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Misc. Prompts: Knightanon Christmas

By E4-NG
Created: 27th December 2020 11:40:41 AM

  1. >A monster lurked in the woods, tonight.
  2. >You didn’t know what it might be, but you’ve seen it.
  3. >A hulking brute twice the height of any mare, but creepily thin. Upright, like a minotaur, maybe?
  4. >You caught glimpses out beyond the town’s perimeter, but the bright lights of the Hearthswarming celebration at said town’s heart made it difficult to see shapes in the gloom.
  5. >So you left the revelry to investigate further.
  6. >On Hearthswarming even the little colts and fillies were out celebrating, and you couldn’t let them get taken by the creature.
  7. >Stallions protect the foals, and you want to grow up to stop any threat to a home!
  8. >Ascertain the threat, then come back and get some mares to deal with it.
  9. >Simple.
  10. >But… extremely difficult.
  11. >Your legs shook the further away from the celebration you went.
  12. >No protection out here, if something were to happen to you.
  13. >But you had your duty!
  14. >...And also the burning desire to make known the unknown.
  15. >You never could resist a good mystery.
  16. >The paths between the houses at the edge of town were dark, and the windows of those houses similarly bereft of light.
  17. >Only the reflection of the moon off the snow of the streets gave you any light, snow that only got deeper the further out you went.
  18. >Half the time this served little purpose but to hamper your night vision anyway.
  19. >But there, what was that?
  20. >You scamper over to one dark house’s doorstep, nosing an object jutting from the snow.
  21. >A feather, and if your nose didn’t lie, one from a pegasus.
  22. >You don’t know any pegasi with that coloration, certainly not one of the few who lives in town.
  23. >This snow had fallen just last night, however, so this feather was new.
  24. >The monster outside was too big to be a pegasus, but that did not mean this should be overlooked!
  25. >Maybe this is enough to get help from the town. Maybe you could take it back and get help, it might be enough to-
  26. >From behind, a faint clinking.
  27. >Then as you turn, a quiet clack from the same direction.
  28. >Above, from a second-story window of a darkened home, a shape darts around a corner out of sight.
  29. >A thief?
  30. >After them, before they escape!
  31. >You try to gallop, but stumble into a snowdrift and plow a white furrow up over your nose.
  32. >Stupid small body.
  33. >Stupid snow.
  34. >Nothing can keep you from that pegasus’ trail, you need to stop the criminal!
  35. >You dig yourself out then pick your way through the snow around the corner the pegasus disappeared beyond.
  36. >In the dark near another window, you can see them again. Definitely the pegasus, though hard to tell because they seem to be wearing some sort of cloak.
  37. >Window open, fiddling around with the latch, then slowly closing it and moving on.
  38. >They disappear behind another corner, and you’re careful to not trip yourself into the snow this time as you follow.
  39. >What are they doing that takes long enough for you to catch up every time?
  40. >Part of it seems to be that they’re trying not to be noticed – too late for that! - but they can’t just be inspecting windows.
  41. >The third time you find them, they’re tossing something inside.
  42. “Hey!”
  43. >At your shout, they immediately bolt towards the forest without even looking back, leaving the window open.
  44. >And where they disappeared to, you see a large shadow move.
  45. >You feel a chill above and beyond simply standing in snow.
  46. >When you start moving again, it’s slow and steady.
  47. >If these two mysteries are connected, you need to get to the bottom of this.
  48. >Even if it might be dangerous.
  49. >Just the thought of that cloaked pegasus snatching a foal out of their bedroom at night gave you conflicting feelings of fear and fury.
  50. >So into the woods you trudged, picking your way around snowdrifts, keeping an eye on where you last saw those shadows move.
  51. >When you reach the area you thought you saw the shadow, nothing remained.
  52. >In the snow, however, strange depressions.
  53. >Footprints?
  54. >The way one end looked more pointed, and a depression of maybe the foot dragging up and out of the snow…
  55. >It was worth a shot.
  56. >As you follow the tracks, the sound of the revelry fades further behind you.
  57. >With it, the light, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness better with time.
  58. >Did you chase them off? Or are they leading you into an ambush.
  59. >It doesn’t matter; there’s a mystery to solve!
  60. >A stallion who hides at home when there’s danger to the young is no stallion at all.
  61. >(Nevermind that you are the young)
  62. >Continuing to push through the snow, you cut a line parallel with the tracks; you can’t destroy them in case you’re going the wrong way and have to double back.
  63. >Besides, if you turn up with nothing, that’s crucial evidence you’ll need to convince the town to be alert.
  64. >You’ll have to go back to collect that fallen feather, too.
  65. >If your sense of direction is good, the tracks are curving out and away from town, like part of a spiral.
  66. >Maybe they’re nearby, but wanted to keep distance to avoid notice?
