• Published 14th Apr 2013
  • 2,059 Views, 54 Comments

Perhaps Death - WritingSpirit



The Doctor finds himself stuck in prison, unable to remember anything he had experienced prior to his awakening. With the help of his diary, enchanted with magic, he tries to piece his life back together, not knowing what might await him at the end.

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The Trottingham Ghoul: Part 2 - Sister Of Mine

1008 AC, First Fall, 6, 19:41:23

History lesson.

Now, don't groan just yet; I guarantee it will be a quick one!

Back when the griffon kingdoms consisted mainly of different plots of land ruled over by chieftains, Trottingham emerged as a colony from Equestria, built on what is now known as the Griffish Isles to strengthen the ties between Queen Platinum and a table of griffon chieftains that had pledged allegiance to her back in the day. When the chieftains united under King Grover's banner and founded Griffonstone in the early days of Princess Celestia's reign, the then-small township became the epicenter of diplomatic concerns and disagreements over which nation rightfully claims the settlement. Fortunately, it was all settled without much fanfare and Trottingham, as well as the remainder of the Griffish Isles, once again became a symbol of unity for the citizens of Equestria and Griffonstone alike.

Now, that's history done right!

Don't want it dolled up with all the Trottingham Castle legends of knights and the antics of Robin Hoof, among all the other nonsense these ponies would come up with just to give their city a better name.

The Hearthsgrove family were, without question, influential. They were one of the first families to volunteer setting up the colony back in the day, slowly building Trottingham from a little hamlet with only one tavern into a grand city filled with taverns. Not the best form of improvement, I'd argue, but an improvement nonetheless.

"—and I had been waiting for a professional like you to step in!" the current head of the family, Floria Hearthsgrove, droned on as Twilight, Caramel and I sauntered down one of the many hallways in this luxurious estate, my two companions sneaking a conversation or two and admiring the decor with Saxon following closely behind them. Me? Well, I'm stuck with listening to the rambles of a middle-aged mare. Didn't know lending an ear to a client's blabbering was part of a medical doctor's job description. Agh, what do I know, eh? "All the local doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, so I sent a letter to council requesting for help! I was about to march down there and knock on their doors! I had thought they had ignored my plea after so long, but it seems I was mistaken."

"Ah, well, I've heard they had been busy as of late," I fibbed. "Suffice to say, I was as well. Had been doing a little... travelling lately."

"Where did you say you come from again?"

"Canterlot, Mrs. Hearthsgrove."

"Ah, the capital! It's a wonder how you took the time to get here!" Mrs. Hearthsgrove laughed. "It is quite a distance, one has to admit. That's without mentioning the epidemic recently. I'm sure some of your patients would be absolutely livid to know that I took their doctor away in their time of need."

"Oh, I'm sure they wouldn't mind," I chuckled with a wave of my hoof.

"Wait in here, doctor," she said when we stopped in front of a pair of doors, one of them wide open. Beyond the doorway, where the marble tiles of the floor were carpeted in red, was a brick fireplace, flames burning brightly with a welcoming warmth that embraced us the moment we stepped in. Hanging over it was a majestic watercolour painting of a canal, the waters glistening in the most radiant portrayal of Celestia's sun that oil and paint could ever achieve.

"Chichester Canal, 1828," Mrs. Hearthsgrove presented. "It's a Turner."

"Ah, the painter," I said with a smile, giving my best impression of admiration for a piece of art. "Whoever who bought this must've been a fond collector."

"That would be my husband, of course. He was always a little fond of the arts." Floria Hearthsgrove's little grin faltered a bit, though she quickly stifled up another one in its place. "Well then, I'll get the girls," she said, giving another curtsy. "It would only take a moment. Please, make yourselves at home."

With that, Mrs. Hearthsgrove left the three of us alone, shutting the doors behind her as she exited the room, to which I took the time to admired the remainder of the decor. We were definitely in a study room, with a red couch facing the embers, shelves of books that fan out from both sides of the mantle and, at the side, a mahogany study desk, neat with only a few papers fanned out on its top and accompanied an antique, stout chair.

"So... a Turner," Twilight spoke coyly, looking back at the painting before turning to me. "Any chance he's timey-wimey like you are?"

"Nah..." I answered, waving it off. "Not much of a painter. Curator, maybe. I can curate. Paint, not so much."

"Come on," Caramel spoke up, joining the bandwagon. "I don't know anypony else who's name is Turner."

"Now, Turner's a popular name in these parts, back in the day," I affirmed grumpily. "That, and the painter was a gryphon. Last I checked, I'm not really a gryphon sort of Time Lord."

"Hey, you'll never know." Twilight nudged me with a smirk that meant she was what I would call at best formidably interested. My lips froze in this straight grin that was definitely no less than goofy, my mind cursing at Caramel snickering quietly while he pretended to scroll through the bookshelves. "I mean... I've never really saw a gryphon before. Always wanted to study one of them up close and personal, you know?"

"W-Well, I—"

My flustered cool was saved by a knock on the door, opening as Floria Hearthsgrove strode into the room, a warm smile beckoning our presence once again. Scampering in right behind her was a unicorn filly, bringing in a brown pony ragdoll by the ear with her teeth. Her fur was a shade of pink like her mother's, albeit paler until it looked almost white, while her mane and tail were vivacious in alternating yellow and tangerine, bearing a Cutie Mark that was a scarlet-colored treble clef. From all that, however, what sent me gushing was her eyes, reminiscent of the glowing representation of the rare blood moon, contrasted spectacularly by the shimmering innocence that came with every filly.

