Dragonfall

by DannyJ


Chapter 2

>Find the captain and have a shouting match.

Town Hall is down south in the Trade District, so I have a long walk back through the city. It's dark and cold out as I make the trek, but my anger keeps me warm (and my scarf helps a little too, I guess). I've brought along a pair of unicorn guards to protect me out in the city, a crossbowpony called Trigger Happy and a spearpony named Golden (whose full name I refuse to utter, because that would just be encouraging him). Both are experienced veterans, and just as mad as I am about the barracks situations, so they were quick to volunteer for the job. Always like enthusiasm in my soldiers.

This time, my escorts and I take care to avoid the Street of Shit. Instead, we go down Dragonfall's sorry excuse for a high street, a long road lined with grimy restaurants, crummy hotels, and dusty shops. But a ways down it, something odd happens. The road starts bending, and the shops give way to run-down houses, and suddenly we're not on a high street. Now we're... somewhere.

"...What?"

The change is stark, and the transition was sudden, but it was also surprisingly subtle. I didn't even notice it until we were already in this residential district. It's like I looked at the ground for three seconds too long, missed a turning, and suddenly I'm in a completely different geographical location. This must be what teleporting feels like. I have no idea where we are or how we got here. I certainly couldn't begin to describe how to reach Town Hall from here.

"Where are we?" I ask. "Where the hell are we?"

The streets here are a maze. The layouts are unnecessarily complicated, full of dead ends and looping paths. All of the houses look the same, built of crumbling grey bricks with shoddy straw roofs. And none of the streets are signposted. Literally none.

For a while, I wonder about that, as we aimlessly go in circles around the maze of streets. I soon find my answer when we come across several street urchins crowded around a burning barrel. Apparently wooden street signs make for good kindling. The orphans flee before I can order my guards to beat them all to death, so we just take their place by the fire while I grumble.

"I hate children so damn much."

I have wings, so in theory, I could just fly out of here. But that would entail abandoning my two guards, and being alone in Dragonfall at this time of night is basically a death sentence. I don't even trust the open skies to keep me safe, because Dragonfall's skies don't have a history of being murder-free any more than its streets do.

"Sir, why don't we ask for directions?" asks Golden.

"From who? The gutter rats?"

He shrugs.

I sigh, roll my eyes, and walk over to entrance of the nearest narrow alleyway. By this point, it's so dark out that I can't see any significant distance into the alley, but this is Dragonfall, so I give good odds that there's either a homeless pony or a corpse in there. On a whim, I pick up a nearby tin can and throw it. There's a clattering noise, and sure enough, a startled pony cries out in response.

I give up and throw my hooves in the air. I am so done with Dragonfall. Or I wish I was, anyway.

"Wha...? Whatcha want there...?" the pony says in a drunken slur as he crawls out from the darkness. He appears to be a grey-green stallion with a white beard and a beanie hat.

"Hello, local degenerate," I say disinterestedly. "Listen, this might be a huge waste of time on my part, but do you know the way to Town Hall?"

The hobo crawls forward out of the alley, pulling himself along by only his forelegs. His hind ones are bent in unnatural ways. He grins a toothless grin at us.

"Might be I do... Ya got any change?"

I wrinkle my nose in disgust; he smells like dead fish.

"If you help us first, then maybe, yes."

His eyes widen, and his mouth forms into an 'O.' Then he flips up to balance his whole body on his forehooves, leaving his mangled hindlegs dangling in the air, and exposing his cutie mark of a can of baked beans. This close, I can see that his legs are actually rotting and full of maggots. He has actual maggots eating his legs. I resist the urge to retch.

"Thissaway!" says the hobo, plodding off down the street with his back half pointed skywards.

My guards seem just as disturbed as I.

"Sir..." Happy begins.

"I know," I whisper. "This city is full of demons."

"I'm scared," says Golden.

Happy hugs him gently.

"It'll be okay," he whispers, tears in his eyes as he pats Golden's back. "It'll all be okay."

"...That is the gayest shit I've ever seen in my life," I say, bluntly.

The shamefaced guards break apart. After a moment's pause, they take my lead, and the three of us follow after the hobo.

