Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 81

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Chapter 81

I discharge everything I’ve built up, the electrical blue light illuminating the inside of the huge worm. I can see where the lightning arcs have scorched its innards, but then it has slid past me, roaring in pain.

I can faintly hear screaming, and I turn to see that Twilight is now being faced down by the worm-creature, which is rearing up as if to strike. The runes on its sides flare with red light.

I need to at least distract it, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that... I think that, since it’s obviously used to living in this dark cave, maybe a big flare of electricity could blind it, which would at least allow us to get around it.

Unfortunately, my Dynamo form isn’t nearly as bright as... wait. I start generating electricity, but not bothering to charge it up so my body is like a walking live wire. I then try and apply some fire. If I can heat up the electrons and excite them... In a few moments, I feel a surge of energy coming from the fire meeting the arcs of electricity.

“Lights on, mother fucker!” A brief, blinding flash of light radiates from my body. I have a feeling that if it’s almost too bright for me it should have a decent effect on the creature, nocturnal or not.

The entire cave becomes nothing but stark contrast, and I hear a startled, pained yelp as Twilight turns away from the light. The wurm is writhing, and I see it begin to take frantic bites from a wall, tearing and chewing its way rapidly into the layered stone. The end of it, lit in solid white and black, appears to be like a hand, and carrying something, which gets dropped as the wurm burrows into the wall.

After a few seconds of holding the light, to make sure the wurm had left, I realize that, Twilight is crouched behind Anne, her wing-arms spread wide to block the light.

“Hah! Fire and electricity. Heated electrons equals light!” I power down, feeling vaguely winded. “Science, bitches!”

I hear some pinging noises, each followed by an ‘ow!’. I turn, and see that Anne’s back is literally red-hot and glowing. Whoops, all energy, even light, becomes heat when it hits something.

“Sorry girls... guess light can’t exactly be directed as well as I thought... You two alright?”

Both of them reply ‘ow’, Twilight rubbing her face in the faint light from Anne’s extremely heated back.

“Well, look at it this way. The wurm is gone. That’s good, right?”

“Owww...” Jeez, you’d think they’d be grateful, but nooo...

“Anyway, think of that as a lesson in human science.” I figure I should comfort them though. I walk over to Anne to pat her but I stop and enter my Heat form first. I don’t want major burns. Even through the resistance the form gives me, though, I wince. She’s hot enough that I could make jokes about it and... wait, her back is bare now... shit, I think I burned her shirt off!

“Uh... sorry? I guess I should have practiced that before applying it, but I didn’t want to cut open a giant maggot and pull you out of its intestinal tract...”

The two girls give me looks, but I can’t tell what sort in the darkness. I sigh, feeling bad, but we quickly come to the consensus to keep going. If those wurms are what carved these tunnels, I don’t want to meet up with the one that carved this gargantuan tunnel.

“So, I’m thinking we should avoid the smaller tunnel... so I guess we choose right or left again.” The two of them point towards the left, the farthest away from the side-tunnel.

“Alright, left it is.” I decide we could do something while we walk. “So Twilight, can your magic-based science explain how what I did works? Generating light from fire and electricity?”

“Owch... yeah, any form of elemental energy can be converted into light, even earth magic. The only kind that can’t, at least for most ponies, is shadow magic, but Luna uses it to form the lensing effect that makes the moon glow.”

“Huh, not a bad idea. Anyhow, I’m still going to explain electrons to you sometime. I don’t know about you, but our non-magical science just makes more sense to me. Anne, you agree with me, right? These guys never even heard of electrical fires before I demonstrated! Back me up here.”

Anne shrugs. “I- I’m not much of an electrician. Or a scientist. I’m good with- or, I used to be good with guns.”

I blanch at this. I don’t know how the ponies would take the idea of firearms, they don’t seem to be the hunting type, and they definitely aren’t killers. “Uhh... Anne? Ix-nay on the Uns-gay.”

Anne looks at me weird. “What?” Of course she had to not understand Pig Latin.

“Great, now I have to explain guns...” I facepalm. This is not gonna go over well.

Twilight speaks up. “Can we just get out of here? I don’t really like the dark anymore...”

“And yet your name is Twilight. Go figure.” I don’t see the need to quicken our pace. If there’s another wurm, I have a plan.

