What happened before:
>You temporalily got additional comrade, Last Wish. Clean wasn't trusting her.
>The Old Town was taking away supplies from other districts by force, you larned it thanks to a guardsmare.
>Three of you got to the theatre and met group of Sharp Quill. They were neutral/friendly towards you.
>Wish was introduced to rest of your friends and all of you went to beds.
>A nightmare woke you up. Last was an enemy spy, a Changeling. There was a fight and she escaped, but you secured her stuff.
>Effort was rewarded with military helmets and knee-pads.
>You decided to move from your current basement in fear of Last's or her comrades' wrath. You went to the theatre and it's inhabitants allowed you to stay with them as a different, independent group.
>Thanks to your curiousity, you recovered several pieces of art, long horse coat and a kuffiya.
>Kalina was in a bad mood, however she didn't want to talk about it.
>After you asked her if there is anything you could bring her, she looked at you with a tiny spark of light in her eyes. t was shy and seemed like it could be extinguished by a slightest breeze.
>The crippled pegasus mare tried to say something, but in initial few seconds she only opened and closed her mouth, unable to speak. Then she began.
>"I could ask for something..." there was both hope and uncertainity in her voice. "But I don't want to put you in danger. I have certain things, but it is not importal. Only holds personal memories. I don't want you to risk your life, because they stayed behind, in our former home. Even if they survived the fire, there are Dogs out there."
>With every word, uncertainity and hope gradually faded, being replaced by resignation and sadness. Kalina returned to her state of blankly gazing into nothingness.
>Is there anything you wish to do? Talk to her, leave to see what happened to pieces of art taken by the pegasus helping you before, investigate the little boxes you got from the roof? Maybe something else?
Updated pastebin a litte bit. I've decided to keep Last thred part short and write more detailed summary in pastebin.
I've also drawn a picture of all the characters' cutie marks. Because I am a stupid person and I forgot to mention them.
From left to right: Spring's, Cushion's, Hran's, Kalina's.
I can tell you the colours if you wish.
I tried to draw websun thingy but it was a futile attempt at late night.
I didn't say you failed your search, though. Maybe I implied it, sorry for misunderstanding.
"I was there once and I got you an award that was important to you" you began to speak, looking at her, puzzled.
>"I remember this, I really do" she said with hint of defensiveness, like she expected you to question her memory. "I still keep the award here, I salvaged it by a miracle when we were moving out. Maybe I am too demanding... I miss my home, that's it. I miss it very much."
>Her confession sounded more like she wanted the place itself, not anything else you could bring her from there.
>The next words only proven your assumptions right, at least you thought so.
>"If I could walk or fly properly, I would ignore all these soldiers, it's not like I don't know how to walk around warzone" she ended her sentence with a sigh.
>Despite your efforts you couldn't get more out of her, just "I'm sorry" and similar stuff.
>There was no point in pressing on her even further, thus you decided to inspect the boxes you've found in the dome.
>They were both pitch black, perfectly rectangular. One of them was bigger than the other and it felt rough under your hoof, like it was covered in sand or something. The smaller box had a crack indicating where you could open it, and it felt heavy. It was mostly smooth, but you could locate some carvings. They were invisible to the naked eye.
>You put the boxes away after the inspection, making sure they won't be easily spotted by potential intruders.
>After this, you started to look for the pegasus that was helping you before.
>He was near Quill's office, talking with the good-looking mare you remember from your previous visit in these parts of the building. You gained his attention.
>>"Huh? Oh, it's you. Hello there, do you need to get there again or something?"
"I just wish to know what did you do with all these things we found up there" you said casually, while waving a hello to him and the unicorn mare. "You know, I kinda like art."
>>"Oh, you're not the only one to say this!" he replied and chuckled a bit. "I think I already told you this? Meh, prolly didn't, not that it is really important or something. Quill asked us to bring him all the art we find while outside. Books, paintings, songs, even sculptures. Can you imagine this? Sculptures! And he gives us extra share of food, a day off or something in exchange for all this stuff."
>So the current ruler of this place wanted to get everything art-related, it seemed.
>What for? Is he a collector, or maybe just a guy who wishes to be rich and creates illusion of wealth? Those questions remained unanswered, and you didn't decide to ask them loudly.
>But you had others, less special and more related to everyday life.
"Excuse me?" you got their attention again. When you were thinking, they simply returned to their chat. "Before I continue, can I know your names? It will be easier to talk. Mine's Spring."
>>"We know your name. I was one of the guards when you showed up. They call me Whirlwind, Whirl for short."
>"And my name is Silktouch."
"Thanks. So here's the question. Whirl, how do you think, would Quill allow you to go and scavenge with us? I could really use a pegasus in our team."
>>"I don't really know. Usually survivors who reach this place simply join our group and follow Quill's orders. Your team is the first one to remain on it's own, but I bet he wanted something in return from you. Should I go and ask him when he's done with hiding his precious art? It's a whole new load of work for me, what would I get from it if Quill said it's okay to join you?"
He's technically part of a separate group so that would mean that we're hiring him like a mercenary, but the way you worded it implies that he'll be investing his time, energy, and safety in us without any guarantees of getting something in return.
it's not like the pegasus has anything else he should be doing right now and if he doesn't want to then he won't.
The real selling point is " I'll go out and search and I'm more likely to come back if I had someone helping."
He's part of a separate group with his own responsibilities and when he earns a day off from those responsibilities than we'd have to convince him to work instead. Also scavenging is inherently dangerous and we'd have to convince him to leave the relative safety of the theater with all of the ponies protecting it. Lastly he has no investment in our survival so why should he potentially put his life on the line to protect us?
because he'll be with us and he'll get to wear the armor we recently acquired and he'll be seen as reliable to quill so that could get him more food.
but fine. we will just leave on our own. It's not like we need him that much.
He'll still be a part of the other group and be reliant on them for survival. Offering what little armor we have in exchange for our help would only work if we were giving it to him permanently. How do we know that Quill doesn't already see him as reliable and also the deal with the food is that it's gained in exchange for art, beyond that it's most likely rationed with no way of increasing portions. I'm not saying that we don't try to take him with us, but that we'll have to treat him like a temporary party member and make sure we give him enough incentive to come with us each time.
"You know, simple logic says the more ponies are searching for stuff, the more stuff they will bring back" you said in certain manner. "So you get more food or other nice things every single time you bring some art to Quill. Let's say that all art I can stumble upon during our journeys will automatically be yours."
>The last part of your explanation definitely catched his interest, as his muzzle lightened up a bit. He quickly retreated though, trying to hide his previous expression behind a mask of uncertainity and carefullness.
"And let us not forget the fact that a group of ponies is safer than lone wanderer" you added to soften him even further. "It's not that I'm implying you or I can't take care of ourselves, but better safe than sorry, isn't it so?"
>>"I'm not working alone most of the time, and if I do I dig only through closest or relatively safest places around. Aha, and I decide to perform these tasks only when I reeeeally need something. You're basically asking me to accompany you during my freetime, when I'm neither guarding this building, nor roaming the ruins in search of food and meds. And not to count the sleepy times or special quests, like scouting the area."
>"Don't be so demanding, Whirl" Silktouch suddenly interposed his response. "It's not like you have this many duties, and you still didn't ask Quill for permission."
>>"Ah shit, I knew I forgot something. It's not like I want to accompany you all that much" he replied both to you and the other unicorn, however his eyes were contradicting the words he said.
>You could feel the tempation in his mind, and his little struggle. Perhaps he was considering his options. These were simple to tell: freetime and safety against additional things he could get in return for the art, but it would be a long, sometimes boring, definitely dangerous and time-consuming task.
>>"It wouldn't hurt to ask..." he finally said, turned around and went to Sharp's office.
>He returned with unclear expression on his muzzle.
>>"He said yes, but he wants you to report every journey to him if I'll decide to join you."
"And have you decided yet?"
>>"Nah. Maybe one day I will, but today is not the day. I still don't really see the point" he said.
"Very well then. Thank you for you time."
>Anything else you wish to do here or talk about?
well fuck him then. should have never given him the art in the first place the unappreciative shit. Let's leave and go back to our room. Did we see anything while we were on the roof?
Only thing of interest I want to go to right now is that mall.
Also what color was the changeling blood? because we can just get that color paint and then put it on a rag. claim it's changeling blood but I don't know too much about the validity of that plan.
Paint and blood have different properties and they'll probably notice that rather quickly, besides considering how all of our prior attempts to get blood failed it's a pretty safe bet the answer would be either we didn't see it, it's the same color as ours, or we'll be caught with every attempt at counterfeit blood.
You didn't have a real possibility to check the blood colour yet. There's no way of telling how does it would like. Plus, what other Anon said, paint and blood are two different things. The soldiers would discover it easy and then charge you for fraud.
>It was still afternoon and it was slowly getting darker, yet you decided you still had some time to talk with Silktouch and Whirl.
>Maybe you will hear something useful for them, if not you'll at least know something more than their names about them.
"When you will change your mind, let me know" you said to the pegasus and he simply nodded.
>>"Kay. No worries, info will reach you faster than bombs" he replied and laughed a bit at his own joke.
>Silk joined him, for some odd reason. You couldn't suspect she was into dark humour, judging from her appearance.
>Nevermind this, you also shared this short laugh, to fit a little more.
