The Titans' Orb: Rising Storm

by Mister Horncastle

First published

As Callum and the Mane Six continue their quest to find the shards of the Titans' Orb, the path ahead grows only more deadly, as they are now stalked by a relentless shadow that will stop at nothing to hunt them down...

Now a third of the way into their quest, Callum and the Mane Six are well on their way to collecting the next fragment of the Titans' Orb, but after their mission is discovered by Nah'Lek the Defiler, they are now in a race against time.

Can they find the remaining shards before Nah'Lek finds them?

As the dark path ahead becomes even more treacherous, friendships are pushed to the limits and tensions begin to rise. Will the group be able to stick together as a unit, as they continue on their increasingly dangerous mission?

And will they all make it to the end alive?

Author's Note: For New Readers [IMPORTANT]

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Hello, and welcome to the Titans' Orb: Rising Storm.

This story is the second in an ongoing saga, currently spanning over three books, with more on the way.
However, if you have looked at the first entry as of late, then you may have noticed that only a small number of chapters are currently available to read, and jumping to this sequel, Rising Storm, may seem awfully disjointed and confusing.

This is because the Titans' Orb was originally written ten years ago, and has since been rewritten!

The previously existing chapters on that story have since been permanently deleted, and over the course of this month, I will be releasing the new remastered chapters on a day-by-day basis, spaced evenly until Chapter Thirty and the Epilogue both release on the 30th of May.

From the author's note on the first Titans' Orb story, which explains the situation in full, I would expect this all to be quite clear. However, having received a comment on this sequel that expressed confusion over the matter, I have decided to leave an additional author's note on this story, to issue a warning and further emphasise the point.

In essence, if you are new to this series, please heed this very simple instruction...


Please bear with the first Titans' Orb story as it updates each day. From the 30th of May, the full story will be available to all, and you can then move on to this sequel without a hint of confusion.

I hope that explains things more clearly. :twilightsheepish:

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for your patience, I very much hope you stay with the story and enjoy every thrilling moment of it; welcome to the Titans' Orb family.

Kindest regards,
- Mister Horncastle :heart:

Author's Note : Rewrite Plans

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Good morrow my dear readers!

It's been quite a few years now since finishing The Titans' Orb: Rising Storm.
Since then, my writing style has come a long way, hence why I rewrote the first book.

Having gone back to read through this sequel, I've decided that I would like to rewrite this one as well.

Though leagues better than the first book, there are still many scenes, plot elements, and lines of dialogue that don't sit well with me, and I wish to do better. You, as a reader, deserve better.

This story has been a part of my life for nearly eleven years now, and I want to be proud of every single chapter of it. More importantly, I wish to give you, my dear reader, the best iteration of this story possible. This is more than just a fanfiction to me, it's a world. A world brimming with adventure, memorable moments, and deep, intricate lore, of which I have hand-stitched to fit in with many elements of the canonical MLP show, creating a believable, lifelike, gritty, and enthralling expanded world of Equestria.

With that, I will now be returning Rising Storm to 'unfinished' status.
There is a LOT of rewriting for me to do. :derpytongue2:

To cut a long story short, this series is in for a massive overhaul, and I can't wait to provide a fresher, more engaging story for my readers, new and old.

Well, that's it for now.
As always, I hope you are happy and safe.

Much love,
- Callum :heart:

Prologue: Dark Skies

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Raising his head, the demigod parted his mouth and tasted the nighttime air, drinking in the scent of blood, smoke, and anguish. Paired with yesterday’s fear-scent of the Royal Sisters, Nah’Lek was nearly overwhelmed by its deliciousness, and as he strode past the piles of mangled corpses around him, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of euphoria, something that was often foreign to him. Amongst the bodies were some of Nah’Lek’s minions, a group of insect-like creatures, native to this world, which he had bent to his will. Wholly consumed by dark magic, they feasted on the innocent dead, devouring their rotting flesh without a shred of emotion or remorse.

This planet hadn’t been ready for such an invasion, for even if the peaceful denizens of this world had been equipped for war, the sheer scale of Nah’Lek’s army was beyond imagination. One had to see it to believe. There had been no hope for these people, and as the Defiler’s legion laid siege to the last city, the lights on an entire sapient species went out.

“It is done.” a warrior spoke, approaching his ruler, “The Phaylings are no more, save for the prisoners.”

“Good.” Nah’Lek replied, “Do as you will with them, their kind possess no qualities that I desire.”

Nodding, the warrior marched off to inform his other superiors. Nah’Lek then left the battlefield, returning to the nearest war camp, which sat on a hilltop not far from the city. Upon seeing him, the masses of green-skinned warriors fell silent, bowing in equal parts fear and respect.

To the left and right of him stood forges, barracks, and other buildings created by his peons, built using the foundations of the native village that once stood there. These new structures were covered in spikes, fashioned from the sharpened bones of the soon-to-be-extinct Phaylings, and were all painted red with their blood. Continuing down the dirt path, Nah’Lek observed his growing army with pride, listening to the cries of newborns from the Wachook’s hut. He then reached the arena, where two of his warriors were fighting inside. It was not a graceful fight, for they were vicious and brutal, roaring loudly as they swung their axes at one another and blocked with their blood-splattered shields.

An axe met flesh, severing a hand and sending it hurling from the arena. It landed close to the Defiler, stopping him in his tracks. Taking an interest, he watched on as the now-mutilated warrior fought on, and instead of being hindered by such an injury, he was spurred by it. Flying into a blood-rage, he dropped his axe and launched himself at his opponent, taking him to the floor and punching him repeatedly with the bleeding stump where his hand had been mere seconds ago. The crowd cheered with excitement as the two creatures wrestled each other. With blood in his eyes, the blinded warrior could do little to retaliate as his one-handed opponent continued to pummel him to death, striking again and again until his skull caved in. To Nah’Lek’s satisfaction, the savagery didn’t stop, not until the deceased warrior’s head had been completely destroyed, leaving behind a sight best likened to that of an upturned stewpot, its mucilaginous contents spilling out across the floor.

These creatures had been bred for war, and although they had once been shamanistic and honour-bound, the urge to shed blood was now a part of their very nature, and thus were the perfect race for Nah’Lek’s army. Taking charge of them had been a simple task, all it took was challenging their Warchief, Blackhand the Destroyer, to one-on-one combat, a sacred duel in their culture known as the Mak’gora. Forcing Blackhand to yield, Nah’Lek spared his life, and promptly took hold of the greatest army known to creation.

The Orcish Horde.

With Blackhand now as his second-in-command, Nah’Lek promised the Horde a lifetime of glory, blood, and conquest, to which they eagerly followed him. Slaying all those who defied him, Nah’Lek processed the orcs, training them over generations to be loyal, merciless, and without fear. It amused him to think, these creatures had almost invaded his home world of Azeroth, where he had been hatched to a mighty brood up in the frozen lands of Northrend. However, such a fate was to be halted altogether, on that fateful day when the great Titan of Mass, Appelox, resonated with Nah’Lek, plucking him from his icy home and making him an offer.

The terms were simple, all he had to do was agree to find the Titans' Orb and destroy it, and in return, he would be made a god, an unstoppable force of unparalleled terror. The choice couldn’t have been easier, and so Nah’Lek was reforged and born anew, now imbued with the souls of the Holy Titans of Harmony.

Upholding his end of the bargain, he descended upon the world of Equus, where throughout his search for the Orb, he carried out a slaughter unlike any other. It was only when he was bested by the Titans’ Champion, a unicorn by the name of Stardust Moonshimmer, that he found himself in chains, incarcerated for his crimes. Sent to the lowest depths of Tartarus, the Defiler plotted his revenge for centuries untold, and when all had forgotten he even existed, he set his plan into motion.

Once free, and in possession of Hades’ staff, Nah’Lek gained dominion over not just the orcs, but over a substance so malevolent that it could corrupt even mana. On Equus, it was known as demon magic, but in truth, it went by a far simpler name.

The Fel.

Just as mana represented life, creation, and balance, the Fel was the manifestation of death, destruction, and disorder, serving as the very antithesis of mana. It was a brutal, sickening cosmic force, corrupting the mind, body, and soul of all who were exposed to it, warping them into beings known to all… as demons. Only individuals of great strength could harness it, of which Nah’Lek now was. Armed with this nefarious power, the Defiler possessed the ability to bend all to his will, and as such, the Horde became forever his to govern.

Moving on from the arena, he ascended a flight of stone steps, taking him above the war camp and allowing him to look upon the burning city below. For as far as the eye could see, there was fire, smoke, and chants of victory from his army. After all this waiting, his Horde was almost ready.

Almost sentimental, the Defiler ruminated for a while, before deciding to pay attention to his contingency plan. When he had shattered the Titans’ Orb and sent it to Earth, he had imbued the relic’s essence with a tinge of the Fel, along with a lingering spell of a most horrific nature.

A shade.

A non-corporeal duplicate of oneself, a shade could infiltrate the minds of others, perusing their memories, controlling their dreams, and influencing their behaviour, by way of whispering manipulative notions to them, under the mere guise of one’s subconscious. He had hoped to infect Princess Celestia with such a vile affliction, but upon muttering the incantation to resonate with it, he was met by a most interesting development indeed.

His shade dwelled within another, the Princess’s dear student no less.

Downloading the shade’s mind to his own, Nah’Lek was met with flashes of the Twilight Sparkle’s memories, and to his surprise, the pony was on Earth, in the company of a male human. His shade had done well, terrorising the unicorn on a nightly basis, and convincing her to loathe and fear the boy, but this had clearly not been enough. An image flashed before the Defiler, of not one, but two fragments of the Orb in Twilight’s possession. Twitching angrily, Nah’Lek’s eyes went from their usual purple, to that of a deep crimson. Though mostly enraged, there was another sensation, and one that Nah’Lek hadn’t felt before.


If these ponies continued as they were, then there was a very real chance that this could have all been for nothing. With the Titans’ Orb recovered and repaired, the Horde would be rendered useless, and Nah’Lek would be forced to invade Equus alone. Though he nearly bested the Princesses before, there was every chance that a new Champion had since taken Stardust’s place, and if he were to be subdued again, he didn’t reckon they would merely resume his prison sentence. To lose would mean to die, and Nah’Lek refused to allow for such an outcome, for he himself was the living embodiment of death; how could he possibly allow anyone to kill death? No, something needed to be done about this.

Severing the connection to his shade, Nah’Lek returned to the war camp and sent word for his apprentice, the last red orc in existence, of whom he had chosen to train personally. It didn’t take him long to appear, shouldering his way past his green-skinned brethren.

“Master, you wished to see me?” he growled.

Stepping to the orc, Nah’Lek looked down upon him and tilted his head.

“I am leaving for a time, for there are matters I must tend to. I am taking Blackhand with me, along with your father. While I am gone, you are to take my place, acting as Warchief in my stead.”

Taking a knee, the orc shook his head.

“You honour me.”

“Honour has little to do with it.” Nah’Lek replied, “You are my finest warrior, even without the gift of the Fel, and as such, you are to keep these green-skins in line for me, and continue preparations.”

Rising to his feet, the red orc nodded, understanding the assignment.

“Where is it you are going?” he asked.

“That is none of your concern.” the Defiler snapped back, “Just know that upon my return, we will be ready.”

At this, the orc splayed his lips into a wicked toothy smile.

“So, we are finally to launch the invasion?”

Looking beyond his pupil, Nah’Lek drank the air once again, where he savoured the lingering remnants of the Princesses’ fright. Clicking his mandibles, he confirmed the query, making his proclamation known.

“Correct, Hellscream. Upon my return, the Horde shall descend upon the Titans’ world, and there will be no god, nor Champion, strong enough to stop us. Now, be gone with you.”

With his apprentice sent away, Nah’Lek prepared to travel to Earth, for there was still the matter of the human to deal with. Whoever this ‘Callum’ was, Nah’Lek thought, he was going to regret lending his assistance to Twilight and her mission. Once his two orcs were ready to leave, Nah’Lek withdrew Hades’ staff and opened the portal, where they embarked on a little mission of their own.

Just as Twilight’s Company were in search of the Titans’ Orb, Nah’lek was now in search of them.

The hunt had begun.

Chapter One: The Journey Continues

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Like an icy hook, cold gripped the land. It was the first truly frigid day, marking the beginning of winter. Crossing the moorland and into the forest beyond, the girls and I shivered and chattered, until we could bear it no longer, and set up camp for the night.

After a fortnight of remaining in our camp near the afflicted, blight-riddled city, my wounds were finally healed enough for us to press on. Though the scars on my belly from the dreaded mutant queen’s attack still ached, I insisted that I was fine. As such, we had made our way north, crossing the Pripyat river and pushing on towards Belarus. Twilight had detected the whispers of a strong energy signal somewhere in that direction, and although there were no airports on the map, she was confident that the signal was strong enough to utilise in finding the next Orb fragment. We weren’t far now from the border, and from tomorrow onwards, we would be in Belarus.

“Here we are.” Rarity sang, distributing mugs to all of us, “This ought to warm us up!”

Bringing the mug close, the scent of hot chocolate wafted into my nose, and I let out a heavy sigh. Everyone else did the same, and after thanking Rarity for making it for us, we began sipping away. It was a cloudless night, and the stars glittered above us through the now-leafless treeline. Things had been somewhat turbulent over the past few days, and not just between me and Twilight; the colder weather had been ebbing away at everyone’s merriment, and it had resulted in us all being rather prickly with each other at times. Even now with two Orb fragments in hand, things felt… uneasy. Rainbow Dash had been the worst, snapping constantly and lashing out with bitter remarks. Still flightless, and with an aching leg from her injury in Chernobyl, the mare was nearly as cantankerous as Twilight at times.

As for the aforementioned unicorn, Twilight had been getting worse again. After we had fought together to kill the mutant queen, the two of us had very nearly become friends, putting our differences aside and realising how well we could work as a team. However, after she had suffered from the worst nightmare yet, waking with a scream, she had turned on me again, as though I had been the cause for such a terrible dream. Since then, she had almost entirely gone back to calling me ‘human’ instead of my name, and treating me as an enemy. Though I had tried to remind her of how she owed me respect after her stunt in Brazil, it seemed that she no longer cared.

Still, there were times when it wasn’t so bad, and tonight was one of those times. As we sipped at our hot chocolates, all seven of us finally had a moment of peace. We talked long into the night, mainly about past events. Wishing to learn more on events depicted in the cartoon, I boldly brought up the wedding between Twilight’s brother, Shining Armor, and the Princess of Love, Mi Amore Cadenza.

As it happened, the changeling assault on Canterlot had been a far more horrific affair, with the insectoid invaders doing far more than just capturing the unsuspecting city dwellers. While Princess Celestia did battle with Queen Chrysalis in the throne room, the changeling swarm had laid siege to the capital, feeding on a whole lot more than love. In actuality, love was merely an extension of one’s soul, and it was this that the changelings were truly sated by. Though they could thrive well enough on love, the only real way to fill their bellies was to feast on another’s very soul. As such, when they descended into the streets of Canterlot, many ponies met their end, with their final moments wreathed in terror.

“Blimey…” I murmured, “I never would have guessed it was so horrible, I’m sorry I asked.”

“It’s alright.” Rarity sighed, “I’m guessing your world depicted it as a far happier ordeal?”

Dipping my head, I explained how the cartoon had simply shown the changelings capturing ponies, without anyone being seriously harmed. After that, Shining Armor regained his senses and repelled them all with an overpowered barrier spell, fuelled by Cadence’s love for him. It was the ultimate display of how love was a real, tangible force, and could empower one in mind, body, and soul. After that, the wedding went on as planned. There was a merry after-party, and all was well. In essence, the whole ordeal served as little more than an exciting, climactic, heart-warming finale to the show’s second season.

“I prefer that version.” Pinkie sighed, hanging her head.

The others muttered their agreement, wishing life could have been so simple. It must have been hard for them; to know that such a simplified, trivial version of their own lives existed, in the form of a children’s cartoon. Continuing to tell me what really happened, the girls explained that just as the show had depicted, the wedding did go ahead, though it was more of an act of solidarity, than it was a celebration of Shining Armor and Cadence’s love. To the now-terrified citizens of Canterlot, it was a somewhat religious affair, joining an alicorn princess to a mortal pony in hallowed matrimony.

“It was a way of saying we were in this together.” Twilight clarified, “That against any threat, our divine rulers would stand at our side, and keep us safe.”

“Huh…” I breathed, scratching the back of my head, “That’s really quite profound, actually.”

“I think so too.”

Twilight then let out a pensive sigh, and I asked her what dwelled on her mind. Eyeing me up and down, she contemplated whether to tell me, before finally shaking her head.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Getting to her hooves, she took herself off to bed. Shrugging, I let her go, as did the others. We then decided to do the same, with Rarity extinguishing the magical campfire and collecting our empty mugs. Fluttershy and I went off into our tent, and with how cold it was outside, we took to sharing my sleeping bag, holding each other close for warmth.

After so many nights with the yellow pegasus in my arms, I had to admit that I felt a closeness to her unlike the others. It wasn’t romantic, nor was it sexual, it was simply… close. Our intimacy was one of a totally chaste nature, and one that I thoroughly relished in. Resting my chin on top of her head, I drifted off fairly quickly, and soon enough, we were both asleep.

The next day was far hotter, with the sun making a bold return, as though it wished to bring back the summer for one last hurrah. Enjoying what was probably the final warm day of the year, we pressed on until we reached the border. We were met with a long stretch of wire fencing, though it had clearly not been maintained in the slightest, for it was heavily rusted and swathed in vegetation. It wasn’t difficult to find a break in the line and step through, and then just like that, we were in a new country.

Though it was only the afternoon, we decided to set up camp upon finding a lovely clearing in the woods that would serve us nicely. Besides, with Rainbow’s leg still being a little stiff, we had all the excuse in the world to travel shorter distances each day. We unpacked the camping gear, and upon setting up the tents, Rarity asked where the pegs were to secure them to the ground.

“Shit!” Dashie grunted, frowning.

“What is it?” I asked her.

“I forgot to pack the damn pegs this morning, they’re still in Ukraine somewhere!”

“Oh Rainbow!” Rarity exclaimed, “For goodness’ sake, now our tents are going to be unstable!”

Oh nooooo!” Dashie mocked, impersonating the unicorn, “Unstable tents! What a tragedy! Where’s my fainting couch?

“This isn’t funny Rainbow Dash! Just because you don’t care about camping standards…”

“Well, you’re welcome to go back and fetch them.”

At this, Rarity snorted angrily and pointed out that it was Rainbow who forgot to pack them, so if anyone was to go back in search of the pegs, it would be her. Dashie proclaimed that the pegs weren’t that important, which brought on yet another argument within the company. Realising that this molehill was growing into a mountain, I stepped in to intervene.

“Hey, hey! What the hell’s going on here?” I barked, walking over to them “Why are you biting each other’s heads off over some bloody tent pegs?”

At that, Rarity whipped around to me and presumed that I was taking Rainbow’s side. With a scowl, she insisted that with how windy it was beginning to get at night, she didn’t want to be stuck in a rickety tent all night, flapping loudly around her, all because of Rainbow Dash’s careless mistake.

“Jeez, it was an accident, Rarity!” Rainbow spat, “You’re acting like I did it on purpose! Look, I get that it was my fault, but you don’t need to be such a prissy bitch about it!”

With her mouth falling open, the unicorn scoffed and stormed up to the pegasus, planting a hoof on her chest and baring her teeth.

“Oh, I’m a bitch, am I? Did I hear that correctly? I’m a prissy bitch, what, because you’re too boneheaded to remember your one job? Honestly, one would think you haven’t a wit between those ears of yours. It’s no wonder you’re such an easy lay for all those colts back home.”

What did you just say to me!?

“I said you’re a simple-minded harlot! Is that easier for you to understand?”

At this, Rainbow Dash raised a hoof into the air, to which I darted forward and grabbed it before she was able to strike. Thrusting myself between them, I broke into an angry shout.

“Pack it in, you two! What the bloody hell is wrong with you both? This is over fucking tent pegs for crying out loud!”

Letting go of Dashie’s hoof, I turned to look at Rarity with a piercing glare, and for the first time in our adventure, the sharp-tongued seamstress was left silenced as I had it out with her.

“I can’t believe what I’ve just heard from you, genuinely, I cannot believe it. The way you’ve just spoken to Rainbow is nothing short of disgusting. You would call your own friend a whore just because she forgot to pack something? How could you possibly say something like that? She nearly died two weeks ago, and here you are with the absolute gall to make such a rancid remark. You’re going to apologise, right now, and then you’re going to put an end to this ridiculous argument!”

Swallowing, the unicorn lowered her head, well aware that she had taken things too far. However, before anything could be said, I whisked around to face Rainbow Dash, ensuring her that she was very much not off the hook.

“And you…” I hissed, “Words are one thing, but you were just about to hit her! Thanks to Twilight, I know all too well what a thrown hoof feels like, and you could have done some very real damage. Don’t you ever raise a hoof to her like that again, do you understand me?”

Gulping just as Rarity had, the pegasus saw the error of her ways as well. Continuing, I told her that it was indeed her fault for neglecting to pack the pegs, and although it wasn’t the be-all and end-all, she still needed to apologise for forgetting them, instead of mocking Rarity’s reaction. I then stood back and let them sort it out, which thankfully came swiftly and soundly.

“I shouldn’t have said what I did.” Rarity admitted solemnly, “It was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too.” Rainbow grumbled, prodding at the ground with a hoof, “Can we… forget about it?”

Breaking into a smirk, Rarity made her answer known with a far less insulting jab.

“Well, it would seem that forgetting things is the theme for today.”

They both laughed and then exchanged a hug, forgiving each other. They then went off together in search of some sticks that might serve as substitute pegs for the tents. Releasing a loud huff, I couldn’t help but remain stressed from the encounter. Sure, they might have made amends quickly, but this was now the eighth altercation that had required someone else to step in and break up. Be it the weather, or Twilight’s resumed hostility, something had turned the lot of us into a band of squabbling children, without a passing day without some form of dispute between us.

Muttering bothered nothings to myself, I turned around and nearly jumped out of my skin upon finding Fluttershy mere inches away from me. I flinched and emitted a startled grunt, which in turn startled her, resulting in the pegasus letting off a nervous squeak. The two of us giggled over how we had made each other jump, followed by her asking me if I was okay.

“Eh, yeah I’ll be alright.” I replied with a weak smile, “I think all the non-stop walking has everyone’s tempers on the blink. Hopefully we’ll find the source of this frequency soon, and then we can get ourselves on the way to the next Orb piece. Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, it’ll be somewhere warmer, ey?”

{This is where the next piece is in Antarctica.} said the little voice in my head, still bearing the Scottish accent.

Mentally telling the voice to shut up, I was about to head into my tent for some peace and quiet, which was when Fluttershy raised an eyebrow at me.

“You said you’ll be alright, implying you’re not alright.”

“You don’t half pay attention, do you?” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

She responded with a toothy grin, and then asked if I wanted to take a walk with her. With it likely being the only sunny day we would see for quite some time, I conceded. Her wings puffed up with excitement and she trotted over to my side, and then we both went off into the woods together.

For a good five or so minutes, not a word was exchanged between us, we simply took in the sights and sounds of the forest. In the distance came a deer call, and all around us was the sound of birdsong, as though all the woodland critters were out to enjoy the unanticipated warmth of the day, just as we were. Though the sounds were comforting, they paled in comparison to the strong smell of tree sap, it was very nearly intoxicating, and left us both borderline drunk from its scent.

A little while later, we heard the hushing murmur of running water, and upon pushing beyond a cluster of ferns, we were met with a serene little glade, with a narrow stream flowing through the middle. The water was a vibrant icy blue, not unlike the shade of Rarity’s magic, though it also carried a faint milky hint, as if it were intermingled with mystifying arcane potion.

The both of us were equally mesmerised by the stream, and so we chose to sit as close to it as possible, plonking ourselves down on some dry yellowy moss.

“So…” Fluttershy hummed, resting against my arm, “What’s going on?”

Looking down, I found myself unable to meet her eyes. After a brief silence, I let out a heavy sigh.

“I just don’t understand, Flutters.” I confessed, “We have two pieces of the Orb, and yet you’d think we’ve found diddly squat. Everyone’s all tetchy, me included, and I can’t fathom why for the life of me. And then there’s Twilight, of course, who continues to treat me like… like…”

“Like shit?” she suggested.

“Thank you.” I confirmed with a nod.

Exhaling through her nose, the little pegasus rubbed her cheek against my shoulder in an attempt to comfort me. She went on to say that although she couldn’t fathom how frustrating it must have been to constantly endure the unicorn’s contempt, she could certainly see how it might bring me to the end of my tether. Clenching my jaw, I groaned over how it was less of the contempt, and more of the endless back and forth.

“I swear, she’s like a bloody yo-yo. One second, we’re getting on, and the next, I’m no better than a changeling in her eyes. She keeps giving me this false hope that things might be okay between us, and I fall for it… every single time!”

Planting my face into my hands, I pulled downwards to stretch at my cheeks and eyelids, massaging them in a bid to circumvent some of the stress that dwelled there. Continuing my lament, I professed that the unicorn’s constant back and forth had caused my depression to flare up more regularly again, with the past few days being nothing short of a miracle that I had found the motivation to get up in the mornings.

“The last thing I want is to sound dramatic,” I told her, “but honestly, if I had the choice, I would happily keep our camp where it is for the next week so I could just sleep.”

“Oh Callum, that isn’t dramatic, it’s just how you feel.” Fluttershy assured me, “Just so long as you aren’t thinking of doing anything, um… silly.”

“Silly? That’s definitely a word for it.” I scoffed, “But no, nothing quite so immoderate. I’ve been down that road before, and I don’t plan on revisiting it.”

From the second the words had left my lips, I realised what I had just done.

“What did you just say?”


With a wide-eyed gulp, I quickly tried to backtrack, telling her that I was now most certainly being dramatic, and that I had only been exaggerating. Seeing straight through these words, the pegasus shifted her body to face me properly, and with a look of equal parts dread and concern, she asked me a very blunt, and very irreversible question.

“Callum, I want you to be honest with me. Have you tried to… do something before?”

Slowly opening my mouth, I took in a breath of air, which was when she took it upon herself to be even more direct.

“Have you… tried to… kill yourself?”

{Callum, you fucking idiot.} I thought to myself.

{Oh aye.} my conscience murmured in agreement, {You, lad, have just shit the bed.}

Staring into those fretful, glistening turquoise eyes, I knew that answering this question would leave the both of us in a very bitter place, with the poor pony left with the burden of knowing the truth. Every part of me wanted to say no, and insist that I had been overstating things, but with how close I was to Fluttershy now, I could not lie to her. Taking in a shaky breath, I lowered my head and broke eye contact, looking instead at the thicker fur on her chest. And then with a gentle nod, I responded in earnest.

“I have.”

The mare shuddered, and then wordlessly prompted me to go on. Closing my eyes and tensing my muscles, I acquiesced, telling of the time I had tried not once, but twice, to take my own life.

As she already knew, when Inca died and my depression began to manifest, I became more self-aware than ever before, which came as a blessing and a curse. Though I proved myself capable of returning to a more normal school environment, I also fell into a pit of bitterness and self-loathing, which only worsened after my Dad went away. What I hadn’t told her, was that this persistent state of lowness had brought on far worse behaviours than I had originally made known to her. I had begun self-harming, using the razor blade in my school pencil sharpener to cut myself in secret. As I told her this, her eyes trailed down to my wrists, and although terribly thin and faint, she saw the many scars. They lined both of my inner forearms, ranging from the base of my hands all the way to the crooks of my elbows. Seeing the tears in her eyes, I wished that I could stop there, but we both knew this went further.

After I had left school, I was due to go to college, to begin a course in media studies and performing arts. My goal was to hopefully get into acting, or at least voice acting. I wanted to turn my pain into art, and take on the roles of gritty characters and hopefully find my way to success by way of performing for cameras and microphones. But as the depression grew stronger, paired with Janice’s constant abuse, there was only so much I could take.

“The truth is…” I told her, “I was never planning to run away, that was a lie. Shortly before starting college, I went down to the medicine cabinet one night, and I proceeded to swallow every pill that was in there. My mum liked to hoard painkillers, so there was plenty enough to do the job.”

My calm, almost heartless description of how easy it had been, shook the pegasus, and finally her tears began to flow. Pressing on, I explained how I had ended up taking around ninety paracetamol tablets, and over twenty pills of ibuprofen. There had been plenty of other drugs too, though I hadn’t taken the time to read the labels. After that, I went back to my room and put on my favourite songs, and lay there on my bed, patiently waiting to die.

The near-laughable irony was that it had been my mother who had saved me. Getting up in the night for a drink, Janice found the medicine cabinet wide open, along with all the missing pills. She stormed into my room and began screaming at me, before forcing me in the car and taking me to the hospital. What happened after that became something of a blur, for I collapsed shortly after arriving.

“I woke up with an IV in my arm.” I mumbled, staring off into space, “Supposedly, they had pumped my stomach and were now flooding my system with an antidote. They told me that it was a real hit-and-miss whether I was actually going to make it or not. From everything I had taken, well… it stopped my heart.”

Closing my eyes for a moment, I inhaled deeply, before looking at my dear friend with heartbroken sincerity.

“I didn’t just try, Fluttershy. I did take my own life, and the doctors brought me back.”

The poor thing was practically shaking at this point, and in my mind came the iterative begging that that was enough, and that Fluttershy couldn’t handle it any more. But I had come this far, and so if she was going to know what happened, then she was going to know everything.

“It brings me no pride to admit this,” I continued, “but I tried again. In that very hospital. As I’m sure you know as a medical professional, air bubbles in the bloodstream can bring on a heart attack. Well, when no one was looking, I tampered with my IV.”

Unable to look at her, I told her how I had briefly pulled the tube from the bag during a trip to the bathroom, where I had then blown into it, forcing a cluster of bubbles into it. After that, I put it back together and returned to my bed, where once again, I waited to die. Slowly but surely, the bubbles made their way along the tube until they reached my skin, and I genuinely believed that I had succeeded. However, for as many seconds and then minutes passed, nothing happened. It hadn’t worked, and so I simply gave up trying, and went to sleep.

“I spent two weeks in that hospital.” I murmured, looking back up at her, “Then when I was discharged, I went home, and immediately proceeded to prepare for a third attempt.”

{Fuck me lad, pack it in, you’re breaking the poor filly.} my conscience groaned, pointing out how distressed the pegasus was.

Conceding, I chose not to go into detail about the planned hanging, and instead simply told her the following detail that I hadn’t gone through with it. Finally presenting a splash of hope in this all-too-harrowing story, I told her that just before the deed, my attention was brought to one of the My Little Pony posters on my bedroom wall.

“This is going to sound utterly ridiculous,” I confessed, “but it was seeing your faces that stopped me, or rather, to be more accurate, it was… Twilight’s face.”

With trembling lips, Fluttershy listened as I explained that being a brony was more to me than just enjoying some silly show. In an absurd, downright laughable aspect, the girls had been my friends, even in their cartoon forms, and it had been Twilight alone who brought me more comfort than anything else in the world. Thinking about it, this was why the real Twilight’s hostility hurt me as much as it did. She used to be my inspiration, hell, she was my idol to some extent. Going from a friendless loner who sorely lacked in social skills, to forging an unbreakable bond with five strangers, had always fuelled me with the hope that I could someday do the same. Being autistic, I had been in a similar place once, with nary a shred of adequacy in friend-making, or being at all likeable for that matter. I didn’t even want friends; it was only when I got into the show and watched Twilight’s journey that I realised what kind of life I wanted to live.

“In a vague sense, she made me who I am.” I rasped, “And so, when I looked at that poster on the wall, and saw her happy, optimistic, stupid little face… it stopped me.”

Emerging from my unfeeling state, I was beset with a strong wave of emotion, and as my eyes watered up, I looked at Fluttershy and concluded the less-than-merry tale.

“Quite the irony, isn’t it? For all the hate I get from Twilight, that grumpy little shithead’s the reason I’m still alive.”

At last, the dam broke. Breaking into a spluttering wail, Fluttershy lunged forward and hugged me, squeezing me so tightly that I feared she may crush me. I cried with her, and for a few minutes, the two of us whimpered and wept together, holding each other close. This was the first time I had told someone about all this, and I had to admit that it felt good to let the truth be known. Still, I was no fool to think this wasn’t a matter of extreme heaviness, and I knew that Fluttershy would feel the weight of this truth for quite some time. I tried to apologise, only for her to shut me up with a shake of her head.

“Don’t… apologise for this!” she mewled, coughing, “Don’t you ever… ever… apologise for this!”

Burying her face into my chest, she continued to bawl her eyes out, and I didn’t know whether to calm her down, or to just allow the moment to run its course. I went with the latter, and after a good few minutes, the both of us began to settle down. We sat in silence for a while after that, emotionally spent and simply existing for a little bit, thoughtlessly watching the trickling stream and letting the woodland ambience calm us further.

“Thank you.” said Fluttershy, after a fair amount of time had passed.

“What for?” I asked.

“For telling me the truth. I can’t imagine it was easy.”

“Not going to lie, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” I huffed, “I’m not good at spilling my guts like that, I always feel like I’m being melodramatic, or that I’m doing it for sympathy.”

“Well you aren’t.” she told me, “I asked you to tell me, and you told me.”

Draping a wing around my shoulder, she told me that I was the bravest person she had ever met, to which I scoffed and said that I was the only person she had ever met.

“Okay firstly, that’s not true, because I’ve met your brother, and your friend Bruce.” she reminded me, “And secondly, I meant ponies included, you ninny.”

Rolling my eyes, I tried and failed to take the compliment, professing that I was simply a half-decent fellow with just as many flaws as anyone else. Tutting, she said that I was too modest, and then we put the whole ordeal to bed. Continuing to admire the stream together, we zoned out for so long that we didn’t even notice it was getting dark. We were only brought back to Earth upon the approach of another.

“Howdy lovebirds!” Applejack called out from behind us.

Fluttershy and I both jumped and sat up at the same time, turning around to look at the farm pony who was now laughing loudly at us.

“Oh-ho you guys, you’re jumpier than Winona’s darn fleas! Did I interrupt y’all?” she giggled.

“Um, n-no… you just startled us!” Fluttershy insisted.

“Mm-hmm, if you say so.” she teased, smirking, “Anyway, I came looking for y’all ‘cus you’ve been gone for hours! I’m about to start dishing up dinner, so get your rumps back to the camp.”

Chuckling to herself, AJ turned away and left us to come back in our own time. I stood up and stretched, resulting in a handful of satisfying crunches across my body; had we really been sat out here for so long? It was then that a thought dawned on me, and I looked at Fluttershy with an awkward chuckle.

“What?” she inquired, smirking.

“I’ve just realised, the rest of the group probably think we’re like… more than friends at this point.”

Her mouth fell open and her eyes went wide, with her cheeks very quickly becoming that of a bright red.

“But… But… we’re not-

“Zzhp.” I commanded, cutting her off, “I know what you’re thinking, so stop it. Yes, I know you’re still fully devoted to Midnight, and no, I don’t think you secretly want to boink me. What we have is platonic, and Applejack’s teasing doesn’t change that, okay? Now cut it out and let’s go eat some supper, crying is hungry work.”

With a relieved sigh, Fluttershy hung her head, thanking me for bluntly setting her straight. Playfully butting me with her head, she trotted alongside me as we made our way back to camp.

“And so, the mighty travellers return from their quest!” Rainbow Dash hollered as we stepped into the clearing.

Rolling my eyes, I chuckled and sat beside the pegasus, who was warming herself by the campfire. Pinkie was by the fire as well, and to no one’s surprise, she was stuffing her face with sugar, despite AJ being on the cusp of dishing up our dinner.

“Want a marshmallow?” she offered with her mouth full.

“Oh, go on then…” I scoffed, reaching over to her.

She retrieved a marshmallow from the bag and passed it to me, only for the sweet treat to be snatched from my fingertips by a feathery cerulean blur.

“My marshmallow, bitch! Quaark!

“Goddammit Blu!” I shouted after him.

The parrot fluttered over to a nearby branch and bobbed his head up and down at me, before pecking away at the marshmallow. It was then that he realised he didn’t like it, and promptly tossed it away onto the ground. Being the wasteless pony she was when it came to sugar, Pinkie charged over and gobbled it up, totally disregarding the dirt now on it.

“Why must you be so repulsive, dear?” Rarity tutted.

The rest of us laughed, and then Applejack served us our evening meal. Conversation was plentiful, which was when Rainbow Dash finally decided to be the one to say it.

“So Callum, Fluttershy… What’s the deal with you two, huh? Are you like, a thing now?”

With an awkward groan, Fluttershy lowered her head, covering her face with her mane.

“Funny enough, we were just talking about this.” I huffed, more amused than anything else, “We both had a feeling you would all start to wonder, so let me be absolutely clear with you. Flutters and I are not a thing.”

I went on to explain that although we were indeed close, it was completely and utterly innocent in nature. Fluttershy was interested in someone back in Equestria, and as for me, for as much as I adored the girls, I wasn’t at all attracted to them. That wasn’t to say they weren’t good-looking in their own rights, but as a human, I just very simply didn’t perceive them as sexually or romantically appealing.

{Those weird dreams of yours say otherwise.} chuckled the voice in my head, {You know, the ones where you’re a blue unicorn, ploughing mares and stallions alike?}

{Okay, firstly, I can’t control my dreams.} I thought back, {And secondly, shut up.}

“The long and short of it is,” I continued aloud, “Flutters and I are just close friends who enjoy each other’s company, we’re cuddle buddies at best, and that’s as far as it goes, alright?”

{Well, except for that time she tried to shag you in her sleep because she thought you were Midnight.}

{I really didn’t need reminding of that.} I mentally grumbled, {Now for the second time, shut up.}

Obeying, the voice fell silent, followed by the others accepting my explanation without further questioning. With it now being clear to everyone that Fluttershy and I weren’t an item, the air of speculation dissipated, as too did the pegasus’ embarrassment over it. We all talked a little more on other matters, before finally taking ourselves off to bed. Still feeling a bit wobbly from our earlier conversation, I allowed Fluttershy to hold me for once, and not the other way around. Planting my head against her soft fluffy chest, I found myself drifting off in mere minutes, soothed to sleep by the rhythm of her beating heart.

Inhaling deeply, my eyes flared open. I had just experienced a nightmare concerning Inigo Montenegro, the Bogeyman of Brazil. Somehow, he was still alive and had captured me, where he proceeded to torture me again. Swallowing, I slowly came to my senses, which was when I felt Fluttershy’s heavy breath against the back of my neck, paired with a cold, wet, sticky sensation. Moving away and sitting up, I found the pegasus with her mouth open and her tongue resting on her lower lip. I then put my hand behind my head to find that she had drooled all over the back of my neck, to which I slowly shook my head.

“Thank you.” I whispered sarcastically, wiping it away.

Still startled from the nightmare, I decided to go and stretch my legs, and upon emerging from the tent, I was met with the bite of frigid winter air. Checking my phone, I found it to be nearly five o’clock in the morning, with dawn still a good hour or two away. Walking away from the camp, I went for my morning wee, graciously watering the roots of a nearby yew tree, and just as I had finished, I heard the crunch of leaves behind me. Packing myself away, I turned to see Twilight, walking towards me and looking at me with a blank expression.

“You’re up early.” she grunted.

“As are you.” I replied, “Come to make a snide remark?”

“Would you like one?”

Scoffing, I told her to do her best, to which she rolled her eyes. Casting her resentment aside, she asked why I was up so early, to which I answered honestly.

“I had a nightmare… about Brazil.” I sighed, “Inigo was still alive and he was torturing me.”

The mare’s ears flattened to the sides of her head, and she swallowed anxiously. She then studied me for a short while, before saying something most unexpected.

“I’m sorry, that must have been horrible.”

Blinking at her, I wasn’t sure whether to be comforted or concerned. Never before had she uttered words of sympathy so freely, and so I asked if she was feeling quite alright. Trilling her lips, she rolled her eyes and huffed, and then proceeded to make quite the offer.

“The signal we’re tracking, it’s pretty close now, I can feel it. If we were to leave right now, we could probably make it there before the others are even awake. What if we went there, just you and me?”

Continuing, she explained that we could leave the others to sleep while we found the source of the signal. From there, she could cast the gem finding spell and learn of the next Orb shard’s location, followed by the two of us making it back to camp before breakfast. Though I was cautious of her offer to bring me along, it was certainly safer than her going by herself, and so I accepted. At that, the unicorn went back to her tent and grabbed her saddlebag, where she took out some blank parchment along with a quill and an inkwell.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Just in case anyone wakes up and wonders where we’ve gone.” she replied.

Dipping the quill into the ink, she crudely inscribed the message ‘gone for walk with human’, and then fastened it to Applejack’s hat, knowing the farm pony wouldn’t miss it that way. We then took off, marching off into the woods together at a leisurely, yet determined pace.

Soon enough, we found what was giving off such a strong signal. Emerging from the bushes, we laid eyes upon a large metal building, with an utterly gigantic satellite dish on top, pointing directly upwards. It was a radio telescope, likely an old USSR one at that. As for why it was still giving off a signal, I had no idea, nor did I wish to find out; if there was a surreptitious remnant of the Soviet Union still in operation, I wanted absolutely no involvement with it. Being captive to a Brazilian cartel was bad enough, the last thing I wanted was to find myself in some secret gulag.

“Is this close enough?” I asked Twilight, clenching my jaw.

Much to my relief, she nodded, and it would seem that whatever untold activities were going on here, they could remain a mystery. Closing her eyes, the unicorn lit up her horn and locked onto the electrical frequencies, using her magic to harness them and amplify the spell. And then, just like before, tiny sparks began spitting from her horn, followed by the mare throwing her head back and shooting off an opalescent bolt of energy into the sky. With it still being dark, I was able to watch the bolt break apart once it had gone up by a kilometre or two, at which point it scattered in all directions, fading away into the distance.

“You know that’s about to come back down and hit you, right?” I pointed out.

“Gee, I can’t wait.” she puffed, wiping the sweat from her brow.

Chuckling, I continued looking skyward, until at last the snippets of multicoloured light began to return. As though the spell was being cast in reverse, the beam of light was reformed, and then with a loud crack, it hurtled back down to us, where it thwacked into Twilight with enough force to knock her over. Remaining on her side for a moment, the mare let out a drawn out groan, before she finally got back up to her hooves.

“You alright?” I asked her.

“Never better.” she grunted, her eyes blinking out of sync.

Shaking her head to regain focus, Twilight requested to see my phone, to which I took it out of my pocket and handed it over. Imbuing the device with her magic, Twilight got to work importing what she had learned into the Offline Maps app. She then gave it back to me, and I eagerly reopened the app and zoomed out, moving across to the new marker that had appeared.

“So, where are we headed?” asked Twilight, tilting her head.

Looking back at her with raised eyebrows, I gave her the name of our next destination.


Chapter Two - A Grizzly Situation

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“What are the biggest risks in going to Portugal? In Brazil we had crocodiles and drug gangs; in Ukraine we had radiation and mutants; what’s Portugal going to hold?” Twilight asked as we headed back to the camp.

“Well, it isn’t as bad as the first two locations; there’s only one type of poisonous snake, and you can sometimes find black widow spiders. Other than that, it’s pretty safe.” I told her.

“Okay, what about humans? Is there much crime?”

“I don’t know too much about that,” I shrugged, “but I can imagine it’s better than what we found in Brazil. There will most likely be a gang or two around the place in the poorer villages, but I doubt anything as bad as Inigo Montenegro.”

Twilight hummed, more to herself than to me. We were half way back to camp when she stopped me and turned to face me.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a while now, when we get back to camp, I’d like to make some modifications to your phone. That device is the only way to accurately track down the shards, so I’d like to improve it.” She told me.

I tilted my head.

“What kind of modifications?” I asked her.

“I just want to improve the device as a whole, a brighter torch light in case it’s dark, and a stronger case to prevent it breaking, that sort of thing.” She explained.

“Alright, we’ll look into it when we return to the others.” I replied.

She nodded and we continued our journey back to camp.

We soon entered the clearing to find chaos, absolute chaos; one of the tents were torn to shreds and the whole group were nowhere to be seen.

“What the fuck happened here!?” I blurted out.

“I don’t know, and I don’t like it.” Twilight said, fully of worry.

I looked into the torn up tent and found droplets of blood over the floor, fear began to course through me and my breath began to speed up. Something had attacked the camp, and one of the others were injured; we needed to find them as soon as possible.

“I’ve found blood.” I informed Twilight.

What!?” She yelped.

She rushed over and saw the droplets for herself, she slowly backed away and her eyes widened with terror. I looked around the camp for clues, the other tents were left unharmed, but the ponies were completely gone. I left the tent and looked around the ground for any sort of tracks, and found some hoof prints heading off east towards the coast.
“This way!” I called to Twilight as I grabbed Krocsbane and followed the hoof prints.

I continued tracking the others when I realised another set of prints, and they weren’t hoof prints…

“Oh shit…” I muttered under my breath.

“What is it?” Said Twilight shakily.

“A bear.” I replied.

I compared my hand to the size of the paw prints to find it was a very large bear, and was possibly a grizzly, but I wasn’t sure as I had no idea what breeds lived in this reserve. I picked up the pace and began to run alongside the prints in hope that the others weren’t too far ahead.

Up ahead I could hear someone howling out with pain, and I feared the worse; I sprinted as fast as I could until I came across the other five ponies huddled by a large rock; Rarity was on her side, screaming with agony as Applejack and Rainbow Dash held her down. As I grew closer I noticed the ground was splattered with blood, lots of blood.

Callum get over here, quick” Rainbow yelled as she saw me coming towards them.

I skidded to a halt and she got out of the way so I could get a proper look at Rarity, and gasped with sheer horror at what I saw.
All down the side of her neck was a set of deep lacerations, blood was still leaking out of them despite Fluttershy’s best efforts to keep pressure on them; on her back a small chunk of flesh was missing, and her hind left leg had massive puncture holes from a large bite, poor Rarity was gasping for air through her cries of agonizing pain.

“Oh fucking hell…” I muttered.

I knelt down by her and quickly took my shirt off and threw it to Twilight, along with my knife.

“Tear this into rags!” I ordered.

Twilight simply nodded and quickly began cutting the shirt up, her eyes wide with horror. I turned back to Rarity and put my palms onto her neck and put pressure onto the gashes; she cried out and tried to thrash around to get me off her.

“Rarity I’m sorry but you’re losing blood, I need to keep pressure on these cuts.” I breathed out.

She tried her best to stay still, but the pain was too much for her; she kept writhing and Applejack held her down as best as possible. I was nudged by a hoof and turned to see Twilight had finished cutting up my shirt; I took the rags and put them over Rarity’s wounds, it didn’t take long before they were completely soaked with her blood; she was losing far too much. I looked back to Twilight and gestured for her to come closer.

“Do you have any freezing spells? If these rags were cold, they'd help stop the bleeding.”

She nodded and knelt beside me, her horn lit up and the blood-soaked rags shone purple for a moment, before becoming so cold that they were almost painful to touch. I stood up and had Fluttershy take over with keeping them firmly pressed onto the lacerations. I wiped the blood from my hands onto the grass and looked to Rainbow Dash.

“What happened here?” I demanded.

“We were just having breakfast, when this bear came out of nowhere and tried to grab one of our bags. I grabbed it and hid inside the tent and it tore it to shreds! We all ran off and it chased us, we got here to this great big rock and it cornered us; it went for Rarity and mauled her; if it wasn’t for her saddlebag, she’d be dead. It ripped it off her and ran away with it, we kept all our food in that bag!” She explained.

{It was probably hungry…} I thought to myself.

“Do you know where it went?” I asked.

Dash pointed off beyond the rock, and I began walking in that direction.

“You’re going after it!?” She questioned, her eyes widening.

“I’m going to get the bag back, we need that food.” I replied.

I looked down to Rarity to see she’d passed out from the pain, and Fluttershy was applying anti-septic to the wounds before removing a surgery kit from her medicine bag, presumably to start stitching once the bleeding had slowed down. I picked up Krocsbane and put it back into my sheath, took one last look at Rarity, before gritting my teeth in fury and heading off in the direction of the bear.

I’ll keep overwatch! QUARK!” Blu squawked as he flew overhead.

I’d been tracking the bear’s prints for a while before I found a cliff ahead; it was quite an interesting geographical formation, it was as though the ground had been split in half and one half had raised upwards into a massive hill. I scouted around until I found a large cave entrance, where the bear’s paw prints had led to. I unsheathed my knife and approached the cave; Blu fluttered onto my shoulder as we entered together.

“Look for the bare necessities… The simple bare necessities… Forget about your worries and your strife…” Blu quietly sang into my ear.

“If you don’t keep your beak shut, I’ll throw you at the bear as bait.” I hissed back.

The Macaw gave my ear a playful peck before keeping quiet as we went deeper into the cave; I listened as carefully as I could, and some distance further ahead I could hear the grunts of the bear. I slowly pulled out Krocsbane and tip-toed ahead until I finally found the creature; it was in the middle of the cave’s heart and was trying to tear open Rarity’s bag, but try as it might, the bag wouldn’t break. The size of the bear was pretty daunting, it was absolutely huge; I was afraid for a moment, but then looked back at what I'd taken on in Chernobyl, this bad boy was no more difficult than that.
I knew the bear was strong, and that I’d need to be quick and make sure it didn’t land a heavy strike on me; if it were able to get a hold of me, or worse, pin me down, this bear could rip me apart with as much ease as it had with poor Rarity. I also knew this thing would be able to take a beating, I couldn’t just stab it and let its stamina drain like with the deathclaw, I’d need to plant a killing blow to properly bring it down.

“How are we going to take this on…?” I mumbled to myself.

Don’t.” Blu quietly chirped into my ear.

I looked at the bird and frowned.

Really, don’t. Just grab the bag and run… You don’t have kill everything on your quest.” He whispered.

I pursed my lips before nodding in agreement. I would not kill the bear. What I needed now, was a distraction.

“You know Blu, I think I heard the bear making jokes about you… Something about… crackers…” I hissed.

The macaw’s eyes began twitching as his feathers started ruffling and puffing out until he was at least twice his size. Blu then jumped off my shoulder and shot towards the bear like a bullet, screeching as loud as he could; he made contact with the bear’s head and began savagely pecking at its ears. The bear stood on its hind legs and began roaring in shock and distress, shaking its head around and lashing out at the air with its gigantic paws. This was my chance and I darted forward and was able to slide next to the bag and loop my arm through one of the straps.

CRACKERS! CRACKERS! CRACKERS! CRACKERS!” Blu continued to screech as he circled the bear’s head.

But by then the bear had noticed me taking the bag and had totally ignored Blu as it began charging towards me. I stood up as tall as I could and opened my arms up wide to appear as big as physically possible.

NO!” I bellowed at the top of my lungs.

The bear stopped in its tracks, before rearing up and towering above me. It roared savagely and I took the brief stall to turn and run. I sprinted at my absolute maximum and whizzed through the cave, the rush of fear and adrenaline was intense as I heard the thundering of the bear’s paws getting closer and closer towards me.

“Watch out chicken noodle, he’s gaining on you!” Blu squawked as he flew just above the bear.

{I fucking noticed!} I thought to myself as I ran as hard as I could.

I could see the light of the cave’s exit ahead and swung my arms harder and harder, trying to gain as much forward momentum as possible. I finally reached the exit just as the bear got me; it head-butted me directly in the back and I was sent hurtling forward and fell over head over heels. I rolled over at the last moment and held out my arms to protect myself, before the weight of the bear came crashing down onto me like a house; the bastard was heavier than the mutant queen, and I suddenly felt an excruciating crunch in my shoulder and both my hands.
I tried to cry out in pain only to be silenced by the thick fur of the bear. I closed my eyes and expected it to finish me off, only to find it had stopped moving; it was dead.

{Why do dead things always land on me!?} I thought with frustration through my pain.

I gritted my teeth and tried to move my arms, only for one of them to respond; the pain that followed was sharp and intense, and I yelled with agony into the bear’s hide. My only hope was for Blu to fly back and get help; which I assumed he already had done as I couldn’t hear him.

About two minutes later the weight was lifted off me and I let air properly enter my lungs with a big gasp, I looked around expecting to see the others, only to be completely alone. I looked to my right shoulder to see my arm had been dislocated, along with my left wrist being put out of place; I could still feel my fingers but I could barely move them, I tried to clench my hand into a fist only for the fingers to twitch pathetically, which was followed by a sharp pain. I gritted my teeth as I know I wouldn’t be able to relocate either until the others got here, so I just slowly got up to my knees and waited, slowly catching my breath and trying to block out the pain from the side effects of having a fucking bear collapse onto you.

Eventually I heard the voices of the girls and looked over to see Rainbow Dash, Twilight and Applejack coming towards me, I remained on my knees and waited for them to approach me.

Dude, your arm!” Rainbow cried with shock.

I looked to my left arm to find it had completely come out of its shoulder socket and was dangling around as though it were made of rubber.

“Oh that’s nasty…” I muttered.

“Need some help with that?” Offered Applejack, walking towards me.

I nodded and allowed her to take my arm in one hoof, I gritted my teeth as I knelt down to one knee. Applejack reared up onto her hind legs and took my arm in both fore hooves before pushing it hard back into place; there was a loud crunch as all the tendons and ligaments went back into their normal places. I let out a loud sigh that was a mix of both pain and relief, before standing up and moving the arm around in circles to properly realign everything, resulting in a few more satisfying clicks and cracks.
Now I had my left arm back, I took hold of my right hand and clunked my wrist back into place as well. Once I’d sorted myself out physically, I turned to look at the bear to inspect the body.

“Dude… What the heck did you do?” Dash muttered, who was also looking at the body.

The bear lay in a crumpled heap, with smoke slowly emitting from a large hole in its back; the hole went all the way through its body and had completely disintegrated its heart and most of its lungs, the flesh was burnt and still hot to the touch, the bear had been killed by a laser.

“Callum, how in the hay did you do that?” Applejack asked, astounded.

“That’s the thing,” I spoke with concern, “I didn’t…”

“Then what did?” Twilight demanded.

I shrugged, all I knew is that something just killed a bear with one shot and we were very possibly next.

“We should get back to Rarity.” Applejack brought up.

Everyone agreed on that, and we headed back to the others.

When we returned to the large rock, we found Pinkie and Fluttershy had put together a makeshift stretcher out of the destroyed tent from camp (they must have gone back to get it whilst I was retrieving Rarity’s bag), they had managed to put Rarity onto the stretcher, whom was unconscious. Her wounds were now coated in a generous helping of Oozima, and I presumed that Fluttershy had also closed the injuries too, judging by the surgery kit I'd spotted earlier, along with the specks of blood that now dotted her muzzle.

“I gave her a sedative for her own good, she’ll wake up in a few hours.” She sighed.

I nodded, while Twilight stepped forward with a disgruntled look.

“In a few hours? Fluttershy we need to move out now, we know where the next orb shard is.” She told her.

“I’m glad we’ve found where to go, but for now, Rarity needs to be transported back to camp, and kept there until she is in a better condition.” Flutters replied calmly.

“We have a mission, a-”

“And I have a patient. I’m sorry Twilight but we are not going anywhere until she’s recovered slightly.” She interrupted Twilight.

Twilight frowned before showing some understanding and backed down. I looked to Rarity to see the bleeding had stopped and had been smothered in Oozima, I could only imagine how much pain she’d be in when she woke up; the bear had caused some serious damage.

“What do we do until then?” I asked Twilight.

“You stay out of my way, and rebuild the camp with Rainbow Dash and Applejack.” She ordered.

“Hey, don’t get bitchy with me because we can’t move out right away.” I retorted.

Without warning I was swept off my feet by a magical blast and sent a metre backwards, I landed onto a heap on the ground and Twilight stepped right up to me.

“You tell me what to do, one more time, and I’ll get a lot worse than bitchy.” She hissed.

Applejack quickly got in between us and forced Twilight to back down and defended me.

“Woah there Twilight, there was no need for that!”

“Whatever…” She spat and trotted off to camp alone.

I stood up and brushed myself off before Applejack turned to face me with a concerned look.

“What was that all about?” She demanded to know.

“I don’t know, she just got really snappy all of a sudden.” I shrugged.

The farm pony hummed, and then sighed.

“This adventure is getting the better of most of us Sugarcube, but Twilight mostly…

Just try to stay as out of the way as you can.” She advised me.

I nodded and was about to head off to camp when Fluttershy came over to me and prodded my leg.

“Excuse me, would you be so kind as to carry Rarity along on the stretcher? You’re one of the strongest here and it would make it a lot easier.” She politely requested.

I dipped my head in agreement and went over to Rarity, whom was twitching with pain even while under the influence of a sedative; the majority of her white fur was stained red and brown from her own blood, if she hadn’t had Fluttershy and I to tend to her wounds, she’d be dead by now.

“Oh Rare…” I sighed with a great sadness.

I bent down and placed my hand on her forehead, I stroked gently down the left side of her face and closed my eyes; seeing my friend in such a bad state was very difficult for me, I inhaled shakily before standing up and taking the handles of the stretcher and began dragging her along behind me back to camp…

One Week Later...

It was the middle of the night, and the moon was high. I’d left my tent to find myself within a less jungle-like woodland, the trees around me went on for ever. In the middle by a campfire was Twilight, whom looked up at me and snarled.

“What do you want?” She hissed.

I didn’t say anything and sat beside her, and put an arm around her. The moment I made contact with her, she turned to dust, I recoiled in shock and looked around to find the tents were gone, and a few small snowflakes were falling from the sky.

“What’s going on…?” I muttered.

There was a horrific, loud, blood gurgling scream from behind me and I whipped around to see a trail of blood on the forest floor, the blood was glowing and the stench of death in the air was so intense I almost threw up. I followed the trail until I came across one of the six, it was Pinkie Pie at first, but every time I blinked she changed into one of the others. I went over to her and suddenly all six of the girls were surrounding me.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Home.” A voice spoke.

The voice was male, it echoed faintly and sounded like sandpaper across your face.

“I don’t have a home anymore.” I replied, turning in different directions to pinpoint the voice.

“It’s our home, and will also be yours in time.” The voice spoke again.

All six of the ponies stepped in closer to me, and I gulped with nervousness.

“What is this place, really?” I demanded.

“This is the forest.” The voice calmly replied.

“What forest?”

Without warning the ponies began screaming with pain, their fur and skin melted away until they were nothing but bones, before they disintegrated into ash. Snow began to fall properly now and it started settling onto the ground, the trees began to wither. In the treeline ahead I noticed a black figure had appeared; whatever it was, it was concealed under a cloak; the moment I blinked, it was gone.

Suddenly an agonizing pain shot through my entire body and I froze like ice, gasping as my diaphragm stopped responding and allowing me to breathe, I looked down to see two large swords impaling me from behind; my blood dripped off the tips and turned the snowy ground a dark crimson.

“This… Is the afterlife of Equus… Where you will spend the rest of eternity…” Said a much more sinister voice.

The voice was raspy, deep, and demonic, it echoed as it spoke, and on the ground ahead I could see a large shadow that revealed whatever was behind me, to be a monster that stood eight feet high, and had six large legs on either side of its body.

“This… Is the Frozen Forest…” He hissed, before I fell to the ground.

I sat up in bed with a start, my forehead was practically dripping with sweat; I looked to my left to see Fluttershy fast asleep, thankfully my abrupt awakening hadn’t disturbed her.

{What a weird dream…} I thought to myself, before stretching and getting up.

I left my tent and took another, more satisfying stretch; before noticing Pinkie Pie sitting outside on her own. I walked over to her and prodded her shoulder.

“Hey, you alright?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah, just thinking.” She calmly replied.

I sat down beside her and put an arm around her shoulder.

“What about?”

“Just thinking about home.” She sighed.

“Aw Pinkie…”

She turned around and hugged me tightly.

“This place scares me… A lot…” She mumbled.

I gave her a great big cuddle and took a long sigh.

“You know Pinkie, this place scares me to; and I live here.
I know this world is full of nasty things that make it almost impossible to keep a smile on your face, but this mission is so unbelievably important; the fate of your entire planet depends on it. You’re special Pinkie, all six of you are; your friendships keep you strong; one is no good without the other.
We need you Pinks… You’re our smile…”

As I held her tighter, I could feel her jaw move slightly against the side of my head as she began to smile.

“You’re right, thanks Callum.” She beamed.

I pulled back and looked at her eye to eye, before giving her a large grin.

“Anytime Pinkie.”

Pinkie soon headed off to bed, while I lay on my back and looked up at the stars through the gaps in the trees. My newly upgraded phone vibrated and I pulled it out to see I had a notification, indicating that its new operating system had been installed.

“Very nice…” I grinned to myself.

Over the past week Twilight and I had been brainstorming on how we could improve my phone, and had put together some pretty useful new upgrades; Pinkie had allowed us to dismantle her JoyBoy for an extra motherboard, (the JoyBoy was like the Equestrian version of a Nintendo DS). Twilight had also used an alchemy spell to turn the phone’s case into a metal alloy from Equestria that was equal to titanium, if not stronger, I daresay it was stronger than an old brick Nokia.
My favourite addition, however, was the BioMetrics we’d installed. The phone could only be used by me, as it recognised my DNA whilst holding the device; it could also scan my entire body and find any illnesses, infections, or abnormalities; including my thirst, hunger, and levels of tiredness, and pretty much everything I needed to know. Thinking about it, it was a lot like a more advanced Pipboy from the game Fallout.

Feeling curious, I opened up the new BioMetric Body Scanner app, and looked at my bodily status.

Illnesses: None
Abnormalities: Autism, Depression
Hunger: Satisfied
Thirst: Satisfied
Rest: Slightly Drained
Fitness: Athletically Fit
Overall Status: Healthy

I smiled, besides being ever-so slightly fucked up in the head, I was a perfect human specimen!
My smile was soon replaced by a dull expression as I heard a pair of hoof steps, followed by Twilight’s voice.

“Get up, we need to talk.”

“Can’t I have a day without you being an asshole?” I muttered back.

I sat up and looked at Twilight, who had sat down behind me.

“You knew.” She said blankly.

“I knew what?” I shrugged, before letting out a quiet yawn.

“You knew that we’ve been here before.”

That got my attention, I sat up properly and turned to face her with a look of curiosity.

“What do you mean?” I asked her, tilting my head.

“Since I found the first orb shard, I’ve been getting visions; memories I don’t remember having. I just had a vision of my friends in a house, on Earth; there was a human, and he was hugging Rainbow Dash. Princess Celestia told me about the time difference between our worlds, which you already knew about.
You knew we were here before, and I want to know why.”

I wanted nothing more than to tell them all about what happened, but here wasn’t the place.

“Yes, I knew, but I had no involvement with the event.” I replied calmly.

“Well what happened?” She demanded.

“Twilight, it’s gone midnight, it’s the early hours of the morning; I’m not telling you here and now.” I said sleepily.

“Tell me…” She ordered, baring her teeth.

“I’m tired, and in pain from the bear attack. Just leave me alone.” I moaned back.

“Tell me now, or else.”

“I’ll go with ‘or else’, I’m really not in the mood Twilight.”

I heard the sound of Twilight’s magic, and before I knew what was happening, I was lifted into the air before being slammed back down into the ground, being pinned by her magic, I couldn’t lift a single limb.

“We’re in a sound proof bubble, nobody can hear us; if you don’t tell me the truth, I will force it out of you.” She threatened, her horn glowing.

With all my might I was able to break free from her spell and kick my legs upwards, hitting her in the jaw; I rolled backwards to my feet and clenched my fists.

“That was a warning, stand down or I will retaliate.” I growled.

For once, I was genuinely surprised as she deactivated her magic and looked down at the ground.

“I’m not in the mood for fighting…” She sighed, and walked off to her tent.

{What was that for?} I thought to myself grumpily, before heading back to bed.

A few days later, Rarity had made a speedy recovery; her wounds were scabbing over and were healed enough for us to progress into our mission, however it was clear they would definitely leave permanent scars.

“Darling, would you get my saddlebag?” She asked me as we all packed up the tents.

I smiled and nodded, before retrieving her bag; she beckoned me to sit with her as she used her magic to open one of the many enchanted compartments. I was expecting her to retrieve something for herself, but instead pulled out a black jacket and gave it to me.

“Here, I found this back in Ukraine while you were getting the orb shard; it’s not much, but it’s the most fashionable thing I could find.” She offered kindly.

“Rarity… This is lovely!” I grinned.

I took the jacket and put it on, it was both stylish and comfortable; along with having various pockets for storing things. It was actually really nice!

“I love it!” I exclaimed merrily and gave Rarity a tender hug.

“Ow, careful darling, that’s still tender.” She squeaked.

I backed away and looked at the large scabbed gashes down her neck, and I quickly apologised. I was tapped on the shoulder and turned to see Twilight.

“What’s up Twinkie?” I asked, rolling my eyes.

“The mission, is what’s up; follow me.” She grunted.

I looked to Rarity and pulled a stupid face, causing her to giggle. I got up and followed Twilight until she stopped a few metres away from camp.

“While Rarity’s wounds finish healing up, I want to send you to Portugal alone; I figured you could get a head start on finding the next shard.” She explained to me.

While she was evidently trying to get rid of me, it was actually a fairly decent plan.

“Alright, sounds good; but how will you guys find me though once you come to?” I asked.

“Thanks to the upgrades on your phone, we’ll be able to track you.” She answered.

“Fair enough.” I hummed.

I went over to my bag to get Krocsbane, I left the bag for Rarity to pack into her own saddlebag as I didn’t have any current need for it; I’d travel light for Portugal. Once I had said my goodbyes to everyone, I went back to Twilight and let her know I was ready.

“Right, let’s not waste any time; stand still, and prepare yourself.” She ordered.

Her horn lit up and my entire body started warming up, I could feel my skin vibrating as my entire being became enveloped in bright purple light; I started to rise up off the ground before I began to feel dizzy, my vision started to go blurry.

“Good luck walking across the entire country, human.” Twilight hissed.

“Wait, what!?” I exclaimed.

Everything went black.

Chapter Three - Walking on the Lonely Road

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I woke a ditch, and my head was thumping like a bass drum; I still wasn’t used to the technique for a smooth teleportation, along with my mind not being focused due to Twilight’s last words. I grumbled as I assumed what she had done, I took out my phone and looked at my Maps app to confirm my thoughts.

“God, fucking, dammit…” I muttered as I kicked the ground in frustration.

She had sent me to the other side of the country.

As I thought about it, it made a lot more sense that Twilight would have used this teleportation as an advantage to get rid of me. After all this time I still couldn’t figure out why she hated my guts; I didn’t really give two shits after all we’ve been through now, it’s just something I learned to live with, until now.
This really crossed a line, and I promised myself that when I eventually find the group again, I would be having some serious fucking words with her, I was going to get to the bottom of this once and for all.
Until then, there was only one thing I could do.
And so I began to walk.

And walk.

And walk.

And walk.

Days and nights passed and I just kept walking, and as the days went by I grew weaker and weaker as hunger and exhaustion slowly sapped away at me, and soon enough I was walking at a snail's pace.
I’d been walking nonstop for almost a week when my legs finally gave out; I fell to my knees before rolling over onto my side and hitting the dirt with a thump. My vision was blurry and I couldn’t think straight, my thoughts were just a jumbled mix of “food, mission, water, orb, sleep, Twilight”…

I shook my head and waited for the dizziness to fade, and I was able to clear my head slightly. I wasn’t a fool, I knew full-well I’d never get to the orb shard like this, I needed to keep myself fit and healthy, even if it meant delaying my journey; I needed to survive…

{Survive… Survive…} My brain kept playing over and over again.

I spotted a car on a nearby road and had a feeling there would be a village or something further ahead; I gradually picked myself up, took a deep breath, and kept walking…

“I hate purple…” I spat.

I watched from a distance as the same car from earlier parked next to an old isolated cottage in the middle of nowhere; no town, village, or city in sight. An elderly woman got out the car and waddled to her home and went inside, closing the door behind her.

At this point I was beyond desperate, I could safely say without exaggeration that I was actually dying at this point; I was starving and dehydrated, and hadn’t slept properly in weeks. So after making sure my phone and Krocsbane were well-hidden, I tiredly shambled over to the cottage and knocked on the door. While I waited for an answer, I looked at the sign above the door, bearing the name 'Pereira'.
I hummed, for the sign meant nothing significant to me, and I continued to wait.

A little while later, the door opened the same old lady appeared, she looked at me and frowned.

“Do you… Do you have any food?” I asked hoarsely, my throat dryer than the Sahara Desert.

She tilted her head aside, not knowing what I said; before I remembered I was in Portugal, I used my hands to imitate eating food, and made a few munching sounds.

“Food?” I said again.

She opened her mouth and nodded with understanding, and went back inside; a moment later she came back with a small basket containing some bread, gammon, and a glass bottle of milk.

“Thank you, thank you so much…” I wheezed looked up at her with a look of pure joy.

She smiled, and I dipped my head with respect as I backed away and she closed the door. I sat on her doorstep and began to quickly consume the food, I was so foolish to leave the six ponies without any supplies; what was I thinking!?
After washing down my meal with the milk, I put the lady’s basket down on the doorstep and headed off until the cottage was out of sight.

I smiled to myself, and had a lovely warm feeling inside; that charitable act of kindness had saved my life. I’d been through so much, with Inigo in Brazil and the horrors of Chernobyl in Ukraine; it was wonderful to experience something nice on my journey for once; that old woman’s act of kindness wouldn’t be forgotten.

I’d been walking for another week, when I wondered how far I’d actually walked. I pulled my phone out, luckily the thing was still intact; thanks to my modifications it was borderline Nokia strength, which is saying something, as those things could stop a bullet. I turned on the screen and looked at the map; the next orb shard was still a long way off, but I was just over halfway now.
It was then when the rain began to fall, at first it spat slightly, and I could only feel minuscule droplets of water tickling my arms, but within seconds it began to rain properly. I felt large drops of water hitting the back of my neck, making me shiver.
A single bottle of milk was just enough to keep me alive, so this rain was a godsend, I desperately looked to the sky and opened my mouth, sticking my tongue out as far as possible, trying to catch as much rain as I could. It was so refreshing, even in such a small quantity. With each drop, I felt life flowing back into my body. I took off my shirt and held it to my mouth, bunching it up and sucking more water out, my shirt was incredibly dusty at this point and provided me with an unclean drink, but at this point, my hydration was more important than a few mouthfuls of dirt.

I’d been hydrating myself for at least ten minutes, when the cold kicked in, and I started to shiver. This supposed godsend, transformed into a threat, as hypothermia could become a possibility if I didn’t find shelter.
I ignored the rain and the cold to the best of my ability, and began to trek down the muddy road.

I had walked for some time, and the rain hadn’t stopped, I was now soaked to the skin. I kept walking without looking back, I needed to find shelter. The sound of the rain was quite therapeutic though. Over the sound of the rain I heard a sound behind me, the deep rumble of an engine. I turned to see a rusty old car coming along the road towards me; I ignored it and kept walking. As it approached me it honked its horn, making me jump slightly. I turned around to see a man inside yelling at me, gesturing for me to get out of his way.

{I could always beat the fucker up, and use the car to get to the shard…} I thought for a second.

But I was not that sort of person, regardless of the fucked up events back in Brazil and Ukraine. Despite my experiences, I was still a man of righteousness, and wouldn’t condemn someone else to freeze to death in this rain.
I walked off the road, and the car whizzed past me.

“Garotoestúpido!” The driver shouted at me as he went by.

“Yeah, well fuck you too.” I said dryly.

I was tired, soaking wet, and hungry, and didn’t have the energy to shout back.

After another few minutes of walking, I saw a town up ahead in the distance. It looked like an old shanty town; the majority of the buildings had lights on, meaning it was getting pretty late. I began to speed walk towards the town, I needed to get out of this rain. Suddenly I tripped on a rock and hit the hard path beneath me, I felt a sharp pain shoot across my wrist; I grunted with pain and wheezed.
I picked myself up to find I was now coated in mud, I groaned and wiped as much off me as I could, upon wiping my left arm I was met with a stinging sensation. I looked down to find a nasty scrape all the way from my wrist to my elbow, small streams of blood trickled in-between the coat of mud.

“Could today get any worse?”

I jumped as a loud ‘BOOM’ sounded off in the clouds and a flash of white light appeared in the sky as the thunder began to start.

“Sorry I asked…” I mumbled.

I finally reached the shanty town and saw the road was empty, the houses mostly had red brick walls, no painting. The road was scattered with litter and plastic bags, and above most porches lay large sheets of corrugated iron as a form of shelter. This place was pretty slummy, but it would make do as shelter for now. I went to one of the porches and slumped myself against a wall, dry at last. I held myself tightly and closed my eyes, in attempt to get some rest.

I was able to sleep for about half an hour, before I was woken by another thunderclap, I jolted slightly and looked around, not a person in sight. I then heard the door next to me open, and a woman walked out. She was rather pale for a Portuguese woman, and she had a lot of wrinkles around her eyes.

“Ruimmenino! Sair! Sair! Váembora!” She shouted.

“English?” I asked.

“Váembora! Ruimmenino!” She repeated.

“I don’t speak your goddamn language.” I said back.

“Váembora!” She screamed.

“Alright! Alright! I’m going! Jesus…” I growled as I got up and walked off the porch and back into the rain.

I walked through the town, seeing a few dirty faces here and there looking at me. A man in a dark blue puffer jacket and a beanie hat slithered out of an alleyway and walked next to me, the man was old and scruffy, he had a front tooth missing and pretty much resembled a rat. He eyed up my pockets like a vulture would a dying animal; I ignored him and kept walking.
After a good few minutes he still hadn’t left my side.

“Fuck. Off.” I barked deeply, turning to look at him.

He jumped back, looked me in the eyes, and his lips twitched slightly. Then he quickly scampered away back towards the alley again.

“Nob jockey…” I grunted as I kept walking.

The rain didn’t stop, instead it chose to rain harder, to the point where the drops became painful, each one of them stung my cold, shivering face; I looked around frantically for a shelter. Ahead of me the road split into two different smaller roads, and at the centre cross point was a public building with some stairs, a school perhaps? I jogged to the building and climbed up the stairs to find it was locked, and there was no rain shelter either. I sighed in disappointment and climbed back down the stairs. I then looked around the small stairwell to find it was hollow, and underneath the porch was a small space, enough to fit a person or two. I shrugged and squeezed under the steps, getting myself covered in more mud, which really didn’t matter to me, as I was filthy enough.

I lay there shivering under the stairs for a good hour, the temperature had dropped as night began to fall, and I needed some warmth before hypothermia truly set in. I searched around the small space and found a torn bin bag. I had no choice but to take it and cover myself with it, at this point in time, anything and everything was a useful item, no matter how filthy or disgusting it was.

“What I’d give right now for a hot bath…” I mumbled, gagging slightly at the smell of the bin bag.

It stunk of rotten food, I opened it up to find some blackened mouldy bread and some wrappers, I shook the bottom slightly and the smell only got worse, and I almost threw up. As the wrappers moved, a dead seagull came into sight, it was stiff and cold, looking like it had been dead for quite a few days.

“Well, I guess I could be worse off.” I shrugged.

I crawled to the exit and dumped the contents of the bag outside, before curling up under the bag. I closed my eyes, blocked out the smell and the cold, and just let the sound of the rain carry me off to sleep.

About an hour or two later, I was awoken by the sound of yet another thunderclap. I jolted as the unexpected booming caught me off guard. I looked outside to see the weather hadn’t changed, it was raining more than ever now, looking up at the clouds told me the storm wasn’t going to end for quite some time, the clouds were almost as black as the night itself. Very faintly over the sound of the rain I could hear another car. Judging by the sound of things, it was getting closer, it got louder and louder, until the volume came to a standstill, telling me that the car had come to a halt; I heard the door open and then slam shut, and then a second door being opened.

“Você pode morrer para todos I cuidado! Você estúpido menina!” A man shouted.

I then heard a young girl scream in pain. I quickly crawled to the exit of my shelter and stuck my head out to see what was going on. The car was white, and the bonnet had a strange black symbol painted on it, it almost looked like a hand or something.
The man was on the other side of the car, and I could just about see him, he was struggling. He walked away from the car, and I saw a horrible sight before me. He was holding a young girl by her hair, dragging her back; she was kicking and screaming in pain.

“Ser silenciosa criança! Parar de gritar ou I irá cortar o seu língua de fora!” He growled.

The girl kept struggling and yelping, and the man then smacked her in the jaw, she spluttered and kept sobbing loudly. The man growled and grabbed her arm, before throwing her to the ground.

“Por favor pai! Por favor!” The girl wailed.

She attempted to get up and cling to the man’s leg, in response he hit the girl in the face a second time, harder than before; he kicked her back to the ground and spat on her. He then got in the car and drove off.
The girl lay there in the rain, sobbing loudly; the poor thing simply curled up into a little ball in the road and wept. She was already soaking wet from the pouring rain and needed some shelter. I had just spent about an hour walking in the storm, so I felt a ton of sympathy for her.

“Hey, over here.” I weakly called out.

I didn’t have the energy to shout properly and my words did not reach her; I tried to shout to her again, but to no avail, my tired voice was drowned out by the sound of the torrential rain. After a moment’s though, I took my phone out and switched to the LED light button, and shone the bright light at her for a second before turning off the phone. She looked up and saw my face. I gestured for her to come closer, nodding slightly. She looked scared, very scared, but the rain eventually drove her to get up and come to me. I shuffled back and gave her some room to come into the small space, she was hesitant at first, but eventually crouched down and squeezed in with me.

She was very thin, so she didn’t take up much room; she stayed at the entrance for a few seconds, not sure what to do, if she should trust me and join me, or stay by herself. I put my hand in my pocket and she quickly flinched and lent back, I looked at her, nodded slowly to show it was safe, and I carried on rummaging in my pockets. I found the handkerchief Rarity had made me, and passed it to her.

“Obrigada...” She mumbled, wiping her face and arms.

I simply smiled and looked back to my phone again, my battery was on ninety eight percent. The girl looked at the phone curiously, and then to me; I turned the phone off and put it inside my pocket.
I decided I needed to break the ice with this poor girl so I could check her over, to see if she was alright. By the sounds of her cries earlier, she had been hit pretty hard. I edged closer to her, and she instantly moved away.

“Por favor…” I said gently.

She shook her head and stayed put, so I tried a new tactic; I pointed at myself.

“Callum.” I said.

She frowned in confusion.

{I’m telling you my name you silly tit…} I thought to myself.

I pulled out my phone again, and pointed to it.


Then I pointed to myself.


I then hummed with curiosity as I pointed to her; which was when she finally understood what I was getting at.

“B... Bu… B-Bunnie…” She stuttered.

I extended my arm to shake her hand gently, I nodded slightly as I said her name with a smile.


I was finally able to crack a smile out of her, which I could only just see with the little light provided. Unfortunately the smile didn’t last long, as she whimpered in pain as she put a hand to her forehead, and then she began to cry; I shuffled closer and put my hand on her arm, and she flinched once again, but did not move, as she simply continued to cry, louder now.

“Sshh… Sshhshshsshh…” I hushed.

Without warning the girl lunged forward and latched onto me, and sobbed into my chest, she tightly gripped my arm and pressed her cheek into my shoulder, and just didn’t stop crying.

{Oh you poor thing… What the fuck has that man done to you…?} I thought.

I didn’t even think about what I did next, it was on natural impulse. I put both my arms around her and cuddled her; with my right hand I began to pat her back gently to the rhythm of a human heartbeat.

“Ssshh…” I hushed again, still patting the rhythm.

“Não é justo.” She coughed.

I said nothing, and just continued hugging her and shushing her for the next few minutes until she finally calmed down and sat back.

“Obrigada senhor…” She sniffed, rubbing her eyes.

I merely nodded and smiled, I wanted to tell her it was okay, but I knew about as much Portuguese as a faithful nun knew about sex; basically, fuck all. Pardon the pun.

“Quem é você?” Bunnie asked.

“I’m sorry; I don’t speak Portuguese, I’m English.” I said slowly.

The girl looked at me blankly, and then swallowed; she blinked at me a few times, as if she were trying to process my words.

“English.” I repeated, pointing to myself.

Her eye widened with shock, as if I had just told her that I was God himself or something.

“You… You… You’re English?” She said with difficulty.

This was my turn to be confused; she just spoke English, and her accent sounded English.

“Yes, I’m English.” I answered.

Without warning she latched onto me again.

“Oh my god! Oh my fucking god! You’re English!” She shouted.

“Wait, so, you are as well?” I asked.

“Yes! Yes! Oh my fucking god you’re English!” She shouted a second time.

My mind was now boggled, this girl was British. I looked around in all directions, trying to process this.

{What the actual fuck is going on here!?} I thought to myself.

I looked back to Bunnie to see her crying, but not like before; she was crying with joy. Tears were streaming down her cheeks but she had a great big grin on her face, the sort of grin you can’t control, when you simply cannot hold in your happiness any longer.

“What are you doing here? Who are you? How did you find me?” She asked, firing the questions like bullets.

“Not so fast.” I said, I had some questions of my own.

She tilted her head.

“What the heck is going on? I heard you talking fluent Portuguese a second ago, and now you’re English? Who was that man?” I paused, “Who are you?”

The girl couldn’t sit still, she was shaking all over, and it wasn’t because of the cold.

“M-My name’s Bunnie; I was born in England. That man… He’s… He’s my father…” She sighed.

“Ok… Wait, what?” I said in shock and disbelief.

“Yeah, he’s my dad. I lived here in Portugal a long time ago, he’s violent and horrible and runs a gang. My mum and I ran away from him when I was still a little girl, when he couldn’t find us he eventually formed a large drug cartel, they’re ruthless and will kill anyone who stands up to them, even the Portuguese police are afraid of them!” She told me.

That fucker was this poor girl’s father? Jesus…
However, this story still made no sense to me, I needed more information.

“I don’t understand Bunnie, what are you doing here if you live in England? Why did you come back here? Why are you with that guy?” I asked, firing my own range of questions.

Bunnie took a deep breath, and calmed herself down, so she could tell me her story.

“Right… My mum was forced to marry him, she was a slave. He abused her, hit her, raped her. Then one day, they had me; things got no better, if anything I made things worse, my dad started to take more drugs, and then started to trade slaves to other cartels. I overheard him on the phone, saying that I was going to be a sex slave when I grow up.”

{What… The… Fuck…?} I thought, already starting to feel sick inside.

“Fucking hell…” I mumbled.

“After that, mum packed some bags, and we ran away to our grandparents, from there they set us up with a place to stay in England. We tried to let that part of our life go; we changed our family name so we couldn’t be traced, and from there we’ve lived our lives as normally as we could.” She explained.

“Wow… That’s one heck of a life story… But, that doesn’t explain why you’re here now...” I asked.

Bunnie paused, and rubbed the back of her neck, and then she took a long sigh.

“About two months ago, he found us. He still had contacts in England; they came for us… They… They kicked the door down and started shooting everything and trashed the house…” She said, then stopped to take another deep breath.

In the little light given, I was just able to spot a tear running down her right cheek. The poor girl has gone through so much trauma; she began shaking more than ever and her words were choked.

“They took me and mum, they put a bag on my head, and they poisoned me or something because I blacked out. It felt like I was asleep for days on end…
When I woke up, mum was gone, I was in a room, all on my own…” She continued, shivering even more.

I put my hand on her arm again to find she was practically vibrating! She could give Michael J Fox a run for his money in a shaking contest... I rubbed up and down her arm to keep her calm.

“Then… Then he, he was there… He walked into the room… I didn’t even recognise him… Then he squatted in front of me and told me ‘Daddy’s got you’, and I’ve been imprisoned here since.” She concluded.

“Jesus fucking Christ…” I breathed.

“I can’t leave, I tried to run away, and his gang found me, they took me back to him, he hit me, and he didn’t stop hitting! I was screaming but nobody came and he just didn’t stop hitting me! He didn’t stop! HE DIDN'-

“Hey, hey, calm down, it’s ok…” I soothed.

But to no avail, she burst into tears and planted her face into my chest and began to wail. For some reason I felt inclined to look after her. I barely knew her, and I had a mission to fulfil; yet I felt like I needed to do something about this.

“Do you know where your mum is?” I asked.


“Bunnie, I can’t hear you…” I interrupted.

She pulled back from my chest, her eyes still streaming with tears.

“I… I don’t know… I haven’t b-been allowed out of m-my room since I came here… All my meals are brought to me, I can only leave to go to the toilet, and even then, I’m followed by a guard…” She said, taking a deep breath.

“Well, she might have made it out; you should run away, he might come back.” I advised.

“That’s the point…” Bunnie said dully, “This has happened once before. He locked me out as punishment, but he came back the next day.”

“So, basically this is an extreme version of ‘the naughty step’.” I joked.

With that comment, I was able to squeeze a smile out of her, which was always good.

“Pretty much…” She agreed.

“So, why not run away?”

“I can’t…”

“Why not?”

“Do you honestly think he’d give me the chance? He’s got his gang all around this town, if they see me leave, they’ll get me… And if they see you with me, they’ll kill you.” She said.

“Many have tried…” I said.

“They’re armed Conor-”

“Callum.” I corrected.

“Sorry… But Callum, they have guns, don’t even think about helping me, they’ll kill you, I’ve seen them kill people; they have no remorse.” She warned.

“I repeat. Many have tried.” I told her.



“Ever had a gun pointed at your head?”


She paused and blinked at me.

“I don’t believe you.”

I had no evidence besides the large scar on my chest and the marks on my arm from Brazil, but those were from a knife, not exactly a gun.

“I can’t exactly prove it to you right now, can I?” I asked rhetorically.

“So you’re trying to tell me you’ve been at gunpoint?” She questioned.

“Yes. I’m not exactly your average British kid am I? I’m here in Portugal for crying out loud.” I answered.

Bunnie stopped and sighed, and then came to me with a whole new mind frame.

“So… Why are you here? Who are you?” She asked.

I took a sigh, a very long sigh. I recalled back to the time in the aeroplane cargo hold, when I told Fluttershy my whole life story. I decided I’d tell Bunnie the same, and went on to explain my life story to her. I doubt she would have believed me if I told her I was travelling with six technicolour talking ponies, so I decided to leave that part out, I altered the tale to make it seem like I went to Brazil alone after faking my death, and unfortunately got captured by Inigo and his men.
As for Chernobyl, I skipped that part, as I didn’t want my adventure to seem too impossible for her to believe.
It took a long time to tell her everything, and we certainly became comfortable with each other’s company as I revelled on about my story, from Inigo’s torture, to attending my own funeral in disguise...

“Wow…” She breathed.

“So yeah, that’s my life.” I finished.

“That’s pretty interesting; I guess we’ve both been through a little trouble…” She said.

At that, I gave a slightly amused huff.

“So, how come you’re here now?” She asked.

“Well, I wanted to travel the world, Portugal happened to be the next on the list.” I answered.

She hummed, before looking down and clenching her fists, trying to warm up her fingers, which were pale as cream from the icy cold that surrounded us.

“So, what part of England are you from?” I asked, trying to make some more small talk.

“Southeast, in West Sussex.” She answered.

“Really?” I asked in shock.

“Yeah, in a place called Burgess Hill.”

My heart skipped a beat or two as I took a blast from the past.

“You are joking…?” I said in complete and utter disbelief.

“No, why?” She asked.

“I lived really close to Burgess Hill! In Crawley!” I exclaimed.

“What!?” She squealed in surprise.

{She’s from Burgess Hill! This is awesome!} I thought merrily.

“Oh… My… Gosh… You’re him aren’t you…?” Bunnie breathed.

I hummed in confusion.

“You’re Callum Horncastle aren’t you? That boy in Crawley, that was stabbed in his house last year in June? The whole place was trashed, in Ifield right? The killer was never caught, there was no evidence to trace him! It was all over the news for weeks! Oh my gosh! You’re HIM aren’t you?” She squealed in excitement.

I began to smile, which gave her my answer.

“You’re Callum fucking Horncastle! Oh my god I’m talking to Callum Horncastle!” She continued to squeal.

“Alright, calm down, I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a walking dead man.” I joked.

She didn’t laugh, as she was in shock, she just looked at me, her mouth agape.

“You look different, from the pictures they showed.” She mumbled.

“Well, it’s been just over a year, a lot’s changed.” I replied, running my fingers through my hair.

“Yeah… It has…” She agreed, looking down.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” I hushed, nudging her arm.

“How can you say that? I’ve been kidnapped and I’m being held hostage!” She blurted out, before she began to sniff.

“I’m going to help.” I said, lowering my head in attempt to make eye contact.

“How can you do anything?” She choked.

“I’ve already said, I’m not just some average kid. I’m dangerous when I need to be.” I replied.

“Have you ever killed a man?”

I looked at the ground and sighed, I had killed, more than I’d like to admit.

“Yeah, I have… Quite a few actually...”

“Oh…” She said, taken aback slightly.

I looked back to the first time I ever killed, the clone of myself. It was one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever had, meaning that killing other men wasn’t as difficult. They say that once you have drawn your first blood, it is easy to kill again; it takes away your initial fear of ending life.

“I have seen things Bunnie. I’ve done things that not many people in the world have done, or ever will do. I’ve had to kill men. I’ve had to beat someone to death with my bare hands just to save my own skin. Since I left my home and faked my death, my life has been based on survival, I’m not given much choice now.” I explained reluctantly.

Bunnie looked down, before taking one of hands.

“Callum I really want you to help me, but I don’t think you can, my father’s gang is dangerous, one of the most feared gangs in all of Portugal.” She told me.

“I destroyed the most feared gang in Brazil, and killed its leader, Inigo Montenegro. Try me.” I retorted.

“How can you prove that?” She questioned.

“I have a picture of Brazil if that’s worth anything; I also have a scar on my chest which he left me.” I replied.

“Can I see?” She asked.

“Which one?”

“The picture.”

I took my phone out of my jacket and went to my gallery. The many pictures I had taken came into view and I had to quickly scroll past all the ones with the ponies in them in order to hide them. I went to my early pictures and found one of my first pictures, a picture of me sitting on a dead crocodile in the jungles of Brazil.

“Wow…” Bunnie breathed.

“Why would I lie Bunnie?” I said.

Bunnie said nothing, and just stared at the picture, and then eventually to me.

“Now let me help you.” I offered, holding out my hand.

She hesitated at first, but soon lent forward and shook it gently.

“Okay… Thank you…” She murmured.

“Tomorrow in the morning, I’m getting you out of here, I promise.” I reassured her.

“I don’t believe in promises anymore.” She huffed.

“Then that’s something we’re going to fall out on.” I joked, chuckling slightly.

“Why’s that?” She asked curiously.

“Because I’m a Horncastle, I hold a vow by blood. A Horncastle never breaks his promise.” I told her.

She stopped and took a small breath, slightly star struck by my words.

“I’ve never broken my promises Bunnie, I mean it; I am true to my word...”

“Okay…” She replied as she smiled.

I lay down on my side and tried to rest on the hard ground below, and found it very difficult. I closed my eyes nonetheless. Without warning, I felt Bunnie lie down right next to me, her back touching mine.

“I’m cold…” She said.

I don’t really know why I did what I did next, perhaps it was driven by a instinct. I rolled over and put an arm around her and held her tightly, giving her my body warmth, and feeling hers in return.

“Thank you…” She whispered.

I only just heard her over the pounding rain outside; I closed my eyes and held Bunnie close, protecting her like a wolf protects its pup. For reasons beyond me, Bunnie was somewhat important to me now. She’d appeared out of nowhere and needed my help, and I was going to do just that; for no other reason than that it was the right thing to do.
Within a few minutes she was asleep, she didn’t snore, she just quietly breathed in a slow, calm, relaxed state, and not long after that, I fell asleep too…

I awoke the next morning to find I hadn’t moved an inch; Bunnie was still in my arms. I tried to wiggle my fingers to find I couldn’t feel them, sleeping so still for so long had given me a dead arm.
The rain outside had stopped, and a warm orange-yellow light shone into our little hidey hole. I yawned and stretched my legs slightly, before tensing up my torso, as I did so my upper back crunched, causing me to sigh in relief.

“Bunnie…” I said quietly.

She did not respond, she didn’t move in the slightest.

“Bunnie.” I repeated, louder than before.

She moaned slightly and moved one of her arms.

“Come on, time to wake up.”

“No sir…” She mumbled in sleep talk.

“Oi, come on, wakey wakey.” I said gruffly as I moved my left arm, which she was lying on.

At last, the Sleeping Beauty awoke.

“Huh, what?” She mumbled, confused.

“My arm is numb, care to move?” I asked.

“Sorry.” She groaned as she took a stretch, nearly crushing my arm.

“Oouuch.” I growled as she stretched.

“Sorry!” She said again and rolled the other way.

I raised my numb arm and gave it a small shake, and was greeted with the ‘pins and needles’ feeling from my hand to my shoulder, before it went back to feeling normal.

“Wow, I wasn’t dreaming, you really are still alive…” Bunnie said.

“Yup, call me Harry Potter, for I am the boy who lived.” I chuckled.

Bunnie giggled, and bloody hell was it adorable; cuter than Fluttershy’s by far!

“Let’s get out of this shithole…” I yawned as I got on my hands and knees to exit the little pit.

“No argument here.” She replied, crawling out with me.

The sun was bright and warm; it was as though it hadn’t been raining at all. The ground was slightly damp from the rain, but had mostly evaporated already. Bunnie stood next to me and stretched, I turned around to face her, and this was when I finally got a proper look at her.
She looked about my age, perhaps a little younger; she had chest length, dark brown hair. Her nose was round and button-like, just like mine. Her lips were evenly shaped and ruby red. Her skin was a little paler than mine, and looked smooth as silk. She looked a little bit like me to be honest; as in, she had some similar facial features, such as a perfectly rounded chin and a large, smooth forehead. Not to mention the cute baby cheeks.

And then I noticed her eyes…

Her iris was dark brown on the outside edges, but as the colour came closer to her pupils, they became a beautiful light hazel with a small tint of green. Her pupils were still wide with fear, but within those pupils I saw a cloudless night of twinkling stars, northern lights glistened and shone a whole array of colours.

I could only describe what I saw with three simple words...

She was beautiful…

Chapter Four - Damsel in Distress

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I shook my head to clear the thoughts racing through my mind; I needed to focus on helping Bunnie, not falling in love with her.

“Right, first off, I need more information on this gang.” I said to her.

“Well for starters, they have no name, the gang is known by a symbol.” She replied.

{I bet it was the mark on her father’s car…} I thought to myself.

“It’s a black mark, shaped a little bit like a spider.” She explained.

{Bingo.} I thought.

“All the gang members have the mark tattooed on their right hand, you can’t miss it.” Bunnie continued.

“Right, so if they have the black mark on their hands, they die, got it.” I ordered to myself.

“Or the other way around…” Bunnie mumbled back.

“Hey…” I said softly, holding Bunnie’s arms. “I’m going to get you out of this…”

“I don’t think you can; I’m scared Callum…” She replied, taking a deep breath.

“Good, you have every right to be scared. I’d be worried if you weren’t scared.” I told her.

“So why aren’t you?”

“Because I don’t fear a bunch of Portuguese arseholes with guns and knives, weapons don’t scare me.” I answered.

“Then what does scare you?” She asked.

I took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds, before I looked Bunnie in the eyes.

“Breaking my promises…”

I opened my jacket and pulled out my phone, and Bunnie looked to me.

“Put that away, the gang take all luxuries from ordinary townsfolk.” She told me.

“I’m counting on it.” I replied.


“You’ll see.” I said.

I kept my phone switched off, but I figured I could use it as a lure for this so-called gang.

“Where would I find your little gang mates?” I asked Bunnie.

“Gang mates? Callum it’s not a small group, there are hundreds and hundreds of them.” She replied.

“So it seems your dad is a big figure around then…” I mumbled.

“Only because he’s the gang leader.” Bunnie snorted.

“Tell me, how did he even become leader?” I quizzed.

“Basically, he joined the gang and worked his way up, killing people and bringing their children as slaves. He soon became second in charge, then the leader was shot by the police, so he was automatically promoted to the gang’s ruler, he has over half of Portugal in fear.” She explained.

“Standard…” I said quietly.

It appeared Bunnie’s twat-fart of a father was Portugal’s very own personal Inigo Montenegro, complete with cartel and enjoyment for human suffering; a world away and I’d come full circle. I cleared my throat and went back to the topic at hand.

“So where would I find members of your dad’s little fan club anyway?” I asked a second time.

“All around, I wouldn’t be surprised if one showed up now; they’re always around, patrolling the place like a concentration camp…” She answered, wrinkling her nose.

“Then I advise you hide somewhere, and let me work my magic.” I told her.

Bunnie nodded and ran back to the staircase and hid inside our little hidey hole. I leant on the wall opposite the hiding place so that Bunnie could see me, and I could just about see her, the road between us wasn’t too big, it could only just fit a car.

I held my phone and waited patiently, occasionally poking my phone to look like I was actually using it. After about five minutes, I found what I was looking for; a man in a black beanie, navy blue trousers and a black puffer jacket came into sight, and on his right hand was a black mark.
Just to make myself more obvious, I coughed, and much to my delight, he started walking towards me.

“Oi! Você! Onde você encontrou que? Dar ele para mim!” He shouted.

I ignored him, and he stormed right up to me, out of the corner of my eye I could see Bunnie’s face struck with terror.

“Can I help you?” I asked dryly.

“Dar ele para mim!” He shouted again, trying to snatch my phone from me.

“Get your own, prick.” I replied.

The man lost his temper instantly and attempted to punch me in the face, to which I dodged.

“Too slow!” I jeered.

The man then made his next wrong move, putting his hand into his puffer jacket in attempt to grab a weapon. The second his hand was inside the jacket, I lunged forward, punched him in the face and twisted his free arm around his back before forcing him to the ground.

AH-” He tried to shout, but was silenced as I forced his face into the dirt.

I punched him in the back of the head twice to daze him, and then rolled him over; as soon as he was on his back he pulled his other arm out of the jacket and tried to lunge at me with a knife. I grabbed his wrist and twisted his hand around until he cried out in pain and dropped the blade. I punched him in the face again before grabbing the weapon, with his other hand he tried to hit me and ended up smacking me in the back, which caused me neither pain, nor damage, I elbowed his bicep nonetheless to stop him.
He attempted to grab my left wrist where I was holding the knife, but I pulled back so he couldn’t get a grip, with my right hand I seized his arm and crossed it over his chest so he had no defence, and before he could blink, I had thrust the knife into the side of his neck.
I held him still as he desperately clawed at me, gurgling and spitting dark foaming blood from his lips; each strike became weaker and weaker, and in seconds he went limp and the life left his eyes. I let go of him, and pulled the knife out.

“Better luck next time Snowflake…” I said gruffly, wiping the blood onto the man’s jacket.

I stood up and rolled my head side to side, letting out the tension with a few satisfying crunches. I heard small footsteps behind me and turned around to see Bunnie standing there, looking from me to the body.

“You… You killed him…” She said, full of shock.

“I did.” I agreed.

“You really weren’t lying…” She mumbled, still staring at the body.

I hummed in response before bending over the body to pick him up; I put my hands under his arms and dragged his corpse to a nearby alleyway, and dumped him there.

“Don’t want his buddies finding that, eh?” I asked rhetorically.

“How…?” Bunnie said, shaking her head slightly.

“Well, the other gang members have eyes, they might find the body.”

“Not that.” Bunnie interrupted.

I put my head on one side.

“How can you kill? How can you end life like that and not be affected by it?”

