The Ghost Company

by Count Doofus

First published

Twilight, Rarity, Applejack and Spike end up in a seemingly haunted manor and unravel its secrets.

Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity and Spike are on their way to a distant city, but lose their way. When a thunderstorm breaks loose, they seek refuge in a nearby manor, where time apparently stood still. Not everything is as it seems, as all around them, spirits rest uneasily and the supernatural manifests around every corner.

Meeting the Family. All of Them.

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"Admit it, Twilight: we are lost!"

Twilight Sparkle groaned, and hung her head in defeat. "Alright, fine. We're lost. Happy?"

"No," the purple dragon replied in annoyance, "because we're lost."

At the request of Princess Celestia, Twilight was asked to embark on a diplomatic mission to the faraway village of North Colttown to establish new trading routes. Twilight figured the negotiations would go much smoother with the assistance of Applejack, notoriously known for her ever-genuine honesty, and Rarity, given her swooning ability of handling words. Spike insisted on joining them, not only because it would get him close to Rarity for an extended period of time, but mainly because it always seemed he was left out of everypony's endeavors most of the time.

"Well, shoot ya'll. What do we do now? We can't keep going on forever, especially without food." Applejack said, pulling the carriage that sheltered the other two ponies and the infant dragon. They had brought ample supplies for the long trip they were undertaking, even for after the night they spent at the last inn they came across. But the directions the innkeeper gave them towards their destination were hazy at best. At some point, they must have taken a wrong turn, and were now stranded in the middle of an unknown forest, which wasn't on the map Twilight consulted when plotting their trek.

Applejack was strong, which wasn't surprising for an earth pony, and bucking apple trees only added to that strength. But even she had her limits, so they took turns in pulling the carriage with both Twilight and Rarity together at given intervals.

"Not only that, it is getting dark. I believe I can already see the moon being raised." Rarity pointed out.

"I don't know, you guys. We don't know if we're even heading in the right way, and it's unwise to turn back now." Twilight said.

"I am most certainly not looking forward to spend the night in this carriage," Rarity said. "It cannot possibly be good for my complexion." She received a tiny glare from her traveling companions. "Oh, and there's not enough room for all of us anyway, hehe." She smiled meekly.

Pulling over the carriage and undoing herself of the bridles, Applejack turned to the unicorns. "Well, we better think o' sumthin', otherwise we're in a mighty big pickle. Anypony got any bright ideas?"

"Hey, look!" Spike exclaimed, as he was leaning out the window of the carriage and pointing at the treeline adjacent to the road. "I can see a path over there. That's gotta lead somewhere."

"Well, we're not getting anywhere by just standing here. Let's go, ya'll. Who knows, we might get lucky." Applejack said.

Mere minutes after the ponies and the dragon started walking and left their carriage behind them, the sky above them, invisible due to the canopy, quickly filled with foreboding clouds. A jolt of electricity burst to life as two clouds contacted, lighting up the world and birthing a loud roll of thunder.

"Ya'll heard that? Sounds like a storm brewin'," Applejack pointed out.

"Just as we're walking through a forest, too! That's extremely dangerous! Let's go!" After Spike jumped on Twilight's back, the ponies broke into a gallop, despite having no clue where the road would take them. Somewhere safe, hopefully.

"Look, up ahead in the distance! That looks like-"

Twilight was cut off when another flash of lightning, much closer than before, lit up the sky, and torrents of rain started pouring down. Rarity immediately pouted.

"Rain! My coiffure will be absolutely ruined!"

"Looks like a building up ahead! A castle, or a manor. Let's hurry!"

"RUN! Before that dreaded lightning strikes us!"

"Consarn it Rarity, you're kind of overreacting now!" Applejack shouted over the noise of the stormy wail.

Before Rarity could provide the earth pony with a snappy comeback, a loud crashing noise just behind them caught their attention. They all turned to see the trunk of a large tree now splayed across the road, hindering their non-existing retreat.

"You see?" Rarity said while pointing at the trunk, "we almost got crushed under that! We must find shelter this instant!"

"Well then, let's keep going!" Applejack agreed.

As they kept running, Spike's thoughts were elsewhere, contemplating on a peculiar oddity.

Strange... There wasn't any lightning the moment the tree fell...

If Spike had turned around to grab a second look at the fallen tree, he would have seen it righted again all by itself.

The ponies crossed a tiny bridge suspended over a moat and came up to an archway, signaling they were entering the inside perimeter of the manor grounds. A steel gate protruded from the ceiling of the archway, ready to drop down at any given moment.

"I'm glad that gate's opened, otherwise we'd be in real trouble now. I just hope they don't send us back!"

Twilight's words barely left her mouth as the gate came crashing down, missing the last pony to run past by mere inches.

"I guess they won't," Spike deadpanned.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Rarity exclaimed.

"There's no time to worry about that now. Let's keep going!" Applejack yelled.

Just as the ponies, and subsequently, dragon turned around, another flash of lightning illuminated the sky, giving the manor now in front of them an eerie, sinister image. Rarity shivered.

"Ooh... I don't like the look of this place..."

"We're pretty much out of options, Rarity. At least there's lights on inside, so somepony's gotta be home."

"I most certainly hope so. I'm positively soaked to my skin!"

"Just a moment longer, Rarity. We're almost home free!" Applejack said as she started bucking against the front door. Gently, trying not to smash right through it and immediately wearing out their welcome. "Open up!"

A slot in the door opened mere seconds later, the eye of a pony peering at the drenched ponies on the other side.

"What do you want? We don't buy at the door," the pony said gruffly.

"What, ya'll think we like standing out in the rain? Let us in, would ya?"

The pony closed the slot, and proceeded to open the door. The soaked ponies eagerly bounded inside, and shook off as much of the damp liquid as possible. As the colt went to close the door again, Rarity took him in. He was a old earth stallion, with a mane that was more white than gray, indicating he was quite of age. As such, the color of his originally green coat dulled just as such. The wrinkles in his face made him look like he was frowning all the time. The image of a teapot adorned his flanks, and his left ear was wrapped in a bandage.

She leaned towards Twilight, and whispered. "I don't know about you, but he creeps me out a little."

