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The House on Flathoof Avenue [ATTN: Aisede]


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"A greater evil we must persue,

One benign, yet with greater power to ensue."

She explained rather matter-of-fact, red eyes boring into him.

"A king of the realm of flame,

Bäle is his name."

She missed, not particularly enthused about the idea of summoning him. She didn't express the same hostility towards this 'Bäle' as she did the as-yet nameless demon harassing Sundown, though.

"His blessings you must accrue."

 

Jumping off his bed with all the grace of a cat, she say down next to it, facing away from him now as shadows coalesced before her. Something came out of it, which she held in her paw. Turning around, she displayed the small, semi-circular object. It was gold, and imprinted with a seal. It looked almost identical to the object found at the center of the late cultist's summoning circle, except for material.

 

"The greater of two evils will be less of a threat,

I am confident that it would be better to be in his debt. 

A soul he does not demand,

Only more demons for him to command.

Choose for yourself if this is something you would regret."

 

Slowly, small tendrils took hold of the seal and carried it over to his bedside so that he may get a better look at it. 

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He sat up in his bed and examined the object being held just to his side. He stared at the amulet, barely recognizing the pattern imprinted on it. He thought about what Shai just told him. Sundown wondered. Who was this 'Bäle'? A demon king? How would his blessing help? As these questions flew through his head, Sundown frowned a little. This was a fine mess he got himself into. At least it seemed like he somepony genuinely looking out for him - Shai.

 

He looked over to her apparition, she had her back to him. The edges of his lips began to curl upwards a little. In the short time he knew Shai, she did seem to want what was best for him, or at least what was least bad. Sundown believed he could trust her in this. And if he didn't go through with what she was suggesting, he will probably end up in a pretty bad place.

 

The detective just wanted to figure out some stuff before he committed fully. He thought for a moment before speaking.

 

"... What do you mean by 'more demons for him to command'?"

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Shai responded promptly, as if anticipating just such a question. 

"Sixty-six legions he does hold sway,

All of which unwaveringly obey.

As a mortal under his service, you would commit,

You would keep your soul at time's summit.

Simply capture demons, and you will be okay."

 

The last words of her explanation trailed off as she looked him over, the words themselves soft. It seemed she wanted to ease any worries he had, or at least reassure him that he had an ally here. 

 

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Sundown paused as he mulled it over. This sounded promising. It was definitely a better deal than having to hand his soul over to a wrathful demon. He wondered how he'd have to 'capture demons' for this Bäle. And how many he would have to capture before his debt is paid?

 

Shai's soft tone did much to assuage his fears, it seemed like she believed this was the best course of action for the detective to take. And if anything, she'd have his back if something went wrong. This made Sundown fell a bit more confident in his choice. At least he wasn't stumbling around in the metaphorical dark all alone.

 

"Ok, I think I understand... How do we make this deal with him?"

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"A task quite easy,

Perform the ritual so.

Strike a sturdy deal."

 

This said, she summoned from the inky abyss this time a somewhat familiar, if foreboding, object: it was the book that started this whole mess, still sealed in its plastic bag. With little fanfare, she had a troop of shadowy claws carry it to the edge of the bed, where she deposited it.

 

"Poor misguided souls,

They held the key to their dreams,

And squandered it."

 

"In this book you will find a certain section,

Take from your memory what was in that room, and make a connection.

Simple shapes and solid lines,

Mantras formed like verbal mines.

Yet with it, always the risk of hellish insurrection." 

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He watched the bag settle onto his bed, floated over by Shai's shadowy tendrils. It looked untouched. Shai said that he had to perform a ritual contained in the tome, probably the same one that the three victims had done, except with the intent to summon a different demon. He reached over and grabbed the clear plastic container. He paused for a moment as he saw the tamper seal. Opening this evidence bag right now would technically be destroying any admissibility it has in court, but considering the circumstances, that was the least of Sundown's worries.

