Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 152: This is Nightmare Night

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This is Nightmare Night

This is it, tonight’s the night.

The time of fear, of the undead and mysterious. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and monsters of all kinds. The symphony of screams echoing through the howling wind. The pale moonlight spreading dark shadows throughout the entire town, blanketing it in a shade of all-engulfing darkness only seen in one’s nightmares. The time when one’s darker side is shown, inner beasts are let free of their chains and cruel, gleeful insanity becomes the law of the streets as mother nature reveals her darker side, recreating the world in a new image for one night only. The most important night of all. And this night shall be even more special.

I love it! And I want to make my performance tonight very special. I’ve been waiting all day, acting as though I was unaware of the holiday. It’s excruciating at times, but the night is not here yet and I want this to be perfect! The dramatic effect is everything here, I will introduce these ponies to what this holiday is really all about. Not that I’m the only part of the plan. No, I’ve enlisted Luna and Discord in aiding me and they seem to be waiting with anticipation as well. But I am the star of the show, and my entrance is the most important.

I walk around town, looking at everything being set up. The themed party games, the decorations, and even a few ponies running around in costume already. Thoughts spin through my mind of just how perfect this night will be. Oh how I wish this night would last forever!

Finally, it is dark out. They call it Nightmare Night, and while that is certainly a more accurate title for what the holiday should be, they shall all know the true nature of All Hallow’s Eve.

A crowd is gathered by the stage and I am waiting for my chance, hidden behind it. Finally my chance is here. I appear in the center stage in a flash of black light, a bit of help from Luna on that front. She and Discord are on ‘special effects’ for the performance, and even a few townsponies are going to be involved, but I am the most important here.

I address the surprised and interested crowd before me. “Attention everyone! This night is very special to me, as I’m sure it is to many of you. However, I have my own name for this very special holiday. Now, I will let you have a peek at what this holiday means to me and what it’s really about! Everyone hail to the Pumpkin Song!!”

Once I’ve said the secret words, a bunch of uncostumed ponies come up onto the stage to join me and I pull out the Lyre. This is going to be one Hell of a show!

♪ Boys and girls of every age

Wouldn't you like to see something strange?

Come with us and you will see

This our town of Halloween ♪

I clearly have my audience captivated already.

♪ This is Halloween, this is Halloween

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

This is Halloween, everybody make a scene

Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright

It's our town, everybody scream

In this town of Halloween ♪

♪ I am the one hiding under your bed ♪

With a snap of his claw, Discord summons forth eyes and large, gnashing teeth beneath the stage, the phantom mouth grinning as it starts it line

♪ Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red ♪

♪ I am the one hiding under yours stairs ♪

Myrna, snakes writhing with a cob-web mesh stuck to them, bursts from the ground.

♪ Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair ♪

♪ This is Halloween, this is Halloween, Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! ♪

The CMC, dressed as Lock, Shock, Barrel, and a tiny Oogie step out of a thin veil of illusion, pouncing from the shadows on all sides, before giggling and singing their lines.

♪ In this town we call home

Everyone hail to the pumpkin song ♪

The Mayor steps forth, skin appearing to rot and fall off as she steps into the moonlight, revealing bones and dried flesh. A pirate captain’s ensemble finishes the outfit, and she grins in a manner both eerie and somehow welcoming at the crowd.

♪ In this town, don't we love it now

Everybody's waiting for the next surprise ♪

I don’t think anyone’s noticed because of all the special effects, but I am no longer onstage, rather I am behind it, waiting for the right moment.

♪ Round that corner, man hiding in the trash can

Something's waiting now to pounce, and how you'll-

Scream! This is Halloween,

Red 'n' black

And slimy green

Aren't you scared?

Well, that's just fine

Say it once, say it twice

Take a chance and roll the dice

Ride with the moon in the dead of night

Everybody scream, everybody scream

In our town of Halloween

I am the clown with the tear-away face

Here in a flash and gone without a trace ♪

For this one, Pinkie Pie volunteered to be the clown. Little did she know that, due to the use of altering magic, she was not just taking off a mask that looked like her face.

♪ I am the who when you call, ‘Who's there?’