"He's certainly not a thing of beauty," Twilight whispered back, before raising her voice back to its normal level. "Thank you, sir. My name is Twilight Sparkle, and we got a lost on our way to North Colttown. I was hoping you could provide us with proper directions-"

"What in the hoof are you talking about, lady? I've never heard of North Colttown in my life. There's no such place."

Twilight blinked in confusion. "But... Yes there is! I've been sent there on a mission for Princess Celestia to establish trading routes."

The butler pony raised an eyebrow. "Celestia, eh? She's feeling real proud of sending her sister to the moon, I bet."

Now, all the ponies (and Spike) blinked in confusion. "Princess Luna? But... That was over a thousand years ago, and she back to normal now."

"Nonsense," the butler countered. "Princess Luna is beyond the point of recovery when she turned into Nightmare Moon, and Celestia knew it. That's why she sent her to the moon a few weeks ago. Can't say I can blame her."

Before Twilight could speak further, a new voice resonated as another pony walked in the room. "What seems to be the problem here, Pennywell?"

This was a unicorn stallion, far younger than the butler, with a dark red bow tie wrapped around his neck. His coat was sky-blue, while his wavy mane was mostly red with a dash of black running through it. His tail sported the same colors, and his cutie mark depicted a wolf's claw.

"Strangers, Mr. Bristle. They got lost on their way to... Where was it again?"

"North Colttown."

"Hmmm... Very well. We'll grant them hospitality." The new pony then leaned in towards the butler known as Pennywell, and whispered low enough only for him to hear. "But make sure they stay in the dark. Everything must go according to plan."

"Certainly, Mr. Bristle."

Uncaring of their private conversation, Spike was the first to wonder out loud. "I wonder why there's a bandage around his ear?"

As Darkly Bristle returned to the room he emerged from, Pennywell had grabbed a double candlestick, of which only one end held a lit candle. The other, empty end reached just under the butler's bandaged ear.

"Oh... I get it."

"If you'll please follow me," the butler requested.

"I'm afraid you arrived on a grim evening," Pennywell spoke as he lead Celestia's diplomats up the stairs towards the second floor of the manor. Rarity was the first to notice it seemed like every part of the manor they've seen thus far hadn't been cleaned in decades.

"The owner of this manor, the esteemed noblecolt Thunder Thorn, recently passed away in, shall we say... highly suspicious circumstances. The heirs are in the salon right now. By midnight, his lawyer will have arrived to read out his will."

The group arrived at a seemingly ordinary door, which Pennywell opened precariously as if it would unhinge if handled too briskly, and walked inside.

"These were the most favored quarters of the late Mr. Thorn, where you'll be staying at your preference."

I highly doubt that, Rarity thought as she glanced around the room. The cobwebs and the coats of dust everywhere indicated this room hadn't been used in decades.

Against the far wall stood a king-size, four-poster bed, a chest sitting in front of it. To the left was an adjoining room, where another, smaller bed stood. Underneath the window to the right was a medium-sized cupboard, and a sizable closet was lined up next to the door, opposite the king-sized bed. A copy of the closet stood across the smaller bed in the adjoining room, accompanied by a writing desk.

Pennywell continued talking as he went to light several candles strewn across the room, and moved back towards the hallway as he finished up.

"It was in this room that I found the remains of the noblecolt..." he pulled the door close to a creak, "... with a knife plunged in his back. I'll see you soon." He shut the door behind him.

"Okay, this place is giving me the creepers," Applejack said as she recovered from the bit of too-much-information. "It's almost like a bad horror movie or something."

"It doesn't make any sense," Twilight said. "How could they not know Princess Luna has been freed of Nightmare Moon? All of Equestria knows it!"

"Maybe... All of us ended up in the same dream, somehow?" Rarity guessed.

"Do you think maybe because this place is so remote, time stood still here?" Spike wondered out loud.

Twilight scowled. "Nah, that's just an old pony-tale."

"You're the one to speak about pony-tales..." Spike muttered under his breath, crossing his arms. Rarity took off into the adjoining room to explore their quarters.

"Can't we like, sneak out and vamoose or sumthin'?"

"Unlikely. You saw for yourself the front gate got shut."

As Spike, Twilight and Applejack talked, Rarity moved over to the closet located in the adjoining room.

I wonder what kind of fashion sense these residents have? Perhaps I can gather some inspiration for a future vintage line...

She used her magic to open the closet doors...

And immediately stepped back, speechless and horrified, as the body of a lifeless stallion slumped from the closet, unceremoniously splaying across the floor.

Rarity found her voice again as she left the body behind her and galloped back into the original room, shrieking at the top of her lungs, which instantly caught the attention of the dragon and the other two ponies.

"The... I... Gah... A... Horri... Heh..." Rarity panted frantically, tried to form a coherent sentence. If she wasn't already white, she would've paled as such.

"Calm down, Rarity! What's the matter?" Twilight asked.

"The-there's... a-a body... Fell o-out the closet... W-with a... kn-kn-knife i-in... it-it's back!" Rarity managed to stammer.

"WHAT?!" the rest of the group yelled, and dashed into the next room to investigate.

They found nothing.

"Rarity, there's no body here. There's nothing to see!"

Rarity peeked out from behind the corner, still scared out of her wits, and stepped in when she saw for herself the body had indeed vanished.

"But... There was a corpse of a pony here! Right here! I'm not going crazy!" She frantically pointed her hoof at the ground, where mere moments ago, there was a body.

"I'm not saying you are," Twilight said as she tapped her chin, "but the butlers story of the murdered noblecolt may have send your imagination go haywire."

"Maybe it hid under the bed?" Spike asked jokingly as he lifted up the sheets to look under said bed. He yelped in surprise as a rat darted out from under it.

"Whatever the case, something weird is going on around here." Twilight stated.

"I second that," Applejack agreed.

"In any event, we should freshen up. I'm quite anxious to meet the heirs of Thunder Thorn."

About fifteen minutes later, the ponies and the dragon moved down the stairs, all dried up and clad in simple garments that weren't uncommon in pre-Nightmare Moon times. Pennywell was waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs.

