Lieutenant Davenport and Mayor Mare were up on the portico of town hall, with Vinyl Scratch and Octavia Melody. Vinyl's sunglasses and headphones were missing, her face bloody, and a massive bruise blackened her left eye. She levitated an icepack to her skull as she slumped in a rocking chair.
Rarity, standing in the rain, levitated an umbrella over herself, Spike, and Twilight. The nineteen enlisted ponies of the Ponyville Home Guard stood at ease on the portico of Town Hall, out of the rain, ponchos covering their armor. Sergeant Redheart's poncho, bright white, was emblazoned with red crosses. The others wore slate-gray camouflage. Dusky was nowhere to be seen, even though Rarity had watched her leave the house, airborne before she was even out the door.
"When did you last see your sister, Vinyl?" Davenport asked.
Vinyl Scratch looked at Octavia, and then moved her forehooves, ears, and tail in Equestrian Sign Language. Her response took many seconds.
Twilight's wings trembled and she pawed the mud with a forehoof.
Octavia translated, "She says, 'Right around sundown. I must have lost consciousness.'"
Mayor Mare looked at Vinyl and asked, "Are you sure it was Diamond Dogs?"
Vinyl nodded yes, yes, yes.
"The other three foals?" Davenport asked. "Who were they?"
Rarity's eyes widened and she felt the umbrella shake as her magic spluttered. Three additional foals? Four foals were gone? Taken?
This. This was the worst possible thing.
Vinyl signed a long response, and Octavia concentrated, glowering.
Octavia asked, "Dinky, Toola Roola, and Coconut Cream?"
Vinyl nodded and gestured on the nose.
Spike, wearing a green rain slicker, sobbed once. Twilight wrapped a wing around him, and pulled him close. Rarity placed a hoof on Spike's shoulder. Spike, after all, was the same age as the stolen foals, and knew them well. Spike always played goalie on the hoofball team Toola Roola captained.
Mayor Mare pointed to Pinkie, Starlight, and Fluttershy. "Go tell their parents, and get them here."
"What were you doing, again?" Davenport asked Vinyl.
Vinyl's response took over a minute, and Twilight's horn sparked as they waited. Rarity shifted the umbrella slightly to protect it from any sudden magical discharge.
Rarity looked around again. Where was Dusky? Surely the batpony had not flown Ponyville in terror...
"Babysitting," Octavia translated Vinyl's signs. "My mom is sick, dad is taking care of her. Didn't want little Lemon to catch it. Sister wanted to go skip rocks at Froggy Bottom Bog with her friends. We were trotting home when dogs jumped me."
Dusky spoke, and Rarity finally saw her, hanging upside-down in the shadows from the ceiling of the portico. "Which direction did they go?" asked Dusky.
Vinyl shook her head and signed. Octavia translated, "Not sure. Hit my head hard."
Dusky melted back into the shadows. Rarity was looking right at her—she knew that. But she still couldn't see the batpony.
After a few more questions, Mayor Mare said to Octavia, "All right, take Vinyl to the hospital." The Mayor gestured Twilight up to the portico. Uninvited, Rarity and Spike followed.
"What do we do?" asked the Mayor.
Twilight replied, "Spike'll take a letter for Princess Celestia. We'll have a full Guard battalion here two hours after sunup."
Rarity shivered. A battalion of the Guard—the last time entire battalions had deployed.... was Tirek. (For all the good that did.)
"Canterlot Guards aren't what we need," came Dusky's voice from the shadows above. "Luna will relay the message to Equuicigalpa, and get us the Mountain Battalion. It'll be nice to see Grandpa... but it'll be midnight before they can get here, or dawn tomorrow. We need to do this ourselves, right now."
Mayor Mare said, "The battalion from Canterlot should go into the caves."
Spike pulled a scroll and quill out from under his slicker and dashed off a letter. Twilight whispered one or two changes to him, and then whoosh! it was off to Canterlot.
"I'm inclined to wait for Princess Celestia," Twilight said. "This is too important to risk making a hasty mistake."
Davenport shook his head. "Those dogs are digging in and fortifying as we speak. Could you come down out of the shadows, please, Major?"
