The Toy Castle, chapter 10
The brown smarty’s eyes were wide. “Fowevah sweepies? Yu am suwe?”
“Am suwe.” Snowcone nodded slowly. “… Snowcone checked.”
Getting back out of the water maze room had been difficult. Snowcone had a hard time keeping track of which levers corresponded to which walls, but finally she’d managed to drain all the water and once the paths were clear she had sought out Wawa’s body; it had been cold, a sopping wet heap with no breath and no heartbeat.
It was as safe as they would ever be, and so Snowcone had returned to the brown smarty for Bluey and the chirpy foals. She’d left Mint’s group behind just in case, but thankfully it didn’t seem necessary - the way Bluey was hugging onto Snowcone’s leg in a vain attempt to heal her wounds was proof enough of that.
“Smawty’s onwy wegwet is nu being thewe tu see it,” noted Smarty with a thin smile. Snowcone could relate, and for a few moments they just sat there.
She hadn’t told them of Reddy’s death yet, and they hadn’t asked. Maybe they could tell from her condition, though in Bluey’s case she was probably just too busy with her hugs. Either way, mentioning it felt like unnecessarily reopening a wound.
“Snowcone am going home,” she finally said, laying a foreleg around Bluey and glancing up to Smarty. “Come wif.”
She half expected him to decline, like the other two fluffies she’d asked, but after a moment’s thought the smarty nodded. “Wiww hewp cawwy babbehs.”
“Huh? Wait!” called Bluey as they prepared to move, looking up. “Nu can weave, Weddy nu am back yet!”
Snowcone’s face fell. “… Weddy nu am coming.”
“Bu’ why not?” the foal insisted. “Weddy was wif Sno’cone! Weddy gu home awweady?”
It wasn’t a topic Snowcone wanted to explore in detail, and she could tell that Smarty understood what had happened. So without saying more she grabbed Bluey by the scruff and picked her up, beginning to walk and ignoring the foal’s fretful protest.
Having a grown fluffy walk behind her left Snowcone uneasy; she’d only had foals until now, and an adult on her tail felt too much like the monsters who had chased her down. Thankfully, Smarty noticed and soon walked alongside her instead, aside from a brief moment when they crossed the stream in the garden. Snowcone warned him not to look into the water, and he knew enough to listen.
When they reached the fake living room and passed the nest where Reddy and the crushed foals lay, Bluey gasped and began to wiggle in Snowcone’s grip. “Weddy!” she called. “Weddy, wake up!”
Snowcone kept moving, her grip on the foal growing tighter - the last thing she wanted was for Bluey to get a closer look at her friend and find his limbs weren’t attached. But the fact she wasn’t allowed close upset Bluey further and she twisted and squirmed to free herself, making Snowcone stop so as to not drop her. “Sno’cone, Weddy am thewe! Babbehs am thewe!”
Smarty had trailed behind somewhat, passing close to the nest and frowning sadly as he saw what it contained. Shaking his head, he left them be and caught up to the duo. “Weddy am gone.”
“Bu’ Weddy nu am gone!” Bluey protested. “Am wight thewe!”
“Weddy take fowevah sweepies. Chiwpy babbehs, tuu.” That quieted the foal, and she stared wide-eyed. “Nu wiww wake up.”
“Wike mummah an’ sissies …?”
Snowcone wished she’d had the strength to explain it herself, but all she could do now was nod and hug Bluey. The foal still seemed to have trouble processing it - after all, Reddy was right there. His red fur obscured the worst of the blood and Snowcone had placed the body parts together as naturally as she could, so it made sense that he’d just seem to be asleep.
“Bwuey,” she finally said. They had to keep going. “… Nu wook.”
“Wha’ Sno’cone mean?” asked Bluey as she was again picked up, and Snowcone stepped through the door to the cannibal room.
At first Bluey had obeyed, but quickly curiousity took over and she opened her eyes. She cried out and covered her mouth with her hooves as she saw the corpse-filled room, her stifled gags all too telling. Here too, Smarty was trailing behind, and Snowcone stopped to look back at him.