"If you'll follow me to the salon. The family members of Mr. Thorn await you."

The butler pony guided them into the salon, occupied by six other ponies. To the left, a large casket filled up the otherwise empty space of the room, flanked on both sides by candlesticks sporting lit candles the size of a pony's leg.

As soon as Celestia's envoy walked in, the room's occupants diverted their attention to them. The stallion from earlier walked up to them, smiling warmly.

"Greetings! We've already met. My name is Darkly Bristle, and I'm Thunder Thorn's cousin. We stand guard over the remains of our dear departed uncle Thunder Thorn, as it were."

Twilight took command of the situation. "My name is Twilight Sparkle. These here are Rarity, Applejack and my #1 assistant, Spike," she said, gesturing at each pony and the baby dragon.

"Allow me to introduce to you the other family members. This is cousin Solitaire..."

The pegasus mare in question, pink coat, light-green-hair and a golden crown as a cutie mark, bowed slightly. "Lady Solitaire. Charmed."

Bristle continued. "Aunt Solace and uncle Majestic..."

The unicorn couple huffed as they raised their muzzles in the air. Rarity detected their snootiness from a mile away.

"We do not have the honor to meet you," Majestic said, his tone condescending. He had a gray coat and a darker shade of gray hair, the image of an unfolded scroll on his flanks.

"If it even can be considered an 'honor'," Solace added. Her coat was dark yellow, and her red mane was held up. Her cutie mark depicted a closed jewelry box.

"Aunt Agate Wreath."

"A pleasure," the earth pony mare said. She was a bit more voluptuous, and had a purple coat, similar to Twilight's, while her hair was as cyan as Rainbow Dash's coat. Her cutie mark was one of a ring made out of agates. "Please, don't mind my husband."

Darkly Bristle finally introduced said husband, which was also the final pony of the family.

"Uncle Barley Brew."

Like his wife, he was also kind of a portly earth pony. He had a dark brown coat and fiery red hair. As his name, his speech and his state of soberness assuaged, his cutie mark showed a bottle of wine.

"I don't thirst for fame *hiccup*," he said, "but my *hiccup* thirst is famous." He snorted at his own joke.

After exchanging formalities, Applejack noticed Rarity's eyes and mouth going wide.

"What's up, Rarity? You seeing dead bodies again?" she chuckled.

Rarity extended a hoof towards the casket, which, with a unnerving creaking sound, opened up slowly from the inside. "Y-y... y-yes!"

"Uncle Thunder Thorn's casket! Uuuuh..." Solitaire said, just before she fainted and landed in Majestic's forelegs. Solace glared at the unconscious pony.

"Fainting in your hooves. That was on purpose!"

Majestic ignored her. "Pennywell! Some water, quickly!"

"I'll have *hiccup* a cognac, please." Barley Brew said.

"HEAR ME!" a voice boomed. All the ponies in the room (except Solitaire, who was still out cold) turned to look towards the casket, where the remains of Thunder Thorn was sitting in an upright position.

"Uncle Thorn's spirit..." Darkly Bristle gasped.

"SILENCE!" the spirit interrupted. "Before I shed this mortal vessel, I have a score to settle with you all.

"I was killed in a cowardly fashion. Seeing as I was stabbed in the back, I was unable to see my murderer. But I shall not rest before I learn his or her identity."

"It's the same corpse I saw falling from the closet!" Rarity whispered to Twilight.

"Come on Rarity, you know that's an impossibility."

"And I still say it was!" She said a tad too loud.

"Shhh!" Pennywell shushed her as Thunder Thorn kept talking.

"I can sense that the perpetrator is in this very room. With the aid of the manor's spirits, I will expose him or her before night's end. The manor is closed off from the outside world. None shall be permitted to leave until the murderer has been debunked. And don't bother trying to escape with magic or by flying. The manor grounds are enchanted to block spells as soon as you step outside, and the same enchantment will cripple your wings."

As Thunder Thorn spoke, he reclined to lay down again, and placed his hoof on the edge of the lid.

"FARE YE WELL!" the living dead boomed, and slammed the casket shut, cackling manically as he did.

After this, the atmosphere in the room turned to turmoil among the heirs. Solitaire was back on her hooves, Pennywell offering her a glass of water as she regained her senses. Solace was in her husband's face, fuming at him.

"You see?! I always knew your family was a nothing but a bunch of lowly crooks!"

"Hold on now, Solace," Agate Wreath interjected. "Everypony here is a suspect. That includes you." Solace diverted her fuming to the mare.

"WHAT? How DARE you to accuse ME?! Why don't you take a look at that sorry excuse for a husband of yours! I don't understand how one pony can drink so much!"

Barley Brew just smirked at her. "If you *hiccup* don't understand it, Solace, then don't *hiccup* talk about it." If looks could kill, Solace would have killed Barley Brew with hers right then and there.

"Alright, everypony, settle down! Let's all keep our dignity." Darkly Bristle intervened.

"Very true, dear cousin." Majestic added. "Moreover, who's to say Thunder Thorn's killer was one of us? He spoke of somepony in this room." He gestured at Celestia's envoy. "They are just as much of a suspect."

"But... we're innocent!" Twilight shouted, astonished by the accusation.

"Mayhap," Majestic continued, "but it's a general rule the criminal returns to the scene of a crime."

Before Twilight could argue further, Pennywell, who had stepped out of the room, walked back in. "Dinner is about to be served, honorary guests. Please have a seat."

After every pony settled down at the dinner table, Lady Solitaire was the first to voice the thought on everypony's mind.

"I get the feeling uncle Thorn didn't use this room very often." Just like pretty much every other room in the manor thus far, this one was too covered in cobwebs and dust. The plates, cutlery and glasses were impeccably clean, though.

A new voice broke the silence in the room, as a servant unicorn pony walked in. "Any volunteers to taste the wine?"

Instantly and without looking, Barley Brew raised his hoof.

"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Silver Platter."

"Shut up. My name is Silver Plate."

"What the... A Siamese twin! He's got two heads!" Agate Wreath was the first to point out the obvious.

"Looks like *hiccup* he's got four to me." Barley Brew said.

