A dark shadow approached the kindly hamlet of Ponyville, intruding upon the otherwise sunny day that had graced the community. Preceding the shadow was a sharp dressed gray unicorn whose briefcase and parchment cutie mark strongly suggested an association with the legal profession. The darkness which followed him halted, as he had, at the door of a particular humble residence. After briefly pausing to magically adjust his tie he raised his hoof and knocked on the door.
“Coming!” called a young mare from within. The upper half of the stable door opened and a mint green mare with amber eyes emerged. “Hello!” she greeted her guest warmly, “May I help you?”
“Do I have the privilege of addressing a Miss,” he began, pausing to produce a document from pocket of his suit, which he peered at briefly through his glasses, “Lyra Heartstrings?”
“Ah, very good!” the stallion remarked, “I am Legal Nous, Esquire, executor of the late Dr Victor Frankensteed IV's will. It is my responsibility to inform you that, although you are a rather distant relation, you are, as it happens, the only remaining living relation... making you sole heir to the Frankensteed estate and fortune.”
Lyra's eyes widened in surprise. Opening the bottom of the door, she joined her guest outside. “Fortune? How much are we talking about?” she inquired with growing eagerness.
“Oh, approximately 5 million bits,” the attorney answered as Lyra began excitedly hopping up and down on her hind legs. “The exact amount is, of course, detailed in the late Doctor's last will and testament, which I am providing you at this moment,” he stated, producing the document... and waiting for the excited mare to cease bouncing in such an odd manner before turning it over. As she proceeded to peruse the will the attorney proceeded, “In addition to the fortune is the rest of the physical estate, including Frankensteed Castle.” Looking up, he waved a hoof, signaling the small army of pegasi to release the monstrous masonry manor... which came slamming down precisely on the location of the ominous shadow that had followed Mr Nous into town, briefly lifting him, Lyra, and pretty much everypony and everything else in Ponyville off the ground. As Lyra's eyes shot up to take in the unexpected addition to her property, the attorney enumerated further, “This includes, but is not limited to, a nice long table, quiet well-behaved spiders, and graveyard adjacent. The graveyard in question will be arriving tomorrow, I believe.”
“Oh, okay,” Lyra responded a bit absently as she took it all in. “Wait,” she spouted, raising an eyebrow, “Graveyard? I didn't know you could deliver those kinds of things.”
“Well, the late Doctor was not particularly well liked by the local villagers and upon learning of his passing they promptly set about finding a way to remove any and all traces of his and his family's identity from their community... the graveyard and all previous generations of Frankensteeds contained therein included.”
“Lyra?! Lyra!” came a startled voice from within her home. A cream colored earth pony rushed out. “Oh, there you are! Did you feel tha- GAH!” Bonbon began before noticing the imposing gray edifice that had just been delivered.
“Do you like it?” Lyra inquired excitedly, “It's my new castle!”
“'New' being a relative term,” the attorney interjected, “It is several centuries ol-”
“It comes with a 5 million bit fortune, a nice long table and quiet well-behaved spiders!”
“And graveyard adjacent.”
“It'll be arriving tomorrow!”
Bonbon's eye's grew wider. “Graveyard?” she repeated in disbelief.
Lyra happily nodded.
Bonbon slowly backed her way back into their residence, hoping the dream she thought she had awoken from had merely taken a turn for the strange and she would wake up any moment to the normality she preferred.
Mr Nous turned back to Lyra and pointed out quietly, “As to the fortune, it is contained in the castle's vaults, the key to which is on the table in the grand foyer just inside the main entrance.” He produced a large, old, weathered key whose bow bore the shape of a skull and presented it to Lyra, “This key will grant you access therein.” As the young mare took possession of the key, the attorney offered her one item further, “And my card should conclude my business here. If you have any questions, you now know how to reach me. Good day, Ms Heartstrings.”
“Uh-huh,” was Lyra's absent response as she examined the key.
Meanwhile, outside the Golden Oak Library, a pair of mares converged on the door. “Oh, hello, Rarity... Applejack!” Princess Twilight Sparkle greeted her friends upon answering the door.
“Twilight, darling,” Rarity began, “We know you're excited to test your limits now that you've become an alicorn and all, but we'd appreciate a little warning if you'll be experimenting with such potentially explosive magic.”
“Explosive magic?” Twilight repeated in confusion.
“Ya mean that wasn't you making the earth shake just a few minutes ago?” Applejack inquired.
“No. In fact, I was just experimenting with sensory deprivation so I didn't even notice any shaking,” Twilight explained, “at least not until Spike came to get me to let me know there was someone at the door.” Then something occurred to her, “And why am I the first one you think of when something like that happens?”
“Yeah,” Spike joined in, “Maybe Granny Smith was experimenting with another chili recipe.”
“Nah,” Applejack replied, waving a hoof dismissively, “That shouldn't be a problem since that noise ordinance got passed. And she's real good about abidin' by laws she's helped inspire... just like that one about streakin' that was passed around the time Big Mac was born.”
“Granny Smith? Streaking?” Spike inquired, more to himself than the others, “I'm not even sure how that would work.”
“Spike,” Twilight gently chided, trying to get him off the subject.
The little dragon shrugged, “At least that means it won't create any unpleasant mental images.” Shaking her head, Twilight prepared to bring things back to the mysterious shaking, but... “OH! There it is! The unpleasant mental images!” Spike cried out, holding his head in distress, “I didn't need to see that! I DIDN'T NEED TO SEE THAT!!”
Twilight shoved Spike back into the library with a back hoof and magically slammed the door shut. “Anyway, why am I the first suspect?” Twilight resumed, “Maybe it had something to do with that creepy looking castle... over... there?” Rarity and Applejack both followed Twilight's eyes.
“Oh dear!” the unicorn remarked.
“Now I know that wasn't there this morning,” the earth pony declared.
“C'mon, girls,” Twilight ordered, “I think we need to investigate!”
Bonbon had just woken up when she heard Twilight calling for her and Lyra. She poked her head out of the door and, before answering, cautiously looked to the side... and there it was. “Ugh,” she groaned, her head drooping, “So much for it having been a dream.”
“Bonbon,” Twilight called, “Do you know where this castle came from?”
Lyra's head popped out of one of the castle's many windows before disappearing inside, followed by the sharp sound of horseshoes clattering over stone floors echoing through the empty edifice.
“It's Lyra's, I think,” Bonbon answered, “Not quite sure how or why... and I'm not sure I wan-”
“Princess Twilight!” Lyra shouted as she bolted out of the enormous entrance of the castle, “What do you think of my castle?”
Twilight began hesitantly, “It's...”
“Creepy?” Rarity offered.
“As the day is long?” Applejack added.
“It's,” Twilight tried again, “It's... Where did you get it?”
“Oh, it was delivered,” Lyra pointed out calmly.
“Why I didn't know you could even have castles delivered,” Rarity thought aloud.
“Well, you can!” Lyra exclaimed, “Graveyards, too!”
Bonbon covered her face with her hoof as she muttered, “I forgot all about that part.”
“When the castle was delivered,” Twilight proceeded to inquire, raising an eyebrow, “Was it, by any chance, dropped in place?” Lyra nodded excitedly. “Ah, okay,” Twilight nodded in turn, “I think that clears up that mystery.”
Applejack resolved to clear up another mystery, inquiring, “Where do you get a castle, anyway?”
“I inherited it,” Lyra pointed out.
“Wouldn't it have made more sense for you to go to the castle?” Applejack inquired further.
“Hm? Oh! Apparently the village my late relation lived in didn't want it around anymore,” Lyra explained, “So they had it sent to me.”
Applejack remarked coldly, “How considerate of them.”
“Would you like a tour?” Lyra asked excitedly, “I still haven't explored the whole thing myself, but I can show you around the rooms I've already been in.”
“That won't be necessary!” Rarity quickly replied, backing away. If the exterior was any indication, the interior promised to be a horror show of cobwebs, dust and terrifyingly out of date furnishings.
“And I really should be getting back to the farm,” Applejack explained.
Twilight soon found herself the focus of Lyra's hopeful gaze. “I'd... love a tour,” she finally stated with a forced smile. “After all, a princess should be gracious,” she thought to herself.
With Bonbon, Twilight followed Lyra into her castle. “This is the grand foyer,” Lyra began once past the large oaken door. Stopping beneath a large painting, darkened with age, she pointed out, “One of my distant relations I assume.”
Twilight examined the portrait of the stern yet wild-eyed unicorn stallion. Looking further down she spied the name. “Frankensteed,” she read aloud, squinting to make it out through the dust and grime. More to herself than the others, she inquired, “Why does that name sound familiar?”
Continuing to other rooms, Lyra named them as best she could... “Dining room.” “Sitting room.” “Kitchen.” “Um... a bigger dining room.” “This could be a breakfast nook!” It wasn't long before something occurred to the unicorn, “Hey, Twilight, with you now being a princess, maybe I can let you have the castle!”
Twilight repressed an instinctive “Ick” and responded with a more polite, “Thank you for the offer, but I'm quite content living at the library for now.” Before she could be led to yet another gothically gloomy chamber, she added, “In fact, I should probably get back there before Spike starts to worry about me. Thank you for the tour, Lyra, it's a... lovely castle.” As her host led her back through the grand foyer, Twilight couldn't help but give the portrait one more glance... and could barely repress a shudder.
With their guest on her way home, Lyra turned to Bonbon, “Want to join me in exploring more of the castle?”
“Actually,” Bonbon began, pausing briefly as she searched for an excuse, “I was just about to go to the market to get some fresh carrots to go with dinner tonight.”
“Okay,” Lyra smiled as she turned to resume exploring... only to quickly turn back with an excited, “Ooh! OoOoOoh!” Bonbon turned to see Lyra happily prancing in place. “We can have dinner here in one of the dining rooms!”
Bonbon stared at her for a moment before uttering, “Peachy.”
There were no words to express Twilight's relief at returning to the library, all she could do was sigh as she was wrapped in the light and life of the tree. It was a welcome remedy for the feeling given off by the cold, dead stone of Lyra's 'new' castle.
“Were you checking out that castle?” Spike asked, “Where did it come from?”
“I'm hoping to figure that out soon,” Twilight answered. “It's Lyra's,” she specified as she scanned the shelves, “At least it is now. But it used to belong to somepony named Frankensteed.”
“Frankensteed?” Spike followed skeptically.
“I know I've heard the name before,” Twilight pointed out. Her eyes lit up as she found the tome for which she was hunting, “Ah! Notable Ponies in the History of Equestria!” Twilight levitated the book to a nearby stand and began flipping through the pages.
Just as Twilight had returned to her library, Lyra stumbled upon her own. Her eyes roamed randomly over the books; not being too terribly interested in literature, the titles and authors' names held little meaning for her. She was just about to move on when she happened upon a familiar name. “Frankensteed! He's an author?” Lyra levitated the book from the shelf to get a better look. “Anatomy” she read.
“Here we go, 'Frankensteed',” Twilight announced, “Only one listed.” Spike peeked up onto the stand as she read, “Doctor of anatomy... published several books... That's probably where I heard the name from.” Her eyes widened as she continued to read silently. “Oh geeze.”
“What?” Spike asked.
