Trotting down the gravel road, Luke Flames’ head was facing forward, his younger brother close by his side. The elder was leading the way to an acquaintance's abode in Ponyville, as he had a couple of times within the past year. His younger brother, Night Crescent, had followed him on several occasions, but was not quite familiar with the route yet. Luke levitated a briefcase as he trotted on. Night trotted on with a face that said he wasn’t paying enough attention to his surroundings, but was paying just enough to know if his brother spoke, or if there were any obstacles in his way.
Night looked up at the clear blue sky, wondering if the invasion would arrive much earlier than the two brothers had anticipated. Only a few clouds floated by in the sky, a few pegasi lazily flying about in the skies.
The last visit they had paid to their friend was roughly four months ago, and even then, they had set an appointment. Their friend, who refused to talk much about his work, was always a sort of busy fellow. Didn’t really take time out of his schedule to meet with friends. Luke didn’t mind. He and his younger brother have jobs as well, though they are much more open about it. Luke was given a specific term to call their friend, and he had complied, not wanting to question their friend’s wish. Scholar.
Scholar hadn’t been living in Ponyville longer than Luke and Night had. He’d moved to Ponyville from Canterlot a couple of years ago, for what reasons, Luke and Night didn’t know. Night would sometimes joke that the tax in Canterlot was high enough to force the ponies out, to which Luke would just grin and shake his head.
Luke was talking.
“Hopefully Scholar will be in. It’s been too long since we last met now, haven’t we?” Luke shook his head, making his fiery orange mane swing around, narrowly hitting Night. For a unicorn with a dark grey coat, some ponies consider it weird when they find out he had such a lovely mane colour. It was as if his mane gave off a friendly glow, even when his coat seemed to show otherwise. With a torch and a compass as a cutie mark, Luke was more interested in pyrotechnics, which was weird considering the compass part of his cutie mark.
But to Luke himself it made a lot of sense. He would normally try out his experiments in the direction of the south, in which the compass on his cutie mark was pointing. Luke believed that by testing out experiments in the direction of the south, which was in the same direction of the southern cross, would bring extra luck. Another thing that some ponies found friendly were his hazel eyes that seemed to bore and implant friendly images into them. Which was more or less true considering how friendly Luke was.
Night nodded. He had followed on their last trip, and knew that four months really was a long time. Their last trip was mostly to follow up on current events at the time, and today they were visiting because Luke wanted to show his newest pyrotechnics. Night had no idea how Luke had learned his pyrotechnics skill from, but then considering how Night had never visited his brother that often while he was out learning, he didn’t ask. Unicorns were able to accomplish a lot of things, but this didn’t dishearten Night.
Night was a pegasus with a wavy mane the colour of navy-blue. Like his brother, his mane colour was a contrast to his coat colour, which was dark orange. Night didn’t mind being looked at strangely. He would just shut his dark green eyes and pretend that nothing offensive was said or done. Being the planner type pony, Night didn’t talk much. He only responded to a conversation instead of starting one. If he were in an argument, however, he wouldn’t hesitate to pull out all his facts should they be needed. With a blueprint for a cutie mark, Night would often help out with his brother’s requests to make blueprints. Numbers, angles, volumes, ratios. All were confusing when not given assistance with.
Night didn’t mind. Even though neither of the two brothers could see eye-to-eye most of the time, they would still have each other’s backs, no matter what.
“Hey Luke, is Scholar really in?” Night asked.
Luke shrugged. “I wrote a letter to him about....four days back, I guess? He had replied immediately, saying that he couldn’t wait to see what I had in store.” Luke snorted. “Scholar was never this excited before. His excitement is probably more than the time I brought over my designs for the mobile firing device we’ve been working on. So I’m guessing he’s probably going to be in later.”
Night nodded. He hoped that Scholar was in. They might have missed out a lot in the past four months. Although it was a regular thing for Luke and Night to go and visit ponies and catch up on the latest news, they never seemed to be as pleased as they usually are when they meet with Scholar. Some of the topics they’d talk about would get out of hoof almost immediately, and some would continue on the same track it had been on.
The streets of Ponyville were barren compared to the other days, where there wasn’t a threat of an invasion. Even so, they managed to pass by a few ponies along the way. Night would merely nod and smile at anypony that passes him by, regardless of whether or not he/she notices.
Luke, on the other hoof, would greet them with either a “Hi!” or a “Oh hey there!” followed by a wave of a hoof.
The marketplace was a bit crowded, but then again, it was good to see other ponies out and going about their lives. There were stalls selling different items, ranging from fruits and vegetables, to flowers and seeds, right down to rattan furniture.