The Siamese twin pony stepped up to Barley Brew, and the unicorn's left head corked the bottle.

Silver Platter glared at his neighboring head. "Etiquette says you're supposed to serve wine on the right side of the guest, moron."

"Oh, quit talking out the side of my neck, would you?"

Barley payed no attention to the joined, squabbling twins, as it was directed to his now full glass instead.

"I don't know how old this wine *hiccup* is," he said before taking a swig, "but it won't get much older!"

After the servant poured a glass of wine for everypony (except for Spike, who was given plain water) and retreated into the kitchen, Pennywell emerged from the kitchen door, quickly followed by Silver Plate and Silver Platter, pushing a cart laden with pony skulls.

"Tonight's meal is brains, served Italian style. Bon app├ętit, everypony." Pennywell stated.

"No doubt he doesn't mean your brain, because ours are in my head," Silver Platter smirked at his attached brother.

"Shut up, or I'll file for a divorce," he retorted, as they both got to work placing the skulls-dash-plates on the table in front of the guests.

Once everypony got over the initial disgust of the sight of bare skulls placed in front of them and the name of the meal, Spike was the first to pay his "plate" a closer inspection. He found that the top of the skull served as a lid, which made him conclude the skulls were fake. Same as the meal presented, upon further examination.

"Don't worry, everypony," he said, "it's just spaghetti."

After everypony determined for themselves Spike's words rang true, they started to consume their meals. Most of them, anyway.

"Uncle Thunder Thorn's death affected me so much, I can't eat a single bite." Lady Solitaire said, pushing her skull-plate away.

"And I have a figure to maintain." Solace huffed.

"Please stop drinking so much, Barley," Agate Wreath said after a while. "You're up to your seventh glass already!"

"Look, Agate *hiccup*... If I don't drink it, somepony else will."

Just as the last pony finished with its meal, an ornate bell ringed. Pennywell glanced at the clock, and saw that the time of night neared midnight. He looked out the window to confirm his suspicions.

"Looks like Mr. Thorn's lawyer, Mr. Lavaliere, has arrived. May I ask the honorable guests to please assemble in the salon again?"

Pennywell removed himself from the dining room as everypony else relocated to the salon, and walked towards a large lever next to the front door, which operated the steel gate outside the courtyard.

Lord Thorn said nopony was allowed to leave. He didn't say anything about letting ponies in, though.

Pennywell kept an eye on the lawyer through the slot as he trotted up to the front door, and opened it before he even got a chance to knock.

"Welcome, Mr. Lavaliere. The family has been expecting you."

The lawyer was about to provide an answer, as Twilight, Applejack, Rarity and Spike appeared from the salon and started to make their way upstairs.

"This is a matter for the heirs," Twilight said, "so we'll be in our room."


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"What in the wide world of Equestria have we gotten ourselves into? This place's like a nuthouse!" Applejack exclaimed.

"And I'm beginning to feel like belonging in one." Rarity said.

"We need to get the hay outta here, stat!"

"We can't," Twilight reasoned, "Pennywell locked the door."

"Can't you do anything, Twilight?" Spike asked. "Like, use a scrying spell or something?"

"Well... Maybe I could... But I only know the most basic of scrying spells. I haven't really looked into them that much." Twilight made a mental note to further educate herself in that area of spellcasting... assuming she'd get back to her precious library someday. "I can only keep it active for a short distance. If I guide it too far away from me, it disintegrates."

"Well, that means we'll have to sneak up on the heirs downstairs, right?"

"Yes it does, Spike," Twilight said as she carefully opened the door, and started creeping down the stairs and lowered her voice to a whisper, "though I do not condone sneaking around like this. But given the circumstances, I admit, I'm curious as well."

She halted in the middle of the staircase, figuring there was a reasonable distance between her and the salon. Recollecting her thoughts, she guided power to her horn, and a luminescent, purple orb visible only to herself manifested in front of her. She guided the orb down the rest of the stairs and around the corner, where Thunder Thorn's lawyer was unfurling a piece of parchment.

"I shall now proceed with reading out Mr. Thorn's will."

Before he could speak another word, the room went pitch black. Panic settled in among the heirs.

Lady Solitaire simply yelled.

"Who extinguished the lights?!" Majestic exclaimed.

In the darkness, a series of loud banging noises were heard, their origins unknown.

"What was that noise?!" Darkly Bristle demanded to know.

"Pennywell! Quickly, make some light!" Agate Wreath requested.

Part of the sudden darkness was broken, as the wrinkled face of Pennywell appeared in the light of a freshly-lit candle. He quickly moved to relight the other candles, which somehow had extinguished all at once.

"The noise came from the hallway." Majestic said, as he and the heirs went to check out the origin or the disturbance. They found Twilight laying at the base of the staircase.

"Twilight Sparkle?" Darkly Bristle said. "Did you fall down the stairs?"

"No, this is my way of descending." she groaned. The sudden collapse of illumination caused her to get thrown off-balance, which in turn caused her to tumble down.

As she got up, Barley Brew burst into the hallway. "Mr. Lavaliere has disappeared!"

"Please. You're constantly drunk." Solace said as she rolled her eyes.

"That's because I'm constantly thirsty." Barley Brew grinned back.

Darkly Bristle wasn't smiling, though. "He's right! Where did the lawyer go?!"

Out of nowhere, Pennywell took charge of the situation. "Strange things happen in the manor. Especially after midnight. I advice you all retreat to your rooms."

"A lawyer that disappears without a trace... Never thought I'd say this, but I'm inclined to think this place might be haunted after all." Twilight said, as the three ponies and the dragon sat on the edge of the largest bed in their room.

"I know one thing: I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight. I'm certain of it." She pouted. "This will definitely not be good for my complexion..."

"Shush... Ya'll hear that?" Applejack said, effectively silencing the room's occupants. Sure enough, strange noises could be heard, coming from somewhere above them.

"I hear it too. Sounds like it's coming from the attic."

"I don't know 'bout ya'll, but I wanna know what it is."

"Me too," Twilight said, "let's check it out. But let's all go together this time."