“He was a doctor, renowned for his discoveries in functional anatomy,” Twilight pointed out, “Until a family servant exposed his grossly unethical methods and bizarre experiments.”
Spike wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer, but his curiosity forced the question out, “Uh, how bizarre?”
“Well, there's mention of interspecies limb transplantation for one,” Twilight began, “Apparently, he also hypothesized that you could 'build' a completely new species, but died before he could attempt anything.”
Lyra skimmed along the books bearing the Frankensteed name, until a certain word in a title caught her eye. “Mythical?” She went back to that book for a closer look. “Conjectural Anatomy of Mythical Creatures,” she read aloud. It flew off the shelf as she levitated it to the table nearby, dust exploding from the surface as the heavy text slammed down. Lyra blew away the dust and waved her foreleg to clear the air as best she could before cracking open the book. She flipped through the first few pages until she found the table of contents.
“Do you think we should tell her?” Spike queried.
Twilight rolled the thought around in her head for a moment. “Mm... no,” she finally decided, “She was so excited about inheriting the castle. She may want nothing more to do with it if she heard about this... after all, the ponies who lived in the village it came from didn't want it around any more.”
“Think we should tell anyone else?”
“No... then Lyra might have all of Ponyville telling her to get rid of it,” Twilight reasoned, “And when you get right down to it, even though the castle's history might be unpleasant, there's nothing about it that would adversely effect anypony. What harm could it do?”
“No, no, no, no,” Lyra muttered as she ran her hoof down the list of mythical creatures. Suddenly, there it was! Her eyes shone as she breathed the word, “Humans.”
When Bonbon returned from the market she briefly considered trying to find Lyra, but wasn't too keen on exploring the castle alone. Instead she decided to go right to making preparations for dinner. As the earth pony started setting out ingredients it occurred to her that it might be a little awkward to carry hot food all the way from within their cottage into one of the castle's dining rooms... and perhaps Lyra's earlier enthusiasm had started to rub off on her, but she actually decided to not only eat in the castle but cook there. Bonbon was pleased to discover that the spiders were indeed well-behaved and that the kitchen Lyra had pointed out earlier didn't need nearly as much work to make usable as she'd feared. To top it off, the kitchen and dining room seemed considerably less creepy once the trappings of occupation started to appear.
Lyra had become so lost in the work of her distant, long deceased relation that she initially didn't hear Bonbon calling her for dinner. It wasn't until one of the spiders crawled onto the page she was reading and seemed to point to the door that she once more took notice of the outside world.
Preceded by the helpful spider that had alerted her to dinner, Lyra entered the now well lit dining room and was delighted. “Oh, Bonbon!” she squealed, bouncing happily, “I thought I was going to have to drag you in here!”
“I guess it's not all that bad,” Bonbon admitted, serving up Lyra's helping. It's then that she noticed the book Lyra had brought with her, “Oh, did you find the book in the castle?”
“Uh-huh!” Lyra answered, “I found it in the castle's library! And check it out...” Levitating the book, she quickly flipped through the pages to her favorite part, “Humans!”
Bonbon smiled, “Only you, Lyra.”
“And it was written by a Frankensteed, one of my relations.”
“Must run in the family,” Bonbon chuckled.
As they ate, Lyra just couldn't leave the book alone, reading as she ate. “The level of detail is amazing,” she stated, “He thought of everything! And it would all work!”
“Well, you might want to check with a doctor,” Bonbon smiled, “I think they're a bit more qualified than you are, even if it is a human.”
“But that's just the thing, this was written by a doctor,” Lyra countered, “And there are several books by him in the castle's library, all about pony and animal anatomy, even medicine. This guy knew what he was talking about! In fact, with the level of thought and detail he put into this, a pony could probably build a human.” Bonbon choked on her soup. “You okay?”
Waving a hoof, Bonbon assured her, “I'm fine, I'm fine.”
As night settled in, Bonbon was reassured that even Lyra wasn't quite up to spending a night in the castle... at least, not yet. But that didn't mean Lyra slept much in their cottage that night, either. She just couldn't get her muzzle out of that book. With all the thought Dr Frankensteed had put into estimating human anatomy, it almost made them real... even more real than Lyra had always felt in her heart. So many ponies rejected humans as fantasy because of all the typical incongruities you find with fantastical creatures, but this book! It answered everything!
Maybe... maybe if she presented such information calmly, with scientific clarity, perhaps other ponies would start to see humans as something other than fairytale creatures. Perhaps there would be ponies, such as herself, who would be willing to investigate the possibility that humans may actually exist. Might even express an interest in carrying out expeditions into the far reaches of Equestria, carry out archeological digs to search for remnants of ancient human settlements.
It all started to come together in Lyra's mind. With the knowledge in Dr Frankensteed's books, she could lay it out, prove to the skeptics that they're wrong, shoot down all of their arguments. She could. She would. Perhaps through a... a... symposium? Yes! She'd host a symposium and invite believers and skeptics alike! “But it'd cost a fortune to advertise any farther than Ponyville... the Canterlot Chronicle alone...” she thought. Then she remembered, and shouted aloud, “I have a fortune!”
Bonbon looked up from the morning paper and, at a loss for anything else to say, simply replied, “Yes. Yes you do.”
Lyra began laughing, cackling really, as everything seemed to be falling into place. For her part, Bonbon slowly lifted the paper and tried to get lost in the article she'd been reading. Both, however, were soon distracted by a knock at the door.
“You'd better be the pony we're delivering this graveyard to,” the pegasus stallion at the door stated to Lyra, “Because we'd really like to be rid of this thing.”
“Oh!” the mare suddenly remembered, “I forgot to have a spot excavated for it!”
“Not our problem, ma'am,” the stallion replied, “Just tell us where to drop it and we'll be on our way.”
“No, wait, tell you what,” Lyra responded, “Just hang around while I have a spot prepared for it and you and your team can just plop it in!”
The exuberance with which she made the suggestion stood in sharp contrast to the dour expression on the stallion's face as he countered, “Lady, you don't have the bits to convince me to do that.”
A few moments (and several bags of bits) later there was a graveyard full of Frankensteeds in a holding pattern over Ponyville. And a few minutes after that, Applejack, Big Mac, and all three Cutie Mark Crusaders were busy excavating earth next to Lyra's castle.
Once the work was completed, Applejack inquired, “I bet yer puttin' in a nice big pool to go with your new 'palace', aintcha?”
“Nope,” Lyra chirped as she motioned to the pegasi overhead.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked up from checking each others' flanks for earth-mover cutie marks and watched as the last of the Frankensteed estate descended towards the space they'd helped excavate.
“What do you think it is?” Apple Bloom asked her fellow Crusaders.
“Beats me,” Scootaloo answered honestly.
“I bet it's a flower garden!” Sweetie Belle squeaked hopefully. Her spirits dimmed considerably, however, when the tombstones came into view.
“Wow,” Apple Bloom remarked as she watched the graveyard settle into place, “That's...”
“Creepy?” Scootaloo offered.
“Scary?” Sweetie Belle offered, herself, her voice wavering.
Applejack leaned in to her brother as she confessed, “Y'know, yesterday when she said y'could have graveyards delivered, I thought she was joking. I really thought she was joking.”
“Thank you all so much for your help!” Lyra stated happily, “And, while you're all here, can I interest any of you in a tour of the castle?”
“Nnope,” Big Mac answered.
“Ah'll pass,” Applejack replied, “Again.”
“Yeah, an' we got important Crusader work to do,” Apple Bloom explained, “Right girls?” Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo quickly agreed.
“Oh, that's okay,” Lyra responded as they departed. Turning, she declared, “I've got important work to get started on anyway!”
For the rest of the day and all through the night Lyra worked writing letters to papers and journals throughout Equestria requesting a notice be put out announcing her symposium. Each was accompanied by sufficient bits to ensure that any formalities she had overlooked with such requests would be similarly overlooked by their respective staffs. It didn't take much to convince Mayor Mare to set aside town hall on the dates Lyra requested, what with the promise of ponies (and their bits) from all over Equestria coming to Ponyville.... even if it was for something as silly as humans.
With the initial steps out of the way, Lyra threw herself into preparing her own presentation for the symposium. Ponies saw very little of her for those days except when she was around to dispatch correspondence with those wishing to make a presentation, even Bonbon usually only saw her when she emerged from her books for meals. To accommodate her studies, Lyra had fixed up one of the bedrooms in the castle to which she would retreat with one or more books when the hours grew late. Many a night she would read until sleep overtook her, leaving the spiders to outen the lights... and occasionally to pull a book from under her face so she wouldn't drool on the pages.
As the day approached ponies began to arrive in Ponyville. There weren't quite as many showing up as Lyra had hoped. But the lack of numbers did little to dampen her spirits as she eagerly offered to put up those ponies wishing to make presentations in the castle and with an ample donation of bits, the Cakes provided catering services for Lyra's guests. Over dinner one night they agreed to a speaker schedule and had programs printed up the next day to be distributed to attendees at the door as they arrived for the symposium.
On that day, Lyra was practically bouncing off the walls. She watched as ponies arrived at town hall, awaiting what she assumed would be a surge arriving in the minutes before the scheduled opening. However, awaiting such a surge left her unaware of how quickly time was ticking down and was genuinely startled when Bonbon pointed out to her that it was time to begin. The perpetual smile Lyra had been wearing the entire day up to that point vanished as she peered out at the anemic crowd. She was certain there would be more than that. But her optimism appeared to kick back in as she trotted out onto the stage and announced, “I know we're scheduled to begin, but we'll give everypony another half hour to get here. After all, we wouldn't want anypony to miss anything!”
After the half hour, the surge of late arrivals Lyra had hoped for still had not materialized. However, any disappointment she may have felt was belied by her enthusiasm as she stepped out and finally got things rolling. “I would like to thank everypony for coming here today,” she began, “As you all know, we are here to talk about our favorite topic...” here, any pretense at holding back her excitement vanished, prancing in place as she announced, “HUMANS!” Lyra paused for the cheers she anticipated, only to receive rather tepid applause. “Anyhow, We have a number of presenters, each offering a different take on the mythology and existence of humans. After each their will be a short 'Q and A' with the audience. So, without further ado, we shall begin with Ms Feathersong who will read a selection of classic poems about humans and what they tell us about what ponies of earlier generations knew about these amazing creatures.”
To another round of tepid applause, Lyra exchanged places on stage with a rather mellow looking earth pony. She placed her small collection of poems on the podium that had been set up a little off to the side. With a gentle voice, she began with the first poem, entitled The Humyn, “Humyn! Humyn! Burping loud, in the forests of the proud...” This elicited the first round of scattered snickering that was to accompany each poem.
The snickering ultimately accompanied each presenter in turn as day progressed into night. Particularly that of “Wild-Eyed” Loon, who demonstrated what he believed was the human mating call he claimed to have heard during a camping trip many years previous... “Chrome! Chrome! BOP-BA-DA-WE-BOP!”
