not deserve them. And they are there to tell you things, even when you do not wish to hear them. It seems that they can be more trouble than they are worth, maintaining a relationship, listening to those in need. Yet... the fact remains. While there may be a certain inconvenience with being attached to others, it is a simple fact that they provide a spark of life in an otherwise dreary world. I miss those I could call my friends dearly, though I would never tell them such a thing. It is a lonely road I walk, yet I cannot bring others with me. They must never know my secrets... my loneliness. My pain.
~ From the Journal of Nevermore

Alone again. The silence of the road, unbroken by chatter and company. A familiar thing to me, yet now foreign. I had spent too much time in the company of the others. Ponies, it seems, were naturally drawn to others, even bitter and lonely ones like myself. Something inside of us craved company, though those like myself may deny it. My hooves clip off the road as I walk amidst the death and debris of the broken wasteland. Alone. For now, at least. My mind wanders as I walk... should I show up again? Perhaps it would be best if I just faded away, leaving my companions to their happiness, leaving them to what joy they can muster in this Wasteland. They have safety now, somewhat, and they have each other. The reason I had joined, to protect Zone Control and Frisky Fritter, has passed. They’re hardened now, no longer reliant on me to warn them of all the dangers. They’ve grown from being the naive Stable ponies that I had first encountered, to strong wasteland fighters, now fully capable of surviving without me. They don’t follow me to survive now. No... now they just follow me to death.

I mull the matter in my mind, keeping what I had learned hidden, even from the others. Head Case had told me that more was needed than to just merely play my role with the box. No, the Warlords of Detrot were still out there, and one had an iron grip on the Dead Zone. Memento Fallen, ruler of that forsaken hell. Striking him down would be a boon to my cause, providing a window for my Captain to be recovered. Yet, to strike down a Warlord was far beyond even my ability, and would assuredly mean the death of all those with me. It was doubtful we would even get close, and definitely fatal no matter the outcome. But... these thoughts are morose and idle. I need to move quickly, needing to stay within my self imposed time limit. There will be plenty time for recrimination later, or the release of sweet oblivion. Breaking into a gallop, my wings open as I take to the skies, flying low to avoid notice. Time... something I have had far too much of recently, the years stretching into decades. Yet now there is not enough, not nearly enough. My mind wanders as I fly, the rhythmic beat of my wings propelling me towards the uncertain future.

~~~~~~~~~~

“So, Nevermore was it? Are you doing alright?” The rose colored pegasus pokes her head into the doorway, even as I sit on the bed, my book snapping shut as she enters. They had provided the reading, but old habits die hard. The darkly bound book was filled with poetry and stories, something I was familiar with, that provided me comfort.

I hesitate slightly as she asks, the name Written Verse was still more familiar to me. My new one, Nevermore, was a name chosen spontaneously to hide my identity and show my remorse and sorrow. But it is how I will be known now. A new future, a new identity. “Yes, it is. And I am fine. Nessia... that is your name, correct?” I move slowly and painfully though several days had passed, my body still recovering from that day, the day my life ended. I hide the pain behind my eyes, forcing my face to an impassive mask. Never again would I allow somepony close enough to hurt me again. I put up walls to keep others away, even these who saw me weak and vulnerable. I silently swear to myself that nopony would ever see me like that again. Not my father, not these ponies... never again.

She nods as she pushes the door fully open, a small tray on her back, a steaming bowl of soup and a hunk of bread resting upon it. “Yeah, but you can call me Nessy if you want. Brought you something to eat, figured you needed to.” She smiles kindly at me, the smell of food causing my stomach to rumble slightly. “Brought something a little special too, to help you feel better.” From inside her voluminous sweater, she produces a bottle, the top corked and label worn, along with a pair of glasses. “Chilled hard cider!” It seemed the mare had endless pockets in that thing, able to pull out what she wanted at a whim.

I shake my head slightly, her smile fading a bit as she watches me. “I do not drink.” My mournful tone causes her face to fall further, even as I look up to her. “But... do not let me stop you.”

She puts the tray on the nightstand, and hops up onto the bed, looking at me. “Well, I’m not going to make you drink anything, but what’s wrong?” The concern in her eyes is touching, but my spirit rebels against it. I do not want pity... my pride will not permit it. I may be fallen, lost and alone, but I still have my dignity.

I look away from her, not wanting to meet her gaze, not wanting her to see my pain. Already I feel my face harden, shielding my thoughts, my feelings, myself. “Nothing... I am fine.” My voice is flat and cold, devoid of any warmth or emotion.

My head whips around as the mare snatches my hat off my head, letting my crimson locks flow freely. “Well, I’ll just hang onto this until you let me know what’s wrong, alright?” She plops my hat on her own head, smiling at me from beneath the wide brim. I was surprised by how fast she was. I had barely noticed she took it. While I could blame my injuries slowing me down, the truth was that I didn’t see it until she had already lifted it.

But still, I can’t help it. She looks ridiculous like that, my hat perched jauntily on her head, completely at odds with her dark red sweater. My mouth starts to curl up into a smirk, before the weight of the past and my sorrows come crashing down on me again. That hat was precious to me. It was given to me by my mother, just before her death. A proper lady... that’s what she called me the first time I wore it, my heart swelling with pride. Then she was taken from me. Forever. “Very well... do what you will.” I know she’s just trying to make me feel better, yet such was my despair that it swallowed everything else up.

“Hey, none of that now. You’re alive, and I did the cooking, so it’s good. Just try some, alright?” She gives me a pat on the shoulder, this stranger that I had just met. One of the ponies that had saved my life on the sea. Why did they do that? Why do they care for me? I was nopony to them. If anything, I was a burden. Wounded and riddled with pain. They didn’t need me around. I had nothing to offer and everything to cost them. A fugitive without a home, a pirate without a ship. A murderer without remorse. “And if you just want to talk... well, the Captain’s taking the helm, so I have time.”

I look at her, wanting to tell her everything. Wanting to reveal how my life had begun to crash down, beginning with the death of my mother, and winding its way through the years until culminating with the betrayal that left me nearly dead on this strange ship, the Flickerjack. Yet, I do not. I cannot. Though I have been forsaken and outcast, I will not besmirch my family’s name, even now. “Thank you. But that is not necessary right now.” I start to eat the soup, the warmth welcome and much needed, my body famished and weak. She’s a good cook at least, and as I eat, she drops my hat back on the bed next to me.

“Alright then, Nevermore. I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re welcome to the Flickerjack. If you need anything, just let me know, alright?” She slips out the door, closing it gently behind her. I watch the door for a little bit, then bury my face into the pillow to muffle my quiet sobs, staining it with bitter tears.