>"Don't worry, we're safe from bombs" the unicorn mare assured you. "This theatre is durable and we have some basements just in case. Not to mention that I can't recall a bombardment from air happening recently. Weird, isn't it?"
>You agreed with her.
>>"They prolly need their planes on the frontline, or something. I heard Canterlot is pulverized."
>"It had a barrier, right? Just like the Old Town, but stronger. Managed by Princesses themselves."
>>"Every barrier will fall eventually. Do you know that they used ten wagons of bombs on the poor city?"
>"I don't believe a single thing you say."
>>"No, seriously. And it was amount of ammo they use daily since... since I heard about it."
"When did you hear the news?" you joined their chat smoothly.
>>"Dunno. Wait. Almost a week or so ago."
"Canidians would definitely announce their success if it was true."
>"Spring is right, Whirl. They would immediately announce it everywhere."
>>"It's strange that they changed name of their nation, to be honest."
>"It's their business. But they definitely should get back there as soon as possible."
>The talk continued for a little bit and after several minutes you got what you asked for.
>Whirl wanted to become a firefighter before the war, he applied for a learning course lasting several years. And when the war broke out he was finishing his third year. His parents live, or lived, in a town north from here. He moved to Fillydelphia only because the course.
>Silktouch was a theatre actress, one of the better sort. She visited several nations and last year she tried to perform in Canida for third or fourth time, but she wasn't let in. She is lonely because of her career and she wants to find herself a stallion. Fairytale prince kind of a stallion, if you were in the position to judge.
>Besides food, in the exchange for pieces of art a pony could obtain additional free time, but not too much, access to the theatre clothes whenever needed, a short shower earlier than he normally could - improvised one - and good words. Not too much in normal circumstances, but these weren't normal.
>They were generally friendly. Both of them were rather happy Quill was in charge.
>Only Whirl seemed to be a bit bothered by the news he brought, you noticed. Silktouch was perfectly calm, she sure meant it when she said she desn't believe anything the pegasus said.
>You didn't want to believe this either, thus you recalled coming across a pack of enemy deserters when you were in mostly abandoned parts of city north from the river.
>Sharing it with them could fit their spirits, or reassure them in their faith. That sounded more like it.
"You know" you changed the subject after some more small talk. "It's not like they are invincible, the Dogs I mean."
>"They certainly aren't, Spring. You might not know this, but some of us already had a chance to meet them. I'm not talkking about myself, but there are ponies here who managed to remove the threat with force. On their own."
"Seriously? That sounds dangerous, they are probably very brave ponies."
>>"Yep, they even look bravely. Do you maybe know Tinpot?"
"I do. Quill's guard, yes?"
>>"Yeah, that guy. It's said he personally broke neck of a doggish soldier who tried to... ummm... have some time with Dixie."
>"Just try to not talk about it too much, or ask him. It's not a good idea."
"Noted. Back to the point, I was on the northern bank for some time."
>"For what purpose?"
"I lived there as a filly and I wanted to check on my family. Dad's okay."
>>"Good to hear this" Whirl patted your back gently.
"When I was there I found a group of enemy deserters. They were dirty, hungry, in bad mood and all this" the last parts you partially made up, but they didn't need to know this. "Why would they run from their army if they were always winning? There had to be a reason. This proves that Dogs aren't having a good time now."
>>"Seeing their deserters here in Fillydelphia is nice, but unlikely. Weren't they simply some marauders or something?"
I discovered thing I could work on. Reliability. I am not a very reliable QM when I'm taking long breaks.
I'll go to bed now, it is really late. Thank you all for playing today. You can reply to this post, if not, I'll simply pick up from here when I'll get the time. As for the drawing, I might do more of them one day, but I'm shit at it and it takes time. I'm not even sure if i could draw a pony. Are you still somewhere out there, gunman? I bought the air gun this month. Nice thing to have.
"I couldn't really tell, however I didn't see anyone truly in charge with them. They had no Commissar, whoever he's supposed to be, in their group" you replied slowly, trying to recall the meeting, then also adding the temple part. "A priest living in the solarist temple somewhere in the north told me they were deserters when I met her."
>>"And how that priest could tell what this group exactly was?"
"They paid her a visit before I came across her living place. You know what is the most surprising part of her story? She is an unicorn, and we all know what usually happens when the Dogs find a horned pony. Their visit was different. These soldiers did no harm to sister Candle, left her alone."
>Information you shared now visibly took them by surprise, both Silktouch and Whirlwind. Their mouths formed two nice, regular Os. Of course pegasus and unicorn remained silent, waiting for you to elaborate.
>Yet you didn't continue. It wasn't your fault that you weren't able to find out more about that whole situation.
>"I think we should talk to Quill about it. It is... not a very common information, to put it gently. Can you maybe tell us more about your venture north?" Silk was first to calm down and speak.
>There was nothing that could hold you from complying, so you told her everything you remembered, leaving to yourself only the delicate parts of the story, like your dad's actions before you found him.
>Two ponies were good listeners, rarely interrupting you to ask questions. Mostly Whirl did that.
>"All of this is very interesting, Spring" Silk announced when your finished. "I think Quill will be very glad to hear all this. Maybe I can convince him to not ask you for too many favours from your party, if you wish."
>>"Whoa, I never thought a scavenger could have more adventures than a fable hero" added the pegasus, eyeing you with a hint of respect. "Most ponies just sit in their basements or homes, like us, leaving only to get some more supplies. Maybe except Tinpot, this guy likes to risk getting into some trouble. I... I may reconsider helping you from time to time. It would give me an occassion to see things and meet ponies, it seems. But it still sounds rather unsafe."
>"You can't have adventures without risks. You should know that, you tried to be a firefighter after all."
>>"I bielieved I will have a purpose. Saving ponies. Now let's be honest, I can't save majority of them."
"You can save those who you will meet personally during your journeys" you replied instead of Silk, who nodded slightly.
>>"I guess you're right."
>After that, the conversation drifted for a bit, then Silktouch excused herself and left to report everything she heard to her superior. Whirl waved you a goodbye and walked away to do whatever he had to.
>Sun was almost setting, you had an hour or so before darkness will cover the city.
I will be away for some time, visiting cementary.
It's good, I already practice, shooting at glass bottles I aim to find someone who will enhance the rilfe to be above basic legal level of energy.
>It was already late enough, you decided. Besides, you didn't really rest after fighting with the stubborn staircase and the rubble clogging it.
>Thus you went back to your part of the theatre, trying to be friendly towards any ponies you met on your way, sending them smiles and all that.
>Your room was in somewhat better state than when you left it, even if it was only a short stroll and some talk. Clean and Hran were doing a good job to make this place at least a bit more comfortable. Kalina was already asleep, her wheelchair neatly parked by the wall opposite to your beds.
>When you were away your friends got cabinets and cupboards from every part of the floor, so you could hide your supplies in there, also Hranchak was trying his best in making improvised wooden skeletons, for the future beds.
>When you announced that you wish to go to sleep, orange stallion stopped his work and stretched.
>>"Good to see you back. See, I'm making us some real beds!" he boasted of his work, proud but not in a bad manner.
>"For once he did something useful on his own, right?" Clean said and blinked at you to clearly indicate she was joking right now.
>>"We only need to test if they are fatty-proof" he replied, smiling. "Okay, but let Spring sleep, I'm a bit tired too."
>All of you three eagerly wrapped yourselves in your blankets and soon only calm breaths were audible in the room.
>The next day started slowly, and for the first time you could remember, you found yourself feeling lazy.
>Not overwhelimgly, but it was just so good to lie on your bed in a warm place, with your friends.
>Speaking of which, Hranchak was gone. Clean Cushions was sitting in front of your bucket oven and she was frying some vegetables with kasha, the commotion was what woke you up. Kalina was helping, as usual, but a little bit slower, with less energy.
>Half of the dish was served as a breakfast, other one will remain for later.
>"Hran got called by Quill's guys" replied the green earth mare when you asked about your orange friend. "I don't know why, they only told us their boss has a task for him. They were quiet, Hran woke me up to say he'll be away."
>Your strengths were replenished, tummy was full of warm and nutritious food and you didn't really want to do anything.
>Too much thinking later you started to turning your mind to your family affairs again.
>What could you do today?
Took me a bit longer. Damn buses these days.
>It looked like it will be rather calm day this time, and you were glad of it. You already planned what you could do without getting outside, or at least keeping to the parts of the city you already knew.
>Just getting to know more of your neighbours, talk to them, ask various questions and similar stuff.
>Oh, you could also find yourself a bok to read, the one you had once, origami book, was left in the basement you previously inhabited. It's not like you had time to read too often, but you thought all of your group could use a good book. Especially Kalina.
>Maybe you should ask what else they could eventually need? That would be polite.
"Sooo... any ideas what could we do today?" you began to get their attention. Clean perked her ears and turned her muzzle to you.
>"No, not really. This is... weird to say, but I think we're good for the time being. Most of us, that is."
>She lightly twitched her head towards Kalina, who was in her bed again.
"Miss Kalina, do you maybe need something?" you asked with worry in your voice. She forced herself up and shook her head, trying to give you a smile.
>"No, not really, sweetheart, I think I can manage. But it's nice of you to ask. Say, do you maybe need something from me?"
Rest of suggestions will be used later, depending on your response.
"I... I can't think of anything right now" you said honestly, feeling a little bit down.
