Braeburn found himself in...a classroom? He looked around and noticed that he was much shorter than he remembered being. Or were these desks just very tall? He looked around and saw several colts and fillies from his school days in their desks...so this was some sort of memory, perhaps. Yet everything seemed off. The proportions of the room were cartoonishly skewed, and he couldn't hear anything despite the supposedly excited conversations everypony was having.
"BRAEBURN!" A tall, too-thin unicorn mare gave him a severe look from behind her desk.
Braeburn tried to say something in response, but found he couldn't speak. He looked to the blackboard to find a bonelike piece of chalk crawling across it. It made a hellish screech as it went, and he covered his ears in vain. The other ponies around him seemed to be laughing derisively. When at last the screeching stopped, the schoolteacher's face was contorted into a cruel sneer. "Even you should be able to solve this one, Braeburn."
Braeburn scowled at the teacher. He'd show her! He looked back to the blackboard, ready to solve the problem and silence both his classmates and that horrid mare...yet with horror, he realized there was nothing but gibberish. "Ah...um..." he stuttered. This was ridiculous.
"Wrong!" The schoolteacher and the class erupted into derisive laughter. "Looks like he failed again, class!"
Braeburn didn't know what was going on, but he knew for sure he didn't like it one bit. "Now wait just a durn minute," he said. Everypony quieted down, a few snickers and stifled laughs punctuating the silence. "You ain't mah teacher," he said, pointing with a hoof to the unicorn mare. His words had an odd resonance to them, as if he'd thrown a pebble into a still pond.
The mare seemed to shrink a small bit. "Quiet down, Braeburn, or it's the dunce cap for you!" But the earth pony knew this was just an idle threat. He had definitely felt something happen when he challenged his situation openly. He decided to give it another go.
"Mah teacher's name was Miss Daisy Grove, and you might look like her, in a messed-up way, but you ain't her. She was as sweet as could be, no matter how hard it was to learn her students. Not only that, but math was mah best--"
The unicorn mare was shrinking once more, but this time went on the offensive. She produced a wooden yardstick and trotted purposefully over to Braeburn. Without so much as another word, she telekinetically swung it and hit him across the face with it. Stunned, he rubbed his mouth with a hoof.
"Ah can't lie. That there hurt like an applebucker," he said, still rubbing his mouth. The teacher was smiling, but so was Braeburn. Her smile faltered a bit upon seeing his expression. "But Miss Daisy Grove would never, ever hit another pony. Especially not one of her students."
With that, Braeburn seemed to be his appropriate size again, and the teacher shrank, scowling at him until she was too small to see. His classmates faded into shadows. Everything around him rippled, contorted, and changed. Chairs morphed into drinking troughs, the walls and ceilings sort of folded into nothingness, making way for a city street. He was in Appleoosa.
"There ya are," said a familiar voice. Braeburn was still reeling from his sudden change of scenery, and didn't turn around. How was all of this possible? Was he dead? Was he in a coma thanks to the creature formerly known as Morton Shaker? He pondered various other outcomes, but was soon aware of a hoof on his shoulder. "Deputy, it's time," said Silver Star.
Braeburn gently nudged the hoof off of his shoulder so that he could face the old sheriff. "Time fer what, sir?"
Silver Star sighed. "Don't tell me ya forgot already. We're gonna visit Miss Shaker."
Braeburn's expression changed to one of horror. He gathered that this wasn't quite reality, but it still wasn't fair. He didn't want to talk to any version of Miss Shaker after his pathetic attempt to save her husband. He knew no matter how kind or understanding she would be, it would still be like a dagger in his heart. If he had been faster, he could have at least gotten the jump on Morton. If he had been smartera better deputy, Morton might not have gone missing in the first place. Even then, that was assuming Miss Shaker would act calm or rationalsomething a grieving pony rarely was. But the deputy knew better than to argue with Silver Star, or else they would be arguing until the proverbial cows came home. He sighed and motioned for his role model to lead the way.
Outside of the salt saloon, everything was eerily quiet. Perhaps Miss Shaker had closed the establishment for the purpose of this visit, or perhaps, Braeburn thought with a shiver, the patrons were having some sort of mass for their departed friend. As the two law ponies entered the saloon, Braeburn felt the weight of a thousand hateful glares. He hung his head in shame as they made their way up the stairs. He could have sworn he saw Silver Star crack a cruel smile, but he shook it off as being a trick of the light. It had to be.
