A crossover/HiE writer whose own distractions with the internet ended up with him running into ponies. And now he's a fanfiction writer.
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"Every time I look at his face, he seems uglier than he was before," Mendoza said, nodding at the picture of Whisper hanging on the wall. The paper was suspended with a combat knife stabbed straight into Whisper's forehead.
"How the hell do you even tell? I mean, no offense to our buddies here, but all the griffons sort of look alike," Pastor said.
"There's a tasteless joke in there somewhere, but I don't think I'll touch down on that," Mendoza laughed. "Anyway, it's been two days now. When are we going to strike?"
"Whenever Scarclaw gives the go-ahead," Raymond grumbled, walking into the bunks. "The worst fucking part about staking out on a guy is waiting for him to actually do something. You wait, and wait, and wait, and then when you end up blinking, he's slipped through your fingers."
"Problems with Fellwyre?" Talbot said.
"Problems?" Raymond repeated. "No, I wish there were problems. The guy's gone and cooped himself up in his room the whole time, doing nothing but reading books. Books that he has the guards bring down from the library after they check it to make sure there isn't anything hidden in them."
"Maybe he's not actually a spy, or something?" Mendoza said, sitting down on his bed as it groaned against the weight of his kit. He picked his helmet up off of the nightstand and began checking the crosscom suite attached to it. "You never know."
"He still gives me bad vibes. I just know he's hiding something."
"Worry about that later, Scope," Talbot said. "We have more important things to focus on. Scarclaw has notified me that the attack is to begin tonight. We'll be attacking as soon as the riots reach full pitch in the remaining districts, and then we'll move out as they redirect the guards to other areas."
"Are we going to be trailing the Imperial Guard force on foot?" Pastor asked.
Talbot shook his head. "Negative. They'll be using wagons to expedite our travel." He pulled out a map of the palace and surrounding buildings, pointing at a small alleyway just right off the main street near the main gates. "They'll be parking the wagon here, and that's where we'll be getting off the wagon and hooking up with the primary attack force."
"That gate's going to be locked. They have any plans to deal with that?"
"They already have plans in place. Scarclaw assures me that he already has something in mind, and to just focus on the primary breach-and-enter for the palace itself. I trust you gentlemen have been checking your equipment?"
"Checked, double-checked, and triple-checked," Mendoza said. "We're ready to move at the drop of a dime, boss."
As if on cue, the door opened and Snowfeather entered. "Ghosts, my uncle has given the order to start the attack. Bloodfury wants the strike force to rally in the warehouse upstairs. He's prepared a wagon for transportation for the Ghosts, and he also told me to remind you all that you're on discretionary stealth until you reach the inside of the compound."
"Yeah, I'm going to need a layman's version of that," Mendoza said, pulling over the balaclava over his face. Finished with the diagnostics on his crosscom, he put on the tactical helmet and locked the chinstrap.
"We're pulling stealth until we make it into the secret compound inside the palace. Until then, we can't be seen due to risk of non-involved bystanders and the palace staff. Is that good enough?" Talbot asked.
Mendoza gave a thumbs-up. "Crystal clear, sir."
Raymond and Pastor followed suit, readying their MR8s and giving affirmative nods to Talbot. The captain locked his own helmet into place, blue lights appearing on his visor as the local crosscom systems activated, linking all their suites together. "Then let's go," he said.
The wagon squealed through the streets as it passed through another courtyard filled with combatants. The air was thick with the stench of smoke as several nearby warehouses and guard posts burned, painting the light of the city with an unholy red tint.
"Let's go! Move it out! Strike teams five and seven, initiate assault plan! Get those gates open!" they heard Bloodfury hiss from outside. "The rest of you, get into positions and prepare to storm the grounds! Ready blades and check your armor! Ancestors guide you all!"
"Ancestors guide us all!" a number of Imperial Guard responded.
The clank of metal could be heard as Bloodfury opened the back of the wagon with a thud. "Here we are, Ghosts. I have two of my strike teams about to infiltrate onto the walls and open the gates. As soon as they do, we will charge an attempt to take hold of the courtyard. From there, Leret will be leading the palace strike team and you will head inside alongside them to look for Whisper and his father."
"Just like what we went over," Talbot's transparent form said. "Get back to your soldiers, we'll be ready to enter as soon as you are. Let Leret know that we'll be following him inside the palace even if he can't see us."
