Yes, a LoHAV fic and yes, that is a black and red alicorn OC. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
This is meant to be a (mostly) comedic take on the subject of a person ending up in Equestria as a red and black alicorn. Please read at least chapter one before down-voting into oblivion. Edited by DarkParable and Xanathar, so go check their stuff out.
I got this comment from Xanathar while being literately sick with a fever:
Don't worry. Looks like you are just a niche author. Your writing is too confusing and smart for connoisseurs of red and black alicorns, but too esoteric and rough for high-brow crowd. For example, you still don't fixed seven improper uses of then in the second chapter of Rare Source. Every orthodox grammar nazi closed tab after second improper use. Probably you never will be a popular author. Deal with it. I'll fain take you anytime than 99.9% of shit featured on the main page.
Then I thought: Challenge accepted! Muhahahahahahahahah!
The idea of this fic just kinda flowed from there. (The slip-up has been corrected, by the way.)
Onward towards this train-wreck of a idea that amused me while sick!
In a strangely well-kept and furnished apartment in the slums of Manehattan, shadows gathered and stirred; twitching, swirling and moving slightly as if water that some long forgotten sea-beast had passed through, just beneath the surface.
To most onlookers, however, the entire place would have simply been a pitch-black void no light seemed to be able to pierce… but the place’s sole occupant was not like most.
In fact, it was several years since she had left even mortality behind.
A dull, blood-red light that only seemed to deepen the shadows lit in the small kitchen, enveloping a long, slender fluted horn… and rather anticlimactically, a cup of tea that began to stir itself. The small light did however reveal the caster.
The mare seemed little more than a hole in space; a patch of black so deep that it seemed like a shablon had been cut from the background itself. Her mane and tail were of a similar shade of nothing, except constantly twisting and changing, looking like nothing more than shadows caught in a dancing light that touched only them. For all as nonexistent as all but the color of her eyes were, the mare’s body itself was inequinely beautiful… but then it would be a poor mage —let alone the alicorn of shadows, darkness and deception— that had not learned a thing or five about cheating in such matters. Once upon a time her body, and she herself, had been much humbler. Now she not only towered over lesser ponies, but she rather ironically outshone near all of them.
Slitted eyes the same color as her aura watched intently as an egg-timer slowly ticked down; the irises catching the light of her spell like those of a cat’s. A voice softer than any silk drifted through the air, making the shadows of the room dance a merry jig in tempo with the wordless song.
Satisfied that the sugar and honey had utterly overtaken the tea, the alicorn gently lifted the cup in her gaseous mane and trotted to the carefully closed windows; only stopping her humming to sip her vaguely tea flavored cup of sweeteners. Extending her a wing she carefully parted the blinds and looked out upon the world.
The flash of thunder momentarily illuminated her scowling face. “Yeah, fuck that,” she muttered to herself as she turned from the window with a contemptuous flick of her tail added for emphasis, “that damn artifact can wait a few more nights. I’m not going out in this.”
The mare smiled wide as a small bell started ringing; showing her pearly white, if rather sharp looking, teeth. She darted over on silent hooves to her oven. She opened it slowly; making a scent that she found near heavenly but most other ponies would have gagged at spill out into the kitchen. The dark alicorn sucked in a greedy sniff while smiling; before letting out a content sigh while rubbing her hooves together and drooling. “Ah… bacon, truly your powers of dark temptation are second only to my own!” Then she threw her head back and laughed wickedly.
She was in a rather good, if silly, mood it seemed.
An angry stomping of hooves cut our protagonist of mid “Muhahaha.”
“Keep it down, Ruddy Dawn, you crazy twit! Some of us have work tomorrow!”
‘Ruddy Dawn’ rolled her eyes before raising her head and shouting up to her neighbor. “The storm is much louder than I would ever care to be, and it’s not even eight o’clock yet! You signed the same damn contract I did, so stop trying to enforce your own crazy sound curfew, you old nag!”
The ‘old nag’ muttered something, but fell silent.
‘Ruddy Dawn’, the moderately successful horror and thriller writer, wrestled her dinner out of the oven using her mouth without bothering with an oven-mitt at all. Her prize in dentation, she trotted happily over to her dinner table.
She took a long sniff of the bacon, anchovies, bacon, black-olive, bacon, sauerkraut, bacon, mushroom, bacon, garlic and bacon pizza with three types of cheese and extra bacon before simply plucking a knife and a fork shaped shadows out of the air. With a huge grin, she dug into the almost spherical pizza.
“And I won't even gain a single gram unless I want to! I just love this body!” The mare thought, just barely resisting the urge let out another evil laugh. “I can’t believe that stupid sun-nag, moon-butt and plum-plot still think I’m trying to ‘cure’ myself!”
Meanwhile, Manehattan Royal Museum of Magical-history…
The latest artifact of doom to grace the halls of the museum sat on a lonely column below a skylight, as such things are rather apt to do. Almost needlessly to say it was the only exhibit in a brightly lit room that must have cost millions of bits. (The laser tripwire grid probably added a good deal to that cost too, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The artifact itself was as menacing as it was cliche looking; a black crystal ball with an aura of black-blackness swirling around it. A lone fly buzzed through the swirling inky power... Only to, rather surprisingly, come wobbling out seemingly unharmed a moment later.
Its shadow followed behind several seconds later, flying away in a completely different direction.
Needless to say, it all but screamed ‘superhappyfuntime-ball with no foul usage whatsoever.’ Truly, it was without a doubt a tool fit for sunshine, rainbows and the petting of puppies.
The artifact —rather originally named The Orb of Darkness— was not quite alone in the room, however. Along the far-wall rested a line of pots. Cheap looking pots. Simple, cheap looking, pony sized pots. Nine of them. Just sitting a row, with two of them about twice as large as the others.
Yeah, everybody and their dog knows where this is going.
Slowly, the centermost pot’s lid rose, like a rather odd hat on the bouncy pink mane on our first ‘infiltrator.’ “You guys sure she’ll come?” Pinkie whispered towards the larger pots. “Because it’s midnight and a storm outside! It doesn’t get much more better for a ominous opening than this!”
A regal sigh drifted over the air just before the rightmost urn similarly opened, revealing Celestia. “Sadly, you might be correct… and that is just why she isn’t showing.”
“Indeed,” another regal voice —if one sounding rather more annoyed— came from the far left and the other oversized pot just before Luna’s irritated looking head popped up. “Death Darkness is as infuriating clever as she is corrupt, as always.”
“But it just doesn’t make sense! Why in Tartarus isn’t that two-bit hack here already?!” Twilight shouted as her head shot up from her own pot so fast the lid bounded away and smashed against the floor. The frazzled looking purple mare, her mane was standing on end, angrily pointed toward the orb. “ That darn thing could turn her into a powerhouse not even all of us combined might be able to stop!” The young alicorn slammed a hoof against the wall behind her, sending a spiderweb of thin cracks out from the impact. “Something like that is supposed to be bucking irresistible!”
“Um, Twi?” Applejack raised her head; her stetson safely tucked away inside the pot. “Can’t say I trust the slimy two-faced varmint… but what has she actually done? Illegal stuff, I mean. Care to remind me, because I can only think a few spots ‘f rather petty theft given what she is, and…” The normally stoic farmer turned slightly green and stuck her tongue out in a grimace. “...what she did to Sombra, but that creep had it coming.”
Everypony, even those still in ‘hiding’ made a face at the memory.
Cadance cleared her throat as she raised her own neck and head. “I do not like to admit it… but it’s more a matter of what she might do.” The Empress fidgeted uncomfortably, almost losing her ‘hat.’ “...And regrettably, what she is.”
The rest of the mane six not already risen from the glaze joined in and stared at the pink alicorn of love.
“Sadly, Cadance is right,” Celestia said in a kind if rather low voice, “but not in that way.”
As one being, the five mortals (and Twilight) swiveled their head around to glare at Celestia instead.
“Don’t give me that look.” Celestia gently used her telekinesis to lower her own lid to the floor. “She’s an alicorn. One not only unaligned with Equestria… but her domain is something that might cause not only a public uproar but also sow grave mistrust against Us, politically speaking.”
Luna gritted her teeth. “Indeed, we have only been lucky the cur prefers subtlety and moving in the same shadows she so favors.” The Princess of the Night shuddered as memories of the year after she’d been freed from the clutches of the Nightmare only to be just as, if not more so, shunned as before her banishment flickered through her mind. “My madness did enough damage. The very concept that a princess needs not be so off a fair domain may outright case uprisings.” Luna once more gritted her teeth. “As much as it pains me, we need to convince her to stop this madness of hers and....” Luna throw her head back and let out a pained groan. “...join us.”
“And if she continues to refuse?” Rarity asked in a careful voice. “I shall admit, her behavior has not been worthy of even a lady, let alone a princess…” The fashionista fidgeted, setting down her own ‘hat.’ “...but I can’t honestly say she’s done anything to deserve how we usually deal with beings of her power.”
“Yeah…” Rainbow muttered as she ‘accidentally’ threw her own lid away like a frisbee. “I mean, come on! What are we supposed to do? Throw her in jail?”
“I don’t like to admit it,” Cadance said, “but Dash has a point. Even if we manage to stick half of what we suspect her of on her, and she actually cooperates instead of just slipping out of her cell… What difference will a few years of free housing and food make for an immortal?”
“Come on!” Twilight exclaimed. “She’s an utter mockery of everything a princess should be! I bet she’s performing something utterly vile and unnaturalright now!”
Death Darkness… even if that was just another alias for the mare, was at that moment laying in her sofa and scratching her plot…
When suddenly a bright window of light sprung forth, showing ninjas! Dozens upon dozens of ‘em!
Death Darkness sprang to her hooves snarling in defiance with her horn lit, wings flared and shadows writhed over her like snakes in a pit…
“Now, on the Pony Rangers: Alicorn Power weekend marathon! Episode sixty three! Do Ranger unto Evil! Can the rangers fight… the entire legion, of the DARNED?!“
Death Darkness blinked and looked down, only to blush rather deeply at seeing something in between the couch cushions. “Oh… so that’s where I lost the remote.”
The announcer cheerfully continued, the TV unconcerned with how close to accidental annihilation it had come since… well, its a TV. The screen showed six ponies in ridiculous outfits strike just as ludicrous battle poses as the legion of black ninjas rushed them in slow-mo. The red ranger’s head started jiggling around as a bobble-head. “Alright, it’s morphing time!”
Death Darkness scraped her jaw of the floor just as the overblown transformation sequences started. “Holy fuck! Pony version of Power Rangers!” The mare reared with a huge grin on her face and flipped the horns with both wings. “Score!”
“Keep it down!” it came from upstairs.
“Never!” Death Darkness shouted defiantly, as she used her dread powers to make popcorn. As the eldritch empowered shadows throw the bag into the microwave Death Darkness herself flopped down into the sofa with the grace of a tarred and feathered brick in flight.
“Oh, this gonna be good!” she exclaimed as she excitedly rubbed her hooves together, “Now I've got something to do for the whole weekend!”
Death Darkness snickered and shot a glance out the rain splattered window as her bowl of popcorn floated up to her on a wave of shadows. “Guess I’ll just have to post-pone my plan until Monday…”
Death Darkness scratched at her shin as her ears perked at the rain. “...Still, that be a bit cruel in this weather.” She raised a hoof and gathered a glob of darkness that quickly began to boil and reshape itself. “I guess a small bit of quick and dirty entertainment will do…”
“I tell you!” Twilight shouted, pointing at the skylights with her mane aflame in magic and fury. “That good for nothing pretender of a mageis going to come gliding in any moment now!” Her head snapped around, glaring at her companions. “So we have to be very quiet and still!”
Twilight’s head snapped around again to once more stare at the window, thus missing how Rainbow twirled a hoof by her head. Instead, the mare rubbed her hooves together and cackled as her pot melted around her white blazing fur. “Soon… revengeance! Shall! Be!MINE!” Then Twilight let out another cackle while her eye twitched.
Just about as Celestia was about to go over to calm her former student everyponys’ ears perked up as a huge racket could be heard approaching. The group barely had time to notice, however, before a screaming tidal-wave of shadow creatures crushed through the skylight.
Everypony in the room with a horn lit their horn in preparation, while the rest took defensive positions… only to have the lights wink out and their jaws drop in complete and utter bafflement as the swarms’ battle-cry reached their ears.
Over and over again, the swarm of tiny Twilight heads chanted their litany in squeaky voices that only sounded somewhat like the real pony. They were all little more than shadow silhouettes with vaguely thinner outlines for any features, but they all had bat-wings on their cheeks and a dunce cap each.
And each and every time one of the Twilight-bats shouted “Books!” they got a look of extreme contentment, and small bits of shadow that somehow went splat when they landed shot out of their neck stumps.
For a moment, all but the swarm was still and quiet, as the ponies’ present, sans one, tried desperately not to laugh.
Twilight instead opened her mouth. For several long moments, it seemed her jaw had simply dropped… but slowly, ever so slowly, a hiss grew from the low of a whisper until it reached a scream of incoherent rage. The mare just utterly lost it in her blood-lust. She didn't even try casting any spells. Instead, she just jumped straight into the swarm and started tearing them apart with her hooves and teeth.
As the giblets of shadow constructs started raining down among the shadow guano near covering the floor, a lone but slightly sturdier looking Twilight-bat came sweeping out of the swarm straight for Celestia. The group —except for Twilight who was still flying around and screaming “Die! Die! DIE!” as she swatted at the rest of the swarm— braced for tricks, but let the construct approach since it was carrying a scroll in its mouth.
So transfixing in fact, that nopony noticed how a bit of the shadow-guano that had landed on the column with the orb quivered. Since the shadowy substance was quickly covering near every surface and light, the black hoof that reached out and swiped the orb was completely missed.
It’s serenade complete, the messenger Twilight-bat puffed up and exploded, sending a shower of black confetti in all directions. The rest of the swarm soon followed.
The rest of the group exchanged glances as Twilight continued to scream and punch the tar like shadow now near covering the floor.
“...That was rather out of the left-field,” Pinkie who was near covered in black said in a level voice.
Celestia who had gotten a face-full of exploding Twilight-bat wiped it off with her fetlock, before levitating the note up to her eyes and unfurling it. It read:
Dear Princess Celestia, my darling rival Twilight Sparkle, that cutie Applejack and less important hanger-ons.
It has occurred to me that the cat-burglar routine is getting a bit stale, and thus dangerously predictable.
Variety is the spice of life, yes? It is hardly fun to be stealthy all the time.
The simple pleasure of performing a smash and grab with a huge distraction should not be underestimated, after all.
As always, with wishes of better luck next time.
PS. I hope Twilight liked the show since I wasn't exactly dense enough to stay around to watch! Trololo!
Slowly, dreading what she would see… Celestia lowered the scroll; only to see the spot where the orb should have been utterly empty. “Sweet Harmony,…” she whispered under her breath, “...she played us like a bunch of drunken sailors.”
In the stunned silence that followed one last Twilight-bat exploded near the ceiling, sending a letter in a orange envelope zig-zagging down straight at Applejack who had unlike her friends barely as much as been splattered. With a sigh and a blush the farmer plucked the small thing from her hat. “Great… more fan-mail from the half-crazy magpie wannabe.”
Rarity who had been left mostly pristine… if only thanks to quick thinking and a simple shield rather than aim, let out a soft, polite cough. “Darling… there is no shame in ignoring a paramor you find…” Rarity paused for a moment, as she searched for a politer way to say ‘an utterly mad-mare with more power than brain cells.’ “...disagreeable.”
The blush on Applejack’s cheeks deepened a bit, and she pulled her hat down a bit not to have to see her friends amused reactions. “...I don’t exactly have this line to pick ‘em from, Rares.” Her eyes drifted to the seal, a crude waxen representation of Death Darkeness’ cutie mark. For not the first time she passed her hoof over the simple circle in the wax and wondered… Was the strange mare’s mark so simple? Or didn’t she have one? Applejack wasn’t certain which thought felt strangest in her mind, but with a shrug and a swipe of her hoof to tear the seal, she was soon reading the note…. and trying not to notice the faint hint of perfume on the paper.
Oh glorious apple-flower of the fields!
Alas, as always, the finest of treasures present eludes my grasp and power, it seems. Such cruel irony that no kiss, heart, love or slap on your glorious apple bespeckled posterius would be even half as sweet stolen as given!