~~~~~~~~~~

A high pitched scream breaks me out of my memories, snapping me back into full attention even as I fly. Dropping from the sky, I start to move carefully, seeing what was happening, seeing if I could avoid it. This isn’t my fight, and I do so hate trying to intervene. Yet, it is good to know what’s going on, avoiding a casual blunder into crossfire. Alighting on a diner, apparently one named ‘Carrot Sticks’, I spy the confrontation unfolding before me. A caravan is under assault, raiders starting to swarm the beleaguered ponies. A chocolate colored mare hides behind cover, her shotgun peeking over the side of the overturned sky chariot. Her mane was a mix of dark and light... and she looked a bit familiar.

With a fierce roar, another storm of pellets erupts from her gun, sending another raider crashing to the ground. Despite the caravan’s defense, it was clear that they were going to be overrun soon as more ponies start to move around the defenses. My heart drops as I see a small shape scrambling through the ruins towards the shotgun wielding mare, a bag dragging behind the foal. Ponies lived and died as they would, cast to the cruel fate of the wastes. Yet the little ones, the foals, could not protect themselves, could not defend themselves. It fell on others to watch and ward them from the perils that would harm them. This one was charging into a war zone with a bag full of shells and ammunition. My gaze hardens as I start to analyze the fight. Looks like I need to get involved after all.