"Will do. Good luck to us all, Ghosts," Bloodfury said. Warily looking up and down the street, he quickly made his way downwards back to where his griffons were stationed, surprisingly agile despite his heavy adorned Imperial Guard armor.
"We're Ghosts, we don't need luck," Raymond said.
"Cut the gung-ho, Scope, we have a job to do," Talbot said. They stacked up on the corner of the building, waiting for the gates to open as the lines up ahead were filled with shifting griffons. Soon enough, several griffons glided across the sky and silently landed on the walls of the palace gates, quickly dispatching the guards with ease and opening the gate with the mechanism inside the tower.
"Imperial Guard! Advance!" Bloodfury shouted.
"Keep it low, keep it quiet," Talbot said. "Trail them in, but don't get caught in a fight. Let them do the muscle work." They broke out of their cover and began advancing down the road.
The griffons shouted their war cries as they began to storm inside. Guards from inside the palace and the nearby barracks were spurred into action. Both sides clashed in the middle of the courtyard as the infiltration teams brought out their crossbows to eliminate any stragglers. The palace guards' swings met only refined steel as the Imperial Guard's training quickly proved too much for the magistrate defense forces.
"No, please, I yield! Please, let us live!" one of the guards shouted, tossing away his weapon and bowing before one of the Guard.
"Orders, sir?" the Guard asked Bloodfury.
"The sides were made clear long before this conflict even began," Bloodfury said. "Like many below under Strongbeak's rule, he serves out of fear. Tie him up and hang him upside down in the wagon storage later, along with any other who wish to surrender. We cannot risk them getting out and sending word for reinforcements. The matter of their honor, however, shall be decided upon later."
"As you wish, sir." The Guard immediately bludgeoned the prisoner's face with the end of his spear, immediately knocking him out with a single sure blow and returned to the battle.
"Can't argue about their efficiency," Raymond said, as the Ghost team quickly made their way to a hefty pile of firewood near the inner entrance of the palace walls.
"Walls, clear!" a member of the infiltration team said.
"That's your cue, Scope. Take up position in the highest point in the gate towers and maintain guard. The rest of us will be heading inside and dealing with Whisper ourselves." Raymond nodded and immediately went into the doorway across to their left, heading up the stairs into the towers with his sniper rifle.
Bloodfury finished off the last guard with a single blade through the unfortunate soldier's chest. The rest of the Guards squared off on their current situation, eyeing up the walls, the courtyard, and the palace that sat right in the middle of it. A number of them on the outer flanks of the attack force began to search the rest of the premises for any hiding enemies.
"Leret! Grab your team and take the palace!" Bloodfury shouted. "The rest of you, take up positions and close those gates! No one gets in or out without us knowing about it!"
"That's our call, let's go," Talbot said. Maintaining their hasty crouch, their shimmering forms were obscured by the light layer of smoke as they quickly managed to catch the back of Leret's team just as they broke down the doors and ran inside. Several screams rang out within as they ran into the palace staff.
"P-please, don't hurt us!" a female shouted, huddling fearfully in the corner to their right as they entered with a number of other servants. Their eyes darted between the Guards as Leret's team charged through the halls on their way to the magistrate's office.
"Here's the bookshelf, sir!" Talbot heard one of them say from within. There was a unified grunt as they pried the secret doorway open, followed by a shaking thud as they let the object tilt and hit the floor.
"Captain, are you in here?" Leret asked.
"I'm here, Leret. Proceed as planned," Talbot said. He uncloaked as he walked into the room with Pastor and Mendoza at his side. "Whisper will be taken down."
"Understood, sir. Imperial Guard! Prepare to storm! Captain, it would be best if you and your team could stay as close to me as possible."
"Affirmative, Leret. Anvil Squad, ready weapons, we're going in hot."
"Ready and waiting," Mendoza said, stretching his shoulders as he brought up his MR8 into the low-ready position. "A three-man team should be more than enough with all these guys at our side."
"Remember, the elites are going to be wearing heavy armor, so aim for the head," Talbot said. "Despite our weapons' armor-piercing capabilities, I'd rather not chance in a close-quarters encounter whether or not all that griffon plate can be penetrated, and their helmets will most likely have less protection than the rest of their armor."
"So put 'em right between the eyes," Pastor said. "Sounds easy enough."