I am the wind blowing through your hair ♪

Suddenly, the night goes a little darker, and shadow covers the moon. A grinning, toothy silhouette looks down at the gathering, and descends to reveal Luna, but larger, darker, and much more... demonic. So awesome!

♪ I am the shadow on the moon at night

Filling your dreams to the brim with fright ♪

♪ This is Halloween, this is Halloween

Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

Halloween! Halloween! ♪

By now, the entire crowd is chanting along with smiles on their faces, though a  few still look a bit scared.

♪ Tender lumplings everywhere

Life's no fun without a good scare

That's our job, but we're not mean

In our town of Halloween ♪

Mr. Cake, dressed as a vampire, gently bouncing a ‘werewolf’ foal on his back, sings his lines. Mrs. Cake, giving the refrain, is outfitted as a werewolf, and has a gleefully giggling ‘vampire’ foal at her side.

♪ In this town

Don't we love it now

Everybody's waiting for the next surprise

Skeleton Jack might catch you in the back

And scream like a banshee

Make you jump out of your skin! ♪

A bunch of little colts and fillies on the stage have literally jumped out of their skin, being nothing more than animate dancing skeletons, and I can tell it got at least half the crowd to scream!

♪ This is Halloween, everybody scream!

Wont' ya please make way for a very special guy ♪

My turn! I leap out onstage, dressed as a scarecrow, my head replaced by a flaming, leering Jack-o-Lantern with glowing green eyes. I begin dancing to the music as it plays and singing along with the lyrics, my voice very audible to the audience despite there being hundreds of simulated voices along with mine.

♪ Our man jack is King of the pumpkin patch

Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King, now!

This is Halloween, this is Halloween

Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

In this town we call home

Everyone hail to the pumpkin song! ♪

I light the rest of myself on fire and, also ‘lighting’ the skeleton colts and fillies as they prance and hop around me in a circle for the final chanting.

♪ La la la la-la

La la la la-la

La la la la-la la la-la la

Whoo! ♪

Once the music has died down, the stage and the actors, including me, return to normal. The audience howls with delight and claps, stomps, whistles, they do whatever they can to show their appreciation and admiration. I take a bow, and walk off-stage, but not without some parting words.

“Happy Halloween everybody!”

Behind me, I hear Discord snap his fingers one more time, giving his ‘gift’ for the night everypony who showed up. Heh, when they find their costumes being a little more real than they were, this is going to be great.

I’ve gotten into my proper costume, as I walk around town in a trenchcoat and hat, a white sheet of fabric obscuring my facial features and -as a final touch- I have coal dust all over my face, making it shift and churn in ever-changing, symmetrical black markings.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got the best Rorschach costume in the history of everything ever.

I see Twilight in a costume of some form of black-cloaked witch or something, a ruby-red jewel on a sort of clasp at her throat and I approach her. She speaks first however. “Wow Anthony, that performance back there was amazing! And what you’ve got now... that mask is so cool. Maybe you aren’t as lazy as I thought.”

I pat her on the head. “I’m not lazy if there’s incentive not to be, and this time of the year is the best incentive there is. I’m not gonna do anything half-way tonight!”

“I can see that. At least you’re enjoying yourself in a harmless way... those fillies and colts are okay, right?”

“Relax, they’re fine. That was all faked with Discord’s magic. Want proof?” I point to a mother and child pairing walking by us. “That’s one of the kids.”

Twilight, sighing in relief, continues the conversation. “So where are Discord and Princess Luna now?”

“I think she’s still by the stage playing with some kids right now. Discord... Idunno where he is.”

As I say that, Discord floats lazily by on a purple cloud raining giant candies, a bunch of kids and even a few grown ponies are following the cloud, filling as many bags as they can, loading up on the oversized sugary treats.

I turn to Twilight, grinning. “Found ‘im.”

Twilight actually chuckles a bit. “Maybe he is harmless... but we don’t know for sure if he’s fully reformed yet. We should still keep a close eye on him. But he’s doing pretty well so far, actually.”

“I told you chaos can be beneficial. Anyway, catch ya later Twi. Gonna see what kinds of fun I can scare up!”

The answer is: a lot. Having a technically featureless face that constantly metamorphs is scary as heck to some ponies, and others think it’s just plain awesome.

