Wander has worked as a cartographer and writer for Equestrian Geographic. Below are a few of his accounts. So a Pony is set a year or more before the campaign starts. The others occur between game sessions.
So a Pony, a Bard and a Cartographer Wander Into a ChurchEdit
Heavy oak timbers creaked loudly as Wander pushed the church doors wide. Moonlight spilled in and illuminated a narrow patch of the floor, as well as a small table with stubs of candles, long burnt out since the previous day's sermons. The air was still, and smelled of incense.
Wander dropped a coin in the donation box and picked a candle from the table; one that looked like it might have an hour or so light left in it. Rummaging in his saddlebags for a moment, he found a set of matches, thankfully still dry.
Let there be light, he thought, and lo, there was light. The candle cast the room in stark light and shadow, and he looked up to find his gaze met by gods. Stained glass depictions of the deities of Equestria lined the walls of the church, each one crafted in a different hue. Above his head, a glass Pinkie Pie danced in a glass forest. Her eyes were squinted from the width of her smile, and they seemed to follow Wander as he began to walk down the narrow aisle along the pews.
Rainbow Dash was next, a kaleidoscope of colour in a cyan glass sky. Wander didn't worship the Elements of Harmony; he favoured ancient history, and kept his head held high as he passed, barely sparing a glance at Rarity, beautifully rendered in white and purple.
Wander noted that the table beneath Fluttershy's window was overflowing with candles. She was a popular choice of worship.
Applejack. Twilight Sparkle.
Wander bowed his head respectfully as he passed Luna's window. Luna had the weight of history behind her - not all of it good, but history nonetheless.
Finally, he reached Celestia's altar, and placed the candle reverently with the rest. Moonlight shone through the glass, staining his coat in pastel colours and casting a long black shadow behind him. Celestia had her eyes closed, but Wander imagined what they had seen during a thousand years of rule. To watch history in the making; to see the rise and fall of civilisations; to study the changing geography over the course of centuries. These were things that he could only dream of.
Setting his heavy saddlebags aside, Wander sat down on the cold tiles and murmured a prayer, flitting through it without really concentrating on the words. Other thoughts occupied his mind. With the prayer finished, he glanced about to make sure he was still alone in the church, but only saw darkness. Solemnly, he looked back up at the window and the glass alicorn.
"I saw war today," he said.
"I was taking the train from to Manehattan in search of a job, when we passed through a small town - I forget the name - and the train stopped at the platform. I didn't take any notice until a few minutes later, when the train still hadn't moved on. Looking out the window, I saw the engineer on the platform talking to this stallion in military uniform with the pips of a sergeant on his collar. I guessed that we were pretty close to the borders of the badlands, and they wanted to use the train to transport some troops.
"Minutes turned into an hour, with no sign of moving on. Passengers were getting restless, and I was cursing the sergeant under my breath. Forgive me that, divine Celestia, because what I saw next made me swallow that spite. He returned to the station at the head of his charge - eight ponies that I had never seen before in my life, and each one marked by horror.
"I got a good look as they entered my carriage and took seats where they could find them. Some had unblinking, empty eyes that might never see the good in life again. Others were swaddled in bandages but forcing a steady march. One had a large cotton pad over her left eye, but I could see the burn marks just beneath. The skin was raw and her hair and mane blackened. She reeked of disinfectant, and kept putting her hoof to her face as if checking to see if this misfortune really had happened to her, or if it was just a bad dream.
"Worst of all, though, was the pony that they carried on with them. He was mercifully unconscious, either through medication or shock. His two right legs were gone, nothing left but small stumps wrapped in blood-stained bandages. His left-back leg was amputated just above the hoof. And when I finally saw his face, he was even younger than I am. Probably about the same age as my little brother. He was some mare's son, and he was one of the lucky ones; he came back.
"But that wasn't war. That was the consequences of war, certainly. But not war. That came next, when the sergeant sat down on the seat across the aisle from me, with the two-legged soldier laid out on the floor between us. And he leaned over to whisper in the soldier's ear and... and he said..."
Wander shivered as if struck by a cold breeze. "He said 'Don't worry, lad. We'll get those zebra bastards back for this.'
"That... that was war. That was how it sustained itself, within the minds of soldiers and politicians who want land, want revenge, want power. One side takes, the other side takes back. Neither side willing to compromise or look at what they were doing to one another. They won't talk, and they won't listen. War is an idea; one that precludes the notion that the other side is worth saving. But ideas can change."
The candle flickered briefly as Wander took a deep breath and let it out again.