>A mere thought of being in her position sent shivers down your spine. You had a dull job, monotonous life, but you were able to walk wherever you wanted, do anything by yourself and without help. And these days it was even more useful.
>But this mare was sitting here, doing nothing but simple tasks, chatting and helping Clean with cooking. All day every day. If all of her friends were suddenly gone.
"But... you know, I never had an occasion to learn how to cook nice, both nutritious and good looking food" you began after a short while of silence. She looked at you with some more life. "I was used to throw whatever trash food I could cheapily buy into the oven, heat it and then eat. So I want to ask you a question. Can you teach me how to cook?"
>After these words were spoken, you immediately noticed a little change in the atmosphere around the crippled mare. It wasn't too strong, but definitely different than her previous attitude.
>"I... I think I could" she said, astonished by your proposition. "Yes, I'd like to. But you need time. A lot of time doing nothing. Who will gather supplies? Clean? My granson? Both?"
"We'll decide this together, when Hranchak will be back. Another question, what books you liked to read before? I think I can get you something when I will be wandering around today."
>"Oh? I..." she blushed heavily and looked away. "I liked to read adventure books and those about worlds with technology instead of magic. But..." she blushed even more, you actually wondered how it was possible with her old body. She lowered her voice to a mere whisper. "I never was too good at your alphabet, Spring. I don't think you have books in my tongue in Equestria."
Same as before.
"It's not like I want to insult you" you started very delicately, seeing her doubts and shame "but maybe you could refresh your memory? Practice a bit? I can bring you children learning book or two, so you could get used to our letters again."
>"I think I can do this, yes. Thank you, sweetheart."
>Although she was still visibly ashamed of her little confession, you noticed that she was easing herself second by second.
>You wondered how she was able to function in Equestrian society without the basic knowledge, then you realized she probably never did to.
>Kalina had her daughter, then grandson to help her with solving potential problems, and they were likely much more efficient in reading than she was.
>Also you noticed that Clean was politely doing something on the other side of the room and whistling to herself, and you were glad she acted busy.
"Okay, so I will be away for the day, and I will look for the books we mentioned. So have a nice day, all!" you said, last part of the sentence was directed at both mares present in the room. While you were passing by Clean, you added "Please, find Miss Kalina something to do from time to time."
>"Will do. I'll think of something."
"Okay. So bye."
>You left your room and the whole floor, aiming to wander around the theatre at first to meet ponies living there.
>Sharp Quill, Whirlwind, Silktouch and the guard earth siblings were those you already knew by name and were more or less able to tell what you should expect from them.
>In the last case it was the names and some rumours, though.
>Some short talk was a must when you found a pony. Basic info like their names, maybe a bit about their past, current tasks, maybe needs.
>From what you've learned it sounded like this group was like an organism, living body with each part responsible for something. You felt like you and your friends might not be able to really fit in. You will always be an outsider to them, because your party is relatively independent.
>Any particular pony you would like to meet in the theatre? If not, you'll probably look for a library or something, yes, this sounded reasonable.
For the childs book we can go to that school that's being protected by guards. We can ask them to get something.
For adventure books quill might have something.
we'll probably have to go to a library for any technology books though.
I guess we can talk to the siblings and at least learn their names.
>Sharp Quill was your first target, you suddenly decided when you felt a sting of cold air coming from the big, still wide open doors.
>Not that you were comfortable here. That would be silly. You, too lazy to go out when it was cold? Nah.
>However he looked and acted like he could be a well educated pony and he was collecting art. You didn't expect him to look for adventure or sci-fi books, but he could have something written in Kalina's language.
>You even remembered how it was called!
>Soon your hooves led you to the office occupied by leader of this whole place.
>You gently knocked and entered when you heard female voice giving you permission.
>Silktouch smiled at you from the other side of the room. She was cleaning bookshelves with feather brush and you spotted a pile of books, neatly sorted and also ready for cleaning.
>Quill was sitting behind his desk, writing something. He didn't even look at you when you entered.
>>"Is there something you need, Spring?" he simply asked.
"Yes, can I have a question?"
>>"Of course, I have plenty of time today."
"Do you happen to have books written in... Konjeslavian?"
>>"I haven't heard that name for thirty years" he said. "There is no such thing as Konjeslavian language, young lady, at least not these days. It's just a name of a fallen state. Why would you need books written in some exotic alphabet and different letters?"
Again, remaining suggestions are not forgotten.
"Two of my friends are Konjeslavian and one of them isn't very proficient when it comes to Equestrian alphabet. She's an elder mare and she cannot help with too difficult things. I know you are educated pony and I wanted to see if you could help me. I need nothing but a few books that would help her fighting with boredom" you explained promptly.
>When he said about fall of Kalina's home, you vaguely remembered the pegasus mare talking about a war in her motherland, but you weren't sure what was it's outcome and what happened after it.
>>"I've already said that a country named Konjeslavia does not exist in the present day. It fell apart almost thirty years ago, mostly peacefully. It's territory was divided between several stronger or weaker states, majority of them republics. They speak languages sharing some similarities, but different from each other. If I recall correctly, one of those even uses local version of our alphabet. I have some books coming from that part of the world, maybe you wish to have all of them? It's not like they are as interesting as they were two years ago. Does this answer satisfy you? I'm sorry if I sounded rude to you, it was not what I was aiming for. When I was studying at local university the professors actually taught us about the world outside Equestria."
>Was this knowledge really necessary to you? You doubted it, especially when you considered the fact that it was taugh in universities. You finished your education on highschool after all.
>Anyway, with his permission you approached the book pile and with help of Silktouch you obtained three books written in foreign alphabet.
>According to Quill, two of them were written in language dominating in Konjeslavia during it's existence.
>Return to your friends immediately, or pack the books for now and move on to next tasks?
>You took the books with your magic, voicing your gratitude and bowing a little. Being around this guy was definitely something you will remember if you'll survive the war.
>There might be some catch in his decision of giving you these books for free, but there was also a slight possibility of him just being nice.
>It was difficult to tell, but usually ponies expected something in return when you asked them for a favour.
>Soon you were at your floor. Then you presented the books you got to your foreign friend and for the first time in recent days you clearly saw a spark of life, maybe even happiness in her eyes.
>The mare opened first book, turned few pages and moved her lips, as if she was saying something.
>She closed her eyes and lowered her head a bit. But it turned out she wasn't feeling sad, or at least she was in mood better than before.
>"Thank you" the pegasus said, and you noticed that she half-consciously tried to flap her wings just a little. She didn't seem to notice. "Thank you for bringing me something I can understand without trouble. I'm sorry I am not a good help for you."
Unfortunately today I need to end the session for the night. I have a place to attend in the morning. I will pick it up tomorrow before work. Thank you for playing and have a good night.
"Don't forget you still have to teach me how to cook" you half-jokingly but gently reminded her. "Elder ponies don't have strength they possessed in their young, however they have thinkgs we lack. Knowledge and, more important, experience. Never forget about it, Miss Kalina."
>Your words seem to influence her, but not as much as the fact that you brought the books you had only a slight chance to find, only to make her feel better.
>There was a big chance that you solved a problem of Kalina's 'sickness' by your rather simple actions. For a second you wondered about how little things could influence a pony life in a certain way. It was too early to say your job is done, though. You knew you had to wait and see how the pegasus will act.
>Now, time to move to the remaining things you aimed to do this day.
>You wanted to find the guard siblings and talk to them to get something more than their names. Not to mention that you preferred to be on their good side.
>Later maybe you will actually try to look for children learning books, just in case. There was a place you could check, the school/foal shelter.
>Walking around the theatre, sticking your nose here and there and some questions led you to ground floor, then to left wing of the building.
>There were three rooms with walls in between them removed by hammering, or something looking similar to it. Result was a pretty spacious chamber. Windows were covered by sandbags and blankets, but you noticed narrow wooden shutters, blocking prepared embrasures.
>There was also an improvised, but rather neatly constructed fireplace, two simple metal beds and double amount of metal lockers. Last thing you spotted was a table covered by military green piece of cloth.
>A mare was sitting on her bed, sharpening a nasty, wide machete. Her moves were smooth and you felt she was skilled. Even if she noticed you, she didn't say a word or look in your direction. Her brother, assuming you found one of the siblings, was not present.
>You coughed to get her attention, but it looked like it didn't work, since she didn't react in any way. At least you could be sure she knew you were here.
>After making your presence clear, you approached the bed she was sitting on slowly, hoping that the mare will look at you at least for a moment. You'd feel somewhat better if she did.
"Hello?" you carefully said when you were close enough.
>This finally got a reaction from her. The earth mare slowly slided a whetstone along the blade for the last time and put it away. However machete remained near her hooves.
>"What is it?" she asked, finally looking at you.
I felt I should continue a bit, because it wasn't very well stated if I ask for input or not.
You're Dixie, right? You have a twin brother that is also a guard, correct? I just wanted to get to know more than just your names. What did you guys do before the war? Special talent?
"You're Dixie, right? Tinpot's sister? My name is Spring" you said, deciding to introduce yourself immediately in hope of breaking the ice you felt around her.
>"Yes, and yes. You still didn't say what do you want from me" she responded, and you noticed that since she turned her gaze towards you she didn't blink a single time yet.
>She had a rather deep voice for a mare.