Lyra's own presentation, being the most elaborate, came last. Employing the easel set up earlier by the pony that had done a presentation of artwork, she set up diagrams of human anatomy that she had made based on those in Frankensteed's book. Lyra excitedly pointed out in detail how humans would work and how all the various elements described in mythology, art, and poetry worked together and could easily be explained by their anatomy. When she was finished she invited any and all questions the ponies in attendance might have. Lyra peered out eagerly over the sparse assembly of ponies, this is what she'd prepared for. She was ready for any honest inquiries and even the snide queries from the skeptics. Turns out all she got was a one question by an adolescent about human reproduction. Yes, she was even ready for that. After she had answered the question in, what was for the youth, an embarrassing level of detail, and ascertaining that there were no further questions, proceeded to close her symposium on humans.
“I would like to thank you all for coming,” Lyra began, “And I would especially like to thank all the presenters who had volunteered their time and knowledge! I hope we have helped to enlighten your minds, and maybe even sparked new interest in these fascinating creatures! And who knows, perhaps we may yet discover evidence of their presence in our modern world!”
Bonbon greeted Lyra as she descended from the stage, “That was... interesting.”
“I know! Right?” Lyra practically chirped.
As most ponies exited the building, Twilight Sparkle made her way over to Lyra and Bonbon, intending on congratulating the unicorn on hosting such an orderly and informative event. However, another unicorn stepped in front of her just as she was about to speak. Given he seemed genuinely oblivious to the fact he had cut in front of anypony, she was willing to politely wait her turn. When she recognized him as a professor of anatomy that taught in Canterlot, she was assured her decision to defer was the appropriate one... and she was genuinely curious about what he wished to say to Lyra.
“That was a most fascinating presentation, Miss Heartstrings,” he began.
“Oh, thank you!” Lyra beamed.
“It was an impressive effort to explain a fictional anatomy based on what I assume is an amateur's understanding of existing anatomy,” the professor continued, “Because of the amount of effort you clearly put into it I didn't want to embarrass you during your Q and A by citing the obvious flaws that only studied anatomists would notice. If you want to pursue further understanding of anatomy I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so... we could always use more doctors. But, if you do so I don't want you to be too disappointed when you discover that no amount of tinkering could make the human anatomy actually work.” The corner of Lyra's mouth twitched. “As one of my instructors once told a classmate of mine who thought he had seen a human, 'Humans don't exist, because they can't'.”
“I admit I'm not 'studied' in anatomy,” Lyra confessed, “At least not in any formal sense, but I did base my presentation on the works of someone who was.” She levitated Frankensteed's Conjectural Anatomy over to the professor, who took the opportunity to examine it.
“Oh!” he burst out, opening the aged book. “By Doctor,” he read slowly, “Frankensteed!” As he continued to examine the text he added, mostly to himself, “I have some of his early works in my own library.” Lyra's eyes sparkled. “Let's see... published? Ah, I see.” He closed the book and returned it to the young mare. “I'll admit modern medicine owes a great deal to Frankensteed, and indeed several of his descendents,” the professor proceeded to point out, “However, his later years were marked with a... growing... insanity.” The twitching that had been at the corner of Lyra's mouth earlier migrated up to one of her eyes. “His methods and theories began to stray so far from accepted moral practices that he was ostracized by the medical and scientific communities of the day,” he continued, “In fact, some of his later works, the book you've shown me being one, were almost banned, when he could get them published at all. The damage this did to his own name was so bad that the descendents who continued in his early footsteps had to have their works published under pseudonyms, or were submitted by other doctors on their behalf.”
Twilight Sparkle unconsciously shrank back a little, now regretting not having informed Lyra of her relation's unsavory background earlier.
“It may not be the best idea to let ponies know you've been studying Dr Frankensteed's later works,” the professor began to explain, “For most ponies it wouldn't mean much, but if you do wish to pursue any formal study in medicine or anatomy... you might not want to admit that book was on your reading list.” As he turned to leave he spotted the pony loitering behind him. “Ah! Miss Sparkle!” he stated, before correcting himself with a respectful bow, “Sorry, I mean, Princess Twilight Sparkle... it's a pleasure to see you again. And sorry I can't stay and chat.”
“Hm? Oh, of course,” Twilight replied absently as the professor took his leave of the mares. She was still working on what she was now going to say to Lyra... now that her ego had been so thoroughly stomped on. She wondered whether she should reveal her own encounter with human-like beings as a means to sooth the unicorn's feelings, even though that had been one of the details of her encounter with Sunset Shimmer that she and others involved felt should be kept out of the public light. “I'm sorry for how... closed minded he was,” Twilight eventually offered.
Lyra showed little indication she'd heard the Princess address her. Her eye continued to twitch as she repeated one of the professor's own words describing her relation, “Insane.”
“We're learning new things all the time,” Twilight continued, “Any good researcher should know better than to assume they already know everything... I've learned that myself.”
“I'm 'crazy' for believing humans exist,” Lyra rambled regardless, “A member of my family is 'insane' for proving they could exist. It's always the same. Always the same!”
“You did do an excellent job expressing matters in your presentation,” the Princess nervously pointed out, hoping a compliment could lure Lyra out of the emotional hole she was digging for herself, “Spectacular, even!”
“What'll it take?” Lyra inquired rhetorically, “Do I actually have to show them a living, breathing human to prove that they exist?!”
Twilight tried another tack... go with Lyra's train of thought, maybe that would make it easier to steer her back to calmer waters, “Well, it... certainly worked for me.”
“I'll show them!” Lyra proclaimed, “I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!” And with that she stormed out of the building with Dr Frankensteed's book.
“Oh crud,” was all Twilight could say as she hung her head.
Bonbon inhaled deeply, then sighed calmly. “Don't worry,” she assured Twilight, “She gets like that sometimes. It'll pass, just give her time.”
Having returned to Castle Frankensteed, Lyra paced angrily in the castle library. “How hard can it be?” she asked herself, “I have all the information I need right here... in these books!” She began to levitate every anatomy book she had off the shelves and started piling them on the table. One of them, a particularly bulky one, seemed stuck. Looking closer, Lyra could see it was wedged between the shelf on which it sat and the one above. She tugged harder, but it wouldn't budge. Planting her hooves, she pulled as hard as her magic allowed... until it finally moved. Or, more precisely, flew. The suddenness with which it gave way surprised Lyra, causing her to lose her telekinetic grip and sending the heavy tome on an uncontrolled flight across the room where it slammed into the shelves along the opposite wall.
Lyra, herself having lost her footing in the event, righted herself. “I really need to consider having someone come in here to deal with all this dust,” she thought aloud after shaking it out of her coat and mane. As she looked up to retrieve the book, she caught sight of a section of bookcase opening, revealing a hidden passage. “Ooh! Wonder where this goes?” Lyra inquired, grabbing a lighted candle and proceeding into the darkness. Down a claustrophobic set of spiral stone stairs she crept, the rising heat of the candle flame lifting lighter cobwebs while incinerating those weighted down by years of dust. At the bottom of the stairs she entered into a much wider room. The candle alone was not enough to reveal it's true size, but the echoing of her shoes revealed that it must have been quite spacious.
Lyra made her way along the wall, lighting candles as she came upon them and spreading light through the hidden chamber. With the increased illumination she could barely make out chandeliers above and proceeded to levitate her candle to them as well. The rest of the room was slowly revealed before her. Tables and bookshelves were the easiest pieces to recognize, but the rest took longer to place, and some remained a mystery. When she discovered collections of surgical tools she logically concluded that this must have been where Frankensteed had done much of his work. “Probably driven into hiding by closed-minded fools,” Lyra lamented.
As the unicorn continued her investigation, she examined the books on the shelves and soon realized many weren't published works. Ad hoc titles scrawled on their spines indicated they contained works in the process of being compiled. “Must be the works they wouldn't let him publish.” Pulling one out and setting it open upon one of the tables she scanned over notes and illustrations, some of which she recognized as objects and devices in the room. Soon she came upon anatomical illustrations, odd ones. Squinting to read the notes in the candlelight Lyra soon realized what they were. “I see, he was attaching limbs of one species of animal onto another... and... he says it worked!” A she flipped through the pages, it occurred to her that some of the animals that resulted resembled mythical creatures... not unlike those described in his work on conjectural anatomy.
Lyra's eyes widened as her mind worked things through. All of his work on actual anatomy. The book on conjectural anatomy. The sheer detail. She remembered what she had said to Bonbon after finding it... “In fact, with the level of thought and detail he put into this, a pony could probably build a human.” She repeated those last three words to herself, “Build a human.” Lyra looked up as it sank in. “That's what he was trying to do!” she whispered. She chuckled at the realization. “THAT'S WHAT HE WAS TRYING TO DO!” she shouted. She jumped and pranced, her joyous laughter ringing throughout the long silent laboratory.
Bonbon, who had returned home and started into preparations for dinner, was heading to the castle in hopes of finding Lyra. Which she did, as the unicorn zoomed past her out the main door in a minty green blur. “Lyra?” she called, “Are... you feeling any better?”
Lyra quickly doubled back, and stamping her hooves excitedly, responded, “Oh, I'm fine! Finefinefinefinefine! I just need to get some nice, bright lanterns! And rags! And cleaning supplies!”
She sped off before Bonbon could even open her mouth to ask, “Cleaning the castle?” Of course, by the time she asked, Lyra was well out of earshot.
After her return, Lyra quickly set about cleaning up the laboratory. By morning she had cleared off the bookshelves and all the texts and notes they contained... the rest, on the other hand. “I'm exhausted,” the unicorn sighed as she finally got a good look at the spacious lab in the daylight, “Probably should have gotten a nap before I started something this big.” She walked among the strange devices and tools left behind by Frankensteed. “And I still need to figure out what all this does,” she thought aloud, “Shame I can't do...” She laughed as it hit her, “I'll just hire someone to clean while I read through all these notes!”
Reinvigorated by the possibility of getting into matters more directly related to her project, Lyra eagerly trotted through the streets of Ponyville in search of anyone that might be willing to take on the task of setting right a centuries' old castle. Or, at the very least, the laboratory. She was just passing the Cutie Mark Crusaders as she overheard Apple Bloom lament, “C'mon, we can't have done everything in Ponyville yet... there's gotta be something else we can do around here to get our cutie marks.”
A smile spread wide across Lyra's face as she quickly turned about. “Hey,” she greeted the three fillies, “I've got a big ol' castle that could use some cleaning.”
Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle looked at each other, then in unison cheered, “CUTIE MARK CRUSADER CASTLE CLEANERS! YAY!!”
As Lyra led them down the stairs into the laboratory, Scootaloo remarked, “We may have our work cut out for us, Crusaders.”
“Oh, it won't be that hard,” Lyra assured them, “I even started last night. You can just pick up where I left off! If you need anything I'll be up in the library studying.”
With that, she left the three fillies to their work. It was work they took to quite quickly, kicking up a substantial cloud of dust which rose high into the several story high chamber. Higher the dust rose, closer to the candles that had yet to be extinguished from the night before.
“Well, we got all the dust off the tables an' stuff,” Apple Bloom pointed out, “Now how do we get it outta the air?”
Sweetie Belle started blowing at the airborne particles.
“Somehow, I don't thinks that's going to be enough,” Scootaloo remarked disapprovingly.