I took a sigh; Bunnie didn’t quite understand the true concept of killing.

“Bunnie, I was affected; very affected. The first time I killed, I almost passed out, I felt sick, to my very core; I almost broke under the trauma.” I told her.

“Then how come you’re not now?” She asked.

“Because I’ve done it before; when you’ve killed for the first time, your true human instincts come out, you feel the need to survive, and will do anything in order to do so. Killing somebody is just as normal as picking fruit from a tree, hostile humans become simple entities in my life, rather than people…” I explained.

“Oh… Okay...” Bunnie said quietly, more to herself than to me.

“You’re ok with me, right? After killing someone?” I questioned cautiously.

“I’m fine, really; I’ve seen people kill, and I’ve seen people die; the fact you kill people isn’t scary to me. Nearly every day here someone’s threatening to kill me; if anything, I trust you more now, seeing as you just killed one of my father’s men.” She told me.

{Well, that’s a reassuring result. Kill bad guys to earn trust; sorted!} My conscience said gleefully.

“Well, without sounding like a total psycho, let’s go kill some more.” I said, zipping up my jacket.

Much to my surprise, Bunnie actually giggled at that comment; I sensed a tomboy…

I continued up the road from where the man had come, to find two more men from the gang side by side. They saw me and shrugged, before laughing something to one another; it was then when they noticed Bunnie.

“Ele está com a menina.” One of them said.

“Então ele morrerá.” The other replied.

They both started walking to me; Bunnie slowed down and whimpered slightly.

“Calm it Bunnie, two guys, probably armed with knives; piece of piss.” I said to her.

I flexed my wrist and felt the handle of Krocsbane rub against it; I’d hidden it inside my jacket sleeve so I could get close and personal without them knowing I was armed.

“Você! Obtenha longe a menina!” One of the men shouted.

I cleared my throat before I spoke.

“Mentlegen, please; I have a gift for you both…” I said heartily in a French accent.

The second man stormed up to me and pushed me in the chest with one of his hands, I was sent back a few steps before I walked back up to him.

“Oooh... Você vai morrer agora...” He growled as he reached into his pocket for his knife.

In a flash I had drawn my own knife and put it to his throat; he froze completely and gulped.

“Twat.” I said flatly.

He stood completely still, he just stared at me in fear, and he knew that he was going to die. He closed his eyes and accepted his fate as I sliced his throat open and his blood sprayed out of him like a garden hose, luckily not much of it sprayed onto me. Before the other man could move a muscle I charged into him and stabbed him repeatedly in the stomach, I pinned him to the ground and continued to thrust the knife in and out of him until he stopped struggling completely.

“Holy fuck Callum… You’re an animal…” Bunnie gasped.

“Nah, animals don’t use blades.” I replied, standing up and wiping the knife clean.

I found another alleyway and hid the bodies, three bad guys down, I was sure that killing about twenty of them would raise an alarm or two, so I decided to count down.

“I’m thinking at least seventeen more should do the trick.” I thought aloud.

“You make it sound so simple…” Bunnie sighed.

“It is. Knife goes in, blood comes out, human expires.” I replied.

“Is that really how easy you find killing?” She asked.

“After everything I've been put through, I'm afraid so...” I answered.

Bunnie simply shrugged, unsure of what to say.

“Good night princess…” I growled as I took my thirteenth guard.

At first, I was extremely cautious at taking out these guards, but it seemed they were all thick as pig shit, they moved around the place like clockwork, without a shred of awareness to their surroundings.
Or so I thought...

There was the bang of a gunshot and a loud crack as a bullet hit the brick beside me.

“Bollocks!” I yelped as I was almost killed right there and then.

I dived to my right and turned to see four gang members down the road with SMGs.

“Be careful!” Bunnie squeaked from inside the nearby alleyway.

I ran to the other side of the road and hid behind a car; the gang members kept firing and the bullets smacked into the metal, the sound was almost deafening.

{Think Callum! Think!} I thought to myself desperately.

I looked to my right to see another alleyway, with a drainpipe that led all the way to the roof.

“Bingo.” I mumbled.

I dived into the alleyway just as another SMG spray hit the car; a bullet whizzed past and skimmed my arm. I got up and quickly looked at the wound, thankfully the bullet had only grazed me; it was nothing serious.

I scrambled up the drainpipe and clambered onto the roof, I then crept to the edge of the roof and looked down to see the gang members approaching the car, not realising I was directly above them.
I watched quietly as the four men gathered around the alley, they growled at one another in Portuguese before they slowly approached the narrow opening. As the first man entered the alley, I pulled out Krocsbane and aimed for the man at the back of the group. I let myself fall off the edge, I hurtled downwards and my knife impaled into the man’s head and his body broke my fall, we both crumpled to the ground and I swiftly picked up his SMG and rolled to my left before opening fire on the three men in front of me; they barely had the time to turn around before they were on the ground with blood pouring out of them, in seconds they were all dead. I looked on the gun’s body to see ‘HK UMP Forty Five’ written on it.

“I always did like the UMP...” I sighed happily.

I collected the magazines from the other bodies and put them in my belt loops; Bunnie ran to me and hugged me.

“I thought they’d killed you!” She squeaked.

“Did you see my lifeless body?” I asked.

“Uhm, no...”

“Then I wasn't dead.”

Bunnie then noticed the small bullet graze on my arm and gasped.

“You’re bleeding!”

“It’s not deep, it’ll scab over in minutes.” I said, assuring her I wasn’t in much pain.

To be perfectly honest, after Inigo’s torture back in Brazil, a wound like this barely bothered me, it was nothing more to me than the mere bite of a fly.

“I’m a tough cookie, me.” I added with a grin.

“Plain or chocolate?” She giggled.

“Jumbo choccy.” I replied merrily, sticking my tongue out.

We laughed for a small moment, before waltzing down the street together. Even though we’d only just met, we’d really hit it off, and we already seemed like rather close friends...

Pop! Goes the weasel!” I shouted loudly at the next gang member in sight.

He turned around and I fired a single round into his head, dead between the eyes; blood and brain matter burst out the back of his head and he dropped to the ground like a sack of spuds.

“I always did like Buck.” Bunnie muttered as I went over to loot the body.

“Ha! You’ve seen Ice Age Three as well!” I cheered.

“C’mon Callum, who hasn’t seen the Ice Age movies…?” She replied, rolling her eyes.

“Touché…” I hummed.

I opened up the gang member’s puffer jacket to find nothing useful.

“Pfft, boring…” I snorted.

I turned to look at Bunnie who was holding Krocsbane.

“Hey, give that back!” I ordered.

“It’s so cool though, look at the shape!” She pointed out, admiring my knife.

I went over and took the blade from her and put it back into its sheath, I looked up to see her now holding my phone.

“And this, now this is a cool phone.” She giggled.

My mouth fell agape, how did she get into my pockets so easily?

“How did you get that?” I asked, frowning.

“You may be good at killing people, but I also have a few talents; pick-pocketing is one of them.”

She beamed at me innocently, to which I raised an eyebrow.

{Nifty hands…} I thought.

{Soft, smooth hands…} My conscience teased.

{HEY! No sexy stuff!} I thought back.

{Not yet anyway laddie…}

“Are you okay?” Bunnie quizzed.

I shook my head and realised I’d completely zoned out to argue with my conscience.

“Yeah, fine, sorry.” I replied, blushing slightly.

I smiled at Bunnie, and she looked me in the eye, smiling back; she had such a cute smile; her teeth were white and sparkly, and the corners of her lips looked to be sweeter than an American Twinkie. She was simply beautiful, and the longer I looked into her eyes, the more beautiful she became. I realised that she was also looking at me with the same look that I was giving her, she was picking up on my facial features and analysing me, I wonder…
No, I was just being stupid, I’d only just met her; this wasn’t a Disney film where you fall in love on the day you’ve just met, I couldn’t just let myself fall for the first female I come across.
But there was just something about her… I couldn’t describe it…

{Tits.} My brain answered.

“Piss off, it’s not that.” I retorted.

“Sorry?” Bunnie squeaked, taken aback.

Holy shit, I’d just said that out loud.

“I am SO sorry, I speak my thoughts sometimes…” I apologised.

Bunnie began to giggle, and I chuckled with her; next thing we know, we were both laughing our asses off; only to be interrupted by the shouting of men. I looked to my right to see three gang members running towards me with baseball bats; I raised an eyebrow, unimpressed with their choice of weaponry. I picked up my UMP and looked back at them, who stopped in their tracks and began running in the opposite direction.

Didn’t see that coming, now did you!?” I roared, before pulling the trigger and mowing them down.

They hit the dirt like a sack of spuds, and I looked back to Bunnie, who was now in tears of laughter. It seemed Bunnie and I had a very similar sense of humour; her experiences had most likely left her with a darker mind-set and found jokes about death funny; having depression I too had a dark sense of humour and was on Bunnie’s wavelength.

“Bunnie, you just watched people die, should you be laughing?” I asked jokily.

“Ah fuck ‘em, it’s only sad when good people die; and even then it’s funny after a while.” She replied.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry… I’m quite a dark person.” She chuckled nervously.

I smirked, and strapped my UMP across my shoulder with its sling.

“Ever played Cards Against Humanity?” I queried, giving her a cheeky grin.

“Oh my god, YES!” She exclaimed.

“A party game for horrible people…” I hummed with delight.

“Nothing says ‘dark humour’ quite like a coat-hanger abortion, does it?” She giggled.

At that, I burst into laughter once more and the both of us continued to walk around the old shanty town, all whilst telling one another crude jokes that were so dark, they basically greenlighted our first class ticket to hell upon our deaths.

“What’s the sexiest thing about twenty one year olds?” I began my last joke.

“I don’t know…” Bunnie replied with uncertainty, wiping away the tears of laughter from my last joke.

“There are twenty of them.” I said deviously.

OH MY GOD” Bunnie shrieked and began to bellow with laughter.

I took a bow and waited for her to recover from yet another uncontrollable laughing fit; Bunnie and I were indeed terrible people.
Our moment of joy and jokes eventually came to an end as I noticed a group of eleven gang members on the road ahead, they were armed with assault rifles and they were searching around the place.

“Out of the road, now.” I ordered.

We slipped to the right and into an alleyway, after a few twists and turns we ended up on the edge of the road on the other side of the block; where yet another group of armed men were spread out and looking around.

“Looks like they found the bodies…” I muttered.

“What do we do?” She asked.

“I’m not sure, I don’t know if your dad’s here or not; it looks like he’s just sent in a shed load of his goons.” I replied, biting my bottom lip with frustration.

I wasn’t that much of a fool, I knew full-well that I wouldn’t be able to take on all of the gang in this little town; I had to locate and assassinate Bunnie’s dad, rescue her mother, and be on my way to the orb shard. Unlike with Inigo’s cartel, I didn’t think I’d be able to rally the residents of the shanty town into starting an uprising like I did in the Stock Heap.

{Aye, but that was by far the coolest thing you’ve ever done.} My conscience sighed.

“Yeah, it was…” I agreed.

“You’re talking to yourself again.” Bunnie mentioned, poking my arm.


That’s when I had an idea; I took Bunnie back into the alleyway and squatted next to her.

“I’ve got an idea, you’re not going to like it.” I told her.

“What is it?”

“I dress up as one of the guards, and pretend I’ve caught you; we go back to your dad’s place, and I stick a blade so far up his ass that his men will need to perform brain surgery to remove it.” I explained.

“That idea is so crazy it might just work…” She mumbled in agreement.

“Then it’s settled, I’ll play fancy dress.” I grinned.

“Wait, what about the gang’s symbol? You’d need that mark on your hand.” Bunnie pointed out.

“I’ll wear gloves.” I answered, sticking my tongue out.

After settling on our plan, I needed an outfit; a few of the men I’d killed were wearing balaclavas so I needed one of them to hide my face; my current black jacket from Rarity looked adequate, but I’d need some of their black chino trousers, as my torn, bloodstained blue jeans made me stand out a bit more.

I headed back out of the alley to see most of the men had gone further along the road, but there was one who stood alone and was conveniently nearby; I picked up a stone and threw it at him before darting quickly into the alley again, the stone made contact with his arm and he jumped in shock before turning around frantically to see where it had come from, he spotted me just as I disappeared into the narrow passage and began to give chase, yelling angrily in Portuguese.

I ran past Bunnie, whom was hiding behind a bin; as the man came along she stuck her leg out and tripped him up, he hurtled forward and hit the ground with a hard thud, as he attempted to get up I gave him an uppercut to the jaw, knocking him out cold; looks like my old boxing skills hadn’t been forgotten.

“Good job.” I said, nodding to Bunnie.

She smirked, now full of self-satisfaction; I playfully rolled my eyes and went over to the unconscious gang member. He was quite broad but his legs were rather short in comparison to mine, I had a feeling his chinos would be a rather tight fit, but I’d have to make do. I pulled off his balaclava and looked at his face, he had a rather chiselled jaw and a pretty distinct nose, his face was all swollen, I opened his eyelids to find his eyes were almost completely red; by the looks of things this guy did a lot of drugs, most likely supplied by his boss.

“Not a bad set-up for a drug addict; bully people around and terrorise folks, and get paid in narcotics.” I hummed.

I took off his gloves and looked at the mark on his right hand, it was such a strange symbol; and even stranger that I recognised it from somewhere, it reminded me of Brazil for some reason…
I took off my bloody trousers, along with the man’s chinos; he began to mumble and stir and I remembered that he was still alive, I pulled out Krocsbane and looked to Bunnie.

“Should I?” I asked.

“These men were planning on raping me before handing me back to my father.” She replied bluntly.

I didn’t even reply before gashing his throat open; if there was one thing on this world I hated more than anything, it was rape; in my eyes it should be punishable by death, and I would proudly be the executioner.

“Have they ever done it to you before…?” I asked nervously, not wanting to upset her.

“Thankfully no, I’m lucky enough to retain my virginity for now; but I’ve been very close…” She replied, gulping.

“What happened?”

“One of them found me after escaping, and tried to, but I was on my period at the time, which was obviously a massive turn-off; it’s probably the one time I was actually glad to have a menstrual cycle.” She explained.

I shrugged and pursed my lips, not wanting to delve deeper into the conversation. I pulled on the chinos, they were a little tight on my thighs and revealed about an inch of my ankle; but other than that, they were a decent fit. After putting on and adjusting the balaclava, I put on the gloves and turned to Bunnie.

“How do I look?” I asked her, tilting my head slightly.

“Like an asshole.” She answered dully.

“Perfect.” I grinned.

She chuckled slightly and I looked down at the dead gang member, his gun appeared to be a slightly smaller version of the AK-Forty Seven, perhaps an AK-Seventy Four U. I decided not to take his assault rifle as it was heavier than my UMP, I preferred the feel of the sub-machine gun anyway.

“You ready?” I asked Bunnie.

“I don’t know…” She replied nervously.

I sighed, this wasn’t exactly going to be a breeze; if this went pear-shaped in any way, I’d end up dead, and Bunnie would most likely be tortured. I closed my eyes and took a breath in, and then out, before giving Bunnie a tight hug.

“We can do this BunBun… I promise…” I whispered into her ear.

“Okay… I trust you…” She whispered back.

She held me tighter and I cradled her side to side lightly for a moment, before leaning back and kissing her on the forehead; she looked into my eyes and I looked into hers. I didn’t know if it was love, but I definitely felt something for her; I was getting her home and safe… I had to…

“Let’s do this.” I sighed.

She nodded, and we headed out of the alleyway together.

As we reached the road, I took the back of Bunnie’s hair and pretended to be yanking her along; she instantly knew what I was doing, and pretended to struggle and be in pain.

WHOOP WHOOP!” I yelled to the gang further down the road.

I headed towards them and forced Bunnie to join me.

“We can do this Bunnie…” I muttered under my breath, to which she gulped in fear.

The rest of the gang came jogging over to me, and once they recognised Bunnie, they started cheering and whooping at me to congratulate me on finding her; once they reached me they circled us and a few of them gave me a pat on the arm to say ‘well done’. One of them pulled out a walkie-talkie and spoke to someone else, most likely Bunnie’s father. After he put the device away, he gestured down the road and said something in Portuguese, and everyone began to walk in that direction; I grunted at Bunnie and pushed her forward and kept a grip on her hair just to make sure none of the other men touched her, I figured if kept physical contact with her, nobody would try to hurt her.

We soon ended up at the same road from yesterday, and stopped near the stairs where Bunnie and I slept; where there were two large pickup vans waiting in the road. As we approached the vans, the men started to get in and I knew I would have to as well; using one arm I turned Bunnie to face me, and gave her a sorrowful look.
Before hitting her in the stomach.
I didn’t hit her hard, but it had to look real; she gasped and she hunched over in pain, and as she did so, I squatted down and picked her up over my shoulder and clambered into the back of the van with the others. I took Bunnie off my shoulder and sat her down next to me at the back, before taking out Krocsbane and putting the blade to her throat, making sure she knew that if she resisted or struggled, I would kill her.
I felt horrible, while I would be rescuing Bunnie in the long run, I didn’t want to take her back to her father; if I failed, the poor girl would be abused more than ever, not to mention the ponies would struggle to succeed in their mission without me; at this point is was very clear that if I failed, I would die.

Both of the vans began to rumble their engines and we were soon on the go, we drove out of the shanty town and headed off, coincidentally in the opposite direction I’d originally been walking in, so we were heading south; this would come in handy when I freed Bunnie and went on my way to the next orb shard.
Throughout the journey the other men often looked my way and gave me a respectful nod, to which I nodded back and smirked, whenever Bunnie looked at me I bared my teeth and snarled, but often gave her a wink when nobody was looking to ensure her I was still on her side.

We’d been on the road for a while when we finally came to a halt, the back doors opened and the afternoon’s sunlight shone upon all of us; the men hopped out the van and I took Bunnie’s hair again, before taking her out of the vehicle.
I was greeted by a large building, it looked more like a town hall; but it was evidently the compound due to the armed guards who stood watch on the main balcony, as Bunnie came into sight one of the guards aimed his rifle at her, I knew he wasn’t going to shoot, but it was still very unnerving.

We walked under the balcony as a group and entered the large double doors, where there were men everywhere talking amongst themselves and eating food, all of them armed; Bunnie was right, this wasn’t an ordinary gang, this was an organisation.

The group split off into a few segments, most of the men headed off to socialise with others, while a few remained to take Bunnie to her father; I made sure I was right behind her as we headed up a flight of stairs and a few halls before stopping at some large oak double doors.
One of the men knocked lightly on the wood, and five seconds later a male voice replied from within.


The doors were opened and we walked into a large room with a desk, on the other side of the desk was a man in an office chair facing away from us; I didn’t need any hints to know this was Bunnie’s father.
After one of my ‘gang members’ cleared his throat and said something in Portuguese, the chair spun around and I was finally able to see what her dad looked like. He looked to be in his forties, and had oily black hair, slicked back. Upon his lip sat a thin, pencil moustache, in the style of a stereotypical Italian porn-star.
I’d see this man before…

{Didn’t you knock this guy out and steal one of his boats in Brazil?} my conscience pointed out.

My answer came in the form of a gulp, and I thanked my lucky stars that my balaclava hid my face. The man paid me no mind as he looked into his daughter’s eyes and giving her a sick, cold smile...

“Don’t look so sad Bunnie… It’s okay…” He spoke in a thick Portuguese accent.

He got up and walked around the desk, and slowly approached Bunnie, putting his hand down her face gently; I could see her shiver with fear and disgust. At this, he smiled even more and tilted his head on one side.

Daddy’s got you now…

Chapter Five - Thug Life

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After being forced to watch Bunnie being smacked multiple times by her father, she was picked up by one of the men and was dragged away; I initially began to follow her, when her father spoke once more.


I turned around to find he was looking directly at me, and beckoning me to come to him. I hesitated, before walking towards him and Bunnie was taken away and out of sight.

“Você fala português?” He asked.

I knew he was asking if I spoke his language, and I shook my head slowly.


Again, I shook my head.


I nodded quickly, and he smirked at me before walking around the desk and sitting back into his office chair.

“So, you are the one who brought back the girl, yes?”

His Portuguese accent was very thick, but I could understand him reasonably well; I nodded again to answer.

“Well done,” he started, “normally takes a few weeks to find the bitch. Like a rat in a sewer.” He spat.

I stood still and stayed tense, I wasn’t sure what to do. In all four corners of the room there were armed men; if I tried to kill him now I’d be dead before I could even reach my gun.

“Do you not speak?”

I gulped, and breathed in through my nose; I needed to stay calm.

“I do not speak much.” I grunted with a flat tone, attempting to make accent indistinguishable.

The boss raised his eyebrows and gave me a bored expression, rolling his eyes.

“Well, you’re dull. High on my drugs perhaps?”

I shook my head as an answer.

“Then why do you not talk much, hm?”

Desperately trying to keep my cool, I expressed that I hadn't sleep well lately. He hummed and nodded his head, before snapping his fingers and leaning forward, raising an eyebrow with curiosity.

“Tell me, my sleepy friend. Where do you come from, hm? I do not remember employing any Englishmen into my militia unit.”

A bead of sweat formed on my forehead, which was quickly absorbed into my balaclava. Try as I might, he had picked up that I was English. Thinking as rapidly as possible, I tried to come up with a believable reply. I could only guess that this guy had connections with Inigo back in Brazil, why else would he have been there with a clean-up crew, recovering the cartel's product? This must have been another branch of Hoyt Volker's worldwide criminal enterprise; it was a small world after all...
Trusting in my theory, I made the bet, and answered him.

“I worked in Brazil.”

At this, he threw his hands up and gave me an open-mouthed smile.

Ah! You are one of Inigo Montenegro’s men, yes?”

What a relief, it seemed that the odds were in my favour again. I nodded once more and gave him a small smile in return, which was when he got up and walked over to me. He took one of my hands, cupping it in his own.

“You have come very far my friend… I was in Brazil when his compound fell, did many of your men survive?” He asked, surprisingly showing some genuine compassion for his own.

I looked down and shook my head slowly.

“All dead, my group was guarding the Stock Heap, when all the slaves broke out.” I told him.

“Are the stories true?” he whispered, “It was all started by one boy?”

I had to try hard not to smile, I was semi-famous amongst some of the most feared men alive.

“They are true…” I answered, “Callum was his name. He started the uprising and brought hell upon us, then he slipped away from all the fighting and killed Inigo.”

“And Vladimir Kikashkov?”

“From what I hear, Callum stabbed him in the back, like a coward.” I replied, pretending to be vexed with myself.

While I had indeed killed Inigo in a knife-fight, I had lied about Vladimir; for it had been Rarity who stabbed him with his own blade, saving my life. I’d never forget that day, the crooked scar on my chest saw to that.

My thoughts were disturbed by Bunnie’s father clearing his throat, and leaning forward to address me further.

“What is your name, friend?”

I had to think swiftly, or I wouldn’t sound genuine; as stupid as it was, the first name that sprung to mind was my friend Bruce, of whom I had given my dogs to at the start of this whole adventure.

“Bruce… Bruce Harding.” I replied, putting out a hand.

After a tense hesitation, he took the hand and shook it firmly, grinning at me.

“Mr Harding, I am Paulo Escuella, head of the most feared gang in Portugal!” He introduced himself.

Paulo… finally I knew the bastard’s name… It seemed that Mr Escuella liked to play nice with his men, probably to keep them loyal; for now I’d have to play along, until I could locate Bunnie and get her somewhere safe.
Then, I’d kill him…
After smirking at his self-appointed title, Paulo flicked his head back in a gesture for me to accompany him.

“Come.” He spoke warmly.

He led me out of the room and back to where I’d come, we went down the staircase and into the main hall of the large villa where numerous men spoke with one another while toying with their weaponry. In one corner of the hall there were a few men playing five finger fillet with a hunting knife twice the size of Krocsbane; on the table sat a plastic pot, full of severed fingers from previous players whom had failed miserably at the game.

In another corner, were a group of men playing poker; instead of poker chips they gambled with loaded gun magazines, expensive looking jewellery, and syringes of some form of narcotic, probably heroin. I was just leaving the room when there was an outburst from one of the men as he stood up and flipped the table, causing cards, accessories and drugs to fly across the room as he stabbed another poker player in the throat.

Você olhou para porra meus cartões!” He yelled at his dying gang-mate.

Paulo laughed at the scene and ordered some nearby guards to settle down the now chaotic entrance hall, as men were shouting and beating the hell out of one another. I looked to the boss to see he wasn’t at all bothered by the sudden outburst.

“My men are so endearing of one another…” He chuckled, before leading me away.

He took me through the villa and showed me around, we started at the armoury, which was an average sized room with guns and knives, all neatly organised on racks. After the armoury, he showed off not one, but two drug stores, both of which had been modified from old lunch halls. There were at least three times the amount of drugs than Inigo’s compound, with more variations of products too. As Paulo led me along, he showcased everything, from LSD, to Ketamine, to Heroin. Before we left, Paulo offered me a bag of weed, free of charge, which I quickly denied.

"Not a using man?" he inquired.

"I like to keep my head clear." I replied, "Can't fight well with a clouded mind."

"If only more of my men thought this way..." Paulo chuckled, "Perhaps I could expand my business a little more."

From the armoury, we walked outside and across a small, yet elegant garden. There was a large fountain and numerous flowerbeds, along with a large greenhouse, which I rightly guessed was for growing more weed. We came to the other half of the villa, where a makeshift prison had been constructed. Inside was a large array of small rooms which had been altered to make jail cells, all of which were holding groups of prisoners. No doubt, they would be sold into the slave trade, much like Inigo’s organisation; the two cartels must have been in good partnership, before I caused the uprising.

“Pretty impressive, hey Bruce?” Paulo muttered as he peered into one of the cells through a small hole in the door.

“Very impressive, you’ve done well.” I replied.

Paulo reached into his suit and pulled out a handgun, before aiming into the cell’s small hole and pulling the trigger. The gunshot made me jump slightly, and I heard the dying scream of someone inside. He put his gun away and turned to face me with a big grin.

“Most of it is thanks to your old boss, you know? Inigo gave me many drugs and slaves to sell. We were quite close actually, before Callum put a knife to him.” he muttered.

I pursed my lips and hung my head slightly, pretending to show remorse for his loss. He took one last look into the cell to admire the corpse he’d just created before heading back towards the exit, beckoning me to follow.

“Come, drink with me.” He spoke, opening the door and walking out.

I followed him out across the garden and he took me back over to the main building, we walked through the villa and came back to the entrance hall where the floor was bloody and littered with bullet casings and a few dead bodies. Paulo’s guards were dragging them away and cleaning the floor with a mop bucket.

“My business has a few inner groups, you see Bruce.” Paulo told me.

I put my head on one side and hummed in confusion.

“We have the new recruits, who we train in a different village, and then there’s the Raiders, who we send to catch people for slaves, they are always drunk, high, or both. Then we have the Militia Unit, who fight the police and terrorise the bigger towns. Finally, there are my personal guards, loyal as dogs, and exquisitely trained. They guard the villa and shoot anyone who isn’t welcome.” He explained.

I nodded and hummed again with understanding.

“So where do I fit in?” I asked.

At this, Paulo laughed and put a hand on my shoulder.

“We shall see, boy. We shall see…”

We went back up the flight of stairs and across the hallway until we reached his office room again, he ordered for a second chair be brought up to the room, before commanding his guards to leave the two of us alone. Moments later a guard returned with a chair and put it in front of the large desk, he then left and Paulo pointed at the chair and offered for me to sit down; I did as I was told and sat in the wooden chair as he went around the desk and sat in his.

“Spirit, pick.” He told me.

“Sorry?” I nervously said back, confused.

“Drink, Bruce! What spirit do you want?” He elaborated, rolling his eyes.

“Surprise me.” I replied.

Paulo chuckled and put his tongue on his bottom lip in amusement, before he reached under his desk and withdrew two skull shaped shot glasses and a large bottle of Lambs Navy Rum. He poured a large shot for each of us and pushed my glass towards me, I picked it up and smirked at him. He clinked his glass against my own before downing his shot in one, I did the same and quickly downed my shot; I instantly felt the warm burning in my mouth and down my throat and tried not to cough, it’d been a while since I’d had a spirit.
I put my glass on the table and he poured me another, along with one for himself; thankfully this time he only sipped at his shot and I was able to savour it, rather than get drunk quickly; I hadn’t eaten since that old lady gave me the small basket of food, meaning I was on an empty stomach, and I didn’t want to risk getting drunk just yet.

“So, Bruce. How did you make it all the way from Brazil to the shit town of Herdade da Portagem, and find my daughter Bunnie?” Paulo asked, laying back in his chair.

I took another sip from my shot, before telling him a bullshit story that after escaping Inigo’s compound with my life, I was able to escape with two other of his men, we'd seized a small boat and made our way to Portugal by sea. I told him Inigo had often spoken of the small town being Paulo’s playpen for live target practice and an open prison for his daughter, so my best bet was to make my way there and hope to encounter some of his men. The boat was intercepted by the authorities on the coast, and I'd jumped ship, leaving my two companions to their fates. After swimming to shore and making my way inland, I eventually made my way to the town after hijacking a car.

I then went on to tell him that upon arrival, I found a load of Paulo's men, recently dead. Soon enough I stumbled upon the culprit (some do-gooder that was trying to help Bunnie escape). After being able to shoot him in the arm, he fled, and then Paulo's militia finally turned up in their trucks to retrieve Bunnie, and so I hitched a ride with them to get here.

“And here you are! My lovely home in Escola de Ervidel!” Paulo exclaimed happily, downing his shot.

“So it would seem!” I pretended to laugh in agreement, downing my own shot.

“A very interesting story Bruce, I’m sure the other English speaking men would like to hear it.” He spoke, once again refilling his shot glass.

“So your men are all from different countries?” I asked.

“Correct boy, all of my men come from everywhere in the world; mercenaries from all parts of the globe who wanted just a little bit more.” He answered, reaching into his pocket.

He pulled out a packet of Cuban cigars and took two of them out, handing one of them to me.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” I declined, shaking my head.

“I insist.” Paulo said back, his tone slightly less friendly.

“I don’t smoke.” I replied nervously.

Paulo nodded and closed his eyes, with his other hand he pulled out his handgun and aimed it directly at my face.

“You will smoke this gift, or I will put a hole through your head.” He ordered, glaring at me.

I gulped in fear, but kept eye contact with him.

{Well this took a quick turn…} I thought.

{No shit, Sherlock.} My conscience replied.

I took the cigar and the box of matches on the desk, lit it, and put it in my mouth; I lightly sucked the cigar and then breathed in, I could feel the hot smoke shoot down my throat and into my lungs; it felt like my lungs were burning, almost as if I’d inhaled water, but at the same time it had an odd pleasantness to it similar to the light burning of the rum in my stomach. Being my first smoke, let alone my first cigar, I quickly went into a coughing fit; Paulo then burst into roaring laughter and put his gun away.

“I was fucking with you, ha! Did you honestly think I was going to shoot one of Inigo’s Montenegro’s men? You're an endangered creature now!”

He took the cigar off me and began to smoke it himself, putting the other one away; I took a breath of relief and chuckled lightly at the situation.

“I like you Bruce, you’re fun.” He said with a smirk, blowing a smoke ring at me.

“That’s funny, Inigo said exactly the same thing.” I replied, my eyebrows upraised.

He chuckled and went on to tell me how he and Inigo were very likeminded, and that they were like brothers. After that, he smoked in silence and I slowly sipped away at my shot.

“So, my daughter Bunnie… pretty thing isn’t she?” Paulo spoke eventually, his grin, wide and toothy.

“Very.” I agreed, smiling weakly.

“Do you want to fuck her?”

My eyes widened in shock and I almost choked on my last bit of rum, I stuttered with confusion as I had no idea how to respond.

“I, erm, uh, I... I beg your pardon?”

“Oh don’t be so coy Bruce, all of my men want her, I’d have her myself if she wasn’t my daughter! It's no secret that the little bitch is the forbidden fruit of my holy garden.” He interrupted me, laughing loudly.

I pretended to laugh, but at this point all I wanted to do was put a knife in his throat. The thought of Bunnie being thrown from man to man within the gang sprung up in my mind and it was too much to bear, I needed to find her and get her out of here, along with finding her mother.

“Well, she’s very beautiful.” I admitted.

“And no man ever said otherwise.” Paulo chuckled.

“Why does she run away so much?” I asked, pretending to have no idea of how horrible he was.

“The girl is a traitor, and has no respect. She ran away with her whore of a mother to seek asylum in the UK, and topped it off by trying to sell out my business to the British police, they almost ruined my entire organisation. Eventually I was able to track them down and have them brought back to me, and they’ve been my prisoners ever since. My wife is now my personal servant and does whatever I command, and Bunnie? Well, that little troublemaker goes back and forth from being a kitchen wench, to being dumped in that town to live on the street after attempting to poison my food. Although, with this do-gooder you speak of roaming around there, I'll probably just start locking her away in a cell.” He explained.

I hummed with interest, and then Paulo leaned forward and looked straight into my eyes.

“You do want her, don’t you?” He asked.

I tilted my head on one side, before inhaling through my teeth.

“Well, from one fine gentleman to another... Have you seen her!?” I exclaimed, gesturing outwardly.

At this, Paulo leaned back in his chair and roared with laughter. When he eventually calmed down, he looked at me with a massive grin.

“Bruce my boy, you really are funny. You English have always talked in ways that make me laugh.” He giggled, stroking his moustache.

He got up from his chair and came around to me, I instinctively got up as well and turned to face him as he put both his hands on my shoulders, grinning wildly.

“Well Bruce, I have an offer for you, a deal, if you will… I have a few jobs that need doing, but my militia unit are too busy warring the Portuguese authorities to do them. Some are easy, and some are hard. If you do all of these things for me, I will give you Bunnie, as a reward for your service.” He told me, giving my shoulders a small squeeze.

This was it, this was my chance. If I played along as one of his cartel members for a little while and built up this guy's trust, I’d be able to get her out of here…

“Consider them done. What are the jobs and when do I start?”

“You’re very keen aren’t you? You have my word that Bunnie will be yours, soon enough Bruce. I’d be quite glad to be rid of her anyway. But we shall talk of your jobs tomorrow, you have come a long way from Brazil and will need to rest. Come with me, I will show you to your room, you are a guest in my home and will be treated well.” He said, beckoning me to follow him once more.

He led me behind his desk and through a small door that led to a hallway with a series of rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and other ordinary household rooms; I guessed the upstairs area was the living quarters for Paulo and his more trusted men.
He took me to a small bedroom, which entailed of a dresser, a single bed with bedside tables on each side, a marble sink, and a wardrobe.

“This is your room, make yourself welcome. Are you hungry?” Paulo asked.

I turned to him with wide eyes at the sound of food.

“Absolutely starving.” I replied.

“I will have my slaves cook you some food, you can dine with me and my ‘wife’.” He said, using his fingers to quote the word ‘wife’, which was surely Bunnie’s mum.

I gave him a grateful bow of the head in respect, he then showed me to a bathroom with a marble bath that was nearly the size of a hot tub.

“You must be filthy from your travels. Please, bathe as long as you like, we will fetch you when food is ready.” He offered kindly.

“Thank you.” I said with a smile.

I hated to admit, I temporally loved Paulo right now; I hadn’t had a bath in months…

After going back to my room and stripping naked, I took a towel from the dresser and wrapped it around myself and headed to the bathroom; I took my phone with me just in case.
I locked the door behind me and examined the bath, the taps looked like they were made of gold, but at closer examination I could tell it was just extra shiny brass; along the side were some really fancy shower gels and shampoos; being the upper section of the villa I assumed Paulo reserved these luxuries to himself and other people that were close to him.

I turned on the hot tap and added a load of shower gel and scented shampoo to make the water bubblier, as the water began to steam up I caught a large whiff of lavender from the shampoo, which was my favourite smell; after being surrounded by the smell of drugs, dirt, and the body odour of the sweaty gang members, I couldn’t help but give a very small hum of delight from the fragrance.
While I waited for the tub to fill up, I decided to go to the toilet; as I sat down and did my business I switched my phone back on. After booting up, I saw I had one unread notification; in the form of a text.

I rolled my eyes, I assumed Twilight was now in Portugal with the group; I had no idea how my phone could receive a text as I’d taken out the sim card, but I trusted in Twi’s magic and texted back a response.

I exhaled through my nose in amusement at my own reply, I found the best way to survive during a dangerous situation is just to joke your way through it; that was my method anyway.

After flushing the toilet, I walked over to the bath and put my down down by my towel; I put one foot in and hummed in delight, the water was the perfect temperature. I put my other leg in and then slowly eased myself down until all but my head was submerged; the hot water sloshed up my chest as I lay back and moaned in delight from the senses that sent me into a state of relaxation.

I spent about quarter of an hour just zoning out and enjoying the sensations of the bath, before I went on to cleaning myself properly and took a bottle of body wash gel from the bath ledge along with a sponge. I applied the gel to my body and began scrubbing away, I started with my upper arms and was shocked to see how many layers of dead skin started to break away; it then occurred to me that I hadn’t properly washed since I had departed on this whole adventure.
By the time I’d finished washing my whole body, the bath water was a dark brown colour; needless to say, I felt absolutely disgusting, to the point where I ended up emptying the tub and refilling it with fresh hot water. While the water started filling the tub, I took some shampoo and conditioner and squirted a huge egg-sized glob of each into my left hand; I then rubbed it into my hair and used my fingernails to make sure the products went deep through my hair and into the roots.

“I need a haircut…” I muttered as I combed my fingers along my head.

My dark brown hair, once upon a time was short on the sides with a spiked cone at the front, a little bit like David Tennant’s hairstyle when he'd first started out on Doctor Who. Now, my hair was a great big shaggy mass that almost reached my shoulders, looking in the bathroom mirror I noticed it had also blackened from all the dirt and dust on my adventure, primarily from my visit to Chernobyl.
That was nothing compared to my beard however; back when I first went on my journey with the six, I was lucky enough to have a small amount of stubble on my neck and some short sideburns.
Now, my whole lower face was covered in thick scraggly hair; my moustache was wiry and almost covered my top lip, and my chin was barely visible at all.

“Jeez, how long have we been doing this…?” I whispered to myself, scratching the beard.

{Dunno, I’ve completely lost track of time now…} My conscience replied.

I got back into the bath and held my breath before submerging my head under the water, with my head under, I rubbed, scrubbed and scratched my head to get all the shampoo out, and the dirt with it.
Exactly a minute later I brought my head back up and took a breath in, I used my fingers to brush my hair out of my face before wiping my eyes to get rid of the soapy water; when I opened my eyes I was greeted by more brown water.

“Fuckin’ hell, you really are one filthy shit-cake…” I mumbled to myself under my breath.

I looked up to see there was also a shower-head, and felt it’d be best to have a quick shower rinse to get rid of the last of the dirt; I unplugged the bath and let the water drain out before standing up and turning on the shower, after an initial cold blast the shower heated up to the perfect temperature and I stood underneath, finally removing all the remaining dirt from my body.

I stood out the bath and walked over to my towel, it was at that point where the door opened and a woman stood in the doorway; before I had time to cover up she had already seen me and let out a startled yelp, she instantly turned away and started apologising in Portuguese, I blushed from the embarrassment and covered myself up with the towel, the woman kept apologising in fear, as if I were about to harm her.

“Hey, relax. It was just an accident.” I said calmly.

She instantly stopped and turned to look at me (thankfully my privates now hidden from sight), and stared at me with her eyes wide with shock.

“You’re British?” She asked shakily.

Her accent was English, like my own; she was a little shorter than me and had shoulder length dark auburn hair.

{Bunnie’s mother, located!} I thought to myself.

“Yeah, I take it you’re Bunnie’s mum?” I replied, tilting my head on one side.

At that, she gasped and shot forward and gave me a rib-crushing hug; I wheezed as she nearly took me off my feet.

You’ve seen Bunnie!? Oh gosh… Where is she? Is my little girl okay?” She pleaded desperately, letting me go.

At the mere mention of her daughter’s name, she was already crying; this poor woman had clearly suffered a lot, just looking into her eyes I could see a lot of supressed trauma and distress.

“She’s okay. A little bruised, but okay. I’m trying to find out where she’s being held so I can see my plan through.” I answered.

“What plan?” She asked, frowning with concern.

I narrowed my eyebrows and put a hand on her shoulder, before giving her a small smirk.

“Oh, haven't you heard? I’m the man that's going to kill your husband…”

After quickly explaining my plan in more depth, I left Bunnie’s mum to go back to her forced duties and went back to my room to change into some clothes. In the wardrobe was some casual clothes, a pair of dark navy trousers and a white baggy shirt with a frilly collar. I got changed and put my phone in my pocket; a few minutes later there was a knocking at my door.

“Bruce, are you in there?” Paulo’s voice came from the other side.

“Yeah, just got dressed.” I replied.

The door handle turned and he opened the door slightly to pop his head into the room.

“Dinner is ready, come, join me.” He beckoned.

I put on a pair of sandals from the dresser and left the room to walk alongside Paulo; he led me through a series of rooms and we soon came to a large dining room with a table large enough to fit ten people. My mouth began to salivate as I stared in shock at the amount of food that was laid upon it; there were platters of turkey, beef, pork, potatoes, cheese, and various vegetables from one end of the table to the other.

“Hungry?” Paulo asked rhetorically, chuckling at the look on my face.

I blinked and shook my head to snap back to reality, I looked back at Paulo and nodded, almost drooling. He laughed and led me to a chair beside him at the head of the table; most of the chairs were empty besides some of his personal guard and a few Portuguese women whom I could easily tell were slaves.
Moments later, Bunnie’s mother came into the room with a stack of plates in her arms; she walked around the table and placed a plate in front of each person before sitting down next to her ‘husband’, opposite me.

“Bruce, this is my lovely wife, Dijla.” Paulo introduced her to me with a dark smile.

She looked at me and gave a weak smile, pretending not to know me; in turn I also just blinked and dipped my head as though I hadn’t met her already.

“Nice to see you without your balaclava boy, I was wondering what you actually looked like.” He said.

“Well, with this scraggly beard, it’s not much of a pretty sight.” I joked in response.

“Indeed,” he replied with a grin, “after dinner I’ll have Dijla shave it for you, won’t you dear?”

His wife shuddered and gave me a nervous nod; I pretended to give her a pompous sniff and looked back to Paulo.

“That would be very much appreciated.” I spoke.

“Like I said, you’re my guest, and will be well looked after.” He replied, smiling.

He stood up and leant forward into the table and began putting food onto his plate; he then looked at me and gestured for me to start helping myself to food, I didn’t hesitate before piling up my plate.

An hour went by before we finished dinner, I’d ploughed through two main course meals and three plates of dessert, which ranged from fudge cake to an ice-cream sundae, to a wonderful cream-coated Eton Mess; I had eaten so much that my belly had bloated into a little food baby.

“Eaten your fill?” Paulo asked cheerfully, just finishing his own sundae.

“Yes sir…” I groaned, almost burping.

He chuckled before clearing his throat and beckoning to everyone else at the table to leave.

“Leave us.” He commanded.

Everyone got up and left; as his wife stood up he grabbed her arm and told her something in Portuguese, when she left the room, Paulo and I were left alone.

“I’m glad you’ve eaten your fill, it’s the least I can do for one of Inigo’s men. I admired the man, psychotic and wild, yet also intelligent and clever, a true human being!” He exclaimed.

“What do you mean, a true human being?” I quizzed, tilting my head on one side.

“Well,” he started, “humans were born to kill, my friend. From the inception of our species, we were animals, at the top of the food chain, the apex predator. But as the years have gone by, we have become soft, and cowardly.
Once upon a time, you could kill a hundred men and nobody would batter an eyelid, but now, people lose their minds over so much as petty theft. As a species, we’ve transformed, Bruce. We have become the prey!
But men like Inigo… Men like you, and I… We’ve retained the animal inside us. We feel the true extent of our human ability, our reflexes and our strength enhanced. Our brains, active!
We, the killers… Are the only ones who are truly alive...”

I sat back and thought about his words; he may have been an evil psychopath, but he made sense to an extent; ever since I killed my clone at the beginning of my adventure, I felt this emotion inside me; I rarely felt calm anymore, I was constantly full of adrenaline, ready to act.

I was taken out of my thoughts about the matter when Dijla walked back into the room with a small box; Paulo stood up and took the box from his wife and puckered his lips for a kiss, to which she very reluctantly had to oblige.

“If you would like to head to the bathroom Bruce, my wife will shave you. You must be extremely tired from your travels, so by all means go to bed when she’s finished.” Paulo told me.

I stood up from the table and gave Paulo a respectful bow to show my gratitude, he gave me a smile before turning to his wife once more and gave her a threatening stare.

“Se você cortar o menino, vou cortar sua língua fora; e você vai usá-lo em torno de seu pescoço.” He spoke coldly.

I don’t know what he said, but I could assume it was something nasty; Dijla gave him a nervous nod and took the box back from her husband, she turned towards me and began heading in my direction when he slapped her arse; she yelped quietly in shock but kept quiet, she led me away to the bathroom and Paulo went off to his own personal room.

“Now that was a good meal…” I moaned as I closed the bathroom door.

Dijla frowned at me.

“What? I haven’t eaten properly in months!” I pointed out.

“Well I’m glad you had such a nice time with the man who has ruined thousands of lives, mine and my daughter’s included!” She growled angrily.

“Dijla, relax. I enjoyed the food, not the company of the guy I’m planning to kill.” I reminded her, raising an eyebrow.

She sighed and dipped her head apologetically.

“I know… It’s just so hard living like this. I thought I’d escaped and found a good life for Bunnie, and now here we are, back in hell…” She sighed, her eyes tearing up.

“Hey… I’ll get you both out of this, I promise.” I whispered gently.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Trust me, I’ve dealt with worse things than Paulo.”

“Like what?” She asked.

“Things you wouldn’t believe.” I replied, walking over to the bathroom sink.

She came with me and opened the box, inside was a cutthroat razor and a bottle of shaving foam; I wetted my face and applied the foam before standing perfectly still, looking in the mirror as Dijla approached me.

“How do you want it?” She asked.

“Keep the sideburns and the goatee, take the rest.” I told her.

She nodded and stood beside me, she placed the blade to my face and began to carefully shave me; but careful as she was, I could feel her hands trembling.

“Relax…” I soothed.

“It’s not so easy, when your tongue’s on the line.” She retorted.


“That’s what he said to me earlier. If I accidentally cut you, he’ll take out my tongue and force me to wear it as a necklace.” She explained.

“Jeez…” I muttered.

I stayed quiet and let her continue; as she went on, her tremor slowed down and she became more confident. As the hair fell away, I could finally recognise myself again, I honestly had lost complete track of time throughout this adventure and didn’t even know what date it was…

Twenty minutes later, the shave was complete; not a scratch, and I looked five years younger again.

“Beautiful…” I muttered.

“I hadn’t realised how young you are.” Dijla commented.

“Aye, seventeen. Going on eighteen soon, I think.” I replied.

“You think?”

“Lost track of time, don’t even know the month.” I elaborated.

“It’s late December, it was Boxing Day just two days ago.”

“Already!? Aww… I missed Christmas…” I mumbled sadly.

“You’re not the only one…” She sighed.

I hummed in reluctant agreement, before shaking the thoughts from my mind; there were far more important matters at hand than a holiday.

{That explains the icy cold storm when we got here…} My conscience pointed out.

“Hmm…” I agreed.

After a brief chat with Dijla, I went off to my room and she went back to Paulo’s; I closed the door behind me and stripped down to my underwear, I looked down to my chest and lightly stroked the large scar Inigo had left me.

“Got me good, you bastard…” I muttered.

I switched off the light and hopped into bed, the mattress was spongey with a wonderful firmness underneath, this was a very high quality memory foam mattress; I guessed Paulo used a lot of his drug money on personal luxuries for himself. After the exhausting day I’d had, it didn’t take me too long to start drifting off to sleep; and at the moment the darkness of sleep took me over, one word was spoken in my mind. The voice was deep and raspy, but being asleep I didn’t have the consciousness to identify it, or its meaning.


Chapter Six - Kxitx Tirea al alu Txawew Utu

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(Death Magic in the Frozen Forest)

I jolted upright, now awake; something was wrong, I just knew it.
There was no evidence that anything had gone wrong exactly, but I felt it, and it wasn’t the first time I’ve felt this way, before I came to Portugal I could feel it, like I was being stalked by something.
And whatever it was… It was here…

I got out of bed and walked over to the door, the moment I made contact with the wood I recoiled in shock; the door was ice cold, colder than ice in fact.
I gritted my teeth with anxiety and pushed the door open, there was nobody in sight, and so I proceeded to wander around until I found a door that led outside, it was still night time but the moon was high; there was plenty of light and so I left the building and walked down the nearest pathway.

“Something’s very wrong…” I whispered to myself, shivering.

There wasn’t a sound, not even the wind could be heard; it was like I were in outer space.
I felt like I was being watched and decided to leave the area; I kept walking until I found woodland, I walked until I was deep within the woods.
I stopped walking and started to feel cold, very cold; the winter had started to really take its toll and soon enough I noticed it was snowing lightly.

{I think we’re entering the Frozen Forest again…} My conscience muttered.

I hummed in agreement and kept walking; as I walked, I picked up all the details around me, nothing was blurred or distorted, so I knew this wasn’t a dream; but in retrospect, I didn’t feel awake either.
My whole body felt weird, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; I just felt tingly and achy all over, and for some reason my arms grew tired as I walked.
The trees around me had blackened bark, almost as though they’d been lightly torched, and the ground around me became darker and darker as I went deeper into the woodland.

Soon enough I came to a clearing and stopped to look around.

“What in the name of Celestia?” A male voice whispered from behind me.

I turned around to see the silhouette of a human walking towards me, his head on one side.
As he walked into the light, I suddenly realised it was myself.

“Are you a clone?” I asked curiously.

The moment I had spoken, I gasped and sealed my lips with shock.
I had a girl’s voice.

“I could ask you the same question.” My copy replied.

The moment he spoke, he also covered his mouth in shock; he looked down and looked at his hands, before feeling his own face and started to frantically pat his body and span around in circles.

“No, no this isn’t right; this isn’t right! This isn’t happening!” He whimpered.

He suddenly lost his balance and tripped over, and continued to pat himself. I looked down at my own hands, only to find a set of purple hooves; that’s when I suddenly realised I was standing on four legs.

“What the hell is going on!?” I gasped.

I started walking in circles and used one hoof to feel my face and chest; I looked behind me to find I had a lavender purple body covered in short velvety fur. I had a navy blue tail with a pink stripe going through it; I tried to wiggle my fingers only for the tips of my hooves to bend a little, then I crossed my eyes and looked down to see I had a muzzle, I looked up to see the tip of a horn that sat on my forehead.
I was Twilight…
Which meant, Twilight, was me…

The both of us made eye contact as we realised what was going on; before we both screamed at the top of our lungs.

WHAT THE HELL!?” I squealed.



I tried to stand up on my back two legs, only to find myself completely unbalanced and very quickly fell over.

Don’t hurt my body!” Twilight yelled.

I purposefully stood up on my hind legs again and launched myself upwards, I turned sideways and proceeded to imitate a whale, hitting the dirt with a thud; that was when Twilight ran at me and tried to pin me down.

I said don’t hurt my body!” She boomed, my own deep voice mixing with her American accent.

““I’ll self-harm the fuck outta your body!” I growled.

She planted herself on top of me and tried to hold me still.

“What is wrong with you!?” She spat.

“You sent me to the other side of fucking Portugal, you purple hunk of twat!” I shouted, wriggling around.

Twilight had the advantage; being in my body, she had my physical prowess; but I had just enough strength to squirm around and buck her in the chest.
She fell back a metre and was about to run towards me again when my horn started flickering.

“What the…” She gasped.

I grinned as I started to gain control over Twilight’s magical abilities.

“That’s impossible, you’re a human; how can you know how to use my magic!?” She demanded to know.

“I just thought about how much I’d love to throw you at a brick wall right now; and hey presto, magic!” I chuckled.

{Hey, that was MY idea!} My conscience gloated.

I thought hard, and was able to envelop Twilight in a purple aura, before lifting her into the air.

“You won’t hurt me, you’ll only damage your own body!” She taunted.

I responded by slamming her into the ground, causing her to let out a large winded gasp of pain.

“It’s been through worse.” I laughed.

As Twilight tried to get up, I gave her a small telekinetic blast to knock her over again.

“You’re going to tell me what’s going on here; why are we in each other’s bodies!?” I ordered.

“I don’t know!” She growled, clenching her fist.

I used my magic to pin her down, and stood right on top of her; I knew my chest would be able to bear the weight, but would definitely cause some discomfort, along with difficulty to breathe.

“Why are we in each other’s bodies Twilight?” I asked, more calmly than before.

“I don’t… Know!” She replied.

I slammed my back hoof down on her stomach, instantly causing her to gasp in pain as I winded her.

“Answer me!”

“I SAID I DON’T KNOW!” She yelled in pain.

I stood off her, I believed her with that reaction.

But I do…” A voice echoed through the woods.

I released Twilight and she got to her feet; we both looked around frantically to find the source of the voice.

“Who said that?” Twilight asked loudly.

No response.
After a few silent seconds, the woodland started to change; the leaves began to fall and the bark turned pitch black, before hundreds and thousands of snowflakes began to fall from the sky.
That’s when I definitely knew where we were.

“The Frozen Forest…” I muttered.

Twilight whipped around to face me, her eyes wide.

“You know it too?” She asked.

“Been here once, in a dream.” I replied.

I looked at Twilight; even though she was in my body, I could tell it was her by looking at her eyes; I had no idea what was going on, but I had a feeling it wasn’t just any old dream.

So confused… So pathetic…” The voice spoke.

I remembered the previous dream when I’d been impaled on two swords; this was the same voice from before. Twilight evidently recognised the voice as well, as she was currently shaking in fear.

“You’ve been here before, haven’t you Twilight?” I asked.

She nodded, gulping nervously.

Oh but there’s more than that, isn’t there?” The voice spoke.

Tears began to form in her eyes; it was weird watching myself cry, this whole experience was a complete brain fuck, I was only handling it well because I was in semi-shock, I was just trying not to properly focus on it all.
As I let myself take in all the details, I began to feel scared; this wasn’t just a dream, something very serious was happening right now.

“Shall I tell him?” The voice asked rhetorically.

Twilight fell to her knees and started to sob quietly, she didn’t bother to cover her face as she went into a full breakdown.

I’ve been taking young Twilight to the Frozen Forest every night since she came to your wretched planet, and have been reminding her that she has no hope in escaping her fate.” He explained.

I heard a sound behind me and whipped around, there was nothing in sight; I looked back around and jumped in shock, I gagged and almost threw up at the sight before me.
My body lay flat on the ground, my head severed and rolling towards me; the snowy ground now crimson with my blood.
Twilight was dead.

“And I make the same promise to you…” He whispered in my ear.

With lightning quick reactions, I dropped to the ground as fast as I could just as the swords shot forward, I trusted in Twilight’s magic and teleported forward to dodge the next killing blow; as I reappeared a few metres ahead, I turned around to look at my attacker only to see a smoky trail from where he used to stand; whatever this creature was, it was very fast.

“Who are you?” I asked, turning in circles to make sure he didn’t sneak up on me again.

Don’t play clueless with me. You know who I am…

“Do I?” I retorted.

Silence. Utter silence.
I had to know where this creature was, if I could pinpoint him, I’d have a better chance at surviving this nightmare. That was when I remembered that I was in Twilight’s body here, I concentrated and started to twitch my large pony ears; they stood upright and scanned the woodland for sound.

That’s when I heard it. The scratching...
It was the quietest sound I’d ever heard in my entire life; the faintest ‘scratch, scratch’ in the world, a noise as faint as that of a wasp, walking upon a window pane. I pinpointed the sound and turned my head in the right direction and was greeted with more woodland; I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there.

And then I spotted them…
Five, dark purple lifeless eyes in the darkness, staring at me, unblinking.

This creature was an arachnid, confirming exactly who it was.

“I see you Nah’Lek.” I teased.

The eyes closed, and then I heard the sound coming from behind me; I whipped around and was able to spot the eyes again, closer to me this time.

“I can still see you.” I chuckled, lightly licking my bottom lip.

His eyes stayed perfectly still, and I stared at him, forcing myself not to blink.

You’ve lasted twice as long as Twilight normally does.” He muttered.

“Well, she’s not exactly combat orientated.” I replied.


The eyes vanished once more, and I looked side to side, twisting and flexing my sensitive equine ears to pick up his new location. Try as I might, I couldn’t find it; I spun in circles desperately looking for his eyes, before I felt a chill running up my spine.

And neither are you…” He breathed.

That’s when I looked up.

The creature slammed into me with the force of a car going at thirty miles an hour; I was forced into the ground and felt one of my front legs snap; I screamed loudly in agony before a large set of claws gripped my throat and began to choke me, they slowly squeezed tighter and tighter like a vice and I could feel my windpipe crushing. I opened my mouth to scream, only for a hoarse whisper to leave my lips.

{Do I have to do EVERYTHING by myself!?} My conscience yelled.

My horn suddenly turned purple and I was teleported far away.

When I reappeared on the edge of the forest, I collapsed, gasping desperately for air.

“Thanks Connie…” I wheezed.

{You’re welcome; and, “Connie”, really?}

“Well… You’re my… Conscience… Kinda fits…” I gasped between breaths.

{Sounds too girly, call me Conscio.} It replied.

“Fine… Whatever… I don’t really care as you’re just a part of my own brain…” I continued to gasp.

I stood up, only for a sharp pain to shoot down my right foreleg; I looked at it to see it had snapped right across the middle and the sharp bone was sticking out of the flesh.

“Uhm… OW.” I stated, gritting my teeth.

{That injury may require some attention ma’am.}

“You THINK!?” I shrieked.

I shook my head and regained my seriousness; this wasn’t just an endless nightmare, there was something more.

“Do you think this is why Twilight’s been such a cunt all this time?” I mumbled, trying to ignore the pain.

{It’s certainly a good theory…}

I looked around and got a sense of my bearings; once I had formulated a plan, I limped back into the forest.

{Remind me... Why are we going back in here?} Conscio asked.

“Answers.” I croaked.

{Care to elaborate there?}

“Nah’Lek said that he brought Twilight here every night to torment her, and I believe him; just think about how much Twilight was sobbing, she’s in absolute trauma. He said he reminded her of how she can’t escape her fate, but I personally don’t think he just kills her over and over again.
This forest has some answers, and if we find them, we can stop this feud between me and Twilight.” I explained.

{Aaaahhhh….. Clever…}

“Thanks.” I grinned.

I’d been walking for a while when I started to notice something.

“All the trees… They’re dead…” I pointed out.

{No shit, the forest is completely frozen over; hence why it’s called... The Frozen Forest.} Connie remarked.

“They’re evergreen trees, smartass; they’re not supposed to die in the cold.” I retorted.

I limped my way deeper into the woodland, picking up on all the details around me; there wasn’t a sound in any direction, there were no animals anywhere. I dragged my front hoof along the snow to see what was underneath, to find the dirt was jet black; literally everything was dead.
That’s when my conscience made sense of it all.

{Remember when we drifted off… And we heard the word “Fel”?}


{You don’t suppose…?}

I stopped dead in my tracks, and sat down; completely shell-shocked.

“Oh… My… God...”

The Fel…

An evil, twisted green magic that fed on life; it was Death Magic, used in the Warcraft games on my computer, along with being in the MMO version, World of Warcraft.
Once powerful enough, nothing can stop the Fel; it sucks the energy out of every living thing and leaves whole planets stripped of all life.
It promises great power, but at such a price…
While the user grows much stronger physically, it saps away at their brain until driven mad; corrupting them and twisting their mind, making them more and more evil and demonic until they are completely consumed, where they become a monster, intent on destroying everything in existence.

It was fictional, or so I thought.
If Equestria was real, that must have meant any type of fictional universe was also real, in parallel universes; meaning the Fel could be entirely possible.
But if the Fel did exist, Equestria was in more danger than any of us could comprehend…

“Nah’Lek is threatening to unleash the Fel on Equestria; that’s why Twilight is so scared.” I concluded.

Without warning a searing pain covered my whole head as something grabbed my mane and lifted me into the air, I screeched with pain and kicked out frantically; before I could use my magic to escape, a long thin blade had been thrust through my neck, no words could describe such pain as I felt the metal pierce my wind pipe.

Very close… But wrong…” Nah’Lek hissed from behind me.

He dropped me and I fell to the ground, and was left to drown in my own blood.
My throat was burning, and every time I went to breathe my lungs grew more and more painful as they filled with blood, I’d never experienced such agony, not even during my torture in Inigo’s compound.

In seconds my vision began to blur, the pain died down as everything grew numb.
All I could feel, was cold.
Before darkness consumed me.

I shot bolt upright in bed with a loud scream, panting and covered in sweat; I felt my throat and sighed a breath of relief to find it was all over, for now.

“And I thought the last time in the Frozen Forest was weird…” I muttered under my breath.

Suddenly my door was opened and a familiar voice spoke.

“Are you okay? We heard a shout.” She said.

“I’m fine… Sorry… Just… Just a bad dream…” I mumbled.

“Oh no… Another one?”

I paused, before tilting my head.

“Wait, what do you mean ‘another one’?” I asked.

“Well, it’s not the first time you’ve woken up screaming.” She told me.

I was super confused now, I’d only been here one night; hadn’t I?

“I’m lost.” I said blankly.

She came over to me and gave me a small hug.

“It’s probably stress, just try to get some sleep okay?” She said kindly, her voice like honey.

I was so confused, was I still dreaming or something?

“I… I don’t understand, I’ve only stayed here one night, and I’ve got my assignments with Paulo tomorrow.” I told her.

“Oh my… This is worse than I thought, let me get the others…” She said, getting up.

“No, wait.” I called.

She stopped and looked at me; I didn’t want to blow my cover or draw any attention to myself; I’d just go to sleep and hope things would make sense tomorrow.

“You’re probably right, it’s just stress; I’ll just sleep it off.” I said.

“Alright, if you’re sure.” She said.

“I am, goodnight.” I confirmed.

“Alright then, goodnight Twilight.” She replied, closing the door.

I rolled over and closed my eyes, before they shot wide open again and I sat bolt upright in bed once more.

Twilight?” I blurted out with confusion.

I looked down to see I was still in Twilight’s body.

“Oh shit…” I mumbled.

If I’d woken up still in her body, was she now awake in mine? She had no idea where she was, or how much danger she was in; if she left my room in Paulo’s quarters, she could end up being mistaken for an assassin and be shot.

“I need to help her…” I whispered to myself.

{Our phone, try calling it?} Conscio suggested.

It seemed my conscience was smarter than me at times; ever since I’d made contact with the first orb shard he had become much more sentient, perhaps the effects of magic had caused my brain to enhance certain aspects.

{Or perhaps it’s because you’ve killed people, maybe your head’s now just a little extra fucked up.}

“Shut up.” I grumbled.

{You shut up.}

I ignored my sentient hunk of brain matter and concentrated hard on calling my mobile; my horn flared up, but there was no indication that it was working.

“Come on…” I hummed with frustration.

I tried once more, and in my mind I could hear a sound.
Buzz, buzz… Buzz, buzz… Buzz, Buzz…
My phone was ringing, thank god; I waited patiently as the phone rang, and then, at long last, it was answered.

“Hello…?” A whisper sounded in my mind.

“Twilight?” I spoke softly.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“You’re still in my body…” I sighed.

“And you’re still in mine…” She muttered back.

I thought hard, there must have been an explanation for this; and there must have been a way to revert back to normal.

“What do I do?” Twilight asked, clearly afraid.

“Stay put, I’m currently under cover as a member of Inigo’s old gang; just keep calm while I figure out how to fix this.” I told her.

At this, Twilight’s breath began to grow shaky and light; she was panicking.

“I don’t like this… This feels so wrong…” She quietly whimpered.

“I don’t like it either, we’re in the same boat okay? Just stay put, alright?” I ordered.

“I… I feel so… Broken… What is this?”

I sighed, she must have been feeling a wave from my depression; while I was used to being miserable inside around the clock, such a feeling for Twilight would hit her like a truck.

“Just breathe Twilight…” I hushed.

“Okay… Callum… Callum I’m s-”

The call cut out.

“Shit…” I growled.

I tried calling the phone, and tried calling over and over; but to no avail, it didn’t even ring. Twilight was evidently scared, and if this wasn’t resolved by morning, she’d most likely blow my cover and fuck up my chances at rescuing Bunnie.
Suddenly, without warning, my whole vision went blurry and a migraine shot through my head like a bullet; I put my hooves over my head and squeezed my eyes shut in pain. I leaned to my side and fell out of bed, hitting the ground with a hard thump.

“What’s… Going on…!?” I groaned through gritted teeth.

{I don’t know! But whatever it is, make it stop!}

And just like that, the pain was gone; but something wasn’t right, something was very bad.
I felt a burning inside me, like I had indigestion or something, and I felt miserable, utterly miserable; on occasion my depression gave me very low moods and feelings of despair and no motivation, but this was something completely different.
I felt hatred.
Seething hatred.

My door opened, and there was the sound of hooves approaching me.

“Oh gosh… Twilight, let me help you.” Fluttershy’s voice sounded.

I felt her hooves on my shoulder and chest, and I instantly recoiled.

Get off!” I barked.

She jumped back in shock, before trying to help me once more; the moment she made contact with me, I smacked her hoof away and stood up, before walking up to her.

“Go away!”

“I’m sorry… I was only trying to-”

Now!” I growled loudly, causing her eyes to water up.

In seconds, the tears were streaming down her face and she turned to the door.

“I’m sorry!” She sobbed, not bothering to close the door behind her as she fled.

I froze solid, like an ice cube.
What just happened to me…?

{What the fuck is wrong with you Callum!?} Conscio scolded.

“I… I don’t know… I don’t know what just came over me…” I stammered, beginning to shake.

I felt a sudden chill down my spine and my whole body jolted, my neck went into spasm as I uncontrollably twitched. A few of these twitches later, and I realised I was becoming weaker; my body felt heavier as my muscles could no longer hold me up. I dropped to my knees and tried to lift my head to look around, only for more energy to be sapped from my body and my head dropped back down, my chin was resting on my chest as I was able to let out a faint whisper.

“Twi… Light…”

I fell sideways and was unconscious as soon as I hit the wooden floor.

For the third time, I sat up in bed.

“Am I properly awake, or am I still in this nightmare?” I asked aloud.

No response, not even from my own conscience.
I decided to start with the obvious, and looked down at my own body; I was human, I had two legs, and two hands, with ten fingers on each, I was now back inside my own body.

“Well thank god for that…” I muttered.

I got out of bed and looked around, I was in the bedroom Paulo had offered me, which was another pointer that I was properly awake now. I crept towards the door and put my hand on the handle, only to flinch as it was colder than ice.

“This is getting boring Nah’Lek…” I muttered, pushing the door open.

I followed the same route from the first time in this dreamscape, and made my way back into the forest; after a good few minutes of trudging along, I eventually reached the same clearing from before.
Now that I was in my own body, I had much more confidence in being able to survive a little more in this place; all I needed was to go deeper into the forest.
I saw a much darker patch of wood in the distance and assumed that would lead closer to the centre, and so I headed in that direction.


I turned around to see Twilight, blood down her face, chest, and neck; her mane was ruffled and her eyes were streaming with tears, I jogged over to her and inspected her wounds. Much to my surprise, she didn’t resist as I put my hand under her chin and looked her over.
Other than a large gash on her left cheek, she was okay, the bleeding had stopped and had just left a nasty mark; she must have already encountered Nah’Lek and had made a lucky escape.

“Please let me come with you…” She asked hoarsely.

I tilted my head on one side.


“Because… I just don’t want to be alone in here…” She whispered, wincing as one of her tears entered her cut.

I nodded, and let her follow me as we headed into the dark woodland…

“You know he’s watching us, right?” I muttered.

Twilight merely whimpered in a fearful response.

As we walked, I noticed the snow was getting considerably deeper; beforehand it was about an inch thick, but now both my feet were practically submerged, my feet were painfully cold, but I knew this was all a weird dream sequence and so I just gritted my teeth and blocked it out.

“What did I feel while I was in your body?” Twilight asked while we walked.

I sighed; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell her or not.

“What do you mean?” I quizzed, pretending I had no idea what she meant.

“You know damn-well what I mean, what was that emotion I felt? If you can call it an emotion; I’ve never felt anything like it before, and it was absolutely crippling. I felt like my body was so heavy, it was almost impossible to stand up to reach the phone, but my body wasn’t actually heavy, I just had no energy.
Just walking to the phone felt like I was running a marathon, as though I had no strength, no emotion at all, no motivation, or ability to even see the importance in anything. It was scary… Really scary…”

{Just tell her. You might end up getting some sympathy from her.}

I sighed and decided to go with Conscio’s advice.

“That, Twilight… Was depression.” I answered.

The hoofsteps behind me stopped, and I turned to see Twilight had frozen.

“What?” She spoke.

“You heard me, you felt depression.” I repeated.

“I… I don’t under-” She cut herself off mid-sentence.

She was speechless.

“What you felt, I feel nearly every day; sometimes it’s even worse than what you felt. It’s died down massively since I started this quest with you, but I still have days where I just want to stop existing; but I keep going, for you six, for Equestria.” I elaborated.

“That’s… That’s…”

“Horrible, sometimes considered mental torture, I know.” I interrupted.

I turned away from her and kept walking.

“We’re here to survive and find some answers, not talk about my state of mental health.” I spoke.

“But…” Twilight started, but didn’t continue.

She followed me and we stayed quiet for a while, before she spoke once more.

“I didn’t know…”

“Because I never told you.” I muttered back.


At that, I snorted.

“What kind of question is that? You’ve been a massive sack of dicks to me since we met!”

“I… I didn’t m-”

How quaint… Bonding over mental health issues.” Nah’Lek’s voice sounded from behind us.

I looked over my shoulder to Twilight, and gulped.

“Run.” I ordered.

We both bolted, running forward as fast as we could; we ran and ran without bothering to look behind us. Soon enough the snow was at my knees and I began to slow down, desperately trying to wade through the snow.

Behind me was a scream, I turned around and almost broke into tears as I witnessed Twilight being impaled through the chest; I barely got a look at Nah’Lek, he was under a cloak and surrounded with black smoke, all I could see were his eyes, and the swords that glistened in the bright moonlight, now dripping with Twilight’s blood.
I turned away and kept running, but I knew he’d be gaining on me; I tried as hard as I could nonetheless.

Without warning my foot sank beneath the earth and I tripped over, hitting the snow and rolling over; I looked back to see I was alone, I must have lost Nah’Lek.
I looked to where I had fallen, to find a great big hole in the ground; it was big enough to slide down inside and appeared to lead somewhere. I crawled over on all fours and put my head down inside the hole to see a faint green light coming far away underground through a tunnel, this hole must have led to a cave.

{I bet our answers are down in that cave.} Conscio hypothesised.

I heard a noise and lifted my head up from the hole, to see a shadow towering over me; I didn’t even bother moving and just looked up at the eight eyes that glared at me within the dark form.

“Yeah, you caught me, just kill me.” I muttered.

I have a better idea...” He hissed.

He slinked a few metres away from me, and allowed me to stand up, before throwing one of his swords to the ground, as he did so, a large cloud of black smoke emitted from his hidden form.

“I want to see why Celestia sent them to you, let’s see how long you last in combat...”

I slowly approached the sword, expecting him to strike me down before I’d even picked it up; I kept eye contact with him as I moved closer and closer to the large smoky shadow.

Those eyes…
Those dead, haunting eyes…
They were utterly terrifying, if it weren’t for my experiences in Chernobyl, I’d probably have been paralysed by his deathly stare, this creature truly was the stuff of nightmares.

I expected something more, perhaps a soldier; not a child…” He hissed as I slowly reached down to grab the sword.

“Well I wasn’t exactly expecting a giant spider with a vape problem.” I retorted, picking up the weapon.

“Inexperienced and immature, Celestia really does choose her heroes well.”

“The immature boy who’s killed countless men, started an uprising amongst slaves, and can put up with someone as cruel as Twilight; I must be sooo immature.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

While I engaged in this conversation, Nah’Lek had no idea that my clever little conscience was mapping out the route we’d taken in my mind, so the next time I came to the Frozen Forest, we’d know how to get to this exact place, where we could slip down the hole and solve this mystery.

Are you going to fight me, or are you finished stalling?” He growled.

“I just wanted a nice chat before you inevitably kill me.” I chuckled.

Do you not fear me?

“Yeah, but I’m well aware this is a dream, so no matter what you do, I’ll wake up at the end of it.” I replied.

But upon waking up, you’ll have to deal with the raging thoughts again.

“What raging thoughts?”

“Do you not feel the bloodlust flow through your veins each day?” He asked rhetorically.

I pulled a confused looking duckface and tilted my head on one side.

“Nope, no idea what you mean.” I said, shrugging.

Interesting.” He hummed.

“So, can I see what you actually look like?” I asked politely.

You will, in due time…

“Now who’s being immature? Hiding under a cloak of shadow and lecturing me with melodramatic tones.” I taunted.

In a flash, Nah’Lek had shot forward into me and sent me flying backwards with a powerful blunt blow to the chest; I hit the ground and quickly rolled up to my feet, now taking this fight seriously.

That was a warning…” His dark raspy voice growled.

{Right, I’ve got this place mapped out; just end this now.} Conscio piped up.

I tightened my grip on my sword, and tensed up my body; Nah’Lek’s sword swished side to side to taunt me, little did he know what I was going to do next.
I took a step forward, and prepared for a charge; before placing the tip of the sword at my own throat and forcefully falling upon it.

I barely felt a thing as the sword pierced my brain and killed me instantly.

Chapter Seven - A Practical People

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{Well, depressed as you are, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting you to commit suicide.} Conscio muttered as I woke.

“Yeah, well I wasn’t really too keen on getting sword raped by Nah’Lek.” I replied sleepily.

{I never said it was a bad thing, I just didn’t expect you to kick the bucket via face-fucking yourself with a sword.}

I stretched and realised I was on the floor; I went to sit up, only for a headache to crash through my head like a sledgehammer. I groaned with pain and put a hand to my head, to find a medium sized bump just above my right ear. After initially getting over the blunt pain, I sat up properly and found my phone next to me on the floor.

“Holy shit… Twilight and I really did switch bodies…” I muttered.

I stood up and sat on the edge of the bed, trying to make sense of all this; Twilight and I had switched bodies in our sleep, meaning there was a third party that was involved, most likely Nah’Lek.
However, if Nah’Lek were already here in Portugal with us, he would have already killed us; so he must have switched us from a distance, which could only be done if Twilight and I were connected in some way.

{The Fel… Perhaps you have both been in contact with it.} My conscience suggested.

{Perhaps…} I thought back.

But how…?
That was the question.

I needed real answers, and I doubted I would be able to get them until I entered the Frozen Forest again.
What even WAS the Frozen Forest?
Nah’Lek mentioned it was the afterlife of Equestria, but I could barely believe that; I hated the fact I wouldn’t be able to find out yet.

I looked at my phone to find it was seven in the morning, so I decided to wash my face in the sink and get dressed; today I would receive my assignments and get to work for Paulo, so I got into the militia outfit I had stolen.
I put my phone in my pocket, then unsheathed Krocsbane and stroked the side of the blade, admiring the shape; since I had taken it from Vladimir Kikashkov, it had served me well.
While I'd lost Inigo’s pistol and Wrinkleboom back in Chernobyl, I rather hoped that I would keep Krocsbane throughout my quest; I had become fond of the knife.
I put the blade away and picked up my UMP from the corner of my room, I didn’t want to leave this place unarmed, just in case.

“Where’s Paulo?” I asked the first guard I came across.

He nodded and beckoned me to follow him, and I did so with haste.

We came to the dining room from last night, and then approached a small hallway; we came to the last door and the guard gestured me to go through, and then walked off. I lightly rapped my knuckles on the door, and a few seconds later, it was opened, revealing a disgruntled Paulo.

Que porra você quer?” He growled angrily.

“Is that how you talk to all your guests?” I replied.

At that, his eyes widened with slight shock.

“Ah! My boy! My apologies, I didn’t recognise you with the balaclava on!”

I dipped my head to accept his apology, and he opened the door properly to shake my hand. Over his shoulder, I could see Dijla in his king-sized bed, evidently trying to cover herself with the duvet; her cheeks were bright red and appeared out of breath, it took all my effort not to cringe, as I knew what Paulo had been doing with her.

“I was wondering when I could get my hands on those assignments.” I told him.

“Fuck, you’re very keen aren’t you? The little bitch really does entice you eh?” He chuckled.

He put a hand on my shoulder and pulled me into the room, standing by my side and facing Dijla.

“You see this boy? This is the one who will be fucking our daughter soon; I propose to give her to him, as a gift.” He taunted.

With the balaclava on, Dijla also did not recognise me; her eyes widened with shock, before glaring into my own; the piercing stare was as bad as Fluttershy’s stare, it was slightly terrifying; a true mother’s love for her daughter.

“I’ll give your assignments in a few minutes; meet me in the dining room.” Paulo ordered.

I nodded and walked out the door, the door closed and I heard Paulo’s voice hiss to his wife.

“Now, where were we…?”

I shuddered and quickly made my way to the dining room.

I pulled out a chair and made myself comfortable, my left hand was aching slightly and I removed my glove to massage the hand. I rubbed my thumb over the large rounded scar where Inigo had drilled through back in Brazil; I started remembering all the things he had done to me…
The red-hot screwdriver… The electrocution... Oh, my poor fingernails...

The memories flooded my mind once more and I noticed my right hand began to tremble slightly.

{Since when did you have PTSD?} Conscio muttered.

“Since my life turned into a legendary shit-storm.” I replied.

{Just try to get over it, I would rather not be depressed and traumatised.}

“What makes you think I want that either?”

{Dunno with you, you’re weird.}

“Says the sentient hunk of brain matter.” I scoffed.

I ignored the tremoring and continued to massage the aching hand, I guess the cold outside had stiffened the tendons that had been previously damaged; if it weren’t for that Oozima, I daresay my hand would still be rendered useless even now, that stuff truly worked wonders. I put the glove back on and took my phone out, deciding to play with one of Twilight’s upgrades; the biometric body scanner to be specific. It quickly loaded up and gave me a good insight as to how I was doing.

[Illnesses: None
Abnormalities: (Asperger’s Syndrome), (Depression), (#?#)
Hunger: Satisfied
Thirst: Satisfied
Rest: Satisfied
Fitness: Athletically Fit
Overall Status: Healthy - At Possible Risk]

I tilted my head in confusion, it appeared there was a foreign body in me; but I didn’t feel any different.
What was even more concerning was that the phone could not identify whatever it was.


“Hm, I doubt it, as I don’t feel any different; wouldn’t it be corrupting me?” I replied.

{Dunno, but I think we should check regularly.}

“Agreed.” I mumbled.

A little while later I heard footsteps and Paulo entered the room, a big smile on his face.

“Brucey! The time has come! Let’s get you those assignments!” He sang.

I stood up and smirked, and went to shake his hand, to which he merrily did.

“Take your balaclava off boy; I want to see how well my wife worked that razor.” He commanded.

I was reluctant, but knew he would grow suspicious if I questioned him; I nodded and removed the balaclava, he eyed me up at down, and for a moment I thought he had recognised me and that my cover was blown.

“Well…” He hummed.

I gulped.

“She knows how to cut a beard at least; and improvement I must add.”

I smiled and sighed a slight breath of relief, before he beckoned me to follow him; we made our way to his office where we had met, where he sat in his chair, and I instinctively sat in the chair on the other side.
He opened his drawer and took out a cigar, lit one up, and began to smoke it, before taking a long sigh.

“Bruce, my boy; we are in some pretty deep shit.” He sighed, looking down.

“How so?” I asked.

“So, after Inigo was killed in Brazil, I have been losing faith in my current boss, Hoyt Volker; we’ve had little contact and my business has been failing. To compensate this, I’ve been making deals with another gang a little further south of here, called the Blood Family; one of my bodyguards are undercover for Hoyt, and gave him this information.
Hoyt is apparently dealing with a situation of his own on his island, and is very stressed; so to punish me, he contacted the Blood Family and have told them I had plans to double-cross them.
I have already lost thirty men to this gang, and my business is sinking deep into the ground. I can’t make any new deals because the Blood Family have been hijacking every fucking trade I’ve made.” He explained, hitting his desk.

He threw his cigar across the room and grunted angrily.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“I want you to fuck up the Blood Family; I want them dead. Every fucking one of them!” He shouted.

I waited for him to calm down, before he continued.

“My militia are fucking shit; they’re a bunch of drug addicts who just about know how to fire a gun.
However, you Bruce, you are English; you people are smart you know? You can actually fucking think…
You Englishmen are a practical people; we have always admired that about you.
I want you to sneak into their compound, and kill as many of the fuckers as possible, all of them if you can.”

I nodded slowly, knowing I would have to plan it though strategically; I’d need information about the gang.

“I also want you to find Hoyt’s mole, the fucker who stabbed me in the back.” He ordered.

Again, I nodded.

“Good.” He muttered.

He took out another cigar and lit it up, and thought to himself for a moment. A minute went by before I decided to make a plan.

“I’ll get started on finding your mole first, make sure Hoyt doesn’t know your plans.” I told him.

“Good idea, sort that one out first; but how do we find the little shit?” Paulo growled.

I hummed to myself and thought for a moment.

{Idea!} Conscio announced.

{Let’s hear it?} I thought back.

Conscio went on to tell me his plan, which turned out to be a very clever one; when he finished, I explained it to Paulo.

“Okay, how about you inform your guards that there is another mole in the militia unit, working for Hoyt, and that he speaks English; command them to take the mole to you if they find him.
I will pretend to be the mole, and allow your guards to overhear my suspicious acts.
Put me in a cell, and make each guard check on me throughout the day.
The real mole will try to talk to me, believing that we’re on the same side, where I can double cross him and tell you who it is.” I concluded.

Paulo took a deep toke from his cigar, before blowing a smoke ring at me and smirking.

“As I said… A practical people…
Bruce, you may well be one of the smartest people in my organisation, I would happily make you my right hand man with a brain like yours; Inigo chose well when selecting you for his militia.” He grinned.

“You are too kind, Paulo.” I replied with a smile.

“Kindness has nothing to do with it my boy, you’re a smart man, you know how this game works, and you play it well. You’re a man of strategy, I can tell, do you play chess?” He asked.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” I answered.

“When you have completed these first two assignments, we must play.” He said, finishing his cigar.

I nodded, and rubbed my hands together.

“Shall we get started?” I asked.

“Indeed, go and mingle with the militia, you’ll find them at the back of my compound by the prison cells, gamble with them, take some drugs, fuck one of the slave girls, just relax boy. My guards will be alerted very soon.”

I stood up, and shook Paulo’s hand.

“Next time you see me, you’ll be putting me in a cell.” I joked.

“Ha! So I will, you dirty little mole!” He laughed back, leaning back in his chair.

I turned around and left the room, and made my way to the gardens.

I walked slowly through Paulo’s garden, it bothered me that such a lovely home could be owned by such a horrible person; while I was acting all friendly with him now, I couldn’t wait to put Krocsbane into his gut…
Before going to the militia unit, I had a much better idea of where I was going; I walked to the prison block and opened the door, the guard on duty recognised my militia gear and assumed I was here to take his post. I went over to him and nodded, to which he nodded in reply; I took a long sigh as if I didn’t want to be there and gave the man a sharp tilt of my head to gesture that he could leave. He patted me on the shoulder and left, giving me the whole prison block to guard, I guessed Paulo was rather short staffed with the Blood Family gang, and only bothered to spare one guard for the prison; bad move on his behalf, and rather stupid too, having a mole on the loose.

I went from door to door and opened the hatches to look inside; each cell was full of over twenty people, even though the rooms’ cells were no bigger than a swimming pool changing cubicle.
Each time I opened the hatches, the prisoners inside squashed up to the back of the cells, terrified for their lives.

“Please don’t kill us!” A woman wailed as I opened a cell.

“I’m not planning on it.” I replied, closing the hatch, leaving her very confused.

I made my way past each door, checking inside, before I finally found her…
In a lone cell, in the middle of the room, knelt a girl; she didn’t move an inch and just stayed there, as if she had died in that position; almost as though she’d given up on life entirely and was just waiting to die.
I opened up the cell door, and walked towards her; she didn’t even look up at me.

“You are Bunnie, yes?” I said with a Russian accent.

She ignored me.

“I have message, from your father.”

“Tell him to rot in hell…” She spat.

I broke off the Russian accent and decided to brighten up her day.

“Oh I plan to, once I get your ass out of here.” I chuckled.

She looked up, and I took off the balaclava.
Her face lit up, her mouth opened but no words came out; she just stared at me as her eyes began to water up.

“Hello BunBun…” I said, full of love.

“Oh Callum…” She started, before bursting into tears.

I rushed forward and fell to my knees and embraced her in a warm hug, I held her tightly as she sobbed into my chest. She grabbed at my back and shoulders and just didn’t let go, gasping and whimpering with emotion as she placed her face to my neck and wept.

“Miss me?” I asked playfully.

She looked up, both her eyes and nose streaming, her lips parted and trembling, some saliva drooled from her bottom lip due to the sobbing; even in this condition she was still as beautiful as Christmas morning, which ironically I had missed.

“I… I thought you were d-”

“Until you find my body, I’m not dead; we’ve discussed this Bunnie.” I teased.

She responded by bursting into tears again and planting her face back into my chest. With one hand, I stroked the back of her head and played with her hair, and with the other hand, I lightly patted her back to the beat of my heart.
Pat, pat… Pat, pat… Pat, pat…

Eventually, after a few minutes, Bunnie calmed down and pulled away from me.

“You look different without the beard…” She spluttered in tearful laughter.

We laughed together and I gave her another tight hug.

“The homeless look didn’t really suit me.” I replied, chuckling.

She giggled and wiped her eyes, which were now quite bloodshot.

“So, my dad believes you’re on his side?” She asked, sniffing.

“Aye, although he almost recognised me.”

“From where?”

“Well… You see… I MAY have punched him in the face and stolen his speedboat back in Brazil.” I told her.

“You did what?” She squeaked.

“After I killed Inigo and escaped his compound, I went to steal a boat and get out the country, when I came across your father at the docks. He was obviously a violent pretentious twat and went to hit me because he didn’t want anybody bothering him, and BAM! I gave him an uppercut to the jaw and knocked him clean out.”

She looked at me blankly for a few seconds.

“Dude… You are actually my hero…” She muttered.

I laughed, and we exchanged another hug.

“So, what happens now?” She asked.

“Well, I’m under cover as one of Ingio’s old militia commanders, he thinks I was a massive big shot back in Brazil, and is considering making me his right hand man; I need to complete some of his more important assignments, and then he is going to give you to me as a gift; a token of a deal well-struck.” I explained to her.

“That’s brilliant, so we… Wait a second… As a gift?” Bunnie quizzed, bewildered.

“Yup, I’m basically claiming you as my personal slut.” I teased.

Bunnie looked at me blankly, before we both burst into laughter.

“Let me get this straight… You told my father that you want to own me as your own slave?” She asked.

I nodded, grinning.

“And he was totally chill with that?”

Again, I nodded.

“What’s the catch?” Bunnie asked suspiciously.

“There isn’t one; I just need to complete his assignments.” I answered merrily.

“What are his assignments?”

“Locating a mole in the organisation, and annihilating a rival gang.”

“Annihilating a gang! How do you expect to accomplish that?” She exclaimed.

“Are you forgetting that I slaughtered twenty men in less than an hour and then infiltrated your father’s gang only yesterday?” I reminded her.

“Who’s the gang?”

“Some jumped up twats called the Blood Family.”

“WHAT? NO!” She shrieked.

“What?” I asked, jolting in surprise.

“They’re just as feared as my father’s gang; they’re ruthless and kill without mercy. Not even my dad’s militia unit deal with them, they often pussy out and alert the police about their next moves.” She explained.

“Wait, so Paulo’s gang communicate with the police?” I asked, astounded.

“Corruption at its best.”

I hummed in response.

“But my point is, you can’t fight the Blood Family; they’ll kill you.”

“You know, I’m really starting to get bored of being told that people will kill me.” I moaned.

“Why aren’t you scared?” Bunnie mumbled, shaking her head lightly.

“I am scared, you donut.” I replied, sticking my tongue out.

“You don’t look it…”

“That’s because I hide my fear, in order to focus on what’s important.” I told her.

“And what’s that?”


Bunnie lifted her head and looked me in the eyes, before putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Oh Callum…” She started.

She tilted her head slightly, and it was adorable; she then moved her head closer and my heart began to race. She placed her head to my chest and the moved her lips up to my ear, I felt a warm shiver shoot down my spine as she did so.

“That was so fucking cheesy.” She whispered.

My face dulled, and Bunnie pulled away from me and burst into laughter, I eventually saw the funny side and laughed with her.
When we settled down again, she embraced me in a hug.

“Jokes aside, I really do appreciate what you’re going through to help me.” She sighed with a warm smile.

“You, and your mother; I promise to get you both out of here.” I replied, tightening the hug.

“You’ve seen my mum?”

I pulled away and nodded.

“How is she?”

“She’s… Well, she could be doing worse.” I answered.

“That’s better than what I expected to be honest.” Bunnie mumbled.

Her mood dropped once again, her sense of hope and faith was so delicate that it was merely hanging by a thread.

“Hey.” I spoke.

I put a finger under her chin and brought her head up to face me.

“I’m getting you both out of here…”

She opened her mouth to speak when I cut her off.

“I promise you Bunnie…”

We made contact for a good few seconds, but it felt like hours; I eventually grew shy and looked away, when suddenly Bunnie leaned forward, held my head in her hands, and planted her lips against mine.

And the whole world, just… Stopped...
All time and space, just… Stopped…

What I felt in this moment, I did not just feel on my lips; I felt it throughout my entire body.
I couldn’t describe it; it was just warm, yet so cooling at the same time.
I felt my heart melt as it began beating faster and faster, so fast that it began to hurt, but in the most brilliantly exquisite way. All my past, all my trauma, and my bitter anguish swept away like water down a drainpipe.

Everything that I was, and everything that I felt transformed and became enchanted.
In that moment, everything made sense.
And everything felt right.

I loved her…
I loved Bunnie...

A moment so happy and pleasant, and so full of passion, would only last a few seconds…

{Like sex.}

Conscio shut the FUCK up!

{Lol, worth it.}

A moment so happy and pleasant, and so full of passion, would only last a few seconds; Bunnie pulled away and broke the kiss, before looking away blushing and looking ashamed.

“I’m sorry… I… I shouldn’t have done that…” She spoke quietly.

For a second time I placed a finger under her chin and made her face me.

“No, it’s okay… It’s fine… I um… I actually kinda-”

I was interrupted by the sound of the prison’s main door being opened.

“You need to get out of here.” Bunnie ordered.

I nodded and looked at her for a couple seconds, taking in all the details of her face; I could tell that she was doing the exact same thing, just in case I never came back.

“Try not to wander off.” I teased.

She frowned at me, before grabbing the collar of my militia jacket and pulling me in for one more kiss; it only lasted a second and was far less passionate, but the meaning and affection was still there.

“Try not to get yourself killed.”

“I’ll do my best.” I replied, winking.

I stood up, and left the cell, only looking back once before shutting the door and locking it.

Just in time, I had gotten into the same position as the original guard, when another militia guard came around the corner and nodded to me that I was free to go. I patted him on the shoulder and walked off to the exit; I reached the door and opened it.

Upon stepping into the gardens, I was greeted by the wonderful sight of snow. Besides the Frozen Forest nightmares, this was the first time I had seen snow in ages, as it didn’t snow at all last year.

After spending a little while admiring the scene, I made my way up a large stairwell that took me to a large plaza behind the prison; all around the place were a good fifty men, all dressed in the same navy blue gear, all armed with AK-Forty Sevens and UMPs.

I wandered around, rather anxious as I had no idea who to socialise with; Paulo had mentioned that all his militia unit didn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak a damn word of Portuguese. The best I could do was sign language and body gestures.

I located a group of men playing Texas Hold’em Poker, which I was extremely good at; I thought I’d make a name for myself the easy way and approached the table, which had an empty seat.
Two of the men seemed quite young, perhaps in their early twenties, while the third man opposite the empty chair was big and bulky, with a huge beard; he had a big squared jawline and I assumed he was Russian.

“Mind if I join?” I asked, pointing to the chair.

“Chto stavish'?” He asked, poking the stash on the table.

I looked at the current pot, to find a throwing knife, a packet of heroin, two UMP magazines, and a gold ring that was worn on a man’s recently severed finger, dark thick blood oozing from it.
I took my UMP and pulled out the magazine, and threw it into the pile; the man smiled and gestured for me to sit down.

The cards went around and we played a few games, with each win, a player took a commodity of their choice from the pot; and upon losing, they would have to return them.
We played three games before someone lost entirely, and was forced to leave the table; I had won twice and had taken a couple of UMP mags, but lost on a third game and had to give one back; for a group of foul, ruthless, bloodthirsty thugs, I was genuinely having some fun.

We hit the fourth game, and the player beside me tried to look at my cards, I noticed out of the corner of my eye and turned my cards away, looking the man in the eye and growling at him, baring my teeth. He placed a hand on his knife and in a flash, I had drawn Krocsbane and placed it against his throat.

“Try me. Fucking try me. I dare you.” I hissed.

The spectators of the game all gathered around and watched intently, hoping I would kill him, but I waited to see his next move; I knew mercy at least.
He slowly let go of his knife and raised his hands in the air in surrender, gulping.
I took his knife and placed it in the gambling pot, just to prove a point, before putting Krocsbane back in its sheath.

“There’s a clever noodle.” I said with a smile.

I picked up my cards and he picked up his; the game continued and we carefully eyed each other as the round went on. Our wary observation of each other caused our stride to falter, and the dealer won, taking the last UMP magazine, causing the both of us to grunt with frustration and give our commodities, I threw in my second UMP magazine, and he put in a pistol magazine.

“Etogo malo!” The dealer grunted in a thick Russian accent.

I looked between the two curiously, and guessed my opponent hadn’t put in a good enough bet; enraged, he grabbed his magazine back and spat on my face, before storming off; I looked to the dealer, wiped the spit off my cheek and then smiled, before putting my last magazine into the UMP and turned back to the asshole who was now a few metres away.

“Hey, fuckface!” I called.

He turned around to face me and I pulled the trigger, sending a bullet through his head and spraying brain matter all over the floor behind him; he hit the floor with a hard thud.

“Not such a clever noodle…” I sighed, shaking my head.

I sat back around to find the dealer howling with laughter, along with a few other spectators chuckling at the situation.
It was now just me against the dealer, and so we began to play…

This guy was good, very good. Ten games went by and we had constantly exchanged goods to and from the winner’s pot; I could tell he was growing impatient, and I didn’t want a fight to break out, but nor did I want to lose.

We hit our eleventh game, and I needed to win only two more items to take the whole pot; the dealer handed out the cards, upon looking at them I was greeted by the king of spades and the king of diamonds; I decided to play the oldest trick in the book, and looked angrily at the cards, frustrated.
The trick worked, and he believed I had bad cards, and put in his second to last commodity, a fourth UMP magazine.
I tapped the table twice to check, and he placed another card on the table, the king of hearts. I bit my lip and looked like I was taking a big risk, and put the ring (still on the bloody finger), into the pot. For a second time, he took the bait, and placed in his last commodity, a bone handled Karambit knife.

{Ooh! Ooh! I’ve always wanted one of those!} Conscio chirped.

A second card was put down, which revealed an ace of diamonds; the dealer smirked slightly, which made me worry, what if this guy had two aces? I called my last UMP mag into the pot, and the dealer checked, and a third card was put down, the king of clubs.

{Fucking SORTED.} I thought merrily.

We both checked, and lay down our cards.
The dealer had two aces, as predicted, which gave him three of a kind.
I sat back in my chair and smiled at my four of a kind; luck was definitely on my side.

I leaned forward and began taking the pot, when the dealer grabbed my wrist tightly and held it against the table; I looked up to find him glaring at me. I gulped, and waited to see what he did next before drawing my weapon.

“Good game…” He spoke, before letting go and shaking my hand.

I dipped my head in respect, before taking his Karambit knife; he took the sheath off his belt and tossed it to me, I slotted the knife in and attached it to my own belt.

“You speak English?” I asked, pulling the ring off the severed finger.

“Very little.” He replied, his Russian accent was very thick.

I gave him a smile, before taking the goods from the pot and putting them in my pockets; putting the UMP mags in the holsters on the outside of my jacket. I saw some of Paulo’s personal guard walking my way, and decided to make myself known; I fiddled with the ring as I turned away from the poker game and waited for the guards to come within earshot.

“This is a lovely ring; I might send it to Hoyt.” I spoke aloud, as though I were talking to myself.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the guards look at me and then nudge his friend. I walked off and put the ring in my pocket, and seconds later I felt a hand land on my shoulder.

“Come with us.” A voice spoke.

I turned around to face the guard, he wore a thick black leather jacket, much like the guard beside him; both of them had revolvers holstered on their belts.

“Why?” I asked.

“We want to talk to you.” He said gruffly.

“What if I don’t want to talk to you?” I replied.

“I will kill you.”

“That’s not nice.”

“Nor is betraying your boss.” He spat, his Portuguese accent much stronger than Paulo’s.

I looked him in the eye for a good few seconds, before pleading guilty.

“Okay, you caught me, take me to Paulo and I’ll confess…” I sighed, looking down.

He responded by punching me in the gut, hard; I dropped to one knee and almost threw up, I was completely unprepared for the hit and was badly winded, it took a good few seconds for the bile in my throat to go back down. As I was forced to my feet I let out a few painful coughs.

“Move, scum.” The second guard ordered.

I spat on the floor and painfully made my way to Paulo’s office, each man on either side of me.

The double doors were opened for me and I was forcefully shoved by both men into the room, I fell forward and hit the floor, my UMP clattering loudly as I did so.

“We found the mole.” One of the guards growled.

I looked up to find Paulo looking down at me from his desk, giving me a psychotic smile.

“Strip him, and throw him into an empty cell.” He ordered.

I was grabbed by the arms and hoisted up to my feet, before all my possessions were taken from me and put in a chest in the corner of the room.

I was left with just my underwear, before I was rifle-butted in the back of the head, the unexpected pain completely jolted my body and I fell to the ground, now dazed; my ears were ringing and my vision blurred. The guards grabbed my arms and dragged me away, I looked up to Paulo to see him waving goodbye as the doors closed.

Once the doors had been shut, one of the guards pulled out his revolver and hit me over the back of the head a second time, and everything went black…

Chapter Eight - Through Pain and Passion

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I opened my eyes to find myself alone in a dirty prison cell, the back of my head aching.

{If you keep taking hits to the head throughout this quest, you’re going to look like a Zika baby.} Conscio groaned.

“Ugh, please don’t… It feels like my head’s already caving in…” I grumbled back.

I sat up and rubbed the back of my head, to find a sore bump; my seventh bump since the beginning of my quest. Once the pain began to subside, I began to realise how cold I was; this prison was clearly not heated, and being the middle of the winter now, that would pose a problem, especially as I currently wore nothing but my underwear.
I felt a small tickle in my throat and coughed a few times, before sitting back and waiting for, well, something.

That something arrived in the form of the next stage of my mission, getting information from Paulo’s guards until I found the mole. Unfortunately, I’d be getting this information via being beaten for information.
How ironic.

