The first noise he heard was a sound like paper being crunched together. As if there was somepony crumpling it between their hooves over and over again. As his awareness returned Knick realized it wasn't a dream but an actual sound he was listening to. Knick lifted his head from the pillow and looked over at the source of the disturbance to his slumber.
There was a foggy daylight outside his windows again, allowing enough light to come in for him to see what was happening in his room. The vines that had crept from the portrait of Nightmare Moon had extended themselves all along the far wall of his bedroom. The crinkling noise came from the ends of the vines pushing the wall paper away from the wood in an attempt to spread further outward. The moist tendrils left stains all along the wall and frankly the smell wasn't pleasant either.
"Guess I should have used one of those candles on you." Knick grumbled as he awoke to the awful sight. Looking around he found the silver knife, his ax and Annie's hat all resting neatly nearby the bed. Sitting up on the covers Knick checked his saddle bag and found the only contents left; the key ring, the mint leaf hair clip and his box of matches.
He sat on the covers for some time considering his next move. While he was very happy to have escaped the horrors of the imposter version of Ponyville he was now at a loss. What was he supposed to do? He collected all the books, went through both horror holes, and escaped both locations to come back. However he had come back through the same way he had gone into the other Ponyville. "Am I going to have to go there again?" That wasn't a pleasant thought as he'd barely escaped there before. Could he survive another visit to that terrible place?
Getting off the bed he stretched his sore muscles as best as he was able to. Picking up the silver knife he slipped it back into place under the straps of the saddle bag. Next was securing the hat onto his head and picking up his ax in mouth. If he was going to go back he was going to do so fully armed. Maybe he'd get lucky and find another candle as well. Knick got ready to head downstairs when he noticed something.
Setting his ax on the bed Knick approached his near by closet. The door had been opened and actually had been so since he'd first woken up in this strange building. However he never paid it any mind due to it very clearly having nothing interesting inside. But now as he approached he saw a peg that he'd never installed in his closet before sticking out from the wall.
"Is that a hat hook?" It was really the only thing that made sense for it. Knick didn't have a whole lot of clothes he kept and the ones he did were either kept in the dresser or placed on hangers for when needed them. He pulled Annie's hat off his head and looked it over. Maybe he was supposed to bring this back with him? He didn't like the idea that something so special to his heart would create something evil but he knew how this game was played. Maybe he was reading too much into it and it wouldn't do anything. Not every thing he brought back from that world had haunted his home.
Knick walked up to the closet and sat the hat on the hook, backing up to see what would happen. He waited a moment and looked around the room for something to start acting crazy or change. When nothing seemed to show Knick walked up to take the hat back off the hook. His hoof froze in place though as he reached forward and suddenly a shadow passed over the closet door.
Knick spun around and grabbed hold of his ax, looking for the source of the shadow. He tensed up getting ready for a fight to begin but there was nothing there. The bedroom wasn't that big and anything able to cast a shadow over the wall would have been easy to spot. Knick turned to reach out for the hat again and what he saw made his jaw drop and the ax fall to the floor.
It was Annie. Or rather her shadow. It was sitting in the closet, being cast by nothing at all. Knick was able to wave his hand over the light source, his own shadow covering up hers in the closet but never disturbing her. It was as if she was in the room with him but couldn't see him there. Knick swallowed a lump in his throat seeing the outline of the mare he loved and wanted more than anything in this world to be with. Her image directly before him yet he was unable to do anything about it. "Annie?" Click.
From under the bed there was the sound of a lock turning. Knick looked down confused at what that could have been. Lowering himself down he looked underneath the bed skirt and found a small jewelry box that he'd never seen before. Pulling it out with his hoof Knick also picked up his ax and set them both on the bed. Opening the jewelry box he discovered his newest prize waiting for him; four small keys.
He pulled the keys out one by one and looked them over. They weren't very large and wouldn't be useful for a door. Reaching into his bag he pulled out the key ring and just by simple observation thought to put all four keys onto the ring. Once they were fitted he jingled them on his hoof. "Well this is an odd one. What am I supposed to do with all of you?" Knick glanced over at Annie's shadow again, letting the reality sink into him. This wasn't Annie, it was just another hideous thing designed to plague his mind and frighten him. He wasn't interested in being toyed with further than he already had been.
Turning away from the bed Knick Knack walked for the bathroom and the hole waiting inside there. With how dangerous the hole downstairs had been he thought perhaps the one here in the bathroom would take him somewhere appropriate to his next task. He had hoped anyway, he was running out of places for this horrible collection of his to sit on display in his home. As he readied to enter the hole he encountered another surprise; it was sealed up.
It wasn't just covered with boards like the windows or had an obstruction blocking the path. The hole was sealed up with cement. The red outlines of where the hole had been was still engraved into the wall however the opening was completely blocked. Knick walked up to the wall and ran his hoof over the surface, it felt like it had been there for quite some time and hardened completely. "Well... guess we're not using this exit."
Knick exited the bathroom and made his way downstairs. With the appearance of the new hole he figured that must have meant the old one was no longer of any use. At least that made it easier to figure out where he was supposed to go. "Hopefully I wont end up in that horrible Ponyville again." Knick took a moment to inspect his record player and the display of school supplies when he got to ground level. Thankfully they seemed to have fully recovered from the effects of the haunted items he'd placed on them. If he could find more candles maybe he could take care of the other ones as well. Not that he understood why it was happening or what getting rid of them would do in the first place. But having less horrible things in the place he was reappearing in repeatedly would be nice.
Strolling through the aisles Knick Knack approached where the book case had been destroyed and sucked into the hole to the other world. There were still items all over the floor from when the wind tunnel effect had occurred and pulled him through to the other side. As he got closer he saw the red lines that had magically dug themselves into the wall and another layer of cement in the shape of a circle inside those lines. "Are you serious?"
He ran his hoof over the wall again and found it was completely solid. The holes to the other world were all blocked off now. Knick let his hoof slide off the wall and stared at it dumbfounded. What was he supposed to do now? All his exits had been forcefully removed from him. Maybe the monsters got sick of him invading their world over and over? That didn't make much sense. Then why have him take back the hat and give him those keys? What purpose did they serve? "Well I guess I could cut down the door like I threatened before or..." Wait a moment.
Knick got up and walked straight to the front door of his shop. Looking over the chains that bound it shut he counted the amount of pad locks keeping him sealed in; four. Four padlocks bound the chains tightly together. He had four brand new keys on a key ring that he'd just collected and now his previous exits were sealed off. As if this wasn't all enough of an indication as to what to do next there was yet another new word written in red at the bottom of the door. "Remember".
Knick pulled out the key ring and stared at the door. This was the moment he'd been waiting for all of this time. He'd fought, killed, been injured and terrified all for these keys and this moment of freedom. Now it before him and with a few turns of a lock he'd escape this prison.
So why was he so scared?
Deciding that standing there like a statue wasn't going to get him anywhere Knick mustered up his courage and approached the door. It took some trial and error but with the help of the keys the chains all snapped free from their tension. One by one they fell to the side with a metal jingle until the door itself was free of the obstruction. Knick used his house key he'd received from the other world to unlock the door handle itself and turned it, pulling it open with a slow creak.
Knick really had no idea what he was expecting on the opposite side of the door. He'd assumed it may have actually released him back out onto the streets of the real Ponyville. Perhaps it would be onto the street of the Other Ponyville he'd walked through, or a different spot there altogether. Or maybe it would just hold yet another beast to consume his flesh viciously. As the door swung open though Knick peered through the entry way and saw a field of black as far as the eye could see.
He was very confused by the dark void until he looked down and saw a stair case. Peeking his head into the door way the staircase spiraled down through the dark void onto what looked like a platform made of earth hanging in limbo. Knick backed up and peeked through one of the cracks of his store window, seeing the foggy streets outside but nothing else. He then tried looking out the sides of the door way but it all just stretched out into darkness farther than he could comprehend. "Really why am I so surprised?" He sighed and stepped onto the stair case. It didn't break, it would support his decent.