Do you have any idea what a glorious torment it is to know you just might be able to perform the poetic cliche of plucking down the moon for one’s desired… only to just as well know she’d buck you clean in the jaw and bring the moon back to its rightful mistress?
“You got that bit right, you overgrown magpie…” The slightly blushing Applejack muttered.
‘Tis rather vexing. It might even drive a pony to… lunar larceny lunacy.
Applejack let out a groan and face-hoofed before continuing reading.
But to be truthful and with no jokes, it really is quite vexing. The paradox of it, you see? You are without a doubt the pony that has seen the most of me without any masks on… but I can’t actually show any of the fairer sides of myself without compromising those masks.
To be blunt… I have tired and this dance is sadly no longer fun. Tonight was my last performance.
You and your companions will find the orb sitting on the roof. Stealing it was fun, but I’m not mad enough to keep something like that. It just screams corrupting thing of horrible horribleness.
Feeling rather conflicted Applejack lowered the small letter and looked towards Rainbow. “Uhh… says here she left the orb on the roof?”
The entire group balked at hearing that, but Rainbow flew off to check. And indeed, only moments later Rainbow came flying back with something black in her hooves. She dropped the orb back into its place.
Then Rainbow noticed how she was not casting a shadow. Her head darted around, only to just catch a shadowy tail slink away down the entrance. “Hey, come back!” she screamed before giving chase.
Applejack ignored the puzzled looks and continued reading.
It was just so exciting for a while. The perilous plans! The rooftop chases! The breakneck flights! The glorious treasures… and the finest jewel of them all amidst the rest that not even my powers seemed to reach.
That’s the thing though, isn't it? It was so exciting.
This saddens me, but let it never be said that Death Darkness can not take a hint. I’ve seen the sneers and wrinkled lips at my notes and gifts. I had hoped that with enough charms I may have won you over, but…
I guess... I just wish we had met under different circumstances, as simple and yet heartbreaking as that is.
I have given you jewels and treasures, only to see them returned within moments. Gold and silver in mounds, only for the police to cart them off. Even the star was placed once more in its proper place in the heavens the very next night…
I have little hope this will work where so many other gifts failed and since I doubt I will see you even from afar again it may be a cruelty should it work… but inside the envelope you will find two last mementos. Plucked and prepared both by my hoof without any but fair play involved.
Do with them, as always, as you wish. I hope, however, that you have enjoyed our dances enough for the memories to be dear, at least.
The would be princess of your heart.
Sigh. Listen to me. The master-thief who’s had her heart stolen by the most honest mare around. How cliche can you get?
I guess I realized all along I wasn't good enough… but I was hoping to find out I was wrong.
May you live long and happily.
Applejack really didn't know what to think after having finished reading the letter. She passed the note to Rarity who, despite herself, was all but giddily rubbing her hooves together, before checking the envelope. Out came a tiny bouquet of withered forgetmenot blossoms, so small that it had barely dented the envelope and a single primary to large to be from any normal pegasus even if it hadn't been a black so dark it seemed to drink the light around it.
Applejack stared at the two objects hard enough that Cadance came over to cheek. She winced at what she saw. “That isn't a very cheery bit of symbolism.”
Rainbow came back dragging her struggling shadow in a lock around its neck. Applejack used the distraction to stuff the small things back into the envelope and then into her hat.
Rarity let out a sad little gasp. “Oh, the poor dear…”
Twilight snatched the letter and started quickly skimming it with a frown. “WHAT?!” she shouted as she finished. Celestia quickly snagged the letter before her student bursting into fury fueled magical flames could destroy the paper. “She can’t bucking quit! What kind of foul and wicked waste of magic just quits?!”
Celestia, done with her own skim of the letter, gently lifted the struggling Twilight in her magic and started trotting off. “Twilight Sparkle, enough. This is utterly beneath you.”
“DID YOU SEE WHAT SHE DID?!” Twilight bellowed, only to struggle harder.
Celestia let out a deep sigh. “And it will hardly be the first time, or the last, somepony will attempt to drive you to anger with taunts.” The old alicorn’s eyes drifted to the black mass near covering the room that was only now starting to evaporate in the light. “Even if I must admit that was quite a bit crasser than what even I am used to.”
Twilight opened her mouth to protest again, but was cut off as Celestia just teleported the both of them.
Luna looked up from the letter and addressed Applejack. “Just what did she give you?”
The farm pony fidgeted and put off answering by climbing out of her pot. “Just… a primary and a small bunch o’ flowers.”
Luna’s ears perked at the mentions of flowers. “The girl is mad, but she likes her dramatics… what type?”
Wordlessly, Applejack reached down into her hat and showed the small bunch of desiccated blue flowers. Luna let out a small wince at the sight. “I see…” Luna said before letting out a sigh. “I guess there is little more we can do but wait and see if this is genuine.”
Applejack couldn't help but stare a little at the tiny bouquet before gently placing it back into her hat. “...Don’t like to admit it, but… she’s bluffed before alright, but never in one of the letters to me.” The farm pony coughed into a hoof at her friends snickers. “At least not what I've noticed.”
Fluttershy, fittingly enough, fluttered out of her pot and hesitatingly trotted over to her orange friend. “...Um… are you alright, AJ?”
The mare in question gave a small shrug, trying to put into words what she was feeling at the moment. “I know she’s falser than a smile on a gator, and about as safe too… But...” Applejack took her hat off and plucked out the primary, frowning as she looked as it twisted on the end of her hoof. After several long moments of silence she let out a sigh and re-pocketed the feather. “I just… ain't certain how to feel about an alicorn claiming they're not good enough for me.”
Fluttershy pulled her into a hug. Applejack didn't resist, but she didn't join in it either.
The Princess of the Night shifted her gaze towards the broken window her stars were just starting to become visible through as the storm abated. Just above the rooftops, the light of dusk was starting to be chased away by the dark. She hid it well, years of practice aiding in that endeavor, but part of her cringed and raged as she could hear even a city such as this start to slow and quiet down as the night arrived. “The stars themselves damn it….” she thought, “...why must the only pony I’ve met with even near the same powers be a mad-mare that ravels in her misuse of the same?”
Outwardly however, the dark alicorn just let out a soft sigh. “I guess we can do little but wait and see…”
With a grunt Death Darkness lowered her hoof and fell down onto the sofa with a grunt; she was near bathed in sweat. “Dammit…” she panted out, “I guess doing all that across town was pushing it a bit.”
No longer in the mood, she used the remote to switch the TV off before rolling onto her back; casting the apartment into unnaturally deep darkness once more. Death Darkness lifted her hooves and just watched as shadows writhed over them. With a sigh, she let them rest on her stomach. “Yeah, I really look like the character that gets the girl in the end…” Just barely resisting the urge to punch the wall, she instead punched her hooves together with a near deafening crack. “What’s the point of having powers like this if I can’t even have any fun with ‘em without having everypony and their dogs hunting me down?” she snarled.
“Keep it down!” it came from above. “Seriously, some of us have tomb rai— I mean, too much writing to do tomorrow!”
Death Darkness rolled her eyes. “Do I need to rub that darn contract in your face, Yearling?”
“Aha!” Came the triumphant reply from upstairs. “It is now one minute past ten!”
Death Darkness swooned backwards over her couch while nearly rolling her eyes clean out of their sockets. “Oh no! The horrorz! Truly, my reign of terror is undone!”
A sigh drifted down through the floor slash ceiling. “Seriously, Ruddy, must we do this every-time? I really do have something important coming up tomorrow.”
Death Darkness grumbled, but relented. “Fine, fine…” She gave a half-hearted wave towards the ceiling. “G’night you crazy coot.”
Yearling mumbled a similar sentiment, before shifting in her bed and making the roof creak slightly.
Death Darkness stifled a yawn with her hoof. “Darn,” she thought, “I guess I’m a bit more tired than I thought. Yearling’s a stick in the mud, but perhaps she’s right this time.” The black alicorn scratched at her plot again. “I do have whatever that thing Daring called me for tomorrow, after all.” In her minds eye, her dreams of ‘Death Darkness, the master thief’ fluttered away like carrion birds scared away from their bit of roadkill. “Can’t say it’s the same, but a bit of spelunking slash tomb-raiding might be a good palate cleanser.”
Not even bothering to fake the normalcy of actually getting up and walking to bed, Death Darkness just merged with the shadows and re-materialized in her bed. She grumbled herself under her covers and pulled her ratty teddy, Mr. Doombringer, to herself.
The black alicorn yawned and felt how she’d started drifting off, but before she could her eyes settled on the small photo in a frame on her bed-rest. It was probably quite stupid of her to keep it so openly and she knew it… but she simply couldn't bring herself to lock it away somewhere.
The simple Polaroid would have puzzled most ponies. It showed a whole mass of creatures that only near a hoof-full of ponies in the kingdom would have been able to identify; superficially like minotaurs, but thinner built and without much smoother features. A whole throng of the strangely dressed creatures could be seen, but the focus was on three in the foreground.
To the left, a rather chubby looking sheet ghost giving a thumbs-up to the camera. It was a bit vague thanks to the ‘costume,’ but the pale hand looked sturdy enough that the creature almost certainly was male.
On the right, a dark brown skinned male with short hair was dressed in a crappy looking toilet-paper mummy costume and smiling towards the camera; showing his canines.
And in the middle, with both the others making bunny ears behind him, a short male caked in black makeup stood smiling wide with his red eyes —in truth, party lenses over his green eyes— sparkling from barely held back humor. He had wings on his shoulders and a horn taped to his forehead; both clearly made from chicken wire, badly made newspaper paper-mache and a sloppy coat of black paint. He was dressed in black slacks and a hoodie, while holding a sign saying: “Most original and bestest OC ever!”
Death Darkness couldn't help but smile, even as her heart ached. “Wow,” she mumbled, “Wonder what you two would think if you could see me now?”
Letting out a final yawn for the night, Death Darkness drifted off into the land of dreams, dreaming on how she’d gotten where she was today....
Chapter Two V3.2 - A Totally Normal Day For the Goddess of Darkness
And the author wishes you to know he may stop anytime he wishes! He is not addicted to that cliché!
...Anyway, in the gloom of the overcast sky and between the pitter-patter of the rain, a sound split the air.
In the bed, a dark form stirred. Red, bloodshot eyes shot open; gleaming crimson like the fires of hell itself. Within moments, the dreadful, hate filled orbs had narrowed into slits, their razor-thin pupils locked onto the thing that dared disturb Death Darkness’ rest.
Faster than most ponies could gallop, let alone react, she surged forward. Death Darkness didn’t as much rise, as seemingly fall apart; her form dissolving of a wave of dark shadows that raced along the room towards her foe.
As the wave of dark stopped, it crested and fell over its dreaded enemy; falling on top like as if the void itself had been formed into a tsunami of doom.
As the thing fell, like a metaphor of something dreadful happening in a suitably horrid manner , it changed. All along the dark blob slits twisted and warped into new shapes.
Some turned to glowing slitted eyes, each one a lurid red like the freshly spilled blood of innocents. Ancient and terrible intelligence shone in those eyes, as well as a hate burning like the burnination of Trogdor himself!
Others, turned to warped limbs; spindly and wispy, and yet clearly possessing enough strength to rend near any flesh. Gryphon wings with their feathers replaced with razor-blades. Cruel hooves far sharper than such limbs had any right to be. Hands with long nails, twitching and clawing at the air itself…
As a spiked tentacle shot from the writhing mass, Death Darkness’s opened her many mouths. Within each razor lined maw a glimpse of Nothing boiled; as the dark beyond even the stars themselves was dwarfed in intensity by the Void made manifest. As the cruel limb wrapped around its prey, the dreadful thing Death Darkness had become in her fury hissed. The sound a note of pure dark made manifest that seemed to drain the color of all it passed...
Truly, had she not already eaten the poor things soul the last time this happened, Death Darkness’ phone would have rued its day of manufacture by now.
The tentacle wrapped hard around the receiver, the enchanted phone’s surface already scratched finish gaining new furrows.
Death Darkness opened her mouths wide. Then she opened her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths…
Then she spoke, each and every one of her legion maws moving in perfect unison. The voice, if it could be called something so small and mundane as such, seemed to shake the nearby shadows. Not a mote of dust as much as twitched… but every shadow within a mile boiled and shook, as if they had been the real things they resembled... and struck with dragon fire.
“WHO DARES WAKE ME FROM MY SLUMBER?! BRIEF MORTAL, YOUR TRESPASS SHALL BE PUNISHED DEARLY! I SHALL FEAST ON YOUR SOUL UNTIL THE STARS THEMSELVES RUN COLD IF THIS SLIGHT IS WITHOUT CAUSE! NOT EVEN THE LIGHT ITSELF SHALL HEAR YOUR TERRIBLE LAMENT, AS MY TEETH GNAW ON YOUR VERY SPIRIT UNTIL ETERNITY ITSELF ENDS AND BEGINS ANEW! YOUR WAILS SHALL BE MY MUSIC, YOUR TEARS MY WINE, AND YOUR FLESH MY FEAST; ALL FOR THE BANQUET YOUR UNDYING TORMENT SHALL PROVIDE ME!”
The mass that had been a mare alicorn had no head to throw back, but the blob of corrupted dark surged upwards in a decent mockery of the gesture.
“SPEAK, AND KNOW YOUR DOOM OR SALVATION FROM ME REST UPON THOSE WORDS!”
On the other end of the line, the scratching of a hoof-file paused momentarily before resuming. “...Wow, tough night, Ruddy? Your being a worse drama-queen than usual, an’ that’s saying something…”
What eldritch matter that currently passed for a brain inside the swirling mass of darkness ground to a halt. “...Wut?”
The mare on the other end let out a sigh before mumbling in annoyance: “Flippin’ bat-ponies…”
A shade of black beyond mortal distinction started blooming on parts of the abomination as Death Darkness actually started waking up enough to realize how foolish she’d just been... “...Oh, sorry, PM. Got shot-down bad yesterday, and I frankly just want to sleep away my sorrows for a few hours.”
Private Message, for such was the secretary’s name in true on the nose pony fashion, let out a sympathetic ‘aww’ as she put her hoof-file down. “Sorry to hear that, Ruddy... but you’ve still got that book signing later today.” A few papers rustled as the secretary fiddled with something on her desk. “You up for it, or…?”
Death Darkness thought it over, as her form started condensing into what to most would pass for a mortal. All but two eyes and two bat-wings shrunk into the main mass, the others closing or fading respectfully as the pairs intended for current use shifted into their ‘proper places. All the shades of Dark beyond mortal keen faded and frayed, until a azure pelt seemed to melt forth from it.
The golden eyes finished settling in what quickly resembled a bat-pony’s skull, its form finalizing when the last open maw slid over the jaw and stuck there. Death Darkness absently used one of her gryphon claws to massage her chin to make sure her skin had covered her face completely this time, before the unneeded limb melted away.
<”Darn it,”> she muttered in Zebraven, just as much to hide what was being said as out of old habit, <”that twit Nightmare Moon gets a nicely PG-rated mist thingy for her shape-shifting, while I get the Lovecraftian-light experience of melting into all the shadows ever cast? So not fair…”> Ruddy Dawn clicked her pointy teeth together, —happy that she didn’t need to banish any extra mouths this time— before using the tentacle swiftly becoming a hoof to adjust the receiver up to where her ears had moved. <”Hmm, wonder what Celestia and Cadance look like when they use their powers to shape-shift…?”>
“Still can’t speak Zebraven, dear…” PM chided lightly, totally and happily unaware with what she’d just moments ago she’d been conversing with. “And just how do you do that with your voice? Honestly, nearly made me ruin the upholstery on my cushion first time I heard it.”
Death Darkness, now almost fully in the guise of Ruddy Dawn, let out a dark chuckle before speaking in her ‘normal’ Zebraven accent. “Sorry, dear… but I’d need at least a first-born before I tell you that.”
PM rolled her eyes, letting out an irritated sigh while doing so. “Honestly, Ruddy… You actually want me to believe that how to make your voice really scary is an ‘ancient Zebraven secret?’”
Well, I did figure it out about nine-hundred years ago… That’s decently ancient by most standards.
Outwardly however, Ruddy Dawn just chuckled.
“Fine, fine…” PM’s voice lost its half-mocking edge, and instead turned sympathetic. “So, care to tell me what happened; one gal to another?”
Ruddy Dawn, —for some reason— didn’t think admitting to being the alicorn of darkness and deception would end well, and decided on a fib. “Got a chance to hit on the Element of Honesty, if you follow…” A forlorn sigh forced itself out of the mare, as PM let out a shocked little gasp. “...and the pretty girl barely seemed to notice. Guess she’s just straight, or was distracted, or something… but it still hurt, you know?”