One guard entered the room, and closed the door behind him; before approaching me; without uttering a word, he punched me in the face, causing me to stumble backwards and down onto one knee.

“Why?” He growled.

“Why, what?” I spat, standing up again.

He delivered a blow to my gut, and thankfully I had tensed up for it; but it still hurt a shed-load.

“Why betray Paulo?”

“Money, of course. Lots and lots of money.” I replied, giving him a wink.

He responded by smacking me across the face, bringing me down to all fours, following with a kick to the stomach.

“There’s plenty if you want to share?” I teased, wheezing.

He grabbed me and lifted me back up to my feet.

“How are you contacting Hoyt?” He ordered to know.

“Magic.” I chuckled.

He punched me in the gut once again.


“You know, if you yelled just a tiny bit louder, he’d probably hear you from here.”

At this, he grew enraged and hit me in the face, before throwing me to the ground and kicking me in the mouth, splitting my lip and causing me to roll over onto my front.
Attacks like this were more shock-based, and didn’t cause much pain, and so I was able to intimidate him by laughing; spitting out a mouthful of blood from my lip and getting back up.

“You think you can single-handedly get any information out me? How quaint…” I teased.

He spat at me, before storming off to get the next guard to finish the job.

“Leaving so soon!?” I laughed, wiping the blood from my nose.

These guys were nothing in comparison to Inigo’s torture, unless they fancied getting a car battery and a bucket of water, their beatings would barely break me. Obviously I wasn’t superhuman, and each blow was painful, but I just allowed myself to block it out and remember how much worse Inigo had treated me.

Two more beatings later, and the third guard grew tired; he kicked me to the floor and stomped on my body a few times before walking off in a big huff, unable to get a single drop of information out of me.

“You guys… Have no… Patience…” I coughed, getting to my feet and regaining my breath.

I waited for the next guard for at least half an hour, but nobody else came.

Nobody came for hours, and hours, and I assumed nobody else was coming.
I noticed my breath was creating a lot of steam and realised how cold it was; night had come, and the icy winter had come too. I lay on my side, shivering, until I eventually blocked out the temperature and was able to get a little bit of sleep.

I woke relatively early, and hadn’t slept very well at all due to waking up constantly in the night thanks to the freezing cold, but at least I had a few hours of kip.

Five hours had past when the cell door was finally opened, and I was greeted by none other than my current ‘boss’.

“Bruce my boy!”


Paulo walked into the cell and closed the door behind him; he took my hand and helped me up to my feet.

“I hope my men didn’t hit you too hard.” He spoke softly, noticing the dried blood all over my mouth and nose.

“I’ve had worse.” I muttered, tilting my head side to side to stretch the stiff muscles.

“I’m sure you have…” He hummed.

He stood back and reached into his jacket, and pulled out a pair of shorts, a bar of Hershey’s chocolate, and a flask of water; he handed them to me.

“Here, I thought you might want some refreshments before your next round today.” He smiled.

I took the offer gratefully, and quickly put the shorts on; I took a swig from the water flask and put the chocolate in my pocket, I wasn’t feeling very hungry at the moment and decided to save it.

“Is there anything else I can get you before I send in my first guard of the day?” He quizzed merrily.

I was about to say no, and let the task continue, when Conscio interrupted my thoughts.


“Actually, there is…” I answered.

“If I can grant it, it shall be yours.”

“Could I be put into Bunnie’s cell?” I asked nervously.

His eyes widened slightly and he raised his eyebrows; he looked at me for a few seconds and hummed.
At first I thought I’d blown it and gotten on his bad side, but he soon came around and began to lightly nod his head, followed by a deep exhale of breath.

“Well, you are doing me a great service; so I guess I can allow this request.”

I dipped my head in thanks, and he lit up a cigar.

“Agarrar o menino.” He ordered.

The prison door opened and two men entered, they grabbed me by the arms and aggressively pulled me out of the cell. One of the guards I had already met, due to the beatings, he didn’t seem too pleased to see me.
I was pulled down the corridor to Bunnie’s cell, the door was unlocked and I was pushed into the room; Bunnie initially didn’t know who I was or what was going on and crawled to the corner of the cell in fear.

The guard from earlier punched me hard in the gut, and I dropped to all fours, coughing; as I tried to stand, I was given a boot to the stomach, taking me a few inches off the ground and sending me hurtling into the back wall of the cell, giving out a loud gasp of pain.
I looked over to Bunnie, which was when she recognised me; her eyes widened and she covered her mouth with both hands.
The guards came over and picked me up, and held me up to face Paulo.

“Figured you might like an audience during your beatings... Traitor.” He hissed.

He looked to Bunnie and grinned.

“Hello baby girl… Enjoying your new room?” He said in a sickly patronising tone.

She glared at him, her upper lip raising into a snarl. Paulo walked over to her and grabbed her by the throat, forcing her against the wall; she struggled and kicked out viciously as she fought for air.

“Bare your teeth at me again, girl, and I might just punch them down your throat.” Paulo spoke softly.

He released Bunnie and she keeled over, coughing and spluttering, holding her now painful neck with her hands.
After brushing down his suit, he walked back over to me and smacked me across the face; what he did next however, was far worse.
He took a big toke from his cigar, and then blew the smoke at my face, before sticking the red hot end into my lower neck, right on the collarbone; there was a hiss as the cigar burnt my skin and was extinguished.

Agh! You fucking-

I was interrupted by his hand grabbing my mouth tightly, he dug his nails into my cheek and brought his nose up to mine.

“That will teach you a lesson, won’t it Bruce?” He growled.

He punched me in the belly, and the guards allowed me to drop to my knees.

“Sair.” He ordered his guards.

They left the room, and Paulo bent down and put his mouth to my ear.

Sorry about that my boy… I just want to make sure the guards believe you’re the mole, in case the real mole is one of them.” He whispered.

I looked up to him with a frown.

“That’s going to leave a scar.”

“I’m giving you my daughter, I think that makes up for it.” He retorted.

“Fair play…” I muttered.

He smirked and put a hand on my shoulder.

“I’ll send in this next guard to interrogate you, and then I’ll give you a half hour break.”

“Appreciated.” I replied, dipping my head.

He stood up, and walked out the door; seconds later the other guard came in and closed the door behind him, he walked towards me with a smile, clenching his fists.

“I am going to enjoy making you talk…” He growled.

“Not as much as you think!” I sang, giving him a playful wink.

He responded by punching me in the face, hard; my left eye’s vision went fuzzy for a second and before I could move, I’d been lifted up to my feet.

“I’m about to make your life hell…” The guard spat.

And thus his fists came hurtling my way…

Ten minutes later, the guard was tired; he had extracted no information out of me, but he sure as hell gave my body a good hiding. He stood back and took a breather and I began to laugh, blood dripping from my nose and split lip.

“I thought you were supposed to get information from me?” I coughed, still laughing.

“Go to hell!” He snapped.

He gritted his teeth and went in for one last punch to the head, when I caught his fist with my hand and caused his whole arm to shudder from the sheer force of my block. I leaned forward and put my bloody mouth to his ear.

“Hell…?” I started, breathing slowly.

“I’ve already been…”

He pushed me back and wiped my blood from his hands, before storming off to the cell door and leaving the room.

I sank down to my knees and let out a long sigh, shaking my head to clear the slight concussion I’d received; seconds later I was grabbed tightly, and I looked to my right to see Bunnie, latched onto me like a koala bear.

“Callum… Are you okay?” She murmured, welling up.

Before she could shed any tears, I put a hand on her shoulder and made her look at me.

“I’m fine Bunnie, I’ve dealt with much worse.” I assured her.

She let go of me and went over to the cell toilet and took some of the paper towels that were the prison’s cheap alternative to toilet paper, and used them to clean the blood all over my mouth and nose. I took it from her and blew my nose, clearing out any blood and properly wiping my mouth clean.

“We have half an hour before the next guard comes along.” I told her, sniffing.

“You’re going to get beaten again?” She whimpered.

“That was my fourth beating Bunnie…” I replied solemnly.

She grimaced and placed her head against my chest, before she began to cry again.

“This is my fault; if you hadn’t of helped me back in the town, this would never have happened to you.” She wept.

I put my hand on her head and played with her hair, calming her down.

“Bunnie, I’ve been tortured by Inigo Montenegro in the past. I can handle a few beatings.”

“But you still don’t deserve this.”

“Sshh.” I hushed, still playing with her hair.

She pulled back, calming herself down but still upset.


I shut her up by planting my lips against hers; she closed her eyes and I felt her whole body relax.

“I’m fine, Bunnie.” I spoke softly, breaking the kiss.

I noticed her lips were quite dry and I could tell she was dehydrated, and so I took my water canteen and passed it to her, smiling; she quickly took it and chugged half the canteen. She passed it back to me, absolutely beaming.

“I needed that…” She gasped.

“I could tell.” I replied, sticking my tongue out.

After taking a swig of water for myself, I put the canteen away and held Bunnie in a tight cuddle.

“So, what happens now?” She asked.

“I’ll continue to be interrogated until Hoyt’s mole reveals himself, then your dad will release me and I’ll point him out, and he’ll no doubt be executed.” I explained.

“Alright, what then?”

“Well, I’ll ask if you can be moved to a bedroom or something, somewhere nicer than this cell.”

“He won’t allow it, he hates me.” She sighed.

“But he’s pretty fond of me, I’ll convince him; after all, I’m taking out the Blood Family for him.” I reminded her.

“He didn’t seem that fond of you, after burning you with his cigar.” She mumbled.

She stroked the burn mark, and I found I could barely feel it.

“It was all part of the act, his guards need to truly believe I’m the mole, so the real mole trusts me.”

In response, she huffed and continued to stroke the burn. I took her wrist in my hand and once again reassured her I was okay, and gave her a small kiss on the cheek.

“You missed…” She giggled.

I looked at her, and my smile grew larger and larger; we made eye contact for a good five seconds before we both leaned in and passionately kissed one another.

I closed my eyes and took in the sensations as both our lips, and bodies, became one.
She placed a hand on the back of my head and lightly held my hair, and I felt a warm burst of energy run down my spine, I in turn placed a hand on the side of her face and cupped her cheek, with my other hand I tightly held her body to mine.

Before long, the cell had a hotter atmosphere than the Sahara Desert. I don’t know why, or how I’d fallen in love so fast, but I knew that Bunnie had suddenly become just as important to me as my entire quest with the ponies, if not more so; I’d get her home and safe at any cost.

It had been a good couple of minutes and the beautiful moment refused to die, our tongues danced and wrestled for dominance in one another’s mouths as true passion took over the both of us and we lost ourselves together.
We soon forgot that we were trapped in a cell in the middle of a drug lord’s prison, and were taken away to a faraway place where the atrocities in the world no longer existed.

I had lost track of time, had it been five, six minutes or so?
It felt perhaps even longer, maybe a good ten minutes; our lips eventually parted and I opened my eyes to look into hers, all while grinning like a madman; in her eyes I saw something that had been missing before…

“Callum I…” She started.

I waited for her to carry on, lightly dragging my knuckle down her arm.

“I know this is so quick, and so forward, but under these circumstances I’ve come to really like you…
Every day, I’ve wondered if it will be my last; I’d given up hope entirely, and then you came along, now here you are knowingly risking your life to help me.
You’re genuine, you’re sticking to your word and are suffering on my behalf just for the sake of helping me escape.
When I lived in England, I didn’t get out much, and didn’t know many people, certainly not anyone as selfless and caring as you are; you’ve only just met me and now you’re willing to put your life on the line just to help me get home again.
Again, I know this is so quick, but…
Callum, I think I’m falling in love with you…”


Utter silence.

I didn’t know what to say, I was honestly lost for words; she was feeling the exact same way I did, and it felt right, heck, it felt MORE than right, it felt perfect.
We had met under such horrible and cruel circumstances, and in this place of despair we had found each other.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, it all came together and made perfect sense both in my mind and in my heart.

After a good thirty seconds of silence, Bunnie looked away, afraid that she had overstepped the mark.
Which was when I lightly place a hand on her cheek and cupped it once more, and looked deep into her eyes.

“Funny… I was feeling exactly the same thing…” I admitted with a warm smile.

I gave her a playful wink, and her smile began to grow and grow; she grinned almost as wide as the Cheshire Cat, and it was absolutely beautiful.
After my last train-wreck of a relationship, I didn’t think I’d ever find love again, and now I had, in the strangest of places…

Here I was, thinking this adventure would ruin any chance of meeting someone; and now it seemed it had done the opposite, it has brought us together.

We cuddled for the remainder of our time together, before I heard footsteps approaching our cell, and the dark realisation of where we were returned to us.

“Don’t watch, okay?” I pleaded.

She just placed her head to my chest and began to weep, knowing what was about to happen; very reluctantly I pushed Bunnie away and stood up in the middle of the cell, just as the door opened.
The guard was tall, and broad, and very muscular; I guessed he was taking steroids, which meant I was about to have a very bad time.

“Ready to spill your secrets?” The guard growled.

“That’s odd, the other guards said the same thing.” I teased.

He shut the door behind him and reached into his pocket, I gulped as he pulled out a pair of bronze knuckledusters and slipped them onto his fingers.

“The others are soft; I won’t be going so easy on you.” He said bluntly, his light Russian accent coming through.

“Good, I like a challenge.” I grinned.

The Russian chuckled as he approached me, clenching his fists.
The worst beating yet, was yet to come…

It wasn’t long before Bunnie was sobbing…

“I will give you credit; you are very resistant!” The Russian huffed, after finally growing tired.

“Cheers…” I groaned.

I lay there in a ball on the floor, my whole lower face caked in my own blood; I couldn’t see out of my right eye and my whole body was covered in bruises. Thankfully he hadn’t broken my nose, as he had mostly hurt my body, rather than hitting my head, as it would daze me and reduce the intensity of the pain.

“Hoyt chose you well to be his mole, not a word leaves your lips.” He panted.

“I’m surprised I still have lips!” I coughed, wheezing like a dog’s squeaky chew toy.

That being said, I practically had three lips now, due to one of his punches badly splitting my bottom lip against one of my teeth.
The Russian laughed, before helping me up to my feet.

“You are a traitor, but I respect your endurance; I doubt I will get any information out of you, so beating you further is worthless. Get some rest before I send in the next guard.” He ordered.

I was barely able to stand up straight, but gave him a thankful nod and shook his hand.

“And here I was thinking all Russians were cunts…”

“We are.” He replied, laughing.

I chuckled slightly, and instantly regretted it as my body was in sheer agony. He patted me on the shoulder and removed his knuckledusters, before leaving the cell and closing the door behind him.
The moment the lock clicked, Bunnie rushed over to me and burst into tears for the seventh time; I was too exhausted to calm her down and simply dropped to my knees, letting her sob into my shoulder while I recovered.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” She spluttered into my arm.

“Don’t be.” I murmured.

“But it’s my fau-”

“Not, it’s not your fault, stop putting yourself down like this BunBun; you aren’t in control of this situation, you’re trapped here and I’m putting myself through this to get you out. You aren’t responsible in any shape or form, I promise.” I interrupted her, gaining just enough strength to put an arm around her.

She pulled her head back and looked at me, and just began to cry more as she saw how much my right eye had swollen up.

“Instead of dehydrating yourself through your eyes, could you get me some more paper towels to clean up this blood?” I asked.

She wiped her eyes, but to no avail more tears kept flowing; but she did as I asked and went to grab more paper towels for me. I was able to clean up most of the blood, but my split lip refused to stop bleeding for a while.

“Damn this lip…” I muttered a few minutes later.

It was still bleeding, but not as much anymore; I looked to Bunnie and gave her a cheeky smile.

“Could you kiss it better?” I teased.

“Piss off, do I look like a vampire to you?” She replied.

“Worth a shot.” I sighed.

We both giggled for a little bit, when I heard footsteps once again and groaned.

“Round six, here we go.” I mumbled.

I licked my lips and then spat out a mouthful of blood, before standing up and preparing myself for my next beating. The cell door opened and the next guard closed the door behind him and approached me.

“So, you’re Hoyt’s mole, yes?” He asked.

“That’s me.” I replied.

“I expected someone older.” He hummed.

“Hoyt likes to employ the younger lads for his moles, makes them less obvious.” I replied.

“Is that so?”

He walked up to me and then reached into his pocket, at first I was expecting another set of knuckledusters, when instead he pulled out a bottle of water and gave it to me.

“Then how come you’ve been caught, and I haven’t?” He chuckled, giving me a wink.

{Mooooooolllee! Moley moley moley! Tasty guacaMOLE!} Conscio roared.

I sighed a breath of relief and drank the water hastily, not leaving a drop behind.

“Your face is a mess Bruce; didn’t you defend yourself?” He laughed.

“No, otherwise they’d have bound my hands.” I replied.

“Fair enough.” He muttered.

The mole turned to Bunnie and gave her a respectful nod.

“Young Bunnie, your beauty grows with each day, even in a place like this.” He said with a warm smile, passing her a second bottle of water.

He walked back over to me with a damp cloth and handed it to me.

“For your eye.” He offered.

“Thanks.” I exhaled, placing it against my eye.

The sense of relief of the cool cloth against my inflamed puffy eye was orgasmic, I let out a loud sigh as the swelling was soothed immensely. I also used it on my lip and thankfully the bleeding eventually stopped, I guess Hoyt’s men liked to take care of their own.

“So what do we do now?” I asked.

“Well, for now you’re going to have to stay put; but I’ll do my best to get you out of this cell, I can contact one of the other moles working with the Blood Family and get you transferred over there; if they know you betrayed Paulo, they’ll gladly take you on as one of their own.” He told me.

{HOLY SHIT THIS IS PERFECT!} Conscio squealed.

“That would be brilliant.” I replied.

“Excellent, give me a few days, and I’ll have you moved over there with all your gear.”

“Appreciated.” I breathed, still winded from my last beating.

I coughed a few times, which was incredibly painful on my stomach; I groaned and stretched a little to relax my muscles slightly.

“Paulo’s been talking about having you moved to his private chambers to torture you personally, do you think you’ll be able to escape from there when the time is right?” He asked.

“That should be no problem, I can be stealthy when I need to be.” I answered.

“Good, I’ll start preparations, get some rest before your next beating.” He ordered, turning to leave.

“Hey, I never got your name.” I spoke.

He turned back to face me, and took a little bow.

“Maxim Roff, one of Hoyt’s best agents, at your service.” He sang.

I shook his hand firmly and smirked.

“Good to have you on my side Maxim.” I smiled.

“Just call me Roffey, everyone else does.” He grinned, before leaving the cell and locking the door.

Bunnie waited a few seconds until his footsteps were out of earshot, before she came over to me and put her arms around me.

“So, what will you do now?” She asked.

“Go to Paulo, and continue playing as his fake mole, I’ll be infiltrated into the Blood Family, where I’ll destroy them from the inside.” I explained.

“So the beatings will stop now, right?” She said pleadingly.

“Hopefully.” I replied, sticking my tongue out.

She sighed a big breath of relief and hugged me tightly, causing me to yelp with pain.

“Sorry!” She squeaked.

“Bloody dork…” I tutted playfully.

I sank to my knees and we both cuddled up together for warmth and comfort while we waited for the next guard.

“It’s really bloody cold.” Bunnie mumbled into my neck, shivering.

“Well it is like, the end of December.” I replied.

“True…” She hummed.

“When I’m taken back to Paulo’s quarters, I’ll see if you can be put in my room with me; consider it a late Christmas present.” I told her, rubbing her arm to warm her up.

“That would be amazing…”

I gave her a kiss on the forehead and nuzzled her cheek, when I heard footsteps coming our way.

“I’ll see you soon, okay?” I assured her.

We kissed briefly before the door was opened and Paulo’s guardsman walked into the room, his fists already clenched and ready to start pummelling.

“Ready to spill?” He growled.

“Actually, yes! I am ready to confess, and give Paulo all the information he needs about Hoyt.” I announced.
He tilted his head on one side, puzzled.

“You heard me big boy, I’m going to confess my crimes.” I repeated, putting my arms out for him.

“This is a trick.” He growled.

“No, I genuinely want to tell Paulo everything he needs.”


“So he might show me mercy?” I suggested.

He hummed, before pulling out some handcuffs and putting my hands behind my back to restrain me.

“Take me to your leader!” I said loudly, causing Bunnie to giggle.

I turned to look at her with a great big grin.

“I’ve always wanted to say that…” I chuckled.

Paulo’s guard smacked me across the face to shut me up, before pushing me out of the cell door and out of the prison block. The first thing I saw, was a white blanket across the whole garden, the snow had grown thick; no wonder the cell block was so cold.

Oh jeez that’s cold!” I bleated as my bare foot took its first step outside.

“Walk.” The guard ordered.

“But it’s so cold!” I squealed reluctantly as he pushed me outside.

“Walk!” He shouted.

“Carry me?” I asked seductively, blowing him a kiss.

He punched me in the face, hard, again rupturing my split lip and causing a little bit of blood to spray onto the snow.

“Now look what you’ve done, you’ve made red snow! I’ve heard you shouldn’t eat that stuff, or was that yellow snow? I can never remember!” I giggled.

The guard grabbed my hair and lifted me up to my feet, causing me to yelp.

“You say anything else, I will cut your tongue open.” He growled.

“How polite.” I muttered, and continued on my way.

We reached Paulo’s office, and the doors were held open for us as I was pushed into the room.

“Do you have ANY idea how bad frostbite is!? I could end up losing both my feet if you’re not careful, you could at least supply your prisoners with socks, or perhaps some slippers! Seriously Paulo, do you have no soul?” I ranted, jumping up and down to warm my feet.

Paulo instantly burst into laughter and slapped his knee, he stood up and ordered his guards to leave. Everyone left the room, I noticed Maxim walk past and he gave me a subtle wink before leaving. Paulo took they handcuff key from the last guard and shut the door behind them, giving me and Paulo the room alone together.

“So, the little mole returns; what’s the news Bruce?” He asked, unlocking the cuffs.

I rubbed my wrists and took a stretch, before turning to Paulo.

“I need some clothes, and a damn drink, then I’ll tell you some fantastic news.” I told him.

He nodded and took me to his personal quarters, where I was given a pair of socks, some jeans, and a long-sleeved tee shirt.

“So, Bruce! Details, tell me what happened.” Paulo demanded, rubbing his hands together.

“Where’s my drink?” I replied bluntly.

Agh you are such a tease!” He growled loudly.

He went over to a chest of drawers with a cupboard on top, and opened it up to remove a bottle of Lamb’s Navy Rum, my newfound favourite. He took one of his fancy skull shaped shot glasses and poured my drink, and handed it to me and we walked over to the dinner table and sat down.

“Now Brucey, no more stalling, before I explode, what did you find out?” He asked, practically begging.

“Well, firstly, I’ve found your mole.” I started.

He instantly jumped out of his chair and punched the air with his fists.


“Sit down and grab your balls, because I’ve got something even better than that.” I said.

He was too excited to take any sort of offence and instantly sat back down in his chair, and literally grabbed his crotch, grinning like a monkey.

“Yes!?” He pleaded.

“I’ve found a way into the Blood Family, where I can kill every damn one of them…”

Chapter Nine - Of Muses, Misery, and Magic

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“So basically, if we keep the mole alive and unaware for now, I can hit two birds with one stone.” I concluded.

After telling Paulo everything I’d learned and my plan to use the mole to my advantage, he had basically fallen in love with me; he had begun to believe that with someone as resourceful as me at his side, he would be able to break free from Hoyt’s organisation and become the king of his own castle, so to speak.

“Bruce, have I ever told you that you British are a practical people?” He said teasingly.

“You might have done, once or twice.” I chuckled back.

We laughed for a bit and he patted me on the shoulder, before finishing his fourth shot.

“So, what do I do? I just keep you as a prisoner until he’s ready to sneak you over to the Blood Family?” He asked.

“Pretty much.” I answered.

“Well that’s easy, I will just kick out all my guards from my personal quarters and have you stay here in luxury and recover for a few days; you can eat more food and bulk out more, you’re looking thin.” He proposed, prodding my chest.

I dipped my head respectfully to show appreciation for his offer.

“Then it’s settled, Maxim will be allowed keep his head for a little while before he gets you into the Blood Family, while you stay here, eat my food, and drink my alcohol.” He spoke, pouring himself a fifth shot.

“Now that sounds like a good plan.” I announced, clinking my glass against his.

We both downed our shots in one gulp and then poured some more.

“So what can I provide for you my dear Bruce? You have suffered quite some pain over the past two days on my behalf, along with planning to single-handedly kill my rival gang; you are like a hero in my midst!
So tell me, is there anything I can provide?
Drugs? Whores? You name it, and it’s yours!” He boomed merrily.

I sipped my shot calmly, before looking him in the eye.

“I want Bunnie to stay with me, before I go to the Blood Family…”

He put down his glass and frowned.

“You mean to ask, if my traitor of a daughter can sleep in MY quarters!?” He barked, surprised.

“Only in my room, and not be allowed to leave.” I prompted.

His upper lip raised to slightly bare his teeth in annoyance.

“What makes you think that little shit deserves a comfortable place to stay in?” He asked rhetorically.

“She doesn’t, you’re right that she’s a traitor, but I’ve taken a liking to the girl; the nights are very cold and I want her to warm my bed.”

“You mean to suck your cock?” He teased.

“That too.”

{Ha!} Conscio shouted.

Paulo sat there in his chair and thought to himself, prodding the eye sockets on his skull shot glass; he picked it up and finished his rum, and growled loudly.

“Bah! Fine! You can have the girl until you leave, but when you’re gone she goes right back in a cell.” He spat.

I raised my glass and nodded.

“Thank you, I am very grateful for your generosity.” I said warmly.

“Oh pull your tongue out of my asshole; just make sure that every member of the Blood Family is dead when you return, alright?” He ordered.

“Yes sir.” I answered respectfully.

He stood up and stretched, before letting out a large yawn.

“It’s three days until the new year, so spend the last of twenty-fourteen relaxing boy, go to your room and take a breather; I’ll have Bunnie sent to you in an hour or two.” He commanded.

I stood up and finished my shot, before shaking his hand.


“Not a problem, you’ve earned a break. I’ll send Dijla to your room when dinner is ready.”

Paulo took a little bow, before waltzing off to his room, full of glee and joy. I let out a long sigh and sniffed, and then made my way to my own bedroom.

On my bed, was my mobile phone; I guessed Paulo had been generous enough to take that from the chest and give it back to me, I ignored it for the time being and belly flopped onto my bed, moaning with delight as the mattress and bed covers swallowed me up.
After about twenty minutes of enjoying the bed’s softness, I felt a deep surge of negative emotion and stopped rolling around.

“Great.” I muttered.

{Oh boy, another hit from our good old friend, depression.} Conscio said sarcastically.

I lay on my back and desperately tried to cling on to the good emotions, but slowly they slipped away. I hated these moments, it was worse torture than Inigo’s. Everything good in the world ceased to exist, and I didn’t see any joy in the world.

{Why don’t you check your phone, see if there’s any word from Twilight?} Conscio suggested.

My eyes slowly rolled to look at the phone, and I intended to reach over and grab it, only to lay motionless. Why this had hit me so hard was beyond me, my depression drops had practically disappeared since my quest began with the ponies.
Why now?
It was incredible how a life of adventure and thrills could suddenly become so meaningless.
Depression is truly one of the worst inflictions the human brain can suffer.
It takes one to a place beyond sadness, beyond the point of crying.
To a place where all negative emotions are blurred together into a giant black cloud.
Sadness is non-existent.
In its place comes an emotion that can only be described as painless agony.
The body begins to feel so unbelievably heavy, all emotional and physical energy is sapped away until all motivation to perform any basic task has all but evaporated.
It felt like being trapped in quicksand.
The more I struggled, the deeper I sank.

{Dude I’m not sure if you’re feeling this, but it’s getting VERY warm.}

“Hm?” I mumbled.

I felt no different, in fact, I barely felt anything; I stared at my phone and ignored the goings on in the world.

{Callum I’m being serious, something’s not right here.} Connie spoke loudly.

I had often talked to myself before my adventure, but Conscio hadn’t ever been this sentient since my encounter with the first orb shard, the fact my very own conscience had his own thoughts, feelings, and opinions was interesting, to say the least. I had always known him to be quiet and calm, the fact he was getting scared at this point was clearly a sign of something dangerous; alas, I still couldn’t move.


{CALLUM LOOK AT YOUR FUCKING ARM!} Conscio yelled as loud as he could.

I had just enough energy to tilt my head and look at my wrist, to find my veins were glowing green, and my hand was twitching uncontrollably.

{It’s the fel!}

I didn’t know what to do, I was able to sit upright and hold my wrist with my other hand, to find my other arm had glowing veins as well.

“Conscio, I think we’re fucked.” I muttered dully.

{Callum please, don’t let the depression stop us now, PLEASE get help!}

“What’s the point?” I sighed.

I lay back down on my bed and merely observed the veins as they convulsed and pulsated with glowing green blood. This was definitely the Fel, the magic that fed on life; yet it seemed, other than the colour of my veins, it was doing no damage to me, I felt no pain at all.

{Callum I’m freaking out here! The Fel is in us! It’s going to corrupt our mind and drive us against the ponies!} Conscio screamed.


I felt no change in me at all, I didn’t feel evil, or angry.
I just felt depression…

{What if you turn on Bunnie!? You could hurt her!} Connie yelled.

That’s what gave me some slight motivation; I let out a very long sigh and sat up again.

“What do you want me to do?” I muttered.

With one thumb I massaged the wrist and watched my wrist’s vein pulsate brighter in response for a moment, it appeared as if the Fel was dormant, or unresponsive to my body.

{Get your phone, use the body scanner, and find out what the FUCKING HELL IS GOING ON!}

I obeyed Conscio for once, and slowly picked up the phone and unlocked it, before going to the biometric body scanner. The app loaded up, and began to scan my body.

“Why are we still going Connie? Nah’Lek’s just going to kill us later on anyway.” I grumbled.

{Shut up, and snap out of this mood! We CAN’T let the depression stop us at a time like this!} He replied angrily.

“Well, it has, so there.” I groaned.

The phone vibrated and I looked at the screen to see something very odd indeed; the application had detected the Fel in my body as a threat, as it was flashing orange, but next to it was the word ‘negated’ in bold text.

“What?” We both said together.

I stared at the phone, somewhat able to gain some energy from the surprise.

{We’re… We’re immune?}

“That’s impossible, the Fel corrupts everything.”

I scrolled down a little through the app to see if my mind was being corrupted; only for my jaw to fall open at the reason for the immunity.

“Please tell me you’re seeing this?”

{Oh I see it…}

The Fel was being cancelled out by the very thing that made my life a misery.

Depression granted immunity to the Fel.

“How…?” I breathed.

{The Fel corrupts the mind, right? Perhaps the Fel thinks we’re ALREADY corrupted?} Conscio suggested.

“That would make sense.” I muttered.

{Maybe that’s why we’re suddenly feeling so depressed? It’s flared up to counteract the Fel?}

“That makes perfect sense now.” I hummed, trying to lighten up.

I sat there and watched the glowing veins and allowed myself to feel utterly miserable while the depression within my mind slowly caused the Fel to die out.

After a few minutes, the glowing began to fade, and the Fel soon ceased to exist.

A little while after that, my mood began to improve, and I was soon feeling absolutely fine again.

“Well, that was a terrifyingly strange encounter.” I muttered.

{So eventful, and all for a piece of slightly important information; this was probably just a load of filler text to hit that five-thousand word-count, and a chance for a new fancy picture.} Conscio muttered.



“I literally have no idea what you just said.” I said curiously.

{Never mind, I think I’m a bit distorted, that’s all.}

I hummed and closed the BioMetric Scanner app, to find I had a text from Twilight.

“Finally.” I sighed.

I opened the text.

[Change of plan, we’re coming to you, the group refuse to go further without finding you first.
What is your situation?]

Well, well, well, looks like the others had caught onto the fact Twilight had been up to something; hopefully I’d be able to make an escape with the ponies once I’d rescued Bunnie and Dijla; I typed out a reply.

[Laying low for a few days, before moving to a different gang to complete some tasks, my life is currently on the line here, so I need about two weeks to get out of this situation.
Tell the group that I’m okay and that I want them to keep heading to the orb shard.]

After the phone confirmed the text had been sent, I put the phone down and clenched my left fist, stroking my wrist with my right hand; the Fel left no trace and had been completely wiped from my system, I assumed it was merely essence of the Fel, in attempt to play with my mind and corrupt me; Nah’Lek certainly had a trick or two up his sleeve.

An hour later, I heard a knocking at my door.

“Who is it?” I asked loudly.

“A gift.” A Russian voice spoke.

I took Krocsbane from its sheath and approached the door; I slowly turned the handle and opened the door slightly, the same Russian guard who had beaten me was stood in front of the door, holding Bunnie by her hair. After sighing a breath of relief, I opened the door and put Krocsbane down; Bunnie was pushed into the room and the guard dipped his head.

“Paulo told me what’s going on, as he trusts me more than the other guards; again, you earn my respect. Hopefully you’ll forgive the beating?” He told me.

“Don’t worry about it, you were doing your job.” I replied.

He nodded and walked off, once he was out of earshot I closed the door and turned to Bunnie, who was face down lying on the bed. I came and sat beside her, and placed an arm on her back.

“You okay there?” I teased.

“Mmmmmmmmmmfffpphhh…” She moaned.

“Interesting, care to say that in English?” I grinned.

She rolled over with a face of pure ecstasy.

“Haven’t… Had a bed… In seven months…” She groaned.

“Bless you…” I hummed and lay on my side, facing her.

“How did you get Paulo to agree to this?” She quizzed, her eyebrows upraised.

“I’m good at bargaining.” I replied, giving her a wink.

“C’mon, tell me.”

“With a dollop, of fairy dust.”


“Fine! I ripped a tag off a mattress.”

At that, Bunnie burst into laughter; by the gods, she had a beautiful laugh…
After she calmed down, we made eye contact for a good few seconds and both began to blush. I placed a hand on her cheek and smiled warmly, to which she also began smiling like an idiot. I was just leaning in for a kiss when there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” I asked loudly.


At this, Bunnie’s eyes widened and she pushed me aside, almost sending me off the bed.

“MUM!?” She squealed.

BUNNIE!?” Dijla cried out.

The door burst open, and as they saw one another they both burst into tears and dived into one another’s arms, they hugged and wept as they were finally reunited. It brought a tear to my eye as I sat on the bed and watched them let out all their emotions.

“Oh my little girl… Oh Bunnie… Oh my sweet baby Bunnie…” Dijla sobbed.

Bunnie couldn’t even speak, she just wept and wept into her mother’s chest while Dijla cuddled her child.

“Oh Bunnie… It’s okay… It’s okay I’ve got you…”

Bunnie wept, and wept, and wept. The poor girl was good at playing the strong character, but deep down she needed her mum, and she finally found her again.
I’ll admit I was a tad envious, I wished my mum had cared about me on this level.
Eventually after a good few minutes, Dijla turned to look at me and let go of Bunnie before coming over and giving me a tight hug, causing slight pain to my bruises.

“Thank you… Thank you so much…” She whispered, still crying.

I hugged her back and rested my cheek against hers. She let go and gave Bunnie one last hug, before turning to me and sighing.

“Dinner is ready and Paulo wishes for you to dine with us.” She muttered.

I nodded and turned to Bunnie.

“I’m sure you know, but you’re not allowed to leave this room.”

“Figures…” She muttered.

I went over to my earlier clothing on the chair and took the Hershey’s chocolate out of the shorts, I placed it on the bed and looked to Bunnie.

“Savour it.” I teased, winking at her.

“Where’d you get that!?” She squeaked.

“Daddy-o.” I joked.

“Fuck you.”

“Later, not while your mum’s watching.”

Bunnie’s face dulled while Dijla and I burst into laughter; Bunnie eventually laughed as well and I gave her a tight cuddle, and kissed her on the cheek.

“I’ll be back soon.” I spoke softly.

She held my hand and gave me one quick kiss, before sitting on the bed while Dijla and I left the room and closed the door. We walked away and headed towards the dining room.

“I honestly can’t thank you enough…” Dijla started.

“You don’t need to; I’m just doing the right thing.” I replied.

“You’re risking your life for us, that is more than just the right thing.” She continued.

“I guess…” I mumbled.

We went quiet as we came towards the dining room as we didn’t want Paulo to assume we liked each other, Dijla entered the room first while I waited just outside until she’d greeted Paulo and then left to the kitchen. Once she was gone, I walked into the room and was instantly greeted with Paulo’s dramatic antics.

“Brucey! My beloved mole! Get over hear and pour yourself a drink!” He sang.

I waltzed over to him and gave his outstretched hand a high five as I went past him and grabbed a shot glass from his drawer and my newfound favourite rum.
I then sat down opposite Paulo and smiled at the thought of another big meal.

“So what’s on the menu today?” I asked.

“Roast, lots and lots of roast, my boy!” He replied merrily.

I licked my lips at the thought of a proper roast, I hadn’t had one since my last Christmas back at home.

“So, my little shit for a daughter; I assume you’ve broken her in?” Paulo quizzed.

I almost choked on my rum at the sudden question.

“No, not yet.” I replied.

“Why not? She’s your whore for the time being, I don’t care!” He laughed.

This bastard truly didn’t care for Bunnie in the slightest, it disgusted me that a man could hate his own innocent daughter this much; even for a psychotic drug lord, I was taken aback at his cruelty to his own flesh and blood. Another thing that really got to me, was the constant implication of “fucking” Bunnie, Paulo’s view on sex horrified me, it’s meant to be something meaningful and passionate, not some dirty act that’s over in seconds.

{Well, in your case, it's over in seconds…}


{Worth it.}

If I were lucky enough to sleep with Bunnie, I’d want it to be right, and loving. Not to mention I’d be absolutely terrified as I was still a virgin; my first time would absolutely be something special and meaningful.
Paulo’s disgusting remarks really unsettled me.

My right hand clenched into a fist under the table, but I kept my cool.

“Well, I don’t want to end up knocking her up.” I replied, trying not to show my anger or disgust.

“Ha! She’d make a great single mother wouldn’t you think? Alas, you don’t have to worry about that my dear boy, the girl is infertile, so use her as you please.” He told me, chuckling.

“What?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“Yeah, before she escaped to England, Dijla begged for her to be sterilised so she didn’t fall pregnant with any of my men’s children; she knew, even then, that our daughter would attract all the men when she grew up.
So out of the kindness in my heart, I agreed to Dijla’s request.
I found one of the finest doctors in Portugal and had her ovaries removed.
Shows my compassion, doesn’t it Bruce?”

Both my fists clenched, and I almost flipped the table; it took everything in me not to dive across the table and kill him right there and then…

“Absolutely, you did her a great kindness.” I said, forcing myself to smile.

“I’m glad you agree. Now, tell me Bruce, how are you going to kill the Blood Family when the time comes?”

I pondered on Paulo’s question for a while, as I was still trying to figure out a plan.

{Jeez, you’re slow. I’ve already formulated a plan.} Conscio gloated.

It took a lot of energy not to roll my eyes at my sentient conscience before telling Paulo the plan.

“Well, I’m going to warm up to them a little bit, and get familiar with their compound; I’ll map out the place inside and out, and find a nice spot to place bodies without being detected.
I’ll then wait around that area when night comes, posing as a guard on duty, and will just kill guards one by one as they patrol that area, and stash the bodies in the one room so they aren’t found.
Once I’ve killed all the night guards, I’ll find the sleeping quarters and kill everyone in their sleep.
I’ll take out the whole building without anyone even realising.
All I’d have to do from there is grab a gun and take out the few guards outside the compound, and that’s the entire gang slaughtered in one night.”

Paulo looked at me for a few seconds, before inhaling deeply.

“Bruce…” He started.

I waited for him to lick his bottom lip, and then itch his moustache.

“I really fucking like you.”

We both laughed and reached across the table to clink our shot glasses together, before downing our shots.

At that moment, Dijla came back into the room with a large tray, along with four other slave girls behind her also carrying trays. They placed the trays on the dining table and I was instantly hit with the strong smell and the glorious sight of various items; gravy, pork, potatoes, carrots, turkey, beef, onion sauce, and so many more things.
My mouth began to salivate so much I almost drooled.

“With food so fine, perhaps you’d like a finer drink? Some wine perhaps?” Paulo offered.

I decided to go with something classier than rum and happily accepted his offer, he clapped his hands and one of the slave girls went off into another room, she swiftly came back with a wine glass and a bottle of red; she opened the bottle and poured my wine for me, before placing it in front of me and leaving the room.

Dijla sat down next to Paulo, which was when he grabbed her shoulders and kissed her forcefully; I briefly frowned and took a sip from my wine, which happened to be extremely delicious.
Paulo picked up his plate and began to serve himself some food, and I did the same; I was absolutely starving after that cold night in the prison cell, I could only imagine how hungry Bunnie was; I hoped the chocolate bar would suffice for the time being.
I served myself a portion of everything on offer, besides the Brussel Sprouts, because everyone knows they’re the most disgusting thing on the face of the Earth; after topping it all with some thick gravy, I sat back, picked up my knife and fork, and took my first bite.

The flavour of the pork and gravy together flooded my mouth and it almost caused a moan of ecstasy; which was almost followed by watery eyes, as I looked back on my last Christmas with my dad; he used to make the best roast pork, the crackling was perfectly crispy but not too oily, and the flavour was just to die for.
I missed him, a lot; if I ever survived this quest with the ponies I’d go and look for him, and try to rebuild what we used to have. Perhaps introduce him to Bunnie and Dijla once I’d secured their freedom here.

“You okay boy? You look like you’ve just creamed your pants.” Paulo laughed with a mouth full of carrot.

“I’m good thanks, it’s just been a long time since I’ve eaten a roast.” I replied.

He nodded and continued eating, and I did the same, this time dipping some turkey into the onion sauce and taking a big bite; I then took another sip from my wine and let the flavours combine.
Needless to say, it was a fantastic dinner; and thankfully it had soaked up the alcohol from the rum, as I was feeling a little lightheaded beforehand. I served myself a second plate once I’d eaten my first, and ate until I was almost full, not wanting to completely gorge myself.

After about half an hour of eating, drinking, and chatting with Paulo, I decided to push my plate further away and declare I was finished; Paulo did the same, but announced his sufficiency with a loud belch. I raised an eyebrow and he laughed, before swigging another shot of rum, while I finished my second glass of wine.

“So, dessert?” He offered.

“To be honest, I’m a little bit full.” I told him, letting out a very quiet burp of my own.

He respectfully dipped his head in understanding, before flicking a leftover Brussel Sprout at Dijla and chuckling, he then ordered her to take away the dishes. Once she’d left the room he yawned and took a big stretch.

“Women… They truly are strange creatures aren’t they?” He said, scratching his chin.

“Truly.” I agreed, chuckling.

“I assume you wish to go to yours now?”

“You read my mind, Paulo.” I admitted.

He laughed and stood up from the table, I did the same and gave a small stretch, my back still stiff. I looked at the remaining food items on the table and thought of how hungry Bunnie must have been, with or without the chocolate.

“Say, Paulo?”

“Yes boy?”

“Could I take a few bits of food back to my room to snack on later?” I asked.

“You mean to feed Bunnie?” He pointed out dully.

I remained silent, and inhaled through my nose.

“If you’re going to be my future right hand man, you need to not fucking lie to me.
You really have taken a liking to my daughter, ey?
While I hate the bitch, you are doing me the biggest favour in the world by ridding me of the Blood Family and Hoyt’s mole; for this, I have a lot of respect and admiration for you. So yes, you may take some food to feed my traitorous cum stain.
But she will never be a free girl, you understand Bruce? She WILL stay as a slave, your slave.” He ordered.

I dipped my head and gave him a small bow.

“Thank you Paulo, I appreciate it.”

“Yes, yes; just take some food and leave, I’m bored and wish to abuse Dijla.” He grumbled, hiccupping.

He was clearly drunk from his rum, and his cruelty filled me with hatred; that considered, I was genuinely grateful for him allowing me to bring some food for Bunnie. It also filled me with confidence that my cover and identity was still truly undetected, meaning I could very easily assassinate him when the time arose.
I took a plate and supplied it with a slice of beef, two potatoes, some carrots, and a little bit of turkey, all topped with a little gravy.

“Looks like she’s getting both ends stuffed tonight, ey Bruce?” Paulo teased as I finished pouring the gravy.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at that remark, and gave Paulo a wink. He came across the table and patted my shoulder, and wished me a good night, before leaving the room. I also left, and made my way back to my bedroom.

*knock, knock, knock*

“Who’s there?” Bunnie’s nervous voice asked.

“Santa Claus, now open the door you filthy ho, ho, hoe.” I replied.

The sound of Bunnie’s sudden burst of laughter filled my heart with joy, she opened the door and instantly stared intensely at the plate of roast dinner.

“It’s still warm, just.” I said kindly.

She took the plate and placed it on the bedside table, before grabbing me by the collar and kissing me passionately.

“I fucking love you.” She said loudly.

My reply was a large grin, and I closed the door behind me while she picked the plate back up and began to tuck into her first hot meal in months; I couldn’t help but get emotional when I spotted a tear roll down her cheek.
I sat back and happily watched Bunnie engulf her dinner, not leaving a single scrap; she even licked the plate to get every drop of gravy, the girl was truly starving, bless her…

“I needed that, more than you know.” She breathed.

“Oh trust me, I know.” I replied.

I thought back on my time in Inigo’s compound, and how I was starved for weeks; only fed once a day on tiny amounts of poorly cooked rice and cold chicken skin. I really felt for Bunnie, and was so happy I could bring her a proper, decent meal for once.
She gave me a tight hug and put the plate on the bedside table, before giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“You missed.” I teased.

“That’s my line.” She growled.

“I didn’t see the copyright logo.” I retorted.

“It’s right there.” She said.

“Where?” I asked.

She responded by wrapping her arms around my neck and planting her lips against mine, I put my arms around her body and flopped onto my back; she lay on top of me and we continued to kiss for a while, before she paused.

“You okay?” I asked.

“More than okay.” She replied, smiling warmly.

Without warning she took off her shirt, leaving her with just a vest and a bra. I gulped nervously and turned bright red, before taking off my tee shirt in return.

“Whoa, I keep forgetting how big that scar is.” She gasped, placing a hand on the gigantic gash across my left pec.

“Courtesy of Iniog Montenegro.” I replied.

“The Bogeyman of Brazil…” She muttered.

“Couldn’t kill me.” I gloated with a wink.

She stroked the scar a few times, before looking into my eyes.

“You’re amazing.”

“Nah, I’m just a guy who doesn’t like bullies.” I replied.

At that, Bunnie scoffed loudly and gave me a playful slap on the forehead.

“Callum, you’re a hero…” She breathed.

That word…

It filled me with confidence, and power, and self-worth; Bunnie made me feel good about myself for once, and it felt absolutely amazing. God I loved her…
I leant forward to kiss her, but just as my lips were about to reach hers, I froze.
I froze like a block of ice as a sudden realisation ran through my mind.

“Callum?” Bunnie breathed, her warm breath lightly brushing my lips.

I looked her in the eyes and placed my hands on each side of her chest, underneath her arms.

“Bunnie, I really do love you.” I murmured.

As she stared into my eyes, which were anxiously darting left to right, she knew exactly what I was thinking.

“Yes…” She whispered.

No more words were needed and our lips met once again, and things grew more and more passionate.

{OwO, what’s this bulge?} Conscio joked.

{Please dude, privacy.} I thought back, just as Bunnie’s tongue decided to wrestle with mine.

My conscience, while annoying, respected that this moment would mean a lot to me, and kindly went quiet and sank into the background of my mind, allowing me to give all my focus on Bunnie.

My hands began to wander and found themselves in places I’d never expected them to find, to say the least; but nothing immature or dirty went through my mind, and in the moment, I only felt love for Bunnie.
As things progressed, our clothing found its way onto the floor as we undressed each other.

“I love you so much…” Bunnie breathed.

I held her tightly, and stared into her eyes as we reached the point of no return.

“Make me yours…” I moaned.

And thus… Love consumed us both…
And thus love, was made…

Chapter Ten - Cloak and Dagger

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I woke relatively early, the sun shone through a gap in the curtain and warmly illuminated the room. I yawned and looked to my right; Bunnie slept softly, my arm around her. The cold of winter was nowhere to be found over the blissful night, and so our bed covers only came to our waists. I gazed upon Bunnie’s naked body, and lightly caressed her cheek with a finger.

{She sure is beautiful…} Conscio murmured.

I smiled in agreement, and looked at her face; she was so calm, so happy, even in her sleep. Losing our virginities to one another couldn’t have been more perfect, it was almost like it had been a dream; it had been too perfect.
Most stories about losing one’s virginity are often awkward, and involves someone saying something stupid, or someone putting something in the wrong hole.

But with Bunnie?
No. It was simply perfect.

My eyes left her beautiful face, and began to wander to her neck, and her collarbones; every curve and shape on her body was sublime. I soon found myself looking at her breasts; while I was obviously captivated by them due to my teenage, mid-puberty self, I also found them to be lovely in a non-sexual way; I thought about children and nature, and how her body captivated the true wonder and beauty in the world.
Bunnie was just perfect…

I looked up, and almost shat myself, for Bunnie’s eyes were open, and looking into mine; I jolted and very quickly turned red from embarrassment.

“Enjoying the view?” She sleepily muttered with a smirk.

“Sorry, I was just looking at you, and my eyes wandered, and-”

“Calm down, it’s fine Callie; I don’t mind.” She giggled.

I tilted my head on one side and looked at her blankly.

“Callie, really?” I grumbled at the new nickname.

“Well it’s either Callie, or Big Dumb Goofball Who Loves My Boobs.” Bunnie retorted.

I stuck my tongue out at her and gave her a small raspberry, and she playfully did the same. I then flopped back down next to her and gave her a morning kiss. She stretched and rolled onto her front, placing a hand on my bare chest, making small circles on my collarbone with her finger.

“So… Last night was… Um…”

“Perfect?” I finished for her.

“Perfect…” She agreed.

I looked her in the eye, and placed a hand on her waist.

“One day, we’re going to live together, happily.” I told her.

“I’d like that…” She sighed.

“And it will happen; I’m going to rescue you, and you’re going back to England, back to Burgess Hill with your mum. Then one day, I will find my way back to you.” I assured her.

“You’re not coming with me?”

I sighed, it was time I broke the news.

“I’m afraid not, I’m on a very important journey; I’ve postponed it to get you out of here, but once you’re free and safe, I must continue.” I explained to her.

“Can’t I’m come with you?”

“No, you need to go home with your mum.”

Bunnie sat up and faced me properly, wanting to know more.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know, it’s a rather complex journey.”

“Please Callum, you can’t leave me, I wouldn’t be able to get through this without you.”

I too, sat up and took my phone from the bedside table and gave it to Bunnie.

“Look at this phone, the technology is more advanced than any phone in existence right now.” I showed her.

She tried to swipe to unlock the device, and it instantly denied her access.

“Biometrics, it’s only accessible by my DNA.” I explained.

She stared at the device intensely, taken aback by the upgrades Twilight had been able to install; I went to the toolbar and selected the build in taser, and pointed it at the curtain, before tapping the fire button.
The phone made two high pitched noises, before and arc of purple electricity shot from the device and struck the curtain, causing a few sparks to fly out, causing Bunnie to jump in shock.
She was speechless, she realised that if I was in possession of this device, it was very important business. I put the phone back onto the bedside table and took Bunnie’s hands in my own.

“Bunnie, I have to do this; I’m not allowed to tell you because it could put you in mortal danger, but it’s more important than you could possibly imagine, countless lives rest on the outcome of my journey.”

I released one of her hands and put it against Bunnie’s cheek.

“But I swear by every god in existence, I will come and find you after my quest is complete. I will come to Burgess Hill and boom-box Careless Whisper right outside your window, on maximum volume.”

“Do you promise?”

“Cross my heart, and hope to fly; stick a cupcake, in my eye.”

Bunnie sighed a breath of relief and leaned forward to kiss me, before pushing me onto my back and straddling me, she sat on my belly and placed both hands over my belly button, almost causing me to giggle as I was very ticklish there.

“Well, for now, you’ve been ordered to relax by my asshole of a father.
And seeing as you’re now my lover, I want to help with that…” She whispered warmly.

She bit her bottom lip, before leaning forward to kiss me passionately; it wasn’t long before we were making out.

{Round two?} Conscio suggested.
{Round two.} I thought back in agreement.

We were already naked as we hadn’t bothered to put clothes back on last night, so there wasn’t much hard work or persuasion before the morning began with some sweet, sweet lovemaking…

Three Days Later
Eleven O’clock in the Evening

“Now THIS is a New Year’s feast!” Paulo yelled, after taking a tenth shot of rum.

We had been eating and drinking for the past three hours, enjoying the banquet that had been cooked to celebrate the new year, I had spent the morning with Bunnie and had a little romantic time; but for the late afternoon and now evening, I was enjoying the first day of Two-Thousand and Sixteen with Paulo, just to keep my cover nice and smooth.
We’d eaten plenty of roast dinner, and a lot of desserts, along with a few bottles of wine; needless to say, I was pretty drunk.

“You know, I always thought you British were arrogant shits with crooked, yellow teeth!
But you… *hic*
You’re alright Bruce! You’re alright!” Paulo sang merrily.

I came around the table and gave him a hug.

“You’re the best Paulo… You invited me into your home, and are sharing all your food and drink with me, and I don’t have to pay for any of it! You’re just the best…” I said happily, full of mirth.

“Bah! You’re killing the Blood Family! That’s payment enough in my eyes to earn a life’s keep with me, at my side, all the time; I’ll even let Bunnie stay in that room with you, the whole time!” He replied merrily.

I hiccupped, before shaking his hand.

“You’re so bloody brilliant…” I sighed.

Even in my drunken state, I knew deep down how evil Paulo was, but decided to take this opportunity to bond with him as much as I could; the more he liked me, the better chance I had at killing him later on.
This being said, being a boy of seventeen and under the influence of alcohol, I was open to manipulation, and a small part of me genuinely liked him at this point.

“So!” Paulo shouted, clapping his hands together.

He poured me a glass of wine, and one for himself.

“Tell me the story of Brazil, tell me about the monster they call Callum fucking Horncastle!
Back when I went to visit Inigo a few months ago, the business was BOOMING, and he’d captured these strange talking horses, all of different colours; Inigo was convinced they were aliens. I came to see them, and was amazed by them, but they refused to talk much; and the yellow one just cried the whole time!
The next thing I know, a mere boy causes an uprising and destroys the entire compound.
To make things worse, at the harbour, some cunt knocked me out and stole my speedboat, I had to wait for my men to arrive with a different one and take me back home.
So tell me what happened inside Inigo’s Compound, Bruce! How did my best friend die?”

My eyes widened momentarily, as did Dijla’s, whom was sitting behind Paulo and merely observing the festive event; I had to think on the spot, but thankfully I had thought out a basic story in case he had asked this very question.

“Oh bloody hell, it was chaos Paulo…
I was in Inigo’s quarters, we were both teasing Vladimir, when suddenly we heard gunshots.
Once I had my gun, I went to the Stock Heap to find all the slaves rioting, slaughtering our men, the Militia Unit fell apart and was eaten away in seconds.
I killed many slaves, at least a hundred, but I ran out of ammo and left, locking the main door.
With nothing but my knife, I continued to kill the other slaves that had found other ways into the main compound, we were overrun but I didn’t stop fighting.
And all the while, the slaves chanted the name… Callum! Callum! Callum!
And then I saw him…
The boy, just a little younger than myself; tearing into our guards like a hot knife through butter.
He moved so quick and so fast, I've never seen a fighter so skilled in all my life.
He soon left the fight, and looked for Inigo, and I followed him.
Vladimir was able to seize Callum, and dislocated his arm; but with his other arm, he was able to pull out a knife and stab Vlad in the throat, he died in mere seconds. And then Inigo came, after seeing he’d killed Vladimir, he took his own knife and challenged Callum, and they fought; I was about to run in and help him when I heard slaves coming from behind me, I knew Inigo would never be able to handle them all at once, and so I went back and killed them.
I came back to find Callum had stabbed Inigo in the chest, and growled these words.
My name is Callum Horncastle… And this is the last face you will ever see…
And then Inigo fell to the ground, dead.
I was going to run in and avenge him, but Callum was able to pick up a gun; he’d have shot me down easily if I attacked him; there was nothing I could do Paulo… I’m sorry…”

My story, however fake, seemed to have captivated Paulo; he truly believed it, and was full of emotion.

{I think you milked it a little bit.} Conscio teased.

{Perhaps…} I thought back with amusement.

Paulo took my hand, and held it firmly.

“You fought bravely, and did your best; you don’t need to apologise.” He sniffed.

He looked to the ceiling and blinked rapidly to stop any tears leaving his eyes, before finishing his glass of wine.

“Bruce, you are a fantastic human being. Yet you are so young, with no family.
I want you to live with me, in my quarters, for ever.” He offered.

I dipped my head and smiled.

“I would love that.”

“Then you shall. Say, I never asked, how old are you, Bruce?” He quizzed.


“Your birthday?”

“Ninth of January.”

At that, Paulo stood up.

“That’s nine days from now! I must get you a present!” He laughed, before pouring us more drink.

He hiccupped and almost dropped the wine bottle, once it was empty, he threw it across the room and it smashed into little pieces all over the floor.

“Dijla, clean.” He growled.

Bunnie’s mother reluctantly obeyed and went to find a dustpan and brush.
Paulo clinked his glass against mine, before we both drank.

“I’m getting pretty sleepy.” I mumbled.

“Likewise, my friend.” He admitted, burping.

I put a hand on his shoulder, and bid him a good night, before downing my wine and heading off to bed.

I knocked on the door, and walked in to find Bunnie eating some bread that Dijla had secretly given her.

“Hey you.” Bunnie said with a smile.

“Heya BunBun.” I said merrily.

“Good party?”

“Lush.” I grinned.

“You’re drunk aren’t you?”


Bunnie giggled, before pulling me onto the bed and kissing me.

“Red wine?” She guessed, licking her lips.

“Only the finest.” I replied.

I undressed and hopped into bed, and Bunnie joined me; and before long, I was asleep, as was she...

Days passed, and Bunnie and I only grew deeper and deeper in love; along with my strength coming back to me; my long walk through Portugal before finding Bunnie had truly sapped away at my strength, regardless of my broad shoulders I had become extremely thin before eating daily banquets with Paulo, I was now back to my normal self.
It was the middle of the night, when there was a light knocking on my door; after all I’d been through, I was very quick to bolt upright in bed and reach for my knife. Bunnie woke with a start and sat up as well.

“Who’s there?” She whispered to me.

“I don’t know.” I muttered back.

The knocking continued, and I stood up and went to open the door.

“Who’s there?” I asked aloud.


I turned to Bunnie and she realised I was going to leave; I quickly put on my Militia gear, using only the moonlight to find my things, and then put my phone, Krocsbane, and my Karambit knife into my pockets.
I held Bunnie in my arms for a small moment, before giving her a passionate kiss.

“Until next time, my love…” I whispered.

“Be safe…” She said shakily.

I opened the door and to find Maxim looking around cautiously.

“You ready?” He asked me.

“Always.” I replied, smirking.

We made our way down the hallways and out of Paulo’s quarters, into the main part of the compound; from there we entered the courtyard. The whole area was coated in a blanket of snow, untouched and glimmering in the moonlight, it was absolutely stunning.

Maxim escorted me to a wall at the back of the courtyard, where some boxes had been piled up.

“Climb up and get over the wall, then make your way down to the road; you’ll find a blue car, the driver works with the Blood Family and speaks English, just tell him you’re working with me and he’ll take you to the Blood Family’s base, look for a guy called Rahim, he’s Hoyt’s other mole.” He instructed me.

I carefully got onto the boxes and then looked back to Maxim.

“Thanks man.” I nodded my head.

“When working under cover, you need as much help as you can get.” Maxim replied.

I nodded a second time and then clambered over the wall and landed on the rocky slope; thankfully I didn’t slip and was able to make my way down to the road, where there was indeed a car waiting for me.
I approached the vehicle and the driver got out and came to greet me.

“You Maxim’s guy?” He asked in a very thick Polish accent.

“Yeah, take me to the base.” I answered, shaking his hand.

I hopped into the passenger’s seat and the driver went around the car and got into the driver’s seat; he started up the engine and we were soon on route to the Blood Family.

I slammed the car door shut, and tightened the strap on my UMP; the submachine gun sat comfortably at my waist and didn’t shake around much as I had folded in the gun's retractable stock.

“Don’t put your hands on that gun for a while, or the Blood Family will shoot you to pieces, you need to earn their trust first.” The driver warned me.

I nodded and followed him as we approached a large gate, above were two watchmen who watched me like hawks; their rifles shining in the moonlight. As the door opened, the town revealed itself to be something completely unexpected; it was the middle of the night and yet the town was alive, traders on the street selling food and weapons alike, while guardsmen patrolled the area making sure all was fine. Almost every building had light leaving the windows, and the sound of chatter was all around.

“The Blood Family does not sleep my friend, we trade and patrol all around the clock.” The driver told me.

We continued through the town and passed along mostly unnoticed, I got a few concerned looks from guards as they saw my Militia clothing from Paulo’s gang, but no comment was made until we got to a courthouse.

“Pare!” A guard growled as he approached me.

“Ele está comigo.” The driver spoke, putting a hand on my shoulder.

I dipped my head to the guard, who frowned and opened the door, granting us entry.

After going up some stairs and going through a few rooms, we entered a modified courtroom that had apparently become the Blood Family’s main base, I could instantly tell who was in charge.
A woman with caramel coloured skin and covered in scars, she wore a black leather jacket and had red droplets tattooed down the side of her face as though they were tears of blood; she was completely bald and had a gigantic scar over her head that went from her forehead all the way back to her neck.
The moment she saw me, she sat up from the judge’s chair and approached me.

“E quem é esse?” She asked.

Her voice was deep and raspy, quite similar to Rainbow Dash’s.

“Um amigo, ele é inglês.” The driver replied, pointing to me.

She looked at me, before giving me a wide smile, her teeth had been sharpened, perhaps with a file or some other unprofessional tool, as they were jagged and crooked, akin to a shark’s.

“You are the English boy; I’ve heard stories about you.” She spoke.

“Bruce.” I introduced myself, putting out a hand.

She took the hand, before licking her bottom lip.

“Is it?”

I raised an eyebrow in question.

“My spies in Herdade da Portagem tell me you slaughtered Paulo’s guards and protected his daughter, they watched as you crept around like a fox and butchered them one by one, only to run into an alley and reappear wearing the very clothes you have before me, and turn the girl in.
From that analysis, I’d be a fool to believe you are this, Bruce.

It appeared the Blood Family was more organised than anticipated.

“Your spies are well trained; I am indeed not actually called Bruce.” I answered truthfully.

“Then who are you?” The woman asked.

“Do you know the name Inigo?” I asked in return.

“As in, Inigo Montenegro? The Bogeyman of Brazil?”


“I know what he looks like, you fool. You are not Inigo.”

At that, I smirked.

“No, I’m not the Bogeyman…”

I paused.

“I’m the man you send to kill the fucking Bogeyman.”

In seconds, I heard whispers all around the room, muttering my name.
The woman smiled, before putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Welcome to the Blood Family, Callum Horncastle, I am the Mother.”

After spending a few hours getting to know everyone, and telling the story of how I escaped Inigo’s capture and killed him and Vladimir Kikashkov during my uprising, I decided to earn my keep by betraying the moles.

“So, I hear there’s a man named Rahim about, where could I find him?” I asked.


“Well, I just thought you might like to know he’s a mole, working for Paulo’s boss, Hoyt Volker.”

At this, she stood up and grabbed a revolver from her jacket.


“So is Maxim, who was deployed as your spy for Paulo.” I continued.

She grabbed me by the collar and bared her sharp teeth.

“How do I know you’re telling the truth!?” She growled.

“I destroyed one section of Hoyt’s organisation by killing Inigo, and now I want to destroy Paulo as well to finish Hoyt off, Maxim wanted to move me here to help spy on you, but he doesn’t know I’m really working against Hoyt.
My whole motive here is to eradicate anyone working for Hoyt.” I explained.

I was telling the truth at this point, and she evidently believed me and ordered he guards to seize Rahim, they left the room and made their way through the town while I waited alone with The Mother.

“You’re very quick to double cross them, why should I continue to trust you Callum?” She asked.

“You shouldn’t trust me, but here we are, alone in this room.” I replied, yawning.

She was amused and impressed by my cocky fearlessness, I had already sussed her out; she admired power, and wanted all of it, with me on her side, she’d be more powerful.

“I assume you would like a place in my family?” She proposed.

“I figure it’ll help me destroy Paulo, so yes.” I replied.

She stood up and walked over to the courtroom’s bench and took a large glass from a drawer, the glass was in the shape of a skull, much like Paulo’s shot glasses, except this glass was bigger, it looked big enough to hold a pint.

“For revealing Maxim and Rahim, I will allow you to join our family, but only if you pass the initiation.” She told me.

At that moment, I heard footsteps, and the door was burst open with The Mother’s guards holding a young man who was kicking and thrashing about violently.

“Rahim, so nice of you to join us...” The Mother said coldly.

“Mother let me explain, I’ve been trying to tell these guys that they have the wrong guy!” Rahim cried out.

He was young, perhaps only a year older than myself; he was dark skinned and wore a pair of Beats headphones around his neck, I’d turned in this kid to the Blood Family and had no doubt just signed his death warrant.

“Is that so? Then why is our good friend here telling us that Hoyt has a mole in our family, named Rahim?”

The Mother pointed at me with a sick grin, and Rahim looked at me with sheer terror in his eyes.

“He’s lying!” He yelled.

“Do you know who this is?” The Mother asked.

Rahim merely shook his head, trembling; the poor kid was absolutely terrified.
The Mother lay a hand on my shoulder, before stroking up my neck seductively.

“This, Rahim… Is the one and only Callum Horncastle.”

Rahim looked at me and gulped, instantly knowing my name.
It appeared that somehow my name had spread through the various drug gangs of the world, and that I’d become quite a famed character, as I looked at Rahim, I could see in his eyes that he knew he was going to die.

“You killed Vladimir Kikashkov… The unkillable Russian…” He muttered.

The way he said it, it was almost as if I were Hercules who’d just slain the mighty hydra, these people literally saw me as one of the most elite killers on Earth or something. The thought bewildered me, I was just a boy a few days away from turning eighteen years old, just trying to help out some talking ponies and my newfound lover.
The Mother reached into her jacket and pulled out a large bone-handled knife, and handed it to me.

“Callum, are you ready to begin your initiation?” She asked.

Rahim’s eye flared up and he started to shake like a leaf, starting to turn pale. I took the knife and knew this was the only way, I needed to join the Blood Family in order to destroy them from the inside, and then return to Paulo and escape with Bunnie.
One of the guards removed Rahim’s headphones and threw them aside, before holding him out for me.

{This is so wrong…} I thought.

{I know, but we need to do this, it’s the only way to save Bunnie. Remember the ponies are still out there too, Callum; they’re looking for us and we need to get back to them.
Your true purpose lies with finding the Titan’s Orb, so let’s do whatever we need to do to rescue Bunnie and then get out of here.} Conscio told me.

Conscio’s reminder of my reasons for being here gave me the strength to perform this dastardly act, I approached Rahim and looked him in the eye.

“Any last words Rahim?”

“Kill me with Vladimir’s knife, please allow me to die by the same blade that killed the legendary Russian, please give me that honour at least, I beg of you.” He whimpered, his eyes closed.

I looked to The Mother and she nodded, I gave her back her knife and unsheathed Krocsbane; the large military knife was just as intimidating as the Russian who once held it.

“This knife is now called Krocsbane, after escaping Inigo’s compound I entered the jungle, and killed crocodiles with it for food, thus the name; I give you the honour to be killed by this legendary blade.” I spoke.

Rahim looked at the knife and then closed his eyes, tears slowly crawling down his cheeks.

{Don’t think about it, just do it.} Conscio breathed.

Listening to Conscio’s advice, I allowed no thought into my mind as I pressed the blade against his throat and slashed it open, Rahim gritted his teeth and tried to cry out in pain, only to let out a sick gurgle as blood began to pour from his neck like a fountain.
The Mother put the skull glass against his throat and let it fill to the brim with Rahim’s blood, before he was released and hit the floor with a loud thud.

I felt sick to the core, technically Rahim was working with Hoyt which made him an enemy, but he was just a boy, just like me. Whether he worked for Hoyt or not, it didn’t make killing him any easier.
Just when I thought the worst part of my initiation was over, The Mother passed me the pint of blood and smiled at me.


{What?} Conscio and I both thought together.

I looked at The Mother blankly, almost to ask if she were being serious.

“Every member of the Blood Family must do it, to drink the blood of their enemies.” She explained.

I looked down at the skull shaped glass in my hand, the blood was still very warm, I could feel the heat through the glass; the liquid had darkened slightly since being exposed to the open air.

{Still think we should do whatever it takes?} I thought to Conscio.

{I’ve just realised we’re literally doing all of this for the sake of saving Bunnie.} Conscio grumbled back.

Conscio was right, I would have made my way to the next orb shard if I hadn’t met Bunnie and made this mission to save her, from the moment I entered Paulo’s gang and started this ridiculous operation to slaughter the entire Blood Family was all to save my BunBun…

{The things we do for love…} I replied in thought.

I looked back up at The Mother, who grinned and brushed her tongue along her jagged teeth. I blocked out all thoughts except for my love for Bunnie and put the glass to my lips.
The moment the warm blood entered my mouth I almost gagged as my senses were flooded with the overwhelming taste of rusty iron, the texture was a thick, viscous glue and as I swallowed each gulp, I could feel it oozing down my throat and into my stomach, it was by far the foulest thing I had ever endured in my entire life.
My love for Bunnie came out triumphant and I was able to drink the glass without throwing it back up; I wiped my mouth clean and looked at The Mother with a blank face.

“I’m still thirsty.” I muttered.

At this, the leader of the Blood Family laughed and put a hand on my shoulder.

“Callum Horncastle, your reputation precedes you, welcome to the Blood Family. You will have Rahim’s house as your personal quarters, I doubt he will be needing it any longer. My men will escort you there now so you can get some rest, it’s almost four in the morning. Tomorrow you will be supplied with Blood Family guardsman gear, a man of your calibre deserves the finest uniform.” She said to me, licking her bottom lip.

I nodded and her other guardsmen gestured for me to follow them, I took one last look at Rahim’s motionless body and noticed a small pool of blood around his head and neck, I waited until I’d left the room before letting out a deep breath of remorse.

We made our way through the town and soon arrived at a small house made entirely out of stone, the rooms all had carpets and one room had a radio station, I assumed Rahim was undercover as the Blood Family’s communication line, a clever method of staying in contact with Maxim and Hoyt without being detected.
The men showed me the contents of the house, and told me that everything in it now belonged to me, as a reward for turning in Rahim; they nodded in respect, and then closed the door.

The moment I was alone, I took off most of my gear until I was down to my shirt and cargo trousers, I then made my way to the toilet. I knelt over the bowl and proceeded to be violently sick, hurling up all of Rahim’s blood.
After a few moments of retching to make sure all the blood was out of me, I flushed the toilet and stumbled to the bedroom; I collapsed onto the bed and hugged myself tightly.

{What the hell am I doing…? How did I end up getting into this…?} I thought to myself.

It didn’t take long until the tears started to run down my face, as I cried myself to sleep.

Chapter Eleven - The Taste of Blood

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It was the eighth of January, tomorrow was my birthday and I had very easily wormed my way into the Blood Family; I had taken out three raiding parties to various villages and had brought back more supplies and captives than any previous raids over the past five years. The Blood Family had come to view me as the answer to all of their problems, as if I were a godsend, but how wrong they were; I intended to see Bunnie on my birthday and so tonight was the night I would slaughter them all. I knew very clearly that it would be no easy task, but my regained strength brought me confidence.

I was in the middle of eating lunch in the court room, when a finger touched the back of my neck and then traced along my jawline in a seductive fashion.

“So, Callum. What’s the plan for today?” The Mother asked.

“Today’s plan, is that there is no plan.” I replied boldly.

“Do explain?”

“The key to a good raid is to be unpredictable, and so far we have launched one raid every day; each of the different villages around talk to one another and know this pattern, and hide all their goods accordingly. If there is no reported raid today, everyone will be confused and assume they are safe for a while, making the next raid easier than squishing ants in a garden.” I explained.

The Mother sat opposite me and began to laugh maniacally.

“Oh Callum why didn’t you come to us sooner? Your brain matches my ferocity and has brought strategy to my slaughter! I must admit I am enjoying planning attacks more than sending random raids anytime I please. I certainly hope you’ll stay around.”

At this, I smirked.

“Well so far, my time in the Blood Family has been very beneficial, so until there’s a change of plan, I may just end up staying here.” I said warmly.

The Mother stood up and walked over to me and grinned.

“I very much like the sound of that, Mister Horncastle.” She whispered, licking her jagged teeth.

Without warning, she sat on my lap and put her hands on my shoulders.

“Besides, I’ve been waiting for a real man to show up.” She hissed.

{Um, miss lady? We’re a day from turning eighteen, we’re not exactly a MAN.} Conscio thought.

She looked in her late thirties, which was a little grim to imagine myself with her, she was old enough to be my mother. While I most certainly loved Bunnie, and had absolutely no interest in The Mother, I played along, just to ensure that she trusted me fully.

“Well, I’ve always liked the thought of being with an older woman.” I replied slyly, adding on a wink.

She bit her bottom lip and giggled, she then stood back up, leaving the room and allowing me to finish my lunch.

“I’ll be seeing you later tonight.” She hissed as she went.

"Or perhaps it'll be me, that sees you." I hinted back.

She chuckled wildly and finally left the room, leaving me to finish my lunch in peace.

{Man, what have I got myself into...} I groaned to myself in thought.

{Quite possibly her!} Conscio replied.

A few hours later I made my way to the fighting pits, where young Blood Family members would learn how to fight and kill through various ranks of training.
It was quite simple, there were four stages before being allowed to be considered a raider or a guardsman.
The first stage was the least violent, nobody was to killed in this round; ten people entered the pit, and beat one another to a pulp, until three people were left standing, they would be proclaimed the victors.
Stage two was the same principle, but there was a fight to the death, the last man breathing was the winner.
Stage three was identical to stage one, but it was exclusively one-to-one combat, the loser of this round, (if they were still alive), would have to start from stage one again.
The fourth and final stage is where victors would fight the Pit Champion, a drug infused nutcase called Guntar. This hulking monstrosity was off his tits on steroids, and stood almost seven feet tall. Three victors fought him at a time, and the last man to survive was deemed a true member of the Blood Family.

As I arrived at the fighting pits I heard the thundering roar of Guntar as he was mid-combat with three contestants trying their luck at passing the trial. I made my way through the crowd and watched as the contestants made constant attempts at striking Guntar with their machetes, but anyone who drew close were instantly scared back by a mighty swing of Guntar’s sledgehammer.
One contestant got cocky and made a jab for the monstrosity’s leg, only for the sledgehammer to meet the side of his head and created a scene that I could only describe as a modern art masterpiece.
It was very messy.

One of the others ran forward and was able to cut Guntar’s arm, it wasn’t a very good strike and didn’t cut very deep and only enraged Guntar. He dropped the sledgehammer and grabbed the man’s head in both of his enormous hands and squeezed with all his might. The man screamed at the top of his lungs before his head was crushed like an egg, blood sprayed in all directions as his skull imploded.
The third contestant dropped his machete and urinated himself on the spot. Luckily he was the last man alive, and was allowed to leave the pit alive, now as a fully fledged raider.

“Callum Horncastle! It’s Callum Horncastle!” A man yelled from the crowd, spotting me.

Everyone turned to face me and I dipped my head in respect to my onlookers. A thin, tall man covered in piercings approached me from the crowd. This was the Pit Lord, the guy in charge of all the training in the Blood Family.

“It is an honour to see you in the flesh.” The Pit Lord said kindly.

I shook his hand and looked past him to look upon Guntar.

{Callum, you are a genius.} Conscio muttered.

He’d figured out my plan.
Guntar was without a doubt the most dangerous person in the entire town, he was as dangerous as Vladimir back in Brazil, and would pose a very big problem if for some reason I was detected later tonight. What better way to get him out of the way than to face him during the daytime, in honest one-on-one combat?

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” The Pit Lord asked.

“I have heard very promising things about Guntar, I thought I’d see for myself.” I told him.

“You’ve heard correct, he is the most dangerous man alive!” He replied.

“Well I don’t know about that, he hasn’t met me yet.”

“You wish to challenge him?”

“Obviously.” I answered.

At this, the Pit Lord laughed and turned to the crowd, still watching Guntar parade around the fighting pit with one of the mutilated bodies.


The crowd, even those who did not speak English, knew what he meant, and went absolutely wild.

“Any preparations before entering the pit?” He asked, turning to face me.

“We begin immediately.” I replied.

I made my way down some stairs and took off my new Guardsman gear until I was wearing nothing but the dark brown bush trousers, I wanted to be as light as possible, Guntar was strong enough to crush me like a bug and I knew it would be pointless to block any of his attacks.
Just before the entrance to the pit was a weapon rack, with all sorts of barbaric instruments, from jagged bone handled axes, to clubs covered in Iberian wolf teeth, a good hit from that could easily cave someone’s head in.

“Any weapon of your choosing, Master Horncastle.” The Pit Lord asked from behind me.

I merely tapped Krocsbane as it sat comfortably in its sheath against my waist.

“Your knife? That is all?” He asked, shocked.

I nodded, and turned to the pit, and walked through the wooden gate.
The Pit Lord stood at his podium above me, and shouted to the crowd.

EVERYONE! Todo mundo! The greatest fight you’ve ever seen! A maior luta que você já viu!
The most dangerous man in the world, fighting the most dangerous BEAST in the world!
O homem mais perigoso do mundo, lutando contra a BESTA mais perigosa do mundo!

The audience went absolutely mental, people all across the town came to the pits to witness the fight, including most of the guardsmen, people were eager to see if I lived up to my name, and I didn’t aim to disappoint.

I buried my bare feet into the sandy dirt and felt its soft coolness around my toes, Guntar let out a loud war cry and started to punch his cage door on the other side of the pit. I knew he was trying to intimidate me, but I highly doubted anything would scare me again after the things I saw in Chernobyl; the Deathclaw, the mutated monstrosity of Elephant’s Foot, and the hordes upon hordes of irradiated zombies that roamed the fallen city.
And I didn’t even want to think about Nah’Lek, the demonic creature that was stalking me and the ponies; even though I’d only seen him in dreams and visions, he was still the most haunting thing in existence, I hoped to never see him in the flesh for as long as I lived.

My cage door opened first, and I walked out into the pit. The dirt out here was warm thanks to the sunlight, and a lot of it was clotted together due to the amount of blood that had been previously spilled.
I knelt onto one knee and scooped up a handful of dirt, and proceeded to rub my hands together; this was both to dry my hands that had begun to sweat, but also as a symbolic gesture to the many people that had previously died in these pits.
Guntar’s door was raised and he grabbed his sledgehammer, before angrily stomping towards me; I stood perfectly still as his stomping became a charge. The hulking mass of steroid infused muscle approached me at an alarming rate, emitting a hefty roar, and yet I remained perfectly calm, and didn’t move in the slightest.
I heard the crowd gasping and yelling at me to do something, but I blocked out their cries and waited for Guntar to reach me.
He raised his sledgehammer above his head and I put my hand on Krocsbane’s handle, the moment he brought the sledgehammer down I dodged to the side and gripped his bicep with my left hand, I swung myself around onto his back and plunged Krocsbane deep into the back of his head, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly.

Guntar fell to his knees and I jumped back and landed very neatly in the centre of the pit as he planted his face into the ground.
I took a rag out of my pocket to wipe the blood off Krocsbane, I then placed the bloody rag on Guntar’s head and took a bow to the audience, before walking back to my cage.
As the door closed behind me, the crowd started screaming and applauding, they went absolutely wild and all began to chant my name; I sheathed Krocsbane and took a stretch while the exit was unlocked.
I stepped out and put my Guardsman gear back on, taking a quick moment to dust off my feet before putting my socks and shoes on.

I climbed the steps and walked outside where I found at least three hundred people waiting for me, they cheered and hollered my name as they rushed towards me and tried to speak with me. I ignored them and merely walked through the crowd and reached the Pit Lord, who was still on his podium staring at Guntar’s body in the pit.

“There a problem?” I asked.

He turned to look at me, his eyes wide.

“Guntar has been champion for the past ten years, nobody has ever come close to defeating him, and you killed him with a single blow, how did you do it? How?” He asked, clearly in shock.

I took a breath in, before shrugging.

“You know, you’ve just got to keep the elbows up and the shoulder’s loose-”

“I have seen many men in my time, I have seen hundreds of violent people who were born for war; but you are something very different. I just watched you kill a monster like it was a beetle beneath your boot.
You are no man; you are something greater.” He spoke.

“What do you mean?” I asked, curious.

“No ordinary man could kill Guntar that easily, I believe you have a god’s blood in your veins.” He told me.

“I highly doubt that, I’m not a religious man.” I replied.

“Believe or not, there is something very special about you. But either way, you have successfully defeated the Pit Champion, people will be informed of your new title shorty.” He told me.

I thanked him and then made my way to my personal quarters, Rahim’s old house.

I sat on the end of my bed and sighed, despite all current occurrences, I was bored; well, more irritated than bored. I just wanted nightfall to come and to get this over with, I missed Bunnie and didn’t feel like she was safe without me. Paulo hated her and would most likely punish her while I wasn’t around, I needed to get back to her.
To pass the time I took out my phone and used the biometric body scanner app, I let the phone analyse me and display that I was healthy, besides depression being present, but dormant.
There were no traces of the Fel, my mental illness had completely eradicated it after fooling the death magic into thinking I was already corrupted, such irony.

After a while of sitting alone with my thoughts, I thought it would be a good idea to send a text to Twilight and see if the group was alright, it had been almost two weeks without contact.
I went to my messaging app and found the previous caller ID, which was simply displayed as a load of zeros, but due to the phone’s enchantment it automatically made instant contact to Twilight.

[Just checking in, how is the group, are you all safe?] I texted.

I hit send, and waited.

Five minutes later, the phone buzzed.

[Safe now, but the group are shaken.]

My eyes widened.

[Why? What happened?] I replied.

[We were spotted by a group of men while crossing a road, they got out and started chasing us.]

“Oh shit…” I murmured.

[What happened then?]

A few minutes went by, before the phone finally buzzed again.

[I don’t remember, but the others are scared of me now.]

[Twilight, what did you do?]

[I said I don’t remember. But the others, they have this look in their eyes, like I’m a monster.]

{Well, you kind of ARE.} Conscio grumbled.

“Not helping.” I grumbled.

I looked back at my phone and sighed, I knew what Twilight had done.

[I’m close to finishing my tasks with the gang I’ve infiltrated, I’ll be able to escape in a couple of days and we’ll be back on track, just stay safe until then.] I typed out.

Without warning, I felt the barrel of a gun being placed to the back of my head, I froze solid and dropped the phone. The device clattered on the concrete floor and I gulped nervously.

“Say nothing.” A voice spoke.

The voice sounded tinny and almost robotic, as though it were spoken through an old radio; I remained perfectly still and looked down to see a round box being placed into my lap, it was about the size of an ordinary clock and was made out of black leather, the handle however was solid metal.

“Make sure you are both wearing them when the time comes.” The voice ordered.

The gun was removed from my head and I turned around to find there was nobody there, the mystery person was gone. I sped into the other room to follow him but there was no trace of him, he had completely disappeared as if he wasn’t even there in the first place.

“Who the heck was that?” I mumbled.

{No clue.} Conscio replied.

I went back to my bedroom and opened the box, inside were two metal collars, one was black and the other was lavender purple, I assumed it was intended for Twilight due to the colour.

“You don’t think-”

{The sniper from Chernobyl…}

It made sense, back in Chernobyl the sniper was wearing a full suit of metal which would explain the tinny voice, he wore a futuristic helmet that would most likely distort anything he said, how could it NOT be him?
Who was he? How had he found me here in the Blood Family?
I was left bewildered, but was glad he was on my side, I thought he was on my side anyway.
I also wondered WHAT he was, while he appeared mostly human, I was still unsure as he had a pair of wings on his back. The way he fought the mutated Elephant’s Foot with such agility and relentless strength was simply incredible, perhaps he would be able to help me fight Nah’Lek if the time ever arose?

There wasn’t much point wondering too much about the matter at this point, as I still had to focus on killing the Blood Family and later kill Paulo to rescue Bunnie. I put the box under my bed and decided to take a nap before nightfall, I needed as much energy as I could spare. After taking off most of my gear and getting into bed, I took one last look at my phone in case Twilight had replied, and then closed my eyes and let myself drift off to the question of who the man in the suit was.

I awoke to the sound of gunshots and men shouting, I sat up in my bed and looked out of the rectangular window to see the Blood Family guardsmen all running towards the front of the town, yelling loudly. The sun was beginning to set and everywhere was coated in an orange glow. I heard footsteps rushing towards my house and my front door being barged open.

“Callum! Callum!” A man yelled in a thick Portuguese accent.

“What’s going on?” I called from my room, getting dressed.

The man entered my room hastily, sweating like a pig.

“We are under attack by Hoyt’s men! We need you at the gate!” He screamed.

He turned and ran off while I suited up.

The town was in chaos, Hoyt’s men had surrounded the town and were throwing Molotov cocktails over the walls, engulfing various buildings with fire. At the main gate stood about fifty of the Blood Family guardsmen, shooting at Hoyt’s men on the other side of the gate which had been rammed down by a jeep. There were already bodies littered around the place.
A Molotov landed a few metres away from me and I was almost caught in the burst of flame that came with it, I swerved to the side and continued to make my way to the gate, I crouched by same man that had come into my house.

“What’s the situation?” I asked.

“At least sixty of them, heavily armed!” He shrieked, ducking down as some bullets came whizzing our way.

I thought out a game plan, and decided the best course of action was to take out all the surrounding men to stop the fire bombs.

“Hold this position!” I commanded.

The man nodded and I ran through the town to reach the back wall.

I clambered up onto a pile of boxes and then jumped up onto the roof of one of the buildings so I could see over the wall, to see a man in full tactical gear, with a yellow band on his right arm. I quickly aimed my UMP at him and took him out with two bullets to the chest. I vaulted the wall and landed with a roll, I picked up his lit Molotov and made my way around the wall until I found the next guy, I threw the bomb at him and watched as he went up in flames like tinder wood.
I continued going around the town, picking off the bombers one by one until I got close to the front gate, where I lay down and used the various bushes to cover myself from their vision. The sun was now out of sight and everywhere was rapidly getting very dark; I stealthily crept to the back of the battalion and made sure none of the attackers were behind me. Using the sound of the gunshots as a camouflage, I withdrew the Karambit knife I’d won in the poker game to silently dispatch of the gunmen; the curved blade made for very quick kills when it was stuck into the neck at almost any angle, and it was only a matter of time before I’d slaughtered over twenty men without anybody even noticing.

"Knife to meet you..." I chuckled as I shivved someone in the lower back.

Eventually somebody turned around and I shot him with the UMP, he hit the ground like a sack of spuds and I went back to killing the others with my knife. I eventually grew bored of this and simply used the UMP to mow down the men in front of me, by the time they had turned around to see me they were dead.

The men before me weren’t expecting an attack from behind and I was able to cleave through them like a scythe through a wheat field, the attack was over almost as quickly as it had started and I called out to the remaining guardsmen.

“They’re dead! It’s me!” I shouted to the guardsmen.

“É Callum, pare de disparar!” One of them yelled.

The shooting came to a halt, and I stood up from my cover to meet them at the gate.

“You killed them all?” One of the men asked.

“Most of them, there are a couple on the West side of the wall, but otherwise, yes.” I answered.

“Ceifador…” Someone whispered.

Suddenly, loads of the Portugese speaking guardsmen started muttering the same word while looking at me.

“Why are they calling me that?” I asked the first man.

“They say you are Ceifador, the bringer of death… In your language it is called the Grim Reaper, yes?”

{Hey Grim, care for a game of limbo?} Conscio teased.

{Ha! Billy and Mandy, good one!} I thought back.

“I can live with that title.” I replied merrily.

I heard men shouting to my right, and figured the Molotov bombers on the West side of the town were making their way to the gate, they were in for a big surprise when they arrived. I ordered the guardsmen to set up a firing line along the road leading to the town, and the moment all the fire bombers came into sight we opened fire on them, turning them all into Swiss cheese.
We went on a looting spree and harvested all the weapons and ammo from Hoyt’s men, before leaving all of their bodies outside the town walls to rot, the Blood Family had no respect or care for the dead.

Once that business was taken care of, every single member of the Blood Family was called to gather in the courthouse where The Mother was to start a celebration for the victory. It wasn’t long before alcohol was poured and the entire courtroom became a party. It was almost quite incredible to see such ruthless and violent people become so happy and merry in such a short period of time.

An hour had passed, and nobody had any intention to leave the building, except for one person.

“So, your place?” The Mother cooed from behind me.

She pressed her body into my back and put her arms around my waist, before slowly easing downwards towards my crotch. I turned around to face her before she could put her hands on the goods.

“I was wondering when you’d ask.” I teased.

She grinned and took my hands as we left the room and went down the stairs together.

“My men spoke very highly of you today, first you become the new Pit Champion, and then you singlehandedly kill most of Hoyt’s attackers tonight.” The Mother said as we made our way to Rahim’s house.

“I like my titles.” I simply replied.

She laughed and we entered Rahim’s house, and in seconds she threw herself at me; before I knew it, her lips were against mine and her tongue was in my mouth.

{Intruder alert! A red spy is in the base!} Conscio screeched.

I very reluctantly kissed her back just to ensure her trust, but I was most certainly NOT enjoying the experience; the only person’s lips I wanted on mine were Bunnie’s, but I didn’t really have a choice here.

“I want you Callum. I want you to become The Father of the Blood Family.” The Mother hissed seductively.

I took off my guardsmen gear and slowly began to take off my shirt, and she very quickly did the same, stripping down to her bra in a matter of seconds, this bitch was horny.
Little did she notice in the low light that I had secretly taken the Karambit knife out of its sheath while I undressed, and I was more than ready to kill her here and now.

“I haven’t been with a man in years, I want you to fuck me like it’s the last night of my life.” She growled.

I stood up straight and held her waist with my empty hand, and kissed her passionately; we made out for a few seconds before I thrust the knife into her throat, she jolted and tried to scream out in pain, only for a hoarse whisper to exit her lips as the curved blade severed her windpipe.

“I’m afraid it is the last night of your life…” I muttered.

I pulled back and looked her in the eyes as she went into shock, her body started to tremble as blood began to drizzle down her chest and foam from her mouth.

“I’m sorry sweetheart, but I’m not really ready to become a father figure.” I told her before pulling out the knife.

Blood poured from her neck like a waterfall and she stumbled forward before smacking into the floor. I left the Karambit knife by her body, I wouldn’t need it anymore. I got dressed again and took the box of collars that the mystery man had given me. I then left the house, and made my way back to the party.

On the first floor of the courthouse, all the salvaged equipment from Hoyt’s men had been put into crates, thankfully there had been an abundance of leftover Molotov cocktails and numerous grenades. In total I counted thirty-eight fire bombs and sixteen other explosives, definitely enough to set the courthouse ablaze.
Hoyt’s attack had been a blessing in disguise, as every member of the Blood Family had all gathered in one room to party and get drunk, nobody was on guard duty as the attack was supposedly over; their arrogance was about to become their undoing.

I took the rags out of all the Molotov bottles and started to pour the highly flammable liquid all over the floor of the courthouse’s lower level, when the entire downstairs of the building was coated, I had four bottles remaining, so I crept up the stairs and poured the remaining liquid into the hallway, along with tossing all the grenades towards the main courtroom’s door, right next to the party.

With all this done and dusted, I headed back downstairs, (making sure not to slip on the liquid), and grabbed one of the many lighters lying around that were mainly used for cigarettes. I took all the rags that I had previously taken out of the Molotov bottles and rolled them into a ball, the fabric was rather moist from some of the liquid and would easily catch light. I clicked the lighter and a few sparks jumped out, but no flame. I tried a second time and a lovely orange flame sprouted up and began to flicker. I held it to the rag ball and it instantly caught alight, I threw it into the courthouse door and growled in pain as a small patch of liquid had caught my hand and slightly burnt me.
In seconds, the whole lower floor began to glow a bright orange. I made my way out of the town to the sounds of men shouting as they discovered the fire in the building, but at that point, it was far too late.

I took one last look back to see the entire building on fire, and burning men were jumping out of the windows and dying as they hit the ground; the screams were intense and full of agony. I took no pride in the act, but it sure as hell made me feel good to know this part of the job was over and I could finally get on with rescuing Bunnie.
Without warning, all the explosives in the court went off and the entire building burst into a humongous eruption of fire, smoke and debris, and the odd body part. The explosion was enormous and would be seen for miles in any direction, admittedly I felt like an absolute badass for creating such a big boom.

“I guess I blew my load…” I said with a smirk.

I hopped into the jeep that Hoyt’s men had used to ram into the gate, turned on the engine, and made my way back to Paulo’s compound, my mission now accomplished.

Chapter Twelve - Happy Birthday

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The road back to Paulo’s compound was difficult to find due to it being the middle of the night, but thankfully I had remembered the basic route from my initial trip to the Blood Family. The biggest issue was the constant stalling of the jeep I had stolen, my brother had taught me the basics back when I visited home, he taught me how to hotwire a car and how to drive. But the constant need to change gears confused me, if I ever owned a car in the future I’d certainly be getting an automatic.

There were no other cars on the road so I was given plenty of unsupervised practise to handle the jeep and I eventually got the hang of controlling the manual gear changing. I got lost at least four times on the way, but after about three hours of driving up and down the route I finally found the same dirt road that led to the back of Paulo’s compound.
I stopped the car and got out, deciding to walk the rest of the way as to not get detected by anyone. The night was completely silent and incredibly cold, it was most likely below freezing temperatures, there were a few patches of snow dotted here and there from previous snowfalls. In the distance, I heard a wolf howling and smiled, I loved wolves, it was nice to take a moment to appreciate life again.

I reached the compound walls and found the place I had jumped over beforehand; I leapt forward up to grab the ledge, I clambered up onto the wall and then dropped down to the other side, my UMP slipped off my shoulder and clattered onto the ground loudly, alerting a nearby guard.

“Quem está aí?” A female voice growled.

A torch was turned on and a large beam of light started waving around, trying to spot me.

{Just come out, we’re on their side anyway.}

“It’s Bruce! I’m Paulo’s friend.” I told her loudly.

“O que?” She grunted.

“You speak English?” I asked.

“Sem inglês, venha fora agora!” She barked.

I stepped out into the torchlight and saw the guard, she was in Paulo’s militia gear and pointed her gun at me as soon as she saw me, then I remembered I was still wearing the Blood Family Guardsman gear and knew I appeared like an enemy to her.

“Largue a arma!” She ordered.

“I speak English; I don’t know what you’re saying.” I told her.

Largue a arma!” She yelled.

“I work for Paulo, where is Paulo? You understand? Our boss, Paulo!” I said frantically.

She eventually realised that I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese and that I wanted to see Paulo, so she approached me still with a gun upraised and gestured for me to follow her. I calmly did so and let her lead me through the compound, we entered Paulo’s courtyard where I was being directed towards the prison.

“Woah hang on, I’m not going to the prison, I want to see Paulo, like, now.” I said.

The woman ignored me and brought me to the prison door, I huffed in annoyance as I knew I was going to have to sleep in a cell for the rest of the night. She took my UMP away from me which I allowed, but she then put her hand on Krocsbane.

“Ah, no. I hold onto this one.” I told her.

She gritted her teeth and tried hard to take Krocsbane, I grabbed her wrist and looked her in the eye.

“You can take the gun, but not my knife.” I spoke in a threatening tone.

We made eye contact for a good five seconds before she eventually backed down and released the knife, and in turn I let go of her wrist. She took me to an empty cell and opened the door, I walked into the small room and she shut the door behind me. The door was locked and the guard went back to her patrol, I assumed she would inform Paulo in the morning.

The cell was colder than outside; the metal structure of the cells had taken in so much of the cold that touching the walls with my bare fingers was almost painful. I sat in the middle of the room and looked at my phone, there was an unread text from Twilight.

[We can’t wait around any longer, everyone is starting to panic without you to guide us, along with the fact we can’t accurately tell where the next orb shard is without your phone.]

I smirked, before typing out a reply.

[Well that will make you think twice before teleporting me to the other side of the country…
What are you doing awake at three o’clock in the morning anyway?]

A few seconds later, my phone buzzed.

[I went for a walk, needed some time alone.]

[You’re outside? It’s bloody FREEZING!] I replied in shock.

[Thermic Hide, the same spell we used on the airplane to get back and forth from Brazil.]

[Ahh, fair enough… And it’s spelt “aeroplane” by the way.] I teased.

[It’s a plane, in the air, so it’s called an “air” plane.]

I tutted as Twilight ended up making the same misconception that most Americans do.

[Twilight, it’s called an aeroplane because it was designed as the world’s first fully aerodynamic vehicle.
It’s short for “Aerodynamic Plane”.]

I received no reply after that, so I assumed I’d pissed her off by proving her wrong. I didn’t take it to heart as I knew she was struggling, I hoped she was okay after killing someone, whether she remembered it or not. I remember my first time, it put me into deep shock before breaking down many weeks later.

It wouldn’t be long before I rescued Bunnie and Dijla from Paulo’s grasp and I would be back on track with the main objective, with the ponies at my side. I missed them, dearly.
With my friends in my mind, I curled up on the ground and tried to get some rest, while the cold made it difficult to begin with, I was absolutely shattered from the lack of sleep and could drift off eventually...

I woke to the sound of somebody entering a severe coughing fit in the cell beside me, I groaned as the sound had very abruptly awoken me. I sat up and rolled my shoulders to cause some very satisfying clicks and crunches in my stiff joints, thankfully my Guardsman Gear was quite padded and had kept me relatively warm throughout the bitter night. I looked at my phone to find no further word from Twilight, I assumed she’d be making her way to my location with the others, I needed to get Bunnie and Dijla into safety very soon.

The person in the cell next to me eventually stopped coughing and I heard the other prisoners muttering to one another in loads of mixed conversations.

“My fellow captives, would anyone happen to know when the next prison guard is arriving? I’m a busy man with a tight schedule and simply MUST speak to someone with higher authority, and I don’t feel like starting another rebellion just to get some attention.” I asked loudly with a posh tone.

A couple of people started laughing, and then I heard a voice alone.

“No… Fucking… Way… CALLUM!? Is that you?” A male voice shouted out.

I tilted my head on one side, not recognising the voice myself.

“And who might you be?” I asked.

It was then when I heard a nasally, high pitched voice of someone impersonating a child.


“WILLIAM!” I shouted.

It was William Reed, from the Stock Heap, back in Brazil.

“What the hell dude!? How’d you wind up in prison for a second time!?” I shouted across to him.