However so, Luke and Night weren’t going to go through the marketplace to reach their destination. Scholar’s abode was just near by the marketplace, about two or three houses away, separated only by a small gutter, which led to a storm drain that led into the sewage system beneath Ponyville. The sewage system was linked between cities all over Equestria, making the overall length longer than all the train tracks in Equestria set together. The sewage would then flow to the sea, where the saturated water would quickly dispose of any harmful materials that could potentially be found in the sewage.
Scholar’s house was a single-story house, flanked by another two that looked the same, giving Night and Luke the impression that they might have come to a housing estate during their first trip here. There were potted plants on his window sills, slowing but surely wilting away, which was strange for a unicorn like Scholar. He was close to immaculate when it came to his environment. Night sensed something was off.
The streets slowly emptied as Night knocked on the maple wood door. The windows were tinted, no doubt by one of Scholar’s many spells, but it hadn’t been tinted the last time Luke and Night came by. No response came, and Night rapped a little harder on the door. Luke and Night waited, but still there was no indication of anypony inside the house. Night tried the door handle.
Unlike most unicorns who fit keys into locks using their magic, Scholar had used another way of gaining entry to his house. Instead of a lock, there was just a simply hole in the door, one that could have a hoof put into and a pull a lever, which would then unlock the door. Night had seen Scholar use this lock a couple of times, but never really asked how it worked. He put his hoof inside the hole, and pulled the lever. The sound of the door unlocking convinced Night that he was done, and he withdrew his hoof.
Luke nudged the door open and stepped inside. Night stepped in after Luke, and was met with something out of the ordinary. The house was a mess. The kitchen wasn’t in that bad a condition compared to Scholar’s room. His room had an overturned wardrobe, its contents strewn all over the floor. The glass window in his bedroom had shattered, the glass littering the area around the floor, allowing ample sunlight into Scholar’s room to reveal that the room wasn’t occupied by anypony.
The kitchen windows were still intact. The kitchen floor had several boxes that looked as if they had been thrown. A couple of the boxes were empty, while a few had what Luke and Night weren’t expecting to find. Inside one box, amidst the styrofoam puffs, was a crossbow, along with several of the darts. However, this crossbow was much larger, designed for unicorn use, mostly because of its added weight. The crossbow had a drum, plugged in from the bottom near the trigger. At the back of the crossbow was a little gas canister. This crossbow didn’t use propulsion via strings to fire, but rather gas.
Night and Luke exchanged looks, which went from confusion to fear. “Weird for Scholar to have something like that, isn’t it?” Luke asked.
Night merely shrugged. “Well whatever went down, looks like Scholar isn’t here.” Night opened another box, which produced a much different weapon, along with a note. Luke’s eyes lit up at the sight at one of the weapons he had shown Scholar some time ago. However, the weapon was much lighter, and simpler compared to Luke’s design. The design of the weapon was simple, and was to be placed upon the base of the wing, which would rapidly fire a short burst of projectiles, presumably the darts used for a crossbow if Scholar had used Luke’s design. In Luke’s design, the trigger was held in the mouth. Scholar’s had the wire that would coil around the forehoof, where it would be attached to a grip and a trigger.
“I don’t like this feeling of snooping around Scholar’s stuff when he’s not around. I’m gonna wait outside, if you don’t mind.” Before Night could say anything, Luke went back out the door. Night sighed. Night took the note out of the box and began reading it.
Dear Night and/or Luke,
I know that I said I would be here by the time you guys come by, but there is something critical that i have to attend to. You’ve been aware of the current assaults on cities, right? Consider this packing up early. Besides, I have some people to take care of for the time being. I left you and your brother some tools to use, should you be able to get in. Luke, if you’re reading this, I would like to thank you for your design for the mobile firing device, which would normally be called a gun, but the device is too unique to be called a gun. I modified your design a bit and came up with this prototype. Tell your brother to use it, he’s going to need it soon.
The griffons will be here soon, gentlecolts, so I will take my leave here. However, I might just meetup with you two before the battle comes to an end. -Scholar
Night crumpled the note, and threw it into one of the empty boxes on the floor. He was just about to take the mobile firing device out of the box, planning to put it on, when a projectile broke through the glass window in the kitchen. Night barely had time to roll to his right when the glass fragments rained onto the floor.
Night got up and brushed himself off as more projectiles peppered the outer wall of the kitchen, several more managing to get through the hole that was once the glass window. Night knew that if he didn’t react quickly, Luke was going to lose a brother. Diving into another barrel roll, Night wanted to make sure he got his hooves onto the mobile firing device before he was hit. The sound of weapons, presumably guns, discharging could be heard outside the house, and the sound of ponies scattering was evident. Luke was nowhere to be seen as Night tried to fix the mobile firing device onto his wings. One of the potted plants on the windowsill outside disintegrated as a projectile went through it and the tinted window.
