The Second Coming of the Dread Mayor Salty
IC date: Summer 91, 1007
OOC date: September 19, 2012
PCs: Blackbird, Polaris, Rumble-Riot
NPCs: The Bone Mistress
GM: Snowfield

The sun is just starting to set, though who could even tell, this deep in the forest? Everything's an eerie, foggy blue. A trio of ponies make their way carefully through the trees, following a floating blue lantern and huddling as close as they can. The lantern is… a little dinged up, granted, but it still seems to work.

Of the three, Blackbird heads the middle, with the bottled potion he acquired from Sodium-Fizz stashed gently in his saddlebags. And Rumble, well… He's patched up the best the hospital could do, at least. "I really hope we're not too far," Blackbird shivers, ears flattening against the icy chill of the trees. "How're you two doing?"

Rumble heads up the left flank. With nothing but a bandage wrapped around nigh on his whole rear end. Not so constrictive to keep him from walking though, and at a happy pace at that, proud of himself after last night's…fiasco. "I'm great, Mr. Adventure!" he says, practically moon-eyed every time he walks into this forest. Every time is a new adventure… "I just hope we're not too late with this potion thingie. Nothing sucks worse than failing a quest."

Polaris says "I've been worse," Polaris says, dejectedly, though he doesn't seem particularly worried, for once. He's been on this path before. But there's a certain hesitation in his demeanor, even as he looks up at Blackbird. "This can't work. This won't work. How can this possibly work?""

Though the lantern is guiding the way as it was enchanted to do, the cerulean flame within it isn't quite as strong as it was when it was first gifted to Polaris. Where once it roared to life when held in the direction of the frozen grotto it now only grows from a weak sputter to a small, if persistant, flicker of fire. What greater implications this could have for what lies at the group's destination is anypony's guess. It's a shame the only unicorn in the group is a complete dunce when it comes to magic or maybe he could grant some insight to the charm upon the lamp.

"Er, well," Blackbird replies to Polaris. That's about the best answer he's got. Well— he pauses. "Keep your spirits up, kiddo. I'm sure it'll be just fine. Snowfield will know what to do." He trots onward through the snow and under the branches, following the weak, bobbing lantern before the group comes upon the frozen grotto with hardly a problem! … Which might be a problem in itself. "Snowfield?" Blackbird calls.

Rumble wouldn't know a thing about why the lantern is 'dying'. It's really the first he's seen of it, and even with the light being so oddly muted it's pretty to watch. He simply lopes along, until they reach the grotto. Where he fully expects another epic battle with a frozen horse to occur. "Hey! Shorty! You around? Where's your bodyguard? I wanna kick it again!"

Polaris starts lingering farther towards the back when they reach the grotto, the adolescent pony's head dropping, putting off the vibe of REALLY not wanting to be here. It probably has something to do with this being the resting place of the frozen corpse of his best friend.

As Blackbird calls out into the lake clearing the lantern flares in a manner reminiscent of Snowfield's horn when she's weaving her spells. The illumination it provides reveals a disturbing sight, however. The party's destination is a very different place than the last time it was visited. Where once the waterfall and the frozen lake resided there is now a swirled mass of ice, as if the solid surface of the water was not a still pond but the ocean in a raging storm, crashing against the far cliff-face. The entire mass seems to glow with a fair inner light as tendrils of magic snake beneath the surface. The lines of light converge in a mass of ice against the cliff where the entrance to the grotto once was, which pulses faintly. There is no visible entrance.

"…Uh." Blackbird blinks, and starts trotting swiftly around the grotto. "Snowfield? Horseknuckles. SNOWFIELD! We have the potion! Snowfield!" He paws at ice. He snorts. He starts to panic. "Guys, we have to get through this ice, somehow!"

"I…don't think this is the same place. You sure we didn't take a wrong turn somewhere?" Rumble looks confused. But… If Blackbird says they have to get through the ice, then they must! With Blackbird panicking, Rumble steps up to the plate, as it were. "Here… Lemme try knocking." he says, nudging the teacher-type to the side. He then turns around, plants his forehooves as sturdily as footing around here allows, and rears back to give that ice bank his best (injured) kick! "Hryah!"

