Part 1, Chapter 1
She was awakened by a loud thud. It was followed by another, and then another. As the sounds continued, the time between each sound decreased and the volume grew louder.
While the noise was very alarming, the pony soon discovered that it was the least of her worries. She was certain that her eyes were now open, but she saw nothing. She turned her head left and right, hoping to get her bearings. Nothing.
Her heart began racing. She quickly escalated from turning her head to moving her entire body. No part of her was restrained, but that did little to relax her because she also noticed there was no floor. She was floating, though she couldn't tell in what exactly. When trying to move her body, she felt resistance, as though she were swimming in water, but this couldn't have been water. If it was, how was she breathing?
The pony was too terrified to care. Whatever it was she was floating in, she wanted out of it. She pushed forward in an effort to swim out, but this effort was quickly halted. Only a few inches in front of her, her head collided with a wall. She desperately moved her hooves up and down this newfound surface, hoping to find either an ending point or a place where she could break through. Nothing. The wall had no openings or obvious weak points. It was smooth and completely solid. She concluded it was made of glass, but it was very thick and resisting her efforts with ease.
She spun herself around hoping that the area behind her would be different, but it wasn't. Moving forward in this direction yielded the same result: a run-in with a thick piece of glass. Her panic level rose even higher. She turned herself to the left and to the right, pushed herself upward and downward. It was useless. There was glass in every direction, only inches from her starting point. These were not merely glass walls. They were part of a giant glass container, and she was on the inside.
The pony was no longer able to think rationally. She pushed forward and pounded on the front glass as hard as she could and screamed with all the force her lungs could muster. Her screaming made no sound, however. It felt like whatever she was swimming in was muffling her voice, but she kept trying anyway, all the while pounding and pounding on the glass. The noise she was making was almost drowning out the thudding sound that was still coming from overhead, whatever it was...
“This is the worst whack-a-mole game I’ve ever played!” declared Pinkie Pie.
“That’s because it’s a butter churn, Pinkie,” said Spike.
“Excuse me, Pinkie, but could you not fool with anything in here? Some of these things are really old,” a concerned Mrs. Cake asked politely.
“Okey dokey!” replied Pinkie as she took her hooves off her whack-a-mole game’s churning staff. “I won anyway.”
“‘Finally!” yelled Rainbow Dash. “You’ve been pounding on that thing for five minutes! I’ve never had a headache this bad!”
“Oh it wasn't that long,” said Twilight. “I think you’re just grumpy.”
“Grumpy? I’m not grumpy! Why would I be grumpy?” said a very grumpy Rainbow Dash.
Twilight laughed. “It’s okay. I understand. I know that touring the home of one of Equestria’s greatest alchemists is not your cup of tea. Of course, neither was it my cup of tea when I went to your Stunt Flyer’s award ceremony last week.”
“How could you have not liked that? It was awesome!” Rainbow Dash asked.
“Well, there was no flying and there were no stunts, just some ponies I’ve never heard of walking up to a podium and getting awards that I never head of before.” Twilight answered bluntly.
Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to argue back, but then instead sighed and conceded. “I know.” She paused, and then smiled. “I’m still glad you went with me though.”
Twilight returned her smile. “No problem. And since you agreed to come see Professor Voidsdale’s house with me, I’d say we’re even.”
“A deal’s a deal,” Rainbow agreed.
Twilight couldn’t believe how hard it was to get ponies to go with her to see Professor Voidsdale’s home after Mrs. Cake invited her. She could only get Rainbow Dash to come along by playing the you-owe-me card. Pinkie only agreed to come because her boss, Mrs. Cake, was to be their tour guide. Rarity said she couldn't go because she had to get ready for an upcoming fashion trade show, a trade show that Twilight was pretty sure had happened last week. Fluttershy said that Angel was sick with faux pox, an illness that Twilight had never heard of before and in fact sounded made up. Then there was Applejack, the keeper of the Element of Honesty, which Twilight noticed never stopped her from dodging questions.
All of this made her grateful for Spike, who agreed to come with her without any hesitation. He was truly the most loyal assistant — and friend — she could have hoped for.