“… Dis fwuffy am fwom hewd,” he said as he nudged one of the bodies, his expression shrouded in sorrow. “Wiwwow… Why yu fowwow Smawty in hewe?”
Snowcone frowned, but all they could do was move on. Smarty lingered behind, checking each body for fluffies he recognized, and as Snowcone left the room she placed Bluey down to let her empty her stomach.
Soon enough Smarty caught up once more, but to her surprise he now held a tiny green foal in his mouth, its fur wet with blood. “Whewe …?”
He pushed the new foal onto Snowcone somewhat roughly, trying to hide the drips of drool that ran down his jaw. “Babbeh was in cownew, hiding in fwuffy tummy sketties.”
The thought made her shudder. No wonder she had missed it - after what happened in that room, searching the corpses for foals had been furthest from her thoughts. Almost leaving a baby to die in such a place …
“Thank yu,” she exhaled, placing the foal on her back. The important part was that the baby was safe. They moved on and soon Snowcone had picked up Mint’s group as well; left with more foals than she could count, seven in total, Snowcone surveyed her protegees.
How would she get them out safely? There were too many of them to keep track of if something happened, even with the smarty’s help.
“Sno’cone?” Mint asked in a tiny, tiny voice. “Am dis munchy munstah nice munstah?”
Munchy monster …? It took a moment for Snowcone to realize - with his exposed ribs, scraggly fur and the dried blood baked into his chin and chest, Smarty didn’t look too different from that cannibal.
“Am nice munstah,” she agreed. “Am smawty.”
“Smawty munstah…” whispered Mint with big eyes, staring at the smarty. After some slight discussion, Snowcone decided on a course of action: She’d walk in front, and if something attacked she’d stall it to let the foals flee.
The hallways past the water maze room were growing more and more derelict as they walked. The wallpaper grew cracks and everything had a dirty look to it, far different from the warmly lit and colorful surroundings from before. Snowcone kept her eyes out for any more foals, but there were none to find - and besides, how many had she lost? How many had Rusty carried when she left? She couldn’t recall who was left to find.
Then, Snowcone stopped. It wasn’t that she heard or saw anything, but rather, she felt a cold chill nudge against her hoof. Looking toward it she saw a deep crack in the wall, big enough for the foals to climb in, and her heart skipped a beat as she realized it lead outside. It was an exit!
Calling the foals over, she sent Bluey to check where it lead - at first the little foal fretted, but Snowcone appealed to her bravery and the strength inherited from her toughy father, and she agreed. It wasn’t long before she returned and confirmed Snowcone’s thoughts: The crack lead out into a fenced garden, and from there they could squeeze in between the boards and escape.
It took a little while to get all the chirpies through, with Mint and Bluey taking turns carrying them, and once she was grabbing the final foal Bluey looked up at Snowcone. “Bwuey come back tu hewp Sno’cone.”
“Nu!” Snowcone retorted so sharply that the foal jumped. Not again, not after Reddy. She wouldn’t sacrifice any more foals! “Nu evew come back. Snowcone wiww be fine, jus’ wait wif hewd an’ if Snowcone nu come back soon, weave.”
“Pwomise. Nu come back.”
“… Otay.” Looking dejected, Bluey took the final chirpy and crawled through the crack, vanishing from sight.
Snowcone slowly relaxed, realizing first how tense she had become, and then that Smarty was still with her. She gave him a tired, helpless smile. “Jus’ Snowcone and Smawty weft. Wet’s go?”
Smarty shook his head. “Nu am going.”
“Smawty nu haf hewd tu go back tu. Nu haf anyfing outside castwe.” His gaze trailed aside as he spoke. “But nyu fwuffies wiww come. Smawty can hewp dem, make suwe nu othew fwuffies make wishes.”
It made sense, and that was the worst part. Snowcone lowered her gaze. “… Snowcone undewstand.”