As Knick walked down the stairs he felt somehow isolated as dread crept up inside him. He had a feeling he wouldn't be going back into that house again. Where ever this lead he was going down and he was going to have to crawl out again to get back home. He planned on doing just that if it came to it. Walking all the way through the dark void Knick found himself on the floating piece of earth and of course the blue door in the golden frame was standing there waiting for him.
Every other time he'd seen this doorway there was a terrible monster waiting on the other side of it for any opportunity to come for him. Now though Knick figured it must have served a different purpose. Or maybe it was now serving its intended purpose all along without the monster to bar him entrance. Knick reached out and turned the handle to the blue door with the gold trim, and entered.
Walking through the door he was more than a little confused; it was on a train. It wasn't just a train car like back in the abandoned field, this care was moving. He could feel it bouncing along the rails as it moved forward beneath his hooves. Knick looked back through the door way to see the black void behind him leading into no where. He sighed and walked forward, the door slowly closing behind him. It had served its purpose.
Knick didn't get very far at all before coming across an open passenger booth for guests on the train, which was much cleaner than the others he'd been on before in the other world. There was a dismal sunlight pushing through heavy fog that shined its way through the windows into the train car. Knick was grateful as it made it easy to see where he was going. Walking into the booth Knick Knack saw on one of the benches inside was a book. Strolling up to it he looked over the cover and saw it said "War in the Stars."
"Hey, I know this book. I used to love reading these stories when I was younger." He hadn't expected to find a book he recognized in this place. Every other book he had discovered was something he'd never seen before and had no time to read. This was the first one he'd not only known but read before. Knick was curious about the small piece of literature that reminded him of his past and reached out for it. He immediately regretted it as a flash of light began to take over his senses.
The young colt was laying on his back staring up at the ceiling of the passenger's booth of the train. He let out a sigh and blew some of his blond mane out of his eyes. He'd been eager to go traveling with his parents as they were visiting different locations for the authors his father represented. However the getting there part was always the the worst bit of it. He usually tried to spend most of it napping but by now he was bored of that too. So with nothing else available he was left to contemplate what he was going to do when he finally did arrive in the next town with his folks. All the while looking around the passenger's booth for anything interesting besides the window.
As you can imagine it was quite a relief to the colt when the door to the booth was opened and a pony his own age walked in. "Dreamer Dust!" He exclaimed and rolled over onto his hooves, walking forward with a bright smile. The violet unicorn filly with the pretty pink mane smiled back, wearing a green hair clip of a mint leaf in her hair. Neither of them had their cutie marks yet but it was only a matter of time before they each finally discovered their talents. The two friends greeted each other with a hug and Knick looked up to see her somewhat imposing father follow her into the room. "Hello Mr. Ink Blot."
"Greetings Knick Knack, do you mind if Dreamer stays with you for a while? I'm sure she'd be bored to death if she was forced to stay in a room with myself." Dreamer smiled shyly towards Knick, not speaking out of turn when her father spoke. Before Knick could reply though a mare earth pony walked into the booth too. Her coat was a deep purple unlike Dreamer's lighter violet one and her mane had streaks of yellow and violet through it.
"Of course Knick wouldn't mind spending some time with Dreamer. He's been looking forward to seeing his friend ever since we started this trip. Isn't that right Knicky?" The mare nuzzled Knick's face and Dreamer giggled at how embarrassed Knick look.
"Yeah yeah, okay mom. I don't mind if Dreamer stays here with me." Knick tried to act tough in front of his friend and that just made his mother laugh lightly herself. When she entered Ink Blot's attention had turned from his daughter towards Knick's mother fully.
"Twinkle Star, it has been too long since we've seen each other."
"It's only been a few weeks, Ink. Mark is waiting in our own booth when you're ready to see him. He's excited to present your new book." Ink nodded understandingly to the mare, a small smile never leaving his face. Knick noted that Dreamer Dust's father never seemed to smile unless Knick's mother was around. Not even when he was talking to Dreamer herself.
"Yes, Book Mark always was more enthusiastic at these events than myself. Much better at public speaking too. I always preferred more meaningful one on one conversations." The way he said it made Knick kinda... well oddly cautious. He looked to Dreamer to see if she was thinking the same thing but noted her eyes were on him only.
"Well you can get a one on two when we get back to the booth." Twinkle joked lightly and then turned to her son, giving him a nuzzle. "You two behave now while we're gone. I'll come by to check on you later and get you set up with lunch."
"Okay mom." Knick responded lovingly despite the embarrassment of having his mother fawn over him so.
"Yes Mrs. Twinkle Star." Dreamer Dust replied politely which earned her a nuzzle from Knick's mother as well. Twinkle turned to leave the car and Ink Blot looked down at his daughter seriously.
"On your best behavior now. I'll see you soon."
"Yes daddy." Dreamer said obediently and Ink Blot nodded, leaving them in the passenger booth after the door closed. Once he was gone Knick Knack turned eagerly to his filly friend.
"Boy am I glad that you decided to come with your dad to this book signing thing. I would have gone crazy if I'd been stuck in here for another minute without somepony to talk to." Dreamer giggled and reached back, taking off a saddle bag she'd been wearing when she entered. As she tossed it onto the bench it opened a bit to reveal books inside. "What's all that."
"Magic books. Daddy says I shouldn't neglect my studies just because we're going on a trip." Made sense, as a unicorn magic was something she studied pretty regularly. Most of the Canterlot schools specialized in it. Knick was a student there too but as an earth pony he usually had to take different classes than Dreamer Dust. They had some together too but Canterlot was a big place with a big school where they had to make time for each other if they wanted it. "Did you want to read one of them?"
"Aww you know I can't do magic. But now that you're here there is something we can do together."
"What is it?" Dreamer's eyes lit up at the suggestion, excited at the prospect of spending some time with her friend. Her smile lowered though as he walked over to the door and slid it open, looking down the hall way to see if there were any adults coming their way.
"Lets explore the train!" Knick Knack said it with enthusiasm but Dreamer Dust just looked disappointed. She backed up looking away from Knick.
"Oh... but... my daddy said we should behave." Knick knew he'd landed Dreamer in trouble in the past with her father because of his antics but that had been forever ago. Now that they'd grown up some he figured she'd be a little braver.
"He wont know, we'll head towards the back. All the regular ponies ride in the coach cars and they wont mind if we just walk around and say hi." Knick approached with a reassuring tone but Dreamer still didn't look convinced. "As long as we don't go walking through first class they wont see us."
"My daddy will know... he always knows." Dreamer said almost a bit fearful and Knick was surprised at her. Sure her father was a little scary but he didn't think she was actually afraid of him. "He always knows everywhere I go. That way nothing bad will happen to me."
"You don't have to be scared, I'm with you. I'll keep you safe from anything bad that comes our way." Knick puffed his chest to try and look heroic as this usually seemed to be enough to convince her to go along with whatever plan he might have. But this time she just got up on the bench where he'd been sitting before and laid herself down on it.
"I'm sorry Knicky... I really want to go with you. But my daddy will get mad. Besides, what if the Pony Snatchers find us if we wander away too far?" Knick rolled his eyes at the suggestion. Not this again.
"Dreamer Dust, don't you think you're a little old to believe in stories about Pony Snatchers?" He teased her a bit but Dreamer didn't even look upset with him. She just continued to look fearful.
"They're real." She simply stated.
"Dreamer Dust, there's no such things as Pony Snatchers. Even if there were I'd protect you from-"
"They're real, I've seen them." Knick stopped and looked at her seriously. It was the first he'd heard of her actually spotting one of these monsters before. "They have long claws for gripping onto ponies, and pulling them into their dens. And large eyes for finding them in the dark." She spoke each word in a hushed tone as if speaking of them would summon them here. "So please... don't leave me." Knick just watched dumbfounded for a while, curious as to how she could be so convinced that these creatures were real. He sat on the bench across from her and Dreamer looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry."
