Edited by: AnonyMouse
I had a dream last night. I was back in the grove where I had fought the wooden wolves but it was different. It was night, a thick forest night where no light from the sky could penetrate the canopy, leaving the forest itself in thick miasmic darkness that hung heavy upon a man’s body. With some effort I break through the darkness and step into the grove not in a crash but rather a silent rustle.
Just like before there were the cowering ponies, though in my dream they were drabs of grey rather than the pastel colors I remember. Over them stood a familiar and enraging sight. Adrian Veidt. I felt my blood boil beneath my skin at the sight of him. He turns to face me, his look a serious solemn look, I don’t wait, I charged him. It was the same as in Antarctica, I was little match for the world’s fastest and strongest athlete. Every rage filled punch I threw met air when he either dodged or blocked, deftly he would return my aggression with a calm strike of his own, breaking my ribs or my fingers. I could only imagine the pain I would have felt had this been real.
He smashed me against a tree and said something. I don’t know what it was, it was like an echo of a speech he said long ago. It didn’t matter; the sound of his voice was enough to fill me with enough hatred that I forgot the spectral pain and ignore my twisted broken fingers. Just as before He stepped out of the way of each one, he’d strike me back, but I refused to relent.
He grabbed hold of my fist and held it there, giving me a smug smile. For a moment his eyes glowed yellow. My vision turned red. I struck my leg out and broke his shin. He didn’t even register the pain as he fell back. I was upon him, and all he did was give me that smug smile. That conceited smile he used when he admitted to killing millions of lives. That egotistical smile he gave when he accepted the award for the Nobel Peace Prize years before. That pompous smile he used when he gave up fighting crime. That blasted curve of his lips, the slight sheen of his teeth. It sickened me, it enraged me. I screamed but no sound came out as I pummeled his face in to get rid of that self-satisfied grin on his face. He just looked at me and let each punch strike him. I didn’t stop. Even after his eyes rolled up into the back of his bruised head I kept hitting him. I stopped using my hands and struck him with my forehead, blood trickled down into my face and stung my sight but still I did everything I could to get rid of that taunting face.
I stop. Veidt’s face had gone pale, his skin cold. His head leaked of blood and cerebral fluids, his face a grisly contortion of a Picasso artwork. He still had that smile on his lips but I didn’t strike again. Instead I looked up and saw the horror on the ponies faces. They shunned away from me, no genuine smile was given, no heart warmed thanks. Just that abhorrent look they gave me. I look back down at the body but don’t see Veidt’s face. Instead I see my face, I see the Rorschach mask. It was looking right at me, the inside of the mask filling up with blood and spilling out the seams. The black blots move into a familiar shape. I saw a dog with its head split open in that face. I move to take the mask of, to be sure again that it was Veidt underneath it and not some trickery.
The moment I reach out the face jumped up at me, its hands went up and pulled the mask off its mouth. It vomited a black bile into my sight.
I woke up then. Drenched in sweat.
Had to take off my face after that, was hard to breathe. Had to be sure as well I was no longer in the dream. I turn the face around to look at the block blots to see what I saw in it. All I saw were black blots against a white backdrop.
Sigmund Freud once said dreams were a look into the subconscious. Took little stock in it, never liked intellectuals. All ideas but little action. Yet I think I glimpsed into my own mind just as Freud theorized, the tinkering and motivation of what worked without my knowing.
Not sure what it means.
Twilight heard the high pitched squeal before it crashed through her door. When it did it nearly broke her door off its hinges. The squeal was heightened by a few octaves as it entered the room; all concentration the lavender unicorn had on the report she was writing evaporated. Twilight already had a good idea of who it was, turning around only confirmed it.
“Ohyesyesyesyesyesyesyes!” The white unicorn cheered as she bounced off the tree library’s floor, going in circles. Rarity stopped in front of Twilight but continued to bounce in place as she giggled in her high pitched voice, “hehehehe! Oh Twilight you are not going to believe who just visited my Boutique! Guessguessguessguessguess!”
Twilight leaned back from the exuberant unicorn and answered hesitantly, “ummm I honestly don’t know Rarity.”
“Guess!” Rarity shouted at her, the volume of her voice blasting her bangs back.
“Okay okay! Was it-“
Twilight didn’t get to finish as Rarity shoved her face right up to hers, “It was Sapphire Shores herself! Can you believe it?!”
Twilight took a step back for breathing room away from the hyperventilating pony, happily she exclaimed, “The Pony of Pop? That’s amazing Rarity! Did she order any of your outfits?”
“She ordered five more jewel encrusted outfits!” Rarity said as she gave one last hop before stopping to catch her breathe. She turned serious but her voice was still elated with the news, “The only thing is I need to go out and get more jewels if I want to get her order done in time! That means I’ll need to find a whole new gem lode and I was hoping I could get Spike’s help!”