"… oh no." Polaris says, running up beside Blackbird, pawing frantically at the ice with his front hooves. "Oh no no no no no no no…" His worried mantra doesn't stop when Rumble pushes them aside. He just prances in place, worriedly. "What do we do what do we do what do we do what do we do what do we do what do we do…"

Blackbird joins Rumble in kicking that part of the ice. He's not very strong, but he's panicking, and Polaris's panicking is making him panic more, and he can't think clearly enough to do something smart like science AND SO THERE WILL BE KICKING, YES.

"Yeah! That's the spirit! Kick that ice! Teach it a lesson!" Another swift kick! A third! And then Rumble gets an idea. "Oh hey, wait… I got an idea. Here." His horn…glows! He focuses all his concentration on imbuing both the other ponies hooves with magical stuff. "Now give it a kick! This spell I'm good at."

Polaris leaps away from the ground when his hooves start to glow, hopping about like an epileptic cat. "WHAT IS THIS WHAT'S GOING ON OH GOD ARE WE DYING oh wait…" He settles down briefly, and gives the ice a tentative tap with one glowing hoof.

Whomp! Whomp! Blackbird pauses for a moment when his own hooves glow, and he blinks, looking back at Polaris. "Relax! Relax!!" But he's not very calming, himself, right now. AAAAAA. PANIC. And so he lunges at the ice with his enhanced hooves! WHABAM!

The ice is altogether unimpressed by all of this kicking. It is large and solid and quite frankly offended that they didn't think to bring a chainsaw or hammer or at least Whistlestop to try and bust through. It looks like saving Salty may very well be impossi…

…oh, that's a nice little spell they've got there. A strength buff, huh? Yeah, with a boost of magic behind those hooves it might be enough to—

>< CRACK ><

The ice fractures magnificently beneath Polaris' trap, cracks ripping through the mass. When Blackbird follows up with a mighty buck there is a brilliant shower of shards and snow as the magical ice veritably explodes. It leaves a fine dusting of white on the surface of the lake… and the surface of the ponies.

If the three were panicking before, though, they'll downright lose their heads over the sight within the cavern. The entire chamber is iced over from top to bottom. Salty is still frozen against one wall in bloodstained ice, as she was when Snowfield first brought her here, although her muzzle is now smeared in a suspicious red substance…

Oh, wait, there's nothing suspicious about it at all. Judging from the unicorn bleeding out on the floor in front of the ex-mayor from deep gouges on her forelimbs, courtesy of a convenient stained ice spike lying on the floor nearby, it's likely Snowfield's blood.

Rumble's too busy celebrating his victory over the Ice Blockade to peer inside at the bloody mess of a scene. "Hooyah! Did you see that? Is my magic awesome or what? That's right! Who da pony!"

Blackbird, the only one left standing and at attention, gapes. The horror in his bones is just… it creeps into his every pore, even. "S…Snowfield!" He gets his brain under him just enough to rush forward and try to lift the little unicorn. "Snowfield! We need to get you healed…" He looks back at Rumble, celebrating; Polaris, fainting; Salty… being dead. Then at Snowfield. Then Salty. Then Snowfield. The potion in his pack… He starts to fish it out, ready to uncork and feed it to the little unicorn instead.
Polaris has disconnected.

"Pardon me," a hollow voice behind the trio of stallions says. "I am afraid this simple shall not do."

Standing several inches taller than even the tallest of the bunch is what may be to some an all too familiar alicorn. The pureness of her black coat is broken only by stark white markings resembling abstract patterns on her legs and a stylized skeleton upon her body. Eyes unmarred by irises or pupils look out from a splash of white upon her face resembling a pony's skull. Despite the darkness of the twilight forest she is plain enough to see, perhaps illuminated by the dots of starlight that shine from her flowing mane.