  67. >It does mean you can easily keep an eye on the town off to your left; though distant, you can still make it out by the dark silhouettes against the glow at its heart.
  68. >Hopefully, the monster and the pegasus won’t notice your approach then, as you come from a much darker direction.
  69. >On and on you trudge through the snow, but every step is just a little bit harder.
  70. >You cannot see any more darkened silhouettes, but you’re now sure you’re following tracks; they’re too regular and too evenly-shaped to be otherwise.
  71. >A strange hoof that made them, surely, but that mystery will be revealed when you find it.
  72. >The difficulty is not mental, however, but physical.
  73. >That distant glow of the Hearthswarming fire becomes enticing not for its safety but for its warmth.
  74. >No, onward!
  75. >You much serve your town, you must protect it!
  76. >Your fear is still present, but now you fight something just as primal.
  77. >On, on you push.
  78. >Plowing the snow aside with your chest.
  79. >Flicking your tail as the walls of your furrow collapse behind your flank.
  80. >You don’t even know if your hooves touch the ground anymore; perhaps you’re just packing snow under more snow, and walking on that.
  81. >The briefest flit of a thought; if you freeze out here, what’s left of your body heat may melt you down further, and snow will collapse on top fo you.
  82. >YOU may become the mystery, that others will have to solve.
  83. >You can’t let that stop you though.
  84. >You recall to mind the pegasus messing with the window latches.
  85. >Nothing good can come of that.
  86. >You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself if something happened you could have discovered and prevented.
  87. >Push aside the fear and the cold.
  88. >Push it aside, just like the snow.
  89. >Push, push…
  90. >The town’s glow is almost extinguished to your eyes, from here.
  91. >But ahead, you can just barely make out the flicker of another.
  92. >How far must that be?
  93. >Another tickle at the back of your mind-
  94. >Can you even think of anything more forcefully now?
  95. >-you might not actually make it there
  96. >No.
  97. >On.
  98. >A glow means a fire, a glow means more warmth.
  99. >Either your answers are there, or a place to rest, and maybe somepony who can help you answer them.
  100. >Rest…
  101. >Forward!
  102. >Yet still every step gets harder.
  103. >You can see it now, a proper fire; it’s half as tall as the trees around you.
  104. >You can just make out other shape near it, though not well enough to tell what they are besides ‘not trees’.
  105. >Help, or answers.
  106. >If you could just…
  107. >You trip over your own hooves, burying your head and neck under the snow in front of you.
  108. >You’re shocked more by the sudden darkness instead of the light you’ve been fixated on, rather than the temperature
  109. >You can’t really feel much of a difference, in fact.
  110. >It takes you three tries to extract yourself, and a fourth to get walking again
  111. >That glow is closer now, but not yet here.
  112. >Even still, it’s almost like you can feel the heat already.
  113. >Maybe you can stop for a moment and bask in it for a moment, then get started again…
  114. >No, no, something tells you.
  115. >Keep going, or you’ll never have your answer.
  116. >Craning your neck up and out of the snow, you try to find the tracks again
  117. >They’re gone
  118. >You’ve diverged from them.
  119. >You look back behind you, towards where you fell – a glimmer of fear overtaking the crushing cold, when you realize how little progress you’ve made from that point – and can’t see the tracks back there either.
  120. >No tracks as far back as you can make out, even.
  121. >You don’t know when you diverged.
  122. >You look to your left, but cannot make out even the faintest light from the town anymore.
  123. >Despair then crowds in with fear and numbness.
  124. >How could you have lost the tracks and the town?
  125. >You only have one chance then.
  126. >Forward.
  127. >No way but forward.
  128. >You have to consciously think about each step now.
  129. >One, two, three, four
  130. >One in front-
  131. >You faceplant again.
  132. >This snow is really hot.
  133. >You rest in it for twenty seconds or so, trying to absorb as much of that heat as you can, but it doesn’t seem to do anything.
  134. >You’ve become numb even to the numbness now, it no longer bothers you.
  135. >There’s a point past despair where you just accept what is happening in the moment.
  136. >The fear though, that’s still with you.
  137. >You’re afraid of standing up, afraid of moving ahead, afraid of turning around, afraid of where you are.
  138. >Just lay here. Collect what few thoughts you think you’re thinking.
  139. >Do something with the fear, before it overwhelms you.
  140. >Try to shove the fear in one of those parts of your mind that you can’t seem to perceive anymore.
  141. >Surely there’s-
  142. >Something?
  143. >You hear it, or you think you hear it, though you’re not sure how through the snow your face is buried in.
  144. >It’s a sound in your head, however it got there.
  145. >Like gentle chimes, or bells at a great distance.
  146. >They don’t play according to any song, but are arranged in the most wonderful melody.
