Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 149

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Chapter 149

Well, after explaining Scrabble, which Twilight took such a shine to, calling it the most incredible balance of education and entertainment, and marking the first ever use of ‘Edutainment’ in Equestria’s history according to her... we didn’t get to the others and now it’s really late.

“Oh, I think Clark’s already asleep!” Twilight says, looking out the window into the gentle dark of night. “And I hope Spike got to bed on time, it looks pretty late outside.” She sighs. “Alright, let’s get to this.” She motions to the stairs. “You head to your room, you’ll want to be laying down when you Delve, or you’ll fall over. I don’t think humans have locking knee-joints.”

“Nope. Sleeping standing up looks really uncomfortable by the way. Idunno how you guys do it.”

“Oh, well there’s these muscle groups in the legs that attach to the knees, and-”

“I can hear it later, thank you.” I get up and head to my room. I’ve gotten used to the ever-so-slightly-too-small bed, and I can get comfortable while I wait for the trance with ease.

“Alright, now just calm yourself. Find your stillness. Peace and calmness.” Twilight says, and I hear the pages of a book flip. Heh, she’s reading as she goes.

“And imagine a nice quiet mountain range, and the babbling nerd slowly quieting to nothing.” I say, grinning whilst staring at my eyelids. I’m pretty sure Twi’s not happy about that. She continues anyway though.

After a minute or six, I’m not sure, I feel myself slowly drift off. However, it’s not like I’m falling asleep, though the ‘falling’ half is coming through just fine. Suddenly, I see myself falling at Clark, and everything shifts around me, like a bad jump-cut in a movie.

Judging by the fires, the fields of spikes, and the fact that I can hear screams, I’d say Clark isn’t having a good dream tonight. Something like a loud staccato burst issues from the other side of a hill covered in barbed wire. There is no sky, just a field of smoke above me.

Well, I guess I’ll find Clark where it’s the worst, so I start looking for some sort of indication where it’s ‘worse’ than anywhere else, but it all looks like Hell. After a while, I just try and just think about... finding him in general. The ‘where’ is not important. Through what I assume is dream-rules, I just kind of start walking and something tells me I’m getting closer.

Stepping around the first hill, I see a huge tower rising into the smoky sky, and a field littered with either corpses or just people playing dead. More than half look monstrous, or only half-human, though plenty look absolutely normal. The way up to the tower is literally carpeted with the dead, forming a morbid ramp. There’s a huge amount of weapons scattered around, almost all resting in a way that leaves them dangerous.

I can see someone that I just feel is Clark, standing at the entrance of the tower, and I can hear him clearly as he shout something to a few figures going up the tower. He’s yelling for them to go, and to keep going. With a very sudden shift, the field has a towering monster on it, like a hunched dragon with a giant shell on its back and a massive cannon fused to its arms. In place of wings, it has a giant pair of long, scythe-like talons. Instead of attacking Clark, though, it’s facing out and begins shooting at a veritable horde of random creatures, some of them ponies, most human, and several near-human. Clark stays standing in the entrance to the tower.

I can’t get involved, but I do still feel the urge to be by his side so I make my way towards him. I’m pretty sure walking on top of and across all the bodies is technically okay, but I decide to take a slower route of where there are the fewest bodies and just hopping from one to another. Some have been very dead for quite a while and I do not want to look at my pants or shoes. This desire to not look increases with each squishy crack noise and I’m feeling rather nauseous at the idea of exactly what I’m doing right now and eventually make my way to Clark; which, unfortunately, required me to step right through some poor sod’s stomach...

I make it to his side, at the apex of the pile of deceased entities, and see him pulling out a bow with a distinctly bone-like appearance, and he takes aim at the creatures swarming forward. He has a wide, determined grin on his face, and an evil glint in his eye. To my surprise, though, he hasn’t got his demonic arm, but he is wearing some battered, splattered, kinda crusty armor on him. It’s mostly cloth, but there’s symbols almost literally crawling over it.