"Where did you see them?" She looked up again and stared for a while. "When you saw them, where was it? When did you see them?" She looked off for a while and sighed as she gathered her thoughts.
"It wasn't long after my birthday, when my daddy gave me this hair clip. He said it was to remind me of my mother." He knew so little about her mother, Minty Sweet. Just that she'd met her father a long time ago and that she'd passed away after giving birth to Dreamer Dust. He guessed it must have been difficult for her and her father being left behind like that. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose his mom. "I was coming home from school and some of my friends said they wanted me to come over to play. I knew I was supposed to go home and be there when my daddy got back from shopping. But I didn't get invited out often so I went anyway. It was a lot of fun." She smiled fondly on that memory.
"But when I started heading home it was already dark. That's when they appeared. At first... at first I didn't know what it was. It was coming out from the side of the building and I thought it was a pony or maybe a lost animal but... it was too big." She shivered lightly at the thought of the monster. "It was big and its arm was so long. It reached out for me. It wanted to eat me! I ran as fast as I could back home and when I arrived I told my daddy what had happened. He wasn't angry but he... he was disappointed in me. He said that's why I'm not supposed to go where he says I shouldn't. So I don't want to disobey daddy again." Knick listened intently to the story, wondering if such beasts really did inside the boundaries of Canterlot of all places. After a while he sighed defeated. He couldn't leave his best friend now just to explore because he was bored.
"So what kind of books you got there?" He asked and Dreamer smiled a little that he was deciding to stick by her. She dumped the books out of her bag and sorted through them.
"Um... most are school books but I got some story ones too. One's about a duchess that marries a farmer." Knick made a gagged face at the idea of a romance novel and Dreamer giggled a little. "Well... I got one that's a science fiction story. It's pretty exciting." She handed over the book over to Knick as he read the title of "War in the Stars."
"Well, I like action stories."
When he was able to move his body again Knick pulled his hoof away from the book in a quick motion and backed up from it. He set the ax onto the floor of the train car and sat, staring at the book wide eyed. "What... what was that!?" It was a memory, obviously. One about him from when he was just a little colt. But it didn't make any sense at all. "When... how could... no. No no no. I can't have lived in Canterlot, I would have remembered that at some point. Right?" He asked no pony at all and as expected no answer came for him. Leaving him to come to conclusions on his own.
His mother's name was Twinkle Star and she was very pretty. He couldn't remember his father's face no matter how hard he tried but now he knew that his name was Book Mark. Now that he was grasping memories of them again he couldn't believe he'd ever forgotten his family. His mother was so sweet and loving and kind, why would he ever want to lose anything associated with her? Seeing her face again had been nice but focusing on his mother kept him from acknowledging the real shock; he'd known Dreamer Dust when they were little.
Knick reached into his saddle bag and pulled out the green hair clip of a mint leaf. It had been hers. Back in the real Ponyville Knick remembered when Dreamer Dust had first moved into town. He'd been the stallion in charge of the Curiosity Shop after his grandfather has passed away and everyone was curious about the new unicorn that moved to town. Dreamer had always been bubbly and outgoing, everyone made friends with her easily despite her being different because of her magical talents. She became a part of their circle of friends quickly. So why didn't she remember him?
"Did she forget like me? Did something happen to us that we didn't remember our pasts anymore?" The more he thought about it the more Knick realized he never spoke about his past before he moved to Ponyville. To him there had just never been anything to say as he didn't really recall anything before the time he moved there. Dreamer had been pretty similar with the way she always avoided talking about specifics from her time before moving there. But she did have a few stories of when she lived in Canterlot and was growing up there. "Did she lie about not knowing me?"
That seemed oddest of all if it was true. Knick Knack had always suspected secretly that there was a possibility Dreamer Dust had a crush on him. She was very friendly towards Knick and was never shy about getting close to him. Knick just figured he was seeing things that weren't there and for the sake of his relationship with Annie never dwelt on the idea of it. But now knowing that they shared a past together things were so much more complicated.
"We have a lot to talk about when I get out of here." Knick put the hair clip back in his saddle bag. There was a mystery to solve but he'd have to approach it some other time. While it was a shock that the unicorn next door was actually his foalhood friend he was more interested in his parents and how he could find out more about them. "Dreamer's dad was kind of creepy though. I'm positive he was checking out my mother." He guess that made sense; his mother was pretty and from what he could remember Dreamer Dust's mother had passed away giving birth to her. "I guess he was just lonely." Maybe he and his daughter both were.
Knick picked his ax up again and stepped out of the passenger booth. The train car wasn't that long and the next exit going up was close by. Walking down the hallway Knick slid open the door that was to lead to the next train car and saw the black void before him. At his hooves was a spiral staircase going down into the abyss. Guess he was on the right track.
Knick proceeded down the stairs as carefully as the first set. He didn't want to risk falling off the staircase and into the black pit. That would be an awfully stupid way to die after everything he'd survived up until now. His steps echoed against the vast nothing until he reached the patch of earth floating in the void with the same blue door with the gold trim. Bracing himself he lifted his hoof and turned the handle, opening the door to enter the next mysterious location.
Walking through this door released him into a school class room. Knick proceeded inside and looked around carefully for any sign of danger, the door closing slowly behind him as he did. He noted there hadn't been any sign of a threat from his watch since he exited his shop through the black void. Perhaps where ever he was those monsters couldn't follow or reach him here? Keeping his ax close at the ready he walked further into the classroom.
The windows let in sunlight through a thick cloud of fog outside. He wasn't sure if he'd see somepony out there even if they pressed themselves to the glass. It made it easier to navigate though as he walked along side the rows of desks and stopped when he found a book. Setting down his ax he looked it over. "Hey now, this is a guidebook for that Laboratories and Lasers game."
Similarly to the game board he'd seen set up in the dark other world school he'd been forced to walk through previously here now was a rule book for the game itself. It was the only book in the whole classroom and the only thing that stood out amongst the drab interior. Knick sighed staring down at it. Since he'd already gone down a spiral stair case into this room he had an idea what purpose the book would serve. Reaching out with his hoof Knick placed it on the rule book and let the white light take him through to another memory.
Knick Knack looked over his options as he had a very important decision to make. One that would decide the fate of not only his own life... but the lives of those around him. As he reviewed the choices carefully he finally came to a decision with clarity of what should be done. "I choose the Ice Ray."
"You're sure?" The other pony across from him asked seriously. "Once you make this choice, there's no going back." Knick nodded in agreement.
"The Ice Ray, no doubt." The Pony lowered his head to read the text before him and then looked around to the group of colts.
"Very well then, you take the Ice Ray and continue on your journey into the laboratory of Doctor Ponsano. The Ice Ray gives you an attack bonus of 30 and an additional freezing effect to all opponents. Hydrolic and Steam opponents take an extra plus five damage."
"That's why Knick's the Engineer on the team. This colt always picks the best equipment." An Earth Pony on Knick's right side of the table commented, nose deep in a comic book as usual. The brown colored colt wore a fedora on his head and had glasses before his eyes from all the intense reading he did. His cutie mark that of a lock around two chains with a key, a talent for picking and building locks being part of his family.
"Bucking A, Knick! Lets get in that lab and kick some flank!" The colorfully speaking earth pony on his left encouraged, who possibly had the most patriotic cutie mark you'd ever seen. Amber Joe's mark was that of a shield with the symbol of Equestria itself emblazoned on it. His body covered in an amber coat like his name with a short, slicked back black mane. Joe always seemed like a pony of action and energy and Knick figured he'd eventually find his way into the royal guard. He just hoped his enthusiasm didn't get him in trouble one of these days. Joe had a reputation of being angry.