"You!" Miss Shaker was waiting for them, and she was pissed. If she looked bad when Braeburn first visited her, this was a whole new level. Her mane was disheveled and hung around her face as if she'd been running a marathon. Her eyes were not only irritated from constant crying, but were adorned with bags that betrayed a lack of sleep. Her makeup was applied heavily and garishly, and was streaked in some places. The whole effect was odd and quite intimidating. She strode furiously up to Braeburn and poked him in the chest with an accusing hoof. "How dare you show your face in here after what happened to my husband!"
Silver Star made an attempt to speak, but Miss Shaker silenced him.
"There's no need to defend this scoundrel, Sheriff," she said, giving him a brief glance. She returned her gaze to the younger of the two. "You probably thought you were going to march in here and give me some trussed-up version of the truth, didn't you?"
Braeburn stiffened. He didn't want to be here, but he never told anything but the truth. He was, after all, a member of the Apple family. "No," he said gently but firmly. "Ah don't never tell nothin' but the truth. And ah give out every detail, so you can forget about them lies of omission, too."
She huffed indignantly. "My husband is dead because of you," she said. "My beloved Morton...you didn't even have the gumption to finish it yourself! You had to call in some little savage buffalo whore to get the job done! A competent pony would've...incapacitated him and gotten him treatment! No, rather, a competent pony...would've made sure my Morton didn't catch that horrid condition in the first place! You could have done something! At the very least you could have noticed his unusual absence earlier. You were too busy indulging your delusions of heroism to notice the disappearance of a 'filthmonger' like my husband. Isn't that right? You promised you'd bring him back. You promised!" The last two words came out as a hiss.
That was the last straw. Braeburn swatted aside her hoof, which had been jabbing him angrily in the chest. She gasped as he closed the distance between them. "You finished?"
All she could do was stare at him in cold fear. Was she expecting a physical attack from the deputy? Braeburn didn't realize how intimidating he looked at this moment, his calm, collected anger flowing from him like a river just before a waterfall. He didn't care.
"Good, because ah've got a few things to say, ma'am, and yer gonna listen. Firstly, there ain't no pony in Equestriain the worldthat's as sorry as ah am right now. Yer right, ah coulda done a lot of things better. It's mah fault that your husband's gone. Ah ain't gonna say that 'there was nothin' left of him but a monster,' cuz ah could see him in there, fightin'. And ah ain't gonna say that it's better fer him to be dead and not killin' nopony than alive and on a murderin' spree. Cuz yeah, yer right, ah coulda found a cure. Or done somethin' to make things not turn out so bad. Ah ain't gonna dodge no blame, and you can call me any number of names. Ah prob'ly deserve 'em." He dropped his voice to a menacing whisper. "But lemme tell you somethin'. Don't you never talk about mah friends like that, ever again. Little Strongheart put her flank on the lineand a few friends' too, from what ah seenso she could save someone who weren't part of her tribe. And it weren't me she saved. It was yer husband. Can you imagine bein trapped inside a killin' machine like that? Havin' somethin' else controllin' what ought to be yers?" Braeburn continued, not realizing his statement would soon have more weight than he realized.
"Ah took an oath to protect this town. Sheriff Silver Star swore me in. Ya might think you deserve more outta me. And maybe ya do. But that buffalo deserves a lot more from you, ma'am. She gave yer husband somethin' nopno one else could give him." He paused, searching for the appropriate word. "Peace."
As Braeburn finished his sentence, Miss Shaker dropped the facade. As did Silver Star. They moved to stand next to eachother, and as Braeburn's surroundings began to ripple and change a sinister voice like wind blowing through dead leaves could be heard. Perhaps even felt.
"YOU HAVE WON NOTHING. THIS IS BUT A MINOR OBSTACLE. YOU ARE NOTHING, AND YOU WILL LEARN THE PRICE OF MEDDLING IN MY AFFAIRS."
"Somepony's a sore loser," said Braeburn smugly under his breath. But he wasn't prepared for what he saw next. He saw a vast reflective wall, with a small speck on it. He was just as overcome by the scale of it as he was by the reflection. There was a vast white emptiness being reflected in it. The only reason he even knew it was reflective in the first place was because he was certain the small speck was him. As there was nothing else of interest around, Braeburn figured he might as well approach the mirror and deal with whatever cheap shot the...voice had planned.
