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Survivor Shy - No Peace in Sanctuary by Mattatatta Survivor Shy - No Peace in Sanctuary by Mattatatta
It's done! Probably the hardest foray into perspective I've done yet! Oh and a new chapter too! Hooray!

This picture came to me while stuck for ideas and low on inspiration. This picture basically unravelled the problem I was having with writing the chapter and conveying certain things through imagery. Ultimately, this idea split a monstrous chapter I couldn't write into two chapters that I could write.

I tried my best to capture a texture more befitting of rock and stone than just a flat colour and a few dark lines scribbled over it. In fact, I avoided using the Pen tool I'm fond of and used the Watercolour and Pencil - changing the settings as and when needed. Really helped create an uneven texture the suggests a rough and tough surface.

So, in this excerpt, Fluttershy undergoes a traumatic experience as she uncovers memories of her visit to the Free Lands. Will it be worth what she sacrifices? I'm not sure either - I have no interest in saying 'yes' or 'no'.

Anyway, obligatory link dump and then the chapter excerpt. Be warned, this excerpt is over 2.5k words. Please mind your scrolling finger.

Survivor Shy Gallery (spoilers likely): [link]
Survivor Shy on FimFiction (organised, more-legible version of story): [link]
My Tumblr (Safe; progress shots and other art): [link]

WORD COUNT WARNING: 2.5k words - Please mind your scrolling finger!

=~=

Almost too quickly, the magic flowing between my Element and the stone door in front of me ceased. And once again I was plunged into darkness. A whimper escaped into the corridor, and I shuffled to the side and leant against the cold wall. Seconds later, a low, guttural rumble shook the room, and the stone door dropped down an inch, letting through a brilliant golden light. Ancient gears groaned, and the door lowered into the floor, falling flush with the slabs. Before me was a golden barrier, dancing and shimmering like sunlight over a pond, that quickly dispelled and revealed a large room inside.

Swallowing down the lump in my throat, I cautiously ambled through the doorway. As soon as my hoof graced the first slab in the room, dozens of torches flared up on the walls and bathed the entire space in light. I shrank back into the shadows of the corridor, whimpering. Hesitantly, I peeked back inside the secret hall. The room didn’t look like a burial chamber filled with mummies and traps like in those nerve-wracking Daring Do books, if anything, it looked like a library. A dozen bookshelves flanked a torn blue carpet going straight down the center of room. Cylindrical columns wider than the average pony towered up to the ceiling, interconnected at the top by strong stone arches criss-crossing among the supports. In however long they had been there, they had kept the ceiling up, but were losing to cracks dripping with water and very stubborn moss. At the far end of the hall, beyond the other end of the blue rug, stood what looked like a stone table - to which a thin beam of light from my necklace shone.

Trusting the amulet more than my gut feeling, I carefully trotted down the middle of the room, glancing down the rows of stocked bookshelves. The room was thick with dust motes and the smell of old parchment, something that I knew would make Twilight excited to explore the countless tomes and scrolls bursting from the shelves. If only she was here to see this…

I quickly dried my eye and blew the dust away from my face. Bowing my head, I hurried along and avoided looking at the books any more.

The tattered rug fanned out in ripped tails, and I stopped a few feet away from the stone table, I glanced over to the left, spotting a pristine wooden table resting close to the floor, with a few dusty cushions placed around it. On the opposite side of the room was a clearer space; a woven rug covered most of the hard floor, and a long work bench up against the wall stood dutifully, carrying kinds of writing and restoration supplies on its dusty surface.

My gaze fell to the stone table, framed by two banners on each side; one depicting a majestic styling of a Unicorn’s head on a faded purple background, and the other showing a green banner with a combination of crests united under a crescent moon and full sun. Finally, my gaze fell to the table in front of me, and nervous shudder coursed through me.

In an instant the room was again a burial chamber and not a library. Maybe this place was just a teeny bit like Rainbow’s books – but there weren’t traps. I hoped. What I was looking at was a grave; a pale sarcophagus sealed by chiselled lid. I closed my eyes, and took a moment to soothe the skittish butterflies panicking in my stomach. Exhaling gently, I took a few steps closer, looking over the symbol engraved on the cold stone. I blew away some of the dust in crevices, revealing the same insignia of a spiral with two stars off from its centre – minus the six orbiting symbols.