Dropping from the roof, I descend upon one of the flanking raiders. They never look up until it’s far too late. My knife buries into his neck ensuring that he won’t learn that particular lesson in this life. A vicious twist also ensures that he wouldn’t get up, even as I fall on the next one, my face and cloak splattered with the blood of the fallen. One after another, they fall, from the snick of a blade to the roar of a gun, even as they finally start to turn and find me. The raiders fight back, lashing out, biting, shooting small arms. But at this range, they’re more dangerous to themselves than to me. My skill and my armor lets me avoid most of the damage, a small caliber round skipping off my armored dress. Slipping to the side, my hoof shoves a rifle away even as it roars, even as I bury my knife up into another raider, feeling the thunk as the knife skips off her ribs. Ah, I remember now. That’s how I knew the chocolate mare.

The world falls silent as the rest of the raiders are either dead or fleeing. There would be no pursuit, the caravan busy licking its wounds and burying its dead. More importantly, there was no profit in vengeance. I could understand the feeling.

There’s the sound of a pistol chambering a round, loud over the sudden stillness. “Don’t make any sudden moves, and nopony gets hurt.” The gruff stallion holds his pistol at me. Large caliber. Could probably punch through my armor, though I doubt it would outright kill me. He’s welcome to try though, it would be short and brutally messy for him.

Still, no reason to get shot unnecessarily. I calmly start to wipe my knife on the coat of a fallen raider, cleaning the blade even as my voice rasps out. “Bit late for that, do you not think?” I look the tan stallion over quickly. Looks like a competent fighter, and the scars and blood on him declare his willingness to get into a fight if needed. He doesn’t seem amused by my deadpan retort, though at least he’s not trying to shoot me.

“It’s alright Steady, she’s solid.” The chocolate mare trots towards us, the foal staying near her side. Though she’s armored now, I can imagine the scar where my knife had taken her in the ribs. Looks like she survived after all.

“If ya say so Bitter.” He gives a short snort of derision, his pistol disappearing into his coat as he turns away. “Just make sure that none of the raiders get back up. Don’t want more trouble. This run has been costly already.” I get the feeling that he wasn’t just talking about blood... or was even particularly interested in that, but rather the cold hard caps.

I raise an eyebrow as I start to sheathe my knives, slipping them into my dress. “Bitter? That’s your name?” I make sure each of my knives are clean, as I don’t want to get blood in their sheaths or cause them to stick later in a fight.

“Bittersweet, actually.” She pulls the foal up closer to look at me. “And this is Gwenivera... she’s mine.” I watch the small foal, a bag full of medical supplies and shotgun shells draped over her shoulder. “Are the other two still with you, or...” She shakes her head slightly, looking back over her shoulder towards the rest of the caravan. “I never did thank you for... not killing me that day.” There’s a bit of a hard edge to her tone however. Justified, considering the last time we met I had intended to execute her. Still, I didn’t, and she is live. What more could a pony ask for?

I shake my head, somewhat satisfied that she seems to be doing well, glad that the mercy Zone asked me for was not for naught. “They are fine... and you seem to be doing better.” I look at her, trying to reconcile the pretty mare in front of me with the wild eyed raider that I had nearly killed. There’s the faint smell of chocolate in the air, even as I look down at Gwenivera. “So you did have a foal. I thought perhaps you had made it up, asking for mercy.”

She gives a short laugh. “You nearly killed me... but guess you saved me too.” She looks down at Gwenivera. “Now I can look back... and say it was a mistake. But times were tough... and I couldn’t just... well.” She ruffles the foal’s mane lovingly, even as she starts to load the shotgun again.

Nodding understanding, I keep my face impassive. She may not be a raider now, but she was then, so I felt no remorse at nearly ending her life. I would have too, if Zone didn’t stop me then. Still, some small part of me was glad that my act of mercy then was not betrayed by the cruelty of the Wastes. Well, at least not yet. Optimism is in short supply in general, and I find that for me it’s just not worth the pain to hope any more.

“So where are you up to then? By yourself this time it seems.” The mare holsters her shotgun, pulling a stream of shells from the foal’s bag into her own. Even as she talks, her gaze flicks around, looking for trouble, on guard even now.

