Waking up feeling better would be a blessing considering the past few days. Steel Wing could tell however that this was not better. Still the fact that he didn’t feel worse was nothing short of a miracle. He was in a bed, somepony had moved him from the operating room. It was dark save for a faintly glowing orb floating in the middle of the room.
Miraculously when Steel Wing tried to sit up he did so with very little effort. He tensed and relaxed his muscles as he stretched. When he wrapped his wings around to his front to inspect them he noticed that they were still numb. It slowly came to him that if they were numbed by a drug they shouldn’t be able to move so easily. This little detail was forgotten when he realized that both of his wings were almost black in comparison to his coat. They were actually a deep midnight purple and like his mane the underside of his wings had a glossy sheen. This discoloration cut off sharply where the wing joint met his hide. He could see the scars where the plate’s main anchors were removed.
Well damn. He was thankful that the pain was gone but now his mind was back to why he couldn’t feel them. When he tapped them with a hoof he felt the pressure. He tried carefully clamping one between his teeth and gradually biting harder. At the point where he knew his eyes should be watering he stopped.
One last test. Steel Wing convinced himself while he felt his stomach working itself into a guilty knot. He got out of bed and extended his wings looking all around the room. Feeling safe that there were no windows in here; he crouched leapt up and tried to make his wings flap powerfully once. Instead he hopped up and landed again. He glared at his wings and the way their underside reflected the dim light, he could almost swear they were staring at him expectantly. He tested them again bringing in his left wing so he could adjust a few perfectly in place feathers. He tried to move it back to his side and it twitched a little.
“Oh I get it,” he said continuing to glare at his wing, “You don’t take orders from me now either. Suggestions only right?”
Without thinking of it too much he placed his wing by his side again finally catching on. He crouched down again and his wings stuck out in preparation for flight. As he jumped his wings pumped so hard he could have been halfway to the moon. Being that he was out of practice he instead rocketed into the wall next to the door. He hit it so hard he blacked out momentarily, falling down like a rock smashing a small table.
In an instant Mercy’s assistant nurse was in the room panicking as Steel Wing came to and stared picking would splinters out of his hide. Her horn began glowing and the remaining splinters were telekinetically pulled from his chest; at the same time the bleeding holes magically closed.
“What happened?” She asked trying to help up the significantly larger Pegasus.
Steel Wing smiled softly, not a smile she could see, but he let her believe that she was doing most of the work as he rose from the floor.
“Just a training accident.” He said giving her a friendly grin now that he was back on all four hooves.
“Training, in here?” She cast her gaze around the room.
“Yes.” He confirmed. He chuckled at her round confused eyes. “I suppose we haven’t actually met.” using hoof quotes to qualify just what meeting somepony entailed. “I’m Steel Wing.” Giving his usual well-meaning introduction caused her to shift uncomfortably
Right she was checking me out. Bet she did during the operation too.
As if reading his mind her cheeks turned red. Talking into the floor she said, “I’m nurse Frostshot, you can call me Frost or Frosty if you like.” Her voice was unusually high even for a filly her size. Steel Wing suspected it wasn’t from nervousness that her voice nearly cracked, much more likely it was her normal speaking voice.
Steel Wing found it fairly adorable the way she squirmed under his gaze; until it hit him that it probably appeared to her that he was checking her out.
It was his turn to be embarrassed, “Well ummm- thanks for helping me. I’ll just go back to bed probably, thanks.”
“My mom said to make sure you were all stable and stuff.” She hopped in front of him, blocking his path to the bed. Her red cheeks were now in full view, but Steel Wing saw a somewhat out of place determination in her eyes.
Oh, this is going to be a problem.
“Um, how are you feeling?” Her determination was wavering but it was quickly backed up by elevated hormones. “Other than your wing you had several bruised ribs and three gashes in your chest. You’ve lost a lot of blood over the last couple days and when you used healing potions you had several foreign objects still in your body.”
Steel Wing would have been relaxed by the professional quality with which she delivered her report if it weren't for the way she was staring at him. She ordered him onto his side on the bed, he complied not wanting to cause a fuss. She began prodding at his ribs, as she went along she asked if it hurt. At a certain point it became more like a massage, and against his better judgment he began to enjoy it. He knew what she was after and before long he'd have to get her to stop, for now her hooves were incredibly gentle with a great amount of force behind them.
She stopped abruptly, "I need to do the same thing on your other side." Again, against the protesting voice that was now taking him on a guilt trip for leading the filly on he stood up, before he could lay back down however she ducked under him rubbing herself against his belly her tail snapped against him as she got to his other side.
Now, as much as he wanted her to finish the massage on his other side. She was getting too aggressive now, if he let it go on much longer she'd be trying to jam her tongue down his throat. Instead of lying down for her to continue he sat and put up a forbidding hoof.
"As much as I appreciate what you're doing with your hooves, you should know that I'm the pony for you to come to for- well what you're after."
She tried to feign confusion, but being said no to brought frustration into her expression. "But-" she began.
"So I wasn't misinterpreting the massage, that's good." Steel Wing breathed a sigh of relief mixed with a new grief that he had been right. "You're a very cute mare, I'm not saying no because I think your ugly or anything like that. Just try to understand that it can't be me."
"Why not?" She pleaded putting on a sad face. "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"If your asking whether or not I liked the massage you were giving me then, no I loved it. The fact that you're my surgeon's daughter and coming on to me is making me a bit nervous though." He shifted back on the bed.
The inexperienced filly had, at this point, already worked herself up while performing the massage and now had a furious itching [in her lower regions.
Steel Wing sniffed at the air. "Oh goddesses you're in heat aren't you?" Steel Wing felt the world flip upside down and right itself almost immediately causing him to sway.
She nodded apologetically. "And then you showed up, and what that griffon said and- and... Please?" She pleaded again inching closer.
"Well what if..." What if what? What if I find a lovely stallion in Mexicolt City to come up here and mount her? Steel Wing was quickly running out of options that didn't come down to him picking her up by the mane and moving her to someplace outside of the room.
"What time is it even?" He asked trying to change the subject so he could think.
"Two." He raised an eyebrow, "In the morning."
"So everypony else is asleep. Mercy didn't even ask you to come down here did she?" Realizing long after the fact that she'd successfully lied to him at a time when he should have suspected every word that rolled over her tongue. Scratch that she might be able to talk telepathically, so any words she'd thought of making at that point in time. He nodded to himself as she did the same confirming what he'd asked.
"So while everypony was asleep you thought you'd: come down here, seduce me, get sex out of me, and tomorrow walk around with a huge smile plastered on your face without anypony asking what was making you so happy?"
"Yeah but I-" She was cut off again.
"I'd also be willing to bet a good deal of however many friends you have know that you're in heat. So tomorrow when you're trotting around all smiles without the look that says 'Someone mount me.' They won't in turn suspect the only new stallion around her that was under your care?"
All of this had played out in Steel Wing's mind around a dozen times by the time he'd finished saying it all. She simply looked up with him rubbing her throat with a hoof while tears started forming in her eyes. Now on top of everything he was feeling upset was added to the list. Not upset because he thought she was playing the sad filly card, those were genuine tears; but because he knew it would come to this and there hadn't been a damn thing he could've done to stop it.
Frost Simply collapsed into a shuddering pile on the bed, using the sheets to muffle her already quiet sobs.
Steel Wing began to consider what his sister would actually say about turning down some desperate filly who'd gone to great lengths to get to him and then leave with nothing but embarrassment and shame. He loved the fact that he and his sister had become so close that sex was one of the least important things they shared. It was a nice thing to have and was never bad but she'd even expressed interest in bringing somepony else into the bedroom on occasion. They'd never done it but he understood that she knew Steel Wing's heart would always belong to her. So he concluded, She would not in fact be upset with him for doing something like this. At least to the best of his reasoning he had no reason to turn this filly down.
“Hey Frost, “ Steel Wing gave the crying filly a gentle nudge to get her attention. She looked up tears still streaming down her face. With a long drawn out sigh he gave her the news she wanted to hear. “I can do this for you.” Her face lit up instantly, “BUT,” He continued holding up a hoof. “Nopony else, in this school in particular, can ever know about this. Alright?”
She nodded quickly, “I won’t tell anypony else Pinkie Pie promise.” In her excitement, at the end of the salute she forgot to close her eye very nearly punching her eyeball. New tears instantly welled up in the tender, now blood shot, eye.
Steel Wing brought her in close for a hug, “Alright relax a little. I know you’re probably really anxious and excited and whatever else about this, but we have time and we’re going to use it.” Steel Wing was talking to himself as much as the filly pressed into his chest. He overcame his nervousness much more quickly than she ever could have. Having more experience gave him much more control over the situation; having control meant it would move forward at a safe pace, rather than what she probably thought was okay for a first time.
“So what do we, er I- you?” So very inexperienced, Steel Wing suppressed a facehoof. “What happens now?” I remember a filly saying almost exactly that years ago. Steel Wing frowned. Not the time for that.
Coming back to the conversation he said, “Well if you wouldn’t mind, you had said you were going to do my other side?” Steel Wing lay down and presented his unmassaged side. If he was going to do this he could at least let her finished what she’d started.
The purple coated filly quickly went back to work. Her entire body was quivering with the anticipation taking away some of the pressure her hooves had applied earlier. Steel Wing sleepily reminded her to just relax, slowly drifting off with the gentle motions of her hooves guiding the way back into unconsciousness.