"This is Caroline and—" Floria stopped midway to turn back towards the open door. "Caroline, where is your sister?"

"She's outside, Mamma," Caroline cheerfully answered while still biting onto her doll, her eyes, quaint and queer, staring up at me with a smile that screams with enthusiasm. Giving a meek wave, she soon settled onto the carpeted floor, puppetering her little doll to do a little dance. I recognized it as the ol' foxtrot; little sloppy at some parts but otherwise fine and dandy dancing.

"I'm terribly sorry, doctor," the mother apologized with a curtsy. "Nadine's really shy when it comes to strangers. Funny how different they both are even though they look almost alike."

"You have twins?" Twilight voiced our shared surprise.

"Oh, silly me! I forgot to mention it, did I?" Mrs. Hearthsgrove let out a soft chuckle at herself as she glanced out at the door. "Nadine!" she called out to her other daughter. "Come in, quickly! There's a doctor here to treat your illness!"

All eyes turned to the door, where a face poked out from behind the wooden panel. It was a face extremely similar to Caroline's, with the only telltale difference, aside from the scarlet-colored bass clef that is her Cutie Mark, being the lack of joy her sister possessed when she finally dragged herself in. Her lips were crooked and thin, her brows furrowed and even one of her ears flopped down in defeat. When it came to her eyes, they were a dismal shade of red, looking somewhat conflicted and flickering with fear as she gave a gander across the new crowd, before her pupils landed onto mine, showing me a sight that I've... well, that I've not seen in quite a long time.

"She's the younger one, I assume?" I took a guess.

"Quite insightful, aren't you, doctor... um..."

"Smith."

"Doctor Smith, of course!" Floria Hearthsgrove gave a light wave of her hoof, "why, yes! Nadine's the younger of the two."

I watched, perhaps somewhat intrigued when Caroline giggled, her hooves spread wide open as Nadine trotted towards her, accepting the sisterly embrace. Even in her sister's indifference, Caroline was heartier than ever, laughing at her own jokes while Nadine took a turn on the dancing ragdoll. This time, it was a traditional waltz, executed almost perfectly save for how dreary the new puppeteer made it seem.

"Nadine, go on and say hello," Mrs. Hearthsgrove egged her daughter. "Come on now!"

Reluctantly, Nadine looked up at me briefly before looking back down again.

"Nadine, please show some respect!" Mrs. Hearthsgrove chastised her stone-faced daughter. "I'm so sorry for that, doctor!"

"It's alright," I answered. "Perhaps she'll open up once we get to know her better."

"Perhaps, for her sake."

"In the meantime, why not we try again tomorrow?" I suggested. "I can arrange my schedule so that I'll take an extended leave from Canterlot and stay at one of the inns in town. In the morning and every subsequent morning after that, we'll stop by to visit and tend to Nadine's illness. Would that be alright?"

"That would be splendid!" Mrs. Hearthsgrove exclaimed, clasping her hooves together in delight. "Oh, but you needn't make the journey back and forth from here to town! I'll ask Saxon to arrange a room to accommodate all three of you, doctor!"

"Really? Oh, but we shouldn't intrude, we really shouldn't!"

"Nonsense, doctor!" she gave a hearty laugh. "We of the Hearthsgrove heritage treat our guests well! I'll have maids clean up the rooms and serve you your meals! You need not worry a thing! All you have to worry about is Nadine's illness, I promise!"

"Well, if only because you insisted, Mrs. Hearthsgrove," I replied, chuckling. "Thank you for everything. We'll do our best."

"Of course, of course!"

The rest of the early night flew by in our hearty conversation, filled with rambunctious laughter and feelgood stories over cups of tea. Funny how just a moment ago we were unwittingly invited under the guise of a mistaken identity, only to be granted a temporary residence in this mansion on the hill, favoring our quest to crack the mystery of the disappearing townsfolk and the Trottingham Ghoul. Ah, the things a silver tongue could do away with, eh?

However, occasionally amid our joyful chatters, I noticed Nadine staring at me. She seemed to have seen through my lie, as her gaze looked cold, hardened and with a conspicuous, precocious flare that was burning with the relentless intent on giving me a warning. Her family didn't seem to take notice of that, however, as did my companions.

It told me one thing: that not everypony in the family is in the same boat with what the mistress of the household promised next.

"We hope you'll enjoy your stay!"


1008 AC, First Fall, 7, 00:08:37

"What are you reading?"

"This?" I raised the book in my hooves up to Caramel, who had snuggled himself in the leather chair right beside the bed. Said book just so happens to be the one you're reading right now. Queer, that my book would appear in itself, like some sort of paradoxical force at work. "Just some notes I left for myself, in case I ever needed to look back."

"Look back on what?"

"Well, lots of things!" I exclaimed. "My endeavors, my achievements, my regrets, my reconciliations... memories, coming in all different forms."

"So... like a diary?"

"Not exactly. More like a fairytale."

"Twilight told me you had an ego, but I didn't expect it to be that big."