The size of the resting place meant that a pony was buried here, and the markings and magical lock meant that they had something to do with the Elements of Harmony in the past. But what did my Element want to show me? It would take decades to read just the books that haven’t been destroyed by water. There had to be something specific to search for, either that or the Element of Kindness brought me here for sanctuary from the dragons, dogs, and the pain of watching my home crumble under vicious claws.

My head drooped down, and a pair of tears fell and disturbed the dust on the floor. The Element of Kindness was still twinkling, and my sight followed the thin strand of light as it bounced around the room. I blinked, and blinked again, making sure it was really landing on where to go next. A silver strand sparked over the room, tracing the crack between the sarcophagus and the stone lid sealing it.

I tripped backwards as if I saw a ghost, stumbling over my hooves and falling onto my back. My eyes stayed glued to the grave, and the thin strand of light from my Element continued to flicker and seek a tiny gap to get inside.

It can’t be, begged my mind. There had to be some mistake, there had to be something else it wanted! The beam momentarily grew brighter, bathing the grave in its glow. I closed my eyes and shook my head. Images of skeletons coming to life and haunting ghosts appeared under my eyelids, making my heart race and my legs quiver and itch to get up and flee. I couldn’t disturb a body. I couldn’t steal from a grave – I could barely convince myself that looting needed supplies was okay.

Slowly I stood back up, and looked away from the pale stone. There had to be some explanation; a reason for all of this. The ruins up top, the banners and architecture in this chamber, and the location of the secret room told of the countless years that had passed since anypony set hoof in this place, yet they offered nothing to explain why I had to come here. It also didn’t explain what it was in the sarcophagus that I had to get to. Why had I been led here? How could I be expected to open somepony’s grave and rifle through it – by the Element of Kindness?

My head drooped down to the tatty rug, tears staining it into a darker shade. I dried my eyes with the bandage on my leg, and looked at how filthy it had become since I had last changed it. With a light grasp and flick of my head, I pulled the wrappings loose, revealing a faint scar peeking through my fur. I sat down on my haunches, and traced the mark with my hoof. I looked at my fringe, frowning at how dirty it had become, too. Quickly I checked myself over, looking at my tail and scuffed saddlebags. How long had I been living like this already? Had it been a few weeks perhaps, maybe a month? Time had marched on without me, the world had changed from what I held onto.

A dirty clump of my fringe fell in front of my eye, and I blew it aside and adjusted my headband to keep it back. I knew I had changed too - but I had to! I couldn’t survive if I hadn’t. I couldn’t keep my promise to my friends and myself if I wasn’t willing to do what it took to stay safe. But was it a good thing? My mind questioned. Would I still be who my friends loved when I eventually saw them again – this life or the next? Or would they only see a far cry of the friend they once had? A thief… I looked up at the sarcophagus. …A grave robber?

My wings twitched uncomfortably. The Element was asking this of me, it wouldn’t lead me astray in a time like this would it? But if I turned back I wouldn’t be a bad pony. Would it be worth the risk of ignoring my own amulet? Could it cost me my own wish to reunite my friends – cost me bringing peace to them and myself?

I stashed the old bandage back into my saddlebags and stood back up. My hooves pattered back to the stone bed, and I swallowed down the same sickly taste I had before. I shot a glance at my Element and saw that it was dull and lifeless – not taking any joy or pleasure from what I was about to do. I hoped it was right about this, and I hoped that all of the ghost stories and assurances of being sent to Tartarus were not going to turn out to be true. I had to trust my Element; I had to trust that it was in the best interest of Kindness – as wrong as it seemed to be.

My sweaty hooves pressed against the side of the slab. With a hurried whisper I begged for understanding, and that my friends wouldn’t hate me for trying to do the right thing for them.

