Vile Tipple tells a story
PonySamsa Mar 4th, 2017 (edited) 130 Never
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- “C’mon Vile, last call happened half an hour ago. I’d like to get home sometime before Celestia raises the sun.” Shot Glass said, wiping down the parts of the bar Vile wasn’t currently drooling on. “Please don’t make me physically drag you out.
- Vile Tipple lifted his head slowly off the bar, looking vacantly up at Shot Glass, his hoof curled protectively around his drink.
- “Yeah, shore boss. I’ll git outta here. Lemme jus’…” Vile tried to pull his hoof out of the handle of his mug, but couldn’t quite manage it. He struggled for a moment, then used his other hoof to try to push it away. His hoof came free quite suddenly, and the mug rolled away down the bar, falling onto its side and spilling the remainder of his cider on the freshly-cleaned surface.
- Shot Glass sighed and moved to clean it up, wiping down the bar again and dropping the mug in the sink to be washed. He tried to wipe the spot where Vile Tipple had laid his head, but Vile slowly lowered his head back down, blocking any cleaning, his filthy green mane sticky with cider.
- “Come on, Vile, last warning. I want to sleep and Celestia be damned, I mean to do it before the sun’s up.” Shot Glass said, carefully jabbing Vile Tipple with a hoof.
- Vile Tipple’s head suddenly came up off the bar and he grabbed Shot Glass by the vest, his brick-red muzzle breathing alcohol-filled wind into Shot Glass’s face.
- “Quiet ya idjit! You want ta bring her down on both of us? She's already got eyes everywhere, who’s to say she ain’t got ears everywhere too?” Vile exclaimed, glancing at the front door.
- “Aw c’mon, Vile. You’ve been in here for the past week, ever since the Summer Sun Celebration. Don’t tell me you believe that crock about Celestia being a demon. She’s been our ruler for over a thousand years. Wouldn’t she have done something evil by now?” Shot Glass said, finally getting his rag on the wet spot Vile’s mane left on the bar.
- Vile chuckled. A low, a wet, wheezing sound. “Ye think all demons need blood and fightin’ do ya? Yer as ign’rant as the rest.” Vile said. He pulled a small brown stone out of the saddlebag on the stool next to him. It had a small hole in the middle. He held it up in front of his face, looking at Shot Glass through it. “Do ye know what this is, son?”
- Shot Glass shook his head.
- “This be an adder stone. Thought t’be ‘good for bad things’, some say.” Vile Tipple placed it on the counter, scooting it in small circles with his hoof. “Provides protection against spirits, poisons, diseases, and if’n ye look through th’ small hole…” He peered at Shot Glass through the hole again, his bloodshot eye outlined perfectly. “…ye kin see through disguises, glamours, and illusions.”
- Shot Glass rolled his eyes. “That’s wonderful and all, Vile, but it’s very late...”
- “Ah’ll tell ye a story, give ye this stone, and…” Vile Tipple pulled a bag of bits out of his saddlebags, dropping it on the bar where it landed with a heavy clink. “…pay m’tab for the past week if ye listen… Please.” Vile said, the plea at the end coming out slightly choked.
- Vile Tipple looked at him, and through the filth on his face and deep behind his bloodshot eyes, Shot Glass thought he looked rather lonely. Shot Glass looked at the bag of bits, then back to Vile Tipple. It was more the bits that got to him, his time as a bartender having hardened him more than he'd like.
- “Alright. I’ll even throw in an extra drink. Don’t know where you got that money if you didn’t have it the rest of the week.” Shot Glass pulled out the mug he’d just washed and refilled it with cider, placing it in front of Vile while he sat down to count the bits and listen.
- “Ahhhh, thank ye sonny. Ye’ve made this waste of a stallion happy.” Vile said, taking a small sip. He tapped the adder stone against his cheek as he thought carefully, then looked back to Shot Glass and began speaking.