I leap out of a bush and scare the crap out of some kids, and a rather peeved-looking Rainbow Dash flies down to meet me. “Hey come on man, not cool. Those were mine, I saw ‘em first. Find your own pranking targets.”

“Suit yourself.” I grin and, pulling the coal dust from my mask, shove the particles in her face and irritate her nose. She lets out a monstrous sneeze that quite literally knocks her onto her back.

She gets to her hooves and gives me a dirty look. “I didn’t mean me!”

I roll my eyes. “And since when should one have to limit who they target for pranks as long as the prankee also finds it harmless?”

“Well... you don’t have to but... come on not cool, I think I sneezed a filling out!”

“You have fillings?”

“Shut up, I’m going to get back to doing some real pranks. You can watch, just don’t expect me to fall for anything else.”

“Aw come on, we haven’t just sat and talked in ages. Why can’t you hold a conversation while doing something else? Or is walking and talking at the same time too hard?”

“Hey! I prefer to fly and talk.”

“Clearly something gets more exercise than your brain, but I guess that’s not exactly what you’re famous for, is it?”

“Hey! I- actually can’t argue with that.”

I give her a smug grin. “I know. So, how’ve ya been, aside from the recent weirdness and the holiday preparation?” I figure we can chat while we move so I start walking, Dash hovering beside me as we converse.

“Eh, pretty good. Been pulling more night shifts lately, but that’s not uncommon for the autumn and winter months.”

“How much does weather control pay, anyway?”

“Well, as the local captain, I get some pretty good pay. Most of the average workers and two-shifters get around sixteen to thirty per shift, and I get around the same, but I’m working almost non-stop.”

Shifts? I thought that weather control was constant. I mean, I guess there are days when nothing needs to be changed but... huh. “So what does ‘non-stop’ work entail? I mean, it’s not that hard for a pegasus to smash a cloud or move it. I see you guys do it all the time.”

“Sure, but we also have to regulate wind vectors, alter cloud positions when they shouldn’t be destroyed, watch for rogue weather from the Everfree... heck, there’s four ponies on cloud-hauling duty alone, and they fly all the way to Cloudsdale to pick up shipments of well-trimmed and stable cloudstuff every few days. There’s a few hundred gallons to haul around, and stable or not, it’s got a lot of mass.” She pauses for a few moments, then sneaks off to go spook a few foals, cackling happily until she comes back over.

“Wait... gallons of water you mean? I mean, clouds are just... water. At least, that’s what I was always taught in science class. It’s just water vapor. Fog is the same thing just-”

“Uh, duh. But water’s, like, eight pounds to the gallon, right? Have you ever seen a cloud? Those huge cumulo-nimbus clouds weigh, like, a half-ton.”

“Well, if it were solid yeah, but doesn’t that only matter to pegasi? I mean, why can you manipulate clouds if they are just water? Do you all have some kind of Aquatic affinity? Why can you walk on clouds but not water-”

“Hey, dude, how do you pick up fire, and shoot lightning? What lets you move so fast without blowing up? You turn into a living star, and you’re asking me why I can walk on clouds? I don’t know the specifics, you should ask Twilight. But frankly, I don’t care, as long as that doesn’t suddenly go away.” She thinks for a moment. “Or, wait, I can pretend to be Twilight for a sec. Ahem, something something, magic and energy, something something, blah blah blah. It’s science!”

I snicker. “She tends to not use the word ‘blah’ very often, but you’re probably right. And as for how I use my powers, it’s because I have a star core. The fact that the star core probably has magic involved somewhere down the line is just how it works or something. Besides, both Twilight and Discord have proven undoubtedly, that my use of powers is not magic. Yes I give off stellar energy similar to magic, but it’s not actual magic.”

“Pfft, whatever. I don’t really care, dude. But still, pushing an entire Storm Anvil is really hard, and getting it to stop in the right place is even harder. Ooh! Look, those kids have buckets of candy. Let’s see if we can’t give them a scare next.” Rainbow leaps towards the little ones like a cat, complete with stalking movements. It’d help if she didn’t have her rainbow tail sticking out of her suit like a frozen spray of glitter in the night.