A grunt escaped me as I pushed against the heavy stone. My rear hooves skidded along the floor, but I kept on pushing, quickly wedging my rear hooves in front of an uneven slab for support. The stone seal growled and slid aside, and suddenly leapt to the other side of the enclosure – slamming into the floor and wall with a grating crunch. I slipped and half-fell into the cold container, bringing my gaze to the ancient bones of a Unicorn stallion curled up inside.

Before I could think, I made the mistake of looking up the pony’s skull, and locking my bewildered stare with one of the eye sockets. The ceiling felt like it had fallen on my back, the air had snapped into a harsh chill in an instant. It was me who had done this; I had invaded and violated a dead creature’s right to peace. The skull didn’t move, silently burning its scorn into my soul, staining it with something that would never ever be cleansed.

Screwing my eyes shut, I tore myself away from the grave, retching and dry-heaving to the side, trying desperately to think of something else. I thought of my friends, but all I could see were their skulls staring through me with the same lifeless view. I thought of the Princesses, but all I could see were their skeletal forms towering over me. My lungs were closed off, and I choked and suffocated among the feeling of hateful stares coming from thousands of disturbed souls. Why couldn’t you have just left us in peace? They asked.

I pulled my ears down and covered my head, but their accusing voices still pierced through. How could you disrespect our wishes? The voices demanded.

The chamber was plunged into darkness, and the chilling sight of white skulls and empty eye sockets surrounded me. The skeletal forms of everypony I knew joined the countless judging gazes. I gasped for air, still being smothered by the guilt of the crime I had committed. The voices all spoke harshly and in unison. Why couldn’t you respect the permanent nature of death?

“Because none of you are dead!” I screamed, slamming my hooves into the floor. The grip around my neck vanished, leaving my breaths ragged and curt. The phantoms dissolved and fell to the floor, seeping into the cracks in the burial chamber’s floor. Blindly I stared ahead, ignoring the streams of tears pouring down my cheeks, and listened. The dead silence of the room strained under each breath I took, but thankfully no more angry voices could be heard . The weight of the moment pushed me down, squeezing the anger out of my shaking body and letting it evaporate into the cold, stale air.

I wiped the tears away from my face, and gradually counted to ten. Carefully, I pulled myself onto my hooves once more and turned back to the grave. Avoiding the empty gaze of the skull, I scanned over the body, my eyes falling upon a leather-bound book tucked inside the skeleton’s grasp. A tiny shimmer confirmed that it was what I was looking for, and slowly I leant down to pick it up – whispering a painful apology to the once-at-peace pony. I held my breath, feeling the cold claws of death brush down my cheeks. Delicately I bit the edge of the cover and tugged, and surprisingly the book came away with ease. Without a moment’s hesitation I pulled away from the sarcophagus, and balanced the book on my wing. Without a second glance at the skeleton, I walked over to the large table, and slid the old tome onto the surface. A moment later I pushed a stiff cushion over and carefully sat down, paying no attention to the dust and bugs that had been disturbed.

The book, aside from looking old, appeared to be nothing particularly special. The leather had faded to grey, and the edges of the pages had turned into the colour of rust. I opened the book carefully, revealing pages and pages of hoof-written notes and carefully-drawn diagrams. I looked to my amulet for a clue for which page to read, but it didn’t even shine. Its job was done, and it had become dormant once more.

I began to skim through the book, searching for words or topics that would seemed important. A lot of the notes were regarding weather-changing magic and agriculture and how the author’s findings either supported or invalidated their theories. Other notes talked about a “growing problem with Windigos” and an “importance of pulling together” that the author particularly scoffed at – citing that it took more than just standing together to deal with such dangerous creatures.

I turned a few more pages, and suddenly the tone changed. “No more is my apprentice a mere apprentice,” it said. “Today she and five others are more than that – perhaps blessed by divinity.

“Normally this is not the place for my personal musings, but it is hard to work in spite of the news that the so-called ‘First Friends of Equestria’ wielded power beyond even my own. Normally I would assume that everypony was fabricating a lie to tease the old wizard of House Platinum, but the chestplates they’re wearing now are far too intricate to be a useless prop – and the gemstone embedded in each piece is enchanted with an energy I have never before encountered.