Night heard a grunt and a thud outside the house, and assumed it was his brother, Luke. Night wanted to go out and check on his brother’s condition, but in his current state of confusion, he wasn’t sure if that was a good move. Securing the straps of the mobile firing device on his wings, Night coiled the wire around his forehoof and gripped the grip and the trigger. Night decided against going out, and retreated into Scholar’s room. He closed the door, only leaving a small gap to see what was going on. Outside, there were a couple of griffons, one with a beret, and the other with a messy, feathery head and Luke, lying unconscious on the ground, blood running out of his nuzzle. The guy with the beret barked an order.
“Take his briefcase! It might have information that could hinder our operation!”
“But this is the last city to conquer, how can one measly mule like this guy hinder our operation?” There was a short silence before the griffon in the beret lifted a claw, and fired a round into the other griffon’s head. A sharp gasp elicited from the griffon and he collapsed. The unmistakable colour of blood started pooling at the griffon’s claws.
“You’re not here to ask questions. You’re here to follow orders.” The griffon with beret called another four griffons over and barked even more orders. “One of you get rid of the body, another one bring this mule and his intelligence. The two of you, search the house. There’s another pony we’re looking for, and we’re not leaving without him.” Night’s eyes widened as they dragged his brother and the body of the griffon away. The one with the beret disappeared from view, and the two ponies assigned to search the house smashed the front door open. Splinters of wood sprayed all over the floor as the remains of the door crashed to the floor.
One of the griffons stepped into the kitchen as the other made his way toward Scholar’s room. Night crawled under the bed and used some of the clothes to block his presence. He knew from numerous tests with Luke that the projectiles fired from Luke’s mobile firing device design was enough to puncture the bed’s wooden frame, but he wasn’t sure if it was enough to kill the griffon. Night’s hoof tightened around the grip, as the griffon nudged the door into the room slowly. A voice that spoke made Night’s blood run cold.
“I know you’re in here somewhere, Scholar... Come out now and everything will and can be discussed.” The griffon’s feet moved across the floor, forcing Night to move his wings around to adjust his angle of fire. The griffon checked the wardrobe, pulling out more clothes and throwing them onto the floor, hoping to find something. He was just about to empty the whole wardrobe when his friend came in. He hefted something in his hooves.
“Look what I found. You think this would be worth giving to the commander?”
The other griffon tapped his claw against the wardrobe as he said, “Yeah...maybe you should. This could be modified for our purposes.”
Just as the two were about to leave, they paused a moment at the door, and scanned the bed room one more time. Night realigned his angle of fire. The moment the two griffons turned their backs to head out, Night pushed the trigger.
The griffons didn’t have time to turn around as two streams of darts fired out of the mobile firing device, breaking through the wooden bedframe and peppering the two griffons. One griffon took a dart to the throat as he turned around, followed by another one to the right eye and another one to the side of his neck, while his friend was propelled forward from the sudden attack. As he flapped his wings, planning to escape, he realized too late that the weapon he found in the box in the kitchen was hindering his flight when three darts penetrated his right wing. As the griffon went down screaming in pain, the darts that penetrated his wing started ricocheting around the room, before two of the darts penetrated his side, embedding themselves into his heart before finally stopping. The griffon wriggled around on the floor as he and his friend died from blood loss
Night crawled out from under the bed and rushed over to the griffons. The griffon that had took the weapon from the kitchen wasn’t moving, but his friend was still holding up a claw to his neck where the dart had cut into, trying in vain to stop the bleeding. Night put the griffon out of his misery as he raised his forehooves into the sky, and descended it upon the griffon’s head.
The sound of bone crunching under Night’s hooves made Night feel nauseated. He hadn’t killed anypony before. But today, he had killed two griffons. Night felt good, but at the same time he felt sick to the stomach at what he just did. The griffon briefly held his claw up to form a thumbs up, as if saying, “Thanks for putting me out of all this pain.” before succumbing to his wounds.
Night ran out of the house to see whether his brother was still around, or if that....bastard with the beret was still around. Neither were around, but he could see a few griffons scouring the city. A couple of griffons were scouting the area near Scholar’s house, so Night ducked back inside. As the pressure from the sudden change of events began to sink into Night’s mind, he started wonder, what the fuck is going on?
Without thinking, he went back inside, hoping to find any weapons on the griffons that he could use. Night found weapons that could only be gripped with claws and cursed. The weapons the griffons used were not the least surprising to Night. It was their existence that surprised him. It was like an OSS pistol glove, only modified to be used on claws. Night couldn't use them. So the next step he did was probably an important step, though the blood would obviously give it away.
He hid the bodies of the griffons.