“After escaping from Brazil I thought I’d steal a couple of the drugs littered around the compound, I thought I’d sell them and earn enough money to get a ticket back to my home in New York. I guess I stuck around for too long, loads of guys turned up and captured everybody they could, me included. I’ve been peddled to three different prisons now!
The last place I was at was some crazy island in the middle of nowhere, there was this crazy psycho dude; he mentioned Inigo in Brazil was his cousin or something, it was absolutely mental! Then some bloke called Jason caused loads of problems for the business, so most us were shipped around to different prisons to make sure none of us were rescued or something. Next thing I know, I’m being put into a shipment container and being taken here to Portugal!” He explained.

I whistled in astonishment, poor William had been a captive all this time. When I rescued Bunnie and Dijla I’d be sure to free the prisoners here and hopefully he’d find his way home.

“How did you wind up in here anyway?” William asked.

“Funny story actually, I work here!” I laughed.


“Yeah, I’m working for Paulo to save Bunnie, his daughter. Basically I had to help destroy some rival gang that was causing some trouble, so I had to sneak in and destroy them from the inside, I got back here last night and was mistaken for one of them, so the guard lady locked me up in here.” I told him.

“Jeez, so you’re like, one of these guys now?” He asked.

“To an extent I guess, I’m currently a bad guy, but I’m fucking up worse guys in the meantime.” I said.

“I understand man. Well, when you get the chance, would you mind doing an old friend a favour and help me get the hell out of here?”

“Nah, I think you’re much better off as a slave.” I teased.

“Magnum?” He cooed in his stupid nasally voice.

“Ugh, fine. I’ll help you out I suppose.” I chuckled.

A little while later, the prison door was opened and I heard some footsteps coming towards me.

“Essa porta aqui.” A female voice spoke.

My cell was unlocked, and the door was pushed open; the same guard from last night stood in the doorway, only to be pushed aside by a very excited Paulo in a fancy salmon pink suit.

Brucey!” He shouted.

“Eyy! Paulo!” I replied.

He came forward and gave me a hug, before holding both my shoulders.

“Why didn’t you come to see me when you returned?” He pleaded to know.

“I was going to, when Big Tits decided to lock me up for trespassing.” I said, nodding at the guard.

Paulo turned to look at her, and then pulled his handgun from his waist and shot her in the chest; she yelled out in agony before slumping to the ground and dying.

“My deepest apologies Bruce, never again shall you be mistreated under my roof!” He exclaimed.

He put the handgun back into its holster and gestured for me to follow him, I took my phone which was on the floor and placed it in the front chest pocket of my Guardsman vest. We made our way across the courtyard which was still under a very thin blanket of snow, thankfully I didn’t have to walk across it with bare feet this time.

“So Bruce, I assume the usual? Rum?” Paulo asked as we reached his quarters.

“You know me too well.” I replied.

He went over to a counter and took the Lambs Navy Rum from inside, along with his signature skull shaped shot glasses; he lit up a cigar and offered me one, to which I happily accepted. I was stressed from my time in the Blood Family and decided a single cigar wouldn’t kill me. Paulo lit mine for me and I sat back in the chair opposite his desk, taking in a toke; my lungs were filled with a strange warmth, as I exhaled they felt tingly and cold, as though there were mint leaves in them. It was a strange sensation to say the least, but was certainly calming.

“Before we begin…” Paulo said, clapping his hands.

The doors behind him burst open and Bunnie came out in a sleek black dress, she was carrying a tray with a cupcake on it, the number 'eighteen' written on top with icing.

Happy birthday!” Bunnie and Paulo both shouted.

“Holy shit, I completely forgot!” I laughed.

Bunnie placed the tray on Paulo’s desk and ran to give me a hug, I held her tightly and made sure I didn’t burn her dress with the cigar.

“Bruce, my good man. I have thought carefully about your birthday present, and a reward for your services to me. Starting from now, I have forgiven my daughter and wife for their crimes, and wish for them to live happily in my quarters along with you as my right-hand man.” Paulo told me.

I looked to Bunnie, beaming.

“That’s… Bloody hell… Paulo I don’t know what to say…” I said, utterly gobsmacked.

“You needn’t say anything my boy, it is the least I can do. In the grand scheme of things, Bunnie is my flesh and blood, and as disobedient as she is, I suppose some part of me loves her.” He told me, chuckling.

Bunnie dipped her head respectfully to her father and pulled up a chair beside him, eager to listen in to my experience with the Blood Family.

“Now then my dear Bruce… Tell me everything!” Paulo ordered with a wide grin, taking a shot of his rum.

“Well then…” I said teasingly, taking another toke from my cigar.

I blew the smoke at Bunnie playfully before I went into describing all the events within the Blood Family’s town, no detail was left out as I told them what happened right from executing Rahim and drinking his blood, to the raids I’d carried out, all the way to killing their Pit Champion and then holding off an attack from Hoyt’s men.

Hoyt! HERE?” Paulo barked.

“I don’t know if he’s here in the flesh, only loads of his men.” I replied truthfully.

“Were they wearing yellow armbands?” He asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“The Privateers, Hoyt’s personal mercenaries. He’s here.” He growled.

Paulo angrily took a large toke of his cigar and then took another shot of rum, then exhaling the smoke through his nose like a very pissed off dragon.

“Killing Rahim most likely caused Hoyt to attack, what’s the word on Maxim here?” I asked.

“I executed him the day after you left.”

I hummed, thinking that Hoyt would probably see Paulo as a threat now.

“You're technically still work for Hoyt. Do you think he’ll attack us?” I asked.

“Our relationship has always been very brittle, I only started working with him because he worked with Inigo, who was my friend, since he died I’ve been nothing but a loose end. If he’s here personally, he’ll attack for sure.”

I downed my shot and poured myself another, trying to think up a plan of defence.

“We need to inform every unit." I suggested, "The guardsmen, the militia, the raiders, we all need to be on permanent watch and make sure nobody gets in or out of this compound. Go into full lockdown.”

That’s when I heard the door behind me open, and an unfamiliar voice spoke.

“I don’t think that will be necessary.”

I saw Paulo’s eyes open in shock and he reached into his jacket, only for a gunshot to ring out into the room. Paulo fell back into his chair and blood began to leak out from the gaping hole in his chest. He looked at me and spluttered a mouthful blood as he tried to speak. He then slumped back, emitting a sickly gurgling croak; he was dead.

Before I could move, I felt the barrel of a large handgun placed at the back of my head.

“I would highly appreciate it if you didn’t try anything stupid." the voice spoke, "These bullets are expensive, and I wouldn’t want to waste one on emptying your skull.”

Two men with rifles marched past me and seized Bunnie. She struggled and tried to get away, and I watched in horror as one of them rifle-butted her in the side of the head, knocking her out cold. The voice then carried out another order to retrieve Paulo's wife. More men ran past me and into Paulo’s private quarters, where I heard gunshots, and the screams of the slave girls he kept there. I then heard Dijla shrieking and struggling. I stood to my feet, desperate to help, only for the gun to be pressed harder into my head.

“I won’t ask you twice.”

I felt a hand on my shoulder, which pulled me back, I turned around to look at the man. He looked to be in his forties, maybe fifties. He was tanned and had dark brown hair, and wore a black suit with an unbuttoned red shirt, allowing me to see a gold chain around his neck.
There was no doubt in my mind; this was Hoyt Volker.

“I’ve been waiting to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.” He spat.

Before I could reply, Hoyt smacked the side of my head with the handgun. I stumbled to the side and dropped to my knees, my head now ringing. Everything was fuzzy and the side of my head painfully pulsated, I felt a small amount of blood slowly sliding down my cheekbone. I shook my head slightly in attempt to get a baring, only for Hoyt to smack the back of my head, I fell face first to the floor, I was still conscious, but barely. Everything was just swirling colours and I couldn’t hear anything but white noise, everything was going numb except for my head, which pounded like an African drum.
I felt Hoyt’s foot on my shoulder, before being rolled over onto my back. I could only make out the shape of Hoyt’s body as I blindly reached out to grab him, he pushed my arm aside and knelt beside me. He grabbed my jacket and lifted me slightly, and then headbutted me in the face, turning everything black…

It felt like hours that I’d been unconscious, and as I slowly began to feel my senses again, I felt nothing but sheer thumping agony in my head; it felt as though I were upside down as my blood was rushing to my head. I opened my eyes to find everything was still blurry, I blinked a few times and shook my head; while this caused the pain to increase, it restored my senses a bit and I noticed that I indeed, WAS upside down. I looked up to my feet to see I was suspended by some rope wrapped around my legs, hung on a meat hook in Paulo’s food court. Either side of me were dead pigs, gutted and suspended on meat hooks of their own, my hands were bound behind my back and I could only just move them about.
I looked around at my surroundings to find I was completely isolated in the butchery, but I didn’t know for how long.

“Think Callum, think…” I muttered to myself.

{Allow me, I literally live inside your brain, I think better than you in my sleep.} Conscio spoke.

“Well, at least you’re still alive.” I grumbled.

{Yeah, well I won’t be for long if we don’t get out of here.}

“Then get to thinking, mister Smarty Pants.” I groaned, trying to ignore the agonising migraine.

I looked around and then up at the rope around my legs, I felt the tightness of the bindings around my wrists and used my fingers to feel them, it was one of those annoying plastic zip-ties that were almost impossible to undo, especially without being able to see them behind my back.

“Right, course of action?” I asked.

{Okay, well you know the saying ‘bend over backwards’?}

“Got it.”

With all my core strength, I bent my knees to raise my body up and curled backwards, I slid my hands up the back of my legs and was just able to reach the meat hook.

{Just imagine how stupid you look right now.} Conscio teased.

“Not! Helping!” I grunted, barely able to keep my position.

I was currently in the shape of a circle, and wasn’t doing my lower back any favours. I gripped the upper part of the meat hook and used my upper strength to hold my body weight, allowing me to push my legs up and take myself off the hook. I carefully lowered my legs and then let go of the hook, landing on my feet; I was still dazed from earlier and didn’t have my arms free so I was unable to maintain my balance and fell over almost instantly.

I coughed a few times and let myself get a complete baring of my senses again, before lying on my back and tucking my legs in, allowing me to loop my arms around to the front of my body. From there I could unlock the zip-tie and free my hands.

“Right,” I sighed heavily, “Now to free Bunnie.”

I went over to the door of the butchery and listened to make sure there was nobody outside, I heard nothing and opened the door that led to the kitchen, and then to the canteen. At least sixty of Paulo’s men lay in the canteen, dead, Hoyt must have ordered a complete execution of the gang.

I reached for Krocsbane to find it wasn’t in its sheath, I’d been stripped of my weapons. All I had was my phone, which was still snug in the chest pocket of my Blood Family tactical vest. With Krocsbane absent, I went to the kitchen and took one of the filleting knives, it was thin and razor sharp and would make an adequate replacement for now.

I made my way through various rooms to find dead bodies littered everywhere, I searched and searched the compound to find nothing. I went outside and headed to the prison, everybody was dead; I went over to William’s cell and looked through the peephole, I was too late, he was amongst the dead.

“Fuck…” I growled.

From outside I heard a scream, Bunnie’s scream.

I charged outside and looked around frantically, I then heard Hoyt angrily yelling at her to shut up; it came from back inside the compound, I rushed inside and ran to Paulo’s quarters, where I found two of Hoyt’s Privateers guarding the entrance, they pointed their guns at me and both ordered me to freeze.

{We walked right into that one…} Conscio hummed with frustration.

I gritted my teeth and held still, they approached me and forced me to drop the knife and enter Paulo’s office. The desk had been moved to the middle of the room, and in one corner I saw Bunnie and Dijla crammed into a portable dog cage, both beaten and bloody. Bunnie looked at me, tears streaming down her face.

“You took long enough to get down from that hook, I’ve waited nearly three hours for you.” Hoyt spoke.

He came through the doorway on the other side of the room, and sat in Paulo’s old chair. I looked around to see how many Privateers were in the room, that’s when I noticed the room was full of barrels.

“Ah, you like the new decorations? Each one of them is full of a certain liquid, made from gasoline, dissolved styrofoam, and powdered magnesium. Do you know what that is?” Hoyt asked me, leaning back in the chair.

{Napalm…} Conscio muttered.

“Yes, I do.” I replied, clenching my fists.

“Good, that saves the chemistry lesson.” Hoyt hummed, picking his fingernails.

One of the Privateers pulled up a chair opposite Hoyt and ordered me to sit down, I did so and looked at Bunnie whom was quietly sobbing into her mother’s chest.

“Now, let’s cut the small talk." Hoyt began, "You have been causing a lot of trouble for my business, so much trouble that I’ve had to come here to sort this mess out myself. First, you fuck up my best supplier in Brazil. And then you come to Portugal and cause Paulo to lose interest in working for me. Then I hear that you had infiltrated the Blood Family, of whom were some of my best customers.”

“Let us go, and I’ll leave your business alone.” I told him.

At this, Hoyt laughed.

“Such a generous proposition Bruce, Callum, whatever the fuck your name is. You see, there was more than one mole around, not just Maxim. More than half of Paulo’s guards were my personal employees, and a few of them happened to mention you have a certain love interest.”

He stood up and pulled out his Desert Eagle and pointed it at Bunnie, I stood up out of my chair.

DON’T HURT HER!” I roared.

Hoyt pulled the trigger, only for the gun to click.

“Oh, silly me, I forgot to put the magazine in.” Hoyt said sarcastically.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large magazine, then inserted it into the handgun.

“Let her live, I’ll do anything Hoyt." I begged him, "Please just let her live.”

Hoyt shrugged and lowered the gun, before clicking his fingers. One of the Privateers came over and handed him a remote, it had one big red button.

“I think you've done quite enough." he spat, holding up the remote, "Right, once I press this button, this entire compound goes up in smoke in five minutes. Now, I would love to sit around and play games with you, but there’s a certain thorn in my side by the name of Jason Brody. He's been causing as much trouble as you have on one of my islands. I’ve recently been informed that he’s set fire to my plantations, and has killed Inigo’s brother, Vaas. I daresay he pisses me off more than you do.”

Without warning, Hoyt pressed the button, and some of the napalm barrels beeped loudly.

“While I’d enjoy watching you burn, I have places to be, and I can’t have you around as a loose end. Just know that your beloved Bunnie is going to die screaming, until her skin crackles, like a roast pork.” He sneered, dropping the remote.

As the remote clattered to the ground, Hoyt raised his gun towards me, and fired.

NO!” Bunnie screamed.

The sheer force of the impact knocked me to the ground, it was numb for a few seconds as I fell, it felt as if I were frozen in a block of ice as I couldn’t move a muscle.
Then the pain struck. A sharp, indescribable pain spread from my chest and outwards. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even shut my eyes as I lay there in complete shock, clutching at my chest. Hoyt said nothing as he walked around the desk and left the room with his Privateers. Once he was gone, Bunnie started shaking the cage, shrieking wildly in complete despair.

I was expecting things to turn dark at this point, or to feel cold, or to see a white light. Anything that would resemble death, but no such resemblance came; the pain simply continued to overwhelm my chest. I slowly moved my hand across the hole in my jacket, and then looked at my fingers to find no blood, only a very hard, rectangular lump; my phone.
My phone had stopped the bullet...

I very shakily reached into my pocket and pulled out the device to see the screen had completely shattered and the back contained a large bullet, flattened due to the force of the impact. Twilight’s upgrades had seriously strengthened the metal and had allowed the phone to save my life, alas it was now useless, but at least I was alive.

Finally regaining the ability to breathe, I slowly took in a breath of air and winced as the pain in my chest doubled, it was easy to assume that my ribs were broken; after all this time, my bones had finally met a force they couldn't withstand. I wheezed and slowly began to gather enough strength to move properly.
Bunnie continued to shake her cage violently.


{This whole building is going to blow.} Conscio reminded me.

I got to my knees, and then used the desk to prop myself up and look at Bunnie and Dijla.

“You’re alive!” Bunnie gasped.

I wobbled around to the side of the desk and stumbled forward to the cage.

“How aren’t you dead?” Dijla asked in disbelief.

I showed her the phone, dropping the now useless device on the ground.

“You are the luckiest man alive…” She sighed.

I responded with an agonised wheeze and inspected their cage, there were two bolt locks, both of them padlocked.

“Where are the keys?” I wheezed.

“I think Hoyt left them somewhere in Paulo’s bedroom, hurry!” Dijla cried out.

I went through the door into the former gang leader’s quarters and made my way to his room, my chest still in agony. I reached his room and tore open every drawer and cupboard in search of the keys to the padlocks.
That’s when I heard a noise behind me, a strange whirring noise, like a howling wind. Then, a white light; it looked akin to a small flame, flickering in mid-air. Then it began to grow larger, until it suddenly flashed, engulfing the room. I closed my eyes so the light didn’t blind me.

When I opened my eyes, I was greeted by none-other than Twilight Sparkle.

She looked different, her mane was matted and mangled. Her fur was full of dirt, and her ordinary lavender colour was almost completely gone, it was now more of a brownish plum colour. She didn’t look herself, not in the slightest.

“Twilight…” I groaned.

“We feared the worst, hearing the gunshot.” She said, not bothering to say hello.

I looked out the window of Paulo’s bedroom to see the others, just outside the building. All five of them looked different, even from the window I could see Rarity’s mane hadn’t been styled and her fur was grey, opposed to her usual pearly white.

“We need to get out of here, this whole building is rigged to explode in a matter of minutes!” I told Twilight.

“I’ll teleport us out of here.” She replied.

Her horn began to glow before I stopped her.

“Wait, no. There’s people in here, I need to help them.”

“There’s no time.” She said, looking at the barrel of napalm at the end of Paulo’s bed.

“We have about three minutes now, that’s enough time to find the key in this room.” I said frantically.

“I have just travelled the country to find you, I will not be put at further risk for your sake.” She spat.

I whipped around and glared at her.

“I am saving these people Twilight.” I growled.

She grunted and began to help me look around for the key.

CALLUM, HURRY!” Bunnie screamed.

{We’re not going to find the keys in time, I’ve been counting, we’ve got less than fifty seconds.} Conscio warned me.

“Twilight can you teleport three people at once?” I asked.

“No, it’s hard enough teleporting one human. Your bodies aren’t as compatible with my magic, it would completely drain my mana and I don’t have much left, I only have enough for you and me.” She told me.

I punched the bedroom door, putting a hole through the wood.

FUCK!” I cried angrily, before looking back to Twilight.

“I need you to burn through a pair of padlocks, can you do that at least?” I pleaded.

She nodded and we both rushed back into the office; Twilight came around the corner and both Bunnie and Dijla stared at her in complete shock.

“What is THAT?” Dijla asked nervously.

“No time to explain.” I replied hastily.

I pointed to the locks and ordered Twilight to burn them off.

“You didn't tell me they were going to be that bulky! This might take me a while.” She told me, frowning.

Stop fucking around and burn them!” I boomed angrily, ignoring the anguish it caused my chest.

Twilight flinched and quickly charged up her horn, before a purple laser shot forth and began burning the first lock, a few seconds later it finally snapped, and she got started on the second one.

“Hurry… Hurry!” I shouted, tears in my eyes.

Bunnie and Dijla were both shaking. Twilight was about halfway through when Hoyt’s remote began to beep rapidly, signalling the napalm was about to go off.

“There’s no time.” Twilight spoke.

I looked at her, my eyes wide, and then to Bunnie.

“Callum… I love you…” She told me.

“Burn the lock! Burn it! BURN IT!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Twilight’s horn lit up, and I felt a warmth around my body, and saw a purple aura around me.

“Callum, I love you so much…” Bunnie breathed, tears streaming down her face.

Before I could reply, there was a flash of white light and everything disappeared. I reappeared outside the compound and hit the dirt, I rolled onto my back and gasped as the pain shot through my chest again. I stood up as fast as I could and tried to run back into the compound, only for the entire building to burst into flames, the sheer force of the explosion knocked me off my feet and back a good couple of metres.

BUNNIE!” I bellowed.

I stood up and tried to run back into the building, only for Rainbow Dash and Applejack to run forward and hold me back, it took every ounce of their strength to stop me.

“Callum you can’t!” Applejack shouted.

GODDAMN IT, LET ME GET HER OUT OF THERE! GET OFF ME!” I screamed, shaking violently.

“Callum it’s too late, there’s nothing you can do!” Rainbow Dash cried out, desperately holding me down.

I shook and shook, and was eventually able to break free from Applejack and ran towards the compound, dragging Rainbow Dash behind me as she clutched onto my leg. I reached one of the windows, only for a burst of napalm to splutter out and hit my shoulder, I felt my lower neck burning and yelled in agony, unzipping my tactical jacket and throwing it to the ground.
Applejack reached me and wrapped her hooves around my waist and pulled me back, both ponies were able to drag me away from the building, kicking and screaming.

“I’m sorry Callum… I’m so sorry…” Applejack said, bursting into tears.

“No… No… No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO! NO!!” I howled, dropping to my knees.

I watched helplessly as the napalm consumed the entire compound, before letting out a gut-wrenching wail as I felt my heart break into a thousand pieces, I screamed into the air as loud as humanly possible, the ponies could do nothing to console me as I felt myself die inside. Nothing could describe this emotion, no pain I had ever endured could compare to this…

I must have been knelt there for at least an hour, sobbing and sobbing until I had no more tears left to shed, the flames eventually began to shrink as the whole compound was reduced to rubble and ash. I had cried so much that I couldn’t cry any further, I just knelt there with my mouth wide open, saliva and mucus dripping to the ground, creating a small sticky puddle.

“Callum…” Rainbow Dash breathed, unsure of what to say.

I didn’t respond, I just remained still, completely broken in spirit and soul.
Applejack wiped her own eyes, as she had also been crying, and then put a hoof on my shoulder.

“Sugarcube… Babe, we need to get going…”

I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I didn’t even feel alive. Fluttershy came over and put a hoof on my shoulder, her mane fell over the side of my head and was comforted by its silky touch against my cheek as she whispered into my ear.

“You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to do anything. You can sit in a corner for days if it’s what you need, but not here okay? We need to get away from this place, before more people come. We can’t be seen by anyone, I know you’re hurting, but I also know that you understand.”

Her buttery voice gave me enough strength to stand, I wiped my nose and took a step forward, that one step was all it took until the shock overwhelmed me, and I passed out, collapsing to the ground.

Bunnie was dead…

Chapter Thirteen - Pushed Over the Edge

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The first thing I felt was pain; it felt like there was a large shard of glass inside my ribcage, I coughed and I felt as if my entire torso was being crushed by a hydraulic press. I groaned loudly and tried to sit up, only to feel a hoof on my shoulder.

“Hey, take it slow…” A light tender voice spoke.

I opened my eyes to see Fluttershy looking down to me with a concerned look. I looked around to see I was in a large bedroom, in a double bed; the linen was smooth silk and seemed very expensive.

“Where am I?” I asked wearily, sitting up straight.

“A safe house we found a few days ago, it’s an old mansion that’s been abandoned on the side of a huge cliff, the rocks are crumbling and is pretty unstable, so we assume the owner packed everything and left before the house collapses. We’ve set up here until you get better.” She explained.

I rubbed the side of my head, it was thumping heavily and my whole body felt like hammered shit. My lips were chapped and my throat was burning, I looked down to find my chest was in a tight binder.

“Three broken ribs, a dislocated collar bone, and one very big bruise, it looked like you had been hit by a brick flying at a thousand miles an hour.” Fluttershy mused.

“Took a bullet to the chest at point blank range, my phone stopped it.” I coughed, causing me to wince.

“Goodness…” She gasped, putting her hoof to her mouth.

I looked at her, she looked just as mesmerising as the first day I met the ponies, I had forgotten how real they were over the past month away from them, I looked deep into her eyes and smiled lightly.

“I missed you…” I said hoarsely.

“Oh Callum… I missed you too…” She sighed sweetly.

She gave me a small hug, which caused some discomfort, but it was worth it to hug my friend again, to feel her soft fur and be reminded how wonderful it was to be with the ponies again. When she let go of me I rubbed my neck to find the burn was coated with a dried layer of Oozima, Fluttershy must have looked after me while I was unconscious.

“How long have I been out?”

“Just over a week, you did wake up at one point but were completely dazed and confused, you kept mumbling nonsense and thrashing around, so I gave you a sedative to keep you out for a few more days.” Fluttershy answered.

“Jeez…” I said, astounded.

I guess I hadn’t realised how exhausted I was, I had worked myself to the bone over the past month; and it had all been for nothing in the end. The moment Bunnie came back into my mind I began to cry.

“Callum…” She said, her own eyes watering up.

“She’s gone Fluttershy… Bunnie’s gone…” I whimpered.

At that moment, the door opened and all the others came into the room, they saw me in tears and rushed to my bedside, except for Twilight, who slowly approached the end of the bed.

“It’s going to be okay Callum…” Rainbow Dash said kindly.

I just buried my face into my hands and continued to sob loudly.

“I know this is a horrible thing to bring up, but what happened in there Callum?” Rarity asked.

I tried to speak, and just spluttered into my hands and cried harder. Fluttershy hopped onto the bed and sat beside me, giving me a big cuddle, hushing me quietly.

“She’s GONE!” I sobbed.

The feeling was too much, every second I cried it became more and more painful, it didn’t take long before I was hyperventilating and trembling all over, this had destroyed me.

“Who was she?” Fluttershy quietly asked, rubbing my back lightly.

I continued to sob for a while, before wiping my nose and allowing Fluttershy to console me slightly, Rarity levitated a tissue over to me to wipe my eyes and nose properly.

“Sh-she was the reason I infiltrated th-the gang... I was trying to rescue her…” I stuttered, sniffing loudly.

“Was she your friend?” Pinkie asked, both her mane and ears drooping.

I coughed a few times, still trembling.

“I loved her…” I replied.

I straight away burst into tears again and buried myself into Fluttershy. The ponies had no idea what to say, or what to do, but how could they? What did they know about this kind of loss?

“If I may, could I talk to him?” Applejack spoke.

The group looked at her blankly, waiting for her to talk to me.

“Alone.” She stated, rolling her eyes.

Fluttershy gave me a kiss on the forehead and left with the others, allowing Applejack and I to have the room to ourselves. She hopped onto the bed and gave me a motherly hug.

“Come here little one… It’s alright you hear?” She whispered into my ear.

“How can you say that? How can this be alright?” I cried into her shoulder.

“Because I’ve got you. No matter what you feel, I’ve got you.” She hushed.

She rocked me side to side gently, and patted my back to the rhythm of a heartbeat, and very slowly I could calm down my breathing.

“That’s it sugarcube… That’s it…”

I didn’t know how Applejack had calmed me so well, but whatever she was doing, it was working.

“I don’t know how I can carry on after this…” I muttered hoarsely.

“I know babe, I really do know…”

“How can you know?” I croaked.

Applejack let go of me and sat back so she could look into my eyes.

“Because I’ve been through this before.” She sighed.

My eyes widened.


“I was young, Applebloom was only a month old. Big McIntosh burst into my room one night and snatched me out of my bed, told me we had to get out right away; he picked up Applebloom and carried her outside with me.
That’s when I saw the fire… Fire everywhere…
Big Mac didn’t have time to go in for Ma and Pa, but he saved Applebloom and Granny.
He still blames himself, it’s why he’s so quiet... All the time...”

I looked at Applejack as her ears drooped down the side of her head and she sighed.

{That’s why she got so upset back at home, when I faked my death.} I thought.

“Applejack… I’m so sorry…” I breathed.

“It’s alright sugarcube, I’ve learned to cope, I've have been a mother to Applebloom as well as a big sister. Besides, the rest of the Apple family have always supported me and given me help when I’ve needed it.” She told me, giving me a reassuring smile.

I gave her a cuddle, she truly did understand this agonising pain, and I knew I’d be able to get over this in due time with her support.

We both jumped as we heard a crash in the room directly below us, along with Rainbow Dash shouting angrily at something.

“I ain’t heard Rainbow shout that loud in a while.” AJ muttered with a grimace.

I slid out of bed, which wasn’t that painful as my body had been given the time to recover, my chest was still aching a lot, but otherwise I wasn’t in too much discomfort.
Getting down on my knees, I placed my ear against the wooden floor to eavesdrop.

Get off me!” I heard Twilight shouting.

Get off you!? You’re lucky if I don’t KILL you!” Rainbow screamed.

“I’d like to see you try!

You’re a murderer!”

“Oh get over it! She was an expendable asset; she would have completely hindered the mission!” Twilight spat, following the sounds of more wrestling.

I began to shake, my heart skipped a beat and my blood ran cold.

He loved her! And you let her DIE! YOU’RE A MONSTER!” Rainbow Dash bellowed.

“How about we stay here for another month, let Nah’Lek catch up to us? THEN you’ll see a monster!

My stomach began to grow hot with a feeling I couldn’t describe, I felt my heart rate grow faster and faster as adrenaline began to consume me.

“Callum… Callum calm down…” Applejack warned me.

I stood up, shaking like a leaf in a tornado.

“What the fuck…” I muttered quietly, processing what I’d just heard.

Applejack ran over to me and took my arm.

“Callum please don’t…”

“Tw… Twilight…”

“Callum you’re scaring me…”

My body started to tingle, adrenaline now completely fuelling me.
I saw Bunnie’s face in my mind, and then all I could see was red.

TWILIGHT!” I roared at the top of my lungs.

Beneath the floorboards I heard Rainbow Dash charging upstairs, and Rarity telling Twilight to run.

“Callum no!” Applejack cried out.

She latched onto me and tried to hold me back, which was when Rainbow Dash burst into the room and ran to aid her, grabbing my arms and trying to restrain me.

“Callum, calm down! Please! You need to calm down!” She grunted.

“Get off me!” I screamed viciously as I shook from side to side.

“Callum, you’re freaking out, which is freaking me out.” Applejack yelped.

“I hate her too Callum! I fucking hate her! But please calm down!” Dash begged.

I put my hands under Rainbow Dash and lifted her up, before tossing her to the side, she landed awkwardly and tripped over, hitting the back of her head on the wall. I karate chopped Applejack’s foreleg which caused he to let go of me and I stormed past Rainbow Dash, who was still lying on her side, rubbing the back of her head in pain.

“Callum, please…” She pleaded.

I ignored her and marched out the room and down the hallway, which was when Fluttershy put her head around one of the open doors.

“Callum, this isn’t you, please-”

I put my palm on the door and forced it shut, pushing Fluttershy back into her room, she emitted a small yelp from inside. I then felt a tugging at the binder, I whipped around to see Pinkie’s mouth attached to me, trying to pull me back with her teeth.

“Get off me now…” I growled.

“Nmph um nm mmph!” She replied with a mouth full of cloth.

I yanked back viciously, and some of the binder ripped off in her teeth, freeing me. I continued to storm towards the staircase. Leaving Pinkie to sit in the middle of the hallway, confused, with a small blood-stained rag in her mouth, which was slowly becoming bloodier…

I was just about to reach the staircase when Rarity teleported in front of me, I approached her and stopped, my chest a mere inch from her nose.

“Get out of my way Rarity.” I commanded through gritted teeth.

“Listen to me-”

You listen to me…” I growled as I forcefully planted my hand on her chest.

She said nothing, she didn’t even flinch.

“I will make her pay for what she’s done, and you will NOT… Stand in my way…” I hissed.

“I won’t stand in your way.” Rarity accepted.

“Then get out of-”

But…” She interrupted, “Think of why we’re here, think of the mission… We need Twilight alive to fix the orb shards together when we find them all… Please just… Don’t kill her…”

I took in a deep breath.

“I will not kill her… I’ll just make her wish I had…” I said gruffly.

I pushed Rarity aside and marched down the stairs.

“Think about us Callum.” She called after me.

I ignored her and continued to storm down the stairs, jumping over the railing as I neared the bottom, I landed heavily and the whole room shook.
I stood up straight and looked to my left, and noticed one of the front doors was slightly ajar.

“You… Little… Fuck!” I growled deeply.

I strode to the double doors and shoulder rammed them open, there was a loud crack as the wood splintered and one of the doors came off their hinges and slid along the ground ahead of me. I looked around to search for her, before looking at the ground to see hoof-prints heading directly ahead.
She was going to the cliff…

Without uttering a word, I began marching once more, the raging fire of hate in my belly growing more and more, becoming hotter and hotter. That fucking bitch took Bunnie away from me; she lied and tricked everyone before letting the girl I love die. She took away my one shot at true happiness. I would make her suffer for this if it were the last thing I did…

Behind me was the sound of a pony galloping towards me, I clenched my fists and turned around, only to see Applejack sprinting towards me as fast as her legs could carry her.

“Callum, please, you need to calm down, there’s something I need to explain to you, she-”

“There’s nothing to explain, she’s a monster.” I spat.

I kept my fists clenched, shaking all over; it took all my willpower just to stand still.

“No, you don’t understand, there’s something wrong with her.” She told me.

“Damn fucking right there’s something wrong with her, Twilight is going to get what she deserves, and if you stand in my way, I will go through you…” I growled.

“Callum! For goodness sake listen to me! There’s something genuinely wrong with her, Fluttershy told me something’s making her act like this, that she’s sick or something.”

“Yeah, sick in the head. Now stay out of my way.” I ordered.

I turned from her and kept walking towards the cliff, I felt nothing but rage, the only thing on my mind was wringing Twilight’s scrawny little neck.
I was near the edge of the cliff when I saw her, sitting down in the glow of the early evening sun.
She knew I was there, and turned her head slowly to face me.
And that’s when she smiled…

TWILIGHT!!!!!” I roared at the top of my lungs as I sprinted towards her.

Twilight sat there, looking at me with the same sly smirk the whole time, just as I was about to reach her she flashed purple and disappeared. I skidded to a halt and looked around frantically.

WHERE ARE YOU!?” I boomed.

There was suddenly a deep pain as a fist sized rock flew into my back from behind; I whipped around to see Twilight.

“Right here.” She said darkly.

I looked at her, before roaring like an enraged bear and charging towards her. Once again she teleported away from me, a split second later she reappeared right in front of me.

“You’re only wearing yourself out.” She told me dully, her eyes full of boredom.

“I’ll gut you, you little cunt!” I yelled as I charged towards her again.

A flash of white, and she was somewhere else again.

Every time I reached her, she teleported away. I ran in circles, getting more and more frustrated as she kept disappearing and then reappearing further away from me. She was toying with me. I picked up a stone and hid it behind my back as I charged again, as expected she teleported. When she reappeared, I threw the stone as hard as I could, it hit her right in the collar bone and she screamed in shock and pain, with instinct she teleported again, only to appear right next to me.

I dived at her and caught her hind legs, she quickly tried to buck me and I yanked her back onto her side. I flopped onto her with all my weight, knocking the wind out of her, she wheezed loudly in pain, I then hit her in the face, hard. I hit her at least seven times before I stood up and grabbed her back legs, before swinging her around and letting go, launching her like a living hammer-throw. She wriggled around in mid-air before hitting the ground and letting out a loud grunt of pain.
I stood there and glared at her, waiting for her to stand up.

“Stop Callum please! No more!” I heard Rarity call from behind me.

I looked back to see her and all the others, looking at me desperately.

Don’t you see what she is!? Don’t you see what she’s done!?” I yelled back.

“She took away someone you care about! It was wrong, it was so wrong Callum! But please, don’t do this!” Rainbow Dash shouted.

The tears began to fill up my eyes, before they started to stream down my face.

SHE TOOK AWAY THE ONE PERSON WHO'LL EVER TRULY LOVE ME!” I screamed, before I began to sob.

Everyone’s face dropped as they began to understand my anguish, my true loss.
Suddenly Rarity’s face filled with shock and horror.

TWILIGHT! NO!” She screeched.

I turned around just as the fireball hit me, it exploded into my chest and sent me flying backwards by a few metres, I hit the ground and felt the searing pain burn into my whole torso and neck; the pain was almost unbearable. I opened my eyes to see that my binder was on fire. I rolled around in agony as my chest became a giant candle, I could faintly hear the cries of my friends over my own screams. I stood up and ripped the binder apart and threw it away, I tensed every muscle in my body as my chest continued to sizzle like a strip of bacon fresh from a grill.

“Callum, are you alright!?” Rainbow Dash asked, full of worry.

I said nothing as I slowly began to walk towards Twilight, whom was crouched like a panther, her horn lit and ready to cast more spells. She wrinkled her nose as both of her nostrils leaked blood down into her mouth, causing her bared teeth to get bloody, she glared at me, ready to face me. I rolled my shoulders as I also prepared myself.

“I’m not scared of you anymore…” Twilight growled.

“You didn’t have to be, ever… Until now…” I hissed back.

Twilight was the first to make an attack; she shot another fireball at me, to which I quickly dodged and then starting running towards her. She levitated a rock and launched it at my head, but I moved to the side and caught it, before throwing it back at her, she blocked it with a bubble shield.

“Your physical strength is nothing to me human!” She sneered.

That was when I charged at her, I sprinted full pelt at her and jumped into the air as I brought my fist down with all my might and shattered the shield, taking her completely by surprise. I grabbed her by the throat and lifted her into the air.

“Much like how your magic is nothing to me.” I spat.

I squeezed her throat tightly before hurling her towards the others, who were hopelessly watching, unsure of what to do. As Twilight landed, she rolled a few times; I ran towards her to follow up my attack. Just as she attempted to stand up, I reached her and kicked her in the chest, the mare was taken up with my foot and was launched into the air for a second time. She hit the ground and gasped in agony, before rolling to face me and shooting a bolt of lightning at me.
The bolt struck and my muscles went into spasm, it eventually died away and I continued striding to Twilight, who had now recovered and was about to cast another spell.

“You’re such a disappointment to Celestia, do you know that Twilight?” I growled.

“Your words won’t break me human.” She spat back.

“Oh, I don’t intend to break you with words. I just thought I’d point out how much of a failure you are before I break you physically!”

“Again, your words are noth-”

“Then again, Celestia's an absolutely pathetic excuse for a ruler, so it’s only fitting that she has a pathetic student to follow her uncoordinated plans!” I interrupted.

“Princess Celestia is-”

“A shit princess. She sent five inexperienced young adults and a fucking child on this mission, to an alien world with more danger than anywhere in Equestria. Sending you on this mission was the most retarded decision she’s ever made, which is saying something, as there’s a lot to choose from!”

Twilight’s pupils shrank as her eyes fixated on me in pure blood-lust, she looked like she was about to explode from her rage.

“That fat old horse has no mental capacity, how she’s been able to live this long without an uprising is beyond me…”

Twilight’s bloodstained teeth began to show again as her lips curled upwards into the most horrific snarl I’d ever seen, she was now as enraged as a rabid dog, yet I still continued.

“And then there’s you… You gullible little fuck! You obey her every order without question, not knowing a thing about this world! But you’ll believe anything that comes pouring out of her cake-filled mouth, because you'll do anything to please Her Royal Majesty! You know, legend has it around here that you take a knee and give her a “m’lady” every time she goes to take a shit. Do you wipe her arse for her as well? I’ve always wondered…” I sneered.

At this, Twilight screeched at the top of her lungs and sprinted towards me, her glowing horn extending out into an almighty flickering spike, a lance of pure energy. As Twilight attempted to skewer me, I dodged to the side and grabbed her mane, lifting her up and using her own momentum to throw her into the air. Astoundingly, upon hitting the ground, she immediately picked herself back up, completely shrugging off the the impact. Her horn glowed like never before, and without warning, I felt my whole body being squeezed as I was levitated into the air.

FUCK YOU!” She screamed.

Suddenly, I was flung high up into the air and towards the cliff’s edge many yards away. I collided with a large tree, before I began to hurtle back towards the ground. Upon falling, I grabbed at a few branches to slow my descent, most branches broke, but a couple could withstand me and ended up slicing my hands open. I collided with a large branch on my way down, it snapped loudly but thankfully broke my fall, along with many other smaller branches. I hit the ground and felt my left shoulder pop out of place, causing me to gasp in agony. I stood up and I grabbed my dislocated arm and placed it against the tree, and then forced the shoulder back into place, causing a loud painful crunch. I then looked down to my side to see a massive splinter of wood sticking out of my belly. I grasped it firmly and pulled it out, thankfully it wasn’t too deep.

Pain meant nothing to me here, the adrenaline and rage combined allowed me to block out everything. My hands were cut deeply; blood was dripping to the ground from my palms, this only made me more hateful.

“I’ve just about had enough of you…” I growled as I started walking back to Twilight.

Why won’t you just die!?” She yelled from afar, her horn glowing once more.

She shot a massive purple laser beam at me, which I only just dodged. The beam hit a tree behind me and went straight through it, disintegrating a whole section of the trunk and causing the tree to fall.
As the tree hit the ground, I felt the whole area around me vibrate.

{The cliff’s unstable!} Conscio shouted faintly from the depths of my mind.

I tried to head away from the edge, closer to Twilight, only for her to run towards me and shoot another beam of energy. I dodged it and it met another a tree, it fell and shook the cliff again.

JUST! DIE!” She screamed at the top of her lungs as she shot a burst of magic energy into the sky.

The clouds went black in seconds, and it quickly started showering large hailstones, each one of them stung my back as they smacked into me. I moved forward, only for a gigantic bolt of lightning to smack into the ground between us.

“Fuck!” I yelped.

Another bolt struck close by, then another, and then another. With each devastating strike, the cliff shook more; these lightning bolts were causing it to collapse. Twilight shot another laser at me and it hit a third tree, and as it collapsed, I felt the cliff drop ever so slightly, the other girls felt it too, as they started taking steps back in the direction of the mansion.

“The cliff!” Rarity wailed.

I looked behind me to see the edge of the cliff collapsing.

“Shit…” I growled.

I ran towards the group, only for Twilight to grab me in her magic and hold me up in the air.

“Die, and stay dead!” She yelled as she flung me over the fallen trees.

I hit the ground with a hard thud close to the cliff's edge. Groaning in pain, I got to my feet and looked to the rocky fringe, realising with horror that the whole area was beginning to fall away, as the ground itself shook violently.

Oh fuck!” I yelped, turning to run for the mansion.

I ran as fast as I could but my leg was in absolute agony, I looked down to see a broken tree branch protruding from the back of my right leg, I grabbed it and yanked it out before sprinting at my absolute maximum to safety. The ground beneath me shook violently as I ran, I looked back once to see the whole cliff was gone behind me and was still breaking apart. Ahead of me, I could see the others coming to a halt where the area became more stable, they turned and looked back to watch me, desperately shouting at me to run faster.

CALLUM RUN!” Rarity wailed at the top of her lungs.

The ponies, and the ground beneath them began to slowly rise upwards as the rock and dirt below me gave way, I jumped forward onto a fallen tree and ran up along the trunk, I kept running as everything around me crumbled apart. I jumped forward and was just about to reach the mainland with the others, when the ground ahead also gave way.

NO!” Rainbow Dash screamed.

I jumped onto a bigger dirt mount and made a leap for the mainland, and grabbed onto some large tree roots protruding from the earth, I held on for dear life as everything around me continued to shake with malice, as if the mountain itself wanted to take me down. I looked up to see the six looking down at me, their faces were contorted with sheer terror and desperation. I noticed Rainbow Dash savagely trying to rip apart the bandages around her wings, where her feathers were still growing back.

Hang on! Don’t let go!” Applejack wailed, tears streaming from her eyes.

I froze like a block of ice, holding on for dear life with all my remaining strength. And then, as I looked up to the ponies, I noticed something about Twilight; something utterly haunting.
Her eyes, and her horn… they were both shimmering with a sickly emerald green…

“The Fel…” I gasped.

Suddenly the ponies screamed and jumped back as the ground shook, that’s when the tree above me gave way and I lost my grip on the roots, I screamed in fear as I suddenly began to fall.

CALLUUUMM!!!” The ponies screeched.

I was plummeting to my inevitable death, and nothing would stop it. I cried out loudly as I fell to the bottom of the mountain, every shred of anger for Twilight was replaced with fear as I realised, I was about to die.

Just as I was about to meet my very gruesome fate, I felt everything begin to slow down, as though my body were on a giant bungee cord, I went slower and slower before I was almost at a complete standstill. That’s when I noticed the trees and debris that was also falling all around me were slowing down as well, as if all time itself was coming to a halt.

“What the hell?” I breathed.

And then I heard something, something very peculiar.
Wings beating. Very large wings at that.

{Perhaps Rainbow Dash’s wings have healed?} Conscio thought.

I settled for that and assumed Rarity’s magic was slowing my fall, and Rainbow Dash was swooping in to save me from the brink of death, but what I saw next, only led to further confusion and astonishment.
What I saw was a man, in a suit of metal, with a ginormous pair of ashen wings upon his back.

It was the sniper from Chernobyl…

His hands were glowing in a lavender coloured aura, exactly like the glow that surrounded Twilight’s or Rarity’s horn when they used magic. This man, or, whatever he was, apparently had the capability to use magic, furthering my doubt that he was even human at all.

“You…” I muttered.

As I spoke, I realised how much pain I was in, I looked down to realise just how badly my fight with Twilight had injured me, my hands were sliced deeply and were stinging terribly, but that was nothing in comparison to the burns across my chest and neck; the fireball had seriously caused some damage, there was no doubt that it would leave a nasty scar, even if Fluttershy applied Oozima to it.

The sniper flew up to me and grabbed my wrist without uttering a word; the moment he made contact with my skin, everything flashed white. I felt myself falling once again and hit the ground, rolling over onto my back, and the first thing I felt was icy cold, and found myself in about six-inch-deep snow. I scrambled to my feet and watched as the winged man landed in front of me, his wings causing snowflakes to flurry around in all directions as he did so; he then walked towards me and towered over me menacingly.

"Who are you? Where have you taken me?" I demanded to know.

At last, the man spoke, his voice was exactly as it was during my dream in Brazil, tinny and distorted, with a very faint English tone.

"Look around, you know where you are."

The dying trees, the freezing temperature, the heavy snow.
He was right, I knew exactly where he had taken me.

He had taken me to the Frozen Forest…

Chapter Fourteen - Answers

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“No, we can’t be here! We need to get out of here!” I shouted.

“You are safe, Nah’lek the Defiler isn't aware of our presence here, for now.” He replied.

“You know him?” I asked.

“Too well.”

He turned around and started to walk deeper into the forest, his wings flexing ever so slightly.

“Walk with me.” He requested.

I followed him, and couldn’t help but gaze at his wings; they must have been at least seven metres in wingspan, they were huge. Each feather was a brilliant white, and they fluttered slightly against the cold breeze that whistled through the woodland.

“Who are you?” I quizzed.

The sniper didn’t turn to face me, and continued to walk in silence.

“Hey, you’ve been following me since Chernobyl, you’re stalking me for a reason; so cut the mystery man cliché bullshit and tell me who the hell you are!” I demanded.

“To tell you all that I know, would be your undoing. But you may call me Guardian.” He spoke.

“Ooh, the Guardian. How unoriginal do you want to be? Come on man, what’s your real name? Is it Kevin? Bruce? Dave? Scott? How about Mitch?” I mocked him.

As he tried to speak, I interrupted him with a nasally, high pitched voice.

Is it Basil Fawlty?

One of his wings whipped out and cuffed the back of my head, making me jump.

“If you really must know, my name is Hawnu Rey’eng.” He sighed.

“Fancy, it sounds like a foreign name.” I hummed.

“It’s a language unknown to humans, it roughly translates to ‘Protector of the Balance’.” He explained.

“So you basically just told me that your name is the Guardian again, just in another language?” I teased.

Hawnu Rey’eng huffed, mildly amused.

I stopped fooling around and began to study him; he was far taller than me, he easily looked about six and a half feet high, opposed to me almost being five foot, eleven.
His suit had always looked jet black from a distance, but up close I noticed it was an extremely dark purple, the metal looked to be chrome plated, as I saw the entire colour spectrum swirling around in the reflection. Come to think of it, it looked very similar to a Spartan suit from the Halo games, obviously there were numerous differences, but it was still quite a resemblance. He seemed to carry no weapons, and so I assumed the sniper rifle he used in Chernobyl was just a temporary weapon to distract the zombies.

“So, what are you exactly?” I asked, curious.

“I was once a man, now I am something more, that’s all I can tell you.” He replied, his wings flexing again.

“Why can’t you tell me more?”

While I couldn’t see his face, I could almost sense him rolling his eyes.

“I was given strict rules to follow when ordered to protect you, there are things that you are not allowed to know until a later point in time. For now, take solace in knowing that you will understand some day.” He told me.

I shrugged, before looking ahead into the ever darkening forest.

We had been walking for a while before Hawnu Rey’eng turned to face me.

“Do you know what this place is?” He asked.

“Yeah, the Frozen Forest.”

“But do you know what this place is?”

I bit my bottom lip, before remembering what Nah’Lek had said on our first encounter here.

“This is the afterlife of Equus, right?”

“That is where the Defiler lied to you, an attempt to lead you astray.” He explained.

“Well, what is it then?” I quizzed.

“See for yourself.” He told me quietly.

I looked around, trying to get a sense of things; the trees were blackened, dead and corrupted by Fel, I kicked away the snow beneath my feet to find the dirt was black as night, nothing here was healthy.
The entire forest was sick.


{No… Fucking… Way…} Conscio and I both thought simultaneously.

“This place… This is…” I breathed, but couldn’t finish.

I was in shock for a moment; it was so obvious now.
The Frozen Forest was the mind of Twilight Sparkle...

“We’re inside her head…” I muttered after a few moments of silence.

Hawnu Rey’eng walked over to a tree and stroked the blackened bark.

“Once, this woodland flourished. The trees grew tall towards the sun, trying to learn more about the universe, every branch entwined with that of the surrounding trees; the grass was soft and full of happy thoughts and feelings. You could once take a walk through this land and find nothing but the eagerness to learn, and to spread the magic of friendship.
Now, the only thing you see here is death, cold, and bitter hatred; the sun doesn’t shine anymore.”

I understood the metaphor of the forest now, the trees were like Twilight’s neurons; the icy cold had caused everything to stop growing, her brain was dying, and the Fel was causing it.

“You sound like you’ve been here before.” I muttered.

He looked over his shoulder to glance at me, before kneeling down and scooping up some black earth, he crumbled it into a powder, and then let it fall from his hand onto the snow.

“Perhaps…” He sighed.

I took another look around the woodland and realised just how poisoned the place was, it was much worse than my first visit here. I noticed several trees had fallen, and some had all their branches broken.

“Did the Fel do that?” I quizzed, pointed at them.

At this, he shook his head.

“You did…”

I gulped, I must have hit Twilight so hard that it had caused some minor damage to her brain.

“Is it permanent?” I nervously asked.

“That depends on if you can rid this place of the Fel.” He replied.

{Do you remember that hole we found last time? With the green glow deep within?} Conscio reminded me.

“Your little friend is incredibly wise.” Hawnu Rey’eng said, tapping the side of his head.

“You can hear Conscio?” I asked.

“I hear all, and see all.” He confirmed, nodding.

I looked around, we weren’t anywhere near the small cave, Conscio remembered exactly where it was and this place didn’t look familiar to him.

“I assume I have to go inside the hole and do something?” I asked.

“Yes, but not during this visit.”

“Why not?”

“You do not possess the power right now, only Twilight herself can cure her sickness.” He explained.

I looked at him in confusion, if I couldn’t cure Twilight, why was I here?
Before I could speak, Hawnu Rey’eng looked at me and gave a disgruntled huff.

“It would have been much easier before the fight, your battle has allowed the Fel to take over her mind completely. Curing her will now be far more difficult, for this place has become far more inhospitable.” He grunted.

“Oh, so now you’re blaming me? Corrupted or not, she's responsible for Bunnie’s death!” I growled.

“It was a merciful death.”

“You fucking WHAT!?” I shouted, clenching my fists.



I marched up to Hawnu Rey’eng and planted a finger on his chromed chest, my eyes filling with tears.

“I spent over a month trying to rescue her and Dijla! I was willing to give up the whole fucking mission just to get them away from Paulo, and I had JUST succeeded when Twilight let her die!

I collapsed to my knees and began to weep.

“How… HOW… Could that be merciful?”

My tears dripped from my cheeks and my chin, cutting tiny holes in the snow.
Hawnu Rey’eng knelt beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“Bunnie’s death was tragic, I watched from afar as you ran back towards the compound, prepared to burn alive in order to save her. Regardless of the short time you knew one another, I have no doubt that the love was real. May you know that I feel great empathy towards your loss, and your sorrow.”

His metal glove was ice cold, yet strangely reassuring. I turned to face my mysterious guardian and looked into his visor; I could very faintly make out a pair of eyes that looked right back into my own.
He sighed and continued.

“Should she have lived, Bunnie would never have made it home; Nah’Lek can detect the presence of magic, and can follow it for thousands of miles. If Twilight chose to save Bunnie and her mother, Nah’Lek would follow their trail and attempt to extract information from them. He would try to find out your next destination and would slaughter them afterwards.
Nah’Lek is evil in its purest form, he would leave her in more pain than any human body could possibly comprehend, his methods of torture are beyond barbaric. Bunnie and Dijla would have suffered a fate worse than you can imagine, they would end up begging for death in the end.”

I took in his words, and tried to understand everything he was saying.
Regardless of everything I had been through, I still needed some time to get a grip on reality itself, especially with the ponies back in my life. It had been over half a year now since they came along and changed my world, but I still fluctuated back and forth from knowing what was real and what wasn’t.

After thinking it through, I began to see how Hawnu Rey’eng was right, while Bunnie’s death had completely broken me, it could have ended a lot worse for her.

{Napalm burns at a thousand degrees, not to mention the amount of carbon monoxide that’s released, as horrible as it is, she would have only felt it for less than a second. If Rainbow and Applejack hadn’t stopped you from entering the building, she’d be nothing but ash by the time you reached her.
I hate to say it, but the tin can’s right, dying this way was a kindness for Bunnie.} Conscio told me.

I sighed, and allowed myself to calm down from my tearful state. I stood up and brushed the snow from my knees, I slapped my cheeks a few times to feel something more real.
Deep down I knew I would have to let go of Bunnie, too much was at stake in the bigger picture, with Nah’Lek on our tail and the Titan’s Orb to recover. Getting any form of revenge from Hoyt was out of the question, if I went after him, Nah’Lek would find and kill the ponies; I needed to let go. But knowing and accepting this, didn’t make it any easier…

“How do we cure Twilight?” I asked, sniffing.

Hawnu Rey’eng pulled something from his back, it was the same cylindric container he had given me back in Rahim’s room in the Blood Family.

“Try not to lose it again.” He ordered.

He opened the box and showed me the collars, I then looked at the guardian with confusion.

“What do they do?” I asked.

“As I said previously, only Twilight can willingly cure herself.”

{How about you stop speaking in riddles and just tell us, dickwad?} Conscio muttered.

Hawnu Rey’eng exhaled loudly through his nose with amusement.

“Very well; these collars will allow a controlled transfer of consciousness.” He explained.

I stood up and looked at him with shock.

“Wait, you’re going to make me and Twilight switch bodies?” I asked.

Hawnu Rey’eng simply nodded, causing me to look back at the collars and scratch my head.

“But her brain is completely poisoned, surely that isn’t safe.”

“I’ve tested you before, and you survived.” He replied.

“Wait… YOU made us switch bodies? I thought that was Nah’Lek!” I exclaimed.

“Nah’Lek has no power over you yet, I placed you in one another’s bodies so you could endure a taste of the Fel without your depression to shield you. Inside Twilight’s mind you were resistant, and willing to do what Twilight cannot; to destroy the Fel’s corruption.” He told me.

I took a step back, and then looked all around me at the dead forest.


“Deep within Twilight’s brain, you will find her mana well." He began.

This sounded familiar to me, and I vaguely remembered something like that being mentioned to me before.

“A what?” I asked, hoping for clarification.

Hawnu Rey’eng gave an irritated sigh as he knew he would have to explain everything, he gestured for me to sit down again and I crossed my legs, allowing him to educate me.

“The mana well is an area in the brain, it’s a store for the purest energy in the universe, mana. Every living creature in existence contains mana, it is what your soul is made from. Creatures such as unicorns can convert their mana into magic, through their horns. Many species can also use magic in more subtle ways, a pegasus such as Rainbow Dash uses magic through her wings to make herself lighter during flight, giving her much greater speed in the air. Fluttershy has the ability to use magic with her voice, and can enchant animals with song. Earth ponies such as Applejack have magic in their legs, giving them enhanced strength.
Planet Earth’s bumble bee converts mana into magic, to allow it to fly easier. Even humans contain a great amount of mana, but have lost the ability to use it. But long ago, some humans could harness their mana into magic, and were given many names, wizards, witches, sorcerers, and the like. Over time, mainly through your medieval period, they were hunted and executed, and the ability for human magic has been lost over generations.
Magic is fuelled by mana, and mana is the lifeblood of the universe.
Twilight’s mana well is abnormally large, due to her incredible gifts with magic. The Fel has corrupted her mana well, and feeds on it like a parasite while spreading to every area of her mind.”

I whistled loudly as all that information sank in, this wasn’t just a little pep-talk, this was some deep existential stuff. What he had just explained to me gave me a deeper understanding of the universe itself.

{Also explains the intro to the Bee Movie…} Conscio pointed out.

I ignored Connie and thought about mana. I wanted to study it now, with the idea truly fascinating me that every living being had mana flowing through them, even non-magical creatures such as I. Thinking about it, I finally remembered where I had heard about this before; it had been before Brazil, shortly after faking my death. Twilight had explained what a mana well was back then, which I had simply forgotten about after everything that happened with Inigo and his cartel.

“So, how does this correlate to destroying the Fel?” I asked, curious.

Hawnu Rey’eng passed me the collars.

“While controlling Twilight, you must find the entry point that you previously found, reach the mana well, and drain it completely, then you must guard the well, until it refills with pure mana. When it is full, it will begin to purify Twilight’s brain until the Fel is eventually burnt out into non-existence.”

I hummed, the plan made sense to an extent.

“What will I be guarding the well from?” I quizzed.

“Hell.” He replied.

“And how exactly do I fight hell?” I scoffed.

“You will be an extremely gifted and powerful unicorn, use her spells to your advantage.” He advised.

Without warning, the entire forest was plunged into darkness, the white snow became a dark grey as the entire woodland was coated in shadow.

“Nah’Lek is here.” Hawnu Rey’eng whispered.

His hands began to glow and our bodies lit up in the same lavender aura from before; with a bright flash, we were gone, and reappeared on the hard rocky base of the collapsing cliff, time still frozen.

“I will shield you from the rock-fall, where you must remain until the ponies find you, they cannot know I was here, understood?” He commanded.

I nodded, before tilting my head.

“What about the collars?”

“I will hide them inside Twilight’s satchel, they will believe it was a precaution from Celestia.” He told me.

Putting a palm to my chest, he coated me in a blanket of orange magic, I poked myself to find the magic was hard as rock, yet smooth as silk.

“No harm will come to you, but you must remain here for the ponies to discover.”

At this, I gave him a concerned look.

“Won’t the ponies be a little suspicious when they find me completely unharmed?” I pondered.

Hawnu Rey’eng looked up and levitated a hollow log from higher up and brought it to the ground, he pointed to the hole and gestured me to get inside.

“Okay, so even if I were able to crawl into a log mid-fall, surely I’d still be injured.” I hummed.

“You’re right.” He replied.

Without warning, he punched me in the face; the force from his metal glove was enough to bring me down on one knee, instantly bruising my face and casing my nose to start streaming blood. I yelped with shock and tried to stand up, only for him to grab my arm and dislocate my left shoulder for the second time today.

OW! WARN ME, YOU TIN-CAN CUNT!” I shouted, clutching my shoulder.

“You wanted believable.” He said, shrugging his shoulders innocently.

{You’re a cock-shit.} Conscio spat.

“Climb into the log.” He ordered.

I groaned painfully and began to crawl inside the log.

“I thought you said the magic would shield me from harm?” I growled.

“And it will, just not from me.” Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled.

“Whatever…” I muttered under my breath.

I squeezed myself inside the log, which was very painful, thanks to my shoulder. The moment I was safe inside, I heard the guardian flap his wings and take off, and then all hell broke loose. Time around me unfroze and trees and rocks came crashing down, the vibrations were enough to cause the whole log to jump, making my shoulder rock back and forth. I cried out in pain as I was thrust side to side against the inside of the log, before finally the largest part of the cliff met the ground and buried me alive, all the light went out and I was encased in darkness. Everything around me continued to shake violently until eventually I heard the faint sound of stones colliding with the ground above me, and then silence.

I grew concerned with how far underneath the landfall I was, I could be metres and metres below earth and stone at this point, while the shield had kept me safe from any form of injury, I could still suffocate. The ponies might be searching for hours before they found me, I decided I would slowly try to reach the surface, which would prove difficult as I only had one usable arm. I squeezed myself to the end of the log, the rockfall had cracked most of the wood but it still encased me reasonably well; thankfully I didn’t have claustrophobia or I’d be having one heck of a panic attack, I had about an inch of free space here.
I couldn’t see a damn thing, and had to stroke my hand across the log until I eventually found the end and pushed against the rocks blocking my exit. They remained still, I pushed as hard as I could and they very slightly budged, but otherwise I was still entrapped.

“Well, shit…” I muttered.

I lay there and tried to think out a plan.

{Let’s rest for a moment and wait for the ponies to reach us, then we’ll try to break this log and cause some rocks to move a little, hopefully they’ll see it and dig us out.} Conscio suggested.

I settled for that idea and kept still, savouring my remaining strength and oxygen for later.

About ten minutes past before I heard the extremely faint sounds of hooves clip-clopping on the rocks above me, I took this opportunity to shout as loud as I could.

HEEYY! HEEEYYY!!” I bellowed.

I rolled side to side and tried to move the log, but nothing happened. I was too far underground for them to hear me and I needed to act now. I started kicking frantically at my wooden vessel until it started to break away, the weight of the rock above it allowed the log to crumple and suddenly the entire structure broke into pieces, allowing a large majority of rock and earth to shift downwards onto my legs and lower torso. I felt the entire weight pushing me down slightly, but Hawnu Rey’eng’s shield kept me from being squished like putty. I clawed upwards and tried to shift more rocks, and one by one they slowly moved out of my way, I was aware that I would surely run out of air soon if I didn’t make it to the surface.
My hand gripped a huge stone and I pulled it backwards with all my might, and it thankfully shifted, which was when a gigantic mass of earth gave way and buried me entirely, covering my face and chest; I tried to pull my arm back only to find it was now trapped around other rocks, I was completely encased and couldn’t move. I desperately moved my head around in little circles in attempt to get a pocket of air, otherwise I’d end up just inhaling dirt.
I was eventually able to create the tiniest gap and took in as much air as I could, before holding my breath for dear life, as I had a horrible feeling it could be my last.

Then, a sensation lightly brushed my hand; a cool breeze very gently tickled the tips of my fingers. I felt the pressure of the stone prison release slightly around my palms as rocks were shifted away.

They had found me.

I let out a sigh of relief, and instantly regretted it as my head was still entrapped; I tried to suck some air back in only for some dirt to enter my mouth and cause my body to convulse as I couldn’t cough. In seconds my lungs felt like they were burning, and I started writhing around as hard as I could.
I felt the hard underside of a hoof against my hand, and then more rocks being lifted around my arm.

{We are literally suffocating to death! Dig up our head, you twits!} Conscio barked.

I opened my hand and started flailing it around to signal I was in distress, and thankfully I felt somepony’s hoof hold my palm, and I gripped onto it with all my remaining strength. They pulled back and my body shifted upwards ever so slightly, by this point Hawnu Rey’eng’s shield had dissipated.
If my lungs could make sounds, they’d be screeching at this point, they were in complete agony and I was beginning to feel tingly all over, as if my whole body had pins and needles. More rocks were pulled away and the hoof pulled back again, raising me upwards, I felt the earth shift and fresh air now all around my arm, one more pull would do it.

The last tug couldn’t have come a moment sooner as I was pulled upwards with great force and my head burst from the ground, I took in the biggest gasp of air I had even taken and began to hyperventilate as my body oxygenated itself as quickly as possible.

{Fuck you Hawnu Rey’eng! You’ve given me claustrophobia now!} Conscio screamed.

“He’s alive!” Applejack yelled at the top of her lungs.

I looked around to see Pinkie and Applejack around me; looking at me with tears in their eyes. Fluttershy came rushing over and started sobbing as soon as she saw my bruised, bloody face, I gave her an exhausted smile and she gave a spluttered laugh through her tears.

“Took your time.” I coughed.

“How…” She whimpered, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Stop, drop, and roll… No wait, that’s for fire.” I hummed.

Applejack took my hand and helped me climb out of the remaining rock and earth, my left arm went into spasm as it twisted at an odd angle and I yelped loudly.

“Arm! Arm! Arm!” I shouted, letting go off AJ’s hoof and gripping my shoulder.

“Arm! Arm! Arm!” A voice squawked.

I looked up to see Blu fluttering a few metres above me.

“Well it’s nice to know the parrot’s still alive.” I said, wincing as I tried to move my left arm.

“He’s been scouting for the next orb shard for us.” Applejack told me.

Blu landed on Fluttershy’s shoulder and nuzzled the side of her head, while Pinkie helped to dig up my legs so I could stand up, I got to my knees at first and brushed myself down, only for my hand to instantly start bleeding again.

“Where are the others?” I asked, clenching my fist to slow the bleeding.

Applejack sighed, and sat down beside me.

“They’re keeping Twilight restrained.” She muttered.

I noticed she was grimacing as though she were in pain, I then spotted some dried blood around her neck; I put my hand under her mane and lifted the hair to find a deep cut just below her ear. That was when her eyes watered up and she sniffed.

“Oh AJ…”

“She went mad Callum, she said she wanted to kill us all.” She whimpered.

“You were right Applejack, she’s sick, and I know what it is.” I told her.

She looked up at me, sniffing, her eyes wide.

“What is it?” She asked.

“We need to get back to the mansion I’ll explain things there.” I ordered.

She stood up and went over to Fluttershy. I turned to face Pinkie, who was sniffing my currently numb left hand, concerned at the amount of blood all around it.

“Pinks.” I said.

She looked at me with a curious frown, there was a small cut on her upper lip from where I had torn my binder from her mouth, it looked quite sore.

“I’m sorry for how I acted earlier, I didn’t-”

“Callum, you were really upset, we all do silly things when we’re upset. Once I got so upset when I thought nopony wanted to be my friend anymore, and I got all coco in the loco and threw a party with a bunch of inanimate objects!” She interrupted me, smiling.

“But I physically hurt you Pinkie, and that wasn’t okay.” I sighed.

“You didn’t mean it, and I’m okay now, my lip’s just a little tingly.” She giggled, beaming.

I put my functioning arm around her neck and gave Pinkie a hug.

“You’re amazing Pinkie, you know that right?”

“Oh shoosh you ol’ charmer, you.” She giggled, snorting.

Despite the ongoing horrific events, Pinkie was still her old self; even now, she always looked on the bright side of life and never let anything break her spirit. She truly gave me hope against all the odds, I was going to cure Twilight, and we were going to get through this, as a team.

I stood up and raised my left arm up and slung it over one of the trees sticking out of the broken earth. With a forceful press in the right direction, it crunched back into place and I gasped loudly. While fully functional again, the arm still badly ached from the constant strain it had endured, I had a feeling that arthritis would reach me before my old age, should I live long enough to see it.

{We’re making that damn guardian pay for that.} Conscio growled.

“Oh definitely.” I replied quietly under my breath.

I looked down at my bare torso to see I was completely covered in scars, cuts and bruises, along with the large blackened burn from Twilight’s fireball around my neck and collar.

“Well there goes my good looks.” I chuckled.

“Tell that to Rainbow Dash, she thinks scars are sexy.” Applejack chuckled.

I rolled my eyes and walked along side Fluttershy as we made our way back uphill towards the mansion. Due to the mountain being so steep, the journey took us along a long spiralled path, I suspected it would take at least fifteen minutes to reach the mansion.

“I still don’t know how you survived.” Fluttershy mumbled, nuzzling my hand.

“I clambered into a hollow log during the fall, it was just strong enough to keep me safe.” I told her.

“You’re the luckiest guy alive.” She sighed.

“He’s hard to kill, is what he is.” Applejack remarked.

I chuckled lightly and we picked up the pace, we didn’t want to leave Rainbow Dash and Rarity alone with Twilight any longer than we had to.

I SEE THEM! HE’S ALIVE!” I heard Dashie scream as we reached the old building.

I spotted her rainbow mane from an upstairs window, and it was gone in a flash; she emerged from the front door and bolted towards me. I knew Rainbow Dash struggled with thinking before acting and tensed my body for impact, as I could sense a dive hug coming my way. Yet no embrace reached me, she skidded to a halt and gazed at me, and looked at me from head to toe.

“You should be dead…”

“Should be, but I’m not.” I replied.

She stepped forward and placed her head against my belly, I gave her a small scratch behind the ear and then ruffled her mane.

“How’s Twilight?” Applejack asked, causing Dashie to look up and scowl.

“She’s alive, I’ll put it that way.” She growled.

We made our way into the building and ran upstairs; upon entering the master bedroom, I spotted Twilight on the king-sized bed, all her limbs were bound with rope and was attached to the bed frame. She was lying on her back and struggling, growling like a dog, her lips foaming with blood and saliva.

Just wait until I get a hold of you!” She slurred, sounding as though she were drunk.

Her face was covered in blood and her jaw was at a crooked angle. Her horn was flickering with emerald sparks; the whites of her eyes were bloodshot to the point I could barely see any white, while her irises were glowing a deep green.

Rarity rushed towards me and wrapped her forelegs around my waist, hugging me tightly.

“Oh darling, I was truly beginning to lose hope, I thought we had lost you…”

I didn’t reply and simply hugged her back, and then looked at Twilight again, I didn’t feel any hatred this time, I only felt sorry for her. Her face and neck was soaked with blood; she didn’t look far off from being dead.

“Why is there so much blood?” I asked quietly.

Rarity looked over to the bed and grimaced, before looking back to me.

“I don’t think you realise how badly you attacked her, you shattered her jaw, broke most of her ribs, and snapped her foreleg. She’s been coughing up blood since you fell from the cliff, Fluttershy thinks you’ve given her some minor internal bleeding.” She bitterly explained.

I sighed and looked at Twilight again. Through her vicious struggles I realised she was in a LOT of pain, the amount of blood all over the bed made me realise how brutal I’d been, I could have killed her…

“It all happened so fast… I was just so…” I began.

“We all understand, Callum. Ever since we set off from England, I knew this day would come, it was only a matter of time before a fight like this broke out.” She muttered.

I didn’t agree with Rarity, if only I’d known about the Fel, this would never have happened. But I couldn’t dwell on that now; this was the perfect time to help Twilight, while she was subdued and weak. I spotted her satchel in the corner of the room and opened it, pulling out the collars.

“Twilight has been poisoned, and I’ve come to understand what it is.” I began.

The others quickly gathered around me and allowed me to explain everything to them.

“The monster that sent the orb to Earth, Nah’lek, is in control of a dark magic called the Fel. This magic is born of death, and feeds on life; corrupting its user. He was somehow able to reach Twilight, and allowed a small amount of the Fel into her body, letting it cultivate deep inside her. Over the course of our mission, it’s been corrupting Twilight’s brain, making her more and more twisted. Until it would eventually drive her mad, as it finally has done now.
Twilight’s not been herself because this evil magic has literally been transforming her brain, and the only way to reverse it is to drain the Fel from her system.”

“How do we do that?” Applejack asked.

“We can’t,” I sighed, and then pointed to Twilight, “only she can.”

I’ll skin you alive, human!” She bellowed, causing bloody foam to splatter onto the floor.

Each pony flattened their ears as Twilight went into another fit of screeching and writhing around violently, cursing every known swearword in the English dialect and promising to murder all of us.

When she calmed down again, I held up the collars.

“These collars will allow us to switch bodies, where I will be able to cure the Fel from within.” I explained.

“Wait, switch bodies!?” Rainbow blurted out.

“Surely that’s dangerous?” Rarity quizzed.

I slowly nodded. I had a feeling that if I didn’t succeed on the first try, the Fel would kill Twilight; which meant killing me if I were still in her body.

“So, what do we do?” Applejack asked.

“Firstly, I want some Oozima on my wounds, because I’m in a lot of pain and am still bleeding in a few places. From there, all you can do is wait and hope this works.” I said.

Fluttershy went off to get her healing gel, while I carefully put the purple collar around Twilight’s neck, she attempted to bite me and spat at me; I wiped the bloody saliva from my cheek and was able to get the collar on. Fluttershy came back into the room and quickly got to work on applying the gel to my wounds, it stung horribly, but I knew it would seriously speed up my recovery and hopefully prevent mass scarring.

“When we switch, we’ll be unconscious, so try to tend to Twilight’s wounds while you can.” I prompted.

“Okay.” She replied.

Once the gel was applied, I placed my own collar around my neck, and switched on Twilight’s.
Rainbow Dash gave me a hug and then whispered into my ear.

“Be careful dude, I don’t want to lose you again.”

I gave her a kiss on the cheek, causing her to smile. I lay on my back and hit the button on my collar to activate it, both collars beeped loudly, before I felt a sudden burning pain all around my neck.

And then everything went black.

Chapter Fifteen - Zeykosi alu Txawew Utu

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Healing the Frozen Forest

I opened my eyes and quickly felt the icy chill around me, I shivered and looked around to find myself in a small shack, the same one I spotted on my first visit to this place. I put out my arms to see a pair of lavender hooves.

{Right, Sparklebutt. Let’s do this.} Conscio said.

I stood up and began to wobble around, needing to readjust myself to Twilight’s body; with some assistance from Conscio, I quickly found my bearings and opened the door. The snow was falling heavily, and was at least a foot deep; I stepped out and recoiled in shock from the icy chill that shot into my hoof.

“The forest is even colder than before.” I muttered.

Conscio had very quickly become accustomed to being inside this body, and had control over her magic far better than I could due to being able to completely direct his conscious thinking into using spells while I focused on the world around us. He thought of the Thermic Hide spell and Twilight’s memory of the spell appeared into our mind, allowing him to cast it. My body briefly shone a faint orange, and I became resistant to the cold around me. I stepped out into the snow and only felt a slight coolness this time, confirming the spell was successful. After a few minutes of walking around, I found the right direction that headed towards the heart of the forest, and trotted off into the woodland.

“We’re still on the right path, right?” I muttered after a while.

{Yeah, we’ve still got quite a long way to go.} Conscio replied.

I kept an eye out for any suspicious movement as I trekked through the wood, now the Fel had complete domination over Twilight’s mind, I feared all sorts of things could be lurking in the forest.
I thought about it… The Fel…
It came from a video game, the Warcraft games to be exact. If the Fel was real, then so was the entire world of Azeroth and such. How had Nah’Lek come to find it? Or even gain control over the Fel? From what I remembered, the Fel was only controlled by the Burning Legion, an army of demons and monsters that had been dormant in a faraway world, until it later corrupted an orc shaman named Gul’dan, whom pledged to serve the Legion. He was rewarded control of the Fel and corrupted his entire home world, including most his race, with a planet of orcs under his command, he became hellbent on conquering other worlds and enslaving all other sentient races, and killing those who disobeyed.
So how, HOW, did Nah’Lek have domination over this deathly magic?
When I cured Twilight, we would need to talk about his history, I wanted to know where he came from, and why he was so intent on bringing death to Equestria.

My attention was snatched from this subject as I heard movement ahead, my pony ears instinctively pricked upright and swivelled ever so slightly towards the sound. My nose twitched as my senses quickly shot up to high alert.

I stood my ground and crouched low, my horn glowing very faintly. A twig snapped and I squinted my eyes, trying to spot whatever was lurking ahead. I thought carefully about the spell Twilight had used in Brazil to scan for crocodiles, thankfully Twilight’s memory appeared in my mind and I focused on locating any lifeforms around me. My horn flashed and Conscio received the information.

{A mammal, bipedal, male.} Conscio told me.

I sighed with relief as I realised there was no danger. I walked ahead and just as predicted, found someone walking around aimlessly, lost and confused.
Well, Twilight, in my body.

“Psst…” I hissed.

She turned around and spotted me, and waddled over to me, still unable to properly get the hang of walking on two legs.

“Callum…” She breathed, but paused.

She dropped to her knees and teared up, and put a hand to my cheek, her touch was as cold as ice.

“I thought I killed you.” She mumbled, looking into my eyes.

A tear left her eye and started crawling down her cheek, only to freeze solid just before reaching her jawline. She would surely freeze to death if I didn’t help, my horn lit up and I cast Thermic Hide onto her, she sighed with relief as the bitter cold seized to assault her.

“I watched you fall to your death…” She began.

“No. You watched me fall.” I replied, giving her a wink.

She gave a slightly bemused chuckle, before latching onto me in a tight hug.

“I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am, Callum… I don’t understand what’s happening to me, I’ve been so horrible, to you, to my friends, and I don’t know why I’m doing it! I can’t help it, I just feel so hateful and angry, and I don’t understand why! I’m scared of myself Callum. I’m terrified of myself!” She spluttered.

She burst into tears, which was weird to watch myself crying, but I quickly ignored it and put a hoof around Twilight, holding her to my chest, the fur on my chest was much more fluffy and softer than silk, it comforted her slightly.

“I killed Bunnie… I killed her, Callum… I took her away from you… What’s worse, is that I enjoyed it! I enjoyed watching you suffer, seeing you so broken made me feel good. I’m sick in the head, Callum! I’m evil…” She wept.

Even while hearing this, I knew Twilight wasn’t to blame anymore, I just cradled her side to side while she continued to sob.

“Why are you looking after me? Why are you trying to comfort me? I’m a monster. I deserve to die!”

I pulled back and made eye contact with her.

“Listen to me. You have been poisoned, by Nah’Lek. He planted a seed of evil into you, and it’s been growing ever since you came to Earth. It’s corrupted you to the point of becoming a completely different pony. You aren’t responsible for the things you’ve done.” I explained.
She blinked a few times, looking at me in complete shock.

“I’ve… I’ve been poisoned?” She stuttered.

I nodded, and went on to explain to her all about the Fel, and that the Frozen Forest was in fact a dreamscape inside her own mind. That’s when her mouth fell agape.

“Before we teleported to Earth, Princess Celestia gave me some residue from the Titan’s Orb, some of its essence, so that I could trace it and locate the shards.” She told me.

{Sneaky fucking bastard…} Conscio muttered.

Nah’Lek had infected the remaining essence of the orb with the Fel, knowing someone would use it to track its whereabouts. Nah’Lek wasn’t just a psychotic monster, he was clever; and if I knew anything at all, it was that an intelligent enemy was an extremely dangerous one.

“Well that explains where the corruption came from.” I murmured.

“How do we stop it? There has to be a way to stop it!” She asked with desperation.

I explained how the Fel needed to be drained from her mana well.

“How do you know what that is? The study of mana and mana wells one of the highest magic classes at college!” She exclaimed.

I decided to trust Twilight with the knowledge of Hawnu Rey’eng, and told her how he had been following us since Chernobyl. I explained how he was my guardian and that he’s secretly been helping us, he’d given me a brief explanation on mana. She understood and we began to head off out of the clearing, when we heard movement behind us.

“What was that?” Twilight whispered, instantly worried.

I stood perfectly still and looked in the direction of the sound, my horn glowing once more.

{Uhm… Callum…} Conscio said nervously.

I raised my eyebrows, waiting for him to continue.

{You know the male, bipedal mammal we scanned?}

{Yes…} I thought back.

{It wasn’t Twilight…}

Before I had a moment to process that information, the bushes in front of me were shaken with a mighty force that caused snow to flurry forth from it; followed by a loud roar of pure bloodlust.
That’s when I saw it.
Charging towards me, was a creature built like a man, but taller, broader, his skin was green and he had two massive tusk-like teeth protruding from his mouth. In his right hand was an axe with a head the size of a laptop, easily big enough to cleave a man in half.

It was an orc.

“Stay behind me!” I shouted to Twilight, whom was already hiding behind my tail.

The beast reached me and swung his axe at my head, to which I dodged and then punched him in the stomach; this barely caused any effect to the orc and I remembered I was in Twilight’s weak body.

“Oh for fuck sa-” I grunted before being smacked by the orc.

His backhand caught my upper torso and sent me sprawling a few metres across the ground; that’s when he spotted Twilight cowering in terror.

HUMAN!” He roared and raised his axe above his head.

Without magic to defend herself, Twilight dropped to the ground and covered her face in fear as her impending doom approached her. Conscio instantly got to work and we launched a fireball at the orc, it hit his right arm and caused his strike to miss Twilight, who took the opportunity to crawl over to me, completely terrified.
I decided to take the initiative of using the extreme cold to my advantage, and enveloped all the snow around us in a telekinetic grasp, before dumping all the snow onto the orc, burying it completely. I compressed the snow to strengthen it into a hard icy bunker.

{Don’t waste all our mana fighting this guy! We need to get to the well!} Conscio barked.

“That won’t hold long, come on.” I commanded Twilight.

I let Conscio direct my path as I ran deeper into the woodland, with Twilight literally on my tail.

We were nearing the entrance when I heard a war cry, the orc was gaining on us and would surely catch up to us soon; I turned to Twilight, who had gained some confidence alongside me.

“Twilight, you’re in my body, you can run a lot faster than me, definitely faster than that orc.” I told her.

“What are you saying?” She asked.

“I need you to distract it, lead it away from here.” I explained.


“I need time to drain your mana well, preferably without an orc trying to slice me into pieces.”

“I can’t do it, I can’t!” She cried out.

I took one of her hands with my hoof, and looked into her eyes.

“Twilight, if I fail here, one of us will die; we’ll fail the mission, and Equus will fall.
Trust my body, my legs have never failed me. Run Twilight, run like the wind.”

She glanced down for a moment, before looking back up and nodding, stepping away from me.
I turned and galloped to the entrance to Twilight’s inner brain, and only looked back once to see the orc bursting from the treeline and spotting Twilight. It roared, and began to charge, Twilight turned and bolted, thankfully at a greater speed than the orc, so long as she trusted my body, she would be able to outrun him.

I made my way to the large hole and looked down into its depths, the green glow radiated from deep inside the blackened earth. I lay onto my back and put my hind legs first, and dropped down into the chasm. I slid down the tunnel and went down, deep, deep underground; I gritted my teeth as I felt a few jagged rocks dig into my back and cut me slightly. I eventually slowed down as the tunnel levelled out and I found myself in a large open cave, the walls reflected a pulsating green light and I knew the mana well was close. I followed the brightest light and the cave opened into a huge cavern, and that’s when I found the well. Shaped like a giant kidney, the vessel hung from tree roots and was easily the size of a house. I then saw what appeared to be enormous arteries that seemed to transport mana to other areas of the body, or in this case, it transported Fel.

{I say we stab the bottom, so it all drains out like a giant cyst.} Conscio suggested.

I agreed with the idea, and approached the base of the well, I placed a hoof on it and pushed against it to find it was squishy, as though it were made of flesh.

“It basically IS a giant cyst.” I muttered.

Connie thought of the same laser spike Twilight had attempted to skewer me with earlier, and cast the spell, I quickly felt the immense heat as my horn extended out into what I could only describe as Mace Windu’s lightsaber. I took a deep breath, before driving my energy lance deep into the mana well, I tilted my head sideways to create a large gash in the strange organ; I then deactivated the spell and dived out of the way as Fel poured out. It wasn’t liquid, nor a gas, it was like a combination of both; it was a fluid unaffected by gravity. The deathly substance oozed into the air and faded into nothingness, unable to sustain itself without any life to feed on.

{It looks like a fart cloud.} Conscio chuckled.

“You’re a fart cloud.” I muttered.

{I like this name… Fart...} He spoke with a deep, soulful voice.

“If you’re not careful, I’ll start calling you that.” I teased.

We both laughed while the Fel was steadily drained from the well. There was about a third left, when I heard a loud screech from the cave’s entrance, and it didn’t sound like the orc.

“Looks like we’ve got company.” I grumbled.

{This is it. It’s now or never.} Fart muttered.


The sound of thousands of small feet came towards me, the pitter-pattering echoed loudly against the cave walls as the threat approached. I could hear screeches and high pitched cackling, akin to a hyena’s laugh. Conscio and I remained calm and focused on our unity, we prepared a chain lightning spell, which if cast correctly, would hit multiple targets at once.

I was soon able to get a glimpse at my foes. They were tall and thin, and ran on two bird-like legs, they had two sets of arms, each arm had a large scythe shaped claw at the end, easily able to tear into flesh. Their heads were small and had tiny black beads for eyes, most of the head was taken up with a large pair of mandibles, with rows upon rows of needle-like teeth. They were slightly shorter than myself, but that didn’t make them any less dangerous.

“Well aren’t they just adorable?” I said in a camp voice, putting on an American accent.

Being in Twilight’s body, I ended up sounding almost identical to her normal voice, which was slightly disturbing.
One of the creatures raised its scythe-arms and prepared to leap towards me, which was when I shot my first spell, the bolt of blue lightning met its chest and electrocuted it, while more arcs shot out from its back and spread to its nearby kin. At least ten of them dropped to the ground, I was pleased with myself until I spotted around three-hundred more pouring from the shadows.

“Now I know what Hawnu Rey’eng meant when he said I’d be fighting hell!” I squeaked.

{Stand still.} Conscio ordered.

“What!? Are you crazy!?” I yelped.

{Trust me.} He grunted.

I gulped and stood perfectly still as the vile, shrieking monsters surrounded me.

“Connie…” I nervously said through gritted teeth.

{Trust. Me.}

I turned around in circles, realising how many there were, there was at least a thousand.


{Shut up and trust me!}

He hadn’t failed me yet, so I put my faith into Conscio and breathed out, calming myself.
The beasts were about a metre away from me in all directions, and that’s when a few of them lunged towards me.

{JUMP!} Conscio yelled.

I jumped up and my horn flashed, I felt a massive force pushing me upwards and I was catapulted into the air. I looked down to see almost a hundred of the creatures scattered around on the ground, dead and mangled in grotesque positions. As I fell back down to the ground, I noticed my hooves were glowing purple, the moment I made contact with the stone floor, large fragments of rock burst from the ground and shot outwards like a shotgun, tearing more enemies into shreds, arms and legs went flying as the sharp chunks of stone made literal mincemeat out of them.

“How did you do that?” I cried out, amazed.

{Gravitational rip, followed by a telekinetic shockwave; child’s play!} He laughed.

“You’re a fucking madman!” I laughed.

{Well aren’t you quite the hypocrite? You’re the one talking to a voice inside your head!} He sneered back.

Another creature jumped at me and I shot it with a fireball, burning it to a crisp.

“You’re sentient, with your own consciousness, totally different thing!” I retorted.

{If you say so!} He teased.

More foes leapt at me, and I grabbed them in a telekinetic grab and threw them backwards into the horde skittering towards me, I switched up a new spell and let out a large jet of fire, engulfing a large number of them at once; I chuckled to myself as the beasts screamed in the flames.


I burst into laughter as I heard the damn theme song in my head, and the fact I was literally Twilight Sparkle at this point made it all the funnier. My laughter was quickly abrupted as one of the creatures reached me and sliced into my flank, right across my cutie mark. I turned around and used my telekinesis to rip its arms off and stab it repeatedly with its own scythes.

I KILL YOU FOR YOUR INSOLENCE!” I screamed maniacally.

I needed this, after losing Bunnie, the endless slaughter was the perfect way to release all the emotions rushing through me, I was free to let out all my anger and pain, without a shred of remorse or self-restraint. I could butcher away until there wasn’t a single creature left alive. Besides, it was saving Twilight in the process, so it was a win-win situation.

After around ten minutes, Twilight’s unathletic body was beginning to slow me down, I was panting heavily as I ran and dodged each beast as they lunged at me. Thankfully the horde was running thin and the ground had piles upon piles of bodies, I had to occasionally clamber over the dead simply to get away from all the others relentlessly chasing me.
I yelped loudly as one of them jumped onto my back and sank its teeth into my neck, I tripped over and the entire swarm surrounded me; I teleported into the air just as they were about to consume me and used another gravitational rip to annihilate the majority of them.
A few more minutes of running around and casting various spells, I had killed them all. The last one screeched as I drove a laser spike through its chest. I dropped to my knees and continued to pant for a while, recovering from the physical exhaustion. I gritted my teeth painfully as I felt warm blood all around my neck, I put a hoof to the wound and growled as the injury stung; thankfully it wasn’t too deep.

I was given about ten minutes to recover, when I felt the cave rumbling, and then a deep roar.

“Oh come on… Just five more minutes?” I begged.

As I stood up, the mana well behind me made a whirring noise, I turned to find the Fel was now completely drained, I went over to the strange organ and used my magic to seal the hole shut. That’s when a rumbling growl shook the cave again.
Large footsteps came thudding towards me, and a haunting shadow loomed on the cave walls as the creature approached. The first thing I saw was a huge pair of tusks, and then a muzzle with rows upon rows of teeth. As the creature stepped out into the light, I noticed it had no eyes, just a large pair of furry feelers all around its lips, its entire head was just a giant mouth. The creature stood onto its hind legs and revealed a large open hole in its chest, all its organs were exposed, with nothing to protect them.

{A good blow in that spot ought to kill it.} Conscio hummed.

I agreed, but remained still to study the creature further, its grotesque mouth had a large spongey sack instead of a tongue, I had a horrible feeling this monster would have the ability to spit whatever that sack contained. Its back was covered in black tentacles, each one tipped with a barbed spike, and it had two tails, both of them thin and designed like large whips.

This creature was designed for one purpose.

{To be really fucking ugly…}

{To kill, Conscio, it was designed to kill.} I thought back, rolling my eyes.

The monster’s feelers detected me and it let out a loud gurgling sound, before charging towards me; I teleported out of the way and shot a fireball at it, only for the fire to be extinguished upon contact with its black hide. It lunged towards me and I teleported behind it, this time shooting an arc of lightning at the beast. This only seemed to enrage the creature as it growled at me and swung its large tails at me, it narrowly missed my face and I jumped back in fear.

“Get some more offensive spells ready!” I ordered.

{I’m on it already!}

While in Twilight’s body, it appeared my sentient conscience had much greater control over our brain, he could access past experiences and could use Twilight’s muscle memory to aid me in running on four legs with ease; we worked as a team much more efficiently here.
Considering the fact he appeared after touching the first orb shard, I had a feeling Conscio was connected to magic, or something from Equestria, so it made sense that he was more active while in Twilight’s mind.

The creature had turned around and was about to grab me in its maw, I teleported backwards and escaped, this was when it opened its mouth wide and the organ in its mouth began to glow green, I created a magical shield in front of me to deflect the attack. From the beast’s mouth shot a bright green mucus, which burst into the same substance that had drained from the mana well.

{It spits pure Fel!} Conscio cried out.

As soon as the Fel touched my shield, it corroded right through it.

“Fel burns into magic like an acid!” I yelped.

I jumped back as the milky green mist edged towards me, any physical contact with pure Fel could kill me. The hulking monster launched forward and I narrowly escaped its attack, its hide was too think for any sort of counter attack, I needed to get a clear shot at the organ sack on its chest.

It turned around and swung its tails at me, the attack caught my leg and flung me into a stalagmite, it shattered on contact and I received a small cut on my shoulder. This caused no issue for me with the current injuries I’d already sustained, and quickly stood up and used my telekinesis to throw the broken pieces of rock at the beast. They smacked into its head and caused it to roar angrily, but otherwise seemed to do no damage. It lunged forward and tried to slash at me with its claws, I jumped back and shot another fireball at it, only for it to catch the spell in its mouth. The flames turned green in its teeth and it then launched the spell right back at me, now a ball of Fel-fire, I teleported out of the way and stared at the beast in shock.

“I do NOT like this creepy-ass behemoth motherfucker!” I yelled.

{Hey, that’s actually a good name for it! A Fel Behemoth!} Conscio replied merrily.

The newly named Fel behemoth stood onto its hind legs and roared at me. I took this opportunity to fire a powerful bolt of lightning into its organ sack, one of the supposed lungs burst and the behemoth screeched loudly and fell onto its back, writhing in pain. It then rolled back onto four legs and went into a rage, charging at me with its maw wide open, Fel oozing out of the gland in its mouth.

{Another blast like that should finish the job!} Connie shouted with encouragement.

I teleported behind the creature to avoid the charge, it turned around and continued to stampede towards me, forcing me to constantly teleport away, I was wasting energy and needed another opportunity to reach its chest.
The behemoth jumped at me, and I slid onto my back and was able to escape the attack by mere inches, the beast collided with a stone pillar headfirst, dazing it. This was when I noticed the cave was glowing blue, instead of green. I looked at the mana well to see it was now halfway full with pure mana.

“Whoa…” I said, my mouth agape.

I was currently looking at the purest energy in the universe, it swirled around inside the well with different shades of blue, it was a marvel to witness.

{I hate to bother you, but this monster is still trying to kill us.} Conscio pointed out.

“Well how about you come up with a plan, smart-arse?” I retorted.

I faced the Fel behemoth and jumped back from another claw swipe, in response I let a jet of fire shoot from my horn and engulf its head. It hopped to the side and spun around, whipping me with its tail, I was flung a few metres back and gasped with pain as the attack had torn open my shoulder, exposing raw flesh and muscle. I gritted my teeth and stood up, my shoulder now stinging like a bitch.

{I have an idea!} Connie announced.

I teleported away from another attack, before hearing out his plan.

{Next time it charges, teleport behind it and put your horn on the ground, I’ll do the rest!} He ordered.

I shot a few bolts of electricity at the behemoth, angering it further; crouching low to the ground and growling, it began to speed towards me, with a flash, I was behind it and easily avoided the attack. Following the plan, I bent down and placed my horn against the ground; Conscio (literally) worked his magic, and a small purple ring appeared on the ground, about the size of a dinner plate.

{Now, lure him onto this spot.} He instructed.

I jumped over the purple ring and turned to face the behemoth, which was flexing its claws and preparing to attack me again.

“Come on, come to papa.” I growled, smirking at the monster.

{Technically it’s ‘come to mama’, being in Twilight’s body and all.} Conscio teased.

“I identify as a human male; my horse vagina means nothing!” I shouted back.

We both chuckled as the behemoth began thudding towards me, its mouth wide open. I remained perfectly still and let it approach me, when its chest was aligned above the ring, my horn began to glow.

{POP! GOES THE WEASEL!} Conscio sang merrily.


The sound of the explosion almost deafened me as the entire cave shook, I lost my balance and fell to the floor, covering my ears and closing my eyes. When I opened them again, I found the behemoth lying on its back, twitching. The entire organ sack was missing; but all around the area were tiny pieces of green flesh which suggested the sack had quite literally exploded. Where the purple ring once was, had been replaced with gaping hole in the rock, at least five feet deep.

“Conscio… What the fuck did you do?” I asked, shocked.

Laughing maniacally to himself, Conscio was unable to answer me, so I walked over to the behemoth to inspect the body. Inside the chest cavity were large fragments of blood-soaked rock, not a single organ remained, I could imagine the behemoth didn’t even feel the pain from this complete overkill.

“I’ll ask again, what did you do?” I repeated myself.

Conscio’s laughter died down into a chuckle as he answered me, sighing merrily.

{Similar to the shockwave earlier, but about a thousand times more powerful! The force shoots upwards with enough velocity to level a house, I tell you!} He explained.

“So you basically just made the world’s most powerful landmine?” I suggested.

{THAT, EXACTLY!} He cried, bursting into more laughter.

I too, began to laugh with him. Conscio, while intelligent and calculated, was an absolute nutter. His Scottish accent made him all the funnier with his random outbursts and one-liners.

{That always was my favourite spell!} Conscio wheezed, still laughing loudly.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked.

Conscio’s laughter stopped abruptly and he coughed.

{Never mind laddie, I’ve lost the plot.} He replied.

I hummed, uncertain as to what he meant; my attention was drawn away to the mana well as it finally filled to the top with pure mana, I approached the organ and stared into the magical fluid.

“Incredible, isn’t it?” I breathed.

“Quite…” A voice spoke.

A shiver ran down my spine as I recognised the deep, raspy tone. A voice rougher than sandpaper, and colder than ice. I turned around to face him, all eight of his glowing lifeless eyes were fixed on me.

“Nah’Lek.” I greeted him.

He removed his hooded cloak to reveal himself, which I rather he hadn’t; he was hideous. Most his body was lined with jet black chitin; his arachnid abdomen however, was made of dark grey flesh and was covered in charcoal fur, large spines protruded from random points on his back, which I could just see over his shoulders. Below his eyes was a huge spider’s mouth, his four enormous fangs were blacker than the coldest reaches of space itself. His two large swords sat at his waist, and on his back sat a very peculiar staff.
I won’t lie, he was utterly terrifying.

“Well, if it isn’t the sworn protector of the royal pets…” He hissed.

“You’re too late Nah’Lek, I’ve cured Twilight of the Fel, you can torture her no longer.” I told him.

“Pity.” He replied dryly.

He raised one of his arms and snapped his claws together, that’s when I heard footsteps, and the orc came around the corner, dragging Twilight with him by her wrist. She struggled defiantly, but didn’t have the strength to break free, even in my body. The moment she saw Nah’Lek, she dropped to her knees and started crying instantly, knowing her fate.

“As you can see, I can do no further damage; I have already broken her.” He spoke.

His voice put the most uncomfortable feeling over me, it felt like someone was dragging sharp fingernails up from the base of my spine, to my neck; it was beyond sickly. I remained vigilant and kept eye contact with him.

“She will recover.” I spat.

“Will she?” He replied.

His eyes glanced upwards to look at the mana well, I turned around and realised all the mana was leaving the organ through the various arteries, the light grew dim as the energy sapped away.

“You thought it would be that easy to cure the Fel?” Nah’Lek said mockingly.

My eyes widened with fear as the mana completely drained from the well, leaving us encased in darkness. Twilight continued to cry uncontrollably, spluttering and choking on her own mucus. I turned around to find the purple eyes still staring at me. My horn lit up and I created a large ball of bright light a few metres above me, allowing us to see clearly again.

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I growled.

He remained quiet, waiting for me to continue.

“The mana has simply gone to purify the rest of her body, the snow above us will be melting any minute now, and Twilight will begin to recover.” I spat.

“If you believe she will recover, then you underestimate the Fel. Twilight will be scarred for life. Every night, I have brought her to this place, and every night I have killed her; she now knows true suffering. Even without the Fel inside her body, she will never be the same again.” He replied.

I glanced at Twilight, who was on her knees, hugging the orc’s leg and sobbing, begging for it to kill her.

All this time, I had hated Twilight. She’d used and abused me, she’d made my life a misery, even during one of the most incredible adventures any man could experience. Being depressed was difficult enough without being constantly ridiculed and bullied. It hurt, it seriously fucking hurt.
Now I knew why she’d done it, I finally understood.
It wasn’t just the Fel. Nah’Lek had tortured her so badly, she was trying to find a way to let out the pain, she was desperately trying to find a coping mechanism to channel the torture. The only thing she could do was abuse me, she didn’t know how else to alleviate the agony she was enduring.

“Kill me! Just kill me! Please!” She begged.

The orc responded by punching her in the face, breaking her nose. I stepped towards Nah’Lek, my horn glowing brightly.

“You will never touch her again!” I yelled with rage.

I shot a bolt of electricity at him, it smacked into his chest and fizzled away, Nah’Lek was completely unaffected by the attack, and merely inspected one of his claws.

“How quaint.” He sighed.

In the blink of an eye, he was in front of me and grabbed me by the throat, lifting me into the air.

“Killing me… Is useless… This world is just… A dream...” I choked.

The Defiler held my face up to his, and then hummed, before dropping me. I fell onto my side and clutched my neck with both hooves, gasping for air.

“I’ll find you, soon enough.” He muttered.

“We’ll have gone long before you find us.” I coughed, standing up.

At this, Nah’Lek let out an amused chuckle.