A quick jab to his ribs from both her hooves brought him back to the waking world. “I may be a virgin but I do know for a fact it doesn’t work if you fall asleep.” Something warm poked her knee eliciting a squeak and causing her to jump back a bit.
“Well see if you’d just kept going then it could have worked out. That being said it won’t go that way and I had that coming.” He rubbed his chin as he pondered how best to approach this.
Steel Wing rose up and looked her over noting that he was substantially more than twice her size. This was going to have to go very, very slowly.
When Steel Wing woke up some hours later he was surprised to find that a window had appeared letting brilliant, filtered sunlight into the room. The little orb had disappeared completely.
Steel Wing lazily mulled over his encounter with Frost. All in all it hadn’t gone horribly; with a grimace he remembered the two major hitches in the early morning’s activities. The most prominent being she was still snuggled up against his side.
When they had started, Steel Wing started out slowly; the foreplay went well but didn’t last very long since she had been very ready to go for an hour or so. He took it equally slowly when he first entered her. The only problem there was when he’d asked if she wanted more, she didn’t know when it was a good time to call it enough; a not so small oversight by Steel Wing. So an hour or so after what Steel Wing would have called enough for the beginner, she finally asked him to stop. This meant that when they stopped and she’d tried to leave, she was exhausted beyond the point of forming very many coherant thoughts. It also meant, and this was the greatest part of the problem, her entire hind end was numb and she couldn’t walk. This was the reason she was still right next to him.
He’d wanted her first time to be memorable and it was. Due to his size and experience however, he had stamina for days. Something she didn’t have. By the time she’d called it quits he wasn’t half way done. He’d planned for this, but when she caught on the offer to help him finish came up. Once again against his better judgment, which by that point was sitting alone in a corner knowing it would never be acknowledged, he let her. Which brought about the second slightly less prominent problem; even though he’d given her ample warning, her lack of experience caused her to freeze up without any idea what to do. Without going into much more detail her coat was a mess despite Steel Wing’s best effort to clean her off.
Still the morning’s events had helped Steel Wing relieve a lot of tension that a simple hug couldn’t have gotten rid of. He still had no idea how he was going to pull off getting her out of here and into a bath without anypony noticing. He really just hoped she’d be with it enough to teleport out of here before somepony came in.
As if the Lord of Chaos had a particular spot in his heart for causing Steel Wing grief, the door swung open. Mercy magically pushed a cart with breakfast, as well as several syringes filled with liquid that wasn’t readily identifiable. One in particular that worried him was some sort of goopy looking rainbow, stuff; he was fairly sure he’d seen it before, and it didn’t do anything good to ponies.
At her entry Steel Wing made a low groan with his throat. Frostshot being half awake mistook it for a wordless and playful grunt, she returned with a much more relaxed happy moan; snuggling in even closer she was completely ignorant of the imminent doom of the winged pony next to her.
Mercy simply stared at Steel Wing, unnerving him with her impossible to read facial expression.
“Were you respectful to her?” She said at length doing nothing to ease the tension brought on by the previous awkward silence.
Steel Wing nodded, confusion taking over in place of panic. It didn’t take long for the great and earth shattering reality to hit him: Mercy had known about this the whole time.
“Good.” She said primly waving a horn over the the wheeled cart to dispel the illusion over the syringes. They had been carrots and she had used his fear of her potential wrath to actually turn the atmosphere into that of an interrogation room. Something he thought he’d been trained to resist. This unicorn just didn’t mess around.
“So you aren’t mad at me?” He asked hesitantly.
“As long as you didn’t hurt her, no I cannot be mad at you.” She moved the cart of food up next to the bed. “Could you wake her please...” She trailed off looking over at the purple filly, “What happened to her coat?”
“Training accident.” He responded automatically, not wanting to actually talk about what happend with the mother of the filly next to him. “She’ll need a bath.” He confessed looking down at her. He gently shook her until she stirred uncurling her body and looking up at him.
“Thank you.” Frostshot said sleepily, smiling with half closed eyes. She shifted her hindlegs a few times, smiling contently when it didn’t start up that furious itching.
“I don’t quite know how else to put this. Your mother is here.” She bolted up wide eyed. Steel Wing winced while suppressing a very inappropriate laugh; the pillow her head had been resting on was in a sense glued to her head. Every part of his brain, accept of course his better judgment, wanted to find this hilarious at least chuckle. Miraculously his better judgment won out this time.
“Yes a bath is a wise idea.” Mercy agreed with an unamused expression. “Nurse Frostshot we will talk later. Get to the wash room quickly, stay unseen. Our patient will need most of the morning to recuperate from last evenings surgery.” There was no hint of resentment or quiet contemplation of different ways to cause Steel Wing harm in that nearly ominous statement, so he relaxed helping the messy coated filly off the bed.
She was a bit wobbly, but she managed to focus her magic and disappeared. Listening very carefully he managed to hear her hoofsteps slowly dying away.
“Now that that awkwardness is out of the way,” Steel Wing broke the silence and stretched his wings out fully, “What happened to my wings?”
“Yes about your wings, they may end up being an issue.” Steel Wing stared at the wall opposite him, wishing he could even pretend that bad news was not on the way. Mercy went on, “Due to the length of time those plates were attached to your wing, the magic sort of rubbed off on them. Since the plates were enchanted to close holes themselves, the magic affected your wings in a similar fashion allowing the physical wounds to close themselves along with the armor.” He could feel the bad news coming on and sure enough, “Now that the plates are gone your wings no longer heal naturally.”
“Meaning what exactly besides needing to carry around a few more healing potions?” He had expected something far worse.
“Yes healing potions are a start. In your old age assuming you get there, you will need to take in some sort of magical healing or your wings will simply rot and fall off. Your feathers will not replace themselves without the aid of magic, and it is not advisable that you have new plates fitted to your wings.”
“Why?” He said said almost angrily. He stopped himself before he yelled at a doctor, that was a mistake nopony made twice. “I mean about the last thing.” He sat back in his bed.
“There’s a good chance that if you put new magic plates on, your wings may simply become unresponsive to healing magic of any kind.”
“And that,” He began moving quickly off the bed, “Is the end of the legacy known as Steel Wing.” The world around him turned to shades of grey as the hunger he had felt upon seeing the food vanished.
Walking back towards the main room of the medical ward Corona was there to greet him all smiles.
“The stud of day rises!” She went to pat him and her hand was deflected by his wing. Much more forcefully than he may have intended but it got the point across. He moved past her into the hall.
After an hour or so of wandering the halls Steel Wing had accepted that he was lost. After running into some of the more timid of his admireres, he felt a twinge of guilt at having brushed past them with his soon to be immortalized scowl. The only relief he found in the morning was that nopony seemed to have found out what he had done for Frostshot. His mood was sour, at least the rest of the week was ruined and there was nothing anypony could do to change that. All the healing in the world doesn’t make you forget how bad a low blow hurt in the first place. This hurt deep.
The guilt he felt for being rude to well meaning fillies didn’t stop him from continuing to push past them without acknowledging them. This continued until anything and everything in the school had figured out he wanted to be left alone. So finally when learning had started and the halls were cleared, the almost broken pegasus sat with his head against the wall staring at it as if he would eventually see whatever was on the other side.
He held this position for a long time until a click-clack sound intermingled with the soft sounds of padded feet stopped close to him.
“Mercy told me.” The griffon waited for a response which didn’t come. “I don’t know what you’re feeling right now, but judging by the way your sitting I’d guess you feel a lot worse than you look.” Again no response, “At least you have your wings back.”
“Yes, and now they have no purpose.”
“What do you mean you can still fl-...” What followed was a very long silence during which Corona she had just stepped on yet another social landmine. Not one of those proximity mines. No this was the kind that you had to step off of before it would detonate. The kind where survival was near zero and you had as much time as you needed to make peace with your life.
The silence was drawn out, Steel Wing shifted to look at the miserably guilt ridden face of the normally proud griffon.
He wanted to feel sorry for sompony, somebody in the Equestrian Wasteland, but he could feel nothing apart from his head touching the wall.
At long last he chose to relieve the weight of guilty silence from Corona’s shoulders, “You know when I was still part of the Enclave I gained so much more than anypony else ever could’ve dreamed of having. The love of a perfect filly, friends too many to count, then a revalation that changed my name and life; at the time I thought that would last forever. But in three short years, I have none of that left. The only way to get any of it back would be death of ponies. Even if some of them deserve it there are enough innocent ponies that would die as a result. Not even wonderful vengeance would be worth that.” He through his head back and let out a deep, pained chuckle.
He was about to say something else, but the laughter continued. It was more maniacal than before and with a cruel edge. Steel Wing felt this laughter coming from that infintsimaly deep place that he couldn’t in a thousand years find.
Corona was at odds about what to do. SHe decided he was either close to crying and was trying to hide it; otherwise he had just snapped in which case he was probably dangerous. Without armor or weapons the combat savvy griffon knew she could take him, not without injry to herself. She also had no desire to fight a good and strong ally.
The laughter continued as his wings rose to display themselves proudly. Now Corona was more worried than anything else, she knew what that meant. At least, she thought she did. Now she was worrying he might try to mount her. The confusion was quickly replaced as the fear returned upon seeing the hysterical pegasus’ wings develop holes and begin to decay before her eyes.