"Nopony ever offers me a hug when I'm scared," I grumble under my breath.


The hobo leads us through several winding streets and back alleys, and eventually, we do escape the maze. However, in following him, we somehow end up on a rooftop, and I'm not entirely sure how that happened either. One minute we're at street level, then we take a turn, and suddenly... rooftops.

"What is with this place?" I shout. "Who builds a city this way? This is anarchy!"

"Not far now!" the two-legged hobo promises. "We're almost there!"

We soon come to a stop on a shingle rooftop with a massive, gaping hole in it. The distance down to the streets below is now truly immense. I could've sworn on the way that we weren't climbing. I didn't even feel the slight incline of a slope. And yet, down below, I can make out Dragonfall Town Square, where we gathered for our swearing-in ceremony before our trip through the Mining District. Which must mean we're now... on top of Town Hall?

I look over to the hobo, who dives down into the hole in the roof as if it were a swimming pool. I step over to the hole and flutter down into it, but my guards take a while to follow. Fortunately, it's only a single floor's drop, so their hesitation is brief.

"What in the Sam Hill?" says Golden.

The floor we've emerged onto appears to be a ruined office. There are desks and lamps and papers strewn over a filthy, rain-soaked carpet. Shattered glass litters the floor over by the broken windows, and the far corner of the office is missing a wall, looking out over Dragonfall. The floor by the corner also sags down dangerously, as if the office is about to sink. I look over to the hobo, who now lies on the carpet beside a small door on the opposite side of the room from the hole.

"Here ya go!" he says, grinning.

I slowly walk up to the door, and give it a tentative knock. To my surprise, a bespectacled pink mare opens it a few seconds later.

"Sorry, but this entrance is for staff only, not for public use."

Fuming, I shove past and into the warmer, dryer offices inside, my guards following suit. The mare protests, but I tell her to shut up. She appears to be the only one present, as the rest of the office is dim and quiet. The hobo also attempts to follow us inside, but I slam the door on him. Then I turn back to the mare.

"Excuse me, but why is this an entrance at all? Is there a reason that ponies commonly enter Town Hall by going through a disused, ruined office that can only be accessed through a hole in your damn roof? Come to that, mind explaining to me why it is that your streets lead onto your rooftops for no damn reason? Or hell, how about just the question of what in Equestria happened to that office, and why is it not being fixed?"

The mare smirks. "New to Dragonfall, huh?"

"Oh, thank you. Snark. That's very helpful."

"Hey, you're also being snar—"

"Happy, slap her in the face."

Ever obedient, Happy removes a hoof-boot and strikes her without hesitation, sending her reeling. The mare looks back and gapes at us, holding her face.

"Y-You...!" she splutters. "You can't just come in here and—!"

"Call the cops," I snap.

A lonely knocking comes from the door.

"Hello?" says a mournful voice. "You promised change."

I groan.

"Golden, go give him whatever you have in your pocket. Happy, stay here while I go to speak with the captain. If she acts up again, kill her."

"What?" the mare shrieks.

"Aye aye, sir," says Happy, saluting.

As I walk on through into the quiet, empty office, I smile slightly to myself. Police brutality is fun. I should do it more often.


Town Hall is incredibly understaffed, but I nonetheless run into several other ponies in my search for the Mayor's office. Most of them look utterly miserable, and can barely summon the energy to even glance in my direction as I pass. Everywhere I go is dimly lit and dusty, and there's a yellow tinge to everything that makes it seem like it's been forever since the place was last renovated.

The decor is also pretty creepy. One long hallway I passed through was filled with framed pictures depicting various states of equine suffering. There were ponies drowning, ponies starving, ponies dying of disease, and one memorable picture had a pony getting eaten alive by some enormous chimeric monstrosity. I hope against hope that it was just the work of a morbid artist, and not a depiction of an actual event; if such a beast ever does show up in Dragonfall, I would be contractually obligated to fight it, and I don't want to do that.

The building is huge, and just as badly signposted as the streets, so it takes me a while to find the Mayor's office. It turns out to be on the third floor, about halfway down the building, not a place I ever would've expected it to be. The hallway outside has no ceiling for some reason, but the carpets are brand new, and the walls look freshly painted. It's the only place in Dragonfall I've seen so far that doesn't look like shit.