“Going North. Past the barrier.” Her eyes grow a little wide as I say that. “Have something to do up there.” I understand her concern. The barrier was held by the Steel Rangers, and was notoriously hard to get through. Layers of defenses, turrets, and guards made it nearly impossible to approach unharmed, and they weren’t exactly the sort to just let a pony stroll through.

“The barrier? Doubt you can just walk through... what do you have to do with the can heads anyways? Some are alright, but some just... well, they just ain’t right.” She spits to the side, clearly having her own thoughts on the Rangers. Something it seemed that many ponies shared. For my part, I didn’t have much of an opinion of them. Better armed thugs, I never had the technology they craved, so they were more likely to leave me alone.

I hesitate for a second, weighing my response. I can’t reveal my full objective, my full purpose. Trust nopony, that is a lesson harshly learned but never forgotten. “Somepony needs me... and I cannot rest until this is done.”

She looks over me, as if analyzing what sort of pony I am. “A friend?”

“I do not have those any more.” There’s that awkward silence, one that I’m used to though it can still feel uncomfortable. I look around, bodies lying on the ground, raiders and guards alike. Death falls heavy on everypony, guilty and just alike. But which was I at this point? A hard question to be sure. Driven by guilt to fight for redemption. Driven by hate to perpetuate my sins. Sometimes I don’t know if I want to scream, cry, or just snap. A ticking time bomb, a guillotine hanging by a single thread... the doom of those around me. The weight of the death I have seen weighs on me again, smothering and stifling my drive, though not extinguishing it. Not again. “I should move on. I need to move on.”

Bittersweet slips up to me, dropping something into my bag. “Take this then... was going to sell it, but figure I owe you one... for me and her.” Her eyes flick down to Gwenivera as she says this. The heavy metal object settles in, even as I look over to her. “Will help with the barrier at least... Just don’t let Steady know.”

Normally, I would be adverse to taking her help, from taking any help, yet... yet I did not want to fail. Last time I had cleared the barrier, it was through a combination of luck, bravado, and sheer bloody-mindedness, coupled with my unnatural toughness. I had a suspicion of what it was, and if my thoughts were correct, it was a valuable gift indeed... for a time. Nodding my head politely, I prepare to take off, then hesitate. I reach into my bag, tossing her a bag of caps. “I hate owing others.” That is true, but I also have the feeling that my journey would soon end. Perhaps another could use the things I will leave behind more than some corpse searcher would. An idle hope, but at least better than imagining the alternative. Things were coming to a head, it seems, whispers of fear and darkness... My part of this finale was yet to come, but I felt drawn in, like a moth to a flame. No more words were spoken. None were needed. Opening my wings, I take to the skies again, leaving the caravan behind me, my heart heavy, my mind drifting.

