Lost in the Underdark
Disclaimer: "MLP: FiM" was created by Lauren Faust and is owned by Hasbro. Dungeon Keeper was created by Bullfrog Entertainment (with Peter Molyneux) and was last owned by EA.
Chapter One: The Great and Powerful Pain-in-the-Flank
"That is IT, Trixie!" I yelled, getting the despot's attention.
Trixie Lulamoon was a teal unicorn with an off-white mane. She was sitting on a golden throne perched atop what appeared to be a grand wagon (without wheels) pulled by two unicorn schoolcolts. If I recalled correctly, Snips was the name of the shorter, chubbier one while the tall, lanky one was named Snails. I was certainly angry about her abuse of them too, but that wasn't the final straw.
"Do what you like with me or with most of the adult ponies in this town, but you do not - I repeat, do NOT abuse my family!"
"Oh? Has the Great and Powerful Trixie struck a nerve?" She asked as she placed a fetlock in front of her snout. "Are these two imbeciles part of your family?"
"I don't think Meadow Song is part of my family," whispered Snips. "Is he part of yours?"
"Uh, no," replied the taller unicorn colt.
Trixie cracked a magical whip at the two colts. "Silence!" She then turned to me. "So your name is 'Meadow Song'?"
I snorted. I hated that name - it wasn't even the name my mother had given me! Rather, it was the name my flankhole grandfather had insisted I be called.
"No," I growled. "That is not my name."
"So the Greatest and Powerfulest Trixie does not know your name, nor does she know who your family is. Trixie thinks she should just punish ponies at random to figure these things out."
I picked a stone out of my saddlebag with my golden tail and brushed my golden mane out of my green eyes with a brown hoof. "I have another idea."
I focused on my intrinsic magic - not the magic related to my guitar cutie mark or the magic most other earth ponies seemed to have (related to growing food). No, my magic was chaotic and was probably distantly related to the intrinsic magic of Pinkie Pie, but was unlike any kind of magic anypony had ever heard of. I felt my eyes turn golden as the world became clearer. I was able to see fabric of magic, the energy threads which composed it, and I was even able to manipulate a few threads from a distance.
I tossed the rock right at Trixie's head. Predictably, she tried to catch it with telekinesis, the most basic spell that all unicorns know. However, I had rearranged some of the magical threads in the stone to render it temporarily immune to such low-level spells. The shock on her face as it passed right through her sky-blue magical field was priceless. I managed to bean her right in the horn. My cousin once told me that any jarring impact on her horn gave her a migraine and reduced her magical ability for several minutes, so I assumed that it would be true for all unicorns.
I darted forwards, again using my tail to grab another rock from my saddlebag shouting as I galloped. "My name is Bluegrass! And you will pay hurting my cousin Lyra!"
I did not expect Trixie to recover so quickly. Her aura had changed from its misty sky-blue to a fiery red. As had her eyes. And her magical field. A huge crab claw formed out of this angry energy caught me by the throat and lifted me off of the ground, causing me to drop the rock, obviously.
"You DARE strike the Great and Powerful Trixie!? Trixie is NOT amused and will send you to a place where you can be a barbaric heathen to your heart's content!"
That didn't sound good.
"Also, that pathetic minstrel will receive a heavy punishment as thanks for your meddling!"
Obviously, I started panicking. She was going to punish Lyra for my actions?
Before I could continue that train of thought, I was interrupted by a screeching noise from my left. I looked at the source to find what I can only describe as a hole in the universe. From what I later learned, I wasn't too far off the mark.
It appeared to be a vortex of twisting colors, a single white point at its center shining brighter than the sun. As I watched, it grew bigger around the edges until my golden eyes revealed that its event horizon was finally large enough to fit my size.
The claw shoved me into the phenomena.