He was at the mirror in no time...and was greeted by his reflection. No tricks, no bogeystallions behind him. "Is this it?" There was no response. He turned around, but found himself staring at the mirror instead. Once more, he tried to turn and leave, but the mirror was now surrounding him on all sides. Looking up did him no good either, as the mirror stretched impossibly high.
Not knowing what else to do, he simply sat. He had no sense of time in this place, and nopony to talk to. Not even one of the illusions to insult and berate him. He sighed as time passed by. Or didn't. He wasn't sure. Gradually, Braeburn became aware of an intense itching in his face. He had tuned out the mirror, but now gave it a glance to see if there was anything happening. He instantly regretted it. There was nothing on Braeburn's face...there was something inside it. He stared at it with morbid fascinationa worm wriggling around just below the skin of his cheek.
His reflection showed that his hair was becoming pale and coarse. Not white, just faded as if it was hidden from sunlight for a long time He was finding it harder to see, and against his better judgment stepped closer to the mirror. There were now multiple things in his face and all over him, crawling with the kind of hateful indifference that only beings of nightmares could manage. Braeburn's eyes were now glassy, his hair falling out in places to reveal pallid, lifeless flesh. He touched his face with a hoof, to try and reassure himself that it wasn't really happening. He felt the cold, slimy skin of a corpse. He wanted to scream, to make any kind of noise to remind himself that he was still a pony, but he was robbed even of that small comfort. He opened his mouth to scream as the things burst from his flesh looking for more food, and nothing but a flood of ichor and countless, nameless horrors came out.
In the terrible silence, that same voice from earlier could be heard triumphantly cackling.
Braeburn awoke later in somepony's bed, with a terrified scream. His eyes forced themselves open, desperate to find anything that could purge the memory of what he'd just seen. Despite his eyes telling him he was no longer in the dream or coma or whatever it was, he kept screaming for a few seconds more. After he ran out of breath, he took a breath, then another. He was no longer in that horrid place. But where was he?
Everything looked like it was made by sane ponies, and there wasn't an aura of confusion or hostility about his surroundings. It didn't look like any of the buildings in Appleoosa, and it definitely wasn't a buffalo tipi. The young stallion began looking for any clues as to where he might be. The light of the mid-afternoon sun shone down on him through the windows of the building, and he never thought he would be so grateful to see such a common occurrence as real sunlight. The architecture was modest and rugged. Definitely frontier earth pony work. The interior decoration was sparse. Braeburn noted that this was a house, not a home. Whoever built this place built it only as a shelter from the elements, not as a place to raise a family or to truly live.
One thing that was bothering him was a certain...wrongness. The warmth he should have felt from the sun felt...distant? As if his body was telling him he should be warm but wasn't. There was no taste in his mouth; a complete absence of anything, even the herbs he had before he blacked out. For that matter, how long had he been out? He pushed the question from his mind and looked down at his forehooves. They seemed normal, although his fur was a shade or two paler than he remembered. To add to the list of oddities plaguing Braeburn, he couldn't feel the ground beneath him. He knew that it was holding him up and that it was there, for sure. But he lacked the sensation of touching it.
Before he could find a bathroom, and thus a mirror, he encountered his host...or captor. A rather reserved-looking unicorn with a broken horn sat at a table, reading a paper and sipping tea. His coat was a burgundy color, and mostly concealed by a finely tailored white pinstripe suit and tie. His mane was expertly groomed into a hairstyle Braeburn had seen but couldn't place. He knew that meaner ponies than himself would call this guy a tinhorn, though. By looking at him, Braeburn could tell that he wasn't at home on the Equestrian frontier.
"Ah, you're awake! Excellent," said the unicorn, his expression a mask of neutrality. "Care for a spot of tea, my good stallion?"
"Yer accent's interestin'," said Braeburn, taken aback by the stranger's hospitality and not sure what else to say.
The unicorn chuckled and motioned to Braeburn with the hoof holding the cup of tea. "I find the accents around here to be a suitable change of pace, as well. The feeling is mutual!"
"Where ya from?"
"Great Bitain. South Yokeshire, to be specific. Yourself?"