“How do you plan on doing that, without any magic?” He mocked, stroking the mana well.

I looked at him, my eyes wide.

“Even without the Fel, it will take months for her mana well to recover.” He told me.

I gritted my teeth with frustration, my vision became fixed on Nah’Lek, I was unable to look away from his haunting eyes as they pierced mine.

“Without magic, you’re finished.” He hissed.

That was when the orc grunted loudly, and then fell face-first into the ground, that’s when I spotted the large spear of ice sticking out of his back.

“And who said anything about not having magic?” The tinny, robotic voice spoke.

With a flap of his wings, Hawnu Rey’eng whizzed from his hiding place and shoulder rammed Nah’Lek with all his might, sending the demi-god hurtling into a large pillar. The entire pillar smashed apart and buried him in a pile of stone. I rushed to Twilight and helped her to her feet, which was when Nah’Lek burst from the rubble in a rage, he sped towards us and seized Twilight by the throat.


Petrified, and a complete slave to Nah’Lek’s terror, Twilight began to stutter the letter P, I knew she was going to reveal we were currently in Portugal and I needed to stop her, without thinking, I fired all my remaining energy at Twilight in the form of a laser beam. It burned through her chest and she died in seconds, Nah’Lek dropped her limp body and turned to face me.

“You are beginning to irritate me.” He hissed.

He began to walk towards me, pulling the staff from his back and pointing it at me; I gulped as it began to glow green. That’s when Hawnu Rey’eng stepped in front of me, his hands glowing in a purple aura.

“That staff doesn’t belong to you.” He said calmly.

Nah’Lek responded by firing a ball of Fel-fire at him, who deflected it with a powerful blast of energy.

“You have no dominion here Nah’Lek, you should have stayed in Tartarus.” Hawnu Rey’eng sneered.

“I can’t wait to tear those wings from your back…”

The two rushed at one another and became locked in combat, both casting offensive spells and physically attacking one another, green and purple sparks ignited the cavern, I backed away as their showdown grew more and more violent. They appeared to be equally matched in combat, I took the opportunity to escape the cavern and made my way to the exit, I clambered up the small passageway, which now had water trickling down, the snow was beginning to melt.

I reached the exit and crawled into the remaining slush, from behind me was the sound of more magic and Hawnu Rey’eng burst out from the exit, he spiralled out of control and crashed into the ground close to me, seemingly unconscious. I was about to walk over to him when Nah’Lek crawled out of the hole, his staff radiating with a black smoke.

“Look around Nah’Lek, the forest is already healing; it’s over!” I growled.

Suddenly an excruciating pain radiated through my body and I was levitated into the air, it felt as if every square inch of my body was being stabbed with tiny needles, I gritted my teeth and glared at Nah’Lek, my eyes watering. He walked up to me and glared into my eyes, his deathly stare was sickening, his eyes were the embodiment of fear itself.

“It is far from over… In fact, I think I prefer it this way…” He hissed.

The pain grew even stronger; the needles became knifes as every nerve cell in my body was strangulated in his black magic. I refused to let him hear me scream, and clenched my jaw harder than ever.

“I always did prefer to stalk my prey; it makes the kill more… Pleasurable…”

{Well, everyone has their kinks I suppose… Don’t they Spindles?} Conscio teased.

Nah’Lek’s head tilted slightly, and to my horror, his amethyst eyes began to turn a bright crimson.

YOU…” He spat.

Before I could react, Nah’Lek pierced my gut with his claws, there were no words to describe the agony as I felt my organs rupture as he dug right through my body, before grabbing my spine. Everything very quickly became blurry and numb as I went into shock, and my spinal cord was severed, I lost all feeling in my body and dropped to the ground unexpectedly.

The last thing I saw, was the blurry shape of Nah’Lek standing over me, holding my bloody spine, before cold and darkness surrounded me, and I was met with the embrace of death.

Chapter Sixteen - Fifty Shades of Purple

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My eyes opened wide and I tried to sit up, only to find my body didn’t respond, I was completely paralysed. I was just able to roll my eyes to my side and spotted Twilight lying on the bed, her chest still covered in dried blood, one of her legs was in a thick cast of dried Oozima, and her lower chest was strapped in a binder, also coated in a dry cast.

Her breaths were shallow and rapid, I assumed she was unconscious, but as I made my best efforts to move and emitted a quiet grunt, her eyes opened and looked at me.

“C… Ca… Callum…” She breathed, barely able to create the word.

I tried to speak, but nothing but a wheeze came from my dry lips. Twilight made her best attempt at crawling towards the edge of the bed, she quickly lost strength and gave up. It appeared we were both in the same boat, neither of us could move.

With great effort, I was just able to tilt my head sideways and look at the rest of the room, in the corner I spotted Applejack asleep on a mattress. I needed to wake her up, but all my efforts to create any sound of movement were futile. I looked back to Twilight, who was looking at me with desperation, we both knew that whatever was going on, we needed someone’s help. I noticed we were both still wearing the collars, which was possibly the problem.

{Think, Twilight. Think!} I heard Twilight’s voice in my mind.

{Whoa, Twilight?} I thought.


{Yeah it’s me, I can hear your thoughts…}


{It’s most likely the collars, its kept our brains connected. Probably what’s causing the paralysis, our brains aren’t sure which body belongs to who, or something like that…}

{Makes sense, but this is weird, hearing you inside my head.} She replied.

{While I’d agree with you, I’ve kinda had some practice.}

{Player Three has joined the party chat.} Conscio announced.

{Who’s that!?}

{The name’s Conscio, pleased to meet you.}

Twilight’s pupils shrank slightly from concern, and I rolled my eyes up to my own forehead.

{He’s, well… Actually I have no bloody clue what Conscio is. When I made contact with the first orb shard back in Brazil, I heard his voice inside my head, and he’s been here ever since. I originally thought he was just my conscience, but I’m starting to have other ideas…}

At this, Conscio went silent.

{What do you mean?} Twilight asked.

{Nah’Lek knew him…} I replied.

Twilight, even while paralysed, flinched upon hearing the name. Just his name was enough to strike terror into her, and I finally understood why.

{He will never touch you again, I’ve cured you.}

Twilight didn’t reply, I noticed her eyes darting around and could tell she was extremely anxious.

{Hey.} I thought.

Her eyes looked back to me, and her pupils slowly began to dilate to their normal size.

{You’re safe now.}

{How do you know?} She responded, even in thought, her voice was full of uncertainty.

I was about to respond when Twilight’s eyes widened and she jolted slightly in shock.

{Callum! Your nose!}

Without warning, my body started convulsing lightly and I quickly realised I couldn’t breathe properly. That’s when I felt it, slowly oozing from my nostrils was warm blood. Being on my back, only a small amount could escape, while the rest of it was forced the wrong way and entered my mouth and throat.

{Twilight, Twilight I can’t breathe!} I told her with panic.

{Oh shit… Oh shit… Oh shit…}

I tried my hardest to move, my right arm responded slightly and twitched a few times, I tried desperately to roll onto my side, which was when Twilight’s body moved slightly.

{For fuck sake, my brain’s trying to move YOU.} I growled.

{Hang on, let me try.} Twilight replied.

I noticed Twilight’s jaw tense up as she tried to move with all her might, her back legs responded and she moved closer towards the edge of the bed, while my left shoulder rolled backwards and I moved about an inch closer to her.

{I hate to be the dull one, but it appears we’re choking on our own blood.} Connie said dryly.

{SHUT UP!} Twilight and I thought at the same time.

I looked at her, and noticed her nose was also streaming with blood now, thankfully she was on her front so she could still breathe at least.

{Twi, you’re bleeding too, we need to wake Applejack, now!} I ordered.

I tried to kick out, only for one of my feet to respond, Twilight and I needed to work together. I focused on the edge of the bed and had a plan, and tried to relax as much as possible.

{When I say ‘go’, I want you to reach forward and pull yourself off the bed.} I said calmly.

{There’s no use, I can’t!}

{Trust me.}

She looked at me, and I could sense her trying to nod her head, ironically, it was my head that shifted slightly instead of hers.

{One, two, three, GO.}

I imagined myself in Twilight’s body again and tried to reach forward with everything I had. With both of our brains focusing on the same movement, Twilight was able to gradually extend her forelegs and place her hooves over the bedside, we both pulled as much as we could, while also attempting to roll her hips, slowly but surely, her body edged over towards me. She was just about to reach the edge when I felt blood run into my lungs and my body started convulsing again, breaking my focus. Thankfully, this ended up playing in our favour as it caused Twilight to have a small convulsion of her own, which caused her to slide off the bed and smack the hardwood floor.

Applejack sat bolt upright and quickly realised something was wrong, she rushed over to us and spotted the blood leaking from our noses. She held her head high and bellowed as loud as she could.


She tried to sit me up and shook me slightly, which didn’t help in the slightest, I tried to open my mouth to speak, only for a zombie-like ‘ugh’, to emerge. The bedroom door was burst open and the other four ponies entered the room, Rarity switched on the light and they all approached us.

“What’s going on!?” Rainbow Dash shouted.

“I don’t know! Twi just fell off the bed and they’re both bleeding!” Applejack replied.

Fluttershy very quickly ran to me and pushed Applejack aside, before putting her hooves on my shoulder and rolling me onto my side, and put me into the recovery position, this prevented any further blood from going down my throat and it left my mouth instead. She did the same for Twilight, before she noticed both of us had our eyes wide open, and were looking around frantically.

“Can you hear me?” She asked.

N’nf!” I grunted, unable to form words.

“They’re paralysed!” Rarity cried out.

My eyes darted from pony to pony, and I spotted Rainbow Dash was shaking, she was quite evidently having a panic attack.

{TAKE, OFF, THE COLLARS!} I thought angrily.

“C… C…” Twilight coughed, staring at me.

“What was that?” Fluttershy asked, crouching beside Twilight.

C… C… C’guh…


“C… Col… Coll…”

Fluttershy jumped back and understood her, finally.

The collars! Get the collars off them!” She yelped.

Rarity’s horn lit up and the buckles on the belt were undone, and everything went white for a few seconds, before my vision returned, along with full control over my body once more. I went into spasm and tensed all my muscles, feeling the pins and needles sensation across my entire body. It subsided and I got up to my knees, coughing and spluttering, before my stomach turned and I vomited, blood and bile splashed onto the floor and I retched a few times, before falling onto my back and gasping, now exhausted.

“Can someone get my bag please?” Fluttershy asked openly.

Rarity hurried out of the room, while Applejack tried to calm Rainbow Dash down, who was still hyperventilating, I looked to Twilight, who was looking at me, her face contorted with fear. Rarity returned with the bag and Fluttershy opened it, pulling out two odd looking syringes. I wasn’t fond of needles, and looked at her with an uncertain glance.

“You need it, it stops inflammation and clots any broken blood vessel.” She explained, before sticking the syringe into Twilight’s neck.

Reluctant as I was, I allowed her to plant the needle into my neck, the substance felt icy cold and I could temporally feel it travelling through my artery and spread through my bloodstream before I lost the sensation. She then pulled out a couple of tissues and helped me clean my face and chest from the blood.

“Thank you…” I breathed, my voice dry and hoarse.

“I’ll get some water.” Rarity said and left the room again.

Pinkie followed her, most probably uncomfortable with the amount of blood in the room. Rainbow Dash had calmed down and came over to me alongside Applejack.

“What happened to you both?” She asked.

I was going to answer when my stomach growled loudly, I then remembered I hadn’t eaten since the celebration party with the Blood Family, I was utterly starving.

“It’s a long story, can I tell you over a meal?” I requested sheepishly.

“Actually, we were going to have dinner soon...” Fluttershy pointed out.

I looked to Twilight, who gave me a nod in agreement. I went to stand, only for my legs to respond as though they were made of jelly, Applejack quickly rushed over and caught me.

“Alright, alright, I got you, just take it slow.” She said.

Twilight tried to help, only to find she could barely walk herself, and wobbled alongside us as we went to a room that wasn’t full of blood. We settled for the second largest room, which had another king-sized bed, just without the large frame around it. I sat down on the end of the bed, and Twilight sat next to me. Rarity came along with two glasses of water and put them on the bedside table for us.

“We’ll come and get you when dinner’s ready.” Applejack said kindly.

I gave her a thankful smile and she left the room with Rarity and shut the door, giving us the room alone together. Twilight let out a long sigh and fell backwards onto her back.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, flopping next to her.

“Like I’ve just been dragged through a sawmill…” She huffed.

“I mean emotionally.”

She sat up to look at me, and then looked down.

“I don’t know, I feel blank and empty; as though I had no emotions at all.” I said, her nose twitching.

I stretched, before sitting up and putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Give it time, you’ll get better.”

“What if I don’t? What if he was right? What if I never recover? I’m scared that I’ll lash out again, or do something without meaning to. I killed someone Callum…” She whispered, her eyes watering up.

I slid my hand from her shoulder to her neck, and lightly massaged it to relieve some tension, she had been through hell and back.

“Just breathe, tell me what happened.” I asked quietly.

She took a deep breath, and recollected the event.

“It was the day before I sent you a message on your phone, we were trying to find shelter from the rain, and we found a small abandoned shack. We had just relaxed when we heard a car outside, there were three men, all of them had knives; they came inside and we all tried to hide. They found Rainbow Dash and started shouting at her in a foreign language, I thought they were going to kill her. Then I felt this sudden wave of anger and hatred, and the only thing I could think about was killing them, and the idea felt good, just imagining their dead faces made me feel pleasure, it was sick. I came around from my hiding place and used my magic to steal their knives, and stabbed two of them repeatedly until they stopped moving; the third one ran away and I chased him. I don’t know why I did it, I just, I just…”

She paused, and I rubbed her back to reassure her.

“It’s okay Twilight, just tell me what you did.” I spoke softly.

Twilight swallowed, and then continued.

“I didn’t know my own strength, my magic was stronger than usual, I tried to grab his arms and pull him back to me, but I ripped them off completely, there was blood everywhere, and he wouldn’t stop screaming. I took him to the ground and bashed his skull in, with my bare hooves.
It took nearly two minutes until he stopped squirming, I just kept hitting and hitting…”

She took in a breath of air, before she sighed.

“I’m a monster…”

Horrible as the act was, I knew it wasn’t down to Twilight, the Fel had driven her mad and she was not to be held accountable. No matter how hard it was to forgive her after Bunnie, I knew I had to.
I noticed a tear leave her eye, and I brought my hand to her face and wiped it away. I looked into her eyes and furrowed my brow.

“You aren’t a monster. You saw the state of your mana well; you were sick, and now you’re going to get better. Nothing you’ve done was your fault, you understand?” I told her firmly.

She looked at me, her lips quivering slightly. As she gazed into my eyes, she could see the pain that I was so desperately trying to conceal at the moment.

“I took away the girl you loved…”

I looked away instantly and threw my head backwards, trying not to cry.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” She whimpered.

{Callum, I love you so much…} Bunnie’s last words echoed in my head.

Her face, the tears running down her cheeks, that moment when she knew she was going to die. Seeing it in my mind felt like a dagger to the heart, my chest physically hurt just from the emotional distress. Twilight put her hoof onto my leg, which finally set me off, I didn’t even bother to cover my face as the tears began streaming from my eyes, and I inhaled shakily. I gritted my teeth and let out a low growl of anguish as my brain was flooded with Bunnie’s last words, and the heat of the napalm that took her.

Twilight couldn’t cope knowing the suffering she had caused, and began to sob beside me, not knowing what to do, or what to say. I took her by the shoulders and stared at her bloodshot eyes, which I could barely see through the blurry vision.

“I know you took her away…” I choked, “But it wasn’t… Your… Fault…”

“But I was consciously thinking, I could have saved her!” She spluttered.

“You were delirious, the Fel was in your body, you couldn’t have done anything.”

I continued to cry, and Twilight hugged me tightly. It was strange to think I was being comforted by the one who had previously bullied, abused, and mistreated me. She copied my actions in the Frozen Forest and rested my head onto the fluffy section of her chest, it reminded me of Chilli’s fur back at home, I missed that dog.

After a while, we had both calmed down; I wiped my eyes and Twilight did the same. We exchanged another brief hug before I reached for my glass of water, I was extremely thirsty and downed the glass. Without warning, Twilight gasped with pain and rubbed her temples with her hooves.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I tried to use magic to lift my glass, it felt like a shard of ice went through my brain.” She replied.

I hummed, it seemed Nah’Lek was right about one thing, Twilight wouldn’t have magic for a long time, she would need my help to adjust to life without it.

“Let me help you.”

“What? Let you degrade me? Do I look like some sort of cripple to you?” She spat suddenly.

I raised my hands to gesture for her to calm down, and gave her a concerned look.

“Hey, easy.” I spoke softly.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean that…” She sighed.

Twilight looked down and looked at her own hooves, clearly upset and disappointed in herself. I put an arm around her and rubbed her shoulder gently.

“Your brain is heavily scarred from the Fel, it will take some time for you to heal, I’m sure you’ll have a few outbursts like that. Just let me help you, and we’ll get through this, okay?”

She looked at me and nodded, giving me a weak smile. I took her glass of water and raised it to her lips, she puckered her lips and was able to drink from the glass, some of it spilt onto her neck and she jolted her head backwards.

“Oh that’s cold!” She squeaked.

We giggled together for a short moment, before I helped her finish the rest of the glass.

“I needed that.” She gasped.

“Yeah, so much that you spilt quarter of the glass onto yourself.” I teased.

“Hey, you were holding the glass!”

“You should have opened your mouth wider.”

She frowned at me and I stuck my tongue out at her, we laughed for a while before Applejack opened the door and stepped into the room, her face lit up with a motherly smile.

“Well I’ll be… Did I just see you laughing Twilight?” She exclaimed.

“Absent as it’s been, I think my sense of humour still exists.” Twi replied sheepishly.

“Well, it’s wonderful to see your smile again, would you care to wear it to dinner?” She requested.

“It would be my pleasure.”

Twilight and I stood up, and thankfully could walk well enough on our own, and followed Applejack to the dining room downstairs.

The dining room was huge; the previous owner had clearly lots of money to burn as they’d left a lot of furniture behind, which included a beautiful table about the size of a car. The other ponies were sat around it in large chairs from other rooms, patiently waiting for us to arrive before starting dinner, which looked absolutely divine. I could smell the mushroom stroganoff from the doorway and my mouth salivated, I knew my brother’s cooking from anywhere, and assumed Oliver had taught the ponies how to cook it before my departure to Chernobyl. The stroganoff was served with buttered bread and some salad, it went without saying, there was a very good chef amongst us.

“Ugh, I’m so hungry…” I groaned.

“Me too…” Twilight sighed.

Applejack chuckled and went to sit down, Twilight sat opposite me beside Pinkie, while I sat next to Rainbow Dash, giving her a playful poke. She replied by sticking her tongue out at me.

“Well, no need to sit here letting the food go cold, dig in everyone!” Rarity said heartily.

Nobody needed to tell me twice, I dunked some bread into the stroganoff and took a bite, memories of home flooded my mouth and I closed my eyes, beaming as I slowly chewed and let each ingredient mingle on my taste buds. It was utterly heavenly.

“So, we’ve been all dying to hear, what actually happened to you both?” Rarity asked.

I gestured to Twilight, who began telling the tale, right from the beginning.

“I’ve told you little about the creature who sent the Titan’s Orb to Earth, Nah’Lek. This monster has been using me like a puppet for the entire time we’ve been here. He’s been able to get inside my head and has been tormenting me in my sleep, torturing me every night into submission.”

“Oh my goodness…” Fluttershy gasped.

“He took me to a dreamland, which he called the Frozen Forest. In this arctic woodland, I was attacked, violently beaten, and eventually killed, each way was more horrible and barbaric than the last. Throughout my torment, he would whisper things to me, telling me of all the horrible things he would do to me, and to my friends and family.”

“Sugarcube… Why didn’t you tell us?” Applejack sighed.

“That’s the worst part, he said if I spoke to anyone about it, he would know, and that when he finds me in person, he’ll do things to me, unspeakable things, I can’t even repeat it…” Twilight said, her voice shaking.

I could tell she was struggling to keep it together, and so I took over telling the story so she could have a moment to gather herself again. I cleared my throat loudly to draw the group’s attention.

“All this time, we never understood how Nah’Lek had been able to get inside Twilight’s head, nor did we understand why her behaviour and emotional state has changed for the worst over all these months. Finally, we know why. As I briefly explained to you before, the deathly magic known as the Fel has been the reason for Twilight’s corruption. It enters the mind and body of anything it touches directly, and unfortunately, it touched Twilight. When you were given your mission by Celestia, she gave Twilight the essence left over from the Titan’s Orb, unaware that it had been poisoned by Nah’Lek’s magic. It was only a small amount, but just enough to slowly cultivate deep inside her. This gave Nah’Lek the ability to enter her mind and torment her, Twilight’s terror slowly grew into hatred as the Fel was nourished by her negative emotions; thus creating a snowball effect, the worst she felt, the stronger the Fel grew.”

I looked around to find everyone was transfixed on me, occasionally glancing at Twilight as they began to understand why their best friend had become so wicked and immoral.

“Twilight’s fear, became anger, which became hatred. She started losing clarity of vision, and began to act with malice and cruelty, but at this point, she had no control over what she was doing, without knowing the Fel was inside her head, she couldn’t have known her actions were wrong. The Fel creates delusions that can trick one into believing everyone is an enemy, even your closest friends…”

Twilight looked down, while I’d been away from the ponies in Paulo's gang, I had a bad feeling Twilight had ended up treating the others the same way she had treated me. I had another mouthful of the stroganoff and had a sip of water before continuing.

“In the beginning, before the serious corruption took place, Twilight was still living in fear of Nah’Lek and his endless torture. She was forced to keep quiet, pretending everything was fine while she experienced her worst nightmare every time she went to sleep. The amount of stress was unbearable for Twilight, and so she needed to find an outlet, something to let out her torment without telling anyone about Nah’Lek. Obviously, she didn’t want to let it out on you guys, you’re her closest friends, so she needed something else, and the only thing she could find, was me.”

Everyone stopped eating, and looked at me, that’s when Rainbow Dash frowned at Twilight.

“You’re telling me Twilight’s idea of an outlet, was to be a massive cunt?” She asked dryly.

Dashie!” Fluttershy gasped.

“What? Come on, it’s true! She thought the only good idea was to make Callum just as miserable as her? That’s not stress relief, that’s just a dick move!” She growled in defence.

“Don’t be so insensitive! She’s been through Tartarus and back!” Applejack scolded.

“Oh, and we haven’t? We’ve been through some shit too you know!” Dash spat.

She stood up from the table and pointed at her own wings, which were still wrapped in bandages since the horrific abuse she’d suffered in Brazil, her feathers were still growing back from the event. Applejack was just about to speak, when Rarity pitched in.

“I have to say, I’m with Rainbow Dash. We have all suffered copious amounts since embarking on this quest, and I think it was unfair to use Callum as cannon fodder just because she was stressed.”

STRESSED? She was TORTURED!” Applejack yelled.

Fluttershy agreed with Applejack and sided with her.

“Nopony should experience that, ever! It’s absurd to think Twilight should have just bottled it up all this time, while Callum’s treatment was unfair, I think it’s wrong to blame her!”

The dinner had become a shouting match, and Pinkie Pie was having none of it, she stuck five slices of bread into her mane and then picked up the entire stroganoff dish, before slithering out of the room to eat the rest of her dinner in peace.

“Twilight tortured Callum as well, she tricked him into thinking he was a murderer, and manipulated him into being her personal tool, she’s no worse than Nah’Lek!” Rainbow Dash shouted.

I slammed my fist on the table, angered by that comment.

“Don’t you DARE make such a comparison, I’ve seen Nah’Lek with my own eyes, I’ve seen what he’s capable of. I’ll admit Twilight treated me horribly, and I’ll admit it was unfair, but don’t you EVER say something like that again!” I boomed.

“You’re defending her? Why!? She’s made you miserable for the entire journey, and don’t even pretend you weren’t, I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve stormed off to get some space!” She barked back defiantly, not at all intimidated by my sudden anger.

“I was miserable LONG before you all came along.” I snarled.

“What do you mean?” She asked, taken aback.

“He’s depressed…” Twilight sighed.

Everyone turned to face Twilight, who had been quiet during the argument. She stood up from the table but continued to look at the ground.

“What?” Rainbow Dash muttered.

“Callum’s depressed, before we came into his life, he had attempted suicide, more than once. I’ve seen some of his memories when we switched bodies. I’ve felt the overwhelming darkness he feels every day, even after we embarked on this mission, he’s felt miserable.” She explained.

I opened my mouth to speak, before she continued.

“And I made it worse, I’ve prevented him from getting better. I used him, abused him, and took out all my pain on him. He deserved none of it, and yet I treated him like dirt. At first, it was just because I didn’t want to hurt my friends, I needed to let it out. But soon afterwards, I began to enjoy it, I craved making him miserable, I wanted him to suffer.”

“Twilight…” I breathed, noticing the tears in her eyes.

“I couldn’t stop myself until it went too far, I sent him to the other side of Portugal, hoping he would die before he reached us at the next orb shard. I even took the time to send him a text, asking him if he was dead yet, hoping I wouldn’t get a reply. I wanted him dead.”

She choked up and looked up at me, and the tears finally left her eyes.

“Then one night, I woke up in Callum’s body, and I felt something worse than Nah’Lek’s torture. I felt the same anger, hatred, and pain as before, but towards myself! The next thing I know, I’m walking around in the Frozen Forest again, and I find Callum in my body. That’s when I realised I was experiencing his emotions, I finally realised how I was making him feel!”

At this point, everyone else was getting emotional as they listened to the tale. The emotions were a mixture, Fluttershy, Applejack, were torn up over the distress Twilight was in, while Dashie and Rarity were distraught over Twilight’s confession to my mistreatment, and how badly she had affected me.

“I wanted to apologise there and then, but I didn’t, I couldn’t find the words. After that, I was conflicted with my emotions, and I started to hate myself for what I’d done. The Fel exploited this to corrupt me further, and I began to feel hateful towards everyone, and I forgot who I truly was.”

Twilight bowed her head in shame as she began to cry harder. None of us knew what to say, we just stood there and stared at her as she pleaded guilty to everything she had ever done.

“When we found Callum’s whereabouts, my first intention was to kill him, I blamed him for my emotional state, still unaware of the Fel in my body, I thought he was the cause of my actions and state of mind. Princess Celestia warned me of the human race, and not to trust them. She told me that Callum was an asset to the mission, but it was wise not to grow attached to him. The Fel played on those words, and tricked me into thinking Callum was the root of all my problems.”

{FINALLY! We Know What Celestia Said! After all this time!} Conscio cheered.

I shook my head to silently order him to shut up, while he had a point about finally understanding what Celestia had said to Twilight, now was hardly the time for celebration.

“When I teleported into the compound and found Callum, the very little good inside me was just enough to stop me from trying to kill him. But then I realised he was trying to save Bunnie, and I very quickly realised how badly he wanted to keep her alive, I suspected he loved her, and while I was just strong enough to fight the urge to kill him, I wasn’t strong enough to prevent what I did next…”

I felt a hard lump in my throat, and my vision went blurry again as the tears formed. Twilight looked up at me, her mouth wide open and her face painted with anguish.

“I could have saved her...”

Her voice was quieter than a mouse, her lips trembled as she emotionally imploded. Fluttershy walked over to her and draped her wing over her back to comfort her.

“I’m a murderer…”

She paused, not breaking eye contact, and then gritted her teeth.

I, KILLED, BUNNIE!” She screeched.

She shook Fluttershy’s wing away and bolted, ramming open the door to the main hall and towards the front doors to the mansion. Everyone was frozen, trying to digest all the information and emotion they’d just been delivered. As painful as Twilight’s words were, I knew she needed someone to look after her right now, and I was the only one who could. I wiped away my tears and looked at Rarity.

“Thank you for dinner.” I grunted coldly.

I headed after Twilight, and found the front doors wide open; I ran outside and quickly found her hoofprints, I tracked her as fast as I could. Her brain was still heavily damaged from the Fel and I knew she would be extremely unstable, she needed to be protected.

{She’s heading for the cliff…} Conscio stated.

“Oh fuck…”

I ran as fast as I could, and soon enough I found her, standing on the jagged edge of the cliff. The same part where I had fallen when it collapsed. I approached her slowly, and happened to step onto a twig, it snapped and she whipped around.

Stay back!” She spat.

“Twilight, get away from the edge.” I said calmly.

“I tried to kill you in this very spot, when I should have fallen, I deserved to die.” She shouted.

She was hyperventilating and hysterical, I needed to calm her down.

“You weren’t yourself, you were being controlled by the Fel; I saw your eyes glowing green when you threw me over the edge, you weren’t even conscious at that point, you were completely under its corruption, you weren’t responsible for your actions.” I told her.

“Why are you trying to help me? I deserve this!” She spat.

Her voice was barely audible through her tears; she was shaking all over. I looked at her and was surprised with what I found looking back; it was like looking into a mirror.

I saw myself…

On the night I had attempted suicide, I had sat there crying for hours in the living room, staring at the pile of pills in front of me, feeling like it was the only way to escape the darkness that swam around in my mind. I was scared, lost, confused, angry, and in pain.

“You’ve lost your way, you’ve gone down a dark path and you don’t know how to turn around, I’ve been there Twilight! Please, let me help you!” I pleaded.

I JUST WANT TO STOP THIS!” She screamed.

She turned to face the cliff and my heart skipped a beat, she looked over the edge and began to lean forward; I sprinted at her as fast as I could and dived forward just as she went over the edge, I grabbed her tail and was almost taken over the edge with her, it took every muscle in my body to hold onto her without slipping forward. She wriggled around and I almost lost my grip.

“LET ME GO!” She cried.

“Over my dead body!” I growled.

I tugged her upwards and my body slid forward a few inches, I gasped loudly and kept absolutely still in sheer terror. I couldn’t see the bottom with the little light the moon provided, but I knew the drop was about the same as falling from the top of a skyscraper, since I’d already fallen from it once already.

Why are you doing this? I’ve ruined your life!” Twilight shrieked.

I gritted my teeth as it grew harder and harder to hold onto her.

“You know what would ruin my life? Making my way down this mountain with the others to recover your body, and having to bury you! THAT would ruin my fucking life!”

Twilight sobbed harder as she became conflicted with guilt alongside with wanting to put an end to her suffering. From personal experience, I knew she didn’t really want this.

“Please Twilight, let me help you!” I begged.

“I can’t live with myself, I can’t cope with this! I hate myself!” She wailed.

“I felt like you did once! I felt like nothing in the world could help me cope, and I spent MANY nights considering ending my life. That’s when I started watching a stupid fucking cartoon where a young unicorn started learning the magic of friendship! The more I watched the show, and saw her grow and learn, the more confidence I had, that maybe one day, life would get better, and I’d make some good friends of my own! And I DID, both at my school, and online, I started to make friendships, and for once, I didn’t want to kill myself! I owe that to you; YOU gave me the confidence to carry on.”

She twisted around and looked up at me, taking in my heartfelt words.

“You didn’t ruin my life Twilight! You saved it!” I shouted.

Time seemed to slow down as our eyes met, in this moment, we truly understood each other. She looked down and finally came to her senses, and realised how close she was to death.


“Put your hooves against the cliff face!” I ordered.

Due to hanging upside down, it wasn’t easy, but she was just able to make contact with the rock and I pulled her backwards, rather than upwards, her legs could take half of the weight, which allowed me to get to my knees and pull her back harder. She flew over the edge and smacked into my chest, she whipped around and latched onto me like a koala, all four legs hugging me as she shook, hyperventilating from the panic, it quickly died down and emotions took over, Twilight buried her face into my shoulder and wept loudly, I just held her tighter and cried with her, both of us shaking like leaves in a hurricane.

“I’ve got you… I’ve got you…”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” She spluttered.

I said nothing and just cuddled her, cradling her from side to side. I held on to her for what felt like hours. All past transgressions were forgiven, because in this moment, we shared something that only we understood, which meant in turn, we understood each other.

Eventually she pulled back and I looked at her with a warm smile.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m freezing.”

“Well, it is the middle of night in January…” She giggled sheepishly.

She got off me and we stood up and headed back towards the mansion…

As friends…

Chapter Seventeen - We're Not So Different, You and I

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I closed the front doors behind us and walked into the main hallway.

“Head on upstairs Twilight, I’ll catch up.” I said, ruffling her mane.

She nodded and headed up, while I searched the ground floor until I found the kitchen, I didn’t bother switching on the light, as the full moon outside poured into the window, giving me adequate lighting. I took a glass from a nearby cupboard and filled it with water from the sink; after downing the glass, I bent over the counter, burying my face into my hands. The shock slowly settled in as I realised that Twilight had literally just tried to kill herself. Despite the recent events with Bunnie, and the Frozen Forest, and all the other things that had gone on over the mission, nothing had prepared me for something like this. Depression and suicide were subjects I knew only too well, and Twilight making an attempt on her own life had hit home more than I expected.

I heard a noise and looked up to see someone’s silhouette, I quickly recognised the shape of the hat upon her head and gave her a weak smile.

“Y’alright sugar cube?”

I sighed heavily and looked down again. Applejack came around the counter to give me a hug, I turned to her and she could tell that I was very troubled.

“What is it babe?” She asked.

She took my hand in her hoof, and I looked into her eyes.

“Twilight just tried to kill herself…”

Letting go of my hand, Applejack took a step back and she instantly choked up, completely unprepared to hear such a thing; it took her a few seconds to speak.

“Wh-wh… Wha… What happened?” She stammered.

“The argument at dinner brought everything to the surface, she broke under the guilt of what she had become. She tried to throw herself off the cliff.” I explained hoarsely.

“Oh my gosh…”

Applejack’s eyes watered up and I could tell she was picturing the whole thing.

“Is she alright?”

“Yeah, I caught her and was able to talk her out of it. I’ve sent her upstairs, I just needed a moment to myself to process everything.” I replied.

She nodded and relaxed slightly, knowing I had kept her safe.

“How are things between you both?”

“Rather good actually; we had a serious heart-to-heart at the cliff. Twilight needs someone right now, and I’m ready to let go of the past, to be that someone.”

She gave me a tight cuddle, and I got onto my knees so it was easier to hug her. She put her mouth to my ear and spoke to me softly, her voice was full of emotion.

“After all she’s put you through, you’re still here for her. That takes a special kind of guy Callum, I see why the Princess chose you now. You’re a true friend.”

That was it… THAT WAS IT!
The puzzle pieces finally clicked together.

I realised why I was chosen for this mission; Princess Celestia had warned Twilight of humanity, knowing she would overreact and treat me poorly. The tension would be enough to push us to our limits, but Celestia needed someone that wouldn’t give up, she needed a human identical to Twilight, someone who was ambitious, who wanted to learn and spread the magic of friendship. A human who believed in giving everyone a second chance. I thought back to every episode of the cartoon, and no matter how intelligent or gifted Twilight was, it always came back to depending on her friendships to overcome problems. Friendship was the root of this, Celestia didn’t choose me for my athletic body or physical strength, nor did she choose me just because I was a brony.

She chose me because I would refuse to give up on Twilight.

“You alright babe?” Applejack asked quietly.

“Yeah, just in thought.” I answered.

I gave her another quick squeeze before standing up again and finishing my water.

“Thanks for the chat.”

“Anytime sugar cube, my door’s always open.” She replied, smiling.

I put my glass in the sink and headed upstairs, and made my way to Twilight’s room.

“Hey you.” I said warmly as I entered the bedroom.

Twilight was sitting on the end of the bed, smiling guiltily with a book in her lap. I recognised the book, it was one of my books from home; Shadow, by Michael Morpurgo. It was about a British Springer Spaniel in Afghanistan; it was a sniffer dog trained to locate bombs. It was separated from its unit during a firefight and got injured. It was nursed back to health by an Afghan child, who later named it Shadow. They became inseparable. When the boy and his mother sook asylum in England to escape the Taliban, the dog was left behind. The story was about Shadow trying to find the boy again, it was a touching story.

“Where did you get that?” I asked with an eyebrow upraised.

“I may have packed a few of your books during my first visit.” She responded with an innocent look.

I rolled my eyes and gave her a dead look.

“You mean you stole it.”

“I prefer the term, permanently borrowed.”

She giggled nervously, and I chuckled as I closed the door and sat next to her.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Not amazing, but a little better, thank you.” She replied, dipping her head.

“One step at a time Twi, one step at a time. Try to get some rest.”

I rubbed her shoulder, and then stood up to leave. I had taken one step when Twilight grabbed my wrist with both hooves and pulled me back. She looked up at me with an expressive frown.

“I don’t want to sleep alone… I’m scared…”

I smiled warmly, and came back to the bed and sat down beside her again.

“Whatever you need, I’m here.”

Twilight’s face lit up, and I had to admit, I felt a ton of sympathy for her. She felt lonely, and I was only too familiar with that feeling, she had lost her friends due to her actions, and now I was the only friend she had. I was determined to help her rebuild the trust between the others.
Already being topless, I only needed to take off my wrecked militia cargo trousers before getting into bed. As I held them up in front of me, I realised just how devastated and filthy they were.

“I need some new clothes.” I chuckled.

Twilight giggled, and then started eying me up and realised how many scars I had. My legs bore round puncture marks, from the crocodile attack in Brazil, and when Inigo had stabbed my thighs with his sharpened screwdriver, heated with a blowtorch. My back had a few smaller scars dotted around from the number of times I had fallen from trees, and I had caught my lower back on some barbed wire on our way from Ukraine to the border of Romania. My torso wore the largest of my disfigurements, the lacerations from Chernobyl’s deathclaw raked across my right side, from shoulder to belly. The wound from Inigo’s knife went from the top of my left pec, all the way across my chest down to the bottom of my sternum. It was only just visible since my fight with Twilight, as there was now an oval shaped blotch of heavily scarred flesh, her fireball had burned away most of the skin, and was so severe it had completely burned away my left nipple, I assumed magical fire was much hotter than ordinary fire.
Zecora’s Oozima was a true godsend, as it had allowed each and every one of these wounds to heal quickly without infection, regardless of the gruesome marks they left behind. My face was the only part of me that wasn’t damaged, thankfully.

“I’ve really put you through the mill.” Twilight muttered.

I looked down at my hands, the gashes from the tree branches weren’t fully healed yet and caused some discomfort. After flexing my fingers, I turned to Twilight and knelt in front of her.

“The Fel, put me through the mill.” I corrected her.

She smiled weakly, and I put an arm around her neck.

“Besides, most of these scars were inflicted by other things; from crocodiles, to mutant lizards, to drug lords, and the like.” I reminded her.

Sadly, this didn’t comfort her, and she sighed.

“You wouldn’t have had to face any of those things if it weren’t for me, I still caused all the complications that landed you in all those situations.”

I took both her hooves with my hands, and held them firmly. Slowly rolling over the hard base with my thumbs, I looked at Twilight with a lowered brow.

“You mustn’t blame yourself, we’re all still alive, which is the important thing.” I told her.

“Not all of us…”

I closed my eyes, I wasn’t ready for that…

{Remember what Hawnu Rey’eng said, it was merciful this way…} I thought to myself.

Clenching my jaw for a moment, I exhaled through gritted teeth and opened my eyes again.

“Look, what happened with Bunnie was awful; and yes, I will need time until I’m back to my old self again. But the way I see it Twilight, you’re in a pretty broken state of your own. I think we both need some time to recover. So, how about we do it together?” I suggested.

She responded by leaning sideways and resting her head on my shoulder.

“I like that…”

I smiled and gave her a cuddle, before flopping backwards and rolling onto the right side of the bed. Getting under the covers, I nestled down and yawned. Twilight got under as well and sighed happily, glad that we had finally made amends and were finally friends.

“So, how do you think we’re going to get to the next orb shard without magic?” Twilight asked.

“I think we need to stay here and recover before we focus on moving. Nah’Lek never found out where we are, so we should be safe for a while. Let’s just get you better, and work on rebuilding with the others. Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy are most likely fine with you, but I think we need to smooth things over with Dashie and Rarity.” I replied.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right…” She mumbled.

“Hey, it’ll be okay.” I told her, rolling over to face her.

Twilight sniffed and then wrinkled her nose slightly, clearly bothered.

“As much as I needed to hear it, Rainbow Dash really laid into me.” She said miserably.

“Yeah, it was pretty harsh. But you’ve got to remember we’ve all been through some nightmarish situations together, Rainbow Dash having her wings plucked, Rarity being attacked by a bear, and generally as a unit we’ve been shot at, intimidated, and have all witnessed death. Perhaps the others are in need of an outlet of their own, I wouldn’t take everything too personally.” I reminded her.

She smiled and put a hoof on my shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“What for?”

“Just being here for me, I forgot what it was like to have a close friend.”

I emitted a huge grin and opened my arms.

“C’mere you.”

We exchanged a cuddle, and then I switched off the lamp and went to sleep with Twilight in my arms. Quite an amazing thing really, how the most bitter of rivalries could forge the tightest bonds. When you’ve been through so much turmoil with someone, even if they’re your enemy, you begin to realise how lost you’d be without them. My relationship with Twilight had ironically started off like Batman’s relationship with the Joker; bitter enemies, but one was incomplete without the other. Twilight’s cruelty had shaped me over the quest, and made me a much stronger person; and vice versa, my emotional outbursts and confrontations had given Twilight just enough strength to resist the Fel’s corruption for as long as she had done. Without me to frequently challenge her actions, the Fel probably would have taken her over before we’d even reached Chernobyl.
With such a strong relationship, even as a negative one, we depended on each other. Now she was cured of the Fel, and we could finally see eye to eye, the relationship had transformed into a positive one, but retained its strength.

“I’ll do the talking tomorrow, okay?” I said softly.

“Why? I’m not that bad at conversation.” Twi retorted.

“No, but I think its best if I explain a couple points on your behalf.” I clarified.

“Hm, alright.” She hummed.

“Besides, you could say anything with that big mouth of yours.” I teased.

She gasped, and then playfully elbowed me in the ribs.

“Says the one with a bigger mouth than Pinkie Pie.” She mocked, winking at me.

“And what evidence do you have to support that claim?” I questioned, raising my eyebrows.

“Back when we were travelling in England, you played Fluffy Bunnies around the campfire, and beat Pinkie’s high score with an astonishing seventeen marshmallows.” She reminded me.

“Oh my god, you remember that?” I asked, amazed.

“I may have been an asshole, but I was watching.” She replied sheepishly.

I lay back onto the bed and sighed, happily reminiscing the time I beat the Ponyville Champion of Fluffy Bunnies, I took a dive down memory lane and remembered all the silly games we’d played during the beginning of my quest. The game of hide and seek in my back garden, where Fluttershy found me up the ironwood tree. Racing Applejack and Rainbow Dash, and coming second as Dashie had cheated a little by using her wings, and the time when I was first introduced to the Oozima, and was dared to put my nose in the container and sniff the extremely strong bleach-like substance, which almost destroyed my sense of smell. There was the time when I had slept in a tree with Rainbow Dash, and Rarity had levitated a Threezie up to me, I loved those cookies, I wondered if she had any left...
And how could I forget the time I’d fallen into the River Mole on the way back from Brazil? I had chased Rarity for ages in attempt to get her mane wet, as she’d recently cleaned it…

“Heh, this adventure has had some pretty good times as well…” I sighed.

“Yeah…” Twilight agreed.

“And there are many more ahead of us.” I whispered.

The unicorn hummed gleefully in agreement, before rolling away from me into a comfortable position. Twilight must have been absolutely exhausted from tonight, so I left her to sleep, and decided to do the same. I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes, and soon drifted off myself…

I was disturbed by a small breeze, it wasn’t cold, nor was it warm. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up to look around, and everything felt off. The dark room looked different, all the wood was warped and grey. I looked to my left to find Twilight wasn’t there.

“Twilight?” I asked aloud, hoping she would answer.

Nothing replied but my own echo, I got out of bed and walked over to the bedroom door, placing my hand on the knob, I twisted and pulled, as the door creaked open, I instantly spotted the glowing purple eyes.

GOT YOU!” Nah’Lek roared, lunging forward at me.

I cried out in terror, which was when I sat up in bed, shaking.

“Callum, are you alright?” Twilight asked.

I felt Twilight’s hoof rubbing my arm, and I took a breath of relief and calmed down.

“Yeah, just a dream…” I muttered.

Slumping back onto my pillow, I huffed. Twilight went to go back to sleep, but left her hoof resting on my chest for reassurance. I held it close and was soon able to drift off again…

The morning sun shone through a crack in the curtains, it was enough to wake me, but not so much that I was irritated. I opened a single eye, before squinting hard as I stretched, my hand lightly brushed Twilight’s mane, thankfully it didn’t wake her up. Sitting up, I looked at the unicorn as she slept softly on her back, she looked so calm, so peaceful. Being her first night without Nah’Lek’s torment, I could imagine it was the best night’s sleep she’d ever had. Not wanting to take that away from her, I eased out of bed and decided to make breakfast alone, Twilight deserved a lie-in.

I made my way down the corridor, and heard Rainbow Dash snoring in one of the rooms, causing me to smirk. I headed down the spiral staircase that led to the main hall, and then into the kitchen.

“Good morning.” Rarity welcomed me as I entered the room.

“Heya.” I replied.

“Think fast!” Applejack forewarned as she flung an apple at me.

I caught the apple with one hand and took a bite, it was fresh, sweet, and juicy, possibly one of the best apples I’d ever eaten. I hummed merrily and munched away.

“That there’s from Sweet Apple Acres, it’s from my last batch.” She told me.

It’ch deliciou’ch!” I praised with my mouth full.

“Would you like some tea?” Rarity proposed, walking over to the kitchen stove.

On the stove was a fancy kettle, it seemed the group had unpacked all their home supplies since settling into the mansion; which made sense as we were going to be staying here for a while.

“Do you have any coffee?” I requested after swallowing another bite.

“But of course darling!”

Rarity took a large mug from the cupboard and then levitated some instant coffee powder into it.


“Two please.”

“I thought you were sweet enough.” She teased, plopping two sugar cubes into the coffee.

After pouring in a few splashes of milk, Rarity brought me the mug and gave me a small cuddle, before taking a sip from her own tea. Applejack on the other hand, was quite obviously drinking apple juice.

We headed into the living room, Rarity and I sat on a settee, while Applejack sat in a recliner. Rarity put a hoof onto my wrist and sighed.

“Darling, I want to apologise for dinner last night.”

“You don’t need to Rare, everyone has been through a lot, and I think everyone needed to blow off some steam. Nobody should be held accountable for that.” I said kindly.

I noticed a disagreement in Rarity’s face, and decided to clarify my statement.

“Which includes Twilight.”

Rarity awkwardly put a hoof behind her head.

“I know, I know. I’m just finding it a little difficult to find a place in me to forgive her after everything, it’s not just the way she treated you, only a couple of week ago she-”

“I know what she did, you don’t need to repeat it.” I interrupted.

She nodded, and skipped the gritty details about Twilight’s killings.

“What you say about the Fel most certainly makes it easier, but corrupted or not, it’s not easy to look at Twilight in the same light after watching her do such a thing.”

I put a hand on Rarity’s shoulder and gave her a small smile to assure her I wasn’t angry.

“You don’t need to forgive her immediately; I’m not asking that of you. I completely agree that we all need some time to accept everything that’s happened. All I ask, is that you give Twilight a chance.”

Rarity looked down, and then gave me a nod.

“After all we’ve been through, it would be wrong of me not to. I promise I will give it a lot of thought, and will try to find a place for her in my heart again.” She said warmly.

I put my coffee down and gave her a small hug.

“Thank you Rarity, I know it’s asking a lot.”

“It’s Rainbow Dash you’ve got to worry about.” Applejack muttered.

I hummed in agreement, Dashie wasn’t exactly subtle when it came to expressing her views on Twilight. While Rarity would be willing to give Twilight a chance, I knew Rainbow Dash would be a much tougher kettle of fish. That’s when I had an idea.

“How about Rainbow, Twilight, and I go and hunt for the nearby orb shard together, just the three of us? I’m sure we’d be able to come to an understanding.” I suggested.

At this, Applejack kissed her teeth, not fond of the idea.

“I don’t think you realise quite how bad things are sugar cube. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rainbow tried to tear Twilight into shreds if you put them together long enough” She told me.

“That bad ey?” I hummed.

Applejack and Rarity both nodded, and I picked up my coffee to take another sip.

“Okay, then I’ll go with just Rainbow Dash, I’ll try to talk to her about it alone.” I put forward.

“I think that’ll work better darling.” Rarity agreed.

“In the meanwhile, perhaps you both can try to make some amends?” Applejack suggested to Rarity.

Dipping her head to show her consent, Rarity got up and gave me a small peck on the cheek, before going to make herself another cup of tea from the kitchen. While she was gone, I moved closer to Applejack and gave her a concerned look.

“Is it just me, or is Rarity acting a little over-friendly?” I asked.

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed it; it’s probably on the account of Twilight mentioning your depression last night.” She replied.

I hummed as that was a plausible reason.

“Well I hope she doesn’t keep it up, it’s a little awkward.” I mumbled.

Applejack chuckled and then rolled her eyes at Rarity’s behaviour.

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell her while you’re gone with Dashie. Some ponies feel like they’re walking on eggshells when it comes to mental health stuff; I just don’t buy into it. If you need my help, I’ll help you, and I’ll support you in any way you need, but I won’t pander to you about the place.”

I smiled, this was one of the best things you could hear when suffering from depression.

“Thanks AJ, that’s actually really nice to hear.”

“Don’t sweat it hun.” She grinned.

I finished my coffee, and almost hit the ceiling as I was shocked by an ear-splitting scream from upstairs, I dropped the mug and charged into the main hall with Applejack at my side.

“That sounded like Rainbow Dash!” I barked.

Applejack was just about to head up the stairs when a flash of blue shot past us like a bullet, Rainbow Dash whizzed out of the front door and disappeared.

“Rainbow Dash! Wait!” Fluttershy called after her.

She rushed down the stairs and chased Dashie outside, followed by Blu. Applejack and I went after them, and my mouth fell wide open to what I saw.

“Rainbow Dash… You’re… You’re…” I murmured.

I’M FLYING, BIIIIIIITCH!” She squealed with delight.

Up, down, and all around, Rainbow Dash zipped through the treeline, before she eventually landed and skidded to a halt in front of us. She extended her wings to reveal them covered in pristine, healthy feathers; she had fully recovered.

“Your wings!” I exclaimed.

I came forward and ran my hand across some of her beautiful feathers, they were silky soft, yet strong and sturdy. Oliver’s feather growth medicine must have been more effective than we anticipated.

“I’m all better!” Dashie squeaked.

This was when Fluttershy pushed past me and prodded Rainbow Dash’s shoulder, clearly very irritated.

“For goodness sake Dashie, I told you precisely not to do that!” She scolded.

“Oh come on Fluttershy, I haven’t been able to fly for months, I just HAD to!” Dash replied.

She started tiptoeing in circles, occasionally giving her wings a small flap to take her off the ground, giggling uncontrollably all the while. It was safe to say; this was the happiest I’d ever seen her.

“They might be better, but you haven’t used them in a long time, you don’t want to sprain them and end up flightless again, do you?” Fluttershy prompted her.

Dashie rolled her eyes, and then took herself off the ground again.

“My wings won’t sprain, are you forgetting these belong to the most awesome pony around?”

She did a flip before landing again, prancing around as if she were on a catwalk showcase. I stood next to Fluttershy and told her to relax, and then whispered a suggestion into her ear. She liked my idea, and allowed me to tell Rainbow.

“Hey Dashie, I’ve got a deal for you.” I hinted.

She zoomed up to me with a huge grin; I smirked as I made my proposition.

“If you let Fluttershy check you over, and you spend today doing the boring medical stuff; tomorrow we can go hunt for the orb shard together, just the two of us. What do you say?”

Rainbow Dash bit her lip, then hummed as she mentally debated the offer. A couple seconds later, the large grin returned, and she nodded frantically.

“Deal!” She squeaked.

She bounced around, giggling to herself. Blu hopped off Fluttershy’s shoulder and fluttered onto mine.

“I know the way! I know the way! Two days walk from here!” He squawked.

I nodded and suggested the parrot came with us to make sure we went in the right direction. He happily agreed and jumped onto Fluttershy’s head. That was when Twilight came outside to join us.

“I heard a scream, is everything okay?” She asked before yawning.

Dashie’s face dulled, and she turned to Fluttershy.

“Come on, let’s do the boring medical stuff.” She moaned.

Both pegasi walked back into the mansion, I growled quietly under my breath as Rainbow physically barged Twilight out of the way. Applejack was right, this was going to be challenging.
Twilight’s ears drooped, and she shuffled back inside to make her breakfast alone. I went after her and joined her in the kitchen.

“Good morning sleepyhead.” I sang.

She turned around to face me, and thankfully she smiled.

“Hey.” She said.

“Sleep well?” I asked.

She nodded, before attempting to pull something out of her bag, unable to open the zip without her magic. I came forward and offered to help, which she gladly accepted. I picked up the bag and unzipped it, only to find it was empty.

“Ugh, right… Magic seal.” She groaned.

“Say what?” I quizzed.

“Our bags, remember? Discord made them, they’re pocket dimensions that make them bigger on the inside, but it can only be opened with Equestrian magic.” She reminded me.

“Oh yeah…” I hummed.

I went over to Rarity’s bag, which had a small fridge compartment; it had been deployed as the group’s shared fridge, and so she’d left it open for anyone to use. I took out one of the many preserved milk cartons and offered to make Twilight a coffee and some cereal, she didn’t want much milk and so I was left with half the carton. Being a milk lover, I seized this opportunity to have a nice glass of cold milk.

“If only I had something to dunk…” I sighed.

“I swear Pinkie’s got like, an endless stash of cookies in her bag.” Twilight suggested.

I clicked my fingers and smiled, before putting both hands to my mouth and hollering loudly.


In seconds, Pinkie Pie rushed into the room and almost crashed into a cabinet upon entry.

Whoop, whoop! That’s the sound of the beast!” She shrieked.

I squinted my eyes at Pinkie, and squatted slightly, my hands at my sides so I was standing like a cowboy during a standoff. She, too, squinted her eyes and prepared to draw. I furrowed my brow and growled to her in a thick Texan accent, imitating an old western movie.

“We got ourselves one cow shake for fifty pounds a pop, but we ain’t got no chunky hunkies for the ol’ steam tank. What’s your dangle at, partner?”

Pinkie pulled a stalk of wheat from her mane and put it in her mouth, baring her teeth.

“That’s one heck of a rustle you have there, friend. But this cowpony doesn’t cut a dry deal for fifty pounds a pop, it’ll take some of your harvest to make this chicken lay an egg.” She snarled.

I wiggled my fingers, and Pinkie twitched her ears, and the tension grew thicker and thicker. Poor Twilight had literally no idea what the fuck was going on.

“Six pounds a pop.” I offered, licking my lower lip.

“Thirteen.” She refused, upping the bargain.



She stood up straight, smiled, and then hurried out of the room. I smiled to myself, it had been a while since I’d been able to have a crazy moment with Pinkie. I turned to face Twilight, to find the poor unicorn in shock, utterly bewildered and traumatised by the random experience.

“What, did I just witness?” She asked.

“Quite simple really, I just told Pinkie that I had half a carton of milk, and that I wanted some of her cookies. In return, she wants a sip of my milk; a fair trade if you ask me.” I explained.

Thinking over what we had said during the standoff, she began to translate the words, and blinked a few times with astonishment.

“That’s… Incredible… Since when could you understand Pinkie’s antics?”

“I don’t think there was a time I couldn’t understand it. I’ve always been a little crazy and random, I guess there’s a little Pinkie in my DNA.” I chuckled.

Pinkie whizzed back into the room with two cookies and gave them to me. I passed her the glass, and as promised, she only drank one fifth of the milk. She licked her lips and then gave me the glass, before bowing politely and trotting away.

Twilight and I enjoyed our breakfast peacefully, and then relaxed in the living room for a bit.

“So, what are today’s plans?” She asked.

“Today, we relax. I think we’ve earned it.” I replied, kicking my feet up.

There were no objections to that plan, and we just enjoyed the peaceful day. No fighting, no danger, just harmony for once.

After about an hour in the living room, we headed outside and took a walk around the woodland, listening to birdsong and the wind that whistled over the mountainside. We came across some snow as we headed a little further up.

“Looks like we’ve found a more peaceful Frozen Forest.” I teased.

“That’s not even funny.” Twilight groaned.


“It’s fine, I just don’t want any reminders...” She huffed.

I nodded to confirm I wouldn’t bring it up again, we walked around for a while before coming back to a warmer section of the woodland, where we sat on a log together and talked about stuff. Now that she was getting back to her old self, she had become more curious about humanity, and wanted to learn more. So we talked for ages about all different topics, from my education system, to technology, to the world wars, to religious topics…

“So, I’m confused, if Jesus was Jewish, why don’t the Jews believe he was the son of God? Don’t you think that’s a little contradictory?” Twilight quizzed.

I had studied religion a lot online, as I loved the stories. So thankfully I had the answer, but it was quite a mouthful. I took a moment before explaining the ‘How come Jesus was Jewish?’ conundrum.

“Well, basically, the Jewish religion was known as the Old Covenant, and there was a certain group of people who believed a messiah would come to fulfil it and create the New Covenant. Jesus still grew up in the Old Covenant, and thus was Jewish. Upon being heralded as the son of God and the Messiah, people began to follow him and formed the New Covenant, Catholicism. It became a huge religion, but there were still a large group of Jewish people who didn’t trust in Jesus, and believed him to be a pretender. The prophecy claimed the New Covenant was the successor to the Old Covenant, so even though Jesus was the mid-way point that divided the religion, he was still technically Jewish.”

“Oh, okay, that makes more sense.” She hummed.

I loved how Twilight didn’t need me to explain anything twice, she took in all the information like a sponge, she was like a damn supercomputer when it came to storing information. I went on to explain extreme views, and how whole organisations were formed just to force their views on others, and attacked anyone who didn’t follow the same principles. From the IRA and their extreme political views, to the Taliban, notorious for their terror attacks in the name of Allah. Twilight hummed with interest, before I decided to switch the topic, not really wanting to get into the subject of terrorism.

“So, tomorrow I’ve decided to get the next shard with Rainbow Dash, just to two of us.”

What? You made a decision without MY say-so?” She snapped.

She stood up and glared at me, and I could tell she was having another outburst.

“Relax, it’s alright.” I said calmly.

Relax? You do not command me, I OWN you!” She spat.

“Twilight, you’re not yourself, look at me.”

She stormed up to me and snarled, I remained motionless as she went to hit me; I caught her punch and held her hoof tightly, and kept eye contact with her. With my other hand, I placed my palm on the side of her face to get her focus.

“Twilight, it’s me.” I breathed softly.

Her pupils dilated, and she stopped trying to yank her hoof away; I let go of it, and she took a step back.

“I’m… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” She choked.

She turned and was about to run away when I got up and put a hand on her neck.

“Walk with me.” I ordered.

“But I-”

Walk, with me.” I repeated sternly.

I headed back towards the mansion, and Twilight reluctantly came with me. I took her to the cliff, where I sat on the very edge and dangled my legs below.

“Sit.” I uttered.

She sat beside me and looked at me, her eyes full of tears.

“Callum, I’m so s-”

“If you wanted to, you could push me.” I interrupted.

“What?” She gasped.

“If you really wanted to, you could kill me, right now. I’m right on the edge, all it would take is a little shove, and I’d fall to my death.”

Twilight froze for a moment, and I looked out into the horizon, the view was incredible. I could see towns and villages in the distance, all of them lightly kissed by the winter sun.

“But I don’t want to.” Twilight finally replied.

I turned my head to face her, and looked into her eyes; and gave my statement some explanation.

“I know, which is exactly why I’m sitting here; I trust you, Twilight. I trust you with my life.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t find a single thing to say, lost in my words.
I carried on.

“Twi, that outburst wasn’t you. I’m not angry, upset, or wary of you. Last night, you touched my heart and changed everything I thought I knew about you, so much that I feel like I’ve known you all my life; because in a weird way, I have. We’ve lived very similar lives, we were both introverted and preferred to be alone, left to our own devices. We both studied science, and loved to learn how the world works. And most importantly, we’ve both struggled to cope with the monsters inside our heads...
We’re not so different, you and I…”

{Ha! He said it!} Conscio blurted out.

I ignored him, not wanting him to ruin this moment. Twilight looked at me for a good few seconds, before I noticed her entire body relax, she had been tense the entire time. She put her legs forward and lay down, and then rested her head on my hip. No further words needed to be said, we just got each other. We looked into the distance together and let the time fly by until the sun began to merge with the horizon, coating the world with an orange blanket.

“We should get some dinner, and then hit the hay.” I suggested after a while.

“Yeah…” Twilight sighed, in a state of inner peace.

We got up and headed back to the mansion, and went to the kitchen, where I found Applejack cooking something delicious, I hummed merrily and slid over to her, giving the farm pony a little hug.

“What’s cookin’?” I asked.

I dipped my finger in the sauce and had a little taste, it was creamy and scrumptious. I suspected from the taste that she was making a mushroom pie, I went for another taste and Applejack smacked my hand.

“Hey! Get outta here you varmint!” She exclaimed.

I chuckled as she chased me out of the kitchen, and I headed upstairs with Twilight until the food was ready. I flopped onto the bed and let out a huge yawn, before delving into Twilight’s other satchel, which had no magical lock, allowing me to take out Hawnu Rey’eng’s collars.

“Funny things, aren’t they?” I muttered, more to myself.

“Yeah, so funny they almost killed us.” She replied, rolling her eyes.

“They did save your life too though.” I pointed out.

She grumbled an inaudible reply and I started to examine my collar, next to the power button was a tiny panel, using my fingernail, I was able to open it up and found a tiny white crystal. Next to it, was a switch with the words “in” and “out” engraved on either side, the switch was currently set to out.

{You know, I’d bet my left testicle that flipping the switch would allow you and Twilight to get inside YOUR mind, instead of hers.} Conscio wagered.

“You’re inside my brain, you don’t even have testicles.” I retorted.

What?” Twilight squeaked.

My cheeks instantly went red as I realised Twilight could only hear my end of the conversation.

“Sorry, Conscio was just talking about the collars.” I said awkwardly.

“What do the collars have to do with testicles exactly?”

Never mind!” I squawked.

Twilight giggled, as did Conscio, leaving me with a disgruntled frown. I rolled my eyes and fiddled with the collar for a while, before putting it back into her bag and waiting for dinner.

A while later, Applejack called us down and as suspected, it was mushroom pie. Dinner went just as I expected it would; not, well. Rainbow Dash refused to eat in the same room as Twilight, which sparked yet another argument between her and Applejack. Pinkie escaped with everyone’s bread, and Fluttershy burst into tears because the group had officially fallen apart. Eventually Rainbow stormed off to bed, which left us all eating dinner in silence, the tension was so thick, you’d need a chainsaw to cut it.

When Twilight and I had eaten our fill, I got up and thanked Applejack for cooking for us, we headed upstairs and both flopped onto the bed at the same time, both of us feeling glum.

“Well, that was a disaster.” Twilight grumbled.

“You’re telling me?” I huffed.

“She really does hate me…”

I sat up and took Twilight’s hooves.

“She’s still struggling to understand the Fel, and what it did to you. Tomorrow I’m going to explain things to her in greater depth while searching for the orb shard.” I told her.

“It doesn’t help that she’s got a huge crush on you.” She sighed.

“This again… Does she really like me? I still think she was just bantering.” I moaned.

“Before I killed those men, she literally admitted it to Fluttershy.” She confirmed.

I got into bed and rolled onto my back, pulling my cheeks downward and moaning with frustration.

“I can imagine it’s not the best time to know that, with what happened with Bun-”

“Don’t say her name.” I interrupted harshly.


“Ugh, it’s alright; I just don’t know how to take it, I hardly expected one of you six to like me in that way. I’ve got nothing against it, I just don’t really know how to deal with it.”

Twilight hummed with understanding, and then got into bed.

“Well, I suggest you stay open minded, it might help you move on.” She advised.

“Really?” I replied, rolling to face her.

“I’m not telling you to suddenly dive onto her, but if you need something to help you move on when you’re ready, I don’t see the harm in it. Rainbow Dash isn’t one for serious relationships, so it wouldn’t be anything more than a rebound if that’s all you wanted.”

Sitting up, I thought on her words. She had a point, and I certainly considered myself an open-minded person, but really? With one of the ponies? It didn’t really sit right with me. Either way, I wasn’t ready to move on from Bunnie, it was much too raw, so there wasn’t much point overthinking it. I lay back down and closed my eyes, the thoughts swimming around my head were almost unbearable, even with my eyelids shut, my eyes darted in all directions as each individual thought raced across my brain.

It took almost an hour for my brain to settle, and I was soon able to relax and try to sleep. I curled up and breathed out slowly, before finally beginning to drift off, and soon after, fall into a deep sleep…

I woke up very abruptly as I felt my skin crawling, I sat bolt upright and found myself in the same warped room from last night’s dream. Quickly understanding I was still asleep, I decided to explore the room. As I stood up, the bed quickly developed a fungal mould, the furry paste coated the duvet in seconds.

“Weird…” I mumbled.

I then heard a light rapping from the bedroom door. Much like in the first dream, I presumed Nah’Lek was on the other side. Upon taking a cautious step towards it, the rapping grew slightly more intense. I gulped and took another step, and it grew faster and louder. The closer I got to the door, the harder the knocking became; by the time I was in front of it, it sounded as if someone was bashing their head against it. I put my hand on the knob, and it stopped instantly.

Very slowly, I turned it and opened the door; nobody was on the other side. I stepped into the hallway, to find it was twisted and distorted, it looked identical to the Twisted Hallway from The Legend of Zelda.

From behind me I heard a strange clicking noise, and almost wet myself as I turned to inspect it.

What a tangled web, we weave…” Nah’Lek hissed.

Nah’Lek stood upon the mouldy bed, all around him were ropes of spider’s silk. A human body dangled in his claws, and I quickly recognised her figure. Holding Bunnie by the neck, he tore her throat open with a quick movement, and from the gash poured thousands of squirming maggots, instead of blood.
Nearly throwing up in my mouth, I turned and bolted down the corridor. I almost fell over as gravity went in the opposite direction of the warped hallway, forcing me to run in an anti-clockwise motion. I took one glance behind me to find Nah’Lek only a metre away from me, unaffected by the changing gravity, he came towards me at lightning speed, his eyes leaving purple light trails. I sprinted at my absolute maximum and spotted a window at the end of the corridor, Nah’Lek was about an inch away when I dived headfirst and smashed through the window. I hit the dirt and rolled to break my fall, and then looked behind me to see if Nah’Lek had followed me, thankfully he hadn’t. I brushed myself down and looked around, and what I saw was unbelievable.

“Whoa…” I breathed.

Similar to the Frozen Forest, I was met with dense woodland, except there was no snow. The grass was yellow and white, barely alive, and almost every tree was snared in thick black vines, there was barely a leaf in sight, this place seemed to be hanging by a mere thread.

“This can’t be Twilight’s brain.” I muttered.

“No… It’s yours…”

I turned around and was grabbed by the throat, Nah’Lek lifted me into the air and brought me to his face, a faint clicking noise came from his mouth as he inhaled. His grip tightened more and more, both cutting off my breathing and blood supply to my head.

{Ragequit!} Conscio cried out in pain.

Everything turned black, and I sat up in bed, gasping for air and clutching at my throat.

“Callum! Are you alright?” Twilight asked, sitting up next to me.

I turned to face her and gulped, shaking all over.

“He’s in my head, Twilight! Nah’Lek’s inside my head!”

Chapter Eighteen - Mind and Body

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Twilight shot out of bed and switched on the bedside lamp.

What do you MEAN he’s inside your head!?” She yelled.

“What do you think I mean Twilight? He’s inside my fucking head, it wasn’t just a nightmare, he chased me outside into a forest and then tried to kill me!” I growled.

“The Frozen Forest?”

“No… It was somewhere different…”

Twilight put her head on one side, confused, her eyes still wide with fear. Before I could explain, Applejack burst into the room.

“What in tarnation is going on!?” She shouted.

It’s Nah’Lek! He’s-

“Not here, it was just a night terror.” I interrupted.

Opening her mouth to speak, I put an arm around Twilight and gave her a quick hug. I then faced Applejack and gave her a solemn look.

“Sorry it woke you up, she’s really struggling with the post-traumatic stress, hence why I’ve been keeping her company at night.” I told a half-lie.

Twilight trusted I knew what I was doing, and kept quiet, going along with it. Applejack came forward and gave her a tight cuddle.

“Oh Twi, I’m sorry. It’ll get better, I promise sugar cube…” She told her.

After giving Twilight some comfort, Applejack gave me a cuddle and then left the room. She closed the door and I heard the other ponies whispering, they all must have heard Twilight shouting and were concerned. Hearing AJ dismiss the worries and announce it was just a bad dream, doors were closed and Twilight glared at me.

“Why did you do that? We should have told her!” He hissed.

“And terrify everyone? Do we really need everyone in a state of high alert while you’re recovering from the Fel’s corruption? We’ll sort this problem out ourselves, without causing mass panic.” I replied.

“How in Equestria are we going to get rid of… Of… HIM!?

“Keep your voice down.”

Twilight gritted her teeth and began pacing in circles.

“The Fel is gone… How is he still here?” She muttered to herself.

{If I may, I have a theory.} Conscio put forward.

“Sure, go ahead.” I replied.

“What?” Twilight asked, putting her head on one side.

I rolled my eyes, Twilight being unable to hear Conscio was rather frustrating. Taking the collars from her satchel, I passed one to Twilight and put my one on. After the scare earlier, she was very hesitant, but allowed me to put the collar around her neck. I didn’t touch the power button, as I assumed that would knock us out and send us back into the Frozen Forest.

{Testing, testing, can you smell me?}

“Yes, I hear you.” Twilight replied, smirking.

Conscio cleared his figurative throat, before explaining his theory to us.

{I think this is only a fraction of the real Nah’Lek, he was able to infiltrate Twilight’s brain via the Fel, but from there, can thrive inside the mind with or without it. Personally, I think this is just a shade of Nah’Lek, whom is being controlled by the real one through telepathy. Without the Fel to corrupt Twilight, I assume he’s given up on tormenting her, and now wants to go for Callum instead.}

I hummed, it was certainly a decent theory. Twilight seemed to agree it was the most likely cause.

“But how did he get inside your head? You’ve never been in contact with the Fel.” She quizzed.

“I have, once, while I was undercover in Paulo’s gang, my veins were glowing green with the Fel, but it was quickly flushed from my system. My depression tricks the Fel into thinking I’m already corrupted, so I’m technically immune to it.” I explained.

With this new information, Twilight backed Conscio’s theory even more.

“Maybe he’s right? Maybe it’s a fragment of Nah’Lek, and there’s more than one of them, one was inside my head, and now another is inside yours.” She hypothesised.

{Or perhaps there is just one, and he entered your brain through the collars?} Connie added.

“Yeah, that might have been the cause of the paralysis.” I hummed.

Twilight nodded in agreement, if anyone had a clue what was going on, it was Conscio. Even though I didn’t trust his identity, I knew he was on our side, which was the only important thing at this point.

“So, what’s our course of action?” Twilight asked.

“Well, when morning comes, I’m going to stick to my plan and take Rainbow Dash to find the orb shard, it shouldn’t take any more than a couple of days according to the parrot.” I told her.

“Surely we should deal with this first? We should nip this in the bud before it worsens.” She suggested.

I sat onto the bed and hummed with uncertainty, before sticking to my game plan.

“If I change the plan, Rainbow Dash will make sure I’ll never hear the end of it. I want to help her get a better understanding of the Fel, while also getting another orb shard in the bag. Making sure the group gets back together properly is essential for this mission to succeed.”

Twilight sat next to me, and took my hands in her hooves, clearly worried for me.

“You realise Nah’Lek won’t stop torturing you until we sort this out?” She mumbled.

“I will be fine.” I replied.

She opened her mouth to speak, and I repeated myself.

“I will, be fine. I promise.”

I gave the unicorn a hug, and we got back into bed; being the early hours of the morning, I could still squeeze in a few more hours of rest; if Nah’Lek would be so kind to permit it. Holding Twilight’s hoof for company, I closed my eyes, and was slowly able to drift off.

“For fuck sake.” I muttered as I opened my eyes.

The room was grey and warped, and I knew what was coming. I took a few breaths, preparing myself for pain, and remained motionless in bed, waiting for something to happen. Almost an hour later, the bedroom door began its intense knocking.

“Piss off.” I ordered.

Silence, it appeared my order had been obeyed. I then heard a scuttling noise by the open window, and looked over to see a pair of black claws emerging from behind the curtains.

“I’ll take The Dark Lord Sauron, for five-hundred bucks please, Scott.” I moaned dryly.

The claws froze, before receding back outside and out of sight.

{Huh, it appears you have the ability to annoy Nah’Lek into leaving you alone.} Conscio remarked.

I exhaled through my nose with amusement, and then realised my bed was vibrating slightly. I then felt a prickling sensation all over me, and glanced down to find black widow spiders crawling all over me. Gulping, I remained still, knowing any sudden movements could cause them to bite me.

“Not so amusing now, is it?” Nah’Lek’s voice rippled through the room.

Slowly rolling my head back to the window, I spotted him in the corner of the room. Besides his glowing eyes, he was just a black blob, encased in smoke.

“I was wondering when you’d show up.” I said, yawning.

As I yawned, one of the black widows crawled into my mouth, knowing this was a dream was helpful to remain calm, but it was still utterly horrifying. I chewed up the spider and spat it onto the floor.

“Sorry, was that one of your children?” I asked innocently.

Nah’Lek floated over until he was towering over me, the black smoke wafted around in small wisps. I could just make out the shape of his arachnid form. It took every ounce of my self-control to keep calm, and I continued to toy with him.

“So are you here for the turndown service or what?”

The spiders burst into dust and Nah’Lek planted a large dagger into my right thigh, it went all the way through my leg and pierced the mattress. I threw my head back and gritted my teeth.

“F-f-FUCK!” I gasped loudly.

Grabbing me by the throat, Nah’Lek leaned in until his smoky face was a mere inch from mine.

“Tell me where you are hiding, and I’ll make your death quick.” He hissed.

“You seem to be in a hurry to find us.” I grunted.

He twisted the dagger and I let out a low, blood-curdling growl of pain, my eyes watered up and I had to blink repeatedly to see properly. I then began to chuckle, causing Nah’Lek’s eyes to darken slightly, going from amethyst to a deep purple.

“And what, do you find so amusing?”

“This.” I replied.

{BYE SPINDLES!} Conscio shouted.

With a flash of white, I was able to escape the nightmare. I opened my eyes and found myself back in the normal bedroom, with Twilight sleeping soundly beside me.

“Thanks…” I whispered, before taking a moment to gather myself.

The sun was just rising, and being winter, I assumed it was around half past seven. While I hadn’t rested that well, I certainly had enough energy to get through the day. I got out of bed and put on my militia trousers, reminding me that I needed some new clothes at some point. I headed downstairs and lit the gas stove, before boiling the kettle and making myself some coffee.

“You’re a terrible liar.”

Coffee almost went all over the floor as I jumped out of my damn skin.

Jesus Christ Applejack!” I gasped.

I whipped around and frowned at the farm pony, who was smirking at me.

“Not funny, I could have spilt this all over myself.” I grunted.

“By the looks of your chest, you’re used to burns.” She teased.

“Ouch, someone’s a little cold this morning.” I retorted.

She sighed and came over to me, she put a foreleg around my waist and gave me a quick hug.

“Sorry sugar cube, you’re not the only one who got a bad night’s sleep.”

I tilted my head, both confused and shocked that she knew.

“Like I said, you’re a terrible liar.” She repeated.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not deaf Callum, I heard what was being said last night; that monster’s in your head now.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Same reason you didn't, we don’t need everypony panicking.”

I hummed, and then took a sip of my coffee.

“So, why aren’t you panicking?” I asked.

“Because I’ve seen enough monsters to last me a lifetime, I used to work with the Everfree Rangers with Big Mac when we needed some extra cash.” She explained.

“The Everfree Rangers? What’s that?” I asked.

“Monster hunters.” She answered.

My eyes widened and my face lit up with a ridiculously large grin.

“Tell me more.” I implored.

Applejack chuckled at my enthusiasm, and went on to explain it to me.

“They’re an organisation funded by Princess Celestia to maintain the Everfree Forest. It might be a little different than your cartoon shows; it’s millions of acres in each direction, possibly as big as your country, England. This means there are a lot of monsters to deal with, of all shapes and sizes, and every so often, they leave the forest and attack towns and villages. If that happens, the Rangers are called out and they either drive the monster back into the woodland, or exterminate them. Me and Big Mac were often called to help out when monsters came near Ponyville.”

I took another big sip from my coffee, and then gave a small whistle.

“That sounds incredible.”

“Yeah, but it’s very dangerous. We stopped after Big Mac nearly lost his life, a manticore almost cut him in two, he had bandages around his waist for almost a month.” She replied.

{I bet that’s from season one, episode four, Applebuck Season.} I thought to myself.

“Well, the Everfree Rangers seem like a bloody exhilarating line of work.” I said.

“Yeah, you’d be good at it, you’ve sure got what it takes for the job.” She agreed.

She took a moment to look at me, and then closed her eyes and sighed, and I knew exactly what she was thinking. I finished my coffee and then gave her a cuddle.

“I know I’m not allowed to come back to Equestria with you, but we’ve still got a lot of time together, we’re not even halfway into this quest yet.” I reminded her.

I gave her a small scratch behind the ear, and she looked up to me and smiled.

“You’re right.”

“I know.” I teased, winking.

She rolled her eyes and then drank her apple juice, I headed outside and took a stroll through the woods, listening to the morning sounds, from the birdsong to the wind. The cold air felt rather soothing on my scarred chest, and woke me up fully, preparing me for the day.

I’d been out for about half an hour, when I came indoors to find Rarity and Rainbow Dash were now up and having breakfast. Upon seeing me, Dashie got up and came up to me.

“I’m ready when you are!” She announced.

“Good morning to you too.” I replied, smirking.

She chuckled and gave me a hug, it was nice to see her so happy again. We broke the hug and she took a moment to look at me, properly noticing how heavily scarred I was.

“You look like hammered shit.”

“I hear that’s the way you like ‘em.” I retorted.

She instantly burst into a nervous giggle, and then playfully punched me in the stomach, I tensed my stomach before the impact and my belly became a rock-solid wall. My muscles had defined well over the mission, resulting in a body akin to Captain America’s.

“Your muscles can take a hit, but they won’t take the cold.” Rarity remarked.

“Did you happen to save the clothes I looted from Chernobyl?” I asked.

“Oh gosh! That reminds me!” She exclaimed.

Rarity dashed off, and then returned with my old bag, they’d kept it since Twilight sent me to Portugal. Upon opening the bag, I found not only the clothing I’d taken in Ukraine, but also my old trainers from home, and my black leather jacket. I used the jacket years ago, as a prop costume during my early YouTube days, I had an old account called “nipercrab”, where I made some terribly made videos called “Like a Boss”. I portrayed the character called the Boss, who was basically the ultimate badass. The series flopped after four episodes and I stopped making videos, until I later made a channel called “Old Man Dusters”, where I made short films and comedy sketches.

“Thanks Rare, I seriously needed a change of outfit.” I said warmly.

I put on the long-sleeved tee, the padded sleeves added a tight-fitting comfort. I then added the jacket, which suited the dark militia chinos well, it would certainly keep me warm while out with Dashie. After having some breakfast and packing one of Rarity’s deployable tents, we headed out, with Blu on my shoulder.

We’d been walking for an hour, when I looked to Rainbow Dash with a puzzled frown.

“I expected you to be flying most of the way.”

“Yeah, Fluttershy got me thinking yesterday, I don’t want to strain them, so I’m taking things slow for now, I’ll probably fly most of the way back.” She replied.

“Huh, that’s actually rather mature of you.” I hummed.

She responded by whipping me with her tail, and I playfully bumped into her.

“I’m not that immature.” She said defiantly.

“Oohh yes you are.”

“Am not!

Blu, who was fluttering about a metre above us, came down and landed on Rainbow Dash’s head, playfully jumping up and down to irritate her.

“You are! You are!”

“That’s it!” Dashie growled.

She jumped up and shook her head, causing Blu to fall down and then fly into the sky. She gave chase, leaving me to chuckle as she zoomed after the squawking bird.

“Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!”

I laughed loudly as they playfully raced across the skies, the chase went on for almost half an hour before Dashie quit and landed next to me.

“So much for resting your wings.” I teased.

“The parrot asked for it!” She panted back, slightly out of breath.

I ruffled her mane and we continued through the woods and down the mountain, we trudged onward and talked a lot, mostly about Equestria, but also quite a bit of playful banter. Eventually we came onto the subject of the mission, and all we’d been through, and I saw the opportunity to bring up Twilight.

“So, you’re pretty mad with Twilight, ey?”

“Ugh, I knew this would come up.” She groaned.

“Hey, come on, we’re having a good time.” I criticised.

“Then don’t ruin it by bringing that bitch up!”

“She’s changed Dashie.”

Rainbow Dash stopped in her tracks, and I turned to face her.

“Don’t give me that shit, she wasn’t all corrupted when she decided to treat you like trash, that was her decision to bully you, not Nah’Lek’s, not Celestia’s, hers! I watched my best friend turn into a monster, and then torment someone I care about, and I had to sit there and watch it happen! That’s not something I can forgive, she’s a cunt, and that’s the end of it!” She ranted.

I sighed with frustration, but refused to get angry with her.

“Rainbow, Twil-”

“Twilight, nothing! I hate the bitch, and there’s nothing you can say to change that!”

I knelt down to be on her level, and tilted my head slightly.

“What’s this really about Dashie?” I asked.

I got onto my knees and took one of her hooves, and she looked down at the ground, scraping at the dirt with her other hoof. After a moment of silence, she exhaled heavily.

“I tried so badly to stay loyal to Twilight, and to the Princess. Loyalty is my element, and I got so torn up over it, because I hated what she was becoming. When I had that panic attack after Brazil, you took care of me, and didn’t tell anyone how bad my anxiety is. Since then, you’ve become my best friend, and I really, really, care about you. Like, a LOT…”

She looked at me for a second, and then back down again. I appreciated Rainbow Dash wasn’t one for elaborating on her emotions, and this was hard for her to talk about.

“Watching you get bullied and punished for no reason felt so horrible. It just made me so angry, watching you stand there and take it; you’re not a punching bag, you’re an awesome guy! I feel so confident and bubbly around you. Twilight just made me so mad, there were so many times I wanted to get in her face about it, but I didn’t want to make things worse. I already hated her before what happened with Bunnie, but when she admitted to leaving her in the building to die, I felt this burning rage inside me. She took away someone you loved, someone that made you really happy, and all I want is for you to be happy.
She just makes me so, so…”

Her eyes filled with tears, and she lunged forward and held me tightly.

I just hate her Callum! I fucking hate her!

She needed to let it out, and I held her as she began to cry, all while cursing Twilight with every swearword she had in her vocabulary. Rainbow had been bottling all her emotions for months, and this was the result. While it would remain difficult to change her mind about Twilight, this emotional outburst was a step in the right direction; I needed to drain the bottled emotions out of her like puss in a wound.

She’d been angrily crying and ranting for a while, before she eventually settled down.

“Feel better?” I asked quietly.

Wiping her eyes and sniffing, she looked up at me and nodded. I patted her on the shoulder and stood up, and then asked Blu to point us in the right direction. He flew off and we both followed him, and Dashie quickly bounced back to her happy state after flying around for a bit.

We took one break for lunch, where we had the leftover mushroom pie from last night; it wasn’t that bad cold, and we happily tucked into it until there wasn’t any of it left. After letting the food go down, we walked onward for hours until the sun began to set.

“Can’t see well! Can’t see well!” Blu cawed.

“That’s fine, we’ll set up camp here, and continue tomorrow.” I said.

Taking the bag from my back, I removed the tent, which was currently the size of a suitcase. I tossed it onto the ground and it instantly sprung open into a cosy tent, big enough to fit two people with ease. We both still felt a little hungry, and snacked on some bread, we had a whole loaf to last us, so we had a couple of slices each. Rainbow Dash had peanut butter on hers, and I had some strawberry jam. After eating, we both hopped into the tent, and lay side by side. Blu remained outside, and went to sleep up a nearby tree.

“Hey, you feeling alright?” Rainbow asked.

“Yeah, why?” I replied.

“Well, I just wasn’t sure if y-”

“Rarity did the same thing yesterday.” I sighed.

“What do you mean?”

“Look, just because I’m depressed, doesn’t mean I need constant checking up on. If I need your help, I’ll tell you, okay? Don’t give me any special treatment for it.” I told her.

“Alright, sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologise, just don’t pussyfoot around me. I’m fine, I promise.”

Dashie rolled into me, and I put my arm underneath her. We both got comfortable, and then went off to sleep quickly, wanting to rest as much as possible for tomorrow’s trek.

{You’re taking the piss now.} Conscio groaned.

I sat up in the tent, and as expected, it was grey and warped, confirming this was another one of Nah’Lek’s nightmares. The sleeping bag appeared to be made of human skin, and it tried to cling to my body as I rolled out of it. After successfully peeling it from me, I unzipped the tent and walked outside. I found myself in a clearing, the trees around me were so tall they touched the sky. Almost all of them had the same blackened creepers girdling their trunks, choking the life out of them. I knelt down and combed my fingers through the dying grass, it was cool and smooth to the touch.

“I’ve seen many brainscapes, but this one is quite peculiar.” Nah’Lek muttered.

I turned around and saw the demi-god a few metres away from me, still shrouded in smoke.

“Do I get a head start? Or are you going to kill me as soon as I start running?” I asked.

He didn’t reply, and then strode towards me. He stopped in the middle of the clearing and took his staff from his back; holding it above his head, the top of the weapon began to glow green. I dived out of the way as he brought it down over me, and he drove it a few inches into the ground. I watched with horror as pure Fel shot through the staff and into the dirt, it spread like a fire, turning the grass a sickly green; it then spread to the trees, where something utterly extraordinary happened.
Rather than corrupting the trees, the black vines that ensnared them began to draw in all the Fel, absorbing it like a sponge. They coiled tighter around the trees, causing them to moan deeply, the entire clearing shook as trees resonated this intense groaning. Nah’Lek removed his staff from the earth, and watched with interest as the Fel was sucked from the very ground, the grass went back to its pale-yellow colour. The creepers shone green for a moment, before breaking down the Fel, and they returned to normal, loosening their grip on the trees.

It was my depression… The vines represented my depression…

“Now that is fascinating…” Nah’Lek said to himself.

He walked over to a tree and lay a claw upon one of the creepers, the vine tightened its grip around the tree trunk upon his touch; while it seemed to choke the tree, it was also appearing to defend it. He placed his staff against the bark in between the vines, and infused a dose of Fel into it. The creeper tightened and once again, soaked up all the Fel from the wood.

“You are immune…” Nah’Lek murmured.

“You’re in control of the deadliest magic in the universe, and you can’t harm me with it. Not quite what you expected, ey?” I mocked.

His shadowy form turned to face me, before dispersing into tiny wisps, and then disappearing entirely. Gulping, I began to look in all directions, trying to pinpoint where he had gone.

“Really Nah’Lek? You’re hiding from me? I thought you were the element of fear itself, all I see right now is cowardice, hardly a demi-god, are you?” I taunted.

So much arrogance…” His voice echoed.

“You should meet my brother.” I scoffed.

Without any warning, a great force smacked into my side and knocked me to the ground, I skidded across the dirt and rolled back up to my feet. Before I could get any bearings, Nah’Lek swung his staff into my shoulder, completely shattering the bone. I dropped to the ground and cried out loudly, before looking up to Nah’Lek and began to chuckle through the pain.

“In what conceivable way does this amuse you?” He asked.

“You honestly have no clue; how powerless you are.” I laughed through my tears.


Nah’Lek’s eyes changed colour again, this time turning a bloody crimson. Enraged, he dropped his staff and firmly clamped his claws around my thigh and tightened his grip until flesh was torn, and bone was crushed. He then yanked me upwards and ripped off my leg completely. I let out a deafening scream of agony and he hurled me across the clearing, I hit the dirt and I howled as the pain pulsated through the bleeding stump. His eyes returned to their normal colour, clearly pleased with my suffering.

“Am I so powerless now?” He sneered.

I rolled onto my back and began to laugh. Through the intense pain, came a madness in my mentality; the more he hurt me, the funnier it became. Nah’Lek flew at me and grabbed my throat and once again lifted me into the air.

You’ve… Really got a thing… For choking people… Do you have erotic asphyxiation?” I wheezed.

He let go of me and I was able to stay standing on one leg, I started hopping in order to maintain my balance, causing blood to spray all over the floor from the remains of my right thigh.

“Play games all you like, but you will break.” Nah’Lek spoke.

“Ever hear of the one-legged man in the ass-kicking contest?” I asked in reply.

“You are so relentlessly annoying.” He droned.

“Thanks.” I replied merrily.

With a small push, Nah’Lek knocked me onto the ground, where I sat looking up at him, my one leg outstretched, now soaked in blood.

“Tell me, boy. Why have you come here?” Nah’Lek questioned.

“My mother used to call me boy.” I hummed.

One of his claws emerged from the smoke and gripped my foot, and then pierced my ankle. I screamed at the top of my lungs as he severed my Achilles tendon, it snapped loudly before curving backwards and emerging from my calf. Arching my back, I flailed my head side to side and screamed for at least ten seconds before the pain was manageable, and I began to cackle maniacally. The shock and adrenaline gave me just enough to push through this. Nah’Lek stood directly over me and revealed his face, mildly fascinated by my crazed laughter.

“You’re resistant, granted. But even the strongest heroes can be broken.” He told me.

I gritted my teeth, and looked at him with a face of defiance.

“Oh, I’m no hero Nah’Lek; I feel pain, and I’m in agony right now. But let me tell you this, you’re not getting a word out of me, I’m not telling you SHIT! You can torture me as much as you like, you can do your worst, but pain and killing is part of my job.” I snarled.

“And of mine, boy.”

I glowered at him, my body shaking uncontrollably from the shock. He clearly knew I was afraid, and there was no point in hiding it either, he wasn’t a fool, but nor was I; even if I did tell him what he wanted to hear, the torture would continue. I looked down to find I was now literally soaking in my own blood, I suspected I wouldn’t bleed out in the dreamland, and would only die when Nah’Lek permitted it, or perhaps Conscio, but he had gone mysteriously quiet.

Nah’Lek placed a single claw on my thigh. I looked down at the claw, and then back up at Nah’Lek. I knew whatever he did next was going to be painful, so I decided to anger him further at least. No matter what he did, I wanted the last laugh.

“I’ve got a little itch, down there, just on my knee. Would you mind?”

Tilting his head slightly in acknowledgement, the claw moved downwards to the top of my knee, and then pierced the skin, I shook violently and hollered as it went underneath my patella.


Sliding the claw further inward, Nah’Lek yanked upwards and the entire kneecap tore out.


I was both sobbing and roaring with laughter at the same time, I was losing my sanity under this torture, but I couldn’t break, if I did, all of Equestria would be at stake. I took deep breaths to manage the pain, this was a little more than I could take, this nightmare needed to end.

“Alright, Connie, now would be a good time!” I shouted out.

{I’m trying!} He thought back.

Nah’Lek picked up his staff, and placed it against the side of my head.

“Oh, I don’t think so, not this time.”

A burning pain shot through my head, like the worst migraine in the history of migraines, the pain was worse than everything Nah’Lek had just done to me put together. I convulsed with agony and shut my eyes, thrashing around as I felt the dark magic burn its way into me. Conscio, too, screamed out, clearly in just as much pain as I was. When I briefly opened my eyes, I was met with something entirely shocking, a ghostly body was being sucked out of me, as though my body were parting with my spirit; I kept my eyes open and watched while battling the intense pain emitting through my head. The body wasn’t human, as I spotted a pair of hooves kicking wildly from the astral form, leaving trails of pale blue smoke. Everything flashed white, and when my vision came back to me, everything was blurry, I could only make out the shapes of Nah’Lek’s black form, and someone else’s body, lying on their side.

“You may rest for the remainder of the night.” Nah’Lek said to me, pushing me over.

I watched his black form approach the other body, whom was trying to stand up. He cried out with pain as Nah’Lek grabbed the top of his head and lifted him up, his fangs chattered loudly with desire.

But you, Stardust… You and I have some catching up to do…

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₩Ⱨ₳₮ ł₴ Ⱨ₳₱₱Ɇ₦ł₦₲ ₮Ø ₥Ɇ!?

ł ĐØ₦’₮ Ʉ₦ĐɆⱤ₴₮₳₦Đ! ɎØɄ ₴₳łĐ ł₮ ₩₳₴ ØVɆⱤ!

ɎØɄ ⱠłɆĐ ₮Ø ₥Ɇ! ɎØɄ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ⱠłɆĐ ₮Ø ₥Ɇ!

ɎØɄ’VɆ ₵Ø₦ĐɆ₥₦ɆĐ ₥Ɇ ₮Ø ĐłɆ! ł ₴ɆɆ ł₮ ₦Ø₩!

ł ₴ɆɆ ⱧØ₩ ł₮ ł₴, ɎØɄ ₥Ø₦₴₮ɆⱤ₴!

ɎØɄ ₱Ⱡ₳Ɏ ɎØɄⱤ Ⱡł₮₮ⱠɆ ₲₳₥Ɇ₴, ₳₦Đ ₩Ɇ’ⱤɆ ₦Ø₮Ⱨł₦₲ ฿Ʉ₮ ₮ⱧɆ Ⱡł₮₮ⱠɆ ₱Ʉ₱₱Ɇ₮₴.

₩Ɇ’ⱤɆ JɄ₴₮ ₮ØɎ₴ ₳ⱤɆ₦’₮ ₩Ɇ!?

ɎØɄ’ⱤɆ Ʉ₴ł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴ ⱧɄ₥₳₦, JɄ₴₮ Ⱡł₭Ɇ ɎØɄ Ʉ₴ɆĐ ₥Ɇ!

ɎØɄ ₵ⱧØ₴Ɇ Ⱨł₥, ₳₦Đ ₦Ø₩ ł’₥ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ĐłɆ.

ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₥Ɏ ⱠɆ₲₳₵Ɏ? ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴ ⱧØ₩ ₴₮₳ⱤĐɄ₴₮ ₥ØØ₦₴Ⱨł₥₥ɆⱤ ₮ⱤɄⱠɎ ĐłɆ₴?

₳₦Đ ₩Ⱨ₳₮ Ø₣ ₮ⱧɆ ฿ØɎ? ₩łⱠⱠ ɎØɄ ₭łⱠⱠ Ⱨł₥ ₮ØØ, ₩ⱧɆ₦ Ⱨł₴ JØ฿ ł₴ ĐØ₦Ɇ?

ł₮ ₩ØɄⱠĐ₦’₮ ₴ɄⱤ₱Ɽł₴Ɇ ₥Ɇ, ɎØɄ ₳ⱤɆ ₳ⱠⱠ ⱧɆ₳Ɽ₮ⱠɆ₴₴.

ł ₵₳₦ ł₥₳₲ł₦Ɇ ɎØɄ’ⱠⱠ ₭łⱠⱠ Ⱨ₳₩₦Ʉ’ⱤɆɎɆ₦₲ ₮ØØ, ₩ⱧɆ₦ ⱧɆ’₴ ₣ɄⱠ₣łⱠⱠɆĐ Ⱨł₴ ₱ɄⱤ₱Ø₴Ɇ?

ł₣ ɎØɄ’ⱤɆ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ₭łⱠⱠ ₥Ɇ, ฿Ɇ QɄł₵₭ ₳฿ØɄ₮ ł₮!

JɄ₴₮ ₴₮Ø₱ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₦Øł₴Ɇ! ł ₵₳₦’₮ ฿₳ⱤɆ ł₮!

₱ⱠɆ₳₴Ɇ ₴₮Ø₱ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ₦Øł₴Ɇ!

ł ₵₳₦₮ ₮₳₭Ɇ ł₮ ₳₦Ɏ₥ØⱤɆ!

Ɇ₦Đ ł₮!

Ɇ₦Đ ł₮!

₭łⱠⱠ ₥Ɇ!

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₩ⱧØ ₳ⱤɆ ɎØɄ? ₩Ⱨ₳₮ ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₱Ⱡ₳₵Ɇ?

ł’₥ ₴₵₳ⱤɆĐ!

₮Ⱨł₴ ₦Øł₴Ɇ Ʉ₦฿Ɇ₳Ɽ₳฿ⱠɆ! ł₮’₴ ₴Ø ⱠØɄĐ ɎØɄ ₵₳₦ ₣ɆɆⱠ ł₮!

₩Ⱨ₳₮ ₩ɆⱤɆ ɎØɄ ₮₳Ⱡ₭ł₦₲ ₳฿ØɄ₮?

ɎØɄ ₴₳łĐ ł ₩₳₴ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ĐłɆ!

ɎØɄ ₴₳łĐ ɎØɄ ₩ɆⱤɆ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ĐłɆ!

ł₮ ₣ɆɆⱠ₴ Ⱡł₭Ɇ ł’VɆ ฿ɆɆ₦ ł₦ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₱Ⱡ₳₵Ɇ ฿Ɇ₣ØⱤɆ!

ł₮ ₣ɆɆⱠ₴ Ⱡł₭Ɇ ł’VɆ ฿ɆɆ₦ ⱧɆⱤɆ ₣ØⱤ ɎɆ₳Ɽ₴!

₩ⱧɆ₦ гРł ₵Ø₥Ɇ ⱧɆⱤɆ Ⱡ₳₴₮? ł ₥Ʉ₴₮ Ⱨ₳VɆ ĐØ₦Ɇ ฿Ɇ₣ØⱤɆ!

ł ⱤɆ₥Ɇ₥฿ɆⱤ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₱₳ł₦! ł ⱤɆ₥Ɇ₥฿ɆⱤ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₦Øł₴Ɇ!

₮₳₭Ɇ ₥Ɇ ฿₳₵₭ ₮Ø ₮ⱧɆ ₮ł₥Ɇ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₩₳₴₦’₮ ₴Ø ₵Ø₦₣Ʉ₴ł₦₲!

Ø₦Ɇ ₥Ø₥Ɇ₦₮, ɆVɆⱤɎ₮Ⱨł₦₲ ł₴ Ø₭₳Ɏ. ₮ⱧɆ ₦ɆӾ₮, ₮Ⱨł₴!

ł JɄ₴₮ ₩₳₦₮ ₮Ø ₥₳₭Ɇ ɆVɆⱤɎØ₦Ɇ Ⱨ₳₱₱Ɏ! ł JɄ₴₮ ₩₳₦₮ ₮Ø ⱧɆⱠ₱!

₮Ⱨł₴ ł₴ ₴Ø ₵Ø₦₣Ʉ₴ł₦₲, ł ĐØ₦’₮ Ʉ₦ĐɆⱤ₴₮₳₦Đ ₳ Đ₳₥₦ ₮Ⱨł₦₲ Ɽł₲Ⱨ₮ ₦Ø₩!

ł₮’₴ Ⱡł₭Ɇ ɆVɆⱤɎ₮Ⱨł₦₲ ł₴ ₥ØVł₦₲ ₮ØØ ₣₳₴₮, ₳₦Đ ł ₵₳₦’₮ ₴₮Ø₱ ł₮!

ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₩Ⱨ₳₮ ĐɎł₦₲ ₣ɆɆⱠ₴ Ⱡł₭Ɇ? ₮ⱤɄⱠɎ? ØⱤ ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴ JɄ₴₮ ₳ ₱₳Ɽ₮ Ø₣ ⱠłVł₦₲!?

ɎØɄ ₮Ⱨł₦₭ ɎØɄ’ⱤɆ ₮ⱧɆ Ø₦Ɇ ₩ⱧØ’₴ ₵Ø₦₣Ʉ₴ɆĐ?
ł’₥ ₴₳₮ ⱧɆⱤɆ Ɇ₦₵₳₴ɆĐ ł₦ Đ₳Ɽ₭₦Ɇ₴₴,
JɄ₴₮ ₮ⱤɎł₦₲ ₮Ø ₩Ɽ₳₱ ₥Ɏ ⱧɆ₳Đ ₳ⱤØɄ₦Đ ₥Ɏ Ø₩₦ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ɆӾł₴₮Ɇ₦₵Ɇ!
₩ⱧɎ ₳₥ ł ⱧɆⱤɆ? ₳₦Đ ₩ⱧɎ ₳₥ ł ĐØł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴?

ł₦ ₮ⱧɆ ₱ⱤØ₵Ɇ₴₴ Ø₣ ₮ⱤɎł₦₲ ₮Ø ₣ł₲ɄⱤɆ ₮Ⱨł₴ ØɄ₮,
ł’₥ ₵ⱤɆ₳₮ł₦₲ ₥ØⱤɆ QɄɆ₴₮łØ₦₴ ₮Ⱨ₳₦ ł ₳₥ ₳₦₴₩ɆⱤł₦₲ ₮ⱧɆ₥!
ł’₥ ₵ⱤɆ₳₮ł₦₲ ₳ ⱤłĐĐⱠɆ Ø₣ ₥Ɏ Ø₩₦ ₩ⱧłⱠɆ ₳₮₮Ɇ₥₱₮ł₦₲ ₮Ø ₴ØⱠVɆ Ø₦Ɇ!

ł’₥ ₳ ₱₳Ɽ₳ĐØӾ ł₦ ₮ⱧɆ ₥₳₭ł₦₲!

ł’₥ Ʉ₦Ⱨ₳₱₱Ɏ! ł JɄ₴₮ ₩₳₦₮ ₮Ø ĐłɆ!
₴Ø ₩ⱧɎ ĐØ ł Ɇ₣₣ØⱤ₮ⱠɆ₴₴ⱠɎ ₵Ø₦₮ł₦ɄɆ ĐØł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴?
ł’₥ ₦Ø₮ ₲Ɇ₮₮ł₦₲ ₱₳łĐ!
ł ₲Ɇ₮ ₦Ø ₴₳₮ł₴₣₳₵₮łØ₦ Ø₮ⱧɆⱤ ₮Ⱨ₳₦ ₮ⱧɆ Ø₵₵₳₴łØ₦₳Ⱡ ⱤɆ₥ł₦ĐɆⱤ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ł’₥ ฿Ɇł₦₲ ₦Ø₮ł₵ɆĐ,
₳₦Đ ₳₥ ₳₱₱ⱤɆ₵ł₳₮ɆĐ.

ł₴ ł₮ ₮ⱧɆ ₲ɄłⱠ₮ ł ₣Ɇ₳Ɽ? ₮ⱧɆ ₲ɄłⱠ₮ Ø₣ ⱠɆ₳Vł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₳ⱠⱠ ฿ɆⱧł₦Đ, Ʉ₦₣ł₦ł₴ⱧɆĐ?

ł₮ ₩ØɄⱠĐ₦’₮ ฿Ɇ ₮ⱧɆ ₣łⱤ₴₮ ₮ł₥Ɇ ł ₦Ɇ₳ⱤⱠɎ ₱Ʉ₮ ₳₦ Ɇ₦Đ ₮Ø ₮Ⱨł₴…

ł ĐØ₦’₮ Ʉ₦ĐɆⱤ₴₮₳₦Đ ₩ⱧɎ ł’₥ ₴₮łⱠⱠ ⱧɆⱤɆ.

ł ĐØ₦’₮ Ʉ₦ĐɆⱤ₴₮₳₦Đ ₩ⱧɎ ɎØɄ’ⱤɆ ₴₮łⱠⱠ ⱧɆⱤɆ!

₩ⱧØ ₳ⱤɆ ɎØɄ? ₩ⱧØ ₳₥ ł!?

ł’₥ ₵₳ⱠⱠɄ₥ ⱧØⱤ₦₵₳₴₮ⱠɆ, ł ₥Ʉ₴₮ ฿Ɇ!

₮ⱧɆ₦ ₩ⱧɎ ĐØ ł ₴ɆɆ ₮ⱧɆ₴Ɇ ₥Ɇ₥ØⱤłɆ₴?

ł’₥ ₲₳ⱠⱠØ₱ł₦₲ ₮Ø₩₳ⱤĐ₴ ₦₳Ⱨ’ⱠɆ₭, ₩ł₮Ⱨ ₳ ₴₩ØⱤĐ ₳₮ ₥Ɏ ₴łĐɆ!

ł₴ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ₱Ɽł₦₵Ɇ₴₴ ₵ɆⱠɆ₴₮ł₳? ₳₦Đ ⱠɄ₦₳? ⱧØⱠɎ ₴Ⱨł₮, ł₴ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ Đł₴₵ØⱤĐ ₮ØØ?

₳₦Đ ₩ⱧØ ł₴ ₮Ⱨ₳₮? ł₴ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ₴₮₳Ɽ₴₩łⱤⱠ ₮ⱧɆ ฿Ɇ₳ⱤĐɆĐ? ł₮ ₥Ʉ₴₮ ฿Ɇ! ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ฿Ɇ₳ⱤĐ ł₴ ⱧɄ₲Ɇ!

₮ⱧɆ₴Ɇ ₳ⱤɆ₦’₮ ₥Ɏ ₥Ɇ₥ØⱤłɆ₴, ł ₮Ⱨł₦₭. ₮ⱧɆɎ’ⱤɆ ɎØɄⱤ₴! ฿Ʉ₮ ₩ⱧɎ ĐØ ₮ⱧɆɎ ₣ɆɆⱠ Ⱡł₭Ɇ ₥ł₦Ɇ!?

₩Ⱨ₳₮ ł₴ ₮Ⱨł₴? ł’₥ ł₦ ₴Ø ₥Ʉ₵Ⱨ ₱₳ł₦!

ł ĐØ₦’₮ ₩₳₦₮ ₮Ø ĐØ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₳₦Ɏ₥ØⱤɆ!

₱ⱠɆ₳₴Ɇ ĐØ₦’₮ ⱠɆ₮ ₮Ⱨł₴ ฿Ɇ ⱤɆ₳Ⱡ!

₱ⱠɆ₳₴Ɇ ĐØ₦’₮ ⱠɆ₮ ₮Ⱨł₴ ฿Ɇ ⱤɆ₳Ⱡ!

₮Ⱨł₴ ł₴₦’₮ ₳ ĐⱤɆ₳₥ ₵Ø₥Ɇ ₮ⱤɄɆ! ł₮’₴ ₳ ₦ł₲Ⱨ₮₥₳ⱤɆ! ₮₳₭Ɇ ₥Ɇ ØɄ₮ Ø₣ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₴₮ØⱤɎ!

ⱧɆⱠ₱ ₥Ɇ!

₭łⱠⱠ ₥Ɇ!

𝓦𝓱𝓪𝓽 𝓪𝓻𝒆 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓭𝓸𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓱𝒆𝓻𝒆?

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ł’₥ ł₦₴łĐɆ ɎØɄⱤ ⱧɆ₳Đ.

₮ⱧɆⱤɆ’₴ ₦Ø₮Ⱨł₦₲ ɎØɄ ₵₳₦ ĐØ ₮Ø ₴₮Ø₱ ₥Ɇ.

ɎØɄ ₩łⱠⱠ ₴Ʉ฿₥ł₮

ł ₩łⱠⱠ ₭ɆɆ₱ ĐØł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴ Ʉ₦₮łⱠ ɎØɄ ฿ⱤɆ₳₭.

₩ⱧɆ₦ ł’₥ ₣ł₦ł₴ⱧɆĐ, ɎØɄ ₩Ø₦’₮ Ⱨ₳VɆ ₳ ĐⱤØ₱ Ø₣ ₴₳₦ł₮Ɏ ⱠɆ₣₮ ł₦ ɎØɄ.

₩ⱧɆ₦ ł ₣ł₦Đ ɎØɄ, ł’₥ ₦Ø₮ ɆVɆ₦ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ₭łⱠⱠ ɎØɄ.


฿Ʉ₮ ₦Ø₮ ฿Ɇ₣ØⱤɆ ɎØɄ ₭łⱠⱠ ɎØɄⱤ ₣ⱤłɆ₦Đ₴.

ɎØɄⱤ ฿Ɽ₳ł₦ ł₴ ₴ł₵₭.

ł ₳₥ ₲Øł₦₲ ₮Ø ₥₳₭Ɇ ł₮ ₴ł₵₭ɆⱤ.

₮₩łⱠł₲Ⱨ₮ ₩₳₴ ₣Ʉ₦. VɆⱤɎ ₣Ʉ₦.

₭łⱠⱠł₦₲ ⱧɆⱤ ₩₳₴₦’₮ ₳ⱠⱠ ł гР₮Ø ⱧɆⱤ.

₮ⱧɆⱤɆ’₴ Ø₦ⱠɎ ₴Ø ₥Ʉ₵Ⱨ ₮ØⱤ₥Ɇ₦₮ ɎØɄ ₵₳₦ ₳₵₵Ø₥₱Ⱡł₴Ⱨ
₣ⱤØ₥ ₭łⱠⱠł₦₲ ₴Ø₥ɆØ₦Ɇ ØVɆⱤ ₳₦Đ ØVɆⱤ ₳₲₳ł₦.

₩ⱧɆ₦ ł ₴₮₳Ɽ₮ɆĐ ₣Ⱡ₳Ɏł₦₲ ⱧɆⱤ, ₦Ø₩ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ₩₳₴ ₩ⱧɆ₦ ₴ⱧɆ ฿Ɇ₲₳₦ ₮Ø ฿ⱤɆ₳₭.

₱ɆɆⱠł₦₲ ₳₩₳Ɏ ⱧɆⱤ ₴₭ł₦ Ʉ₦₮łⱠ ₮ⱧɆⱤɆ ₩₳₴ ₦Ø₮Ⱨł₦₲ ฿Ʉ₮ ₣ⱠɆ₴Ⱨ.

ⱧɆⱤ ₴₵ⱤɆ₳₥₴ Ɽ₳₦₲ ØɄ₮ ł₦ ₮ⱧɆ ₣ⱤØⱫɆ₦ ₣ØⱤɆ₴₮.

₦Ø₮ ɆVɆ₦ ₮ⱧɆ ₴₦Ø₩ ₵ØɄⱠĐ ₳฿₴ØⱤ฿ ₮ⱧɆ Ɇ₵ⱧØɆ₴ Ø₣ ⱧɆⱤ ₳₲Ø₦Ɏ.

₳₦Đ ₮ⱧɆ₦… ₩Ⱨ₳₮ ɆⱠ₴Ɇ гРł ĐØ ₮Ø ⱧɆⱤ…?

ł’₥ ₴ɄⱤɆ ɎØɄ’ⱤɆ ł₥₳₲ł₦₳₮łVɆ Ɇ₦ØɄ₲Ⱨ ₮Ø ₣ł₲ɄⱤɆ ł₮ ØɄ₮.

ⱠɆ₮’₴ JɄ₴₮ ₴₳Ɏ ₮ⱧɆⱤɆ ₩₳₴₦’₮ ₳₦ ł₦₵Ⱨ Ø₣ ⱧɆⱤ ฿ØĐɎ ₮Ⱨ₳₮ ł ĐłĐ₦’₮ ĐɆ₣łⱠɆ.

ł₮’₴ QɄł₮Ɇ ₳₥₳Ⱬł₦₲ ⱧØ₩ ₴ⱧɆ ₦ɆVɆⱤ ⱤɆVɆ₳ⱠɆĐ ɎØɄⱤ ₱Ø₴ł₮łØ₦.


₴ⱧɆ ₵ɆⱤ₮₳ł₦ⱠɎ гР₴Ⱨ₳ⱤɆ ₳ ⱠØ₮ ₥ØⱤɆ, ⱧØ₩ɆVɆⱤ.

₳฿ØɄ₮ ⱧɆⱤ ⱧØ₥Ɇ. ₳฿ØɄ₮ ⱧɆⱤ ₣₳₥łⱠɎ. ₳฿ØɄ₮ ⱧɆⱤ ₣ⱤłɆ₦Đ₴.

₳฿ØɄ₮ ɎØɄ...

₴ⱧɆ ĐłĐ₦’₮ ₣Ɇ₳Ɽ ɎØɄ. ₦Ø₮ Ø₦₵Ɇ, ₦Ø₮ ɆVɆⱤ.

₴ⱧɆ ĐłĐ₦’₮ ɆVɆ₦ Ⱨ₳₮Ɇ ɎØɄ.

Ʉ₴ł₦₲ ɎØɄ ₳₴ ₳₦ ØɄ₮ⱠɆ₮ ₮ØⱤɆ ⱧɆⱤ ₮Ø ₱łɆ₵Ɇ₴.

₴ⱧɆ ĐłĐ₦’₮ ₩₳₦₮ ₮Ø ĐØ ł₮.

ł ₥₳ĐɆ ⱧɆⱤ. ł ₣ØⱤ₵ɆĐ ⱧɆⱤ.


ɎØɄ ₴₮Ø₱₱ɆĐ ₮Ⱨ₳₮.

ł ₳Đ₥łⱤɆ ɎØɄⱤ ⱤɆⱠɆ₦₮ⱠɆ₴₴₦Ɇ₴₴. ฿Ʉ₮ ɎØɄ ₳Ⱡ₴Ø łⱤ₭ ₥Ɇ.

ɎØɄ ₮ⱧⱤɆ₳₮Ɇ₦ ₥Ɏ ₱Ⱡ₳₦, ₳₦Đ ɎØɄⱤ ฿Ɽ₳ł₦ Ⱨ₳Ɽ฿ØɄⱤ₴ ₥Ɏ ØⱠĐ ₣ØɆ.

₣ØⱤ ₮ⱧØ₴Ɇ ⱤɆ₳₴Ø₦₴, ł ₩łⱠⱠ ฿ⱤɆ₳₭ ɎØɄ.

₣łⱤ₴₮ ł₦ ₥ł₦Đ, ₳₦Đ ₮ⱧɆ₦ ł₦ ฿ØĐɎ.


₩ɆⱠ₵Ø₥Ɇ ₮Ø ₥Ɏ ₦ł₲Ⱨ₮₥₳ⱤɆ...

Chapter Nineteen: Feathers of a Blu Bird

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I took a deep breath before sitting up, Rainbow Dash was still asleep, snoring loudly with her body splayed out over half the tent. My head was swimming with mixed and confusing thoughts, but there were two questions that stood out very clearly; what the fuck happened last night? And who was Stardust Moonshimmer? After Nah’Lek grabbed him and said his name, everything phased out, and it felt like I was falling through a void, it felt like I had no physical form, but the sound was loud enough to cause pain, it was like a white noise, along with the sound of someone screaming inaudible words. The worst part was, I could barely even remember it, I only got small flickers of memory, I vaguely heard Conscio at first, and then I distinctly heard Nah’Lek’s raspy voice. But otherwise, I didn’t remember a thing.

I shook my head, I needed to focus.

{Conscio?} I thought.

No reply.


Still nothing, it seemed Nah’Lek had been able to separate us permanently, not just in the dream world. Was Conscio and Stardust the same person? I assumed so, but I wasn’t completely certain. I hated not knowing the answers, I started to regret heading out with Dashie before using the collars with Twilight. Assuming I’d possibly get to the bottom of things the next time I went to sleep, I decided not to dwell on it for now, and focus on getting the next orb shard with Dashie.

“Wakey wakey.” I cooed, nudging her.

She responded by snoring louder, her leg twitching slightly.

“Oi, wake up.”

I gave her a slightly harder nudge, and she rolled over.

“Mmmnn.” She groaned.

“I will tickle your hooves if you don’t get up.” I warned.

“You’ll lose teeth.” She grunted.

Rainbow yawned, and then took a big stretch, before sitting up and looking at me.

“What time is it?”

“Time to move.” I replied.

She grumbled and rubbed her eyes, before getting up and leaving the tent with me. Blu woke upon hearing us and shook himself briefly, before fluttering down from the tree and onto my shoulder.

“Morning! Morning!” He squawked.

“Sleep well?” I asked.

He replied with a high-pitched growling sound, it sounded similar to a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. Assuming that was a ‘yes’, I smirked and went to pack up the tent. At the back of the tent was a small rope about the length of an outstretched hand, I pulled on the rope and the tent automatically folded itself up until it reduced to its snug suitcase size.

“I love magic.” I said to myself.

I removed two slices of bread from Rainbow Dash’s saddlebag, before tucking the tent inside and zipping it up. Unlike Twilight and Rarity’s bags, there was no pocket dimension, which made sense as neither pegasi or earth ponies could use magic. I ate my slice of bread rather quickly, not bothering to dig around the bag for butter. I then came over to Dashie and held the other slice above her nose. She tried to take it with her teeth and I held the bread higher so it was just out of her reach.

“Dude, come on.” She moaned.

“Work for your meal!” I barked, chuckling.

She stood on her hind legs to reach the bread and I launched it into the air, only for Blu to swoop in and snatch it out of the air before Rainbow could catch it.

REALLY?” Dashie cried out.

“Work for your meal! Work for your meal!” He squawked loudly.

Rainbow gave chase while Blu zoomed around with the bread in his claws. He then dropped it for me to catch, and Dashie landed in front of me, prepared to wrestle me.

“If you tackle me, I’ll drop the bread and get it dirty.” I warned her.

She gritted her teeth and took a step forward.

“Give me, the damned bread.” She ordered.

Blu landed on my shoulder and gave my ear a playful nibble.

“Feed the pony! Feed the pony!” He cawed.

I burst into laughter and Blu bobbed up and down with amusement, clearly proud of himself.

“What’s so funny?” Dash asked, confused.

“Never. You. Mind.” I laughed.

“Tell me!” She demanded.

I responded by throwing the bread at her, and she caught it in her mouth and quickly ate it.

“See how much tastier food is when you work for it?” I teased.

Rainbow dived into me and took me to the ground, we struggled playfully, attempting to pin each other down and make the other submit, all while Blu circled us and squawked loudly, clearly rooting for me.

Kill her! Survival of the fittest! Fight to the death! Bite her ear off! Punch her face! Flick her left nipple! Mate with her to establish dominance! Destroy the anus! Destroy the anus!

I couldn’t take the playfight seriously and rolled onto my back, howling with laughter. Rainbow simply sat up and stared at the parrot with disbelief. Before bursting into hilarity as well. I ended up laughing so hard that I started crying, tears left my eyes as I bellowed uncontrollably. All while Blu continued to bob up and down with pride and delight.

After a moment of hysterical laughing, we both wiped our eyes and got up.

“Blu, you’re one heck of a parrot.” Rainbow chuckled.

“Compliment accepted! CAARK

The bird took to the sky, and I put my bag onto my back, giving Rainbow Dash hers. After tightening the straps, Dashie took off and flew alongside Blu. I trudged on below them at a relatively fast pace, making sure I was just able to keep up with them. It was rather interesting watching Rainbow Dash fly, since Hawnu Rey’eng had explained the principles of mana, it was amazing to think Dashie was currently only half her usual body weight, as the magic in her wings made her lighter when they were in use. Blu had also been enchanted with the magic from Fluttershy’s singing voice, granting him a much greater mental capacity than usual parrots, he was now entirely sentient and just as smart as any human being.

Mana was truly curious, the fact we all had souls, made from mana, amazed me. That surely meant there was an afterlife, when the soul is separated from the body. But if there were different dimensions, each with their own gods, what was our afterlife? Was it the Christian heaven? Are we reincarnated? Or was it something entirely different and undiscovered. Heck, we could go to the Pastafarian afterlife and witness the mighty beer volcano for all I knew. I wished Hawnu Rey’eng had gone into more detail about souls and what happens to them if they’re separated from the body.
And what defines a soul? What IS a soul? Was it like a ghost of ourselves? Or was it a cluster of energy that contained our memories and personality? Or do we just become a state of pure mana after death, and become one with the universe, and forget who we once were?

I blinked a few times, and then began to chuckle. I was having an existential crisis, while searching for a fragment of an alien relic, in the middle of Portugal, with a talking pegasus pony, and a sentient parrot.
What a life.

Yes, it had some serious down moments, especially lately with the loss of Bunnie, and with Nah’Lek now trying to track us down. But seriously, I was on an adventure! A real, Lord of the Rings style adventure! Fighting and killing enemies, travelling the world, sleeping rough and witnessing incredible things. It was a proper fantasy come true, a Fanfiction in reality. Every story had its worst moments, and I imagined losing Bunnie was mine. The only way was up from here, I’d finally befriended Twilight, and I’d soon find a way to bridge the gap between her and Rainbow Dash. Once I returned with this orb shard, Twilight and I would use the collars and find a way to remove Nah’Lek from my brain. I had a feeling Rainbow Dash would forgive Twilight if she helped to end my nightmares, so I planned to tell her about Nah’Lek’s presence soon.

Watch out daydreamer!

I looked up and yelped as Dashie grabbed me and yanked me upwards, pulling me into the air.

Warn me Rainbow!” I barked.

“I did!” She giggled, and continued to pull.

She flapped her wings intensely, taking me higher and higher until I was a few metres off the ground.

“That’s high enough!” I shouted to her.

She ignored me and continued to ascend, I held onto her legs and gulped as I went up, and up, and up. Soon enough I reached the top of the trees, and she pulled me above the woods, and my mouth fell agape.
The view was, beautiful.

“Whoa…” I murmured.

“Now you know what you’ve been missing!” She giggled, panting.

Despite feeling Dashie’s hooves under my arms, and my hands firmly clasping at them, it felt like I was flying. I looked down and saw the trees below me, and then glanced over my shoulder at the mountain range in the distance, this was incredible.

WOOHOOO!” I hollered.

My delight was abruptly halted as Rainbow Dash let me go and I yelled out in fear as I plummeted to the ground. She swooped in and caught me with about a second to spare.

You’re a dickhead Rainbow Dash!” I growled, shaking.

“I thought you were brave dude.” She chuckled.

“There’s brave, and there’s falling to your death!” I spat.

“Grow some balls dude, I wouldn’t have let you die.”

She let me go and I hit the ground running to ensure I didn’t fall over, before she landed in front of me with a great big grin.

“Do you not like heights?” She asked.

“I don’t mind them, but not when I’m falling.” I answered with a frown.

“I caught you didn’t I?”

“Only a few days ago you thought I fell to my death, what if you sprained your wings from the overuse? Could you really be sure you would have caught me?” I pointed out.

Her ears drooped and she looked down.

“Sorry.” She mumbled.

I came up to her and knelt in front of her, taking her hoof.

“The view was wonderful, thank you for showing me. Maybe just don’t drop me next time.” I said warmly.

Her ears perked up again and I smiled, before giving her a kiss on the cheek. Her smile went from ear to ear and she lightly bit her tongue sheepishly, I daresay she was caught off-guard. It made me chuckle, and she gave me a shove.


“You know, one of these days you’ll be straight forward about your feelings.” I teased.

Her eyes widened with surprise, and then she gave me another, more forceful shove, and I fell onto my bottom, chuckling. She blew a raspberry at me and then flew into the air with Blu. I got up and followed them, smirking.

An hour went by, and the woodland became rather dense, making it difficult for Dashie to fly straight. Eventually she dropped down and decided to go on foot, her wings flexing a few times. I looked at her wings and hummed, still intrigued by the way they worked.

{I wonder if I could ever use magic… If I have mana in me, surely there’s a way…} I thought to myself.

While I hoped I’d hear a reply, there was still nothing from Connie. Strangely, I was looking forward to the next time I went to sleep, so I could investigate this mystery. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I started to whistle to myself, specifically to the tune of Winter Wrap-Up.

“Not far now! Not far now!” Blu squawked, whizzing past my head.

I stopped whistling and picked up the pace, looking forward to finding the next shard. The ground started to slope upwards and I began to slow down as it became more and more of a climb. Soon enough I was needing my hands to help me scramble up the terrain.

Without warning, a loud BANG went off a few yards ahead, and I quickly lay low, pressing my body against the dirt alongside Rainbow Dash. It didn’t sound like a gunshot, it was more like an explosive. Blu landed next to me and tilted his head.

“You never said there were people here...” I whispered.

“There weren’t before.” He replied, ruffling his feathers.

“Scout ahead, find out how many there are.” I ordered.

“Why me?”

“Because you’re a fucking parrot, nobody will see you!” I hissed.

The bird pecked my hand with annoyance, before fluttering up into the trees to investigate. I turned to Dashie and put my hand on her hoof.

“Go back, and find a tree to hide in.” I told her.

“No way, we stick together.”

I furrowed my brow.

“Dashie, your bright blue, with a rainbow tail and mane; you’re easy to spot. I don’t want to see you get captured again, okay? Please, hide.”

She looked at me for a moment, and then nodded.

“What if you need my help?” She asked.

“I will call for you.”



We looked into one another’s eyes, before I cleared my throat quietly. She slid back down the slope and then took off, flying up into the trees. I crawled upwards slowly, edging upwards to the top. I popped my head over the peak and was met with the most curious thing. Two large tents, and seven men all nearby a strange structure made of stone. Standing about seven feet tall, the monolith had large fragments of crystal sticking out of it, and from the cracks radiated a bright glow.

{The orb shard…} I thought.

Next to the tents lay numerous pickaxes, all of them shattered and broken. Next to them were boxes of dynamite; the men were trying to break open the structure.

“There are more cracks! Keep trying!” A man shouted.

He sounded American, his southern accent suggested Texan, or perhaps South Carolinian. One of them headed into the tent, and came out with another pickaxe, he approached the stone pillar and swung it as hard as he could at it. The monolith emitted a deep ringing sound as if it were hollow; it sang for a second, but appeared to be undamaged from the attack. The man took another swing, and a small fragment of rock broke away, revealing more crystal. Once again, it resonated with the deep chime.

“The damn thing is cursed!” One of the smaller men yelled.

“Shut it!” The first man barked back.

I had to figure out how to stop these men, I had no weapons to attack or defend myself with. I could possibly take them on by hand if I were given a one-on-one scenario. If I could get inside the tent, I could take down a few of them without them noticing me. I spotted Blu on a branch directly above the group, perhaps he could assist me. I waved my hand and he spotted me, and flew around the group and landed in front of me.

“Eight of them, shiny thing is inside the stone.” He quietly chattered.

“I’m only seeing seven men.” I replied.

“One’s in the closest tent, very drunk.” He informed me.

I exhaled out of my nose with amusement, I suppose someone enjoyed drinking on the job.

“Are there any weapons?”

“There’s a Wrinkleboom in the other tent.”

I almost laughed out loud, I’d forgotten about my old double-barrelled shotgun from Brazil, Wrinkleboom had served me well until the mutated Elephant’s Foot in Chernobyl destroyed it. Come to think of it, I’d also lost Krocsbane in the napalm; I needed a new personal weapon.

“I’m going to sneak into the tent, can you cause any distractions?” I asked.

“Do I look like James Bond to you?”

“Yes, if he was a parrot.”

Blu bobbed up and down with amusement before fluttering away and waiting for my signal.

I made my way around the sloped earth until I was close to the first tent. Blu looked at me and I nodded, he fluttered in front of one of the men and gave him a cute, curious whistle.

“Look guys, a parrot.” He called the guys.

A few of them put down their pickaxes to inspect the bird, while the others looked in his direction, giving me enough time to scramble over to the tent, picking up a broken pickaxe handle, serving as a stake until I found something better. I scuttled over to the side of the tent, as some of the men were losing interest in Blu. That was when one of the men signed his own death warrant.

“Polly want a cracker?” He cooed at Blu.

I watched as Blu tilted his head on one side, before unleashing the terror of a thousand Nah’Leks.

“Fucking normies… REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” He screeched.

Blu launched at the man and dug his beak deep into his face and scratched away with his talons, gouging out his eyes. He screamed in agony and swatted at the parrot, who soared into the air, before swooping back down and opening his mouth, causing the sharp tip of his beak to tear his throat open. The other men came rushing towards the bird and started swinging their picks at him. One pickaxe accidentally made contact with the dying man’s head, causing it to break open like an egg. Brain matter and blood sprayed in all directions, all while the livid parrot jumped around and shouted at the men.

Call me Polly again, you Yankee bastards! Offer me some crackers! I dare you! I will gut you all open and do a jig on your insides! Do you hear me!? I will fucking END you all! I’m the lightning before the thunder! I’m the one that women warn their children about! I give the White Walkers beyond The Wall sleepless nights! Do you understand me!? I AM THE MOTHERFUCKING APOCALYPSE!

I knew Blu didn’t like the cracker jokes, but I hadn’t realised it would cause this kind of onslaught. By the time I had entered the tent, Blu had taken out another man's eyes, and had somehow removed his tongue.

“Wha… What’s going on?” A slurred voice asked.

I turned away from Blu’s rampage and found myself face to face with the group’s alcoholic, he looked at me and blinked, he was completely out of it. Not wanting to take any chances, I shoulder rammed him into the ground and drove the stake into his sternum, using my body weight to drive it through him, he was dead very quickly. I jumped with shock as I heard a shotgun going off, I knew one of the men had taken it and was trying to shoot Blu out of the sky. Stealth was out of the question now, I needed to save Blu before he lined up a second shot. I ripped the stake from the dead man’s chest and left the tent, I spotted the man just a few metres away from me, tracking Blu with his gun as he flew around evasively. I strode towards him and he spotted me, but he was too late. As he turned to aim at me, I smacked the gun out of his hands and thrust the stake into his belly, with all my might I pushed upwards and lifted him into the air, before dropping him to the ground.

We’ve got company! Forget the parrot, kill this bastard!” The group’s boss ordered.

The remaining four men came towards me, pickaxes raised. I didn’t have time to reach the shotgun as the first man swung his pick at my head, I ducked down and punched him in the throat, causing him to choke and splutter. The next man swung vertically down at me, and I dived to the side, the next pick also came down like a spike and I rolled out of the way, the pickaxe drove deep into the dirt and missed me by a matter of inches. I stood up and dived into the fourth man before he could raise his pick, I took him to the ground and punched him repeatedly. I then rolled away just before the other men reached me, I took a jagged rock and held it, my only weapon.

“Come on guys, come on!” I taunted angrily.

The bravest man took a swing at me and I dodged, but was unable to reach him as he jumped back upon missing. The second man wasn’t so fast and I was able to avoid his strike while stabbing his neck with the sharp stone. He clutched his throat and choked on his own blood while I grabbed his pickaxe and hopped out of way of another attack. Now armed, the three men before me wouldn’t pose too much of a challenge. One of them picked up a stone and threw it at me, I turned away and the rock hit my shoulder, I grunted and then heard one of the men charging at me. I spun around and swung the pickaxe with all my might and anger, it caught the side of his body and shattered every damn rib he had, along with ripping open his torso. His heart dangled from the gaping hole in his chest and convulsed, before he smacked into the ground. The next man swung his pick at me and I used my own to deflect the attack, the force took the tool out of my hands and it clattered onto the ground. He dived onto me and pinned me down, I grabbed his wrists and tried to hold him back. He was stronger than I anticipated and I struggled to keep his hands away, I watched his thumbs as they got closer and closer to my eyes, eager to blind me.

DASH! DASH!” I hollered, my voice cracking.

The other man stood behind my head with his pickaxe raised up high, there was suddenly a flash of blue as Rainbow Dash smacked into him, he hit the ground faster than his pickaxe. Rainbow bashed his face with her hooves, and didn’t stop until he was completely unrecognisable and disfigured. The man on top of me was so shocked that I could push him off me and stand up. I took one of the dropped pickaxes and swung it at him, he rolled away but I caught his shin, breaking it open and completely destroying his lower leg. He cried out in pain and desperately tried to crawl away from me. I didn’t have a shred of mercy for him after he tried to gouge my eyes out with his thumbs, and brought the pick down into his back, he screamed loudly, before going limp. I looked at Dashie, who was staring at her hooves, dripping with thick blood.


She didn’t reply.

“Rainbow Dash.” I spoke, louder.

“What have… What have I done?” She murmured.

She looked from her hooves to the bloody mess, that was once a man’s face.

“I think… I think I’m going to be sick…”

The pegasus turned away and vomited onto the dirt, twice. She tried to walk towards me and then fainted, crumpling to the ground in a heap; the first kill was always the hardest. I was about to take a step towards her when I heard a click, I turned around to find the group’s boss standing a few feet away from me, holding the double-barrel shotgun. I had completely forgotten about him, I gulped nervously and put my hands up.

“Bollocks…” I muttered.

“Yeah, that’s right…” He growled.

He stepped towards me and aimed the gun directly at my head, he didn’t look like the kind of man to negotiate, certainly not after killing his friends; I was going to die.


The parrot whizzed over my shoulder and gripped the shotgun with his claws, pushing the gun aside and blocking the barrel with his body. Instinctively, the man pulled the trigger and the shotgun went off, I watched with horror as blue feathers burst in all directions.

BLU!” I roared.

A burst of rage consumed me and I charged at the man, tackling him to the ground. My fists hammered down onto him, I aimed to pummel every ounce of life from him. A few punches later, he swerved his head aside and then caught my fist with his hand, and hit me in the jaw. Pushing me back, he was able to roll away from me, I quickly got back on top of him and shoved his face into the dirt, pressing down on his head with all my body weight. I held him there for a few seconds as he struggled, before he started frantically kicking my back with his heels, hard enough to break my concentration. He flipped over and grabbed my throat, slinging me aside towards the monolith. I grabbed one of the broken rocks and threw it at him, which he dodged. I got onto one knee and picked up a thin shard of crystal and held it, the tip was sharp and would serve as a shiv.

As I got back up, the boss had reached me and kicked me square in the chest, knocking me a metre back, I rolled backwards and used the momentum to quickly get back to my feet just as his fist came flying towards me. I ducked down and stabbed him in the ribs, it wasn’t a fatal blow, but caused him to cry out loudly. He tried to kick my knee in an attempt to bring me to the ground, but after walking across Portugal, my legs had built up quite nicely. The kick barely affected me, and I used the opportunity to shove him backwards, without much balance to support him, he tripped over and I dived onto him, aiming to shove the crystal into his throat. He took my wrist and stopped me, I missed my strike and planted the crystal into the earth beside his head. The man punched me in the gut and rolled me over, sitting on top of me and locking his legs around mine, preventing me from escaping. He grabbed the crystal shard and attempted to pierce my throat. I held both his wrists and struggled against him as the shard came closer and closer to me.

I had the upper hand with strength, and was very slowly able to push the shard away from me and to the side. Twisting his hand, I gradually rotated the shard until it was facing him instead of me. With my other hand, I grabbed the back of his head and forced it towards the shard, he gritted his teeth and fought against me with all his might, breathing heavily. When the shard was an inch away from his face, I gave the back of his head an unexpected whack, causing him to jolt forward and the shard impaled his eye, he screamed at the top of his lungs and I bashed his head a second time, pushing it further into his head. After bashing his head two more times, the shard went deep into his brain and killed him, he went limp and slumped onto me.

I lay there for a moment, before rolling the body off me. I took one glance at the damage I had caused, and very nearly threw up myself, I was never fond of eye-gouging, it was one of my few phobias. Just able to keep my breakfast down, I wiped my hands on his clothes and then looked around on the ground. Bright blue feathers lay scattered everywhere, there wasn’t much left of the poor parrot, he’d been scattered to the wind. He died in order to save my life; I knew already that this would tear Fluttershy apart.

“Oh Blu… You magnificent bastard…” I sighed.

Gathering as much of him as I could find, I felt Blu deserved a proper burial. I found his beak, separated from the rest of his head, and decided to keep it. Back in Brazil, I remember how excited he was to come on this adventure with us, at least I could take a small piece of him to remember him by, at least a part of him could continue travelling with us.

“Those aren’t my feathers…” Rainbow Dash croaked.

I turned around to find her stood a few metres away from me, shaking.

“Blu’s gone…”

My voice was hoarse, both from the shock and from the temporary exhaustion of the fight, as skilled as I was in combat, it still took a lot out of me. Dashie came up to me and looked at the pile of Blu’s remains.

“What happened?”

I said nothing as I pointed to the shotgun, she quickly understood what had gone on and she rested her head against me. Putting a hand on her head, I lightly caressed her mane to comfort her.

“This is fucked up…” She choked.

“I know.” I breathed.

“I just killed someone…”

Kneeling down, I helped wipe away the blood from her hooves.

“Don’t overthink it, what you did was necessary. It was either him, or me.” I told her.

She looked at me, and blinked a few times.

After a brief moment of processing that information, Rainbow Dash came to accept that she had prevented the man from killing me, and slowly began to digest her actions.

“Twilight did the same thing to protect you, y'know?” I pointed out.

She opened her mouth to challenge me, and then choked on her words, knowing I was right. Influenced by the Fel or not, Twilight killed those people because they had attacked Dashie. Even though she enjoyed it at the time, she still saved Rainbow’s life. I decided to let that sit with Dashie, rather than push it any further.
I turned to face the monolith, it was a little smaller than I anticipated. All around lay broken tools, rocks, and a few shards of crystal; these men seemed really keen to break into it. Finding a large crack, I peered inside the structure to find the third orb shard, floating in the hollow core of the pillar. I placed my hand against the stone and it began to hum, pieces of rock crumbled away, and the shard vibrated slightly.

Interested by this reaction, I smacked the monolith with the palm of my hand, it shook heavily before every piece of stone crumbled away, leaving a pure crystal pillar. Rainbow Dash came over to me and looked at the structure, humming with interest.

“All these guys were desperately trying to crack this open, and yet I’ve just cleared all the stone with a single hit. What do you think that means?” I asked.

“Maybe it’s because you’ve had physical contact with the other orb shards, maybe it thinks you’re part Equestrian or something.” She hypothesised.

“So, you’re saying this crystal is Equestrian?”

“Dude, we’re talking about the Titan’s Orb. It used to cover our entire planet in a giant forcefield, I’m pretty sure its capable of protecting itself. I’d bet my bottom bit that it grew this big crystal thingy around itself to keep it from getting into the wrong hooves, or hands, in this case.” She put forward.

I wrinkled my nose, curious. This crystal had withstood dynamite, and constant hacking from pickaxes, yet there was barely a scratch on the damn thing. Whatever properties this mineral had, it was strong stuff. Rainbow Dash walked up to the mysterious obelisk and pressed her hoof against it, I nearly shrieked like a little girl as the entire monolith shattered into tiny pieces, each piece no bigger than a pencil. The shard remained floating in mid-air.

“The honour’s all yours, dude.”

Walking past Dashie, I approached the third shard and admired it. The dark crystal had so many different colourations, from one angle, it was dark purple, and from another it was a navy blue. It constantly warped the light that touched it, as though it couldn’t make up its mind what colour it wanted to be. After a moment of gazing at the broken relic, I reached forward and grabbed it. The second I had gripped it, everything went white, and I felt like I was floating.

When my vision cleared, I found myself standing in the middle of a town. Most of the buildings were made of thatch, and the sun shone brightly, engulfing the land around me in harmony and mirth. I turned around and found the townsfolk going about their business, life seemed perfectly normal. At least, it would have seemed perfectly normal, if the townsfolk weren’t technicolour ponies.

It would have seemed normal... If I weren’t stood in the middle of Ponyville…

Chapter Twenty: Revelations

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Spinning around and around, bewilderment overwhelmed me; I was in Ponyville, it was real! I picked up all the sounds, sights, and smells; oh, the smells. The air was so different, so fresh, I detected the slightest hint of baked goods, and spotted Sugarcube Corner not too far away. The strangest thing, was that none of the ponies were looking at me, as though I weren’t there at all.

“Hello?” I greeted the first pony that came near me.

He looked around, showing he’d heard me, but shrugged after a couple of seconds and continued walking past me. That’s when I spotted Lyra Heartstrings walking across a nearby bridge, with an open saddlebag on her waist.


Like the first pony, she looked up and searched the area for the source of my voice.

“Can’t you see me?” I asked.

Her ears twitched, and then she headed off rather quickly, clearly disturbed by my voice. This was getting weirder and weirder by the minute. I looked at my hands to find they were slightly transparent, and I didn’t cast a shadow at all, as though light passed completely through me; I was completely invisible to the world. Seeing as nobody could see me, I decided to scout around and search for some reason as to why I was here in the first place. The first place I thought to check was Sugarcube Corner, as it was closest to me. Trying not to bump into anyone, I reached the bakery and quickly recognised Mr and Mrs Cake behind the counter; seeing them for real with my own eyes was beyond trippy. It had taken months just to get used to having the six around me, on Earth, but now I was there! In Equestria! I’d have been more excited if I didn’t have the feeling everything was wrong. The orb shard I had grabbed was nowhere to be seen, had it been left behind? Was Rainbow Dash sat there waiting for me to return?

That’s when I remembered the time difference across our worlds, a day here equated to a whole year back on Earth. Days would be flying past in mere seconds right now, anything could happen to the ponies within the next few minutes if I didn’t get back! I began to panic, rushing out of the door and running right into none-other than Derpy Hooves; I collided with her shoulder and toppled over her back and she fell to the ground, letting out a small ‘oof!

“I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there!” I gasped, getting up.

Derpy brushed herself down and shook her head.

“No, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… Wait, who said that?”

She looked around, confused.

“Hey, check it out, Muffin Face tripped over her imaginary friend again!”

Derpy instantly went red and covered her face with her hooves, I whipped around to find Diamond Tiara about a half-metre away from me, with Silver Spoon right next to her. The fillies giggled as Derpy grew more and more flustered. Being completely invisible had its perks, and I decided to perform the one action every brony has ever wanted to do.
Lining up my outstretched hand, I bitch-slapped the filly. The sound upon contact with her face was as aesthetically pleasing as the sound of cracking open a cold beer. Diamond Tiara instantly burst into tears and ran away wailing, Silver Spoon close on her tail.

{I’m sure that counts as child abuse, but holy shit, that felt good.} I thought to myself.

I turned my head back to Derpy and stood up next to her, who was curiously watching the fillies fleeing into another part of town, clearly wondering what had just happened.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“I think so.” She replied.

She put out a hoof, trying to locate where I was.

“You’re not really my imaginary friend, are you?” She quizzed.

I laughed lightly, and then took her outstretched hoof.

“Nope, I’m real. But for some reason, nobody can see me.” I explained.

My hands were shaking from adrenaline and excitement, I completely forgot about the orb and Nah’Lek, how could I focus on that? I was in Ponyville, in conversation with DERPY HOOVES!

“Are you using a spell?”

“No, I’m just invisible for some reason.”

Derpy rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof, unsure of how to assist me, but clearly wanting to be able to provide an answer for me.

“How long has it been like that?”

“Since like, a few minutes ago, when I got here.”

“So, you’re new to town?”

I cleared my throat, and licked my dry lips, this whole experience was really surreal.

“Yeah, it’s rather complicated, but yes, I’m very new to town.”

“Well, I’m not sure if Twilight is home, but I’ll take you there, she might be able to help.” Derpy offered.

I tilted my head.

“Twilight’s here?” I asked, shocked.

“I’m not sure, she goes back and forth to Canterlot quite often.” She replied.

This was getting beyond weird, this was freaky, what was even happening?

“Okay, lead the way.” I said.

She smiled and headed away from Sugarcube Corner, I remained right on her tail. Ponyville was so much larger that the show portrayed, there were so many houses, and ponies walking around; I didn’t recognise any of them. The town hall was enormous, it was at least the size of two large barns, certainly big enough to contain all the town’s residents.

Seeing all the buildings for myself was mind-blowing, each thatched roof was immaculate, whoever built them were some very efficient thatchers. The walls were strangely modern, while some of them were made from a natural mud-like concrete, a number of them were made from stone and wood, I supposed some houses were more expensive than others.

“Well, here we are!” Derpy announced.

“Whoa.” I muttered.

Golden Oak Library, in the flesh, well, in the wood. It was a sight to behold, the hollowed-out tree stood at least three stories tall, its girth was no smaller than a redwood giant. Its branches were almost as thick as ordinary tree trunks, some of them cut away and shaped into windows. The leaves were almost the size of dinnerplates, never before had I seen such a spectacular creation from nature.

Derpy approached the red door and knocked on it, after a few seconds, she knocked again.

“I suppose there’s no one home.” Derpy shrugged.

I was about to speak, when a scrabbling came from behind the door and looked back to it. A second later, and I heard a metal latch coming undone. The door swung open, and I almost yelped from what I saw.

“Oh, hi there Derpy.”

Standing in the doorway, the top of his head coming to the same height as my waist, was a purple dragon. Spike was much slimmer than the show made him out to be, but he was no less remarkable, I could see each scale neatly arranged across his body, his large eyes glistened in the sunlight. I would have freaked out if today hadn’t been so weird already, everything was partially washing over me due to the sudden shock of where I was.

“Hey Spike, have you seen Twilight around?” Derpy asked.

His face dulled, clearly irritated.

“No, she’s out with him again.” He grunted.

Derpy ignored his change of mood, and tilted her head curiously.

“Do you know where they went?”

“Don’t know, don’t care.”

Spike shut the door, and I heard him walking away on the other side. Derpy turned to face me with a frown.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure where to take you now.” She said.

“What was Spike’s problem? He seemed rather disgruntled when you mentioned Twilight.” I quizzed.

She sat down and looked at the enormous tree, before smirking.

“Twilight has been hanging out with the new guy in town, and Spike is just very jealous about it. He thinks he’ll end up in second place or something.” She explained.

“A new guy?”

“Yeah, he lives in Canterlot, but he visits Ponyville a lot.”

“I see.” I hummed.

“He’s kind of weird, but I like him.” She giggled.

Derpy stood up and yawned, before looking around as though she were trying to find me.

“Are you sure you’re real?”

“Positive.” I replied.

“Okay, well, I’m afraid I don’t know what to do, I’m not very good at helping invisible ponies. Can I leave you with someone else who could help?” She asked.

“Oh, I’m not a pony.” I chuckled.

She tilted her head, puzzled.

“I’m sorry… Um, what are you?”

“My kind doesn’t exist here, I’m something called a human.” I told her.

At this, Derpy’s ears pricked up and she faced me with her eyes wide.

“A human?” Derpy exclaimed.

Her reaction told me she’d heard of it before, which left me more bewildered than ever. How the bloody hell could she know what a human was?

“That’s who Twilight’s hanging out with, the human that lives in Canterlot.” She elaborated.

My mouth fell agape, and I realised what was going on, to some extent anyway.

“Is his name Callum, by any chance?” I asked.

“Yes! That was it! Do you know him?” She confirmed.

Theory confirmed, this was the future. After touching the orb shard, I’d somehow been transported into the future. However, this still didn’t make any sense, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to come to Equestria, Celestia would never allow it; as amazing as this place was, I didn’t belong here. I wanted to get as much information as I could, I needed to piece together what was going on.

“Yeah, I know him. Since when did he live in Canterlot?” I quizzed.

“I can’t remember exactly, but he’s been visiting Ponyville for months.”

“Okay, what business does he have in Ponyville?”

“Well, he’s one of the Everfree Rangers, so he sometimes comes here when he’s on call, but otherwise he comes to visit the girls.” She told me.

“The girls?”

“You know, the big shots, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity and Twilight.”

“Oh right, I see.” I hummed.

{I’m an Everfree Ranger? AWESOME!} I thought.

“Do you know them too?” Derpy asked.


“Well, I could direct you to Rarity’s boutique if you like?” She offered.

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

Derpy took me away from the library, and back towards the town centre. We headed over the same bridge I’d seen Lyra on. I spotted the Carousel Boutique up ahead, just behind a few stone houses.

“Well, I need to head off, but it was nice to talk to you. I hope you find some help, being invisible sounds like a pretty annoying inconvenience.” Derpy said warmly.

She put out a hoof for me to shake, to which I happily obliged.

“Thanks for your help.”

“No problem!” She giggled.

Derpy turned around and trotted off, I faced the boutique and started walking towards it. I was just past the first stone house when I heard the sound of magic behind me, I turned around and nearly fainted. Seeing Spike in the flesh was nothing compared to the vision before me now. They stood there on the bridge, both with their backs to me, facing the middle of town. On the left, was Twilight, and on the right…
Was her…

Princess Celestia…

She was so tall, her back was the same height as my shoulders, the tip of her horn definitely took her above six and a half feet. I barely knew where to look, the sight of her was too much for my brain to take; did I stare at the spiralling horn, or at the glistening hoof wear that decorated her ankles with the purest gold I’d ever seen? Was I to stare at the incredible length of her legs, or at the coat of fur that appeared to be whiter than the snows of the Frozen Forest?

Then my gaze took in her mane and tail, and it was just as mesmerising as the pure mana I had seen inside Twilight’s brain. The hair appeared to have no weight at all, as it calmly floated in the air, all while glistening a multitude of colours; the cartoon had it all wrong, the strands of hair weren’t different colours, but rather changed colour with each different movement, similar to the look of an oil slick on a road during a rainy day. It refracted the light differently depending on which angle it was observed, and due to constantly moving, the hairs seemed to change colour constantly.

From a scientific perspective, I had no bloody clue how it was possible; I guessed the amount of mana in Celestia’s being was phenomenal, I assumed it affected her mane and tail to the point of reacting differently to light, not to mention being almost completely weightless.

I approached them both and stopped just before the bridge so I could eavesdrop.

“We’re in Ponyville.” Twilight said, confused.

There was a small silence, before Celestia replied.

“Indeed, and what you are about to see, will be the consequence if we fail this task.”

Her voice was soft, yet stern; hearing it in person felt strange, it was the polar opposite to Nah’Lek’s voice, which felt like sandpaper across my face. Celestia’s tone was like the lightest, softest silk in the world, I daresay it was softer than Fluttershy’s, and yet it carried so much power.

I finally understood what was happening, this wasn’t the real future, this was Celestia’s vision, this was what Twilight had been shown before coming to Earth. Now I was finally going to see what had terrified Twilight from the moment she arrived.

Before she could speak back to her teacher, the sound of ponies screaming began to ring out from the other side of town, closest to the Everfree Forest, which I could just make out in the distance. Moments later, the town hall’s bell rang out, alarming everyone. Shrieks of terror echoed outwards, and the clouds began to turn darker, enveloping the town in shadow. Twilight turned to her mentor, a look of fear on her face.

“What’s happening?” She asked, afraid.

“Follow me.” The princess spoke, choosing not to answer.

Celestia took a few steps forward, while Twilight hesitated, clearly distressed by the screaming and the darkening sky; the princess stopped and turned to look at Twilight.

“No harm will come to you.”

Twilight nodded and started heading towards her, which was when Celestia’s eyes flickered to me, her expression didn’t change, but she looked right at me.

She could see me…

As Twilight reached her, she looked away from me and continued into town, at this point the sky was almost as dark as night, which was when I spotted something ahead. Fire.
I followed them towards the heart of town, where we came across multiple buildings ablaze, the red smoke billowing into the sky and turning it crimson. Terrified ponies charged past us, I had to jump out of the way as nobody could see me, however they passed through Twilight and Celestia, as though they were mere mirages. Up ahead I saw three ponies lying dead in the middle of the road, each in pools of blood that shimmered the light of the flames.

“I’m scared! Princess, I’m scared!” Twilight cried, in tears.

“You must witness this, Twilight; you must truly understand how important it is that we succeed in bringing the Titan’s Orb home again.” Celestia replied.

Twilight wept with fear as she watched Ponyville burn, a moment later I spotted something approaching. The blackened outlines of the attackers, they weren’t easy to see amongst the smoke, but the fire revealed their shapes well enough for me to recognise them. They were the silhouettes of men.

“No…” I breathed.

Men, two of them wielding spears, and one of them with an axe. Their shadowy figures edged towards us, ready to kill, ready to destroy. Celestia faced Twilight, and placed a hoof on her shoulder.

“The boy can never come to Equestria, or this will be our fate. Do you understand me?”

Twilight glanced at the sinister invaders, before facing her teacher and nodding.

“I’ll make sure he won’t, I promise.”

Celestia’s horn began to glow a bright yellow, and with a burst of golden flames, Twilight disappeared. Princess Celestia then faced me, and her eyes narrowed into a piercing glare.

“How are you here?” She asked.

I gulped nervously, instinctively I knelt onto one knee in respect, before looking up at her.

“I-I don’t know, I… I touched a fragment of the Orb, a-and somehow I ended up here.”

My voice was shaking so badly, a deaf man would be able to hear how nervous I was. The princess walked towards me and stopped when she was a metre away, she looked calm, which made me all the more nervous as Ponyville burned all around me.

“How many?”

“We’ve j-just found the third shard.”

She looked at me, her eyes full of thousands of different expressions, I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. The light of the flames danced in her eyes, she didn’t blink for ages, when she did, she turned around to face the silhouettes, still edging closer to us.

“I take it my student has been rough with you?”

I stood up, but didn’t dare move closer to her.


“Do you understand why now?”

Looking around at the burning town, and hearing the screams of fear, I knew this would be the outcome if I came to Equestria. Perhaps if one human came to Equestria, the Titan’s Orb couldn’t properly create a forcefield again and would allow mankind to attack.

“I really caused this?” I asked, gulping again.

“Your kin were born to conquer; if you come to this world, they will find a way to follow you and claim this world as their own. I’ve seen the good of your race, but I’ve also seen its bad, and it’s a risk I refuse to allow in my kingdom. I know you understand.” She answered.

She turned to look at me again and I dipped my head, sighing.

“I don’t want to come to Equestria, not if this is the result.”

Celestia came towards me and placed a hoof on my shoulder, causing me to shiver from the sheer amazement that the princess was physically touching me.

“I know; that’s why I chose you. I am certain you will do the right thing.” She told me.

I blinked a few times, hearing those words felt like a lightning bolt shoot through my spine.

“I won’t fail you.”

The princess nodded, before taking away her hoof and stepping back, her horn glowing.

“Wait!” I called.

Remaining perfectly still, she allowed me to continue.

“Twilight and Rainbow are beginning to remember.”

Celestia’s expression grew contorted with concern, knowing exactly what I meant; the My Little Dashie fanfiction was anything but a work of fiction. Rob Cakeran’s story about Rainbow Dash coming to Earth was finally coming back to them. Who knew how Dashie would cope with that? Knowing she’s lived two separate lives would certainly have an effect on her, I just hoped it wasn’t a bad one.

“You may tell them what happened, just keep them safe.”

As she spoke, Celestia’s horn grew brighter, which is when I took a step towards her and reached out with a hand, desperate for more answers.

“Wait, please! I need to know more!” I begged.

She closed her eyes, and after another small silence, she opened them and shook her head.

“No, you don’t.”

With a flash, Celestia was gone, leaving nothing but a faint mist. When the mist disappeared, I felt a surge of energy through my body, and then looked down to find I had a shadow, and my body lost its transparent appearance. I was now properly inside the vision, visible to the world. I didn’t understand, if this was just a vision, then how come I was still here without Celestia or Twilight? Perhaps there were more answers that needed to be found here. I faced the men that approached me, their blackened forms still hard to depict amongst the dark red smoke.

Why are you doing this!?” I shouted.

They came closer and closer, and I realised how tall they were, all three of them were at least half a foot taller than myself. Their shoulders were broad, they looked abnormally large for men. Which made sense as they emerged from the smoke, because they weren’t men. Celestia had it all wrong, it wasn't humans she had to worry about; she had left the vision too early to discover the real adversaries.


“Of course...” I breathed.

Lok-Tar Ogar!” The lead orc chanted, spotting me.

They began to charge towards me, I looked around frantically for something to defend myself with, the best thing I could see was a large brick from one of the chimneys of the collapsed house beside me. I took it with both hands and faced the hulking foes before me. Besides running from one in the Frozen Forest, this was my first proper fight with an orc, I could tell right away that it was going to be more challenging than fighting a man. The leader approached me swung his axe down and I hopped out of the way, I took the opportunity to bash him with the brick, the corner of the block struck the side of his head and dazed him, causing him to drop onto one knee. I was about to deliver the killing blow to the back of his head when the second orc reached me with his spear, I knocked it aside and he crashed into me, causing me to drop the brick. He grabbed my neck with a single hand and lifted me up, these bastards were strong, in a fight for survival I didn’t hesitate to jab him in the eyes with two of my fingers, causing him to release both me and his spear, the orc clutched his face and roared with pain and rage. I caught the spear before it clattered onto the ground and faced the third orc, who was just about to skewer me. Quickly dropping to the ground onto my back, his weapon missed completely, allowing me to thrust my own spear upwards into his lower abdomen. He groaned loudly with agony as I pushed the weapon further into him, rupturing numerous organs. Before I knew what was happening, the lead orc was towering over me once again, he lifted the axe above his head, but before he could bring it down onto me, a bolt of dark energy shot through his chest and killed him instantly. I blinked twice with confusion, before standing up and looking around, searching for the origin of the assailant.

“Uh, whoever did that, thank you!” I called out.

I heard the flutter of large wings behind me, and turned around to find my saviour. I instantly got on one knee and bowed low to her with respect.

“Princess Luna…” I breathed.

“Rise.” She commanded.

I stood up straight and faced the Princess of the Night as she approached me. She circled me twice before eventually standing directly in front of me and squinted her eyes.

“A human is taller than one anticipated.” She hummed.

“I, uh… Sorry?” I replied, confused.

She exhaled out of her nose, before looking around at the burning town.

“Why does one remain in this cursed dream?” She asked.

“I don’t know, Celestia just-”

Princess Celestia!” Luna barked.

“Princess Celestia, I’m sorry. She vanished a few moments ago, I don’t understand why I am still here, I thought this was just a vision for Twilight.” I explained.

She turned away and walked towards the dead orcs, their dark green Fel-infused blood mixing with the dirt road. She prodded one of them, before turning towards me and frowning with confusion.

“My sister informed me the invaders were humans. However, while these creatures may possess similar physical qualities to you, they do not appear to be thy kin.”

“They aren’t humans, your highness. They’re called orcs.” I told her.

“Orcs? What are orcs?” She inquired.

“Sentient beings, from a world called Draenor. They once had a tribal and shamanic way of life, that is until they were corrupted by the Fel and were consumed with a lust for blood and war. They formed an army known as the Horde and travelled to a world called Azeroth to conquer it, that’s where Nah’Lek somehow gained control over the Fel, which means he has domination of the Horde.” I informed her.

Luna looked at me for a moment, puzzled and curious.

“You mean to say Nah’Lek has an army?”

I gulped, before nodding my head. Which caused her to look back towards the orc, and then back to me.

“So long as one performs thy task and locates the Orb, it matters not.”

She was right, the main threat wasn’t the orcs, I just had to focus on gathering the shards before Nah’Lek found us. Thinking about it, he would only be on Earth if he feared us repairing the orb, the success of our mission would render the Horde ineffective.

“I won’t fail.” I said with a sense of pride.

The princess strode past me and faced the Everfree Forest, before looking at me once again.

“I see in one’s eyes a seething mass of queries. My sister has a tendency to speak in riddles, but I feel you deserve answers, I shall give you three. What do you wish to know?”

My first question had been swimming in my brain for a while.

“Who is Stardust?”

Princess Luna’s eyes widened at the name, and licked her bottom lip before answering.

“It has been many winters since I have heard that name. He is the older brother to a renowned wizard, solely responsible for writing most of the spells and tomes of magic used by unicorns across Equestria. Starswirl Moonshimmer, although he is better known as Starswirl the Bearded.”

“Starswirl Moonsh-, wait… His brother?” I exclaimed.

Luna nodded, and continued.

“Stardust was as brave as Starswirl was intelligent. Their brotherly love once carried Equestria through an age of unrelenting darkness, during the Repugnant War. Together they were able to save not only thousands of lives, but created a new era of harmony alongside my sister and myself.
When Nah’Lek came to Equestria and laid waste to the country, it was Stardust who eventually brought Nah’Lek to his knees, where he was incarcerated into Tartarus for eternity. T’was Stardust whom the Titan’s Sword chose, he dedicated his life to serve and protect his home.”

It took a while to sink in, and left me with more questions than before.

“What happened to him?” I asked.

Luna looked down, her eyes struck with sudden grief.

“Stardust lived a very long life, the sword gave him the longevity to live through hundreds of generations, alongside his younger brother, who kept himself alive with his various works of magic, wishing to truly understand magic and its potential before his time.
Both brothers grew close to my sister and I, they were the first ponies who could understand the pain of growing close to mortals, before watching them fade away. The Moonshimmers understood the blessed curse of prolonged aging, and thus, we became good friends. However, one day, Starswirl simply vanished, never to be seen again, it has been widely accepted that he simply perished from age and faded away. A funeral was held for him upon the peak of Mount Cantermore, the alp in the middle of Equestria which harbours Canterlot upon its flank.
Wishing to join his brother, and believing Equestria would no longer require his protection, Stardust parted with his soul, and poured it into the Titan’s Orb, to become one with the planet and increase the Orb’s strength. He was buried beside his brother's grave where they could lay rest together.”

The talk of brotherhood hit home, I wondered how Oliver was getting on back at home. Hearing the bond between the princesses and the Moonshimmers made me smile, and there wasn’t a point in hiding it. But aside the bittersweet story, I had some clarity about Conscio and who he was, and where he came from. It was very evident now that Conscio was indeed, Stardust Moonshimmer, and as it had just been explained to me, he had poured his soul into the Titan’s Orb. When I located the first shard in Brazil, I began hearing his voice inside my head, so his soul must have been inside the shard, which then transferred into me.

{Whoa… I’ve got an ancient Equestrian hero living inside my head…} I thought.

Before I could ask Luna my third and final question, another group of orcs came from behind the burning house, two with axes, two with spears. They spotted us and came running our way, I nodded to Luna and picked up the spear beside me. Luna obliterated the first orc with a spell, while I took on the second one by evading his axe and spearing upwards into his jaw, going through the inside of his mouth and piercing his brain. He dropped like a sack of potatoes and I couldn’t retrieve the spear under the weight of his body. The third orc reached me, only to have a bolt of glowing ice fly into his chest and kill him, I didn’t bother thanking Luna as I picked up the large axe and prepared myself for the final attacker. The hulking foe tried to lance me through the chest with his spear, to which I dropped to one knee and leant aside, bringing my axe into his leg. The metal met his lower thigh and parted the limb from his body, he roared in agony and fell to the ground. I stood up and faced the orc, who was crawling towards his spear, I strode towards him and kicked him in the face, knocking him onto his back. Before he could do anything further, I brought the axe down onto his head, splitting his face in two. I left the weapon buried in his skull and faced the princess, wiping the blood from my hands.

“You fight well.” She spoke.

I dipped my head with respect and looked at the bloodstained sky, the red and black smoke burnt high into the air and caused the entire town to be submerged in the afterglow of death. I wanted to exit this vision as fast as possible, but I still had a final question.

“Your highness, who is Nah'Lek and where did he come from?”

Before she could reply, the ground began to shake. I looked towards the Everfree Forest to see the trees had all been uprooted, floating into the smoky sky. From the clouds, began to spit small drops of blood, one of them touched me and it was boiling hot, causing me to grit my teeth and hiss.

Impossible! The vision is being manipulated!” Princess Luna boomed.

The Royal Canterlot Voice was something to behold, the sheer force of her tone rippled into the sky and made the smoke dance. Luna came towards me and almost deafened me as she spoke again.

I cannot stay any longer. This is no longer a vision, but a corruption! Speak to Twilight about the war, she will answer your questions!

She took off and vanished in a burst of white energy, leaving me alone in this broken world. I growled as another drop of blood fell from the sky and burnt the back of my neck. I faced the Everfree Forest to find two large orcs walking towards me. I recognised the first one, it was the same orc that had chased me in the Frozen Forest. He had a very distinct look to him; unlike the other orcs I’d faced, he carried a longsword opposed to a spear or an axe. He wore a large spiked shoulder pad on his right side, but was otherwise topless. Attached to his waist was a large skull that covered his belly and his groin. The feature that stood out the most however, was the large ponytail that sat atop his head.

The second orc caused my eyes to widen, he was enormous; standing almost a foot taller than the first, the hulking monstrosity had a huge black beard and wore two skulls on either shoulder, which seemed to be fused to him with green fleshy sinew; an off-product of being imbued with the Fel. One of his hands was abnormally large and blackened in colour. Taking on this big bastard would be a challenge, even with my quick reflexes.

It was the first orc that attacked, and I was not expecting such quickness, the longsword narrowly missed me and I rolled aside, grabbing the spear by my feet and pointing it at him, only for him to chop off the end with a quick upward slice. This orc was agile, I needed to time my counterattacks. Before I could plot a plan of attack, the second orc took me by surprise as he grabbed me from behind with his giant hand and flung me into the burning house beside us. I cried out as my wrist and upper arm made contact with a red-hot pile of ash, my flesh scorched instantly. Getting out of the wreckage as quickly as possible, I turned and fled from the duo, I was outmatched and I knew it. They both gave chase, but thankfully I outran them. Making my way to Twilight’s library, I realised there weren’t any ponies around at all, had they all escaped? I hoped there was someone who could help me, I wanted a way out of this nightmare.

I found what little remained of the library, large branches lay around the blackened stump. There wasn’t a single trace of the books, that was until I looked up. All the lasting books floated a few metres in the air, at first they seemed like ordinary books that had been burnt by the fire, but upon closer inspection I noticed they were all copies of the same book.

How to Raze the Planet – By Nah’Lek the Defiler

“Nice, mature.” I muttered.

Suddenly, my body felt as though it was being crushed, I looked down to find the black hand gripped around my waist, and was then pressed face-first into the burnt floor, the sheer force caused my nose to snap. I cried out in pain, and was then dragged outside, the right side of my face scraped along the ground until I was forced to my knees, where the first orc prepared to impale my chest with his sword.

“Hold, Grommash.” Nah’Lek hissed.

I glanced over my shoulder and spotted the demigod, dragging a single claw along the trail of blood that had come from my broken nose. He came around and stroked the longsword, before tilting his head towards the second orc who was crushing me in his grip. I was released and took a gasp of air, before standing up to face Nah’Lek and scowl at him.

“You’re a Grade A cunt.” I spat.

“Charmed.” He replied.

I wiped the blood from my upper lip, only for more to continue streaming from my nose. I rolled my shoulder and flexed my muscles, preparing myself for any surprise Nah’Lek had in store for me.

“Why come to this vision? There’s nothing to gain here.” I asked.

“Stardust grew boring, I wanted to toy with you.”

“Well get on with it, I want to continue my quest.” I sighed, rolling my eyes.

Taking his staff, Nah’Lek gripped me in his dark magic and flung me aside, causing me to skid along the dirt road and into a fallen branch of the library. I grunted and got to my feet, more irritated than hurt.

“We both know that I can take the pain, Nah’Lek. You’re just wasting your time.” I growled.

Nah’Lek stopped in his tracks and tilted his head, before looking down.

“You’re right.” He whispered.

Without warning, he whipped around and pointed his staff towards the two orcs, they roared with agony as streams of green and white energy burst from their eyes and mouths, which poured into the tip of the staff. They fell to the ground, their skin now grey and wrinkled, they had literally rotted away. Nah’Lek had used the Fel to drain their very life force, in both soul and body. He turned to face me again, and came towards me, his mandibles twitching.

“But I can do this…”

He dashed towards me and thrust the staff into my chest, where it emitted pure Fel into my being. Burning pain flooded my body as my blood began to boil, my vision started to blur as the corruption started to alter me. I dropped to my knees and let out a low growl, everything turned red and I felt this sense of Ɽ₳₲Ɇ inside me. My depression could only prevent so much Fel; this concentrated amount was unstoppable. It didn’t just ₵ØⱤⱤɄ₱₮ my mind, my body started changing, I looked at my hands to find my ₴₭ł₦ turning to a dark green, and my fingernails had grown into black claws.

What… ₩Ⱨ₳₮ HAVE YOU ĐØ₦Ɇ TO ME!?” I shouted, my voice deeper and rougher.

“I’ve gifted you the Fel.” Nah’Lek spat.

I looked up at him and got to my feet, before charging at him. He slipped to the side and smacked ₥Ɇ with the staff, knocking me back down. Nah’Lek circled me as the agonising pain increased, revelling in my indescribable ₮ØⱤ₥Ɇ₦₮.

“Feel the rage inside you, Callum. This is what I did to Twilight, this is the anger she felt every day until it drove her insane. Do you see now what I am capable of? DO YOU SEE?

Each word he spoke made me more and more angry, I lost all sense of self control as I wanted nothing more than to gouge out those eyes, those ₴₮Ʉ₱łĐ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ɆɎɆ₴!

“FUCK YOU!” I screamed as I charged at him once more.

The ₥Ø₦₴₮ɆⱤ dodged aside once more, just ₴₮₳₦Đ ₴₮łⱠⱠ! Just ⱠɆ₮ ₥Ɇ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ₭łⱠⱠ ɎØɄ!
Nah’Lek taunted me constantly, skittering side to side and all around me, ł₦₮ł₥łĐ₳₮ł₦₲ me more and more, I just want to ₭łⱠⱠ HIM! All I could see was red, and his black form dancing around.
₩ⱧɎ ₳ⱤɆ ɎØɄ ĐØł₦₲ ₮Ⱨł₴ ₮Ø ₥Ɇ!?

“You’re not as strong as you think, just look at you.”

Nah’Lek’s voice rippled through the burning town, I barely noticed the fire around me now. All I could see was myself ฿ⱤɆ₳₭ł₦₲ Ⱨł₴ ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ₦Ɇ₵₭! I needed him dead, I just couldn’t think about anything else, he ₦ɆɆĐ₴ ₮Ø ĐłɆ! I can’t live in a world knowing he’s still alive. I suddenly felt hot bile in my stomach, I fell to my knees again and vomited onto the dirt. All that came up was blood, dark blood, I looked back up to find Nah’Lek was gone, he had abandoned me to suffer in this broken vision. ฿Ɇ₵₳Ʉ₴Ɇ ₮Ⱨ₳₮'₴ ⱧØ₩ ł₮ ł₴! When you’re trapped in your darkest moments, ɆVɆⱤɎØ₦Ɇ fucking leaves. We live in a world where ₦Ø฿ØĐɎ ₲łVɆ₴ ₳ ₴Ⱨł₮ ₳₦Ɏ₥ØⱤɆ!

I looked up and saw more blood rain falling from the sky, I barely noticed them as they hit my skin and burnt me, causing blisters to form. What did it matter? ł'₥ ₴₵₳ⱤⱤɆĐ Ɇ₦ØɄ₲Ⱨ ₳ⱠⱤɆ₳ĐɎ! I’ve got enough wounds to last a lifetime, wounds nobody can ₣Ʉ₵₭ł₦₲ ₴ɆɆ! And if nobody can see it, nobody cares! Ponyville was no more, the flames were beginning to die down as ɆVɆⱤɎ₮Ⱨł₦₲ turned to ashes and dust. ₵Ɽ₳₩Ⱡł₦₲ along the pathway away from the library, I felt various blisters ฿ɄⱤ₴₮ as I dragged them along the ground. My skin peeled away and I started to see flesh and muscle on my wrists, the ₳₦₲ɆⱤ continued to ₵Ø₦₴Ʉ₥Ɇ me and I beat my fists against the ground until my knuckles split open, ฿ⱠØØĐ met dirt and created a dark paste beneath my hands. I continued to beat the path, I just ĐØ₦'₮ ₵₳ⱤɆ ₳₦Ɏ₥ØⱤɆ!
YOU DON’T Ʉ₦ĐɆⱤ₴₮₳₦Đ! This pain inside is too much, every day I have to live with the ₱₳ł₦, the MISERY, the ₲ɄłⱠ₮! I want to forget what ⱧɆ did to me! I WANT TO LET GO!

I dug my blackened claws into my own ₩Ɽł₴₮₴, gashing them open and ₩₳₮₵Ⱨł₦₲ as the blood poured from them and onto the mud, I stood up and began to ₵ⱤɎ loudly, lost and alone in this ฿ⱤØ₭Ɇ₦ ₩ØⱤⱠĐ. Eventually, I lost enough blood to lose my ₴₮ⱤɆ₦₲₮Ⱨ and fell onto my side, I rolled around and moaned with ₵Ø₦₣Ʉ₴łØ₦, desperate for it to Ɇ₦Đ. ₱ⱠɆ₳₴Ɇ JɄ₴₮ ₥₳₭Ɇ ł₮ Ɇ₦Đ…

Suddenly, a hand grabbed my hair and lifted me upwards, I twisted around and came face to face with a mirror, for it was Callum Horncastle who stood before me. I looked older, his jaw was more pronounced and the hair was shaved on the sides but was very long on top, with a ponytail that went down to his shoulder blades.

“Break the cycle.” He spoke.

Letting go of me without warning, I fell to my knees. Callum pulled a long knife from his waist, he said nothing as he planted the blade into my throat and twisted it. I tried to scream, but no sound emerged as my lungs quickly filled with blood and I suffocated. I slumped onto my side, and the rage and burning heat faded away as I met the dark embrace of death.

ł ₩ł₴Ⱨ…

Chapter Twenty-One: Break My Mind

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“NO! NO! PLEASE! GET OFF ME! STOP!” I screamed.

“Callum! Callum it’s me!”

I shook myself wildly, kicking out with blind terror, until I eventually opened my eyes and found myself in the woods, with a pair of blue hooves holding me tightly; I tilted my head and was able to make eye contact.

“It’s me Callum, it’s Dashie.” She whispered.

My senses slowly came back to me and my eyes widened, and my lip began to tremble as everything came back to me. I opened my mouth to say her name, only to burst into tears and latch onto her, burying my face into her neck.

“Oh Callum…” She sighed.

She rocked me side to side as I wept loudly, the torment I’d experienced was overwhelming, is that truly what it felt like to be corrupted by the Fel? Is this what Twilight had been experiencing all this time?

“What happened Callum?”

I tried to calm myself down as much as possible and sat up beside her, looking down at my hand to find the orb shard still in my grasp.

“I saw… I saw…” I mumbled, barely able to speak.

Dashie nuzzled my shoulder for assurance and comfort, and I took a deep breath.

“I saw a vision… Of the future… Of a broken future…”

I could barely get the words out, I had no strength, my body was still in shock from the Fel’s corruption, even though it was only a vision, my body had still felt it as though it were real. I guessed it was similar to sleep-paralysis, where you wake from a nightmare and feel like you’re still in the nightmare, and can’t move at all because your brain is so confused.

“What future?” Dash queried, still puzzled.

“I was in Ponyville, everything was on fire. Nah’Lek was there, he corrupted the vision and used the Fel on me, he’s inside my head Dash, he moved from Twilight’s brain into mine!”

Rainbow Dash jumped up and started to back away, instantly afraid, I tried to stand and her wings flexed, prepared to flee; she was afraid of me.

“Dash, I’m not infected, I promise.”

“But you just said-”

“I’m not, infected. He’s been trying to corrupt me, but I’m immune to the Fel, my depression works as some sort of barrier. Nah’Lek was only able to use it on me inside the vision, by using a large quantity of it. He can’t poison me for real, not without being here in person.” I explained.

“Do you promise?”

I lifted up my shirt and pointed to the large scar across my chest, the one Inigo had left me. It coincidentally went directly over where my heart was.

“Cross my heart.”

She smirked, and folded her wings and came back to me, giving me a tight hug.

“I’m sorry, it’s just… I’ve already lost one friend to that monster…”

“Twilight’s back Dashie, we’ve cured her. I know it will take you some time to forgive her, but please understand that she’s come back. I understand now more than ever what she went through, and how the Fel changed her, it really wasn’t her fault.” I told her.

She pulled away and looked down, frowning.

“I… I’ll try…”

I cupped her cheek with my hand, and smiled.

“That’s all I ask of you.”

Dash smiled back, before looking at the orb shard in my hand and prodding it with a hoof; the glow from within had dulled slightly, as if it had used up a lot of energy to take me to the vision.

“Touching the shard took you to that vision, right?” She asked.

I nodded, and allowed her to continue.

“Well, I think the orb wanted you to see that vision, there must have been a reason for you to be there before Nah’Lek came along. Do you remember anything that stood out?”

Closing my eyes, I cast my mind back. I highly doubted meeting Derpy or any of that mattered, the most important thing was when Celestia showed up with Twilight. If there was anything important about the vision, it must have been my conversation with Celestia. Surely the whole point of the vision was to reinforce the fact I didn’t belong in Equestria. Or perhaps it had something to do with the orcs, when Celestia vanished and I met with Luna, maybe I was taken there to tell the princess about the Horde?

“Break the cycle… Break the cycle…” I muttered.

“What’s that?” Dash asked.

“He told me to break the cycle.”

“Who did?”

“I did, I met myself from the future at the end of the vision. After the Fel had consumed me, he came along and finished me off, but not before telling me I had to break the cycle.” I explained.

“That’s odd, what do you think it meant?” Dashie hummed.

I shook my head with confusion.

“I haven’t the foggiest idea.”

My attention was drawn away from the subject when I spotted the pile of blue feathers and mangled remains of Blu; I sighed and walked over to the pile, biting my bottom lip.

“I can’t believe Blu’s gone.” I grumbled.

“What are we going to tell Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Turning to the pegasus, I contorted my face with frustration, thinking on the matter carefully. We both knew Fluttershy would be extremely upset with the truth, but she wasn’t an idiot, she wouldn’t believe us if we told her Blu had simply flown off with a change of heart.

“We tell her the truth.” I decided.

She nodded with agreement.

“You know she isn’t going to handle it well though, right?”

“I know, but we can’t lie to her. We’ll tell her Blu died with valour, he died saving my life.”

“Alright, do you want me to tell her?” She offered.

“If you don’t mind, thanks.”

We looked around at the scene before us, and decided it was time to get out of here, the dead bodies around us was a distasteful sight. I quickly got to digging a hole to bury Blu, while Dashie searched the tents for any useful loot. After taking Blu’s beak as a memento, I placed his remains into the pit and filled it in. It wasn’t exactly six feet deep, but it would suffice for a parrot’s grave. I planted a large shard of crystal from the monolith in the centre of the grave as some form of tombstone, and then patted the dirt twice as a form of respect and farewell.

“So long, you magnificent bastard.” I sighed.

I turned away and headed towards Dash, who had just finished looking around the tents.

“Any good loot?”

“Oh yeah, you’re going to love what I’ve found…” She chuckled.

I raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to show me the goods. She darted into the first tent, and came out with a bag, inside was a laptop with a WiFi hotspot. If I could crack into it, I’d be able to access the internet and possibly contact my brother. I dug a little deeper, and found eight sticks of dynamite.

“Ooh, now that’s tasty.” I hissed deviously.

“And that’s not even the best part.” Dash teased.

Tilting my head, I allowed her to lead me into the second tent, where I was met with numerous crates, and a few large barrels. From the smell, I could tell instantly what the barrels contained, Dashie gave me an enormous grin and opened up one of the creates, which contained numerous bottles of other beverages, such as Kraken Rum, Baileys Irish Cream, Disaronno liqueur, and Southern Comfort whiskey.

“Trust the Yanks to stockpile tons of alcohol during a mining expedition.” I scoffed.

“Yanks?” Rainbow Dash repeated.


She hummed with understanding, and I came to inspect all the bottles, there were at least two-thousand units of alcohol here, and that was being generous.

“Well, I suppose we could take a few bottles back with us, but there’s no way we could get all of this back to the mansion.” I hummed.

“Perhaps I could be of assistance?” A voice spoke.

We both whipped around to find none-other than Hawnu Rey’eng stood in the opening of the tent, Rainbow Dash instantly flared her wings and arched her back defensively.

“The fuck are you doing here?” I grunted.

“Buying you time.” He replied.

Rainbow Dash faced me with her mouth agape.

“You know him!?” She blurted out.

“We’re rather well acquainted. Fear not Rainbow Dash, I’m an ally.” He answered.

Dashie recoiled with shock and blinked rapidly.

“How do you know my-”

“You said that you didn’t want the ponies to know you were here, besides Twilight. What’re you doing here Hawnu Rey’eng? What’s changed?” I growled, completely interrupting Dash.

“Buying you time.” He repeated.

I stormed up to the guardian and planted a finger against his metal breastplate.

“Hey, I’ve just met with Princess Celestia in a vision, and all she did was talk in riddles; I’d assume someone who’s been alive for thousands of years would get to the fucking point! So don’t you dare start on me with this mystery bullshit, what’s going on?” I growled.

He exhaled loudly through his nose with amusement, before finally corresponding with me and explaining what had brought him here.

“There’s been a change of plan, for it would seem that Nah'Lek has been able to detect the magical energy from this orb shard after you made contact with it. I’ve just been in Chernobyl, erasing the irradiated undead infestation in order to prevent any worldwide panic. I've been able to lure Nah'Lek there with my magic, but he has since moved on and is coming here to Portugal. I've come to ensure that you’ll be long gone by the time he gets here.”

I hummed with interest and briefly glanced at Rainbow Dash, who tilted her head.

“How close was Nah’Lek to finding us?” She asked.

“Your exact location? I’d say a week, perhaps two.”

Blimey, I hadn’t realised he was that close on our tail, I suppose my fight with Twilight had caused enough magical energy for him to catch a whiff. Hawnu Rey’eng’s enigmatic presence may have bothered me, but I was certainly glad he was on our side.

“So, you say you cleared out the zombies to prevent a panic, I'd have thought you're above the political and petty events of the human race. Why bother to intervene?” I asked.

“You are mistaken, I care very much about the important occurrences of Earth. If humans learned about Chernobyl and that aggressive radioactivity could truly create such abominations, it would no doubt be exploited and utilised for warfare. Humanity is already an absurdly large danger to itself, and it's partially my responsibility to prevent further destruction wherever I can. My purpose is to guard the balance of life, which includes the wellbeing of my homeworld, not just your quest.”

I hummed, it seemed Hawnu Rey’eng wasn’t lying about being formerly human. I wondered where he was born, or who he used to be before becoming this mystical being; did he go to school and live an ordinary life before somehow ascending to this status as guardian? Or did he grow up in some horrible slum and suffered mistreatment all his life, only to end up being chosen due to his potential, like all the cliché stories? The only thing I could gather was that he was British, I could just make out the accent through the filter in his helmet. How’d he even become this guardian? I’d certainly love to have a set of wings, magic, and a badass metal suit.

“I digress, I have come to bring you both back to the mansion, if my diversion is to remain effective, we must remove the manifestation of Nah’Lek from your brain. You may be resilient, but anyone can be broken under the right circumstances.” He continued.

Nodding, I turned to Dashie, who seemed to have calmed down and was ready to cooperate happily. Hawnu Rey’eng then raised his head and peered behind us into the tent.

“I’ll also assist in transporting your… Supplies…” He muttered.

Rainbow Dash grinned widely, before licking her lips.

“I didn’t take you for a good Samaritan.” I chuckled.

At this, Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled back, before shrugging his shoulders.

“Your mission is difficult, the whole wellbeing of Equus is at stake; it’s not hard to imagine how stressed the seven of you are on a constant basis. With my decoy to keep Nah’Lek occupied, you should take some time to wind down, let yourselves go.”

I couldn’t really argue with that, nor did I want to. After putting the bag Dash had found over my shoulder, I let the guardian know we were ready, and he began to charge up his magic. His hands began to glow purple, and then grew brighter and brighter, before planting a hand into the dirt; he stood up and raised his other hand in a large arc, his fingers positioned strangely, almost as if he was drawing a painting in mid-air. As it turned out, he was doing just that, as a large doorway of energy formed before us, when the light faded slightly, the doorway revealed itself to be a swirling portal.

“Step inside, I’ll make sure the goods come through after you.” Hawnu Rey’eng commanded.

Rainbow Dash went first, cockily jumping directly at the centre and was sucked inside, she phased out of reality as the portal consumed her; it was quite a sight to behold. While I trusted Hawnu Rey’eng, I was rather apprehensive to enter, my past experiences of instant teleportation weren’t that enjoyable, and I was hardly looking forward to a new method of magical transportation. But I assumed it couldn’t be worse than being tortured by a lunatic in Brazil, so I took a deep breath and walked forward.

“Don’t hold your breath, or your lungs will collapse.”

I turned to face the guardian, my eyes now as wide as possible.


“Good luck.”

Without warning, I was pushed backwards into the portal and felt my entire physical being changing, almost as if every atom in my body was pulled apart and then put back together again.

{ W H A T T H E H E L L I S H A P P E N I N G ! ? } I tried to shout, but it only emerged as thought.

While slowly feeling myself being reassembled, I became enveloped in the weirdest sensation, as if I could literally feel time and space shifting around me, it was like I could feel my own soul as a state of pure mana, swirling about as my physical body was built around it again, it was the most surreal and confusing experience to date, and that includes the time I was in Twilight’s body during my moments in the Frozen Forest.

This experience felt like it had been going on for hours without end, before it was suddenly all over in no time at all, I found myself falling backwards and landing onto hard wooden floor. I let out an ‘oof’ upon contact, completely unprepared for the impact. The first thing I felt was my stomach twisting, and hot bile in my throat, all while being dizzy out of my wits; it felt like waking up with the worst possible hangover.


I opened my eyes to find a large pair of eyes, belonging to a butter coloured face. Blinking twice, my blurred vision and confused brain came back into focus, the sickly feeling slowly faded away and I broke into a wide smile.

“Hey Flutters.” I sighed.

She wrapped her hooves around me and the dizziness returned, causing me to grumble.

“Mmn, I hate portals…”

“They take some getting used to.” She giggled.

I sat up properly, and looked around; we were in the entrance hall to the mansion, everyone stood around with curious looks upon their faces. I gave Fluttershy a proper hug, before standing up and looking at the others, it was so good to see their faces, even though I’d only been gone for a couple of days. Without warning I felt something hard smack into my back and caused me to fall forward, instinctively I swung my leg around Fluttershy so I didn’t fall onto her, and somehow managed to stay on my feet. I face the portal to see one of the barrels, Hawnu Rey’eng could have bloody well warned me.

“What’s that?” Applejack asked.

I opened my mouth to answer her, but Rainbow Dash latched onto the barrel and gave the answer before I could, she giggled loudly, before licking her lips.


The ponies’ responses were both interesting and funny. AJ grinned widely, Rarity raised an eyebrow, Pinkie remained expressionless, Twilight tilted her head, and Fluttershy gave the dullest expression physically possible, clearly unimpressed.

“I will not be clearing up anyone’s mess.” She said dryly.

I couldn’t help but laugh aloud, for someone who was always shy and timid, Fluttershy had this really sassy tone under the skin which I really liked. I gave her a playful nudge and winked.

“Relax, we won’t go too wild. Besides, I’m British, I assure you I can hold my drink.” I chuckled.

“You say that now, but I bet you’ll be like this in a few hours.” Dashie giggled.

I turned to face her as she stood on her hind legs and tried to impersonate me, stumbling around, and pretending to be absolutely shitfaced. She wailed dramatically and swung herself side to side and tried to put on a slurred English accent.

“L-Look at meeee! I’m a hooman! I walk on two legs and act all fancy because I’m BRITISH! Nobody’s better than me because I’m BRRIIITTTIIISSHHH! I eat special British food and like pretty little flowers!”

She then collapsed onto the floor, causing everyone to burst into laughter, me included. The rest of the barrels and boxes of liquors came through the portal, before Hawnu Rey’eng emerged. The laughter died instantly and Fluttershy let out a squeak of fear and jumped a few feet back, everyone’s ears flattened down and their pupils shrunk with terror, all but Dashie and Twilight. I approached him to assure the ponies he wasn’t a threat, and helped move a barrel aside for him.

“Hawnu Rey’eng! What are you doing here?” Twiley exclaimed.

Other than Dashie, the girls all looked at Twilight with disbelief, the same way Rainbow had looked at me when I first spoke to the guardian. They all jumped when he gave his reply.

“Buying you time.”

Without hesitation, I whacked the side of his helmet. His head jolted slightly, before it mechanically turned to face me, the glowing purple visor darkening slightly.

“That’s the third time you’ve said that!” I growled.

In a flash, his wings extended out with aggression and I flinched, raising my fists in defence. He chuckled slightly, before folding them again.

“It’s the third time I’ve told the truth.”

He faced Twilight, and gave her a proper answer.

“I’ve created a diversion for Nah’Lek, he thinks you’re in Chernobyl now, but will be heading here soon enough. As for now, you’ve plenty enough time to relax and prepare to locate the fourth shard.”

Everyone’s eyes widened once again at the sound of Nah’Lek’s name, but they were all quick to relax upon knowing we were safe for a much longer period of time. The guardian flicked his hand out and the portal closed, he levitated the barrels and boxes to one side of the room. He then approached the girls who were still staring at him in shock, still unsure of who, or what he was.

“You needn’t fear me, I’m an ally, and have been protecting you from a distance for quite some time. Previously I had intended for my identity to remain hidden from you, besides Callum and Twilight, but due to Nah’Lek changing his strategy, I’ve had to come forward and intervene personally. My name is Hawnu Rey’eng, which roughly translates to t-”

“The Guardian of the Balance of Life, blah blah blah…” I interrupted him.

He turned to face me, his visor once again darkening.

“Why do you insist on being disrespectful and bothersome?” He grumbled.

“Because people that talk in riddles get on my nerves, it just makes you a pretentious dick, and causes me to lose all admiration for you. If you got to the bloody point about things, and actually explained some shit without needing to be asked twice every time, I’d actually respect you.” I ranted.

I heard the guardian exhale out of his nose, and he shrugged.

“You’ll know the answers to everything in appropriate time, there are some things I can’t tell you right now. You will understand when the time is right, you have my word.” He said, dipping his head.

“Whatever.” I mumbled.

Shaking his head slightly, the guardian rolled his shoulders and took in a big breath.

“Formalities aside, we have a task that needs immediate attention.”

Twilight gulped, she knew exactly what he was going to announce. We were going to use the collars and venture into my brain, to face Nah’Lek’s shadow and kill it. After what she’d been through in the Frozen Forest, I knew she was already struggling with the idea.

“What is it?” Rarity asked.

“Nah’Lek has attempted to poison Callum’s mind, similar to Twilight’s. Thankfully his depression has rendered this attempt ineffective, as he has an immunity to the Fel in small doses. However, Nah’Lek has created an image of himself that dwelled inside Twilight’s head. When Callum cured her of the Fel, this shade was able to move into Callum’s head and has been trying to break him since. Using the same process used to cure Twilight, we are going to remove this contagion.” Hawnu Rey’eng explained.

“This what?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Contagion, it means infection.” I replied.

“Why didn’t he just say th-”

“Because he’s a pretentious dickhead who likes to be all enigmatic.” I moaned.

“What’s enigmatic?”

I facepalmed, and breathed in through my teeth bitterly.

“It means to be mysterious and secretive.”

“Why didn’t you just say tha-”

“Rainbow Dash, I will punch you in the face.” I grumbled.

Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled, before turning to Twilight.

“Would you fetch the collars from upstairs? I’d like to get started immediately.”

The unicorn obeyed without question, and trotted off, while Applejack zipped into the kitchen, I assumed something was cooking, as there was a wonderful smell wafting around the room. Hawnu Rey’eng suggested we all moved to the living room, and so we headed there and I settled on the sofa. When Twilight came down with the collars, I noticed she held the box in her mouth, it seemed she was still unable to use magic. She sat down beside me and dropped the container into my lap, Hawnu Rey’eng nodded and I proceeded to put mine on, and then picked up Twilight’s collar.

“Wait, I’m going with you?” She asked, alarmed.

I opened my mouth, but before I could speak she had leapt off the sofa and started backing away.

“I can’t, I can’t see him again…”

“Twilight, we’re-”

NO! Please, I can’t! You don’t know… You don’t know what he did to me!” She yelped.

Swallowing, I stared at Twilight and saw the sheer terror in her eyes; Nah’Lek really did torture her to his fullest, I could see the trauma in her face. I cast my mind back to the other night, in the tent with Rainbow Dash. I briefly heard Nah’Lek talking about Twilight, but I couldn’t quite make it out properly. I clamped my eyes shut and concentrated hard, and then it all came back to me.

“Oh god…” I murmured to myself quietly.

Everything he said resurfaced, everything…
My mind conjured up his sickly monologue and I heard his chilling voice.

{Twilight was fun, very fun…
Killing her wasn’t all I did to her, there’s only so much torment you can accomplish from killing someone over and over again. When I started flaying her, now that’s when she began to break…
Peeling away her skin until there was nothing left but flesh. How her screams rang out in the Frozen Forest, not even the snow could absorb the echoes of her agony.
And then, what else did I do to her? I’m sure you’re imaginative enough to figure it out.
Let’s just say there wasn’t an inch of her body that I didn’t defile…}

Fucking hell, Nah’Lek had flayed her alive…
Initially, I wanted to rush towards Twilight and give her a hug, and tell her that she didn’t have to do this, but all I could do was sit there on the couch and stare at her.

“Twilight, if you don’t help us, Nah’Lek will remain in Callum’s brain and he’ll experience the same fate, we need to deal with this as a group. He is much stronger in the dreamworld, not even I can truly guarantee that I’d win a fight with him alone.” Hawnu Rey’eng spoke.

Twilight froze solid, and her eyes flittered back and forth from me to the guardian, before she eventually made her way back to the sofa, and sat back down beside me, taking a deep breath. I put an arm around her and put my mouth to her ear and whispered softly.

“I won’t let him touch you, he’ll have to get through me first.”

I felt her body relax, and she allowed me to put the collar around her neck; I tightened the buckle so it didn’t slide around, but remained comfortable.

“Before we get started, could the both of you drink some water? It will make the process much easier if you’re both hydrated.” Hawnu Rey’eng instructed.

“I’ll get some!” Rarity sang, darting into the kitchen.

I placed a hand on Twilight’s shoulder and stroked her slightly until Rarity returned with two pint glasses of water, I drank half of mine before assisting Twilight. I noticed her eyelids drooping into a dull expression, clearly frustrated that she required help now that she couldn’t use magic. We both finished drinking, and then Hawnu Rey’eng knelt before us.

“This will take a while, I’ve found with this spell that the human brain is layered out differently from a pony’s, meaning Nah’Lek could be very difficult to find as I’m unfamiliar with the terrain. I suggest everyone continue about your day and we’ll alert you when it’s over.” He explained.

The girls began to disperse except for Rainbow Dash, who wanted to stay and watch. The guardian placed a hand on my thigh, and his other on hers.

“Your depression might be able to shield you from trace amounts of the Fel, but you know too well that your brain also attacks itself from time to time when you enter depressive states. It may possibly do this while we’re in there, so be prepared to face your own demons, not just Nah’Lek.” He warned.

Nodding, I leaned back and closed my eyes, giving Twilight’s shoulder a quick squeeze before settling back and getting comfortable. Hawnu Rey’eng’s hand began to warm up against my leg and I breathed out slowly, everything faded away as the collars activated and the three of us entered my mind…

I opened my eyes to find myself in the same room, but Twilight wasn’t beside me, nor was Hawnu Rey’eng knelt before me. Looking around, I found all the wood was warped and damp; the sofa was covered in mould and hundreds of fingernails for some reason. Standing up and wiping them off my legs, I took in a deep breath through my nose, and instantly wished I hadn’t.

“What died in here?” I muttered.

Upon trying to leave, I opened the door to the hallway and instantly jumped back in shock, before gagging loudly. Dozens of dead bodies poured out of the doorway, most of them had begun to rot and the smell was utterly abhorrent. Using my wrist to cover my nose, I observed the bodies and tried not to throw up. It was then that I spotted a familiar face, it was Rahim, the boy I’d killed in the Blood Family to pass my initiation, his throat was still gashed open, his eyes fixed on mine. All the dead eyes were staring at me, that was when I started to recognise more faces; they belonged to everybody I’d killed. The uniforms of Paulo’s militia stood out, alongside the red and black clothing of Inigo’s men; and then I saw him, Inigo Montenegro, the skull tattooed on his chest was emitting tiny wisps of dark smoke.

“Man, you’re a face I didn’t need to see today.” I murmured.

The eyes blinked, and his corpse began to twitch. Stepping back, I noticed all the bodies were twitching, it looked like I was going to have to kill everyone a second time over. I looked around for something to defend myself with, and spotted a metal poker by the enormous fireplace, it was nearly the length of my arm, and had a big jagged pommel at the end, perfect for splitting skulls.

“I killed all of you once, I’ll kill you again!” I growled.

Gripping the weapon tightly, I prepared myself for the number of corpses that first arose, four of Paulo’s men and three people from the Blood Family, their flesh burnt black after I’d set the courthouse ablaze. Should these bodies still feel emotion, I imagined none of them were happy to see me. It was Paulo’s men who attacked first, they said nothing as they rushed towards me with their hands outstretched, ready to grab me. I slammed the pommel into the closest one’s head, it landed just above his eyes and cracked open his forehead, the second foe grew too close for me to ready the poker in time and so I kicked him in the chest, and then swung the weapon at the third, hitting the side of his head and killing him. That’s when the burnt men came charging in, forcing me to become more mobile around the room.

With each person I killed, another two came back to life from the pile. Thankfully they weren’t all that difficult to kill, but I sensed this fight would get harder as their numbers grew, and my stamina slowly drained. I remained vigilant, if I had any chance in fighting Nah’Lek, I would surely have to handle a small army of undead without much hassle.

By the end of the fight, I was clambering over bodies to get around, panting heavily and covered in dark blood. Only a few bodies remained, which included Inigo. I approached my old foe and smirked, still wrinkling my nose at the smell of rotting flesh.

“Thanks for the scar, it’s kind of grown on me.” I uttered.

Driving the sharp point of the fire poker into his head and killing him, I turned to face the remaining enemies, two of Paulo’s men and a burnt woman from the Blood Family. The men attacked first, I removed the poker from Inigo’s head and smacked the first one so hard that his jaw came off, before driving the end upwards through the jaw of the second, spiking his brain. Leaving the weapon inside his head and facing the burnt woman, my fists clenched.

“Don’t think I’m afraid to hit a woman, equality works both ways.” I taunted.

She screeched and leapt at me, as she did so, I slammed my fist into her face. She shot back and landed in a pile of other bodies, I punched her so hard that I’d nearly broken my damn hand, the was no way she was getting up from that.

Well, look at you.” A demonic voice spoke.

My eyes widened and I spun around, trying to pinpoint the voice.

Do you feel better for killing all these people? Are you proud of yourself?

Shaking my head in attempt to ignore the voice, I tried to leave the room, only for the door to slam shut and lock itself, as though the mansion was alive.

Look at all these bodies, you’ve killed each and every one of them in the real world, each body here is a life you’ve stolen, a soul snatched away.

I yanked at the door handle, to which it snapped off. Listening hard, I found the distorted voice sounded identical to my own, was this my conscience speaking to me?

So many lives taken that weren’t necessary to take, you side-tracked from your purpose for your own selfish gain, and did nothing but end lives and fuck a pretty girl. You’re sick.

That one got to me, I squinted my eyes and shook my head.

“They were bad people, I tried to save her.” I retorted.