Still, now that she was actually in the house she realized almost any pony not in love with history like herself would be bored with it. Nothing in the room was very eye-catching. The walls were an empty white with patches of dull brown bricks here and there. The floor was plain, gray stone. There was an old stove sitting behind the counter at the front of the room they were in, but it was very worn, rusted, and dull as was the rest of the kitchenware around it. The only other object in the room besides the butter churn was a wooden china cabinet that stood along the wall at the back of the room. Inside the cabinet there was some gold - or at least gold-painted - china, but it had long since lost its luster. Alchemists were known for having a fascination with gold and, since Professor Voidsdale was a wealthy pony, Twilight thought that his estate would be covered in it. This wasn’t even remotely the case.
Sadly, the most visually interesting thing in the room was the painting of the Professor himself hung on the left-hand wall and even that was faded and depressing. The painter hadn’t picked a very exciting pose for his subject. It was just a plain view of the professor from the shoulders up. He was old and gray with a blonde mane that was starting to fade. He wore bifocals in front of his big yellow eyes and what looked to be a red sweater vest on his torso. His smile was small and a little crooked, as if he wasn’t sure if he should be smiling.
Regardless, Twilight decided that she herself should be smiling. It was nice of Mrs. Cake to give her and her friends their own personal private tour of the Professor’s estate prior to it being open to the public.
Twilight turned to her party’s host. “Thanks for giving us this pre-tour, um, tour, Mrs. Cake. I think it’s great that you volunteered to be a guide here."
“Thank you, Twilight, and you’re welcome,” Mrs. Cake replied. “You were the first pony I thought of when I signed up for this. I know you’re a big fan of Professor Voidsdale just like me so I knew you’d love this. And management said it would be okay so you’re not imposing or anything.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’m specifically a fan of Professor Voidsdale, but I love Equestrian history and alchemy and he’s a big part of both,” said Twilight. “My guess is that you’re more of a fan of him as a baker and not as an alchemist.”
Mrs. Cake laughed. “Oh not necessarily. I actually enjoy learning about alchemy. It’s not that different from cooking really. I mean it’s no wonder so many alchemists were also chefs or bakers.”
“Hmmm. I suppose not,” Twilight agreed.
“So, what was it that this professor did that was so important, anyway?” interrupted Rainbow Dash.
Twilight smirked. “I guess this was yet another history class you slept through, Rainbow?”
“Um, maybe,” said Rainbow Dash while scratching the back of her neck.
Mrs. Cake laughed. “Well, to get you up to speed, Rainbow Dash, why don’t I give you the introductory speech I have planned for the tour?”
“Hmm, I’d like to hear that,” said Twilight.
“Oo! Me too!” said Pinkie Pie.
“Sure. Why not?” said Spike
Rainbow Dash sighed. “Fine.”
Mrs. Cake turned around and walked behind the counter at the front of the room, then faced her audience and cleared her throat.
“First of all, welcome, everypony, to the estate of Professor Nolan Voidsdale. The professor lived in this home during the latter part of his distinguished career, around the time our Princesses Celestia and Luna began their reign. It was in this very place that he discovered many of the formulae alchemists still use to this day, including his most famous discovery, geenidye...”
Rainbow Dash nudged Spike and whispered “Hey, what’s geenidye?”
“No idea,” whispered Spike.
“Unfortunately,” Mrs. Cake continued, “when the professor passed away, he left his home in a very poor state and Princess Celestia had it condemned. However, she decided not to have it demolished for the sake of preserving Equestria's history. Then, just a year ago, the Equestria Historical Society finally convinced her majesty to allow this home be restored to a structurally-sound state and open it up for everypony to see. Thanks to their efforts, we are now able to give you a better glimpse into the life of one the most brilliant minds in pony history.”
Mrs. Cake paused. “How was that?”
“Yay!” said Pinkie Pie as she started clapping. “Go Mrs. C.!”
“Hmm. You’re a pretty awesome speaker, Mrs. Cake!” said Rainbow Dash.
“I agree!” said Twilight. “It got me excited all over again about what we’re going to see in this place.”
The pony pulled her hooves away from the wall of her prison, and ceased her shouting so she could catch her breath. Her body and her throat were both sore, and her mind began slipping from panic into despair. She was trapped, possibly forever. Her body began trembling and she could feel tears trying to form, but the chemical she was submerged in wouldn't allow it. They dissolved instantly.
Silent and motionless, she floated in her cell for several moments, neither knowing what to do nor having the strength to do it. Her mind was making the reluctant, painful journey towards accepting her fate.
