“I still don’t see why we need the rest of the battalion. We can handle this on our own.” Rainbow said from her seat in our chariot. She had to yell a little to be heard over the rushing air as our chariot sped along in the brisk night air. It was sometime in the afternoon before I had managed to get everypony on the move. Celestia’s sun was setting in the distance and Luna’s moon could be seen rising opposite it.
I shook my head at the headstrong pegasus, this had been the third time she’d voiced this complaint. “You want to just barge in the middle of Red Court den with an unknown number of hostiles, alone? You let me know how that turns out. Meanwhile the rest of us will play it smart.”
“There’s no need to take any chances with the resources at our disposal Ms. Dash,” Michael lectured from his seat. “It would be an unnecessary risk to go by ourselves.”
I prodded Twilight’s side and fake-whispered loud enough that Rainbow could hear, “If you ask me, I think Rainbow just wants to hog all the glory. You think if she clears out the Red Court by herself, then they’d let her in the Wonderbolts?”
That earned me one of Rainbow’s famous death glares while Twilight rolled her eyes at me, but couldn’t quite hide her smile. Rainbow was about to offer her rebuttal when Applejack cut her off.
“Now ya’ll just simmer down, and save it for later.” Applejack turned her attention from Rainbow to me. “Would ya please explain to us what it is we’re about to do? The only thing you said back at the castle was that we found some kinda den, and that we needed to get our gear.”
The gear she spoke of was a rather impressive collection of armor and weaponry.
Applejack was sporting a set of thick steel barding, with chainmail under it all as a base protection, and several thick plates on top that covered the vast majority of her body. She also wore a thick open-faced helm to offer the best protection possible, while still allowing her to grab her lasso with her mouth. What stood out however were the two curling rams horns coming out of either side of the helmet. If she needed to, she could simply head-but a vampire to death, it probably wouldn’t even be difficult with the weight behind her now. But the most bizarre addition to her gear was a replacement for her lasso. As it turns out there is a weaponized version of a lasso, but it’s hardly ever used due to most soldiers not being familiar with what is essentially a farmer’s tool. Applejack’s lasso had been replaced with a long length of fairly simple chain, but with what looked like a miniature sickle attached to the very end.
I am so very happy she’s on my side.
I nodded my head and addressed the whole of my team. “Okay listen up, because I’m not repeating myself.” They all stopped what they were doing and gave me their undivided attention. “Celestia has been busy the last couple of days investigating the disappearances around Manehattan. She’s been pouring over random facts and various sightings to try to narrow down where the Red Court power is in this area. A little while ago she sent me a letter saying that several of her soldiers managed to track a few of them to what we believe to be their den on the outskirts of Manehattan. She has quarantined the area until we move in and clean them out.”
“And by clean them out, you mean…” whispered Fluttershy, not wanting to complete the question.
Fluttershy wasn’t garbed in any formal armor. Instead she was wearing an extremely thick linen outfit, with a large red cross on the back and several large pouches all over her to hold the various medical supplies she carried.
“I mean kill them, yes,” I replied back. “Though that shouldn’t be your focus, remember your sole objective is to grab any ponies that get hurt and move them out of harm’s way. Try to help anypony you can, but your priority is this team. If one of us goes down, do whatever you can to get us out.”
Fluttershy nodded, whispered a few words to herself, and then moved over to sit next to Michael and began sifting through her medical supplies. Michael put a golden hoof over her shoulder and whispered a few words of comfort, offering her that indefinable sense of tranquility that always emanated from the man.
Michael had special ordered a set of barding to best suit his fighting style, his armor was similar to Applejack’s save for a few minor differences. Michael too wore chainmail as a base protection, but the metal plates over his body were a little smaller than Applejack’s, thus allowing for easier movement at the expense of a little protection. The plates were white steel with a gold trimming that went well with his white coat and golden yellow mane and tail. His helmet was almost a direct copy of Applejack’s minus the horns. On Michael’s chest piece, and on the plates over his flank, were golden crosses that seemed to shine with a dull light despite there not being a nearby light source to offer that light. Amoracchius was on his side in the sheath Rarity had made for him. The handle was within easy reach of his mouth while the open portion of the blade stuck up in the air.
“Do we know how many of them there are?” asked Rarity.
Rarity had shunned any of the standard armors offered to her altogether, and decided to craft her own set of fashionable robes. She wore a dark navy blue formfitting robe with several symbols embroidered on it. The symbol that was used most often was that of a light blue gem set inside of a yellow crescent moon, undoubtedly inspired by her teacher. The rest of the symbols were just outlines of various kinds of gems in various colors. I detected a subtle aura of power emanating from her robes. I made a mental note to ask her about that later.
I shook my head at Rarity, “No, we don’t know how many we’re dealing with.” I turned around to see the five other chariots hauling the rest of my battalion, and the pegasi that flew in protective formations around them. “That’s why we bring insurance.”