 

He undid the top of the bag, ripping the seal in progress, and pulled out the book. He looked it over. A plain cover stared back at him. The title of volume was written in a simple gold-color and no author was credited at the bottom. Nothing about its appearance hinted at its contents.

 

He opened the book and flipped to random page. The few sentences that he read on that page were written in a circuitous and turgid manner, with much of it being completely indecipherable to the detective. His luck didn't improve as he flipped through the tome, none of what he read was familiar. Intricate symbols and unknown references dotted every page.

 

The detective felt lost...

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Shai seemed to pick up on his quizzical predicament, as she soon moved closer to him until she was standing right next to him, planting her forelegs on the bed itself. She still left no impression, no evidence of being physically present except for the shadowy figure she projected.

 

Looking over the book, she used those same tendrils to delicately flip to a marked page. Or... Well, 'marked.' It was dogeared, but so were many other pages in the worn tome. 

 

On this page he may have seen a familiar image: it looked downright identical to the circle the three victims had made, if viewed from a topside perspective. The only difference was that an unfamiliar seal was detailed next to it, presumably the sigil for the demon currently out for his blood.

 

"Certain materials you will need, 

Waxy candles of an oily breed.

Virgin blood- unlikely your own,

Faith that you feel to the marrow of your bone.

Occultism is a rather simple creed."

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As Shai moved next to stand right next to him, Sundown noticed something. Or rather, the lack of something. Despite her dark form being distinctly visible to him, there was nothing else that seemed to indicate she was there. He didn't feel any heat, or cold, radiating off of her body. Her hooffalls made no sound when she walked over to him. She appeared to have no weight, since there were no impressions left on his bed by her. And he wasn't able to feel her magic. Although, given that he was an Areion, he wasn't the most sensitive to magic, if he really focused (and if the pony was right next to him) he was usually able to feel a pony's innate magic field. But from Shai, who was only about a foot away from him, he felt nothing. It was like she wasn't even there.

 

He put that out of his head and read over the page she had opened the book to. It took him a moment, but he recognized the circular symbol from the chamber, although the sigil was unfamiliar to him. He paid attention when she described the list of items they'd need. When she finished, he spoke up, although his voice was a little quieter than before. He averted his eyes and his cheeks reddened a little.

 

"Well... Uh... About the blood—we can use mine."

 

He didn't elaborate any further, but the detective hoped the implication was clear enough to his shadowy benefactor.

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The shadowy lady gazed intently at him for several uncomfortable seconds, as if appraising him. She looked him up and down, then hummed thoughtfully.

 

"Then it would seem we know all that we require.

Now, it is about time that we retire.

A busy day lies ahead,

I hope, at the end, that shallow grave has not become your bed.

That would certainly leave my thoughts in a mire."

 

It seemed that she really has grown quite fond of him, or fond enough to share occult secrets with and try to protect. One would have to wonder what her motives are, though, especially since she seemed unwilling to meet in person, if, in fact, he hadn't already. 

 

The tripartite ring was next on his nightstand, right next to the golden seal she had given him. She eye'd the two before turning tail- and that was a very long tail. 

 

 

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He watched her leave through the door to the hallway. Presumably going to explore another part of his apartment or disappearing into thin air again. Once she was gone, the detective got out of his bed. With a yawn and a quick stretch, he resolved to go through his morning routine. He'll get ready for the day, then head out to grab what he needed for the ritual. He was covered in the blood department, although he was a bit hesitant because he didn't know how much of his blood he'd need to use. Hopefully, it wouldn't be enough to make him woozy or cause him to pass out. His last blood donation ended up that way, and he didn't really want to repeat that.

 

After a quick and rough attempt at making his bed, he walked over into his bathroom to brush his teeth, use the toilet, take a shower, etc. Normal morning routine stuff. As he took care of his business, he tried to make a game plan for the day ahead of him. He had to go out to get candles. He had none in his apartment. There had to be chandler nearby, or at least somewhere in the city. He wondered if his apartment was big enough to draw the summoning circle needed for the ritual, he might have to move some furniture out of the way...