That seemed to happen more, these days, losing track of the rest of the world. I suppose I was just old and tired, remembering what was, as opposed to what was around me. My memory was tattered at times, though with my journal I can usually replace the pieces. An old mare with a weary soul. Still, my mind looks towards the wall, the great barrier... and the future that lies behind it.

~~~~~~~~~~

Knight Initiate Sure Shot was bored. Not just bored, painfully bored. The Great Barrier Wall separated the top section of Detrot from the rest of the city, a bastion against the savages of the rest of the city. The Steel Rangers were loved or feared, though for Sure Shot, he didn’t really care about any of that. No, he was sitting in a room, surrounded by the whirr of electronics. Officially, he was supposed to be watching for anypony trying to breach the Barrier without authorization. Unofficially, he had nothing to do but sit there and drink hot caffeinated beverages in a losing battle to stay awake. Nothing ever happened that required his attention. The automated turrets would handle anypony unauthorized, and the rest had to pass through the great gates where other ponies would handle it. No, his job was here because nopony else was unlucky enough to draw it, and the rules dictated that there had to be a pony here to keep an eye on it.

He sighs, watching the screen blip at him again. There was a story told by ponies banished to this room, passed down for several decades, about how a Tartarus born daemon, tore through the wall. Tales varied from there, some claiming that it was a phantom that disappeared as soon as it showed up. Others claimed that it was a vengeful spirit with claws as sharp as daggers. He didn’t believe any of them, just an old mare’s tale to scare the ponies stuck here on guard duty. Still, it could be worse. At least he didn’t have to patrol the Wastes with the monsters and tribals out there.

Perhaps due to inattention, perhaps due to being tired, he doesn’t notice the console start beeping at him, not right away. The constant noise eventually drew his attention though, causing him to stare in confusion at the screen for a few seconds. A bright dot was rapidly approaching the Barrier, the contact seeming to go past the outlying checkpoints and patrols... or over them. “Uh... Command? This is Knight Initiate Sure Shot... we have a situation here... we have a contact approaching fast.”

A voice crackles over the radio. “Understood Initiate... keep an eye on it and report as required. The patrols should handle it.” The voice seems almost bored, a feeling he could understand, but the contact just went through the furthest lines of defense, and was closing quickly.

“Command? It seems to be... a flier? It’s bypassed the checkpoints, and appears to be on a direct course with the wall.” His voice is starting to get a little panicked. What is this? Shouldn’t they have shot them down yet? Was this the Wall Daemon?

“A flier? Are you sure? Stand by.” There’s a pause of a few seconds, and Sure Shot can imagine the Paladin barking orders, getting confirmation. “We have a visual, Initiate. Seems to be a pegasus. The turrets should handle her.”

“Understood Command.” Well, at least this was something, the stallion breathing a sigh of relief. Still, he almost felt bad for this pegasus. The turrets would certainly knock her out of the air. What were they thinking? Everypony in the area would know about the Barrier, would know better than to try and approach it. Was she trying to kill herself maybe? Seconds tick by with nothing happening. Shouldn’t the turrets have fired by now? He looks over at the screen, checking to see if they were malfunctioning. No, all green still... so what’s wrong? His eyes grow wide as he slams the button on the radio again. “Command? The turrets aren’t responding. I think they have an identifier! I repeat, the turrets are not engaging!”

“What? That’s impossible... only Rangers should...” There’s a break in the connection again before the Paladin’ voice comes back, cold and hard. “A patrol was reported lost earlier in an ambush. This pegasus might have taken their identifier. Switch to manual, take them down.”

“Y-yes sir!” Slaving the turrets to manual fire, Sure Shot waits for the link up to finish. By the Goddesses, this pegasus was fast. She was already nearly to the wall, only time for a few shots...

~~~~~~~~~~

Things were going as planned, something I’m not used to expecting. The transponder in my bag keeping the turrets from targeting me, though there’s a few pot shots from the ground. Just like last time, though this time no massive pulses of laser energy fling up at me. No sooner had I thought this, then my ears catch the thrum of something charging. Dropping to the side abruptly, a searing beam of light just misses me, lancing up from the previously quiet turrets. Looks like things just got more complicated. Dodging about, I twist and drop, making it harder for whoever’s manning the turrets to get a lock. More fire lances up at me, the smaller shells missing my quick form, though several bite and sting through my armor, singeing my coat. Fortunately, the ponderous cannons weren’t meant to engage such a small target this close, buying me just enough time to twist out of the way.