"Alright guys, ready to meet the Science Master? I'm telling you now no matter how well your characters are equipped, Doctor Ponsano is going to throw you for a loop." The fairly cheerful unicorn smiled from behind his game board that covered his books and sheets. As the Lab Director or LD of the games they played he was always looking for a new challenge to throw at his friends and they ate it up. The green unicorn with the dark brown, unkempt mane was one of the few good unicorn friends the earth ponies had. But here it didn't matter if they were unicorns, pegasi or earth ponies; here they were gamers. The green unicorn with the cutie mark of a spoon lit up his horn with magic and rolled some dice behind the board. "Roll for initiative."
"Hey hold up a sec Spoony, doesn't Knick have to get going real quick?" Spoony was the nick name Table Spoon had earned a while back, having a talent in cooking that ran through his family. Joe looked annoyed they were interrupted but Link was right, time had slipped past Knick and he hadn't noticed.
"Sorry guys, don't mean to hold things up. I'll be back before lunch is over." Knick stood up from the table and gathered his saddle bag. The quartet usually met in the home room for their class on their lunch hour every chance they got, eager to continue their game together. It was a bit of a hassle to set up and put away all within lunch time but they'd gotten good at it and were able to play after school when time allowed.
"Well we wouldn't want you to keep your marefriend waiting now, would we?" Table Spoon commented and it got a small laugh out of the other two earth ponies in the room. Knick rolled his eyes with a sigh.
"She's not my marefriend, we've been over this a dozen times. She's just a friend who's a mare. Heck we've been like brother and sister since we were little."
"Except you're not brother and sister, and she's pretty hot." Spoony exclaimed and Link Lock nodded in agreement. "And the two of you meet every day to say hi to each other, alone behind the gym where no one can see you. And you're always in a hurry to make sure you don't disappoint her." The trio of males were all looking at Knick with Table Spoon's repeated points and Knick rolled his eyes again.
"Fine, believe whatever you like. If you want to think she's my marefriend, go ahead. I'm sure the school will be in an uproar." He did always try to meet her in private but Knick didn't think it was so she could get alone time with him. Rather he figured that she just... didn't want to be seen with an earth pony. They already were pretty rare in Canterlot and even with their history as kids Knick knew that it was a reputation killer to hang out with him. Link, Joe and himself were lucky Spoony was as much of a nerd as they all were.
"Hey I don't see what the flank you're so upset over. I mean she's really good looking, and she's bucking good at magic." Joe chimed in agreement with Table Spoon.
"Not to mention talented and hangs out with all the popular unicorns." Of course there were clicks in school, and naturally the earth ponies were left out of the most prestigious of groups at every chance for their lack of magical abilities.
"Plus she looks really good in a school uniform and is the president of the magic club." Table Spoony came back with the final thoughts. "Huh... now that I think about it why did we think she'd be your marefriend? You're no where near her league."
"I'll be back." Verbal jabs from his buddies aside he needed to get a move on. Knick left the school room and walked through the halls to head outside and to his destination. There were a few students in the hallways at lunch, a teacher here and there. The teacher's all dressed in fine clothing for their prestigious ranks and every student, Knick included, in the proper school uniform. For the boys it was relatively easy; a blue jacket worn over a white shirt with a tie. Knick wouldn't mind it so much if the tie wasn't such a pain in the flank every morning to put on. The girls though... that was something different.
They wore similar but slimmer jackets and white shirts but instead of a red tie they wore a red bow around their necks. Cute enough but it was the bottom attire of skirts that often caught a colt's attention. Knick was getting to the age that he was looking at fillies differently than he used to. They were usually pretty but now... now they were PRETTY! Not just pretty but also sexy. Those uniforms did nothing to hinder the thoughts either. Usually most ponies walked around without clothes aside from some accessories and that was fine but those skirts always brought attention to their flanks and haunches and by Celestia if it didn't just beg a colt to look. The worst being any filly actually daring enough to wear panties. That was something you didn't put on unless you really wanted to hide something or really wanted attention paid to it. The school had rules about those kinds of things though.
Two unicorn school fillies were walking by at this moment and once they passed Knick turned his head a little to watch them go by. It was a nice sight until they both looked back at him, catching him in the act. They whispered something to each other and had a laugh at his expense before trotting off. The comment of "no-horn" was overheard and he looked down at the floor as he went out the door. A bit of teasing from his friends was okay, but the outright disrespect he got as an earth pony in an almost all unicorn school was down right awful. It was bad enough he had to take different classed because he wasn't able to study magic but the constant reminder he was different dug at him.
Heading through the practice field there were a couple of unicorn colts that watched him go by, being sure to give him a glare to remind him he wasn't welcome to stay for anything longer than a pass through. Earth pony in a unicorn school was already tough, earth pony meeting with a pretty unicorn filly was enough to get his flank kicked by the older colts that thought he didn't belong here in the first place. Aside from the few cherished friends, Knick hated it here.
Finally out of eye sight from the crowd Knick popped around the corner to encounter a pretty filly face right in his. "You came!" She exclaimed with a smile.
"Of course, I didn't keep you waiting did I?"
"You never have, Knicky." Dreamer Dust giggled as she used her nick name for Knick Knack. She was always a pretty pony and age had just made her prettier as time went on. He tried not to think about her as anything more than a friend but it was hard at times. She was of course wearing the school uniform and had her green mint leaf hair clip in her pink mane. On her flank was the cutie mark of a shooting star passing over top a crescent moon, making it look like a closed eye. Dreamer had discovered her talent for helping people find their dreams and desires around the time Knick had earned his cutie mark of a magnifying glass and his talent of appraising things.
"Oh yeah, so I don't forget my mom got you something." He craned his head back and pulled out a small bag with his mouth. She used her magic to take it from him so he could speak. "They're chocolate-mint cookies. She was making a batch and wanted to be sure I got some to you."
"Thank you Knicky, your mom is always so nice to me." She said the words with a longing tone and placed the wrapped cookies into her own saddle bag. "So are you going to be going with your father to his next client's book signing? It's not that far away, right?"
"Nah, probably not. I'll only go if mom wants to go and even then I might stay behind. They'd have to get the wagon together to bring all the luggage for the trip for three of us and I don't think my dad will want to go to all that trouble." Usually Knick did enjoy going on these trips to different places with his father when ever he got the chance, but he knew there were practical reasons he probably wouldn't go. Plus if he stayed behind he could get in more games of Laboratories and Lasers with his friends over the weekend.
"Don't want to leave your board games do you?" Knick blushed that he'd been seen through so easily and Dreamer Dust laughed a little. "Knew it!"
"Hey now don't blame me. I'd hang out with you if you weren't so busy studying or being super popular with all the after school activities." Dreamer Dust tried to keep her smile up but Knick had known her long enough to see when it was forced. "So um... is your dad still having writer's block?" She nodded slowly.
"Daddy just stays in that study of his most the day, coming out for dinner or sometimes just giving me money for dinner myself. But he still doesn't want me staying out too late unless I'm with an after school club or like with someone he knows." She kicked some pebbles with her hooves absent-minded way and Knick frowned. He didn't like seeing her depressed but he knew how much of a control freak her dad was. Stemming from losing his wife Knick was sure. "Did your father like the present we got him for his birthday?"
"That pocket watch? Yeah, dad actually has it on him all the time now. I think he feels like he looks more distinguished with it or something?" That got Dreamer to smile which made Knick Knack feel a bit better. The two stood there a little awkwardly before Knick decided he should probably excuse himself to get back to his friends. As he was getting ready to speak up Dreamer Dust beat him to it.
"Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we'd been closer?" Dreamer suddenly asked and frankly the question confused Knick to no end. Closer? She was already one of his best friends, how much closer could she get.
"Like what do you mean?" Knick asked cautiously and despite the hesitation in her voice Dreamer moved forward.
"If we had been like brother and sister." She paused to let the words come to her as she spoke them. "Not as if you had been a unicorn too but like what if my dad had married your mom, and we'd grown up together. Do you think our lives would have been different?" Knick stopped to wonder not on her question but why she would be asking something like this. It seemed totally out of the blue and he couldn't pin down what she was trying to get at. He sighed looking for the safest way to proceed.