They walked out their room, and turned to the opposite side of the hallway to climb the next set of stairs. But just as they stepped out, the walls around them turned black, and in merely a moment, it looked like they were standing in an infinite void.

"Dear sweet Celestia! What's happening?!" Rarity nearly panicked.

In the darkness in front of them, a tiny speck manifested and moved towards them at an exceptionally fast rate. It was inconspicuous at first, but at the rate of speed it was moving, it grew in size rather quickly.

They all saw it coming towards them, and moved to the side as much as they were able, trying to avoid this apparition from colliding with them. As it swooshed past them, they got a good look at what it was.

It was a maneless pony, all white and transparent like a mild fog, its front hooves resting on the handles of a high wheel bike. It had no hind legs to speak of, since the lower part of its body trailed off into nothingness. It had an unsettling smile on its face as it didn't even slow down to pay any heed to the ponies and dragon it barely missed.

"Did... Did I just see..." Applejack began, at a loss for further words.

"Was that... a ghost? But... that's impossible!"

"We're hallucinating. We got to be!" Rarity exclaimed. "That's what you get from drinking too much wine! I wish I didn't have any!"

"I didn't drink any wine, and I saw it too." Spike countered.

Suddenly, Rarity yelped and jumped into Applejack's forelegs. "EEEK! Here comes another one!"

"What are you doing here?" This apparition asked. There was a familiarity to its voice that made the ponies somewhat at ease, and even more so when the "apparition" stepped closer. It turned out to be Pennywell, clad in a white night attire, on his way to his own room further down the hallway. Which, they noticed now, had restored itself to its original state.

"I advise you to remain in your quarters," he said as he walked into his own. "The manor spirits do not like to be disturbed."

Nopony dared to speak until Pennywell had removed himself from view.

"I say we do as he says." Rarity suggested.

"I second that." Applejack concurred.

"Come on, you guys," Spike said, "remember what Pinkie taught you? There's no such thing as ghosts!"

"Spike's right," Twilight said as she continued her way up the stairs leading towards the attic door, "together, we'll get to the bottom of this."

"Shh... hear that?" Spike said as they came up to the door. "Those are definitely hoofsteps."

"Rarity, watch out!" Applejack yelled suddenly.

Before Rarity could react, she could feel a presence tossing and turning around in her mane. Glimpses of leathery wings threw gusts of air in her face.

"Eeeek! A bat! Get if off, get it off!"

As if on command, the bat dispersed, and joined the rest of its kin suspended on the wooden beams which lined the ceiling. Only for some reason, this particular bat decided to stand up instead of hanging down.

"Maybe it's practicing yoga?" Spike asked jokingly.

Twilight had already opened the attic door, and lit up her horn to serve as a flashlight. "Not important right now, you guys. We gotta keep moving. Rarity's yelling surely alerted our presence to whomever is lurking around in here."

Rarity pouted immediately as she was busy trying to fix her mane. "But... but... bats!"

As the ponies, with Spike on Twilight's back, crept through the darkened attic, a pair of eyes followed them from the shadows. The light emanating from Twilight's horn hit it straight in the face as the presence shuffled into a better position, giving away its location.

"Who's ther... Lady Solitaire?"

"Uh... I was looking for Darkly Bristle, but he wasn't in his room. That's when I heard hoofsteps up here and got curious, so I came to investigate."

"Uh-huh... And what were you looking for in Bristle's room?"

Solitaire ignored the question. "Why don't we split up, and look in separate directions to find out what's going on?" Without another word, Solitaire turned around and walked off.

Twilight turned to face her friends. "Is it me, or does Lady Solitaire seem to be hiding something?"

"Hey, look over here," Spike said suddenly. "Do you think this was a hobby of Thunder Thorn?"

Spike pointed at a table, lined with bottles and laboratory equipment. Shelves attached to the outer wall were stuffed with books, and many bottles contained liquids of varying colors and densities.

"A laboratory?" Twilight stated. "Perhaps Thorn was an alchemist of some kind?"

A blood-curling scream filled the air.

"That was Solitaire!" Applejack shouted.

"Who... What are you?!" Solitaire asked, panicking.

Before her stood a pony, but there was several things wrong with it. The most obvious was its face. The muzzle was more pointy, and whiskers grew from the sides of it. Its eyes were sharper than a pony's, and yellow. Small fangs poked out of its mouth. And while its coat had doubled in length and had turned to a darker shade of its original color, its mane and tail appeared unkempt, as if a wild animal just tossed around in it.

Despite the changes, Solitaire still recognized the pony underneath the wolfish appearance.

"It's just me, Solitaire... Darkly Bristle," he said in a growling tone. "Every full moon, I turn into this... A lycanequus."

Solitaire screamed again, and fainted for the second time that evening. Twilight and the others simply gawked at the scene in front of them, as Bristle walked down the stairs leading away from the attic, the unconscious form of Solitaire hoisted on his back. He turned his head, and smiled a toothy grin at them.

"Darkly Bristle is a lycanequus? But... that's madness!" Applejack exclaimed.

Suddenly, the shattering of glass sounded from somewhere behind them.

"Now what?!" Rarity said as the investigating team went over to the source of the disturbance. What they found was a sizable pony laying in a sea of shards, having knocked down a shelf full of empty bottles meant for alchemical purposes.

"Barley Brew?"

"I saw two support beams... *hiccup* but I guess I supported against the wrong one." Despite his intoxication, he managed to stand up rather quickly. "But I made a remarkable discovery!" he said as he corked a nearby bottle, and offered it to Applejack. "Smell this."

"Is that... brandy?" Applejack said as she identified the smell.

"Yup! Seemed like *hiccup* uncle Thorn had a little white lie going on *hiccup* in here. I always knew it ran in the family, heh..."

"WATCH OUT! BEHIND YOU!" Rarity shrieked. Behind Twilight and Spike, the face of a demon appeared, moving in to swallow the unicorn and baby dragon whole with one gluttonous snatch. Twilight and Spike turned around, only to face a brick wall.

"What? There's nothing to see." Spike said incredulously.