  147. >No words accompany them, but they impart a message.
  148. >Be not afraid.
  149. >You slowly stand, looking out at that inviting glow. You feel like feathers surround you as you do, gently coaxing you to your hooves.
  150. >Feathers. There was something important about feathers, or a feather. You’re forgetting something important.
  151. >What is important?
  152. >Forward.
  153. >Yes. You must go forward.
  154. >There is warmth there.
  155. >Warmth and knowledge and light.
  156. >Life.
  157. >Onward.
  158. >You focus on the fire again, expecting the chimes to quiet as the world fades but for the flickering flame.
  159. >Walk. Every step a conscious one.
  160. >One.
  161. >Two.
  162. >Three.
  163. >Four.
  164. >Instead of fading, the chimes get louder, even as blackness creeps into your vision surrounding the hearthsglow ahead.
  165. >You can hear the crackle of firewood now, each pop ringing out like a bell in your head, in the space between the sound of the chimes.
  166. >Just a little more.
  167. >You recall, from some distant past memory, that there were other things here. Shapes of some sort.
  168. >But the shapes are gone now. Only the flame.
  169. >Something about shapes were important.
  170. >More things you’re forgetting.
  171. >Forget everything but the fire. That’s what’s ahead.
  172. >One more step, and another.
  173. >You can feel it now, real warmth, not the burning heat of the snow around you.
  174. >Wait.
  175. >Not wait as stop, you must keep going, but hold your thoughts, your senses.
  176. >There is something in front of the fire now.
  177. >How long has it been there?
  178. >You’ve been staring a the fire this whole time, when did it appear?
  179. >It is big, it stands in front of the flame, but it looks like it is the flame
  180. >Was the fire a lie?
  181. >Even doubt did not stop your progress.
  182. >Why stop? There is no fear, after all.
  183. >Be not afraid.
  184. >There can only be answers to questions. You must seek out the mysteries and solve them.
  185. >Yes, that is the important thing. Mysteries.
  186. >You like mysteries.
  187. >This thing, this is a mystery.
  188. >You squint at it, trying to discern this most recent one.
  189. >The shape becomes clear. An equine body, a golden horn from its head, wings spread wide. An alicorn.
  190. >But the head is not a head.
  191. >It is a skull.
  192. >Within the flames of its body, bones, arranged as a skeleton, though distorted.
  193. >What is the nature of the light you’ve been walking to?
  194. >Is it the light of the end? Is this alicorn Death?
  195. >If it is, so be it.
  196. >You are not afraid.
  197. >But you can still hear the crackle of the fire.
  198. >The figure is made of flames but there are also flames behind it; you can see a difference in the color.
  199. >You weren’t sure, because of the way the top of that flame reaches the back of the figure’s head, distorting into a circular shape, but they are separate fires.
  200. >You take another step towards it, about to call out, but again you fall.
  201. >No snow stops you this time, but the landing is soft.
  202. >Your senses return in an instant. The chimes disappear, through the crackle of firewood remains. You can see more than just the flame, though your nightvision is hindered to make out much in the distance.
  203. >You’re lying on leather, you think.
  204. >It flexes beneath you as you’re lifted up and carried closer to the fire.
  205. >You follow what it’s attached to over, then up.
  206. >At the top of a massive form is a head, and on the head a face, one like nothing you’ve ever seen.
  207. >More lines than you feel it should, as if old, but the eyes look youthful.
  208. >It’s smiling at you, you think.
  209. >You’re lowered near the fire again as the massive creature sits on a stump, long legs coming up to frame the fire.
  210. >It speaks, but not to you; it looks away to the skeletal alicorn you first saw. “You were right, a visitor. A young one!”
  211. >You follow the titan’s gaze, but what you find is no alicorn.
  212. >A skeleton, yes, but the skull is covered with a battered helmet, one shaped all wrong to cover a pony’s head. The horn is part of the helmet maybe, it looks gold. No wings that you can see. The flames that comprise its body are no longer yellow, but blue.
  213. >Maybe not an alicorn, then. Maybe you were just… seeing things.
  214. >”A welcome one,” the fiery equine skeleton – a ghost? – responds with a marely voice. “He must have had quite the journey to reach us.”
  215. >”All visitors are welcome at my fire.”
  216. >A pegasus – a regular pony pegasus – trots into view, looking at you quizzically. She stops beside the ghost, and the two share a look. Hers a question, the ghosts’ you’re not sure; it’s hard to read a look from a face with no eyes.
  217. >The pegasus is apparently satisfied, though, because she then continues to you.
  218. >Something about her coat’s color triggers a memory.
  219. >A feather, fallen on fresh snow.
  220. >A mystery!
  221. >The thief!
  222. >She is covered in a cloak, like the shadow you saw.