Then she heard something. It was faint, but it sounded like a short crackle, like the sound of...glass breaking.
Instantly snapping back to attention, she reached out with her hooves once again and touched the glass in front of her. Moving her limbs around, it only took seconds to find a small break in the wall, right around when she had been pounding on it. Quickly she centered herself around the crack and with a burst of adrenaline pounded on it repeatedly even harder than before. Soon there was another cracking sound, then another, and another. The sounds gave her all the encouragement she needed to continue pounding.
Then, at long last, a piece of the glass broke free and a hole stood in its place. She could feel the chemical inside the chamber escaping through it. There was no light coming from the opening and everything was still pitch black, but she didn't care. She aimed her legs directly below the hole, hoping to make it bigger. She succeeded. She then moved to the right of it and expanded the opening that way as well. The cloud-like substance was escaping rapidly now and natural gravity began to take over. She was sinking to the bottom of the container, but that didn't deter her. She continued striking at whatever area was in front of her, knocking out the glass piece by piece until the chemical completely escaped and her rear hooves reached the bottom of the chamber, this time supporting her on their own. With the strange mist now completely gone, she could breathe the real air coming from wherever she was. It was cold and stale, but given the circumstances, she thought it was wonderful.
Now that her hooves were on solid ground, she decided to change up her plan of attack on the remaining glass. Backing up as far as she could in the chamber, she tilted her head and charged at it. The glass shattered as soon as the headbutt made contact and she burst through the wall as if it were paper. For that short moment, it felt glorious.
She was very quickly thrust back into reality, though. The container she was in was, apparently, not at floor level and she tripped and collapsed onto the ground in front of it. She was already sore from pounding and headbutting glass and this unexpected meeting with a stone floor didn't help. She groaned out loud. The groan did little to relieve the pain, but she was happy about one thing: she could hear the groan.
"What is all that noise?” Pinkie asked after she and the others heard a series of alarming shattering sounds followed by a very disturbing groan.
“I-I don’t know,” stammered Mrs. Cake.
“Is there still some restoration going on, Mrs. Cake?” Twilight asked.
“No. The workers were done last week,” she replied. She paused for a moment, then raised a question. “Did-did that groaning just now sound like a pony to you?”
“I thought it sounded like a Ghostie!” said Pinkie Pike.
Everypony’s eyes widened, Spike’s especially. “Please don’t say things like that, Pinkie!”
“Oh don’t be such a scaredy-dragon,” said Pinkie Pie. “Ghosties don’t have to be scary.” Pinkie’s voice turned singsong “When I was a little filly and the sun was going do—”
“—Don’t. Even. Start,” interrupted Rainbow Dash as she covered Pinkie Pie’s mouth.
Pulling herself off the floor wasn't easy. She felt like she had just been in a fight, a fight that she had lost. Every part of her body was telling her to stay on the floor and rest, but her mind knew better. Falling asleep in an unknown place that you can’t see is never a good idea. She had hoped that once she broke out of the glass, she would be able to at least see the room around it, but such was not the case. It was pitch black in every direction, and she was forced to rely on her other senses.
From her collision with the ground, she had learned the hard way that it was unquestionably stone. Once she was on her feet, the sound of her hooves making contact with the surface beneath her confirmed this.
She didn’t detect any striking smells, but the air flowing through her nostrils was dusty and dry. Wherever this place was, it was very old.
Her ears didn't hear anything, either. Other than the sounds she had been making herself, the room was uncomfortably silent. She did notice, however, that no sound she made had an echo of any sort. Not only was this place old, but it was small and enclosed.
The pony began walking forward, which was just as difficult as standing up in the first place. It’s true that she was sore from breaking out of her glass chamber, but there was something else, too. Her legs were wobbly and difficult to balance on, as if they were long out-of-practice. Also, she kept stepping on something, something thin and thread-like. After feeling several tugs on her head, she concluded it was her own hair.
Moving very slowly, she made her way forward, completely blind. She was surprised when, after several paces, she didn't run into anything. The path seemed to be clear. Not only was this room old, small and confined, but it was also, so far, empty.
“Oof!" She exclaimed after she walked head-on into a large, wooden object. It wasn't quite enough of a hit to knock her down, but it was nonetheless jolting. What was more shocking, however, was the eerie squeaking sound it made, that and the sound was soon followed by the feeling of a giant wooden object collapsing on top of her.