- T’was many a year ago, around Winter Wrap Up that ah first met the stallion who introduced me to th’ idea of demons, ghouls, and the like existing. Unlike you folk here in Canterlot, back home in Baltimare all those years ago, we actually all had to help clean winter up. Bein’ a good and solid earth pony like ah was, ah took part in the scoopin’ and the plowin’ whilst the mares followed behind and planted the seeds. Durin’ the plowin’ and scoopin’, ah was draggin’ a big ol’ pile of snow down by the river when a small stone caught my eye. This here adder stone. Seeing as ah’d never spied one a’ these stones before, and the hole in the middle of it being such a novel sort of thing, ah stopped to pick it up. A pony ah didn't recognize spotted me not doin’ any work and came over, ah assume to cuss me out fer not workin’. However, he stopped when he saw what ah was lookin’ at.
- “Son,” he says to me “do you have any idea what you got right there?”
- Ah shook my head no, because ah was young, and ah was ign’rant.
- “That, my boy, is an adder stone. Beloved of druids, both unicorn and not, for the inherent powers it possesses.”
- He patted me on th’ withers and pointed to the hole in the center. “Gaze through the center and pierce right through illusions cast by demons, witches, and all manner of fey beast. With this stone, you’ll never be fooled by anypony, or anything, ever again. Keep it on you at all times, and you’ll even be protected from poison and disease.” He told me. He then chuckled, gave me a slap on the back, and continued with his work.
- At first, of course, ah thought that stallion was damn well full of it. But, the stone was at least a novelty, so ah kept it with me, and ah never got rid of it. It was just for a lark at first, but then there seemed to be a little something more to what that stallion told me as the years passed.
- Y’see, years later a sickness spread through the town. Nopony knew exactly what caused it or where it came from, but see, despite my family, friends, and neighbors getting’ sick, ah was perfectly healthy the whole time. At first it seemed a blessing, as ah could help out with chores while m’family were all restin’. Unfortunately, th’ blessin’ quickly turned sour when m’neighbors got wind of my seemingly unnatural health. Long story short, ah was driven out by miserable loved ones who blamed me fer their ills. Callin' me all sorts of things as they drove me away. Devil, changeling, or what-have-you. Anything they could to blame their problems on the one pony who wasn't currently as miserable as they.
- So ah was cast out, and as ah left behind everythin’ ah knew, ah remembered my lucky charm. My adder stone. Ah remembered what that stallion had told me so many years past, and ah turned and slowly brought it up to my eye as ah gave my home one last look goodbye.
- Through that stone ah saw the cause of our troubles, and it left me convinced that there was more to th’ world than ah previously believed. Some sort of spirit. Tall, thin, black, and terrible, were gathered in the town, leapin’ to and fro about the houses, terrorizin’ the livestock, wiltin’ the greenery, and afflictin’ the good ponies who lived there.
- “So did you go back and help?” Shot Glass asked, having pulled up a stool to sit next to Vile as he told his tale.
- “Did ah help?” Vile Tipple’s gaze went far away, and he grimaced, taking a long pull from his mug before he continued.
- Ah saw those… ‘beings’, and ah had no idea what they were. Ah wouldn’t have even known where to begin removing them, and to this day ah’ve no idea if ah could have even laid a hoof on them. As ah was watching them, one of them turned to me and seemed to, of all things, 'know' that ah could see it. It opened it’s mouth impossibly wide, seeming to screech, though no sound reached my ears. Four of those creatures turned and galloped toward me on unnaturally thin legs, and ah pulled the stone away from my eyes and ah ran. Ah galloped down the road as far and as fast as ah could, just to escape my poor, beleagured home and the horrors that now resided there. Ah didn’t know how to help, and now that ah had the knowledge, ah couldn’t stay near there any longer. Knowing ah had lived with those… “things”, had me spooked more than cattle near fireworks.