An idea had begun to form in Apple Bloom's head, “But maybe if we got-”
The dust explosion kept the young farm filly from finishing her thought. Up in the library, Lyra was taken completely by surprise as the compression wave plastered the book she was reading against her face and blasted her mane and tail straight back towards the window. And it was out of that window that was blown every last spider and every last speck of dust in the room. Similarly, all over the castle, dust and spiders exploded out of every window, door, and arrow loop. The dust swiftly dissipated, carried off by the gentle breezes of the late Summer day. The heavier, and very much confused, spiders on the other hand, came raining down on an equally confused Ponyville.
Twilight and Spike were still concealed under a bench when Rarity stooped her head down to address her friend, “Twilight...”
“I didn't do it!” the alicorn blurted out in her defense.
“No, I hadn't thought you had, darling,” Rarity gently replied, “Something this horrendous is far more likely the doing of somepony like Discord. I was wondering if we should get the others together and go pay him a visit.”
As they were talking, the spiders had gotten their wits together and proceeded to scuttle down off of rooftops and out of trees. Seeing them subsequently speed off in one direction prompted Spike to inquire, “I wonder where they're all headed to?”
“I don't know,” Twilight confessed as she climbed out from under the bench, “But I think we should find out.”
“Yeah, you do that,” Spike, still concealed under the bench, replied as the two mares departed, “I'll stay here where there are less creepy-crawlies.” Immediately after, his attention was seized by an unusual sound coming from the opposite direction. It sounded, for all the world, like a tiny stampede. “AAAAHHH!” Spike almost instantaneously appeared atop the bench to avoid being carried off by the wave of spiders that swept past. “Me and my big mouth.”
After having pried the book from off her muzzle, Lyra raced down to the laboratory to check on the girls. In the middle of the now spotless chamber stood three very startled fillies. “You girls alright?!” Lyra called out.
Scootaloo, the singed tips of her hair still smoking, replied, “That... was... sooo... COOL!” Her little wings briefly lifted her off her hooves as they beat a mile a minute to emphasize the point.
“I thought fireballs were supposed to be hot,” Sweetie Belle countered, continuing to stare straight ahead, waiting for her vision to clear.
“Wait'll ah tell Apple Jack that grain ain't the only kind of dust that can explode!” Apple Bloom stated excitedly.
Just as Lyra let out a sigh of relief she heard someone calling her from outside the castle. Arriving at the front door she and the fillies encountered Twilight, Rarity and Bonbon.
As Bonbon had already apprised the other two that Lyra's castle had been the focal point of the calamity, Twilight was left with only one question, “What happened?”
“And how did you make it rain spiders, of all things?” Rarity further inquired.
“We made it rain spiders?” Apple Bloom asked.
“That is so COOL!” Scootaloo blurted out.
Hopping onto the backs of her two friends to stay out of the path of the spiders that were still filing back into the castle, Sweetie Belle chided, “Speak for yourself.”
“Well,” Lyra proceeded to explain, “I asked the girls here to-”
“Ah! Say no more,” Rarity interrupted, “Just send a bill for a third of the damages to our father. Celestia knows he should be used to that sort of thing by now.” Looking to her little sister, she commanded, “Come Sweetie Belle, I think it's best we find you and your friends something else to do.” She added, clearly frustrated as she lowered her head, “Before you destroy anything else.”
“Actually, why don't you take them to the library and load them up with books about modern anatomy... pony and animal?” Lyra suggested hopefully, “They can drop them off here before moving on to something less destructive.”
“I guess that wouldn't hurt,” Rarity considered, “Twilight?”
“Oh, sure, we could do that,” Twilight agreed, “I take it you're still determined to prove humans could exist?”
“They will,” Lyra answered without thinking.
“Okay,” Twilight began cautiously, before turning to the fillies, who were yet again checking their flanks for cutie marks, “C'mon you three, I'm pretty sure we still have all the books on anatomy available to be checked out.”
As the Cutie Mark Crusaders filed out of the castle, Scootaloo grumped, “I can't believe we didn't get a cutie mark for that. That was our biggest explosion yet!”
“Guess it just means blowing up castles isn't our destiny,” concluded Apple Bloom.
“I would hope not,” Sweetie Belle added, “I'd hate to have to do that for a living.”
In short order the Cutie Mark Crusaders had delivered the texts to Lyra and, having been disappointed that doing so had not earned them book delivery cutie marks, were off to find more mischief. Lyra, herself, set to work absorbing as much knowledge as she could about modern anatomy. She seemed only to emerge from her castle to dispatch orders for personal copies of the books she had borrowed. She also made sure to include sufficient incentive to encourage expedited delivery.
When her personal copies arrived she trotted down to the Golden Oak Library to return those she had borrowed. And while there, took the opportunity to inquire, “What books do you have about surgery, surgical tools, and such?”
“Surgery?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow, “I thought you were only looking to learn enough about anatomy to prove that humans could exist.”
“Oh, well,” Lyra began as she searched her mind for an excuse, “I... thought... with all that I am learning that... it just wouldn't be right if I was never able to put that much knowledge to use in a more practical sense.” She amended with a nervous smile, “It certainly couldn't hurt could it?”
“As long as you're not trying to operate on someone without a license,” Twilight chuckled as she began hunting for the requested books, “You do know you need a certified medical license before you can do that, right?”
“Oh, of course,” Lyra replied swiftly, then seized the subject to use it as a cover, “But if I ever do want to get a medical license I'm going to have to learn as much as I can!”
“Oh right, that only makes sense,” Twilight agreed, feeling relieved at such a logical conclusion, “And I'm sure it would make medical school so much easier.”
Twilight levitated a book off a shelf and presented it to Lyra. “This is the only book we have on the subject,” she explained, “There's not a lot of demand for this type of book around here, but if you want any others I can probably get them for you through inter-library loan.”
“I'm sure that won't be necessary,” Lyra assured her, taking the book, “But thanks for the offer anyway!”
“Of course! Come back anytime!” Twilight replied as Lyra happily trotted out of the library. As she turned to head back to her own studies, a thought began to materialize in the back of her mind. More of a suspicion, really. However, the more it rolled around the sillier it seemed. And so it was relegated to the trash bin of her mind without any further thought.
The following days for Lyra were filled with reading, studying, and experimentation. She discovered that the various devices in the laboratory, along with still being in functioning order, were well ahead of their time. Not only that, a couple did things that modern medicine still didn't do... but then, they did things modern science said couldn't, or shouldn't, be done. The many references the anatomy books had made to the similarity between various fruits and vegetables to elements of pony and animal anatomy proved quite useful when it came time for Lyra to practice with her newly ordered surgical tools. Not only could she become adept at use of the tools, she could eat the mistakes. She also ate the successes.
When Lyra tried to practice actually assembling a limb with various vegetable and fruit matter as stand-ins for the actual bone, muscle, and sinew, she discovered a problem. One horn, one mouth, and two hooves just weren't enough. She needed an assistant... a minion... a henchpony. She needed the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Lyra found them easily enough, fleeing from their latest catastrophe.
“Need us to clean your castle again?” Scootaloo inquired.
“No! Not again!” Lyra quickly replied, “No, the help I need is more a matter of an extra pair of hooves or two while I work on something.”
“Oh sure,” Apple Bloom agreed, “We can do that.” Which, after they arrived in the lab, became, “You want us to what now?”
“Perform surgery on fruit?” Scootaloo asked incredulously.
Lyra explained, “I'm only practicing. If I make a mistake on fruit no one gets mad.”
“And you can eat the mistakes!” Sweetie Belle realized happily.
“I don't know what kind of cutie marks we could get for this,” Apple Bloom pondered aloud, “But free food is free food!”
“Then let's get started!” Lyra cheered. It took a little time for the fillies to get used to the names of the tools Lyra was asking for, but before long they were working out just fine. “Annnnd... finished!” Lyra declared.
“Yay!” Sweetie Belle offered in celebration.
“Yeah, 'yay',” Scootaloo said calmly, “But what'd we make?”
“A limb,” Lyra pointed out, “Specifically, a pony's hind leg.”
“Huh,” was Apple Bloom's laconic response.
Sweetie Belle began in a singsong voice, “Lyra had a little limb...”
“BUT WE ATE IT!” Scootaloo shouted before she started to dive down on it.
“WAIT!” Apple Bloom commanded. Looking to Lyra, she waited for permission, which was offered with a gentle nod. “Okay,” the farm filly assented, after which the three proceeded to devour the fruit of their labors. Looking up, Apple Bloom swallowed what she had in her mouth and asked, “Does this seem just a little bit creepy to anypony else?”
“Aw, c'mon,” Scootaloo countered, “It's not like it's a real pony's leg. It's like those candies they make for Nightmare Night. You know... eyeballs, skulls...”
“Ah guess yer right,” Apple Bloom agreed before digging back in.
Once the three were finished with their pseudocannibalistic meal, they noticed Lyra checking something out under a sheet. It was a tall something, as tall as the makeshift scaffolding next to it.
“Hey, doc,” Scootaloo called, as she and her fellow Crusaders approached, “Watcha' looking at?”
Lyra, startled by the question, quickly dropped the corner of the sheet she'd been holding up and tried to cover the object of their sudden interest. “Oh, uh... nothing!”
“If it's nothing, what's holding up the sheet?” Scootaloo asked accusingly as she approached to one side.
Pinned in place by the gaze of the orange pegasus, Lyra wracked her mind for an answer, and was completely oblivious of Apple Bloom approaching on the other side. While the mint green unicorn sputtered, the little earth pony grabbed the sheet in her mouth and proceeded to pull it off. By the time Lyra noticed, there was nothing she could do to keep her secret from being revealed.
“What... is that?” Scootaloo asked as she tried to make sense of the illustrations on the canvas before them.
“Looks like,” Apple Bloom began, “a... pony?”
“A weird looking pony,” Sweetie Belle commented. Their ignorance couldn't help but make Lyra grimace.
“No, waitaminute,” Scootaloo began, “It's a human, isn't it?”
Lyra's expression brightened. “Finally!” she thought.
Apple Bloom continued to examine the work, noticing how it pinpointed organs, bones, muscles, among other things. It all began to add up in her head. “That's what yer practicin' for,” she declared, “Yer gonna make a human, aintcha', Ms Lyra?”
“What?! No- I- You- Why-” she stammered in a vain attempt to deflect her suspicion, “Yes.”
“Cool!” exclaimed Scootaloo.
“Human?” Sweetie Belle asked, “Looks more like a monster.”
“Hey, we can help you make it!” Apple Bloom suggested, “Then we can be...”
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER MONSTER MAKERS! YAY!!”
“He's not a monster!” Lyra shot back, before leaning up to the canvas and caressing it adoringly, “He'll be a wonderful, beautiful creation.”
Raising an eyebrow, Apple Bloom responded, “If you say so.”
Lyra snapped out of her state of adoration and returned her attention to the three fillies. “Anyway, you three won't be able to help me with that.”
“Why not?” Apple Bloom practically whined.
“For one thing, the three of you are going to have school and chores to deal with,” Lyra pointed out, “I can't have assistants who are going to be gone most of the day. And I can't have you three coming here at night to work for several hours at a time.” There was also the ever present, yet unspoken, possibility of unintended consequences... the phrase “cadaver explosion” kept coming up. Having something like that pop up in one's mind even once was more than enough when planning something, especially considering the very real likelihood that if it could happen, those three would be the culprits. She would need someone else to serve as a long-term henchpony. “But I hope the three of you can keep this under your hats.”