“Hey, plenty of fish, right?” PM said in a kind voice. “No offence, but given how few bat-ponies still have dragged themselves out of hiding…” The mare let out a giggle that almost seemed to hang in the air. “Well, dear, I’m certain your somepony’s fetish!”
Ruddy giggled along for a bit. “Just for the record, though? I didn’t drag myself out of anything. I saw an opportunity in the ol’ country, and Ni-” Ruddy quickly corrected herself as PM let out a angry hum of warning. “And Luna had nothing to do with it.”
“You do know she’s cured, right?” The secretary said in a weary voice. “It really isn’t fair to call her… that, anymore.”
Ruddy just barely resisted gritting her teeth. When you have a mouth full of razor teeth? Yeah, not a good idea, no matter how cathartic it may be. “Nightmare Moon’s little temper tantrum nearly killed my homeland, my race and drove my coven from Equestria…” The bat-pony slammed a hoof down hard enough it left a dent in the hardwood floor. “But the bastardoustwit didn’t even seek redemption herself! She was brainwashed into it!”
PM fidgeted on the other end of the line, clearly at a loss for words.
Ruddy ran a hoof through her mane with a sigh. “...Look… I like this country. It’s a nice and peaceful place, with lots of friendly inhabitants…”
The cyan bat-pony leaned her head with a groan. “...But I honestly wouldn’t care one iota if the two idiots on top were to go hang. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.”
There was a long pause. Long enough that Ruddy would have suspected PM had hung up in indignation, had she not heard the other mare breathing. “...No offence,” the secretary in question finally said in a tart voice, “but is Empress Mganga really so much better?”
“Hey!” Ruddy exclaimed, with her fur and mane brisling, and her wings raised in challenge on pure instinct, “None of them might not be perfect, but at least the ancient magical abominations I owe fealty to has a body-count in the negative millions!”
“Well, none of mine consider manual labor until the bodies rot away a proper burial rite!”
“Oh, so we’re supposed to just dump our loved ones into the ground and try to forget them, like you do?! I grew up hearing the old stories on my great-great-great-great-pa’s back! Did you even get a chance to talk with yours?! I think not!”
“Well, no, because mine was never turned into a shambling mockery of a pony!”
Ruddy let out a deep gasp. “Well, at least my Empress doesn't use the title that sounds the cutest! Oh, and she doesn't bathe with her red laundry, either!” A shocked counter-gasp came over the line as the outraged bat-pony throw her head back and exploded at the poor phone. “AND GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPA DID NOT SHAMBLE! HE EVEN GOT TO TEACH ME HOW TO FLY, BECAUSE MY FAMILY PAID FOR THE GOOD BALING-WIRE AND EMBALMING FLUID! WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOUR FAMILY ACTUALLY PUT YOUR DAMN MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND DID SOMETHING LIKE THAT FOR YOUR ANCESTORS, HUH, HUH?”
PM had to fight down her breakfast at the mental image of Ruddy Dawn and her ‘great-great-great-great grandpa’ playing, or something, as if nothing was wrong…
Let us say, that Ruddy had shown enough family photos that could have served the dual purpose of anatomy studies for PM’s poor imagination to go rather rampant, and leave it at that for the squeamish in the audience.
But to the mare’s credit, she realized she’d stepped over a line, With a small sigh, she forced herself to apologize. “...Look, Ruddy? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that about your great-great-great grandpa.”
“Great-great-great-great-grandpa…” Ruddy Dawn corrected tartly. “And no, you shouldn't’ have.” PM nearly snapped at her again, but the slight sniffle to her friend and coworkers voice made her hesitate. “My great-great-great-great-grandpa did not shamble...”
Sometimes, there are certain things you need to do if you wish to call yourself somebody’s friend; no matter how little you may wish to do them.
Private Messenger squared her shoulders, and did just that.
No matter how little her lunch cared for the subject matter. “...Look, I… Do you want to talk about him? Sounds like he… was really important to you.”
Ruddy brightened up a bit… even if there was still a few patches of moisture on her cheeks her pride insisted didn’t exist. “I’m sorry, I just…” Ruddy fidgeted a bit, her rump shifting a bit on the floor. “Great-great-great-great-grandpa was the pony that made me try telling stories of my own.”
Sniffling slightly, Ruddy still couldn’t help but smile. “Should have seen him. All but owning the fire each night, each story gorier an’ scarier than the last!”
PM gulped slightly, despite herself. She couldn’t quite stop herself picturing a face, more bone than skin left, but grinning all the same…
And suddenly, quite a bit about her friends choice of subject matter to write about made this horrific sense.
“...So, what happened to him?” PM asked.
Ruddy’s smile fell slightly… but didn’t disappear completely. “...Got too old. Even necromancy has limits and…” The bat-pony mare couldn’t stop a bitter chuckle. “And he’d rather pass on, then become the shambling type.”
“...I’m sorry,” PM quietly said, suddenly feeling rather ashamed of herself, “I swear I di-”
“Oh hush,” Ruddy cut her friend off, waving a hoof for unseen emphasis out of habit, “you couldn’t have known, an’ you apologized already.”
A small sigh of relief came over the line, as Ruddy dried her tears on the back of her fetlock.
“...So,” PM asked cautiously, “forgive me for asking, but… any plans on… you know... That?”
Actually, I’m already immortal and about twice as old as this city! It’s just that if I ever come forward to as much as the wrong pony that has enough clout to convince others, I might just spark wars by my mere existence! And not only would that rather suck, but it would be almost guaranteed to force me to take an active role in politics AND give up any and all attempts of finding a way back to my OTHER homeworld!
The words flashed through Ruddy Dawn, AKA Death Darkness’, mind so fast they almost spilled off her tongue.
Instead, she just let out a sigh. “...Not really.” Despite the funk Ruddy felt at lying about such a question from a friend, the trickster in her couldn’t quite stop a bit of wordplay. “Gonna sound arrogant, but that type of thing just feels like it happens to other ponies, you know?”
PM let out a snort.
“You, then?” Ruddy asked in a careful voice. “Would getting a century or three extra really be so horrible?” The bat-pony heard her friend tense, even over the phone, but she pressed on. “You’d probably have to travel with me to Zebrave for it… but I wouldn’t mind introducing you to some of the really extended family, if you know what I mean…”
Ruddy herself let out a snort. “It’s perfectly legal, and considered moral at that, in Zebrave. If the royal sisters can’t stand even discussions, they really are tyrants.”
Seeing where the proverbial wind was blowing thanks to the resulting silence, Ruddy let out a sigh and switched subjects. “Fine, just forget it. Anything special you called me about, or…?”
Ruddy had to fight down a frown at the resulting sigh of relief, but she ignored it. “Just remember the book signing later today, ‘kay?” PM said.
The words ‘OH FUCKING BUCK!’ flashed through our heroine's head, in ten-meter tall neon letters. “Fu- Look, you need to reschedule that!”
“WHAT?!” PM exploded. “You expect me to do that in a matter of hours whe-” The mare, to Ruddy’s surprise, cut herself off. “Look, I’m good, but not that good, OK?! You need to be there!”
Ruddy bit down on her hoof, worried how much she should or even could, tell without risking her secret identity she’d worked so hard on keeping safe…
She barely hesitated. “Look, I simply can’t. I’m sorry for having dou-”
PM cut her off with what was almost a snarl. “Look, I promised to keep it quiet, but you need to be there, OK?! There’s a once in a life-time surprise waiting there for you, and I can’t reschedule it!”
“Well,” Ruddy said sourly, “then that’s just too bad.”
“And just what is so important?!”
“Because my oldest at the moment living friend is an utter fool, stubborn as hell and plans to go tomb-raiding today. If I don’t show, she’ll shrug and go anyway. Alone.”
Ruddy almost heard the mental needle-scratch as PM did a double take. “Wait, what?”
“You bucking heard me the first time.”
The bat-pony in question did however hear as small pinging noises started up, as PM started gnawing on her hooves in frustration. “...Look, can’t you please convince… whoever your friend is, to post-pone for just a single day? I can’t reschedule the surprise!”
‘Tis a horrible thing to face drama without even a cup of coffee. Still, Ruddy pressed on, doing her best to massage away her mounting headache with her free hoof. “Look, can you at least give me a hint? Because if it is one of those honorary degrees or something useless like that, I’m frankly not risking my friend’s life for it.”
Ruddy was shocked as she actually heard hair being torn out on the other end of the line. What the hell was that important...?
“Look,” PM said after a few moments of disturbing sounds, “I promised I wouldn’t say, ‘kay? But it’s really a one in a life-time deal! I swear!”
Ruddy let out a groan. “Fine. I’ll try to get my crazy friend to reschedule…” The writer-slash queen-of-darkness made her voice much harder as she heard a happy little gasp. “But! If I don’t show then she said no. I am NOTrisking one of my friends on a flippin’ surprise.”
As PM ‘umm-ed’ and ‘ah-ed,’ trying to figure out words that would actually guarantee that Ruddy would show later, that mare herself went through subtler changes than those that had previously swept her. She was already taller than most stallions by about a head or so, but at the moment she had the same androgynous features as Death Darkness.
These thickened and bulked, as if somebody was standing just off screen and flicking sliders in a character creator. Once the rippling of flesh and sinew had finished, the result could best be summed up with the word: ‘Butch’ There were still quite a few hints of femininity (even without most ponies reluctance to explore the dread lost art of ‘pants’ aside), but there was a clear ‘I wrestle bears in my free time’ overtone to the mares build.
The crawling mass of shadows serving as Death Darkness’ mane and tail grew still; settling as the hairs turned the radiant gold with streaks of pure white that had given Ruddy Dawn half her name appeared.
As PM continued to stutter, Ruddy held up a hoof to ensure she got the second part of her namesake right. As she watched the currently cyan hoof darkened and turned a vivid red; until the shorn hoof looked as if its owner had galloped through freshly spilled blood. That color seemed to spill out over her form, flowing out until near every bit of her pelt had a splattering of red to it. All except for her muzzle that turned just as red as her hooves.
All in all, except for the circle of churning dark where a cutie mark should have been, and how the mare looked like a walking propaganda poster for the dangers of the horrible blood-drinkers in the ‘right’ light? You would never have guessed what power the mare held.
With a decent effort of will, the only part of her transformation that required such for the mare, that circle shrank and disappeared. For a tiny moment a far more plain circle filled with unbroken spiral, drawn in a single line and made from what almost looked like pitch upon her fur, faded into view…
And then with only a shudder to mark its passing the unthinkable happened, as the cutie mark faded.
Which was the point after all. If you looked for an immortal hiding among mortals, which would you suspect? The bronze-skinned Aphrodite whom men and women fall in rows behind; their every step shaking the ground with power…
Or the bat-pony equivalent to a somewhat unfeminine girl with just the ‘right’ skin tone that meant she’d really like the accusations of wearing blackface to stop and an a-cup?
Death Darkness had been especially proud of that last idea. Most ponies, if given the choice would rather gnaw of their own tails than as much as shave their plots, thanks to all the beliefs and pride focused squarely on those marks. A pony mad enough to hide hers?
It was simply unthinkable... and that made a very good disguise.
Happy that she looked like her normal self again, Ruddy gave herself a nod before addressing her flustered friend once more. “PM? Shut up.”
Ignoring the sputtering, Ruddy pressed on. “After lunch at Books & Broadswords, right?”
Even over the phone you could all but hear how the slightly offended PM had stuck her nose in the air. “You call that being Kind to a friend, Ruddy?”
“Hey, I’m a ‘rip the Band-Aid off fast’ kind a gal. Besides, unless a certain mumbler has something more to add I’m currently being hindered from solving my scheduling conflict by this very conversation...”
PM, barely surprised by her friend’s lack of tact or subtlety anymore, let out a deep sigh before taking the ‘hint’ and continuing. “Yes, please be there.” The mare hesitated as she considered saying something more, anything to make sure her friend listened... but she was simply unsure just what master to serve at the moment. “...I wasn’t kidding about once in a lifetime, Ruddy. Please be there, OK?”
Ruddy herself couldn’t quite stop a sigh of irritation as she idly fussed with her mane, but PM had been a really solid girl to her so far. It wasn’t like her to exaggerate either.
“I’ll try. Hopefully I’ll see you there, OK?”
Realizing that she wasn’t getting more than that, PM let out a sigh of defeat and forced some cheer into her voice. “Fine. Good luck.”
Without further ado, the call ended.
Moving swiftly, Ruddy barely let the receiver clatter down before darting out her door and up a floor.
As she knocked a quick rhythm on the door belonging to the only mundane way Ruddy had to contact their mutual friend, she couldn’t quite stop a few choice bad words under her breath. A.K. Yearling wasn’t that bad a pony… but it just irked Ruddy to her core, knowing that the so-called ‘celebrated author’ was just a ghostwriter that parroted her friend Daring’s exploits.
Was a bit of creativity just too much to ask for in today’s youth?
Inside her room, a certain light gold colored pegasus sneezed as Daring Doo quickly struggled into the glasses and cloak that marked her for the world as her alter ego. Buck it all, just who could that be? Neither she nor ‘Yearling’ was expecting anypony… and she was just about to head out as well!
Grumbling, Yearling stomped up to the door and peaked out.
She nearly bucked the wide predatory grin and its golden predator eyed owner in the teeth on reflex…
Then she nearly did the same on recognizing the ‘bloody’ idiot herself. Daring just barely fought down the sigh… and desire for a quick punch. Ruddy was an utter loud idiot, a irritant of a night owl…
And the only other pony she actually know of that also knew Death Darkness existed, let alone the reclusive alicorn seemed to trust.
To be Honest? Daring just couldn’t see why. A bat-pony with those darn colors, deciding on writing horror? Oh, the originality! At least Daring had actually done all the darn stuff she’d written about! And she was just so plain, at that! Once you actually got past the ‘politically incorrect b-movie slasher’ look the poor girl had going, she just… eat, wrote, slept and watched TV from what Daring could tell.
Still, Daring thought as she forced the smile a bit wider, at least the girl was half-way pleasant to actually chat with. “Yes, Ruddy? What can I help you with?”
Ruddy, sitting on her haunches outside the door, in turn fought down her irritation at Yearling. Still, as long as you talked with her during the day the girl was pleasant enough… “Bad news, I’m afraid. DD can’t make it today.”
“WHAT?!” Daring exploded, hard enough her ‘disguise’ nearly fell off. “Why?!”
Ruddy for her part held her hooves up defensively. “Messenger, please don’t buck.”
Daring had to sit down herself and take a few deep breaths.
“Look,” Ruddy continued in a kind voice, “she told me she can make it if there’s a rush, but something just came up she didn’t expect.” It went against near every instinct for the mare, but Ruddy leaned in and ‘whispered conspiratorially’ to Yearling. “You know how ‘dark’ her work can get, so I didn’t want to pry too deeply.”
Despite her disappointment and irritation, Daring gave a stiff nod. Made sense after all. Who even knows what disturbing, horrible, unknowable things the alicorn of darkness and deception had to deal with right now?
Ruddy for her part, forced a slightly waxen smile towards her irate fellow author. “I know it’s a bit sudden, but think you can reach the other DD in time?” The bat-pony mare fidgeted slightly on her spot. “...Know I haven’t met her as often as you have... but she seemed like a sweet girl, and I don’t want that stubborn mare getting hurt.”
Yearling carefully kept her face neutral as she gave Ruddy a nod. She still had no idea what Death Darkness saw in Ruddy… but she’d proven solid enough under pressure a few times. Was probably that Zebraven upbringing at work, but Daring had a feeling there was something more to it. Sure, getting bounced on a knee with less fur than your average apple, or whatever, tended to make sure the average Zebravian didn’t spook easily… but that hardly translated to being able to throw a punch.
“Give me a moment…” was all she said outwardly before heading inside her apartment.
With a sigh, Daring headed for her phone.
Darn it all, I hate this part about a secret identity…
A few dial-tones later, and Daring Doo’s answering machine picked up back in her cottage. “Hi, you’ve reached somewhere, you really should know where if you’ve got this number. Anypony about to leave any ‘cute’ little messages at my home, try to call down any curses on me, or sell me stuff?”