No, scratch that, they are

Hello archaic enchantments or whatever. I try to look where he’s looking, to see if I can figure out where the supposed opposition is. Or what it is. Probably demons, but who knows what it could be. Well, aside from him. Dammit, if only I could do more. I have a feeling that if I could fight off whatever he’s facing, I could get closer to getting him back.

A thought enters my mind and I can’t help but laugh. It’s not as gruesome as I thought, but this circumstance, just him and me against the world when everything’s gone to shit... it’s exactly like the plans we came up with for the zombie apocalypse. First mission, get to a hardware or grocery store... Then get weapons and start kicking ass.

Then I see a little gray humanoid with a giant head, like a perfectly classic ‘gray alien’, reach out and spike purple lines of energy into the behemoth that had been fighting for Clark. The monstrosity slowly turned towards us, and leveled its cannon.

Clark responds by reaching into his chest, and pulling out a ridiculous, anime-grade bone sword as tall as he is, with a beating heart in the pommel and veins tracing all over it.

Wait, I can see into his now-empty chest. That’s his heart! What the hell is- eh, it’s a dream, I guess it’s symbolic or something.

I start to Spark up but when I start glowing I then remember I can’t help just watch. I try throwing a rock at the alien thing and, as expected, the rock acts as though I’m not even here. Sighing, I sit back and watch, rooting for my friend. It may be all I can do, but since it’s something, I’m gonna do it.

I watch as he simply leaps up and cleaves the monster in half with the stupidly-over-the-top sword, and it falls into two neat halves. He lands on the other side, and looks up at the now-terrified alien, who is beating a hasty retreat. Clark leaps up to cleave it in twain, but it vanishes before he lands the blow. All around me, like somebody holding down the delete key as they select objects in a game, the nasty, gory portions of the terrain disappear, leaving a massive beige dustbowl behind, Clark’s heart-bone-sword gone and his chest whole. He look confused and a little scared at all of this.

What the heck is going on? If I still have any gamer instincts left in me, this is definite silent message for ‘incoming boss fight’ or at least something rather important.

Very suddenly, the sky is no longer smoky, instead being a simple night sky, with a bright, full moon in the sky. Clark’s eyes home in on it, and he takes a hesitant step away from it. Slowly, Luna materializes, forming by stretching the night into her shape and then sort of ‘fading in’ to being her. Clark looks utterly confused now, as Luna glances for a moment in my direction before looking at Clark again. Her brow is furrowed, either in distaste or worry, I can’t tell.

“I assume you are Clark, yes?”

“I- uh, yes? Mostly?”

Oh yeah, he’s never met Luna and only barely met Celestia. He’s probably a little tentative. That said, she had one cool entrance. I think I can use that for something...

“I am glad to meet you, Clark. I came when I sensed the... violence of this dream. Are you well?”

Clark looks baffled. “I... yes? Who are you? I don’t recognize you.”

“I am Princess Luna, the keeper of the night and dreams in Equestria. I am sorry to intrude upon your dreams, but I couldn’t allow you to be tormented further.” As she speaks, she’s stepped closer, and I realize that’s she’s taller in the dream world than in real life, with her head at just the right height to rest on Clark’s shoulder.

“What, this? This is hardly a bad dream. I was just about finished with another planet when you interrupted.”

“I do not understand. As well, you seem so... lucid. Aware.”

That confuses me a bit. I mean, it’s a dream. Once you realize you’re not in a dream you can do whatever you want. What does she mean by ‘lucid’ if she doesn’t mean ‘aware’?

“Well... yeah. I’m a lucid dreamer most nights. Wait, so you’re an actual pony, not a shard?” Luna gives him a confused look, and I’m more than a bit lost as well.

I turn to him. “What’s a ‘Shard’?” but then I recall he can’t hear me, though unsurprisingly, Luna definitely can both hear and see me, judging by how she nods and asks exactly that.

“Er, a piece of me. Uhm... give me a minute, I’ll need to break through this to get to the lower layers...” Clark begins to mutter, then simply punches the air. Like it’s just a painted piece of glass, the world shatters, revealing us to be in a massive city. There’s vertical stacks of building in every direction, with massive arcs of electricity moving between them and millions of tiny catwalks and minor connections. There are people, humans in every direction. Most of them look like minor variations of Clark, and with a good-sized percentage, they’re only distinguishable by what they wear.