Travelling to another world the way I did sucks. Seriously. The trip, while I doubt it took much actual time, was an eternity of agony to my perspective. I could see nothing but a strange mix of colors and notions. Sounds were deafening despite the lack of air. I could feel my essence trying to dissolve into the æther and it was only through desperation that I was able to keep my form mostly corporeal (for whatever that counted for in that place).
Suddenly, I was coughing rather violently. I knew I had somehow exited that space between worlds. Wherever I was, it was dark. Nearly pitch black. I looked above me to see that I was inside some sort of underground chamber. The heavy air was wet with the smell of algae and as still as a tomb. In the center of the chamber was a moat of some sort around a pit. Connected to a staircase was a narrow ledge that overhung the pit and stopped right at its center. Triple arches of alabaster reached the roof of the cave surrounding the pit.
I soon realized that the entire room had an architecture to it, meaning that it had been carved. Since I was underground, I figured that there might be Diamond Dogs somewhere nearby. How wrong I was...
Regardless, I tried to see if I could find the exit to the chamber. While a large room, it felt oppressively small for it was completely sealed-off from the outside world. My hoofsteps made echoing clops as I walked around the chamber. After making a complete circuit around the moat, I stopped to try and process the fact that I was trapped.
And then I heard it.
The clip-clop of another set of hooves. I quickly spun towards the pit in the center only to see a red minotaur brandishing a scythe slowly walking towards me, a psychotic grin splitting its face.
"Woah!" I exclaimed. "I didn't mean to wake you!"
Confusion overtook its bloodlust as his scythe went limp in his hand. Interestingly enough, the blade on the weapon folded against the shaft.
"Look, I'm sorry, Mr. Minotaur, but do you know the way out?"
He brought his left hand to his face and stroked his chin. It was then that I noticed that he didn't have a bull's head after all as the snout was flat against his face. Unlike minotaurs, which have omnivorous diets, this creature had a couple hundred needle-like, yellow teeth. And while he did have horns and a nostril ring, the former were short and straight and the latter was small.
"You can speak?" he asked in a voice that invoked a primal terror in my very soul.
"Er... yes I can," I replied.
Even with all of the weird stuff I've seen Ponyville go through in my six years of living there, I considered this conversation to be the strangest thing I had experienced up to that point.
"A sentient talking horse," he muttered.
"Pony," I corrected. "I'm a pony, not a horse."
"Very well then, Pony. Come with me."
He walked back towards the pit. I noticed that his hooves left scorch-marks on the stone floor. Steam rose when he entered the shallow moat. Not knowing what else to do, I followed him. It was then that I noticed that his tail was long and hairless, like a rat's. It ended in a spade, which I had never seen before on any creature, much less a minotaur. And the only minotaur I've had the opportunity to meet was that assertiveness coach, Iron Will.
This red creature led me up the small staircase over the pit. We stopped where it ended. I could see that the pit wasn't empty, as a rather large black crystal shaped like an animal's heart resided at the bottom of the pit, taking up the entirety of the bottom.
"We are going to do a little experiment," he began. "If it works, you live."
I was instantly suspicious. "If what works?"
"Do you not have Keepers where you are from?"
I could hear the capitalization on the word "Keeper". "I don't even know what those are."
He chuckled humorlessly. "I have been trapped in here for more than a thousand years. The walls and floors are reinforced against intrusion. Even the ceiling is immune to violence from me. Only the magic of an imp could break through the stone and free us. Only a Keeper can create an imp."
He leaned towards me. "I am a Horned Reaper. My kind cannot become Keepers. It is magically impossible." His face twisted into a snarl. "If you cannot become a Keeper, then I shall kill you slowly to pass the time. If you can get us out of here, I shall pledge my allegiance to you."
It didn't seem like much of a choice to me. Tortured to death or having a psychotic bodyguard? "What do I do?"
"I will cut your forearm with my scythe. You will allow your blood to drip onto the Dungeon Heart below. If it glows red and starts beating, you will be a Keeper. If not, then I will start beating you."