- Ah left my home, and ah didn’t stay in contact with family, friends, or anyone else. Ah don’t know what happened to ‘em, and ah do regret it, but ah was scared witless. Ah mean, who wouldn’t be? Everything ah thought ah knew had just been thrown upside down. Sure, you hear about it now and then, but it never really affects you because you can't see any of it, so you ignore it, and you dismiss the ponies who tell ye these things exist. So ah ran and ah disappeared, and ah dove into work, and travel, and anything else ah could find to distract me. Including drink, blessed, blessed drink. Ah was intent on forgetting things, so ah was an itinerant worker, makin' my way from place to place, and job to job. Ah didn’t look through that stone again for several years.
- The next time ah did, ah’d been working at Las Pegasus for about a year. Longest ah’d stayed in one place for a real long time. The travelin' hadn’t left me much to work with beyond a drinking problem, and becoming a dab hoof at fleecing other itinerant folk. That meant ah’d learned how to work the cards real well, both legitimately and otherwise. This place was awful swank, so ah had to be nice about it, but it wasn’t my money ah was dealin’ with, so ah didn’t mind not cheatin'. Ah just made it look fancy and the folk who trotted through the door were mesmerized enough to come play my game. It was here ah met a filly who ah thought was gonna change m’life. Her name was Willowy Reed and boy was she a hot mess in a dress.
- Vile Tipple took another swig of his drink and his eyes went distant, a faint smile touching his lips.
- “Hey now, you’re not getting too drunk to continue are you? You can’t leave me hanging at this point.” Shot Glass said, reaching to take the mug away.
- Vile Tipple pulled the mug out of reach and focused his eyes on Shot Glass. “Of course not! Ah'm merely reminiscin' you dang fool. Besides, didn’t you hear a word ah said? This-“ He picked up the adder stone and shook it in Shot Glass’s face. “-protects from poison. That includes alcohol.”
- Shot Glass looked doubtful. "Is that really how that works?"
- Vile shrugged and took another swig. "Point is, ah can still tell the story, so keep your horseshoes on."
- Shot Glass sat back and waited for Vile Tipple to finish savoring his drink, tapping a hoof impatiently. "So why give me the stone, then, if it seems so beneficial?"
- "Ah, you're wondering what the catch is. Ah'll get to that, sure enough." Vile said, grinning.
- Willowy Reed found me working in Las Pegasus as a dealer for the blackjack table. She was all toothy smiles and smokey looks as she walked up to my table, played once, lost, then left. That was my first sighting of her, but a mare like that you don’t just forget. Golden fur and a fiery red mane that hung down to her hooves, all poured inside a little black dress that clung to her in all the right places. Every eye on the floor was on her and stallions flocked to whichever table she was at. She never won a single game no matter what game she played, striking out with loss after loss, but she kept going. Ah learned all that later, of course, as ah had a job to do and ah’m nothin’ if not professional, but when she came back to my table, bringing with her a gaggle of stallions, she gave me a very strange look, almost seeming to see through me. She asked to play, ah dealt her cards, and she won with a perfect 21. Her followers whooped and hollered, but ah had an uneasy feeling about this mare. Ah ignored it a’course, as ye must have gathered, but ah felt it at that second meeting all the same.
- She played quite a few games, winning back any bits she’d lost on her trek through the casino, and at the end o’ the day, she was waitin' for me, nabbin' me on my way out the door. Ah could have left by the employee entrance, but ah was hopin’ to run into her. What red-blooded pony wouldn't want to run into that kind of mare again? Ah won’t bore ye with all the sweaty details, as ah'm you can imagine what went on between the two of us. It was everythin' you can imagine and more, and she had a firecracker of a personality when not fleecing stallions as well. We hit it off and let me tell you, it lasted months. We lived entirely on gambling winnings, floating from casino to casino. Ah quit my job, of course, so there would be no conflict of interest, and while we were together we lived the high life, seemingly floating on a cloud like pegasi without a care in all of Equestria.