"Well... I guess it wouldn't be too different than now, right? I mean you're already like a sibling to me, we've known each other so long. Other than maybe having to share a room and toys as kids it would have been pretty much the same." Knick Knack smiled and Dreamer smiled back but he could see there was something more underlying with all of this. She just nodded.
"I suppose you're right. I mean... it was a silly question, sorry."
"No it's okay, nothing wrong with it."
"Besides if we were brother and sister that would have limited us huh?" Now Knick was really confused and it must have been apparent on his face because Dreamer continued. "Like if we were siblings then we couldn't be anything more than friends... even if it was just our folks married to each other. Because that would have been weird, right?" Knick was beginning to get uncomfortable with this line of thought and he decided to say the words that he knew would stop her from speaking further on it.
"Yeah, I guess so. Not to mention that my mom is still married to my dad too." Dreamer looked at him a little hurt then away. He knew... he knew that would just remind her of how she'd never had a mom growing up herself. The closest thing being his own mother for her. But he didn't want things to get carried away. "Well I don't want to keep the guys waiting, I should probably get go-" Dreamer's head suddenly raised up by his own and she kissed him on the cheek, stopping Knick dead in his tracks.
"Goodbye Knicky." Dreamer Dust said suddenly and turned running away, disappearing around her side of the gym. Knick just stood there shocked, putting a hoof against his face where his best friend had kissed him and not sure what to think of it at all.
When his senses came back Knick pulled his hoof away from the book slowly and stood there staring at it. His memories were coming back in pieces around the one he'd just viewed, re-learning about all of the ponies he'd known back then. His close friends in the Canterlot school, the clicks and popular ponies that mocked him for not being a unicorn as well as the teachers and his school life. As it filled in though he tried to process what he'd just learned. "Dreamer Dust was in love with me."
The idea of it seemed too obvious to just ignore. His unicorn friend and best friend from his foalhood had been in love with him, maybe since they were little. She seemed so sad too when he talked to her, getting a distant look any time he brought up either of their families. He wondered what her home life was like, not able to recall any time he'd ever spent with her at her home together. Not all of his memories had returned yet it seemed. But he did recall she was a very popular girl in school and was usually active and cheerful. It wasn't all just a cover up for her real feelings was it?
"She was the one talking to me. In the train yard and the school house, it was her voice that I heard when I was there." Some things were all starting to come together, such as who the source of those whispers from a female had been. Just knowing their origin though didn't help explain the significance to him. Should he have recalled Dreamer's relationship with him sooner? Furthermore she'd mentioned something else that caught his attention.
Knick reached into his bag again and pulled out the old pocket watch that had always warned him of danger lurking near by. The watch had saved him more than a few times now, but there was more to it than that. When Knick pressed on the release button for the lid covering the clock face it still refused to open. Regardless he recognized it now, more familiar in his mind when he pictured it attached to a vest on a tall stallion. This had been his father's watch. His father's old accessory had been protecting him this entire time.
Knick put the watch away, reaching out to pick up his ax and standing still after he did. He intended to move on but all of this was a lot to soak in. He knew his parents were Twinkle Star and Book Mark. He knew that he'd been friends with Dreamer Dust when they were kids and she quite possibly had loved him. Were they lovers secretly? Had Knick done something to harm her in the past and they both forgot about it? That didn't seem right as he figured Dreamer would have hated him even after seemingly forgetting who he was. Back in Ponyville the only thing that kept her from cuddling up to him was the threat of Annie's hoof in her face.
Knick's emotions were all mixed up now. Before his heart had been set on getting home to his love and escaping this terrible place. But now that his past was unfolding before him could he just ignore this? What if when he got back Dreamer suddenly remembered what had happened too? She was a good friend now but they had such a history. Could things be the same between them?
"You'll do what's best for them." His confidence wavered but he tried to stick true to his resolve. Once he got home he'd figure out how to help himself and Dreamer Dust with all of these past memories. Then he'd sort it all out with her and then sort everything out with Annie's family. "Don't think Black Smith can call me a scared little colt anymore after all this." After fighting all these monsters Knick didn't know if he'd be hard as steel or a nervous wreck when he escaped back to his home.
Walking towards the opposite side of the long class room there was another door for him to exit through. Pulling at the handle revealed another spiral stair case leading downward to another hunk of floating earth with a yest another blue door in a gold frame. Knick was more casual as he walked this time, finding these things easier to do with repetition. Looking back on his time in the other world Knick was lucky when he was at the foggy train yard that the giant dog beast or the vile mares weren't the first monsters to greet him. Had they been his first opponents he may have died before ever leaving that first death trap of a convoluted puzzle.
Approaching the door Knick let out a breath and turned the handle, pushing the door open and stepping through into another world of grey filtered sunlight. This was very different this time around though when Knick stepped out because his hooves hit dirt when he did. He was outside this time, on the street where he'd started his run through the woods and fought with the three giant dog monsters. Behind him the door swung shut and Knick saw it was in a gigantic tree trunk that completely blocked to road.
Much like the dirt road of the other forest there was a covered wagon parked there. Though this one didn't have any giant skeleton drivers to pull it along. Just past it was another gigantic tree trunk that blocked the road and had an odd cut in the middle of it, with a branch acting as a door handle to pull it open. He figured that must have been his escape into whatever was after this place. How odd this insane world fit into a sort of logic after he had time to absorb it.
Knick walked around to the front of the wagon and sitting at the opening by the reigns was a book titled "Hoofbeat". He didn't recognize it at all by the title but the book's color and shape was familiar to him. Why was that? It wasn't one of the books from his shop when he was solving the puzzles. Looking around himself there was a field next to the road that let off into the deep woods, also like the dark woods with the blank faced moon he'd ran through. When he was sure nothing was going to jump out at him from the woods themselves Knick reached out and touched "Hoofbeat".
"I still wish we had just taken the train." The purple mare with the yellow and violet streaked mane complained as she walked down the dark road, pulling a covered wagon behind her. "It would have been a lot safer and we would have gotten there much quicker." She wasn't the only one pulling the wagon however as the burgundy stallion with the frizzy brown mane trotted along next to her sharing the weight.
"I know honey but it just would have been too expensive. The cost of transporting all of this cargo and our luggage would have been too high when we could just do it ourselves." The mare let out a sigh and she was nuzzled by her husband, who responded with a nuzzle of affection back.
"I know I just get cranky when I have to walk all this way. When we get to the hotel I'm going to sleep like a rock." The mare let out a yawn.
"Do you want me to take over for you mom? I can pull the wagon." A young male voice spoke up from inside the wagon and an orange face with a blond mane popped out. "It's no trouble."
"That's okay Knicky, your mom just likes to complain." Twinkle Star said to her son with a smile. "It makes me feel better."
"Only as long as there's somepony to hear it. Lucky for me it's such a lovely voice doing all that complaining." Book Mark got a little nudge from his wife for his comment though the two of them were smiling. "Are you doing okay back there Knick?"
"Yeah, I'm just reading." Knick admitted though it was hard to hide that he was kind of bored on this trip.
"What one are you reading, studying for school?" Of course Knick's mom would ask such a thing. She always wanted him to study hard despite him not really seeing the point. After all as an earth pony in Canterlot he didn't know what kind of future exactly would be lined up for him.
"Not really, I was just reading about the Mare in the Moon is all." Knick looked at the few pages in his book that talked about the two great sisters of Equestria's origin and Luna's tragic downfall from her own depression. He didn't understand how anypony couldn't have appreciated her starry nights. He thought they were beautiful.
"Again? You really like that story don't you?" His father commented looking back at him and Knick just shrugged in response.
"I guess, I just wish there was more about Princess Luna in the history books. I mean it seems like there are no other stories about her other than the story of Nightmare Moon. Even then it's just ghost stories for Nightmare Night." Knick complained out loud as he lamented the sorry state of the story he wished he could read more about. His mother looked at him with a smirk.
