Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 210

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Chapter 210

I send Dash off with some coins to give to the dock hags. I can’t be sure how much time is left so I figure we’ll be better off extending our time. Rainbow’s chromatic trail disappearing over the horizon of fog-filled swamp, I turn to the girls. “So she’ll be back in a minute or two. How would we find our charge-slash-target now?”

Anne looks to me. “Actually, first, can we get an explanation of what happened? The last thing I remember happening is being pulled into that awful door.”

“Well... first a bit of clarification of events in the order they happened. Rainbow actually ended up being that door-imp’s slave and given her ending up burned and in pain there’s only a few places I can imagine she might have been taken. She’s had her memory wiped for her own good and the exact details of what happened to her has been... withheld.”

“That... and she said her rear was sore? Does she even know what that means?”

“For her sake... I hope she’s as clueless as she acted. Anyway, Anne ended up swapping places with that other door, and when Myrna collapsed from the heat... I had a pun-battle with a magma-demon. Explanations later. Anyway, it turns out that it was a volcano. All the ash and smoke and presumably excess lava/magma was being siphoned into the alchemical laboratory of the hag I was with. She’s... essentially the reason ponies as a species have magical connections. Long story short, she was impressed with me for whatever reason and gave me two ‘favor-balls’. I used one to get you guys back to me. Her sending us out here was a freebie.” I like having a star core. It means I can make long-winded speeches without having to breathe.

“That’s uhm... wow.” Myrna says. “So, wait... hags are apparently evil, but this one gave ponies their magic? How does that work? And why did she give you favors? Did she get something from you?”

“As I said, she gave me them because she was impressed. Apparently I’m the first living thing in a long while who even attempted to see her, much less make it to her. As for hags being evil... I’m not sure, I think they are up there with Changelings. Pretty scary and potentially dangerous but not outright hostile as a whole. No idea how or why she gave the ponies magic but since she can pull off crap I’ve only seen from Discord, an avatar of a base law of the multiverse itself... I’m not putting a damn thing past her abilities yet. Anyway, if you recall, she gave each of you a ball as well. Just crush it and you basically get a free favor from someone who could potentially out-magic Celestia without even being in a thousand-mile radius of her.”

Myrna looks down at her favor. “Well... there’s only one thing to do, then.” And she crushes the metal ball in her hand, the pieces turning to gray sand and falling to the ground. Nothing seems to happen.

Still nothing. “I... think you have to say something. I didn’t exactly use my first one, it just kinda disappeared after Annis, the hag back there, got you guys back.”

“No, I’m just waiting to see what she wants.” the hag’s voice says, seemingly from mid-air between us, “I am not bound to arrive in person for each favor, after all.”

“So Myrna... what did you want?”

“We need to know how to find the person we came here for. We have no way to track them or-”

Black Annis’ voice cuts her off. “Simply walk to Black Port, and you will find what you seek. That is all I shall say; make good use of what I have given you.”

I shrug. “Well, the port is through the swamp again at least from here. So we just wait for Dash to come back and then we head in and search around. Though we might still have more zombies to deal with. At least the hag that semi-abducted Anne and Rainbow was essentially a tier-five necromancer. Full bone manipulation, not just reanimation.”

Anne shudders. “That sounds... disturbing.”

Myrna nods in agreement, coinciding with Dash coming back overhead, and touching down.

“Heya, you miss me?” Dash asks, grinning cockily. “Anyways, we’ve got another day ‘till we need to get back. We have any idea where to look for our new buddy?”

“Well, Myrna used her little ‘free wish’ rock and we found out that it’s somewhere in the swamp or at least somewhere between right here and the docks.”

“Huh... okay, so shouldn’t we be going, then?” Dash asks, hopping back into the air.

“Yeah, as soon as everyone’s ready to go back into the swamp which will likely have more zombies on top of actually having to do a search of the place as opposed to walking straight through it.” I pause. “And don’t say zombies will be easy or I’ll leave you to fight them off alone.”