Braeburn brightened up. "Only the friendliest little town in the whole dang frontier!" The unicorn waited patiently. "Aaaaapleoosa!" There was an awkward silence, and Braeburn's smile faltered as the silence settled in. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, dear," said the unicorn, frowning. "You've been gone quite a while, haven't you?"
"Gone? Ah don't understand...where am ah, anyway? When ah passed out, ah was in Appleoosa."
The unicorn sipped his tea and put down the newspaper, looking Braeburn in the eye. Braeburn noticed that there was something off-putting about the unicorn. His face showed something that wasn't quite age. It didn't have the wrinkles or anything, but it looked as if somepony had just hung this guy's face up on his skull. It made him look kind of like he hadn't gotten any sleep in a long time. His horn injury looked really nasty, too. Braeburn wasn't a medical doctor, but he could see by the severity of the wound that this pony was lucky to be alive. "Ah, passed out, did you, old boy? Tell me, what do you remember about when you 'passed out?'"
Braeburn raised an eyebrow. Was this pony a doctor? That would explain some things, maybe. "Um, okay...well..." He paused for a moment, not sure if the other pony would believe him. "It's kinda weird. You promise not to laugh at me or nothin'?"
The unicorn nodded. "Of course."
"Well, ah was huntin' this thing that was killin' ponies and buffalo out on the plains...it spotted me, and ah got it good with mah sixgun...or ah thought so, anyway."
The other pony kept his expression one of detached interest, nodding.
"It got up behind me an' bushwhacked me. Ah tried to reach for mah gun but it slashed me up real bad...right here," he said, pointing to his throat. That was another thing. Why wasn't he in a lot of pain? Even buffalo remedies didn't work so fast as to heal a supposedly fatal wound in a day. But the unicorn just nodded. He was apparently either very believing or very good at concealing disbelief.
"And what, pray tell, did this creature look like?"
"Well...it was like a big ol' wolf, but it could stand on two legs if'n it wanted to. And...it had a...a cutie mark."
"Ah," said the unicorn with a chuckle. "A werewolf, then. I say, you're either the luckiest or unluckiest bastard in the Frontier, dear boy." The chuckle turned into a laugh, and Braeburn frowned. He knew the other pony wouldn't believe him. He'd opened up to his host (or captor) only to make himself look like a fool.
"But ah'm tellin' the truth!" He looked genuinely hurt.
"Yes, I know," said the unicorn, genuinely surprising Braeburn. He didn't 'believe' the earth pony. He 'knew' that Braeburn was telling the truth. "As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the medicine I assume you took, you'd be walking the Frontier as a werewolf this very moment."
Braeburn was relieved to find that out. He clutched at the medicine bottle still around his neck, and the string snapped very easily. He caught the bottle before it hit the ground and noticed that the glass had become very dirty and dustymuch more than would be expected of something simply exposed to the elements for a few days.
"So," he said, cautiously moving towards the unicorn to place the bottle on the desk. "How did ah get here? Where is here?"
"You're on the outskirts of the town of Flower, in the territory known as Maresissippi. A far cry away from Appleoosa, I'm afraid."
It wasn't the answer Braeburn was looking for. Truth be told, he hadn't even heard of Flower. As far as he knew, Maresissippi was just a small settlement that had sprung up shortly after the success of Appleoosa. Since when was it big enough to be called a "territory?" Questions burned in his mind, but he asked the most prominent.
"Okay...why am ah here?"
The unicorn smirked. "That's a question for greater minds than mine to ponder, dear boy." Braeburn frowned. That impressed the unicorn; most ponies would have rolled their eyes or copped an attitude. He liked this young buck. "Not the answer you were hoping for, I know." He sighed. "You have two choices, neither of which you will like. The simple answer, or the full answer."
Braeburn steeled himself, ready for anything after that horrible nightmare. "The simple one, please."
"You and I are dead stallions walking. There are evil spirits inside us constantly trying to wrest control from us, so that they might visit terrors upon the mortal world using our bodies."
"What?" Braeburn didn't know whether to laugh or cry. His face was betraying this.
"The only thing that kept you from rising faster than you did was the protective magic the buffalo placed upon your corpse and the special mausoleum they interred you in. Once the manitouthat's what they are called, mind youentered your body, it was paralyzed and placed in stasis. Until now. That nightmare you had was the manitou trying to wrest control from you." Though he didn't say it, the unicorn wasn't completely sure the manitou wasn't in control now. Some of them were very good actors!