"Put it into context, Caramel," I explained, brushing it off even as he bothered me with his chuckles. "I'm an alien from outer space that has a time machine. Should a colt or filly, say, walk out of school and found this on the ground, takes it home and reads it from top to bottom, what would it seem to them?"

"Depends on what you write."

I didn't answer him after that, mostly because he's right. All variables aside, I personally think that it'd be quite a fairytale to wrack one's mind over, though I should hope that no colt or filly would be unlucky enough to pick this up; you'll have to understand that having anything on you that involves me would bring a fatal amount of attention from a most belligerent crowd.

As for where we were, we were in the two rooms that Saxon had arranged for us, with Twilight taking one and the two of us colts occupying the other. They were spacious, with most of it taken up by a luxury-sized bed that could fit an entire family (plus a few more if we squeezed a little tighter), a cupboard that could take in all the clothes I've worn throughout my entire lifetimes (plural, yes), two windows accented with large red drapes that would give a lovely scenery of Trottingham nestled in between a grandiose pair of mountains, and it even has its own designated painting! Lovely painting, as my art senses told me. Painter perhaps wasn't as well known, but lovely nonetheless.

The night had been pretty uneventful, all three of us ready to sleep the night away, even as stories of missing townsfolk and musings over the Trottingham Ghoul circulated over all our heads. We had a good chat with the owner and met the children, sure, but aside from my sole lingering suspicions about Nadine, nothing had came up since our arrival, which made this tip from a desperate gryphon from a bartender exchanged with a tip more disheartening.

"So, you and Twilight, almost two years already," Caramel suddenly spoke up, to which I nearly dropped my book. "How's things going on between you and her?"

"W-What brought this about all of the sudden?"

"Just wanna know, you know?" he asked. "I know it's not, as Pops would call it, healthy for me to talk about stuff like this, but... it just gets to me. I mean, she's technically the one and only student to Her Royal Highness! That's like a once in a lifetime offer!"

"Well, to be frank, we had a really complicated start," I began, though if I were much more frank, complicated is really the understatement here. That goes without mentioning the history that Princess Celestia and I share. "Twilight Sparkle, she was brilliant, undeniably, but she had a few problems, some of which I had resolved inadvertently. Perhaps that's what got her to be my marefriend in the first place, that I was dependable. That I can be trusted."

"You know how lucky you are, right?" Caramel inquired with a good-natured smile.

I could only chuckle at that. "I suspect I might be too lucky," I quipped.

Sharing a good dose of laughs, I was about to indulge myself with Caramel's High Horn Gulch background when a brazen, frantic knock from the door swept it all away. Both of us looked up, though I was the one that climbed out of the bed and trotted towards it, flinching when three successive, if not impatient knocks abruptly shattered the settling silence. Reaching for the knob, I cautiously opened the door, only to have my breath whisked away when I was yanked out into the hallway almost immediately.

"For Celestia's sake, Twilight!" I gasped, my marefriend standing before, still clutching onto my hoof. "Don't ever do that again!"

"No, Turner, come quick!" Twilight hissed in a low whisper, tugging insistently on my hoof. "There's something outside! In the garden!"

"What is it?"

"I don't know, but it's... just come with me!"

Quickly, Caramel and I followed the anxious mare, stepping out of our room, briefly shrouded in the darkness of the hallways before we returned to the light at the other end. Twilight quickly scampered up to the window, gesturing us to head over as she peered out the window, eyes flickering with doubt.

Ruffling the curtain aside, with the help of what little light there may be, my eyes caught side of a shadowy figure through the glass panes, hunched over and slowly lurking behind the hedges. It was slender as a filly with the stature of a full-grown mare, black skeletal body bent over in a most distorted fashion and limbless save for a pair of extensions that were perforated at the end by mildewed, bubbling, anemone-ringed mouths. It had an eyeless head that looked as if it was pliable enough to twist itself upside down, occasionally sticking out a fibrous tongue that bubbled with cysts. Looking up to the moon, it emitted a serrated and croaky gurgle, salivating this yellow, rancid, membranous acid out the corners of the saw-toothed mire onto the grass.

"What is that?" Caramel gasped, choking at the sight.

"Doctor?" Twilight turned to me for solace, visibly shaken and tearing up. "You're seeing this, right? D-Doctor, please tell me you've seen that before..."

Normally, I'd be excited. I'd be thrilled, for such a sight should sooth my endearing passion of discovering new creatures. This was a creature I've never seen before, I'm certain, so I do apologize to Twilight for the lack of solace I could give. This creature was a new neighbor on the block, revealing itself to the eternal eyes of time. This creature was giving us a friendly greeting, wanting us to get to know it, to warm up to its presence.

This was definitely the Trottingham Ghoul.

Looking at it now, this was a creature that I wouldn't want to encounter.

"Doctor? D-Doctor!"

Twilight Sparkle's violent tug onto my hoof shook me out of my daze, her eyes still glued to that... thing, with good reason: the ghoul (I don't know what else to call it) had craned its head towards us, rotating its neck to an unnatural degree. It was looking at us, three ponies standing behind the safety of the window, its intent as vague as its origins. From its mouth came a gangrenous warble, as if warning us to leave, to not interfere with what gruesome plans it may have.