By this time students and instructors alike were filling the halls, drawn by the strange and haunting noise being produced by an actual living pony. Dozens of pairs of eyes n looked on at the horror show before them. Corona was shaken but managed to snap out of it and was streaking through the halls yelling for Mercy.
Meanwhile Steel Wing continued his insane laughing seemingly unaware that his wings were deteriorating. He could now feel that strange sensation coming from somewhere far from him crawling up his throat. There was a sharp gasp from the crowd as the laughing was cut off abruptly. A black mist began pouring from Steel Wing’s mouth and began to wrap around his face and down his back, there it paused. This he could see, but it didn’t bother him as much as he thought it should have.
Corona was barely a blur as she returned carrying Mercy, who had accepted that there wa a damn good reason she had been subjected to such indignity. She saw the reason instantly upon arriving. As the last of Steel Wing’s wings disappeared Corona set the doctor down behind him.
Mercy drew back as the mist began to pour from his open maw. The instructor ponies were smart enough to identify this as some kind of dangerous magic. They quickly ushered the fillies out of the halls away from the scene.
Mercy’s horn bgan to glow as she magically probed Steel Wing trying to find the source of the black mist as well as the deterioration which she suspected were the same thing. As her magic wrapped around him the black mist arced into the air highlight multiple invisible pathways of magic back to their source, Mercy’s horn.
As soon as Mercy saw the black tendrils snaking towards her she ended her spell. The black mist was only slowed as it continued to advance on the frightened medical pony. She backpedaled down the hall with the black tendrils in pursuit.
Before long she had backed into a corner not daring to manifest teleporting spells for fear of trailing it around the school. When she had gotten to the end the tendrils’ advance had slowed to a crawl. It still reached the top of her head, beginning to swirl around her horn. She could feel dark foreign magics around her horn, but not touching it. The strange magic had evidentlly reached its limit and began to retreat. Down the hall back towards the panting Steel Wing.
The unrestrained magic had left its host and was dissipating, completely vanishing before it every returned.
The thudding in Mercy’s chest began to die away and she slowly started walking back towards where Steel Wing sat, craning his neck to look at his withers where two ridges of black mist still clung to him.
Before Mercy could speak there was a brilliant flash of light and Astra now stood among them a small amount of alarm in her eyes.
“Forgive me for my tardiness, I was away.” She quickly started looking over Steel Wing; since, the last time she saw him, he had two intact wings.
The doctor pony seemed just a little behind after her ordeal, because before she could warn her the headmare had begun to reach out to Steel Wing with her magic. Luckily for all of them Corona had seen it coming; she let out a screech and charge up next to Astra starting her considerably and breaking her concentration.
That was enough to bring Mercy all the way into the present. “Miss Astra you mustn’t touch him with your magic. What this is it’s outwardly hostile towards unicorn magic.
The message was clearly received. Corona went back by Steel Wing who was finally getting his breathing under control.
“Any idea what that was about.” She opted not to touch him because of the mist that still remained. Corona watched with a half smile as Steel Wing began to work his mouth silently, clearly going into a length description of the pain he just felt. He saw her grin and went back ten seconds to realize he wasn’t making any sound. Steel Wing gave her a bemmused look and tried to get the attention of the two unicorn mares deep in discussion.
Corona couldn’t help laughing as Steel Wing failed to produce audible words again. He made a move to try to get her to flinch, she didn’t until the black cloud on his shoulder flared out. Corona reacted by launching up to the ceiling. Steel Wing gave a satisfied nod before looking back with concern at the lingering mist.
The academy’s instructors had begun to venture back into the halls to try and assist however they could. Mercy simply told them to keep their distance.
“Hey!” Corona shouted from above, “I think he’s trying to say something, which he can’t.” She failed to suppress another snicker, Steel Wing simply ignored it now that he had their attention.
He began making motions by bringing his hooves up pursing his lips and then bending down making small movements with his lips. He did this twice and looked at the two with pleading eyes.
“Pencil and paper?” Astra asked. Already knowing the answer she conjured up a pencil and a stack of papers. Steel Wing clopped his hooves together in praise of his savior.
While he began composing messages, Autumn Heart who had only recently been notified that something was wrong with Steel Wing arrived.
“Celestia have mercy, what happened to you?” The green mare wailed upon seeing his missing wings. With an annoyed look Steel Wing tossed the first two completed pages. Autumn Heart was running up to inspect him closer. Steel Wing reared up when she got too close, in the interest of her safety Steel Wing put both hooves on her chest and pushed her away. At the end of his reach she started coming back, while complaining that this was something she couldn’t let go. Before Steel Wing dropped back to all fours the black mist on his back shot out forming into great black wings. In a single powerful motion the came together creating a great gust of wind that moved Autumn Heart very far down the hallway. Steel Wing was horrified at first but saw that she was more or less slid down the hallway instead of being toppled head over hooves. The action was enough to startle the mare and she sat where the force put her.
Steel Wing’s forehooves finally made contact with the ground again. The black mist was now completely gone. The sensation that had been slowly flooding his body quickly retreated to just outside the entrance to whatever eternity inside his body.
“Goddesses it was like being strangled without being able to pass out, my head hurts SO badly.” The first words out of Steel Wing’s mouth since this began. He reflected on this fact and found that statement to be appropriate given it was all that was on his mind at the moment.
Astra approached catiously, “Care to explain what just happened to you.”
“I have a good idea of what happened but I need to get to Armory.” Steel Wing was already moving down the hall towards where he thought the entrance was. Astra teleported in front of him.
“I would like an explanation, please.”
“Ummm,” Steel Wing didn’t know what exactly she wanted out of him. “I think I know the source of that but I can’t produce evidence that it actually exists. I guess aside from the fact that all that just happened.”
“What is this suspect source?” She was beginning to lose patience, “I need to know if my school is in danger of being damaged by untame magic. Please tell me.”
Steel Wing’s ears folded back at the implication that he may not be welcome here. “If I said ‘I think I’ve been visiting Nightmare Moon in my dreams.’ What would you do?”
Astra simply studied Steel Wing for some trace of attempted humor in his question. Her eyes widened when she found none. “Will you please come with me to my chambers.” From her tone it was clearly not an invitation it was a command. Being inside her academy Steel Wing didn’t want to start anything else, so he nodded.
Without warning Astra’s horn flared and the world was ripped away from the two of them. It was quickly replaced by the soft touch of grass. Steel Wing assumed he was dreaming again, because grass stopped existing two-hundred something years ago. To confirm that this was something close to reality, Astra was at a cabinet built into a stone wall covered in creeper vines.
She came back levitating a bottle of something Steel Wing suspected had a strong taste in addition to being alcoholic. She brought over a single glass and a pinkish potion. With one small flare of her horn the glass became frosted with ice and the bottle opened up and poured itself into the glass. The potion in the same instant was magically unstoppered and brought up to the lips of the tired looking mare.
Evidence against this being real presented itself as before his eyes Astra’s pale mottled coat turned light blue and her skin became more youthful. Her eyes changed to a cloudy pink from their usual orange-red. Her mane and tail both became a soft green. She now looked no older than Autumn Heart and was staring at him intently.
Steel Wing felt dread in the back of his mind that Astra might be after the same treatment Frostshot had received last night. The only comforts he had were that this very well could just be a dream, and the look in her eyes was not one of lust and determination, but one of serious concern and contemplation.
“I gotta ask, why?”
“Imagine if the general of an army was a colt.” Steel Wing confirmed where his imagination was with a nod. “Nobody who knew that a twelve year old was leading an army would have any confidence in a victory.”
“So what you’re twelve?” Steel Wing had gotten the point but hadn’t heard his question answered.
“No, I’m twenty seven, but some of the instructors are older than that so I use magic to make the students and teachers think that I’m the original headmare. Relics of the past can be a powerful tool. It was always rumored that my grandmother had a spell for perfect immortality.”
“Well, in general I think you do a great job running your school. So congratulations on fooling a bunch of unicorns with an illusion. And if your grandma was an immortal I’d like to meet her sometime. But really I do need to be going so if we can please get through this I’d apreaciate it.”
“Very well, and try not to tell anypony. I want young unicorns to feel like this is truly a safe and structured place.”
“Can do.” Steel Wing still felt a little worried about exactly why she had showed him her real appearance. Something about this being another misguided attempt at seduction sat in the back of his thoughts.
“No, that isn’t what I brought you here for. I’ll also be having a chat with Miss Mercy.” She started taking a sip from her very chilled beverage.
Well shit you are in my head?
“Not exactly, I’m just able to hear the surface thoughts of anypony who I bring here I’m not going through your memories at this moment in time.”
“Oh right that.” Steel Wing said aloud. He had forgotten about proving the unicorn assassins existed.
“Before we get on with the issue that potentially concerns my students, I’d like to have a look at these dreams that you think have brought you to Nightmare Moon.”
“I don’t suppose I could really say ‘no’ even if I wanted to.” Steel Wing got comfortable on the grass, a sensation that was becoming more addictive by the second. The heady smell flooding his nostrils was too good to be true. “Since grass doesn’t really grow out here where did all of this-” He sat back up and motioned all around him with his hooves, “Life come from.”
“Very slowly and with a good deal of magic.” She took another sip.
“Alright, so why don’t you do this to the rest of the wasteland, slow as it would be that’d still be progress.” Steel Wing felt his point was valid, a nod confirmed that she was in fact still able to hear his thoughts.
“To do it outside of here would take nothing short of a megaspell comparable in magnitude to the all of the megaspells used in the Balefire Holocaust.”