"For your information," I said as I extended my left hoof, "it's called a foreleg."
He smirked as he made a small cut on my leg. At first, I didn't feel anything, and then I felt a sharp stinging sensation all the way up to my shoulder. Without thinking about it, I pulled my leg up to my body and started licking the wound clean. Luckily, some of my blood did manage to fall onto the Heart below.
I heard my precious life fluid begin to sizzle and pop once it dripped onto the crystal. A soft light began to emanate from the artifact, and then it started convulsing. It took me a split-second to realize that it was actually contracting and relaxing, like a real heart would.
I could hear the Heart beating steadily, but more than that, I could feel its rhythm. I suddenly became more aware of my surroundings, but not in the same way that my mage sight allowed me to. While my eyes allowed me to see into the spectrum of mana, the naturally-occurring fuel for spells, being connected to the Dungeon Heart allowed me to feel the living stone that the chamber was carved from.
"A pony Keeper," the Horned Reaper chuckled. "This will be interesting."
I eyed him warily before examining my wound again. But it had closed already. A thin white line underneath my fur had replaced the cut.
"Okaaaay... what just happened?"
"The Heart healed you," the Horned Reaper snapped. "Hurry up and spawn an imp so we can get out! I need to kill something!"
Rather than ask him how I should do that (as he had told me that his kind couldn't become Keepers), I tried to concentrate. Focusing my mana proved to be difficult, so I decided to turn on my mage sight to see what I was doing wrong.
The sight of a disembodied hand floating near us surprised me.
"What in Tartarus' name is that!?" I pointed directly at it.
"That would be a wall," the Reaper deadpanned.
I grunted. "No, the hand that's just floating there! What is it!?"
He gave me a curious look as his lips pulled together, hiding his vicious-looking teeth. "You can see the Hand?"
"Yes?" I said after a moment.
"Interesting," he replied. "That is the Hand of Evil. It is the focus for your spells and commanding your troops." He suddenly roared at me. "NOW CREATE AN IMP!"
I nearly fell off of the staircase and onto the Heart, but I managed to keep my balance. I focused onto this "Hand of Evil" and I could feel something happen. The mana from the stone surrounding the Heart was funneled into the Hand. I could feel something trying to come out of one of the fingers, so I willed that finger to point at the ground.
Like it was jumping out of a box, an ugly little biped leapt out of the floor, leaving the smooth stone unmarked. The creature carried a pickaxe in one grimy, clawed hand and a huge, empty sack in the other. It wore what appeared to be a simple leather tunic. The skin of this creature was a drab brown, and it was entirely hairless and had pointy ears. Its featureless eyes glowed orange and its mouth opened into a toothy grin as soon as it saw me.
I pointed at the wall with a hoof, but the imp completely ignored where I was pointing and looked at my leg instead. Just like a cat - they look at what you're pointing with, not what you're pointing at.
The Reaper growled at me. "Use the Hand!" He then added "dumbass" for good measure.
I'm not sure if he was trying to say I was stupid or if I was a donkey, but I tried tapping the wall with the Hand of Evil. The imp quickly ran over to the wall and started attacking it with its little pickaxe. In a few seconds, it had managed to weaken the wall in such a way that an entire section collapsed revealing a twisted tunnel beyond. Immediately, the imp started stamping his feet where the wall had fallen away.
The Reaper, on the other hoof, simply strode through the opening and headed down the tunnel. The imp stomping down the next section of tunnel ruined the visual of an angry minotaur stalking off. Err... Horned Reaper. What can I say? He looks like a minotaur, even now. Regardless, I was alone with the imp.
Imps are not very good conversationalists. I later learned that they are practically mindless, though diligent and tenacious. They are simply expendable magical constructs. The spell matrix that holds them together and gives them a solid shape is mind-numbingly complex, though. Whoever created the Spawn Imp spell was a genius.