Had you continued your quest and left her be, she’d still be alive. Hoyt would have scolded Paulo and put him back in place, and Bunnie would be safe. But you thought you could be a hero and save the day, so you killed the Blood Family and sealed her fate.

“Shut up!” I growled.

And what of Rahim? Hoyt’s mole? A kid no older than yourself, trying to keep his head low and stay alive, surrounded by drug lords and pirates, and you gashed his throat open and drank his blood, all for a sick initiation in order to rescue your little whore.

“Fuck you!” I shouted.

The voice grew silent, I knew it was my depression talking, but acknowledging that didn’t make this any easier for me to bare. My lips were quivering uncontrollably; the sense of guilt washing over me was too much; I was responsible for all this death. With tears in my eyes, I looked around at all the damp wood, the mouldy couch, and the piles of rotting corpses all around. If I weren’t here to eradicate Nah’Lek from my brain, I’d most likely have given up and killed myself in this stupid dreamworld. My brain had done this, my sick, depressed old brain; why was it so focused on making everything so grim? I hated it, I loathed myself for it, it took so much effort to appreciate the world around me, and even then, my brain would try to fill it with some amount of darkness.

Back before I met the six, I’d have intrusive depressive thoughts with every moment I had the misfortune to breathe in. Every car journey was spent fantasising about being in an accident, and watching the carnage unfold around me, hoping plenty of people would be killed, myself included.
Every lesson at school was squandered with the hopes that one of the kids would freak out and shoot everyone, or that the school would somehow burst into flames and leave everyone ablaze.

I didn’t exactly enjoy these thoughts, but my mind couldn’t help itself from conjuring up these horrid scenarios and causing me to wish them true, anything to add some action to my dull, depressing life.
Why the hell did Celestia choose me again? I didn’t dare have the arrogance nor ego to claim I was the only brony to make the ‘right choice’, there must have been plenty like me. I still didn’t feel worthy enough to be the hero in this story, I wasn’t even a hero, I’d killed people without mercy and had temporarily abandoned my duty to pursue my heart; some good that did me.

“Get up, Callum.”

I looked up to see Hawnu Rey’eng, his visor splattered with black blood; he’d clearly been in battle with another of my brain’s apparitions. Hesitating at first, I gathered the strength to stand up and approach the guardian face-to-face.

“I killed her, it was my fault.” I said hoarsely.

His visor became more saturated in colour and the edges grew darker, as if to show emotion; it was like his suit was synced to his body and he could vaguely express himself via the colour of his visor.

“I watched it happen, and you weren’t to blame. Bunnie could have been saved, but the Fel made Twilight intentionally allow her demise, the Fel is in Nah’Lek’s control. The Defiler is behind the death of your lover, so stop blaming yourself, bear arms, and avenge her.” He ordered.

I took one last look at the carnage around me, before nodding miserably and retrieving the fire poker. Hawnu Rey’eng teleported us outside, where the Hollow Forest looked more diseased than ever. The grass was white as snow, the trees as dark as the shadows they cast, which all moaned painfully as the creepers gripped them tightly.

“Where’s Twilight?” I asked.

“Safe, for now, but she’s being hunted.”

“By Nah’Lek?”

Hawnu Rey’eng shook his head, before explaining.

“Before you knew of the Fel’s influence, you loathed Twilight for everything she’d committed towards you and the rest of the group, let alone how you felt after she left Bunnie to die. You might have forgiven her, but your brain still contains memories of this evil Fel-Twilight. In this dreamworld, this version of Twilight has merged with your old fear and hatred for her, turning her into a nightmarish creature, it’s currently searching for Twilight, I must leave you to assist her.”

After taking in that information, I shook my head in disbelief.

“You’re leaving me alone?”

“I never said that.”

I heard a twig snap behind me, and turned around and my jaw dropped at the sight before me, I instantly dropped the fire poker and gulped nervously.

“Bunnie...?” I breathed.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Angels & Demons

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“Hey Callie…” Bunnie spoke calmly.

My mouth became bone dry as I gazed at my deceased lover, and yet, she didn’t seem so deceased. She was alive, unburnt, and just as beautiful as ever. Was this a trick? A foul joke that my depressed mind had conjured in attempt to break me, because if it was, I would certainly break.
I couldn’t handle it anymore, I rushed forward with my arms open. Bunnie opened her arms in return and I latched onto her in a tight hug, my eyes quickly filled with tears and I squeezed her as much as I could.

“I can’t breathe Callie, please, I don’t want to die twice.” She teased.

I let go of her and looked her in the eyes.

“Dark jokes already?” I asked, sniffing.

“Of course.” She scoffed.

Hawnu Rey’eng approached, and much to my surprise, Bunnie hugged him.

“Thank you for this, I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

“Repairing Callum’s state of mind is payment enough.” He replied.

I looked between the two of them, bewildered and unable to understand.

“You know each other?” I asked.

Hawnu Rey’eng turned to face me, and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“This is no trick, nor apparition. Bunnie’s body couldn’t be saved from the fire, but I was able to retain her soul for a brief period and place her inside your brain, akin to the way Stardust Moonshimmer has, under the masquerade of Conscio. However, Bunnie’s soul isn’t resilient enough to remain here, only long enough for you to talk one last time, before she rests forever. You may give her a proper farewell.” He explained.

I stared at the guardian, before looking to Bunnie. She was real, she was truly my Bunnie.

“Hawnu Rey’eng… I… I am forever in your debt…”

“Completing the mission and saving Equus is your debt. Now, I must find Twilight and ensure her safety, so I will leave you both alone to speak your last words, take your time.” He instructed kindly.

Nodding my head, the guardian spread his wings and took off, flying further into the Hollow Forest until he went out of sight. I faced Bunnie and swallowed, and licked my dry lips; I blinked once before we lunged at one another, our lips locking into a passionate kiss. Her lips were warm and moist, she was just as perfect as I remember.

“Oh Bunnie…” I sighed after breaking off the kiss.

“It’s good to see you.” She replied.

I gave her another tight hug, before she took a step away and took a look around.

“So, this is your brain huh? Not going to lie, it looks shite.”

“Yeah, apparently depression does that.” I agreed.

“I didn’t realise you had it this badly.” She said with remorse.

“You knew I had it?”

Bunnie nodded, before approaching me again, stroking the side of my face lightly.

“I can see it in your eyes, they’re all glassy and lifeless, like a shark’s.”

Thinking back, I remembered how a few people at school pointed out my ‘interesting’ eyes, a few people said they stood out and looked slightly different from most. I hadn’t realised it was so obvious, next time I had the opportunity to look in a mirror I’d have to look at them and see for myself.

“Well, I manage.” I told her with a smile.

“I’m glad.”

Bunnie stopped stroking my face and gave me a small kiss, before we decided to take a stroll through the woodland, I noticed a tree ahead being choked much tighter than the others, the creeper was gripping it so tightly it was leaking sap, as though it were bleeding. I picked up the pace and jogged up to the tree, Bunnie knelt in front of it and then looked up at me.

“The guardian told me what these are, the trees are like your neurons, and these vines are your depression, they strangle the trees and drain all the colour from the grass.”

I nodded to confirm Hawnu Rey’eng had told her the truth, and watched as Bunnie gently placed a hand on the creeper and started to caress it gently. Its grip loosened, and the tree moaned with relief as it was able to breathe again, thick sap oozed down the bark and Bunnie removed her hand.

“I made you moan like that once or twice.” She hinted.

Giving my lover the dullest expression possible, I playfully pushed her with my foot, causing her to topple over and giggle. She got back up and threw her arms around me and put her mouth to my ear.

“I wish we could go back to that bedroom for a night.” She murmured.

“Aye, t’was a pretty lush bedroom.” I agreed.

“Don’t fancy doing it right here in the woods?” Bunnie teased.

“Seriously? Here?”

“It would certainly take the term ‘mind fuck’ to a whole new level.” She giggled.

Instantly bursting into laughter, we both flopped onto the white grass together, cuddling each other while we laughed, I nuzzled into her neck and she hummed happily. I then planted a few kisses from her collarbone up to her ear, where I gave her earlobe a little nibble.

“You’re practically begging.” Bunnie sighed.

“Can’t I give you a little affection without it instantly becoming sexual?” I grumbled playfully.


Bunnie wrapped her legs around me and wrestled me onto my back, which is when she sat up and straddled me. Her eyes glistened and she gave a mischievous grin.

“Look, I’ve got less than an hour until my soul evaporates into pure energy, and I have no fucking clue what happens after that, so I’ll be blunt, I’d quite like to go out with a bang.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle, before wrestling her back down and establishing dominance, and gave her another kiss.

“We can’t take too long, I’m supposed to be helping Hawnu Rey’eng locate some evil dude in this woodland. He’s kind of the reason you’re dead.” I said sheepishly.

“I know, the tin-can-man told me everything.”

I chortled at that title, I’d certainly be calling him that from now on.

“Hmph, I bet he told you more than he’s told me, the bastard only talks in riddles.” I moaned.

Bunnie pushed me back and yet again pinned me back to the ground, straddling me and planting her hands on the ground either side of my head.

“I don’t want to talk about Hawnu Rey’eng.” She hissed seductively.

“Say no more.” I grinned.

Clothing parted from our bodies and was cast to the white grass in an unclean pile, and our hearts raced faster as my last moments with Bunnie were spent with the most intense lovemaking I’d ever experience; it seemed our endurance was heightened while inside my brain, for we continued to writhe and wrestle together for ages without it coming to an end.

But all good things, do indeed come to an end, and boy was it good; we flopped onto our backs, panting and grinning from ear to ear, knowing our time had been well spent.

“Phew, fuck me…” Bunnie murmured.

“I did.” I replied.

We burst into laughter and clung to one another, alas, the laughter began to be sapped away as we knew our time together was soon to be over.

“I don’t want to let you go.” I sighed.

“I know Cal, I know… But you know you have to.” She lamented.

“Why can’t you stay here? Surely there’s a way for you to stay inside my hea-”

Bunnie shut me up with a kiss, before resting her chin on my shoulder.

“I asked Hawnu Rey’eng every question I could, there’s nothing he can do, preserving my soul for this long was apparently really difficult to do, this is the end for me Cal.” She said with a sigh.

Gulping, I tried to ignore the lump in my throat and nodded with understanding.

“Well, I’m glad I was given this moment with you.” I replied after a short silence.

She smiled, and nuzzled into my neck.

“Me too.”

We lay back and stayed where we were, the soft white grass soothed our bare skin as we held one another in a silent and peaceful farewell. The moment lasted for a few minutes, before I noticed Bunnie’s skin had begun to glow faintly.

“BunBun…” I breathed.

She sat up and looked at her hands, before looking into my eyes.

“This is it, my time has come.” She said calmly.

I held her tightly, afraid to watch her go; my eyes instantly flooded with tears as she gradually grew brighter and brighter. She wiped the tears from my cheeks and gave me a kiss.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m not in any pain.”

“I’m going to miss you.” I spluttered.

“I know, but your future is bright, Callum, very bright. Hawnu Rey’eng told me what lies ahead, and seeing as I’m about to die, I think there’s no harm in telling you the truth.” She replied.

I blinked, and tilted my head in confusion.

“Your adventure is only just beginning…”

My mouth opened slightly, to which Bunnie gave me her final kiss. I watched as my lover’s skin began to shine brightly, and she began to levitate a few inches off the ground.

“Oh Bunnie.” I murmured, my lips trembling.

“Goodbye, lover mine.”

Bunnie drifted a small distance away from me, her body now rising upwards towards the treetops.

“And one more thing!” She called to me.

I waited for her to continue, unable to speak.

“Move on from me. I’m only a small chapter in your life, while you have so much ahead of you now. Don’t look back to me in remorse, please just look back and smile! It’s okay for you to look forward now, I promise. Please Callum, live this life of yours!” She commanded.

Her voice was echoing all around me now, and I looked up at my beloved with disbelief, but I didn’t have the time to argue, she was going to leave, and I wanted her to leave with peace.

“I’ll try!” I wept, falling to my knees.

Bunnie’s form became completely unrecognisable as she became a bright blue light, before scattering outwards into wisps of pure mana, the milky substance swam around in the air, and then drifted towards me. I watched with awe as Bunnie’s soul came to me, and then circled me twice. It was then, when something extraordinary happened; the mana made its way to my chest, where it went through my skin and was sucked into my body. I gasped loudly as I felt pure energy flooding my being, all I could see was white as my body absorbed all of the substance. I could feel it running through my veins, it was both warm and cool at the same time, and it felt like my skin was going to burst.

The sensation faded, and my vision returned as I fell to my hands and only just had the strength to catch myself, had I just absorbed Bunnie’s soul?

“What the… What the f…” I slurred.

I shook my head, before trying to stand. As I did so, I noticed my hands had a faint aura around them, I didn’t understand what was happening, I was bewildered by what had just occurred over the past hour; it had all transpired far too fast for my brain to process all of it. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have made love to Bunnie mere moments before she permanently vanished from my life.
After calming myself down, I decided that I needed to find Twilight and Hawnu Rey’eng and press onward with my task; eliminate Nah’Lek’s manifestation.

Minutes of trudging went by, and I’d gone significantly deeper into the woodland; I noticed the trees had changed species over time, I was walking among a plethora of pine trees, opposed to the beach and oak I had first seen. A ghostly whisper echoed across the forest as a breeze with neither cold, nor heat rolled in through the pine needles. Up in the distance, I heard a peculiar low rumbling; the ground too, seemed to vibrate to a vicious, cyclical thumping, akin to a racing heart. Perhaps one dwelled beneath the earth? Tightening my grip on the fire poker, I headed onward to investigate.

As I grew closer to the unknown, I heard a creature screech briefly, along with a scream.

“Twilight.” I murmured.

Breaking into a sprint, I dashed betwixt the pines, darting from side to side to avoid them as I pelted towards my friend in danger. Yet, upon reaching the spectacle, I found her in no danger at all, at least, not anymore.

Before my eyes lay a dark plum coloured creature, three times my size, limp on the ground. From a gaping wound upon its back, leaked gleaming green blood, Fel-infused no doubt. With Hawnu Rey’eng beside it, wiping clean a unique looking longsword. Lying on her back, a few yards from the fiend’s corpse was Twilight, cowering in distress, Hawnu Rey’eng must have only just killed it.

“You missed a good fight.” He called to me.

Twilight looked up and spotted me, and cried out my name, before hurtling towards me as fast as her hooves could carry her. She dived at me and I caught her in a warm bear-hug, lifting her off the ground.

“I was busy.” I grunted back to the guardian.

He chuckled and then sheathed his sword, which was strangely on his back, opposed to his waist. After taking a glance at the monster he’d just slew, he strode towards me to greet me properly.

“I assume she’s at peace?” He asked.

“I don’t know, why don’t you ask her?” I replied.

I extended my hands, and showed him the faint glow that was barely visible in the palms of my hands, dim swirls of light beneath my skin continued to change to different shades of blue and purple.

“Bunnie is at rest, fascinating that you absorbed the remaining mana, however.” He hummed.

“What does it mean? Can I cast spells?” I quizzed.

Taking my right hand, the guardian fondled my palm delicately, trying to study the way the mana reacted to external stimuli; it seemed to be unresponsive, and he shrugged.

“I’m unsure, but pure mana is no threat to you, so I wouldn’t fret. At best, her soul has strengthened your own, and could potentially enhance your physical abilities to some degree, not too dissimilar to the way it affects an earth pony.”

“Wow…” Twilight murmured.

I exhaled with relief from the captivating thought that Bunnie was still in a state of twisted consciousness inside my body, and then I turned to the creature that lay a few metres away.

“What is that thing?” I quizzed.

Hawnu Rey’eng guided me towards it, so he could show me the monster up close. Upon facing the creature head-on, I found it to have a remarkably horrifying resemblance to Twilight, it had large pony eyes, although the iris was a sickly green. It had her navy-blue mane, the iconic pink stripe was instead a jet black, but it was Twilight’s mane nonetheless; I noted the hair was extremely matted and tangled.

“As I previously explained, your old memories of Twilight while under the Fel’s corruption have merged with your former feelings for her. Here in this forest, that apparition has demonstrated a physical form, this creature. Unlike Nah’Lek, your brain coined this apparition and so it could bond with your depression, and grew into a terrible nightmare.” The guardian explained.

I murmured with interest and examined the body, its jaw wasn’t ponylike at all, it had elongated outward and split down the middle into a deformed set of insect-like mandibles. The horn upon its head was thin and covered in black barbs. Its hooves had become more arachnid shaped, with small hooked claws poking out of them.

“You said it was a hard fight?” I asked.

“Indeed, it was swift and cunning. Almost felt like a fight with Nah’Lek, I assume the trepidation he causes you mixed with that of Twilight, causing this creature to have comparable properties.”

Hawnu Rey’eng flexed his wings and faced Twilight and I.

“This was an adequate sample for how our battle with Nah’Lek will be, it’s a shame you missed it, Callum. Although the gnashing teeth will be the least of your problems, Twilight, you are probably aware of the Defiler’s fondness of blades.”

Twilight gulped nervously and nodded.

“At least I can use my magic here.” She sighed with relief.

“You can?” I asked.

She nodded, and her horn lit up to demonstrate. I supposed her physical state in real life didn’t have the same impact as it did here in my brain; this would certainly play into our favour as Twilight’s spells would surely come in handy.

Without warning, the trees all started to moan loudly; we looked around to find the creepers were all tightening their grips causing the trees to literally cry out in agonising pain. It was then when a sharp pain shot through my head, like the worst migraine I’d ever experienced. Dropping to one knee, I held my palm against the top of my head, gritting my teeth.

“What’s going on?” Twilight yelped.

“Fel activity, your brain’s defending itself.” Hawnu Rey’eng explained.

“He’s here…” I growled.

The sound of a thunderclap rippled through the woodland, and the ground shook heavily, almost causing us to lose our balance and fall over. I stood up, shook my head, and bellowed angrily into the sky.


As if by command, the rumbling stopped. Hawnu Rey’eng unsheathed his longsword and handed it to me, I didn’t think twice before dropping the fire poker and accepting a new weapon. It felt so light, it was easily five feet long, yet felt no heavier than Krocsbane, my old military knife.

“Its name is Windwoe, crafted from Wootz steel. Sharp as a surgical scalpel, yet lighter than any combat blade you’ll ever hold. I enchanted it myself, it creates its own momentum when swung, so it can still cleave through thick armour, regardless of its weightlessness.”

“Of course, you’d give your sword a name.” I scoffed.

“Lots of people name their swords.” Hawnu Rey’eng retorted.

“Lots of cunts.” I muttered.

“Didn’t you name your knife ‘Krocsbane’, and your shotgun ‘Wrinkleboom’?” Twilight pointed out.

I opened my mouth to speak, but couldn’t come up with anything smart to say.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” I muttered, looking away.

The unicorn smirked at me and flexed an eyebrow, to which I rolled my eyes. Returning my focus to Windwoe, I found it a truly spectacular weapon to behold; the watery patterns across the metal were nothing short of mesmerising. Gripping the handle tightly, I gave it a swing.

“Whoa…” Twilight and I said simultaneously.

Windwoe cleaved through the air with such speed, it had almost leapt out of my hands; the sound it created was phenomenal, a magical whirr reverberated outwards as if I’d cut through someone’s ghost and had heard their distorted cry.

“Enchanted blades are cool.” I muttered.

Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled with amusement, and I couldn’t help but swing it a few more times, getting more and more used to handling the nimble yet vicious weapon. I was about to swing it once more, when the trees began to moan again and my head started throbbing; Nah’Lek was using Fel again. I clenched my grip on Windwoe and gritted my teeth.

“That does it, let’s end this.” I hissed.

“I couldn’t agree more.” Hawnu Rey’eng spoke.

The three of us all took a deep breath, before marching further into the woodland towards the sound of the explosion, ready to fight our nemesis head-on.

“Well, that explains the loud crashing sound…” I huffed.

Before us, lay a ravine as wide as a road. I peered over the edge to find nothing but sheer darkness before me; who knew how deep it went?

“He’s getting desperate.” Hawnu Rey’eng hummed with interest.

I tilted my head and looked at him, waiting for him to explain. The guardian knelt down and looked down into the black gulch beside me.

“The forest is impervious to the Fel thanks to your depression, it seems Nah’Lek is trying to crack into the core of your brain to locate places unaffected by the illness in attempt to corrupt it.”

“And I just succeeded…”

The most deplorable of chills crept up my spine, which almost caused me to gag from the sheer blight that was the voice of Nah’Lek. We looked across the ravine to find a smoky haze, and from within, the five amethyst glassy eyes glaring at us. Hawnu Rey’eng stood up straight and looked upon our foe.

“Defiler.” He spoke.


“Dickhead.” I muttered under my breath.

“Me or him?” Hawnu Rey’eng asked, not taking his eyes off Nah’Lek.

“Both.” I replied, smirking.

The guardian exhaled with amusement, before splaying his wings and preparing to engage in combat. Twilight gulped nervously, but remained vigilant and lit up her horn. I held Windwoe tightly and dropped the theatrics, I needed to focus. Hawnu Rey’eng’s hands glistened, and the ground beneath us began to vibrate; it was then that enormous roots burst from the edge of the chasm, and extended outwards to the other side, creating a natural bridge to Nah’Lek, who waited patiently for us.

“No time like the present.” I whispered to myself, and stepped forward.

I made my way across the bridge, my companions at my back either side of me. The dark fog around Nah’Lek thickened as I reached the other side and stood before him, but his eyes glowed through it like small headlights.

“So, you honestly think you can subjugate me?” He hissed.

I nodded, holding my sword tighter.

“You couldn’t hold your own against me during our previous encounters in these dreamlands, why do you think this will be any different?” He enquired.

His voice rippled through me, but I refused to break in spirit. I kept eye contact, and squinted to focus my vision on the enemy, through the smoke I could just spot his claws eagerly caressing the handles of his swords that sat either side of his torso.

“This time I’ve brought a few friends.” I said boldly.

Nah’Lek paused, and his eyes swivelled from me to Twilight, and then to Hawnu Rey’eng, before coming back to me. That is when he chuckled, the sound echoed through the woodland and seemed to cause even the trees to recoil in fear. He inhaled, and then tightened his grip on the swords.

“You should have brought more…”

Before I could blink, Nah’Lek’s swords were hurtling towards me, I had no choice but to dodge to the side, there was no deflecting such a precise thrust. He spun around and tried to slice at me, this attack I was able to deflect, Windwoe moved with lightning speed to counter the blades, metal struck metal, and the force of such weaponry meeting caused them to cry out with an indescribable sound.

Aaaagghh!” I yelled, attempting a thrust of my own.

Nah’Lek slipped beside me, but before he could counter my attack, Twilight launched a fireball at him, forcing him to spring backwards and then circle us. He moved like a cat, swiftly and silently circling his prey before swooping in for the kill.
But today, I was not the prey; as he darted towards me with his swords held high, I swung my sword over my head in an arc, knocking his blades aside. Rather than attempting another weapon attack, he caught me off-guard with a well-aimed kick with one of his enormous arachnid legs, it caught me right in the chest and sent me hurling backwards; I landed on my back and used my momentum to roll over my head and back up to my feet in an instant.

I inhaled deeply to recover my bearings and then charged back into the fight, Hawnu Rey’eng took to the air and started shooting bolts of various elements at Nah’Lek, from lightning, to ice. The Defiler darted in a zigzag pattern to avoid these attacks, all while trying to reach Twilight, who was teleporting from location to location while flinging fireballs at him. Eventually he jumped back into the thicker part of the forest and allowed the black smoke to shroud him completely. We took this moment to regroup and collect ourselves.

“Are you alright?” Twilight asked me.

“Yeah, he hits like a hammer though.” I puffed.

We faced the woodland, and quickly spotted the eyes as they came towards the edge of the thicket; Hawnu Rey’eng cast a large gust of wind in attempt to blow the smoke away, to which Nah’Lek skittered away from, before suddenly bursting from the trees to our right. He swung his swords at us, which we all evaded via wings, teleportation, and rolling. I emerged from my roll with my sword thrusting outward, almost making contact with the Defiler’s abdomen, he hopped sideways and tried to impale me into the ground, only for a fireball to make contact with his head, engulfing his face in flames.

Ssssaaaahh!” He shrieked.

The flames extinguished to reveal his eyes now glowing a blood red; enraged, he hurtled towards Twilight with his blades swinging viciously. Twilight’s eyes widened with terror, but she couldn’t move, she’d been petrified.

TWILIGHT!” I boomed.

Hawnu Rey’eng swooped in and knocked her out of the way in the very nick of time, Nah’Lek skidded to a halt and turned to face her once more; he sheathed his swords and withdrew the staff from his back, shooting a ball of dark energy without a moment’s hesitation. Thankfully she’d recovered and was able to teleport out of the way. It seemed Nah’Lek had changed tactics, perhaps I could land a blow while his attention was on Twilight.

Even with his new combat style, Nah’Lek refused to stay still, whether he was aiming for Twilight on the ground or the guardian in the sky, he was pouncing from one spot to another. I waited patiently, recording the way he moved, and how fast his reactions were towards the spells being fired at him; it took me a few moments, but I was finally able to map out his pattern.

“Alright… Left… Left… Right…” I murmured to myself.

Hawnu Rey’eng threw a ball of fire at the demigod, and he jumped to the left, Twilight fired a bolt of lightning, and again he slipped to the left. I darted to his right side and took a deep breath, and much to my desire he hopped to the right towards me.

Wraagh!” I snarled, swinging Windwoe into him with all my might.

The blade sung out supernaturally as it broke into Nah’Lek’s chitin torso just below his arm, the Defiler let out an ear-piercing screech that felt like a thousand nails bitterly clawing down a chalkboard. Dropping his staff in shock, he twisted around and grabbed me in his claws, they constricted around my left arm like a vice, puncturing my bicep and snapping my arm at the elbow. Initial shock struck me before the pain, so I didn’t scream, by the time I realised how much pain I was in, Nah’Lek had flung me into the air; I started to yell just as I hit the ground, the collision knocked the wind out of me and silenced my agonising wail. Before I had the chance to even breathe, Nah’Lek grabbed me once again, this time swinging me around and launching me towards the edge of ravine.

NOO!” Twilight cried out at the top of her lungs.

I looked up to face her, and we made eye contact for a split second before Nah’Lek reached me and gave me yet another brutal kick, sending me over the edge and down into the abyss. There was nothing to hold onto as I plunged deeper and deeper, I knew there was no preventing my fall; I just clutched onto the throbbing remains of my left arm and allowed myself to descend deeper and deeper, all while my velocity increased.

I’d been falling for a good ten seconds before I was surprisingly met with a soft fluid that broke my fall without any forceful impact, it seemed to have no surface tension whatsoever; I crashed through the mysterious liquid, slowing right down and floating in darkness.

“What the-”

The moment I spoke, a bright burst of sparks emerged from my lips, and the liquid simply vanished, causing me to drop down onto a spongey surface. The light spread around me and revealed a strange cavern, the walls and ground were made from a fleshy material; I followed the expanding embers as they coursed along the dark expanse, still grasping my mutilated arm.

After following the flickering lights for a small while, I soon found a large hole; with nothing to lose, I entered without hesitation and slipped forward, sliding down a small tube. Without both arms at my disposal, my landing was sloppy; getting up and brushing myself down, I looked ahead and found the most peculiar of scenes. The silhouette of a pony, trapped within a pulsating bubble of black and red energy; the pony was groaning in pain and looked up to see me, his eyes glowing bright green.

“C-Cal… Callum…” He wheezed.

I instantly recognised his voice, it was Conscio, – or as I had recently come to understand, Stardust Moonshimmer. He creaked in agony and tried to shake himself free, but he was clearly immobilized by whatever spell this bubble was.

“Hang in there bud, I’ll get you out.” I told him.

Circling the bubble, I found a large gem which was erupting streams of dark energy into the bubble, fuelling it; it was so dark it seemed to suck in all the light that touched it. I approached the gem and gave it a good kick, sending it spiralling away and instantly dispelling the magical prison. Stardust fell to the ground and gasped loudly in painful relief, I came up to him and examined him; his body was covered in lacerations, all of them infected, his ears were missing, as was a large section of his lower back. Aside from the injuries, his coat was a pale sky blue, his mane and tail a dark brown, identical to my natural hair colour. He lifted his head and to my horror, his eyes continued to shine green, not just his irises, but his pupils also gleamed emerald, he was possessed by the Fel.

“So, this is what Nah’Lek meant when he said he had succeeded…” I hummed.

“No… Not yet… I’m fighting it laddie…” He growled, shaking his head.

Stardust raised a hoof to his head and gritted his teeth, before gaining the strength to stand.

“Looks like Nah’Lek really went to town on you.” I pointed out.

“Thanks for statin’ the obvious. I defeated Spindles and locked the bastard away in the worst prison imaginable nearly five-thousand years ago, the bugger’s been royally pissed off with me, to say the least, and he’s spent this whole time cookin’ up a plan of revenge. If you’s think you’re gettin’ an easy victory any time soon, you’ve got another think comin’.”

He took a step forward and instantly collapsed; on his side, Stardust shook his head violently in resistance to the deathly magic inside his body.

“Is there any way to just expel it?” I asked.

“You think I haven’t tried? My brother and I studied anti-mana for years lad, the Fel needs a host to feed on, and it ain’t going to leave my body until its sucked me dry, all I can do is fight it off until it kills me, rather than succumb and turn on ye.” He explained with frustration.

Halfway through this explanation, I had an idea; a stupid idea, but an idea nonetheless.

“Could I absorb it somehow?”

Stardust’s eyes widened, and then a small smile emerged on his lip.

“Aye… Aye, that could work. Although I don’t think I need to explain to you what the outcome will be on your end, you sure you’re willing to endure the Fel?”

I nodded, and then showed him my arm.

“I don’t think I’m any use up there anymore, but you might be able to turn the tables.”

“Oh, I’ll turn the tables, Spindles is in for a bloody treat.” He chuckled.

Stardust closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, his horn began to glow bright green as he attempted to use magic, the Fel instantly in his body moved towards his head in order to feed on his remaining mana.

“Go on, grab my horn.” He ordered.

“We’re that close already?” I teased.

“For fuck sake, I walked right into that one…” He sighed.

I rolled my eyes and gripped his horn, it was painful to the touch as it scorched my hand, but I remained vigilant and allowed the pain to flood my hand and cause my right arm to hurt more than my left. The burning spread to my body and my veins began to glow faintly as the Fel moved from Stardust to me. The end of Celestia’s vision seemed to relive itself as my skin began to turn black and I started feeling the burning hatred inside. My fingernails once again grew into long claws and dark bLood began to curdle in my stomach and come spewing out from my mOuth.

“Just a bit more lad!” Stardust shouted.

Kill him. Kill him.
Hissing through my gnashing, razor-sharp tEeth, I fought the tantalising temptation that tormented my miNd as the last of the Fel entered my body and put the last touches to my MUTATION. My left arm had completely reformed itself after Nah’Lek’s damage, the flesh had fallen away from the bone, which had now become a slightly curved spike. GOUGE OUT HIS FUCKING EYES.
Stardust’s wounds were already closing up, the infection gone, he took in a bReaTh of air and lit up his horn, this time radiating out a multitude of colours, akin to Celestia’s mane.

“You still in there Cal?” He asked.

I opened my mouth, but nothing left my lips besides more blood. Thick, mucus-like tEars left my eyes and made their way down my cheeks, fOrciNg me to blink in order to see properly. Agony, rage, and despair was all I could feel, and it was toO muCh.

“Need I kill you?”

Stardust prepared to end me -PLEASE- if it were necessary, but it was then when I heard a voice in my head that shouted louder than all the others; Bunnie’s voice.

{Please Callum, live this life of yours!}

That memory alone was enough to push me through, I got to my feet and raised my head to the ceiling of the cavern, and howled loudly like a wolf, more Fel-infused blood sprayed from my lungs and allowed me to breathe properly again. I then looked down to Stardust and bared my teeth.

“If he thinks he’s getting an easy victory any time soon, he’s got another think coming…”

My demonic voice was distorted and raspy, but it brought a smile to the unicorn’s face; Stardust nodded and allowed me to lead the way, I charged ahead and returned to the same spot I had landed. It seemed Stardust had fully recovered already; his soul must have still contained a wondrous amount of mana. His horn shone radiantly and we both started to ascend. We shot upwards like a bullet and the light of the surface grew brighter and brighter.

NAH’LEK!” I screamed, launching out of the gorge and onto the soft white grass.

A few yards away, the Defiler stood over Twilight, his staff held high; he whipped around and spotted the two of us approaching him.

“Impossible…” He growled.

“Aye, you said that, the last time I kicked yer wee spidey-arse!” Stardust laughed.

His amethyst eyes quickly turned red once again as rage consumed him, he left Twilight alone and came hurtling towards us, clearly aiming for Stardust. As soon as he reached us, the unicorn teleported us over to Twilight to regroup.

“Have you found his weak spot yet? It’s under his abdomen, he loves a good tickle there!” He chuckled.

Twilight didn’t know who to focus on, the mysterious unicorn before her, or the monstrosity that was myself, towering over everyone; eventually she settled on me.

“Callum… You… You…”

“The Fel, I know. Don’t worry, I have it under control.” I assured her.

My voice hardly sounded assuring, it was as hair-raising as Nah’Lek’s, but she seemed to relax ever so slightly. She was about to speak to Stardust when she gasped loudly at something behind us, we turned around to find Nah’Lek mere metres away, but before he could attack, he was intercepted by Hawnu Rey’eng, now wielding Windwoe in my stead. The demigod barked loudly as the guardian knocked him away from us and forced him to retaliate, buying us more time.

“Before you ask, my name is Stardust. We’ve met before, but you knew me as Conscio. Now, I’d love to sit here and chat, but Nah’Lek needs to be dealt with before Callum ends up losing his mind, so how about we’s shoot first and ask questions later?”

Twilight nodded in agreement, and picked herself off the ground and faced Nah’Lek, who was currently trying to to drive the end of his staff through Hawnu Rey’eng’s chest. Twilight fired a bolt of lightning at him, and he jumped back to evade. The guardian got back to his feet and tossed Windwoe to me, I caught it with my blackened right hand; the sword’s grip was big enough to wield it two-handed, but my monstrous appendage took up the entire handle.

“Nice lightning bolt there Twiley, now try this!” Stardust called out.

A laser of pure energy burst from his horn, smacking into Nah’Lek and knocking him onto his side; Hawnu Rey’eng followed up the attack by flying into him with full force, driving him downwards into the earth.

ENOUGH!” He roared.

Nah’Lek grabbed Hawnu Rey’eng by the leg and flung him away with all his might, before withdrawing raising his staff high into the air and then planted it into the ground; from the tip of the staff came bursts of Fel, which slung out in all directions and sizzled upon contact with the ground, Nah’Lek drew his swords and charged at me, the others couldn’t protect me as they were focused on dodging the raining Fel as it would prove fatal to them. The Fel’s mutations seemed to play in my advantage as I reacted to Nah’Lek’s strike with equal haste and ferocity, I jumped metres into the air and landed on his back, swinging Windwoe horizontally across his neck and cracking open more of his hard shell.

Aaargh! How are you resisting the corruption!?” He hissed.

“I said it once to Inigo, and I’ll say it to you…” I said through gritted teeth.

He shook me off and tried to cut me in half, to which I blocked with Windwoe and then glared into his eyes, my own eyes glowing brightly.

“Because I made a promise, Nah’Lek.”

I rolled under him and tried to slice open his abdomen, but he hopped to the side, I was able to catch his leg though, causing him to hiss with discomfort.

“A promise to keep these ponies safe, and to save Equus from you.”

Nah’Lek thrust at my chest, and I swerved out the way, slicing upwards and breaking open one of his claws.

“And there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”


Another fit of rage swept over him and he went at me with all the force he had, eventually he was able to knock Windwoe aside and slice upwards, severing my right arm and then kicking me down to the ground. He was about to finish me off, when Twilight, Stardust, and Hawnu Rey’eng all fired beams of different elements at him, nearly sending him off the cliff and down the ravine. He abandoned his blades and lunged for his staff, firing a torrent of Fel at them; it struck Hawnu Rey’eng and his armour began to corrode, his wings darkening as the magic tried to corrupt him. Stardust ran to his aid, which left Twilight to fight Nah’Lek alone; he used his dark magic to strangulate her, lifting her into the air and dragging her towards him.

“You, Twilight… You think you know the worst of my torture? You know nothing! And when I find you, I will show you just what I am capable of…” He spoke to her.

Twilight struggled for breath as Nah’Lek tightened his magical grip, before slamming her into the ground and towering above her; I got back to my feet and crept up behind him while his attention was drawn. He raised his staff and was about to execute Twilight, which is when I crouched beneath him and clenched what little muscle I had around the black spike that my left wrist had turned into. Before Nah’Lek could strike, I drove the bone upwards into his abdomen as hard as I could, the Defiler screeched and tried to turn around, causing his belly to tear open, a few of his organs fell out onto the ground and I jumped back to look in his eyes.

“Get away from my friend…” I growled.

Before he could speak, I thrust my skewer into his head, going through his eye and piercing his brain, he twitched violently and I twisted my arm, finishing him off; he collapsed, and ceased to move, Nah’Lek was dead. Ripping my skewer from his lifeless cranium, I turned away and hissed the most fitting victory words I could muster on the spot.

“Friendship is Magic, bitch…”

Chapter Twenty-Three: History Lesson

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His body twitched once more as I yanked my spike from the Defiler’s head, I sighed heavily and then looked down to Twilight, her eyes still wide with fear.

“I told you, he’d have to go through me first before touching you.” I spoke.

Distorted and demonic as my voice sounded, Twilight knew it was me and she got to her hooves, latching onto me in a brief hug; I’d have hugged her back if I had both my arms, one had been severed in combat and the other was a sharp curved bone, caked in Nah’Lek’s thick blood.

“At long last, the shade of Nah’Lek has been eliminated.” Hawnu Rey’eng sighed.

I turned to face him as he put Windwoe away onto his back, the metal on his suit was slightly corroded and his wings were stained a dark grey from Nah’Lek’s Fel attack; I examined the Defiler’s staff, the tip had an enormous crystal embedded in it, which continued to glow an emerald green.

“Shame we’re only in the dreamworld, that staff needs to go back to Hades.” Stardust hummed.

Hades?” I blurted out.

“Ah right, you don’t know. I suppose you deserve some explanation.” He replied.

“Yeah, but how about we get out of here first though? Perhaps someplace where I’m not a mutated freak, if I’m being honest, I’m in a great deal of pain.” I groaned.

Stardust nodded, as did Hawnu Rey’eng.

“How do we get out?” Twilight asked.

“Simple.” He replied.

Without warning, he withdrew Windwoe and swung it at my head.

Mother FU-”

“-CKER!” I yelped, sitting bolt upright.

Twilight sat up beside me and I looked at her, she didn’t seem alarmed and looked at me with a relieved smile, clearly glad the nightmare was over and that my mutations were no longer present. Hawnu Rey’eng stood up and I could tell he was smirking behind his stupid visor.

“You’re a dickhead, d’you know that?” I growled.

{Oh, if only you knew the irony…} Stardust chuckled from inside my head.

“Oh great, you’re back.” I moaned.

{Miss me?}

“No, not really.”

“I can hear you in my head too.” Twilight said with surprise.

“It’s the collars, you can both maintain contact while wearing them, even from a distance. They form a bridge between your minds.” The guardian told her.

Twilight and I looked at one another and smiled, both thinking the same thing; we’d be able to talk to one another even if we were separated, meaning we could split up if necessary.

{Cannae Spindles detect it?} Stardust pointed out.

Hawnu Rey’eng shook his head.

“It’s a closed connection between the wearers, he could only trace it if he wore it himself.”

“Okay.” I hummed, nodding.

The sound of a door opening came from behind us and I turned around to find Applejack and Rarity entering the room, Applejack had an oversized apron around her neck; while it may have been designed for a human, but she looked pretty darn cute in it.

“We heard a shout, is everything alright?” Rarity asked.

AJ came over to greet me and I stood up to meet her with a hug, I decided that I wanted the girls to hear the good news all at once.

“Yeah, it’s alright. Could one of you grab the others?”

Rarity dipped her head and went to collect them, while I snagged the apron off Applejack and dangled it in front of her playfully.

“What’s cooking?” I asked.

“Mushroom stroganoff again, your brother’s recipe. This time I’m adding some rice though, thought it’d be good to add some carbohydrates to the mix.” She chuckled, snatching back the bib.

A cheesy grin spread across my face as I recalled the meal my brother had cooked us when we returned to England after our traumatic experience in Brazil; my mouth salivated at the mere thought of the meal.

“Nice…” I hummed.

The sound of hooves came from the doorway and I spotted the girls coming in, they smiled upon seeing me and Pinkie rushed up to me.

“Did you get rid of the spooky?” She asked.

“Even better.” I said, beckoning her closer.

I put my mouth to her ear and whispered mischievously.

“I giggled at the ghosties.”

“Oooh, how exciting…” She replied quietly in the same mischievous tone.

The girls all took seats, and I sat back down beside Twilight; Hawnu Rey’eng stretched his wings before switching from a kneeling position onto his behind.

“Alright girls, I just thought I’d gather you and tell you all together, as it’s big news.” I said.

Just spill already!” Dashie cried out impatiently.

I chuckled, before giving the announcement.

“Nah’Lek has been exorcised from my mind, along with his deathly magic. He can’t hurt us anymore, we’re free to take our time and relax now.”

“Woohoo!” Pinkie squealed.

They all got up and congratulated Twilight and I, Hawnu Rey’eng happily sat back and watched the good mirth that surrounded the room. Applejack was the first to break from the group hug, eyeing the doorway.

“So, I need to check on the food before it burns, it’s just about ready so I hope y’all are hungry!”

“Famished.” I replied.

AJ smiled and then zipped off, that’s when Rarity turned to Hawnu Rey’eng.

“Would you care to stay with us for supper?”

We all looked to her in surprise, she looked back at us and gave a sheepish smile.

“What? I imagine one is rarely offered a warm meal in such a line of work, what with keeping the world in the balance. It must be tiring work!” She exclaimed defensively.

Twilight was about to speak, when the guardian shocked us all with his response.

“Gladly, thank you.”

{Tea time with a demigod, how lovely!} Stardust chuckled.

I looked at Hawnu Rey’eng, and then to Twilight with my eyes wide, she had the same look.

{Demigod?} I thought.

{Oh aye, no doubt in my mind about it, I saw his magic capabilities right away. He’s no simple spell-chucker, he’s got a Regal Soul for sure.} He explained.

“A Regal Soul?” I blurted out.

The girls looked at me with confusion, I quickly remembered that only three of us could hear Stardust, hence all of the awkward looks.

“Never mind, my head’s a bit muddled up from the collar.” I declared quickly.

Hawnu Rey’eng tilted his head, examining my deception, but decided to allow Stardust to remain under the radar. He stretched his wings once more before allowing Applejack to lead him to the kitchen.

“You’re going to love what’s on the menu…” She said to him, disappearing into the next room.

“A talking pony from another dimension, leading a winged man who’s a demigod into the kitchen to show him what she’s cooked for dinner. Can’t get much stranger than that.” I hummed.

{You’re on the greatest adventure possible to mankind, and yet regardless you’re crippled by depression and lowkey want to kill yourself. I’d say that’s stranger.} Stardust scoffed.

My face went blank, as did Twilight’s; I inhaled deeply and decided to move on.

“Right, let’s go for dinner.” I said vibrantly.

We all made our way to the dining room, where Rarity had neatly prepared the plates and cutlery. The dining room itself was enormous, the table large enough for at least ten people, complete with lit candles and oak chairs.

“Whose mansion even was this?” I asked aloud, mostly to myself.

“Not sure, but they were certainly rich once upon a time.” Rarity replied.

“No kidding…” I murmured.

Twilight and I sat down together and admired the room, noting the lovely red curtains that decorated the large windows that looked out towards the woodland. I found it terribly strange that such a lovely house would be left alone, with all the possessions and furniture left with it. Did the owner die? If so, why hadn’t the place been repossessed and the items cleared out? Perhaps the owner had gone on holiday, or maybe it belonged to someone with multiple homes. Either way, it was a residence I would never take for granted after what I’d been through already, sleeping in a ditch in the middle of Portugal definitely left a mark in terms of appreciating my current circumstance.

A while passed, and eventually Applejack came through with dinner, Hawnu Rey’eng behind her; I almost burst into laughter at the sight before me. The metal suited demigod had donned the cooking apron, which sat comfortable around his torso, and upon his head, sat Applejack’s hat.

“I’m not sure what’s better, how you look, or how good the food smells.” I chuckled.

“I’m going with the food, I’m so hungry.” Twilight muttered.

Hawnu Rey’eng put the dish down on the table, and used his magic to levitate food to everyone’s plates, I picked up my knife and fork and stared at the stroganoff, desperate to sink my teeth into it; I waited for AJ and the Tin Can to sit down first though. My mouth began to salivate as the smell seduced my senses, I cast my mind back to when Oliver had cooked for us, I missed him dearly.

“I sure hope it tastes good, I might have left it cooking for too long!”

I gave Applejack a warm smile and responded.

“I’m sure it will be perfect.”

Flattered, she put a hoof to her chest and she smiled back, before we all dug into our food. The strong flavour instantly flooded my mouth and began to stimulate all ten-thousand taste buds; the recipe was perfect, it tasted exactly like Oliver’s cooking.

{Now THAT’S what I call food!} Stardust shouted, spooking Twilight.

“You alright there?” Rarity asked.

“Yeah, it’s just really good!” She sheepishly replied with her mouth full.

{You realise I’m going to be making you jump constantly now, Twilight?} Stardust chuckled.

{Not on my watch.} I thought back, sitting back from the table.

“Oh, I’ve just remembered I’m still wearing my collar!”

“Gosh, me too!” Twiley pointed out.

{You’re such a killjoy.}

I ignored Stardust and removed my collar, severing the connection between my brain and Twilight’s, I helped her in removing her own collar, and then we got back to eating. That’s when I realised something rather odd about the meal.

“Hawnu Rey’eng, you do realise you can’t eat food without taking your helmet off first, right?” I asked.

Everyone turned to look at the guardian, who looked back at me.

“And where is that written?”

He tapped the side of his helmet, and a faint ripple of magic coated it; he then picked up his fork and took a mushroom slice, and brought it to his face. We all stared in amazement as the fork, along with the food, passed through his helmet and he took a bite. It was almost like he’d activated the ‘noclip’ command in gaming terms, where a player’s character could pass through any object, as if they were a ghost.

“Very appetising, thank you, Applejack.” He spoke.

Applejack chuckled and dipped her head, while I shook my head with bewilderment at the guardian.

{You want to know what I look like, don’t you?} He spoke via telepathy, his mechanical voice echoing in my mind.

{I thought that was obvious.} I thought back.

He exhaled through his nose, and got back to eating, I decided to do the same.

About halfway through my first portion of delicious stroganoff, Applejack finally broke the silence with the query that had been on everyone’s minds.

“So y’all, the big question… What in tarnation actually happened in there?”

I swallowed my mouthful and turned my head to face her.

“What didn’t happen AJ? It was enough chaos to make even Discord queasy.”

“That’s a lot of chaos.” Dashie remarked.

Nodding in agreement, I continued with my fable.

“The layout of my mind was a never-ending forest, which I guess represented my neurons or something, it was pretty awesome. The moment we entered my head, we were all separated, I awoke here in the mansion, where I was confronted with every human I’ve had to fight in the past. After defeating them all, Hawnu Rey’eng found me, who took me outside. That’s when I met Bunnie…”

I inhaled deeply after saying her name, to which Twilight hung her head in shame.

“That’s the girl, right? The one who, um…” Rarity started, but lacked the confidence to say.

“The one who died, yeah.” I finished for her.

Bunnie was now at peace, and I had been able to say my final farewell, so my attitude towards the matter had been greatly relieved, despite the general bitterness that surrounded the fact she had died; it was a huge weight off my chest. Still, Twilight refused to look at me as I continued to explain our meeting, about how Hawnu Rey’eng had preserved her soul for a brief period of time, and had allowed me to speak to her once more in order to allow a satisfying culmination to our love. While I would always love and remember her in the back of my mind, I was ready to move forward with the mission and not be brought down by her demise.

“That’s wonderful to hear, I’m glad you were able to say goodbye.” Rarity sighed.

“Wish we could have met her.” Rainbow Dash pitched in.

“Yeah, it was a shame you couldn’t. But that is in the past, what’s done is done.” I said.

I gave Twilight a small nudge under the table to assure her I wasn’t mad at her, and she seemed to relax slightly, but remained ashamed of her actions. Hawnu Rey’eng decided to pick up on where I’d left off and continue telling the story from his perspective.

“While this was going on, Twilight had been under pursuit from a living nightmare, a foul beast that had donned a distorted manifestation of Twilight herself. It represented Callum’s old memories of her, while she was being manipulated by the Fel. After delivering Callum to Bunnie, I came to her assistance, and together we fought against the terrible creature. After Callum had said his final words to Bunnie, he was able to find us just as we had slain the beast.”

“Gosh… What did it look like?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“May I show them?” Hawnu Rey’eng asked Twilight.

She nodded, and the guardian’s hands lit up, he cast a spell to the centre of the table, to which a magical hologram of the monster appeared before us. The girls all gasped, which resulted in Rarity almost choking on her food.

“Good gosh!” Applejack yelled.

“Yuck!” Pinkie remarked, before shovelling more food into her mouth.

“Is there truly nothing that spoils your appetite, Pinkie?” I asked.

“Sad clowns.” She replied with her mouth full.

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little, leaving her to tilt her head on one side.

“What? They’re horrifying! Clowns are meant to entertain and make you laugh, seeing them all miserable makes me feel so distressed and on edge!” She declared defensively.

{I’m surprised Pinkie isn’t repulsed by you, you’re a fuckin’ clown and yet you’re one of the most whiney, miserable dullards I’ve ever encountered!} Stardust teased.

{You know, for Equestria’s beloved saviour once in the past, you’re actually quite a dick.} I thought back.

{Oh, grow a set, Callum. I saved Equestria twice, lived a full life, and then died to save it for a third fuckin’ time. I think I’ve earned the bloody right to have a little banter when I please. Don’t tell me Princess Celestia selected an easily offended little snowflake to save it for the fourth time.} He retorted.

Having been put in my place, I decided not to reply to him, and started listening to Hawnu Rey’eng as he finished explaining about the monster in the woods.

“So, this Nightmare Twilight, or ‘Twightmare’ as I like to call it-”

Twightmare? Really though?” I scoffed.

The guardian turned his head to face me, shrugging.

“Well, it was either that, or ‘Callum's Subconscious Manifestation of Twilight's Haunted Past’, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well, wouldn't you think?”

“Why not just call it Nightmare Twilight? Because that actually sounds pretty cool.” I suggested.

“Can I finish telling the story? Or are you going to nit-pick every minor detail?” He spoke.

I rolled my eyes and let him continue, he explained the ins and outs of the creature and how it wasn’t to be associated with Twilight; her mood seemed to improve after that, I almost wish I’d kept the collars on to hear her thoughts, I wanted to know what was on her mind.

Between Twilight, myself, and Hanwu Rey’eng, we told the tale about the Hollow Forest, and how we defeated Nah’Lek’s manifestation; we left out the section about Stardust, I felt like it would complicate things by having everyone know about a bygone hero secretly living with us. Besides, after unravelling revelation after revelation, I didn’t want to dig into the matter at this time.

That being said, I had to admit to myself that I was a hypocrite, as there were two enormous mysteries that I remained desperate to unravel.

“Before we returned from the forest, right after we defeated Nah’Lek, something was said about his staff, something about Hades. What did that mean exactly? In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld, surely the names are coincidental, right?” I asked.

“Oh! I know all about Hades, I’ve got at least twenty books on him back in the library!” Twilight sang.

“Wait, it’s the same Hades!?” I exclaimed.

“It’s just an old myth.” Rarity sighed.

Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled at Rarity’s remark, and took another mouthful of rice.

“While the Titanson is old, it’s no myth, young Rarity. Equus’ Hades is indeed the same as that of human mythology. Many Greeks, akin to Lauren Faust, had an unexplainable spiritual connection to Equus, and saw visions of the world, resulting in the creation of Equestrian themed media and mythology, they saw fragments of Equestria and wrote the stories based on them. It was in fact Starswirl the Bearded who became depicted as Zeus, The Greek’s visions clearly weren’t always clear on details, they merely saw a bearded character wielding lightning, and they declared he was the almighty Thunder God. People always attach fictional tales to unexplainable events in attempt to make them more rational, it’s just human nature.”

{That explains a lot…} I thought to myself.

“In terms of Hades and the Underworld, the Greeks were actually very accurate, the Underworld is where most souls reside after death, but coins are not required to enter. The great rivers and their renowned Boatman merely transport souls to other parts of the Underworld, such as Elysium, the gates of Tartarus, the Asphodel Meadows, the Sacrificial Well, and so on and so forth.” He explained.

“You missed out the Mourning Fields and the Isles of the Blessed.” Twilight pointed out.

Hawnu Rey’eng looked at Twilight and tilted his head slightly to his right, and it felt as though everyone in the room could feel his eyes rolling dully.

“Oh, you were giving an example, not a detailed description, carry on!” She said sheepishly.

The guardian chuckled and took his last mouthful of stroganoff, before continuing.

“Hades rules over the Underworld, but he is no demon or devil, while he is stern and proud of his status as king of the dead, I’ve noted him to be rather hospitable and lenient to his subjects. Tartarus on the other hand is where he exacts punishment on the dark souls.”

I took a sip from my glass of water before questioning him, I couldn’t help but think about one of my old favourite video games, coincidentally titled Dark Souls.

“Dark souls?” I asked.

Hawnu Rey’eng nodded to confirm I hadn’t misheard him.

“Tartarus serves as a prison for dark souls, those who’ve committed atrocities in the mortal realm, it’s also where demons live, revolting monsters with anti-mana for blood. They feed on the mana left over from souls who have perished after serving their years of chastisement. They dwell in the darkest and deepest part of Tartarus, known as the Baleful Gulch. Those who wish to seek an audience with Hades must survive the horrors of the Gulch and reach a gateway which leads to his chamber.”

{And this is where it gets interesting…} Stardust muttered.

“Nah’Lek the Defiler, imprisoned by Stardust Moonshimmer thousands of years ago, was able to break free of his cell after Cerberus left his post. He then retrieved his swords and descended into the Baleful Gulch, slaughtering countless demons, cleaving through them like they were mere inconveniences. After entering Hades’ chamber, he stole the Titanson’s staff, granting him with unlimited control over the most vile and ungodly substance in existence, anti-mana, also known as the Fel. He made it as far as the Gulch before Hades reached him, using the Fel from the fallen demons to fuel his magic, he was able to take Hades head-on in open combat, and win.”

“Shitting hell…” I breathed.

“Sparing the Titanson’s life to prove his authority, Nah’Lek left the Underworld with his new tool of ultimate destruction, this is when he fled to the world of Draenor to take control of the Orcish Horde and develop them further for planetary conquest, which brings us to now.” He concluded.

It took a few moments to digest all this information, but it certainly cleared up a few things.

{Well, Nah’Lek now has some of his origin story explained, everybody’s happy!} Stardust chuckled.

“Except for all the complaints about Nah’Lek being overpowered!” Pinkie sang.

Everyone looked at Pinkie, confused to why she’d said that randomly.

{There’s only room for one of us Pinks, back down.} Stardust growled.

Pinkie glared at my forehead, before squinting her eyes with a large frown, I blinked twice with confusion and took another mouthful of stroganoff to avoid her eye contact. We all went back to the main conversation and ignored Pinkie’s strange antics, I assumed she could somehow detect Stardust.

“So, you keep addressing Hades as the Titanson, what do you mean by that?” I quizzed.

“Essentially, what it says on the tin. Hades isn’t exactly god, but a son of the six Holy Titans of Harmony combined, he was made long before the Titan’s Orb. He is long-lived, similar to Princesses Celestia and Luna, he can be killed, but cannot die of old age.”

I hummed, even since understanding the many different dimensions and the concept of souls and mana, I’d never have imagined Hades and the Underworld were real of all human beliefs. But even though I disliked his enigmatic existence, I had no reason to doubt Hawnu Rey’eng.

“So, Hades is like, the Princesses’ older brother?” Dashie asked.

“That's an interesting question actually, Rainbow Dash. On the one hand, yes, but on the other, a resounding no. Celestia and Luna were created in the image of Twilus, the Titan of Mana, they were direct daughters of a single Titan. Hades however, was a creation of all six Titans combined, thus making him more godly than the Princesses, I suppose you could consider him related to them, but only if you’re willing to consider that Nah’Lek would also be related to them.”

WHAT!?” Twilight and I exclaimed in unison.

“You seem shocked, Twilight, I thought you knew your history. After Appelox consumed the other Titans and was repelled by the Orb, he made his way through other dimensions in search of the most deplorable beings in existence, leading him to Nah’Lek. Offering the Defiler an eternal life of bloodshed, Nah’Lek willingly allowed Appelox to alter his biological form, replacing his natural mana with Fel, hardening his chitinous shell into an unbreakable material, and fuelling his body with the Titan’s very own blood, along with the blood of the other consumed Titans, strengthening him both physically, mentally, and magically, reforming him as the Titan’s son.
With the blood of all combined Titans, Nah’Lek became undetectable by the Orb, allowing Appelox to send him to Equus and ravage the planet. This is when he was defeated by Stardust and sent to Tartarus, which you already know. My point being, he faintly carries the same blood as the Princesses, so if you want to consider Hades as their brother, you must also consider Nah’Lek to be so.”

“Yeah, how about, no?” Twilight spat.

“Here, here, Twilight! Such a creature will never be associated with Her Majesties.” Rarity agreed.

{Having been dead a while, I’ve heard this story far too often, can we move on?} Stardust pleaded.

Hawnu Rey’eng dipped his head slightly, acknowledging Stardust’s request, he reached down to his tool belt and removed a device, tossing it to me; thankfully my reflexes were good enough to react and catch it without embarrassment. Upon inspection, I found it looked like a scarab beetle, just without any legs; most of it was a shiny chromed metal, while the centre of it had a black circle, it looked to be made of obsidian.

“What you’re holding there is a gizmo of my own making, it’s a smart hacker, attach it to any other electrical device that’s locked or protected, and it will wirelessly decrypt and open it.”

“So, a portable Ex Machina?” I asked.

Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled and dipped his head, accepting that the sudden and random giving of the device seemed rather convenient.

“A Tech Ex Machina, if you will.” He replied.

{A Techs Machina?} Stardust suggested.

I smirked, a Techs Machina was the ideal name for it.

“Why’re you giving it to me now?” I quizzed.

“I just remembered it, and figured you could use it to crack open the laptop you acquired from the miners, maybe contact home and let a few people know you’re still alive?” He suggested.

I hummed and pocketed the gadget, I could imagine it would seriously come in handy further down the line. But for now, I was in agreement that I could perhaps get in contact with some of my old friends, no doubt they were all wondering if I was actually still alive, I quickly started to picture the look on Harry’s face when he found out about my adventures, I then thought about my brother, surely Oliver must have been worried sick about me, I decided he would be the first person I attempted to contact.

The rest of dinner was spent with comfortable small talk about various matters, mostly about past events and of home. Applejack ended up getting quite emotional over the thoughts of Applebloom and the farm, which soon after set Rarity off, lamenting over Sweetie Belle and the boutique. Homesickness became the main topic, and before you could say ‘girls DMC in a nightclub toilet’, everyone was upset about home, Fluttershy missing her animals, Twilight crying over Spike, Pinkie sobbing over Gummy, even Rainbow Dash was misty eyed while talking about Tank.

{Are they always this unstable?} Stardust asked.

I rolled my eyes and ignored Stardust, before offering to take out the dishes to the kitchen, I piled up the plates and made my way out of the room.

“Phew…” I sighed, leaning against a counter.

Inhaling deeply, I tried to relax; dinner had been lovely, but my brain had been attacking me quite a lot, my episodes of depression were always spontaneous and seemed to be relentlessly inconvenient.

“You okay?” Twilight asked.

I turned around to find she’d followed me out of the room, I smiled weakly and nodded. She could see right through the facade and approached me, a look of sympathy on her face.

“Black dog?”

Again, I nodded.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Actually, a hot drink would be great.” I mumbled.

“Sure thing, I can’t do tea well, but I can make coffee?” She offered.

“Coffee sounds great, thanks, I’ll be up in our room.” I replied.

Twilight dipped her head and I headed upstairs, I took the portable WiFi hotspot and the laptop with me.

Flopping onto the bed, I rubbed my heavy eyes and opened up the computer, switching it on and waiting for it to power up; the fan started whirring and I saw the splash screen.

[Leading Innovation >>>]

{Human tech, gotta love it…} Stardust said gleefully.

“I don’t know, I’d rather magic over technology.” I responded dully.

{What if you had Hawnu Rey’eng’s suit?}

“Bruh, I’d rather the wings and exceptionally powerful magic.”

{You’d seriously pass on being a more badass version of Iron Man, for some feathery back flaps?}

“Don’t dis the feathery back flaps.” I muttered defensively.

The laptop booted up normally and came to a login screen, I took out the Techs Machina and planted it next to the track pad, the black stone in the middle began to glow red, and the screen started to flicker, the password bar filling up with dots as though I had typed something in. The stone suddenly flashed green and the screen changed to the desktop, the device had worked.

“Convenience for the win.” I said, smirking.

I removed the device and the stone’s light went out, going back to its pitch blackness. A few icons appeared on the screen, specifically Google Chrome, Spotify, Skype, Word, Photoshop, My Computer, and of course, the trusty old recycle bin.

{Lucky you, it seems Skype is already installed.} Stardust hummed.

Making sure the laptop was connected to the portable hotspot, I double clicked on Skype and waited for it to boot up; logging out from the American’s account, I signed in with my own and looked at who was online. Oliver’s account was labelled ‘away’, but I imagined it was installed on his phone as he had never cared for a computer of his own, I hit the call button and held my breath.

[Boooooop] … [Boooooop] … [Boooooop] … [Booooooop] …

And then a portrait box appeared, along with my brother’s constantly smug looking face.

“Hello?” He asked curiously.

“Guess who.” I greeted him teasingly.

“Wait, who is th-… Holy shit… BROSKI!?” He shouted.

I switched on the webcam and revealed myself, and watched his face light up with joy.

“You’re ALIVE!”

“Afraid so.”

“Where the hell have you been? How was Chernobyl? Have you grown a second arm from the radiation? Do you glow in the dark? Has your cock dropped off? How are you even calling me?” He asked rapidly.

Despite my current depressed state, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“No bro, my cock hasn’t dropped off. In fact, it got wet.” I hinted.

“You popped your cherry!?” He yelped.

“Yup.” I chuckled sheepishly.

“Shit bro, someone actually slept with you? Fuck, she must have low standards… Was she fat?”

“No Oliver, she wasn’t fat!” I laughed loudly.



“Dared to do it?”

“No, it was actually really passionate.” I sighed, reminiscing.

“Sounds gay. What was her name?”


“Jesus Christ, you fucked a rabbit?”

“Her name was Bunnie! I slept with a human woman, you cockwomble.”

Oliver laughed loudly.

“Why would her parents do that to her? Honestly who the fuck calls their child Bunnie?”

“Apparently the parents of all the people called Bunnie.” I replied.

“Yeah, negative.” He said with a heavy sarcastic drone.

I rolled my eyes, despite his obnoxious persona, it was so good to finally hear from my brother.

“Well, anyway, congrats. Is there going to be a Mrs Bunnie anytime soon?” He asked.

“Sadly not, it didn’t last, I’m afraid.”

“Must have clocked onto the fact you’re not human.” He teased.

“She’s dead, actually…”

“That, brother, is unfortunate.” He said bluntly.

I inhaled deeply, I wasn’t going to let it bring me down, I wanted to focus on my brother and not get too deep into the matter again.

“It’s life, I suppose.” I replied.

“On the contrary, it’s the opposite!”

Anyway… How’ve you been?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Good! Really good! Nice and cushy since a chicken took out my leg.” He told me gleefully.

“What now?”

“Allow me to explain, shortly after you left with your gay alien horses, I decided I wanted an adventure of my own, and joined the army. Turns out, it fucking sucks, there’s no adventure and everyone just shouts at you. I can’t leave now until I’ve served four years, or else I get thrown in prison as a dishonourable discharge.”

“That, brother, is unfortunate.” I mimicked him.

“Eat a testicle. Now, here’s the good news. You know those egg shitting spastics mum kept in the garden? Well, the bloody cockerel attacked me and dug its spur into my knee, right under the fucking kneecap, painful as shit, but I get like, months off to chill. Plus, I get two big cripple sticks I can hit people with.”

“You mean crutches?”

“Yeah, cripple sticks.”

“Right, so you’re a soldier, and got put out of action by a chicken?”

“Yeah, it’s bloody brilliant.”

“I see…” I hummed.

The bedroom door opened and I looked up to see Twilight coming into the room backwards, she turned around and I noticed she was carrying a tray in her mouth with my coffee on top.

“Oh, bless you Twi, hang on.” I uttered hastily.

I hopped off the bed and took the coffee from her, allowing her to drop the tray onto the bed, she wiggled her jaw and sighed.

“How do pegasi and earth ponies do it?” She breathed.

“Don’t underrate yourself, I’m amazed you didn’t spill anything!” I exclaimed.

Twilight smiled warmly, feeling proud of herself. Learning to live without magic must have been hard when it’s been taken for granted for all your life; it made me realise how useful my two hands really were.

“Is that one of your horse people?” Oliver called, unable to see what was happening.

Twilight jumped in shock and looked over at the laptop.

“Who’s that?” She asked.

“Thy kin.” I replied dully.

I went back over to the bed with Twiley in tow, upon seeing her, Oliver shook his head.

“So fucking weird.” He hummed.

I rolled my eyes and decided to change the subject once again.

“So, you mentioned mum earlier, how’s the old shit-bag doing?” I inquired.

“You mean the half-ton sack of assholes that lied to us all of our lives?” He growled.


“Right, you don’t know… Well, I’ve got some interesting unwelcome and yet welcoming news.”


Oliver paused and took a breath in, before giving it to me straight.

“Our dad has died, and we’re orphans.”

Chapter Twenty-Four: Blood is Thicker than Water

View Online

I didn’t breathe in, I didn’t even blink, it took a few moments to understand what he’d said.

My father, Clifford Horncastle; a good man who had tried to raise me with integrity and appreciation for the trivial things in life. He was a passionate journalist, and loved to travel in his youth. I owed a lot of my values to him, while a parent shouldn’t ever have favourites, he did spend a lot more time with me than with Oliver, knowing I was the more sensitive of the two.
How he ended up with my mother, such a rotten woman, was beyond me, but I supposed that question seemed defunct now, it no longer mattered; he was gone…

I inhaled through my nose, and then twitched my top lip a little.

“How is this welcoming news exactly?” I finally asked.

“Because of what happened afterwards.” Oliver teased.

I raised an eyebrow with curiosity.

“Turns out he never gambled at all. Mum, if you can call her that, never even kicked him out, the whole fucking thing was a ruse. He left on his own accord, they found him in America, South Carolina. He had a journal that explained everything, it’s crazy!”

I blinked twice and shook my head very slightly.

“What now?”

“You heard me, he left on his own accord and fucked off to America, where they found his body in some cabin in the woods, he died of malnutrition. Quite literally starved himself to death, although that apparently wasn’t the exact cause of death, he simply gave up living, according to the autopsy.”

{Died of a broken heart.} Stardust sighed.

“So, what the heck was he doing there?” I asked.

“Taking care of our real mother.”

My eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.

“Late stage cancer, she’d been diagnosed a couple days after your sorry ass was born. They basically decided it wasn’t fair to raise two children only for her to die while we were only kids, so they moved back to England and lived separately. Clifford then met our shit spackled excuse for a foster mother, and she agreed to change her surname to Horncastle and raise us with him. She was basically a manipulative slag who just wanted the child support benefits, dad didn’t have a bloody clue until it was too late, and had descended so far into the lie that he didn’t know how to tell us the truth.”

{Nice guy or not, that’s fucked up right there.}

Ignoring Stardust, I let Oliver continue.

“Our real mum battled the cancer for years, but she soon ended up in a critical condition and went back to America to die on her home soil. Daddio went with her, wanting to spend their last moments together, when she eventually died, he couldn’t bring himself to leave her, and quite simply, died.”

{Told you, broken heart.}

“Shit... That’s insane…” I breathed.

“I’m sorry, but that is so incredibly selfish.” Twilight said sternly.

I turned to look at her, and Oliver remained quiet.

“You can’t just bring two children into the world, and then give up on them because your other half passes away, your responsibility lies with those children, not your grief. Of course, it’s terribly sad that he lost his true love, I wouldn’t wish that upon anypony, but once you have kids, you have to put them first, always!”

“Since when did you become a parent?” I joked.

“Since I hatched that egg, and raised Spike from day one.” She retorted.

I hadn’t thought of that; dipping my head in acknowledgment, I took a sip of coffee.

“What the fuck, you ponies lay eggs?” Oliver blurted out.

Bursting into laughter, I sprayed coffee over the screen and nearly choked, Twilight couldn’t help but laugh as well; Oliver’s cheesy grin filled the screen, clearly proud of himself. I wiped the screen with my sleeve and allowed Twilight to explain that she hatched a baby dragon, and had raised him as her son.

“Dragons, now that is something I’d like to see.” He sighed dreamily.

“Anyway, tell me more!” I demanded, returning to the subject.

“Well, after the cat was let out of the bag, our fake mother got arrested and is serving a lot of years for benefit fraud, false identity, and child neglect, they think she’s behind your murder, it’s fucking hilarious! I’m now the legal owner of the house, and I’ve been compensated with all her money so I’m rolling in dosh at the moment. Once I get out of the army, I’m going to sell the place and move somewhere smaller, and I would be rich enough to retire early!”

“You’re literally nineteen, Oliver.”

“I said I would be rich enough, you bumbling fucknoodle, I don’t actually plan to retire, I’m thinking about going into metal detecting to find roman coins and shit.”

“Fair one.” I hummed.

“As for our real mother, she was a passionate photographer and journalist, wrote poetry and all that deep meaningful shit. She grew up on a goat farm, so she was a proper Southern country girl, although she was only half American. Her dad was a New Zealander, rather weird fucking combo, so in other words, congratulations, brother mine, we’re impure.”

“Oh man, I really liked being the idea of being entirely British.” I mumbled.

{But consider this, you’re half British, so you can keep your main heritage and customs, but you’re also quarter New Zealand, and the Māori were badass as heck.}

{Which leaves quarter Yank, what’s that benefit? Being obnoxious and arrogant?} I thought back.

{Not every Yank is a obnoxious dick, although you do have a relentless arrogance about you. Seriously though, Americans have a rather unmatched lust for life, just think of that American Dream bollocks, they’ve got quite a zeal about them. Despite your depression, you cling onto life because deep down, proving your own worth means a lot to you. I’d say you’ve got your US heritage to thank for that.
And let’s not forget how lethal you are with a gun, remember how you used that UMP a few weeks ago, you’ve got a knack for guns.}

I exhaled through my nostrils, surprised and rather comforted.


Thinking less on my heritage and more on my mother, I tilted my head at the screen.

“What did she look like?” I asked.

“Quite nice actually, dad had a few pictures in his journal, I’ve got it here, I’ll take a picture on my phone and send a picture over to you.”


“So, family aside, how’ve you been bro? What’s been happening in your strange magical adventure of total and utter faggotry? Other than your rabbit lover, of course.” He asked, changing the subject.

“Well, we’re now in a race against time, as we’re being hunted by a demigod.”

Twilight grimaced at the thought of him, gulping quietly.

“The fucksicle?” Oliver said blandly.

“Some psychotic sack of dick tips called Nah’Lek, he’s the whole reason I’m on this adventure, he sent the Titan’s Orb to Earth, exposing Equus to the dangers of other worlds. He’s currently planning to launch a planetary wipe out, hence why we need to retrieve the Orb before that happens. I guess he caught wind that we were collecting the shards, as he’s come to Earth and is hunting us down.” I explained.

“Shit man, that’s crazy! Where did he come from?”

“You’d never guess, not in a thousand years.”

“Well, no shit. Your horse people have proved there’s more than one dimension, every fictional world mankind has written exists, right? The douchebag could be from bloody Azeroth for all I know!”

My mouth fell open, I couldn’t even respond to that.


I remained silent.

“No… Seriously? He’s from the fucking Warcraft universe!?”

I swallowed, before nodding.

“What is he, something from the Burning Legion?”

“I don’t think so, he’s an arachnid of some sort.”

“You’re being hunted by a giant spider?”

“Something like that, he’s got a spider’s abdomen, but he’s got a more humanoid torso, he’s got six legs instead of eight, he’s got a pair of arms instead.”

“Hm, sounds like you’re describing a nerubian.”

“A what?” Twilight quizzed.

“Fiercely intelligent and extremely evil arachnids, native to Northrend. They’re xenophobic as fuck, they became obsessed with destroying every non-arthropod species on Azeroth, but weren’t very successful in their conquest, they remain ruthless on their home turf though, killing anything that wanders into their territory. They’re the only race on Azeroth that are completely immune to the Fel, along with every known disease, not a single pathogen can infect them.”

{Sounds like ol’ Spindles to me…} Stardust hummed.

“Well Twilight, I think we’ve just uncovered Nah’Lek’s origin.”

“They weren’t exactly demigods though.” Oliver pointed out.

“Nah’Lek was formed into a demigod, I suppose Appleox found the most sick and twisted nerubian he could find, and then imbued him with his blood, enhancing every aspect of him.” I said.

“Shit, those things are lethal enough on their own!”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with. He’s also got control over the Fel, and the Horde.”

“The Horde’s involved!?”

“Yup, I presume it was prior to their invasion of Azeroth, Nah’Lek somehow got control over them and has been breeding the orcs for war.”

“Man, that’s crazy, does that mean there are orcs on Earth now?”

“I don’t think so, I’m pretty sure Nah’Lek’s come alone, he plans to unleash the Horde on Equus, but each dimension has a different time span, a day on Equus is an entire year here, so I imagine we’ve got plenty of time until there’s any real threat.”

“Fair one.”

Oliver turned his head and stood up straight, then looked back to me.

“I’ve got some mates that have just arrived, I’m throwing a house party, obviously they can’t know you’re alive so I’ve got to go. It’s so good to know you’re alive though, thanks for getting to me!”

“Alright broski, it was great to talk to you, don’t trash the house!”

Oliver laughed, and then said goodbye to Twilight, who dipped her head; I hit the ‘hang up’ button, and the screen went back to my contact list.

I sighed and flopped onto the bed, I forgot how exhausting it was to talk to people like my brother.

“I hate to be the one to say it, but I don’t like him.” Twilight murmured.

I lifted my head to face her and lifted an eyebrow.

“He just seems really arrogant, I don’t really like it.”

“That’s Oliver for you, I guess he got the American genes more than I did.”


{Silence, horse person.}

Stardust decided not to bother with a response and let himself drift away into my brain, probably to dig up old memories and learn more about my race, as was his favourite pastime, delving into my knowledge and essentially downloading all the information into his own consciousness.

Drinking more coffee, I looked to Twilight and smiled.

“Thanks for this, you make good coffee.”

“I practically lived on it during study weeks, best to know how to make it well.” She replied sheepishly.

Smirking, I offered her some, to which she gladly accepted; she didn’t seem to mind me holding the mug for once, I guess she was getting used to the idea that I’d need to help her for quite some time.

{I just found out something cool!} Stardust shouted.

I jumped, spilling some coffee on Twilight’s chin, she squeaked unintentionally and backed off.

“What the heck!?”

“Goddammit Stardust!” I growled.

Twilight relaxed after she realised why I’d jumped.

{Grow some balls, the both of you. Anyway, I just learned that your particular depression is linked to your biological makeup. Tracing it back, I’ve found you were actually born with it! Obviously your shite childhood didn’t help and made it a lot worse, but you were actually born a miserable cunt!}

“Fantastic, so it’s incurable.” I moaned.

“What?” Twilight asked, confused.

“Stardust says my depression was naturally developed, not environmentally.”

Her eyes widened, clearly surprised.

“I didn’t know that was possible, nopony has been able to dig that deep into one’s mind to find its root, most ponies diagnosed with it have supporting environmental factors, so it’s always been assumed it was caused by external exposure.”

{In most cases, correct, but I’m clearly seeing here that it’s been part of you since birth, the moment your brain developed consciousness, the depression has been growing.}

“But it didn’t affect me until I was about nine.” I mentioned.

{Aye, because it was growin’. Think back to the Hollow Forest, all those creepers around your tree neurons, you’ve got to imagine they were like seedlings, they couldn’t choke the trees until they were big enough.}

“Makes sense…” I hummed.

Twilight tilted her head, and I repeated what he’d said. I wish I had brought the collars upstairs with me so I didn’t have to relay everything Stardust said over to her.

{Now, it is curable, but you’d have to find a way of isolating it and removing it manually. You could quite simply venture back to the Hollow Forest and chop down the bloody creepers, but don’t harm the trees, or you could end up with brain damage. It would take forever though, at least a year to completely eradicate it from your mind, you’d be better off finding an antidepressant that reduces its symptoms.}

“Perhaps I can help with that.” Hawnu Rey’eng spoke.

I jumped and spilt more coffee onto the bed, whipping around to find the guardian stood in the doorway.

“Are you both out to make me jump at random intervals!?” I demanded to know.

{Yes.} They both spoke in unison via thought.

“How could you help?” I asked.

Hawnu Rey’eng pulled out the collars from his belt, and pointed to my one.

“I can alter the enchantment on the collar, so it can multiply the speed of your brainwaves while in the dreamland, making you think thousands of times faster than you would while normally awake.”

“How does making me think faster, while unconscious, help?” I muttered angrily.

{Use your brain, ya spastic.}

“It would mean time in the dreamworld is slower than time in the real world, you could be asleep for a few hours, and it would feel like days in there.” Hawnu Rey’eng explained.


“You could spend one hour a day in the Hollow Forest, giving you one or two days’ worth of chopping down creepers, one by one. It wouldn’t feel like it makes a difference, at least not at first, it would take a lot of time, but you’d eventually cut down on how much it affects you, pardon the pun.”

I nodded, understanding what he was suggesting.

{The only downside, is that you could end up being susceptible to the Fel.}

“Yeah, but Nah’Lek’s gone from my mind now, so there’s no way he could infect me, and even if we met in person, he’ll still think I’m immune, so he wouldn’t bother.”

“But if he were to find out-”

“Well I’m willing to take that risk, I’m sick of constantly feeling exhausted and being hit with waves of suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, thank you very much.” I declared, interrupting Twilight.

She nodded in understanding and support; having felt my depression when we switched bodies in the Frozen Forest, she wholeheartedly comprehended what the worst of my depression felt like.

“I’m actually in agreement, Callum. Nah’Lek underestimated you, and lost bitterly because of it, he’ll be far more cautious upon your next encounter, I doubt he’ll attempt to use the Fel on you unless he is certain he can control you. His cautiousness will play both in and against your advantage. In one respect, he won’t attack with full force anymore, but in another, it will lead him to be far more cunning and unorthodox.” Hawnu Rey’eng warned.

“Duly noted.” I hummed.

The laptop made a pinging noise, and I looked to Skype to see four unread messages.

[Received Image From Oliver]

[Received Image From Oliver]

[Received Image From Oliver]

[Received Image From Oliver]

It was my father’s journal, at least, a few random pages of it; the first image revealed a picture of my mother, along with a sketch my father had drawn of her, taking pictures from atop a mountain.

“She’s beautiful.” I murmured.

"She looks like you." Twilight hummed.

I didn’t quite know how to feel, but Twilight was absolutely right; my facial features were nearly identical to this woman. There was no doubt about it, I was looking at a picture of the woman who made me, the true mother who brought me into the world, and yet, I didn’t know her. She certainly seemed nicer than the woman who raised me, I really wish I could have met her.

The other images were pages that featured numerous paragraphs, mostly messages and lamentations, typically towards and about my birth mother; although two of them were about Oliver and I.

{How nice, he actually thought of you.}

{Be nice.} I thought back defensively.

Another boy! I can’t believe this is happening!
When I wrote for The Guardian Newspaper, chasing up unique news stories, I never imagined I’d end up like this, rarely do journalists get the opportunity to escape the contracts and pursue their heart.
But that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Who knew I’d meet her in Amsterdam? Writing an article on the red-light district, when I bumped into a young missionary, looking to help the very people I was writing about.
Never believed in love at first sight, nor did she.
And now, she’s my Mrs Horncastle, and we’ve just had our second son.
It was a long labour, I guess a ten-pound baby will do that to a woman; so she decided to watch Braveheart until he decided to emerge; with Scotland on our minds, we’ve decided to call him Callum.
It means ‘Dove King’ in Scottish Gaelic, a symbol of purity, peace, and soulfulness.
He already lives up to the name, he didn’t cry in the slightest as I brought him into the world, he just peacefully waited to be held, making the odd baby noise here and there. I think he’s going to be a milk drinker, as he went STRAIGHT for the nipple without hesitation.
That’s my boy.

Why us? Why now? After all the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve put into making this work, after finally getting our lives stable and content. The challenges we’ve faced as a couple have been exceedingly cruel and bitter, we’ve fought, tooth and nail to get to where we are; happily married, living the golden years.
And now this. This is our reward.
She’s never smoked, lived away from cities for most of her life, and has always stayed clear of harmful substances, so why and how has cancer reached her? WHY HER?
What have either of us done to deserve this? Is this the punishment for love?

This has been the hardest decision we’ve made, the hardest thing we’ll ever do, the hardest thing I’LL ever do, we’ve decided to move back to England and live separately.
This feels wrong, this feels so wrong, but she insists it’s the kindest thing for the boys; to grow up, only to be faced with their mother’s death, it would traumatise them.
I’ll visit her frequently, and make sure she’s well, but the boys won’t ever know her. Deep down I feel like this is wrong, and the boys should know the truth, they should know their mother for as long as they can. We could explain to them that one day, mum’s going to go away, but it’ll be okay, she always loves them.
It all seems so complex, why did this happen to us?
How can I pretend to love another woman in front of them?
I don’t know if I can do this, but I HAVE to stay strong.
Think of her, and think of the boys.

Settled down in West Sussex, I’ve found a nice house in a town called Ifield, the town itself is rather cruddy, but the value for the house was amazing for a Victorian building with four acres of land, the boys are going to love it growing up.
I’ve been in touch with my old friend, Janice, she’s always wanted kids, and we’ve always been close friends since uni. I’ve told her my situation and she gladly agreed to go along with it, she’s been in an extremely rough place over the past decade, and needs a place of her own, she’s spent the past year sofa surfing, poor woman.
I believe she’ll be a great foster, she’s got the potential.
I’m giving her a fresh start, two kids, and a house of her own.
Not blowing my own trumpet, but I’d say that’s rather generous.
She’s met the boys, loves them to bits.
She’s been extremely grateful, and has promised to stay clean for the kid’s sake.
I’m terrified out of my wits, my hair’s been coming out in clumps from the stress of it all.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this, but what choice do I have?
I must honour my wife’s wishes, I want her to be at peace…

It’s been four years since my last entry, I’ve been so focused on raising the boys while taking care of my wife in secret, it’s been so strange, living with a friend disguised as your wife, while nursing your wife disguised as your friend.
I feel sick to the stomach every time I tell the boys how “Daddy loves mummy”, and they look to Jan like she’s their real mother. The love in their eyes when they look at her, when it should be towards the woman lying in a bed a few houses down the road, I can’t help but start to resent Jan for it. She’s not kept to her promise, I’ve caught her drinking on eight occasions, the arguments we’ve had already are countless, but we haven’t broken the deal, the boys just think their parents are arguing like any couple does. I wish I could tell them.
I’m getting worse and worse, I’ve seen a doctor and have been put onto antidepressants, sertraline, it helps with the stress and keeps me calm.
God, I wish I could sleep.

What was I thinking? WHAT WAS I THINKING!?
I’ve let a monster raise my kids, what have I done!?
Drinking almost every night, smoking around the boys, swearing like no tomorrow, and today she hit Oliver for speaking back to her. I don’t mean a disciplinary tap on the behind, she backhanded my first born!
She HIT my fucking son!
I went up the bloody wall, I ordered her to leave, and she looked me dead in the eye and threatened to tell them our secret, I’m in a box, and I’m forced to watch her abuse my boys and reap the benefits in the meanwhile.
I’ve made a mistake, I’ve made such a huge mistake.
What have I done…?
I can’t tell her, I just can’t…
I refuse to let my wife’s last moments be spent worrying over the welfare of her children.
Lies, lies, lies, that’s all I’ve become; lies and failure.
I was living the dream, but it’s now just a nightmare, my life is a nightmare

She’s going back to the states, she’s insisted she wants to die back at home, in our cabin, not some shitty little council house in Ifield. I wholeheartedly understand, but I’m now being torn into shreds, I want to keep the boys safe from the monster I’ve blighted them with.
There’s nothing I can do for them. Janice will do as she pleases, and will tell them our secret if I dare intervene, I’ve lost my sons, to my own stupid decision.
I’m going back with her, I don’t want her to die alone.
I need to be with her, I NEED to.
Boys, I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…
I’ve brought shame on you, and on our family, it pains me that you’ll grow up to resent the name of Horncastle, our family was great, truly great.
The Horncastles were proud, respectful, honour bound, and were simply, great.
If this journal ever reaches you, my sons, please know you were part of a good family, a kind family, the burdens you’ve both endured were of my doing, this was ALL my fault.
Don’t let me, or that monster destroy your perception of what our blood stands for.

This morning I woke beside my lover, her skin cold as ice.
She’s gone… After everything… She’s gone…
I’ve contacted everyone I need to, they’ve taken her away, the funeral will be in a week.
None of this feels real, I keep feeling like throwing up, but I never do.
My skin feels cold as hers.
I don’t think I can do this anymore…

I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t talk aloud.
I am done.
If this journal is found, please get it to my sons, please.
Callum and Oliver Horncastle.
Tell them I’m sorry.

With each paragraph I read, the less angry I felt, and the more understanding I became. Clifford hadn’t simply abandoned us for love, he had fallen into despair and saw no way out. He’d essentially descended into madness from the inability to fix what he had done, and while he’d seriously fucked up, he had realised it and repented in the end.

“Gosh…” Twilight murmured.

I turned to face her, her eyes were misty and on the verge of leaking; giving a pained smile, I shrugged and put a hand on her shoulder.

“It is what it is, Twi, nobody is suffering anymore.”

“But there’s been suffering, from the moment this happened, all parties have suffered. Your dad suffered in silence, you suffered that horrible foster mother, and your real mother was parted from her children. Regardless of which light you look at it under, everyone’s suffered. You don’t even know your own mother, Callum, it’s absolutely heart-breaking.”

The tears left her eyes and she threw her hooves around my neck.

“I just keep imagining what your dad was feeling this whole time, all the emotions running through him, all the sleepless nights, all the guilt and anxiety over not knowing how to fix his mistake! He must have been in agony from the moment he came back to England!”

I sighed and held her tighter, this explains all those days he would run off for a day or two at a time, we’d always been told he was gambling, that he had a poker group and went there often to get easy money. All this time, he was tending to my mum, only a few houses down the road.

{As you said, it is what it is, take solace in knowing they’re finally at rest.}

I closed my eyes in acknowledgement of Stardust’s moral support, and gave Twilight a small squeeze; she broke from the hug and I closed the laptop screen.

“Let’s not dwell on it, I know the truth now, and I’m thankful for it, I’ll need some time to properly process it, but let’s not let it dampen things, ey? We’ve cured the Fel, and removed Nah’Lek’s shade from both our minds! I think we’ve got every reason to celebrate.”

The corners of her lips raised slightly, not much, but enough to say she agreed with me.

“You seem to have brightened up, was my coffee that good?”

I chuckled, to which she also giggled with me. My depression always hit in waves, some lasted for minutes, some hours, some days; I’ve even had waves that last for weeks, thankfully this one hadn’t been all that long, and had subsided.

{Go on, make her day.} Stardust encouraged.

“Best coffee I’ve ever had.” I said with a warm smile.

She beamed, giggling once again in her sheepish manner, and then I stood up and stretched.

“So, how about we head back downstairs and see what the others are up to?”

“Yeah, I’d like that.” Twilight replied.

I closed the laptop screen and we headed downstairs.

We went into the living room to find the girls playing truth or dare, I couldn’t help but smirk at the sight of them all sat around in a circle, spinning an empty beer bottle. Hawnu Rey’eng stood in the corner watching the game transpire, his visor was much more colourful than usual, he appeared to be happy.

“Hey you two! Where have you been?” Applejack called.

“I was just talking to my brother with the laptop Rainbow and I found.”

“Sure, you guys totally weren’t making out.” She teased.

Twilight jumped back an inch and her cheeks turned bright red, most of the girls laughed, while Rainbow Dash frowned, clearly unimpressed by the comment.

{Someone’s jealous.} Stardust chortled.

“Yeah, that was definitely what happened.” I replied dryly.

“Changing the subject, your human beer is so good!” AJ called out.

“I was wondering where the bottle came from, I noticed there was some cider in there as well, I’d have thought you would prefer that.” I hummed.

“Oh really?" she gasped, "I didn't see any cider!"

Chuckling, I watched as the farm pony got up and zipped back to the stash, completely abandoning her beer, which was swiftly reacquired by Rainbow Dash.

“We were about to start off a game of Truth or Dare, care to join?” Rarity inquired.

“I didn’t think that was a lady’s game.” I said curiously, surprised that she would be up for such a thing.

“Darling, please.” she replied with a devious smirk, "If you know anything about a lady, you would know they all have a wild side tucked away."

Everyone laughed, even Hawnu Rey’eng; I dipped my head in defeat, and chuckled along with them. When the laughter died down, Rarity whipped her mane to one side and gave me a mischievous grin.

{A wild side ey?} hummed Stardust, {Look, I'm all for fun and games, if she goes full on feral and starts shitting on the floor, I’m giving you a brain aneurism. And don’t test me, I know how to do that.}

It took all the self-control in my being to hold in the laughter. Dipping my head, I accepted her offer to join and headed to the circle, with Twilight joining me as well. We sat down in the circle and I looked over to Hawnu Rey’eng, raising an eyebrow.

“You playing, Tin Can?”

“Happy watching.”

Shrugging, I diverted my attention to the group. Rarity spun the bottle with her magic and it landed on Pinkie, meaning she could ask the truth or dare, Rarity spun it a second time to determine who the recipient would be.
This was going to be fun…

About ten rounds in, and we were all having a brilliant time. It was actually really enjoyable, even with just the childish dares, like having Applejack wear Rarity’s eye shadow for instance. I’d been dared to kiss Rainbow Dash on the cheek, which caused her to be quite shy and restless over the following rounds, but it was all in good jest. A pony’s cheek felt rather weird against my lips, it felt less like fur and more like velvet. After a while, Pinkie seemed to be losing interest, sitting in one spot and waiting for turns clearly didn’t agree with her constant hyperactive state.

“You okay Pinks?” I asked, finishing my second beer.

“Yeah, just bit bored.” she replied, smiling widely.

“Why don’t you go and do something else? We don’t mind.” Rarity suggested.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to be antisocial.”

“It’s totally fine!” she insisted.

“Why don’t you play on your Joyboy?” Dashie recommended.

“I don’t have it anymore, we used it to make Callum’s beepboop more powerful.”

{Not going to lie, that’s adorable. I’m calling phones ‘beepboops’ from now on.} Stardust remarked.

“You can use mine.” Twilight offered.

“For realsies?”

“For realsies.”

Twilight went off with Pinkie to get the device from her satchel, while I opened another beer.

“You totally weren’t trying to get rid of her.” Applejack teased.

“Well, duh.” Dashie replied.

I raised my left eyebrow, surprised. Noticing my expression, Rarity gave me something of an explanation.

“We all love Pinkie to bits, you know that. But come now darling, I think we’re all getting a bit bored of the tameness. Now how about we all have some real fun...”

My right eyebrow raised to join the other, wholly unsure as to where this was going. Applejack and Rainbow Dash went and brought the entire stash of alcohol into the room. Widening my eyes, I stared at AJ as she cracked open a bottle of rum and gave us a most devilish grin.

“Alright y’all, let’s get fucked up.”

Chapter Twenty-Five: Blood is Thinner With Alcohol

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“Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!”

All the girls cheered me on as I downed my third pint, necking three beers in a row without a pause was certainly a challenge, but I just about handled it; I slammed my glass down onto the floor and let out the most revolting and yet most impressive of belches, it went on for a solid four seconds at least.

“Fucking LEGEND!” Rainbow Dash cried out.

We all burst into laughter, to which more mini burps left my lips, which only caused the group to laugh even more; I was bewildered to see Rarity enjoying the uncouth humour so much, she wasn’t kidding about her wild side. Fluttershy had also really come out of her shell after a few glasses of Baileys, alcohol was certainly called ‘social lubricant’ for a reason.

“I told you Dashie, I’m British! I can hold my drink!”

{And part New Zealand, and part American.} Stardust reminded me.

“Oh, shut up!” I moaned.

“I didn’t say anything.” Dashie replied.

Thinking as quickly as I could, I stuck my tongue out at her.

“I was responding in advance to your reply.”

Applejack and Rarity laughed, and Fluttershy reached forward and spun the bottle; it landed on Rarity, and then landed on Rainbow Dash upon its second spin.

“Truth or dare, darling?”


Rarity put a hoof to her chin, and then smirked.

“Fluttershy, would you be willing to participate?”

A tipsy Fluttershy giggled and nodded her head, ready for whatever was about to happen.

“Excellent! Now then, I would like Fluttershy to put a piece of fruit in her mouth and leave it on her tongue, and I dare Dashie to retrieve it with only her mouth!”

Fluttershy zipped into the kitchen and returned with a cherry in her teeth, she removed the stem and held it in her mouth, almost dropping it as she giggled loudly again. I cracked open the Kraken Spiced Rum and poured myself a glass, adding some ice from Rarity’s bag, I was still amazed to this day at how the enchanted bags worked, pocket dimensions were epic.

“Remember Fluttershy, no helping her!” Rarity instructed.

Fluttershy nodded as Dashie approached her, both of them seemed comfortable with the rather sexual undertones, I assumed the group had played truth or dare on many occasions back in Equestria. Despite this, my eyes still widened slightly as they engaged in the dare with such confidence. A few seconds later, Dashie pulled back with the cherry in her teeth, Fluttershy licked her lips and then slumped back to take another sip of Baileys, clearly satisfied.

“You were clearly stalling.” Rarity teased.

“Heck yeah I was!” Dashie admitted proudly.

She bit down and munched on the cherry, firing the seed at the unicorn like a fruity bullet, she caught it in her magic and tossed it behind her. Rainbow Dash got back into her spot and drank some more beer, before spinning the bottle to start the next round; it landed on me, and she spun it a second time, to which it landed on Applejack.

{What to ask, what to ask…} I thought.

{Dare her to eat that silly fucking hat, it annoys me.} Stardust said bluntly.

“AJ, truth or dare?” I asked, ignoring Stardust.


I leaned back and hummed, before clicking my fingers and leaning forward again.

“Right, this one has been bothering me for months. You ponies don’t have hands, of course unicorns have magic, but otherwise, it’s not easy to hold things. So tell me, how in the name of Cthulhu do you ponies wipe your arses after you’ve had a dump?”

She looked at me blankly, and then looked to Rarity beside her, they exchanged an amused look, before she turned back to face me.

“We don’t.”

My eyes widened and I pulled a face of utter disgust.


“Well, let me explai-”

“You girls walk around with shitty arseholes!?”

Keeling over, I began cackling hysterically. Applejack’s face dulled, and she looked to Twilight to explain, who prodded me with a hoof to get my attention. I sat back up and held my breath, doing my best not to giggle.

“Wipes do exist, which are only required for additional cleanliness. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t really need to wipe. Look if you really must know, when we defecate, we-”

That did it.
Unable to hold my breath, I broke into a bellowing fit of laughter once again, causing Twilight to scowl at me.

“Do you want me to answer your question or not?”

Pulling myself together and puckering my lips as tightly as possible, I nodded, unable to look her in the eye.

“Right, so when we defecate…”

I emitted a loud snort, but quickly regained control and cleared my throat.

“… a small portion of tissue folds outward when we do our business, so it quite literally doesn’t touch the sides. So, the long and short of it is, we don’t need to wipe because it doesn’t actually get that dirty.”

“Huh, so uh… you basically prolapse?” I asked.

“To put it bluntly, kind of.”

“Please stop talking.” Rainbow Dash grumbled.

“That’s actually pretty interesting.” I hummed.

“Of all the questions you could have asked me.” Applejack scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“What, I was curious alright?” I barked back defensively.

{I cannae believe this conversation really just occurred.} Stardust tutted.

“Let’s move on before the egghead starts a biology lesson!” Rainbow Dash pitched in.

The pegasus was clearly getting a little more than tipsy, she was on at least five pints now.

“I don’t know Rainbow Dash, I could happily bet every book in the Golden Oak Library that you’d be very interested in a biology lesson with Callum, alone.” Twilight teased.

I couldn’t help but lean back in surprise, Twilight was only on a few pints of cider, I wasn’t expecting her to be that upfront, and nor was Dashie it seemed; the pegasus spluttered on her beer and looked around sheepishly. Applejack chuckled and reached forward to spin the bottle, it stopped at Fluttershy, spinning it a second time, it landed on me. Fluttershy playfully stuck her tongue out and looked at me.

“Truth or dare?”

“Dare!” I hollered.

“Kiss Rainbow Dash.” she commanded bluntly, not missing a beat.

Kraken Spiced Rum almost became Kraken Spiced Lungs as I inhaled my liquor and choked, coughing loudly for a good few seconds, Rainbow Dash was very quick to stand up, and then face Fluttershy with her eyes wide and her cheeks red.

“Oh come on, it’s what we’ve all been waiting for.” she giggled.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dashie yapped.

Rarity rolled her eyes and sighed at her terrible attempt at hiding the game; Applejack got up and slung a hoof around Dashie’s neck, chuckling.

“RD, do you have any idea how obvious it’s been? You’ve had the hots for Callum since you met him, I’ve seen the way you look at him. Sugarcube, you’re practically obsessed with him!”

“I am NOT!

Even on the receiving end of this, I couldn’t help but find her agitation amusing. Truth be told, I was rather anxious to do this, she was a pony for goodness sake! Sure, she was technically a sentient alien, but even if it wasn’t bestiality, it was sure as hell classed as xenophilic.

{Pull your snowflake head out of your wee snowflake arse! Back in Equestria, we don’t give a shite about interspecies relationships. Unlike your easily offended race, we don’t really care so long as all parties are happy, now stop being a pussy and kiss the girl before she has a meltdown.} Stardust ordered, mocking me.

“Just admit it, darling, you fancy him!”

“C’mon Sugarcube, you know you do!”

“I don’t even need a book to read the signs!”

Everyone’s comments were antagonising Dashie too much for it to be playful, they were clearly trying to get a reaction out of her; everyone had clearly been eager to see it happen, and they were now pushing her a little too far, I needed to stop it. I got up onto my knees and moved towards her while she remained on the defensive, she was getting so worked up that she didn’t even realise I had approached her.

I don’t fancy him!” Rainbow Dash growled.

“Yes, you do, and I’ll fucking prove it.” I replied.

I took either side of her head in my hands, and looked her dead in the eye.

