The Fall

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Shank
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The Fall

Post by Shank » 6/19/18 09:05 PM

At 3:27 AM on the morning of Wednesday the 13th of June, 1818 Anno Astrum, Sejanus Lucious Nocera Umbra Starsinger died due to complications resulting from a strike by a poison dart.

This was because at around 2:12 AM, Sejanus had been on a patrol high over the Everfree Forrest with a group of trainee guards and had seen.... something. Just exactly what it was is as unclear as it is irrelevant. The relevant portion is that he did what a good commander would do; which was to order his trainee squad back to the castle to get experience assistance while he stayed behind the engage whatever it was. To be sure, it was a dangerous move, but Sejanus was experienced, had no death wish, and felt he could better distract our still un-named danger when he had no rooks to worry about. And so he did, and so he tried. And, as one might expect, this time he so failed.

This dart... and we presume here it came from whatever creature Sejanus had engaged, injected a snake-like venom, and a particularly unkind one at that. The initial symptoms of the dart hit were just as one expected, pain in the strike area, although not as severe as barbed or serrated arrowheads. It was this illusion of a simple wound that kept Sejanus going instead of seeking immediate attention.

He started to experience a tingling sensation in the mouth and extremities, double vision, tunnel vision, severe confusion, fever, excessive salivation and pronounced ataxia, a lack of muscle control. His symptoms rapidly progressed to severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, pallor, shock, nephrotoxicity, cardio toxicity and paralysis. It was around this time that Sejanus didn't so much fly as he did plummet. Upon crashing, he went into convulsions, respiratory arrest, and finally a coma.

Fortunately, the trainees did as they were told. A fact more shocking than anything else, really. In fact, the idea that young recruits actually followed orders will probably be the most preposterous thing one hears in the entire tale. But for now, let us assume it to be true. They followed orders, and went straight to Sejanus's second in command, Alona Flare. Which, if you haven't sussed out already, means that Sejanus Lucious Nocera Umbra Starsinger is better known more simply as Captain Shank.

It was Alona and a returning squad of more experienced guards who found Shank crashed in Everfree Forest. Apparently, either due to his combat, or out of some dying instinct, Shank had set off several flares that resulted in a number of brush fires that acted as a beacon to lead Alona right to him. She collected her mate, and carried him back to Canterlot Castle.

We needn't go overmuch into the details of what she did, but suffice it to say that Alona was not content to settle for the assistance of the Mercy Guard in healing him. Princess Luna was summoned, Princess Celestia was woken early, Princess Twilight Sparkle was sent for.... and if Princess Cadence could have been of assistance, we can presume Alona would have gone to the Crystal Empire and drug Mi Amore Cadenza by the ears back to Canterlot, had she needed to. And he did indeed need the help. Shank's body was being devoured by the venom, flesh destroyed as it wound its way through his body. Skin cracked and blistered, flesh decayed and died, the rot went right into his bones.

Despite all of this, at 3:27 AM on the morning of Wednesday the 13th of June, 1818 Anno Astrum, Captain Shank died due to complications resulting from a strike by a poison dart. He would not stay dead for long, and he would die several more times that night.

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Re: The Fall

Post by Shank » 6/19/18 09:05 PM

The Fall.

Some say it doesn't matter how a pony falls, but they're wrong. When The Fall is all that is left, it matters a great deal. I was falling. The storm was all around me; clouds above, clouds below. And blackness, a deep night illuminated by moonglow. It was beautiful, really. The soft sheen of moonlight illuminating the swirling clouds. Flashes of lightning, a wind at once cool and warm. It was paradise. Luna's night sky, the perfect wind, a beautiful storm that would never end. To fly forever though this night-scape. And somewhere, somewhere in there, the moon, calling down, telling us how much she loved us, wondering why we couldn't hear her.

Home.

It was home, and I wanted to be there. Luna, oh, Luna, my princess! Take me home! I was inspired by those clouds, by the dark swirls of blue and white. And I was so tired. Tired of fighting, tired of trying so hard for so many, and never coming close to making them happy. Tired of being spat upon for ever trying. You can spend your whole life doing nothing, and having nothing expected of you. Its so safe, it escapes judgment. But that was never me. I always had to fix things, to do things, to make things better. And it never worked. Oh, it worked for a while, but it always broke in the end. There was always more to do, old things to fix, new things to make happen, and it never seemed to be enough. It could never be enough, because all we build crumbles around us, even as we build it. To try is to fail, always, in the end, to fail.