“So then this isn’t real then?: Steel Wing narrowed his eyes.
“Not in the sense that it’s a part of the Equestrian Wasteland, it is very much a place that exists.”
“Not following.” Steel Wing could tell his was about to feel dumb.
“First of all, there were and always have been other nations besides Equestria. Second, do you think that the stars above don’t exist because they aren’t here for you to touch?” And there was that facehoof worthy feeling.
“Point made. Now about this Nightmare Moon thing.” Steel Wing wanted to move on as quickly as possible.
“Yes, with your permission I’d like to look at your memories. Normally this would take some time, but by expending extra magic I should be able to view them more rapidly.” Steel Wing got comfortable again. “Please hold the memory of the dream in your thoughts for a while.”
“It has happened more than once?” She asked with increasing concern.
“Three times.” He said with a plaintive smile.
“What was the most recent then?”
“That would be sometime between departing the hellhound encounter arriving to the gates of your academy. I don’t remember the trip in between because I was talking with her. Or it? Does Nightmare Moon have a gender if it’s some sort of evil spirit?”
“A somewhat perceptive question.” Astra couldn’t hide her mild shock from his words. “It is hard to say, it’s also not what we’re here for.” She promptly redirected the conversation back to the more pressing issue. “If you would please try to recall the most recent encounter you had with her I think we can be done here quickly.”
Steel Wing closed his eyes and held in his mind the image of the blinded alicorn sitting in the shade of the moon. He tried to remember the conversation they had as Astra’s horn was enveloped by five different shades of a magical glow. Steel Wing could feel his head numbing as an eletric jolt went through his entire body. In an instant the feeling left him, he felt light headed but otherwise alright.
When Steel Wing opened his eyes he saw Astra laying on the ground pointing with a hoof. He followed to where the downed unicorn was pointing with his eyes and noticed a road had appeared. It was fifty feet in length and at the end was a door that had also appeared out of thin air. Astra’s eyes were rolling into the back of her head as she passed out, so Steel Wing took the hint and left through the door.
With a bright flash Steel Wing was plunged into total darkness. As soon as he felt his hooves contact something solid there was a series of thuds and crashes as multiple metal objects bounced off rock. Steel Wing was pelted by the objects as they bounced around him. They felt like baseballs being launched from pitching machines, and left welts like it too. From the darkness darkness he could see a small beam of light just in front of his hooves and dove for it as the flying metal objects poured down in waves behind him.
Steel Wing’s lunge brought him out into the light sliding on his belly aided by large amounts of various milky white, brown, and red pastes that he was covered in. When he was outside he dared raise his head to look around. He was laying on the floor of a kitchen, his cheeks turned a light shade of red from embarrassment as he looked back to see that he had just exploded a pantry full of canned goods. Several cans of sauce had burst, the most promient of which was a tomato sauce which he was covered currently covered in. Several cooks had gathered to see what the noise was. Steel Wing smiled sheepishly at them as he rose to his hooves and walked away, covered in sauces and having no idea where he was going.
One of the kitchen staff caught up with him. “Did miss Astra-”
“Yes, yes she did.” Steel Wing was a little upset with the currently incapacitated mare who got to lie in a field while he got covered in bruises and sauce. “Does she normally come out of there?”
“No, but it can happen if she sends somepony out by themselves.””
Steel Wing grunted in response and kept moving, now more confident that he was going the right way. The cook fell back and returned to the kitchen.
Some time later Steel Wing found his way back to the hall where he’d had his episode. Steel Wing encountered several of the fillies who he’d personally and ruthlessly ignored that morning. As they passed now they simply looked to the floor and stuck to the far side of the hall. That guilt was coming back in force now that he could actually feel again.
While contemplating how he was going to apologize to twenty different fillies in some way that didn’t involve sexual favors he bumped into somepony. He was relieved to see Autumn Heart a few feet away knocked in her butt and rubbing her nose. Steel Wing had in a sense won a low speed joust, aside from a small pain in his chin he was fine.
“Brick wall. That’s what that was.” Autumn Heart got back up and looked over the pegasus a long while. “Are you feeling better?”
“I’ve gotten over losing my wings. Whatever the hell happened before is still bothering me. There will be time to think about that on the way to Armory though; we’re way off our original path aren’t we?”
“Oh I have good news about that.” The green mare jumped in place several times. “The unicorns here have offered to get us somewhere twenty minutes away from Armory.”
“Oh well that’s significantly more than good news, that’s fantastic news!” Steel Wing’s entire mood was way up from hearing that.
Autumn Heart leaned closer and took a few sniffs, she drew back and arched an eyebrow, “Great, so now do you want to tell me why you look and smell like you were just thrown at some kind of cooking competition table?”
“Teleporting accident.” He pushed past her, then stopped and thought for a moment. Turning towards her Steel Wing lifted a saucy foreleg up to his muzzle, let his tongue fall out of his mouth and dragged it all the way down to the hoof, “I am delicious.” He then continued on his way contemplating just how good he would taste to a hellhound like this.
With a recommendation from Autumn Heart and some directions Steel Wing went to wash off. During their stay Autumn Heart had evidently done nothing but: shower, talk, explore, and sleep. This excursion had become a mini vacation for the green mare.
So, Steel Wing sat under the hot running water. Still anxious about liberating the slaves but finding himself unable to get away from the warm wet sensation. Steel Wing hadn’t had a proper shower in a very long time; so he watched with mild amusement as sauce mixed with layers of dirt running off of him into the drain. Having time to himself he finally let the realization that he was an earth pony sink in. He did manage to thank the stars above for his military training with energy weapons or he would have been completely screwed. Living would be more of a challenge now but he quickly came to terms with that.
Then Steel Wing heard a sound that made him cringe. The voices of two fillies entering the communal washrooms. Bathing wasn’t usually considered a personal thing, and in a school full of fillies and mares it was even less so. He hadn’t taken into account that for him being in here was the equivalent of hanging out in the ‘Little Fillies Room’.
Quickly and desperately tried to scrub the remaining gunk off of him trying to get out before they spotted him. What he didn’t need right now was two hard up unicorns cornering him in a shower. His efforts were in vain as a tangerine filly with a light yellow mane rounded the corner.
The tangerine filly simply stood staring at him and developing a slight blush. Please, no. Her friend came up behind her to get an answer to the question her companion apparently hadn’t heard, and assumed a similar expression. The other with a grey coat and black mane and tail recognized him immediately, her expression turned to one of shame. There was no way of knowing how this would play out but Steel Wing immediately assumed the worst. He felt a twinge of guilt mixed with relief as the second filly to arrive took a few steps back and looked away. One of the fillies he had refused to greet in the hallway.
The tangerine filly shook away her blush and said, “Uh, h-hi I we didn’t know anyone was in here.”
“Yeah I’m almost done.” Steel Wing said furiously rubbing his mane to get it the cleanest he possibly could.
The tangerine filly turned to see what her friend was doing, watching her shame with some confusion. It was a welcome distraction that Steel Wing used to get at his tail by putting his back against the wall. He did his best to wring it out before either of the two could see his exposed underside. When that was finished he called it good enough and turned off the wonderfully hot water. Before walking past them he shook his body violently to get the excess water out of his coat.
“It’s all yours.” He said with a half hearted and guilty smile. With that he left the increasingly awkward situation.
Between the washroom and the front gate, Steel Wing managed to encounter, by his count, twenty seven more awkward passings. Some from fillies he had spurned, others who had been frightened by his display earlier in the day.
The last awkward situation he saw before he was forced to address it was, Corona and a certain purple coated filly from the early morning hours having a very excited conversation. Steel Wing snuck closer to make sure they weren’t talking about the morning’s events. He was quickly dissapointed.
“... and it was just amazing. I couldn’t have in a thousand years guessed just what it felt like.” //// was almost dancing.
“Well kid, I’m glad you’re first time was good. That grey bastard is a good pony, even if he has magic, killer mist inside his body. Just a heads up, don’t expect every other stallion you let inside you to be like him he’s-” Steel Wing had ceased trying to hide his presence and Corona had noticed him instantly.
“Hey.” Steel Wing intoned with a look of utter disapproval.
“Hey!” The bubbly filly said happy at the chance to see her favorite stallion. Her enthusiasm faded when the look he gave her said she was in trouble.
“Hey.” Corona put in, coming to the rescue of the apparently guilty filly. “You said ‘Nopony else can hear about this.’” Pointing to herself with both thumbs she said, “Not a pony.”
Despite his annoyance he recognized that if she kept to the literal wording of the promise then any: griffons, or hellhounds or whatever other inequine thing in the wasteland, probably wouldn’t spread it around this or any filly dominated academy.
“Sure, fine. Where’s my stuff.” Steel Wing started looking around the yard.
“By the circles.” Corona pointed to a large pile of their gear. His and Corona’s armaments were laid out carefully.
The wingless pegasus sauntered over, looking sadly at the barding made to accommodate a winged form. Still he slipped into it and strapped on the leg holster for his energy pistol. He was going to need a battle saddle he realized with a grimace. Less and less free by the day. He thought to himself. Tonight, he decided, he was going to give that alicorn a good ass kicking.
Corona came up next to Steel Wing and started slippinginto her armor. “So how did that thing with the unicorn assassin’s go?” The tone in her voice said she was dancing around a potential social landmine. This time she was stepping carefully.
“Unresolved.” Steel Wing muttered.
“About your wings-“ she began.