Still, since I was bored and the imp I had was improving the tunnel walls, fortifying them and adding what I can only assume to be erotic paintings to their surfaces (I'm not a biped, what do I know?), I decided to spawn another imp. This one I directed to hold still. Using my mage sight, I examined the new imp and tried to see if I couldn't disassemble it with my talent. The imp's spell matrix was a resilient construct, resisting my attempts at unraveling it at first. Once I managed to get some of the mana lines disentangled and started working on the next set, the first started reconnecting back in the way it had been at first. While irritating, it was busywork that occupied my mind.
I found that if I reconnected the lines in a different configuration, they remained the way I left them. It also caused physical changes to the imp - it had turned a bright orange in skin tone and was a little taller than the other imp. My experiments were interrupted by a new voice. It was baritone and sounded slightly malicious, but curious at the same time.
"You certainly aren't a kind of Keeper I've ever seen before."
I whipped my head around to see a translucent specter hovering in the only opening to the Heart. While he had a pair of hands protruding from his ripped poncho/cloak, he had no legs and no face. Just a pair of golden pinpoints of light emanating from within the hood.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Ah, a talking horse. Never in my long years have I experienced such a thing."
The specter paused. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'm not a horse," I reiterated. "I'm a pony." At the time I had hoped it wouldn't be a common occurrence for the denizens of this world to think I'm a horse until I corrected them. I would soon learn how naïve that hope was.
"My apologies," he said. "I am known as the Mentor. I was a Keeper once, but it has been so long since I died that I've forgotten my own name. Now I simply help whichever Keeper I feel deserves it."
This was interesting. Sounded too good to be true, but interesting. I really hoped he wasn't already helping another Keeper. As far as I could tell from how the Reaper acted, Keepers are fiercely territorial.
"How do you determine whether or not a Keeper deserves your assistance?"
"You're not the first to ask me that," he chuckled. "Whichever Keeper seems most interesting to me receives my service. And you are very interesting."
"What can you do?" I asked.
"Well, I can use the Keepers' Sight to view your entire dungeon from above to better help you direct your forces while you are otherwise occupied. I also have Mage Sight, so I can point out traps."
That made me wonder. "Can you see my Hand?" I willed it to move in front of the Mentor's face.
"No," he stated. "One can only see one's own Hand of Evil once they are using the Keepers' Sight."
I poked him with a finger. His form visibly distorted, like ripples in a pond.
"What in the Eleven Names of Hell did you just do!?" he cried out, backing into the wall.
"I just poked you with my Hand," I replied, trying to sound innocent.
He just floated in the wall for a moment before he began to laugh. "So you can see your own Hand and interact with those not pledged to your service! Never in all the millennia have I seen a Keeper with such unusual abilities!"
A niggling sensation began to manifest itself in the back of my mind, but I tried to ignore it.
"So," I began. "What brings you here?"
"Well, I was coming to taunt Horny-"
"The Horned Reaper that had been entombed in this chamber. His name is Horniculus, but I refer to him as 'Horny' to annoy him."
"... I see." Actually, I didn't. Why would someone want to anger such a psychotic being?
"As I was saying, I was coming to keep Horny company before I found a new Keeper to mentor when I sensed that the Heart was active. I am surprised you have created only two imps so far."
"Obviously, I'm new here," I deadpanned. "And I was experimenting with the way the imps' spell matrices were put together."
He examined the taller imp, hovering around it in a tight circuit. "It's orange." He turned to me. "I had no idea that the spell could be altered beyond what a warlock could improve through research in a Library."
I blinked. "Warlock" was not a term I was familiar with, and I could hear the capitalization on the word "Library". And that feeling in the back of my mind was getting annoying.
"Anyways, most Keepers keep several dozen imps around for various tasks. Might I ask how you got in here? And why Horny hasn't slaughtered you when you did?"
I sighed before laying on my stomach, my legs tucked underneath me. "Not much to tell. I was opposing a unicorn mage-turned-tyrant when she..."