“Yeah, yeah. We’ll be fine, just like last time. Worst comes to worse, we can just blow them up again.”

“I can’t find enough stone, we can’t protect ourselves from another explosion!” Myrna shouts over the horde of zombies, some of which are showing signs of intelligence and hanging back or using the dumb ones as cover.

“I blame Rainbow Dash. I said not to say this would be easy!”

“How was I supposed to know it’d be this hard? Zombies don’t think, how’d they know to surround us first?”

A cackle fills the air, and the temperature plummets several degrees. A shadowy outline floats across the edges of the small clearing we’re stuck in, several feet above the mud.

“Zombies don’t think. Unless there’s someone commanding them to think for them, genius! Rule one of being a superhero, never say something is easy or couldn’t go wrong!”

“But it couldn’t!”

“It just did!” Anne yells back, throwing a bladed pinion at the shadowy figure. It doesn’t even dodge; the missile passes completely through it without any disturbance, and the ominous chuckle grows louder.

“Any more bright ideas, team?” I hurl the Sword at the figure but even a stellar weapon seems to just pass right through and a few seconds later I hear the ‘splut’ of it falling in the muck, three seconds later, the currently useless weapon materializes in my hand again.

“I can’t turn it to stone either, I think it’s some kind of ghost!” Myrna says, batting another of the zombies away with her stone-clad arms.

I can at least hit the zombies with my sword, but when I cut one down another takes it’s place and some zombies are smart and fast enough to avoid my swipes. I can’t think of anything to hurt the ghost thing though.

With a crashing and splintering of wood, a wave of frigid mud and broken branches flies into view, followed by a towering entity, heavy set and swinging a pair of scythe-like talons at the ghoulish undead around us.

The massive creature, at least twice as tall as myself, is cutting a swathe through the creatures as it moves towards the incorporeal undead thing floating around, but I can see that the edges of the zombies’ wounds are glowing with a silvery-blue light, like paper burning slowly before it actually catches on fire, edges sort of... dissolving and shrinking away rather than being eaten all at once.

The large newcomer strikes out, grabbing the ghost with its glowing hands, and I see a humanoid face a moment before a rush of white-and-silver-blue flames pour from the newcomer’s face, blasting and scouring away at the spectral remnant, and also alighting the zombies in the process. The brilliant flames lick past me, warming me, but not burning, and spreads like a living thing to hunt down and isolate the zombies all around.

I take the chance to enter my plasma form, where I can actually cause some serious damage. The blade of my Sword glows and matches the intensity of the energy nimbus around me and, with the aid of my super speed, cut through a large mass of them as if they were butter. In fact, the glowing trail my sword releases seems to be melting whatever wasn’t given a rather interestingly-neat bisection.

With all five of us now able to make a stand, soon just the new creature and the ghost thing is left... or, rather, faded tatters of burning, incorporeal funeral shroud drifting around, and the newcomer breathing in the silvery-white flames. The being’s body begins to glow in places, revealing... uh, revealing...

I don’t have any clue what that is, beyond the humanoid torso coming from what almost looks like a spider’s face, except those aren’t spider legs and her -it only takes a glance at what parts of the chest are glowing to see it’s a her- hair appears to have leaves growing from it. As well, I can see a few mismatched insectoid wings coming off her back, but her face is only mostly human behind a pair of large, insectile pincers. Something like green dragon scales covers much of her lower torso and what little of her back I can see, but that’s not all. I don’t have enough time to look her all over, and I have no idea what I’m even looking at!

I raise my sword, pointing it at her. “Alias, known powerset, and alignment.”

“What the hay are you?” Dash says, dropping down near the being’s head before she can respond to my question.

Given the way the creature flinches -full body, no less- from Dash, I’m guessing she has no idea what’s going on. She glances back between Dash and myself a few times.