 

These thoughts bounced through the detective's head as he went through his morning tasks, he fell into the habit of his routine pretty easily and didn't pay much attention to his surroundings...

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Perhaps surprisingly, nothing foreboding and/or ominous waited to greet him. Nothing immidiately apparent, at least. His home was largely how he remembered it the night before, albeit more orderly and, most notably, clean. All the take-out boxes, all the litter, even the dishes were all cleaned up and either in the trash or their proper places.

 

Something was cooking, too. The aroma was entrancing to his waking mind. It smelled like beans, oddly enough, and something else that would remind him of what they are previously. 

 

Arriving in the living area, if he cared to take a gander he'd see the familiar sight of shadowy claws manipulating a sauce pan and cooking utensils, a haunting tune wafting through the air. 

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He was pleasantly surprised to see that his apartment was noticeably cleaner than the night before. It was nice to see his abode in a state other than complete chaos worthy of Discord's praise. His nose perked up a little as he noticed the agreeable smell wafting (presumably) from his kitchen. Something must be cooking.


He followed the aroma and the sound of humming into his kitchen. Dark tendrils floated about his kitchen, preparing something on the stovetop and manipulating various utensils and items around the room. Sundown certainly hadn't expected to find Shai making a meal in his kitchen, but he did welcome it.

 

The detective figured that she must've been the one to have tidied up his place, and — from the look of it — cleaned and put away the dishes. A glance into the living room told him that she also straightened up in there too. That was nice of her.

 

"Hey, uh," He said, scratching the back of his mane; "Thanks for cleaning up. I really appreciate it."

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"A tidy house, I find,

Is healthier for the mind.

Do you not agree?" Came Shai's rathermatter-of-fact reply from... Somewhere in the room. It wasn't from the kitchen, but it wasn't from the living room either. It sounded like she was speaking from within him.

 

"I am working with a limited stock,

Although the sparisty of ingredients is quite a shock.

A note, before the streets you careen,

The candles must be of the color green.

Not unlike a limey rock."

 

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Sundown did a double take as he heard Shai's voice. He was expecting to hear her voice coming from within him. It unnerved him for a second, but he quickly realized it must have been some kind of her magic.  As he watched her tendrils working in the kitchen, he wondered just what exactly his mysterious benefactor was. She had given him an answer when he asked, but he barely comprehended it. He nodded, both to indicate that he agreed with her previous statement and that he understood her instruction.

 

"Green candles, got it." He had little idea where exactly to look when talking to her, so he settled on one of her dark claws that was remaining relatively stationary.

 

He paused for a moment, before speaking again.

 

"Uh, how much of my blood are we going to need?" He asked, a little hesitant. He wasn't exactly squeamish, but a part of him balked at the idea of having to draw a lot of blood for the ritual.

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"Take from your memory an image fresh,

With your reality, that image shall mesh.

Rest assured your vigor you will retain,

But the process will involve a lot of pain.

Afterwards, I will help you refresh."

 

Her words were soft, and handled with much care, as if she didn't want to scare him too much. As she talked, her voice temperature quieted as it moved from inside him to right in front of him, as if the speaker had moved without any visible trace.

 

"Now eat,

A dish with a suitable substitute for meat.

I would have preferred a proper dish from my home, 

But the proper ingredients I have not found since I began to roam.

Ful Medames it would be called. Now take a seat ~"

 

On cue, the pan was lifted off the burner to allow to cook, sizzling all the while. A bowl was withdrawn, and a spoon clean enough to see his reflection on followed the soupy mix in. It steamed as it floated over to him- past him, to land on the coffee table. 

 

It appeared to be a mix of beans and some white, creamy soup. The occasional diced vegetable was added to the mix, what little she could find in his kitchen. It wasn't overly complex, but it would do the job. 