“Oh, well he’s in the kitchen right now, let me go-“
The lavender unicorn was cut off again by a clatter of pots and pans in the kitchen. Spike raced of the kitchen and skidded to a halt in front of Rarity, panting like an obedient dog, “I heard everything! Anything for you Rarity!”
Twilight rolled her eyes at her little assistant’s antics but couldn’t help but smile. Rarity patted Spike on the head, “Oh thank you so much Spike! Now then, we’ll need to get a cart to carry the gems. I know the perfect place to go find those little beauties out there! Come along now Spike!”
With the little dragon in tow, the two exited the tree home as quickly as Rarity had come. Using her magic the white unicorn slammed the door behind them, leaving the bewildered Twilight to her reports. Looking out her window at the two leaving she shook her head at the sight of the little dragon following Rarity like a love stricken puppy. Returning to her desk her horn began to glow softly, enveloping her quill in the same violet glow. She began write.
Dear Princess Celestia,
She stared at the finished letter, rereading the wording carefully. A letter to the Princess had to be perfect before it was sent after all. Hopefully by the time Spike and Rarity returned it would be ready to send to Celestia. For now though she had no trouble looking over it just to be sure she had it all just right.
“Oh I just can’t wait to get started on the costumes! One for each type of gem, with sapphires and rubies and garnet! Oh Sapphire Shores is just going to be amazed at my work! Don’t you think so Spike?” Rarity joyfully said. Turning to look at the dragon pulling the red cart behind her she smiled happily to see him nod vigorously.
“For sure! She’ll be amazed by anything you make Rarity!” Spike replied lovingly.
“Why thank you Spike. Once we get the gems we need you can have some for yourself too for all the wonderful help you’ve given me!”
“Really? Ah sweet!” Spike exclaimed as he jumped up. Already his mind was wandering to thoughts of what gems he should have. Sapphire was good but there was also emerald or maybe some amethyst. Chancing a glance up he spotted a familiar pony heading in their direction. Rarity had her eyes closed listing out the different styles of costumes she could make with the gems at the moment so the purple and green dragon called out, “Hey isn’t that Applejack coming our way?”
“Hm?” Rarity looked down at Spike then up to where he was pointing at. To her surprise it was the orange cowpony heading their way. She had already spotted her and Spike and was heading in their direction. She no longer wore the thick white bandages around her midsection anymore and carried a pair of saddlebags.
“Howdy Spike, hey Rarity!” She said, coming to a stop in front of them.
“Applejack, what are you doing out of bed? And where are you bandages?” Rarity asked, looking over the cowpony’s shoulder at her barely noticeable wound and the slightly open saddlebags, “and where are you going with those apples and apple pie?”
“Ah shoot, those bandages were getting’ mighty itchy, too much for my likin’. Besides it don’t hurt no more ‘cept if I strain myself too hard. I was actually on my way into the Everfree Forest to see the hew-man. Ah wanted to thank ‘im properly for saving me ‘n Applebloom and her friends. Twilight gave me the directions last night to where he is.”
Rarity gave Applejack a repulsed looking, “You’re trekking through the muddy forest just to see that barbaric ruffian? And to give him apple pie? I’m thankful he saved you and my Sweetie Belle but I don’t think he’s much of a socialite...”
Applejack nodded, “Ah guess not. But still, I reckon I gotta thank him some way or 'nother. I figure what better way than to offer up some of Granny Smith’s world famous apple pie! Besides, it ain’t like he’s gonna try ‘n eat me or nothin’.”
Rarity still frowned but nodded, “I guess not but do be careful around him. Who knows what sort of… things he gets himself into out in those woods.”
The orange pony should have suspected that Rarity’s concern would be how dirty he was. One didn’t exactly expect to get clean out there in the woods after all. Maybe while she was there she could convince him to come back to Ponyville with her? She doubted it would work, considering how vehemently opposed he was to Twilight offering the same thing, but no harm in trying she supposed.
Noticing the red wagon Spike was pulling, Applejack asked, “So where are you two headed off to anyway?”
Spike gestured to himself and proudly stuck his chest out, “I’m helping Rarity gather some gems for a new line of clothes she’s making!”
Rarity squealed, causing Applejack to cringe, “oh Applejack it’s so wonderful! This morning Sapphire Shores herself came by to order a line of gem encrusted outfits!”
Applejack smiled, “Wow! That’s great Rarity. Well don’t let me hold you up too long, I’ll see y’all later then! Have fun you two!”
“We will!” Spike called out as Applejack passed them both.
“And remember what I said Applejack! Be careful around the hew-man!” Rarity called out as well to the leaving Earth Pony.