  223. >All black, except for a white cross-shaped mark at the front, and over each hindquarter where her cutie mark would be; stark contrast to her pastel body.
  224. >When she reaches you, she gently noses you.
  225. >Her snout is blissfully warm, but she recoils, maybe from how cold you are.
  226. >”You’re the one who discovered me, aren’t you?”
  227. >You manage a nod.
  228. >”Keep him warm,” she looks up at the titan. “He didn’t come directly here; who knows how much snow he went through to find us.
  229. >”He will be fine,” the ghost intones. “He is safe now.”
  230. >The pegasus gives the ghost another long look, before turning for the dark forest beyond the firelight. “I should go back. Finish my rounds, tell the town.”
  231. >”And lose our new companion so soon?”
  232. >When you look back up at the titan, you notice he’s dressed similarly to the pegasus mare; cloaked in all black, but for a big white cross over his chest. “If he followed you all this way, it must be important. His family will come for him soon enough, then you need only follow their calls to assuage their fears. For now, let him have his victory, and his prize.”
  233. >The pegasus turns back to you. “What did you want? Why take the risk?
  234. “Why…?”
  235. >Your voice gives out and you cough, prompting a look of concern from her.
  236. >The titan holds his hands, and you within them, a little closer to the fire as you find your voice again.
  237. “Why did you... go into our houses?”
  238. >The mare just blinks at you in confusion, but you shake as the creature holding you laughs. “Ah, it’s like I’m still home! Never shall a good deed go unquestioned! Why did he take the risk? Why did you!”
  239. >The pegasus reaches under her cloak with her snout, and comes back out with a small bag. She tosses it towards you in a way that it opens when it hits the ground.
  240. >Inside is a small amount of bits.
  241. >Was she taking them after all?
  242. >No. A good deed…
  243. >She was moving between houses too fast to locate and then remove bitbags.
  244. >No, she threw something into a house, you remember.
  245. >”Charity,” the mare mumbles. Then, louder, “Awhile back, a town we helped rewarded us with these bits. We don’t need them. I was explaining Hearthswarming, and he-” she tilted her head up at the figure holding you- “spoke to me of the early winter rituals of humans, his kind.
  246. >The low, loud voice of the human continued her explanation. “Your virtues here are different than those of my world. Yours numbers six to my seven, and yours, while still noble, are not the same as mine. One, however, matches; your generosity to my charity.”
  247. >”When I was engaged in conflict, my fellow soldiers and I revered among others Saint Nicholas, for his protection of those aboard ships, but he was also known for this virtue of charity. A man of means who did good with it, distributing it to the poor and needy. What better time to honor his name than this holiday of giving and togetherness of yours? We give our unneeded currency secretly, as he did.”
  248. “Were you hiding? The shape in the woods outside town?”
  249. >”I would attract too much attention. We do not give to gain recognition. If word got to towns that we gave away the small fortunes they sometimes foist upon us, they would insist on giving us more. And this bag of bones, well, she’s famous, you know!”
  250. >You turn back to the ghost, whose fires now burned green. You don’t recall hearing anything about her, but this group could be from far away. Could fame be a mystery? You should find out.
  251. >Through the tingling of sensation returning to your hide, a stronger, more urgent one tickles your flank.
  252. >When you look down, where there was nothing, is now a mark!
  253. >A question mark, in the lens of a magnifying glass.
  254. >Your life and love of mystery, an arduous quest to find a culprit, your desire to make your town safer…
  255. >”Ah!” The human exclaims, “We witness a momentous occasion! This visitor is here to grace us this night of celebration with a special moment most auspicious! Truly, a gift from God!”
  256. “God?”
  257. >”Yes! God, who is Christ, who as a child we celebrate in winter as well, though all his life and death and rebirth is our ministry ‘til the day of His return. Font of holy virtues, among them the charity of which we speak.”
  258. >What was the resolution of a few mysteries but the opening for more, anyway?
  259. >You look back at your now-revealed cutie mark, but lack the energy to celebrate physically.
  260. >Whatever the strangers’ odd customs and legends, it is a gift, on a most wonderful night for gifts.
  261. >”Here.”
  262. >You look back to the pegasus, who noses the bag of bits closer to you.
  263. >”These are for you, then. Happy Hearthswarming.”
  264. >Before you can reply, a faint shout in the distance gets your attention, and that of your three companions.
  265. >”That may be our friend’s family, searching. If it isn’t, he got the answers he sought from you, so you should probably inform them anyway. Go put their mind at ease.”
  266. >The pegasus nodded and took off, soaring into the night.
  267. >You looked back down at the bits.
  268. >Generous though these strangers may be, they didn’t know your town, and gave equally.
  269. >You know some who could use a little more than others.
RGRE

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