“Where is this...” Again, I keep forgetting I can’t be heard except by Luna... this is really frustrating.

“Clark, where are we?” Luna helpfully asks.

Clark stares at her, then gives a theatrically sweeping motion. “Welcome... to my brain! ...interpretation, at least. Hence the lightning arcs.” He gestures up, and the electrical currents between buildings make themselves known just for that moment. I also realize that there’s no sky. It’s not black beyond the tops of the skyscrapers, nor is it white or gray or any color at all. It’s making my brain hurt a little to look at it.

Luna looks absolutely aghast. “But- how can you just- Wait, who are all of these?”

“Shards. Pieces of me, broken into itty-bitty little bits for easier parsing. Every single ‘person’ here is actually just a fragment of an idea, or a personality trait. A few of the amalgamations formed of these are what generally runs the day-to-day stuff, with stray thoughts wandering into the metaphorical ‘board room’ whenever they please. Kinda annoying, but still.”

A large humanoid, but bereft of any features at all, walks by. It has no features on it’s face, nor any on the rest of its body, a simple white shirt and blue jeans for it being its only distinguishing features.

“Ah, here’s my Preference for Not Being the Center of Attention When in Large Crowds. Or PNBCQWLC for slightly shorter.” Clark gestures at the ‘person’.

Luna just stares at the completely unremarkable hu- wait, now it’s a pony. A perfectly generic pony, with no features and a perfectly generic brown coat and a brownish-blonde mane.

I look at Luna, she being the only one who can perceive me. “If I assume you didn’t do that, I’m at a complete loss as to what just happened.”

Luna just looks in confusion at the exuberantly generic, faceless pony. PNBCQWLC shrugs and wanders off, and is immediately lost in the crowd.

“So. What brings you here, Princess?” Clark smiles and looks at her. “There’s still a lot of work being done in plenty of places, so don’t expect a tour or anything, but this is a relatively safe place.

I lean over to Luna. “Just don’t ask where his fears are. Or his past. Both are pretty damn ugly.”

Luna seems to agree as she asks Clark what he can show her. Clark shrugs, and Luna looks lost. I don’t think she’s used to anyone having this depth or detail in their control of their own mind.

To be fair, I would have expected him to either have it all be a total mess, or a single filing cabinet. Not a city where all his ‘parts’ are the residents...

Speaking of which, I see another perfect copy of Clark wander up, and the previous one simply wanders away.

“Now, if you’re worried about my dream, that was rather peaceful. I just go around for a few decades or centuries, and destroy everything in my path. Simple and pleasant.” The version of Clark speaking has an even wider grin than possible, and it looks somewhat unhinged.

Well, I think we found his ‘insanity’ or at least a small chip of it anyway.

“Uhm... how is that... ‘pleasant’ in any way?” Luna asks, looking very concerned.

I shrug. “He was winning this time? He was destroying bad memories?” I offer.

“Ha, I was getting to wipe out thousands at a time, with no regret or remorse. They’re just simulacra, after all. No faces, no family, no anything. And I can kill them however I want, with no regrets! I think I may have mentioned that already.”

Dang, he’s making these out to be Nobodies! That’s... pretty dark. I just hope he stopped there and doesn’t have any Heartless around. I look at my feet expecting to see a dark puddle with yellow eyes, indicating a Shadow, but nothing is there but the city street.

Luna, however, seems further concerned, but in a generally more ‘mother’ sort of way. She takes a step forward again, and reaches out to hug him. Clark, however, backs hurriedly away, and Luna looks rather hurt.

Until she’s blindsided by a two-foot-tall Clark who hugs the hell out of her kneecaps. Inner child I assume and I relay this thought to Luna.

Luna hugs the shorter, but otherwise identical, Clark. Slowly, the dreamworld starts to fade to gray, the edges of my vision fraying and turning to nothing. Luna looks up at the little Clark, who is turning ghostly. Next Chapter: Chapter 150 Estimated time remaining: 11 Hours, 51 Minutes

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