With its head caught in my stranglehold I gave the wolf’s neck a jerk. I was rewarded with a satisfying snap of vertebra breaking and the wolf stopped struggling. I breathed a sigh of relief and let go of the bark body. The creature fell hard upon the ground, stumbling down the mossy cliff into the rocky ravine below me.
It had taken a long hunt but I had finally slain one of the wild lone wolves that rampaged through the forest. The distinct burn mark on the now dead wolf’s side made me sure it was the right one. Shame the others got away. Will need to track them down again and continue the hunt. One kill would do for now.
I at least could take comfort that the new pack has not tried anything against me. I’ve seen little sign of them since they first scouted my den. In essence I’m cleaning house for them, might be why they’ve let me continue unimpeded.
Care very little for reasons of wild animals.
Descending the small cliff I go to retrieve the fallen body. Couldn’t eat it, nor burn it but can find some uses for its bones. No sense in wasting. I reached down and hefted the corpse over my shoulder, I get ready to climb the rocky ravine.
I’m stopped by a sudden and strange sound that overcame my senses.
I grit my teeth as a buzzing sound starts to grow from inside my own head. I groan and stumble; the wolf slips off my shoulder and hits the ground with a loud thud. My hands go up to cover my ears but the buzzing in my head persisted into an ear splitting volume.
“Raaaaah!” I cry as I fall to my knees from the agonizing hum that invaded my head. Echoed whispers call to me from beyond the buzzing. My eyes felt like they were going to burst from their place and my heart felt like it had been stabbed, the burning blade digging into my cavity.
As suddenly as it came it was gone. In an instant the buzzing was gone. The burning in my chest was gone. I feel a wetness coming from my ears. Lifting my mask I feel them and am surprised to see blood. Drops of blood were trickling down from my ears.
“What the hell was that…” I mutter through my ragged breathing, looking around the forest for some sign of where the attack had come from. The forest was just the same, it was only me and at my side the dead wolf. Once I was sure I was okay I stood back up. I wiped away the blood on the sides of my head as my ears slowly stopped ringing. Mind was reeling, trying to think of possible reasons for what happened. First thought was possible stroke, yet didn’t seem right. Dementia setting in? Likely not. Something environmental then, plausible. Strange creatures did lay in wait in this forest, might have been a creature with subsonic calls, but where was it? Final option was it was something entirely different. That worried me.
With my senses cleared I picked up the wolf’s body and continued up the rocky ravine back to my camp. Thoughts still went through my mind over the whispers behind the buzzing. Malicious sounding voices, reminded me of something in my past.
“Hurm,” I mutter, moving in the direction of camp.
Sun had passed its peak when I returned to the camp. The sight of an orange pony sitting near my smoldering fire caused me to stop. Same pony from the grove. Glad to see she looked better, no more bandage. Displeased she was here in my camp.
“Annoyance,” I growled and dropped the wolf’s body into the brush, no sense in scaring her with a corpse. The noise seemed to get her attention as she looked right at where I was. Taking my gloves off, I stepped out into the cove.
Shoving them into my pockets I called out, “Dangerous forest to be wandering in. Wanted to see me I assume?”
She smiled nervously and nodded, “Uh yes’m, sir.”
“Hrm,” I say as I approach her. She doesn’t shy away, stays her ground. Passing her I went and grabbed the flint with some fresh firewood. Piling it all into the circle I started a small fire.
She was still standing there nervously, likely thinking of something to say. Perhaps frightened by me. Struck by some sudden insight she exclaimed, “Oh!” and reached into one of the bags at her sides. With her teeth she pulled out my scarf. Looked like it had been washed and cleaned, didn’t even have grime that was on it before I gave it to her. “I uh brought yer scarf back.”
She offered it out to me. Taking it I looked it over, then nodded my thanks. I folded it and placed it at my side. I speak, perhaps more solemnly than I intended, “Thank you. You didn’t need to bring it back.”
“Well’n it was yours in the first place so might as well give it back see’n as I don’t need it. Oh and ah brought you this,” she reached into the other bag and to my surprise pulled out a pie. Smelled like apples. She held out a hoof and balanced the pie pan on it. One of my eyebrows raise in surprise over the strangeness of this all. She offered me a smile and continued, “ah don’t know if you eat apple pie ‘er not but this ‘ere is my Granny Smith’s famous pie, the best pie in all of Equestria!”
She places the pie in my hands and for a while I just stare at it. Visions of white picket fences and green glassed soda cross my mind, the kind one only sees in colored television anymore. I can’t recall the last time I’ve had pie let alone offered one. Seems like an eternity ago that I even thought about green glassed cola. Heavenly smell of cooked crumbly bread and sweet apples. Perfect crust. Before I realize what I was doing I was smirking beneath my true face, “hrm, American love…”
“Uh, pardon?” The orange pony asked, giving me a curious look.