Dusky dropped, and landed between Twilight and the mayor.
"Major... I... well..." Davenport looked at his hooves, and his ears wilted. "It's my unit, here. I don't like you showing up one fine day and upsetting my chain of command. I'm not gonna say I like batponies living in my town. But foals are in danger."
Dusky closed her eyes and her whole body shook. "I haven't been underground since I got wounded. I don't know if I can."
Rarity flicked her umbrella closed, leaned it against the protico railing, and trotted over to nuzzle Dusky. "Luna said you've saved foals from worse threats before, darling. I know these Diamond Dogs—they aren't evil. Goodness knows what's gotten into their heads, but two squads of Guards will put their tails firmly between their legs."
Pop! With a flash of green magic, a scroll appeared. Spike grabbed it and read: "Your grim message is acknowledged. I shall awaken my sister and gather reinforcements. I place all authority—and my unalloyed trust—in your hooves, Princess Twilight, until we arrive. Signed, Her Lunar Highness."
Twilight flicked her ears. "That's unambiguous. Well... we've actually had pretty good relationships with the local dogs since they ran afoul of you, Rarity. This is stupid."
"Dogs aren't stupid," Dusky snarled, stomping and thrasing her tail. Her wings flapped once. "Ponish is their second language, so don't confuse disfluency with stupidity. But this does stink of either stupid... or of a deliberate provocation. They know we ponies will do anything to rescue foals. They must be wanting trouble. But why?"
Rarity fought a grin—Dusky had just said 'we ponies,' lumping herself in with the rest of the town. Yes. Yes, that's my mare, darling.
"Provocation!" came a raspy voice from the rainy darkness. "It'sss a deliberate provocation!"
Rover—the medium-sized diamond dog who had once led Rarity's kidnapping—emerged into the streetlights.
The guardponies spread out to either side, unicorns drawing swords, the two pegasi going airborne, and earth ponies wrapping forelegs around spear shafts.
"Unarmed!" Rover yelled, throwing up his right hand, his left arm limp. "Unarmed! Homeless, deposed, unwanted, injured!"
Dusky tucked a grenade back under her rain poncho, and then flapped twice to land at the dog's feet. She stood up to the maximum of her rather modest height and demanded, "Yield."
The dog—more than thrice Dusky's height—bowed his head and raised his right hand higher. "Surrender."
"Treat the prisoner's wounds. C'mon, you, up on the porch, out of the rain. Somepony clear a bench."
The guardsponies spread out, surrounding the dog, and he tucked his tail. Claw marks and bruises covered his body, and his left forearm was blackened and swollen from a broken bone. Rarity wrinkled her nose in sympathy at the painful wound.
He sat down, and Redheart splinted the broken bone and cleaned and bandaged the lacerations. Sergeant Sparkler levitated a chain around his waist, snapped a hoofcuff around his good wrist, and used the hoofcuffs to secure the chain like a belt. Redheart fitted a sling for his left arm.
"Talk," Davenport snarled.
"Rex," Rover said. "Came from another pack. Challenged me for alpha. Won. Drove me out of my pack. His old pack... far, far away. Not near ponies. Near griffons, much fighting. Think fighting normal. Rex not understand ponies. Griffons... griffons not work together to punish dogs. But ponies...." He nodded his head at the uniformed soldiers. "Ponies make herd. Ponies work together. Ponies punish dogs."
"Whyever did he foalnap four ponies, Rover?" Rarity asked. "This is how Diamond Dog packs bring the wrath of all Equestria down on their heads. Don't your legends describe what the herd will do to protect its young?"
"Yes! Yes!" rapsed the dog. "That's why I came here—try to save pack's lives. Not know Rex's whole plan, but probably coins for trade. Demand favors of ponies. Doubt foals are hurt... yet."
The herd muttered.
"They hurt Vinyl Scratch," said the Mayor. "The adult babysitting the foals."
"Adult horn-ponies—dangerous. Needed her hurt, first, to not make horn-power." He looked at Rarity. "Only took beautiful pony because of gem-hunting horn. Horn-ponies risky."