- It was too good to be true, of course. Somethin' that good had to have some sort of downside, and after the first month I started to notice it. Something was bothering me about Willowy Reed, but ah ignored it because she was beautiful, a treat to spend time with, and really good in the sack. It was small things at first, like ah’d catch her looking at me, but not at me, if’n ye catch my drift. She’d be looking at something just past me, or at least that’s what it seemed like. Her eyes were unfocused and glassy. Ah thought nothing of it at first, callin’ it a lazy eye, or vacant stare, or what-have-you. Everypony is guilty of it every now and then when you get lost in though. Ah just had to come up with something to excuse it because it was just a flaw that an otherwise perfect creature like Willowy Reed must have or else they wouldn’t exist.
- The turnin’ point came one night, after a week of unnerving behavior from Willowy Reed that had just gotten worse n’ worse. Vacant stares, aimless wandering, loss of appetite, and sleepwalking. The sleepwalking was what really did it, because nothin’ sends chills up yer spine like opening yer eyes to see the love of yer life starin' vacantly down at ye in the dark. How long she’d been doing this ah don’t know, but that night when ah finally caught her at it clinched it for me that somethin’ was off. After my initial shock ah gently brought her back to bed, covered her with blankets and pulled down her eyelids. Ah made sure she was breathin’, and ah pulled out m’stone.
- Ah really ought to have taken her to a doctor, but somethin' about her behavior just seemed a little too unnatural, and it wasn't like she seemed sick, neither. Tartarus take me ah didn’t want to use the stone, but ah had this feelin' in my gut that ah should. Ah suspect ah knew, deep in m’heart that somethin’ would be wrong, and there would once again be nothin’ ah could do about it. All manner of ailments passed through my mind. Diseases, poisons, all of those could be stopped, but the stone was mine, not hers, and ah assume it only helps the owner as my family certainly didn't receive the same protection as ah did back when ah first got it. Selfish lout that ah am, ah didn’t think to give it to her to try to help, either, but that’s neither here nor there. Ah lifted the stone up to my eye, closing it before it got there, praying to Celestia that when ah looked there wouldn’t be anythin' at all, but knowin' deep down that wouldn’t be the case. Then ah opened my eyes.
- Vile Tipple’s breathing became shallow and labored, and his hoof shook slightly as he gripped the mug tighter, while his other hoof clutched the adder stone tightly. “This was the beginning of the end for me, though ah suspect it truly began to end long before, at my home, and this was just me realizin' it.”
- It was them again. Tall, thin, black, and terrible. Horrid mockeries of ponies. Shades, shadows, or whatever you’d call them, with pointed muzzles and fog for manes, stood over Willowy Reed. There were four of them. One at her head, black maw open, breathing sinister mist into her nostrils that must have been the cause of her labored breathing, two on either side of her, scraping their pointed hooves at her limbs but leaving no marks, causing her to thrash in her sleep, and a fourth, standing slightly away from the rest. It was this fourth one that frightened me the most, because he wasn’t watching her, he was looking directly at me. He saw me seeing him, and he was mocking me, I’m sure. He knew ah couldn’t do anything, and ah’m sure if he was capable of it, he would have laughed. Ah think this one was the first one ah saw back at my home, and he'd been followin' me ever since. Somehow that just made me more frightened, knowin' this creature could hold a pointless grudge for so long against me.
- In the end, ah ran again, leavin' Willowy Reed, most of my bits, my possessions, my new home, such as it was, and everypony ah knew behind. Ah haven’t known peace of mind since that day. Ah don’t know what happened to Willowy Reed, and ah don’t want to know. If she lived, that’s wonderful, but ah fear if’n ah tried to find her, it would only do her more harm. Everywhere ah went after that, and everypony ah met, ah now observed through the adder stone before ah trusted them with anythin'. Ah never stayed anywhere long. Ah don’t think those shadows would let me. The longest ah stayed somewhere was two weeks, and at that point the things had shown up again. Just those four, as well, and ah’m sure they’re the same ones, because one is always staring at me when ah see ‘em. It almost seemed like they was waitin’ for somethin’.