I turned back around to take stock of the rest of my crew.
Rainbow was grumbling something, I’m fairly certain was supposed to be rude, in my general direction as she fidgeted with her gear. Rainbow was wearing a full suite of chainmail over her body and around each of her legs. On top of the mail, pieces of thick linen were placed in strategic places to serve as foundations to secure the various pieces of miscellaneous equipment. On her right foreleg, her crossbow was secured to the linen covered mail, while belts covered in crossbow bolts were wound around her chest so as to make reloading easier. She also wore a simple padded chainmail cap on her head. She didn’t however have any metal plates on her, so as to keep her lightweight and agile.
Pinkie was in the corner of the chariot humming a soft tune as she ran a rag over that bizarre party cannon of hers.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her even reload the thing.
I would’ve asked her how she got the thing to work, but I assumed any answer she’d give me would just leave me more confused. So for the sake of my continued sanity, I took it on faith that the party cannon made some kind of logical sense. I don’t know how, it just did.
Pinkie was garbed in a set of light barding specifically designed to offer the maximum protection while not restricting movement. She wore a suit of chainmail similar to Rainbow’s, but Pinkie’s armor had several small steel plates placed in strategic spots. None of the plates came within a few inches of her joints, and the plates over her back, neck, and belly, were spaced slightly apart and woven together to be able to flex and bend with her body. She too wore a simple chainmail cap.
“You’re being oddly quiet over there,” I called to the pink party pony.
Pinkie stopped her humming and glanced up at me. “I’m just working on a new song. What kind of tune do you think would go best in the middle of a battle?”
“I don’t know. I usually just laugh at, and insult my opponents,” I responded.
“That doesn’t sound very sporting,” Rarity offered.
“It’s not, but it breaks their concentration and makes me smile. So yay me.” I smiled back at Rarity.
I had decided to avoid wearing any actual metal armor. This decision was made in part by a desire to remain lightweight, but was mostly made after my first attempt at lightning magic. I was experimenting with various forms of chainmail when I first showed Twilight how to channel lightning. After I’d collected some latent energy and shot a bolt of lightning from my horn, a large portion of that electricity ran from my horn and over my body, seeking the conductivity of the metal. I was left twitching on the floor for several minutes.
With my lesson learned I chose to wear a fairly simple brown overcoat in memory of my leather duster still in the chest at Twilight’s library. The overcoat was made of the same extremely thick linen that comprised Fluttershy’s outfit. It ran from a popped collar at my neck to down over my flank, with a slit for my tail to poke through. I had spent some time laying a few protective enchantments over it, but not much as my days were already pretty busy for me.
My mother’s silver pentacle amulet dangled over my chest as I straightened my suit. I hadn’t been able to channel magic through it as effectively as I could before, owing to the fact that any magic I released had to first go through my horn. But it was still the symbol of what I believed, so I took it with me everywhere.
Twilight, learning from my mistakes, had chosen to mimic my outfit, albeit with a different color scheme. Twilight’s overcoat was a purple several shades darker than that of her fur. She had taken the extra fashion step and imprinted an image of her cutie mark over the patch of coat that covered her flank. She’d also imprinted the image of a silver pentacle on the fabric over her chest, in the same manner as the soldiers in my battalion. After she’d first shown me her new coat, I’d taken her aside and placed the same rudimentary protective enchantments on it that were on mine. She was eager to learn how to do this herself, but we had to focus on combat magic first.
Our chariot pitched forward as we begun our descent towards the outskirts of the bustling city of Manehattan.
“Alright get ready, we’re touching down soon,” Michael shouted over the sudden rush of air.
Everypony checked and double checked that their things were together and secured as we sped towards a cleared patch of ground near a rundown residential district. We landed within a minute after our descent.
Michael and I jumped out of the chariot before the others did and quickly surveyed the immediate area for threats. The others shambled out of the chariot and began looking warily around the darkened streets.
Applejack took a position so that she was between the ruined buildings and her friends. “Y’all see anything?”
Twilight shook her head, “Just a bunch of rundown buildings. I didn’t realize Manehattan had slums.”
“It’s a big city. Big cities mean upper and lower classes, so that’d also mean upper and lower class housing,” I mumbled to no one in particular. “I’d wager that the Red Court have been setting up here for the past week. Unfortunately this provides them plenty opportunities for an ambush.”
“We should wait for the battalion then,” Rarity chimed in.
Michael nodded, “Agreed.”
We waited near our chariot for about five minutes as the rest of my battalion landed and disembarked their chariots. The thirty soldiers checked their gear then arranged in standard military formation before the eight of us.
I turned to address Michael. “What do you think, a steady sweep of the buildings?”
“Slow but effective, we should probably sweep the streets first. See if there are any obvious signs of the Red Court presence.”