"Alright, Captain, let us proceed into the compound," Leret said. They ran forth inside, along a downwards-angling hallway and into the depths of the maze underneath the palace. Much like the prison base in Ghastly Gorge, the inner areas were filled with hallways and connected rooms. According to the map, Whisper was hiding in the furthest-most room, but they couldn't go straight for him without drawing the attention of the guards, so speedy elimination was their primary objective.
They entered several rooms on their way down the hall, only to move on when it was revealed that they were entirely empty. Most of the guards had either been called into action out in the city, or were eliminated in the clash in the courtyard, it seemed.
"Seems a little bit too quiet down here..." Mendoza said.
"I agree," Leret said, taking a moment to flex his arms, relieving himself of the tension of holding his hefty sword. "I had expected far more resistance when entering."
Passing through the doorway leading to the prison rooms, they realized that they had spoken too soon, as a line of elites stood waiting for them. Their armor, while as cumbersome and intimidating as the Imperial Guards', had a darker black shine to it compared to the Guards' red.
"You will go no further, rebels!" the lead guard shouted. He was met with burst of gunfire to the forehead, piercing through his thin eyeguards, as Talbot took the initiative and fired before the fight began. Leret gave out a battle cry and charged the elites, his own griffons following him into combat as the Ghosts took up positions on the sides and quickly dispatched any targets in their line of fire.
"That went well," Talbot said. "You Imperial Guards sure know how to handle yourselves despite those long blades and spears and heavy armor."
"And you have good foresight," Leret said. "In accordance with griffon honor, none of these traitors were to leave the grounds alive unless they surrendered. It's nice to know that another race isn't so keen towards negotiations during battle as we are."
"It was pretty clear-cut that this was only going to end in a fight. And they're Strongbeak's elite, I don't think they're particularly inclined to surrender."
"That is true. Soldiers of the Bastion are resilient, and extremely prideful. I should know, as should most of us, since many of us used be part of them. A shame that this will now sully their honor for future generations to come."
"Then the sooner we put Strongbeak in his place, the sooner we can restore them to honor." Talbot stepped aside as another Guard walked past him to examine the dead bodies on his side of the room.
Leret nodded thoughtfully. "You speak like a true griffon... it would be interesting if the remainder of your kind should make contact with Equestria. Certainly, I'd wager that our similarities would more than make up for differences, and griffons are always eager to speak with non-griffons who share new worldviews and cultures."
"Thanks, but no thanks. I'd say we're plenty caught up with our own wars, thank you very much. Besides, I believe we've overstayed our welcome for far too long now. We're just helping the Equestrians before we get sent on our way... or at least I hope so."
"As you wish. Now, we've tarried long enough, let us continue."
"What's the sitrep downstairs, boss?" Raymond asked.
"We just cleared a room full of hostiles. No sign of Whisper or Leret's father. The holding cells are completely empty, so we're expecting the worst," Talbot responded.
"Roger, sir. Will continue guard topside until you're ready." He raised his eye from the M107's scope and scanned the main street and the skyline in the distance. There were no signs of approaching forces, and fighting was still in the air as the sound of a building crumbling rattled in the distance.
"I assume everything's going as planned?" Bloodfury asked, coming up the stairs behind him.
"As well as it can be." His shimmering form shifted slightly as he made himself comfortable in his prone position. "I certainly hope nobody gets any funny ideas and tries attacking us. This weapon is made specifically to tear infantry apart, armor or not."
"I'll have to take your word for it... it certainly does look fearsome." Bloodfury eyed the magazine. "Are the projectiles stored in there?"
"They are. If you can't already tell, they're pretty big..."
"Almost as big as my claw, actually... must be quite fearsome if such a thing can tear through a body with no trouble."
"Well, we're pretty efficient with that... that's why these were invented, after all. There's never a shortage of weapons in our world."
"To be able to perfect war technologies to that point must be fearsome indeed... wait, did you see that?"
"I don't see anything, and my visors can detect movement at a long distance. Sure it wasn't just something out of the corner of your eye?"
"Perhaps, but I could have sworn I saw a griffon flying off towards the northern gates a moment ago. Ah, nevermind, it was probably just the smoke messing with my vision."
"That's probably it. Hard to tell, anyway, and from the looks of it, all the griffon air units are already caught up on the ground. Even if that was a griffon, it wouldn't be really good of him to be fleeing from a battle, right?"