"So I'm here to ask you for a favour. I need the will and the means to make the ponies see what these dark times are doing to them; to understand what we left behind in the thousand years of peace that you presided over. If everypony knows what we've lost to history then... maybe we can get it back again. If I falter in this, please, just be there to remind me of my... of our cause, and to believe in me during this onerous task, even if ponies think of me as naïve."
Wander stood up and nodded his head at the icon. "And if you won't or can't, at least it's been said. My path is sworn, though I don't know where to start."
He picked up his saddlebags and hoisted them over his back, stumbling under the weight a bit. As he turned to leave, he took one look back at the candle, now significantly diminished, and the window above it. Celestia remained unmoving, and no response seemed to be forthcoming. With a sigh, Wander turned away and trotted back down the aisle, past Luna and the Elements of Harmony, to the front door.
Stepping outside onto the deserted streets of Manehattan, he stretched his legs and considered his options. He had come here for a job, but now it seemed that he had a different destiny ahead of him. Where to go from here?
He winced and shielded his eyes from a sudden ray of light. Down the street, the sun was rising over the offices of Equestrian Geographic.
Wander swore softly as he tried again to light the cheap bedside oil lamp in Flute's guest bedroom. Finally, the wick caught light and illuminated the darkening room in a wavering orange glow. He settled back in the bed and opened his book to the first page.
He'd found the book in Raspberry Cream's office, hidden below a pile of oddities like historical records and shipping logs, but somepony had painted a smiling face on the musty cover in bright pink, making it stand out among the drab paperwork. He had slipped it into his saddlebags without mentioning it to any other others, since Raspberry Cream certainly didn't have any use for it any more.
The book turned out to be the journal of somepony named "Cranky Doodle", written in small, neat text. It began with a declaration of intent: to search all of Equestria to find a mare that Cranky met during a Summer Sun celebration. Wander perked up at the idea that he would get to read about the writer's travels in pre-Sundering Equestria.
As the minutes ticked by, Wander became more and more disappointed by the book. Cranky's accounts seemed to be cynical and contemptuous, frequently disparaging ponies that he met, Equestrian culture and even his own inability to find his lost love. The tone seemed to get even worse as time passed for the irate donkey and delved into outright hatred at times.
Wander speculated if pre-Sundering Equestria was all that he'd believed it to be. Other journals that he'd read were very positive about the joy of life in those times and even remained optimistic during some of the worse disasters. Cranky's journal, however, reminded him of the gloomy attitude that he'd seen in so many labourers around Manehattan, working jobs they hated for no joy but a slim wage at the end of every month and cursing their fates as they did so.
He wondered if the thread on Celestia's bright tapestry had been unravelling before the disaster ever came.
He was coming to the last few pages now. Cranky seemed to be falling into a spiral of despair, and Wander worried that the book was going to have a very dark ending. Instead, he perked up as Ponyville was mentioned, and a familiar pink pony of legend. He read the final chapter enraptured by the magic within, and he could nearly hear the joy in Cranky's voice when he was reunited with his beloved, thanks to the one pony more stubborn than himself.
When he was done, Wander flipped back a few pages and read it again.
An idea was forming now. A mad idea, with fireworks going off in his head and a gleam in his eyes. He had seen the magic of Pinkie Pie in action - the only Earth Pony he knew who could put unicorns to shame with her tricks. Who had pulled a soul from the brink of despair back into the light. Who had brought a town together in harmony.
The idea grew and became a beacon of hope in the gloom of modern life. If he could understand the magic that Pinkie had wielded then for one moment, however brief, he could show everypony what they'd lost to the past seventy years. For one moment, he could bring the good old days back.
For one moment, everyone would smile, smile, smile.
The Detective Gets a VisitEdit
Truth be told, Wander had always liked hospitals. The patients were always glad to see you and would happily spend the day talking about anything and everything if he asked, just to pass the time. Often, the older patients had stories of far-flung lands and even tales of before the Sundering, if he was lucky. Many a time he had spent the night in a hospital bed in a strange town on the borders of the wild in return for entertaining the patients with his own tales.
The Ordinum Aurora hospital was different, however. Too many young colts and mares lay in the stark rooms that he passed as he trotted through the corridors. Too many victims of war, disease and foul magic. One door in particular was locked, with the universal warning sign for transmutation magic in front. It may have been his imagination, but Wander thought he could hear a soft slithering from within, and he quickened his pace until it was far behind him.
Ward B was easy enough to find, clearly signposted in white-on-blue lettering. Beneath it was the name "Heavy Heart" in simpler print. Wander noted with a snort that the doctor's name was on a paper slip within a hinged frame. The gruff hospital administrator that he had met expected a high turnover of staff, it seemed.