{Fuck it…} I thought.

Lunging forward, I planted my lips against hers and held them there, her eyes almost bulged out of their sockets, until she realised this was really happening, and she closed them.

And so did I…

{Not so bad, ey?}

My eyes flashed open, and I pulled back; shit, how long had I been there? I only meant to kiss her briefly, I had completely lost myself in it! Dashie couldn’t close her mouth, and exhaled slowly, clearly lost in it too; she blinked and then shook her head, and then we both gulped nervously, looking around at the audience that had remained silent throughout.

“Um…” I began, but couldn’t continue.

I broke out into an anxious smile, awaiting some sort of judgement.

“Well then… That was certainly…” Rarity trailed off.

“Cute…” Fluttershy finished for her.

I sat back down beside Twilight and very quickly downed my glass of Kraken, letting the taste of the rum flood my mouth and warm my throat. Rainbow Dash sat down in her seat and didn’t utter a sound.

“Feel better Dashie?” Fluttershy asked.

The cyan pegasus nodded, and then stood up once more.

“I uh, need to go to the bathroom!” she yelped.

Dashie bolted out of the room and closed the double doors behind her; however, we didn’t hear hoofsteps after that, indicating she was hiding on the other side and hadn’t actually gone anywhere. I raised an eyebrow and watched the door, as did the others.
And then we heard it, whispering under her breath from behind the door.

Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh…

There was a quiet squeal of delight, and then we eventually heard the hoofsteps clip clopping off to the bathroom further away in the mansion; everyone chuckled at her evident joy and then looked to me.

“So Callum, how’d you experience that?” Applejack asked.

With the attention back on me, I grew rather shy again.

“Well it was, um, interesting… not-not all that different from kissing a human actually. Her lips had the same texture and uh, whatnot. It was quite strange, but not uh... not exactly unpleasant.”

“But how did you experience that?”

I looked at Applejack and shrugged.

“I don’t know, kind of... nice, I guess?”

“I think I’m going to leave, before I throw up in my helmet.” Hawnu Rey’eng muttered.

{Oh, grow a pair, you overpowered sissy flapdoodle. You’re supposed to be a transcendental guardian for fuck sake, if you’re going to cringe over a wee interspecies kiss, you’re not fit for the job and should hand over yer wee shiny suit to Callum.} Stardust mocked.

{If only you knew.} he replied via telepathy.

{Oh, trust me, I do know, Flappyboi, which only makes it more ironic. Now fuck off before you ruin the party, I’m actually having an enjoyable time for once.}

I flexed an eyebrow at the guardian, both confused at the situation, and impressed at Stardust’s blatant dominance, I wanted to see how he’d react.

“Going so soon? Not even up for a single dare?” Rarity asked him.

“I’m afraid not, I’ve overstayed my welcome and have other matters to tend to, but this has certainly been the nicest evening I’ve experienced in a long time, I thank you all for the good company, and Applejack, I thank you for the excellent cooking.”

“What kind of matters?” Twilight asked.

Leaning up against the wall, he very generously decided to elaborate.

“Do not be fooled, Twilight Sparkle, this world is under threat from more than just Nah’Lek. There are myriads of looming catastrophes all over the Earth, many of an otherworldly design. It’s my responsibility to tend to these threats, all the while ensuring the human race doesn’t know about them, such as the events in Chernobyl.”

Tilting my head and giving an astounded huff, it dawned on me that Hawnu Rey'eng had basically just confirmed that Earth had not only been visited by other aliens, but that it had been attacked by them.

“You say it like it’s some dull chore." Rarity hummed, "Surely it must be rewarding to uphold the very foundations of your home?"

“And I bet you get to fight all sorts of aliens and monsters." I added, "That’s got to be fun, right?”

Folding his arms, Hawnu Rey’eng took a moment to reply, emitting a sigh that was only just perceptible.

“This is no longer my home." he said at last, "And if I am to be honest with you, my role has become rather mundane after a few thousand years. I greatly prefer occurrences such as these, wherein I’m blessed to witness a group of individuals sharing a time of mirth, and merriment. It is the reason I advised Callum and Rainbow Dash to bring the alcohol here. Now that Nah'Lek has been considerably set back, you all deserve to let go for a while before continuing in your journey. So to conclude, I don’t particularly relish in my exploits, not even amidst worthy foes such as Nah’Lek, I only fight because I must. Besides, fun isn’t exactly something one considers when maintaining the balance of the universe.”

He paused, and his visor lit up much more vividly, clearly showing his happiness.

“But this... does put a smile on my face.”

There was a short silence as we all took in the guardian’s unexpected sentiment. And then, from another room in the house, we heard Rainbow Dash’s voice.


Most of us couldn’t help but chortle, and for the first time, I actually heard the guardian laugh properly. It was a rather profound moment, somewhere underneath all that metal, there was a human being. Screw the wings, screw the magic, and screw that whole ‘guardian’ malarkey; he was a genuine person, and I wanted to know who he really was.

“Well on that note, I’m off.” he announced, “I have some polar ice caps to refreeze, we wouldn’t want that ice dragon waking up, now would we?”

Our mouths fell open and he took a bow, flaring his wings in preparation for flight. Refusing to elaborate further, he stepped out of the room and said his farewell to Rainbow Dash, who was still lurking outside. Before leaving for good, he went upstairs and bid Pinkie a goodbye as well. After that, we heard the double doors in the entry hall open, and them promptly close. We rushed to the window and spotted him just as he took a running leap into the air, taking flight and ascending into the clouds.

“Well, that was Hawnu Rey’eng.” I said, pouring another glass of Kraken.

"I like him." Applejack stated, still looking out the window.

“He was certainly an interesting fellow." Rarity hummed, But I'm sorry, did he say something about an ice dragon?”

Huffing and rolling my eyes, I speculated that he was either bluffing for dramatic effect, or that there was far more to my planet than we humans were aware of. Rainbow Dash then burst back into the room, visibly more tipsy than before.

"Dragon-shmagon, I think he's cool."

She came and flopped down beside me, and I asked if she was still up for playing more Truth or Dare. Nodding frantically, the game continued, just as the drinks were properly beginning to kick in; even I was beginning to feel a buzz. Twilight leaned forward and spun the bottle, unpausing the game and allowing the intoxicated hilarity to continue. Looking from face to face, I had a feeling that our questionable activities tonight had only just begun…

“I dare you to make out with Rarity!” Applejack hollered.

The white unicorn didn't even flinch as Rainbow Dash boldly approached her. Still wholly unprepared for this degree of raunchiness, I averted my eyes and poured an amaretto for myself, along with another for Twilight. Holding her glass for her, I aided her in sipping from the glass, as I had been doing for the entire night.

“Oh, they’re really going for it.” she sighed.

Plucking up the courage to observe, I looked over to Rarity to see her cupping Rainbow's face with a hoof, while the pegasus had her forelegs draped around the unicorn's neck. Clearing my throat awkwardly, I chose to look back to my drink.

“Why does it make you uncomfortable?” Twilight asked quietly.

“I’m not sure, I guess I’m just not quite ready for so much openness for this sort of thing, humans aren’t exactly known for their open diverse relationships with others. Not to mention we’ve got only one sentient race on the planet, a relationship with any creature other than another human is bestiality, which is completely and utterly frowned upon. We’ve got no equals in race, so to consider an interspecies relationship is simply ludicrous for us.” I explained.

“Hm, I suppose that’s rather understandable.”

“I’m sure it’s probably got something to do with Bunnie as well, at the end of the day, even though she’s gone, I still love her, I guess a part of me always will.”

Twilight placed a hoof onto the back of my hand.

“And that’s absolutely fine, it’s normal to always have a place in your heart for someone. But hey, maybe this is good for you? Perhaps it could be a way of moving forward?”

Exhaling emphatically through my nose, I saw that she might have had a point. Our attention was drawn back to the game as we realised Rarity and Dashie had finished their dare and had already spun the bottle once, with Applejack being the upcoming truth-asker or dare-giver. Upon a second spin, it landed on Twilight.

“Twilight! Truth or dare?” Applejack hollered.


“You’ve been telling truths the whole darn game! Come on, be daring!”

Twilight rolled her eyes, and dipped her head.

“Okay, dare.”

“Right, it’s time for the big test.” she begun deviously.

Twilight tilted her head.

“Since we came to Earth, you and Callum have had a very tense relationship, am I right?”

I gulped nervously, I had a feeling I knew where this was going, and so did Twilight, who sheepishly placed a hoof on the back of her neck to rub it.

“Well let’s see how well you’ve made amends.”

{Fuck.} I thought.

“What do you mean?” Twilight asked fretfully.

“You know what I mean.”


I took a very large sip from my Disaronno.

“I dare you to make out with Callum.”

{Shit, fuck!}

I refused to make eye contact with anyone. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this, a little kiss was one thing, but this?

“Do I have the right to decline?” I asked.

“What’s the matter? Are you a chicken?” Applejack teased.

“No, I just-”

“Bwark bwark bwark!” she interrupted me.

The others joined in, clucking wildly in mockery, Rainbow Dash jumped to her feet and started strutting around and bobbing her head, pretending to peck the ground in search of corn.

{Scootaloo! Scoot-scoot Scootaloo!} Stardust cried out.

I looked to Twilight with a pained expression, and she returned the look.

“Guys, I don’t think I’m ready for this.”

“Come on Callum! Don’t be a wimp!” AJ giggled.

{You like Dashie don’t you?}

{What?} I thought back.

{You’ll kiss Rainbow Dash but you won’t kiss Twilight... you like the rainbow-haired one!}

Subtly clenching my fists, I argued in thought how that was certainly not the case. Rainbow Dash had just been a little kiss, but now I was being ordained to make out with the pony who had been my mortal enemy for so many months prior, of whom was now finally my friend, and the last thing I wanted was to make things weird between us.

“Is Callum really *hic*, about to back down from a dare?” Rarity gasped, clearly trying to provoke me.

{Oh pull your head out of your wee arse and make out with the egghead.}

“Shall we just get it over with?” Twilight asked.

“T’is a night of shame.” I muttered.

I raised my glass to her, and downed the whole lot, which was about three shots worth of Disaronno, I gritted my teeth and shook my head as the strong spirit burned my throat and I threw the glass away into the corner of the room, to which it smashed loudly upon contact with the wall; I lunged at Twilight, who did the same, I closed my eyes and our lips met, and before I knew it, I was draped over her like a cool bedsheet on a hot summer’s night.

“Oh shit! He’s going for it!” Dashie cried out.

{This isn't happening. This isn't happening.} I thought over and over again.

{Well, I mean... it is though.}

{Shut up, Stardust. This isn't happening.}

{Isn't it? Because your hands are stroking an awfully velvety face.}

{Shut, up, Stardust!}

{Oh my, that's a very wet tongue.}

{Stardust Moonshimmer, I am going to stab you, in the neck, with a knife!}

{The only one you’re going to be stabbing laddie, is Twilight here, with your co-}


At last, I finally pulled back and opened my eyes. Twilight panted faintly and was blushing heavily, staring into my eyes with a dreamy, spaced-out expression. Turning to face the others, I realised they were all staring at me intensely, their eyes practically bulging out of their sockets.

“Well then…” I said, desperate to break the silence.

“So uh, that was one of the hottest gosh-darn things I’ve ever seen!” Applejack murmured.

“Really?” I asked, rubbing the back of my neck with embarrassment.

“Uh, yeah!" she exclaimed, "You never told us you had that side to you.”

“Well, it’s not really something one brings up in general conversation, is it?”

The girls laughed a little at that, and I reached for my glass, only to remember that my glass was now in hundreds of little pieces on the other side of the room, I honestly had no idea why I had done that. Twilight sheepishly nudged her own glass towards me, to which I gladly accepted and took a large swig, before helping her finish off the rest.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve definitely uh... made amends, ey?” I joked.

She giggled, and then spun the bottle once more to initiate the next round. Tactfully spinning it with enough momentum to make herself the dare-giver, she made a very clear attempt to make things less steamy, by was of bringing the whole group together in a much more playful dare.

“I dare everyone to have a race on half their legs! Callum, you can only hop on one leg, and we’re only allowed to walk on two legs, if you fall over, you’re out!”

“What does the winner get?” Dashie asked.

“The winner gets to give everyone else a truth, and a dare.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Applejack cheered.

“Yeah, that sounds fun!” Fluttershy agreed.

We all got up, and it was clear who was drunk and who wasn’t; the alcohol was certainly kicking in now for everyone. Rarity made four attempts until she could stand up straight, hiccupping loudly as she did so. Rainbow Dash burped and then laughed at the sound it had made, while Fluttershy was also wobbling around, looking like she was going to pass out, puke, or both.

“Where are we racing to?” I asked.

“How about first one to the dining room?” Twilight proposed.

“Yeah that sounds good!” Rarity agreed.

“And no wings!” Applejack ordered to Dashie, who shrugged defensively.


“Isn’t Pinkie going to wonder what’s going on from upstairs?” I quizzed.

“Oh, she’ll be asleep by now, and she can sleep through anything.” Dashie answered.

“Doesn’t sound like Pinkie.”

“You’d be surprised." said Twilight, "With the amount of sugar she consumes, she can crash pretty hard. Trust me, she'll be zonked out until the morning.”

I hummed with understanding, and Applejack demanded we began the race before she needed another drink. We made our way to the back of the room, being careful to avoid my broken glass, and prepared ourselves. I raised my left leg and tried to balance on my right, and all the girls reared up and did the same on their two hind legs.

“Three, two, one… GO!” Twilight squealed.

If anyone could have witnessed the sight that followed those four words, they would have quite potentially required counselling, for the chaotic hilarity the took place was mad enough to have become a deranged viral video on the internet. By my second hop, Rarity had passed out and fallen face first into the floor, with Rainbow Dash tripping over her head. Desperate to stay in the game, the pegasus used her wings, propelling herself upwards and into the ceiling. As the rest of us reached the hallway, Applejack accidentally smacked Twilight in the side of the head while losing her balance, dazing the unicorn, and sending her directly into the staircase and smashing the bannisters. Upon entering the narrow passageway to the dining room, my right leg grew tired of hopping, and I could feel myself drifting to the left.

“Well, shit.” I said blankly as I fell.

“Don’t die right there! You’re blocking the way!” Applejack cried out.

Before I had the time to move, a hoof made contact with the side of my face, and everything went blurry, all I could hear was the high-pitched buzzing inside my head. I felt the vibration through the floorboards as Applejack crumpling to the floor next to me, and presumably Fluttershy hopping over the both of us and waddling her way to victory.

The buzzing continued to get more and more intense, and I felt something cold running down my cheek and onto my nose, I tried blinking but my vision remained blurry. I could faintly hear someone calling my name, and then I felt a pair of hooves on my arm, the pain in my head doubled as I was rolled onto my back, and I saw an orange blob in front of me.

“Caaalllllluuummm… Ssuuggaarrccuubbee… Y’aallllrriigghhtt?”

“Yeehaw…” I whimpered.

I squeezed my eyes shut and swallowed, before making an attempt to sit up. The buzzing remained, but my vision slowly cleared up, revealing Twilight and Applejack side by side, fussing over me.

“Sugarcube, I am so sorry! I was trying to jump over you.”

Groaning, I raised a hand to my head and rubbed where she had kicked me.

“Well, you failed in that task.” I murmured.

Twilight then pointed out that I was bleeding, and upon bringing my hand back down, I realised that my fingers were now lightly doused in the crimson liquid, which had started trickling down into my eyebrow from the small gash in my forehead. The pain was numbed from my drunken state, and I declared that I was fine, but Twilight insisted regardless that I needed to put some ice on it. Our attention was then drawn to the dining room, where Fluttershy could be seen prancing around on top of the table, loudly celebrating her victory.

“Wooo! Yeah, I beat all of you! I'm the winner!”

Spotting us in the doorway, she pointed a hoof at us and continued to gloat, swaying her head from side to side.

“I win! Oh yeah! I win! I… um... I... wi… n…”

Trailing off, Fluttershy gave us a blank expression, before looking down and opening her mouth, very suddenly expelling all the alcohol she had consumed. It was a disgustingly hilarious sight as Fluttershy became something of a fountain for a few seconds, puking all over the table and then fainting directly into it with a heavy wet smack. The dining table’s old legs then snapped and the entire thing dropped to the ground, taking Fluttershy with it and causing her to roll off, sprawling out onto the floor with as much grace and decorum as an insect, splattered upon a car windshield.

“One of us should take her to bed.” I mumbled.

“I’ll sort her out, you go and rest that head, Twilight, would you get him some ice?” Applejack said.

Twilight nodded and escorted me back to the lounge, where we found Rainbow Dash still hanging from the ceiling, her head and upper torso lost in the upper foundations of the house; quite possibly with her head emerging from the floor in a room upstairs.

“Yo Rainbow Dash, y’alright?” I called up to her.

“Yeah, just, you know… hanging around.” her muffled voice replied.

“Punny.” I said, rolling my eyes.

I jumped up and grabbed her leg, yanking her downwards, a few rotten pieces of wood and loads of dust came down with her; after helping her dust herself down, I noticed Rarity was still unconscious by the wall where the race had begun.

“Wild side, my arse.” I scoffed.

Twilight went over to her bag, which contained the portable fridge-freezer, she took some ice and placed it onto a towel she’d taken earlier, and I helped wrap it up and then held it against my head.

“What happened to you?” Dashie asked.

“Applejack kicked me in the face.”


“I was expecting you to offer to kiss it better.” Twilight teased.

“Piss off, egghead.”

We all chuckled and sat back in the original circle, and looked at the bottle in the middle.

“Another round?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I’m pretty sure the game’s over Dashie.” I replied.

“Awh man, I want to keep going.”

“Well, I didn’t say we could stop drinking.”

Twilight grinned, and slid her glass over to me, where I poured the rest of the Disaronno into it for her, I then stole Rarity’s glass as she wouldn’t be needing it anymore, and poured myself a large amount of Kraken; this night wasn’t over until I couldn’t stand up.

“Here’s to getting fucked up!” I cheered.

Dashie cheered and we all continued to drink.

With the amount we ended up drinking, we grew tired of using glasses and drank straight from the bottle, which made it easier for Twilight to drink without my assistance; that said, she was struggling to even see the bottles she was grabbing, we were all getting very drunk.

“You know something, egghead?” Dashie asked loudly.

Twilight’s head slowly rotated to look at her.

“I forgive you for all that shit, you… *hic* you didn’t know what the fuck you were doing, Callum told me about that Fel stuff and *hic*, like, like… I know it does weird shit to your head, like, you lose yourself…
My point is, I know now that all the shit you’ve done wasn’t your fault, I forgive you egghead.”

I faced Twilight, and saw her lip trembling, she blinked once before bursting into tears and wrapping Rainbow in a gigantic hug, I smiled widely at the scene and reached for the Kraken, downing the last amount left inside.

{You alright there Drunkie?} Stardust hummed.

“Yeeaahh, bwooii…” I replied in a deep voice, something akin to Morgan Freeman's.

Twilight and Dashie stopped hugging and looked at me with the most bewildered expression, I shrugged and pointed at them with finger guns.


{You’re trollied Callum.}

“Alas, I can still stand.”

I stood up and did a little dance, to which Dashie laughed and reached for some more of her own drink, to which Twilight did the same, we were hellbent on getting shitfaced; we spend the next half an hour focused on hard spirits and ditched the remaining beer and cider. While we drank, we joked about past times and what still lay ahead, while keeping the mood light.

“So, what country do you think we’ll go to next?” one of the girls asked.

By now, I couldn’t even tell who was talking, so I decided to answer the ceiling.

“Fuck knows, but I hope it’s not another ju*hic*ungle, Brazil was evil.”

“Tell me about it.” Dashie grumbled.

“I’m glad your wings are finally better from that.” Twilight said merrily.

Dashie dipped her head in thanks and finished the last of the Jack Daniels, I took a risk and reached the Fluttershy’s remaining Baileys; a thick Irish cream mixed with rum, beer, and amaretto was sure to send me into true drunkenness, I kept confident in my stomach and took a large swig.

“You’re going to die.” Twilight chuckled.

“Probably.” Dashie agreed.

{You know what really sucks? Because I’m a soul trapped in yer wee body, I’m not affected by ANY of this shite, I’m still sober as a nun on Sunday; sure, I feel the same buzz, but I’m in no way influenced, you could be blind drunk, and I could see it clear as day.} Stardust grumbled.

{That, my Equestrian friend, is unfortunate.}

Oh boy, it didn’t take long until that hit me…
The buzz became muffled white noise as my sensory capabilities declined drastically, mixing drinks was known to always do the trick, and now I understood it first-hand. I blinked a few times and then looked in the corner of the room, where Rarity remained fast asleep on the wooden floor.

“She’s more dead than me.” I pointed out.

The girls laughed and continued to drink with me.

“You know, some music would really add to the vi*hic*ibe, being drunk in a quiet room without any tunes doesn’t quite have the same feeling, does it?”

Rainbow Dash hummed in agreement, and Twilight simply nodded like a bobblehead, clearly about to pass out herself; I gave her a slight push with the tips of my fingers and she toppled over, laughing wildly as she attempted to stand up, eventually being able to rise up and drink another load of Lambs Navy Rum.

“I think… I think I’m going to go to bed after this drink, I’d rather pass out in a bed.”

I tilted my head at Twilight, and shrugged.

“Fair o*hic*one…” I garbled.

She took one last big swig from the bottle, wiped her lips, and gave me a tight hug.

“I’ll… see you… in-in the, uh… In the morning!

“Drink some water, or you’ll be hanging out of your arse.” I replied, breaking off the hug.

She nodded and waddled out of the room, leaving me and Dashie together; at this point, she was just a fuzzy blue blob. I grinned and threw an arm around her.

“And then, there were two!”

“The real alcohol heavyweights!” she hailed back.

I looked at her, and while there was a multicoloured blob looking back, I swear she had Bunnie’s face.

“You okay?” she asked.

Blinking twice, she looked like Dashie again, and I nodded.

“Yeah, just fine!”

“Are you sure?” Bunnie quizzed, double checking.

“Of course, I, wait…” I stopped.

“Wait what?”

I looked at her, and it was getting harder and harder to distinguish who she was; it was the drink, surely, or perhaps I just needed more, I took the Baileys and had another gulp, licking my lips at the taste of the creamy liqueur and then grinning.

“Never mind Bun, er, hun! I just *hic* needed another drink.”

“Same here.” she replied.

She took the bottle from me and drank some, only to stick her tongue out in disgust.

“Ew! How have you been drinking this? It’s not alcohol, it’s cream!”

“It’s alcoh*hic*holic cream, basically.”

“Yeah, it’s gross, I need a spirit.”

She went off into the distance and I lost sight of her, everything was too vague and blurry, was I standing or sitting? I couldn’t tell, I didn’t even know if I was looking up or down.

“Hey!” a familiar voice called over to me.

I looked towards the source, and just about made out Rainbun-bow! Dash.

“Follow me!”

Doing as I was told, I dizzily stumbled after her, only for her to leave the room; I giggled and gave chase, she went up the stairs, spilling whiskey as she went. Upon climbing the stairs, it felt like I was scaling a mountain, each step was like a handhold as I went up on my hands and knees, laughing as I crawled, this was so much fun! I needed to let myself go after everything I’d been through, and this had been the perfect opportunity, the buzzing in my head wasn’t irritating, I let it flow and just went with it.

“Who the hell even makes *hic* stairs? We need an elevator…” I mumbled.

Crawling over the top, I flopped onto my back, causing my head to spin even more, the room was a kaleidoscope right now, it had an odd beauty to it. I then felt another person’s hand hold my own, I turned to see Bunnie sat next to me.

“Your hand is really blue.” I said.

“Come on, you.” she chuckled, tugging me.

I slowly got to my feet and followed her into a doorway in the ceiling, or was it the floor?

{That’s the wall, drunkie.}

“Ah, thanks, *hic*, my dude.”

There it was, the most beautiful bed I’d ever seen, this wasn’t king-sized, this was god-sized!

“I call top bunk!” I announced, regardless of there being no bunks.

A giggle came from behind me, and I turned around only to be pushed backwards. I landed on the bed and it temporarily felt like I’d fallen into a swimming pool, I was floating in spacey water, it was warm and fuzzy, and blue.

{That’s Rainbow Dash, you’re hugging her.}

Sure, sure, Stardust might have said that, but no pony could feel like they were all around me, Rainbow Dash was a pony, not a body of water.

{That body of water is called a pair of wings, wrapping around you. Oh, and you’re being smooched.}

Hm, so that’s what that feeling was, I tried to focus and realised he was right, I was kissing Bunnie; it had all just been a very bad dream. My dear sweet Bunnie was still alive, and now it was just the two of us.

“Well, we’re finally in that room again...” I sighed happily, pulling back.

Bunnie smiled, and I flopped onto my back, and before I knew it, there was blue everywhere, light cyan blue, and my neck felt all tingly, it had to be Bunnie, only she would kiss my neck like that. The buzzing in my head got louder, and the sensations grew more intense, my skin grew hypersensitive and I couldn’t stop smiling, I must have looked really silly, but it was only her, and she wouldn’t have cared. I wrapped my arms around her and we threw ourselves into the bed properly, the increase of pace caused the droning in my head to peak; I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t even smell…

But I could feel… and gosh… that, felt, good…

The first thing I felt the following day, was a dry throat and a splitting headache, along with ebbing and flowing waves of nausea. This was easily the worst hangover I had now experienced; I really ought to have drank some water before bed. Moaning painfully, I looked at the bedside table to find exactly that, a glass of water, along with a terribly scribbled note, it looked as though a toddler had written it.

You’ll need this, stay healthy.
- Love from Drunk Callum

Smirking, I took the glass and took a large gulp, only to taste a putrid burning, I sprayed it all out onto the floor and coughed loudly, it was fucking vodka! Drunk Callum was a dickhead. Snarling with annoyance, I rolled back into bed and stretched, and nearly jumped out of my skin as my left hand made contact with fur. Gulping, I slowly rolled over onto my left side and pulled back the covers, to reveal Rainbow Dash sleeping soundly.

That was when I realised that I wasn’t wearing any clothes.

“Oh god… Oh god, no…” I murmured.

I couldn’t have, there was no recollection of such an event, and my memory was superb! Surely I’d just got hot in the night, and a drunk Rainbow Dash came and crashed in bed with me while I was asleep. That must have been what happened, surely! And then, from deep within my skull, a quiet chuckling rang out, and the voice of Stardust echoed in my mind.

{Well good morning, sunshine, sleep well?
I haven’t forgotten a thing… Would you like me to tell you now, or later?}

Chapter Twenty-Six: Oh, The Shame

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{This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening… I did NOT sleep with Rainbow Dash…}

Stardust chuckled, and then said nothing, clearly revelling in my despair and confusion, I stumbled out of bed and the hangover’s worst symptom surfaced in full force, the dreaded headache and the nausea that followed, I slowly stood up properly and found my clothes, they’d clearly been thrown, as they were scattered across the floor. Turning back to the bed, Dashie continued to sleep soundly, her usual snoring completely non-existent, which was odd, as people were known to snore louder when passed out drunk.

{She must have gone to sleep very contented, satisfied, perhaps?}

“How badly do you want to get hurt?” I muttered under my breath.

{I’m hurting bad enough thanks, alas, while I remained unaffected by the alcohol itself, I’m feeling the damn hangover, and it sucks.}

“Well, keep making those comments, and I’ll headbutt a wall.”

{I hate the fact you’re depressed enough to do that to yourself, thus putting me in danger.}

“Exactly, so don’t test me.”

I looked down at my body, damn, I’d changed; I had more scars than King Solomon had wives. It was odd to think back when my body was so badly out of shape; my belly used to be so big, I couldn’t even see my whang when going for a piss; now it was flat as my ex’s tits, with abs like Chris Evans’. I could comfortably see my manhood now without an issue.

{I bet you’ve got stank dick.}

“Oh, bugger off, Stardust, please. I don’t want to think about that.” I grumbled.

{Learn how to live mate. Now go and drink some water to alleviate this disgusting hangover.}

I rolled my eyes and put on my clothes, which stunk of sweat and alcohol, I really needed to wash them, or get some new clothes entirely, they didn’t even fit me properly as they belonged to the Blood Family’s limited wardrobe, perhaps there were some leftover clothes around this mansion?
Getting into my worn cargo trousers and not bothering with putting on the ruined shirt, I left the room and wearily went down the hallway and down the stairs; I first looked into the living room, which had been totally wrecked from last night’s truth or dare. I then made my way to the kitchen, where I found Applejack drinking a glass of apple juice.

“He lives!” She cheered, giggling.

“Mmn, no more drinkie…”

“Did you meet the Great White God?”


“You know, the Great White God, in the bathroom?”

I titled my head, puzzled; Applejack rolled her eyes and chuckled.

“I’m guessing you’ve never heard the phrase. I mean, did you throw up?”

“Oh, I see…” I hummed.

I shook my head, and regretted it instantly as the nausea returned.

“Looks like you’re hanging pretty hard though.” She chuckled.

“Yup, I need coffee.”

“No you don’t, Sugarcube, you need apple juice.”

I raised an eyebrow, and scoffed.

“Of course, you’d recommend something with apples.”

“I’m being serious, it's gentler on the stomach than orange juice, and it provides an instant hit of glucose which helps to restore your blood sugar levels, the Vitamin C also helps to rehydrate the body.”

{She’s not wrong.} Stardust agreed.

“Well get you, being all smart and scientific.”

“Don’t get used to it, Sugarcube, I don’t like the fancier words, but if it gets folk to be healthier and consume more apples, then I’ll buy into it.”

{Is her strange obsession with apples to do with her past trauma?} Stardust asked.

{I’m pretty sure it’s because there are apples literally stuck to her ass, Stardust, I’m certain apples were woven into her destiny for a laugh.}

{Yeah, that sounds like something Pinkaísthima would do.}


I smiled at Applejack and let her pour me a glass of juice; while I still wanted the taste of coffee, I admittingly knew that apple juice it would clear up the hangover quicker.

{Pinkaísthima, the Titan of Sentiment, he was behind creating consciousness and emotion, but also had partial responsibility of the written fate of Equus. When the Titans created the Tree of Harmony, along with the Elements, it was written that a group of ponies would inherit their power and resemble certain traits, such as honesty, kindness, loyalty, blah blah blah…
Being the most emotional of the Titans, I imagine Pinkaísthima wanted to have some fun, and wrote that one of the ponies would be madly obsessed with apples or some shite, I don’t know.}

I hummed, very interested; jokes aside, I wanted to know more about the Titans themselves.
Taking a sip from my glass, the most delightfully sweet and fresh flavour rushed through my mouth and into my body, I couldn’t help but exhale loudly.

“Bloody hell, now that’s some damn good apple juice!” I exclaimed, smacking my lips.

“Nothing beats an apple from Sweet Apple Acres, you’re tasting the freshest apples in Equestria right there, better than coffee, that’s for sure!” She said cheerfully.

{Disregard everything that I just said, I think I’m going to be obsessed with apples from now on, that’s some good shit! Why wasn’t I alive when these were available?}

“Well, you have me convinced in terms of hangover cures, I already feel a little better.”

AJ smiled warmly and then tilted her head ever so slightly.

“So, are you and Rainbow Dash a thing now?”

My eyes widened and I quickly swallowed the juice in my mouth, almost spluttering on it.

“What uh... What gave you that notion?”

“Well, seeing as I’m in the room right next to hers, there’s not much I can’t hear through these old walls. After I sobered up some, I stayed awake for a while, I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. And I just so happened to hear you in there together, you were laughing and hooting away, and then announced you were having an after party! Y'all went back downstairs and got even more drunk. I went down to check on you both after some time, and found you both making out, after having drank a whole lot more booze. If I'm honest, I’m amazed you’re the first one up, other than myself of course, I had expected you to be in bed all darn day to recover. You humans sure have strong livers!”

I chuckled nervously, I didn’t remember a thing after I went upstairs with Rainbow, I supposed that it explained the note to me from myself, and the vodka.

“So, that’s all you heard?” I asked, taking another sip.

“No, I heard y’all fuckin’.”

That time, I really did splutter on my apple juice.

{Awh come on! You ruined it! I was going to tell him at the end of the damn chapter! All dramatic like! Well, the cat's out the bloody bag now, thanks for spoiling my fun, ya wee inbred southern mongrel...} Stardust angrily ranted.

“I beg your pardon!?” I yelped.

“Did I stutter, Sugarcube?”

A frigid sensation rushed over my body as I went into a cold sweat, I experienced the feeling one gets when they’re caught red handed, or feeling extremely guilty about something, every facet of my skin tingled with the icy chill, and I had to pause before speaking.

“Okay, so, what did you hear exactly?”

“You, and Dashie, fuckin’.”

“Can you... Be more specific?”

“You don’t remember, do you?”

A sly grin slowly crept upon Applejack’s face, as she realised that I hadn’t a clue of what really happened last night, the grin transitioned into a puckered ‘O’ shape.

“Ooooh, boy, in that case, you done messed up, hun.”

“Yeah, I gathered that much.” I muttered, staring at her blankly.

Applejack laughed, and leaned on the kitchen counter to break the news to me.

“Well, you both came back upstairs and talked very loudly about sex, Dashie very clearly sounded like she was trying to get it on, and you were mumbling about being unsure and stuff. I was a bit worried she’d be forcing anything on you, but then I heard you say you were ready to let go of the past. Then I heard, well, uh, a lot of movement, and a rather squeaky bed.”

“Oh jeez…”

“Then came the moaning, like, loud moaning, I don’t know what you were doing to her, but she was loving it. Then she went on about humans lasting a lot longer than ponies, and it was the best ruttin' she’d ever-”

“Okay, I think I’ve heard enough!” I barked.

“I mean, you were going at it for at least an hour-”

I said I’ve heard enough!

AJ sealed her lips, and was evidently trying not to laugh.

{Oh shit man, fucking hell… I… I really did it, didn’t I?}

{Yup, you sir, made love to Rain-}

{Slept with her, I slept with her, Stardust, we did not make love, that’s a very different thing.}

{You can attach whatever symbolism to it as you like, but you put yer wee cock in her.}

“Applejack please, nobody can know about this.” I pleaded.

“Why? It’s not out of the ordinary.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, let’s just say RD is certainly the most active of the bunch, she’s bragged about a lot of dates, that all end in sex, or at least some foreplay.”

“Okay, gross.” I muttered.

“Why’s that gross? It’s a perfectly normal and natural part of life, Sugarcube.”

“I’d rather not think I’m just another guy on the pile of other guys Dashie’s slept with, and besides, I’m a human, it’s just not normal for our race to be sleeping with another species.”

“If I had a bit for every time you’ve mentioned that, babe, I could go on vacation for a year. I get it, humans are more closed minded.”

“We’re not more closed minded, there’s just nothing to compare such a concept to, we’re the only true sentient race on this planet, interspecies relationships just don’t exist here.” I retorted defensively.

“Well, you know our customs now, in fact I'd say you've grown quite used to 'em. So you'd only have a problem with it if you don’t think we’re as sentient as you are, the only issue you’d have, was if you thought we were animals.”

“That’s not fair, I-”

“Why isn’t it? Think about it, the only reason an interspecies relationship is an issue for you, is because it would be considered bestiality to your culture. We’re not animals, we’re ponies, which are exactly the same as humans in terms of consciousness and civilisation.”

“Well, even with that being the case, it’s technically xenophilic.”

“Xeno-what now?”

“It means to be attracted to unknown things, people specifically. To be blunt, it means to be romantically or sexually interested in extra-terrestrials, such as yourself, aliens, for lack of a better word.”

“I see.”

We both drank more apple juice, and Stardust let out an overly exaggerated ‘mmmmmnn’ at the flavour, before Applejack continued the conversation.

“My question would be, what’s so wrong with that?”

I opened my mouth, and then closed it.
Nothing, in retrospect, there was literally nothing wrong with that fact.

{Maybe, it was okay?} I thought.

{You’re thinking too hard, mate, life isn’t governed by the ridiculous gods humans believe in, there is no right or wrong way of living your life, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone.}

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m just getting used to the concept, so I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t go telling everyone I’d slept with Rainbow Dash.”

“Who did what with Rainbow Dash?” A tired voice mumbled.

I whipped around and saw a very groggy Twilight stumbling into the kitchen.

“Oh, nothing, we were just talking about last night’s antics, how’s the hangover?” I replied.

Twilight looked at me with the face of death, and blinked slowly.

“I need coffee.”

“No you don’t, Sugarcube, you need apple juice.” Applejack said.

Twilight raised an eyebrow, and scoffed.

“Of course, you’d recommend something with apples.”

“I’m being serious, it's gentler on the stomach than orange juice, and it provides an instant hit of gluco-”

“You’re literally repeating exactly what you said to me!” I protested.

“So, what? Everyone ought to know how healthy apples are! An apple a day keeps the doc-”

“-tor away, I know, we use that saying on Earth too.” I interrupted.

Applejack chuckled and then rolled her eyes.

“Then you should be agreeing that Twilight ought to drink apple juice instead.”

Twilight brushed past me and approached the southerner.

“Bitch, I know the qualities of apples, I’m a scientist. But I'd rather caffeine to improve my blood flow, along with kahweol and cafestol molecules to aid in repairing liver damage. Now let me make some coffee and stop preaching about apples like they’re Equestria’s lord and saviour, they aren't.”

I covered my mouth to prevent myself from laughing at Twilight’s brilliant shutdown; Applejack kept a blank face and simply passed Twilight a coffee mug, and then turned on Rarity’s kettle. It was interesting how the kettle worked, nearly all of ponykind's electronic tools and gadgets were powered by small gemstones that contained condensed magical energy, similar to a battery. Whenever the battery ran out, a unicorn could recharge it with their magic, which they normally did for a fee. According to Rarity, there were small businesses around most large cities where people would take their batteries in bulk to be recharged, similar to a petrol station, but for gem-batteries instead of cars.
While this was their main source of electricity, they still had resources like oil and coal, which was burned for more demanding sources, such as trains and factories; it was common fact that this method was mainly used by earth ponies and pegasi to feel less dependent on unicorns, whom were still uncommonly (and very reluctantly) perceived as the master race.

The kettle boiled, and I returned Twilight’s favour from the other night, and made her the coffee.

“How does the milk not go off? Even in Rarity’s fridge-bag, it’ll still expire at some point.” I asked.

“You’re right, but that’s where our dimension’s time difference plays in our favour, the pocket dimensions Discord created are still technically on Equus, on another plane of existence. Because a day in our world is a year in yours, the milk is basically frozen in time whenever it’s inside the bag, so we’ve got about fifteen years until it spoils, give or take.” Twilight explained.

I hummed, it made sense. Finishing my apple juice, I stretched and rummaged into Rarity’s bag for something to eat, and stumbled upon something truly heart-warming in the unrefrigerated part, it was a packet of Threezies, I hadn’t eaten a Threezie since Brazil. I couldn’t help but open the packet and take a bite; the initial taste was vanilla, and as I chewed, it transitioned into white chocolate. When swallowing, I was left with a peppermint aftertaste.

“Man, I have waited so long to eat a Threezie again.” I moaned in ecstasy.

For a brief moment, I forgot I was even dealing with a hangover; in all honesty, this moment in time was one I’d remember rather well. Having run away from home, I never experienced the college life, the house parties, the one-night stands, the hangover amongst other hung-over friends, it was something I’d always wanted and never had, just to be a normal teenager.
And now, in a weird and wonderful way, I’d experienced it.

“I’ve got some in my bag too, you should have just asked.” Twilight said gleefully.

“Well, until recently, I’m certain you’d have just drawn a knife on me.” I teased.

“Ouch, I was being nice.”

“I’m playing, Twi.”

Twilight stuck her tongue out at me, and then took a sip of her coffee.

“So, what are the plans for today?” She asked.

“Other than let my hangover go away? I don’t know, I might take a walk.”

“Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all.”

Applejack finished her juice and yawned loudly.

“Well, I’m going to salvage some cooking utensils from the kitchen and think of something to cook, y’all don’t forget to drink water before you head out.”

“Jeez, yes mum.” I teased.

The farm pony chuckled and left the room, the moment we were alone, Twilight turned to look at me with a concerned look.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Sure, what about, Twi?”

“Something that happened last night.”


{Oh boy, you’re in trouble, I bet she heard you and Dashie!}

“But I want to talk about it while we’re on that walk.”

I gulped and nodded, I honestly couldn’t read her body language or facial expression right now, was she angry with me? Worried? Shocked? Disappointed? I couldn’t tell, it was a concerned countenance that gave nothing away.

“No problem.” I replied, playing it cool.

I really didn’t want Twilight knowing about Dashie and I, due to all we’d been through, I felt like our relationship was much deeper and would somehow be affected. It was nothing romantic or anything like that, I just supposed she was my absolute best friend now, and I didn’t want to cause any upset by her knowing I’d slept with one of her friends, especially due to the wobbly relationship she’d had lately with Rainbow Dash, it felt like it was kinder that she didn’t know, at least not for a week or so.

“When were you planning on going out?”

“After breakfast perhaps?” I suggested.

She accepted that and I left her to drink her coffee at the counter, while I rummaged through Rarity’s bag again in search of food; it was still a strange concept that I was eating food from Equestria, nourishment that had literally come from another dimension, it was both cool and mind blowing.
Without warning, something smashed behind me and I jumped briskly.

“Oh, for fuck sake…” Twilight growled.

I turned around to find she’d dropped the coffee mug onto the floor, I went over to her and started picking up the pieces without uttering a word.

“I’m sick of this, I need my magic back…”

“It’s early days Twiley, you nee-”

Don’t call me Twiley! You’re not my damn brother!

I looked up at her and we made eye contact, she relaxed and sighed heavily.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that… I… I…”

“No sorries, it’s okay.”

“I just… I just keep finding myself in a really angry state, and I want to hurt you, it only lasts for a few seconds at a time, but I really don’t want to feel like that. I’m really sorry.”

“Hey, it’s alright. Again, no sorries, you don’t need to apologise for those kinds of outbursts. We’ve already talked about this, Twilight, you’re still recovering from the Fel. It has seriously fucked with your head, you have PTSD, and it’s going to be a long road ahead until you can fully recover. And I’m going to support you all the way, which includes sticking by you during these little eruptions, I won’t ever get frustrated or disappointed with you, okay? I get it.” I assured her.

Her face grew contorted with emotion, she was clearly trying not to cry, the poor girl had been subjected to so much cruelty and torment, I longed for the day I could kill Nah’Lek for real, I was going to take him apart, piece by piece.

“I don’t know what to say.” She began.

“Say nothing, just go and find another mug so I can replace this coffee.” I responded.

I picked up all the broken porcelain and looked around for a bin, and found one underneath the counter, inside were some documents; I initially took them to soak up the coffee, but couldn’t help but read their contents, I was surprised to find it was written in English, which was odd as we were in Portugal.

{How convenient.} Stardust jeered.

“Shut up, English is still the most influential language in the world, and one of the most common. Perhaps this was someone’s holiday home?”

I scanned the document, skimming most of it and reading it aloud to myself.

“Dear Mister Ekers, hope you’re well, blah blah blah…
Regret to inform you that your investments have been mishandled by your co-director, Mr Crouch, blah blah… You are immediately required to come back to your office in Bethesda blah blah blah…
Your development for Project Seventy-Six have been put on hold, blah blah…
Ah, here we go!
Your mansion in Portugal will be occasionally checked by the local authorities to ensure your property is untouched, we appreciate you are not at apparent fault, and will be sure to have Errol feed Mr Crouch to the pigs when this mess is sorted out.
Kind regards, Mr Jensen.”

{This was written nearly a year ago, what do you think happened?}

“I’m not sure, but it seems like the local authorities gave up checking this place, half the possessions have been stolen and it looks run down as hell.” I answered.

Stardust hummed and lost interest. After mopping up the spilt coffee with the document, I took the kettle and boiled the water, a few moments after it had boiled, Twilight returned with a mug; I made her some coffee and then went back to rummaging Rarity’s bag for food. I settled on some bread and cheese, and made myself a cheese sandwich, making one for Twilight too.

“You’re okay with cheese, right?” I asked politely.

“Yeah, so long as it’s not a quesadilla.”

“You don’t like quesadillas?”

“Can’t stand them, they’re just so… Cheesy… Like, I don’t mind cheese but not in ludicrous amounts, and those horrible things are just complete overkill.” She explained.


I shrugged and cut the sandwiches in half from corner to corner, making them triangular; Twilight couldn’t help but notice and gasp loudly.

“You make them triangles too?”

“Yeah, it makes them easier to eat without getting stuff on your lips.”

That’s exactly why I cut them into triangles!” I exclaimed.

{You shagged a pony last night, and now you’re having a wee girly chat about triangular sandwiches, are you sure you’re even a real human being? Seriously, you’re an anomaly mate.} Stardust laughed.

I passed her the sandwich and took a bite of my own, it wasn’t half bad; I preferred cheddar, but mozzarella was fine. After we’d eaten, Twilight finished her coffee and we decided to go out.

“It’s pretty nippy out there, we ought to wear something thicker.” I mentioned.

“I’ll be fine.”

“I’m getting you something.” I replied dully.

“I’ll be fine!” She insisted as I ran up to my room.

The master bedroom had three wardrobes, I found a navy-blue puffer jacket, and a sheepskin coat, both of them in large size; I also found a black and grey striped scarf in one of the drawers, which I thought Twilight would be thankful for.

Coming back downstairs, I found Twilight chatting with Pinkie, whom had come downstairs for breakfast; and of course, she had packed sugary cereal in her bags, I was hardly surprised.

“Morning!” She sang.

“Hey Pinks, sleep well?”

“Like a half-eaten brick!”

Twilight mouthed ‘what the fuck?’ behind her back, to which I chuckled.

“Because you slept hard, inside and out?” I clarified.

Exactly!” She squealed, and face planted into her cereal.

“How do you figure out her Pinkieisms so easily?” Twilight asked, astounded.

“Because I’m mad, Twilight.”

Pinkie brought her face up, her muzzle now dripping with milk.

“Alas, he’s mad, in a crazy world, which makes him sane!”

“Profound.” I responded with a nod.

Pinkie licked her lips, before plunging her face back into her cereal. I playfully rolled my eyes and passed Twilight the scarf and sheepskin coat.

“This is a human coat.” She said blankly.

“Bonus points for being observant. It’s large, so it’ll fit you.” I replied.

While getting the jacket on wasn’t exactly easy, it did indeed fit Twilight rather well, I helped zip it up and then assisted with the scarf. Putting on my own puffer jacket, we ventured outside and made our way to the nearby woodland, just where the mountain began to peak.

“So, how’s the hangover?” Twilight asked, kicking at the snow.

“It’s dying down.”

She hummed, and we kept walking. The air was thinner up here, but it was certainly fresh; I took in a deep breath and let the chilled air fill my lungs.

“So, about last night…” Twilight began.

I exhaled, and waited for her to continue.

“During that game of truth or dare, things got rather lecherous, and I’ve not really had any experience with that kind of theme. I got a bit too eager, and I just wanted to ask you something.”

Remaining silent, I nodded for her to ask me; she was clearly nervous and embarrassed, her voice was slower than usual and her breath was shaky, indicating a lot of distress.

“We were dared to make out, and we kissed, for quite a while…”

{Oh, it’s about that… She doesn’t know about Rainbow Dash yet…} I thought, relieved.

“It didn’t… Um… It didn’t mean anything, did it?” She finally asked.

I sighed and gave Twilight a warm smile; dropping to one knee, I put a hand on her shoulder and stopped her from walking, we made eye contact and I tilted my head slightly with endearment.

“Twilight, we were both drunk, and participating in a wild and rather lusty game of Truth or Dare, what happens in that game, stays in that game. That kiss meant nothing, I promise. We’re friends, and that’s where we draw the line. There’s nothing awkward between us, okay?”

Taking a deep breath through her nose, Twilight dipped her head and released a deep sigh.

“Oh, good, I was really worrying about it this morning.”

I ruffled her mane and smirked.

“Well you needn’t anymore, consider it already forgotten.”

Grinning back at me, we continued our walk in silence for a while, taking in the view.

“Where do you think we’ll be heading to next? Any ideas?”

I looked down to Twilight and shrugged.

“Not sure, hopefully nowhere with snow, I’ve had enough of the cold for once. It wasn’t long ago when I had to sleep in a damn prison cell with bare feet and no insulation, almost lost my bloody toes to frostbite. I can safely say I don’t want any more cold weather for a while.” I answered.

“I agree, I’ve spent way too many nights in the Frozen Forest to ever enjoy the winter again.”

“Never say never, you’ll get there Twilight, I promise. Perhaps one day, when this is all over and done, you’ll take a walk through a woodland in the winter, and feel at peace.”

“I’d like that.” She sighed.

I exhaled through my nose heavily.

“Wish I could be there to see it.”

“You want to come back with us, don’t you?”

“I don’t know, to be honest, most of me does. But there’s no use thinking on the matter, because I’m not coming back, I can’t come back. I know what happens if I do.”

Twilight stopped walking, I also stopped to face her properly.

“What do you mean?”

“When I grabbed the third shard, I saw the vision Princess Celestia showed you. I saw Ponyville burning, ponies were screaming, black smoke turned the sky dark and the town was attacked.”

Her eyes widened at my testament, rather shocked by it. She then looked down and frowned, mumbling quietly, almost to herself than to me.

“The orb took you there… It wanted you to see that...”

She looked back up at me, her facial expression twisted with some form of contempt.

“It’s why I was so afraid of you, the sight of humans destroying my home, it led me to think you were a monster, inside and out. When the Fel started properly affecting me, it played on that fear, that vision was the root of my behaviour to start with.” She confessed.

“Twilight, after you disappeared from the vision, I remained, I saw what happened afterwards. The creatures that attacked Ponyville weren’t humans, they were orcs.”

“What…?” She breathed.

“Orcs attacked Ponyville, and then I met with Princess Luna, I told her about the orcs and Nah’Lek’s plans, and then Nah’Lek’s shade somehow gained control over the vision, and twisted it. Luna fled the vision, and I was left for Nah’Lek to toy with. He used the remaining fragments of the dreamworld to torture me and show me the Fel’s true power.”

“You met Princess Luna!?”

“Oh yeah, let’s disregard the fact my whole race was innocent of the attack, and forget my relentless torture, let’s just focus on Princess Luna.” I said teasingly.

She shook her head apologetically.

“I’m sorry… So, no other humans can get to Equestria?”

“I don’t think so, no.”

“Then why would being on Equus be an issue?”

“I haven’t a clue, but I don’t want to run the risk of that vision coming true. I won’t be coming with you and that’s final, but still, it’s not a secret that I’d like to.”

Not knowing what else to say, Twilight moved onto the subject of Princess Luna, I explained to her how she’d come to the dream and how we’d fought some orcs together, and how she’d explained who Stardust was. That was when I remembered the war she had mentioned, what was it again?

“What was the war Stardust fought in?”

“Oh, that’d be the Repugnant War, usually just called ‘The War’, the great onslaught between ponies, minotaurs, and griffins. It’s by far the worst part of our planet’s history.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, after Nah’Lek arrived and ravaged the continents, the minotaurs blamed the griffons for his assault, as that was where he was first sighted. The war kicked off when a large army of minotaurs from Congataur raided the southern griffon settlements as an act of vengeance, the griffons retaliated in full force, and bloodshed soon befell both races day and night. A few months onward, word spread to both sides that Nah’Lek had been defeated in Equestria, and was imprisoned in Tartarus. Both griffons and minotaurs alike were outraged and demanded he be executed, when the ponies denied this, Equestria was assaulted from both the south and the east by both races. It was a bloodbath for years, forty-three to be exact, a lot of ponies lived and died without knowing peace, or what they had even fought for. Near to the war’s end, Princess Celestia was wounded in The Battle of Baltimare, and Stardust Moonshimmer took charge of the army in her stead. He decided to slip behind enemy lines and speak to the leaders of each army, and after a long negotiation, they agreed no more killing would occur in Nah’Lek’s name, and the Treaty of Harmony Between Races was formed and signed.
While the bloodbath was finally put to an end, it took many years for the races to trust one another again, and even to this day, they detest one another’s presence on their lands.”

I inhaled, taking that all in.

“Jeez, that’s insane, a forty-three year long war… Not even World War One was that long…”

Twilight nodded, before shivering.

“Cold?” I asked.

“It’s the end of January, on a mountain, of course I’m cold.” She replied, her teeth chattering.

I smiled lightly and turned back towards the mansion, and we headed back together, discussing the Repugnant War along the way.

“Well, that was a refreshing walk, I could do with a hot bath though.” Twilight said, shutting the door.

While she was referring to the cold, I couldn’t help but think of my hygiene.

“I could do with one myself, I’m utterly filthy, I hope the next place we visit has some hot springs or something, I’ve always wanted to try one.” I hummed.

“Ooh, yes please.”

Twilight grinned, before heading off to find more food, I made my way to the living room to find everyone sat around eating breakfast, Rarity and Fluttershy looked the worse, I’d never seen Rarity’s mane look so bedraggled over our entire adventure, her eyes were bloodshot and she was slowly nibbling at a sandwich.

“Morning.” I said openly.

“Hey there!” Rainbow Dash called back with a wide toothy smirk.

I gave her a weak smile, slightly unnerved.

“So, you survived last night?” Fluttershy asked.

“Yeah, I don’t think you did though.” I pointed out.

“Whatever…” She giggled quietly.

I sat down next to Applejack, who leaned into me and whispered into my ear.

“I’m sorry Sugarcube, but she’s kind of told everypony already…”

“Seriously?” I grumbled.

She nodded and shrugged, unsure of what else to say.

“You know, we still have a lot of alcohol left, we could certainly have another round soon before we leave, perhaps less intense though.” Rarity suggested.

“Why? So Dashie has another shot?” Fluttershy teased.

I scowled at her, to which she pulled a playfully scared face, her eyes dramatically darting from side to side, Rarity decided to keep up the mockery.

“I daresay she won’t need to take a shot, she seems to have got lucky already.”

Talking about me in the third person really got on my nerves, and I couldn’t take it anymore, and snapped. Getting to my feet, I glared at Rainbow Dash and threw my hands up into the air.

Alright! Everyone knows I slept with you, is there anyone around here you didn’t tell!?” I shouted.

From the kitchen, a dish shattered on the floor, and Twilight’s voice rang out loudly.

W H A T ! ?

Pinkie Pie anxiously curled up into a ball and began to roll like a marble out of the room, I then heard her somehow rolling up the stairs. Twilight burst into the room and stared at me in shock.

You did what!?

{Well, excellent job keeping that a secret.} Stardust laughed.

At this point, my frustration and then invasion of privacy had overridden my embarrassment, I didn’t batter an eyelid as I made my confession and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind me.

“I fucked Rainbow Dash, GET OVER IT!

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Internal Conflict

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I slammed my bedroom door and flopped onto the bed, the nausea slightly returning as I did so; exhaling heavily, I clenched my fists in frustration. When I released them, I found my palms had begun to bleed again due to the injury they’d received from my fight with Twilight. Sitting back up, I looked around and inhaled through gritted teeth, I didn’t know what to do with this emotion; I was so embarrassed, angry, ashamed, and mortified.

{Jeez, take a chill pill.}

Without thinking, I lashed out and punched the footboard, the rotten wood obliterated and sent small chunks of wood flying out onto the bedroom floor.

“Leave… Me… Alone…” I growled slowly.

Stardust got the message and went silent, while I sat there and observed my fist, a large splinter protruded from my ring finger. I pulled it out and lay back, staring at the ceiling, huffing loudly.

About an hour went by, when I heard hoofsteps approaching, and a knock at the door. I’d hardly calmed down yet, but forced myself to gruffly ask who it was.

“It’s Twilight.”

Inhaling deeply, I said she could come in; the door opened and the unicorn entered, respectfully closing the door behind her. She quickly noticed the broken footboard and tutted, before approaching me and sitting beside me.

“So, I guess you went with my advice.” she said blankly.

“I guess.”

“Were you planning on telling me?”


“Why not?”

I rolled over and faced her, looking up into her purple eyes.

“Things have been bumpy between you and Dash, we’ve started getting close as friends, and I just thought it’d be inappropriate to randomly approach you and say, ‘Hey Twilight, I fucked your friend!’ How does one bring that up in conversation?”

“So, you were afraid of hurting my feelings?”

I broke eye contact and glared at the ceiling.

“I don’t know, sure, let’s go with that.”

Twilight smiled warmly, and put a hoof on my shoulder.

“Callum, that’s really sweet of you, but I think you’re forgetting I was the one who suggested you give it a go with her, and that it might help you move on from Bunnie.” she reminded me.

“I wasn’t sure if you really meant that, or if you were saying it just for my sake without thinking of how it’d affect you. I felt like it was something that would get to you, I don’t know.” I mumbled.

“So, to put it bluntly, you didn’t believe I was being sincere?”

I remained silent, and then rolled onto my side to face the wall.

“Cal, look at me.”

After a few seconds of not responding, I finally sat up and faced her properly, she took my hands in her hooves and gave me a warm smile, before smirking.

“I really couldn’t care less about you having sex with Dashie.”

Huffing, I dipped my head.

“Alright… Sorry…”

She placed her hoof under my chin and forced me to look into her eyes again.

“What are you sorry for?”

I shrugged, and then exhaled deeply.

“For getting angry, I guess? I stormed off downstairs and made a scene.”

Chuckling, she raised her eyebrows in amusement.

“Well, I didn’t help by screaming across the house at you.” She admitted.

We both laughed, and then she offered me a hug to break the emotional tension, I sighed heavily and let her velvety fur against my cheek calm me. We held each other and chatted for a good ten minutes, when Twilight had an idea.

“Hey, how about we use the collars and see how our forests are getting on?”

“Shit, that’s a great idea!” I exclaimed.

She eagerly scrambled out of the room to fetch them, and I patiently waited for her with my legs crossed.

{You need to cut your toenails mate.} Stardust remarked.

“Yeah, I know.” I mumbled.

Come to think of it, my fingernails needed a trimming too; I doubted the girls had any sort of clippers, some scissors would do the trick, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere and ask for them. Instead, I resorted to just picking at them until I made a dent, and then tearing the nail sideways until it came free. Twilight came into the room as I was trimming my last toe, and looked at me with confusion.

“Err, what are you doing?”

“Ugh, just sorting out my nails.” I mumbled, finally tearing the nail away.

“What do you mean?”

“They never stop growing until death, so you need to trim them every now and then.” I explained.

“Huh, I see...” she hummed, “They’re rather interesting for claws.”

I chuckled, and decided to explain a little further.

“Well that'll be because they aren’t claws, but they’re very similar. Our fingers have a slightly different matrix of skin construction to the rest of our bodies, lots of keratin builds up there, it’s what allows our fingers to have such a strong grip without snapping. Over time, the keratin cells die, and are pushed out of the fingertip by the new cells that replace them. Our fingernails are essentially just compressed dead cells that have served their purpose inside the finger, so while they resemble claws, they don’t serve the same purpose.”

“Whoa, that’s awesome!”

Twilight’s scientific curiosity remained adorable as ever and she seized my hand without asking and started closely observing my fingers, studying the nails with awe.

“What’s the little white spot there?” She asked.

“That’s called a leukonychia, but they’re often just called milk spots. It’s just a bit of discolouration, usually caused by some form of injury to the base of the nail. I imagine it happened when I fell off the cliff, I got a little bit squished when the rocks buried me.”

At first, she was intrigued, and then snapped back to feeling guilty about our battle, I could see it in her eyes. Come to think of it, I was feeling rather guilty myself, I’d given Twilight some rather nasty injures of her own; sure, her body had been strengthened by the Fel at the time, but I still gave her an absolute hammering. I could comfortably say we’d both be bedbound if it weren’t for Zecora’s healing liquid that Fluttershy had injected into our bodies; it seemed more effective than Oozima, my broken ribs from Hoyt’s gunshot weren’t even aching anymore.

“Right, collars.” I said, changing the subject.

Twilight perked up again and took them off her wrist, which was still quite swollen from where I’d snapped it, I’d noticed she hadn’t been putting weight on it during our walk.

“Which forest first? Mine or yours?” she asked.

“Yours, I want to see how much of the snow has melted yet.”

She smiled and dipped her head, and I put the collar around her neck, and then around my own. I made sure the switch was facing upwards, so we’d go into her brain and not mine.

“Ready?” I asked.

She lay down on the bed, and I did the same, before pressing the button on my collar, activating the connection. Everything went white and I lost all physical feeling…

I opened my eyes to find myself in a wooden shed. Looking down, I found myself in a familiar lavender body, covered in fur.

“Oh, right, this again.” I murmured.

{I’ll never get over your British accent in her wee girly body.} Stardust chuckled.

“Piss off.” I grumbled.

{Piss off.} he mimicked in a girly tone.

Rolling my eyes, I opened the door and ventured outside, I was met with luscious woodland, the evergreen trees were definitely looking a little more alive. Taking in a breath of air, I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t so deathly cold, the harsh breeze of the Frozen Forest had died away, the snow remained, but had clearly been melting as it was more compact.

“Twilight?” I called out.

No response.

“Must be in another part of the forest.” I hummed.

I had to find her swiftly, while the forest was slowly warming up, the snow still left a horrible chill; I didn’t want Twilight to freeze in my body. Deciding I’d find Twilight deeper in, I went in the direction where the trees grew thicker. Along the way, I noticed how the trees remained their black colouring from the Fel’s corruption; I placed a hoof against one of their trunks and heard a crunch, I rubbed the area and was amazed to find the blackness crumbled away like dry pastry.

“The Fel’s completely dead, just a husk of its corruption remains.”

I kept rubbing until the blackened bark had been completely removed, revealing the beautiful creamy brown lumber beneath, it looked perfectly healthy.

{The bark may never grow back, but at least the trees themselves are healing.}

“Does the lack of bark have any consequence?” I asked.

{Just means they’re more susceptible, they’re exposed. She’ll be more vulnerable to anything that affects the brain, from illnesses to cancers, and the like. And if she’s ever subjected to the Fel again, it will consume her almost instantly, and will most likely kill her.}



“Shouldn’t we leave the dead bark on then?”

{Removing the bark will allow the trees to breathe properly again until the leaves heal, I guarantee it would let her heal faster without the bark, I’d say we should remove it.}

I nodded in agreement and placed my horn against the tree, concentrating hard on my raw magic; building up some kinetic energy, I cast a basic telekinesis spell, sending a small shockwave of vibrations through the tree. All the bark came free and dropped to the ground, crumbling into black dust. The bare tree that remained moaned quietly, similar to my own tree in the Hollow Forest, it was almost as though the tree was thanking me for helping it.

{Good job, now just do that again about a hundred billion more times, give or take, and you’ll have healed Twilight’s brain.} Stardust laughed.

I stepped back and remembered how many trees there were around me, and how they represented each neuron; I’d basically just added a single drop of rain to an ocean.

“Plan.” I grinned.

Stardust remained quiet, waiting for me to reveal my idea. If there was anything I knew, it was that Twilight was an immensely strong unicorn, before the Fel’s corruption, she had been able to clone me twice, and create a portal from England to Ukraine without breaking a sweat. With her full magical capabilities, she was extremely powerful, and in this forest, I had those capabilities. I put my faith into Twilight’s body and closed my eyes, summoning all the mana I could muster without causing harm to myself; I felt my horn converting it into magical energy, and I allowed it to flow through my body, growing stronger and stronger.

{You’re a dangerously intelligent bugger!} Stardust exclaimed.

My horn glowed brighter and brighter, and I felt myself begin to slowly levitate a few inches off the ground as the energy slowly grew too powerful to contain. I remained calm and kept my eyes closed, while concentrating on how to exert my magic, combining its kinetic potential with sound, I prepared myself to ignite the loudest sonic boom known to man. To ensure none of this energy went to waste, I modified the spell to be cast in a ring shape, no sound would be heard if one stood above me, the spell would only ripple in all horizontal directions.

{Are ye done?}

“Yeah…” I growled with a smile.

I threw my head back and my horn seemed to explode, the sonic detonation was so loud that it slightly warped light itself, the ring flowed through the forest and shook every tree vigorously, as the soundwave travelled, the corrupted bark was literally torn from the trees and was scattered to the wind like ash in a hurricane; it mixed with the snow and gusted high into the air.

Fatigue became of me as I grew extremely lightheaded, I stumbled to my knees as the sound drifted into the woodland, I had used literally all of Twilight’s available mana; having used it so abruptly, it had exhausted me to an extreme level, akin to sprinting a mile after not exercising for a month.

{Mmn, you overdid it… Ya bastard…} Stardust mumbled.

I fell onto my side and everything became a blur.


I stirred, and rolled onto my back.


My eyes opened and I saw Twilight standing there, still trying to get the hang of being on two legs again, then I realised…

“Oh shit! I’m… Uh… You’re naked!”

“I noticed!” she growled.

I put a hoof over my eyes and slowly got up, I uncovered my eyes to find she was covering up with her hands, then I realised she was shivering. I quickly cast Thermic Hide onto her, and she sighed with relief as the cold no longer affected her.

“Why are you naked? You were clothed last time.” I asked.

“How should I know!?”

It was interesting that Twilight was so embarrassed, she’s never worried about clothing as a pony, but in my body, she was just as self-conscious as any human would be; perhaps it was because of the fur, because I haven’t felt awkward or embarrassed in this body. Having another set of genitalia certainly felt weird, but I had a tail to hide my rear.

“Stop looking at me…” she pleaded.

“Twi, it’s my body, there’s nothing I haven’t seen already.”

“Well right now, it’s my body, and I’m not comfortable with you ogling at it!”

“Okay, okay, jeez.”

Twilight looked around at all the trees, and then back to me.

“You nearly deafened me, do you know that?”

“Oh shit, yeah, I wasn’t thinking about that.” I admitted.

“Thankfully I was far away, it took me almost an hour to find you.”

“Blimey, I must have been unconscious for ages.” I murmured.

“What did you do? The trees are like this for at least a two-mile radius.” she told me.

{Three and a half to be exact.} Stardust corrected.

“I bottled all your mana and made an audible combustion spell, I basically just made a sonic boom strong enough to shake the trees and get all the corrupted bark off, they’ll heal faster now.” I explained.

Twilight’s eyes opened wide and she stared at me with shock.

“You… You wrote a spell?”

“I… Think so?” I replied.

She rushed at me and gripped my face with both hands.

How did you do that!?” she yelled.

“Whoa! Calm down! I don’t know how I did it, I just wanted to exert the magic as raw energy, so I took the basic telekinesis spell and thought about it producing sound instead of physical matter, I condensed the energy enough to become an explosive, and then cast it into the space of a single atom.”

Twilight released me, and took a step back, gasping.

“Do you know what this means?” She asked me.

I remained silent.

“Callum, you’ve just become a wizard… Like Starswirl the Bearded…”

{You’re a wizard, Harry.}

“I’m a what?”

“A wizard!”

“A wizard!?”

{For fuck sake Harry, listen to me, you’re a wizard!} Stardust shouted.

{Listen here Hagrid, you fat oaf! I’m not a fucking wizard!} I thought back.

Stardust laughed while Twilight intensely stared at me, in shock.

“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a spell?”

“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to take you seriously when you’re standing there with my own penis on display?” I teased.

She looked down and realised she wasn’t concealing herself, she growled at me and quickly covered up again, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t already taken a good look.

“I didn’t realise how it looked from this angle, I’m possessing some real big dick energy.” I hummed.

“Fuck off!” Twilight shouted.

I rolled my eyes and chuckled, and brought the subject to my new rare accolade.

“So, what’s so big about me being a wizard anyway?” I asked.

“Spell-writing is really difficult, you have to truly understand magic to write one, because you’re completely rewriting the magical energy created from your mana, you’re programming it for a specific purpose, very few unicorns can understand magic on such a level, not even I can, it’s why I still study it!” she explained to me.

{It’s the equivalent of writing code for a computer or something, but instead of ones and zeroes, it’s a versatile energy that can be manipulated, but you have to understand it to do that.}

I nodded with some sort of comprehension, yet I remained confused.

“But, I don’t understand magic, I just thought about it doing what I wanted it to do.”

“Which is what makes it more bizarre, it’s like it listened to you or something. Perhaps Stardust had something to do with it?” she said, still puzzled.

{You leave me out of this, you did that shit on your own!}

I looked upwards towards my forehead, and then shrugged.

“Apparently he didn’t.”

Twilight sighed with frustration, unable to grasp how I’d created my own spell.

“Well, I’m going to call it… Um… Seismic Resonance!” I announced.

{Aye, that isn’t so bad.} Stardust hummed.

“Right, well, perhaps don’t cast it again for a while, using that amount of mana without a warmup is dangerous, even in this dreamworld.”

“I don’t plan to, I want to find your mana well.” I replied.

A small smirk appeared on her lips, and we headed out together towards the thickest part of the forest.

It didn’t take that long to grow accustomed to Twilight in my naked body, if anything I was curious about how I looked from an alternative perspective; I was rather proud of my arse, I had quite the bubble butt for a bloke. I was distracted from my swiggity roundness upon leaving the forest and reaching a familiar looking tundra, this was where Twilight had distracted the orc while I located the mana well; the hole that led to the well would be anywhere near here.

“Keep your eyes peeled, the entrance should be somewhere nearby.” I mumbled.

“Are you sure this is the right place?”

I hummed to confirm, and we kept walking together.

“I can’t wait to see the well, I want to see if it’s filling up with any mana yet.”

Twilight exhaled from her nose.

“Yeah, it’ll be good. I just can’t wait to find the next sh-AAAARRRDD!

I looked to my right, before looking down the gaping hole in the ground where Twilight had just fallen, hopefully not to her death.

“Hey! You found it!” I exclaimed merrily.

Shrugging, I slid down the hole after her, to find the melted snow had caused a slippery ice tunnel; I whizzed downwards in the dark and squealed with excitement as I slid. I didn’t care how girly I sounded in Twilight’s body, I enjoyed this, and that was that.
The tunnel eventually curved horizontally, and my descent slowed down slightly, I shot out into the cavern and collided with Twilight, whom had only just stood up; I took her to the ground and landed on top of her, I looked up at her to make eye contact and laughed.

“That hurt.” she grumbled.

She frowned at me for a while, before finally seeing the funny side and laughing with me, I got up and we brushed ourselves down, before heading further into the cavern; I was thankful for the Thermic Hide spell as we’d landed in some shallow water from the melted snow above, and would most certainly be freezing if not for it.

“Well, fuck me.” I murmured.

Twilight’s mana well was still an incredible spectacle to behold, the transparent house-sized organ was beyond mesmerising, even with such a lack of mana.

{Well that explains the problem.} Stardust hummed.

As we approached the organ, I noticed a trail of black fungal growth along the ground, which then grew upwards and had attached to the bottom of the well; it had grown over the incision I’d made previously to drain the Fel. Following the trail, I was led to a ghastly sight, which caused Twilight to shriek in shock.

“Jeez, Twilight, try not to deafen me!” I snapped.


The sight before us, was the rotting carcass of the orc from our last encounter, the same one Hawnu Rey’eng had killed with an ice spike; he was slumped against a pile of rocks and had one eye left, the other had wasted away into a black gloop.
The mana well made a sound and we turned around to see it contracting, and then a football sized wisp of pure mana emerged from the top.

“Whoa…” we both said in unison.

The wisp floated around inside the well for a moment, shimmering and glistening all different shades of blue and purple, before descending to the bottom and into the black fungus; the rubbery plant absorbed the mana and we watched it travel through the roots all the way into the orc’s body, where it turned bright green and disappeared.

{Fascinating, even in death, the Fel tries to feed itself.}

I nodded in agreement, before Twilight took a step back and nearly tripped.

“Callum… The orc just fucking blinked…”

Taking a closer look, I noticed the orc’s eye was indeed moving slightly; not wanting to take any chances, I charged up my horn and coated him with fire, the orc growled faintly with the little life he’d absorbed from the mana, before dying completely and wasting away into a charred skeleton. The black growth also crumbled away into fine flakes of ash, allowing the mana well to heal properly.

“Job’s a good’un.” I announced.

“What?” Twilight asked.

“Don’t worry,” I winked, “It’s a British thing.”

She rolled her eyes and we made our way to the exit, that's when we realised there was no way of getting to the surface again, the ice was too slippery to climb back up the tunnel.

“Well, shit.” I grumbled.

“Need a hand?” a voice echoed from the hole.

I instantly recognised the metallic tinny voice, I rolled my eyes and called back up.

“I thought you had matters to tend to?”

Twilight and I heard a noise and whipped around to see Hawnu Rey’eng’s visor glowing in the darkness.

“And I tended to them.”

His hands shone lavender, and the cave began to rumble, we stood back and watched in awe as the exit slowly expanded, the ice shattered and the rocks shifted and formed into a flight of stairs to the surface; light from outside swam into the cavern.

“Show-off.” I muttered.

Twilight began ascending the stairs, with Hawnu Rey’eng and I behind her; it was quite a long way up.

“Stop looking at my ass, both of you.” Twilight growled.

Hawnu Rey’eng chuckled and flapped his wings, taking him to the air and to the top of the stairs.

“It’s a good arse.” I mentioned to her.

“It’s your ass, of course you’d say that.” she scoffed.

Bursting into small cackles of amusement, we arrived at the top, where the guardian was patiently waiting; he stretched his left wing and then tilted his head slightly towards me.

“Impressive spell, you’d make a good unicorn.”

“Why aren’t I surprised that you’ve been watching me?” I groaned.

“Because you’re barely surprised by anything, you’re a depressed pessimist, meaning you are quick to accept any unfamiliar circumstance, regardless of its anomalism.”

{Woke.} Stardust chimed in.

I rolled my eyes.


“Fuck off, I just don’t like people reading me.”

Twilight put an end to the topic by loudly clearing her throat.

“So why are you here?”

“To help you get to the next location, with your magic temporarily unusable in the real world, and Rarity’s being incapable of group teleportation, I’m going to help you.”

“I thought we had a few more days to relax before moving on?” I asked.

“You do, but I’ve decided to inform you a few days in advance, so you may prepare yourselves, you’re heading to a very harsh climate next.” He explained.

“Where are we going?” Twilight inquired.

Bringing up his hand, the guardian produced a magical hologram, revealing a large barren landscape with no apparent life or structures, not a tree in sight.

{I don't like sand. It's coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere…} Stardust moaned.

“This, Twilight, is the Sahara Desert.” Hawnu Rey’eng told her.

“Egypt?” I queried.

“Yes, close to the corner border of Libya and Sudan.”

“Shit, right in the middle?”

The guardian nodded, before continuing.

“I’m going to set up a portal beacon there, but you’ll still need to find your way alone, the Equestrian artefact blocks portals and teleportation within a certain radius, so I’ll have to place you a few miles away. This is the last time I can help you for quite some time, you’ll be on your own upon arrival, but I trust you’ll succeed.”

Twilight and I nodded with understanding, I decided not to question him about anything, I knew I’d receive no proper answer, so I accepted the help I was given and said nothing further.

“I’d also recommend keeping the collars equipped from now on, should either of you be separated, staying in communication is of paramount importance.”

Again, we nodded, and Hawnu Rey’eng stood back; without warning, he shot Twilight with a laser blast, going straight through her head and killing her instantly without pain.

{Oh my god! They killed Kenny!} Stardust screeched.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” I shouted angrily.

“She was embarrassed about being trapped in your naked body, and you have no reason to dwell in this forest, I’d suggest making amends with your friends.”

He pointed his hand at me, ready to execute me.

“Wait wait wait wait!” I swiftly cried out.

He hesitated, and allowed me to speak.

“Can I cast another Seismic Resonance before I go? I want to help Twilight heal as quickly as possible.”

The guardian’s visor darkened with irritation, but he permitted it; we walked together into a denser patch of woodland, side by side.

“You care about her.”

“Of course I do, she was a slave to the Fel, she was tortured by Nah’Lek for months!”

“That warrants sympathy, but you show compassion, you have affection for her.”

“No shit, Sherlock, she’s my friend.”

“After all she’s done?”

I stopped dead and looked at him with disbelief.

“Are you taking the piss?”

“I’m just analysing your actions and emotions, I want to know why Celestia chose you.”

{Oh fuck, off. You know why, stop being a dick!} Stardust shouted.

“Quit the exposition and just get to the point.” I growled.

“Hurry up and cast your spell.” He replied blankly, avoiding the point entirely.

{God, I hate this metallic sack of anal glands…} I thought.

The guardian chuckled and took to the air to avoid my spell, I forgot he could hear my thoughts too. Groaning with annoyance, I charged up my Seismic Resonance, once again drawing all the available mana within my body and charging my horn with it, until there was enough magical energy to spark another burst, I lifted my head up and unleashed the spell, once again the trees were stripped of their dead bark and the snow was taken up into a savage blizzard.

Dropping to my knees from exhaustion and dizziness, I waited patiently for Hawnu Rey’eng to finish the job; it didn’t take long until I heard the sound of his magic, and everything went black…

Sitting bolt upright, I turned to face Twilight, who was looking around with anxiety. I held up my hands and flexed my fingers, boy did it feel good to have my own body back; I rolled my shoulders and allowed my body to recalibrate itself.

“Did he really just kill me without warning?” Twilight asked.

“I’m afraid so.” I mumbled.

She looked to the floor and huffed with annoyance, before I decided to poke the hornet’s nest.

“So, about your clothing situation.”

“Please, I really don’t want to go there.”

“I’m just curious, why’d my body end up naked? Did you take your clothes off?”

“No, I woke up like that.”

Thanks to having the collars on, we could both hear Stardust chuckling to himself.

“And what do you find so funny?” I grumbled.

{Isn’t it obvious? She appeared naked in the Frozen Forest, because right before entering the dreamscape, she was picturing you naked!} He hooted loudly.

Twilight quickly grabbed my shoulders and scowled at my forehead, trying to glare at him.

“You have no way to back that up!” she spat angrily.

“So, it’s true…” I breathed.

“What!? No! I… I…”

I put a finger against her lips to shut her up, and spared her the embarrassment.

“Is it because I fucked Rainbow Dash?”

She sighed, and nodded, before admitting what had been on her mind.

“I couldn’t help but picture it slightly, I’ve got a scientific mind, I’m curious all the damn time, I wanted to visualise what a naked human actually looks like! It was nothing sexual, I promise, I swear on my loyalty to Princess Celestia, I was only curious!”

“Well, did you get a good enough look?” I smirked.

She nodded, before burying her head in her hooves, blushing like a cranberry. I got off the bed and stretched, and she looked up at me with confusion.

“Come on.”

“Where’re we going?” She asked.

“I’m going to apologise to everyone downstairs, and you’re going to come with me.”

She smiled and hopped off the bed, yelping as she had put too much weight onto her fractured wrist.

“Sorry I broke you.” I apologised sheepishly.

“Sorry I set you on fire and threw you off a cliff.”

We both laughed a little and headed downstairs together, side by side.

“Just in time! I was about to call y’all down for dinner!” Applejack exclaimed.

“It smells wonderful, as always.” I replied.

She dipped her head in thanks, while the others in the living room watched me cautiously, Pinkie had come back downstairs and was clearly ready to roll away again.

“Let me start by saying I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to freak out, I was just embarrassed.” I sighed.

“Let me stop you by saying I’m sorry too.” Rainbow Dash spoke.

I tilted my head and allowed her to continue.

“I shouldn’t have told everypony, I got carried away, and it wasn’t cool.”

Opening my arms for a hug, Dashie came forward and embraced me, and we made amends; I sat down next to her on the sofa and let small talk commence until dinner was ready.

As per usual, Applejack’s cooking was superb, we ate our fill while discussing mine and Twilight’s meeting with Hawnu Rey’eng in the Frozen Forest, and that we were headed to a desert next; obviously, Rarity went on about what kind of outfit to wear, and if she had any beige clothing to suit the occasion.

After dinner, we decided to hit the hay, as we were all still recovering from the previous night, Twilight was unsure about sleeping with me again after having recently walked around in my nude body, I presumed she was still embarrassed from it all. That was when Rainbow Dash made an interesting proposition.

“Dude, can I have a chat?”

We waited until the others headed upstairs, before she exhaled heavily and looked at me.

“This might sound weird, and please feel free to punch me in the face if it is, because I’m shit with boundaries and stuff, but… Would you like to stay over with me tonight?”

I looked at her blankly, showing no expression, analysing the suggestion; one would have been able to hear the cogs turning in my head.

{I’m in your head, and I’m not hearing any cogs mate.}

{It’s metaphorical. Fuck off, Stardust.}

This was quite a conundrum, after the awkwardness of today, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to accept such an invitation; to stay in her bed again? It was quite an ask, and it took me a while of silence to think over all of the possible outcomes, and if they’d end up with further consequences.
After a moment’s thought, I decided to take a chance, and smiled.

“I’d… I’d like that.”

The pegasus couldn’t help but emit a small grin of delight, we headed upstairs together and entered her room; we flopped onto the bed and I looked into her pink eyes.

“So, truth or dare?” she suggested playfully.

“I can still punch you in the face if you like?” I offered.

She chuckled and rolled onto her back, I decided to strip down to my undies and hop in bed; as my top came off, I felt Dashie’s hoof against my upper back, and stroke downwards.

“You’ve got so many scars dude…”

That was one thing I should have done in the Frozen Forest, I should have looked at all my scars, instead of ogling at my own privates! I wanted to see the damage that had been done.

I turned around and looked at Rainbow Dash once more, her eyes quickly wandered to my chest, charred and wrinkled, like Freddy Kruger’s face.

“I’m ugly.” I mumbled.

“What? No! Gosh dude, no, you’re hot!”

I raised an eyebrow at her, and she looked me dead in the eye with an intense stare.

“You heard me, you’re frickin' hot.”

Her hoof made its way towards my chest, and I raised my hand to catch it, knowing she had sensitive hooves, I held her wrist instead; her velvety fur felt so smooth and warm against my palms and fingertips. Sliding my hand up her foreleg and up her neck, I cupped one side of her face and smiled.
Before leaning in to kiss her.

Our lips met, and she very quickly ended up on top of me, Applejack was right, there was nothing wrong with this at all, she was just as human as I was, (if that even meant anything). We kept kissing until she eventually pulled back, and her face became contorted with endearment and concern.

“Before this goes any further, um… Are you sure you're okay with this? Because Applejack said stuff to me earlier about boundaries, and consent, and that I didn't really respect either of those last time... So uh, I just want to make sure you're okay with this, you know?”

I took a few seconds to answer, processing the question within myself.
Eventually I gave her a truthful and honest answer, smiling warmly as I did so.

“I'm okay with this… Now shut up and kiss me…”

Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Clean Getaway

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Stirring, my weary eyes opened to fall upon a bright cyan coloured face, messy matted rainbow coloured hair plastered over the pillow; blinking twice, her face came into focus; her adorable face…

“I could get used to this…” I whispered to myself.

{Eh, she’s not really my type, but whatever goats your float.}

{She’s not overly my type either, but I'm not opposed to a few one-night stands.} I thought back.

Stardust hummed, and then remained quiet. I yawned and tightened all my muscles to give them a nice morning stretch, before slowly sitting up; getting out of bed, I slipped into my clothes and turned to Dashie, whom I’d slightly disturbed, she sleepily blinked at me.

“Morning.” I said softly.

“Hey, what time is it?”

“Not sure, but you can go back to sleep if you want.”

I didn’t have to tell her twice, she shut her eyes and nestled back into her pillow; I walked over to her and gave her a kiss on the forehead, to which she smiled merrily. I opened the door and made my way downstairs and once again spotted Applejack at the kitchen counter.

“Do you always get up this early?” I asked.

“Force of habit, I’ve always been an early bird.”

Before I’d even approached her, she had filled a glass of apple juice for me, I thankfully took the glass and took a swig, instantly awakened and refreshed.

“So, you and Rainbow Dash?” She asked with a smirk.


“Heard y’all fuckin’ again.”

I rolled my eyes with amusement, her bluntness would certainly never grow dull.

“So, what of it?” I asked casually.

The farm pony’s eyebrows raised with bemusement, before she gave me a grin.

“You’ve warmed up to her, haven’t you?”

“I thought that was obvious.”

Emitting a small chuckle, she raised her glass to me in playful celebration, and then finished her own apple juice; I drank more of my own and then smirked.

“We weren’t too loud, were we?”

“A little, but I’m not surprised, it’s no secret that RD’s got quite the sex drive.”

“You can say that again…” I chuckled.

I was about to share more details, when I suddenly lost my vision, and I heard an ear-piercing scrape, like a fork against a dinnerplate.

“What the fuck?” I yelped.

“What?” Applejack asked.

I shook my head and blinked, and my vision returned.

“I’m not sure, something weird just happened to my head.”

“Like what?”

My vision went dark once more, and in the darkness, I saw Nah’Lek’s amethyst eyes glimmering.

“Ah! Like that!” I shouted.

“There’s nothing happening around you.” Applejack informed me.

{Collar.} Stardust muttered.

“It’s Twilight, I think she’s having a nightmare or something.” I said, shaking my head once more.

“How do you know?”

“We’re connected by these collars, I guess I can see her dreams or something.”

Humming with understanding, Applejack and I ran upstairs to Twilight’s room, and opened the door; just as predicted, she was tossing and turning under the sheets, in some form of distress.

“Twilight.” I spoke loudly.

My vision was replaced by the nightmare yet again, and I was horrified to find myself looking through Twilight’s eyes as Nah’Lek grabbed her legs, forcing them apart, it looked like he was going to…
Oh god…

“Twilight!” I shouted, and shook my head to clear my mind.

Hopping onto the bed, I gripped Twilight’s shoulders and shook her awake; her eyes flared open and she screamed with terror, lunging out with all her strength and catching me in the side of the head. I growled with pain and let go of her, squinting my eyes shut.

“Right… in the… fucking, ear!” I hissed.

Realising where she was, Twilight latched onto me and started crying.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I… I didn’t mean to! I was… I was…”

“I know, you don’t need to tell me, I saw it.” I grumbled.

My ear felt like it was red-hot, and the pain pulsated like a heartbeat, now I knew how poor Brad Pitt felt during the filming for Fight Club, being punched in the ear was bloody horrible!

“You… You could s-see it?” Twilight stuttered, shaking like a leaf.

“Yeah, the collars seem to connect our dreams or something.” I moaned.

“What did you see?” Applejack queried.

I looked at her and shook my head, silently ordering her not to pry, she nodded with understanding and offered to make Twilight a coffee; while the unicorn didn’t respond, I said it would be a good idea and she headed off downstairs, leaving the two of us alone.

“He… He tried to…”

Putting my arms around her, I cradled her side to side as she broke apart.

“It’s alright, I’ve got you.”

“He was going to hurt me! He was going to hurt me again!”

I gently rocked her like a baby while she sobbed into my chest, I remembered the voices in my head during the night I’d stayed with Rainbow Dash in the tent, Nah’Lek had hurt her like this to her before. It was no mere nightmare, it was a night-terror, a flashback during one’s slumber. I decided to calm her down in the same manner I had for Rainbow Dash during her panic attacks after Brazil; clearing my throat gently, I started to sing for Twilight, I serenaded her with a bittersweet melody from Keaton Henson, my voice soothing her as I did so.

“This feels right and I'm letting it, and now I know just what to do.
Tire of me if you will, my dear, but I will not tire of you!

And this is the world as I see it now, turns out that nothing is fair.
You can leave me if you wish, my love, but I'm not going anywhere!

And please do not hurt me, love, I am a fragile one, and you are the light in my eyes.
Please do not break my heart, I think it's had enough pain to last the rest of my life…

Endless distraction, you worry me, but I'm trying to figure out how.
You don't have to make any promises, love. I'm afraid I might die for you now!

And I'd kill just to watch you as you're sleeping, I hope that you'll let me, in time.
You don't have to call me yours, my love. Damn it, I'm calling you mine!

And please do not hurt me, love, I am a fragile one, and you are the light in my eyes.
Please do not break my heart, I think it's had enough pain to last the rest of my life…

And I will not tire of you…”

By the time I’d finished singing, she was calm and breathing slowly again, with her eyes closed and her head pressed up against my chest, listening to my heartbeat.

“Thank you…” She breathed.

Not replying verbally, I stroked her mane and realised how matted it was; come to think of it the whole group was filthy, we’d all definitely seen better days. It was highly unlikely that the hot water was running in this old place, but I’d certainly check later.

Twilight nuzzled my chest slightly, and I smiled with endearment. Ruffling her mane, I leaned back and suggested she come downstairs for some morning coffee, she accepted and we headed down together, where a nice coffee was waiting from Applejack, whom was nowhere to be seen.

“AJ?” I asked loudly.

“In here!” She called from the living room.

Upon entering the room, Twilight and I both emitted a ‘whoa…’.
In the centre of the room, the coffee table was dressed in a stacking of accessories, most notoriously a very futuristic looking sniper rifle, complete with ammunition.

“That… Is tasty.” I mumbled.

It seemed Hawnu Rey’eng had done a little shopping and had left us some supplies for Egypt, I happily bet my bottom dollar that the rifle was the same one he’d used in Chernobyl. Amongst the other supplies were bundles of clothing for each of us, and a folded piece of paper; upon opening it, I found it was a note from the guardian, written in Comic Sans Font.

{Really…?} Stardust muttered dryly.

{I guess even demigods have shit humour.} I thought back.

Stardust chuckled in amused agreement and I read the note.

These should help.
The items I’ve left for you should consist of…

One Advanced Piercing-Shot Rifle, with Twenty Magazines. (Use it Wisely)
One Set of Human-Sized Desert Cloth Attire.
Six Sets of Pony-Sized Desert Cloth Attire.
One Teleportation Beacon. (Place on the Floor)
Fourteen Bottles of Water. (Two Each)
One Seismic Resonance Rune. (Courtesy of Callum)

I’ve enchanted the cloth to remain cool during the day, and grow warm during the night.
While it won’t stop the elements, it’ll contribute to keeping you alive a few extra days.

The rune may not be a weapon, but it’s certainly good at shifting sand.
Be sure to plant it below your feet, or you’ll all be deafened.
I’m currently on route to plant the host beacon, once the portal is open, you’ll have ten minutes until it closes, and the devices are both destroyed.

This is the last of my assistance, so good luck.
Hawnu Rey’eng.

I read the note aloud for Twilight and Applejack to hear, and then rummaged through the other supplies. The rune was certainly an interesting object, it appeared to be a smooth flat stone, no more than an inch thick, and about the size of a computer disc; the surface was engraved with a symbol, which glowed lavender.

“How does this work?” I asked.

“A rune is a vessel for spells, usually engraved onto a runestone like this.” Twilight explained.

“So, it’s a spell grenade?”

The unicorn nodded, before continuing to explain how they could be detonated with magical interaction, similar to a remotely detonated bomb. Depending on the rune placement, they could also be set up like proximity mines, and could detonate when approached, leading to runes being used in many unicorn homes as burglar alarms.

“Man, just imagine having a whole bag of these bad boys.” I chuckled.

“That’s a lot of ruptured eardrums.” Twilight hummed.

I took the pile of clothes and spread them out to examine them, I was rather impressed with their design, it certainly wasn’t tacky. Upon closer examination, I noticed the fabric was indeed, enchanted; wisps of lavender coloured energy rippled through various strands of the tightknit thread. There was no doubt that it would help beyond current comprehension, Hawnu Rey’eng had really thought of everything.

“I want to try these on!” Applejack exclaimed, examining her own pony-sized cloth attire.

“Don’t you dare!” Rarity cried from behind us.

We all whipped around to find the unicorn speeding towards us, she slapped the cloth hood out of my hands and then dived at Applejack before she could unfold the rest of her bundle, knocking her out of the way and taking them both to the ground.

“What in tarnation is wrong with you?” She yelped.

Rarity jumped up to her hooves and prodded the farm pony’s chest.

“You’re filthy!”

She faced Twilight and I, her eyes wide.

You’re both filthy!”

Looking down at herself, she gasped loudly and begun to wail.

“We’re ALL filthy! We haven’t washed in weeks, and I will not allow any of us to slip into new clothing without a good bath. Fashion must be treated with respect!”

There was a moment of silence, before the three of us all burst into laughter; Rarity scowled at us which only caused us to laugh harder, Applejack dropped to the ground and cackled in a way I’ve never heard her cackle before, she sounded similar to a seagull in distress.

Our laughter was halted by a teacup being thrown across the room and hitting me in the back of the head, smashing on impact, we turned around to find a very grumpy looking Rainbow Dash.

“Um… OW?” I emitted with confusion.

“I was having a good dream, you dorks woke me up.” She muttered.

“That hurt! No more sexytimes for you!” I barked.

Her face dulled, while behind me Rarity let out a gasp, followed by Applejack laughing; eventually Dash rolled her eyes and chuckled, before investigating the pile of supplies.

“So, what do you suggest about cleaning ourselves, Rarity? There’s no hot water in the mansion, and the two baths here are both coated in rust. Unless you’ve got a portable swimming pool in your TARDIS bag, we’re going to have some trouble.” I expressed, still rubbing my head.

“Oh-puh-kh-ff!” She exclaimed, pretty much beatboxing.

She charged off to her room and speedily returned with her other bag, she opened it up and withdrew some stones, very similar to the runestones Hawnu Rey’eng had left for us.

“I’ve been waiting to use these for a while, I didn’t want to waste them!”

The pearly unicorn passed one of them to me and I inspected it, just as I had thought, it was a runestone; with a different shaped inscription, which shone a nice cerulean instead of lavender, indicating it had been enchanted by Rarity’s magic.

“So, care to tell me what this is, Miss Rarity?” I asked.

The unicorn giggled and then put a hoof through her mane, combing it sheepishly.

“Been a while since I’ve been addressed so politely…”

Clearing her throat, she continued.

“Well, it’s a spell I learned from one of Twilight’s books on additional unicorn hygiene, it has a long and complicated name, but I’ve come to call them bath bombs.”

I chortled slightly at the name, being reminded of our human bath bombs, a small scented capsule that would be thrown into a bath, and would then break apart to give the water an intoxicatingly strong aroma; I presumed Rarity’s versions were a little different.

“How does it work?”

“Well, with the runestone as close to the centre of your body as possible, you activate it outside, and it envelops you in a large bubble, which then sprays your entire body with hot soapy water, like a really efficient shower, you’ll be clean within mere moments! It even exfoliates for you, as the water contains solid cleansing particles, it’s quite a marvel actually. You must shut your eyes though, or you’ll get soap in them.” She explained.

“That’s pretty darn cool.” I said, admittedly impressed.

“Quite, I’ve been awfully tempted to use them over our journey, but I don’t have many of them left and have been waiting for an excuse.”

“Well, we’ve got nice new clean clothes, so what better excuse? I for one can’t wait to try these on, they look pretty trendy, I’ve needed a new attire for a while.”

Without warning, a cushion from the sofa made contact with the side of my head and almost knocked me over due to the sheer force of it.

“Don’t say gay shit!” Rainbow Dash barked.

“Can I not appreciate fashion, Rainbow Dash? I actually care about my appeara-mnph!

Another cushion hit my face, I glared at Dashie, whom was holding yet another and ready to strike.

“If you throw that at me, I will shove it up your arse.” I growled.

“I’d like to see you try.”

“I’d like to see you waddling around with a sofa cushion in your rectum.”

Rainbow Dash dropped the cushion.

We decided to wait until the others had woken up before using the bath bombs; before we got started, I decided I wanted to change my appearance a little bit more, and made a request to Rarity.

“So, you’re good with dresses, right?” I asked.

“Of course.” She replied, sipping at a cup of tea.

“How are you with hair?”

“Oh, well, I’m not exactly a professional barber, but I style my own mane well enough, why?”

“I’d like you to shave my head.”

Nearly spluttering on the tea, she looked at me with her eyes wide.

“You heard me, I’m sick of having hair that reaches my shoulders. Plus, I’m about to be in an extremely hot environment, I want to have as little hair as possible.” I elaborated.

Recovering from the unexpectedness of my request, she hummed.

“Well, I think you look wonderful with long hair, darling, but I suppose you’re right.”

She got up and went to her bag, and withdrew her hairdressing kit, (of course she had one of those), and withdrew a pair of interesting looking clippers; the tool was almost identical to an Earth one, but had a harness that seemed to fit a hoof, along with a large slot on the bottom.

“How short are we going?” She asked.

“Can you take everything on the back and sides, and leave about half an inch on top?”

Nodding, Rarity plugged a mana crystal into the clippers and put a length guard on the end, before finally strapping the harness to her dominant hoof. Using her magic to flip the switch, the device started buzzing loudly as the razor blades in the tip moved side to side at great speed.

Stroke by stroke, my long locks dropped to the floor, I sat there patiently as Rarity did her magic, (literally), when it was evenly shaved on top, she removed the guard and began shaving the back and sides.

“So, you ponies having fur, what’s the purpose of having clippers of such short length?” I asked.

“Well, some ponies like to shave patterns and marks into their fur, and the odd pony likes going furless around their forelegs and such. It’s not the nicest trend in my opinion, but in this day and age, ponies are free to look however they like.”

“Hm, fair enough.”

“It’s also for ponies that want a manecut, but are afraid of scissors.”

“Is that common?”

“More than you’d expect, if you hadn’t noticed, we have very large eyes compared to you humans, they’re quite a large target, accidents from lesser skilled barbers have indeed occurred over the years.”

“Shit, well it makes sense now…” I murmured.

Humming once more, Rarity went back to focusing on my hair, and completed the shave; she levitated a mirror out of her bag and passed it to me while she took off the clipper harness.

“Whoa… I like it a lot, I look incredible!” I exclaimed.

Taking a more extensive look at me, Rarity grinned and threw her head to one side with pride.

“Well, I must say it’s rather good for my first human haircut, very smart and tidy.” She agreed.

I stood up and looked at the floor, my eyes flared wide open at the sheer quantity of hair, it had grown very thick indeed, it felt good to be rid of it.

“Now then, bath bombs?” Rarity asked.

“Bath bombs.” I replied.

“Holy Titan Shit, what happened to you!?” Dashie screeched.

“I got into a fight with a pair of scissors, and lost.”

The pegasus fluttered over to me and circled me, observing my brand-new look.

“Well… I’m glad you lost, because you look good.”

“Now who’s all into fashion?” I teased

She lashed out and I very narrowly blocked her from hitting my balls, I smacked her on the forehead and shouted “spam!” to confuse her, which worked very nicely.
Other than Dashie’s outburst, my haircut was well received by all the others, not a single negative comment was made, it certainly boosted my self-esteem; I didn’t feel quite so hideous.

“Okay everypony, let’s go get clean!” Twilight announced.

The others cheered girlishly and I rolled my eyes, before heading out with them.

Fluttershy was the first to use the runestone, I was taken aback with awe as she was suddenly gobbled up by the bubble, she closed her eyes and water seemingly came from thin air as it washed her with thousands of small water jets; about a minute later, the bubble popped, and we were greeted by a bright yellow pegasus, her coat back to its usual buttery colour.

“That’s pretty epic.” I breathed.

“Want to go next?” Rarity asked.


“Well, clothes off then!”

“Wait what? I need to be naked?” I blurted out.

“Well of course, darling! Or you’ll just be washing your clothes!”

“I’m not stripping in front of you all.”

“Oh for goodness sake, it’s just us, we don’t wear clothes on a daily basis, we won’t look.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m looking.” Rainbow Dash giggled.

“Fuck you, Dash.”

“Yes, yes you did.”

I charged at her and she took to the air, before blowing a large raspberry from above.

“I hear that you both went at it again last night?” Twilight