"You are correct. I should return to my rounds now. It would seem that Whisper's guard seems to be lax this time around... perhaps too lax. Maybe we shall see why in due time," Bloodfury said, folding his wings close to his body as he descended the stairwell.
Raymond looked back through the scope scanning the northern wall of the city. He barely caught the sign of movement, but it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, obscured by the falling ashes and the rising smoke beyond. He shook his head; perhaps he was seeing things now, too.
"There's nothing down here. What the hell's going on?" Pastor asked, as he slammed another cell door shut. "All these prison cells, and nothing... or rather no one in them. You'd think a paranoid bastard like Whisper would have these cells filled to the brim with probable traitors and turncoats."
"Whew, you smell that?" Mendoza said. "I've been around the block a few times before, but that's the smell of death, and lots of it. I'm pretty damn sure I'm right when I'm saying that it comes from this last cell door."
"Then let us see," Leret said, cleaving off the lock with a single strike. Sheathing his sword, he opened the door as a rush of odor bombarded his nostrils. He put an arm up against his face and quickly slammed it shut. "Now we know for sure," he coughed. "Leave them. We shall return later and give the unfortunate a proper burial. Until then, we move on."
"Are you sure your father isn't in there?" Talbot asked.
"I shall mourn for him when I know the truth," Leret said guardedly. "And I will know the truth when we find Whisper. Let us continue."
They continued on, dispatching guards with lethal efficiency on their way to Whisper's office. Eventually, they happened upon a large set of ornate double doors... guarded by two of the largest griffons that they'd ever seen, decked out in custom-fitted elite armor. Without even being prompted, they charged the loyalist group as the Ghosts immediately backtracked to avoid their wide swings.
Leret met one of the swings with his own blade as another Guard filled the gap that Captain Talbot left, grunting as his deflected the other blow. Short bursts of hisses came from the Ghosts as they struggled to accurately aim at the towering brutes' heads.
"Swapping mags!" Mendoza shouted, ejecting the empty one from his MR8. He narrowly ducked another wild swing from the massive sword the brutes carried as he slapped in another magazine and chambered a round. "Holy shit, these fuckers are huge!"
Leret blocked a downward swing and immediately ducked left, taking care to avoid hitting the wall in the less-than-large room. He slashed the brute's legs where they were exposed, rending tendons as the griffon howled and fell to the ground in pain. Knocking off the wounded griffon's helmet, he planted a killing blow, sending his blade straight into the back of the head.
The other Guard was knocked aside by his own adversary, giving a frustrated grunt as he hit the wall. More Imperial Guards filed into the room, surrounding the bruiser. The elite held the Guards at bay, wildly swinging his sword to delay his own death... or to protect Whisper.
"We don't have time for this," Talbot muttered, standing behind the circling line of Guard in front of him. Holstering his MR8, he whipped out his revolver and planted three rounds into the brute's face, shattering the griffon's faceplate with explosive force and imploding his skull with high-caliber firepower. The corpse hit the ground and a small pool of blood began to leak out from where the face originally had been.
"They may certainly be huge, but their lack of skill more than makes up for their size. Easy to predict, and easy to take down, even in the absence of your impressive weapons," Leret said, looking at his brethren who had been thrown aside. "You are getting sloppy, Agehr. Perhaps all this time out of combat is making you grow complacent."
"I fully realize my own failures," Agehr admitted. "If it had been the Emperor's life at risk, I would have failed, if my comrades had not been there to cover for my mistake. I shall take to more training when I have free time."
"Good," Leret said. "Form up!" The Guards immediately arranged themselves behind him as Anvil Squad took up firing positions behind the griffons. Leret walked forward and kicked the doors open, revealing the office desk and shelves of the carpet-lined room... and the office chair that held the griffon that they were after.
"Bloodfury, we have groups circling around the palace! What's the call?" Raymond shouted from the tower.
"We hold positions, and take them down as they charge in! Stow that weapon, Scope, I think we're due for close combat this time around," Bloodfury said. "Positions, Guards, positions! Watch your sides and check your rears!" Raymond abandoned his vantage position as he moved to a window on his right, MR8 ready to pick down any griffon stupid enough to charge down the street.
"Do we have positions on the enemy?" a Guard called out.
"They are circling us as we speak! Those of you on the walls, arm your crossbows and prepare to fend off attackers! The rest of you, watch any possible entry points and keep the palace doors guarded!" A group formed behind the main gates, forming a ring with their spears leveled, ready for any who broke through.