I walk past Rainbow, boop her nose as I pass, and try something I’ve been meaning to for a while. I Spark Up and, going intangible, slowly trying to sink into the ground. After a while of tentative, very cautious ‘steps’ downward into the solid ground, it’s hard to not question what I’m standing on exactly, so I decide to make it quick. Submerged up to my neck, it seems as though there is a glowing, disembodied head crawling across the ground without actually moving. One of the kids sees me and loses it. Her friend thinks I’m some sort of decoration, so I leap out of the ground and yell, waving my arms. This prompts the others to run as fast as their tiny little legs can carry them. But only one of them actually dropped their candy. Oh well.

I signal Rainbow Dash over, hand her a chocolate out of the bag, and grin. “That’s how you scare someone.”

“Hahahaha, nice! Oh, hey, we should get this back to the kid. He’d probably be pretty sad if he didn’t get any candy tonight, and there’s still the Offering to be made later.”

“Offering? Wait, offering candy? What for? Warding off evil spirits? That’s what started the whole ‘candy’ thing for Halloween on Earth anyway.”

“Uh, sorta. It used to be offerings to Nightmare Moon so she doesn’t come and gobble up anypony. But now that Luna’s back, I think she just keeps the whole stash. Anypony who goes for candy has to pitch in, but I think it’s more about the Princess getting to see that ponies enjoyed their night.”

Wow, surprisingly deep and introspective for Rainbow Dash. “Soooo, does she eat it? Like, all of it? She’d be fatter than a beached whale in a week, so what does she do with the candy?”

There’s a sudden thunderclap behind me, and I nearly jump out of my skin. By the time I recover, I see RD laughing and giving a hoof-bump to a much-amused Luna, who is still in her ‘evil demon’ look.

“Well, Anthony, since you ask, I usually take it back to Canterlot and share it with my sister and Sir Tibbles.”

“First off, that was not funny. I’m still getting used to the ‘thunder does not always mean lightning’ and ‘lightning doesn’t kill people’ things. I thought I was about to be fried! Second... who the heck is Mr. Tibbles?”

Sir Tibbles is my dearest confidant and the gentlest little sweetheart I know. Now, I apologize for my scare, I did not intend for it to be so traumatic for you. And thirdly... I wish to speak to you momentarily, away from Ms. Dash. If we may?”

Rainbow shrugs and walks off, giving me a quick ‘seeya later’ and Luna and I begin our little chat.

“I’m pretty confident in assuming this is about my little dreamwalking escapade.”

“Indeed. I am not sure how, just yet, you managed to Delve into Clark’s mind, but I recognized the Psychic Surveillance Spell. I would like you to explain your reasoning, in clear and calm terms. I will decide if I am upset or not once I have heard your side of this.”

I figure I have nothing to hide. “I’m worried about my friend. I want him to be as I remember him, but his time on, what I call Hell-Earth, has changed him on a level I can’t quite seem to crack on my own. I figured my best bet was to get in his subconscious and figure out what the problem could be. After all, knowing what to fix is the first step in solving any issue.”

“That is... reasonable. I am glad you showed restraint and chose only to look, not to begin tampering immediately. The mind is not a crude machine, but something of incredible intricacy. That mindscape he showed us... what do you remember of it?”

“I recall that first we were in a wasteland of death. I met up with him, knowing I couldn’t-”

“No, no, after I showed up. After the dreamscape, the representations of his mind he showed us.”

“Oh, that’s easy. To describe and explain. He had an entire city dedicated to his mind, the populace being aspects of himself, each person a different part of him. An inner-child, his tendency to be a social recluse, and I’m sure many many others.”

“And did you, perchance, look up? What did you see beyond him?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know what I saw exactly. Looking made my head hurt.”

“Indeed... well, that answers a question my sister and I had about yourself, though it is not presently relevant. You faded out, however, while I sought to console him. Is there a reason you left?”

“I... left? I mean, I guess I did, but I just kind of woke up. I’m not exactly good at perpetuating a dream of my own, so I guess I just... left because I wasn’t asleep? I do know that I didn’t intend to leave, and trust me, I’d have his back for anything if given the chance.”