"I just wanted to know more about you than your names. We all live in one place and I think it's a good thing to meet new ponies. Also, you have a very nice machete, Dixie."
>It wasn't nice. It was a bit scary, to be honest, a piece of cold steel, potentially dangerous. But you had nothing to be afraid of, right?
>The earth pony nodded slightly, acknowledging your compliment and murmured something.
>"Thank you" she said louder. "I like it too. Why do you need to know us? Nobody does."
>Her formerly expressionless face showed a hint of curiousity as she tilted her head while the question was asked.
"As I said, I like to meet new ponies, to talk to them, try to know them a little bit better."
>"But for what purpose? It is bad to ask too much."
You know what they say. Strangers are just friends you haven't met. It's also good to know about the ponies living close to you and there's no better time then now to break the ice.
"There's a saying: strangers are just friends you haven't met. And I believe this is true" you said after a second of thinking. "If you don't believe me, I can say it's a generally good and wise thing to know ponies around you, especially when you're sharing a living place with them."
>"It does sound reasonable" she said slowly.
>Her curiousity was likely satisfied by your explanation, because that vestigial expression left her face blank again.
"Sooo... what did you two do before the war started? Can you maybe tell me about your special talent?"
>When her chilly gaze moved across your muzzle like a shadow and stopped at your own eyes, you blinked.
>"Are you police officer? We don't like police officers" her muscles didn't become even slightly more tense, but nevermming this fact you felt endangered a little.
"Dear Celestia, no! I'm just a curious neighbour, nothing more than this" you answered "and I will also give you some information about me in exchange. It's like a normal chat should work."
>Maybe coming here was a mistake. Maybe they were a bandits or something.
>"Okay, I guess" she said in her deep, cold monotonous voice "Me, my brother, my father and my mum were living here. not here in theatre, but in Fillydelphia. Father was a worker in a factory. I don't know what he was doing there, I can't remember. Tinpot was sleeping at days and leaving when stars appeared, he was away often."
>With this she finished and returned to eyeing you silently. It took a while to realize that she was waiting for you.
>Dixie didn't bother to ask you questions, so all you could do was to tell her a short summary of your life and family. After you finished, the mare sluggishly stood up and showed you her side.
"What are you doing?"
>"You wanted to see my cutie mark" she stated. She was definitely tense when she exposed her rear to you.
"I just wanted you to tell... wait, is this a rock?"
>"It's aluminium ore."
"And your talent is...?"
>"I can work with metal. Also my brother taught me how to deal with those who want to hurt me."
"Does it mean you can craft simple weapons or tools?" you asked curiously, already beginning to think about numerous opportunities this mare could potentially present to you and your group.
>Oh, she and Hranchak would be a dream team. Dixie and your friend, one mechanic and one able to create tools and weapons.
>"Yes. And no. It depends" she said, explaning nothing.
>And that was it, your enthusiasm was almost extingished by a cold shower of reality.
"Could you elaborate, please?"
>"I don't know the word."
"Explain, Dixie. What do you mean exactly?"
>"I don't think you will get it. Creating various stuff takes time and it is hard, but I think I'm better at it from most ponies. I can feel the metal. It speaks to me. If you will look at me funny..." she finished with a threatening tone.
"I-it's not funny!" you immediately responded and sent her a weak smile. "It's a gift, really! I bet the ponies here are glad they have you! Umm... okay, let's talk about something else. Can I maybe ask you another question?"
>"Tell me about your own mark and talent, then yes."
>She was really focused on the exchange part, you thought. It wasn't natural talk, with ponies sharing info about themselves just to have a good time and tell stories. It was just it. A trade. Tale for a tale.
>You did what she wanted promptly, noticing that she was stiffy again when you turned your side towards her. Then you explained your special talent, a strong telekinesis. You didn't forget to add that you are bad at multitasking.
>"So what do you want to know?" Dixie simply said when you finished. The mare didn't even nod to confirmed she listened to you.
"Okay, so... would you mind telling me what exactly your brother taught you? I wish to know a trick or two, so I don't have to rely on nothing but my horn."
>"But it would hurt you. You haven't give me a reason to do it."
It would only hurt if you did it hard or fast. If i moved my hoof very slowly towards you then then it would be a poke. If I did it fast then it would be a punch. See the difference from the same action?
What do you mean by reason? Would you like me to teach you something in exchange? Is there anything you would like to know?
"It would only hurt if you did it hard or fast" you began your explanation, aiming to go step by step with her, just in case. "If I moved my hoof very slowly towards you then then it would be a poke. If I did it fast then it would be a punch."
>A faint light of understanding appeared in her empty eyes as she focused on you. You smiled at her slightly.
"Do you see the difference?"
>"I think I do. So I you will fake an attack and I will pretend that I am stopping you from harming me, yes?"
"Yes, this is what I mean. And after doing this you explain everything to me."
>"Okay, I get it. Let's move away from our beds and furniture" she gestured at you to follow her and led you to a distant part of the chamber.
>You weren't sure what was the purpose of this certain part of the room, it was devoid of anything, really. Just plain wooden floor. However there was one possible answer, easy to come up with.
>Maybe it was siblings' training place. Part of room where they practiced. It had sense.
"By the way, what was that reason you mentioned before?"
>"You haven't give me a reason to hurt you. But now you explained everything and I'm fine with showing you a trick. Maybe two. But not more, Tinpot would be disappointed."
"Oh really? Why so?"
>"It is supposed to be a surprise for the bad guys. They don't expect anything and then bam. They don't even know what hit them."
"Okay, so just easiest one, for start."
>"Pretend to attack me."
>She eased herself and stood in a neutral stance.
>You did what you were asked for, marking a simple punch aimed at her face.
>When your hoof was close enough she firmly grasped it, then pretended twisting it, and after thisimmediately began to whirl, moving in direction opposite to your free leg.
>You felt her strong pull while you were forcefully moved, she stopped when you started to be afraid she will break your leg.
>"Oh. I'm sorry. I will be more careful next time. If you were an enemy, you would be in trouble. When somepony wants to attack you, simplest thing is to catch his limb, make him drop his weapon if he has one, then break the limb. I was whirling to disrupt your balance and I choose your right side to avoid your other leg. Do you get it?"
It's good I have some time today. I will try to be faster, remove distractions.
"I think I do. Could you fake an attack on me?"
>"Sure" said Dixie and she slowly returned to her position in front of you.
>Trying to mimic her neutral, relaxed even position was a bit difficult, you were still wary. What if she will punch you in the muzzle instead of helping you? She couldn't exactly be described as 'bright pony'.
>She caught you by surprise.
>"Don't leave your body on it's own!" you heard a yell, while simultaneously clearly seeing a work-hardened hoof coming in your direction at high velocity.
>What was it again? Catch, spin? No, catch and twist!
>You catched and twisted, or at least tried to, but she was already on you.
>"Again!" she snapped. A nod was your only answer.
>This time you focused on her, waiting, completely forgetting about relaxed pose.
>She didn't attack.
>"Wrong. I won't attack, I can see you are waiting for me, you're expecting me to punch you!" she said again with her cold voice. "Act like you don't suspect anything bad to happen to you. Or you can do something different. Act scared, surrounded."
>She didn't have to tell you this advice a second time.
>You stopped her next attack, gave her hoof a little twist, then started to spin... in wrong direction. Her other hoof poked your nose and you automatically scrunched your face.
>You tried again, and your effort was finally rewarded with a success. It was harder than it looked.
>"Don't whirl too fast and too often or you will get dizzy. It takes lots of practice. You use it when you have no weapon with you."
"I'll keep this in mind. Tinpot must be a good teacher, if you can do all this. Could you perhaps show me something more?"
>"It depends what do you want to do. Now I was teaching you how to disarm one enemy. Potentially make him harmless too, they would be at your will. One of ways to do it, that is."
"Maybe something that could help me deal with multiple dangers?" you proposed.
>Dixie shook her head.
>"If you are alone and unarmed, you don't pick up a fight with multiple enemies. You avoid them, run, or try to take them one by one if you can."
"Oh... Okay. Thank you anyway. Well, maybe you could teach me how to get on top of another pony in a fight?"
>"If you have nothing but your hooves, you need to distract him. Distracting joined with pain is even better. You have a piercing weapon on top of your head. The horn, yes."
"But... you know, unicorns cannot simply use their rather sensitive horn to pierce through stuff."
>"You should count it as your last resort. Sticking it in someone's eye may save you from death. Other usual ways are biting, reacing for a stone with your hoof and hitting guy on top of you with it, kicks if you get your hindlegs free. Use your surroundings and enemy's weight. If he's standing, charge him, aim low, try to throw him off balance. Push, pull, lift if you must. It would be hard to show without hurting you."
>Suddenly she went quiet and looked at you. You could swear you were able to hear sprockets turning in her head.
>"I've never talked this long before. And this much. This is not good. This is not good at all."
"Why do you think so?" you asked, quickly adding "Talking allows you to learn, and also it can help you to feel good sometimes. Talking is important."
>"Maybe it is, maybe not. Tinpot doesn't like when I am alone with other ponies, nor does he like when I talk. He says talking is dangerous."
"Can you tell me why he says this?"
>"Not really. He only gives me orders, but since we're on our own he cares for me. I know it, co I comply and do whatever he asks."
>"Mhm..." you said, but you still weren't fully convinced.