"It's looking at us..." my marefriend quivered. "Turner, it's looking at us..."

"I know," I muttered, my voice returning with a fitful of shivers of its own.

As I said that, the ground suddenly trembled. Dust sprinkled down from cracks in the ceiling, the three of us staring wide-eyed at each other as the floor shook, panels of wood and stone grumbling and groaning beneath our hooves. Quickly, I cantered up to the walls and placed my hoof onto them, the reverberations I'm getting from them making one thing really clear.

Just as it started getting a little bit violent, it abruptly died down, fading away into the echoes of time. The experience of what was a mild earthquake was still firmly rooted in our minds, clogging up all the words we wanted to say, until one of us managed to break through the barrier of shock.

"What was that?" Caramel meekly croaked.

"I don't know," I muttered. "Though if I were to guess from how the walls were shaking, it seems to be coming from underneath the house."

"Was it the ghoul's work?"

"I don't know, Twilight," I admitted. "I don't know what it is, what it can do, what it wants to do... but as appearances go by, that does not look like a friendly creature. Not one at all."

"What does, Sir?"

All three of us yelled aloud and whirled around, my hoof immediately yanking out my sonic wedged beneath my bowtie and pointing it towards the doorway, only to gasp out a monumental sigh of relief when I saw Saxon the butler standing there, looking as momentarily terrified as we were. His gaze drew down to the glowing, buzzing tip of my screwdriver, before jumping straight back to me.

"Sir, if you would so kindly lower your... contraption," he implored. "It would be rather shameful for us if our guests were to display any sort of unruly behavior in the household."

"Ah," I managed to reply, lowering my sonic and flicking it back into the confines of my bowtie. "Yes. Of course."

"Thank you."

"Sorry about that."

"It is perfectly alright," Saxon assured. "Now, what seems to be the matter?"

"There's something outside! In the garden!" Twilight answered in my stead. "Right over the hedges, it's right over—"

All three of us froze in silence, our heads turned back to the window, to where the ghoul was lurking about. In our abrupt moment of surprise, it had vanished! Pop! Like a soap bubble! Although, I suppose soap bubbles do float around a bit, but that's not the point! It had vanished and none of us had any idea of what it might do next.

"I don't see anything," Saxon's words did little to give us relief. "Are you sure there's something out there, Miss?"

"There was!" Caramel chipped in. "I saw it too! Some kind of monster, like a... um..."

"Like a ghoul?"

Once again, we all froze in silence, earnestly waiting for Saxon to put out his next move. It's no surprise to us that somepony working here would know of the Trottingham Ghoul. Perhaps he may close the door, shut the blinds and tell us the entire story, from top to bottom, of how the Trottingham Ghoul came to be! I think, at that point, it was all we expected him to do! To our dismay, of course, he just gave a light chuckle with a shake of his head.

"The ghoul is just a rumor the townsfolk started up," he laughed. "This Trottingham Ghoul, prowling around the mansion grounds... it's all just a mere fairytale that was used to scare colts and fillies."

"But we saw it!" Twilight insisted. "It was outside, it was there—"

"Pardon me, Miss, but you may have misidentified something else instead," Saxon answered. "It may be a wild wolf; we do have lots of them in these parts. There are some cases of jackalopes being mistaken as a ghoul back in the day. Think one pony even called for the constables about being attacked by the ghoul, only for them to find him drunk and wrestling with a scarecrow."

Twilight Sparkle (adorably) pouted at that, before turning to me, as if expecting me to say something. Normally, I'd speak up to defend her, but when everything around you is abnormal at that moment, you're tackling with an uphill battle. Instead, I just shook my head and, before she could tempt me with the fury of a thousand fuzzy bulging cheeks, signaled her with my hoof to wait.

"What about the earthquake?" I questioned. "Where was that from?"

"That would be from the subsidence of soil underneath the house, Sir. If you must know, the lands around us are mostly composed of peat bogs, some of which reach into caverns deep below the ground. The peat decomposes underground and, after a period of time, the earth around the house would begin to shift, which causes these small, frequent tremors. There really is nothing to worry about, I assure you; the house may look old, but it's still as sturdy as it was back in the day."

A reasonable explanation, albeit an unsatisfactory one, I'd say, that last bit especially. Really, it's still sturdy as it was back in the day? That's quite a stretch, isn't it, Saxon, the butler with a neat bow tie?

"Perhaps the doctor and his assistants wouldn't mind to call it a night?" Saxon suggested. "The mistress would want our guests to be well rested for the checkup tomorrow."

"Of course, of course," I said, waving my hoof. "Thank you for your concern, Saxon."

Excusing himself with a bow, Saxon left the room and closed the door, leaving us to spend a minute of silence to be certain he wouldn't be listening into what we had to say next. Glancing at each other, the three of us could agree: apart from the earthquake, what we saw outside was definitely there. It was too visceral and horrendous of a sight for it to be a wolf or a cute antlered bunny and we certainly did not had that much of a swig back at the tavern, which leaves us to where we're at.

The Trottingham Ghoul was real and it knows we're here.

"So, what's the plan?" Twilight spoke first.

"I'm still thinking of one," I quickly responded before she could get her hopes up. "For starters, I don't know what the ghoul actually is."

"Okay!" she declared with hasty nods, smiling even as she is sweating profusely. "S-Sure! Alright! Really reassuring!"