"Who called the reinforcements?" another Guard said.
"That doesn't matter! All that matters is that they know we're here, and we have to stop them from getting inside and rescuing Whisper! If it means we give our lives, then so be it! Anyone who sees contact, call it out! We hold this position at all costs, am I understood?"
"Yes, sir!" the soldiers shouted in unison.
"We have contact coming down the main street!" Raymond yelled, firing his MR8 in single shots as the griffon soldiers outside quickly began to close the distance to the gates.
"Fire!" The infiltration teams to the left and right of the gate towers unleashed a volley of bolts as the charging griffons. Each shot found a mark as their numbers were thinned by half. "Reload!"
Raymond quickly picked off the others with ease. Unlike the elites, the armor of the standard griffon military had much more exposed areas, including around the neck and extremities. That meant crippling and killing them was only an exercise in knowing how to trail the aim of the target, and firing at the most opportune time.
"No contact here, Sergeant!" a distant voice called out.
"Fliers dispatched on the western walls, sir!"
"Also no contact on the east walls!"
"Maintain positions, and keep your eyes sharp! Their attack on the north gates may just be a diversion!" Bloodfury said. "Scope! Status report!"
"Attackers are all dead," Raymond said, looking down into the streets at the line of bodies strewn up the length of the avenue. "Killed them all before they could even reach the gates."
"Excellent. Take stock of supplies, requisition more if needed! We have armaments from the palace guards, so use them all if need be! Watch for any more attackers! With due luck, we'll be out of here and back in time for the evening meal..."
"There he is!" Mendoza said. He and Pastor fanned out to the corners of the room, sights lined up on the chair across from them.
Talbot immediately circled around the table, spinning the chair around to face the strike force as he pointed a rifle in the griffon's face. "End of the line, Whisper. We're taking you down." A single pull of the trigger would have ended it all... had Leret not intervened.
"Hold your fire, Captain!" Leret came up beside him and examined the griffon's clothing and accouterments. "This isn't Whisper... this is my father! See, his legs and arms are tied up. Why didn't you say anything?" Receiving a murmur instead, he realized the truth. "Whisper set you up to take the fall, and he sealed your beak to prevent you from saying otherwise?" Leret's father nodded frantically, as Talbot cut open his restraints.
"That was almost too close a call. But if this is your father, then where's Whisper?" Talbot asked. Leret's father immediately grabbed a quill and inkwell, and quickly scratched out a few words on to a piece of parchment.
NORTH. SECRET TUNNEL. BEHIND BOOKSHELF. LEADS OUTSIDE CITY.
"Damn!" Leret cursed. "I thank you for this information, father. Agehr! Take two and protect the magistrate here! The rest of you, smash these bookshelves and look for those tunnels!"
"Shit, that means we've just been had, and not in a good way. If the tunnels go straight out to the city, Whisper might be long gone from here by now," Pastor said. With that, more words were written on the parchment as the Imperial Guards began carving up the bookshelves.
NO, STILL HERE. LEFT JUST BEFORE ATTACK BEGAN.
"Then that means we still have a chance of catching him," Leret said. A guard hollered when one of the shelves gave way to a secret passage beyond. "There! Enter the fray, brothers! We must eliminate Whisper at any costs!"
They immediately charged inside, pursuing Whisper through the length of the dark and dank tunnels. The framework of the system indicated that they had been hastily built, with some unfinished areas of the tunnels still prevalent as tools and supplies still sat around.
"Looks like he's been busy trying to get out," Talbot said.
"With the riots happening, it would have only been a matter of time before they engulfed the palace," Leret said. "Though why he did not seek to leave as soon as possible is beyond me. Perhaps Strongbeak wished to be rid of him and gave him orders to stay, but why he would let dissent reach a boiling point in any city just to kill a single griffon contradicts what we know of him."
"In any case, maybe we can cut off Whisper's escape with another way..." Talbot said. He keyed his crosscom and hoped that the tunnels didn't distort the transmission.
"Scope! Get your ass to the north city gates ASAP!" Talbot shouted.
"What's up at the north gates, sir?"
"Whisper thought he duped us. He's escaping through a secret tunnel that leads north from the inner compound directly outside the north gates of the city! I need you to get to those walls and put a bullet in his head before he gets away! We're already pursuing him through the tunnels. Do not let him escape! Talon out!"
