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Prose Equus 7: Confidants.

Mandroid Dec 14th, 2018 91 Never
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  1. =Prose Equus 7=
  2.  
  3. >The snow to the east of the Celestial Ridge upon which Canterlot sat was the result of Artic winds coming down from the Griffin Kingdoms to the north as well as the moisture blown up from the Bridle Shores to the south. The ridge itself blocked most of the winds from reaching the more populated western area of the Kingdom, probably helped by a smattering of Princess and Pegasus magic.
  4. >The Ridge itself, with Stalliongrad in the shadow of the peak furthest to the east, was a chaotic mess of mountains seemingly attempting to climb over each other forming half peaks, broken trails, and sheer drops from whatever mess of tectonic activity formed them. Old legends told of a colossus who scraped the sky and devoured the land forming them with his footprints.
  5. >But that was patently ridiculous. Right?
  6. >Somewhat equally as ridiculous was how much time you’ve spent scaling through these peaks.
  7. >You take a breather at the face of a cliff and let the blustery wind blow through your hair.
  8. “At least Asgard was nice enough to give me some furs…”
  9. >Kinda itchy though.
  10. “Alright, enough of that.”
  11. >You slide your helmet back on and stand up, gripping your borrowed mace and buckler shield tight.
  12. “Alright, review the situation…”
  13. >The Argus Panoptes, the hundred-eyed horror you were here to handle before it killed somepony, was loose somewhere in these mountains.
  14. “From the way they describe it, it might be moving on its tentacles? Or maybe it can fly somehow…”
  15. >If it was landlocked it’d be slower but flying would mean you’d have to hurry.
  16. >You glance to the west, the sun was already beginning to set and cast the long shadows of the peaks over the valleys below.
  17. “Running out of time…”
  18. >You turn on your heel and start heading down the way you came to check another direction.
  19. “And worse I’m talking to myself…”
  20.  
  21. >The path you walk takes you down the peak you used for reconnaissance and through a valley towards another in the next ridge.
  22. “If I can cross over here into the lowlands, I may be able to find something to eat along the way…”
  23. >You glance up at the sky, past the clouds.
  24. “And I am ONLY talking so that you have updates on my status, Heimdall. You or the Queen, I know you’re watching.”
  25. >Yes, that was the reason you decided on for self-narration.
  26. >Continuing along the path gives you time to think.
  27. >What was this creature? And why was it even potentially out here?
  28. >Your career as a guard was spent hunting down monsters as much as it was spent on domestic problems, probably moreso. Knowing Princess Twilight as you had also meant that you had been involved or involved yourself in many of their more dangerous outings and adventures.
  29. >The day that sticks out in your head presently is the Royal Wedding, when the Changeling’s tried to enact a coup d’etat that eventually just turned into an invasion. You and the rest of the girls were fighting in the streets when Shining and his wife saved the day.
  30. “Heh…just as good you did, you never could fight, Armor.”
  31. >You sigh and push those thoughts out as you’d gotten used to, all they did was remind you of how long you’ve been doing this and your encroaching age.
  32. >Before you died and went to Valhalla, you had wandered off to find your death in defense of Equestria rather than having your body betray you in a crucial moment during some future crisis.
  33. “I mean, I’m happy to be “alive” again, but…”
  34. >Being alive again meant another opportunity to fail when you were needed most. You had taken note that you weren’t feeling your age in Asgard, but you weren’t pious enough to believe that would stay that way forever if nothing was done.
  35. >You spend so much time in your own head as you cross the ridge that you almost don’t notice your foot hitting something that feels different.
  36. “Mm? Now what’s this?”
  37.  
  38. >You kneel and brush the snow off whatever you stepped on. Beneath your foot you find a square cut stone with a worn and faded symbol carved into it, reminding you specifically of-
  39. “A brick? What in the Hel is a brick doing out…?”
  40. >You hear someone below you and close sneeze. Your instincts tell you to hunker down close to the ground as you inch yourself towards the edge of the small drop near you.
  41. >Further investigation reveals to you that you’re apparently as blind as a bat pony. These rocks at the edge of the drop weren’t rocks, they were keystones. Carved keystones. You rub your hand over the smooth edges when the sneeze echoes through the valley again
  42. >And it’s coming from right below you.
  43. >You stay low and circle around, sliding down a snow embankment to get around to the entrance of the cave the sneezing was coming from.