"I understand wanting to know more about the mysterious and the unknown. Studying the stars is something that I enjoy doing myself after all." The constellation of the big dipper cutie mark his mother wore showed off her talent for not only identifying the patterns of the celestial lights in the sky but being able to guide herself by the stars themselves. "I think if I could I'd like to meet Princess Luna. If she were to ever return to us. Just to thank her for what she had brought to us all every night since she left." Knick looked up at the starry sky as well, then at the Mare in the Moon. He wondered how she was doing up there? If she did come back would she no longer be the evil being that had been banished?
"I still say if you wrote a book identifying all the constellations you'd sell a lot of copies." Book Mark spoke up looking at his wife. Being that his business was as a publisher and recognizing his wife's talent he always encouraged her to share her knowledge with the rest of Equestria.
"Honey, you know how presumptuous that would be? What if I got them wrong? What if Princess Celestia called me out for trying to move in on her sister's domain?" Book Mark rolled his eyes.
"I think the Princess would be happy to see someone take an interest in Princess Luna's old work." Knick Knack let out a big yawn that interrupted the couple as they talked. "Also I think you should take advantage of getting a nap back there with the product."
"I'm fine." Knick stated trying to argue against being sent to bed like a foal.
"Knicky you should sleep, you got up early this morning for school. You need it more than anypony else." Knick grumbled but his mother's kind tone was enough to defeat his protests.
"Okay okay, I'll go lay down." Knick leaned up and got a kiss on his head from his mother before he moved back. "Night mom, Night dad. Remember you can ask me to pull the cart for you if you get too tired."
"Of course." His mother agreed with a smile as Knick slipped back into the dark of the covered wagon. He'd made a small spot for himself amongst the books his father was transporting to Trottingdale for sale. It was tough having to both publish the books and be the one to transport them but it did help save money in the long run and expand his business elsewhere.
Knick let out a large yawn again, curling up and feeling his eyes close. Maybe he was tired... a little nap wouldn't hurt after all...
"MARK!" Knick suddenly sat up hearing his mother's scream. He looked around himself noticing things were different than when he'd rested his head. The road and cover of the wagon was battered with the sound of raindrops, the moon light from outside was obscured by rain clouds. He must have fallen asleep, how long had he been out cold? He was sure he heard his mother's terrified sobs just outside the wagon. "Mark, Mark no! Oh please no! Please don't leave me! Plea-" There was a suddenly bright flash from the front of the wagon, his mother's words were cut short.
Knick sat in the wagon completely terrified. He had no idea what was going and he didn't know what he should do. Something clearly awful had happened and he wanted to go see his parents but he was too scared to move. Instead his head laid down on the floor of the wagon, shaking and unable to comprehend what was going on around him. Then he heard it... steps. Something was outside and it was getting closer.
Knick's body froze and he felt terror seize his heart. He didn't know what could be out there but he knew whatever it was it wanted to kill and the idea of it paralyzed him. As his body refused to move Knick's eyes looked upward to see a rip in the cloth of the wagon cover. At first he only saw shadows outside in the rainy road but then the lightning flashed and thunder boomed and he saw it.
One large eye was staring through the hole in the wagon, staring inside and peering directly towards him. Knick's eyes saw it looking at him and the sight was gone as quickly as it appeared with the passing of the lightning. He laid still even after it had looked at him, not sure if it noticed him amongst all of the books or not. He wanted to run. He wanted his mother and father. He wanted to be free of this terrifying moment. So his mind gave him that freedom as it buckled under the stress of the world around him, and his eyes rolled back into his head as he passed out.
Knick gasped for air like he'd been holding his breath when the vision passed, backing up and dropping the ax on the ground from his mouth. His body was shaking and his eyes wide as the memory filled him and refused to let itself fade. His mother and father... he finally got to see them both again. He finally got to remember their voices and faces, reclaiming something that he had not even known he'd lost. Then as he was reminded of this he was shown how it had all been ripped away from him during that stormy night.
Knick wanted to beat his hooves against the earth in rage but he was too shocked from the flood of memory, the old emotions over taking him and his anger. The paralyzing fear that he'd felt as a young colt on a road trip with his family gripped his heart tightly. He opened his mouth to scream but he couldn't. All he could do was fight the urge to just fall over and sleep. When he was breathing returned to normal finally he knew he had won that fight against his emotions shutting him down completely.
"They were murdered." That was what he'd forgotten, what he'd suspected all this time but hadn't been positive of. His mother and father had been killed and he had nearly been taken with them. Somehow whatever had done it didn't realize he was in the wagon. Or at least he didn't think it had. After he blacked out in his memory he couldn't recall what happened next.
Tears wanted to burst but Knick held them in and used it to fuel his anger. Something had killed his parents and he bet something in this world knew what. He intended to find out. Knick picked his ax up again and turned towards the door in the other giant tree trunk.
As Knick approached he stopped suddenly and looked to the woods. This was the same place as before from when he was in the dark world. The luggage and books from this wagon had been drug to the small camp site with the fire and the rope around the tree. He imagined it was probably still there.
He didn't know why but Knick went into the woods. It was probably nothing though, he'd already discovered in this place what the blue door wanted to show him. There was probably nothing more out here to find. Crushing dead leaves under injured hooves Knick continued to downplay the importance of walking off the directed path. He was sure he'd run into a wall or a barrier or some kind soon.
Finding the old path he'd taken into the woods before Knick walked along it and sure enough there was a patch of thorn covered bushes blocking his advance. Though his road block happened to stop right after the small camp site. Dreadfully Knick looked in on the area. There was no luggage messily thrown about and the fire was out cold. However in the fire place was another copy of "Hoofbeat" that was singed as if it had been burned. The noose Knick had cut up and tossed in the fire was back around the tree as well.
He didn't want to. He didn't want to know anymore than he'd already learned. He'd rediscovered his best friend and his family and watched on as he recalled how his mother and father had been taken from him. What could this memory possibly be? They'd already been killed. Did he stay the night out here after their deaths? He didn't even want to speculate what the noose could mean tied around the trunk of the tree.
Yet, still, his leg reached out and he touched the book on the fire. To his regret the memory began to flood over him.
"Give them back!" Knick wailed into the approaching evening as he felt his air being choked out of him with every pull of resistance. "Give them back to me! Let them go, give them to me!" Knick pulled hard at the rope around his neck. The thick cord securing him tightly to the tree trunk and fashioned into a noose so as to keep him in place. It didn't stop him however from pleading with his captors.
"Shut up pony, I'm eating!" The dog with the bandanna around his eye and the red vest complained and smacked Knick across the face. The colt fell to the ground and watched on horrified as the dogs proceeded to cook and devour his parents in front of him. Their flesh was consumed down to the very bone and the dogs had taken to devouring them slowly all the way into the night. He protested, begged and pleaded with them to leave his parents be but they paid him no mind. Except to hit him when he became too annoying to listen to.
"Pony tastes very good." The littlest dog said, his shirt stained red from the original white color it had been earlier. "It shame we can't eat pony more often." It licked one of the bones clean and tossed it aside. Knick scrambled towards it and with great effort pulled the bone to himself with his hoof, nearly choking himself on the noose around his neck. As the dogs ate his family they discarded the bones apathetically. Each time they did Knick went out of his way to collect them and hold them tight. It was all he had left of his family.
"Why not eat more pony? Why not eat this pony?" The dog in the vest said pointing at Knick happily. "We keep it. We keep this pony and we can eat him later too! Why not find more ponies on the road to eat?" The dog in the vest stood up and approached Knick, the colt holding the bones of his parents tightly as he cowered underneath the beast. "How does young pony meat taste? I bet it soft and easy to chew" The dog reached down and grabbed Knick by the mane. He cried out in pain until the largest dog punched the one in the vest, causing the smaller one to fall over into the dirt from the strike. Satisfied with his display of strength and dominance the largest dog sat down to continue his meal. The lesser beast glaring at Knick like it was his fault but returning to his seat obediently.