“Whoah! That one was even louder!” exclaimed Rainbow Dash..
“I can’t tell where it’s coming from, either,” said Mrs. Cake while looking around the room for the sound’s source. “It sounds like the noises are coming from all around us!”
“Really?” asked Rainbow Dash. “Because that last one definitely sounded like it was coming from below us to me.”
Mrs. Cake raised an eyebrow, “Below us? Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash confirmed. “Maybe it’s coming from the basement or something.”
“Rainbow Dash,” Mrs. Cake said, both of her eyebrows now raised, “this house has no basement.”
The pony could now confirm that the heavy wooden object that had fell on her was in fact a bookshelf, though it was mostly empty. She felt a few books lying on the ground to either side of her, but none had actually hit her during the collapse. Of course, this didn’t make the shelf itself any less painful on impact.
She was growing amazed at her own resilience. Despite everything that she had been through up until this point and all of the aches, scars and sore spots she had accumulated, she could still move, and she still had the will to do so. Her forelegs had very little wiggle room, but with what little space she had she managed to get her hooves on the top of one of the shelf’s ledges near her head. Using that grip, she pulled herself up. After sliding upward as far as she could go, she felt an open space above her head. She was near the top of the shelf. With great difficulty, she re-positioned her hooves onto the new ledge that was now at head-level, and pulled again. Slowly, the pressure from the large piece of furniture dropped passed her face and she knew she was going to escape.
Continuing to slide forward, the pony eventually freed her head completely, followed by her forelegs. The wood scraped against her body as she used her hind legs to kick the rest of herself out. Finally only her rear hooves remained pinned down. Quickly, she yanked them out simultaneously and heard the bookshelf hit the ground.
Even though it was painful beyond belief, she rolled herself over to lay down in a more natural position for a pony. She breathed heavily while she tried to recover her strength, but it was difficult. That bookshelf had now made her chest sore as well. Every bone and muscle in her body was aching unbearably. Just the thought of standing up made her hurt even more. Still, she knew she couldn’t just lay here. With every last bit of willpower in her, she reached out with her forelegs and slowly began to crawl.
Her belly rubbing against the stone floor didn’t exactly feel comfortable, but she was glad to be feeling that instead of the pressure from a heavy bookshelf. And while she couldn’t tell if she was making any progress inching her way forward like this, at least she wasn’t running into anything
After crawling for what seem like an eternity, though, her front hooves made contact with another ledge of some sort. She flinched at first, desperately hoping it was not another shelf, but then she very carefully touched it again. It wasn’t wood. It was stone, much like the floor. She moved her hoof above it and found another ledge, but it was indented far back from the first one. Her excitement and her hope began to renew themselves. It was a staircase! Quickly she hoisted herself onto what felt like the first step, then the next. Then she was further encouraged to find that there was another step after that one, and after she cleared that one, another. She gained more hope with each new step she found as she made her ascension. That is, until she hit her head on something.
“Ouch!” She said out loud as she grabbed her head with her hoof. After that particular pain subsided, she reached above her head to feel what she had run into. It was a flat, hard surface that stretched out of legs’ reach in every direction. Her heart sank once again. The stairs apparently only lead straight to the ceiling. It was another dead end. She had escaped from two traps, only the find she was still confined.
But then she heard something coming from beyond the ceiling. It was faint and muffled, but it was very real. It sounded like voices.
She threw her front hooves upward and began pounding the ceiling just as hard as she had pounded the glass earlier. “Hey!” she screamed. “Somepony help me! Help!”
Everypony froze in place when they heard the horrible screams coming from below them. It was too muffled to make out what the voice was saying, but it definitely sounded like speech.
“It...it is a pony!” exclaimed Mrs. Cake.
“It’s coming from over there!” Rainbow Dash said pointing at the large china cabinet along the wall behind where they were.
Everypony walked over to the cabinet. The sound grew louder as they approached. Once they were right in front of it, the shouting sounded like it was coming from directly below them.
The group was in a state of stunned silence, but Twilight eventually took it upon herself to speak up. “Hello! Can you hear us?” She shouted at the floor.
The shouting went silent for a brief moment, but then started up again. The voice was still muffled and difficult to decipher, but Twilight noticed two words: “Help me..”
“She needs help!” shouted Twilight. She turned to Mrs. Cake. “Are you sure there’s no basement? Is there any way to get down to her?”