Daring couldn’t quite stop a smile as this bloodcurdling scream forced itself out of the receiver. Truly, the things you can buy online, including sound-effect machines, was beyond multitude nowadays…
“Well, that was the last idiot minion that tried to hide under my bed until I fell asleep. I don’t mind some ‘friendly’ hooficuffs while racing for the artifact of the week, or whatever…” The almost friendly tone the message had so far been in suddenly took a nosedive into something that made bedrock seem nice and fluffy. “But. My. Home. Is. Off-limits. Just a single friendly warning, hint, hint. You know the rest of the drill.”
Daring herself cleared her throat as the tone beeped in her ear. “Hello, this is Yearling. Just want to give you a head’s-up that our mutual friend just told me DD can’t come today.”
Daring held the receiver away from her ear for a moment, pretending to just have been screamed in the air. “Don’t scream ‘what’ at me, young lady! I’m just acting as the messenger’s messenger on this one!”
While holding the receiver and slowly counting down from ten, Daring thought it over. To her knowledge, the Temple of Shadows should ‘just’ be of archaeological interest. There wasn’t even an artifact or anything this time, just bones, rocks and some dust.
Interesting bones, rocks and dust, but even so.
Thing is, that was how it usually seemed at the start… and then some prick shows up, starts raving about ‘the whatsit of the eternal thingamajig,’ and how they’ll do nasty stuff forever and ever with it. And then it was a mad dash to buck the idiots in the face, and hope there was enough left of the temple and artifacts afterwards that it was actually worth gluing the bits back together again, let alone perform a proper dig there.
The receiver creaked slightly as Daring grumbled under her breath into it. Seriously, when was the last time she’d been at a proper dig? Was it really too much to ask? For a single darn time not having to see the ancient irreplaceable temple sinking down into a pit of lava from nowhere? Half the time it wasn’t even near geologically active ground! It was as if all the ancient temples were powered by the same darn lava dimension, or something!
Honestly, was it really no wonder why so many Equestrian archaeologist said ‘buck it’ to their cutie marks and ended up taking up more safe and sane professions? Like crash-test dummies, dragon dentistry, or similar occupations with hazard pay...
Daring let out a small sigh she hoped would sound like one of relief. She’d have preferred one that wasn’t an eccentric recluse seemingly terrified of politics and recognition, of all darn things, truth be told… but a alicorn as a friend? Nothing to sneeze at.
Who knows? Perhaps, just perhaps… that second best thing to divine intervention... Might just be what Daring needed to actually perform archaeology for once...
Daring’s heart sank a bit. She just wished there could be two names on the resulting paper. All this sneaking about might be in DD’s nature… but it had no place in science, and it hurt Daring seeing somepony that had come so far, done so much, just...
Wasting it all on trying to pretend she was still mortal, truth be told.
Daring couldn’t stop a slightly bitter chuckle. As if she was one to talk on that last point…
Still, more than enough time had passed for a ‘tantrum’ to have taken place on the other end. “I’ll make sure Ruddy passes it along. You take care, OK?”
Without any further fakery or fuzz, Daring hung up on herself and headed back to the door.
She had to fight down a snicker at the sight that greeted her. Apparently, a certain bat-pony wasn’t taking being up early very well, because the mare had slid down onto the floor in a boneless heap; snoring loudly enough for the sound to revert slightly down the dark hallway.
Having gotten enough bite-marks the last time she’d tried to wake a certain night-owl of a bat-pony, Daring headed back in and grabbed a stick she’s kept around for this purpose.
Gingerly and ready to spring back at any moment… Daring reached out and poked Ruddy just under her wings.
The hallway seemed to darken, as the cruel golden eyes of Ruddy dawn snapped open; the golden orbs shining from within the only light seemingly capable of piercing the sudden gloom. Her wings snapped open in challenge, and a near inequine hiss spilled forth from between her razor-maw as she rose slowly as some great leviathan with her hooves outstretched to grab whom ever had dared disturb her slumber…
And that was about the point Yearling whacked her on the snoot with the stick.
Ruddy, now wide-awake, fell sputtering to the floor in a heap.
“Seriously, Ruddy…” Daring calmly said before throwing the stick back into her apartment. “I know you get your jollies of it, but do you really have to court every darn bat-pony stereotype?”
“Well, I do drink, sarcastic pause, wine...” Ruddy grumbled in a tearse tone, rubbing her muzzle as she got up again. Her features softened as she gave Yearling an apologetic look, though. “Sorry about that, though. It’s…” A bright blush turned the mare’s already red muzzle positively crimson. “...Let’s say that Equestrian caves aren’t a bright and happy little biome for a species to evolve in, and please leave that particular irritating instinct at that, shall we? Please?”
Daring couldn’t quite keep a smirk off her face. “Really? That’s your excuse?”
Ruddy rolled her eyes, but the blush wouldn’t leave. “One freakin’ word, Yearling. Dragons.” Slowly so her neighbor would know she was just demonstrating, Ruddy expanded her wings, hooves and the corridor dimmed once more, as her eyes lit from within. “You don’t scare those off by giving half a show, you know?”
Daring grumbled a bit, but she had to admit that sounded plausible. “Anyway, Daring wasn’t happy, but she got it.”
Ruddy let out a deep sigh she didn’t even know she’d been holding in. “Thanks, Yearling.” With her tongue firmly in cheek, she leaned over and elbowed the other mare slightly. “You might be a poser, but you’re a life-saving poser.”
Yearling just rolled her eyes. If this stuffed manticore that thinks she’s so big an’ scary had seen even half of what I’ve had...
For a moment, Ruddy hesitated… then she gave a small smile. “Hey, you mind if I ask something?”
Daring raised an eyebrow at that. Just where was this coming from? “...Shoot.”
Ruddy answered by extending a wing in the general direction of downtown Manehattan. “Know you’re not a night-owl like I am… but you want to head out and…” A loud snapping sound filled the corridor as Ruddy shrugged her bat wings; the membranes for a moment catching the air. “I don’t know; have a side-kicks night-out, or something?”
Daring just had to blink; totally blindsided.
“Know this is slightly out of the blue,” Ruddy continued, “but… well, you’ve been a really good neighbor so far, and I don’t have anything to do later tonight. Just spur of the moment stuff.”
Daring bit her lip and looked away as she thought it over. On one hoof, Ruddy’s idea of a wild night in was cackling evilly while cooking pizza, something that didn’t exactly scream ‘party animal...’
But on the other, to Daring’s mounting horror she couldn’t even remember last time she’d just done something… normal. Even the stuff with DD was just a bit too long apart and… well, even having tea with an alicorn was hardly normal, no matter how much the goddess in denial tried to pretend otherwise.
“Come on!” Ruddy, quite clearly seeing the hesitation writ large on Yearling’s face, leaned forward and elbowed her gently again. “Just two normal mares, doing something normal together without any weirdness. A drink, a lick, a cute drunk to lick…”
Daring’s face turned almost as red as Ruddy’s as the later wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at her. “...Look, you might be able to get away with a lot thanks to the whole not from Equestria thing, but I know sharing stallions isn’t a normal Zebravian bonding ritual…”
“Who said a word about stallions?” Ruddy stuck her tongue out with a smile as Daring’s cheek all but spontaneously combusted. “I just used the word dru~unk…”
By the time Ruddy slapped Daring on the back, all while laughing like a loon, the later mare was just moments away from fainting from embarrassment. “Oh, you cute little Equestrians and sex!” Ruddy had to wipe a few tears away as Daring scowled at her. “If I outlive Luna and Celestia themselves I don’t think I’m going to tire of messing with any of you about that!” The larger mare poked her smaller neighbor in the chest softly using her free hoof. “But come now, would that kind of evening really be that bad?”
Daring, who shock upon shocks, had done some traveling in her days, gave the currently stark naked pony holding her an bemused look. “And if I pointed out that somepony doesn’t have as much as a ear-ring on, oh noble savage of the south…?”
Grinning like the canary that had managed to eat the cat, Ruddy just put her hoof to her chest and held her head high. “Well, I will have you know, that I’m not only this incredibly sexy and humble about it…” Daring let out a snort. “...but I’m also a nudist.”
On hearing what might have been the most stupid sentence she’d ever heard from another pony, Daring could only think of one response. “...What.”
“Oh, you should see the old-timers muttering back in Zebrave!” Ruddy puffed her mane, clearly proud of herself. “Me, all this, and not even a single bit of copper on me! Oh, you should see the colts starring!”
Despite herself, Daring just couldn’t help but laugh a bit.
“Honestly, though, Yearling,” Ruddy complained, with a small shake of her rump for emphasis. “The way nopony around here seem to react to nudity? That’s something that’s just so boring around here. Heck, I could probably paint my teats neon pink, and not even the colts would react!”
Blushing a few shades deeper but smiling while doing so, Daring gently pushed Ruddy away from her door. “Shoo, you overgrown pervert,” Daring nodded down the hallway, “and don’t you have a message to deliver to our friend?”
Ruddy hesitated while looking over her shoulder. “So…?”
“...Sure,” Daring said with only a few moments of hesitation. “Must admit, I’m not a heavy drinker, or licker, but going out for once sounds fun.”
“Yes!” Screamed Ruddy, pumping her hoof in the air like an overexcited filly. “Pick you up by seven, ‘kay?” The bat-pony started skipping down the hallway, only to catch herself and stop before disappearing down the bend of the corridor. “Oh, and wear something other than that ratty cloak of yours, or you’ll scare both the mares and stallions away!”
Daring couldn’t quite stop an eye roll, but the smile never went away. Was that what Death Darkness saw in Ruddy? The mares really had somewhere about as much dignity and maturity as each other, but Daring had to admit the enthusiasm was quite endearing. “No promises; have to think of the image, you know?” Daring said with a wave.
With a big toothy grin, Ruddy waved back before trotting off. Death Darkness had no idea what her brave if reckless friend saw in that mousy girl, Yearling, but she had to admit, the girl had quite a bit of moxie if you actually managed to get her out of her shell.
The moral of this story, full of sound and fury, written by a giggling idiot; If you end up a goddess of darkness and deception, and give your best friend your actual blessing make sure both of you don’t live in the same town and have secret identities, or things might end up stupid.
The author is sure this is a life-lesson that will be applicable for many of you, so be certain to make mental note of it.
At any rate, Ruddy Dawn was soon back in her apartment. A quick shower later, her favorite green vest with pockets and everything, and some plain silver bangles later… and Ruddy actually looked as if she was a halfway civilized monster!
Ruddy Dawn smiled wide at her mirror while giving her mane a last minute brush. “Mirror, mirror on the wall… who is the most color-coordinated pony of them all?”
The mirror promptly screamed, and cracked clean in two; a small torrent of silvery shards jumping to their doom to escape the horror before them.
Chuckling happily, Ruddy fluffed her mane with a hoof. “Oh yes, who's a pretty bat-pony!” Licking her hoof, Ruddy pressed it against her flank… only for what quite clearly sounded like the screams of the damned emanate from her butt. “I am!”
Strutting like if she owned the place (Which the eccentric and reclusive Lady Glorious Undertaking in fact did since Death Darkness found it hilarious to pay rent to herself, but that is beside the point.) Ruddy Dawn trotted out into the light.
She then promptly hissed at the burning of the day-star, went back into her apartment and tried again with her special glasses on this time.
Now, even in as cosmopolitan a city as Manehattan, a bat ponies was a decently rare sight. One that looked as if they’d been right in-between when a butcher shop and a paint factory exploded? Doubly so did not do it justice.
Still, since she had an appointment, Ruddy reeled in her vanity and actually managed to get to Books & Broadswords without swaggering so much she tumbled into traffic. Thankfully, after the storm last night, the streets were mostly empty and she made good time.
The decently sized store, in typical pony logic, made some sense if you actually thought about it. A result of the marriage of Keen Edge (Master Smith) and Rare Volume (Master Bookbinder) had resulted in a successful business with an odd if enthusiastic clientele.
Their daughter Razor Binding, the current owner, had not turned out quite as successful a union of those two extremes... but she was doing better. After some therapy, some (not so) minor surgery and more than a little common sense, she’d given up on trying to weaponize paper cuts.
With a minimum of hassle, and needing to polity reassure only a few fans that the signing had yet to begin, Ruddy managed to slip past the counter and into the backroom.
She was almost immediately glomped by a positively tiny unicorn mare. “Ruddy! You made it!”
With a quick squeeze in return and a hush, Ruddy smiled at her friend. “Glad to see you, PM, but ixnay on the you-know-what, ‘kay?”
PM was, aside from being barely a head taller than most fillies, was a quite shapely mare. Her coat was a light, but pleasant, beige while her mane and tail were a chocolate brown that matched her eyes.
Shock of all shocks, the mare named PM had in fact a sealed scroll wrapped in red-ribbon as a cutie mark. Who’d have thunk it?
PM smiled back, before turning and fiddling with some papers. “Oh, I simply can’t wait!”
“Yeah,” Ruddy snarked, sidling over to a nearby coffee maker to claim her first pint of the day, “I’m sure me smiling and breaking all the cameras will go over really well with the press.”
Ruddy barked out a laugh, as PM glared her way, and she herself took her first swig from the glass coffee pot. “Again.”
PM frowned, as much at the rather tasteless source of amusement as Ruddy’s taste in ‘mugs.’ “Seriously, Ruddy, you’re going to be dead before forty with how much coffee you drink…”
For a moment, Ruddy just lost it; laughing so hysterically she almost spilled what was left of the pot all over herself. “...Go on,” she barely managed to the stunned PM, waving her ‘cup’ for emphasis.
“...and how are you doing that? I put on that pot myself! It’s piping hot!”
“Magnets,” Ruddy deadpanned while taking a slow swig from the steaming coffee, not taking her twinkling eyes of PM.
With an unamused glare, PM folded her arms Ruddy’s way.
“Really strong ones,” Ruddy continued with an innocent smile. “With extra pixie dust, and everything!”
With a flick of her tail, PM went back to her papers. “It’s not nice to lie to friends…” she muttered angrily under her breath, before shaking her head sadly and speaking up. “Honestly, Ruddy, you’re so much better than this. If you actually took things even slightly more seriously, I think you could do great things.”
Ruddy nearly choked on her coffee. “Hey!” she shouted, waving the half-empty pot around like a pointer. “That was a sarcastic joke, and you know it!” With a huff, Ruddy slammed the pot back onto its plate so hard the glass nearly cracked. “And you said yourself you don’t want the darn explanations because ‘magic makes your head hurt!’”
The secretary blinked at the sudden turn. PM just simply… kept forgetting, but once more it was clear something had been lost in translation.
With a huff, Ruddy swept past her. “I’m starting early.”
“Wait!” PM shouted, hoof outstretched… but Ruddy had already faked a smile, and gone out into the store proper.
For a few moments, PM just stood there; utterly stunned. Was it something she’d said? Surely, thinking somepony could be so much better than a blank flank with a few gory stories under her belt was a compliment, right?
Hesitatingly, PM walked over… and touched the glass of the coffee-pot. With a wince of pain, she quickly pulled back and started waving her hoof to cool her frog down.
How in Tartarus had Ruddy sipped from that thing? PM wasn’t that big a magical klutz that she did know such things were possible…
But without even a glimmer of magic?
Not for the first time, especially with her friend’s earlier mentions of necromancy, PM simply had to wonder…
Just what really lurkedunder that garish coat?
PM knew she wasn’t the sharpest horn in the blessing… but she was hardly the dullest, either.
Fine, bat ponies and their fear magic were infamous… but an illusion bad enough she had nearly wet herself the first time she’d accidentally woken up Ruddy? Over the phone no less!?
Sure, the ‘dirty secret’ of unicorn magic you weren’t supposed to talk about was that horns were only really just a big boon in using it… but a bat pony good enough to do stuff like what PM had just seen?
Granted, most Equestrians didn’t trust, or even like to talk about, anything from or about Zebrave. An entire country as comfortable with necromancy as most Equestrians are with things levitating? That just wasn’t something you talked about… but was that an intentional bluff on Ruddy’s part?
PM simply didn’t have the answers. Not yet, anyway. Only thing she did know for sure, was that there were far too many scary looking letters in the equation for her liking.
“...Darn it all, Ruddy...” PM wined softly to herself, while alternating between licking and shaking her singed hoof. “Why can’t your deep, dark secret be how much you like dragon slash sea-pony porn, or something, like normal ponies…?”
With a sad look, she stared momentarily towards her pile of paper… and the gilded stationery just barely poking out from under the heap. Guess I’m about to find out…
Ruddy for her part, had all but already forgotten about the argument and was knee deep in fans; her fake smile long gone as she basked in the attention.