When Knick was sure the dog wasn't going to attack him again he got to work, using the bones to try and assemble his mother and father back together. It was difficult not to feel like he was going crazy but as long as Knick didn't think about what he was doing he was fine. Instead focusing on creating his only emotional support from the scraps left by his captors. The largest dog finished with his limb and tossed the bone aside out of Knick's reach. He tried to reach for it.
"Please!" Knick begged as he extended his hoof. "Please, give it back to me. I can put them together. Please just let me have them back." The largest dog not wanting to listen to the colt's cries tossed the bone to him, Knick quickly going about finding the right place to put it on his skeletal parents. "Don't worry mom, I can fix you. I'll put you back together. I promise. I love you." He couldn't feel it but the tears began anew as they ran down his face.
Knick pulled his hoof back from the fire place and stepped away from it. Setting his ax on the ground he laid down himself and let the tears finally come to his eyes. "Oh no..." Unable to support himself he rolled onto his side and stared at nothing, his mind whirling from what he'd just seen. "They ate them."
Tears came but Knick couldn't cry properly, his mind trying to deal with what he learned. To process the emotions of a terrified young colt that watched helplessly as his family was mutilated before him. How could anypony stay sane after something like that? You'd have to... "Forget everything about who you were." That was it. Now he understood why he couldn't remember his past. He'd pushed it out to survive. Just like every other terror in this world he'd put it behind him to survive in the moment.
His legs curled up against him, he couldn't just forget anymore. "Mom, Dad... I'm so sorry I couldn't save you." Murdered. Eaten. Tortured. What was left for this pile of a sad pony in the dirt to do? Could he possibly keep going forward after this? There was another door that would lead him down another staircase. Could he possibly handle what had happened after all of this? Could it even get worse?
"Annie. Have to get to Annie." Knick didn't really know what to think anymore. Something about his past was tied to Dreamer Dust. Somewhere in his past his parents had been killed and defiled before him. He didn't think he could do this by himself but there was a light at the end of this tunnel. At the end of all of these tunnels he'd crawled through. He had to reach it. So Knick pulled himself up onto his hooves, his body never feeling heavier than right now. He picked up his ax and he turned out of the woods.
Knick nurtured his anger, it was the only escape he had left. He couldn't just accept what had happened and move on like his life would be okay after this. For once he had to confront the issues of his past instead of moving beyond them. He would take these memories and use them to cut a path home. Fighting anything that stood in his way without pause or rest.
He could be weak after that, when that beautiful green pony held him again.
Finally exiting the woods and making it back to the road Knick opened the door quickly and found a stair case exactly like he expected. Proceeding downward Knick found himself before another blue door in a gold frame. Where would this one take him? Back to Ponyville? Maybe the cobblestone street he'd first encountered that giant dog beast in? No matter what it was going to be Knick reached out and pulled the handle, walking into the room before him.
What he found next wasn't anything he had expected. The floor of this room was made of wood but it was dirty and unorganized. The walls of this very large space were decorated with shredded portraits and damaged book cases scattered about everywhere. Chairs and desks thrown aside into corners as if someone had scrambled quickly to make a clearing in the excessively large looking lobby. It was big enough to compete with a ballroom in space. Also Knick wasn't alone.
The cyclops unicorn was waiting for him, its black inky body easy to see from the fire light of several chandeliers hanging from the roof with bright lamps. Its large horrifying eye plastered in the center of the flat surface of the mask that rested on its face. It wasn't just the unicorn though, it had brought guests.
The ghost unicorns were all present for the main event as well. Each one of them was tied by a chain around their necks to the wall farthest away from where Knick had entered. The ghostly foal, filly and school filly all pulled at their chains desperately. They tried to escape with tired moans and frightened wails. Only the ghostly unicorn mare with the long grey hair draped over her face stood still. She didn't move or pull or even complain vocally, instead seeming to accept her fate. Knick wasn't of the same mind as her. With a heavy swing downward Knick plunged the ax into the wooden floor. Making a sound that echoed loud enough to get all of their attention.
"I can't say I'm surprised to see you." Knick addressed the large monster who was looking between Knick's weapon and the pony himself. "After all you've been watching me all of this time. Coming out to see me whenever the time proved right. It only made sense you'd be behind this door when I came through. There was one thing though that I never took the time to consider until now. See I'd never had a moment to really think on all of these things that had been happening without some underlying terror trying to steal my life. But now a big question is occurring to me that I need to have answered; who are you?" The cyclops unicorn tilted its head as if it were interested in Knick's words, something Knick Knack found interesting in itself. This monster could reason or at least recognize speech.
"Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean what you are. I'm fairly certain of what you are in that there's no way for me to be certain of what that is. Just you seem to be a part or a piece of all of this place. Maybe the one running the whole show, who's to say? But I mean who is that?" Knick pointed to the mask, the cyclops blinking for the first time and it was so odd to see it blink where there were no eyelids to shut the eye. It was like a moving picture made of flesh. "That isn't your face. I can understand that much now, you're hiding something from me. Not to mention if you wanted me dead you could have easily killed me four times earlier. But you never did, why is that?" The cyclops unicorn made a rumbling noise, like a dog growling and a thunder cloud echoing inside a tin can. It was unnatural.
"That make you angry? Me questioning you? Good." Knick glared at the monster, the eye on its mask was twitching in place now as it looked at him. "I hope you feel a fraction of the anger I feel right now that you've caused me. Understand that I don't know why you spared me so many times but I wont see it as a kindness. You're standing between me and freedom and I will do anything to get home to Annie." The unicorn's mouth opened slowly and a hissing noise came from it. "Maybe you had to save me for this moment but that'll be your last mistake. I'm leaving this place, through you if need be." Knick reached down with his mouth and yanked the ax back up into his teeth. He steadied himself to charge, the cyclops unicorn doing the same and the tip of its horn glowed. There was a crack of thunder as the bright flash of energy shot forward, the beast releasing a lightning like destructive blast. Knick dodged it.
He ignored the pain in his torso and hooves as he ran around the monster, the unicorn turning its head and charging another blast. It fired and burnt the ground where it struck but Knick had dodged it again. He grinned around his ax; he could do this.
While Knick ran the ghost unicorns all reached out for him. Knick was careful to be sure they didn't touch his body remembering the draining feeling the school filly had caused when she embraced him. Still with all of their pulling the ghostly mare didn't move, she just watched through the thick cover of her mane hiding her face. He didn't know why but there wasn't time to question it. Expose the face of the monster and then you can expose the other.
The cyclops unicorn continued to try and assault Knick, looking to back him into a corner but for its size it just wasn't as fast at the orange pony. Knick was surprised it was this easy to outmaneuver the monster, the large lobby like room they were in giving him lots of places to run. At this distance he could time the blasts of the unicorns magic and move before it hit him. While that was fine for escaping the attacks he didn't know how he was going to defeat it like this.
He had to get closer, there was no other way. Running around to give himself the most distance away from the black monster Knick backed up into a corner of the room and steadied his legs. He was going to charge in. He waited for the black monster to light up the tip of its dark horn and when it unleashed the lightning blast Knick moved. Running forward at the one eyed beast and zig-zagging his approach to make it harder to hit him. Soon he'd cut that mask off and reveal his/her face. He was half way there, readying his ax Knick dodged to the left but there was no blast of magic on his right. The cyclops unicorn had held its attack in. By the time Knick understood that it delayed itself on purpose there was a bright flash and a crack of thunder as an explosion erupted around the orange pony.
Knick's body slid along the dirty wooden floor towards his tormentor's front hooves. The ghostly unicorns wailed louder than ever, the ghostly mare pulling at her chain for the first time as she saw Knick fall. His coat was singed and there were cuts about him from the explosion of wooden splinters. His tail was singed badly as was his mane. His legs had curled up against his body and his teeth still grasped hard around the ax. Knick was on the ground unmoving. The black monster began to approach Knick's body, walking slowly as all the ghostly ponies watched on and pulled at their chains. They cried out loud as the black beast stood above the orange pony and raised its hoof over his head, bringing it down with a crushing stomp.