“Don’t.” Steel Wing interrupted faking interest in a rock that resembled a heart on the ground.
“No, you need to hear me out.” Corona waited for any more denial of her right to speak her mind all the same. “I know you aren’t alright.” She continued. “I’ve had nightmares about losing my wings; I literally wet the bed once just last year because of a really bad dream involving that. You lost both your wings and are wearing this ‘I’m just a little upset.’ mask and nobody around here is buying it.”
“So what if I’m a little pissed?” Steel Wing growled.
“Good, then say so. Don’t hold shit like this in. Say you want to find a way to get them back, just don’t keep it in like it’s all that’s keeping you alive. I mean- I don’t know say you want a hug or something.” She finished with a frustrated sigh.
Steel Wing’s body wanted to shut down just then. Wanted to go and burn and break and stop moving. He let himself feel the hurt like Corona said, but it didn’t crush his desire to help the ponies trapped in Armory.
“Alright, I can feel feelings are you happy?” Tears began to run down his face. “Yeah I want my wings back, but I don’t need them to help somepony, and right now there’s lots of ‘someponies’ that need helping.” He found his determination again and wiped his tears away.
“Damn straight now get that saddle bag on and help me into this armor!” Corona barked as if addressing a peon.
Steel Wing gave her a very confused look.
“What? This shit is hard to get on by myself.” Steel Wing shrugged and began helping her. During this time Autumn Heart arrived along with six unicorn mares. Several were instructors as far as Steel Wing could tell.
“So we’re teleporting the three of you?” One of the unicorns asked.
Autumn Heart answered with a simple, “Yes.”
“If you will stand inside the center rings then we can begin.” With that she and the other five unicorns took places at points inside the outermost circle.
The three of them complied and waited. A few more tears managed to escape Steel Wing’s eyes but before Autumn Heart could ask the world turned bright yellow.
The next instant there was the resounding rumble like a low roll of thunder echoing off the walls of a cavern. The second thing Steel Wing noticed was several weapons aimed at him. As well as many, many pairs of fearful eyes looking at him.
The unicorns were shaking off their daze from casting the spell. Corona had already drawn her weapon but decided against threatening when she saw several plasma rifles aimed at her. A couple were close enough to poke her in the chest. Steel Wing began taking stock of their surroundings while the silent standoff persisted. He knew something was off when he saw two colts with horribly degraded pistols that were just under half their size, trying to protect a group of terrified fillies and mares. Looking around he saw that many of the ponies in the tightly packed cavern were in very bad shape; infected wounds, unshorn fetlocks, and emaciated figures were present in great amounts.
“Corona put your weapon down, we don’t want to hurt them.” Steel Wing said quietly. Corona gave him the ‘are you sure?’ look. Steel Wing nodded and the uneasy feeling griffon did as he had said. “We aren’t here to hurt anypony here. The unicorns from the academy didn’t think this place was occupied.” At hearing themselves being referred to, said unicorns came to and noticed the firearms pointed in their general direction. They were all visibly scared as well.
“W-what do you want then?” A young tan unicorn stallion with orange and red striped mane took a few shaky steps forward. He was by far the best off of the group, probably due to some sort of healing magic. “Wait,” something had just registered with him. “You came from the unicorn academy? So you aren’t with those raiders?”
“No, what raiders?” Steel Wing felt the atmosphere gradually begin to relax.
“The one’s out by the entrance.” Steel Wing shook his head slowly. “Oh, thank Celestia. They chased us in deeper in and we had to hole up in here. Now they’re out there waiting for us to starve to death or surrender.”
“Wait farther in? I thought this stable wasn’t even half finished.” Steel Wing looked to the unicorns for confirmation.
“They weren’t, but that didn’t stop them from digging. It’s always been a lot deeper than anypony thought. Just completely unfurnished.”
“Well I guess we’d planned to leave through the front anyways. We can clear out those raiders before we head to Armory can’t we?” Looking now to Corona and Autumn Heart. “Oh I’m Steel Wing and this is-“ The atmosphere had gone up several new levels at the mention of the slaver compound.
“Oh goddesses no. Are you slavers?” There was whimpering all around them.
The mere thought made Steel Wing’s stomach turn. The realization of what the ponies he was talking to really were almost made his heart stop. “You’re all escaped slaves.” Steel Wing’s eyes darted around the room. He guessed there were over a hundred ponies in here. “How did so many of you escape?”
Crying came from several foals now, since he had failed to deny that he was in fact a slaver. “Please just leave us alone, we don’t want to go back.” The stallion in charge was nearing tears himself as he pleaded for their continued freedom.
Now Steel Wing had to actually try to keep the rising bile from escaping his mouth. “No, goddesses no I’m not a slaver. I was- we were on our way to liberate the slaves from Armory. Somehow at least.”
Despite believing those words the crying continued and the unicorn stallion was still shaking. “Too late for that, a bunch of armored pegasai came and tore the place up. They freed all the slaves and told us never to return. They did give us some weapons and supplies but wouldn’t let us into the actual armory.”
Steel Wing’s brain shut down as one thought was being reprocessed through his mind, “The Enclave helped surface ponies?”
Corona knocked on his head to bring him back. “I think we should still head there yeah? The Enclave can’t have taken everything.”
“I don’t think they took anything at all.” The tan stallion offered. Receiving disparaging looks from the pair with a great deal of knowledge involving fighting in general. “No really, once the last of us was outside they just left, all they took was the focusing gems from the magical AA guns that hadn’t been completely destroyed.”
“You’re serious?” Corona asked incredulously.
Steel Wing’s expression darkened because he knew that wasn’t a good thing.
“Alright,” Steel Wing spoke up forgetting he was addressing a full of terrified ex slaves. “Any of you with the capability to fire a gun get one from among the ones you have.” Looking back at the two colts with rusted out guns. “Fillies and children are not to have weapons by the time we’re ready to go.” Instead of the response he shouldn’t have ever expected from non soldier ponies. Instead he saw a foal near the front of the crowd wet herself and begin to wail in response to his tone.
“You. Outside. Now.” Autumn Heart commanded. Steel Wing recognized the, ‘Replace the meanie with someone nice, gain control’ tactic and played the part of the meanie going out into a small tunnel head hung in defeat.
Corona came out and joined him. “You really need to work on that. That whole ‘Jump when I say jump.’ thing doesn’t work on things that don’t know how to jump.” Steel Wing nodded with understanding. “If you do it to me I may give you shit about it, but I get it because I know a little about where you come from. Autumn Heart might never say anything about it but it does bother her, I can tell. She is a friend, so anything else you treat like that in the wasteland is liable to treat you pretty badly too.”
“That may be the wisest thing to ever come out of your beak. At least according to me.”
“Heh, yeah you may be right about that one.” The prophetic griffon began taping the stone floor with a talon. “So, how do you feel about interspiecies sex?”
Steel Wing shut his eyes tight, opened them and looked at the griffon with his best ‘the fuck are you talking about?’ look. “You wanna follow that one up with anything in particular?”
“Would you have sex with a griffon?”
“It’s a hypothetical I’m not coming on to you.”
“Better. I don’t know if that would even work. Would it?” He cursed the fact that he was actually curious about the subject now.
“Well physically, yeah probably.” The griffon assumed a philosophical face, talon taping beak. “Oral is, as a rule, out of the question. Unless the partner is really into pain for pleasure I suppose.” She made a face at the thought. “Probably still wouldn’t really work. It is however pretty amazing all the things you can do with thumbs.” She grinned wickedly as she flexed her talons in Steel Wing’s face.
The thought of all the horrible things that could be done to his sensitive parts with those hand knives filled him with pure dread.
“Alright so speaking to the hypothetical end of things, yes I would. Realistically unless a griffon turned out to be my soul mate hell no.” He shuddered once more at the thought of the talons. “Can we talk about something else please. I don’t want this to come up again if we end up drinking.”
Corona was happy that he’d thought of it and quickly agreed to talk about something else.
An half hour later Autumn Heart came out to join them catching the end of a conversation about aerial combat. She was happy to see Steel Wing regaling Corona with his favorite fights in the sky despite the pain from having lost his wings, which was evident in his eyes.
“Alright so you have seven able bodied ponies in there, not including the us three or the unicorns. They Enclave gave them a couple plasma rifles as well as anything Armor’s guards were carrying at the time. The raiders are in the entry way they’ve had all of five hours to set up. Even though they are normally well organized it’s very doubtful they’ve had time to set up a barricade. So with some tactics we can draw them out and eliminate them without losses. Hardly anypony is related to anypony else, but bear in mind that most consider the others family. The seven going with you therefore have family, so make sure they come back.” The last of her words were very much an order. Steel Wing looked at the mare with utter shock.
“Since when did you have a grasp on battle tactics? That was some sort of amazing.” The ex pegasus captain couldn’t hid his astonishment.
She blushed lightly, “I don’t it just sort of makes sense to me I guess.”
Steel Wing simply nodded not quite registering what she said. He was still on the part where she had already formulated most of a battle plan.
“So can he order these ponies around? I think he needs it.” Corona said mockingly.
“I did inform them that you’ve lead troops into combat before. It was all I could do to keep them from shaking while they lined up.” Steel Wing could tell by her tone what she meant was ‘They aren’t soldiers and shouldn’t be treated like they are.’
“Alright bring em out here.” Autumn Heart raised an eyebrow. Right “Please and thank you.” he was careful not to use a reluctant or mocking tone.