"Right away, sir," Raymond said. Grabbing his M107 and running down the stairs, he immediately approached Bloodfury, who was aiding with moving supplies from inside the barracks to the walls. "Bloodfury! Change in plans. We need to get to the north city gates right now. Whisper's escaping through a secret tunnel, and he's going to be exiting just outside the gates."
"Damn. That's easily a long travel on foot. But thankfully... we have wings," Bloodfury said.
"Are you suggesting that you carry me there?"
"I think that can be done, though I may have to sacrifice a bit of my armor to do so." He began taking off armor plates until only his chestpiece and helmet remained. "Right, that should do. I'll leave my armor here to my soldiers, and they can hold down the fort while we intervene at the north gates. Get on, Scope, we have a rat to catch."
Slinging his M107 over his shoulders, Raymond climbed on Bloodfury's back. "You sure this isn't too heavy?" he asked.
"Please, I've carried elderly griffons heavier than you. Even with all that stuff on you, you're as light as a feather. Now hold on, I don't want you falling to your death en route to the walls." He reared on his legs and pushed into the skies with a flap of his wings, rising above the city's rooftops and dodging columns of smoke as they quickly approached the north city gates.
"What about hostiles on the walls?" Raymond asked.
"You leave that to me!" he said. "You focus on trying to find where he's going to show up!" The ramparts of the wall were in sight as Bloodfury began to descend, gliding towards the crenelations. "Here we go, watch your step!"
The guards on the wall began shouting as Bloodfury landed, immediately pummeling one in the face with a solid punch, drawing his sword. Raymond immediately got off and eliminated two guards with his MR8, clearing the enemies in one direction while Bloodfury took the other.
"Clear!" Raymond said. A spot on the outer wall was smashed open, and gave him a vantage spot over the plains outside of the city. He set up his M107 into a prone position as he used his scope to scan the area for Whisper's probable escape means. "Come on, he can't just escape on foot. That'd be too obvious..."
"I wonder if he's escaped already..." Bloodfury said, looking around to make sure no other guards were sneaking up on them.
"I certainly hope not, or this whole operation is going to go down the shitter." Raymond continued scanning, pulling his scope higher as he began to examine the areas closer to the city, until he found a small band of wagons a distance away. "I think I have something. Looks like a whole bunch of wagons, roughly near that tree in the distance. Do you see it?"
Bloodfury squinted as he looked across the plains. "Oh, yeah, that tree... I see it. Then we'll just wait for him to show up and you can use that weapon of yours to rip him a new one."
"Wait... there's someone else there... it looks like Fellwyre. He's talking with the guards."
"Fellwyre?!" Bloodfury said. "That two-timing son of a bitch! I'll gut him from head to tail for this! I guess you were right all along... can't trust traitors, anyway."
"He just killed all the guards."
"You heard me. He just killed all the guards by himself. I'll keep an eye on him, but you better go check it out."
"Oh, I will," Bloodfury said, jumping off the walls and gliding towards the escape site.
Gale Whisper exited the tunnel, holding out claw to receive one in turn. Being grateful for his escape for the time being, his relief was broken when that claw pulled him out of the tunnel exit with great force and threw him towards the ground, slamming with a thud and a snap as he felt his wing take the brunt of the landing.
"Who..." he began to say, looking up at the assailant. "Fellwyre!"
"Greetings, brother," Fellwyre said. "It's been a long time. Funny how I've been running around your little city and you still couldn't catch me. And even when you did... I did so willingly."
"And then you escaped again!" Whisper rasped, standing up. "What are you doing here? Are you going to try to stop me from escaping?"
"No, brother... I am here to offer you an ultimatum."
Whisper laughed. "And what would that be? What could you possibly offer me that I haven't already obtained through means that you were too cowardly to use?"
"Your life, for one. Amnesty, too, perhaps. All you must do is resign your position on Strongbeak's council and defect. Work for the crown. Work for the good of the Empire. I beseech you, brother, consider what you are doing."
"Damn the crown! For far too long, they have stifled our family's power! Our true glory and talent! And you seek to work for these dogs?! I have claimed what is rightfully ours: power and glory! And working for Strongbeak, we will deliver the Griffon Empire into another golden age, one where the mere mention of our Empire would send our foes quaking with fear!"