Now this is how things are supposed to be! Me, my awesome skills, things I’ve actually done with ‘em, and people that like what they’ve seen! No creepy cults! No ‘Your Highness’ this, ‘Your Highness’ that! No ‘an alicorn is royalty, so suck it up and act proper’ crap!
“Here you go, kid,” Ruddy said with a wide smile, as she handed over a copy of ‘The Dark Place’ to an eager young colt. “Just make sure your mom or dad’s with you, ‘kay? Nightmares aren’t nearly as fun as getting scared.”
Nodding so hard his head nearly fell off, the small yellow pegasus colt gently showed the book into his saddlebags, before all but prancing over to his nervous looking mother. “Mommy! Mommy! I got it!”
Despite how nervous the blue earth pony was at the rather pointy (if also goofy) grin aimed her and her son’s way, the mare couldn’t quite stop a small giggle. “Yeah, that tends to happen at book signings, dear.” The blue mare giggled again at how her son pouted, leaning down to give him a quick nuzzle. “Come now, and we’ll finish up with ice-cream.”
There was quite a line… but Ruddy just had to prop her head up for a few moments and let out a soft sigh. “Now there’s weapons grade cute, alright…” she murmured happily, as the colt and his mum drifted out and away.
The lean mare next in line let out a small cough into her hoof… if smiling while doing so.
“Ah, sorry. Just got distracted, miss…?”
“Sunny Skies,” the white pegasus with pink hair said, smiling friendly as she handed over her own copy.
With a hum of acknowledgement, Ruddy dragged the book closer and started signing. “Any requests?”
“...May I ask just how you get your…” A tiny frown of disgust passed over the mare’s face, but it was gone as fast as it had arrived. Ruddy noticed, but pretended not to have. “...anatomy so vividly accurate?”
“I’m from Zebrave, dear. No offence to one of Equestrian mint, but most of us learn the bones and major organs at about the same time as you guys learn what wings and hooves are.” With a cheekily blown raspberry, Ruddy passed the book back. “Just a bit less awkward to tell the old timers ‘Hey, you dropped this!’ that way.”
With a slight stutter and a grimace of disgust, the totally normal pegasus Sunny Skies said “Thank you” before backing off and heading out.
Honestly, Ruddy thought, do those three fools and their pet monster even know what they are missing? Like those empty damn palaces is worth missing this type of stuff!
Next in line was a midnight blue unicorn with a single star as her cutie mark and a mane a glossy black. “Stargazer,” she said while putting her copy on the small signing table, “I really enjoy your work.”
“Thank you!” Ruddy beamed a smile ‘Stargazer’s’ way, before clicking her pen. “Any requests?”
“I mean no offence… but why horror? Isn’t that a bit… courting the stereotype?”
Huh, lots of questions this time… “Meh, earth ponies grow, pegasi fly, bat-ponies frighten...“ With a shrug and a smile, Ruddy returned a book. “I know I’m probably a mixed-blessing for the bat-pony PR department... but you need to play on your strengths, right?”
With a neutral hum and a “Thank you,” Stargazer trotted off to Sunny Skies, leaning their heads together into a whispered conversation.
For a few moments, Ruddy just looked their way, feeling she was forgetting and/or missing something important… but ultimately she just shrugged and focused on the next in line.
If it had been really important, she would have remembered, right?
Next, came a golden maned earth pony, with hot-pink fur and a single golden heart as a cutie mark. “Beloved Song.”
With a hum, Ruddy accepted the offered book. “Any requests?”
Without hesitation, Beloved Song raised her hoof. “A hoof-shake? Please?”
Ruddy hesitated. Non unicorn (overtly so, at least) mages were rare… but with a name with love in it? Some of the nastier spells from that school could be cast both quickly and covertly…
With a smile and an effort of will, Ruddy used one of her own; her heart momentarily feeling like ice as her emotional connections were forced into unchanging stasis.
As their hooves touched, there was a small light-blue flash, and Beloved Song let out an urk as her spell backfired.
Still smiling, Ruddy wrote: Nice try, kid, and I’m flattered... but try to cast love spells on me again, and I’m breaking the hoof you do it with. ~Sincerely, Ruddy Dawn, to Beloved Song.
“Darn static,” Ruddy lied through her grin, as she passed the book to the frowning mare. “Must have been that wild-weather last night, huh?”
The mare’s frown turned into an outright scowl on seeing the dedication. “...I just wanted to find out if you love writing as much as it seems like from your books. Isn’t Black Heart’s Emotional Freeze a bit… much?”
A loud muttering broke out in the rest of the line at the words, both of shock and agreements.
Still smiling, Ruddy spread her wings and arms in a wide shrug. “Sorry, kid, but I’ve had to scrub my heart of love spells before, and it ain't even half as pleasant as it sounds.”
Beloved choked and spluttered on her own spit.
“Yeah…” Ruddy ‘thumbed’ her nose. “Sorry if you’re being earnest, but I’m not going through that crap again.”
Her face a blank mask, and ignoring the mutterings, Beloved spoke up in a careful voice. “...You do know that takes away all the love, right?”
With a crack not hearable on the mortal plane, Ruddy’s heart flash thawed in the wave of sudden fury. She just barely managed to not go into a rage, but almost all of the line still flinched from the fanged snarl she sported for a few moments. “Yes, I do.”
“...And because it is love, no matter its source?”
Ruddy tilted her head, surprised at the sudden hard tone to the other mare’s voice. “Oh, I see, a bleeding heart of a love mage that has convinced themselves their chosen profession isn't nearly as bucked up and morally questionable as it is.” With a shove that was harder than technically necessary, Ruddy poked the book into Beloved’s hooves. “I’m sorry, but I frankly disagree.”
With a pout that would have been adorable if not somehow having a razor edge to it, Beloved countered. “You are aware, that Princes Cadenza herself can’t tell true love and the result of the best love spells apart, right?”
Ruddy just waved her off. “I’ve got a scale replica of a Maneelangelo in my study even a couple of art critics have fawned over until I told ‘em. Paid good enough money for it, it even has the brush-strokes just right.” Ruddy paused for a moment, before shrugging again. “Doesn’t mean trying to sell it as the real deal wouldn’t be fraud, now would it?”
For a moment as the rest of the crowd murmured, Beloved just looked baffled. “...Why in the name of Harmony would you pay that much for a fake? Or be proud of it? Isn’t that rather… dishonest?”
“Because it, A, amuses me, B, allowed me to be something of a ‘patron of the arts,’ C, it is an glorious conversation piece.” Rudy blew a raspberry at the mare. “And, D, it’s hardly dishonest when you actually call a fake a fake, yes?”
And, E, Ruddy silently added in her own mind, it for just a few moments every time I see it, allows me to remember there are nicer —or even beautiful, sides to Deception… That sometimes, just sometimes… a Lie may be just as glorious and require even more work than the Truth, while being just as valuable.
A small thing, but it helped… well, Death Darkness to sleep at night.
That and Mr. Doombringer, but he doesn’t make quite as dramatic a philosophical point.
No matter the epic level of his snugglines, because, alas, some things are simply not meant to be...
With a snort, Ruddy continued. “Besides, aren’t you the one arguing love spells are the same as real love? Shouldn’t you be all for being proud of a fake…?”
With a harrumph and her nose in the air, Beloved Song stalked off to Sunny Skies and Stargazer with the book on her back; the latter two looking somewhere between worried and sympathetic.
With a sad shake of her head before pointedly ignoring the three gossips, Ruddy fought down some genuine disgust. Freaking love mages. Creepy hypocrites, the lot of ‘em.
Before long, things were a’ moving again. The three not at all important ponies having drifted off to a nearby table, performing what quite clearly couldn’t have been anything at all except gossip under their breath as Ruddy fell into a steady rhythm.
Small talk. Sign. Repeat.
Wasn’t glamorous or nice on the fetlocks, but it was rewarding.
All in all, it took about an hour or so of peace and quiet before the walking corpse came pouring out of the water-cooler.
It started innocently enough, just a slight cloudiness to the water inside the big, blue bottle.
Then two ice-blue pin-pricks of light lit in the center of the water, and a booming voice cut the air; seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once. “Greetings, honored living. I bear a message for the author Ruddy Dawn. Is she present?”
Roseluck, who’d just poured herself a glass of water before continuing her calming vacation away from the craziness of Ponyville, gently folded into a quiet little heap on the floor.
“...Oh, come on,” the voice continued, sounding both irritated and insulted, the two pin-pricks of corpse light somehow swiveling around in a rather clear eye-roll. “That’s just rude. I didn’t as much as say freakin’ boo!”
Somehow, this caused a slight stir.
However, before the crowd could panic properly, or the three completely ordinary mares do more than tense, Ruddy spoke up. “Yes? That’s me.” The mare waved a hoof towards the crowd. “Could this wait a few hours, however? You probably know by now how squeamish Equestrians are, and these are closed quarters…”
As near one being, the crowd went: “Huh?!”
It would be hard to point to exactly how it happened, but just as clearly the momentarily hunted water-bottle gave off a quite decent impression of having had done a grimace of disgust. Still, just as quickly, the creature was all poise and manners once more. “Forgive me, Lady Dawn, but I carry word from Empress Maji and Empress Mganga themselves.” For just a moment, the eyes drifted over the stunned crowd, their owner seemingly rather unimpressed. “If the creatures that call these calamity prone lands home can't stand the sight of a single honorarily Drowned Dead… Frankly, then they all need the visit of a shaman to drive out the spirits of stupidity that so clearly haunt them.”
By their table, the eyes on the three totally normal mares narrowed dangerously.
The creature noticed, and looked their way. “Oh no, the undead ‘abomination!He’s being slightly sarcastic. Somepony, please think of the foals!”
Slowly, Ruddy blinked out of the funk such an unexpected message had given her. “...Wapanzi? Is that you?”
What just might have been the creature blushing could be seen; as these two just barely visible clouds of red formed in the water. “Mom, I’m on the clock. Please at least pretend to be impressed.”
As a wave, one thought passed through the stunned crowd at hearing the now much more normal stallion’s voice; even the three totally normal ponies.
The creature ‘rolled’ its eyes again. “Yeah, like any of you sprang fully formed from the ether.”
Ruddy, now with a big, goody, pointy grin, quite literally teleported in a great golden-yellow flash. She appeared just in front of the water-cooler, reared up on her hind-legs and gave the haunted water bottle a hug hard enough that the plastic creaked loudly. <“Wapanzi! Oh, I’m so happy to see you!”>
With another ‘blush,’ the creature let out a cough. “...Love you to, mom, but can you please let me out so I can give you the messages? I’ve got a rep to uphold to, you know.”
“Oh, sure,” Ruddy said happily smiling, turning the small tap without hesitation.
At their table, the three totally normal mares the author keeps mentioning for no reason what-so-ever tensed.
For a few moments, nothing happened. Not even the expected outpouring of water.
Ruddy got out of the way, dragging of the still unconscious Roseluck by her tail so she wouldn’t get wet.
Then the water started pouring out. The eyes in the water watched intently until seemingly happy with the puddle quickly forming, only then flowing out.
The spilled water darkened and clouded further, strange swirls and forms twisting just under the surface.
Only when the whole thing had darkened to the point the whole puddle looked more like spilled blood than water, did the bony hoof pierce the surface.
Creaking and twitching, the only sounds in the store, the bones and tendons that had once been a hoof started feeling for the edge of the puddle. Once that first hoof had a sturdy grip, another equally rotted hoof came out of the water, and grabbed at the other side.
Then, the creature heaved...
Itself out of the black puddle, a quivering and dripping skeleton rose; its eyes burning with cold, blue flames, and a icy-blue gem inside its ribcage shining a clear light that hurt to look at.
“Drama queen…” Ruddy, once more at her desk, muttered just under her breath with a smile. “Honestly, how about you try getting out this decade…?”
The skeleton let out a deep snort that misted in the air. “Mom, do I steal your thunder…?”
“Constantly.” Ruddy proper her head up on a hoof, and stuck her tongue out playfully. “It’s almost as if you get it from somepony in the family, or something!”
Shaking his skull, the creature turned back; staring intently down into the murky depths.
Once it happened, it was over in but a few seconds. With a nauseating looking mix of rimfrost covering an object and flesh liquefying in reverse, the ‘corruption’ of the blackened waters flowed up and around the bones.
The creature ignored the gags and words from the crowd, instead gently feeling his jaw with a hoof. Satisfied, the creature heaved himself up and clear off the puddle, revealing that his ‘new’ flesh simply stopped at his barrel.
What darkness remained in the water didn’t stay there, however. Once more, it flowed up and over his bones, ‘healing’ him.
The zebra was tall for a stallion, but almost as lean as a mare. Aside from a small stud of silver in each ear quickly untarnishing and reforming even as the stunned crowd watched, he was nude. Wapanzi gently shook himself off, making his shortly cropped mane and tail dance around as water fell onto the floor in rivulets.
Once finished, aside from the still burning ‘eyes’ you could not have told him and any other zebra apart.
The three totally normal ponies shared a worried look. Just what was one of the Drowned Dead doing here? And now, of all times?
The three totally normal mares got their answer, as something started forming on the stallion’s back. It started as little more than a black outline in the air, but quickly ‘unrotted’ into what was clearly two stuffed, if small, saddle bags, made from brown leather and bearing the official seal of Zebrave as their clasps.
The golden circle —the symbol of a boiling cauldron standing on a log-fire on its top— already gleamed in the light, but Wapanzi still gave both a quick rub with his hooves.
“...Oh, just fantastic,” Sunny Skies murmured under her breath, low enough only her companions heard. “Stargazer, Beloved, don’t do anything. He’s the real deal.”
“And since when,” Stargazer hissed back just as low, “do we allow undead to stalk our shores?!”
Beloved Song gave a tiny nod of agreement, her lips a hard line.
Sunny Skies made pained grimace. “Since Zebrave got influential enough to force m- Celestia to give their ‘honored messengers’ diplomatic immunity.”
Stargazer’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets from sudden anger. “And this atrocity was allowed by Celestia why?” The unicorn mare snarled out, just barely stopping herself from slamming a hood down onto the table. “Surely she of all ponies have nothing to fear from a bunch of alchemists without alicorns to guide them!”
Sunny fidgeted in her seat. “...Stargazer, there are certain things I haven’t wanted to talk with you about since your… trip. Please, just trust me for the moment, OK? He should be gone within the hour.”
Fuming, Stargazer leaned back with a snort, crossing her arms.
“You know…” The undead stallion told the fuming mares, a hard edge to his voice. “...Where I am from, we actually expect certain behaviors between guests and hosts…”
With a sweep of his hoof, the now sparklingly clear water flowed up and into the cooler, the tap turning as if by itself.
There wasn’t as much as a wet patch left on the floor.
“Just saying, Ladies.”
As he passed, Stargazer snarled at him. “And I am sure you would not be so sure of yourself, abomination, were the Princesses here!”
At her desk, Ruddy bristled, but said nothing.
Wapanzi stopped mid step, one hoof hanging in the air. Instead of the irate Stargazer, however, he turned to the worried looking Sunny Skies. “You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, foal. Would you be a dear and tell your friends what the words ‘diplomatic crisis,’ ‘casus belli’ and ‘mutually assured destruction’ means? I simply do not have the time.” With a lazy smile, Wapanzi turned his gaze towards Stargazer. “Not with small enough words, at any rate.”
Humming a happy but wordless tone, Wapanzi all but pranced away from the three stunned mares.
He got about five steps before Stargazer rose and slammed down both hooves onto the table; snarling at him like an animal.
Wapanzi just slowly turned his head. “Madame, I have not seen my mother for nearly ten years, exactly because Equestria is this wary of undead. The only reason I even got this task, is because I sank down and begged for it. Can I not be allowed to say hi, deliver my letters and leave in peace? Please?”
Stargazer hesitated for long enough that Sunny Skies managed to pull her down into her seat again. The dark mare did not look happy about it, but with a huff, she resettled.
“...Thank you,” Wapanzi solemnly said to both mares, before returning towards Ruddy.