“Can do.” She smiled and turned to retrieve the fighter ponies.
“Oh and see if any of the unicorns are willing to supply protection or healing magic to this. Pretty please.” He let a little bit of bite into the last request.
Autumn Heart nodded understandingly and went in.
She returned with ten volunteers. Two of the academy’s unicorns as well as the tan stallion. Three earth pony and one pegasus stallion. An earth pony and unicorn mare, as well as one of the colts who had intended to die for the fillies they were protecting. The last he saw and made a face.
“Autumn Heart, I would have hoped you wouldn’t try to bring children into this.”
“I don’t- what are you talking about.” Steel Wing pointed aggressively at the colt with a hoof. “Oh Snap, I told you already you are not going with us.” She herded the disgruntled red coated colt back into the common room. “Sorry I didn’t see him, and you were right to think that.” She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment.
Steel Wing brought a hoof to his face. He’d done it again. “Alright,” He looked Autumn Heart in the eyes. “I’m sorry. I’ll get better with that I promise.” Turning back to the volunteers he softened his tone. “I’m grateful and pleased to know that you’re willing to risk your lives for fellow your fellow ponies. As hard as it’s going to be from both sides; I need you to do as I say, and I’ll do my best be nice about.”
Curiously he glanced at the other pegasus’ flank. The ugly brand where his cutie mark should be told him that he was from the Enclave. The pegasus saw this and said, “See something you like?” At first Steel Wing thought reasonably that the pegasus stallion was sore about the loss of his cutie mark. He however detected a flirtatious tone added to the end.
“Er- no I was just wondering where you’d been born. Your cutie mark.” He explained sadly.
“Oh yeah okay.” The pegasus deflated visibly. Losses all around today.
The two ex-slave mares, both with yellow coats and manes, one slightly darker than the other, were looking questioningly at the weapons they’d been given. Steel Wing saw the bruises and scars on their flanks their manes had been incredibly well maintained, and made them look quite attractive. Two sex slaves who probably don’t like taking orders from a male. Good. The earth ponies he noted were all fairly confident with their firearms. He was slightly worried about their ability to see through their overgrown manes.
When he addressed the two academy unicorns the lit up immediately. “What kind of magic are you bringing into the fight?”
“I’m Peaches,” Said the first, “I can do shields, lots of shields so my friends call me Guardian Angel, or Angel for short.” Good, send the young ones. She had a sapphire blue coat with white mane. He also saw a strand of pink on her horn that went all the way to the tip.
The other was slow too slow to respond for her energetic friend. “This is Flash Fire. She likes to play with fire. Oh she has this one spell that will turn a pony to ashes from the inside out.” Flash Fire had a pure black coat, and had a dark red mane that grew over half of her face. There was a small gap in the covered half so both of her eyes were visible. She had a blue right eye and amber left eye.
“You two are perhaps the strangest pair of friends in the wasteland since I saw a hellhound riding a sprite bot.” The looks of disbelief he got from the group was exactly what Steel Wing had wanted. “It was a joke, but I like that you thought I was serious.” He gave a wide grin. It managed to get a few awkward chuckles from all but Flash Fire. She was clearly the downer of their team.
“So do we have any idea what these raiders are armed with?”
The dark coated unicorn spoke before any of the others could say no, “Standard firearms, pistols a high powered rifle, and some assault rifles. One of them somehow managed to get their hooves on some Steel Ranger power armor, has a mounted gatling gun and rocket launcher. In total there are thirteen of them and three are unicorns.” Her right eye turned black when she finished.
“Uh, How did you know that exactly?” All eyes were on her and Steel Wing couldn’t help but question how she had gained such information.
“Oh that’s an easy one! She knows a far seeing spell, it makes part of her brain shut down for a while so she won’t be talking anymore. That’s no biggie though Flash Fire is always good in a fire fight.” She laughed at her own joke and nudged her partner, before remembering that she wouldn’t laugh with her.
“Something new every second.” Steel Wing muttered under his breath. “Okay well I’m Steel Wing, this is Corona, and our whiny green one is our doctor and explosives expert Autumn Heart.”
“Why is your name Steel Wing?” The previously dejected pegasus asked.
“Because I’m a pegasus.” Steel Wing said plainly. He received many blank stares in return. “An alicorn disintegrated my wings and I haven’t changed my name yet.” More looks of disbelief but that he could deal with. Corona also gave him a questioning look. He shrugged.
“Alright let’s get moving then shall we?” Part of the group actively agreed the rest were all implied yeses. “Glad to hear it now which way are we going exactly?” Since he hadn’t actually come through here he didn’t know his way around.
Flash Fire walked past him and kept going. “Lead the way then?”
He followed behind her Corona next to him on his right. She’d gone back to walking on her hind legs and had an anti machine rifle out. He watched her grinning while loading in armor piercing rounds.
The almost giddy griffon said, “Steel Ranger armor? Sucks to be you.”
“You’re getting that look about you. You aren’t going to freak out and start shooting everypony are you?” Steel Wing asked with concern.
“Naw, Just the ones who are shooting at me.” She was distracted by the upcoming fight.
“Not what I meant. Just please don’t hurt our allies.”
“Pshhhh, That’s what the EFS is for. Hate that name by the way, but ponies made it ponies get to name it I guess.” With that she was gone lost in her fantasy.
“Hey I got a question for you.” The ex-slave pegasus took a spot at Steel Wing’s other side.
“Go for it.”
“Are you really a wingless pegasus?”
“Oh,” Steel Wing didn’t think the subject would come up again with this group. “Yeah I really am, if it helps you believe me, my special talent turned out to be weaponizing my wings.”
The pegasus’ cheeks redened as he looked back at Steel Wing’s flank, his face gained an incredulous expression as he looked back at Steel Wing. “How does a starry night sky have anything to do with your wings?”
“Well it’s more about the feathers than the sky behind them.” Steel Wing offered rolling his eyes.
“Uh, what feathers?”
At the last question Steel Wing felt his stomach lurch. He sat down and looked at his cutie mark. The three metal feathers had vanished leaving only the stars in the night sky. The world was starting to be drowned out by the sound of Steel Wing’s heart beat in his ears. A phantasmal sound of metal grinding on metal seemed to echo through the small tunnel.
He felt something tight wrap around his body. Autumn Heart was holding on to him saying something he couldn’t hear her eyes begging him to do something.
Wings: Gone. Cutie Mark: Desecrated. Disregard for the Lives of Raiders: 100 %
Steel Wing simply started moving forward, forcing the pleading green mare to let go or be tread upon. His ears folded back his expression darkened and the casing of his energy pistol cracked from the pressure in his mouth.
“Hey, Steel Wing, buddy? If we’re going with the no plan just kill the raiders thing I’m all for it. Most unplanned fights require a bit more protection in the head area though. Are you-” When he dissapeared around the corner whatever she was going to say was lost. “Is he going to be alright?”
Autumn Heart looked at the ground, “I don’t really know. The last time he was like this he just sort of laid down and stopped moving for a while. I think he may do horrible things to the raiders.”
“What makes you think that?”
Autumn Heart pointed with a shaky hoof, “He discarded his gun.”
Being incomplete meant that the farther back somepony went the less ways there were to get lost. So as it turned out, Steel Wing didn’t even need guidance back to the raider controlled area of the stable.
Without an EFS and the loud thudding of his own heart in his ears all he could do was listen for the slight off beats of another pony’s hoofsteps.
The first two he met a puny earth pony stallion and unicorn mare. She was turned away from him so Steel Wing simply crushed her partner under hoof, their difference in size took away all chance for the raider’s survival. By the time the unicorn mare heard the desperate scream and crushing of bones Steel Wing had already put his forelegs around her throat and easily crushed her windpipe. The reactionary glow of her horn lit and died in less than a second.
He discarded the corpse and walked over the crushed stallion.
A lone patrol, an earth pony mare, sent to investigate the noise. There was no response when she commanded the massive stallion coming down the hall to stop. By the time she remembered she had a gun Steel Wing was a foreleg’s length away. She quickly drew her pistol and fired just as the massive stallion put a hoof up and jammed the gun into her mouth. Steel Wing felt the bullet impact his hoof, it sunk in deep and painfully. He simply wrapped his teeth around it and pulled it out. Downing a healing potion.
By now he could hear the irrythimic sounds of raiders scrambling to get their meager defenses together. Ten Left. Steel Wing picked up the still breathing mare by her mane and dragged her with him.
At the door to a room he knew had raiders in it he tossed the body in, automatic small arms were fired. He ran in right after they started tracking the mare’s body and targeted the pony closest to the door. He slammed into the unsuspecting raider pony with enough force to drive him against a wall. Internal bleeding would have been his fate had Steel Wing not used his body to shield himself from the raiders allies; who had figured out there was something else in here after them. The meat shield wasn’t perfect Steel Wing felt several grazing shots pass by his legs one left a moderate gash in his neck. Rearing up he discarded his meatshield with enough force to knock another raider off his hooves.
That left the third a unicorn stallion who was trying to load an anti machine rifle, a shotgun discarded at his hooves. This raider clearly had no business with such a fine pieces of weaponry, as he couldn’t actually figure out how to load in the ammo. Steel Wing calmly approached him until he heard more off beats from the hall outside.
It was too late to dodge the automatic fire from the gatling gun. It was also too late for Steel Wing’s newest meatshield to scream before being shredded by the metal storm coming at him. The raider wearing Steel Ranger armor had come to put an end to this once and for all.