Beside her floats a pair of hourglasses, one with an empty top bulb and one with a not insignificant amount of sand left to fall. In the magical light of the illuminated cavern one can make out fine details upon them. The empty one is an ornate wooden piece with three struts supporting the upper bulb, carved with a delicate pattern of roses and vines and with sand as white as snow. Though the timer has long since run out the upper bulb nonetheless still seems to be 'full' of pale blue light.

The second one looks a little bit less like a classic hourglass and more like a frozen flame, with the lower bulb comprised of the fire and the upper bulb a plume of smoke. The frame of the timer has a matching split motif, with the upper half sporting carvings of circling crows and the lower half with pony skulls. A chunk of ice is frozen around the neck of the hourglass, somehow preventing the sand from flowing. The entire thing would be incredibly ominous had some vandalous soul not plasted a large, gold sticker on the lower bulb that reads in cheerful letters: YOU TRIED

"Were I in your stead I would not waste that potion so recklessly," the Bone Mistress says to Blackbird as he moves towards the wrong dying unicorn. "It has been some centuries since that would have been of any help to this little foal."

The arrival of something completely unearthly is enough to make him stop celebrating and finally, finally notice that the inner sanctum of ice has more to it than originally expected. "Whoa…" he says to the ice-covered everything. "Whoa…" he says to the bloodied corpse mouth, and the nigh-dead little unicorn. Then he looks up. "WHOA!" Because that's probably the only way to react to seeing Death for your first, and hopefully NOT last, time. "What happened here? I thought she was just going to, y'know, guard the body! Not feed it! Now it's going to come back as a zombie, and we'll have to kill it again!"

Blackbird's neck snaps up as though attached to a rubber band, to look at the new arrival: The Bone Mistress. "…C…enturies?" he stammers around the cork clutched in his teeth. Maybe Rumble's right. Maybe she is a zombie. Still, he cradles the little unicorn in his hooves, more than a little protective. And concerned. "Are… you taking her away?" he croaks weakly.

"W…what?" Polaris' head comes up, eyes slowly uncrossing and focusing on the… terrifying demi-god alicorn standing over them all. He swoons and faints right back into unconsciousness.

The Bone Mistress floats the hourglasses around to examine them. "I cannot imagine what prompted her to make such a decision," she begins as Rumble voices his concern about the impending zombie apocalypse. "She ran out of Windigo's Kiss and could not make any more of her timeless draught for the mayor. It was a stroke of ingenuity to use her own blood as a replacement."

The alicorn steps lightly across the ice, unbothered by the slick blood on the ground, and reaches towards the little witch in Blackbird's hooves to brush the mane out of her eyes. "I would not have expected such a selfless act out of her. Perhaps she saw something in this unicorn that she was missing in herself. Or perhaps spending so much time alone with naught but a corpse and her self-imposed duty drove her mad."

She seems surprised at Blackbird's own surprise. "Did she never tell you? Snowfield died many years ago… or she was supposed to, at the least. I am afraid it is our fault she became lost in this world instead of continuing to her final reward." She looks disappointed in herself (or presumably herself, anyway) for allowing that to happen. "But that oversight will shortly be rectified."

The Bone Mistress once again looks at the hourglasses, watching the glow fade from the bulb of the rose-themed timer and the ice melt away from the frozen flame.

"Wha…" Rumble gapes openly, from spectre of death to the hourglasses, to the corpse of Salty and the apparently about-to-die Snowfield. "Now come on! You can't just kill her after she did all this to save another life!" He looks down at Blackbird, in confusion. "…Can she?"

"Wha— no! She— but— " Blackbird gapes and stammers, not relinquishing the body of his admittedly irritable friend. He looks to Rumble. And back at the Bone Mistress. And suddenly, he's ticked. He shakes his head vehemently, in answer to Rumble's question. "Screw the mayor! She was a useless lump of a drunkard! She never did anything to help anyone! Snowfield helped! She was cranky and snappish and wanted to be left alone, but she helped! Still, she helped!!" He slams a hoof down on the neck of the healing potion, glaring at the supernatural entity before him. "Can this potion save her? Can it? Because I'd rather have the cranky forest witch around than the goddess-forsaken ex mayor! Who was even only mayor by technicality!"