>Something was not right.
"How do you manage to keep ponies away from yourself?" you shot out another question, just to get this clear.
>"I train them to do so."
She trains ponies to not talk to her? I don't think I want to know what that means.
Well when it's just me and you it should be safe to talk.
Do you know where your brother is right now? Should I leave before he shows up?
>Dixie's last answer wouldn't be so worrying if it was said in different tone. She didn't seem to be joking.
"Now it's just you and me, and you know numerous ways to... eee... calm me down, if I'd be a threat to you" you said and the mare stopped looking in your eyes.
>She trotted towards her bed and sat on it's edge again, leaving you in the middle of assumed practice ground.
>There was only one thing to do if you wished to continue your visit at her place - following her. You wouldn't dare to say it loud, but you thought she was somewhat annoying when she was doing something and not hinting in any way what are you supposed to do.
"Dixie, you should try to have a serious talk with your brother" you suggested, trying to make it sound like a friendly advice, not an order. "It's not healthy for you to be kept under a glass."
>"I believe Tinpot more than you" she said straightforward. "I've met you two times, one when you and your friends were digging through our stuff and today. You don't act like a bad person, tho. I will talk to Tinpot when he'll be back."
"And when exactly this is supposed to happen?" you asked the mare.
>You supposed that meeting her brother at this moment might not be a brightest of ideas. This could be only a paranoia, but who could tell? Perhaps you should ask her.
>"I think he should be back in five to ten minutes" he responded.
"Do you think I should leave before he shows up?"
>"I'm not sure. He might not be happy to see you. But he shouldn't hurt you, Quill would be unhappy."
"I don't want to test his patience" you replied, trying to make it sound like it was a joke.
>Her expression, or lack of it, didn't change, so you couldn't tell if your attempt was well-received.
"Does he have any kind of a schedule? If yes, then I could visit you from time to time when he would be away."
>"Schedule?" Dixie wondered for a short while "He has guard duties, also it's either me or him who lead scavengers when needed. I have my own guard duties too, sometimes we even can be together. If you want to talk with me next time, I should be here alone tomorrow at noon."
"Thank you, Dixie. It would be nice to chat with you agin" you said politely and smiled at her. She sent you something similar to a grin in return.
>"Watch for yourself. Remember everything I said."
"I will. Take care."
>With this you left her and her brother's chamber, thinking about various stuff.
>For example, you recalled a vision of Dixie and Hranchak forming a team. That would be wonderful if they managed to find a common ground.
>Actually, they might. You just had to steer Hran a little bit towards her and make sure he won't do anything stupid. A friend with broken leg wasn't a thing you want to see.
>What would you like to do next?
Like, warhammer? You have a regular hammer at your place.
Tonight's session will be either short or non-existent, I have to get up very early.
>There wasn't too much of possibilities, you thought to yourself. You could go back to your room, wrap yourself in a warm, soft and comfortable blanket, talk with your friends and generally try to relax.
>Maybe even take a nap, lulled to sleep by distant sounds of war.
>Or you can leave the theatre and dive in cold, gray and dagerous maze o streets, yards and remnants of once tall and proud buildings of this city.
>There were some shops, or maybe a mall around you didn't see yet, and a cinema Last was so eager to visit. There was also a radio tower, and the school with children hidden inside. Finally, Old Ponies' Home and private clinic.
>You weren't sure where to go, shops would probably be right in the middle of two scales: usefullness and danger. A chance of stumbling upon other ponies was big.
It's just a reminder of possible options, if no input, then we'll go to check shops/mall. I will leave to work in about 30-40 minutes.
I have half an hour and I want to reply once, so this won't be just a stream of bumps. At least not a very long one.
Please, make your mind. Where do you want to go first? If anything will be good for you, you should be able to visit both places.
>For a short moment two primary targets fought in your mind, you couldn't decide where exactly you wanted to go first.
>The school, known and relatively safe place, with little chance of obtaining something more physical than information and some chatter?
>Or the cinema, a place you were very wary about. There were gunshots coming from there, or was it a single shot maybe? Definitely it was more risky than visiting school. However it could also be more rewarding.
>Last wanted to visit that place and you remembered she mentioned a possible stash located somewhere there.
>Finally you decided to head towards the cinema, assuming you will have time to visit the elementary school later, if you were lucky.
>You returned to your part of the building, but not to wrap yourself in your covers and stay in bed, but to prepare for the journey.
>What will you need? Saddlebags, definitely. A weapon. You took a knife and you wished to take a hammer too, who knows if you won't have to bash something, but you couldn't find it. In fact, whole toolbox was gone.
>Cushions quickly explained that Hran was here for a brief while, literally only to take tools with him and he immediately stormed out of the room afterwards.
>Shame. So just a knife, it will do. You had hoped that you won't need to use it anyway.
>Clothes. You'll need them if you want to stay warm. For a second you wished that you were a big, strong, sturdy earth pony. They needed clothes only when winters were harsh. Not like you.
>And you can test this kneepads and other stuff you got as a reward from the officer mare.
>The clothes, pads and helmet separated your coat from environment, and you felt a bit heavier than usual. You were glad you could not see yourself in your new, definitely quite impressive outfit.
>Soon you left the theatre and nopony bothered you, clearly uninterested in your actions. You heard a snicker or two on your way, though.
>The city streets were quite busy, but it was still not comparable to the 'crowd' you remembered when frontline moved more towards the centre, forcing all those ponies from suburbs in the smaller area. It seemed that most of them found their places to stay, disappeared, went to earth somewhere to be forgotten by the enemy.
>Buildings were damaged, some of them ruined, and there were parts of the streets more resembling canyons than anything else, however it was not half that bad as on the northern bank of the river. The only unnerving thing was much more traces of fire.
>The farther you get from open gates of the theatre, the less signs of regular pony activity you could find.
>Soon most of them were gone. Only sound was wind whistling on the empty windows, broken long ago, and occasional shooting or explosion from closest part of the frontline. Oh, and the constant, but muffled sound of shelling coming from the Old Town direction.
>The cinema was on intersection corner.
>It seemed to be abandoned, upper parts of it were on fire once, not too long ago because you still saw some smoke.
>You remained cautious and waited for any sign of pony presence, or any presence. There was none. Nothing happened for quite a long time of your waiting.
>Then all of a sudden two crows flied away from the cinema, cawing dryly.
I wanted to reply, so I did it.
They flew up from the right side of the building, while you are standing on its front-to-left side. Directions of their flight are random, two different.
Until next night.
>Crows were likely scared away by something. It could be a hungry cat, or a potential threat to your well-being.
>You couldn't be sure, and there was never enough precautions to take, especially that you were not in a hurry.
>There were two abandoned and scavenged cars standing on the road, they would be a nice cover if you'd attempt to sneak towards the building's back.
>It was a cinema, so due to safety reasons you expected to find at least one emergency exit on your way along the walls. You aimed to use it as your way into the building.
>After a while of clearing your route in your mind and trying to predict as much possibilities as you could, you began to walk forwards, to the first car.
>Oh, wait. First, you crouched, thus staying low and mostly invisible from the cinema windows. Then you reached second car, and finally left side of the building.
>All went as expected, you weren't disturbed by a call, shot, or anything like that.
>Then you worked your way to nearest door you could spot, step by step.
>Door was closed, and when you pressed it's handle, you felt it was not locked. Something was blocking it from the inside.
>Next entrance, located at the back side of the cinema, was in same condition, however it looked like there was an attempt to bash it. You noticed a thin trail of blood on the ground.
>Finally, after you began to lose hope of finding a way in other than front door, you spotted a dark hole in the wall.
>It looked fairly regular and it's edges were probably melted. Just then you saw more blood trails and splashes.
>Interior was pitch black, sunlight had very little access there.
>You did the most obvious thing you could do at the moment and focused on lighting up your horn. The light was strong and warm this time, because you were not in a stressfull situation and also you were rested.
>Immediately you noticed something strange, a bit unnerving, you could say.
>The darkness around didn't want to disappear, to give up to your inner light.
>You couldn't explain it, but it wasn't just lack of light. It was 'sticky', you could only see not even a meter around you.
>The hole behind you seemed to be more distant than it should, low amount of light coming from there was looking pale, unnatural.
>Although you were not able to sense it, you were pretty sure that it could be an influence of magic.
>A magic more advanced than yours, to be exact. You were capable of lifting and throwing stuff and making a light at end of your horn.
>Someone literally made this place to be as dark as possible, managed to get rid of almost all light except your own and that one from the backalley, all this by sheer willpower.
>It made you really uncomfortable, even when you realized it couldn't be the enemy. They hated magic, tried to remove it from the world.
>You were standing in a straight corridor, you could either head left or right. Nothing happened when you threw a pebble in both directions.
>You decided to go right after a brief while of hestitation.
>The sound made by pebbles you threw to check for possible dangers forced you to care a lot about being stealthy.
>Thus the march was slow, sluggish even, and you were sweating everytime you heard your a bit too loud step echoing throught the corridor. Even if you only brushed your clothes or bags against the wall, echo made it sound like scay whispers coming from every direction.
>The farther you went, the fainter and paler the daylight in the hole was, finally, it disappeared completely.
>Now this place felt like a cave corridor. Dark, empty, filled with sound whenever you made a mistake. It was hard to breathe, the air was thick and seemed to be filled with unknown fumes.