With a big smile and not a shred of hesitation, Ruddy pulled him into a hug once he got close enough. <“Missed you.”>
<“Same here, mom.”>
With anger that was only a little faked, Ruddy poked her son in his chest. <”Not enough to write…”>
A few of the more skittish ponies twitched as Wapanzi growled softly. <”I do, mom… and then the Equestrian Zebrave embassy sends them back. Unless they just burn them for ‘being contaminated with black magic...’”>
A horrified look swept over Ruddy, before she pulled Wapanzi into a hug once more. <”I see… well, we’ll just have to make a pair of those two-way mirrors, then, or something.”>
<”You mean the ones that cost more than most mansions...?”>
Ruddy leaned her head against his neck. <”Bha, if all else fails, I guess I could stretch my magical skills.”> To a mix of “Aww…” and “Eww!!” from the crowd, Ruddy gently kissed Wapanzi on the neck. <”Besides, you’re worth it.”>
Wapanzi gently started blushing again.
With a big, perverted grin, Ruddy leaned back. “Oh, and I believe I am, by old mare’s law, obligated to ask about grand-foals!”
“Mom,” Wapanzi deadpanned, “I am, if you haven't noticed, a walking corpse. I think that ship has not only sailed, but actually ran aground and sank quite a while ago.”
“And that’s what necrophiles and slash or magic is for!” Ruddy happily exclaimed, making the other half of the crowds collective jaw drop. “Come on, I want to hear the splish-splosh of tiny hooves again!”
Wapanzi was not alone in making a grimace of slight disgust. “Only you, mom, only you…”
Ruddy prodded a hoof into his chest. “Seriously though, Wapanzi, I’m not letting you warp half-way across the world twice in the same day.” With a harrumph, Ruddy stuck her nose in the air. “And if any squeamish Equestrians want to be giant flaming hypocrites about me showing my son some Kindness and Loyalty, they can go sniff their own farts for all I care about their opinions.”
There was some angry murmuring at the words from the crowd… but also quite a bit of fidgeting and uncomfortable looks.
With a soft pat, Wapanzi’s hoof met his softly smiling face. “Oh mom, you and your diplomacy ‘skills…’”
Beckoning him over, Ruddy started walking towards behind the counter. “Come now, there’s this back-room you can wait in until I’ve finished up here, shouldn’t take more than a few hours more…”
With a nod, Wapanzi rose and followed her.
The three totally normal ponies went into a whispering huddle again.
Ignoring the three idiots, Ruddy addressed the crowd. “Signings will continue in just a few moments, so please have patience while I introduce my son to my secretary…”
Translation from Polite to Pony: “Now is a good time to scarper from the ‘monster,’ if you have to be rude about it.”.
A wide-eyed PM was sitting just in the doorway once they entered; the poor mare too stunned to even pretend she had done anything but seen and heard anything. “...So that’s why you get so defensive about necromancy.”
Smiling proudly Wapanzi’s way, Ruddy nodded. “Yup.” To PM’s (plus the crowds) mortified horror, and Wapanzi embarrassment, Ruddy extended a hoof and pinched the undead stallion’s cheek. “Isn’t he just a darling?”
Wapanzi let out a groan as he rubbed at his cheek. “Mom, please do-”
“And I raised him all by myself!”
As one creature, the entire store groaned from the bottom of their pained souls. It seemed that bat-ponies truly were creatures of darkness and horror, after all.
Sighing at once more hearing the joke, Wapanzi leaned back and rummaged in his saddlebags. “Here, you crazy old coot,” he said, handing over two plain envelopes of fine paper. “No idea what the fuss is about, but it was apparently important.”
Using the thumb-claw on her wing like a pen-knife, Ruddy flicked off the seal —a stylized flame on red wax, and shook upon the ash and smoke smelling letter. It read, in a fine if on several places smudged hand:
Dearest Ruddy Dawn.
It is as my mixed blessing to inform you that we have received inquiries about you from the Equestrian government.
We do not as of yet have any inkling as of why other than that it is apparently not a legal matter.
Given Our previous grievances with the Equestrian Government, We wish to remind you that as a legal citizen of Our lands, you are fully entitled to legal aid, or protection inside Our embassies.
Do NOT be waylaid by the insulting notion that the moon nag holds any claim on you, just because you are a bat-pony. If you wish to pursue that path, you are of course welcome as a free citizen to do so… but she has no more actual claim on you, then I of all the world’s flames.
I simply ask you to remember that.
Should it come to such, simply contact Our Embassy, and you will receive whatever aid We may grant, post-haste.
With My deepest wishes of Health and Luck.
~Empress Mganga, The Ever Burning.
With a frown, Ruddy stuffed the letter into her shadow to keep it safe, before continuing onto the next one.
It too smelled strangely, but of spring water and fresh snow, oddly enough. Fitting enough for a letter with a blue seal looking like a single drop of water, though.
The two blithering, harmony obsessed idiots that think all the world’s ponies are theirs to command are at it again.
You get into any trouble from sun-butt or moon-brain, just show ‘em this note, and tell ‘em where they can shove it.
Didn’t care for poachers back when I was mortal, and I sure as dry-season ain’t gonna tolerate that type o’ crap now.
That means you, Nightmare Breath, or whatever you call yourself nowadays! Hooves of my bat-pony!
May Your Well Never Dry.
PM, who’d had been shamelessly reading over Ruddy’s shoulder, carefully reattached her jaw. “...Wow.”
Ruddy chuckled happily as she stuffed the second letter in with the first. “Yeah... ‘The Crying Mother’ just loves decorum, alright!”
Wapanzi let out a neutral grunt, sidling over to a nearby sofa.
Ruddy happily patted PM on the back. “You two play nice now, you hear.” She leaned in and whispered. “If you ask really nice, he’ll nibble even on the first date!”
Without a further word, Ruddy darted out; leaving the two blushing ponies alone in the back-room.
“...Forgive mom,” Wapanzi hesitatingly offered after a few moments. “I think she just might have licked one toad too many during her days, but she means well.”
“...Toads?” PM hesitatingly asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “Why would you want to lick a toad?”
“If you have to ask, you probably don’t want to know.”
Not really knowing what to do when you were alone with your boss’ undead son, PM fidgeted and just went with what her instincts told her. “...Coffee?”
“Would be lovely, thank you…” the undead zebra said politely, fidgeting in the slightly too small couch.
On politeness autopilot, PM stumbled over and started looking for cups. “...So, do I dare ask what you think of your mom’s writing…?”
“I try for mom’s sake every time, but honestly? Nine out of ten of her books just give me nightmares.” Wapanzi stuck his tongue out in a grimace. “Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but there’s just something wrong in that mare’s head.”
PM blankly stared into the nearest wall at what she’d just heard; the now overfilled cup flowing all over the counter.
Wapanzi, meanwhile was curiously looking around. The last time he’d been allowed inside Equestria, ‘pa-per’ and ‘el-ec-tric-i-ty had been these newfangled technologies corrupting today's youth, so the stallion was naturally quite curious.
And then, a flash of gold caught his eye. Before PM could protest, an icy-blue aura had formed around the official looking note and floated over to him.
And naturally, he read it.
Then he read it again.
And again, just to make really sure.
Wapanzi has seen and done many things. As a messenger of the Royal Zebraven Post Office, how could he not have?
He’d delivered invoices to lich-kings as they plotted in their tombs. He had served summons to elder dragons, long forgotten by any mortal, as they slumbered upon their mountains of glittering gems.
He had, even before undeath, learned all his mother could teach him; atop her true back, even. Although sadly his talents had not been enough for a more savory way to immortality, Wapanzi could still measure himself against near any mortal in the field of the arcane.
He had walked under the frozen ice of the long forgotten seas of The Frozen North; looking up to see sheets of ice thicker than even dragons could dig through. There were deserts, upon which he had left a trail of moisture that barely had time to sizzle before being gone.
“...Oh, buck,” he quietly swore to himself. The forgotten note drifting away and onto the floor.
And right now, he would have rather delivered a castle to the moon with nothing but a spoon, then walk out into the same room as his mom was about to explode in.
Trying to not make a sound, Wapanzi carefully climbed over and hid behind the sofa.
PM, not quite believing what she was seeing, just blurted out the obvious question. “…What are you doing?”
“Mom is about to go spare. So I’m hiding behind this sofa.” A single striped hoof rose, and beckoned her over. “Room for two, just saying.”
PM was about to protest… but then she remembered the near demonic sounding voice on the phone whenever Ruddy woke up cranky. “Move over,” she stated, all but diving after Wapanzi.
Forgotten on the floor, the oh so innocent looking letter lay.
Dear PM, We have heard your worry about your friend, and We have mixed news.
The bad, is that indeed, she has at least in part been less than honest with you.
The good, however, is that We have checked the Equestrian birth-archives, and the magical signature on the lock of hair you provided does indeed match Ruddy Dawn, the bat-pony.
Ruddy Dawn the bat-pony, born in the —sadly lost, coven of Glimmer Rock, under what is today Canterlot Mountain.
Over one thousand and one hundred years ago!
We will need to make sure she has not achieved this longevity by any foul means, but even so, this would put her as one of the few ponies alive today that remember a time before the Everfree.
My sister and I will make arrangements and arrive to test her as soon as possible.
Needless to say, do not tell Ruddy this.
But who knows, perhaps We might have found a worthy student of my own?
~Luna, Princess of the Night, Moon and Stars.
“...Look.” PM gently poked Wapanzi in the side, not sure how to feel about how soft his pelt was. “Even being scouted for the position of one of the Princesses personal student is a great honor, right?” The mare fidgeted for a moment. “...As long as it doesn’t turn out she’s secretly a vampony or something, things should turn out good, right?”
Wapanzi just gave the mare a thousand yard stare for a few moments. “...Do you know why bat-ponies are rarer around here, than a legal virgin in Las Pegasus, Miss?”
“Because the patron they used to worship the ground upon which she walked on had a freak-out about not being liked enough.” Wapanzi picked up a pillow, and gently bent it around his ears. “And most of the survivors didn’t exactly care much for Luna anymore once they could stop running.”
For a moment, PM balked.
“Now, does that offer still sound like something a thousand year plus old archmage is likely to react well to?”
Without a word, PM followed Wapanzi’s example with a pillow of her own. “...When you say archmage…”
“Mom tried to teach me age spells when I was ten. I have no idea how she does it, but spells are just… like reading from a flippin’ cookbook for her.”
PM was just about to protest that that was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard… when somepony suddenly exploded.
Exploded, in the Royal Canterlot Voice, but with a thick Zebraven accent. “WHAT!? YOU DARE ASK ME THAT?! AFTER YOU’RE DAMNED TEMPER TANTRUM NEARLY KILLED MY ENTIRE RACE?!”
Luckily, inside the back room there wasn’t much glass… but the coffee-pot exploded into shimmering dust from the volume.
A loud gasp cut the air in response. “TEMPER TANTRUM?! YOU DARE CALL MY MADNESS A TEMPER TANTRUM?!”
“OH?! AND YOU’LL DO WHAT IF I DO?! GO AND SULK ON THE MOON FOR ANOTHER THOUSAND YEARS, OR SOMETHING?!”
PM gently lowered herself as far down to the floor as she could, and pressed the cushion even harder against her now aching ears. “...I think we’re going to need a bigger sofa.”
Wapanzi didn’t answer, he just stuck his hoof into his mouth; rocking back and forth, while he tried to resist the urge to pray to mommy.
Another unnaturally loud gasp tore through the air. “SULK?!! I DID NOT SULK!”
“WELL, YOU SURE WEREN’T GETTING ANY BEAUTY SLEEP WITH THAT UGLY MUG!”
It simply seemed like it wouldn’t be very constructive this once.
So a lot of you have been wondering... just what took so long?
Well, I just couldn't get the darn tone right. That might sound minor, but I'd thought I'd share the two first failed versions of chapter two for your amusement.
Do however keep in mind, this stuff got cut for a reason. I might reuse some of it, but for now this is either already used in chapter two, or totally scrapped.
Oh, and this is also unedited. It's 'just' a glimpse at why chapter two took so long plus my writing process, so adjust expectations accordingly.
Death Darkness was just finalizing her pack for the small excursion with Daring, when the doorbell rang. This made the alicorn perk her ears and tense. Ruddy Dawn was decently known, but hardly the type of mare anypony would show up unannounced for. The few friends she had that know her under that name were the types to call ahead… so just who was outside her door?
Shadows gathered and Death Darkness’ horn lit up, as the mare shifted to her main guise with practiced ease. Her body shrank and became stocky and bulky, instead of tall and slender. The shadows fled from her pelt, tail and mane—swirling away to the spot where her cutie mark should have been like water down a drain— raveling a more mundane black interlaced with white for just a few moments, before color seemed to bleed into them. Her pelt turned the azure of a summer’s sky with tips a stark red that seemed to almost pool into spots, while her mane and tail turned mainly orange that faded into pale gold at the ends. The feathers of her wings —as well as her horn— seemed to melt into her body only for the primaries to then lengthen and the skin in-between to thin and stretch into membranes. With a single blink and a bit of power, her eyes became a feral looking yellow instead of their normal blood red. As a last couple of touches, her mane shortened into a tomboyish looking cut, her fetlocks got a shaved look to them to show her blood red hooves and her ears turned pointed.
In just a few moments in fact, Ruddy Dawn the testral writer had replaced Death Darkness the alicorn of Darkness. She patted herself down to check things had gone well and nodded to herself; quite pleased with the result. She darted for the door, stopping for a moment to check her reflection in the hall mirror. Ruddy gave herself a pointy smile with her red muzzle as the almost blood stained looking pelt she’d ‘gotten’ her name for had come in just right.
Ruddy turned her head towards it as the bell rang out again but this time accompanied by an insistent knocking, and shouted: “I’m coming soon, please calm down! There is no need to drum my door hard enough to wake the town!” in a thick Zebravian accent.
There was a sudden shocked silence on the other side of the door.
“I thought she was supposed to be a testral…?” a young sounding male voice whispered urgently, “I’m fairly certain only zebras rhyme like that.”
Another gruff but more authoritative sounding voice hushed the first talker. “Silent, Private… and that’s specist.”
Ruddy paused just on the other side of the door, listening intently. She did not care the slightest for the mention of rank. Had the Royal twits and their goon-squad finally found her? For a moment an orange face with a blond braid and cute little dimples flashed through Ruddy’s mind and made her heart flutter, but with a bit back sigh she fought it down.
A clinking of armor as her ‘guest’ shuffled around sent shivers down Ruddy’s spine. Had it been a mistake to manipulate such a mass of shadows from her own apartment? But how? Not even the royal twits should have been able to tell!
“…Seriously, I’ve never heard anypony but zebra traditionalists talk like that,” the rather dull private insisted, “I think we’re at the wrong house or something.”
The ranking officer let out a deep sigh. “Private, if you’d actually read the bucking file you’d know she immigrated.”
Having had enough of the demonstration of just how ‘bright’ Equestria’s best and brightest could be, Ruddy unbolted the door and let it glide up on the carefully rusted hinges she spent several hours monthly getting just right. The battered bits of metal let out a nails on a chalkboard sound that would have made the two military stallions manes stand slightly on end even if the pitch black doorway had not contained two sickly yellow eyes that caught the light like those of a cat and a huge grin that seemed to be as if it would have been more at home in the mouth of a manticore than a mare. “Good Sir, you are slightly misinformed…” Both stallions tensed as a mare almost a head taller than them and seemingly covered in blood stepped out of the dark, still grinning wide. “Zebrave is still the place I call home, although I will freely admit ‘tis rather far I have roamed.”
The Private nearly soiled himself and bolted, but the Sergeant sucked in a deep breath and steeled himself for long enough to notice the mare ‘just’ had a rather unfortunate splattering of the color red in her pelt, not blood.
Ruddy took the moment to study the stallion and the overgrown colt. The Private was a bit thinner and younger looking, but the pair were both testrals and the enchanted armor of the Night Guard had turned them both near indistinguishable from each other. Both had the grey pelt, the purple manes and the yellow eyes that marked them as Luna’s personal squad of pretty boy-toys meant to be dramatically swept aside by any real threat.
The disguised alicorn just barely fought down a sneer of disgust. The gothic idiot herself was a big enough waste of potential, but her secondary goon-squad for any task to demeaning to sack the Elements on was just insufferable. Instead, she put on a carefully neutral mask and spoke in a cold voice. “Oh. Sorry, if I’d known you two were Nightmare Moon’s incompetent minions I wouldn’t have bothered being polite. What do you and your idiot mistress want with me?”
The two guards reared back slightly with their eyes widened in shock. The private near snarled, but the Sergeant kept it to a professional fuming as he reached into his armor and pulled forth a scroll. “Her Highness Luna,” the Sergeant stiffly said with just a bit extra emphasis on his liege’s name as he handed over the scroll to Ruddy who reluctantly accepted it, “is quite impressed with your writing so far and wishes to see you.”