A sadly shaken head replies to Blackbird's angered query. "As I said, it is too late for that potion to be of any use to her. Were it the injuries which sealed her fate, perhaps it may have, but she simply has no time with which to live." She looks at Salty pinned up on the wall. "I am forced to wonder, though… if you have so little regard for the mayor, why did you come here? Surely you could have left it in another's hooves to try to help her, and yet here you stand with the fruits of your labors before you."

She gestures in Salty's direction with her nose. "This unicorn is a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Would you judge her for how she has led her life up until this point when she still has so much living left to do? Who is to say that she will not amend her ways after this experience, just as Snowfield used her borrowed time to do good here."

"This is messed up…" Rumble grumbles, trotting up to practically invade the Bone Mistress' personal space. Specifically to stare at these hourglasses. "So you're trying to tell us, that Shorty there is going to die because you said so? Can't we just, like, borrow her some more time or something? You got a time bank around here?" He taps a hoof at the very ornate hourglass!

Blackbird grits his teeth, and closes his eyes. "Always, always, I try to save lives. Where I can. Who I can. In the choice between saving a life, or leaving them to die, I'll pick saving." He takes a deep breath, grimacing harder. "But when the choice is between a worthless, dangerous pirate with no regard for the lives of others, and a friend? I'd pick the one more likely to save lives later. Salty's blood. Can I put it back into Snowfield? Feed her the same way she fed Salty? Does that count for a time bank?" He's flailing for some kind of solution that involves a living Snowfield. Any kind of solution. "If I fed Salty the potion, could— I don't know, I just— we need to save her!" He's desperate!

The Bone Mistress considers the offered solutions. "You cannot simply 'borrow' time, as it were," she says to Rumble Riot while floating the hourglasses away from him to stop his tapping. These are delicate instruments thank you very much. "Snowfield is a unique case. I may have spoken incorrectly when I said she had borrowed time. It is more accurate to say that hers stopped, which is quite a feat considering she had none left to stop in the first place."

She looks at Blackbird with an unreadable expression, her pupilless eyes betraying no emotion. "That would not work. Snowfield's blood is… special may be the best word. I have spoken too much on her behalf already, though, it is not my place to reveal the secrets of the dead." She floats the frozen flame towards the earth pony. "But let it not be said that I am entirely heartless. Such determination and loyalty to one's friends even in the face of impossible odds is to be admired. I could be convinced to strike a deal."

A deal? Rumble blinks over at Blackbird, then up to TBM, squinting. "What kind of deal..? Because if you're going to say 'some of our life to give her some back', then… What are you waiting for?" He's hopping. Over the thought of giving away life. "C'mon! Give Shorty a couple more years at least! I promise I won't miss'em! I bet Mr. Adventure there'll give a couple up too!"

Blackbird looks to Rumble, and back to the Bone Mistress, brightening considerably. "Yes! What he said! I would offer some of my time for hers."

Once again the alicorn shakes her head. "Not your life," she says to Rumble and Blackbird. "Friendship is a powerful force, but it cannot stop death. A deeper connection is required than that." She twists the frozen flame around so that Blackbird can see a part of the hourglass which has been revealed as the ice melts. Beneath it the dusky sand of the glass is a brilliant white, matching the snow-colored sand in the old-fashioned timer. "She can make the trade. It must be her choice."

"Aww…" Rumble looks crushed. No heroic martyrdom for him. With the wind stolen from his sails, he sits down on the frozen ground, glancing back Blackbird's way. "Who's she talking about?"

Blackbird squints. And looks at the hourglass. Looks at Rumble. Looks at the Bone Mistress. Looks at…Salty. "Her, I suspect," he says slowly.

Indeed, the mayor's ghost has swirled into the room, confusion on her face. "What's all this nonsense?" she asks. "I got you talkin' in one ear, and these chanting chaps talking in the other, and I was trying to learn about the something something crazy jerk who rolled into the Harbor. And learning about merponies. I can't— what?"