Rarity muttered, "Brutes!" and flipped her soaked mane.
"See what I meant?" Dusky said loudly. "Dogs aren't stupid. This Rex has a plan to deal with us calling in reinforcements. It might not be a good plan, but I don't want to give him the chance. We need to go, right now, and hit them before they know what's what."
"Is that wise?" asked the Mayor. "I want you to wait for reinforcements and the Sisters."
Twilight nodded. "We've got twenty-one reservists, counting you, Major. This is a full pack of Diamond Dogs, looking for trouble. Is a hasty assault wise?"
Davenport pawed at the wooden decking of the portico. "I... I don't like you, Major, okay? I'm the kind of pony that anti-discrimination act is pointed at. But I think you're right. The sooner we hit them, the better."
Everypony looked at Twilight. Equestria's junior-most princess trembled. Spike reached up and patted his sister's ribs.
"Major Fireball," Twilight said, her voice formal.
"Your Highness?" Dusky said, snapping to attention. "I await your orders."
Twilight drew her hooves together and stood at her full height, wings flaring into Royal Command Posture. "You're the pony with the most experience. As the senior officer, the glory or the ignominy will be on your wings. I recommend waiting for Canterlot—but I leave the decision on your hooves, I will endorse your decision, whatever it may be, and I will accompany you into the caves, if you chose to strike now."
Dusky looked at Rover. "Will you lead us to the cave entrance?"
"Don't hurt my pack. We make deal. No hurt my pack."
Dusky looked at Davenport.
Davenport replied, "You're the major, Major."
She looked at Rover. "We're getting those foals back, but I swear on my honor as an Officer of the Crown that we'll do our best not to hurt any dogs, if it can be reasonably avoided. But I can't promise. Take that deal, or go to the dungeons in Canterlot and we do it without your help. And that will get bloody, for both dogs and ponies. You'd better hope we sort this out before Luna and my grandpa get here, or your pack will be extinct."
Rover flinched. "Pups. Would you cry over dead foals, but not dead pups?"
"Of course I'll cry for dead pups. But I already cry myself to sleep every night. What's a tiny bit more blood on my hooves? In my dreams, every time I close my eyes, the blood is up to my shoulders."
"You bark loud for part-time soldier from tiny village," Rover said.
Dusky snarled, and turned flank-on to the dog and the gathered adults of Ponyville. She unfurled her damaged wing, and used a hoof to pull her poncho up and expose her torso. The scars of the grenade blast, the surgeries, and the skin grafts caught the hard torchlight, and cast vile shadows across her bluish-gray coat.
"I'm no green recruit, dog. I'm no half-trained reservist. I've commanded the hardest shock troops on the face of the planet, and I led them from the front. I've bucked down more doors than you've opened in your entire life. Don't think for a second I won't kill every last dog, every last bitch, every last pup, sacrifice every one of my own ponies, and trade my own life, to get those foals back. Do you doubt me?!?"
The troopers and townsponies muttered, and shuffled their hooves. Dusky dropped the poncho and furled her wing again.
Rover blinked at Dusky for several seconds, panting.
The batpony stared back, expression flat and breathing slow.
Then, Rover looked at Rarity. "Pretty pony—we are not friends, but we are not enemies, either. Remember—I not hurted you. Tell me true. Can I trust cave-pony's oath?"
Rarity nodded. "Yes. Yes. Yes!"
The dog made a fist and held it up. Dusky bumped it. "We have deal," Rover said. "Foals' lives for dogs' lives. Rex, I not care so much."
Dusky stomped, and thrashed her tail. Loud enough for everypony in Town Square to hear, she declared: "We go. Right now. Before the dogs fortify any more. Or... before they get hungry."
The word hungry sent a shiver across the gathered herd.
The batpony looked at Twilight.
Twilight scowled, but nodded yes.
"One more question," Dusky said, pointing at Redheart in her bright-white poncho. "Will Dogs respect the red cross, or should I put my medic in camouflage?"
Rover spat on the portico floor. "Dogs not barbarians! Question is insult."