I nodded in response, “Sounds good.” I took a quick look at the soldiers. “You should probably address them, they’re more used to you.”
Michael turned his attention to the battalion, and raised his voice so that they could hear him clearly. “We will be marching through the streets of the quarantined zone to search for any signs of the Red Court. Keep your eyes and ears alert, there are plenty of places for an ambush. Pegasi stay in the air above us and alert us to any enemy movement you see. Unicorns focus on detection and revealing spells. If they’re hiding behind magic, I want to know. Then switch to shielding spells during combat. Understood?”
“Yes sir!” was their resounding response.
The pegasi immediately took to the air and began circling above us.
Rainbow was about to shoot off after them, but I stuck a hoof out to stop her. “Hold up Rainbow, we should stay together.”
She grumbled a response and went back to stand among her friends.
Michael took the forefront position as we marched through the streets, his weapon drawn and eyes questing over everything. The earth ponies and unicorns of my battalion marched in a square formation behind him. The unicorns were all casting various shades of light into the buildings around us as they magically searched for our objective. My team and I marched in the center of the square, protected on all sides.
About half an hour of slow searching crawled by, and Rainbow was starting to lose her patience.
“This is taking forever!” Rainbow groaned. “Can’t we just call them out in the open and get this over with?”
“Rainbow, they’re hiding from us for a reason,” Twilight responded. “If they thought they could win a straight up fight, they probably would’ve attacked by now. Right Harry?”
I nodded, “Yeah, but that doesn’t explain why they haven’t tried some kind of ambush yet. They generally can’t resist an opportunity to attack when we’re looking the other way. There are plenty of buildings here to jump from too. It’s very odd.”
“So that means that they probably have something planned. Perhaps a trap at a precise location of their design?” Rarity suggested.
I thought about that for a second. “That seems like something they’d do. Which means we should be on the lookout for something meant to draw us-“
A short high-pitched scream broke my concentration. It was close by, down one of the alleyways of the street we were on.
We hurried forward towards the source of the noise. Michael stopped in front of one the larger alleyways and the rest of us lined up behind him. Another short scream confirmed that this was the correct alleyway.
Rainbow flew up in the air. “Well what are we waiting for?” She shot forward towards the alleyway.
Twilight, Rarity, and about half of the other unicorns present seized Rainbow with their magic. The aura around her was a confused mess of colors.
“Rainbow, pause for a moment and look before you charge.” Michael motioned down the darkened alleyway.
We could only see about fifty feet down the alleyway before it became too dark to make anything out. Along the sides of the alleyway floors were several grates leading down to the sewers below the streets. All in all it was a fairly typical, if a little creepy, alley. The only thing that was off was that the grates had been ripped out.
“I think we’ve found our trap,” Twilight sighed.
“Just a little more effort to hide it would be nice,” I responded. “They didn’t even replace the sewer grates. I feel a little insulted.”
Applejack stepped forward. “So what do you want to do? Just move forward as carefully as possible?”
“No. Even if we have superior numbers, they’d have every advantage in there,” Michael answered. “Even with the help of the pegasi, the majority of us are ground locked and would be overrun.”
I looked around the environment, trying to create a counter for their trap from the relatively paltry resources available. A quick look upward showed me exactly what I needed to do.
“Rainbow fly up and tell the other pegasi to come here,” I instructed.
Rainbow flew off and Twilight turned towards me with an inquisitive look on her face. “Harry?”
I looked back at her with a wide grin on my face, “I’ve got a plan. Twilight, Applejack, and… you five, you’re with me.” I finished pointing at the five most heavily armored earth ponies of my battalion. “As for the rest of you, here’s what I want you to do…”
Twilight and I walked slowly down the wide alley with its battered walls and shadowed rooftops. Our horns were aglow providing us with plenty of light to see by. Applejack and the five heavily armored earth ponies formed a protective ring around us.
“I hope you’re sure about this plan of yours Harry,” Twilight whispered form the corner of her mouth.
I flashed a quick grin, “Sure I’m sure. Besides think on the bright side, if this doesn’t work at least we won’t live to regret it.”
“That’s the bright side?” she shot back in an annoyed tone.
“Yeah beats the alternative of being captured and turned.”
“Will y’all hush, we got company,” Applejack whispered from ahead of us.
As we moved forward our light fell upon three dark figures. Their black leathery skin and white pointed teeth marked them as Red Court. The lead one, an earth pony by the looks of it, held up a clawed foreleg signaling us to stop. We slowed then came to a stop about twenty feet from the three creatures.
It tilted its head slightly and smiled, showing us every single one of its serrated teeth. It then spoke in a dry raspy voice. “You will go no further.”
The soldiers with me held their ground and glared back at the vampire. Twilight and Applejack where completely taken aback by the vampire’s ability to speak. They pawed at the ground nervously for a second or two, but steeled themselves and shot their collective glares forward.