  44. >Wait, no, not a cave. The entrance was a perfect rectangle and the stones leading up to the keystones you were at are uniform and perfectly geometric. Beneath your feet you can feel the smooth stone of a weathered floor and carvings within it which would make this-
  45. “A temple? Here?”
  46. >Another sneeze mixed with a surprised whinny comes from the doorway into the temple and out comes its squatter. “Who in-?”
  47. >He’s wearing pristine polished silver armor that compliments his resplendent gold mane. His shoulders are broad, and he’s got a decent bit of muscle on him, which does NOT go with the classical rapier at his side. “Who goes the-“ he begins to shout in a high society voice before beginning to look you over and his face growing befuddled. “What…manner of creature are you?”
  48. “Prince Blueblood?”
  49.  
  50. >He’s slightly taken aback by that. “How do you know my name?”
  51. >You really ought to be running away or knocking him out and passing yourself off as a cold-borne hallucination to preserve your continued existence a secret, but he seemed to barely recognize you.
  52. “I…was a guard in the city for a few decades? The only human?”
  53. >”Well I don’t recognize you.”
  54. “I worked for your aunts for probably longer than you’ve been alive?”
  55. >”You did?”
  56. >You instinctively shrug.
  57. “I was at there at the Changeling invasion?!”
  58. >Blueblood rolls his eyes back like he’d just been caught doing something embarrassing. “Yes, well…I was not. Dreadful business that, I’d come down with hay fever just two days before and couldn’t attend such a wonderful affair, so sad…”
  59. >Right.
  60. “What the Hel are you DOING out here, Your Majesty?”
  61. >You probably didn’t need to call him that, having died and all, but old habits were harder to shake than the mortal coil.
  62. >Blueblood straightens and for a moment looks as regal as his position would demand. “There is word of a monster loose within these mountains that puts Stalliongrad in danger. I have come to confirm these suspicions and, if needed, slay the beast!”
  63. >You chew that over for a spell.
  64. “So EVERYONE else was busy with something else and you came out to snag a bit of glory is what you’re saying?”
  65. >Blueblood is silent for a moment as he thinks over his response. “…A little recognition WOULD be nice.”
  66. >You knew of Prince Blueblood, knew of his reputation for being a prick at times and a showboat at others, but you also knew of the stories behind those of his unparalleled fencing skills and unwavering support for those who managed to penetrate his outer shell and become his confidant.
  67. >And at the frigid roof of the world here, you couldn’t exactly afford to be picky.
  68. “Alright then, we’re here for the same reason. Let’s head inside and get warm while we figure out a plan, and I guess make our introductions.”
  69.  
  70. >You quizzically tilt your head to the side.
  71. “That looks like a hot bowl of soup…”
  72. >”It is a MONSTER, Sir Anonymous. At least try to pretend you’re taking this seriously!”
  73. “Oh like looking for glory, boy? I am taking this seriously.”
  74. >Blueblood’s artistic rendition of the monster he saw just…left a bit to be desired.
  75. “If we can watch out for the steam clouds-“
  76. >”TENTACLES.” Blueblood insists.
  77. “If we can stay out of reach of THE TENTACLES then, we should be able to observe it with at least some safety…”
  78. >”We also need be aware of its thousand eyes and acid spray.”
  79. >Oh. So those weren’t you hearing things from your war-god induced concussion.
  80. “Great…”
  81. >”I was in the process of thinking of a plan when you arrived.”
  82. “Mm…”
  83. >You close your eyes and lean back against the temple wall, tapping your foot to think.
  84. “What are you even doing here?”
  85. >”I told you that!”
  86. “I mean HERE! In this temple place! What is it? It looks older than old.”
  87. >Blueblood looks up to the roof and glances around. “Aye, indeed…the carvings inside tell that it was a hidden temple from the old world, but I could not say from which culture. As it was, I simply saw it as shelter from the winds and sought to catch my breath.” He says, pushing his satchel back with his legs.
  88. >You tap your foot as you stare into the fire and try to think of an idea. The dance of the flames cast umbral shadows on the wall and sting your eyes as you look at it for too long.
  89. >Lightbulb.
  90. >A glance outside the door of the temple washes you with orange sunlight reflecting off the snow, giving you further idea and telling you that you had a time limit before it was gone.
  91. “I have it.”
  92. >Blueblood glances over to you as you quickly climb up.
  93. “Get your things and put that fire out. We have one shot to make this work and not a lot of time.”
  94.  