Thankfully, the plan is not needed, and we finally find the end of the tunnel, and the three of us all stumble around blindly as the noon sun tries to murder our eyeballs.

“Alright, that cat better be here, or I’m gonna go teriyaki on it’s ass.” I know it’s racist, but I’m really mad at that furball.

“Well, now, isn’t that a touch racist?” the cat says, and I turn to glare at it, and see that it’s on top of the cave exit we just left from. Stupid cat.

“Only if you know what teriyaki is and you’re aware of the Chinese stereotype. Though I guess it’s only lost on Twi.”

The cat chuckles. “It’s not lost, merely misplaced, I’m sure. Now that you’re through the Bookcase, perhaps we can continue on? Your lost princess isn’t too far away.”

“Bookcase? What the-” I look back at the cave we came through, looking at the area around the mouth we had exited.

From this side, I realize the ‘mountain range’ we’d passed under does look like an immense pile of books. Which makes the layers of stone with writing on them make sense at least.

A moment later, I groan out loud as a realization hits me.

“I almost got eaten by a bookwurm!” I shout, despair hitting me like a wave. I was almost killed by a giant pun! Fuck you, Wunderland... I facepalm again and groan. “Let’s just go...”

The cat snickers, and begins leading us off. Into the forest we go, once more traipsing through the undergrowth, until we come to another clearing, this time with a nice-looking cottage nearby, and a large table set with hundreds of places, dozens of teapots, and teacups everywhere. There’s also a rather stately looking man - a human man - at the end of the table, with a hat on his head of impressive size and color, though I can’t really tell how to describe it. It literally defies description. Also at the table, and speaking animatedly with the man in the absurdly impressive hat, is Cadence, who waves at us. Much of her armor is missing, but she’s still got a bandoleer of the engraved vorpal knives around her chest.

I sigh. “So now I wait for the March Hare and the Dormouse...”

Cadence looks over at me and giggles. “Silly, it’s already march! The hare is off doing what he does best this time of year.” Twilight blushes and looks anywhere else. I can’t help but smile, Cadence’s grin and good cheer is contagious.

I also laugh at Twilight’s constant embarrassment. “Seriously Twilight? I think one of these days you need to grow up.” I give a grin. “Maybe get you to a brothel sometime.”

Twilight’s blush grows brighter, as does Cadence’s expression. “Ooh, I’d pay for that! I’m certain Twilight would love it!” Twilight blushes harder still, and strikes up an awkward conversation with... a teapot. Hmm, didn’t know she was that desperate to break the conversation.

“Oh Twilight, you’re so conservative...” I say and sit down and look at the human man. “So do I call you the Mad Hatter, or are you fine with just Hatter?”

“Call me what you will, I prefer that name. Or Will for short.” The hatter says, staring off into space.

I decide to give him a test to see if he’s the real Mad Hatter. No real reason, I just want to see how close he is to the one I remember. “I have a question for you. Why is a raven like a writing desk?” If he answers accordingly to his own famous riddle, I’d say he’s legit.

“I’m not so sure, but I don’t write too often anyways.” The hatter proceeds to pull out a piece of paper, a raven, and a quill from his hat, and begins scribbling down the riddle. The raven does not look amused to be used as a clipboard. Yep, he’s a fake.

“Anyhow, Cadence. Do you know where Pinkie is?”

“Hmm? Oh, she’s getting ready to throw us an unbirthday party each! An unbirthday, you see is-”

“I know, it’s every day of the year that isn’t your birthday.” I’m getting kind of tired of Wunderland. If it isn’t scary or dangerous, everything is too expected.

Cadence looks unhappy at my interruption. “Oh... I only got to have them when I was last in Wunderland, and that was a long time ago.”

“Unbirthdays aren’t a human thing, but I read the books and Wunderland is, aside from a few things, exactly the same as what I read. This is no different than being inside a book series I read hundr-” A sudden commotion interrupts me, and the hatter leaps up to push me away from the table, and begins ushering Cadence and Twilight away as well.

“Stay in the bushes, stay in the foliage, and don’t interrupt! The world is a stage, and I mustn’t disrupt the lead actress! Now, if only she knew it was a stage as well, this would go over so much better...” The hatter, acting far too sane and frantic for my liking, rushed back to the table, pulling a mouse out of his pocket and yelling for the march hare. The hare, looking harried, sprinted to the table, turning his bow to be crooked.