“You intend to stop us vampire? If so then you’re in for a world of hurt,” I jeered at the lead vampire. It’s always nice to show bravado at your enemies.
It just smiled even wider in response, a smile that was much too large for the face it was on. Then from the opened sewer grates around us, several more vampires appeared. There were a lot of them, a couple dozen at least. There was no clear favorite class of pony among them. They had about equal numbers of earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns.
Hells bells, these things have been busy.
The sudden horde formed a ring around us about twenty feet away, easy jumping distance for a vampire.
The lead vampire spoke again, in that same disturbing raspy voice. “I will offer this just once. Surrender and you will be spared. Join us and you will know strength that you have never experienced before.”
I rubbed a hoof under my chin, “Tempting, very tempting. How about this for a counteroffer.” I spun around and shook my flank in its general direction. “How about you bite me, Count Chocula.”
It snarled in response and then roared, “Kill them! Feast on their blood!”
As one all the other vampires present leapt at us, closing the distance to us with supernatural speed. Time slowed as adrenaline hit my system and I refocused on carrying out my plan.
Ten feet away.
Their claws and teeth were at full extension, ready to rip and tear us to pieces.
When they were about five feet away from us, the entirety of their group slammed face first into an invisible wall of force.
As they hit our shield, the impact caused it to lose its transparency and revealed a full dome of energy all around us. The dome was a swirling mix of red and purple energies, as it was being powered by both Twilight and me. We had that shield up since we first put a hoof in that alley. The shield was an incredibly complicated working of Twilight’s design. It took us almost a full minute to get it set up in the first place. But once we had it up, it was the magical equivalent of an adamantium bunker. Nothing was getting through it.
The vampires began hammering against the shield, trying to wear it down. Beads of sweat began forming on our faces as the strain of supporting the shield grew.
Just a little more… Just a little closer…
I wanted them focused on us, and swarming over one target. Only when the couple of dozen vampires were hammering on nearly every square inch of the dome, did I call out.
“Now!” I screamed.
The shadows covering the rooftops abruptly fell away, revealing the rest of my battalion, Michael, and Twilight’s friends.
Rarity slumped over, exhausted from the effort of maintaining the relatively simple, but nonetheless massive veil.
The purpose of a veil like Rarity’s was simply to hide those under it from prying eyes. This can be done many ways, you can simply make those under it invisible, or I’ve seen a veil that didn’t actually hide those under it but instead made them too boring to notice. Rarity had chosen to conjure up and move around dense clouds of shadows to hide the battalion. A trick I assumed came from Luna.
It wasn’t a particularly great veil. Before she lifted it I could’ve squint my eyes and made out the vague pony shapes within. But then again the value was in the deception of the veil, which is to say prevent them from noticing in the first place. Only the best veils can survive focused scrutiny. This was what Rarity pulled of perfectly.
“I challenge you creatures of shadow, those that prey on the innocent! I bid thee come forth and face Judgment!” Michael roared, several times louder than he should’ve been able to do.
A blinding white light emanated from Amoracchius as Michael drew it from its sheath. While the light was annoying enough for me and my eyes, but it did far worse to the vampires. The vampires screamed and bumped into each other as they tried to move away from the very literal force of concentrated faith. What looked like moderate to severe sunburns appearing on their leathery skin.
I’ve never fully understood how the swords of the Cross are supposed to work, but I had a basic idea. From what I’ve seen, the power behind the swords is meant to level the playing field. To turn any conflict against a normally supernaturally powerful enemy, into a simple match of wills and skill.
Michael and the others leapt from the rooftops on either side of the alley and now surrounded the thoroughly shaken vampires. Michael and the others hit the outside of the ring of vampires while Twilight and I dropped our shield and we began attacking from the inside. Things got very bloody very fast.
I’ve yet to meet a supernatural baddie that can stand against Michael on one of his good days. Michael began tearing through the vampires, cutting them down as quickly as they presented themselves. As each vampire fell before him their bodies would be consumed by silver white flames that originated wherever Amoracchius struck.
Crossbow bolts began buzzing through the air as Rainbow and the majority of the other pegasi took to the air directly above us. They would place their shoots carefully, so as not to harm any of the good guys. Occasionally a vampire pegasus would get the clever idea that they should fly up and attack the archers in close range. Whenever this happened all the archers would immediately focus on the new target and force it to land by punching holes in their bat like wings.
It was their task to cripple any vampires they could and to ensure that none of them escaped.
The vampires had begun to regain a sense of control and had begun to fight back. Three of them had forced a unicorn apart from the group. One of the vampires leapt forward and drew blood as it ran its claws over the unicorn’s side and right foreleg. The soldier used some basic magic and retaliated, managing to drive it back a little. But he was wounded and lamed, he wasn’t going to last.