“Nothing.” I say, would be too hard to explain nor did I have the care to begin so. “Why give this to me?” I asked after a pause.
She simply grinned at me as she answered, “Well to thank you of course.” She then frowned and went on, “Don’t they thank you fer helpin’ another pony… err hew-man out back where you come from?”
I recall last thank you I got, prostitute was being mugged and robbed. She spat in my face and ran screaming when I took a step toward her. Thought brings sickening feeling to mind. People never offered help to one another, not without cause. Greedy. Selfish. Thankless. They’d rather wallow alone in their misery and speak woes of their conditions, like fat pigs that complain of the filth they crawl in yet refuse to get out of it.
“Not exactly,” I finally say.
“Well then they should, it was mighty brave what you did back there!” She said. I look at her strangely. I’m not sure what to say. Never had such thanks before. Smell of pie again captures my attention. “Nothing to give to you,” I say.
She immediately waves it off with her hoof, “think nothing of it, it’s my pleasure and it’s a gift after all, no need to repay a gift.” For a while we are both silent, both of us awkwardly looking at each other. I never got the chance to see a victim again after saving them. They never wanted to see me again, didn’t care to see them either.
She was the one to break the silence, “So my name is Applejack. I know you met Twilight already but didn’t seem keen on givin’ yer name. Would you be willing to tell me? So I know who I’m thankin’?”
I hesitate for a moment. Would have to give a name eventually, saw no harm in telling her. I reply, “Rorschach.” This pony didn’t annoy me as much, not like the lavender one with her persistent, endless questions.
“Well that’s an interesting name, I like it though.” She said with a smile.
I feel another strange pang of shock from the comment but I refuse to let her see my reaction. Wouldn’t get used to this idea of being thanked any time soon. I watch the fire grow into a full fire, back into life. Comforting to watch fire burn. All things put into perspective before its flames. A soft giggle next to me breaks my attention. I turn to look at her and see she’s holding back a laugh. “What?” I asked darkly.
“Hehe, nothing sorry. Just your face looks like two rabbits fightin’ over an apple right now.” She said gesturing to my face with her hoof.
I blink, then turn back to the fire, placing the pie to my side on top of the scarf I speak, “Is there something else you want to ask me? No other reason why you remain.”
Applejack frowned, “Well… there is one thing I wanted to ask.”
Should of known there was an ulterior motive, “Out with it,” I say harshly.
She gulps nervously then speaks, “Well… I was hoping you could tell me…. I was hoping you could teach me to fight the way you did.” I tilt my head as I turn my attention from the fire to look at her. She shakes her head and frowns sadly, “I couldn’t hold my own against those wolves… and if I didn’t get the help then I’m scared ta think what woulda happened. If I could just fight better maybe I could ‘ave held my own by myself.”
One of my eyebrows raise in surprise. Was not expecting this. She goes on; expecting to convince me, but my mind was already made up before she even began to explain. “Maybe I’m askin’ too much, I don’t know, but I’m a fast learner and can hold my own just as well. I just need someone who knows what fightin’ is like to teach me, the way you handled those wolves like they were nothing. I want to be able to protect other ponies….”
“Hurm…you’re too soft. Don’t have what it takes to fight like me,” I say.
She growled angrily, “What’s that suppose ta mean? I ain’t weak, tougher than most ponies ah know and that ain’t boastin’.”
Resting my elbows onto my knees I looked at her and into her eyes. She was strong willed, tough, sounded honest enough, but she lacked a quality fighters like me had.
“Do you wake up in the morning hoping to cause someone else harm?” I ask coolly.
She frowns and answers slightly confused, “well no but-“
“Do you think you could stomach the sound of bones breaking and shattering? To hear cries of misery and agony of pain? To take joy in watching them bleed?”
She was getting nervous over my description, “No... but-“
I interrupt her quickly, “Given the chance would you have chosen to kill those wolves in the grove to protect the foals behind you rather than let them get away?”
“Of course not!” Applejack cried, “Ah don’t want to learn ta fight to go hurtin’ other ponies, I just want to be able to defend myself with discipline …. I just want to be strong, especially against things that mean me and my family harm.”
I think on what she says and speak slowly at first, “There will always be someone stronger than you. That is way the world works. It is what you do when you are confronted with that stronger force that matters. I'm not as strong as you think. To those who thrive on terrorizing the innocent I’m a merciless avenger, but I have been beaten before by fighters more discipline than myself. What keeps me strong is that I don't give up, and neither do you. Your tenacity is your strength; that's obvious enough from your wish to better defend your friends.” She gave me a surprised look, not expecting the praise I gave her. She should know that it was true already.