  95. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gue_XOOE9ts
  96. “That is downright unsettling…”
  97. >Blueblood and you observe the monster you were both after from behind a rock. It was…a vile thing, floating through the canyon in a gelatinous sac above the ground by some arcane means. Dozens upon dozens of eyes stare in every direction from within the sac, never blinking and observing everything within its proximity. The objects of interest it wraps in its tendrils longer than you twice over, which it holds to one of its eyes to examine before tossing it away. It drifts along the snow and rocks of the mountains, cloaking itself in the shadows of the peak to your back.
  98. >”One of those could squeeze a stallion in half…” Blueblood says grimly.
  99. “Aye, and look at its eyes. The fluid in that sac must keep them moist enough that it never has to blink.”
  100. >”I see…perhaps it is not even able.”
  101. >You glance beyond the Argus Paneoptes towards the end of the canyon, at a rocky crag wall.
  102. “Alright…that gives me the idea. Let’s go.”
  103. >You slide off the rock and stay low as you creep through the snow in the direction of the monster. Blueblood audibly winces behind you and hurries to catch up.
  104. >”What are you doing!?” He shouts in a whisper “At least tell me what your plan is before you enact it!”
  105. “I need to get closer first.”
  106. >”For WHAT?”
  107.  
  108. >You crouch behind another rock and signal for Blue to get lower, to which he complies. You take a runic marking from your belt and hold it at an angle in your hand towards the Argus. You estimate you were about a hundred or so feet from it now.
  109. >The setting sun’s brilliant orange light catches on the polished metal and reflects across the canyon and onto the jellified sac of the Argus.
  110. >The beast wriggles in discomfort, something that would possibly be cute if anything else were doing it, before unleashing a high-pitched screech that makes your blood run cold.
  111. >While you grit your teeth and fight through the effects of the scream, you spot something flying at your location. An attack, surely.
  112. >Your legs will not move, but you force your shield arm to action. In a flash your buckler intercepts the splash of green, viscous liquid with a splash. The snow behind you melts in places the liquid hit and your buckler smokes as even the magic wood begins to pulp.
  113. “For THAT.” You answer Blueblood finally.
  114. >You knew you heard mention of acid.
  115.  
  116. >”What. In Celestia’s name. Are we to do against THAT?” Blueblood wonders aloud.
  117. >You dap your shield in the snow to smother the effects of the acid. You were surprised how quickly it could site and shoot at you.
  118. >As well as how quickly it was recovering.
  119. “Right now, move!”
  120. >Blueblood follows you as the two of you take off running and the rock behind which you were hiding melts in a rain of acid.
  121. >”Plan! Now!” Blueblood demands as panic sets in.
  122. >You however were fine as the icy chill of your combat rush set in.
  123. “Split up! Avoid the spray and try to make some tears in that sac of its!”
  124. >”Are you mad!?” Blueblood when you run away from him.
  125. >You didn’t blame him for the legitimate question, you probably were.
  126. >Closing on the Argus Panoptes, you drag your mace along the ground and catch a fist sized stone with it, batting it through the air until it strikes the Argus dead in the eye-sac. It makes that same sound as before, the sort of cough you’d hear from a disgruntled child, as it turns its tendrils to you.
  127. “Hah! I told you!”
  128. >You duck under a swipe of a noodly appendage and gesture to your companion.
  129. “I told you it would work, now go the other way! Push it down canyon and into the light!”
  130.  
  131. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbnPlyqI014
  132. >Blueblood begins to gallop down the snow field, drawing the attention of the Argus by the glisten of his armor. The monster turns its mouth to him to spit-
  133. “Oh no, that’s too soon!”
  134. >You leap up and swing your mace, catching a bit of skin on it with the edge of your weapon and drawing a thick blue blood.
  135. “Heh! Ironic.”
  136. >The other, friendly Blueblood continues to gallop as his horn begins to glow, he scoops up long streaks of snow in his grip. He presses the snow together into shards of ice and rime that streak through the air towards the Argus as its distracted with you, dragging lines of cobalt ichor along its skin and spilling it to the ground in a frothy gruel of fluid and blood.
  137. >The Argus screeches again, but in pain and surprise more than outrage, and you see the eyes where Blueblood cut begin to squirm and dart around.
  138. “Keep the pressure on!”
  139. >That was the wrong thing to say, as it draws the attention of the Argus to the much closer target: You.
  140. “Uh oh.”