Before long his shield was gone; most of the bullets that hadn’t hit his shield was softened greatly by passing through, and so most of it had immbeded itself harmlessly in his armored barding. That wasn’t the case for all of the bullets, Steel Wing had put most of the body infront of his face, his lower half had multiple holes that were bleeding profusely. He could feel the woozieness from the blood loss settling in.
Still have one, two, three- Steel Wing nearly fell over as he tried to figure out how many raiders he had left. His attention was brought instantly back to the fight as a close burst of shotgun fire punched a hole through his chest.
He looked down upon the second most pathetic stallion he’d seen that day, with a wrathful gaze that would make the sun turn away. He was losing blood quickly, and before he could go for a healing potion the stallion pulled the trigger again fear in his eyes. It jammed. Steel Wing felt pity somewhere in the back of his mind towards the stallion since he knew what he was about to do. But he didn’t know, he should have known but he couldn’t think of what he was about to do. He only knew it was going to happen. The world faded into a cold darkness as he felt the mane of somepony being used to whip its owner around as a bludgeon.
When next he awoke, Steel Wing was laying on his stomach on the floor of the Stable’s entry way. He had to spit out some sort of soft piping in order to breath right. His body ached, three discarded healing potions sat around him. Something heavy stopped him from moving his right foreleg. As he tried to shake it free he saw that it was a pony stuck on his hoof. His entire body was covered in blood. Lots of it he guessed was his but he knew better than to think it all was. He looked to see what he had spit out. Somepony who was wearing hoofspikes had been forced to donate his foreleg as Steel Wing’s melee weapon. The spikes had blood and bits of flesh stuck to it. Steel Wing vomited and cried, and tried to breath in between the two. He found it very difficult to breath while crying and heaving the contents of his stomach out through his throat.
Padded feet and talons landed next to him just outside the pool of blood now expanding with vomit added.
“They had a colt with them.” Corona said without looking down at Steel Wing.
Steel Wing responded by curling up and shaking not wanting anything more to come out of his body. Or let any more news about the atrocity he’d committed in.
“The colt is okay, physically at least. He wasn’t old enough to have a cutie mark so you must’ve passed him over.” The hardened griffon tried to maintain a neutral tone. The disgust she felt for what she’d witnessed on the way here and the smell were making it very difficult not wretch between her words.
Steel Wing whimpered glad that he hadn’t turned to killing children in his fury.
“Speak up, I didn’t hear you. Oh I shouldn’t freak out and start killing everything that moves. Well What. The. Fuck. was that? Huh?” Corona finally let her anger out.
Steel Wing whimpered again. Something which the enraged griffon had had quite enough of.
“NO, we are done feeling sorry for you. What about the ponies who you just murdered.”
“They were raiders.” He said weakly.
Her talons dug into his coat as she turned him to look into his eyes. “Yeah, and you and I both know that they have families. They aren’t like the monsters out of Manehattan or Hoofington.” She released her grip slightly when she saw blood running down his neck. “After you killed that one in the power armor they surrendered. The shouted it at you and you just kept going. You chased them all down and brutalized them. All the ponies in this place could hear it. Their begging and screaming. All of them except you I guess.” She let him go and he rolled to his side.
“My wings... cutie mark.” He grumbled.
“Fuck you.” Corona punched him in the stomach. “You an alicorn or some shit like that did that to you. Not these fucking raiders who just wanted to go home to their families. They aren’t that much better than slavers with what they do, but they don’t deserve to be slaughtered while they beg for their lives.” She leaned in close beak touching snout. “Pull some shit like this again, and I’ll be stringing you along the face of a cliff by your intestines. The last thing you’ll feel is cold wind blowing against your insides.” She drew herself away from his stench. “Do I make myself clear?”
Steel Wing looked down in defeat.
“Do I MAKE. MYSELF. CLEAR!?” She punctuated each word by stomping the prone stallion repeatedly.
“Yes.” Steel Wing hissed through gritted teeth.
“Good then clean yourself up and wait outside. You’re done helping these ponies.” With that she left, quickly. Grateful to be away from the smell.
She was coming down off of rage. Most of it was from seeing what Steel Wing had done; she had also prepared herself for a fight, and some selfish part of her wouldn’t let it go that she was denied one. Any of the latter thoughts were erased when she passed Autumn Heart trying to comfort a recently orphaned colt.
“Well girl, this is what you get when you start caring about the lives of ponies.” She went back to tell the unicorns there was some cleaning to do. She’d be damned before she exposed all those other children to this horror.
Steel Wing lay there the soreness refused to leave his body and he was glad for that, he deserved it. He got up eventually and tried to wipe blood and puke out of his mane. It was a lost cause so he slowly walked up the tunnel to the Vault’s entrance.
It was late evening; the stars, though not visible through the cloud cover were out. Steel Wing was deep in thought about how best he was going to murder the alicorn who had taken not only his wings but a part of his cutie mark.
“Nightmare” as she liked to be called must have known she was on somepony’s mind as a momentary break in the cloud cover allowed a half moon to shine down on Steel Wing.
“Some things in this world I can’t bring myself to do. Wherever the hell you are isn’t this world. Wait for me tonight because there will be pain.” He said it under his breath but somehow he knew she’d gotten the message when the moon once again hid itself behind the clouds.
After pouring a bottle of water down his back and trying to wash the gunk from his mane out, Steel Wing discarded his new breathable metal shirt and turned his saddlebags into a pillow.
With a dark smile he drifted off into his dreams.
Somewhere far away from this moonlit place Steel Wing could hear a voice trying to bring him to its source. His mind was too focused on the alicorn in front of him to care who or what it was.
“We have been waiting for you to return for some time.” The Nightmare flexed her wings and folded them back. Steel Wing’s eye twitched.
“I have a few things I want to say to you.” A wicked grin spread across Steel Wing’s muzzle as he stepped closer. His rage fueled mind completely ignored the fact that he was about to challenge an immensely powerful alicorn, if the stories of Nightmare Moon were to be believed.
“There are some things I wish to say to you as well.” The alicorn was only now becoming aware of the air of hostility Steel Wing had brought with him.
“What have I done to you?” Steel Wing asked in an even tone.
“You ahve done nothing to Us.” The alicorn was now a little worried. She could see the barely contained rage sending tremors through his body. Her tone became unsure and hesitant, “Your soul has been twisted, distorted since last We saw you. What has happened?” The alicorn shifted uncomfortably. She was visibly unnerved by his building rage, but Steel Wing was too far gone to the voice in his head screaming for her body to be broken.
During this time Steel Wing had been taking stock of the Nightmare’s armor. He had barely registered that it had spikes on it when his leg muscles decided then was the time to charge.
The alicorn spread her wings out, but shock from the sudden aggression caused her to simply surrender ground to the charging pony. Less than a hoofspan away the Nightmare reared up trying to fend off the attack with her forehooves. Steel Wing simply took the hits and plowed into the alicorn knocking her on her back. Standing over her Steel Wing had murder in his eyes.
“Why do you wish us harm?” The voice that echoed through the space around them was a frantic pleading whisper. As the alicorn struggled under him as he pinned her down. Shifting farther up her body Steel Wing put his hind hooves on her splayed wings and stood up.
“You took my wings.” He brought his hooves down on her armored throat. The alicorn let out a choked yelp as he stood back up. “You defaced my cutie mark.” He came back down trying to crush her wind pipe. The magic armor had undone the dent he’d made. Again he planted both forehooves direckly on her throat. She tried to cry out for mercy, but didn’t have enough air to speak. “I will end you!” Steel Wing let loose his fury and brought his hooves down on her head instead.
The choir of voices ceased when all of the alicorns magic was directed towards not dying. “Please we can help.”
Steel Wing’s burning desire for the once majestic creature under him died away as he registered that he was beating an alicorn in hoof to hoof combat.
Once the armor had repaired itself again the alicorn sucked in air in short gasps.
“You will help me. First you will answer my questions.” The Nightmare understood it as a command and nodded sullenly.
“We wish you to know-” Steel Wing cut her off.
“Refer to yourself as ‘We’ one more time and I’ll snap your neck.” Steel Wing’s anger hadn’t died away completely, but the threat was intended to test whether he still held some power here. When she nodded again Steel Wing didn’t feel empowered so much as bewildered at the powerful creatures fear of him.
“We- I want you to know that I never meant to cause you harm.”
“Glad to hear it.” Steel Wing took a deep breath and steadied himself. “Why haven’t you torn me apart with your magic yet?”
“You are valuable to us.” Her eyes went wide. “To I- we- me! You are valuable to me.”
“I’m still valuable even though I was about to kill you?”
“You were going to kill me?” The alicorn was truly surprised.
“What did you think I was trying to do? I even said ‘I will end you.’”
“You seemed frustrated.” Steel Wing shook his head trying to find some reason to her words. He removed himself from on top of her and saw a little trickle of blood run down the plates of her armor. During his assault he had come down hard on a three inch spike on her underside.
“So because I was angry, you let yourself be my personal punching bag?”
“If it meant you would hear u- me out then yes.”
“You must be in dire need of company if you’d take a beating just to have a conversation with somepony.” With his anger drained away guilt began filling his mind with that familiar knot growing tighter in his stomach.
“Will you listen now?” The alicorn asked hopefully standing up shakily.
“No, I still want some answers.” The guilt increased as he spoke. “What did you do to my wings?”