“Details are dubious, however, as to how those six mares came to be wielders of such power. Some self-described witnesses claim a variety of things from rainbows exploding from the ground and bestowing these pieces to their owners, to the mere declaration between the six ponies that their ‘friendship is what will preserve this new republic’. Bah! It’s all flowery nonsense! Comradeship keeps Unicorns (and I suppose other ponies) together, yes, but it is magical prowess – or in the case of those Pegasi, military might – that ensures the defence of a state.

“Even so, I must learn more about those artefacts. Perhaps I could acquire permission to study them from Lady Platinum, or call a favour from curious little Clover. “

Wait. I flicked through a few more pages, and turned towards the open coffin, recalling the symbol on the lid and on the door sealing this place away. This is… Oh my. Oh goodness! I stared back down at the page I had landed on, and carried on reading.
Add a Comment:
 
:icongiromcalica:
GiromCalica Featured By Owner May 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I searched "I heard the empty background crying" and I didn't expect this, again.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Search engines are fascinating like that I guess. I don't know how it was picked up since I don't have tags like those keywords.
Reply
:icongiromcalica:
GiromCalica Featured By Owner May 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your long arse story has words that match [Mai's]
Reply
:iconkurseofkings:
KurseofKings Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013
I'm not saying that I don't like it and all... But you kinda made Fluttershy look like Scootaloo there. Again, I'm not saying that I don't like it.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I keep adjusting the colours as I go along, in this picture I evidently went too saturated on her coat colour. It's tricky to stick to just one palette, because I try to draw different settings that convey something different than other scenes. Things like theme, lighting, time, temperature, and style all make me want to play with Fluttershy's base colours ahead of time so she seems to "fit" with the scene's palette before I start shading. Sometimes that means I screw up pretty badly and end up with her being to dark or saturated, but I feel the playing around is worth it in the end. I think I've found a selection of base colours that are much more accurate and versatile - check my later Survivor Shy pieces for comparison.
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:iconpooomoe:
pooomoe Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Fucking brilliant!
Reply
:iconfireworksblaze:
FireworksBlaze Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2013
STAR SWIRL!
Reply
:iconjammex:
Jammex Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Am I the only one that thinks of Rambo when I see Survivor Shy?
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Must be the red headband
Reply
:iconjammex:
Jammex Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Definitely!
Reply
:iconjohn123253:
john123253 Featured By Owner May 20, 2013
It seems that Fluttershy is forced to be brave~
Yet she is cute when she just...shy.
I like that your picture presents a story.
And wow!You are a author of the story and the artist of the picture~good job!
Still watching~still like your masterpiece:D
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks, I really tried with this picture.
Reply
:iconfaeths:
FaethS Featured By Owner May 19, 2013
Oh if only Twilight were there; she'd flip her lid at the thought of finding the remains of one of the most famous unicorn wizards of all time.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It would have been an experience of a lifetime. Would have been.
Reply
:iconkimberly-aj-04-02:
Kimberly-AJ-04-02 Featured By Owner May 11, 2013  Student General Artist
I think that thing inside the tomb is a unicorn skeleton.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The big question is: Who is it?
Reply
:iconhamburgertime5:
HamburgerTime5 Featured By Owner May 3, 2013
I finally found the time to read the new page. At long last.
Who are these original Element Bearers? I thought Luna and Celestia discovered the elements? Are the two of them among these original six?
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Going by what's canon in the show and my own theory, the "original" Bearers are the same ponies who founded Equestria (which also spawned the Hearth's Warming holiday). Going deeper into my theories, the Royal Sisters we know of in modern Equestria acquired the Elements of Harmony much much later.
Reply
:iconhamburgertime5:
HamburgerTime5 Featured By Owner May 3, 2013
Ahhh. So wouldn't that make the rulers of the three tribes among the Element-Bearers?
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes. They were after all the first six ponies to become not only friends with each other, but also put that friendship to work in saving the lives of thousands of ponies through uniting the tribes under one banner. I doubt it was sunshine and rainbows immediately after Equestria was founded (old habits die hard), but the fact that the tribes stuck together under the combined leadership of six ponies was easily the first step towards harmony and peace.