Braeburn couldn't believe this nut. "Then why am ah here and not in that...moss..mouse...place?" He felt the ground moving under him, but soon realized all four of his legs were trembling. Trying as hard as he could not to think of his decaying face from the nightmare, he shot the unicorn an expectant look.
"On orders from my superior, who calls himself the Prospector, I traveled to Appleoosa to retrieve your corpse from the mausoleum. It was difficult, but I cannot imagine how much more difficult it would've been had there still been anyone left."
Braeburn struggled to keep his nerves under control. "Suppose ah believe you...why me? The one time ah tried to fight somethin' fer real, ah died. And...what do you mean, 'there wasn't nopony left?'"
The unicorn produced a tarnished silver pocketwatch, checking the time. Once he was satisfied, he returned his gaze to Braeburn. "Dear boy...Braeburn, was it? It's not a matter of what the Prospector sees in you, it's a matter of what the Reckoners saw in you when they ordered that manitou inside you. Your resting place...it was designed to imprison an especially powerful manitou. A Greater Manitou, if you will."
"There are some benefits to being Harrowedthat is what we are called, by those 'in the know.' It means 'dragged from the earth. Rather fitting, I think. But I digress. Our condition is one I wouldn't wish on any living, or rather, dead, creature. But just as our manitous can wrest control from us, we can force them to grant us concessions. And that isn't including the normal benefits."
"Oh? Now that I'm telling you about superpowers, you're inclined to believe me?"
Braeburn chuckled in spite of his confusion and fear. "Maybe," he said. "Ah might need some proof."
"Do you trust me?" The unicorn seemed to have a knack for remaining perfectly calm. Braeburn was normally that sort of pony, as well, although now his shaking legs were damaging his self-confidence.
"As far as ah can throw ya, mister."
"Well, at least you're honest. Give me your hoof."
Hesitantly, Braeburn edged closer to the table. He extended a shaking forehoof...and the unicorn promptly produced an enormous machete.
"What the hay?!"
Before Braeburn could retract his hoof, the unicorn brought it down and hacked the hoof off. Black ichor--not blood--dripped from the wound, and out of pure shock, he screamed.
"Oh, do be quiet," said the unicorn, placing the machete on the table. Braeburn kept screaming, looking at his severed hoof. "Calm down, dear boy. It's nothing to be afraid of."
"You cut mah dadgum hoof off, ya crazy ferner!"
"Yes, but does it hurt?"
"What?" Braeburn stopped to catch his breath. What kind of a question was that?
"Does it hurt?" It was less a question and more a declarative statement.
He quieted down, considered it, and found that no, it didn't. Breathlessly, he asked, "...how is this possible?" Braeburn stared at his wound in morbid fascination. His blood was black and thick, and indeed he didn't feel any pain. He did feel something, but it wasn't pain. If he had to describe it, he'd say it was his body reminding him politely that he was missing an appendage.
"Do you believe me now?"
"Ah ain't got no choice but to believe you, mister."
"My name is Parchment. Now pick up your hoof and put it back on."
"You cut it off, ya loon! What, is it gonna grow back?"
Braeburn couldn't believe his ears, but didn't feel like arguing with a machete-wielding dead guy. He picked up his hoof with his mouth (yuck!) and held it to the wound. Amazingly, the hoof just sort of re-attached itself, and gradually the cut sealed itself up. "Well, I'll be," he said. What else was he supposed to say?
"Yes, yes," said Parchment dismissively. "There will be time for wide-eyed realizations and gallivanting later. The Prospector, and by extension myself, is very busy. If you have any questions, ask them now. I must be off soon, and so must you. He has plans for you."
Braeburn was finally calming down, at least as much as he could in a situation like this. "W-who are the Reckoners? Ah'm guessin' they ain't too friendly."
Parchment smiled. "Luckily for you, I have an affinity for history. It was my calling before I passed. To understand the Reckoners, you must understand the history behind them."
Braeburn sighed. History was his least favorite subject. "Can ah get the short version, please?"
"Oh, fine. You yanks...hmph." Braeburn had never met a snooty zombie before. "They're a group of evil spirits and beings, accidentally released by the buffalo in an attempt to bring forth their own benevolent spirits of old. That's as much as I know about how they came to be. There's very little recorded incidents of them, and what few exist are guarded fiercely by ponies with guns. Essentially, they are responsible for much of what we see today...by the way, what's the year?"
