Oh dear Celestia the pain…
I hazily opened my eyes and saw a clear afternoon sky, the sunlight washed down my face then stung my eyes making me groan in discomfort.
Where am I? I thought we were at the bottom of a lake stuck in that cave.
I looked over to my left side and saw the 6 unconscious ponies that journeyed with me. Upon closer inspection they appeared to be breathing heavily and were dripping wet despite the sun’s evaporation powers. My clothes were also slightly drenched in water.
Sigh, at least they’re safe I didn’t think we would have come out of that alive.
I looked down past my hooves and saw the crystal blue lake.
So if we went all that way from the lake, then how did we get back up here?
I slumped my head to my right side and saw one of the most frightening things in my life.
Teeth. White, sharp, jagged teeth.
“AAH!” I recoiled in fright and quickly got to my hooves.
Oh crap that was a bad idea.
I fell back to the ground and landed with a thud from the unbearable pain in my legs, this plus the shout woke up the sleeping rainbow pega nearest to me.
“Huh… what’s going… OOONNN WHOA THAT'S BIG!”
Rainbow had noticed the enormous sea snake which scared the crap out of her as she did a loud shout of terror alerting all the unconscious ponies….. as well as the snake itself.
“Rainbow, why are you screaming…” Applejack then noticed the snake. “Oh…”
Everyone then screamed in terror while I tried to block out their painful ear shattering wails. I noticed that the serpent itself looked rather annoyed and wrapped itself into a little ball to block out as much noise as possible.
WHY…DON’T…. THEY…. STOP!?
Immediately all the ponies grew quiet and looked to where the shout originated from I looked too, it was Fluttershy.
She then walked up to the cringing snake and gently poked it’s side, “There there, my friends all stopped shouting so it’s safe for you to come out.”
Strangely the snake unwrapped itself and sighed with relief for the peace of quiet there was.
For a moment things were peaceful… that is until the snake picked me up in his jaws and half ingested me.
“AHH! WHAT THE HELL? SAVE ME!” I shouted from inside the snake’s mouth while flailing my legs on the outside.
I felt the snake’s tongue roll all around me, it seemed to savor whatever taste I had on myself, and personally I felt this was a violation to my personal space, and it just felt so wrong.
“LET ME OUT!” I hoofed the roof of his mouth repeatedly and the snake spat me out.
I was shocked by what I just went through, my robes were covered in slime and snake saliva, my hair was standing up at the back end and what was worse was in the first time of my life I didn’t have something ironic to say.
The ponies burst out laughing, the more they laughed the angrier I got.
I wiped some saliva off my hood and placed it back over my head and gave my friends a confused slash annoyed look, “Why are you laughing? I was almost eaten by a snake… AGAIN!”
Fluttershy giggled a bit and tapped me on the shoulder, “Don’t worry Shadow, this snake is a vegetarian.”
“Well… that doesn’t explain why he TRIED TO EAT ME!”
The snake whispered into Fluttershy’s ear and she translated for me, “Oh he wasn’t going to eat you, he just liked how exotic you tasted. He’s a big fan on the tastes of the world.”
“Well that explains it, you’re from Ponitaly and that place certainly is exotic, so… very… exotic,” Rarity said starting to salivate from the culture and fashion trends she once heard from me.
I cleared my throat, “So what you’re… he’s saying is that I taste good?”
The serpent nodded its head.
“Well… thanks, I guess?”
The sea snake roared out in discomfort and we were all shaken back by it.
“What was that, what’s wrong?” I asked.
Fluttershy went up to the snake who whispered in her ear, she relayed the message to us, “He says that he can’t move on the ground and he wants to get back into the lake before he dries out. Also he’s hungry.”
“Well come on everyone let’s push him in the lake together!” I said placing my front hooves on the snake’s back and my strength immediately failed me. “*Huff* Alright maybe tomorrow when we’re all rested, we’ll push Scales here into the lake.”
“Uh Scales?” Twilight asked unsure who I was talking to.
“THE SNAKE HAS A NAME! WE NEED A PARTY TO CELBERATE!!!!” Pinkie jumped up and down until realising she just used the last of her strength to perform the act.
“It was worth it,” she smiled through her tired gasps for air.
Well we can’t just leave him like this or he’s going to starve.
And we can’t push him until we’re all rested and cooperating together.
What to do…..
“Hmmm… IDEA!” Rarity shouted with delight.