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Ouch. That is probably going to hurt. He cringed a little internally as he thought about exactly how much of his blood he's going to have to use. But, he did trust Shai not to make him spill too much. And, the fact that she was going to make sure he was okay afterwards and help him regain his strength did ease his worries. He'll just have to soldier through the pain when the time comes. He nodded to show her that he understood.

 

He trotted over to the coffee table and sat in front of the bowl she laid out for him. He looked down at its contents. He had never heard of a "Ful Medames" before but the smell was almost intoxicating. He salivated a little as he thought about how good it might be. He grabbed the spoon out of the bowl and held it in the crook of his wing. He dipped it into the bowl and got a spoonful of the soupy mixture. He brought the utensil to his lips and tasted the contents.

 

Enjoyable flavors danced across his taste buds. He could detect hints of garlic and lemon, as well as a few other spices he couldn't identify. A smile grew on his face and his expression brightened. The dish was quite delicious, and the detective soon found himself almost devouring the meal in front of him.

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Sundown would perceive her warm attention as he enjoyed the meal she prepared... But something seemed to catch her attention, as her apparition manifested in front of the coffee table looking at the door, or something beyond it.

 

"I must depart now.

It does not rest anymore.

Prepare in my absense."

 

With that, she- and her presence- all but vanish into thin air. He'd hear the clattering of kitchen utensils, but luckily nothing breaks.

 

For just a flicker of a moment, he thought he could see red eyes staring at him, but it was gone in the next. Seemed fun-time was coming to a close. 

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He blinked and shook his head. Did he just see what he thought he saw? He looked again but there was nothing. Must've been his imagination...

 

He got up and grabbed his bowl. He headed into his kitchen. It was a bit of a mess now, various cooking tools sat littered around the room, having been dropped suddenly by his shadowy benefactor. He took a moment to gather them up and place them in his sink, along with his now empty bowl and spoon.

 

Well, now that Shai was gone. It might be a good time to head out to grab the candles. He started for the door, but he stopped himself before he could reach it. He almost forgot about the amulet she had given him. He turned back around and walked back into his bedroom.

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Luckily, the amulet was right where it had been left the night before, alongside the golden sigil Shai had also bequeathed him. They looked so unextraordinary sitting there, hunks of gold carved into simple shapes. One would never beleive they were the catalyst to summoning great evils into the world.

 

Stepping into his room, he'd be assaulted by another vision of leering red eyes. They bore into him, an oppressive force on his mind. A wicked smile carved its way into the walls, opening up into a realm of horrors: ponies dancing endlessly, blood pooling up to their fetlocks as they laughed and cried in equal parts-

 

-and then it suddenly cut off, and the room was back to normal. The feeling lifted, and he knew he was alone again. 

 

"Remember your promise ~"

 

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Fear washed over the detective, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. His pulse pounded in his ears as his vision was filled with the grotesque images of a domain of terrors. He stood, almost paralyzed by fear, as he watched the ponies' passionate and painful dance; a dance they were doomed to perform for eternity.

 

And then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. Everything was back the way it was.

 

He wanted to get out of there. Riding the adrenaline now flowing through his veins, he grabbed his saddlebags and stuffed the two golden devices which Shai had given him into it, then he ran as swiftly as he could out of the bedroom and out his front door. He only stopped once he was in the outside corridor and slammed the door behind him.

 

He was certain he wasn't safe there, but at least he was no longer in that room. After a few fumbling attempts, his hooves shaking from adrenaline, he locked the door and then trotted outside of his apartment complex. He had slowed down enough that he wasn't moving in a full-on gallop anymore, but he still was at a pretty fast canter.

 

As he weaved his way through the streets of Manehattan, he began to relax as his adrenaline kick started to peter out. He was still unnerved and freaked out, but now at least he wasn't completely terrified. And right now, all he wanted to just get some distance between him and his apartment.