“I didn’t know about any basement until now. It’s not in any of the floor plans!” She replied.
Twilight was struggling to think, but it was difficult. The muffled screaming was keeping the tension high. Something had to be done and done now. There had to be a way to get down there...
“What does this do?” Pinkie Pie said as she walked over to the cabinet. Nopony was really sure what she was referring to at first, but then Pinkie walked over to a very specific piece of china. It was a golden teapot, and the only one on its shelf that was still upright. She stared at it for a moment, but then decided to pull the spout of the teapot like a lever. After pulling it towards herself a few degrees, there was a loud click.
A rumbling began to shake the floor just below everypony’s hooves. They instantly backed up and watched in shock as a large square piece of the stone floor started sliding back into the wall with a loud grinding noise. It revealed a black opening, a staircase...and one terrified pony.
Her body was an aqua, similar to Rainbow Dash, and she looked just about as young. Unlike Rainbow Dash, though, she had no cutie mark — unusual for a pony of her apparent age — and her mane was a solid green. The color was not the first thing Twilight and the others noticed about her mane, however. In addition to being very unkempt, it was long, very long, and spreading in every direction like vines. She layed there on the staircase, staring up at Twilight and the others with wide open yellow eyes, and huffing and puffing like she had just been saved from drowning. Her onlookers were too startled to say anything. All they could do was return her gaze. She continued breathing heavily for several seconds. Then, after one particularly long, exhausted exhale, her eyes closed and her face fell to the floor. After that, she stopped moving.
Shaking off the initial shock, Twilight rushed over to her. “Are-are you okay?” There was no response. She timidly touched the pony’s back, then turned to others. “She’s still breathing. I think she just fainted. Could somepony help me get her up?”
Without saying anything, Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and floated over to the unconscious mare. Putting her two front hooves under the pony’s forelegs, she got a grip and lifted her off the ground, carrying her to the counter at the front of the room where Mrs. Cake had given her speech. The pony’s long, disheveled hair dragged along the ground for the duration of her flight.
Rainbow Dash gently laid the pony on the counter face-up while letting her hair hang off the sides of it like icicles. The others gathered around her. The counter was too high for Spike to see over so he jumped on Twilight’s back to get a better look. “Wow! she’s a mess!” he observed.
“No kidding,” said Rainbow Dash. “I’ve never seen this many bruises and scars on one pony before.”
“I hope she’s okay,” said Twilight.
“Is there anything we can do for her?” Asked Pinkie Pie, turning to Mrs. Cake.
“Well, we have a first aid kit here of course, but I’m afraid she may be a little past that.” She thought for a moment, then continued. “Oh! But there’s a hospital just down the street from here. They should be able to help.”
“Rainbow, how, uh, heavy is she?” Twilight asked. “Do you think you could carry her all the way there?”
“Sure. No problem,” Rainbow Dash answered.
“Thank you,” replied Twilight looking directly into Rainbow Dash's eyes. “You’re doing her a big favor.”
Again without saying a word, Rainbow Dash gripped the pony and lifted her up, this time carrying her towards the door. Mrs Cake walked over to open it for her.
Twilight was about to follow her Pegasus friend out, but then her eye caught another glimpse of the hole the strange pony had crawled out of. She called out to Rainbow Dash. “I’ll catch up with you in a bit. Somepony needs to make sure there’s nopony else down there.”
“Okay. Go ahead,” said Rainbow Dash as she was about to exit the doorway. “I can get her checked in.”
“Thank you,” said Twilight once again.
“I should go with you too,” said Mrs. Cake. “After all, I work here and my bosses are going to be asking questions. And besides, there was something... familiar about that pony and maybe what’s down there will help me jog my memory.”
“I’ll go too!” said Pinkie Pie.
“Are you sure, Pinkie? I don’t know what’s down there,” said Twilight.
“Oh come on!” said Pinkie Pie, smiling. “You know I’ve gone with you through worse.”
Twilight smiled. “Yes you have. Thank you.”
Twilight turned head to take a look at the little dragon on her back. “How about you, Spike?”
“I’m on your back so I’m going wherever you’re going,” said Spike.
Twilight’s smile grew. Nopony knew what to expect down there but everypony was willing to take the risk with her. She turned her head back toward their destination. “Thanks everypony. Let’s go!”