  141. >You dash forward to avoid the strike of one of its tendrils and swear to yourself for presenting your back to your enemy.
  142.  
  143. >Hazarding a glance behind you, the Argus raises both its long tendrils above its body, the speed you’ve seen it move at tells you that you won’t have time to get away from it.
  144. >The Argus unleashes a gurgly roar in its slowly draining fluid sac as one of its tendrils hits the ground next to it. Blueblood races around the crippled side wielding an ornate rapier in his magical grip. “It turned it’s back!”
  145. “And you saved my life!”
  146. >You skid through the snow and take a hard right, heading up a ride and back the way you came towards the Argus.
  147. “I’ll set it up, keep going! We need to get it past the mountain’s shadow!”
  148. >The Argus spots you with one of its still functioning eyes and spits a green mucus in your path. Your old body is too worn to dive in time without loosing a leg at the speed it was coming, but your life is saved once again when some instinct overtakes you and you send your buckler sailing off your arm and through the air with a flick.
  149. >The acid overtakes the shield, but the momentum from your throw impacts the acid and slows it enough for you to slide down the ridge and closer to the monster.
  150.  
  151. >”You need this more than I!” Blue calls, getting your attention
  152. >His fancy saber comes spinning at you just as you turn your head and your arm snaps up to grab the hilt.
  153. “Thanks!”
  154. >Just what you needed!
  155. >You whip the saber forward and slice off the tip of one of the remaining tendrils, slicing clean through with the expertly honed edge of the weapon. The rest of your momentum carries your mace and its considerably higher mass which you slam into the remainder of the tendril, knocking it out of the way and crippling the appendage.
  156. >You plant your forward foot in the ground and step forward as you bring Blue’s saber up over your arm and stab it into the face of the Argus, piercing one of its central eyes low in the sac.
  157. “Paydirt!”
  158. >The Argus screams in pain again and resolves to crush you with its remaining tendrils or melt you down to your bones, but you distract it long enough to escape its proximity by dragging the blade across its body, tearing into the next two eyes before ripping it out and running.
  159. >If it wasn’t going to follow you before, it would now.
  160.  
  161. “Get ready, Your Highness!”
  162. >”What??” Blueblood turns to you in the field of snow just beyond the shadow of the mountain. All around you was fresh, untouched powder dropped by local weather ponies without end that was left to peacefully pile up due to how little anyone came up here.
  163. >You have to lift your legs high to slog through this deep snow, slowing you considerably as you rejoin Blueblood and toss him his sword.
  164. “It’s coming.”
  165. >If you were still running, the Argus would be sure to catch you. But running was the last thing on your mind.
  166. >The Argus floats towards the two of you in the shadow of the mountain, bleeding from half its eyes and leaking fluid from the sac it lived in that stains the snow. The eyes that still function dart every direction as the cold air begins to dry them.
  167. “Be ready…Aim for the lower eyes still moist.”
  168. >”What are we doing, Anonymous?”
  169. “Wait for it…”
  170. >Your eyes dart up the side of the crag you were beside as the Argus encroaches, gripping the handle of your mace tight.
  171.  
  172. >The Argus halts mid-flight once it reaches the edge of the shadow and squeals in pain. It’s top eyes are red and bloodshot as they fail to focus while freezing over and the snow all around you, shining like a torch in the light of the sunset, catches the others.
  173. “Now! Angle your blade and keep it off balance with light to the last of its eyes!”
  174. >Blueblood obeys your command and bounces the sunlight right into the last eyes on the Argus still moistened while you take your mace in both hands and arc it back over your head.
  175. >With a mighty heave you hurl your mace through the air as hard as you can and send it sailing up the side of the mountain, it spirals through the air and strikes a collection of boulders you’d eyed when you entered the valley.
  176. “Now! Down!”
  177. >You grab Blueblood and tackle him to the snow.
  178. >The mace rebounds on contact, but jostles the boulders free, which fall from their precarious height and knock bits of mountain off on their way down. The Argus has time to notice that it is no longer fully blind and look up before it gets crushed under the jagged stones.
  179. >”Cover your eyes!” you hear Blueblood yell when the wave of blood and acid from the creature’s death looms over you.
  180.  
  181. >The sounds of fading magic and snow dissolving in acid meet your ears as Blueblood’s ward falls.
  182. “Your highness, never let anyone call you a lackabout who rides on his royal reputation ever again.”