>Finally you almost walked right into a part with two doors, both on the left.
>When you approached one of them, a voice, right between a whisper and regular talk spoke:
>"I know you are here"
>The sentence echoed, and it sounded scary as tartarus itself, out of nowhere.
"Who are you?" you said. There was fear in your voice, much, much more than you wanted.
>The voice didn't respond in any way and you felt nothing more than being lost in some uncanny place enchanted with unknown magic.
>Fact that you were completely alone didn't help you in the slightest to calm yourself. Nothing happened after this announcement, also the voice wasn't familiar at all.
"These are impressive defences" you said into the darkness. "You must really like your privacy."
>Silence was the only response you got from your surroundings.
>No scary mare voice, no sound of steps, sigh, anything.
>You were alone in the dark, only a bright light of your horn keeped you from being engulfed by the blackness and claimed by anything that might crawl within it.
>And something could be out there, you felt it. It was more your imagination than any real sign of presence, however you were afraid of loosing the light even for a short while.
"Did you make the cinema to be like this?" you almost shouted, only to hear yourself in the pitch black surrounding. The sound of your voice made you comfortable, but only for a short while.
>Again, you heard no response. Silence was ringing in your ears.
>You tried to move forwards only to be met by a hard, cold wall.
>It was certain that corridor you discovered ended here, for no reason whatsoever. Shouldn't it supposed to be longer?
>You couldn't tell, but you were definitely not going anywhere. It was just two doors on the left side or moving back to the hole's direction.
>Or you could actually try to look carefully for a way out, which seemed to be impossible now. If there was one, you wouldn't walk into a wall, right?
>Just in case, you turned around and prepared yourself.
>After a second or two you gathered all of your strength and you bucked the tartarus out of the wall that was blocking your way forward.
>The blow was mighty, for a brief while, not even a second, you felt hard resistance of the wall, then all of a sudden it was completely gone.
>As if you bucked nothing but air, you stumbled on your legs, but managed to catch balance and not trip.
>You turned around towards the wall again only to notice that there was no wall at all.
>Not a hole made by your hind hooves, just plain nothing, like there was just a corridor here all the time.
>You heard multiple whispers, echoing through it, or maybe through your own mind? You could not tell.
>Now you had a way forward, two doors, and a way back.
>You decided to continue your journey onwards and entered the suddenly present corridor.
>It was still dark, but there was something different you felt in the air surrounding you. It was a bit heavier.
>There were also more sounds around, they felt like a part of your imagination. Faint whispers just on the border of your hearing, faces on the border of eyesight.
>When you stopped to eliminate all sounds the whispers lasted for a second or two like they were independent beings and disappeared.
>In a distance you saw someone. Or more felt him. Four-legged figure.
>You felt a power within you. Learning new move from Dixie, your own knife, whole venture, it could not be for nothing. No pony will threaten you.
>But the whole willpower to strike was supressed by cold calculation.
>He or she could be a potent mage, able to put some defenses right in front of you.
>Being impaled on a piece of wood would be one of better deaths here, mages were unpredictable and capable of doing unimaginable things.
>You decided to approach cautiously instead of outright attacking the figure.
>The light allowing you to see it was suddenly gone, you returned to the point of seeing a meter around you.
>Suddenly you felt a hoof touching you, then other one, they were presumably coming from one pony. Like he was about to hug you.
"But..." you began to speak, instantly both hooves locked you in a hard grip.
>The figure clenched to you and all of a sudden a muzzle appeared from the dark.
>It was a stallion, earth or pegasus because you didn't spot a horn. There was nothing but fear and madness in his eyes.
>Even when you tried your best, you couldn't spot the sparkle of sanity in his eyes, darting around fast.
>He did't want to hurt you, though. He just hugged you tightly, like a scared foal.
>>"Please be real" he whispered when he was nuzzling in your neck. "Please, please be a true pony. Argh!"
>He began to wave his forelegs around.
>Against all your instincts you stood still, trying to be as calm as it was possible in these circumstances and even more.
>In the meantime, the stallion stopped to flail his hooves all around and simply collapsed with a resigned sigh.
"I am a real pony" you stated clearly and loudly. "And my name is Spring. Can I ask for your name?"
>The pony on the ground was mumbling something to himself, he looked at you.
>>"Don't you lie? All I touch either haunts me or disappears. The walls, the lights, the exit. I can't stand it any longer."
>Led by an impulse you decided to lift your hoof and motherly touch his nose.
>He scrunched his face, like any normal pony when treated by the force of boops, and looked straight at you, your hoof, then your eyes.
>This time sanity was present, or at least a thing resembling it. The pony got up slowly until he was at your eye level.
>A hoof landed on your cheek, uncertain, wary.
>>"So you are a real pony" he strarted, his head flinched a bit.
"You bet I am" you smiled at him. Even if it was a little bit fake, he didn't seem to notice. "Will you follow me out?"
>>"Do you know the way? Do you know how to avoid... THEM?"
"Them? What them?" you asked, and the pony immediately rose up and pressed your cheeks."
>>"The daemons. Whispers in the dark, the dead ones coming to haunt you."
"Do these whispers say just 'I know you are here'?" you asked the shaking pony and he looked straight in your eyes again.
>>"Yes!" he initially said, then shook his head. "And no. I don't know. They are everywhere, I was alone. Alone, but not lonely. The daemons were here. Always watching. Now I have you. Help me."
Light horn. Ask if he came in here alone.
Does he know what's over in the direction we were previously heading? We can continue forward if it's an exit. If not then we have to walk back.
Let's lead him out of here.
>Your horn was light all the time, but you sucessfully tried to make it a bit brighter. The stallion was slowly calming down.
"Did you come here alone?" you asked him, and he tensed immediately.
>>"I just wanted to scavenge I swear! Not steal, no! Just try to find anything useful, not touching anything not food or medicaments!" he called into the darkness like it could hear him. "I'm just here for the food, food! OKAY?!"
>You waited for him to regain composure, before you asked the next question.
"Do you know the direction I was heading? You looked like you were walking from there."
>>"Really? I was just walking forward until I heard more than whispers, I don't know anything. The maze. I entered the cinema and I was lost. Lost forever, as they say."
"Don't worry, I'll lead you out of here" you said, and you began to walk back.
>But that lightened hole was nowhere to be found.
>>"A-a-are we there yet?"
Oh we made it all the way back to where the hole was and passed the two doors? Because hitting the wall where the hole was is still a good option. if it isn't then we just have to keep walking forward and try to find some stairs. we need to go up.
Let me explain. There were two doors on the left and a wall when you first got there. You bucked the wall. Now there in only one door, way 'back' and way 'forward'.
Yes. The whole surrounding changed, that is what I was trying to say. You can't really spot anything familiar now, even if you technically should. You went all the way back only to notice a single door. You can open it, try to get back to two previous doors, even continue your search for the hole. The whole point of my statement was the mysterious change.
Since there was a misunderstanding, it's my fault, I assume Spring will try to get back to two doors you saw before.
>You calmed him down, assuring him that soon enough you will find an exit from this place.
>But you weren't so sure about this yourself. After returning to the starting point, or to the place you could swear it was, you found nothing but a single door. It was definitely unnerving, and when you thought that you think you heard faint distant laughter, coming from every direction, or maybe no direction at all. Maybe it's better to leave this door alone for now.
>The scared stallion you found didn't seem to hear the mysterious laughter. His eyes darted around, reflecions of your light in them gave him an aura of madness creeping in his mind.
>You decided to walk onwards until you will find anything of interest or a familiar thing.
>After a while you almost jumped when you hear the guy's voice really close to your ear. You had to pay more attention to his actions.
>>"I think I see the place where we met" he stated.
>It was surprising he could see anything here in the darkness, you weren't able to make your light shine stronger and brighter.
>He was right however and soon you were standing near the two doors. They looked exactly the same as those you found before, but there was no wall this time.
>And you came from the opposite direction this time, or at least it looked like it.
>You heard faint whispers, not loud enough to be sure they're real. Then something more normal happened.
>The door more on the left shook a bit and you heard a thump. It looked like they might swing open really soon.
And I need to go to work. I won't be able to run tonight, I will try to post once when I will return but I can't promise anything. Some shit that needs solving appeared recently. I hope next week will be better.
>You looked at the shaking door warily, hoof already touching the knife's handle.
>There was no reason to stay and wait for the possible enemy to jump on you from the door, so you backed up a bit and pulled out your weapon. The weak reflex it sent towards you was assuring.
>Stallion accompanying you began to shake and mumble to himself. A panic attack was not desirable thing at the moment, besides you wanted to ask him something anyway.
>When you moved closer to him, still watching the door closely, he made a gesture like he wanted to clench to your side, however he withheld himself.
"Do you maybe have a gun?" you quickly whispered. He vigorously shook his head.
>>"No, no! I was wondering if maybe you have one. I heard a gunshot coming from here one day."
"Okay. So another question, how good of a fighter you think you are?"
>>"What? Why would you... aha. I know. I don't usually fight, I walk around the more dangerous areas. I'd never try to get in here after that gunshot, but I was desperate" then all of a sudden a hint of determination appeared in his voice, among all the fear. "But real enemy is better than whispering daemons. Anything tries to kill me, and I'll fuck it up."