Knick smiled around the handle of his ax, pulling his head away at the last moment before having it crushed beneath the monster's powerful stomp. Swinging his neck around Knick sliced at the monsters leg, sinking the blade in deep and pulling it out again roughly. The black beast shrieked at receiving such a wound to its body, the black inky substance that seemed to form it oozing out like blood. Knick didn't stop as he swung his neck again and cut at the other front leg of the monster, rolling away as it toppled over unable to support itself.
There wasn't much time. Knick charged the beast while it was injured and rammed it so the large unicorn fell to its side. Raising his head he sunk his ax into the monster's side, it crying out as it bled again from the wound. Knick did it again. And again. And again. The ghostly unicorns cried out and pulled hard at their chains, filling the lobby with echoing noises of pain like a choir of the damned. They yanked desperately to get at the two ponies trying to murder each other. Though as it turned out one wasn't trying any longer; Knick had proven to be the better of the two.
His ax sunk into the monster unicorn more times than Knick could accurately keep track of, his own coat was becoming splattered with the black blood produced from the fresh wounds of his victim. Despite having the cyclops unicorn at his mercy Knick didn't stop, the anger he'd been harboring to keep from going mad finally finding an appropriate outlet. He could hack it to pieces, all he needed in tact was the head after all.
Through his blood rage Knick only stopped when he heard the sound of something shatter. Knick looked back to see that the ghostly mare had actually broken the chain that held her in place, the lock that secured it around her neck now on the floor before her. Free of her bonds she ran at the him where he stood. Knick left the ax in the carcass of his opponent and craned his head back, pulling the silver knife free of its secure strap with his mouth and having it at the ready.
The ghostly mare charged at him and Knick was ready, the adrenaline running through his body pushing out all the pain he'd felt from his past and present wounds. When she was finally upon him Knick thrust forward and sunk the silver knife into her chest. The ghostly mare stopped short like she'd hit a wall after Knick had pierced her. Just like at the cobblestone road home these ghosts proved to be weak to silver blades. Knick pulled his head away and left it inside her, grinning to himself over the easy victory after his many battles. He'd proven to be stronger than the house of horrors. "You should have been content just to watch. I wouldn't have had to do that otherwise." The mare backed up and gasped, red blood running down her chest and legs from her wound. She looked up at Knick and the hair parted from her face.
Knick's mouth dropped open as her violet eyes were apparent, her face unmarked and clear. Much unlike the other ghostly unicorns that still stayed attached to their chains with their ripped out eyes and filthy faces. She looked down at the blade in her chest and back up to him, eyes showing confusion and sadness. She was crying. "Dreamer?" The ghostly foal at the wall suddenly stopped crying, her body dropping dead against the wall where it was chained. The ghostly mare falling to floor as well. "Dreamer Dust no! Dreamer... how!? I don't understand!"
Knick laid on the floor before her, holding her hoof in his and not feeling the deathly drain that the other unicorn ghosts had used against him. "I don't... I don't understand! Why are you here? How is that even possible? Oh no, I killed you. I killed you." Dreamer's head began to drop onto the floor, her blood still flowing freely. The ghostly filly suddenly stopped moving as she also dropped dead in her bonds. Dreamer's violet eyes stared at Knick pleadingly. "Please, please don't die. Oh I didn't know it was you I swear. Dreamer please don't go I just learned who you were and who we were together and... there's so much I wanted to say to you when I got back."
Dreamer suddenly gasped hard and the school filly against the wall stopped moving altogether. Knick's hooves were shaking hard as he watched the light in his best friend's eyes slowly fade away as death was claiming her. "No please no please don't leave me. Dreamer listen I know who you are, who we used to be. We were best friends and we lived in Canterlot together and I forgot everything but now it can be okay cause I remember." The blood was seeping into his coat while he laid next to her but Knick didn't notice as he tried to talk her into staying with him. "I remember now and we can all be okay. Just please don't go okay? Just don't go. Just don't go! Just don't-" There was a crack of thunder and Knick felt his body shudder out of his control.
When his body stopped shaking Knick pushed himself off of the wooden floor and looked down at his own body. Through his chest he could see the hole that had pierced his torso. He tried to speak but instead he coughed up blood onto the wooden floor. Eyes wide Knick turned around to see the cyclops unicorn, it was on its hooves again despite the ax sticking out of its neck and its body covered in wounds. It had got him. He couldn't tell the blood on the floor apart from his own now.
Knick desperately tried to stand, to keep fighting, to save his friend (that he had brought to this state). To find the inner strength that had fueled him all of his way. He was barely on his hooves before the cyclops unicorn knocked him onto the blood stained floor again. Knick tried to roll away but it wouldn't allow it, instead rolling him onto his back with its hooves and holding him in place. The monsters eye turned away from Knick and looked at the body of the pure white Dreamer Dust with her grey mane, seeing the blade in her chest and her blood on the floor.
It looked past her and Knick could tell it saw the death of all the fillies in the room. All dead due to Knick's rage, due to him pushing out all reason for the sake of violence and murder. All the destruction caused after Knick had achieved his victory. The monster looked down to him again and lowered its head, positioning the horn over the golf ball size hole in his chest. "Please... don't... I'll..." It didn't listen, instead pushing its horn through the open wound. Knick was overwhelmed with pain.
He couldn't reason or think anymore, he couldn't make sense of what was happening around him. There was no puzzle to solve, there was no great enemy to defeat now. There was just darkness and blood and pain and violence. His hooves reached out for Dreamer Dust desperately looking to her to save him. His hoof searched for hers, instead it found the handle of his silver blade.
The monster unicorn slowly pulled the horn back out of the wound it had made in his torso, its mask now stained with Knick's blood. As it pulled the horn out agonizingly slow it raised its horn and positioned it over Knick's heart. It intended to stab him and end it. Knick stabbed first.
Grasping the silver blade with his hooves he clumsily arched himself forward enough to drive it downward and sink into the eye on the mask. The blade sunk in deep and the monster unicorn reared its body upward with a hateful cry. The mask around its face began to crack and weaken, the eye looking every direction but unable to see with the blade stuck through it. As the monster bucked and kicked around him in pain Knick pulled his weakening body towards Dreamer's. He felt the world shake like it was coming undone.
"Dreamer... Dreamer if you can hear me... I don't know what's happening anymore. I think I'm dying." If he'd been certain of anything in this world he was certain of this. "I messed up. I don't... I don't understand what I did but I messed up. I couldn't deal with it all, it was too much. Dreamer I-" Knick coughed hard and blood spilled from his throat. The black unicorn fell to the wooden floor finally as it died again, the mask over its face cracked and crumbling. "I don't know what's going on but if you can hear me; I'm sorry I forgot you. I love you too Dreamer Dust. Listen if you escape if... if you get out please tell her that I loved her. Tell Annie she was the best part of my life and that I'm sorry I..." He coughed hard, he was running out of breath to speak. She didn't look at him with those violet eyes any longer, he didn't know if any of his words had gotten through.
The lamps on the chandeliers were dimming, the world seemed to be sinking into blackness. He didn't know where he was going but he didn't think he'd be around long enough to see where their decent took them. How ironic if the exit was opening up now. Using the last of his strength Knick made his head turn around enough to look at the black unicorn. The mask had shattered from the blade and fallen from its face. Its identity revealed to him at last. Knick stopped fighting as he finally saw who it was that had been following him all this time. "Oh... I get it now."
The room was consumed in black and pulled into the abyss that created it. Six dead ponies laid upon the floor of the room as the darkness ripped it apart and pulled it in deeper. None of them would ever move again as they had, nothing in this place would escape the dark that held them.
Then there was nothing left of this place an orange earth pony once stood.