“We- I thought that you could hear me or you would have resisted-” Steel Wing interrupted her again.
“I don’t have any magical abilities. I’m a pegasus. There was no way for me to fight that.”
“But you allowed me into your body.” The alicorn seemed to believe she was being accused of something like entering a house one would share with a roommate.
“Are you talking about that abyss the black mist came out of? I don’t even know what that is.”
“It is a door in your soul through which I may contact you.” She stated matter of factly.
“And you were going to tell me this when?”
“I was telling you at the time, I thought you could hear me.”
“All I could hear was the sound of my own laughter as my wings apparently disappeared. And then somepony who was trying to help me was chased down by that black mist. Care to explain what that was about?”
“I apologize for any trouble I have caused you. Perhaps if you would allow me to explain why you would cease being angry with me.”
Steel Wing nodded, “I guess you might be the first I should ask why you did what you did, instead of assuming you were trying to harm me.” He sat as the weight of the guilt was becoming too much for his body to support. “I’m sorry. I needed somepony to blame for what I’d just done to those raiders. Since I knew you’d already taken my wings I came after you.”
“We, have forgiven you.” She tried to retract the phrase with a hoof to her mouth but it was too late.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve done enough hurting to others today.” The majestic alicorn who’d been reduced to an object of somepony’s abuse had mixed feelings about his words.
“These, raiders? You did something to them, not long ago. Yes?” Steel Wing nodded. “We heard it, something from your soul a horrible roar. One that We have heard with more frequency in recent times. If you are its source then we truly are in need of each other.”
“That last ‘we’ was a you and I we wasn’t it. So I guess this is where I ask again: What am I to you?”
“We know and have now accepted that you are to be our herald. You will allow us to make our return to your Equestria.”
“No. I’m not going to help you bring eternal night to Equestria or help you rule over ponykind. I’m trying to help ponies not enslave them.”
“Our desires are more similar than you think.”
Steel Wing gave the Nightmare his best ‘prove it’ look.
“You wish to stop the raiders who hunt and mutilate ponies. You wish to liberate ponies that are forced to serve masters that are no better than thugs and rapists, yes?” Steel Wing narrowed his eyes, but nodded for her to continue. “We want this as well, to a point.” Saw that coming. “As long as these things are allowed to exist there will be forces other than Us our subjects shall fear. We wish our subjects to fear and honor Us alone.”
“Okay so for a while our goals overlap. After that I couldn’t help you take over Equestria. All the stomping around you’ve been doing in my soul I would think you’d know me better.” Steel Wing had adopted a somewhat condescending tone.
“Yours is the only soul that can receive me in many centuries.”
“Princess Luna was the one before me then?”
“Yes.” She could tell Steel Wing wanted more of an explanation. “Our meeting was chance. It was by pure luck that the circumstances of her arrival bred anger enough to twist her soul into compliance. It took half a century to convince her of the need to retaliate. We taught her to bide her time as We could see the time fast approaching for her return to Equestria. She had accepted that we would come as well.”
“Right but the Elements of Harmony and such.” Steel Wing had been satisfied after the mention of another twisted soul. “I want my wings back and my cutie mark restored. Beyond that I’m not promising you anything.”
“Would you take us away from here?”
“Like I said I can’t help you take over-” She raised a hoof.
“If We were to lend our power to your will, would you help us leave this place?”
Oh. “Fix whatever it is you’ve done to me then give me some time to think. I still don’t know as I trust you.”
“We accept this and understand.” She bowed graciously.
“Now if you’ll excuse me I have a lot of apologizing and washing to do.”
“When you wake We can help you clean your coat, if you desire our help.” She said stepping closer ready to send him back to the wasteland.
“Yeah, but if you could do it less painfully and without threatening anypony else that would be nice.” Steel Wing looked at his hooves. “And truly, I am sorry for my outburst. I wasn’t thinking anything at all and my anger was misguided, I hope you can forgive me.” The guilt weighing him down was likely enough to pull him back to the wasteland by itself.
Realizing that Steel Wing needed for her to be upset about it the alicorn adopted a stern tone. “Just be grateful it wasn’t somepony you could have harmed.” Her voice was still isolated to just what came out of her mouth. Her words were more than enough to make him cringe.
It could have been Autumn Heart, or Lilly. Celestia, Luna, anypony I need help. Steel Wing had gotten so lost in his self loathing he forgot about the powerful magical creature just a few feet from where he stood.
“If you would like we can begin to help you. At a later time perhaps.” Steel Wing looked at her and tried to smile.
“I’d appreciate that, if you think you can stop it from happening again.”
“We, do not know what we will be able to stop you from doing. Your will is your own and our guidance will only take you so far. Still if it is important to you then it is important to us, and We will try.”
“Thank you. If you could please send me back I need to make some apologies right away.” The alicorn did so without another world, a quick flash of magic and Steel Wing was back in the wasteland.
Another momentary break in the clouds allowed the moon to see Steel Wing, and vise versa. He laid their a while before he noticed Autumn Heart had lain down a few yards away.
Steel Wing stood up, a bit too quickly and stumbled. The sudden movement grabbed the still awake mare’s full attention she too got up and looked to make sure she wasn’t under attack.
Autumn Heart saw the pain in Steel Wing’s eyes. She could also see something that was likely the cause of the pain, she saw his fear. There was no question that he was scared. Even the hardened combat veteran knew, and he also knew there was nothing he could do to hide it.
Steel Wing still kept his tears in check when he spoke. “I think I need to find somepony else to help you finish your delivery.”
“What?” Autumn Heart took a few steps closer to get within a better hearing range. Her mind didn’t quite believe what the ears had heard. “Why would you dump me on somepony else’s hooves? You’re more than capable and I already know you.”
“I don’t want to burst your bubble there but I am not a good pony. I’ve tried to be, I’ve tried to do better since I met you but I just can’t. Whatever broke in me two years ago is never going to fix itself, I’d be better off back home where I only hurt ponies who deserved it.” Autumn Heart saw him going on the downward slope towards depression. She wasn’t going to let it happen.
“No.” He looked at her. “No you are not going back there, EVER. I’ll burn the whole thing down if I have to but you will not go back to that. You’re far more able to help everypony in Mexicolt, much more than anypony else I’ve ever known. You are NOT going to waste that sitting alone pretending to protect ponies who happen to pass by your range of sight. You can do too much good for me to just let you do that.”
“But I don’t want to hurt you. I could have today and I wouldn’t have even remembered it.” Steel Wing made a feeble attempt at dissuading her from keeping him around.
“Do you think that something like that is going to go away because you sit alone all day?” Steel Wing opened his mouth to respond but she continued. “Absolutely not, what you need is the support from somepony who cares. If it has to be me so be it.” She came even closer to him and managed to tower over the pony almost twice her size. “I am not going to be your mother. This is going to be Tough. Love. ” She stepped away from him quickly as the putrid smell that clung to his coat violated her senses.
Steel Wing felt something shift in his chest. The strange sensation from that portal in his soul was the tell tale sign of the Nightmare’s magic coming.
“Now is not the time- oh who am I kidding just get it over with.” Steel Wing had temporarily gone from self loathing to exasperation as the black mist began to work its way through his body. “You may want to stand back.” He said nodding to Autumn Heart.
The black ridges on that had shown up at the end of his previous episode came into being again. This time he could feel them touching his coat. It felt like thousands of tiny grains of sand being poured onto him, slowly gaining weight as it collected on his back. At the same time it began to come out of his mouth, also slowly carefully he could still breath and was very aware of what was going on. He suppressed a giggle as it tickled his muzzle and tongue.
Once the dark vapor had fully coalesced it formed a cloud around Steel Wing’s body. A new sensation hit him as the black particles clung to the dried bits of bodily fluid that covered Steel Wing from head to hoof. He felt as the filth was pulled from his body falling to the ground before disappearing in a wisp of black dust. When his coat had been cleaned the cloud went to join the ridges that had continued to steadily gain mass. His entire back went numb as the he felt the weight on is back nearly triple, then it was gone. Steel Wing took in a few unsteady breaths as he looked to see what had been done to him.
There reflecting moonlight into his eyes were a new pair of brilliant midnight purple wings. A sheen similar to his mane and tail. The feeling of wings was very familiar, yet these felt different somehow. Steel Wing felt his heart begin to pound away in his chest as he searched for an upright surface. He could no longer hide his excitement as he ran part way into the tunneled vault entrance. He extended his wings to their full length and broke into a gallop down the tunnel. Sparks flew as his glorious, new, strong, metallic yet skin and bone wings cut along the tunnel walls.
Joyous laughter filled the unfinished vault making all of its inhabitants look up with concern. The laughter was infectious and the looks of concern where replaced with small smiles. Now they had a reason to smile and to be happy. They were finally allowed to feel that they were safe and truly free.
Foot Note Level Up!
Steel Wing - Level 10
New Perk Added:
Blessed Wings of the Goddess - Your wings were taken and given back by the Nightmare herself. While retaining the feel of normal feathered appendages, these new wings act as though armored by enchanted plates, allowing them to cut with masterful precision. They can also be used to reduce damage from attacks made against you. You are now a whole and healthy pegasus.
Magic of the Nightmare - At night you may ask the alicorn known as Nightmare for assistance. Depending on the phase of the moon this assistance may be great or little. Beseeching the Nightmare repeatedly will be costly and may result in the destruction of your soul.
Autumn Heart - Level 8