>In the meantime, the thump was audible again and you heard a terrifying howl, it was very unlikely that it came from a pony's throat.
>Then the door finally gave up and opened. All by itself, like it was never locked before.
>On the other side was a wounded unicorn mare, she was making weird noises.
Again, I have half an our, maybe enough to write one more post. I'll remember the path marking suggestion.
"Hey, you!" you called at the mare. "Step out and show yourself!"
>She cringed visibly when she heard your words, tilted her head at the side your voice was coming from and sobbed.
>Then she inhaled sharply and emitted a yell that could break the glass, if there were some windows or anything like that here.
>After the bloodcurdling sound ended, the mare simply charged at you, her head lovered as if she wanted to impale you on her horn.
>There was no time to act or come up with elaborate ideas.
>You didn't wanted to kill that mare, even if she was clearly against you. She might just need a pony who will calm her down, who knows what she came through.
>This instead of attacking her with your knife, you focused yourself on the mare charging at you and attempted to levitate her.
>It was a success, as the unicorn was suddenly stopped and floated upwards, flailing all her legs around and yelling undiscernable things.
>It was risky to approach her now.
"Calm down, for Celestia's sake!" you said loudly, your voice echoed through the corridor, slowly turning into more whispers. "We both are real! Normal ponies, like you!"
>Your words didn't seem to affect her. Much worse, she began to resist your magic with more than mere movement. Her own horn started to light up slowly.
>Before she could do anything unpredictable, you placed her back at the beton floor, maybe a little harder than you expected.
>Damn, lifting ponies for too long was pretty difficult.
>The mare stopped to struggle and just sat on the ground, looking around herself, probably surprised. Who could know?
>Her voice was surrounding you all the time, undiscernable mumbles, syllabes.
"Do you want to leave this place?" you asked her, making your voice calm, gentle and assuring.
>When you come closer and your light made her muzzle more visible, you gasped, backed up instantly and almost extinguished your horn.
>Because for one short while, a second or so, you could swear you saw your own face under dirty, tangled beyond point of repair mane.
>Unicorn shrieked as if she also saw something she didn't want to and started to gallop away from you, almost killing herself with her own legs.
Possibly one more post.
that was spoopy.ask your companion if he ever ran into a stallion that looked like him here. Also if it's ok with him then you'd like to stick very closely to him.
I guess we have to go in where she came out?
>The mare was quickly out of your reach, and you weren't particularly fond of following her.
>The commotion of a pony scared to death running for her dear life lasted a bit too short for your tastes. Like the echo was not coming back if someone would pass a certain distance.
>There were much more whispers, though.
>You tuurned to your temporal companion to see that he was looking at you with puzzled expression on his face.
>>"What happened? You looked like you saw a ghost or worse... a daemon" he said, whispering the last part of his sentence like it was a curse.
"No... I just... she, I mean, her muzzle looked exactly like mine for a second. Like she was a second me" you explained and his eyes went wide.
>>"You saw a second you? But I know your face, hers was nothing like yours!" he said, for the first time he was speaking normally, not in whispers and muffled words. "At least I think so."
"Have you ever stumbled upon a pony looking just like you here?"
>>"No" he replied. "It's the first time I even hear about this happening. I saw weird creatures in the corners of my eyes, but not a pony looking like me."
"O-okay" you said, feeling deeply disturbed. Anything you saw or heard before was not real, you were certain. But now your comrade also saw the mare. "Can you maybe stick close to me?"
>>"Sure. Having a company here will help. If we both stay sane."
>You nodded to him, glad that he accepted. Then you marked the corridor wall between doors with tip of your knife.
>After you were done with carving a simple X, you decided to enter the door unicorn came from.
>It was a room. Typical cinema room. You had to walk around for a bit to notice it, due to the darkness. Among the empty armchairs you spotted one not vacant.
>A figure was half-sitting, half-lying on it. It was not moving.
Aaaand goodnight. I have a whole day of additional manual labour before me. Next updates should appear at Thursday night, if I won't die after work.
Be cautious but approach with our knife close and ready to attack. Once we get through whatever hell spawn this is we should probably get our companion's name. Also, look around this room for a fire escape. If Equestria has any safety codes, which, based on the show, is doubtful, there should be a fire exit.
>The figure was intriguing enough for you to decide that you should try to approach it.
>Of course you were as careful as it was possible, moving cautiously, the knife held tightly in your magical grasp, ready to strike.
>It appeared that this thing sitting in the armchair was a pony, or at least it was resembling one. It wasn't breathing. It was still, sitting in it's place even when you got closer.
>By the way, for some reason whole room was quiet when compared to the corridor with omnipresent echo and whispers. You could clearly hear your steps and breath, same goes to sounds made by your companion.
>When you finally moved closer to the figure you realized it was a pony. Younger than middle-aged pegasus stallion.
>He was dead, and judging from the position he shot himself while sitting in the cinema room.
>What was worrying you, his gun was nowhere to be found.
"It looks like we solved the gunshot mystery" you announced, and for some reason you were convinced that body heard you. "But there's no gun."
>There wasn't anything interesting on him, to be honest. Just some notes written in gibberish.
>>"I doubt we'll find it. I wish we could, it's a way out after all..."
"Don't even say this, we will get out of here sane and alive!" you said loudly, trying to convince him and yourself. "By the way, what's your name? Mine's Spring. I think we should know this to call for each other, just in case."
>>"Oh, I get it. Names will bring up memories, and memories will possibly scare off the daemons. I'm Sincere Apology, you can call me Sin."
>After this introducion you started to look for a fire exit, possible escape route for you and your new comrade.
>There should be one leading right outside, however you could not find it.
>Whole room seemed to stretch far away in every direction, only exception was the screen, always close to the pair of you.
>It wasn't all that big, you didn't walk for more than ten meters at best, you tried to convince yourself.
>It was advanced magic, yes, nothing more. But... wasn't advanced magic able to hurt ponies?
>It was, you said to yourself when you recalled the mare. She was utter mess, ready to charge anything she saw, or run away from it. You couldn't convince her to calm down.
>Well, this magic won't get you! You were stronger than some spell messing with the mind, you fought a changeling, survived running through a shelling!
"Stick close to me, Sin" you said, only to see that his nickname was very, very different from his actual name.
>It was none of you concern, but if you'll survive, you will start to call him differently.
"Try to look for a way out. Ignore anything unnatural you will say or hear."
>>"It's easy to speak, Spring!" he replied, pointing at the screen.
>It was empty, a bit brighter than whole surrounding.
>You picked up a pebble and threw it right at the flat surface.
>It seemed impossible to reach the screen, away but simultaneously too close, but you did it.
>It was a mistake.
>The hit exploded. Your whole world began to fall apart, torn by the creatures of unspoken appearance, sounds you could smell and colours you could feel by your hooves.
>Sin started to dissolve into multiple uncanny fractals, all of them calling your name.
>Oh Celesitia what the fuck was going on right now?
>Your whole world was turned upside down and inside out, simultaneously. Things you couldn't explain or ever name were happening before your eyes. It was so weird you began to drift away from everything, just to stop the mental pain.
>If you aren't able to use your eyes, then close them, whispered a part of your mind. You complied instinctually and forced yourself to close your eyes.
>Trying your best to block yourself from the mad world outside you cut off all senses you could, even holding your breath. Your hooves were now touching your coat instead of colours.
>For unknown time you were just floating through the void, unable to experience anything.
>All of a sudden, you felt everything again, but it was normal. Something was poking you.
>>"Spring, Spring! Are you okay?" a male voice said. "What happened? You're alive?"
>For unknown reason your flailed your hooves before you calmed down and opened your eyes.
>You were in a cinema room, it was dark. Your horn was not lit up, and you spotted a muzzle really close to yours.
"Bwah?" was only thing you could say, and even this happened after a while of struggle.
>It seemed like your mind was clear some time before your body got fully functional again.
>He tried to hold you still until you stopped waving your hooves around, which didn't take too long.
>Soon you regained full control over your own body.
"What... What happened?" you asked. "How long I was out?"
>>"Uhhh... I don't really know. You began to fight with the air, then all of a sudden you stopped and fell on the ground like chopped tree. I approached you and called your name. Then your face turned vicious for a second, like you were going to eat me alive. After that brief while you went numb until this moment."
"Oh" was your only response.
>You checked yourself to see if everything was alright. Your hindlegs were a bit sore, like you were bucking something. Apart of that everything was okay.
>Standing up was pretty hard, but not impossible.
>Sense of balance decided to try fuck you up when you were on all four, however you didn't fell back at the ground, managed to stay straight.
>Maybe it was your strong will, maybe simple survival instincts, whatever it was it got respect from Sin. He was seemingly amazed by your quick recover.
>>"I thought you might be lost to daemons!" he expressed his astonishment.
"I'm still me, SIn" you assured him. "Now even smarter. Just don't look at the screen for too long, and by Celestia's sake, don't try to attack it."
>>"Okay, I get it. Screens are bad."
"Yes. Now, did something happen when I was... away?"
>>"Not much, I was focused on our safety instead of surroundings. But the body seemed to shift and I got scared... I ran away. I'm sorry for leaving you there."
>The room wasn't different than before. It was still stretching in every direction, althought screen was away from you.
>If the screen wasn't as close as before, it meant you might have possibly found the way out.