It's true, I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of the world moving forward without me, of my absence going unnoticed. Is it selfish? Am I such a bad pony for dreaming of a world that ends when I do? I don't mean the world ending with respect to me, but every set of eyes closing with mine. One has to be satisfied that, for their time, they did what they could with what they had. I don't know that I was satisfied, but... I was done. I had seen those clouds in the night. I knew that beyond them were all who had come before me. Beyond the clouds was a great hall, and I began to sing:

One by one I cast my stones to the storm
Every one a shard of memory
I have born my trials with honor and duty
Now I cast my soul to the night

I long to return home to the halls of the mighty
Where golden goblets overflow for me
Where the ever-living dwell in endless midnight
And strip my mortal cares from me

I cast my soul beyond the blue horizon
Adrift upon an otherworldly cloud
The castle of the Moon is opening before me
The many gifted poets welcome me

I will sleep in bowers of moonlit beauty
With songs of heroes light upon my lips
Every kiss a wellspring of renewal
No defeat shall claim me

I cast my life away like stones to the storm
Weary from the sorrows of my past
I am bruised but I have never been broken
I am come home at last


Things change after you die, though, I guess because dying is the loneliest thing you can do. Or maybe just the most selfish. I had been letting myself fall into the storm, to the calm of the eye, which I presumed would lead me straight into the domains of the dead. Home. Sleep. Peace. Rest at last. But then I had to stop, I felt compelled to stop, to spread my wings and fly, and take flight against that storm that called me home.

Alona. I didn't want to go without her. This wouldn't be Elysium. Without her, it would be Tartarus. I've not been a good mate. I've not been there enough for her. Too many tasks, too many projects, too many things to do that I let slip that the most important project of all should always have been my mate. My partner, my unwavering support, my love. I hadn't loved her enough, done enough for her, left her alone too much. I didn't deserve Elysium.... and I wanted it so bad. To stop, to finally rest, to know, finally, peace in my heart. But no, such a luxury wasn't for me. I didn't deserve it, maybe I would never deserve it.

This is not my choice. Stop, leave, look away, go back.... back to the world, back to Canterlot and work, and combat and fighting, back to the mess, the muck, back to all of it. I wanted to go home so badly, but not without HER, not without Alona. And the others.... ponies I had yet to do right by. Master Plan, Moonlit, Starlet. Tia and Cender, Spitfire, Rust, Pinkie Pie and Cherry Sherbert, Shade and Twilight and Moondancer, Wrought and Vaki, Bean, Gilded, Kadai, Victoria, Princess Luna... the list went on and on.

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met Alona, there appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’. That life wasn't over, it couldn't be. And so I beat my wings once more. I strained against the winds, fought against the call home. I needed to gain altitude, to climb out of the storm to fly back to the mortal world. But it was too far to fly, too high to rise after such a great fall. But I found a place to stop. A rock floated in the wind, defying gravity, not unlike the floating islands the Wonderbolts used for a training camp, though much much smaller. It was big enough, though, for me to land upon.

My chest burned from the exertion, my wings ached in pain. I came down hard on the rock, struggled for purchase, and rested. How.... how could I leave here? I didn't feel like I had the strength to get back on my own. And then....

And then I was in Canterlot, in the castle, in Princess Luna's great hall. I felt.... fine, actually. Neither exhausted from the flight against The Fall, nor diseased and dying from the venom. Just... fine. I felt a presence behind me, saw the approaching moonlight, and turned to see.... her. Princess Luna, gazing down at me, her smile serene and calm. She spoke to me simply. "Your fate is yours to decide..."

And then I felt the whole weight of life crashing back upon me. It was so disappointing.

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Re: The Fall

Post by Shank » 6/30/18 09:58 PM

Alona would find Shank in the castle, in Princess Celestia's wing, of all places, under the care of the Mercy Guard. Normally, simple wounds and injuries would have been handled in-house by the Lunar Guard, but the poison running through Shank had proven particularly intractable. Just outside of the room where Shank was being treated, Alona found herself confronted by the physician tending to her mate.

The unicorn healer looked to have had many moons of service under his belt, clearly one of the top-notch physicians in the guard. This would be something that would both please Alona, and at the same time, bring some worry, for such a one would only be called if the case was serious. One didn't bring in the best for a simple wound. At length, the pony would speak to Alona.

"Ma'am.... captain Shank has been poisoned by something particularly nasty. Unfortunately, the arrow brought him down, and stayed in him, his blood has carried the toxin through his whole body." The unicorn paused to looks seriously at her. "We've already nearly lost him once. I've sent for Princess Celestia, Princess Twilight, and Princess Luna to see if they know any obscure lore that could help. Princess Twilight replied she would consult a Zebra she knew, and might have hope of some anti-toxin. For now, the best we can do is keep him stable and secure. He's conscious, and has been asking for you."

With them the unicorn healer used his magic to unlock the door to the room Shank was in. "He's very weak, ma'am, please don't overtax him."