Spike sent a letter to Luna, updating her on Dusky's plan.
The instant reply: Good hunting. —Luna.
The rain turned from a mist to a downpour. Twilight, Rarity, Rover, Davenport, Dusky, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and the nineteen enlisted ponies trudged through the mud, westward toward the Diamond Dog colony.
Corporal Bon Bon broke ranks and galloped to the edge of town square. She threw back her hood and tucked her helmet under her foreleg. Lyra trotted to her, mane and tail soaked by rain. Bon Bon kissed her wife, and then they hugged each other, foreheads touching for a few seconds.
Lyra levitated the helmet back on her wife, and wiped tears and rain from her own face. Bon Bon flipped her hood back up, and trotted back to her place in the formation.
Then, Lyra plopped down to her haunches in the mud and buried her face in her forehooves as the soldiers marched away.
Redheart broke ranks, too, and hugged her husband, brother-in-law, and twins, before retaking her place in the formation.
The tiny twins howled into the rain as their mother marched away.
How many widows and widowers come dawn? Rarity thought. How many orphans? Davenport has three foals. These are reservists, Home Guard, not regulars, not the elite like Dusky's old Ronin section, yet look at them march to combat. Terror, yes, I smell terror even through the rain, but no hesitation. Not even Lieutenant Davenport has seen combat before. Dusky and Redheart are the only veterans.
Rarity took a deep breath and trotted after them, taking the tail position of the column, levitating a jar of fireflies to light her way.
The Mayor, Starlight, Spike, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie stayed back in town, comforting the missing foals' parents, and the many other foals who only understood that their friends were gone, gone, gone.
Rain soaked the camouflage guard poncho Rarity wore, and she lamented what it must be doing to her mane and tail.
They marched for an hour, into the wilderness outside Ponyville.
Rarity thought, I should have grabbed some spare armor...
"Here," Rover said, pointing to a depression behind some fallen scree. "Cave entrance."
Davenport looked at his troopers. "Flitter! Cloudchaser! Front and center!"
The pegasi flapped over to him.
"Pick a number between one and ten," Davenport ordered.
"Nine," said Cloudchaser.
"One," said Flitter.
"It was three," Davenport replied. "Flitter, stay topside and guard the prisoner. I'm not letting twins go into combat together."
"Sir!" Flitter said, flipping down her hood, the rain drenching her mane instantly. "I want to do my part. I can fight down there." Her voice broke, and she blinked away tears and raindrops. "I'm... I'm not afraid!"
"I'm terrified to tell your dad and little brothers I got you both killed," Davenport said. "I've known your dad since he and I were in diapers. Stay topside, Private Flitter. That's an order."
Flitter looked at Cloudchaser. They hugged, and Rarity heard some sniffling and perhaps a sob.
They broke their hug, adjusted each others' helmets and rain ponchos, and then moved to their separate duties.
Dusky moved to Flitter and whispered, "Rover's left arm is broken, in a sling. Stay to his left side and behind, and keep a close watch. Private, have you seen action before?"
Flitter shook her head no, once, a spasm. Her helmet rattled and her ears wilted.
"You've had hoof-to-hoof in basic?"
"Yes, ma'am. I scored expert in aerial combat training."
"Can you kill in self-defense, private? There's no shame in saying no. Most ponies can't. You won't have the herd around you. You'll have to make your own decision."
Flitter scrunched her eyes closed. Her tail flicked, flicked, flicked, and her chest heaved.
Rarity's guts clenched as she watched the pegasus. She knew Flitter well, having been one year ahead of the twins in Ponyville Schoolhouse all through foalhood. Flitter even once had asked Rarity to a school dance, although Rarity—preferring stallions—declined. They all had spent many a foalhood Saturday on the fields outside town as part of the herd, playing tag or hoofball or hide-and-seek. Flitter, the poor thing, and Cloudchaser, too, only joined the Home Guard for college bits, their widower father struggling to support seven foals.
Flitter opened her eyes and looked at Dusky. "Yes, Major. I can."