“Wh- what am I?” the being asks, voice distorted, yet oddly melodious. “I... I don’t know. But what’re you? And who are you?” Her first question goes to Dash, and the second to me.

I step ahead of Dash. Though we were just saved, I’m not taking chances with this. “We will answer your questions after you have answered ours. Alias, known powerset, and alignment. Who are you, what do you know about yourself now, and what is your alignment to?”

“I- I woke up, and I looked like a monster. And I still do. I th- thought I was dreaming, but now there’s other people. What’s going on?”

I facepalm... you try to do something professionally... “Look, miss... just give us your name and assure us you don’t plan to go around burning things and eating them alive. Otherwise, I’m supposed to kill you right here, right now.”

“K- kill me? But I haven’t done anything! I, uh, I mean, my name is Alex, but why would you kill me? I’m not- not a monster, I promise!”

“Long story short, you are not on Earth anymore, this is a different planet. We don’t know why, but humans and demons alike are coming through randomly, each... modified upon arrival. My job... kill the demons before they kill innocents. And I take my job very seriously in that regard.”

“They- they’re here, too?” Alex squeaks and curls up a bunch, an impressive feat for something that’s already likely outmassing me about ten times over.

“Yes. Right now, we came here to this continent because we got word that a new arrival popped up over here. I’m going to assume that the arrival is you. If that’s the case, you’re coming back with us to Equestria.”

“And... I’ll be safe?”

“That depends on a few things, but we’ll come to that when we get there. Our boat is waiting for us.”

I’m suddenly swept into a bone-crushing hug, a pair of human arms around my waist and a set of mantis-like talons pressed gently against my back. “Oh, thank you thank you thank you! I thought I was going to be lost and alone forever out here!”

“We will be if we don’t get back to the docks. We have a day to get there and with the zombie attack turning us around, I have no idea where to go to get there from here.”

“Then let’s- wait, there’s a dock?”

“Yes. Are you hydrophobic?”

“Uh, no? I don’t think I am, anyways.”

I cough to return her attention to me. “Put me down now?”

“Oh! So sorry!” She says as she drops me into the zombie-bits-filled-mud.

Thankfully, ‘intangibility’ also means ‘get out of gross stuff easily’. Standing up and letting the stuff fall through me, I depower, the nimbus retreating back into my chest and becoming the orb it usually is.

“You... you look normal.” Alex says, a little faintly.

“Yeah, I got a star core when I came through. Part man, part living star. Basically I’m a stellar being now. And you are... A chimera with no sense of fashion design.”

“A-actually, my clothes were all destroyed. When I woke up, they had all been shredded.”

“I was referring to your hybrid state. Most people who come through become part animal or a mythological creature. You are... an amalgamation of insect, mammal and I assume plant.”

“I... don’t really know.”

“Well, we better find out what you can do. As I said earlier twice. Known powerset. What are your powers? Do you know how to use them?”

“Anthony, we can question her once we get back to the docks. We also need to figure out how to get her to the ship... she’s, uh, rather large, and that little rowboat won’t carry her.” Myrna points out.

I think for a minute then look back up at Alex. “You a good swimmer?”

“I, uh, haven’t had any chances to try like this,” Alex responds, and Dash clocks herself in the face.

“Dude, she’s a giant... whatever. How the hay is she going to swim in the open ocean? Those reefs alone would cut her up really bad!”

“I was meaning she would swim to our real boat and hoist her onto the deck. All she has to do is hold onto the anchor while we pull it up.”

Myrna facepalms. “We’ll figure something out. If I have to, I’ll dive down until I can find some rock, and make a platform for her. But for now, we need to be able to find the ship.”

I turn to Dash. “You’re the expert navigator. Which way do we go?”

“Uh, gimme a sec.” Dash blasts off straight up, leaving a wide circle of fogless terrain, and I get a better look at Alex.