With a disinterested flick of her thumb-claw, Ruddy sent the small bit of dark blue wax bearing Luna’s cutie mark sailing away.
“Really?” the Sergeant said with cold eyes and a neutral voice with a small tone of contempt that could still be heard at the edges off it. “That pelt is bad enough, but you sharpen your claws as well?”
Ruddy gave the stallion a smile that didn’t reach her eyes but showed quite a lot of her sharp teeth, including her long fangs that gleamed in the light. “All the better to disembowel tiny woodland creatures with, my dear.” Her voice turned dry enough to resemble a very dry thing. “We can’t all be lapdogs to that blue moron. Some of us need to actually hunt for our daily flesh and blood.”
The hint of contempt in the Sergeant’s posture turned into an outright look of loathing. “You are a disgrace to all thestrals, Ma’am.”
Ruddy ignored him and the Private that had started to grind his teeth, and instead started reading the scroll.
To Lady Ruddy Dawn, may this message find you in good health.
We recently had the mixed blessing of a rather slow night of court, and feeling in a mood for finding out how the depictions of the macabre have changed during Our absence, We stumbled across you’re The World Below series.
To be honest, We initially began reading because the concept of an entire sub-terran world that somehow have eluded our best researchers made Us laugh Ourselves silly, but We were pleasantly surprised when We spotted the disclaimer… and utterly delighted when We found out such quality literature had been written by one of Our own bat-ponies!
As Rudy read the last bit, every shadow within a hundred meters sharply deepened and lengthened, and enough moisture gathered on her hooves that it almost ruined the parchment. The two now wide-eyed testrals carefully took a step back each as the mare forced herself to continue reading, utterly oblivious to the shocked stares she was now receiving.
As the mistress of Dreams We of course delight in all creativity, but seeing the fruits of one of Our own chosen always brings a special delight with it. We are not certain if you are aware of it, but I have on occasion acted as patron for artist We have found worthy of such a gesture.
We would be delighted if you would care to meet Us in Canterlot and discus this, as well as your wonderful books. If you wish and have the time the members of my guard delivering this will escort you, but if not this letter will act as introduction at the castle proper.
We hope to see you at your earliest convenience.
Her Highness, Luna.
With hooves steadier than Ruddy felt they had any right to be thanks to the boiling sensation in her stomach, the mare gently rolled up the scroll and raised her head to lock eyes with the now nervous Sergeant. “This is a royal invitation, not a royal summon?”
“…Yes, Ma’am,” the ranking guard said in a flat voice.
Ruddy handed over the scroll, ignoring the moisture dripping from her hoof and the end of the parchment. “Then I decline. If that unrepentant mass murderer wish to contact me again, I advice she does so through the Zebravian embassy. I have nothing to say to that overgrown filly that is fit for polite company.”
The Sergeant stared at the wet scroll. “Ma’am, please reconsider. Her Highness thinks highly of your books, and if we return with the invitation we will need to report why… and thus repeat your reasons for declining.”
Ruddy let the scroll fall. It hit the floor with a small splat before the mare started speaking in a cold voice. “Well, if Celestia’s assistant throws another temper-tantrum that kills millions I guess I will feel rather bad.” The mare put a hoof on the door to slam it. “Good-day to you both.”
A clang rang out and the Sergeant winced as the door hit his armored hoof. He looked Ruddy straight in the eyes while talking in an even voice. “Please reconsider.” For a moment Ruddy did consider... just slamming the door again a couple of times until the stallion got the hint, but the way the guard chewed on his lip with a pleading look on his face made her fold her arms instead and wait. “Her Highness thinks very highly of your books. Not only would such a cold reply almost certain sadden her, but she does not offer patronage often or lightly.”
Ruddy balked. “You think you can bribe me?!” The mare narrowed her eyes into a glare and squared her shoulders. “I want no part in anything those bloodstained hooves have touched. I find tolerating the existence of the royal sisters the unpleasant necessity of my stay in this otherwise pleasant country. Is that clear enough, Mr.?”
The guard clearly didn’t like it, but the stallion gave a slow nod. “I will commend you on sticking to your principles even if it cost you, if nothing else.” With exaggerated care and slowness, he removed his hoof from the doorway and gave Ruddy a stiff nod. “Sorry to have bothered you, Ma’am.”
Ruddy paused for a moment, before giving the stallion a tiny bow of her head. “Please forgive the rudeness you did not deserve, Sir. My blood simply boils at the mention of the cur. To shoot the messenger was quite below me normal standards, and I do hope you may find it in you to forgive my breach in manners? ”
It was tiny, more a ghost of it than a real one, but the Sergeant gave her a smile before bending down to pick up the scroll. “No worries, Ma’am. I don’t like it, but I understand.”
Ruddy gave the stallions a nod each, and then gently closed the door.
She barely had time to slide the deadbolt in place and take a single step away before the Private near snarled at his commander. “You understand?!”
Ruddy perked her ears, but for several moments only silence followed. “Wow, you’re really fresh out of the caverns, aren’t you?” Metal clinked against metal. “Listen here boy, because it’s going to save you a lot of sleepless nights. Luna is a darn fine ruler… but Nightmare Moon happened. Some ponies don’t even believe she was really purified. Deal with it.”
The Private sucked in a angry sounding breath. “And that gives that mare the right to stand there and insult her like that?!”
“No,” the older stallion said in a kind voice, “the freedom of speech and how she only used it to say her own opinion and the truth does that.”
“The truth?! How the heck does being stuck in the moon for a thousand years kill millions?! The fighting barely lasted hours!”
The Sergeant sighed and muttered out: “Darn crap history books… Just what do they teach the kids these days?” His armor clinked as he presumably raised his head, then he spoke in a kind but firm voice. “On this end of the world, we got the moon in the sky for long enough that the night lasted what should have been a day. No big deal, right?”
The conversation paused, as the private presumably nodded to his superior.
The Sergeant continued in a stern voice. “Well, in Zebrave, they got an extra day of sun during what should have been the beginning of wet season. It never came that year.”
A stunned silence filled the corridor. Ruddy’s hoof scrunched her hallway mat hard enough that it nearly took a bit out of it.
“The figure I heard?” The Sergeant continued. “One in ten survived. The whole continent turned into a ball of dust because of, as they see it, ‘an overgrown spoiled foal’s argument with her equally worthless sister.’ It took them nearly a century to put their society back into anything resembling more than scattered villages with a well each.” Something hard splashed a bit of water. “It also the reason we almost had the moisture torn out of our eyeballs just now. They have everypony learn at least water magic. Just so that the history they also make sure everypony learns won’t repeat.” Metal clinked against metal again. “And that is the darn reason you are always polite to anypony from that darn country. It makes most of the Everfree look like a petting zoo and the zebras have still made it their nag.” Metal rustled against metal, as if the owner of one of the suits of armor had shivered. “Not even most of the dragons —no matter how lost to their greed they are— will mess with the zebras.”
Ruddy barely kept herself from snickering as the Private muttered something about being able to take her.
The Sergeant instead just let out another sigh. “You don’t get it, do you? We give unicorns a few extra lessons on the side because it’s considered too expensive and time intensive to even test the aptitude of anypony else. In Zebrave, you don’t graduate at all until you can at least fill a glass with conjured water.” The Sergeant's voice turned stern. “And extra credit is usually if the student figures out how to stab something with it without using the container. Those one in ten a thousand years ago? They were the tough sons and daughters of nags and they gave their foals those very same lessons they learned… including exactly who to blame. Remember that if nothing else, boy.”
It sounded sullen, but the Private let out a half-hearted: “Sir. Yes, Sir.”
“Let’s go, we have bad news to bring and our liege’s heart to break,” The Sergeant muttered darkly, before trotting off. The Private quickly followed behind.
Ruddy waited until not even her ears could hear them anymore, before letting out a sigh and getting up. She headed for her study with a dark cloud all but shadowing her.
The small room had once been a walk-in closet, but aside from laughing herself silly at the concept of a pony walk-in closet Death Darkness hadn’t found much use for it and thus stuck a writing desk in there instead. She just stood in the doorway and stared at the desk for quite a while.
In particular, a binder with a name on it in careful hoofwritting. ‘Beneath the Mountains of Madness - Ruddy Dawn - Book five of The World Below’
The mare in question let out a sad sigh and muttered to herself. “Dammit all, and I really wanted to see the ponies reactions to the concept of shoggoths…”
Trying not to mutter darkly all the way or destroy her own floor, Ruddy Dawn stomped out of her apartment and headed up a floor.
After only a few moments after knocking on the right door, her upstairs neighbor Yearling stuck her disheveled face out. Ruddy tried not to have her jaw drop since it looked as if the normally tidy looking mare had all but screamed her hat on. Her grey hair was sticking out from under it in all directions, and she blinked her purple eyes for several moments before speaking. “...Hi, Ruddy. What brings you to my door?”
Ruddy tilted her head and thought it over. “I just got word from our mutual friend’s friend that she had last minute things pop up…” The testral writer's ears hung lower. “...and truth be told, I got news myself only moments later I can’t say I liked.”
Yearling throw her head back fast enough her big red glasses nearly flew off and clearly fought down a swear. “Ngh…” She quickly smoothed out her grimace. “I’m sorry to hear that…” then she muttered, seemingly mostly to herself, “...I’m certain Daring won’t like that.”
Ruddy cringed a bit. Yearling was nowhere as good a friend to her as Daring was, but she still cared for the mare. Perhaps it was professional pride clouding her eyes, but knowing that the ‘highly successful author’ was just Daring’s ghost writer just made her lower quite a bit in Ruddy’s eyes. Still, Ruddy forced a smile. “Hey, sound like we both had things ruined by acting as messengers again. How about we go, you know, do something? Just for fun?”
Yearling hesitated. In truth, Ruddy Dawn gave her the creeps… and then she felty guilty about that, since the testral —aside from being a few spikes short of a pit-trap and far too noisy at night for her taste— was usually quite the polite and friendly neighbor.
Then she started to feel silly about it. Daring freakin’ Doo, who’d raided more tombs than most have had warm breakfasts, freaked out by a testral with a pelt condition? Never!
And that was draft one.
I really liked the idea that Death Darkness is simply too proud of her skills, so that even while Ruddy is this 'humbler' mask she wears for the sake of a normal life, she is STILL larger-than-life enough to draw attention.
The big, big problem of this try, though, was just how mean-spirited it was.
It just wasn't funny for Ruddy to spit a messenger in the face. (And a bit ironic in hindsight with Wapanzi, but he didn't exist at the time of writing this.)
Now, I'm still not sure if I count her as a main-character for this story or not, but I did even back here plan on at least a few confrontations between Death Darkness and Luna. The lazy bastard that controls darkness but has (aside from Sombra) never hurt anybody, versus the Mistress of the Night that tried to shake the foundations of the heavens themselves?
That's just too much juicy drama to ignore, but the above chapter just felt like far too petty a start. Now, Luna calling Ruddy's son an 'abomination' in near the same breath as revealing herself AND clearly expect Ruddy to still find this an honor? Not to toot my own horn, but I think we can agree that THAT is a much better reason for a cat-fight than 'but she rudely declined my invitation!'
I did like the back-forth between the private and the sergeant, though. The dynamic 'I agree with you, but please be a bit politer about it' just doesn't show in fiction very often, and it was a rather fun challenge to write.
The transformation in this draft was just bad, though. Far too boring and rushed, with none of the thrill and shock factor I managed in the final version.
Oh, and I was still getting a grasp on Daring's character. That's why the chapter 'ends' on such a out of character moment as her being slightly freaked-out by (to her knowledge) totally normal bat-pony. To 'old-me's' defense, though, I think I was going for it being her 'Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?' thingamajig.
Hope you enjoyed this! Tune in tomorrow for draft 2.0 and why that failed!
So, yesterdays little experiment seems to have gone over quite well. Good, glad you guys enjoyed it.
Without (much) further ado, here comes take two.
Same deal as yesterday! No editing, and this got cut for a reason!
In the present, Death Darkness slept, but it was a restless sleep.
“...God-dammit all…” she murmured as she turned on her side with her wings splayed in a utterly unladylike fashion, “...can’t believe… darn wards…”
Inside her dreamscape the dark mare let out a sigh before quickly removing any traces of the rather pleasant dream she’d just started having. The piles of glimmering gold, voluptuous mares and well-oiled stallions faded away as morning mist under a desert sun. The marble and gold trimmed palace-temple to ‘her glorious awesomeness’ twisted and faded as well, soon replaced with nothing but a clear-blue sky and a field of golden wheat stretching towards the horizon that billowed in a pleasant breeze.
Death Darkness sighed and looked upward; towards the utterly out of place fullmoon she hadn’t put there that was swiftly fading into view. “And that utter waste of power can’t figure out how I can tell she’s coming…” she muttered darkly to herself.
“Greetings, Nightmare Moon,” Death Darkness said in a neutral tone without even turning towards Luna who had faded into the dream just behind her, “such a pleasant day, is it not?” The pleasant tone sizzled away as a icecube thrown into a kiln. “Now please fuck off like a good little pawn. I’m sure your superior has dirty work that needs doing. Kittens to strangle, foals to traumatise while they sleep, my dark to stain with that overglorified shiny rock you call a domain...”
Luna gritted her teeth and forced her ears to remain upward. It was clear as —Oh, the irony!— day to her that Death Darkness was just trying to gouge her enough that she lost concentration enough to be pulled back to her own body. It took near all of her self-control to do so instead of blasting the other mare in the back and be done with it, but Luna just walked towards her quarry; the wheat crunching and folding under her hooves.
“Must we do this every damn time I forget to cast a ward, Nightmare Moon?” Death Darkness said with a sigh while studying her shadowy hoof for stains, “I have no interest in being your sister’s latest scapegoat slash public servant of her pastelness slash the fourth royal twit.” The black mare dismissively waved the hoof slowly towards Luna without even looking towards her. “Go and fade like a good little shade. Nopony mourned you for a thousand years, so I’m rather puzzled why you fool yourself to think things have changed.”
Luna stumbled, as something savage and dark tried to tear itself out of her and lounge at the mare.
Death Darkness just turned her head and smiled wide enough to show her unequinly pointy teeth. “Ah, so some of your true nature does remain. Good to know.”
“NO!” Luna shouted, just a few decibels short of the royal voice. With renewed fury she stomped up to the two-bit thief that dared speak like so to her and glared her straight in the eyes. “But what would you know of sacrifice and sisterhood, you corrupted mockery?!”
Death Darkness made a move of theatrically clearing out her ear with a hoof. “I’m sorry, did the mare that throw a temper-tantrum that killed millions because she didn’t get enough pats on the back say something? I go deaf in the presence of massive hypocrisy, you see...” The black mare turned her head and shot Luna such a venomous glare some of the dreamt-up wheat actually wilted and blackened on the spot. “Or perhaps I was supposed to forget that so as to not hurt the itty-bitty mass-murderer’s cutesy-wootsy little feelings? We don’t want to see what the lunar tyrant is like actually angry, after all!”
It felt as if a spike had been driven into Luna’s heart. She had noticed that Death Darkness had done her utmost to not cross paths with her, but she had thought it due to the closeness of their domains and a fear of Luna catching her ‘scent’ or similar. The flash of raw hate before the black mare had gotten her temper and face under control had all but shattered near all of Luna’s hope of kinship with an immortal with a similarly unpopular domain.
Almost. The mare was clearly not in her right mind, after all.
Luna steeled herself, squared her shoulders and held her head high; her face a mask of compassion mixed with shame. “Yes, the nightmare force did bring out the worst in me. Please, we c-”
Death Darkness scraped her jaw of the floor and cut Luna off with an angry shout. “WHAT?! That’s seriously your excuse?! ‘I was possessed, and the demon made me do it?!’” She plopped her plot down and used both front-hooves to face-hoof. “I can’t bucking belive it! All that time of potential contemplation, all that death, all that wasted potential… and you still won’t actually admit you did it?!”
A crack appeared for a moment in her mask as Luna couldn’t quite stop herself from snarling, but she quickly mostly fought it down. “I’m sorry, but I really don't believe that lecture from somepony with the name Death Darkness.”
The mare in question just put a hoof to her chest and smirked. “It’s an alias, dear child, and one that’s supposed to sound stupid at that. You know? For my foes to underestimate me? Perhaps if you're a really good little filly, your mistress can read from the dictionary before she tucks you into bed next? Perhaps find a few monosyllabic words to explain it so that you will understand?” Death Darkness stuck her hooves under her chin and let out a faked happy gasp as Luna gritted her teeth. “Perhaps you’ll even get a pat on the head, big sis will say you did good and you might even get a whole lolly for yourself!”