“Of course, Anthony. I suppose whatever had given you the access must have been exhausted of its energy. Delving is an art, and very difficult to power without an affinity for it...” She stares absently into the distance for a few seconds. “Still, you had good intentions, and did not fail to take precautions, so I see no reason to punish you. It is a common misinterpretation of the law that Mental Magics are illegal; it is certain uses of them which are outlawed.”

“I assumed as much, because otherwise I could predict any form of magic to be illegal, as it can be just as dangerous. Just on a less... personal or psychological level. As for who helped me, I’m certain you can figure that out fairly easily. There aren’t many highly-trained magic users I know, so the list is short.”

“Of the ones on the very short list of ponies officially instructed in Delving, only two live here that I know of. And one is presently in the Griffon Empires, acting as an ambassador, and has not physically been here in four years. The other is an earth pony, and has also been fairly reclusive, so I doubt you were able to convince him to help you.”

So... Twilight just used a mind spell despite never actually having official training? She either went to someone other than Celestia or just taught it to herself? Damn... I look at Luna. “You should tell your sister that her ‘star pupil’ may be more than she appears. Knowledge can be dangerous, and it seems she knows much more than most of us realize...”

“I will take your concerns into consideration. Now... as there is little more to discuss of the previous topic, perhaps we could speak more as friends, and not as interrogator and accused?”

“That was an interrogation? Princess, if the goal was to pressure me into telling things, then you clearly have no idea how to make one feel said pressure. I’ve offered my more... uncommon skills to Celestia and she’s turned me down, I’m hoping you see me as potential help in some cases as opposed to a threat that must be quelled.”

“Anthony, in spite of my poor wording when you first wounded me, I have no intentions of making you a threat to this nation nor its peoples. As for being useful...” she smiles gently. “If you cannot even tell when a circumspect interrogation is being directed at you, then you still have a ways to go if you wish to join those that already have that job.”

“I wasn’t meaning that job specifically, but I just wish your sister would stop acting as though I’m just a problem. She seems to be under the impression that, at current, my entire goal is to undermine her work at building this society...” I look at Luna to gauge her reaction.

“Well, it would help if you stopped giving the Royal Sentinels regular panic attacks. Stopping defense against an unknown intruder? Randomly visiting neighboring nations that have tried invading Equestria on several occasions? Planting a ruler upon the throne of a hidden nation within Equestria’s borders? Why, you are giving several previously-stagnated conspiracy theorists enough material to make a comeback! It is quite interesting, especially since you never seem to be doing anything with malicious intent.”

“For the record, my going to Chickago was a suggestion by the guidance counselor Celestia said I was to meet with during my sentence of community service. The fact that they were previous rivals of yours never even came up, just that I should spend some time in a place populated by griffons.”

“Oh, I never meant to infer I was against your visit, in spite of the resulting... problems. Quite the opposite, I feel you should spend less time cooped up in Ponyville, however useful you are when disasters crop up here. No, I was merely voicing the Sentinel network’s reasons for having apoplexy whenever you do nearly anything anymore.”

I chuckle. “Perhaps I can look over some of these conspiracy theories and debunk them. Besides, if I wanted to cause trouble on a massive scale, I can think of much less expectable ways than joining a former rival or causing a minor ruckus here or there.”

“Well of course. But spies must always be paranoid, or they lose their edge too easily.” Luna admonishes, before standing up in full again, and stretching slightly. “Still... the night is yet young. I do believe that there are still several games and activities I have not yet tried, as well as an ‘after-hours’ party Miss Pie is throwing. I do look forward to seeing that, after the Offering Ceremony.” Luna licks her lips, serrated teeth making her tongue wiggle as she does so.

“Heh, just be careful of what activities you get into. I’m sure your traditions differ from mine, but if you hear the words ‘Tee-Pee’ or ‘egging’ you would do best to not get involved.”

“I shall keep that in mind. Now, I am off!” She turns into a vortex of live bats, and the swarm chitters and screeches as it heads towards the town center.

It leaves me with one question in my mind. How can any one person or pony be that awesome?

Next Chapter: Frightful Fun Estimated time remaining: 11 Hours, 14 Minutes

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