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Luckily, whatever malevolent force was stalking him had ceased its efforts once he left his home, and he was left in relative peace to pursue his own goals. Occasionally, he'd catch glimpses of a familiar little pony. Always watching him from corners or alleyways before being swallowed up by a dark cloud. One time she even walked right by him, brushing by his side before vanishing around a corner. It was an obvious attempt at baiting him- one he hopefully wouldn't fall for.

 

"I apologize,"

Came Shai's somewhat penitent voice. It drifted to him calmly yet suddenly, but this time without any physical evidence of her rpesense.

"I was unable to trap her.

In your mind, she is."

 

"However, not her 'self',

Her body remains with the cult. 

Trapped by my wards."

 

 

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He jumped a little when he heard a disembodied voice speaking into his ear, but he relaxed when he realized who its owner was. He had been on edge for the past few minutes, and catching glimpses of his tormentor throughout the streets of the city had done him no favors. He was still a bit agitated, but hearing Shai's put him more at ease. At least he wouldn't be dealing with the demon alone.


Although, what she had to say didn't thrill the detective. The demon was in his head, through some ill-means, and now was apparently trying to cause as much woe and misery as she could to Sundown.

 

"Shai, what do I do? How do I get her out?" He asked quietly, and out of the side of his mouth, as if that would hide his speech from the demon. He spoke quickly and his tone was a bit panicked.

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"Patience, detective,

Mind games are all she can do.

Retrieve the candles." 

This was all Shai seemed to have to say on the matter, uncannily calm considering what was transpiring around him. Perhaps that brief moment of contact was all in his head as well?

 

As if sensing a shift in mood, the images all stopped for a good while... That is, until they changed tactics and started projecting images of his sister instead, always watching from a distance with a disapproving frown. These took time for Shai to locate and do away with.

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Sundown certainly wasn't as calm as Shai was. But her words reminded the detective about the task he had to do. He took a deep breath and focused. He couldn't let this demon mess with his head. After regaining some composure, he looked to the nearest street sign to see where he was.

 

85th and Hoofington... Okay... I think there's a store around here that has candles... He though to himself.

 

To be honest, he didn't really know enough about Manehattan's layout to know just where the nearest store was. But, that didn't stop him using his intuition to pick a direction to walk in. After choosing a path, almost completely arbitrarily, he began to trot in that direction; trying his best to hold himself together and not to freak out. After all, there was nothing to freak out about, right? Shai was there to protect him, right? There was nothing this demon could do to him, right? Right?

 

Just before his worrying got to the point where it would cause him to have a breakdown, he saw his sister. She was looking down on him, watching him. Her countenance was distinctly inhospitable, but Sundown didn't care. He ran towards her, ready to embrace her after to many years. But as he approached, he noticed something was off. No matter how much he moved towards her, she seemed to stay just as far away as she was when he spotted her. And wouldn't she be older? And why was nopony else noticing the injured filly on the sidewalk? Unless...

 

It wasn't really her.

 

The detective came to a screeching halt as the realization dawned on him. His subconscious was screaming at him to walk up to Aurora and hug her, to take her home. But Sundown couldn't. It isn't her. He had to tell himself over and over. It isn't her.

 

Regaining control of himself, he double checked where he was and continued walking until he found a store. Trying his best to ignore the disapproving glares from the projections of his sister.

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His realization came at a good time, too, as he'd realize he deviated greatly from the general populace. Hoof traffic was low here, and it looked like he had nearly placed himself right within the confines of a dark alley. Because that's just where he'd want to be right then. The shadows writhed around him, moving closer and occasionally brushing against his coat. He could feel Shai's agitation, or frustration, It was hard to tell, but she was definitetly unhappy about his decision. 

 

'Aurora''s disappointed frown slowly changed into a smile as he approached, and it remained after he regained his senses. Everytime he checked on her thereafter, she'd be closer and closer. 

 

"You'll find me, right big brother?

 

As he entered the store, he'd hear another set of hooves follow close behind- but yet, nopony was there...

 

"You did promise, after all ~"

 

"Help me... save me..."

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