"So... we don't know what it is, it saw us, it might be coming for us, and the house can shake itself to the ground at any moment," Caramel summed up all our fears. "How are we going to get out of this?"

"Wait a moment, Caramel, we're not sure if it will come for us."

"But it saw us, didn't it?" Twilight stressed.

"Presumably."

"Presumably? It literally turned its head to us, Turner!"

"Right, yes, that," I mumbled, chewing my lip. "Alright, here's the plan. You two stay here and keep each other company. Twilight, since I've done the honors, sort of, tell him about how we first met. Caramel, find a banjo and make up a new campfire song. I'll head outside and look for the ghoul that, from what I could tell, probably just wants a little chat and a cup of tea."

"No, Turner, that's not a plan," Twilight interjected. "You are not going out there alone, mister, and I'm not going to sit here and wait while you get ripped into shreds by that... that thing!"

"It's a chat and a cup of tea, Twilight!"

"You don't even know if it's okay with that!"

"But there is a probability of it happening!"

"A negligible probability, Doctor!"

"It's not negligible if it's still there! It's all about taking a chance! If it wants one life in exchange for the safety of the Equestrian continent—"

"I'm your marefriend, Turner!!"

Fury tore through the budding tensions in the room, with Twilight Sparkle trembling and tearing up right before me. All three of us knew it wasn't the same this time; unlike all the other moments where I waltz away to work my magic, we're facing a creature neither of us knew anything about. I could see it, the genuine fear stirring in her eyes, to which I then felt disgusted at myself. Some part of me just wants to throw myself out the window and let the creature do whatever it wants with me, but the mere mention of that would probably infuriate her even more.

"Turner, I get it, okay?" she quivered. "I get that you think it's your duty to save the world every single chance you get—"

"It's not like that—"

"Shut up. You always do that, don't deny it," she snapped. "You don't need to do it alone, you know? That's why I'm here. That's why Caramel's here. You think I like travelling with you just to see whatever's out there? No, I'm travelling with you because I know I can help. I want to help, Turner."

"We're facing something new, Twilight."

"You're afraid of that thing, I know, and that's fine, which is why Caramel and I can be there to help you—"

"I can't," I answered, being the stubborn Time Lord I was. "I made a promise to Princess Celestia that I would protect you, Twilight. You're right, I'm afraid of facing it alone, but I'm much more afraid of breaking that promise I made, especially with what happened last time." Twilight's eyes sullenly drooped down towards the ground as I continued: "I don't know what this thing is capable of. If I brought you along, it might attack you instead of me. If that happens... I can't stand to lose you again, Twilight, so please."

Glumly, she chewed her lip, before glancing back up at me. "Promise me you'll come back, Turner," she demanded.

Every part of me wanted to abolish those words. After all, as most of you might know, I can protect any kind of companion that comes my way, but when it comes to protecting myself, the results aren't as satisfactory. Having these two promises, from teacher and student, stacked against each other was already giving me migraines. I would want to argue that I can't promise anything, as reality would have it, but Twilight Sparkle had long trodden past that border.

"I promise," I replied, wanting to ease her worries before trotting towards the door. "Caramel?"

"You can count on me. I won't let anything past that door," he affirmed, fixing up a confident grin. "Don't worry. I'll take care of her for you."

"Thank you."

With that, I took my leave, sauntering out into the hallway and drawing out my sonic screwdriver, ready to face the inevitable fate of meeting the creature they call the Trottingham Ghoul. As I shut the door behind me, I stopped for a moment at the sound of my companions muttering to each other, my ears twitching in an effort to listen.

"We just have to trust him," I hear Caramel speaking up for me. I'd have to say, he trusted me quicker than Twilight did. "You've been with him longer than me. You know he's trying to protect you."

"I know, I know, I just—" Twilight's quivering voice faltered. "I just hate it when he does that, you know? Making us feel so... so useless..."

Some of part of me felt guilty, hearing those words. Was I really protecting her? Twilight was rather capable of defending herself, if our many adventures together were of any indication. Where I dabble in all things timey-wimey, her forte lies in the arcane sciences, what she and the rest of Equestria would call magic. Perhaps I was holding her back, as she had believed; she might never say it out loud, but I could tell how much she wanted to scream it all out into my face. I'd love it if she could come along as well, believe me, but a nagging reminder kept snaring me back: her recent abduction from members of an underground cult, warning that her freedom may come at the expense of her safety.

Next time, I told myself. It was still too recent, too fresh. Perhaps after all that had settled down, perhaps then, only I'll take the time to contemplate about it. Enough about that. For now, Time Turner, you have something else to do.

Now, if I were a ghoul, where would I be...


1008 AC, First Fall, 7, 01:27:44

Philosophy question.

Now, don't groan just yet; I was being sarcastic.

Now then, what would a Time Lord, a species notorious for their vehemently long lifespan, hope to obtain in an hour of ceaseless wandering?

In the context of a Time Lord prowling about the grounds of, say, Hearthsgrove Mansion, the answer would be an exciting encounter with the Trottingham Ghoul.