Instantly her horn lit up and a huge pile of mangoes, pineapples, tangelos and various other exotic fruits appeared in front of the serpent, he licked his lips with his slippery tongue and began to devour his feast.
“I think I got something Shadow!” Rainbow exclaimed, I nodded my head to let her speak, too tired to use words now.
“Maybe with some help from Applejack I can bring a raincloud over to Scales and he’ll be wet until morning!”
“Well what are y’all waiting for Rainbow let’s give this poor critter a shower!” Applejack responded.
They both left in search of the cloud and I turned my head to Rarity and quietly asked her, “Where did you get all those fruit?”
“Let’s just say a festival in the little town of Arborfront wouldn’t notice a few fruit missing, considering they don’t like to share with other towns. I took it upon myself to make them learn a little thing about generosity.”
Damn, Rarity’s sneaky and not just a blade in the dark sort of way.
Kind of reminds me about myself when I was younger...
After immersing myself in my past thoughts for a few minutes; Rainbow Dash and Applejack showed up exhausted and with a drizzling rain cloud. They positioned it over the snake and he enjoyed the refreshing water.
Applejack fell to her front stomach with a satisfying *uff* and Rainbow softly fell on her back from the sky onto the grass.
I took this as a moment to quickly address the situation, “Alright, Scales will be fine till the morning, but what about us? We’re all exhausted from Dave’s battle as well as from helping Scales here.”
“Twilight, can you teleport us to the hideout? Or anywhere near it?” I huffed in exhaustion.
“I’m extremely tired and magic can take it’s toll but I’ll see what I can do…”
Her horn lit up and the scenery changed from a feasting sea serpent to Ponyville’s town square.
Crap, I hate to say this but I need to say it…
“We have to crawl our way back.”
Moans of disapproval were heard behind me but I back the long crawl home by placing my hoof forward one after another
-----15 minutes later--------
“Mommy, why are those ponies crawling? Are they trying to be slugs?”
“DON’T LOOK AT THEM!”
I silently reassured myself the whole way with random assassin phrases and environmental checks to make this painful ordeal was easier to cope with.
Stay incognito, don’t make eye contact.
They can’t see me, I am blending in.
Dave when I get my hoofs on you, you’re going to pay for all of this and I'll get the Apple and I'll kill Bal....
Tenant 69: We don’t talk about Tenant 69…
--------At the Hideout-------------
With a last gasp I push the bottom of the door to our hideout, that was after we climbed (or rather crawled) up the stairs to Ponyville’s highest building. The door gently slid forward and we were all greeted by enthusiastic voice.
“HELLO! HOW ARE A YOU!?”
“Dammit Mareio…” I grumbled, “Fix us you crazy mushroom doctor…”
“OKIE DOKIE SHADOW! Also don’t wake up Spike, he had a nasty fall, HOHO!” and Mareio leaped over to his mushroom chest and began to sort through his various wares and medicines, all of it mushroom related.
We all groaned our way inside and made an exhausted circle in the middle of the room on the soft carpet.
“ARH! I got ground burn on my chest!” Rainbow scoffed in pain wiping the dirt marks off her chest.
Mareio then came over with a tray of brightly green shrooms, “STAMINA! GOOOOO!”
He immediately shoved a mushroom into each of our mouths and somehow we swallowed the fungus in a single gulp. After resting for a few more minutes I felt my body starting to feel less tired, less painful, and by the miracle of mushrooming medicine I was able to stand up to my hooves, even though I did it rather weakly.
“Mareio that stuff tastes nasty but it works,” I joked while noticing that the rest of the assassins were stand up on their own now.
“Wow that stuff sure works! I could use some to help us out down by the farm. How much are…” Applejack began to speak to Mareio but I quickly put a hoof over her mouth.
“Applejack, don’t ask about the price. Mareio could technically own half of Equestria with the prices he charges,” I quickly whispered to her and removed my hoof.
Mareio waved over to us oblivious to the situation. I limped my way to my chair as the mushroom’s effects haven’t completely regained my strength. I took a relaxing seat and popped open 3 scrolls, one for my thoughts and current plan, one for the Princess and finally one for Le Duck.
I took out a quill and extensively began working on my letters.
----An Hour of Writing Later-------
I looked up and saw Applejack who was slightly weary and had a worried expression on her face.
“Yes Applejack? Why so glum?”