When I go up and knock on the door, a gruff voice permits me to enter, presumably belonging to the Mayor.

The office doesn't look much like an office at all when I walk in. It's more like a warehouse. Aside from a few bookshelves, a desk, a coffee table, and a few office chairs, the whole room is bare. The floorboards are exposed, the wallpaper has been stripped off recently, and everywhere I look there are crates of alcohol stacked to the ceiling. Though, at the very least, it's less dusty and yellow than most of the rest of the building.

For a moment, I am bewildered by all the crates, but I quickly lock my gaze onto the two ponies sharing a bottle of wine at the big desk. One is a fat brown earth pony with a rat's nest of a beard, an eyepatch, and a sailor's hat. I don't know why the most esteemed Mayor of Dragonfall chooses to dress like a pirate, but I'm beyond caring by now. The other pony is my boss, the stallion I hate most in this world.

"...Agony? What are you doing here?" he says, frowning at me.

Captain Blackheart is still in his ceremonial armour, minus his helmet, fashioned in the style of Canterlot's Royal Guard. Its golden sheen is marred by a layer of grime, and even his normally vibrant lavender coat and feathers seem greyer than they did yesterday. In fairness, he is getting on in years, but I wouldn't be surprised if stress was a greater contributor. After all, he has been in Dragonfall nearly as long as I have, a whole half a day. That could turn anypony grey.

"Oh, I don't know, captain," I say, glaring at him. "Why do you think I'm here?"

"To complain about something?"

"To complain about something!" I give him a mocking smile. "That's right! Now, take a guess what it might be."

Blackheart takes a drink from his wineglass.

"The fact that we're in Dragonfall, and that you don't want to be here?"

"That too, and believe me, I could spend hours talking your ear off about that particular decision. But no, I'm actually here because the northwest barracks are completely uninhabitable."

That gets him to sit up.

"Why? What's wrong with the northwest barracks?"

"What isn't wrong with the northwest barracks? They're flooded, they're dusty, they're cold, they're infested with vermin, and one of my subordinates found police tape and an outline on the floor in the armory."

From behind his desk, the Mayor snorts derisively.

"Boo hoo," he says, leaning back in his chair and putting his glass down. "That could be describing anywhere in this city. My own secretary lives in a cardboard box because her house was burned down by one of the orphan gangs. You have it easy, you entitled little shit. Wrap yourself in plastic for the bugs, and sleep in a damn hammock to avoid the wet. You know, like the rest of us do."

"Yeah, no. I know the rest of you Dragonfallers are basically just one evolutionary step above the mesohippus, but my soldiers and I have standards."

Blackheart laughs.

"You don't have standards, Agony."

"I so totally do have standards!" I shout, rounding on him.

"No you do not. You are a total slut, so you have no sexual standards. You eat food straight out of the trash, so no hygiene standards either. And as for moral standards, hoo boy, if I had a penny for every atrocity you've ever been responsible for..."

"Okay, that burger? For a bet. As you know well, you lying scumbag. And I was talking specifically about living standards. I refuse to house my soldiers anywhere that would be condemned if it were built in any other city in Equestria.."

"Oh, wah wah waaaaaaaah!" The Mayor mimes rubbing his eyes. "Is the wittle baby scared of a wittle disused barracks? Oh mommy, hold me! Save me from the bad rats, mommy! I'm scared of wiving in a wittle active cwime scene, mommy! Waaaaaaaah!"

I glare at the Mayor.

"I am not accepting this situation!" I yell.

He stands and leans in, our faces pressing up against each other.

"Tough shit! The northwest barracks is what you get, you drama queen! In my day, we lived in our half-demolished ruins and liked it! Now get out of my office, go back to your station, and never bother me again, or I'll put you and yours on sewer patrol!"

"That's not even a real thing!"

"It is in Dragonfall!"

WHAT NEXT?:
1. Back down, go back to the barracks, and don't make any further trouble.
2. Unleash the hobo on the office and THEN go back to the barracks.
3. Punch the Mayor in the face.