I continue, staring intently into her green eyes, “You're too soft. Fighting the way I do isn't your answer. You're not filled with rage for injustice. A hatred for sinners. A merciless punishment upon the wicked. You have no thirst for violence. Cannot fight like me. Fighters like me seek violence. Driven by hate. I can't help with what you seek.”
She shrunk back and looked to kick at the dirt on the ground, frightened by what I was saying. Perhaps it was fear of me, or perhaps at the thought of fighting. Her heart was in the right place, wouldn’t be a good teacher for her teaching her to fight. I cannot be imitated; she’d only get herself hurt. Recall newspaper article years ago. Private investigator tried to imitate my style of investigation and fighting criminals, nearly got killed. Idiot. Went by some punctuation mark as handle.
“I will tell you this,” she looked up at the sound of my voice and returned to her calm stance again, “fighting involves being in control of your motions and preparing for actions against you. Never watch your opponent’s limbs, always watch their eyes and chest. They will tell you when they are going to strike and where if you see where they look. From their chest you can see their limbs from the corners of your eyes.”
She sat down on the ground and listened to me like the student to the sage. I continue on, ignoring my own allusion, “Second, watch your surroundings. Use it to your advantage but never let it hinder you. Keep the high ground. Finally, strike with finality. Do not draw out fights, end it fast and decisively.”
Applejack tilted her head, “Is that all it really takes? I mean besides the…. Hurting part, I thought there would be more to it.”
“Hm, depends on who you ask. Some will say a calm heart makes a fighter, others say violent spirit. Basics remain the same, all about motion and control. Hurting others is easy. Avoiding getting hurt is harder.”
Applejack seemed to think on this before speaking, “And this’ll help me the next time I get in a fight?”
I nod, "For you, best avoid a fight. But yes, that should help."
Applejack sighed, “It must come naturally to you, fightin’ I mean, the way you go an’ talk about it so casually.”
I grunted. She had no idea how true her statement was. Silence reigned again with both I and the pony staring into the fire. For the first time it was I who broke the silence, “If there’s nothing more. You should be going.”
Applejack chuckled, “Is that yer way of tellin’ others to go away?”
I look up and blink, feel like I had misspoken. “Not… my intention-“
“S’okay, I understand you’d rather be on yer own fer a bit now.” She said as she got up again. She turned around and looked at me as she said, “Don’t worry; I know the way back to town. Thanks for the talk and thank you again, Rorschach, for what you’ve done for us ponies.”
I watch her as she trots off into the forest and out of sight. I’m left to my thoughts again. Next to me the apple pie still gave off steam. Still smelled fresh. I pick it up and hold it in my hands. Generosity. It's a funny thing. Have thoughts of Manhattan in my mind. Recall the colored television and its ideals of a perfect suburban America. Small towns with fresh smell of pie and cut grass in the air, green glass of soda. Reality was much darker. Grime, filth, and blood tainted streets of concrete and asphalt. Immigrants. I’m reminded of the Comedian, his purpose and ideals. A parody of the American dream, a joke on American love. “American love….” I find myself saying,”Hurm, more like comes from the barrel of a gun.”
Applejack’s hooves hit the soft floor of the forest as she walked. She was feeling better with herself now, better since the incident at the grove. The hew-man Rorschach spoke harshly at times and always seemed to have an edge to his voice that could cut, but he wasn’t bad; at least not when speaking to her. Perhaps Twilight had inadvertently insulted him when she had met him? She did have the tendency to do that without knowing and Rorschach seemed to be the type to take offense very quickly. It could also very much just be he was not in the mood to be talking with anypony.
Some things about their conversations still stuck in the Earth pony’s mind, words that worried her. The way he talked about hurting others, the way he spoke of it, it seemed like he reveled in the act of fighting. Asking him to teach her how to fight had turned out to be a bad idea. His words only served to remind her of the savagery that she saw in him when he fought off the wolves. Yet she couldn’t lie to herself, half the reason she went to see him was so he could tell her how she could keep something like the wolves from happening again. At least she didn’t have to leave empty hooved.
Applejack was headstrong, determined to do things on her own. She knew that sometimes she needed help after last Apple bucking season, when she had ended up needing her friends to help her out in place of Big Macintosh. Still, she preferred her independence by handling things by herself. The incident in the grove shook her to the core when she realized she couldn’t protect Applebloom on her own.
Rorschach was right about her peaceful nature. The thought of hurting others didn’t sit well with her. She wasn’t a fighter, nor did she think she wanted to be after talking to someone who was more than comfortable badly injuring others. Even so, that didn’t mean she got nothing from their talk. What the hew-man said still rang in her head. Walking through the forest she whispered to herself, “Watch the eyes and chest. Be mindful of your surroundings. Be decisive. Three simple little tips. Could that really be all there is to it?”