“But we're not wearing hats,” Sweetie Belle pointed out.
“She means she wants us to keep it a secret,” Scootaloo clarified.
“Yeah, I want this to be a big surprise,” Lyra explained, “Also, I don't want ponies constantly telling me 'It can't be done', 'You're wasting your time'...”
“'You're crazy',” Sweetie Belle added, “'You're insane'.” Seeing Lyra's eye twitch at such comments, Apple Bloom gently punched the young unicorn. “What?”
“Don't worry, Lyra,” Scootaloo assured, “You can count on the Cutie Mark Crusaders.”
“Yeah!” Apple Bloom joined in, “Besides, who'd believe a story like this? We're just three silly fillies tellin' tall tales!”
“Alright then!” Lyra beamed, “Thanks for all your help!”
“No problem!” Apple Bloom replied with a salute before she and her friends started on their way out.
“And thanks for lunch!” Scootaloo added.
After the fillies had filed out of the laboratory, Lyra pondered her next steps. She needed an assistant, one that could be depended upon, discreet... in other words, one that wouldn't run screaming to the nearest constable at the site of pony parts strewn about. However, she wasn't quite sure how to go about finding one without attracting unwanted attention. But then, what would be the point of finding one if she had no anatomical pieces to assemble?
Lyra resolved that her first step was to find a way to acquire the body parts she needed. Equestria had a network of organ banks, true, but she doubted they'd be willing to part with their parts 'no questions asked'. For a moment it occurred to her that her wealth could assist in such matters, it had worked everywhere else she needed special favors. However, she remembered their purpose was to provide organs for lifesaving operations or lifesaving medical research. As much as Lyra felt she needed to bring a human into the world, even she felt it wasn't so critical that it could withstand the taint of coming at the expense of another pony's life. Of course, that also ruled out murder.
She was beginning to regret having allowed her enthusiasm to take her this far without having planned out such details first. Lyra could see her beautiful, wonderful human fading away. All those bits, all that time... all wasted. “No!” she told herself, “I'm not giving up! There has to be a way! Where else can I get a dead... body...” Her eyes widened as it all became so clear. Not all ponies donate their organs when they die... in fact, most of them don't. Most ponies, and for that matter most other species, don't donate their bodies to science. They're buried, thrown away, left in the ground to rot. “That's such a waste,” she declared, grabbing a shovel on her way out.
The night mists snaked among the gravestones on the outskirts of Ponyville as a cloaked figure slowly made her way from one stone to the next. Lyra needed to locate a fresh grave, the fresher the better. She was so focused on locating freshly turned earth that she didn't notice the earth pony that stepped out in front of her. “And what do you think you're doing here?” he demanded.
Lyra was so startled that as she tried to step back she stumbled over her hooves and tumbled backwards. She rolled over and found herself face to 'face' with the business end of a skunk. Afraid to make a move, lest the furball fire its furious fumes in her face, Lyra stayed on her belly. She heard the soft swishing of pony hooves on dewy grass as the stallion walked around to stand beside the skunk. Lyra finally got a good look at him as he lowered his head to face her.
The blue stallion peered at her over his glasses, his stovepipe hat pinning his blond mane down to frame his face. His brown eyes quickly darted to the side, motioning to the shovel the unicorn had dropped, before returning to Lyra. “Poaching?” he inquired.
Lyra's eyes wandered about as she tried to make sense of the question. She thought she knew what poaching was, but couldn't think of any animals native to cemeteries that anyone would want, much less any that are hunted with shovels. “Wait, I'm confused,” she confessed.
“I'll have you know I'm the only resurrectionist that works this graveyard,” the stallion pointed out sternly. “For that matter, I'm the only resurrectionist to work any graveyard I'm in,” he continued, placing a hoof on the skunk's back as he added, “Anypony else must answer to Skunkie!”
“Resurrectionist?” she repeated slowly, never having used the unusual word, before adding brightly, “And 'Hi' Skunkie! Nice to meet you!”
The skunk waved at Lyra over its shoulder as the stallion blurted out, “Wait, now I'm confused. Back to the first question... what're you doing here?”
“Digging up dead ponies,” Lyra answered with utmost caution as the skunk's posterior was still inches from her face.
“I knew it!” the stallion declared, “Blast 'er, Skunkie!”
“WAIT!” Lyra cried out, “I need them for my work!”
“Work?” the stallion asked, raising an eyebrow, “If you need them for your work... then you'd be willing to pay from them, wouldn't you?”
“Oh!” Lyra replied with a relieved sigh, “You have no idea how much better that sounds!”
“Yes I do!” the stallion responded, lifting Lyra off the ground and setting her upon her hooves once more, “For I am Equestria's leading resurrectionist! Digging up dead ponies for profit is my profession! Those who share in my vocation are more colloquially known as a pony snatchers, but I prefer 'resurrectionist' since it sounds classier.” Glancing down, he noticed Skunkie still had its rear to Lyra. “Skunkie,” he scolded, picking up the skunk and turning it around, “Stop giving the young lady 'the business', she's our customer!”
After taking a few moments to adjust to the sudden change in attitude, Lyra began, “Yes, well, I would like to acquire a pony... and other animals. Can you do that?”
“Of course!” the pony snatcher confirmed, “If it's dead, we'll dig it up and deliver it... for a reasonable fee. In fact, I have a freshly unearthed pony ready to go! You can give me a list of what else you need when I drop it off.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” Lyra agreed with a big smile... and with the same smile, added, “This is so unbelievably creepy.”
“Isn't it? Now, to what address am I delivering the goods?”
“That big castle near the outskirts of Ponyville.”
“Ah! I was wondering who that belonged to.”
“Don't bring it to the front door,” Lyra proceeded to clarify, “There's a secret entrance around back that leads to the lab... I found it after it got blown open when the Cutie Mark Crusaders were cleaning.” Seeing that the pony snatcher had suddenly developed a twitch in the corner of his eye, she asked, “Are you okay?”
“Those three... aren't also at the castle, are they?”
“No no, not anymore.”
“Celestia be praised,” he muttered under his breath. “Now,” he continued, “How will I recognize this secret entrance?”
“I'll put up something to mark the location as soon as I get back,” Lyra assured him.
Later that night, a lonely cart made its way through the streets of Ponyville pulled by the pony snatcher. Perched atop his hat was Skunkie, keeping a watchful eye out for trouble. The grim burden borne by the pair was concealed under a dark brown canvas. Arriving at Castle Frankensteed, they made their way around until they had come to what they assumed must be the rear of the structure.
“Alright, Skunkie, keep your eyes open for anything that might mark that hidden door,” the pony snatcher commanded to his striped companion. However, the search was over nearly as soon as it had begun as the pony snatcher's eyes widened at a telltale sight. Skunkie slapped its forehead with a paw. On the stone wall, scrawled out in glaring white chalk which glowed blue in the moonlight, were the words SECRET ENTRANCE over a large, similarly highlighted rectangle. “Ugh,” the stallion grunted, his head drooping, “Never mind.”
Approaching the 'hidden' door, the stallion gently knocked with his hoof. The hollow echo that resulted made clear the artificial nature of the stone which concealed the entrance. He waited for a response. Waited... and waited. He knocked again, a little harder than the first time. Again, there was no response. “Special delivery,” he announced as he knocked yet a third time. Still left waiting, the stallion unhitched himself from the cart and faced the door with his hind end. “I have your package!” he announced louder before banging on the door with a rear hoof. Grumbling in frustration, he contemplated escalation. “Hey, lady, I got yer corpse!” he shouted as he banged on the door once again. Beginning to lose his patience, he shouted, “Corpse for sale! So fresh you'd-”
He was interrupted by the creaking of the door as it finally opened. “Will you keep your voice down!” Lyra hissed as she stuck her head out. The stallion grumbled as he pushed the cart inside.
Once within the lab with the door secured behind him, the pony snatcher looked around. “Interesting décor,” he remarked. The skunk hopped off his hat down onto his back before jumping onto the cart. The ungainly critter only got its front end onto the conveyance, requiring it to frantically claw at the front panel to get the rest of it in, but once it had it pulled back the canvas. “One dead pony,” the stallion announced, “as promised.”
Lyra initially grimaced at the sight. “Uh, right,” she confirmed as she tried to recover from seeing her first cadaver, “What do I owe you?”
“Skunkie?” he called, jerking his head to the side to dislodge his hat. No sooner had it landed on the floor upside-down than Skunkie dove into it from the cart. After a brief moment it tipped over onto its side and Skunkie noodled out carrying a clipboard in its mouth. It stopped at Lyra's feet, sat down and held up the clipboard with its front paws.
Levitating it up, the unicorn took a closer look. “That's reasonable,” Lyra agreed, returning the clipboard to the skunk. “I'll be right back with your payment,” she stated as she began to trot off. Stopping by a table, she picked up a sheet of paper and levitated it over to the stallion, “Oh, here's the list of the types of bodies I'll be needing.”
The pony snatcher looked over the list as Skunkie returned the clipboard to the hat and unloaded the cadaver. Nodding, the stallion deposited the list in his hat and plopped it back atop his head. When Lyra returned with the bits, the skunk loaded the bags onto the cart and concealed them with the canvas. She was impressed with the little critter's skills. “You... wouldn't, by any chance, be willing to rent him out, would you?” Lyra inquired, “I'm in need of an assistant.”
“He's an 'it' and, no, Skunkie's not available to be rented out,” he answered.
“'It'?” Lyra incredulously, “You don't know whether it's a male or female?”
“Just because I have a skunk as a cutie mark doesn't mean I can tell their gender from a distance. But if you wanna lift a skunk's tail and jam your nose in its business to find out, be my guest,” the pony snatcher offered, motioning to Skunkie, who proceeded to noodle under the cart to hide, “Personally, though, I'm just as happy not knowing.” Seeing that Lyra had no more of an interest in finding out either, he continued, “But I think I can help arrange an assistant. I know ponies, especially ones who can keep their mouths shut. And not just the ones I deliver with the cart, live ones.” Reaching under the cart, the stallion scooped up Skunkie and deposited it in the back. “Now, if you have no further need of my services here, Skunkie and I will be off,” he stated, hitching up the cart, “My deliveries will be made as swiftly as I can arrange, at night of course. Farewell, Miss.”
“Oh!” Lyra called out suddenly, “Uh, do you need to know my name? You know, to let the assistant know who he'll be working for.”
“Will you be the only one answering at this entrance?” the stallion inquired, motioning to the one he had used.
“Then, no,” he answered, “And all things considered, the less I know about you and what you do, the better.” He tipped his hat as he finished, “Till my next delivery, Miss.” Skunkie waved as the cart left the castle.
The next night, Lyra was busily doing as much as she could without the aid of an assistant. She had just taken a break when she heard a knock at the back entrance. Opening the door, she looked up expecting to see the pony snatcher... but saw no one. Lyra looked outside, both to her left and right, but still saw no one.
“Down here, Master.”