Rarity started to fume. "Ugh! Then there's a ghost. Then there isn't a ghost! I've had it! I'm leaving! Right now! Immediately! This instant!" She started to walk forcefully towards the exit of the attic, leaving the inebriated pony to his drinking.

"But how, Rarity? We can't get out!" Applejack wondered.

"We'll see about that!"

For the umpteenth time that evening, a scream filled the air. This time though, there were two of them.

"More screaming?" Twilight asked.

"Sounds like it came from Solace and Majestic's room!" Spike pointed out.

As Twilight opened the door with her magic, she shut it again within a second or two. Solace and Majestic were standing on the bed, batting away dozen of tiny monsters of different sizes and shapes. Hairy monsters with multiple eyes, naked monsters with claws for hands, a bat with an impossibly wide smile, a monster with a trunk for a nose with an eye at the end, and many more variations Twilight didn't bother to discern.

"Okay, I'm convinced," she said. "We gotta leave. But how? You heard Thunder Thorn, magic gets nullified as soon as we step outside."

"Simple," Rarity deadpanned. "We just use our heads and some bedsheets."

A Bad Dream

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"Umpf!" Spike landed on the ground with a thud, losing his grip on the sheets as his claws tore right through them. He was the last one to climb down the surrogate rope from their bedroom window.

"Alright, so far so good," Twilight said. "But now what? The gate is still lowered."

"How 'bout we climb the wall?" Applejack offered.

"But, what about the moat?" Spike asked.

"I prefer getting my mane ruined one more time rather than lose my mind in this place of madness." Rarity said.

Agreeing, Spike climbed atop Applejack's back, and she hoisted him to the top of the wall. Just as Spike peeked over the wall though, a giant swamp creature emerged from the water, roaring and swiping at him with razor-sharp, webbed claws. Spike yelped, and fell backwards, bounced off of Applejack's back and on the ground again.

"Mo-monster... i-in the... wa-water!" He stammered.

"Oh? I thought you said there wasn't such a thing as ghosts?" Twilight smirked.

"Uh... I'll make an exception for water monsters."

"Shoot. There's gotta be another way out. Let's try the other side of the manor." Applejack suggested.

As the ponies kept close to the walls of the manor and sneaked underneath the windows, they rounded the corners of the building twice, only to be greeted by a less-than-appealing sight, planted in the manor's backyard.

"Is... is that a graveyard?"

"'Fraid so. Must be Thunder Thorn's ancestors."

Spike sighed. "With all that's been happening tonight, do you really think it's a good idea to walk around a creepy cemetery?"

"Sometimes, the answer is in the most unlikely of places, Spike," Twilight reasoned.

Spike's attention was pulled elsewhere when a loud series of chimes assaulted their ears.

"Churchbell dinging? Where is it coming from?" Rarity asked.

Applejack gulped, and pointed with a hoof. "From there!"

In sync with the ringing, the skeleton of a pony was dangling from a rope, a noose tightly secured around its neck.

"Well, that's one way of ringing a bell..." Twilight muttered. Some movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. "Heads up! We're not alone here!"

They all ducked behind a tombstone to conceal all of them, allowing them to peek out from behind it to observe the figures moving in the distance, all of which slowly dragging themselves in the same direction.

"Are those... zombie ponies?!" Spike asked in trepidation. "See? I TOLD you they exist, Twilight!"

Twilight just gaped at the undead ponies. Each of them was mutilated and deteriorated in varying degrees, and as if sharing a single mindset, all of them headed towards the same, unknown destination.

"Where do ya'll think they're going?" Applejack asked.

"I don't know, and I don't care," Rarity said as she backed away from the tombstone they were hiding behind, "All I know is I'm going in the other way."

She didn't get too far. As she passed by another relatively large tombstone, the earth in front of it stirred, and the bony hoof of a skeleton burst from the ground, quickly followed by another. Rarity didn't stick around for the animated corpse to fully emerge from the grave, as she shrieked, turned around and galloped away to rejoin her friends.

"What is blazes is that racket about tonight? It makes my blood churn!" A voice, unheard by anypony, sounded from a neighboring grave, which opened itself from the inside. A pale pony stepped out, donning a cloak and a top hat, both as black as the night. A pair of fangs protruded from its mouth, and its eyes were a bloodshot red.

"Well, hello there, missy..." he said as he laid his eyes on Rarity, running back to her friends.

The white fashionista was on the verge of tears as she wrapped her hooves around Applejack's neck. "This is a nightmare! A bad dream! Why can't I wake up?!"

"Excuse me, milady," the pale pony said as he walked up to Rarity, lifting his top hat in greeting. "Would you raise any objections if I were to request a little nibble from you?"

While Spike dived into the nearest bush in hiding, Rarity scuffled behind Applejack. "A vampire!"

The look on the vampire pony's face fell, turned on its heels, and stomped away, angrily. "Alright, fine. I'll take that as a "no," then. You could've at least be more civil about it!"

As the vampire returned to his coffin, Spike felt his leg sink away into nothingness. Looking down, he noticed he was standing at the top of a stony staircase, leading into a dark tunnel, fully enshrouded by the bushes.

"Hey, you guys! I found a secret passage!" Spike called. The ponies walked over.

"Ah yes. It's not an uncommon sight for ancient manors to have hidden escape routes in case of a threat. This might be a way out!" Twilight said.

"Or another step towards our doom." Applejack sighed as they descended the stairs.

"I opt for that." Rarity agreed.

Twilight lit up her horn once again to cast a light into the earthen corridor. Shining it across the walls gave her a jump. Whether or not it was formed by nature was debatable, but the walls appeared like faces of ponies, which appeared as if they were writhing in agony.

"Ugh. Not very inviting..."

"Well... as long as we're not being threatened, I'll be happy." Rarity said.

Nopony noticed the eight-legged insect stalking them from a nearly invisible crevice in the walls.

The ponies and dragon passed a series of pony skeletons in their path. There was even a skull raked on a pike, serving as a warning to go no further.

"Looks like we weren't the first ones to pass through here..." Applejack said silently.

Twilight turned to answer her, but shouted a warning instead. "Applejack! Watch out! On your shoulder!"