"If he tries to jump you," Dusky said with a nod, "slice low with your right wingblade and open his femoral artery. That's a sure kill. I think he's helping us, but his mind could change. Don't hesitate. If he gets in close before you can slice, bite his bad arm on the break, then try to open his throat with a wingblade. Headbutt if you have to. Dogs have weak chins and your helmet is hard."
Flitter nodded, another sharp spasm of her neck. "Yes... yes, ma'am."
Dusky smacked her upside the helmet with her right wing. "Good. You'll do good, Private."
Rarity watched Flitter as Dusky trotted off. Flitter closed her eyes, took several deep breaths, and then stiffened her face and flapped her wings out from under her rain gear.
Her sharp wingblades glistened in the torchlight.
Flitter trotted over to the dog, and stood behind him and to his left. Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood nearby, poncho-less and soaked to the skin, but glaring at the dog as well.
Dusky pulled Davenport aside, and Rarity walked to join them. "Lieutenant," Dusky said, "we should leave both pegasi topside."
Davenport shook his head. "No, skipper. Cloudchaser actually qualified with high marks in cave training. Flitter... did not. Passed out, actually."
Rarity hid a smile. Davenport had just called Dusky skipper.
Dusky blinked and flicked her ears. "Lucky you picked 'three.'"
"I didn't. I lied to keep Flitter topside, without embarrassing her. "
"Oh," Dusky said. "She volunteered to go down."
Davenport shrugged. "Flitter's brave as Tartarus, but some pegasi are biologically incapable of caving, no matter how brave they are."
"How many other ponies in the unit are cave-qualified?" Dusky asked.
"Redheart and Cloudy. Skipper—what about you?"
Dusky's ears went flat. "I qualified master. Instructor, too. But... I couldn't even go to my little sister's birthday party two months back. If I freeze up—take command."
Davenport paled slightly, his face sickly in the torchlight. "Yes, ma'am. Major—if you knew that's a risk, why aren't we waiting for Canterlot?"
"Every minute gives more chances for the foals to get hurt."
"True." Davenport rubbed his chin. "Yes, Major, that's true."
"I'm coming, too," Rarity said.
"No," Dusky replied. "This is in the Guard's hooves."
Twilight trotted up. "Rarity? You and I are both coming, but you'll stay with the rear guard. The dogs respect you, and the goal is negotiation. Understood, Major? Lieutenant? Rarity is our voice to the Dogs."
"Yes, Princess," both officers replied.
Dusky shuffled her wings under her slate-gray cloak.
"Skipper?" Davenport said. "You're not wearing armor."
"Nothing in the armory fit me," Dusky replied. "Batpony wings sit further forward than pegasus wings, and my head's too small for any of the helmets."
"Crud," said Davenport.
"Shadows will have to be my armor. Princess, I need you to knock out the dogs' light fixtures. Knock most of them out, but not all, so I have deep shadows to work with."
Davenport shouted over the rain to his troopers. "I've worked with you all for years. We've only known the major for a few days—but we need a cave expert, and Celestia saw fit to send us one." He stepped aside. "Skipper?"
Dusky raised her voice and flared her wings. "This isn't a buckball game. There are foals in danger. We're the Royal Guard. Every last one of us is a volunteer. We all raised our right hooves and swore oaths in front of Celestia Herself that if this day ever came, we would step up and fight. Well, this day came. That means we're getting those foals back, safe and unharmed, even if it costs every last one of us our lives. Anypony who's not okay with that, anypony who's not willing to die for those foals, die tonight, can shed their armor and go home right now, because I don't trust you covering my back. Any takers?"
"No!" growled the troopers.
"Okay," Dusky said. "We're taking the alpha dog down. We want to negotiate, but we'll settle for his head. Remember: we're ponies, not barbarians. We're trained Guards, not irregulars. We will respect surrender, and we will hold wounded and medics sacrosanct, but we will kill anydog who won't throw down arms. Is that unclear?"
"The Home Guard's motto is: 'We stand resolute, between the chaos and our family.' Well, guess what? The chaos already came. The chaos caught us asleep in bed. The chaos took us by surprise. So we're going to go buck its doors down, and take on the chaos in its own home, and teach the chaos a Lunafucking lesson. Sound good?"