Her hoof had been tapping hard against the floor for the better part of a few hours, the metal gauntlet covering her hoof having left an obvious little crater from such a series of tappings. She'd look a mess. Mane a frizzled mess, her eyes bloodshot from a lack of sleep with feathers all skewed and mangled from her fidgeting about. Though once the unicorn appeared; the cigar between her lips already half burned through with another laying on the seat beside herself she'd glance up with a small grunt, blinking her eyes somewhat before rising from her chair. "If you find out anything about what had shot him, I want the report on my desk asap. Secondly I want a full toxicology report copied and sent to my desk as well. Whatever it is, any information gathered here could save other lives if my guards run across this thing."

She said no more, moving inside the room as it was unlocked, looking to the thestral on the bed with a mixture of worry and relief, pulling a chair nearby over to sit herself down beside him, resting her hooves on the side of his bed. "Shank?" She spoke lightly, tossing her cigar into the trash as it died between her teeth.

Shank sniffed a few times, catching the scent of her cigar. It figures something like that would rouse him up to consciousness. He grumbled a bit, knowing he was in no condition to have a stogie, though it sure would have been nice. Instead, he focused on the struggle to regain enough consciousness to be of use, pushing out a hoof and reaching for Alona. "There's a Gorgan out there.... head to tail, she's big.... ancient, and a dead shot with a bow..." Shank laughed a bit, the action sending him into a hurtful spasm of coughing.

She wouldn't make him extend too far out even though she kept her voice down for his sake. "I'll have some patrols looking in the general area where you were attacked. I'll be mounting the bitch's head on our wall when you're out of here." She said simply, wrapping her wing around his hoof for the moment, stroking the length of it with a small thin smile forming. He was a mess... But right now she wasn't looking much better.

"Do NOT go after her yourself, Alona... you can send others to try and track her.... but only our most skilled trackers, ones that will not be found out. But you, my love, cannot go after her. You have another task." Shank pushed up in bed. "Hand my me chest plate.... it's in the closet there." He gestured with a hoof. "Please go get it for me."

"Stay down Shank." She said pushing him back down to the bed "Do not over tax your body, the doc said they lost you once already, I'd really rather you not crash in front of me." her tone stern, but soft, reaching her wing up to stroke his chin and cheek, but she'd nod after. "Just don't move too much. I'll grab the chest plate. Just don't move." She uncoiled her wing from his hoof, rising from her chair to collect the chest plate, returning to the bedside with it. "I know a few of our best scouts who can get it done."

Shank nodded his head, but forced himself to lean up a bit, taking the chest plate of his armor in hoof. It took a bit, his movements slow and pained, but he found what he was looking for, and pulled the rank insignia off of his armor, pushing it at her. "Second Lieutenant Alona Flare... I, Sejanus Starsinger, Captain of the Lunar Guard, hereby exercise my right under Luna's authority and do grant you a field promotion to Commander. Yes, I'm skipping a rank, and that's my prerogative, damn it." He said, intercepting any objection she might have. "And having done this, I so charge you with assuming my duties. You will organize the Lunar Guard, protect and serve Princess Luna in my place. This you must do for me. Revenge must be subordinated to the duty you have inherited. From now until I return, the guard is under your command."

She was silent for a time as he handed over the insignia, looking to it and the waxing crescent moon on the insignia. She would close her eyes for a moment but silently nod to him, closing her wing around it and placing it on her shoulder plate with a small tink as the metal stuck. "I won't argue it. But you need to not make it sound like you're not coming home from the hospital love. Because you are." She leaned in somewhat to brush her wing along his cheek again, still grinning to him lightly. "You're the toughest son of a bitch I've ever known, and I'll be damned if I let you die on me Shank. But until you retake command I'll do this for you, Shank." She would stroke his shoulder. "Besides. We still need to have our kids don't we?" She winked somewhat at him.

"Oh...." He paused and coughed, the sound of his lungs wet and raspy. "I am coming back, yes... but I get the feeling that it's going to be the long way 'round'." Shank closed his eyes and leaned back in the bed. "I've felt it, Alona.... the moon, the night, calling to me, calling me home..." Shank sighed out, keeping his eyes closed. "It's not done calling me." He clenched his eyes shut, tears running down them. "I'm trying very very hard not to listen to that call.... for us, for our children, for our love. But even now I hear that call home. I think.... the night and I still need to... talk..." And with that, Shank sighed once, the tears stopped, and he lapsed into unconscious again, his eyes moving under the closed lids, as if dreaming.

Her hoof touched to his as he coughed, her grin turning into a frown with a soft nod, though she sighed softly as he began to fall asleep, brushing his tears with her wingtips. Ears pinning back to her skull she would sigh again, holding onto him until he was asleep. But she didn't leave him for a long while, sitting in her chair holding his hoof with her own resting her head down on his bed. Twas all she could do for now.

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