Believe me, I was becoming increasingly frustrated as the minutes rolled by, both from my fruitless pursuit and from the innumerable stains of dirt sullying my bow tie. I had trampled across every blade of grass, scanned through the depths of every hedge and, as a last resort, climbed up every tree just to have a better view, all to no avail. It's surprising that I could muster enough of my tolerance wandering about the elaborate maze that is the estate garden. In fact, I would say it's pretty amazing!

Sorry about that. Bad taste in jokes, I know.

Covered in sweat, mud and pasture, I gave a tired sigh, straightened my bow tie and looked up, facing the daunting glare of the Mare in the Moon. As you might know, this was a time when Princess Luna, then known as Nightmare Moon, had not been freed from her solitary confinement yet. Seeing her up in the air, trapped in a realm so far away... frightening, really, what memories nostalgia would bring.

The lunar glare, in a case of reciprocation, reminded me of the frigid stares that Nadine had given me at the dinner table. Some intuitive part of me knew that she had a part in this mess somehow, as if she controls the Trottingham Ghoul or worse, is actually the Ghoul. That would explain why Saxon the butler was so iffy about us mentioning it. That, and the fact that she and Caroline are twins: from one end of the universe to the other, there's always something bad to come when there are twins in the equation, whether it be a heavier load on your back or one of them turning out to be the town's resident ghoul. Twins, of course! That was probably the sign!

Also because she's apparently ill, for some reason.

Baseless accusations, sure.

However, you lot suspect that Nadine had something more than a stare up her sleeve as well.

"Right then!" I announced to no one in particular, my next destination etched clearly in my mind. "To the children's bedroom!"

Trotting onward, I glanced up at the singular lit window, smiling when I spotted Twilight and Caramel engaging in some good ol' deep, friendly conversation. To be honest, they're probably talking about more interesting things than I am. You be the judge: which will you prefer, a monologue of me lamenting about my failure, or the vernacular exploits of my companions?

The night air was layered in a putrid scent of antiquity, extravagance and a hint of mildew, my head swooning over the bilious brew as I stepped back into the Hearthsgrove corridors. Seriously, what's with old houses always smelling up like rancid potpourri? Don't the owners ever take a step back and think 'good golly, I have to do something with this stinker!' or whatever? Bring a little air in, put some flowers here and there; spill bottles of perfume onto the carpets, I don't care! Oi, I'm talking to you, you folks with old houses! Spruce up before I pop out the manure comparisons!

Anyways, after cleaning myself free of dirt with a wet rag — the last thing this stately monument needs is a trail of mud along its carpets — I set off on my search for the room of the twin sisters, the younger one especially stuck on my mind. Missing townsfolk, fiendish ghoul, underground tremors and a pair of twins... there must definitely be something linking all these things together. Question was, what?

Before I could stop to ponder any further, I feel the floors trembling. Once again, the house was shaking, this time with a damper snuffing out a little of the fury it previously demonstrated, much like an aftershock instead of an earthquake at full throttle. I crouched down low, the trembles reaching up along my hooves as I placed my ear onto the carpet. The earth was shifting alright, as Saxon had explained, though there was another sound: a low hum, too faint for me to pinpoint what it might be.

"Come on, old boy," I muttered to myself, wracking my head. "This is a noise. Mysterious humming noise coming from down under. Mysterious noise, mysterious noise, oh, where's my guide of mysterious noises when I need it?"

"Mister doctor?"

I tensed up at that voice; cheerful, tender and blossoming with energy. Slowly standing up and turning around, I felt a shiver run up the back of my neck when I meet the starry-eyed gaze of Caroline standing in the middle of a dark hallway. She still bore the omnipresent smile she had been wearing over the dinner table. The fact that it seemed to be growing, coupled with the glint in her crimson eyes, was making my heart hammering at my instincts to just kick my hooves and gallop to the other end of the house. Instead, however, I steeled my resolve.

"Why, shouldn't you be asleep right now, little one?" I asked, trying my best to sound as sweet as possible. "What's a little filly like you doing up at such a late hour?"

"You're looking for us, aren't you, mister doctor?"

I stiffened up, bombarded by the words of a mere filly. How did she know? Why did she know? What more does she know? What about Nadine? How does she fit into this? Why is it always twins? What is it about twins that go well with bad company? Gingerly, I took a step back, my eyes fixated onto Caroline while I fix myself up with an audible gulp. Something was off about the way she was smiling at me. I don't know what it was, but I'd rather not know.

"We know," she continued, still standing there, still smiling, that is, until it started to fade. "We know who you are. We know what you came here for."

As she finished that sentence, I caught a glimpse of movement from above her. Drawing my eyes upward, my face blanched when I saw, slithering along the ceiling with anemone-tipped limbs gibbering in delighted, flaccid squeals, the horror that is the Trottingham Ghoul. It set it sights onto me and let loose a horrid shrill, one akin to the chirrup of a thousand strangled locusts, bracing itself to lunge upon me with yellowed fangs unsheathed in the mood to kill.

Of course, what I feared most now was not the abomination wriggling on the ceiling, but rather the grimace that Caroline was callously sporting, contrasting the heartwarming smile that she had as a front. She then raised her hoof up straight to the air and, against all the pathetic pleas I had mouthed out to her, swung it back down: the signal to let loose the hound.

One barbed screech later and I was off before you can say 'ah, look at all the lonely ponies!'