They bid their goodbyes, Smarty turning back while Snowcone moved onwards. As he walked, Smarty looked back at her.
“Nu know if twue,” he said, “but Wawa said nu fwuffy dat makes a wish can evew weave.”
With those parting words, she was alone again. Snowcone walked on, head low, quietly begging not to have any more horrible things happen. She didn’t have the strength to fight any more.
She kept an eye out for any larger cracks, but there were none. There weren’t even any doors, until Snowcone came across one so big it barely registered as a door.
She’d closer compare it to a gate; like the golden gates that had trapped her in this hellish place to begin with. They stood wide open and much too inviting, the cold breeze of an escape beckoning for her to enter. Bile filled her throat at the very thought of going inside, but there was nowhere else to go. No way but forward.
She stepped inside and found herself in a throne room. It was massive and colorful, banners and tall pillars framing the path onward. Dim lights kept her from seeing too far, and so it was only as she neared its end that she saw the room’s inhabitant.
There was no word for it. Snowcone had trouble taking the creature in; it lay shrouded in darkness across a golden podium, its body long and sleek like that of a snake. Yet, it had hooves like a fluffy - or rather, its back legs had hooves, its front legs instead adorned with claws. Mismatched wings decorated its back and its long head was tipped with branching horns.
“Congratulations,” it smiled, its glowing eyes cutting through the dim darkness around it. “You have earned your reward. What do you wish for?”
Snowcone backed away, wide-eyed and tongue-tied. No; she didn’t want a wish, least of all from this. Even ‘monster’ was too normal to fit this creature. And as it stared her down, waiting for a reply, she shook her head and forced herself to speak. “Nu… Nu wan wish.”
“Really?” asked the creature, and then its long tail laid behind her as it leaned closer. She felt boxed in, surrounded, the being coiled around her like a snake around its prey. “I could give you anything. I could bring back the foals you have lost, the herd you left behind.”
It was tempting; how could it not be? She had lost so many. If she had the chance to bring them back, to undo her mistakes…? If Rusty had failed, and the herd had left without her…? “W-Wan…”
And yet she remembered the blue unicorn with a herd of ghosts, zoned out and resigned to his fate. The brown fluffy whose only friends were haunted dolls, crying endlessly with regret. The crazed cannibal in a room full of corpses, seeing other fluffies as nothing but a delicacy.
Wishes granted wrong. Her foals brought back wrong. Snowcone shuddered, huddling together and shutting her eyes to push the thoughts away. “Wan … nu wan …”
She could feel the creature hanging over her, waiting for a reply. It whispered, “I could give you anything you want.”
“Wan …” Anything she wanted. Anything.
If Rusty had failed to escape, if the herd was gone, a wish was her only chance to find them again. But if not, what would she be dooming them to? The brown smarty’s final warning, his sorrow over the bodies of a herd slaughtered by monsters, hung in her mind. And as it did, indignation grew in her chest.
This thing, this creature, was whispering inviting words and promises that would only harm those close to her. Whether she could get them back didn’t matter. Narrowing her eyes, Snowcone slammed her hooves into the floor and shot up to a stand.
“Wan gu home!” she screamed, standing as tall as she could and glaring straight up at the being. “Snowcone jus’ wan gu home tu hewd, and nu need stupid wish fow dat!!”
The creature paused for a moment before backing off, returning to its podium. It didn’t seem disappointed but rather amused, its twisted body coiled over itself. “Well. Is that your final answer?”
She nodded sharply. The thing she wanted most was the one thing this castle couldn’t give her; the safety of being with her own herd and far away. Angry tears she hadn’t noticed pricked at her eyes.
“Very well,” chuckled the creature. “But if you change your mind… I’ll be waiting.”
Its long tail shifted, brushing across the wall beside its podium and leaving a deep crack, big enough for her to pass through. Snowcone forced herself to move before she could falter or change her own mind, watched by the smiling Wish Granter as she pushed herself through the crack and left the castle behind.