“Shadow, I’m worried about you. We all are. You’re working too hard, and from me that’s no joke. There’s all this stuff with Dave goin on, every mission you’ve been on you gotten hurt somehow and to top it all off you’ve been here working for the past 3 hours nonstop.”
“Three hours, I thought it was only one?”
Applejack pointed outside the window, to which I saw nighttime had already fallen.
I’m never wrong about the time… NEVER!
-----Correction: 3 hours and 1 minute later----------
“See Shadow, all of this is taking a toll on you. I don’t want something to happen to you from all this work. The moment you nearly died back in that darn cave, I was afraid what would happen to the rest of us assassins, what would happen to Equestria? I couldn’t bear to see you in pain like that…”
“Shadow, you need to be CAREFUL!” she slammed a hoof on my desk, pain filled her voice.
I gave some thought on my past actions and sighed, “You’re right Applejack, I have been working too hard. BUT Dave completely beat us without a sweat; we need to improve our skills not just individually but as a team. I can’t rest knowing that maniac of an accountant is still alive out there. If he could beat us just like that imagine what he could do to Ponyville, or even Equestria! He needs to be stopped, that’s why starting tomorrow I want you and the rest of the assassins to meet back here so we can begin training once more.”
Applejack was about to protest but I held a hoof up to silence her, “I know you think I should rest but my instinct is telling me that we need to be ready the next time the Templars will do something. Sure it’s taking a toll on me, but for most of my life being an Assassin has done that. We have sworn to protect the innocent from the corrupted, and I am hell going to live up to that oath.”
We gave each other a long stare, sadly this was for the good of Equestria and we both realised that.
“With Dave gone we can focus our effort on Balthazar and the Apple. Stop Project Purify and save Equestria from whatever the Templar's are planing. I just wish we didn’t have so little time to do it.”
I then heard a small creak coming from my chair.
My chair broke and I fell from my desk, fumbling the letters I had written all over the ground.
“Shadow you’re more stubborn than me,” Applejack laughed while she helped me pick up the papers, “Maybe now you’ll take a break.”
She playfully swished her tail in my face and went over to her friends who made a circle around Spike. He was still unconscious from his fall.
I put the papers on the top of my bed (nicely located behind my desk and destroyed chair) and went over to the group, I cleared my throat and announced my plan, “Okay everypony… and eagle… and unconscious baby dragon…. Starting tomorrow we are going to being training and retraining our assassin skills. I don’t know how we managed to do those past missions but Dave today showed us that we are a lot less strong than we think…”
“YA! I can’t wait to kick him in his smug glassed jerk accountant FACE!” Rainbow jump kicked in the air and knocked over a bookcase, I had an un-amused look on my face.
“Sorry, for that.”
“*AHEM* Ok so let’s meet back here at around… noon? I’m sure that once these mushroom effects wear off we will be back in pain. That’s why Dr. Mareio will come with us and provide any medical assistance required.”
Mareio gave a jump for joy and Ace just laughed as he sat on top of Spike peaking his head.
“Ace, you’re coming with us. We need you to help with coordination,” I gave a smug smile.
Ace annoyingly flapped his way out of the room to his bed on the roof via Eagle Window.
He'll show up, Ace never disappoints.
“What about Spike? Dr. Mareio needs to give him constant medical attention,” Twilight worriedly said.
Bringing a baby dragon to hardcore assassin training? Well at least he might learn something and maybe take his life a little more seriously after were done…
“Alright, he can come with us and that would mean we would all have to show up tomorrow, no excuses. We need to take down Dave and we need to retrieve the Apple before it’s too late.”
“See you all tomorrow!” Pinkie jumped ahead of everyone and waved to me, eventually everyone waved at me and I waved back.
“Mareio you can stop waving now they’re all gone,” I said to Mareio who was still flapping his arm.
After he put down his hoof I turned to my bed where my scattered papers were, then I just realized something important.
I looked at my left hidden blade.
It was still broken since the fight from Dave. I rummaged in my pockets and found the broken pieces of my blade and held them dearly.
Applejack is right, I am not being careful nowadays. I remember when I would just sneak across half of Ponitaly and no pony would have seen me. But… it feels like I’m losing myself hunting Balthazar all this time.
Hopefully this is just temporary.
I removed my broken blade and the pieces, and placed both on top of my mahogany desk. Grabbing the two letters I have finished I called over Mareio and gave him the mail.