“FOZARE!” I drove a column of energy about the size and weight of my first car, straight down onto the three vampires. Every single one of their legs shattered under the sudden and intense force, and their bodies were forced into a small crater in the pavement. Even if they were still alive, they weren’t going to be doing anything anytime soon.
The soldier gave me a quick smile before he collapsed into unconsciousness. Fluttershy rushed over and began preliminary medicine, just making sure that he didn’t bleed out. Despite the tears streaming down her face, Fluttershy worked with a practiced speed and precision. She quickly bandaged his wounds and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.
While Fluttershy was busy with her patient, a vampire pegasus leapt from the crowd and sped straight at her. Its claws extended in anticipation of the coming meal. I was about to knock it out of the air, but I needn’t have bothered.
About midway of the vampire’s leap, a sickle on the end of a chain came out of nowhere and buried itself in the creature’s sternum. With a simple flick of her head, Applejack slid the sickle down the entirety of the front of the vampire’s body, opening it like a demented lunchbox.
Words cannot describe how messy that was. Suffice it to say, I probably wasn’t going to be eating anything for a while, or maybe ever.
Applejack, Twilight, and the five other walking tanks I’d picked out had punched a hole through the vampires. They had rejoined our main force and strengthened the ring of ponies currently encircling the remaining vampires.
With our circle of soldiers completed and the vampires trapped, Twilight and I began about our jobs.
I began casually tossing fireball after fireball up into the air, then back down into the center of the amassed vampires. The screams and flailing of their burning comrades did wonders for disorienting and confusing those on the outer edge of the group.
I am not always a nice guy, heck I’m probably not even always sane. As I rained down fire onto the vampires and heard them scream as they burned, I didn’t feel revulsion or joy. I just felt a cold satisfaction.
Twilight began using force magic in a simple, but effective strategy. She brought down a hammer of force onto the heads of random vampires on the outer edge of the group. While they were nice and disoriented, she would shoot a blast of force coming from behind the dazed vampire, and knock it forward into the waiting hooves of my soldiers.
Applejack was under similar instructions. Her chained lasso could often be seen diving into the group and dragging out whatever unlucky vampire it connected with. A few of the vampires she’d caught had fought against her, and with their superior strength they probably would’ve won. Whenever this happened the ponies around Applejack would grab the chain and add their strength to the tug of war. Against that much raw strength the caught vampire could only scramble helplessly as it was dragged into the crowd of angry soldiers.
My battalion worked incredibly well together. The vampires were being distracted by the constant downpour of bolts and fire from above, leaving plenty of openings for the ground troops to attack. Whenever a vampire would look the wrong way or lunge forward at the wrong time, at least two soldiers were there to take advantage of the vampire’s mistake.
One vampire unicorn used its magic and seized one of the unicorn mares of my battalion, dragging her towards the trapped group. Fortunately for her, she was both heavily armored and had a brain. Instead of fighting against the telekinetic grip she jumped forward, adding to her forward momentum. Before the vampire realized what went wrong, she had charged forward and driven her horn as far as it could go into the thing’s chest. It screamed in agony as it released her. The vampires around their wounded comrade whirled on the nearby unicorn and pounced.
Again she showed incredible intellect as she immediately back pedaled away from her attackers. The vampires managed to land a few claws on her armor, but only scratched it. Furious at seeing their prey escaping, they chased after her. They had evidently completely forgotten about the solid line of soldiers encircling them only a few feet away. As the small group of vampires made nice fat targets of themselves, the soldiers decided to remind them of their presence with as many thrusts of spears and stomps of hooves as necessary.
As the fight raged on we were making quick work of the vampires, but we began sustaining injuries too. Whenever one of my battalion would take a crippling hit, all of the unicorns in the immediate area would lash out with simple force magic, driving the vampires back several feet. Then several ponies would move forward until they formed a line between their wounded friend and the vampires.
Fluttershy would then charge in to the wounded soldier, seize them with her teeth, and pull them out of the field of battle. After the wounded were removed, the battalion would resume its previous formation of a slowly constricting circle around the vampires.
From the mouth of the alleyway I heard a scrambling commotion. I turned to see about a dozen vampire reinforcements charging at the exposed backs of my soldiers
Crap! The battalion is too focused on the main group to fight on two fronts. I need time.
Ceasing my rain of fire on the main group I turned towards the flanking force.
“FUEGO!” I roared and sent a massive fireball at the reinforcements.
Most of them stopped just short of where the fireball hit, so that only a few were now burning alive. The rest had begun edging around the bonfire I had created.
“Pegasi, Rarity, Pinkie buy us some time!” I screamed and pointed at the vampire reinforcements.
At once the pegasi shifted their focus and began raining down crippling bolts into the vampires I had pointed out.
Rarity pulled herself together from her exhaustion and walked down the length of the wall. As soon as she got close enough she began performing that same sensory overload spell she did on me, but on about five different targets at the same time.