  183. >”Not…not, dammit.” You hear the Prince grumbling next to you.
  184. >You lift your head up and behold him fighting a spark of emerald magic at the top of his horn. His coat is flashing between black and white while his entire form shifts until the spark explodes over him and his spell fades, returning him to a form you were much more familiar with.
  185. >A silence passes between the two of you. He looks at you with his milky eyes while you register what just happened.
  186. >As soon as the moment passes, the thought cements itself in your head and you’re on your feet, hand wrapping around your mace for another battle.
  187. “What have you done with the prince!” you demand.
  188. >”It’s fine!”
  189. >You leap at him with your mace, but he hops back before you can reach him.
  190. “Where IS he!?”
  191. >”CALM DOWN!”
  192. “I have not lived this long taking suggestions from Changelings!”
  193. >”And if I were attempting to deceive you, you’d be dead again already!”
  194. >You bit your teeth as you come to that realization yourself, as well as another.
  195. “’Again’?”
  196. >The Once-Prince takes a deep breath and speaks with a double flanged voice. “Yes, you fool. I know of how you went off to the far North to meet your end, everyone does. The Princesses held a ceremony in honor of all you’ve done for the Kingdom.”
  197. >That made you feel warm inside, you ever so slightly relax your stance.
  198. “I will ask again, bug. Where is Prince Blueblood?”
  199. >You see him roll his eyes. “At his chateau in the hills more than likely! I’ve never even been near him, just saw his photograph and new his form would be helpful!”
  200. “Helpful for what?” you ask.
  201.  
  202. >The Changeling looks to the runic inscriptions on your belt and breastplate and opens his mouth to answer, but a call from down the valley catches both your ears.
  203. >”COME THIS WAY! STRELNIKOV HEAR RAGING BATTLE JUST OVER THIS RIDGE!”
  204. >”Dammit!” exclaims the Changeling.
  205. “The Stalliongradians!”
  206. >The Changeling runs over to his bags, a flawless recreation of the bags a Canterlot prince would have and digs around in them. “We do NOT have time for this. You need to GO.”
  207. “I beg your PARDON?”
  208. >You didn’t like this insect giving you orders, but he looks back at you over his shoulder with fury in his eyes. “YOU are dead, I am an enemy of the crown, and I know where you come from!”
  209. >Wait WHAT?
  210. >He trots over to you literally hissing. “I presume this beast was YOUR mission, but it was not mine! I stumbled onto this mayhem by accident and if we tarry ANY longer then they are going to find out we’re BOTH here and this corpse will be in every newspaper by tomorrow morning!” he says, pointing to the approaching sounds of the locals.
  211. >”So are we REALLY going to dig up animosity from years ago until we’re both found out, or are you going to take this thing away with you, let me assume the Prince’s form to turn THEM away, and let everyone get what they want and be happy!?”
  212.  
  213. >You were a soldier, not a politician, and this smelled a lot like politics. Changelings were untrustworthy, this one especially since he had the shape of a prince and seemed to know how you were alive again, and both of those made you nervous.
  214. >But soldier as you were, you weren’t an idiot.
  215. “I have no choice, do I?” you ask with a sigh.
  216. >”No.” he says. “Now hurry!”
  217. >The Changeling uses his magic to assume Blueblood’s form once more and gathers his props for his disguise. You run over to the corpse of the Argus and look to the sky.
  218. “Heimdall! It’s dead and the mortals are coming! I need you now!”
  219. >As the clouds above you swirl in the pattern you recognize as the opening Bifrost, you look back to your unlikely ally.
  220. “Just tell me, what in the Hel are you doing out here, Changeling?”
  221. >His answer comes as he uses his magic to toss something to you, a glistening orange jewel that you catch with your hand.
  222. >”Tell Lady Loki that Thorax’s debt has been repaid!”
  223. >You’re shocked stiff twice in the past ten minutes as the Bifrost spirits you and the Argus away.
  224.  
  225. >You blink away the mountains of the Celestial Ridge and find yourself back in the Bifrost Keep in Asgard. Others are here as well, Heimdall watches from his perch behind you and Tyr stands before a group of hooded unicorns who have the corpse of the Argus suspended in some sort of force field above the floor, to keep the acid from eating through, no doubt.
  226. >Before them all was Queen Sleipnir, looking over the corpse of the Panoptes with an expression that could be at best considered “mildly interested”.
  227. >She turns her head to you shortly you register her presence, possibly detecting that you were aware now.