Blood and flesh falls behind me as the punishing fire tries to bring me down... just a little closer, just a little closer. Pouring as much as I can into my wings, I finally burst past the wall, the fire stopping abruptly as if a switch were suddenly thrown. I release a breath that I had been holding. This time was just as harrowing as last time... Still, I could see my objective in the distance. The Shadowbolt Memorial Museum. A standing tribute to a great mare and her daring heroics during the War. I remember her, the famous Rainbow Dash. I had seen her from time to time in Ponyville, never having liked the brash mare during those times. No, she and her friends were always a constant source of irritation for me. That all changed, during the war. She became a leader, a symbol. Representing the pride and daring of the pegasus race. Led by her example, pegasi became a terrifying force for the zebras to deal with. Fast, hard hitting, and highly mobile, which is why they sought the aid of dragons and griffons, contesting our aerial supremacy... still. That was then. Now we’re the shattered remnants of a proud group, ignorant of our true heritage, forsaking those that fought for our futures... but my past looms before me, even as the future drives me. Though to what degree, I didn’t realize yet.

~~~~~~~~~~

The museum stands before me, even as I stand drenched beneath the weeping skies. A torrential rain had begun to pour, washing the Wasteland, pouring down my face in tears that I can no longer shed. Regrets... it seems that was all I had left sometimes. Regrets and hatred. I feel old, tired. The weight of history burdening me as I look at the shattered remains of the museum. Time had not been kind to the structure, the walls broken in places, scorched in others. Yet it lingers on, much like myself, much like Equestria. Sighing deeply, I press my hoof up against the door, the hinge screeching as I open it, stepping inside. The storm continues to beat against the building, distracting my attention. I used to love the rain, listening to it rattle against my window. A beautiful piece of stained glass, a somber memorial to my family now lost to me. Sometimes, I still wonder what happened to them after I fled. My father, my siblings... I pray their end was quick when Equestria fell. Finally, I notice something that would have screamed danger if I wasn’t so preoccupied. The floor was clean, meticulously so. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a dull red gleam and the faint whine of servos and gears. Cursing silently, I start to turn, but too slowly, a metal shod hoof crashing into the side of my face, tearing off a chunk of flesh.

Sliding across the tile floor, I roll over, trying to find my hooves again, trying to get up before my assailant jumps me again. I feel a pair of hooves grab me from behind, and before I know it, I’m propelled through the air where I slam into the wall. Snarling my anger, I launch off the wall, my dagger flashing, to be intercepted by a metal hoof, the other pony shoving me back, even as her voice brings me up short, my dagger pressed against her leg. “Nevermore.”

I finally look at my attacker, my eyes tracing up to her face, even as I pull my dagger back, slipping it into my cloak again. “Nessy.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Why do you let me stay here? You hardly know me.” I look over at the rose colored pegasus as she flies up to the crow’s nest, my hat blocking out the blazing sun overhead. The boat sways slightly, but I don’t mind. The sea was something I was familiar with, a second home. My mind focuses on the world around me, but my heart is still at my old home... How many of them knew? How many were complicit? Little Sonnet would be the Lady of the Loft now, I assume. Young, innocent... how long until her hooves were stained with blood? I never told her what I did, what the family did. I never told any of them. I was their big sister, and I had meant to keep all the cruelty of the world hidden from them. They probably assume I am dead, consigned to a watery grave. They wouldn’t search for me, of this at least I am certain. Even if I lived, they would prefer to bury the memory of me, forgetting that I actually exist. It was a measure of pragmatism and efficiency... even a daughter would be discarded in a heartbeat for the safety of the house. Loyalty above all else. I close my eyes, my mouth feeling like ash even as that engrained memory wars with my anger at betrayal. I flirt with the idea of vengeance, bringing those who caused my suffering under my hoof and crushing them. But I bury such feelings. It would destroy the family if I did that... so I will suffer in silence, live in exile.

Nessy looks at me as she perches on the side of the crow’s nest. “Because you needed help. Not like we’re going to throw you back.” She smiles at me. “Besides, you can help keep the Captain in line too. He’s a full time job sometimes.”

I roll my eyes as I listen to her, my mind wandering to thoughts of the idiot running this ship. “I can imagine... Forgive my... bluntness, but I do not see how he can function as a pony, let alone as the Captain of this vessel... if anything, I would think that you would be better suited for it.”

She shakes her head. “He’s just the Captain... and he’s really not that bad once you get used to him.” She looks out over the horizon, the mare smiling as she pulls her goggles down to shield her eyes.

“What... what are you doing out here? I am not familiar with your vessel, or you. Are you new to these waters?” I’m honestly surprised they haven’t been attacked or worse. These waters had as facade of control, but were very dangerous. I, of all ponies, should know about pirate attacks on unaffiliated vessels.

She smiles at she looks back over at me. “We’re exploring, sailing the seas...” She gently boops my nose, even as I wrinkle it in a mix of shock and dismay. “And we fish ponies out of the ocean too.”

I ignore her statement for now, though I will have to take affront to the booping later. I see something that I feared. “Sail... 11 o’ clock.” A feeling of dread fills me as I see the flag... one I had sailed under for years. “Pirates.”

Nessy nods her head and dives back down to the deck, taking over the helm immediately. Hopefully they don’t notice us... and if they do, hopefully we can outrun them.