The affected vampires began frantically clawing at their eyes and ears, trying to stop the intense lights and sounds. Or at least that’s what I assume they were doing as I couldn’t actually see their faces behind the effects of Rarity’s spell.
Rarity was now drenched in sweat and was barely standing on her vantage point. The veil needed to spring this trap and the illusions she was now casting on multiple targets was pushing her to her limits. She wouldn’t be able to hold her magic together for much longer.
An explosion rang from on the roof behind me. I turned in time to see that Pinkie had loaded herself into her party cannon and fired. She was now flying through the air at the vampire reinforcements, and was somehow hefting a massive pink hammer in her forelegs.
I have no idea where she got that freaking hammer. I didn’t assign it to her and she didn’t have it with her on the chariot. I’m not going to even try to think about where she was keeping it, my brain would explode.
Pinkie brought down her ridiculously oversized hammer directly onto the head of one of the vampire ponies. A small wave of impact knocked back the nearby vampires as Pinkie’s first target shuddered once under the hammer, and then went bonelessly limp.
Loudly humming a tune that sounded oddly similar to, Ride of the Valkyries, Pinkie brought her weapon to bear and advanced on the remaining vampires. Don’t ask me how but she was managing to hold the weapon in the hooves of her forelegs while balancing and moving perfectly on her hind legs.
Pinkie went to work smashing her way through the creatures while they tried to fight back, tried being the operative word. Pinkie was using her Pinkie Sense to the best of her abilities as she dodged and weaved around each bite or swipe of a claw. After each dodge she would respond with an attack of her own, and her attacks usually resulted in the sickening crack of snapping bones.
A few times Pinkie just moved a little too slow to completely evade an attack. Pinkie took one nasty looking swipe to her ribs, but the armor took most of the damage and would only leave her with a bruise. Pinkie answered this discomfort by smashing her hammer into the perpetrator’s mouth, when she pulled the hammer away several broken teeth followed it.
This had left her back wide open however, and one of the other vampires not being harassed by the crossbow bolt rainstorm moved forward to attack. By the time Pinkie had removed her hammer from the creature’s mouth, its friend was already upon her. Its forelegs stretched wide and claws gleaming as they swooped down at the pink mare. Pinkie’s reflexes were nice, but it was just too close and its reach was too long.
Before the blow could land the multicolored blur that is Rainbow Dash streaked out of the heavens and tackled the vampire to the ground. While it was still dazed at the sudden taste of pavement, Rainbow placed the hoof with her crossbow at the base of its skull and fired. The bolt went into the back of its head, and cleanly severed its spinal cord.
Without a word she nodded to Pinkie and sped off to rejoin the other pegasi.
I had told Pinkie to wait on the roof and to use her cannon if things went south. While I suppose technically she did use the cannon, I was still going to have a talk with her later about putting herself in unnecessary danger.
With the reinforcements delayed, I returned my attention to the main battle. What was left of the main vampire force had lost all manner of self-control and had thrown themselves at more or less random targets. This suited the battalion just fine.
With their severely depleted numbers the vampires were now outnumbered four to one. The heavily armored ponies stood in front so that they were the ones the vampires focused on. With the vampires focused on trying to get past the armor of the first pony, three others would come up behind the vampire and finish the job.
The fighting was winding down as the last of the main force died. Michael stood in the center of what was the vampires’ last stand, covered from head to hoof in black gore. Amoracchius still glowed with that pure white light as Michael searched for any more Red Court in the immediate area. I moved towards the battalion as Michael shook his blade clean of blood.
I pointed a hoof at a nearby unicorn stallion in light barding, “Soldier, how is everypony? How many wounded?” I paused for a moment, “How many dead?”
He turned to me, saluted, and began his report. “We have several wounded sir, some of them severely hurt.” He gestured towards a line of injured soldiers against one wall. Fluttershy was moving between each of them fast enough that she was a pink and yellow blur as she moved. She was busy applying bandages, resetting bones, and otherwise just offering as much help as she was able. “But miraculously no fatalities, at least not yet, some the worse cases might not make it.”
I smiled, “And if Fluttershy has her way, there won’t be any.”
This was my battalion’s first real contact with the Red Court, and we had managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I didn’t know what I should thank for that, the fighting skill of my soldiers, the relatively new cannon-fodder vampires, or Michael’s vampire hindering white light. Whatever the reason we made it through.
I turned again to the soldier. “Take five ponies with some medical training and have them help Fluttershy however they can. Then take the rest of the battalion and go clean up the last of their reinforcements.” I pointed down to the mouth of the alley where the last of the vampires were either being turned into vampire pincushions by the pegasi, or else being reduced to a goey paste by Pinkie’s hammer.