Braeburn blinked. "1001, year of Celestia. Or 1st year of them Pony Sisters."
Parchment shook his head. "Those buffalo wards were powerful, indeed. My friend, you've been dead for twelve years. Much has changed since then. Quite a lot, really."
Braeburn felt the wind pushed out of him as if somepony had socked him a good one right in the gut. He sat down in the chair and let the weight of that statement not only hit him, but saturate the very air around him.
"I'm sorry, Braeburn."
"How do you know mah name?"
"It was one of the few things legible on your epitaph. As if someponyor rather a buffalohad gone to great pains to ensure that at least that part was legible and unmarred."
Braeburn felt a knife in his heart. "What else do ya know about them Reckoners?" His voice wavered. Was it even possible for him to cry now that he was...undead?
"As I was saying, they are likely responsible for a great deal of things you may see in the Frontier. Some say even mainland Equestria suffers horrors such as werewolves and the like. Things twice as vicious as any Everfree nasty, and which won't hesitate to kill you in front of your whole family."
Braeburn shuddered. "Are they Reckoners? Werewolves and...stuff like that?"
"No, merely servants."
"What do they want?"
"Simply put? Everything we have. They want to spread fear, so that they can invade the mortal world and take it for themselves."
"Why not just but a buncha really nasty critters in one place?"
"They aren't all-powerful. That would drain their resources, and would only create an immediate burst of fear in one small spot at once. For example, a town full of ghosts would be frightening, until somepony found a way to fight back."
"Ah'm startin' to see why they send out them manitous," said Braeburn, nodding. "Speakin' of which, couldja tell me more about them powers? Do we all get the same ones?"
"Yes and no. We all get basic ones, such as the regeneration you saw, and the ability to ignore pain. Specific abilities differ from Harrowed to Harrowed. Depends on what kind of pony you were in life. Not that non-ponies can't be Harrowed," he added. Braeburn shuddered, imagining an undead dragon flying around.
"Ah, I nearly left out a most important caveat. Your powers, even the common ones, draw power from your manitou. Your manitou draws its power from the Hunting Grounds," said Parchment. Braeburn gave him a confused glance. "The realm of the Reckoners," explained the unicorn. "In order to...fuel these powers, shall we say...well, there is no pretty way to put this. "You shall have to consume raw meat, dear boy."
Braeburn was taken aback by that. He wasn't a scholar by any sense of the word, but he couldn't think of any pony that ate meat. He may have heard of one or two foreign cultures, but even they ate cooked meat. "There ain't no way around it?"
"No meat, no powers. The good news is, it doesn't have to be pony meat."
If Braeburn had been drinking, he would have spit his beverage clear across the room. He could not believe Parchment had tried to marginalize it. The reserved unicorn had said, in his own fancy way, 'at least you're not a cannibal.' "Well," Braeburn said dryly, "thank Celestia fer small favors."
Parchment let out a weary chuckle and checked the time. "I have time for one more question before I must be off." He produced a manila envelope and telekinetically slid it across the table. That impressed Braeburn, considering the state of Parchment's horn. "Your assignment," he said, as if that explained everything.
"From the Prospector, ah'm guessin'. Who is he?"
Parchment's expression of polite neutrality finally broke and turned into one of pure determination. "He's the pony with the plan. One of Equestria's most powerful weapons against the Reckoners."
Braeburn was still gazing curiously at the manila envelope. "Can ah trust him?"
"Can he trust you?"
Braeburn nickered. "He musta not heard of the Apple family. Our word's worth its weight in gold," he said matter-of-factly. "As long as he's one of the white hats, ah'll be on his side."
"Good," said Parchment. Braeburn looked up and noticed a beautiful nickel-plated derringer with an ivory grip being levitated back into a coat pocket. "It would have ruined my suit to kill you from this distance," he said. "Oh, yes. Bullets in the brainpan are still lethal to us, dear boy." His tone was casual, as if addressing an old friend or making dinner conversation. Braeburn felt a chill run down his spine.
He gulped as Parchment casually got up and trotted out, whistling a tune. There was one pony he didn't want behind him. Once the unicorn had left, Braeburn opened the envelope to see just was this 'assignment' was, and hoped it wasn't possible to get any further over his head than he already was.