A moment passed of silence, then they began to sing and dance something that was eerily identical to the version Disney made, right down to the tall, imposing Hatter, or Will, shortening, his hat becoming definably green. In fact, the entire glad began turning to cartoonish color tones, and I notice that I’ve turned translucent somehow.

With a sort of morbid curiosity, I watch as the famous scene from the books plays out right in front of me, right down to Alice arriving. After a moment it hits me. The Wonderland I know hasn’t happened yet. The books are being written right now. I don’t know how to feel about that.

I feel the urge to walk up to Alice and tell her about what’s going to happen and how to avoid the countless dangers and confusions she’s going to encounter. I think about it. Would I be meddling with something that is, technically, written to be? On the other hand, Alice is a real girl who can get hurt. This isn’t fiction anymore.

I sigh and get up, walking back to the table. I’m not going to let this play out the way it did before... or will... or... oh fuck timeline confusion.

However, as I try to speak, no sound comes out, and my transparent limbs cannot touch the table spread, nor can they touch the ‘people’ seated there. Not liking being so ignored, I try to light the table on fire, hopefully breaking the script will make a difference.

The fire pours out from my hand... just in time to light the candles on the unbirthday cake set before Alice. I try again, but this time it passes harmlessly through the table.

I attempt to grab Alice and shake her by the shoulders, but obviously my arms pass through her, touching nothing. “I’m trying to help you, you stupid broad!” I try to say, but no sound reaches her.

Finally, I can do nothing but watch as Alice continues on her way, pushed along by events neither of us can control. I can only shudder as I think about her meeting with the Queens of the Board.

I can feel when I begin to fade in, and the Hatter gives me a stern look. “Now, I may be wrong, but I do believe you were told to stay in the bushes, and your friends could do that just fine. What, exactly, tempted you to do something so contrary?” Level-headed, calm Hatter is terrifying, scary Hatter.

“Because I know what Hell Alice is gonna go through, and I’m not gonna let any of that crazy bullshit happen to her. It’s different in books, but if that happens to her for real.” I lean in closer to the Hatter. “I’m gonna stop it.”

“But then you wouldn’t, because it never happened, which you can’t do, because then you would.”

“The only thing I hate worse than messing with space-time, is understanding it.” I sigh. “But I have to do something. Sure she ends up fine at the end, but I think it shouldn’t be the nightmare either Walt or Lewis wrote in for her.”

“Well, you’ve already upset the Red Queen by taking her favorite piece from the board, and now much of her forces are concentrated on finding you, not the burgeoning goddess going through her trials. You’ve already helped, you’ve even blocked off the Bookwurm’s tunnels from agitating the thing so much, so she won’t go through that.” The Hatter leaned in, and I realized I hadn’t seen his face, and still couldn’t. Just a spiral of mercurial silver moving towards the center, like it’s draining away. “Your mind gave me a face that wouldn’t drive her to madness.”

“Yeah, and she’s going to stay sane and unhurt as long as I’m around. Heck, why don’t I head back to the board and finish off the rest of the pieces?”

“Because you made a deal, and now you and your friends need to get to the Gate.” The Hatter gave the impression of a grin, though there was no change in his expression.

“But I don’t see Pinkie around. Until we’re all going to leave at once, I say I can do whatever the fuck I want. I don’t follow anyone’s rules unless I want to.” This insane non-human is not going to hold me back, wait... how can he? “Unless you think you can stop me.” I Spark up and grab him by his collar, and stare at the spiral pattern... or at least where his eyes would be on the pattern.

The Hatter begins to laugh, the maniacal, grating sound annoying me immensely, as I see Anne, Twilight, and Cadence step out of the bushes uncertainly. On the other side of my vision, I see Pinkie hop towards us, a cake balanced on her back. She stops when she sees whats going on.

The hatter suddenly turns fluid, splattering to the ground in a spray of silvery liquid. With a gurgle, it soaks into the ground, parting with only the words, “A raven and a writing desk... such a lovely riddle. I wish I’d thought of it...” Then, he was gone, and my four companions looked at me in shock.

“W- what did you do to him, Anthony‽”

Next Chapter: Return from Wunderland Estimated time remaining: 23 Hours, 30 Minutes

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