He rapped lightly on the frame of the door as he entered, gaining the attention of a nurse from her station behind a wooden desk.
"Yes?" she said. "Do you need some medication?"
"No, I'm just a visitor. My brother Flute is in this ward, I think."
"Oh, sorry. I assumed because of the..." She tapped her head in a mirror image of where Wander's bandages covered his newfound scar. "Sure, head on through that door. He's in the last bed on the right."
He nodded at her and headed in the direction she had indicated. Further inspection of signs and patients was foregone once he caught sight of Flute. He lay on his back with an oxygen mask affixed to his face and an IV from his left hoof to a small bag of strange liquid above his head. His eyes were closed, with a peaceful expression on his face, as if he were only sleeping instead of comatose.
Wander sat in the vacant seat next to the bed and placed his hoof on Flute's.
"Hey, kid," he whispered. "How're you doing?"
Flute did not stir, and Wander sighed heavily. This was what you were supposed to do, right? Talk to ponies while they were in a coma?
"Uh, I guess I need to bring you up to speed on your investigation. Or, you know, our investigation now since you stronghoofed me into it. Thanks for that, by the way. Let's see... I guess we'll start at the beginning. You know most of this, but it'll help me get my thoughts together.
"Three days ago, I was preparing for my trip to the badlands and was trying to hire a guy named Apple Cider as a guard. You know, I never asked if he was anything to the Apple clan; I must remember that next time I see him.
"We were about to shake on the agreement when you came into my office and told me in no uncertain terms that I was under investigation for the murder of Raspberry Cream, the alderpony representative of the Core district. He'd been working closely with somepony in Equestrian Geographic and so we were all suspects, Apple Cider included. Cream's notebook also mentioned a mare named Flora who had only arrived in the city the night before, so she was hauled in for questioning too.
"Raspberry Cream had an odd reputation. He was linked to some cult called the Night Eternal, and he'd been in trouble with the Watch over trafficking forbidden artefacts. Nopony expected to find him dead in the Sticks in the middle of the night, though. He was splayed gruesomely across a statue, with deep cuts all over, though we couldn't find any pool of blood or a trail.
"Apple Cider had his doctor friend Heavy Heart look over the body, who could tell us that the wounds had been caused by a blade about three feet long and that most of his bones had been broken. Witnesses told the Watch that they heard a roar during the night.
"We examined - well, ransacked - Cream's office, only to find that somepony had beaten us to it. The only thing of interest we could find was a magical hoop that had 'We vow to serve has his foul eyes' written on it in Abyssal. Don't ask me how I got the translation, because that's an even longer story, and one that I'm not sure that I have all the information on. Anyway, the notes said that it had been recovered from outside a tomb in the Badlands that nopony could get into without dying. The door is made out of a strange black metal with an elongated crescent mark, and anypony who touches it sort of... wastes away. Some similar catacombs were found in the Diamond Dog mines near Ponyville.
"Other notes contained a communiqué between the Sororis Mechanicum and the Argent Legion about something called 'Juggernaut', described as new armour for 'The General'. Manufacturing wasn't going well due to sabotage. One of the scientists had allegedly fallen down some stairs and the Juggernaut prototype went missing.
"We went back to my office that evening, and overheard Wicker - you know Wicker, right? He's that pompous jerk in the office next to mine. Anyway, we overheard Wicker berating the receptionist over something she'd done or hadn't done, and she tried to burn several pages from the Geographic's register. With a bit of cajoling, I got her out of the offices and Apple Cider was able to rescue the pages. Let's see, I should still have them here."
Wander poked through his bags for a moment and produced a hoofful of rustling pages.
"It looks like the initials of ponies that Wicker was meeting at restaurants around town. A couple are repeated: 'ML' and 'RR' appear three times each. The rest only once: 'DC', 'FA' and 'W'. Heavy Heart also pointed out that Wicker had a tattoo of an eye under his mane. Remember what the hoop said? 'We vow to serve his foul eyes'. Figuring that Wicker was almost certainly involved somehow, we broke into his office and - yeah, OK I promise I won't make a habit of breaking into ponies' offices. But this was important and I just plain don't like Wicker anyway. The sneaky little git had his desk drawer trapped with a poison dart, for Celestia's sake! We found a leather-bound journal inside, but we haven't looked at it yet. Partly because we've just been too busy, but mostly because I shudder at the thought of touching the ghastly thing at all.