- Ah did what ah could to survive, making my way from place to place, city to city. At first ah was just out to survive and stay as far away from those things as ah could, but as the years past and ah wasn’t afforded a moment’s peace, ah started getting’ tired. Ah couldn’t just keep runnin' and runnin', because ah’d eventually get too old to keep up the pace. So after a dozen or so years had passed, ah began looking for a way to finally solve my problem. Maybe get rid of those beasties. Ah know, ah know, why not do it sooner? Because ah’m a bloody coward, that’s why. Ah have no other excuse.
- As itinerant as ah was, during my search for answers I sometimes needed to stay in one town for a month or more in order to find information on what ah was searching for. Sometimes the ponies ah spoke to would have something that could help. Other times there was nothing but what ah could scour from the books myself. Ah kept an eye open for anything strange going on with the ponies around me, in order to mitigate the effects of the presence of those beasties. The moment ah got a whiff of illness or other strange behavior, ah made myself scarce. No sense causing more misfortunate than ah had to.
- More years passed, and my search for answers took me back to cities ah’d passed through before. Ah never encountered Willowy Reed again, before you ask, and ah did pass through Las Pegasus. The city didn’t seem any worse for wear. Any problems caused by my presence had long since disappeared, and the high life that plagues the city kept it in high spirits. My former coworkers and acquaintances long since gone to other places themselves once they'd had their fill of it. Ah even once had the opportunity to go back to Baltimare, but ah didn’t. Ah don't think ah could face my hometown after abandoning it like that. Ah don't really have the right to call it my hometown, anyway. It's just the last place ah had family, so ah keep callin' it such. The reason ah would have gone was that ah had a lead on a book that might have held some information, and the closest place was Baltimare. Instead, ah waited and hunted elsewhere for it, finding it in Seaddle on the opposite side of Equestria, thank goodness. After a while of searching, ah found the biggest lead yet, finding it in a small town called Ponyville, not too far from Canterlot. The new princess apparently had it in her library. Told me she’d found it in the old castle Celestia and Luna used to live in.
- Ah, that princess was an interesting one. Probing me for my reasons as to why ah was researching such a topic. Ah skirted around the issue, not wanting to give too much away, for fear of what might happen to her. She was quite the nosy one, that princess. Ah hear she's the princess of friendship, but she really ought to be the princess of books, in my opinion. She'd read it, of course, but the book was everything ah’d hoped it would be and more, and it did indeed give me the answers ah wanted, though perhaps not the answer ah’d been seeking.
- Vile leaned forward, his mug forgotten next to him on the bar, and his eyes wide as he stared at at Shot Glass. “This was only several months ago, by the way. Do you want to know why ah came here for the summer sun celebration?”
- Shot Glass was staring at Vile, his expression filled with curiosity. “I’m here and I’ve been listening. Please, this is incredibly fascinating.”
- “You’re a good lad, Shot Glass. A good lad.” Vile said, his face changing to one of sadness.
- “Ah found reference to ancient times, and lore of creatures come from beyond the borders of Equestria. It’s important that ah point out, ah found absolutely nothing at all about these creatures that have hounded me m’whole life.” Vile said, tapping the counter with a hoof. “Barely anythin', ah should say. Years of searchin' produced only a single lick of information, calling these things ‘creatures of shadow’. No description of their looks beyond that single mention of ‘shadow’.” Vile said, shaking his head.
- “But you must have found something. You said you came here for a reason, and if your visit to Ponyville was so recent, that must have lead you here.” Shot Glass said.
- “Quite right, quite right. It did bring me here. What ah found in that book was somethin’ far more… not sinister, but great and terrible all at once. See, ah'd had the thought myself, that these were shadows of some sort, so ah figured if there was darkness, there must also be light, right?” Vile said. He stopped and looked at his mug of cider, then pushed it away. He went silent for a moment, closing his eyes and folding his forehooves in front of him on the counter, and when he opened his eyes and looked at Shot Glass, they were no longer bloodshot, and he spoke clearly for the first time since Shot Glass had met him.