Being the Doctor once more, I ran as fast as a quartet of fear-stricken hooves can take me, all the while hearing the jumbled mess of flayed, wriggling screams of the ghoul closing in upon me. Reaching a junction, I immediately darted to the left, leaving the ghoul skidding and slamming into the wall. Quickly, I scrambled up the stairs and galloped towards our room, just as I caught a glimpse of the ghoul's shadow lumbering after me. Without further ado, I dived inside, slamming the door shut and quickly locking it with the flick of my screwdriver. Immediately afterwards, a loud bang shook the room, followed by a couple more as the ghoul began slamming itself against the door.

"Turner!"

"Stand back, Twilight," I cried, aiming my sonic at the door. "It's right outside!"

"Turner, lower your screwdriver."

"Caramel, this isn't funny!" I yelled, whirling around. "The ghoul is just outside and we need to come up with—"

I stopped immediately, taking in the sight of Twilight and Caramel huddled up at the corner of the room, heads hanging low. Standing on the bed, with a conspicuous glare directed at me, was none other than Nadine, her horn lit in a deep, intense red, swirling aggressively in a whirlpool of devastation that was unlike anything I had ever seen in a long time. The last time I saw a young filly using such a vicious and versatile form of magic, it didn't exactly end well for everypony.

"Put that down now," she ordered. "Put that down or your friends will not live."

Wonderful, just wonderful.

Slowly, I complied with her orders, placing the screwdriver down onto the floor. Immediately, even with the whirlwind working around her horn, she snatched my screwdriver away, whisking it to her side in the confines of her magic. I'd say, that's some rather impressive control of magic she has for one at her age. If anything, she almost seemed like she was a prodigy of some sort.

A click from behind made my ears perk and, before I knew it, I was tackled down, feeling something sucking at my hooves. Opening my eyes, I found myself face to face with the Ghoul snarling down at me, unable to resist choking at the nauseous smell it was giving out that reminded me of a decaying Dalek mixed in a brew of foul apple cider with traces of — what do you know — scorpions! Why must it have scorpions? It would've been better without the scorpions!

"Nadine," I heard Caroline's voice coming from behind, seeing them hug from the corner of my eye. "Are you okay? Did they hurt you?"

"N-No," Nadine muttered weakly, revoking her rampant magic. She was limp in her sister's hooves, panting deliriously once all the crimson aura she had cast returned to her horn within a blink of an eye. "We did it... we did it..."

I'd have to say, Floria Hearthsgrove wasn't kidding when she said that Nadine was ill. For a moment, I thought that it was all a bluff in order to hide her nature as the Trottingham Ghoul or something along those lines, but the moment I saw her whip up her magical storm, I knew now how serious the situation is. Nadine Hearthsgrove was stricken with a worrying disease, one that I had seen in my travels before.

"Feldspar-Hoovermane Syndrome."

Both fillies turned to look at me the moment I said that, with Caroline being the one sporting a glare.

"What did you say?"

"Your sister, Nadine," I answered. "That's the disease she had contracted. Feldspar-Hoovermane Syndrome, known commonly as Lucubrator's Strain, in which the victim, usually a unicorn, would experience bad migraines and chronic fatigue due to the building up of magic past one's limit of controlling it."

Once again, the two sisters bore contrasting looks; Caroline gave me a stare of intense scrutiny with furrowed, doubtful brows, whereas Nadine lit up at the words I've said, a shimmer of hope glistening in her red pupils. Despite all the hard words I juggled around, it seems they had quite a grasp of what I was saying. The ghoul standing over me, however, had no opinion of it, instead screeching in my face threateningly as if daring me to bring it up again.

"Herbert, wait," Caroline said. Celestia's blazing mane, they named it! "Maybe he can help us."

The ghoul cocked its head, giving the filly an insistent warble.

"That can come later," she insisted, crossing her hooves. "Please, just a little longer, then you can eat him."

Eat me? Eat me? Look at me! Grey isn't the most scrumptious colour to feast upon! 'Fraid I'm not much of the excitement that the general taste buds are looking for now, chap! With what sounded like an un-muffled, rowdy grumble of a hungry stomach, the ghoul stepped off me, its anemone limbs tearing itself away with a pop like a plunger and glided away, though not before it gave one more wary display of its fangs.

"So you know how to cure it, mister doctor?" Nadine asked me this time.

"No," I sighed, much to her dismay. "But I know somepony who knows somepony who technically knows somepony else and that pony knows one more pony who— l-let's just say I know somepony, yes, that can help you."

"But aren't you a doctor?" Caroline questioned.

"I am the Doctor, not a doctor. It's a fitting title that can occasionally be misleading."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means," I began, "that I need you two to trust me."

The sisters looked at each other, skeptical as ever, before they each gave me firm nods. To that, both of my companions gave a pair of relieved sighs, trotting up to my side while still warily looking at the ghoul, apparently named Herbert, standing guard at the doorway. I gave the apparently obedient creature a glance, then back down to the twins sitting before me. All these questions were running through my head, all of them urgently demanding for answers, which I'm certain you lot would love to know as well. We'll have them all answered in due time, I'm sure, but we'll have to start from the basics.

"So... Herbert," I began, stifling a chuckle at that choice of a name. "Any teensy-weensy bit of a chance he's... you know?"