“Alright Mareio, one’s for Celestia and the other is for Le Duck. Do you think you or Ace can get these to them soon? It’s rather urgent.”
Mareio gave a slightly confused look when he deliberately opened the letters and read them, “The Princess will be fine, but Le Duck? What I'A heard from him was a GIANT WARHEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PONIDRIATIC!”
“But I’ll see if we can do it… AND WE WILL!” he gave a reassuring slap on my back and tucked the letters into his doctor’s coat pocket.
I nodded then leaped into my snuggly bed, still fully clothed in my assassin robes as usual.
Dr. Mareio pulled a wooden stool out to the foot of my bed and observed me with his eyes wide and a creepy full face smile.
“Uh… Mareio what are you doing?”
He took a huge deep breath in, and to my horror I knew he was about to shout. I grabbed my pillow and placed it over my head to deafen the impact of Mareio’s voice.
DEAR CELESTIA HELP ME NOW PLEASE!
“ASSASSSIN NIGHTGUARD MUSHROOM DOCTOR! AND IT’S ALL THANKS TO ME TO PROTECT YOU ALL FOR TONIGHT SHADOW! ALWAYS ON VIGIL ALWAYS ON STANDBY, I AM.....”
His booming voice ruptured my pillow in half and my ears succumbed to his over dynamic shouts.
Everything turned black and I passed out.
I was walking down a long hallway; ahead of me lay a bright shining white light behind me lay saw nothing but darkness.
Normally I would hide in the darkness and use the shadows to my advantage,
But something feels off.
I looked forward into the light and I could make out something round and shining at the centre of the light.
It was the Apple.
I tried to run towards the Apple but the lights shut off and I was completely submerged in darkness, alone.
Suddenly I hear laughing, then a voice.
“Well well Shadow lost in your subconscious I see, sorry I horribly beat you today. But as you know you’re too weak.”
Dave? I thought he would leave my head alone! That bastard!
“Still leaving you in a cave to die might not have been my smartest decision, I probably should have killed you right there.”
“DAVE! Where are you, show yourself!” I shouted into the darkness.
“I would but I only have time to give you a message. A 'gift' you could say.”
“Shadow… if you manage to live I’ll leave you and your assassins alone for a while. No more mind messages, no more randomly bombing your hideout. I’ll just come tell you in person when it is time for the Party. I’m sure Balthazar would be very pleased if you managed to show up. Assuming you're not dead by the time.”
“Dave do you want to kill me or don’t you? You leave clues, hidden messages, your so called gifts! But most of it nearly killed me. And that’s what I mean, NEARLY. You can’t win.” I sneered at the darkness.
A long pause then Dave answered calmly, “I’m still trying to see how you fit into my little equation Shadow. And with that kind of optimism I have no doubt you’ll do well in the future. Sooo….”
“Let the Foreshadowing BEGIN!” Dave’s laughter echoed through the darkness.
Suddenly I felt a presence behind me and quickly turned around expecting Dave.
What the hell in Equestria is that!?
It looked like a giant black lobster, but it was covered in high tech machinery. It almost looked like it itself was a type of machine. It towered above me and it was roughly the size of a 5 story house.
*Static Robot Sounds*
I think it’s trying to talk to me, a machine?
It opened a round chamber from inside the front of its underside and began to glow red and grow with energy.
“OH SHIT!” I ducked to the left.
A red plasma beam shot forward from the lobster machine and blasted a large area behind me.
With this power opposition there was only one thing I could do.
The lobster thing gave chase by raising its legs and slamming them into the dark floor, each step it took was a at least a street block long. It kept firing it’s red beam aiming for me and left impact crators.
“WHAT IS THIS, HOW IS THIS A GIFT!?” I ducked my head just as a beam shot right over and blasted a crater in front of me.
I still ran, not knowing where to go considering everything was just black unconscious matter, I stopped just before a leg impaled in front of my path and I was trapped.
Looking up to the machine, I saw it was charging its beam and it wasn’t going to miss.
The area around me glowed red and I shielded my eyes from the glow with my hoofs. The light grew brighter and brighter until I shut my eyes not from the brightness but from fear.
I woke up with a start and looked straight up to see Dr. Mareio with his same strange smile overlooking me.
I yelled out in fright from both my dream and his creepy face.
Mareio was taken back, “AAH! WHAT DID I A DO?”
I put my hoofs on Mareio’s shoulders and stared him straight in the eyes.
“Giant Laser Machine Lobsters!”