While I haven't thought about how the "First Friends of Equestria" (as I call them) gained the Elements of Harmony, it is my headcanon that they were the first known wielders. Perhaps they were bestowed them by a separate entity, perhaps another magical outburst like the one Clover the Clever had in the episode created the Elements, or perhaps they were simply discovered somewhere as empty vessels and were sparked by the six ponies who wore them. I'm not sure, and it's not that relevant to Survivor Shy.
Reply
:iconhamburgertime5:
HamburgerTime5 Featured By Owner May 5, 2013
Makes sense.
Reply
:iconzaiali:
zaiali Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
You know, I wonder when she'll start becoming a hardened badass. I mean, she survived through A LOT. She has to get some amount of it!
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm making no conscious effort to make her into an action hero. The growth Fluttershy undergoes (and the changes that occur to her) through the course of the story shall be largely unplanned and will take into account her experiences. Basically, I'm letting her growth be more organic and natural, and I'm avoiding planning scenes where she would otherwise be OOC and forcing myself to write Fluttershy up to it. If it's within her capacity when the time comes, she'll have a "badass moment", if not, she will find another way to overcome her obstacles.
Reply
:iconzaiali:
zaiali Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
:iconnoragefaceplz: This surely has my jimmies ruffled. But I shall read on.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Does it flutter your critters?
Reply
:iconzaiali:
zaiali Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
No, fluttershy helps critters.
But jimmies are not supposed to be ruffled.
Reply
:iconbently96:
bently96 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013
Oh.....my.....
Interesting drawing though )
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks
Reply
:icondarthwill3:
DarthWill3 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Fluttershy must be scared out of her wits right now.

Perhaps this will help intensify the fear: [link]
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think she's frightened enough :P
Reply
:icondarthwill3:
DarthWill3 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Aw, come on!
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Save it for her nightmares xD
Reply
:icondarthwill3:
DarthWill3 Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Okay, let me know when you've done it.
Reply
:iconmegapatron:
MegaPatron Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013
i don't know why but this part reminds me of Skyrim for some odd reason
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Might be the lighting. I play a lot of Skyrim and it about the only mental image I can construct of an underground burial site.
Reply
:icondoughnutjoe:
DoughnutJoe Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013
Oh Starswirl, you old grump...
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
But of course! You expect a guy who wears bells on his outfit to be gaily gullible and jovial? :P
Reply
:iconmermaidninja:
MermaidNinja Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013
That beard...
Are those Starswirl's remains?
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Only the most discriminating of mages can have a beard of that caliber post-mortem xD

Confirmed; it's Starswirl's remains.
Reply
:iconwhitewolfstormrunner:
WhitewolfStormrunner Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Looks like she's "blundered" across the final resting place of the illustrious Starswirl the Bearded.

Wow.
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Twilight would be thrilled - if she were still there...
Reply
:iconwhitewolfstormrunner:
WhitewolfStormrunner Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yep.

And Twi's dead? Eep.

Crud, I gotta read this fic......!!!
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The status of Twilight and the rest of Fluttershy's friends is a bit ambiguous, or rather Fluttershy won't admit to herself that every pony except herself appears to have died. Still, aside from the remains of a pony who passed away thousands of years ago, there's an alarming lack of bodies, so maybe Fluttershy is on to something, or she's really lost her mind. I don't know, I've got three possible endings in mind for this fic when the time comes.
Reply
:iconwhitewolfstormrunner:
WhitewolfStormrunner Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, I see.

And where the bodies (or in this case, the noticeable lack thereof) is concerned, you have a point.

Oh, really? That's cool. Can't wait to see which one you use!;):D
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Still a long way away from the endings, though.
Reply
:iconwhitewolfstormrunner:
WhitewolfStormrunner Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, well, it'll be worth the wait.;)
Reply
:iconblackwidower:
BlackWidower Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Professional Writer
Is that Scootaloo?
Reply
:iconmattatatta:
Mattatatta Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nah, it's Flutters
Reply
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