He snapped to attention and began carrying out my orders at once. Five random ponies moved over to assist Fluttershy. Somewhere in the intensity of the combat, and the sudden large number of patients she had to care for, Fluttershy’s demeanor had pulled a complete one-eighty.
“Take these bandages and wrap those wounds before they get infected!” she yelled at one her new helpers.
The assistant in question wavered for a moment. “B-but I-“
“NOW!” Fluttershy barked at him. Her face had taken on a truly frightening appearance.
Oh dear, I think I broke Fluttershy.
“I-if you don’t mind…” she murmured, back in her usual tone.
Ah there she is, good.
Michael and the rest of the battalion ran off to assist Pinkie and the pegasi with the last little bits of resistance.
By this time Applejack and Twilight walked up to me to see how they could help. Twilight was severely shaken, but still retained that fire in her eyes she had whenever she wanted to help.
While Applejack was a force to be reckoned with in the heat of battle, now that it was over she looked like she was about to be sick. She hung her head low and couldn’t stop staring at her bloodstained weapon. There was a definite greenish tinge to her face.
Before they could say anything, I moved between them and put a hoof over both of them. “You both did an incredible job today. You helped save a lot of lives, and avenged those that we couldn’t.” Applejack held her head a little higher at that. “Now I want both of you to go watch over Fluttershy. She could probably use a friendly face.”
“Thank ya Dresden,” whispered Applejack before she turned and hurried over to Fluttershy.
Another small cry for help rang down the alley. I turned and saw what was probably the backdoor for a house’s storage shed.
So those cries actually were hostages? I guess nothing beats authenticity.
I turned back towards Twilight, who had clearly noticed the cry as well. “Twilight you go too, I’ll take care of whoever’s in there.” I motioned her over towards Fluttershy.
She did not like this idea. “But they need help. I can-“
“Go and help Fluttershy,” I cut her off. “The Red Court’s gone for now. I can handle a few spooked ponies.”
I grinned and raced off down to the shed. I left Twilight to glance between her friends and me, her eyes narrowed in thought.
I raced up to the shed door, and with more flair than was called for, bucked it open and jumped inside. I surveyed the room quickly and found four hostages in the room, three were tied around a central support post while the forth was unconscious on the floor next to the door.
“Never fear, your friendly neighborhood warden is here,” I said as I moved over to the tied up ponies. I bent low and began trying to untie the knots with magic. “Don’t you worry, you’re safe now. I’ll have you out of here in a jiffy.”
The bound and gagged pony before me shook her head violently to get my attention. I looked up and saw that her eyes were wide with terror and her pupils had shrunk to the size of pinpricks. She looked intently at me, then to the prisoner behind me, and then back at me.
Oh, buck me.
I turned in time to get a face full of pissed off vampire. The thing had torn itself free of its hostage flesh mask, and was now doing it’s very best to slice me into deli meat.
Its initial leap gave it a little too much forward momentum and it could only rake its claws at me as it flew past. One set of claws raked across my back, but the protection spells I’d put in my overcoat prevented them from cutting me, my face was not so lucky.
The left side of my face felt like it had burst into flames as three long gashes appeared on it. Two of its claws cut along the left side of my muzzle, while the third cut a line just above my left eye.
Blood quickly began pouring from the wounds and down my face, forcing me to keep my left eye shut.
The vampire landed and pounced at me again, moving much faster than the vampires outside. I had barely enough time to stagger back a step and call up a simple shield around me.
My horn is great as a magical focus, it really is. I would go even as far to say that it’s better than my staff or blasting rod for working magic. Magic flows through it so naturally and easily that I barely have to think about channeling it, and can focus most of my attention on my spell. And it can’t be knocked away from me, not easily anyway. But the one crucial piece of my arsenal it doesn’t replace would be my shield bracelet.
With my shield bracelet all I had to do was pump power into it and then imagine the shape of the shield I wanted. The design of the bracelet would take care of the rest, like how the energies weaved together and how I wanted the impact energy to be dispersed. Without it I had to do all of that in my head. I had to judge how much elasticity to give it, and exactly how I wanted the energy to flow through it. Creating a proper shield this way takes time, which is exactly what I did not have at the moment.
The vampire landed on me and forced me to the ground on my back. The shield I held was maybe a foot away from my flesh. It was a pitiful rickety thing, and was the best I could throw together in the half second I had to create one from scratch. I poured as much power as I could grab into it, but it bled energy almost as fast as I could pump it in.
The vampire began hammering blow after blow into my shield. Sparks flew as power left my shield with each blow and its claws slowly inched closer and closer to me.
I began working the machinations of a force spell to shoot the vampire of me. I hadn’t yet figured out how to cast two simultaneous spells through the one horn, so I’d have to cast it when my shield fell. I just hoped I could pull it off before those claws could rip out my throat.
If I survive this, I’m making a shield ornament for my horn.