Reaching the old Willow Tree, she took the direction to Ponyville, still lost in thought. Before she even realized it she was back in Ponyville walking along its smooth cobbled roads. Crossing the town square to get to the road that led to Sweet Apple Acres she stopped when she noticed her friends talking nearby. Trotting over she called out, “Howdy girls! What’s going on?”
“Hey Applejack!” Twilight happily greeted her friend, “Pinkie Pie was just telling us about a party she wants to have later.”
On cue Pinkie Pie started hopping up and down in front of Applejack, “It’s gonna be so great Applejack! There’s going to be balloons, candy, cupcakes, and party games!”
“Wow, that sound’s mighty nice Pinkie. I wouldn’t miss one of your parties fer the world,” Applejack smiled.
“Hey, where you been all day anyway?” A voice above them called out. Each of the ponies looked up to see Rainbow Dash hovering over them. She was giving Applejack a harsh, inquisitive look.
Applejack smiled nervously, “Oh me? Uh, I was just in the forest talking to Rorschach.”
Fluttershy looked confused and asked, “um who?”
Applejack shook her head, “Oh sorry, Rorschach is the name of that hew-man Twilight met and saved me.”
“Oh so he wouldn’t give me the time of day but goes right out and tells you his name?” Twilight angrily said.
“Well, it did take a while to get him to say it. He ain’t one fer talking.”
Pinkie Pie resumed hopping again, “Oh! Oh! Oh! What’d you two talk about? Did he say anything about parties? Oh would he want to come to my party today? What kind of balloons does he like? Does he like cupcakes and candy? Does he know any party games?!”
Applejack smirked, “Well I uh don’t think he’s much of a party person Pinkie, see-“
She was caught off from a cry in the distance that was steadily getting closer. All five of the ponies turned around to see a frantic Spike rushing towards them, arms raised into the air in panic.
He skidded to a halt right before them and quickly started pointing and gesturing in the direction he had just come from.
“Rarity! Woods! Jewels! Dogs! Taken! Save her!”
The ponies shared a collective look of confusion but the little dragon’s panic made it clear something was wrong. Grabbing Spike with her teeth Twilight tossed the dragon onto her back and rushed off in the direction he had been gesturing to. The other four ponies followed close behind her.
It took them a while to get Spike to stop hyperventilating. After breathing into a paper bag a few times he calmed down enough to explain to them what happened. That morning he and Rarity had been gathering gems when three creeps jumped them. They called themselves the Diamond Dogs and they had found out that Rarity could find pockets of gem stones in the ground. Spike tried his best to fight them off but they managed to steal away Rarity and drag her down a hole.
Applejack figured it would have been easy enough to save her if Spike just showed them where the hole was. They realized quickly that wouldn’t be the case as the barren ground that Spike brought them too was covered in open holes. Each time they tried to get close to the holes a pair of dogs would fill them back up. It was only until Spike sacrificed a gem Rarity gave him that morning were they able to enter the expansive tunnels of the Diamond Dogs.
With the help of a gem seeking spell Twilight had learned from Rarity the group managed to find their way through the most gem laden tunnel to where the dogs were keeping Rarity. They saw no signs of the dogs until they heard Rarity’s cries in the darkened caves.
Stopping just before a large cavern they spotted a rusty cage door at the other end of the chamber. Applejack was the first to step when she felt something heavy hit her back. Before she could cry out a rope was around her face. The same was happening to the other ponies as Diamond Dogs dropped off from above to land on their backs. “More work horses,” one of the large dogs growled and laughed.
Applejack wasn’t about to let that happen.
“Buck ‘em off girls!” She cried as she jumped up and reared, trying her best to get the dog off her back. Her friends did the same to try and get their respective dogs off their back. The Diamond Dogs held on for dear life. Their grips on the ponies finally slipped and they were tossed against the rock wall eventually by each one of the ponies.
They weren’t done though.
The dogs, though stunned, were quick to recover. They grumbled and turned to face the ponies and with a series of barks they charged again. The previously triumphant ponies scattered as the first dog got to them. The first dog’s charge met with no pony and struck the rock wall behind them hard. The other dogs slowed themselves down and started to chase after the scattering ponies.
Applejack stood her ground; one of the dogs had spotted her. It approached her on its hind legs, looking down menacingly at the cowpony. Still the pony stood her ground. Her friends needed her. The Diamond Dog took a step forward and leered down upon her, looking ready to swipe her away. A voice in the back of her head spoke, watch the eyes and chest. She looked at the dog’s beady eyes, they stared intently at her but she noticed how they shifted to her right for a moment. She watched its chest for motion. Out of the peripherals of her sight she spotted the move, from the right just as she predicted. Side stepping out of the way the large claw she quickly countered by turning around and kicking straight in its face. The dog yelped and fell back, dazed and confused.