She is, for one thing, mostly green. Her ‘hair’ looks like vines, and the scales covering her back and sides are bright, spring-leaf green. She’s also standing on some kind of mammal legs, like a dog’s or cat’s, but there’s large, sucker-like growths on the backs of them. As well, of her human part, she’s got two sets of arms, her mantis-like limbs above her human arms, which have one too few fingers. As well, her eyes look... malformed. No, mismatched. As the light pours down for a moment, one eye contracts to a four-pointed star, and the other becomes a cuttlefish-like ‘w’ shape.

Then, Dash comes back down, and the fog begins to fill in again.

“It’s off thataway!” She points into the gathering fog. “And it’s not too far, either. C’mon!”

We set off and make pretty good time if I say so myself. I already figured out how to get Alex on the boat. We come to the edge of the swamp and meet up with the hag from before. Or a different one, can’t really tell. The lantern’s the same color, at least.

“Be ye here to depart? And whom have you brought here?”

“Yeah we’re leaving. And this is who we came here to get. Just gotta figure out how to get her onto the ship.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.” Dash says as I hear a huge splash.

I turn, and see that Alex is now in the water, mammal legs pumping as she swims a good two feet or so below the surface. She’s moving pretty fast, too.

“Alright, and we get her on deck... how? My plan of hoisting her up with the anchor? I wouldn’t suggest she try climbing up if she risks putting holes in the bottom to do it.”

“I’m not sure, but... well, shouldn’t there be bubbles coming from her mouth? Or something?” Dash asks. Sure enough, below us, Alex swims past, not a bubble from her in sight. Is she breathing somehow? Well, with all her outward changes, it just stands to assume she may have some internal changes. Maybe she got some aquatic creature bits. At this point, who knows what she can do?

Either way, I guess we should get going. I honestly don’t know what else we could do at the moment while we’re here, and we’ll need to send a letter to Celestia to see about getting a very large house made for Alex. Assuming she’s peaceful as she says, she’ll need to be accommodated appropriately.

“So... You each have a rock that gives you whatever you want as a one-time deal.” I say, referring to Anne and Rainbow, flying above me as I row my boat. “What’re you gonna do with them?”

“Idunno. Maybe I’ll wish for... idunno.” Dash shrugs as she flaps past. “Something cool, probably.”

“I think I might end up giving mine away. I don’t know what I’d do with something like that. Or keep it for an emergency.”

“Well...” I think of a suggestion for Anne. “You could ask if you could have something about you changed. Like, being able to swap between having wings or hands whenever you want would be neat. Or shrink your boobs a bit.”

“I- I don’t know. They may be a little ungainly, but they’re me, you know? Maybe, though.”

“Well, all I gotta say is be careful what you wish for. Personally, if you aren’t totally sure, I’d ask Twilight for help with phrasing your wish. She’s good at... nitpicking.”

“Oh, uhm, okay. I still don’t know what I’d use it for, though. Everything I could want right now seems a little... vain. Or petty.”

“I’m still thinking about what I’ll use mine for.” I shrug. “A bag connected to Hammerspace would be nice, or a portable hole.”

“Those might be pretty useful.” Myrna interjects, sidling up next to the boat.

“Cartoon physics in the real world may as well be god-tier superpowers, let’s face it. Immortality, unbreakable skin, extreme healing factor, physics ignorance... Imagine someone with any of that. You ever see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Combine the two elements into one person. A human with cartoon powers and physiology, but in the real world.”

“Y’know, with the way things have been happening... maybe that could happen. Everybody who’s come here has gotten basically superpowers. Mostly. So it’s entirely possibly somebody might come through with cartoon powers, or video game powers, or is the main character of a book or something... they’d be basically invulnerable if they knew what they were doing.”

“Yeah... if they knew what they were doing...” I muse, a few thoughts stirring in my head about how I could use the orb.

Next Chapter: Chapter 211 Estimated time remaining: 52 Minutes

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