"Her?" Rumble says, squinting at the dead body. Suddenly a real ghost appears! "Whoa!!" spooks the Rumble, flailing backwards, probably crashing into more ice and other bits of ice. Hopefully no sharp spikes of ice, that would suck.

"I heard," Salty replies dryly, turning to give Blackbird a dirty look. The stallion looks away, innocently. And then looks back. "Well, I meant what I said," he retorts. "If you want to get into the business of saving lives, I'm all ears."

The ghost rolls her eyes and then looks to the Bone Mistress. "So. Featherduster. Mistress of the creepy-crawlies. What do I do to get Snarky back? She saved me; might as well return the favor."

Polaris's head lifts up suddenly, his legs splaying out like he was trying to catch himself. "Miss Salty?? Is that you??" The over-excited colt kicks at the air, unsuccessfully trying to right himself, like a juvenile tortoise.

Rumble is safe for now. Were the cavern not complete iced over he would have landed on a pointy ice sculpture, but as it stands now the whole ground is a smooth, cold surface to break his butt on.

For just a moment the Bone Mistress looks disappointed that Salty didn't take her bait about which unicorn was the important one. "It is a simple deal, though of course you must be among the living to be able to make it. Blackbird, if you please?" The alicorn's horn glows and the ice holding Salty to the wall melts away, allowing her to float the mayor across the room and in front of the earth pony with the potion.

Coincidentally, the corpse passes directly between Polaris and the ghost of Salty in its arc across the grotto.

Well! Rumble has no real say in these goings on. It's all very mystical and complicated, way above his pay grade. So he sits and watches the pretty colors. "…"

The ghost pauses, and looks at Polaris with a smirk. "Oh hey there, kid. You're looking… Well, I expected you'd look better with me gone, honestly." She frowns, but then turns to watch her corpse floating instead. Y'know. Something you don't see every day. "Man, that's gruesome. Okay, batter up, teach."

Blackbird carefully picks the vial up in his teeth and stands, cupping Snowfield in one foreleg as he moves unsteadily toward the dead mayor. He lifts up, cranes… and looks back to Rumble. "Hey, li'l help herr? C'n y'float it? … CAREFULLY?"

Polaris's blood drains out of his face at the sight of Salty's corpse levitating itself directly in front of him. It drains out of his brain as well. FAINT! Thump.

Huh? Rumble blinks blankly when his help is requested. "Float..?" That levitate spell? The orange unicorn blanches slightly. That wasn't his best spell… Well, really no spell is his best spell except 'shoot things' and 'make hoof glow power'. But! A task is a task! And he needs to try. So he scrambles up, puts on his game face of Focus, and lights the ol' horn!

A soft orange color surrounds the vial in Blackbird's teeth, attempting to lift it right out of the pony's mouth, so it can meet the mayor's corpse! "Um. What do I do, just…pour it in?"

"Prrrretty much," Blackbird replies cautiously, though he eyes Polaris. Poor thing.

The alicorn waits patiently.

Blink. "Alrighty! Bottoms up, dead girl!" Rumble speaks merrily, tipping the vial into Dead Salty's mouth! Drain the whole thing in there! "Chug it down!"

"I imagine this ought to be removed," the Bone Mistress says as Rumble pours the healing potion into Salty's mouth. The weather vane which did the terrible deed in the first place, still impaled in the mayor's spine, begins to glow with a deep navy light. It is twisted clockwise slightly, then counterclockwise. It's wiggled a little bit to test how well it's stabbed in there… then wrenched unceremoniously straight out. Good thing Salty's heart is stopped right now or that might've been pretty messy.

Rumble's nose wrinkles. That's disgusting… Greusome even! Which makes it somehow absolutely satisfying to watch. "Yeah… I picked the best place to go to find adventure. This is awesome."

"Uhhh. Man. This is weird to watch." The ghost wiggles a hoof in one ear, hard. Then she squints at her hoof in confusion.