Applejack turned her head to see the cause of Twilight's alarm, and stared right into a set of several arachnoid eyes.

"GUH! A spider! Git off, you!" She turned around as she batted the spider away. As she looked behind her, she saw it brought friends. Lots of them.

"Ah darn it, there's a cartload of them! RUN!"

Spike had to hold on to Twilight's mane for dear life as the ponies broke into a gallop, trying to put as much distance as possible between them and the flood of spiders. The corridor came to an end, but fortunately, not a dead end, as a wooden door was visible.

Twilight immediately used her magic to get a feel of the doorknob, and sighed in relief to find it was unlocked. She swung the door open and allowed everypony to run in. The door slammed shut, leaving the spiders with nothing to do but crawling all over it.

"Phew... We're safe!" Applejack panted.

"Oh, I beg to differ..." Rarity sighed.

The dungeon they found themselves in was one of nightmares.

Several contraptions used for torturing purposes were scattered around the room. In front of them, a rack was displayed, accompanied by a bucket of cold coals on one side, and a log with an ax on the other. On the wall was an iron maiden, and chains criss-crossed all over the ceiling. Last but not least, a guillotine stood at the far end of the room, which they needed to pass by in order to exit the room.

"That's the first time I ever see a guillotine," Applejack admitted. She noticed the blade had been lowered, and followed the blade's trajectory to the basket in front of the guillotine, where in ancient times, there would be...

"GYUH!!" She jumped.

"Now what?" Twilight asked.

"I-I-In the basket!"

Twilight peeked into the basket with slight trepidation, not sure if she really wanted to find out what spooked her friend. Regardless, she did, and stared right into the empty gaze of Lavaliere's severed head, his tongue lolling out from his mouth.

The lavender unicorn grimaced at the gruesome sight, turned away, and covered her mouth with a hoof in thought. "Maybe this is about Thunder Thorn's legacy? If that's the case, his and the lawyer's killer could be the same pony."

Hoofsteps caught their attention. From behind the corner, a pony wearing an executioner hood came to investigate the noises it was hearing. As soon their eyes connected, it turned and galloped away.

"Over there! He's getting away, somepony stop him!" Rarity called.

"Not if I can help it!" Applejack said, as she pursued the executioner and lunged for a nearby chain dangling from the ceiling. "Ever heard of Daring Do, ya pansy?!" She yelled, using her momentum to kick her hind legs against the back of the pony's head, instantly knocking its lights out.

After the executioner came to a halt from tumbling around, the three ponies (Spike still sitting on Twilight's back) surrounded the unconscious pony.

"I can't wait to find out who it is." Twilight said, as she used her magic to grasp the hood, and yanked it off.

"Is that... but... That's impossible!" Rarity exclaimed.

"And yet, there he is. At least, most of him."

"I don't get it. How can Silver Platter... or Silver Plate, whichever, lose a head like that?" Twilight queried.

"Good thing he's got a spare one," Spike joked.

"So anyway, does that mean he killed Lavaliere and Thunder Thorn?"


Startled by the booming voice behind them, the ponies and dragon turned to see another pony standing on a bare staircase, leading away from the dungeon. He was wearing a cloak as black as charcoal, and the lack of lighting obscured most of his face.

"That stallion is innocent! I, and only I, know who murdered Thunder Thorn!"

"Who... Who are you?" Applejack queried.

Spike's eyesight worked somewhat better in darkness, so he had little trouble identifying this character as it spoke. There was a small detail missing from this stallion's earlier appearance.

"Imagine a bandage around his ear, and you get...?"

"Pennywell?!" Twilight was the first to connect the dots.

Overcoming their initial shock, the ponies advanced on him, but the butler just shouted some more.

"Maintain your distance! Or you will get burned!"

He grasped the side of the cloak with his hoof, and threw it around him as he cackled manically. Out of nowhere, fire erupted at the base of his hooves, and one scorching burst of flame later, he had vanished.

"Wha... Where did he go?!" Rarity asked, flustered.

"Please. That was just a fancy teleportation spell." Twilight reasoned.

"But Twilight, that's impossible!" Spike argued. "He's an earth pony, not a unicorn!"

With this revelation bouncing around in her head, Twilight just groaned. "UGH! Whatever! I don't even care to try and understand anything around here anymore. Let's just see where these stairs take us."

The staircase lead them up to...

"A wall?" Applejack said? "It's gotta be a secret passage. Why else would there be stairs here?"

Attached on the wall at the top of the staircase, was a depiction of a devil's face, carved in stone and glaring with empty eyes. As soon as the ponies approached it, its horns lowered and a stone tongue stuck out of its mouth.

"Puh, manners..." Rarity muttered.

"Hang on, ya'll, lemme take a look at this," Applejack perked up. "I've been reading Applebloom some scary stories lately. She seems to like them. One of them mentioned something the likes of this."

After a few moments of inspection, Applejack pushed down on the tongue with one hoof, and raised the horns back to their upright position with the other. Removing her hooves, the tongue snapped right back up, and with a grinding noise, retreated back into the mouth. A series of clicks and whirs could be heard, and to Applejack's elation, the secret door opened.

"Yee-haw!" she exclaimed. "Finally, we've caught a break!"

"I'm not so sure..." Rarity said, as she peered past Applejack, looking into an all-too familiar environment. "Looks like we ended up back inside the manor..."


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"I can't believe we're back to square one..." Twilight muttered angrily.

As they tentatively rounded a corner, Twilight's eyes fell on the form of a pony, collapsed on the ground. Given her color and size, she quickly identified the unfortunate mare.

"Agate Wreath? What happened to her?"

Applejack walked over, and crouched down next to Agate. She was too busy looking for injuries to notice one of her eyes opening to a slit, peering at her.

"She looks to be out cold, Twi'. And look at this" - she pointed at an oddity in Agate's neck - "see those two holes in her neck?"

Rarity immediately recalled her encounter with the same supernatural being. "Has she been bitten by that vampire? But... That would mean..."

"Exactly..." Agate's voice rasped, as she righted herself. Applejack backed away instantly, keeping out of reach of Agate's fangs.