~~~~~~~~~~

The other mare looks at me for a second before her hoof slams into my face, sending me sliding across the floor again. Rubbing at my jaw, I spit to the side, a wad of dark blood splattering the floor. She hit harder than I remembered, even with my unnaturally resilient form. “It is... good to see you again. Though I wish it were under better conditions.”

She looks at me, her cybernetic hoof clipping of the ground as she walks closer to me, a mechanical gleam behind one of her eyes. “You idiot.”

Pulling myself up again, I give a snort. “Indeed... that much has been known for a while.” I stand still, making no motion to defend myself. I couldn’t fight her. I couldn’t fight Nessy. “If you want to finish this... then feel free. You have more right than any else. I would say I am sorry for what I did, but I cannot... even though...” Remorse and guilt threaten to overwhelm me, my eyes threatening to tear up despite my hardened exterior. “I... I thought you were all dead... when the Flickerjack crashed... I was told you were all killed. It was because of me, you know...”

She shakes her head as she moves closer. “Not for that... for not telling me. And for leaving. You think you were the only one worried, Nevermore? If you had let me help you, maybe it would have been different. Maybe not.” The mare puts her hoof on me, the heavy weight of the cybernetically enhanced mare’s leg weighing on my shoulder. “I understood what you did then, just as I do now... wasn’t very bright of you... and you didn’t have to leave... but I did know.”

I shake my head. Nessy... she was always there, always knew. A pillar that I had but didn’t realize. I should have though. She was the pony closest to me on the Flickerjack, the closest that I could manage to almost call a friend. Leaning against her, I just start to cry. A hundred years of loneliness, a hundred years of sorrow and regret. Only to now realize that I would have had a pony to share my burden if I had only opened myself up to others. Yet this doesn’t change the fact that my betrayal still lead to all the death and suffering... no, it would have been a comfort, but it is one that I don’t deserve. Even now, I still cannot forgive myself for the actions I had taken.

She gently pats my shoulder, before her metallic hoof reaches out and boops my mask. “Come on Nevermore... I haven’t seen you in a while. I’ll start up some tea for us.”

We walk through the empty halls, the museum stricken by time and disuse. Yet even as we walk, there are other signs of habitation here and there. Nessy didn’t seem worried, so I figured it was something she expected. We talk as we walk, having decades to catch up. My condition, hers... things that had changed through time, reminiscing about the past. Our first encounter with pirates together, where a mix of her skill and my knowledge allowed us to evade our pursuers. Finally, we end up gathered around a broken table, laid on its side amidst the rubble. Our cups of tea are carefully perched on it, steaming softly. Finally, we turn to the matter at hoof. “So what brings you here? The memorial is the last place I thought I’d see you.”

This was the moment I dreaded. Now I know why Head Case didn’t tell me what was here. If I had known, I might have never come. Still, it was good to see Nessy, despite all the pain it was causing me. “I need his horn... and some of his personal effects. Head Case said they would be here. I now see that he meant you. It makes sense... you would be the one to keep his things.”

“His horn? What do you need it for?” She pulls a bottle out of her jacket, using it ‘enhance’ her tea. She doesn’t offer me any, knowing that I would refuse. It had been quite a while since I managed to find a decent cup, and Nessy did always seem to be prepared. “Not planning to do any of that weird dark magic stuff, do you?” She snorts as she sips her fortified tea.

“Nothing so... strange as that. Just a hope, and a dream of redemption.” I swirl my tea, smelling it as I focus my thoughts. “Just a dream...” I think to Head Case, and what he promised me... why have I agreed to this? Perhaps it was because I had nothing to lose now, nothing to tie me down. Still... he promised to explain it later... and I warned him that he better. He knew how long I could carry a grudge, after all.