“You are the warden that chased us through the Nevernever? I am not impressed,” the vampire growled with its raspy voice, and punctuated every few words with another blow of its claws. “The master said you were supposed to be powerful.”
“You, you were one of the three I chased here?” I gasped, struggling to maintain my shield.
It leaned closer, baring its fangs. “Indeed warden and I thank you for bringing us here. This land will make a fine kingdom for the new Red King.”
“Who is he? Who is your master?” I screamed back. Sweat was drenching my face from the exertion for maintaining the now wavering shield.
“You don’t know?” It chuckled and raised both clawed forelegs for the final blow to destroy my shield. “Die confused then!”
“GET OFF HIM!”
A lance of purple energy as thick around as my chest slammed into the vampire and shot him clean through the far wall of the shed, and into the adjacent building.
I looked over and saw Twilight bursting through the door at a full gallop, a look of utmost fury on her face. Another spell began forming around her horn as she surveyed the vampire shaped hole in the wall. She slowed and cautiously made her way over to stand by me.
The vampire burst through the same hole it’d made earlier and pounced at her, but she was ready. The instant she had a target, she let loose a fireball just one step down from the one she made in her first day at training. It made contact with the vampire and knocked him back through that same hole, but this time with an accompanying detonation as the vampire hit a wall and the fireball incinerated everything around it. The thing never even got the chance to scream before it was reduced to ash.
Twilight turned back to me and looked horrified as she saw the blood all over my face. “Oh Celestia, you’re hurt!”
I shambled back onto all four hooves. “I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s a bleeder, looks worse than it actually is.” I glared at her with my one open eye. “I thought I told you to go help Fluttershy.”
Twilight smiled at me, content that I was no longer in immediate danger. “And I thought you were supposed to be the smasher of all that oppose you. Besides between you and Fluttershy, you looked more helpless.”
“I had it right where I wanted it, thank you very much.”
She smirked at me, “You wanted it to bash your head in?”
“I was getting it to talk. I was collecting useful information, and I-“
I was cut off by a loud coughing from the center of the room. The hostages were giving both us that annoyed “could you hurry it up” look.
“Oh right, sorry,” I said as I walked over and began undoing their bonds.
As soon as they were free of their bonds, they rushed at us and embraced us both. All three of them gave a constant stream of “thank you” and “what the hay were those things?”
“Calm down, hey down girl! Calm down!” I roared and stomped my hoof. That got the hostages to stop talking and gave me their attention. “Good. Now I know you have a lot of questions, but right now you need to go outside and speak with one of the soldiers there. You will be debriefed and sent home as soon as possible, I promise.”
They each gave us one last “thank you” and ran outside.
I turned around and began rummaging through a nearby pile of trinkets.
“Uh Harry, what are you doing?” Twilight asked.
“Looking for information, if the Red Court was setting up here there might be something that can tell us what their plans are.” I looked around to face Twilight. “And since you’re already here why don’t you help out. Just look for anything out of the ordinary.”
She nodded and we began scouring the shed for information.
Not one minute later, Twilight spoke up from the opposite side of the room. “H-Harry…”
She didn’t say anything. I hurried over and found what had left her speechless. Bodies, around nine or ten of them, were piled in a corner of the shed, stallions, mares, and… and foals.
Children… These monsters had hurt children!
A red hot fury built behind my eyes at this sight. I wanted to take a vampire, pin it to the floor, and burn it alive, slowly. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted them all to die. I needed them all to die for what they’ve done.
“Harry?” said a worried voice behind me.
I turned and saw Twilight looking at me with worried eyes. She spoke as though concerned for me, and not the atrocity before us. I looked down at myself and saw why. In my fury I had begun to gather power, a lot of it. Smoke had begun to rise from my fur and a strong smell of smoke pervaded the room.
I tore my eyes away from the corpses, and took several deep breaths to steady myself.
When I regained control over my emotions I returned my gaze to the bodies and began searching for anything out of the ordinary. Almost immediately I noticed something, their cutie marks were gone, all of them were. At this discovery I probed the bodies with my wizard senses, and felt only cold.
“Twilight,” I spoke in a cold and detached voice, “do cutie marks vanish upon death?”
“N-no, they don’t. I’ve never heard or read anything about what could make a cutie mark disappear.” Her voice was faint, almost a whisper.
I sighed. “I was afraid of that.”
“Because that means that magic did this. Focus your senses on them, what do you feel?”
She did as I asked. Her horn glowed for a second as she concentrated. “Nothing, just cold.”
I nodded, “Exactly. These bodies should still have lingering energy on them, probably a lot given the intense fear they must’ve experienced before they died. But they don’t, not a scrap of energy.”
She looked at me, unable to hold back tears any longer. “What could’ve done this?”
“I have no idea Twilight.”
But come hell or high water, I will find out, and I will tear it limb from limb.