- I came to Canterlot for the Summer Sun Celebration to see Celestia. You see, I had found something very interesting regarding our princess of the sun. It didn’t outright say it was her, but it referenced; “A being of celestial fire, with six wings, each appearing made of brightest pearl. It was the light, and the light was in it and of it, and whithersoever it went, so too did the light go. Like its wings, so too were its faces, of which it also had six, with pearlescent fur and eyes that glowed red hot and spewed flame. Its eyes, of which it had a multitude, covered its faces and wings, seeing all around it and passing fiery judgment wherever its gaze fell. Its six legs held it aloft as it traveled across the sky, its light falling down on the land where its hoofbeats passed over. This vision I recognized as the likeness of the sun, and I bent unto it, lest my eyes be seen gazing upon it and burnt to ash.” What else could it be referencing but Celestia herself, raising and lowering the sun in our very sky? White fur, rainbow mane, and the sun itself, a great eye that passes over everything. If Ponyville’s princess made the connection, I suspect she attributed it to hyperbole from somepony who hadn’t met the princess face to face.
- I came to Canterlot hoping that the creatures would not follow me into the presence of the princess of the sun herself, or if they did, then they might be burned from the summer sun on the longest day of the calendar. I had been here several weeks and had seen no sign of them, so my hunch may have proven to be true. But as the summer sun celebration neared and I continued to find no sign of them, I began to grow ever more fearful, because what in Equestria were they afraid of, if not for her? And if they were afraid of her, why?
- “The princess of the sun, our guardian, our light, our protector, looks like any other pony, correct?” Vile said, looking directly into Shot Glass’s eyes.
- “She does, yes. Despite being an alicorn.” Shot Glass said, a chill running up his spine at the words.
- Vile Tipple pushed his adder stone across the bar to Shot Glass, tapping it twice before pulling back. “I looked upon the princess of the sun, free of illusion, glamour, or seeming, and while what I saw does not match the description exactly, it is certainly something I will never be able to remove from my mind for the rest of my life, as short as that may be.” Vile Tipple gave Shot Glass a sad smile.
- Shot Glass picked up the stone, looking down at it then up at Vile Tipple. “What do you mean, Vile?”
- “Eyes upon eyes, Shot Glass. Eyes, of which she has a multitude, covering her faces and wings, seeing all around her and passing fiery judgment wherever her gaze falls.” Vile said, picking up his mug, toasting Shot Glass with it, then draining the rest in a single gulp.
- Shot Glass stared for a second, then lifted the adder stone to his eye and looked at Vile through it as he placed the mug back on the bar.
- Where Vile Tipple was seated, there was naught but a pile of ash, trailing from an empty mug of cider, down off the counter, and covering the stool and floor where Vile Tipple was supposed to be. Shot Glass quickly yanked the adder stone away from his eye, but the ash remained, and there was no sign of Vile Tipple himself other than his adder stone and the bag of bits on the counter. Shot Glass looked down at the stone in his shaking hoof, tossing it away from him as if burnt. It struck the stone flooring and cracked in half, each piece rolling away from the other. Shot glass put a hoof to his head, hyperventilating. He poured himself a mug of cider and downed it as fast as he could, then poured himself another, trying to look anywhere but the pile of ash that had been Vile Tipple not 30 seconds ago.
- After finishing his second drink, he looked down at the two halves of the adder stone. He carefully bent down to pick them up, one in each hoof, then put them together, looking through the middle. Everything looked perfectly normal, and he suspected if there had been magic in it, breaking it had surely taken that away. Shot Glass put the two pieces on the counter and turned away from them and the counter, looking at the rows upon rows of alcohol. Then the cleaned mugs, neatly lined up. Then the kegs of cider. Anything to avoid thinking about what Vile Tipple had talked about. As he was trying to keep himself busy, he felt something warm on his flank, and turned around to look.
- Outside, seen clearly on the horizon far, far away in the distance, yet touching the room he was in: The sun was rising.
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