"He's not a ghoul!" Nadine cried, which checks that question. Right then, so Herbert here is what them folks around here call the Trottingham Ghoul. Now, what does this little filly, stricken with disease, calls this organic creature? Surely, it can't be any more ridiculous than Herbert now, can it? "Mister doctor, don't listen to them, they're wrong! Herbert is a fairy!"

Caramel burst out in laughter, though it only lasted several seconds before a begrudging hiss from said lovely-looking fairy put him back in his place. Really, though? Fairy? Even I find this description extremely inadequate!

"Why fairy?" Twilight asked this time, curiosity getting the better of her.

"He grants wishes!"

"Sorta," Caroline piped in sheepishly. "I mean, not like a fairytale or anything. More like when you're with him, he just makes you feel..."

"Feel what?" my marefriend egged on.

"That everything will be better soon."

Ah, the wonders hope can bring. Fairytales showcases hope for the young mind. It is why tales like Robin Hoof are loved by many across the galaxies, which brings back to this little diary that you're reading right now. Think about it, a pony with a passion for bow ties, travelling beyond the stars to see the world that may one day end up in your bedroom... it certainly brings a sense of wonder, doesn't it? Wouldn't you hope to be the owner of that bedroom? Quick tip: that bow tie aficionado has a proclivity for bunk beds!

"Now then, why me?" came the next question. "Caroline, just now, you said you knew what I was doing."

"I-I think," she muttered, being unsure as ever. "Weren't you here to get rid of Herbert?"

"Yes and no," I answered. Really close to the nose, though! Bravo! "Yes, but only if I am forced to. If Herbert here wants to destroy Trottingham one missing pony and gryphon at a time, then I'll have to get rid of him. However, that does not seem to be the case now, does it?"

Caroline just shied away from my glance. "Sorry, mister doctor..." she mumbled.

"Ah, it's all a big dollop of a misunderstanding!" I cheered, smiling gleefully. "No hard feelings! Must be really nice, having a fairy! Never thought I'd see a fairy, at least, not one like this! Plus, you're doing this all for Nadine after all, so really, there isn't anything you should feel sorry about now, is there? There's nothing wrong with telling your sister that we all should stay positive."

At this point, Herbert, accustomed with our presence, had slithered to the giggling Nadine's side and was pulled into a gentle hug. Caroline, of course, just looked on, smiling like the precocious big sister she really is. Who knew, behind the ever smiling, ever innocent filly at the dinner table, hid this protective and caring personality who's willing to do anything to see her little sister smile? Right now, they seemed like polar opposites of themselves when we first met! It's really amazing, the endeavors a young mind would go through.

"Just one more thing," I asked, lowering my voice. "Seen any missing ponies and gryphons popping by here lately?"

"Mommy says we shouldn't talk about it..." Caroline answered, biting her lip. "Herbert has nothing to do with it, doctor, I swear."

"I believe you," I gave my assurances. "Still, you know where they went, don't you?"

A shifty glance of hesitation, before Caroline gave a trembling nod. That undoubtedly raised some more questions, though I had a slight inkling of where this might be going. "Follow me," she whispered, standing up and trotting towards the door.

"Twilight," I called to my companion before taking my leave. "Keep Nadine company now, will you?"

Twilight Sparkle, of course, gave me a most diligent grin. "Sure thing."

It was a quiet journey through the dark hallways of Hearthsgrove Mansion, with a trail of questions occupying my head. Really strange how just a moment ago, I was running for dear life down these very corridors, chased by a fairy-ghoul or ghoul-fairy named Herbert under the orders of this young filly currently leading me. Good golly, how this night had taken a strange turn! Something told me that it was only about to get even stranger!

We stopped the moment we've reached one of the many doors, with Caroline giving the door a gentle knock. "Nanny G, it's me," she hissed quietly. "Quick! There's somepony here to see you!"

I hear a cough, then the doorknob began to turn, albeit really slowly. With a slight creak, the door opened up a small crack, from which came the wary glare of a pair of green eyes, one which I had seen before. Those pupils squinted at me, piercing through the darkness and night air, before a feminine voice groggily croaked: "Who is this?"

"He's here to help," Caroline answered. "Now please, let us in."

Without further ado, the door swung a little, just wide enough for us to scurry in. The room we were in, I had to say, was rather cramped in comparison to the guest rooms we were offered. The furniture here was lackluster too, looking rickety and creaky as a poorly crafted home in Trottingham would provide. As Caroline quietly closed the door behind us, I turned towards the presence of a dim candlelight, immediately meeting the gaze of the sole occupant of this room.

Lying on the bed, with a plain sheet as white as her tuft, was a gryphoness, one that would've looked rather gorgeous had it not for her unkempt, soiled feathers in bad need of preening at the local spa and a few bruises around her beak. She looked tired and sickly, perhaps even malnourished from the looks of it, being a little skinnier than the gryphons I've seen in town. Really, in any other situation, I would've pass her up as just the ocassional encounter with a gryphon whom I shall never recognize. However, it was her eyes— those eyes, tinted in a venomous lime green, that were the sole giveaway, leaving me no doubt as to who she was.

"Gwendolen Blacknail, I presume?"

Author's Note:

Part 2 of the Trottingham Fairy-Ghoul!

Good golly, it's going to be February soon!