  228. >”What does this make, the second time you have killed something with a rock instead of a weapon?”
  229. >You lower your shieldless left hand and silently place the jewel that Changeling gave you in your pocket, you were intent to figure that mystery out yourself after what you’d gone through.
  230. >But that meant you needed to handle this situation now, so you fall to a joke.
  231. “We had sharp rocks before we had swords, Your Grace, I dare say they’re the weapon we have the most experience in.”
  232.  
  233. >An almost laugh escapes the Queen’s nostrils before she strides over to you. “You slew the beast and solved the problem my son too cautious to do, you as well do not need to be put back together again this time. Well done.”
  234. “Your son was nearly right to leave it.”
  235. >Sleipnir cocks an eyebrow.
  236. “The sounds of the battle drew the attention of the locals, they nearly spotted me before Heimdall pulled me away.”
  237. >Sleipnir looks over her shoulder to the other war god. “Fortunate then that we have the both of you here. One to remain cautious and voice concerns, and the other to ignore them and slay the beast.”
  238. >Tyr nods his begrudging agreement with her assessment as the Queen walks past him. “Throw that in a put where it belongs, then arrange a feast, we will commemorate No-name’s deed today.”
  239. >”As you wish, Mother.”
  240. >That gets your interest, you were never one to turn down free food…
  241.  
  242. >The meal lasted long into the night and featured more guests than any event at the royal palace. They hailed from all walks of the city and congratulated you on your slaying of a Tartarian beast. Warriors you’d seen at the Ulfirborg, visiting diplomats from other realms, even Baldur and Tyr had offered their word.
  243. >Sleipnir informed you that one of her children, Hermod, offered much the same and that the strong gust of wind you’d felt when they brought out the third board you were eating was him, but that he had to return to his duties.
  244. >That was fine with you, as you needed to get out of there to investigate further.
  245. >You walk down the hallway Baldur had shown you on your first day and stop before a section of wood inside of a door frame with a splash of green paint on it in a runic shape. You had seen Loki walk into this sigil when you first saw it, but could she hear you through it?
  246. “Loki?”
  247. >No harm in trying. No response though.
  248. >You look both ways down the hall to ensure no sentry would spot you and, content that they were off getting drunk, rap your hand against the wood.
  249. “Loki, it’s No-name, I need to speak with you.”
  250. >Still nothing. It was like you were talking to a wall.
  251. >You sigh at how foolish you must look, but resolve to try one last thing.
  252. “I met Throax, he gave me something he said would clear his debt.”
  253. >The instant the words leave your mouth, the sigil on the wood alights in a flash of green. You don’t have time to shout in surprise before you’re whisked away.
  254.  
  255. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLp_wePNrZA
  256. >”Show me!” is the first thing you hear.
  257. >You blink the spots away to find yourself comfortably standing on the other side of the sigil doorway in a room that had a lot of attention poured into it. Books, tomes, and ancient scrolls are stacked in almost every corner of the. Next to the bed, the table stocked with fruity drinks and ales, by the window. Plants and greenery made the room smell fresh and natural and on the fall wall there was a tank of water populated by a half dozen slithering eels.
  258. “Charming…”
  259. >”Hey!” Loki, absent from her helmet and finery and looking uncombed, leaps into your vision from below your belt and you notice she wiggles her legs when she jumps. “Show me the jewel, you oaf!”
  260. “Alright! Settle down! By the nine…”
  261. >You reach into your pocket and hold the jewel to her eyes between your fingers. Her eyes light up like Hearths Warming as the light from her room catches the facets, no doubt seeing something you didn’t.
  262. “Beautiful…just beautiful.”
  263. >She reaches her hoof to it, but you pull it back just as fast. You get a puffy cheeked face of anger for your troubles.
  264. “Oh no, not yet. First you tell me what this is and why you had a Changeling getting it for you.”
  265. >”I am sure you’re aware that I can simply make you give that to me, No-name.”
  266. “Just as I’m sure YOU are aware that the first one to find out after you do would be your Mother, Lady Loki.”
  267. >She tightens her jaw when you say that.
  268. “So start talking.”
  269.  
  270. >Princess Loki silently considers your words. “Very well…” She turns and goes to a stack of books near the wall, digs behind it, and produces a chest. Using her magic, she manipulates a complex lock on the chest and produces a single flat talisman with an empty socket in the center.