>If only you plan will work. This would be wonderful and you hoped you will be rewarded for your thinking and smartness.
>At first it looked like you weren't heading anywhere. Sin has voiced his doubts about your choosing of the way out, however he was silenced literally a minute after he did this.
>For you found a way out. There was a short 'corridor' without a ceiling leading to the door similar you passed to enter here.
>Behind them was a regular beton corridor, empty and desolate.
>It was heading left and right, just like every corridor should. Your door was the only one present, although you spotted a note on the wall.
>You swept the note from the wall and put it close to your eyes, litting your horn a little bit more.
>Letters seemed to jump for a second or two, but your light made them stop and you were actually able to read what was written on it.
>"There are three simple keys. The one of them is you" it said. The note seemed to be prepared for anypony who would know anything about the place but forgotten parts of it for some reason.
>It was a reminder, a clue, but not for outsiders.
>You are one of the keys. Well, keys were obvious.
>They were other words to say 'ways you could use to get the tartarus out of this wicked place'.
>But what meant the second part of the message? Was your magic a thing you could use? Or was it something different? What were the other keys?
>All the questions remained unanswered, corridor was as empty and silent as it could be.
>So after a short while of hestitating you marked the wall in front of door and then choose to go left.
>The whole long, narrow passage was dead silent. No whispers, no strange sounds, no echo... not even your own steps were audible.
>However Sin was always there to look around, talk to you about some mundane stuff from time to time. Clearly he knew it was a bad thing to let silence be present for too long.
>Suddenly a light appeared on the other side of the tunnel. It was moving fast towards you.
>The light appeared faster and faster, however you decided to stand your ground and not move for a single meter before you made sure whatever was this thing approaching you.
>It was likely another trick thrown at you by the spell present in this whole buliding.
>Sin didn't last by your side for long, he jumped out of the way of whatever was coming, disappearing in a door.
>Door that was not present here just a brief while ago, you noticed.
>The light splitted in two, as if a car was coming at you in high velocity, and you prepared yourself to move out of the way.
>Nothing happened, the lights faded away gradually while they were passing you.
>The door Sin entered was gone now. Just like anything else except your own warm radiance, hard, cold floor under your hooves and walls around you.
>For a while you thought you heard a call somewhere, male voice yelling your name, but it was gone as soon as it appeared.
Sorry for being a bit slow.
>You perked your eyes in the direction of a call you presumably heard, then approached the wall.
>It was just a plain, beto wall, gray and chhilly when you touched it.
>You tried your best to hit it, but to no avail, as if it was present here for the whole time.
>There was no illusion this strong, to make you feel something not existing. At least you didn't know about magic of such a high level. So there was a slight chance that you stumbled upon a hidden passage or something.
"Sin, SIN!" ypu screamed to top of your lungs. "Are youu there? Respond!"
>There was a muffled voice coming from behind the wall, then you heard a really quiet yelp some undiscernable commotion. It sounded a bit like scrimmage, some hits were audible, softened by the wall.
"Don't worry!" you said loudly. "I will come back for you! Just last a bit longer!"
>With this promise you trotted, almost galloped forwards.
>This time whole place sounded and looked perfectly normal and soon you've reached...
>An entrance. You slowed down before you came closer.
>There it was. An opened door, made from plastic and metal, leading to the regular cinema corridor with soft rug, old movie posters, some loose trash lying around.
>There was a shadow stretching through it's length. It shifted a little when you came closer.
>"Hmmm..." you heard.
>Slowly and really cautiously, trying to be quiet as a mouse, you entered the regular, warm-coloured corridor.
>It was a nice change of your environment, but you had no time to stay and admire it, for you immediately hid behind a conveniently placed cleaning service cart. It was a miracle you were able to spot it and get behind it in time.
>The pony turned around almost instantly, even if you were really quiet and careful.
>He perked his ears and stood there, facing the cinema's interior.
>He was near the counter with cash registers for buying tickets and pop-corn, so exit was behind him.
>It was an unicorn stallion, but he had something weird in him. He was coloured in two shades of gray, he seemed too heavily built for his race and when he walked around you could noticed that he was not used to walk on all four legs.
>For real. He looked like he was uncomfortable, moved slowly and with some trouble.
>He didn't act hostile, but on the other hoof he didn't spot you either, so you could not be sure about his alignment.
>Do you wish to perform next part of your valiant plan? Wait? Do something else?
>Waiting for a while to see how will everything go seemed to be a good option for the time being, so you tried to be small and unimportant behind the cart.
>You silently watched the pony in front of you.
>After several seconds, longer than eternity itself for you, he returned to a slow walk he probably was doing before he heard you. It was resembling a patrol route.
>Counter, a pillar propping some balcony, toilets, other screen room, counter again.
>For a short moment he stopped and perked his ears, but this time not in your direction. He moved them a bit, as if adjusting, then he simply stood there for a moment.
>He began to walk towards the door you came through right away.
>While he passed you to check on the doors, you acted instantly.
>The attempt to tackle the pony was swift, undisturbed and most important part, successful. In one motion you managed to strike his legs and continue your attack.
>A surprised, muffled cry escaped his mouth before both you and him landed on the soft rug.
>You were on top of him in an instant, element of surprise was on your side, plus you made sure te press his forelegs to the ground with your magic.
>He looked at you with a mixture of astonishment and anger, but didn't try to struggle to escape yet. Even his horn remained dark, he was likely aware of danger you were to him.
"Who the tartarus are you? What are you doing here?" you began to shoot questions at him faster than assault rilfe could shoot bullets. "Lie or stay silent and I swear I will hit you."
>>"Oh, woe is me, I am a prisoner now. What should I do."
"Answer my questions, this will be a good start!" you stated, only to realize afterwards that there was irony in his voice.
>>"Would you believe me if I told you I'm a mixture of pony and a wolf?" he said with smile so cheeky it was obvious he was lying right in your face.
>Was he testing you or something?
Oh boy we caught a wolf pony. Ask him if he would like to be your pet. We can go to the pet store and then we can find a nice collar for him.
does he have a name or do we have to come up with one ourselves? Does the like the name fluffy?
"Oh my sweet Celestia" you said in a happy tone, making a squee after it. "I've always wanted to have a wolf pony!"
>>"Eee?" the cheeky smile froze on his muzzle when he actually tensed a bit under your body pressing him to the rug.
>You smiled at him, but not innocently. Actually, you tried to make this expression genuinely unnerving. The fact that you were just outside of the labirynth full of whispers, the dead and completely mad ponies was helping a lot.
"Would you like to be my pet? I never had one! I swear I'd take you for walkies twice a day, I would buy you a nice lash and a collar... you could even pick the colour of it, you know?"
>>"By the Q... Gods, what the actual fuck is wrong with you, mare? Get off of me!"
>He started to actively fight against your wight and magic.
"Oh, don't you want to be my pet?" you said, putting a lot of disappointment in your voice, sounding like a filly who could not get a candy she really wanted to taste.
>You kind of liked that role. Acting like a mad pony, so this guy would break and talk out of pure terror.
>Even screwing with him for the sole purpose of revenge for the spooky journey and Sin sounded like a good idea in...
>It would be bad to be like that.
>You were just trying to get some info, nothing more.
>When his horn finally lit up, you began to slowly bend one of his forelegs in totally wrong direction.
>The unicorn stallion started to breathe faster and more shallow, then he winced in pain.
"Do you have a name, wolf-pony? I don't want to think you don't have one, that you are forced to live nameless and alone... Would Fluffy be okay?"
>>"NO! I have my own name, just get. Off!" with his last word he tried his best to wriggle under your body.
>His intense movement casued your magic to weaken a bit.
>Before he could act even more vigorously, you broke his concentration again by smacking his horn hard enough to make it noticeable, but not aiming to hurt him.
"Bad, bad Fluffy" you said in a scolding manner.
>He was so surprised that he forgot to continue wiggling and you were able to reassure your grip again.
"How could you be so rude to your owner?" you asked, tilting your head.
>>"You're not my owner. Like, seriously! And I said I'm not Fluffy!"
"What should I call you, then? Pet?"
>>"Just... No! My name is Venom... oh fuck."
"Venom what?" you insisted, underlining your question by slightly bending his leg a little bit more.
>>"Ow! Just Venom, I swear! Venom nothing!"
>Well, you got his name, this was definitely a start.
"Good! You see? You can be a nice, obedient pet if you want! Oh my, I'm going to teach you so many tricks!"
>He rolled his eyes when you giggled. It seemed that he didn't see through your ruse yet.
One more post. I am tired today.
>To continue the act you made yourself more comfortable on top of the unfortunate guy.
>You sighed loudly, ostentatiously showing your ability to breathe freely while his lungs were somewhat less effective.
"And what my new pet was doing here? Did you maybe ran away from your previous owner, or... oh, you poor thing! Did you went astray?"
>He tried to struggle again, however another move, this time of his other foreleg, put him back in his place.
>>"I... I was called by my owner. Okay? I have an owner already, you have to let me go, so I can see him! I really want to, you know? This is a nice pony!"
And this is it for this night. I do not know what will be with tomorrow night session, for I am still stuck in a house I will probably have to paint, starting from almost nothing. Extra money and all that. I hope you enjouyed the session. Good night.
who is your owner and why do you want to see them? he can't be a very good one if he lets you wander around without a collar or identification. and you know what they say, finders keepers