Fellwyre gritted his beak. "I ask you again, brother... I urge you to consider what this may implicate in the long run. Do you not fear the backlash from the Equestrians, of their Princesses who control the sun and moon? Or the dragons, with their immense power and great strength? Did you not consider any of these when you joined with Strongbeak? When you sold our family out to be executed for treason, you faithless cur?"
"They did not agree with my views, and they never have. You were always the favored son, you know, Fellwyre? The pride of our parents, taking up the prestigious occupation of soldier for the Empire. No, what attachment I had with them was minor, at best. I did not mourn to see them go."
Bloodfury landed behind Fellwyre, blade in hand. "What's the meaning of this, Fellwyre? How in the name of the ancestors did you get out of the compound?"
"I escaped... it's something that I've become exceedingly proficient at, it seems. But rest assured, I stand with the crown... and I am here to try to convince my brother of his wrongdoings."
"So another dog of the crown shows up..." Whisper said. "What will you do now, I wonder? Kill me? Take me in? Do not think that you have won a victory just by my elimination... Strongbeak has many plans that will ensure the downfall of all who oppose him, even with my absence."
"Of that, I doubt," Fellwyre said. "And it pains me to know that I could not turn you from the path you now stray towards, brother."
"You are the misguided one, you fool!" Whisper drew his own blade. "I will escape to tell Strongbeak of these insurrections, and you will all pay for your treason against our true ruler. Now, brother... I am afraid you and your compatriot must die here! A minute price to pay to bring the griffons back to their glory!"
Fellwyre drew his own blade, backing up alongside Bloodfury. "Ready yourself, Sergeant. Though he is a griffon of words, he is still deadly with a blade, as well trained as any Imperial Guard..."
"It ends here, Fellwyre!" Whisper said, crouching down to charge... only for his head to explode in a cloud of fine red mist.
The report of gunfire from the M107 finally caught up with the speed of the bullet, almost indistinguishable from the sound of thunder against the overcast red skies.
"What... what just happened?" Fellwyre asked.
"That, Commander... that was divine retribution. Consider this as a sign of what happens to those who stand against the crown... especially when we have powerful allies from Equestria."
"You're telling me that Equestrian soldiers did this? Such devastating power, to fell a griffon where he stands..."
"In a way, yes. Do you grieve over his death, sir?"
Fellwyre shook his head. "No... I did what I could. He was stubborn and arrogant, straight to the end. Too caught up in his own pride, thinking that he was always right. Perhaps he did have good intentions, perhaps he did not... but now he is dead, and I do not mourn. It might be a little selfish of me to say that he had this coming, really."
"As much as I'd like to trust you, I'm going to have to take you into custody until you can explain yourself to General Scarclaw, sir," Bloodfury said, holding his blade at the ready.
"That would be fine." Fellwyre tossed aside his blade and gazed sadly at his brother's corpse. "Perhaps what happened here is a testament to my failure as a brother... but enough regaling, since I'm sure we have much to do. I shall lead the way to the compound, Sergeant, so as for you to maintain your security over me." Bloodfury nodded and they both took to the air, heading back towards the city.
"Scope, this is Talon. Come in, over. I lost tabs on the comms after we went into the tunnels. Respond," Talbot said, trudging through the tunnel with Leret and the others as a small column of light near the end showed that they were nearing the exit for the tunnel.
"I'm here, sir," Raymond said. "I scored a direct hit on the target."
"Affirmative. Any hostiles topside?"
"All eliminated, sir. I guess Fellwyre might really be on our side, after all."
"He was there?" Talbot asked, surprised. "Must be one wily bastard if he can sneak out of Scarclaw's compound without being noticed. So he was present at the kill?"
"Target was eliminated right in front of him, sir."
"Well, then, it's best to conclude for ourselves on that matter," Talbot said. "Leret, the area should be clear. It would turn out that Fellwyre had a direct hand in this, and Sergeant Bloodfury has taken him into custody for further interrogation."
"Damn. And here I had hoped to run Whisper through myself. You Ghosts do good work, that I can admit." They headed up the incline to the exit of the tunnel, opening into a trio of wagons and grasslands all around them. The bodies of guards lay all over, as Talbot walked over to the center of the ring, taking note of the body.
"Scope, this is Talon."
"Receiving, Talon. What's the final status on the target?"
Leret came over and his eyes widened as he saw what was left of Whisper's head.
"Kill confirmed," Talbot said. Whisper was dead, without a doubt.