Applejack smirked as the voice in her head told her to be decisive when you strike. The pony gave one final kick and the dog was out cold. Suddenly the voice in her head interrupted her triumph. Mind your surroundings. Looking to her side she spotted a dog rushing at her. Nearby she saw a loose rock that had come free from the wall when the dogs had charged. Just as the dog was upon her she rolled the large rock in its path and got ready for the coming fall. The dog’s front leg tripped over the rock and the body flipped over on to the cold ground. A kick from Applejack’s strong back legs knocked him out cold.
“Hah!” She cheered looking at the two unconscious dogs. Looking around she saw the others had dealt with the dogs that had been after them. Three dogs covered in confetti were whimpering in a corner in the face of Fluttershy’s stare. With the use of one of the ropes that had been around her mouth Rainbow Dash zipped in and tied the three together. Twilight used her magic to tighten the rope and tied it in a complex knot she had learned from a book about sea sailing. Pinkie Pie smiled and gave a small cheer. She turned around and gave Applejack a mock salute. The cowpony gave a tip of her hat to the crazy pink pony.
Anymore cheering was cut off by another one of Rarity’s cries.
The ponies crashed through the rusty cage door, Spike at the helm riding on Twilight’s back and wielding a stalactite as a sword. To their surprise they did not find a captive Rarity but rather found her pulling a large cart of gems and menacing the three dog leaders.
The cowering dogs begged them to take Rarity away, even offering the gems as well to go with her. Anything to get the loud, annoying pony away from them. The ponies were happy to oblige and quickly left with their loot and their friend. Rarity might have been a lady but it seemed she knew how to change the situation to her advantage; she was not at all helpless. Twilight left the caverns, gems in tow, with her friends and a new idea for a friendship report to send to Princess Celestia along with the note on the hew-man.
Back in the caverns the three dogs lamented at their decisions. “Rrrraagh! What were we thinking?! Letting them leave with gems!” The leader in the red vest, known as Rover, said. The pony had been more trouble than she was worth and it was because of her that they were making these bad decisions.
“Err I thought we needed to get rid of the annoying pony and her annoying sounds?” The smallest, Spot, said. A quick smack from Rover silenced the dog.
“We are Diamond Dogs! Not little girls! We need to get gems back from them, need to get back treasure!” The dog said rubbing his claws together.
The largest, Fido, scratched his head, “Uh… how?”
Rover grabbed Fido’s collar so the larger dog was at his height. He cried out, “We send dogs! Two dogs follow them, get gems back. We leave. Not come back to this place but we’re not leaving with nothing!”
Spot nodded his head rapidly, “Oh that is good plan! Good plan! We get gems back and annoying ponies none the wiser!”
Rover called out, “Dogs! Two come here!” Two of their large hounds dropped down in front of their leaders. After a few times repeating the complex orders of ‘go out’ and ‘get gems’ the two ran out into the tunnels for the surface to do their leader’s bidding. They left in the direction of Ponyville, running on all fours.
“Oh boy you shoulda seen me Rorschach! We taught them dogs a lesson they ain’t gonna forget any time soon!” The cowpony exclaimed as she jumped around dramatically before me, her antics illuminated by the glow of my fire. I lean against the side of the wall, watching her retell her tale of her day. It seemed one of her friends had been kidnapped by things called Diamond Dogs. Sounded like gang name, but the way she described it they were actual dogs.
She had been excited to tell me how my advice had helped her fight off two of the dogs. Even braved the late forest to tell me. Her excitement was infectious. Couldn’t help but recall the first time I brought down my criminals. Two burglars who had beaten an old man near death. The excitement of that first fight couldn’t be replicated. Strong sense of satisfaction. Left the two outside police station unconscious and tied to fire hydrant. I was soft back when first starting out.
She went on with her story, “I had two of them dogs on me. Fer the first one I watched ‘is eyes and chest like you told me. He told me right where he was gonna be attacking, was nothin’ to just duck on out of the way. The other one I used my surroundings, got a rock in ‘is way and tripped him up. Knocked ‘em both out with Bucky McGillycuddy and Kicks McGee.” She stretched out her back legs respectively, curious that she personified them.
“Glad I could help,” I said, crossing my arms together, “And your friend?”
Applejack chuckled, “Turned out she didn’t even need our help. She turned the tables on those dogs so that they were the ones scared of her ‘stead the other way around.”
“Clever.” I say with a slight more emotion than I usually spoke with, was admiration. Can’t say I recall ever hearing of a victim getting the upper hand over her captors. Have heard of victims joining captors, different matter. This Rarity seemed to be a force to contend if she was that smart.
“Heh you’re tellin’ me, never knew she had it in her bein’ all lady like as she is.” Applejack said with a nod.
“Where did this all happen?” I ask curiously.