Lyra lowered her gaze and finally spotted the new arrival. It was a gray, short, rather ungainly pony (at least she assumed he was a pony) in a ragged, hooded tunic. His face seemed a little misshapen, not the least of which because one eye seemed to be bulging out of the socket. “Gah!” was the closest she could manage to a greeting.
“Thank you, Master,” the stallion returned happily in his oddly calm voice, “I do so like to make an impression on the ladies.”
“Who, or what, are you?” Lyra inquired.
“Eyesore, Master,” he answered, “And as to what, scuttlebutt has it that my great grandfather was a dwarf camel... or a rutabaga. Nopony's quite sure, you see. Great grandmother had an atrocious accent from back in the old country, and wasn't... 'all there' as they say. May I come in?”
“Are you the assistant I was asking for?”
“Yes, Master,” he answered, bowing his head, “I was sent by Equestria Rent-a-Creep.”
“Oh, well then, c-come in,” Lyra greeted, standing aside to let Eyesore enter.
“Thank you, Master,” he said as he hobbled inside, his hump becoming evident as he passed by, “I get nervous standing about outside for too long... the angry mobs, you see.”
“I... see?” Lyra responded, closing the door.
“You have a wonderful laboratory, Master!” Eyesore declared.
“Quite 'old-school' as they say,” he added, “Now, what is it you need me to do, Master?” Before Lyra could answer, he noticed some of the work she had already begun. “Ah! 'Surgery' I see.”
“Sort of,” Lyra began, “I need an extra set of hooves to help me when I'm assembling my creation.”
“Yes!” Lyra declared as she trotted up to the canvas covered illustration. Pulling it off, she announced proudly, “I'm making a human! A living, breathing human!”
Eyesore gasped as a smile crossed his face. “How delightfully mad!” he exclaimed, “It will be my pleasure to assist in any way I can, Master!”
Lyra pranced in place as she let out an excited squee. It was so wonderful to have someone as enthusiastic for the project as herself that she was willing to overlook it being called 'mad'. “I-I don't have enough parts to do any real assembly just yet,” she pointed out in a giddy voice, “But, for now I can introduce you to some of the devices we'll be using.”
“Oh I would like that very much, Master,” Eyesore agreed.
Lyra was pleased to discover that her assistant readily assimilated the information she provided and that, despite his appearance, was surprisingly agile when it came to maneuvering about the lab to retrieve tools and access the controls of the devices they were to use. When the tour and attendant instructions were complete, she returned to the work upon which she had been focused prior to Eyesore's arrival. And she soon learned how useful her new assistant was as he was quick to exchange tools and place organs and muscles in storage as she continued to work.
Eyesore would prove useful in another respect when he noticed Lyra's head starting to nod in the middle of her work. “Master,” he spoke up, causing Lyra to jerk awake, “Perhaps you should retire for the night. After all, a scalpel in the hooves of an unsteady mind can be... most unfortunate.”
“Agh, you're right,” Lyra droned, “Just let me get everything put away.”
“Oh, no, Master, allow me,” Eyesore intervened, “I'll make sure everything is in its proper place for when you arise all bright eyed and bushy maned.”
“Hm? Oh, thank you, Eyesore!”
“Of course. Rest well, Master.”
As Lyra started to make her way out of the lab, she thought of something, “Do you have a place to sleep or do you need a room here in the castle?”
“Just give me a corner of the lab and some blankets and I'll be fine,” he assured her.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, Master,” he reassured her, “And besides, I'm sure it will be best not to have a specimen like myself roaming about the castle should you have any guests arrive unexpectedly.”
“Well, okay,” Lyra replied through a yawn, “I'll send some spiders down with a blanket.”
Eyesore paused for a moment, not sure whether she was serious or if her drowsiness was taking even more of a toll on her mind than earlier. “Of course,” was his eventual response. Eyesore was still in the midst of setting the lab up for the night when he was surprised by a blanket slithering into the chamber from the spiral stairs. From underneath emerged a small swarm of spiders who made their way back up into the stairwell. “Why, thank you, little friends!” Lyra's henchpony called after them. “Such a pleasant change from my last master,” he thought to himself, “He made me eat the spiders.”
Lyra slept late, which wasn't such a bad thing she figured. Given that the pony snatcher's deliveries would be coming at night, and the needed components had to be processed quickly in order to limit possibility of decomposition, it meant much of her work couldn't wait till morning. The trade off meant that she was seen less and less by the population of Ponyville. For the most part that wasn't a problem, and many simply wrote it off as the inevitable eccentricities that come from the sudden inheritance of a fortune... the symposium on humans having already planted the seed for such assumptions. Bonbon, however, noticed Lyra's absence from daily life more readily than others and was more concerned by it.
Summer Wrap-Up was supposed to be a sure thing, Bonbon thought, Lyra was always a whirlwind of excitement as she flew from one activity or kiosk to another. However, Lyra's arrival to the festivities was much later than usual and it seemed forever before she lost herself in the enjoyment of the seasonal fair. Returning late to their cottage that evening, Bonbon wanted to double check that Lyra would be making an appearance for the Running of the Leaves.
“Oh, I wouldn't miss it!” Lyra assured her.
“You almost missed Summer Wrap-Up,” Bonbon half joked.
Lyra tried to deflect any concerns as she laughed it off, “Well, I just got so wrapped up in my studies last night.”
“Just don't get too wrapped up the night before the Running,” Bonbon smiled.
At first, Lyra chuckled at the suggestion, which was quite reassuring to Bonbon... but then the unicorn became suddenly thoughtful. “You're right,” she replied in a rather distant and matter-of-fact tone, “I really shouldn't be doing any... studying... around then.” Bonbon peered at her quizzically, the typically playful and bouncy Lyra had vanished again. But a great big smile returned to Lyra's face as she proclaimed happily, “Don't worry! I'll be there!” Bonbon watched as the unicorn trotted into the castle.
Down in the laboratory, Lyra donned her lab coat and prepared to return to work. Placing a tray with an array of silvery surgical tools at his master's side, Eyesore inquired, “Do you think we'll finish this fore-arm tonight?”
“I think so,” Lyra responded, “But we'll have to put work on the hand on hold until after the Running of the Leaves.”
“But you were so looking forward to it, Master.”
“I know, but we can't really do any of the work during the running because of all the vibrations,” Lyra explained, “And since I'm going to be taking part I really should make sure I'm properly rested up afterward before I try something as complex as a hand.”
“Ah, yes, perfectly reasonable, Master,” Eyesore concurred.
“Y'know,” Lyra began as she finished stitched a muscle into place, “This always makes me so hungry.”
Eyesore involuntarily shrunk back. “Even I find that just a little disturbing,” he confessed.
“Huh?” Lyra grunted in confusion. However, as she revisited what she had said she realized what her henchpony must have thought. “Oh, ew!” Lyra blurted out, “No! It's nothing like that. I just used to practice this on fruits and vegetables before I had bodies to work with. I used to eat the work afterward.”
Eyesore chuckled in relief, “That's most reassuring, Master!”
The Running of the Leaves turned out to be a welcome diversion for Lyra, returning a small bit of normality to her life. It also encouraged her to make sure she didn't drag her hooves on her project, she was actually looking forward to a return to her old life. However, her current preoccupation crept up on her as she and the ponies of Ponyville stormed through White Tail Woods. Lyra and Bonbon were not too far behind a small cluster of runners who had a particularly spectacular crash. Checking up on the ponies it was soon discovered one of them had the misfortune of having broken a leg. Lyra's mind immediately went right to all the medical knowledge she had accrued over the past few months and she was soon fashioning a makeshift splint with which to set the leg.
As they continued with the race, having passed off responsibility to the injured pony's friends to see her to finish line, Bonbon felt an enormous measure of relief. Seeing Lyra's studies pay off in such a manner helped put her mind to ease and convinced her to be more tolerant of the unicorn's recent eccentricities.
With the Running of the Leaves behind her, Lyra threw herself into completing her creation. It was a few days shy of Nightmare Night that she put the finishing touches on her human. All she needed now was energy to reanimate the dead flesh. The notes left behind by Frankensteed had postulated that lightning was the only source of energy powerful enough to accomplish such a task, and try as she might, Lyra was hard pressed to find any modern source of energy that could serve as a substitute. This left her waiting for a thunderstorm, with the next one scheduled for the eve of Nightmare Night day. In the meantime, she worked on a more eye-catching wardrobe than the dark gray canvas she had clad her creation in, bit by bit, as she pieced him together.
The pegasi of Ponyville piled up the thick storm clouds by the waning light of the evening sun. After Rainbow Dash had made sure to squirrel away a small one for use the next night, she reviewed hoof signals with the rest of the weather team so as to avoid another incident like the one that destroyed town hall the previous year. Far below, Lyra and her henchpony were making their own preparations. After affixing the aerials and cables needed to direct the energy of the lightning down from the tallest tower, the pair maneuvered the hulking mass of meat and bone onto one of the only tables in the laboratory that had not yet been used. Instead of sitting directly upon the stone floor of the lab, this table was attached to a wooden platform. Attached to each corner of the platform were chains that were suspended from the pulleys imbedded in the ceiling far above. In the ceiling between the pulleys was a trapdoor large enough for the table to rise through.
“He is quite the specimen,” Eyesore remarked as they worked to center the patchwork human on the table, “I dare say he'd be tall enough to look down on Princess Celestia herself.”
“I know humans are supposed to be quite a bit smaller,” Lyra admitted, “But working on fingers and toes at that scale would have been a nightmare. Besides, I wanted to keep the proportions right... pony's eyes are quite a bit bigger than the ones humans are supposed to have, so I had to scale up the head to fit them.”
“Eyes from another species weren't an option, Master?”
“Humans are supposed to be able to see as well as ponies,” Lyra pointed out, “And no other available species have smaller eyes that work as well.” Satisfied with the body's position, Lyra gazed up at the trapdoor far above as the first peals of thunder rumbled through the air. “That door probably hasn't been opened in decades,” she assumed, “Hopefully it still works.”
“By the by, Master, have you thought of a name for your creation?” Eyesore inquired.
“I have,” Lyra stated plainly as she returned to the table in a fresh lab coat, her walking muffled by the rubber boots, “To honor my slighted and misunderstood relative, I shall name him 'Frank'.” Lyra lowered a pair of goggles over her eyes as she continued, “And when my creation wakes, walks, and talks, Victor Frankensteed shall be vindicated! I shall be vindicated!” As her passions rose, Lyra pointed and waved her forelegs, “And nopony... NOPONY... shall ever call him... or me... insane EVER AGAIN!”
During her tirade, Eyesore couldn't help but follow Lyra's front hooves with his gaze. Those weren't boots she was wearing on them. For that matter, he couldn't rightly place what they were. They were black, and, yes, rubber, but they had dangly doodads at the end that flipped and flopped about.
Lyra followed her henchpony's eyes. “They're gloves,” she explained, “Like humans wear.” Eyesore just stared at her. Gesturing at him, she shouted as the empty fingers flailed about, “Don't judge me!”
“Who am I to judge?”
“Eyesore! Raise the platform!” Lyra commanded.
“Yes, Master!” the henchpony replied eagerly as he trotted over to the winch.