“You can stay here, you know? You don’t have to go. I’ll let the others know why you did that... I’m sure they’ll realize... not all of us made it, but some did.” So some yet lived, at least some the result of something I had heard of before. Project Second Wind... a chance to allow soldiers to fight again, to live again. Nessy herself was here because of that project... along with some faces that I do not wish to show my face to. Faces that I had fought with then abandoned, leaving them to die. No. I dare not face them.

“No, I cannot stay. I have to keep moving. That is my path. I cannot settle down yet. I must keep moving, always moving.” I smoothly rise to my hooves, shaking my head as my veil swishes past my face. “No. There is no place for me, but you already knew that.”

Nessy doesn’t say anything, her eyes gauging me. Weighing and measuring. I look back flatly. Even if she wanted to pretend that the others would accept me, we both knew it was a lie. I am Nevermore, the forsaken, the cursed. The damned. No, there was no rest for me, no succor amongst those who knew me. In life I was feared, in death I am hated. The weight of my sins and the depth of my sorrow isolating me now even as it did then. No, I cannot stay. Wordlessly, she heads over to a small cabinet, pulling out a box and a bag. “You know, I never thought I’d actually need these... just kept them as a reminder, you know?” I take a look into the bag, a familiar pair of boots sitting in them, along with a familiar white horn amidst other things.. “Some of his effects... try to get them back if things don’t work out. Not much to remember him by now.” Nodding my head slightly, I look at the box curiously as Nessy pushes it towards me. The matte black box is trimmed with silver, a stylized N gracing its top in an elegant engraving.

My heart stops as I look at Nessy. “But how did...”

She shrugs, shaking her head. “When you disappeared, I decided to pick it up for you. Not really the thing to leave laying around, after all, with the rumors and stuff. Besides, she’s yours anyways, so I’m sure she’s glad to be back home.”

I can feel a whispering in the back of my mind, a familiar voice that I hadn’t heard for many long years. Carefully, I open the case, the object inside seeming to absorb the light into it’s obsidian blade. Aer Arcanum. The runes edging it thirsted for magic, something I was quite familiar with, my cursed weapon against a unicorn’s strength. We were similar to each other, really. Hated by foes, feared by friends, surrounded by dark rumors. “No... I cannot use her again, Nessia. Not after what she has done... what I made her do.”

“Nonsense.” I tip over as Nessy smacks me in the side of the head. By the moon, she hits hard, far harder than I remembered. “If this is as important as you say it is, you can’t just ignore her. You’re going to need anything to give you an edge, so swallow your pride and get it done, Nevermore.” I look at her as she stands over me. “I’m trusting you with these, so make sure you bring ‘em back, alright? In one piece.” She stares at me, the mare uncompromising and stubborn, as she was wont to be at times. “That includes you, Nevermore. You come back as well. I’m not done smacking you for being an idiot, so don’t you dare not make it back.”

I say nothing else. There is nothing else to say to her at this point. I take back Aer Arcanum, slipping her into the empty sheathe on my back, feeling her weight again, her thirst. It had been quite a while, since she had fed. The bag slips into my own, relics of a forgotten time. Setting my heart, quelling my doubts, I turn out of the memorial, the whispers of ponies following me. There are faces I recognize, voices remembered. A chemist, an acquaintance, an old foe, a multitude of ghosts from my past... but I don’t look at any of them. I dare not linger in the past any further, lest I never move on. No, my purpose is set now, my future uncertain, but my path laid out. One way or another, this chapter of my life will close.

~~~~~~~~~~

Well well, Nevermore, a blast from the past. At least you finally got your tea. Didn’t get enough experience for a level, but you knew that already... what you did get though, was:

Unique Inventory: Aer Arcanum - This cursed dagger has the ability to nullify magic to some degree. Eternally thirsting, this rune-etched obsidian blade provides a wicked advantage in close combat, though there’s something off about her... Ars Arcanum has two states. When uncharged, she functions as a normal, albeit unnaturally sharp and resilient, dagger. After engorging herself on magic, she will ignore the target’s DT and increase her own damage, proportional to how much magic she’s absorbed.

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