"Then we got attacked by a group of thugs who were trying to break into the Geographic offices. Darned inconsiderate of them, since we were there first. We fought them off, but never got the chance to ask any questions. One of them knew my name, too.
"The next morning, we - uh, that's me, Apple Cider, Heavy Hoof, Flora and Flora's bear Conky - all met at the Rusty Buckle to discuss our next step when this strange unicorn named Karma came up and seemed to know a lot about our business. She seemed a bit touched in the head to be honest, but apparently very adept in the arcane arts. Then we heard that you'd gone missing in the Sororis Mechanicum and nopony could get in after you.
"We all upped stakes and went in to find you. Not one of them backed out, even after what we found inside, so we both owe them our lives. The Argent Legion was blundering around the facility looking for an artefact, slowly being picked apart by the defence mechanisms and the animated corpses of the Sisters. I swear to you that it's true, but I can't prove it because all the zombies dissolved into goo after we attacked them. The only thing we took away from the encounters was that they all had a wound on them in the shape of a crescent moon, same as described on the door of the tomb. Heavy Heart tells me it's the symbol of the Corpse God. We also found some ledgers about the Juggernaut that I need to study."
Wander patted his saddlebags before continuing.
"But I think Apple Cider has them at the moment, along with an onyx and some steel plate from that tomb in the Badlands, which is supposedly part of a set of four activation runes for a Magic Mouth spell. That's some illusion that speaks a few words aloud, so I'm guessing it's a password to enter the tomb.
"Things got even weirder after that. I got shot by a lightning trap, so Heavy Heart tried to heal it but accidentally turned it into a scar imbibed with his natural energy which... well, I promised I wouldn't tell. That's what the bandages on my head are hiding, by the way. He and I had a few words about it today and he can't tell me if it's permanent or not. I really hope it's not.
"We shut off the Sororis Mechanicum defences and found the artefact that the Legion was looking for. Some giant machine was hooked up to a glowing skull that reeked of necromancy and evil. It wasn't a pony skull, or even a Diamond Dog, but something else that I didn't recognise. The machine probably was supposed to sap energy from the artefact, but instead it was broadcasting it around the facility, which is probably what caused the zombies. Whether the malfunction was an accident on the part of the Sisters or sabotage by somepony else, we don't know yet. I'm hoping you have some answers to that if... when you wake up.
"We found you and two of the Sisters tied up out the back and brought you back here to the Ordinum Aurora hospital. You seemed to be infected with a living shadow, which Heavy Heart eventually purged with a bucketload of curative spells. That's two I owe him, I guess, so I can't be too mad about the scar.
"The shadow - either the one we purged from you or another one - got into Apple Cider, but we know how to beat it. The best way would be to get him into Celestia's blessed sunlight, but the weather's not obliging right now.
"Eagle Eye took over your investigation while you were out of it and interviewed Raspberry Cream's family. He says that Cream's daughter was a bit creepy. That might be important later, because a witness mentioned that she heard a filly's angry voice right before the body of Red Brick was found in the Artisans' district last night. This body was even worse than the last one; throat slit and bled out before his head was removed and no blood trail at all to be found. The only clue we found at all was this dirty little tuft of cotton from a spell component or... or..."
Wander slapped his forehead. "Or a child's stuffed doll. How did I miss that one? Shoot. I need to let the others know ab-"
Wander looked up at the sudden sound of hoofbeats approaching to see Heavy Heart with a clipboard suspended magically in front of him, doing his daily rounds. He nodded at Wander in greeting.
"I hope you're not keeping Mr. Flute awake too long with your stories," he said. "He needs his rest."
Wander laughed dryly, and Heavy Heart raised an eyebrow.
"Did I say something funny?"
"I thought you were making a joke. About keeping him awake, I mean."
"I wasn't joking. He does need to rest."
"He's in a coma. They don't come much more rested than that."
Heavy Heart looked at his clipboard in confusion, then back to Wander.
"He's not in a coma. In fact, he's doing very well. We took him off the monitors last night and moved him to recovery."
He pointed at a large sign hanging from the ceiling that read "Recovery Room". Wander stared at it for a moment, then looked back to his brother. Flute's eyes were open now and he was grinning at Wander through the oxygen mask.
"Hello Wander," he said, his voice slightly muffled. "Boy, you sure love to hear yourself talk."
Wander picked his jaw off the floor and punched Flute in the leg, causing the stricken detective to wince in pain.
"You bastard!" Wander yelled. "I thought you were unconscious!"
Heavy Heart stamped his hoof. "Not so loud. This is a hospital, after all."
Flute stuck his tongue out. "Yeah, Wander. And watch your language; mother would be appalled."