“Just ta the north of Ponyville actually, those dogs had a whole web of tunnels. Probably from them diggin’ ‘round for gems to get. Surprised we never noticed them before.”
“Hurm….” I sit back in thought.
Applejack nodded happily and went to sit by the fire. Fireflies were out tonight. For a while we just watch them in silence. Not an awkward silence as earlier in the day, more comfortable. Watching forest, listening to crickets and chirping frogs. I stand back up and head to the fire. Getting the bucket I have filled with water I douse the flames. “Best get you home. I’ll walk you to the Willow tree.”
Applejack tilted her head, “Really? Mighty generous of you.”
“Forest isn't safe at night. Better if I was there.” I reply.
“Any chance I could get you to come to Sweet Apple Acres? Have a barn you could make yourself comfortable in if’n you refuse to sleep in the same house as ponies.” Applejack lightly laughed.
“No. Have other business to take care of.” I say.
“Other business? In the middle of the night?” Applejack asked with a blink.
“Sleep can wait. Seems I have business that needs finishing.”
“….you’re a strange one Rorschach. Well alright then, maybe I’ll convince you ‘nother time.”
“Hmph. Doubt it.”
I led her back to the Willow tree. It was a short walk back to Ponyville from there. She spent the whole time telling me about her family. Applebloom. Big Macintosh. Granny Smith. Sounded nice. A much closer family than I had. Big extended family. Reminded me of my time in foster care. She said I was good listener, never thought of myself as such. Took her word for it. When we reached the Willow tree she tipped her hat to me and left in Ponyville's direction. Found myself watching to make sure she got out of the forest safely.
Once Applejack was out of sight, I left the Willow tree in the direction she had mentioned.
The three Diamond Dogs huddled around the fire, sharing a cooked chicken. The flames danced shadows across the cavern walls. The three leaders growled to one another, making plans to leave their tunnels once the gems were theirs again.
“Hrrr, dogs best not mess up,” Rover growled, drool dripping down from his open mouth as he chomped down on the meat of the partially raw chicken.
“So… where we go… when we get gems?” Fido asked between bites.
“Could go to Stalliongrad… many mountains,” Spot said, the only one who waited to finish chewing before speaking.
Rover waved one of his claws, “Naw. We go to Canterlot? Many Unicorn ponies, find one less annoying. They find gems for us.”
Fido nodded. “Yeah, that better idea. Less work.”
Spot still seemed unsure of himself, “What about Princess? She might find us, be angry for stealing her ponies!”
Rover responded by hitting Spot in the back of the head. Before the smaller dog could complain a massive commotion down the tunnels caught their attention. Howls of anger and then pain bounced off the cavern halls down to them along with the sounds of fighting and conflict. Rover growled, “Dogs fighting again. Stupid hounds….”
Fido got up to break up the fight that the dogs likely got themselves into. He didn’t get the chance as the sound of the conflict died abruptly with something large falling with a thud. The big dog grunted, “Solved itself. Back to….” His voice trailed off.
The sounds of footsteps from beyond the rust encrusted door caught their sensitive ears. Not the sound one of their dogs walking on soft paws would make; it was sharper, a hard surface striking the floor. Rover and Spot got up to look towards the door. All three growled when the door opened their way.
To their surprise, some strange creature with black blots for a face stepped in.
I had my hand on the door as I entered. The dog in the red vest growled at me, “Strange thing think it can walk in here?”
The largest of the three laughed hoarsely, “Maybe it food too? Wonder if it taste like chicken….” The smallest meanwhile gulped nervously, already anxious about my presence.
I tilt my head; slowly I closed the door behind me.
I locked the hatch of the door before I slowly walked into the cave towards the three growling dogs. Something about this world and dogs. Were they a personification of dark intent here? Made sense, never met a nice dog in my line of work. I cracked my knuckles in preparation as I got closer to the dogs and the fire.
“Hurm, only three of you…. Shouldn’t take too long.” I say. Happily.
[I'm just an awful person. First I make you all wait so long for a chapter and second I give the Diamond Dogs the worst possible fate. If you ever see AnonyMouse give him your regards for reading this monster chapter in a rather short amount of time! Well I got no message for everypony (the 'ell I just say?) but in light of Valentine's Day I just want to say something to all my readers:
Dear Internet Reader,
It's Valentine's Day. Some of you have that special someone to share it with and I'm happy for you. To others who feel they have no one to share this special day with just remember this.
I love you.
Don't believe me? Well you don't need to. I'm right outside your window right now, I'm watching you sleep, craving you when you eat. Sssshhh don't be afraid, I'm right there for you. Let me whisper it in your ear, "I will not leave you alone this Valentine's Day, because I love you my reader."
Your internet Stalker, 'Out of Nothing'
Thanks for reading, now go to sleep so I can watch you breathe. Oh, and here's your Box of Chocolates]