In any case, they got an instant heal potion, didn't they? Just like that, the moment the vane is gone and the first drop of liquid hits her stomach, Salty's ghost disappears suddenly with a >pop!< and the corpse gasps to life, immediately tipping into hyperventilation as she flails in the alicorn's grip. Her voice is raspy, rattly; her movements, feeble. But she's alive! "Wha— what— put… put me down!"

"As you wish," the Bone Mistress says with uncharacteristic cheerfulness. The navy aura around Salty disappears in and instant and the unicorn suddenly suffers a nasty case of gravity.

She's back to serious business mode just as quickly. "Now, as we were saying. This little mare," she brings the antique hourglass with the empty upper bulb around for Salty to see, "has no time left. I'm planning on taking her with me tonight. You, and only you, Salty, can sacrifice some of your remaining time to her. Second for second, she'll live for what you give up." The alicorn brings the frozen flame around to show the amount of sand which is remaining in it— not that any of the ponies in the room have any manner of life timer understanding to know exactly how much time is in there.

"Know that the choice is yours alone. You are under no obligation to give up anything. She has already lived far longer than any one pony is supposed to in the first place."

Whew. Rumble wipes his brow. Magic is so hard. But he's glad it's all working out now.

WHOMP. Salty lands on her head, rubbing her horn with a muttered 'oowwwww.' She sits up though, hoof to her ear as she squints at the Bone Mistress. Coming back from death? This is like the hangover from Tartarus. Still, she nods a little. "Right. Her. Right. Okay. … Uhh." She looks at her hourglass. She looks at Snowfield's. "How about uhhhh… a year. Yeah? That sound about right?" She looks around, and sees Blackbird giving her a disdainful look. "…What?"

"A year it is," the alicorn says simply. The top bulb of the frozen flame glows brightly for a moment as some of the sand floats out of it as if by osmosis. It moves in a thin trail and into the antique glass, where it fills up a surprising chunk of the top bulb. It might warrant depressing thoughts if anypony was thinking about it too hard. "She has her year. Were in your stead, I might take her to a healer as soon as possible. She has lost an awful lot of blood."

The Bone Mistress takes a step forward and touches Polaris' head. "Wake up, my little pony. You shall be their guide back home."

Polaris gasps and jerks awake when the Bone Mistress touches his head. Only… he wakes up to the Bone Mistress touching his head. His eyes roll back in his head again… but he gives his head a shake and curls into himself. "I-I'm what??"

As the sand filters down into Snowfield's time-turner, Salty shakes her head a little, and shudders, and then shakes her head again. And then she's suddenly yelling, throwing her head back and scrambling back until she trips over Polaris. Her eyes roll back, a white fog — her spirit — streaming up from her mouth and zooming suddenly and inexorably away. She collapses, dazed. Her flank, utterly blank.

And deep in the Bone Mistress's bones is the feeling of foreboding.

The alicorn doesn't spare the ponies another word. She spreads her wings and takes to the sky in pursuit of the white fog.

Rumble blinks and points a hoof. "Was that supposed to happen?"

Polaris yelps in a very unmanly manner when Salty trips over him, and flails in panic until he's upright again. "Ma'am?? MA'AM!" Oh fickle fates, he's able to see his best friend alive for brief moments… "Ma'am!" He puts his hooves against her shoulder. "Salty! Oh Celestia, not AGAIN!"

And off she goes, in search…

Salty here, meanwhile, is alive and awake at least! But she's looking dazed. Glazed, maybe. Empty? She looks at Polaris's hooves, not reacting beyond looking confused. Huh?

Polaris's face breaks into a huge smile, and he gives Salty a BIG, WARM HUG! "Oh, Salty ma'am! Finally! You have no idea how bad the last few months have been!"

All's well that ends well? The Bone Mistress is gone, and the dead body is up and at'em. Kind of. Rumble looks concerned. "She's not lookin' too hot…" He trots over to Blackbird, then nudges him. "Seriously. If she becomes a zombie, I'm buckin' her in the head." Then he starts to head out of the cave, throwing a hoof out in a dramatic point to the horizon! "Homeward, Adventurers!"