The Mentor nodded after I told him how Horniculus had bonded me to the Heart. "A Hero-turned-Keeper. Not an unheard-of occurrence, but fairly uncommon."
"'Hero'?" I inquired.
"Well, yes. You opposed a tyrant, not for the sake of yourself, but for the sake of others. That made you a Hero."
Okay, I definitely heard the capitalization on that word.
"And then you became a Keeper," he continued. "I am sorry to say that the universe has a cruel sense of bitter irony in your case."
"Other than the fact that I have a murderous monster-that-looks-like-a-minotaur under my command, why is being a Keeper such a bad thing?"
The Mentor chuckled. "Simply because we live in the Underdark, and the Surfacers fear us. Sometimes, even without good reason. But Surfacers usually have very good reasons to fear Keepers."
Curse that feeling in the back of my mind! It was really difficult to concentrate!
The Mentor laughed again. "It seems to me that Horny has found some creatures to slaughter, if your expression is any indicator."
"What!?" I growled out.
"The Heart is trying to notify you that at least one of the creatures in your employ is engaged in combat." He floated closer to me, pointing at his eyes. "You'll have to switch to the Keepers' Sight in order to observe what is happening - it is the only way to get rid of that feeling in the back of your head."
"How do I do that?"
The Mentor explained it to me. Apparently, the Keepers' Sight spell was invented by the Mentor's predecessor for better micromanagement. It had since been hardwired into the Dungeon Heart. But rather than focusing on the Hand of Evil, I needed to focus a portion of my attention on the Heart itself. It was relatively easier to do than spawning imps. Activating the Keepers' Sight was disorientating, as I could still see through my own eyes while the spell was active. I could see everything I "owned" in a top-down perspective. I could also see whatever was in the line of sight of my own soldiers (such as the imps). Far off to the southeast, about twenty hooves above my own position, I finally found Horniculus.
The Horned Reaper was slaughtering a warren of goblins. The Mentor told me that that was what they were. Green-skinned and muscular, goblins were several hooves taller than myself, but were more than a full head shorter than Horniculus. And they were woefully weak in comparison.
Horniculus was already knee-deep in blood and viscera, and obviously enjoying himself. Some of the more elite goblins actually managed to deflect his scything attacks away from themselves, but couldn't do a thing to prevent him from cutting down their companions. Nor were they prepared for his kicks with his hooves. Kicks that set them on fire! I had to admit that was awesome, though the violence and gore was making me queasy.
I released the spell and the entirety of my perspective snapped back into my body. Strangely, the deactivation of the Keepers' Sight was not anywhere near as disorienting as its activation. And that persistent feeling in the back of my head was gone.
"So, Mentor," I began. "You wish to be my Mentor?"
"That's one way to put it," he chuckled. "I'm going to attach myself to your Heart to better communicate with you."
"Uh, sure. I just have one question: do all Keepers share your ghostly fate?"
After a full minute of his spectral laughter, he finally answered with a definitive "no".
Horniculus finally returned several hours later. It was apparent that he had taken a rinse of some sort in an underground river - while he didn't have tons of blood and organs on his body, he hadn't washed it all off either.
"Feel better?" I asked while inspecting the newest variation of imp. This one was blue, quite tall, and very muscular. While it no longer had a pickaxe, it sported an evil-looking hammer.
"Very. What manner of creature is that?" He paused briefly, but not long enough for me respond. "Is that what trolls look like now?"
"I don't know what trolls are," I replied, taking the imp's hands in my hooves. This blue variety had only three fingers and a thumb, all of which were meatier than the smaller ones. "This is an imp."
"That is not an imp," he insisted. "I've seen what your imps look like."
Hilariously timed, a white imp rushed by Horniculus' foot, a large sack of gold on its back. In fact, the burlap sack was larger than the standard imp sack, while the white imp itself was shorter and had longer legs. Seeing such a stunned expression on the Reaper's face when the white zoomed by nearly caused me to laugh.