"Come here! Let auntie Agate Wreath give you a little kiss!" She said, as she stepped closer to Celestia's envoy.

"Rather not, if it's all the same to you!" Spike said, as the ponies broke into a gallop, creating a reasonable distance between them and the portly vampire. She pursued them, but her physical condition quickly made her give up her chase. Maybe her husband would be an easier target...

As the running ponies rounded another corner, they encountered a stallion they were not expecting.


The butler pony got startled, and began to run.

"After him!" Applejack called, "He knows who the killer is!"

Despite the butler's age, he was surprisingly spry. The chasing ponies almost lost sight of him as he turned away into a familiar room.

"There! He went into the salon! We've got him now!"

Bursting into the salon themselves, Rarity and Twilight bumped into Applejack's rump as she suddenly skidded to a halt.

"Where in tarnation did he wander off to?!" she exclaimed.

Rarity, Twilight and Spike now saw for themselves that there wasn't a single trace left of Pennywell. The only oddity in the room was Thunder Thorn's casket.

"I don't believe it," Spike said. "That's the second time he managed to elude us. Maybe he's a ghost too!"

Twilight tapped her chin, as she cast her gaze towards the noblecolt's casket. "Unless..." And with a yank of her magic, she opened the lid.

"Twilight! What in the name of Celestia are you doing?"

Twilight peered into the coffin, and met Rarity's face with a smile plastered on her own. "Solving this thing!" she replied triumphantly. "Look!"

The dragon and the two ponies followed her gaze to the inside of the casket. But instead of a corpse, they saw...

"A stairwell?"

"We're getting close to the bottom of this, I can feel it!" Twilight chirped happily as they reached the end of the stairwell. They were looking down a stone hallway, lined with candles. Around the corner was another hallway, with a single steel door at the end.

They crept forward as silently as possible until they were at the door. Twilight used her magic to gently nudge it open to a crack, and peered inside. What she saw astounded her so intensely, she swung the door open and burst into the room.

"Thunder Thorn?!"

The noblecolt in question turned around from his multiple set of scrying orbs. "Ah, there you are." he said. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dare Venture, manager of the Ghost Company. Welcome!"

"The... The Ghost Company?" Applejack asked confused. Just what in blazes was going on around here?

"Yep! We are a very distinctive company, specialized in horror parties. It just so happened you arrived during a party of Ponytastic Ltd., a company based in North Colttown. We have wide array of themes to choose from, and tonight's theme was "The Murder of Uncle Thunder Thorn."

"So... There wasn't a murder at all. Everypony was just acting!" Rarity stated.

"Exactly," the stallion formerly known as Thunder Thorn continued, "and the ghosts and creeps you encountered along the way were either controlled remotely by myself through magic or by electronics, or projected by laser beams." As Dare Venture spoke, a few ponies walked into the room. "Ah, allow me to introduce my crew.

"Gallant Marvel here took on the role of Pennywell. Though being an earth pony, he's an experienced, retired magician, specialized in disappearing acts."

"Yeah, we noticed that." Spike said.

"Silver Platter is a ventriloquist. For years, he had an act as a Siamese twin. Obviously with a fake head."

Platter gave a tiny glare at Applejack as he reached for the back of his head, rubbing the bump she created there.

"Heh... Sorry." She said sheepishly.

"Flare Charge here played the lawyer and the vampire in the graveyard."

"Didn't you notice my severed head in the guillotine basket was made out of rubber?" He smiled.

"And I myself played Thunder Thorn." He leaned in towards Rarity. "Sorry about the prank with the corpse falling from the closet, by the way. I just couldn't resist."

"Uh... it's quite alright..." Rarity said, unsure about anything at this point.

"And as you've seen already, I'm also specialized in the field of scrying orbs. From here, I can see whatever happens on the manor grounds. I was hoping the falling tree out front would turn you away, since this is a private party and all - don't worry, I deliberately missed you - but obviously, it didn't work." He winked.

Dare Venture looked at a particular orb. "Oh, looks like Celestia has started raising the sun. I'd suggest we all turn in for as long as we can, since we practically stayed up all night."

The next morning, which stretched out into the early afternoon, a couple of carriages were lined up in front of the manor. The "heirs" made ready to step aboard, while some of the stallions strapped themselves with bridles.

"Where did those the carriages come from?" Twilight asked.

"We've got an underground parking lot." Dare Venture answered. His attention got diverted as a couple of ponies walked up to him.

"We had a blast, Mr. Venture." Solace said. "The new line of monsters in our room were fantastic!"

"I agree." Majestic added. "Until next time!"

"I hope I get to turn into a vampire again next time," Agate Wreath said, "because I loved it!"

A groan escaped her husband. "Is there still something open? I've got a little something to celebrate..." Barley Brew place a hoof atop his forehead. "The birth of another hangover..."

'Lady' Solitaire and Darkly Bristle walked up to Celestia's envoy and Dare Venture.

"See you again soon, Mr. Venture." Bristle said. "And hey, Twilight Sparkle. Since you need to get to North Colttown, we could guide you there. Work beckons, I'm afraid."

"We would love that, Mr. Bristle. Thank you for your offer."

"Well, this certainly was a night to never forget." Rarity commented, looking back upon last night's shenanigans.

"That's what we aim for at the Ghost Company. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves. Come again soon!" Dare Venture said. "Oh, and before you go, here's a parting gift." He levitated a small piece of paper towards them. "Here's your bill. I charged half price for the baby dragon."

The sets of carriages turned onto the main road, where Twilight and her friends left their own carriage the night before. Thankfully, it was left untouched by both malignant creatures and last night's storm.

"I can't believe how steep that bill was," Applejack complained as she strapped herself into the bridles. "And we didn't even get a decent night's rest!"

"I'll say," Rarity agreed, "my eyes feel positively droopy! As soon as I get home, I'm turning in for three days straight."

"Well, at least we've got an escort to North Colttown now, and our bellies are filled. Let's get those negotiations over with and go back home. I've had enough excitement for one night to last a few years." Twilight added.

As the ponies took off following the other carriages, Spike just moped in the back of their own, resting his head on his claws as he peered out the window.

"Charging me half price..."