The chains clinked and clanked as they were dragged over the pulleys. The platform, with Frank and Lyra aboard, rose towards the ceiling. Ever higher they rose, ever closer to the closed trap door. “Trap door!” Lyra suddenly remembered. She used her magic to seize the lever and struggled to make it budge. “Crud!” she cursed, finding the mechanism jammed. “Eyesore!” Lyra called down from the ever ascending platform, “EYESORE!” Realizing he couldn't hear her, she looked up at the closed trap door, then back down to Frank... the trap door... Frank. Lyra jumped onto the table and stood over Frank's face. With all the hours she'd spent on his nose, she wasn't about to sacrifice it now.
The trap door bulged as Lyra's back was pressed against it. The wood creaked and groaned, the ancient hinges grating with the strain. Then with a 'BANG' the trap door came loose and flung open. “Phew!” Lyra exhaled thankfully before hopping off the table.
As the rain pelted down on the unicorn and her creation, she hooked up the cables to Frank's inert body. Now all she needed to do was wait for lighting to strike the aerials. She waited... and waited. There were several near misses, and as the ambient energy in the atmosphere conveyed by the cables gave an unearthly radiance to Frank's body, Lyra became more anxious. It seemed lightning was striking everything but the aerials. “LIFE!” Lyra cried out in frustration, “GIVE MY CREATION LIFE!” Seeing a bolt strike a tower nearby, but still missing the aerials, she continued her desperate cries, “LIFE, I SAY! LIIIIIFE!!”
A glowing object fell from the clouds directly above and landed with a dull 'plap' on Frank's chest. Lyra leaned in to get a better look at it. It was a lantern.
The unamused unicorn levitated the light off Frank's chest and looked back up at the clouds, hollering, “NOT LIGHT, YA JERKS! LIFE! LIIIIIFE!!” After a brief pause, Lyra got the lightning she wanted... with interest. The lightning that came crashing down on her position was almost as plentiful as the rain. Dodging, jumping, and weaving, Lyra tried to evade the weather ponies' wrath as best she could. Then it happened. One of the bolts struck the aerial. Lyra watched as Frank's body glowed brilliantly, just as Dr Frankensteed's notes said it should. “Yes!” Lyra proclaimed, raising her gloved hooves high, “YES!” And then she was finally hit by lightning. And again. “EYESORE!” she cried, each word interspersed by another strike, “LOWER! THE! OUCH! PLATFORM!”
Needless to say, in her desperation, Lyra had forgotten that there was no way her henchpony could have heard her. Fortunately, though, the equipment in the lab was rigged to indicate a direct strike on the aerial, letting Eyesore know it was time to bring the platform down. Unfortunately, a chain had gotten stuck and was delaying Lyra's rescue. Ultimately, her rescue was owed to a weak link that finally gave out as a result of Eyesore's insistent yanking. The platform, with Lyra and the still glowing Frank, came plummeting down into the lab below. With a loud 'WHAM' the platform came to a stop upon the laboratory floor.
Lyra plopped a hoof onto the side of the table and pulled herself up. Eyesore raced over and peered over at her from over Frank's still glowing form. Lyra's mane and lab coat were still smoldering.
Eyesore couldn't resist commenting, “Why, Master, you never told me you smoked!”
“You-!” Lyra began angrily as she started to climb over Frank, not noticing the glowing had ceased. She was stopped in her pursuit as she heard a moan emanating from the body under her. Forgetting her desire to throttle Eyesore, Lyra placed her head against the human's chest. She could hear it. She could feel it! Frank's heart was beating! Chuckling, Lyra jumped off of him. “I-it worked!” she proclaimed as his eyes opened, “He's alive! ALIVE!” Flinging off her goggles, Lyra leaned against the table and commanded, “Rise! Rise, my creation! I COMMAND YOU, RISE!!” Then Frank promptly rolled off the table... and onto Eyesore. “Um... Roll over!” Lyra corrected, “Good boy!”
After quickly making her way around the table, Lyra used her magic to help the heavy, and very groggy, human off of her henchpony. “Thank you, Master,” Eyesore grunted as he climbed free. Staying well back, he watched as Lyra assisted Frank into a standing position.
“There we go!” Lyra cheered as her human towered over her, “You're standing up! You're STANDING UP!” She pranced happily in place as she proclaimed in a giddy voice, “Oh! It's so wonderful!”
Stepping closer, Eyesore observed with elation, “He's beautifully grotesque, Master!” With a loud groan, Frank reached down and clutched Eyesore's head in his massive hand and lifted him off the floor. “And quite sensitive about his appearance it seems,” came the henchpony's muffled addendum.
“Frank! Put him down!” Lyra commanded, “I order you, release him!” The human merely groaned loudly in response to his creator's commands.
“Master?” Eyesore pleaded.
Lyra's mind raced as she sought a means to placate her creation. “That's it!” she proclaimed, “I'll be right back!”
“So, Frank, while we're awaiting Master's return,” Eyesore mumbled through the clenched fist, “Do you know any good knock-knock jokes?” Frank just groaned. “I'll take that as a 'no'.”
Bonbon was startled to see Lyra burst through the door of their cottage like a maniac. “Lyra... what-!” she barely got out before the unicorn streaked out of the cottage with her lyre in tow. Running to the open door, she witnessed Lyra vanish back into the castle. “I hope it's just the lightning that has her spooked,” Bonbon thought aloud as she turned and went back inside.
Returning to the laboratory, the unicorn began to play a gentle lullaby on her lyre. “That's it, Frank” Lyra said soothingly as she saw the creature's features soften, “Set Eyesore down nice and gently.” Frank slowly set Lyra's henchpony down and, with a blissful smile, took a seat upon the table.
“So it is true,” Eyesore remarked, “Music truly does have the power to sooth-”
“Uh, Eyesore,” Lyra stopped him, “You might want to reconsider the last two words of that phrase.”
“Oh, quite right, Master,” Eyesore agreed.
With Frank calmed down, Lyra proceeded to direct him to try out different parts of his body. Discovering, much to her delight, that everything seemed to work, Lyra spent much of the rest of the night teaching her creation to walk. But it wasn't long before all the excitement, all the adrenaline... not to mention multiple lightning strikes... took their toll. Lyra had to give in to her need for sleep. However, she needed to do something about Frank. She gently guided him to lay down on the table, using a pile of blankets for a makeshift pillow, and played her lyre until he had fallen asleep himself. Not wanting to leave him unattended, Lyra made a bed for herself upon another table.
Frank, Lyra and Eyesore slept well into the next day. Before anything else, Lyra made it a point to provide food for Frank. Leaving him in Eyesore's care, she departed for the markets of Ponyville to buy a wide selection of food... and lots of it. Everywhere around her, ponies were making finishing preparations for Nightmare Night. She couldn't wait. But not just because she wouldn't be distracted by her 'work'. This year was special. This year Ponyville would see a real live human.
“Lyra!” Bonbon called, trotting over, “Is everything okay? I got concerned when you came storming through the house last night.”
“Everything's fine, Bonbon,” Lyra replied with a smile, “I have everything... in hand.”
Looking to the cart heaped high with fruits and vegetables, Bonbon asked, “What's with all the food? I can't imagine you're that hungry.”
“I've got something special planned for tonight,” Lyra admitted.
“A banquet at the castle?” Bonbon supposed, “Opening it up as a 'haunted house'?”
“Ooh! That's a good idea!” Lyra remarked with genuine surprise, “Maybe next year.”
“Then what is it for?”
“You'll see,” Lyra answered with a broad smile, “It'll be a surprise... a big surprise.” She continued on, leaving Bonbon confused... and concerned.
Returning to the castle, she used the secret entrance to get the cart inside. She knew it was likely she would be seen, but it would not be long before such secrets would no longer be necessary. Lyra was pleased to find that everything was as she had left them in the laboratory. She was also pleased to see that Frank had little difficulty satisfying his appetite... not to mention keeping down his meal. She really did not want to find out that his stomach wasn't working right.
As night descended on Ponyville, fillies and colts all over town began making their rounds in pursuit of candy. Older ponies, at least those not escorting the children, began the games and parties. And in Castle Frankensteed, Lyra was getting Frank ready for his debut.
“It's almost time for you to see the world outside the lab, Frank,” she declared happily, “And what you're wearing right now just won't do.” Lyra trotted over to a small recess in the wall concealed with a curtain. “You need something spectacular, something stylish... and nothing says stylish like...” pulling the curtain open, she revealed a three piece suit entirely in, “PLAID!”
Frank howled in horror at the sight of the monstrous wardrobe. Flailing his arms in his panic he reared about and stomped towards the only exit he knew.
“Frank! Wait!” Lyra called after him. But her words fell on deaf ears as Frank plowed through the closed door... and a substantial portion of the stone wall above it.
“Well, he certainly is a sturdy lad,” Eyesore observed.
Disregarding her henchpony's comment, Lyra magically grabbed hold of the suit and pursued her creation out of the door. “Frank! Stop!”
“I don't care what he says, I think the suit goes wonderfully with his eyes,” Eyesore remarked as he began to clear up the fallen stone, “Especially seeing as how they don't match.”
At the Golden Oak Library, Twilight had finally put the finishing touches on her own costume and descended the stairs to meet up with Spike.
“You forgot the beard for your Star Swirl the Bearded costume,” the little dragon stated, peering out from the pile of sticks and twigs that made up his timberwolf outfit.
“What? No, Spike, I'm not Star Swirl the Bearded,” Twilight corrected, “I'm Clover the Clever... after she became High Court Adviser following the founding of Equestria. Admittedly, the general design is similar, but the colors are completely different. See? Purple with silver stars, not blue with gold stars.”
“Uh-huh,” was the dragon's unenthusiastic response.
“Really, Spike, would it kill you to read some books on history?” Twilight complained as she went to answer the knock at the door.
“Nightmare Night! What a fright! Give me something sweet to bite!”
Twilight just stood at the door, dumbfounded.
“Discord?” Twilight eventually mustered as she stared at the draconequus at her door.
“Why, Twilight, how could you tell it was me?” the spirit of chaos asked rhetorically, lifting a crudely drawn mask of Princess Celestia from his face.
“Aren't you a little old to be out asking for candy on Nightmare Night?” Twilight asked.
“Like, real old?” Spike added.
“Doesn't mean one can't be young at heart,” Discord countered, “But if it makes you feel better...” With a snap of his fingers and a flash of light, he became a child. “Oh! But now I'm too young to be out unescorted,” the young draconequus pointed out. With another flash of light, a grown Discord appeared next to him in a dress, shower cap, and glasses.
Seeing Spike, the young Discord gasped, “A timberwolf! I'll be eaten alive!” Ducking behind Twilight, he continued to feign fear as he cried out, “Quick, Clover the Clever, banish it to the Everfree Forest before it devours us all!”
“You recognize my costume?” Twilight asked in surprise.
“Why of course, Princess,” Discord replied as he returned to his usual form, “We were contemporaries after all. And I must admit she was quite the cutie... as ponies go.”
“Wow. I didn't need to hear that,” Twilight responded before she finally thought to ask, “What are you doing here anyway?”