"Another variation of my imps."
Horniculus turned his confused visage to give me his full and undivided attention.
I couldn't stifle my laughter any longer. The blue imp also started chuckling, like it knew what was going on.
"Ah, Horny has arrived," the Mentor said as he glided into the room.
Horniculus switched gears from confused to furious so fast I could swear I smelt a burning clutch. Wait... What is a clutch, anyway?
"YOU SKIFFING SPECTRE!" the Reaper roared. His scythe unfolded mid-swing and bounced off of the wall behind the Mentor, passing through his ethereal form with no resistance.
On Horniculus' return swing the blue imp caught the scythe by the handle, barely saving my own neck (literally). While the Reaper easily tore his weapon away from the imp, his anger had temporarily abated.
"Annoying ghost," Horniculus murmured.
Rolling my eyes (and ignoring my racing heart), I stepped between the two otherworldly beings. "What is wrong with the both of you anyway!?"
"Well," the Mentor began. "Horny here remembers my name, as he was a soldier of mine before I died. He refuses to tell me, however."
Horniculus growled. "He keeps calling me 'Horny'! I know what that word implies, you bastard!" He poked his hand through the Mentor's torso. "You were also dumb enough to try and find a path to immortality that left you unable to truly interact with the world!"
"YOU'RE BOTH FLANKHOLES!" I yelled, getting their attention. "You nearly killed me over your petty squabble!"
I backhanded the Mentor with the Hand of Evil. He went sailing through the far wall, passing through it as though it were made of light. I used the Hand to lift Horniculus into the ceiling, visibly cracking the stone above before dropping him. I started to stomp off, when the Reaper's laughter stopped me. I glared at him over my shoulder as he simply lay on his back in the middle of the room.
Eventually, he sat up. "You may not be as bloodthirsty as I," he began, "but I have decided that I like you. Especially since you can hit that skiffer where I cannot."
"What does 'skiff' mean?" I asked as I sat down, turning to face the Reaper.
"What does 'flankhole' mean?" he countered.
"It's the part of the body where you defecate from."
Horniculus chuckled a bit. "We call that an 'asshole' here. To 'skiff' is a demon slang term for fornicating with fish."
"Huh." Well, wasn't that interesting? "We don't have an equivalent term for that in my homeland."
He gave me a feral grin. "I'll teach you how to profane yet!"
I had to snort at that.
End of Chapter One.
Next Chapter: Liarsburgh, a city of the Underdark.
Firstly, I'd like to apologize for not getting this out sooner. Sorry.
Item B: I have a tumblr now. 5007 dot tumblr dot com. Nopony seems to have noticed, except for my friend, Crayven Carnage.
Item III: I should really get back to writing my non-pony stuff. My fans are waiting for more "The Laughing Fox", after all.
Item da fourf: While on FanFiction dot net this first chapter will be available in the Brain Dump, this and all future chapters will be available exclusively on FiMFiction dot net.
Now that that's done, I'd like to thank Dumbledork for fixing whatever mistakes I've made with this fic.
About the chapter/story itself: it was an idea that came to me and refused to stop holding my imagination hostage until I started it. I've always enjoyed the Dungeon Keeper games for their sense of humor and their addictive gameplay. As many of you have seen on the Anime Addventure, DK crossovers where a random person is linked to a Dungeon Heart are quite prevalent in the fandom. While I seem to have simply copied the premise, I'd like to think that I altered the idea enough to make it original, which brings me to my next point.
There have been a lot of "Human in Equestria" fics out there. I even have one going. But "pony stranded outside of their world" fics? Not very prevalent. I decided to choose my favorite background stallion, one Bluegrass, and cast him into a world that most ponies would find horrifying. Giving him my headcannon backstory, I was able to mold his personality to fit what I needed.