A red mist descended over Luna’s eyes, and only the thought that this was a very sick and corrupt mare stopped her from the simply ripping Death Darkness’s throat out and filling her dream with bloodthirsty spiders flowing from her own eye sockets.
“My, my, my…” Death Darkness chuckled happily as she walked in a slow circle around Luna, who was just sitting there and taking slow even breaths to calm herself. “You actually think this is me at my worst, don’t you?” The black mare snapped her hoof, and willed a shining gloria into existence over her head. “That I’m some near saint-like mare of wonder, who if I wasn’t suffering from this ‘corruption’ would be filling the world with smiles, rainbows and sunshine!” Death Darkness giggled as Luna bristled at the last word.
“And I am so wrong in that?” Luna said her earlier fire tampered with a sadness from having seen far too many waste their gifts over the years.
This seemingly got under Death Darkness’s skin, as she stopped and stared straight at Luna. “Oh, you stupid waste of power. You just don’t get it, do you?” The dark mare raised a single hoof and the shadows on it boiled and writhed as she willed it. “I am Darkness, and I did not work my fucking plot off for decades making it so, just so you and your spoiled brat of a sister could have another freaking foalsitter of those spoiled scaredy-cat twits you call a populace.” With a contemptuous flick of her tail Death Darkness turned and walked off, as the fields faded away and got replaced with a white-sanded beach with crystal blue waters and palms waying in the wind. “I dealt with Discord, Chrysalis and her changelings, and Sombra because a mix of it amusing me and giving them a shot at actual redemption... and frankly the only reason I didn’t break you over my proverbial knee is because I missed the date that once.” Death Darkness flopped down onto a deck-chair she’d willed into existence and grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a big frosty drink out of thin air before just leaning back and sunbathing. “Rather a pity, that. I had such a nasty little plan for you that I’m fairly certain would have utterly broken you, thought you your damn lesson and given you a chance at redeeming yourself.”
Despite herself, Luna felt a chill down her spine. She and her sister still wasn’t quite certain what had happened with Discord, and the admission that Death Darkness somehow had been involved in the Changeling takeover of the Crystal Empire was utter news to her…
But the shattered remains of what once had been the greatest dark mage and foulest tyrant in Equestria’s history still screamed whenever the lights in his cell went out.
Luna let out a sigh and tried to do her best to skip over the sizzling hot sand in a dignified manner, before sliding down onto her own imagined deck-chair. “Fine,” she said in a neutral tone, “I’ll bite. How exactly would you have ‘shown me my lesson?’”
Death Darkness took a perverse delight in taking a long sip through the straw of her drink before speaking. “Oh, simple really, even if its so dark, horrible and wretched I doubt you’d ever been the same mare again. Even me showing you this might rock your world down to its very core.”
Only the past trials of countless witless noblesse and mind numbing courts stopped Luna from rolling her eyes. Instead, she hid her irritation at the mare beside her by showing her irritation at this darn dream and willed a large parasol into existence. “What kind of alicorn of Darkness dreams of sunny tropical beaches?” she muttered under her breath.
“One that has made her domain her nag,” Death Darkness simply stated, “and has made thrice-damned certain it knows fully well who the master and the servant is in that relationship.”
Luna blinked for a few moments before the words sank in. The chair crunched into splinters as she shoot up and stared in horror at Death Darkness.
The mare in question just took a sip out of her drink, before giving a raised eyebrow over her sunglasses. “My domain is darkness, both literally and metaphorically. Do you really want somepony with my skills in skulking around and that actually lets her domain have even a single say in how she acts?” Death Darkness held out a hoof, and what almost looked like a flame turned to a shade danced over her hoof. “I have a single and extremely simple rule about all my domain. It stays a natural force and does its damn job with a minimum of corruption and decay horse-apples…” The flame flared once, before Death Darkness's hoof closed over it. With a crunch that to Luna echoed in an eldritch way in far more ways than mere sound and sent shivers down her spine the shadow was no more. When the hoof once more opened only a strange shivering outline of nothing at all that made Luna’s eyes ache remained, only to fade as she watched with horrified fascination. “...or I deal with it personally.”
Once more, Death Darkness lowered her glasses and gave Luna a rather hard look. “Some of us actually perform maintenance on our domains. Honestly, have you even tried a permanent orbit rather than the ‘rising it manually nightly’ idiocy?” She shook her head with barely hidden disgust. “Seriously, you may as well get a flying mule, a chariot of silver and be utterly traditionalist about it.”
Luna fought down her disgust about a alicorn just— She couldn’t quite stop a shiver. — shattering any part of her domain that displeased her like that.
Death Darkness just rolled her eyes at the mare. “If a feather is broken, bent or rotten, you tear it out. You know? Maintenance.” The mare smiled wide, once more showing Luna her mouth full of fangs. “It’s almost like I know my own domain and your’s better than you do.”
Luna bristled at the comment, but she mostly hid it by reconstituting her deck-chair. “Big words for a petty thief.”
A silvery sound flittered through the air as Death Darkness just leaned her head back and laughed. “How about I show that plan of mine?”
There was a disturbing gleam in the black mare’s ruby eyes and something about her fierce smile was just utterly predatory even despite the teeth, but Luna tried to ignore it.
Death Darkness swept her hoof in front of her, and a large square of the horizon turned to a movie screen just hanging in the air. A short countdown followed, in turn then showing a few lines of white text on black:
THE EVE OF THE RETURN OF THE DREAD DRAMA-QUEEN FROM HER LUNAR TIME-OUT
WILL THE FIENDISH FIEND OF AN OVERGROWN FILLY FINALLY ACT LIKE A DARN ADULT, OR SHALL HER POUTING AND MOANING ABOUT UNFAIRNESS DOOM US ALL?
“Slightly dramatised for effect, of course.” Death Darkness just offered a sweet smile as Luna glared at her, before holding out a hoof. A red-white bucket of steaming popcorn appeared on it without any fanfare. “Want some?”
Luna grumbled but grabbed the paper bucket anyway. Anything to offer a bit of respite and distraction from this farce. They smelled enticing enough, but Luna nearly spluttered all over the beach once she actually put a hoof-full into her mouth. “What kind of overindulgent hedonist has salt on popcorn?!” She shouted before imagining a drink and washing the taste down.
Death Darkness blanked and paused in munching on her own bag, before having a small lightbulb moment. “Oh… you’re one of those that prefer sugar? Can’t stand that combo myself. Just feels and tastes wrong to me.” The black mare tilted hear and totally ignored as Luna glared at her. “Although I guess that explains why nopony bats an eye at Pinkie’s popcorn habits. Must admit, I was wondering quite a bit about that.”
“...You thought Pinkie was gobbling salt in broad daylight?” Luna deadpanned, not quite believe the words that had just left her own lips.
“In my defence, I thought Pinkie Pie was gobbling salt in public.” To Luna’s barely hidden disgust, Death Darkness tipped her bag back and basically took a shot of popcorn. “And in my defence I’ve never claimed to be a role-model.” Pale, blue flames enveloped Death Darkness’s free hoof. “I’ve claimed the titles of master-thief, archmage and the master of darkness. It’s you and your boneheaded sister that seems to believe that that skill and power means I need to be either some impotent goddess wannabe safely hidden away on the gilded cage called a throne, or some eldritch boogeymare stalking the countryside for victims.” The dark mare flicked a single pop-corn kernel into her mouth while giving Luna a unfriendly look. “Buck you, you hypocritical, moralizing prick and that harmony nonsense you and your monstrous tyrant of a sister are so found off.”
Luna tried not to bristle and grind her teeth, she truly did… but near every word and act from the overgrown filly in front of her made her blood boil. “And Applejack, then?” Luna near hissed. “And the other wielders of the Elements you seem to have taken an interest in?”
“They have potential, and teasing that out amuses me...” Death Darkness just rolled her eyes. “...and is it so utterly beyond the pale that I saw a cute girl with killer dimples, nice taste in headgear and hips you can break a freaking sledgehammer on, and —Horror beyond dreadful horror!— actually found that combo attractive enough to ignore one of my turn-offs? Not every damn thing that happens is due to age old whatevers rising or dread freaking prophecy.” Luna actually felt a pang of sympathy as the mare that had caused such headaches for her just slumped back into her seat; and even despite this being a dream-realm, she just looked tired and worn. “Alas, Honesty apparently care little to walk the Shadows…”
Death Darkness let out a deep sigh and throw away her pop-corn bucket so hard that it whistled; the thing sailed towards the screen but faded before it could even begin faltering. “Damn it all,” the mare muttered as she fell back into her seat with a frown, “I honestly —no pun intended— though the star would do it.” She tilted her head and put her hoof to her cheek, a thoughtful look to her face. “Not to be that type of gal’, but do you think she’s straight and just didn’t have the heart to tell me? I mean, come on, pegacorn.”
“Alicorn,” Luna corrected automatically.
“That’s the material in a unicorn’s horn,” Death Darkness countered, “and I frankly find the ‘it’s symbolic’ horse-apples utterly insulting.” She let out a snort as she reached for her drink. “I’ll admit they’re useful, but ‘tis hardly as if you need a horn for magic. Just more freaking bull sprouted by that decadent descendant petting-zoo you and Celestia keep around for who knows why.”
The sky darkened slightly as clouds billowed into existence. “Do not cross that line,” Luna declared in a calm voice, but how her hair flared as from a bonfire rather betrayed her emotional state.
Death Darkness just rolled her eyes. “Keeping track of the lot? Fine. That I get.” She jabbed a hoof in the air towards Luna, totally unfazed by the prospect of angering her. “Giving them political clout and various privileges? Look me in the eye and tell me to my face even a tenth of ‘em actually deserve such.” The mare rested her head on her hoof and smiled a tiny, smug smile Luna had started dreading. “At least, one of them show promise...” She chuckled, as she mimed giving something a tiny push with her other hoof.
The sky darkened and a cruel wind began blowing as Luna rose with power blazing in her eyes.
Death Darkness just rolled her eyes. “Yeah, darken the sky in the dream landscape of me. That sure sounds like a clever tactic!”
“Explain yourself, now.”
Another drink appeared in her hoof while Death Darkness chuckled darkly. “Please, why would I admit having done anything hilarius with Blue Blood?” She put a hoof to her lips in mock shock. “Oops.”
Luna tried to grab Death Darkness by the scruff of her neck, but the hoof just passed through as if she’d been a ghost. “Honestly,” the dark mare said in a bored tone, “am I really the only one in this damn realm that knows how to perform lucid dreaming without enough magic up my nose that my snot starts glowing? I mean, I gave up on the average idiot a long time ago, but the freakin’ self proclaimed Mistress of Dreams being such a weak willed idiot as well?” Her shadowy mane bobbed around her head like seaweed as she shook her head sadly. “Honestly… Sometimes it seems the average pony would fall down dead from shock if they had to do anything without magic, or for that matter, those irritating butt-tattoos.”
Luna’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull at what she was hearing. “WHAT?!”
“You know? The destiny crap?” Death Darkness explained in the tone of voice you use with not very bright children. “Seriously, you’d think if anypony would be aghast at the concept of predestination, it would be the one that spent a rather silly amount of time in her celestial time-out corner for what amounted to a temper tantrum.” Death Darkness smiled towards Luna. “Or is how I claimed my domain still a sore subject, little Woona? Do you see a list taller than us both of ex-mortals far more worthy than I when you look my way, perhaps?”
For a few moments, Luna’s heart ached and her mind was so filled with images of ponies long gone. Champions. Confidants. Lovers. Friends…
All long since dust, and passed to the fields of Elysium.
All through her brief if ever looming torment, Death Darkness only watched, her ruby eyes clearly disapproving.
The dark mare took a long sip of her drink before speaking. “You know something, Luna? I figured out age spells before I even had a freakin’ horn… then I made sure to teach the trick to any of my kin that cared to listen. You know? Since it makes you all but undying? What’s your and yours’ excuse?”
The dry and unamused tone in the accusation nearly made Luna jump her; then, there and trice darned all the consequences... but that tiny slip was one of the biggest revelations about Death Darkness the mare she’d so far let slip. It utterly irked Luna —as indeed many things about the mare did— but even in her dreams, Death Darkness kept all things personal closely guarded.
Death Darkness noticed the gleam in Luna’s eyes, and just let out a snort. “And then I thought the few and proud that are that good basic combat magic, teleportation and how to call on me from any damn point in this freaking reality.” She lowered her glasses and glared, her red eyes reflecting the light oddly; as fires burned deep within them. “Just a hint, Luna, because you have not seen me get serious.”
“And your slaughter in the Crystal Empire?”
Death Darkness smiled wide. “Ehem.”
Luna gritted her teeth. “Fine, the former Crystal Empire.”
“I do think I want to hear the lunar tyrant say that word… Luna.”
Once more, Luna rose so quickly that only splinters remained of her chair. “You dare?!”
Death Darkness calmly sipped her drink before answering, while Luna tried her best not to will a shower of snakes into existence. “You and your fat sister did claim Equestria from it’s rightful king, remember? Now, I’m not going to pretend Discord wasn’t an utter prick back then, but the point still stands that a ruler who unrightly claimed the throne by force and violence is a…?”
Luna couldn’t take it anymore, but she just barely managed to control herself enough as to not stomp over and give the grinning idiot the punch she so clearly deserved.
So she stomped over and punched the ocean instead.
And there was where I cut it, mid joke even sadly. I lost interest in this particular idea, but Luna would have caused a giant spray of water, Death Darkness snapping her hoof before the water came crashing down, and said: "You do know this is a dream, right?"
And frankly, that is the problem with dream sequences (in my opinion), that even with magic in the picture, there is simply no stakes; because everybody that actually realizes its a dream basically become mini-gods until the dream ends.
With two actual gods doing is? Both uninterested in a physical confrontation, at that? It just became a giant bickering-fest.
I did like the idea that Luna doesn't realize her moon appearing is a giant tell, though. In fact, I liked it so much I even reused it in my other LoHAV fic, Horse Feathers. So yeah, for those of you that read both? The above was actually written before that chapter, but I simply couldn't make a dream fight work with Luna and Death Darkness. Björn/Harry on the other hand has that temper and being horrible at backing down from a challenge, so with him and Luna I got the concept to work.
I am rather sad to see that popcorn joke go, though. I'm personally ambivalent about sugared popcorn, but I know the practice exist. (Prefer chocolate dipped, or cheddar ones, if I have to pick a non-standard flavor.)
Still, it would explain why nopony bats an eye at Pinkie gobbling popcorn in broad daylight, doesn't it? Sugar, salt... either-way, it kinda explains so much.
Oh, and the 'dastardly' plan? I'm about 90-95 percent certain that Death Darkness simply missed the date still is the canon explanation, but the plan?
Help Nightmare Moon win.
And once the world goes to heck in a hand-basket from said victory, give her a week to either put her darn money were her mouth is and do things better than her sister, go beg said sister for help...
Or Death Darkness uses the power boost from eternal Night to tear Nightmare's stupid freaking head off.
And either way, Nightmare Moon is either utterly broken, or utterly broken and 'redeemed.'
So, yeah, DD does in fact have a serous side to her, and it is freaking terrifying. Probably not going to show many times during the story for that reason, but that has been an intentional aspect to her from the beginning.
She does not like when people use 'her' darkness as a thing of horror and evil, and especially not when it is do to being a moon goddess with an F in astronomy.
And now, a few things about the proper chapter two, since you guys seemed to like that.
I'd been bonking my head against the wall for a few months by the time of try three.
Nothing, and nothing just seemed to want to work.
And then, I had the idea.
Make the transformation Lovecraftian, and just play it off as a joke.
Believe it or not, but the rest just flowed out of me after that. PM, the new version of the meeting with Yearling, the signing, Luna scouting things out, Wapanzi showing and unintentionally complicating things...
Once that darn dam broke, all the things that had been floating around in my head about chapter two just clicked together like a puzzle.
Heck, the actual writing, of what turned out to be about twice as much text as both drafts put together?
Probably took two weeks, including the darn editing.
So... yeah. Writing sure can be a weird hobby, huh?
Hopefully I won't have to take as much time or leave quite as much on the cutting floor for the next time, but I genuinely hope you enjoyed these glimpses behind the scenes!