“Enjoying Nightmare Night, what else?” he answered, “And I must admit I was so pleased to learn of this little custom of yours. Everypony dressed up as somepony or something different... mythical creatures, monsters, inanimate objects! Pretending to be afraid when you're really not! Colts and fillies collect great hauls of candy... and then give most of it away! It's all so delightfully chaotic! It's as if some small part of me rubbed off on you ponies after all. Almost makes being locked in stone for a millennium worth it, just to see you all admit... I was right all along, chaos is fun!”
“It's not exactly chaos,” Twilight pointed out as she proceeded towards town, Discord floating along beside, “There's perfectly logical reasons f-”
“Uh!” Discord stopped her, placing his tail tuft, shaped into a hand, to her lips, “Don't you go spoiling my fun with your logic and reason, Princess.”
“But why did you use such a lousy mask?” Spike asked, “With your powers you could look exactly like Princess Celestia!”
“Don't go giving him ideas, Spike,” Twilight scolded.
“Well I could,” Discord replied, “But I didn't want to go giving all the little children nightmares. Besides...”
“Dude! Check out that guy's killer Discord costume!” a passing adolescent pony declared, “It looks like he's really floating!”
Discord hummed to Spike and Twilight as he motioned to the passing pony.
“Well, there is that,” Twilight agreed.
The trio passed by many kiosks selling candies, toy spiders, and costume accessories. Ahead was the stage that had been set up for musical performances. Unlike previous years where the performers were all local, the famous theme band Oinko Doinko had offered to perform in Ponyville that year to celebrate Twilight Sparkle's coronation. The Princess could already hear one of the songs they were playing...
“Bits of my creation- Is it real?
It's my creation- I do not know
No hesitation- No heart of gold
Just flesh and blood- I do not know”
The music easily drowned out the screams of ponies behind the stage. Nopony listening to the performance, or those close to or approaching the stage, had any idea what was headed their way.
“From my heart and from my hooves
Why does no one approve
My intentions... Ooooh, weird...
Frank came bursting through the curtains of the stage with a roar. Screams rose from the audience of costumed ponies as the band's performance came to a sudden halt. Frank, having stopped briefly due to his confusion over the nature of what he had staggered into, resumed his plaid provoked rampage. Roaring and flailing his arms, he staggered across the stage before falling off the edge into the audience. Ponies scattered in terror as the human righted himself and stomped away from the stage... and towards Twilight and her companions.
Twilight, Discord, and Spike watched in stunned silence as Frank staggered past. “Oh-ho!” Discord nearly squealed in joy, “I love Nightmare Night!” When he noticed Twilight glaring at him, he asked, “You mean that's not part of the celebration?”
“Discord!” the Princess growled accusingly.
Looking at Twilight... to the monster stomping off in the distance... and back to Twilight, Discord declared, “I had nothing to do with this! Honest.” With a shrug he added, “I wish I could say I did.”
Before she could question his credibility, Twilight was distracted by Lyra as she rushed past her, the hideous plaid suit still in magical tow. “Frank!” Lyra cried out, removing any doubt regarding the true culprit, “Wait!”
Much to Twilight's surprise, the unicorn was followed by what looked like a large yellow cat in a black dress rushing past on its hind legs. Her hooked front paws were raised over her head as she cried out, “Frank! Wa-a-a-a-a!”
A small kangaroo-like animal in a loud shirt and sneakers commented, “That was weird.” In a flash he was replaced by Discord, who, seeing Twilight's expression, remarked, “You look like a mare who's never seen a wallaby in tennis shoes before.” The Princess shook her head in frustration as she took off after Lyra, Discord and Spike following along behind.
Pinkie was leading a group of children towards the next house when they caught sight of Frank lumbering their way. With a chorus of high-pitched screams they ducked behind a short pile of hay bales and let the monster pass. Three of the costumed children, however, quickly overcame their initial fear when they spied Lyra go racing past. “Waitaminute, Crusaders,” Scootaloo, who was dressed as a Wonderbolt, announced, “Do you realize what that was?”
Shrinking back in her manticore costume, Sweetie Belle replied, “A scary monster?”
“No!” Apple Bloom declared, removing the head of her gorilla suit, “That musta' been Lyra's human!” Seeing Twilight race past with Discord and Spike in tow, she added, “And it looks like it's on a rampage!”
“You know what that means, don't you?” Scootaloo asked with a crafty smile.
“We can be...”
“CUTIE MARK CRUSADER HUMAN CATCHERS! YAY!!”
With that, the three fillies bolted off in hopes of heading off Frank, casting off their costumes as they ran. After a quick stop to grab a net from the nets and dinnerware store they positioned themselves on a bridge that linked neighboring cottages across an alley. “Here he comes, Crusaders!” Scootaloo whispered to the others, “Get ready!”
As Frank approached the bridge Apple Bloom shouted, “Naow!” The fillies tossed the net over the railing and successfully netted the rampaging human. In his confusion, Frank came staggering to a stop just past the bridge.
“Now we got 'im!” Scootaloo shouted as the three jumped over the opposite railing to grab the human.
Finding himself suddenly beset by a pack of small creatures, Frank howled in terror and tried to flee. As a result of the human's desperate attempt to escape, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were jostled and jolted about until they, themselves, were hopelessly tangled in the net.
“Great idea, Apple Bloom!” Scootaloo groused.
“Hey, you went along with it, didn't ya'?” she fired back.
Frank made right for town hall, hoping that altitude could somehow help him escape his relentless pursuers. Ponies scattered as the creature tore heedlessly towards his goal. Through the shouting, certain ears pinpointed the cries of Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo. Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash were soon on the scene.
“Dear Celestia!” Rarity, dressed as a vampire queen, cried out, “What is that thing?!”
“I don't know,” Rainbow Dash declared, “But it's not going anywhere with those girls!” The pegasus darted towards the creature intent on stopping its progress, her Shadowbolt costume leaving a darker than usual rainbow blur behind her. “Alright, ugly! Drop those-!” With a swat of his huge arm, Frank knocked Rainbow Dash out of his way and began clambering up the pillars of town hall.
“Hold on, Apple Bloom!” Applejack, dressed up as the Sass Squash, shouted from the ground below, “We'll get you outta this somehow!”
“She says that like ah have a choice,” her little sister drawled.
“Frank!” Lyra shouted, coming to a stop next to Applejack, “Please, come down!”
“'Frank'?” Applejack, asked, “Lyra, you know that thing?”
“She not only knows him, she created him!” Twilight joined in, finally catching up to her, “Didn't you! That's why you wanted all those books on anatomy and surgery!” Lyra smiled nervously. “What were you thinking?!” Twilight continued, “Didn't it occur to you that something like this might happen?!”
“How is yelling at me going to help?” Lyra fired back in frustration.
“I don't know!” Twilight answered honestly, “But at least it makes me feel better!”
“Well, while yer feelin' better, that thing still has the girls!” Applejack reminded her.
Spike turned to Discord and asked, “Well, aren't you going to do anything? You've got all kinds of powers.”
“I am doing something,” Discord pointed out, “I'm enjoying the show!” Twilight's only response to that was to pull her hat down with a frustrated grunt.
“Oh, I know I could lure him down if I had my lyre,” Lyra whined, stamping her hooves anxiously, “But it's all the way back at the castle!”
“Need a lyre?” Discord inquired, “I'd be happy to oblige.” In a flash of light the draconequus had transformed himself into the required instrument, his serpentine body curved backwards with an arm reaching back to hold his tail.
Lyra, taken aback by Discord's means of solving the problem, looked to Twilight. “What?! Do you need an invitation?” the Princess spouted, “Play!”
“Right,” Lyra agreed, taking the odd instrument in her magical grip and preparing to play. Following Twilight's lead, Applejack and Spike began whispering and motioning to the gathered crowd to provide the unicorn the necessary silence. The chill autumn air bore the gentle notes skyward where they tugged at Frank's heartstrings. His frantic ascent halted as a smile began to cross his face. His growling softened to a purr as he began to slowly lower himself back down. Once he had his feet once more on solid ground, Frank slowly began to sink down into a sitting position.
While the creature remained enchanted by the music of his creator, Twilight and Rarity slowly moved in to use their magic to begin untangling the three fillies from the net. “Hold still, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity quietly assured her sister, “We'll have you out of there in just a few moments.”
With the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Frank freed from the netting, Lyra stopped playing and set Discord the Lyre down. With a flash the draconequus retook his usual form. Spike noticed Discord sniffle, with tears forming in his eyes. “What's your problem?” the dragon asked.
“She played me,” he whimpered, “She played me like a harp!” Quickly leaning in he jabbed Spike with his elbow as he added with a smile, “And I loved every minute of it!” Rising above the crowd, Discord let out a gleeful laugh as he declared, “Oh! You ponies really do know how to have a good time!” He added, with less enthusiasm, “Occasionally.”
“I would hardly consider what just happened here a 'good time'!” Rarity huffed.
“Me neither,” Sweetie Belle concurred.
Discord merely shrugged, “To each their own, I guess.”
Twilight approached Lyra, who by now was standing beside the now placid Frank. It was clear she was almost on the verge of tears. “You know,” the Princess began gently, “We still need to figure out what to do with him. We can't have Frank running loose around Ponyville, and I don't think your castle is really big enough for him.”
Lyra suddenly got a horrified expression on her face. “You're not going to destroy him, are you?!” she asked desperately.
“What? No!” Twilight responded, “However you created him, he's still a living being... he just... needs someone to take care of him. And I don't think a regular old unicorn pony can do that.”
“I think I may have a solution!” Discord announced, swooping in to stand next to Frank.
“Ever since learning how magical friendship can be, I've been meaning to expand my circle of friends,” he began, “And I was just thinking maybe Frank could move in with me! We can be roomies!” Turning to Twilight, he pointed out, “After all, where else is somepony this unique going to fit in?” Reaching down, Discord lifted Lyra's creation up onto his feet and declared, “Just look at us! We're peas in pod!” Putting a arm around Frank, he gave him a chummy hug, “How about it, Frankie? You'll have a friend, I'll have a friend. We'll be compadres! Amigos! Bosom buddies!” Frank gave off what could pass for pleased laughter. “See? He's all for it!” Discord declared before leaning in to ask Twilight, “So how 'bout it, Princess? You can issue a royal decree and make it official.”
“I'd like to consult with Princess Luna about that when she gets here,” Twilight cautioned, “But... I think it could work.”
“Well then, in the meantime,” Discord began, turning to Frank, “Frankie, ol' buddy, ol' chum, what say we hit the town?” Frank let out a joyous moan, raising his clenched fists high. “Not literally, of course,” the draconequus pointed out to him quietly, “If we're gonna make this work we've got to behave ourselves.” Frank nodded in agreement as they walked off.
“And, Lyra,” Twilight began, addressing the young mare, “You're not doing anything like this again. You know that.”
“I know,” she agreed sheepishly. Rubbing a front hoof on her foreleg, Lyra asked, “How much trouble am I in... otherwise.”
“Compared to what normally happens around here, there wasn't too much damage,” Twilight conceded, “And you're not trying to weasel out of accepting responsibility for the calamity you caused. So I think I can let you off with...” Twilight emphasized every word as she continued, “Don't... EVER... do... something... this... crazy... AGAIN!” After a pause, Twilight pointed out, “You certainly did made it a Nightmare Night to remember, though.”