  271. >”The jewel goes in tandem with this mystical talisman I spent nine months tracking down from Alfhiem and had to beg my older brother to win in a gamble for me. I simply told him I thought it would be a pretty necklace and shed some tears.”
  272. “How cute. Keep talking.”
  273. >Loki sneers at you and continues. “A lie, obviously. The two pieces together form a talisman dubbed Palantir. The tales say that the first king of the Elves crafted it to relive the memories of the older races of the world…and was driven insane by it as a result.”
  274. “And now you want it? There are easier ways to go mad, Princess.”
  275. >”I am not looking to go mad, OAF. I need it for…reasons.”
  276. “Yeah? Like what.”
  277. >Loki narrows her eyes at you “You are annoyingly persistent.” She remarks, trying to change the subject.
  278. “QUEEN SLEIPN-“
  279. >”STOOOP!” she cries with both hooves out, suddenly very much a young filly.
  280. >Heh.
  281.  
  282. >Loki composes herself and takes a breath. “The REASONS…are that according to the tales, the Palantir will transcend time and space when called upon to view anything the wielder wishes.”
  283. “And the “insanity” thing?”
  284. >”Stare into the sun for too long and you’ll burn your eyes, No-name. This is much the same.”
  285. “On today of all days, I’m very familiar with the idea.” You say. Thinking back to the Argus.
  286. “Why then? Why does this interest you?”
  287. >Loki heaves a heavy sigh and looks away from you. “I am adopted.”
  288. “I know.”
  289. >”And what you do not know is that I was adopted the day I was born, the same day my birth-parents died.”
  290. >Ah…
  291. >Loki continues. “I would use this to answer…questions about my past, and provide me direction in…my future.”
  292. >It may have been a trick of the light, but Loki seems to lower her head and look sadder from where you stand.
  293. >Looking down on her with the gem in your hand makes her seem much smaller than the goddess who’d nearly gotten you eaten by Timber Wolves, smaller than the large room she was in by herself all this time.
  294. “…No, it’s fine, me too.”
  295. >Loki’s head perks up and she looks to you. “Excuse me?”
  296.  
  297. >You approach the goddess from across the room, noting her still apparent distrust of you by the way she raises her leg and grits her teeth, but you extend the jewel out to her.
  298. “I said me too. I came here when I was a young boy, no older than you were now, but I didn’t remember a thing about where I came from or why I was here.”
  299. >Loki continues to look up at you, though her eyes dart to the jewel.
  300. “I remember the nights staying awake wondering what reason I had to be alive in Equestria, or questioning the kindness of those who took me in. Growing up isn’t easy, and it’s harder when you have all that going on.”
  301. >You tilt your head to the side.
  302. “You think I didn’t wish for a magic spell that could tell me all the answers I wanted? I did, but I didn’t get it, I had to grow out of those the hard way.”
  303. >You shake the gem at her again.
  304. “So if I can make your road down that path easier, I’m going to.”
  305. >Loki looks at you like you have two heads. “And you…trust my words?”
  306. “You’re a brat, Loki. But I can tell a frightened and confused kid when I see one after so many nights in front of a mirror.”
  307.  
  308. >Loki’s face of disbelief melts off into an annoyed one. “And now I regret speaking.”
  309. “You’ll regret more if you don’t hide this somewhere your Mother can’t see it.”
  310. >Loki’s eyes bug wide open as she realizes that. “…Yes, indeed. This room is enough sanctuary for me for normal life, but even I cannot hide something like the Palantir if it’s complete and inside the palace…”
  311. >Her face shifts once again back to the composed, condescending face of a lifelong royal. “You trust me, No-name?”
  312. “Until you give me reason not to.”
  313. >”And you could have given this to Mother but instead came here…”
  314. “Yep.”
  315. >Loki approaches you and looks you up and down. “Keep the gem.”
  316. >You cock and eyebrow.
  317. >”The pieces are safer from Mother separate than together. I propose a…contract of sorts, No-name. I will keep the base, you will keep the jewel, and we will only use the Palantir together to learn what we desire.”
  318. “And we’ll both have enough on the other that the Queen would bury us if she found out.”
  319. >”Which will keep either of us from telling her.” Loki says, extending her hoof. “Do we have a deal?”
  320. >You contemplate her words, actions, and the look in her eyes before you pocket the gem and shake her hoof.
  321. “We do, Princess.”
  322. >Deep inside you, you feel the faint embers of a mutual bond forming with the princess.
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