"If I go down, the lieutenant takes command, then Sergeant Sparkler, then Corporal Bon Bon, and on down the line. So long as even one of us can stand, we keep fighting. Single file, me in front, the lieutenant in the rear, weapons out, stay quiet, follow me."
Rarity looked at Rainbow Dash and Applejack, standing guard near Rover, and Rarity waved goodbye. Rainbow and Applejack waved solemnly back, and Rarity entered the cave.
Dusky stood just inside, with her troopers, her wings shaking, twisting her head left and right, up and down, to take in the stone surroundings. Her chest heaved as she fought for breath.
She's so small, Rarity thought. She's not much bigger than Sweetie Belle, but she's fought through so much. How many ponies, or other creatures, has she killed? How many of her own have died under her orders?
...I don't want to know, Rarity decided.
Dusky looked over her shoulder, at the cave entrance and the night beyond, and her wings flapped out of time with each other.
Rarity took a few steps toward Dusky. Davenport held up a hoof, against her chest. "You stay in the rear."
"Dusky—the Major—needs me."
Davenport's gaze followed Rarity's, to where the batpony stood, her legs shaking and wings drooping.
"I'll talk to her," Davenport said.
"Oh?" Rarity asked. "After you ejected her from your shop, for having the temerity to ask if the 'help wanted' sign meant you wanted help?"
"You heard about that?"
"Are you really the ideal emissary to the place she's in, Davenport?"
Davenport took a step backwards, his ears flattening against his head and face going pale. "We've got to send her back topside," he replied.
"No. I've got to get her calmed down, if we want to save those foals." Rarity strode past him, and flipped her tail against the tip of his nose as she passed.
Dusky quailed in terror, staring at the rocky ceiling and walls, her entire body shaking. "It's.... it's so much like it... that cave... with the other foals. It must have been an old dog cave, dug centuries before, and abandoned."
Rarity sidled up to Dusky, leaning against her, soaking poncho to soaking poncho, and draped a foreleg over the much smaller mare.
"Rarity– I can't do this– I– I–"
"You. You are the bravest pony I know. You are my friend. And you can do this, darling. You gritted your teeth through hours of sun poisoning with the weather crew for mere money, I know you can grit your teeth now, for something important."
"Because you have to, Dusky. You said yourself—there are four foals in danger, and nopony but you has the... has the ability. Are you going to shed your armor, and go home?"
"No. I—no. No, I can't do that." A fanged grin. "I don't have armor."
"I'm your friend, and I'm right here, behind you. I believe in you. Twilight is here because she believes in you, and Redheart. Aren't they your friends, too?"
"But... but if I freeze up, if I screw up? The ponies like Davenport, or the couple at Café Hay... I'll just prove them right."
"Then you can't screw up, now can you? We're all with you. Davenport is right here, at your tail, because even he knows you're the mare for this job."
After about ten seconds, Dusky's wings steadied and retracted to her flanks, she ground her teeth, her eyes narrowed, and she looked into Rarity's eyes. "Thank you. I... my friend. Sweet Luna, I'll be pissed off if you die. Please be careful."
"You, too, Dusky."
Dusky waved one forehoof to her troopers in a Follow me! gesture, and snuck down the cave, belly low, nose sniffing for a trail.
"That's my filly," Rarity whispered. "I knew you could do it."
Dusky, Corporal Bon Bon, and Sergeant Sparkler led the two squads into the cave. Twilight and the bulk of the guards followed behind them, spread out with about one pony-length between each trooper. Davenport, Rarity, and two earth pony privates—Cherry Berry, a pink mare, and a blue stallion named Eiffel—covered the rear of the column.
Sweat covered Rarity's back and flanks, and dripped into her eyes, despite the frigidness of the wet poncho. Her ears twitched at any tiny sound, and her chest hurt as she fought to calm her breathing.
Twilight cast spells, squelching light fixtures before Dusky reached them, and the batpony slinked from one well of shadow to another. Rarity shivered as the chill of the cave bit through her soaking-wet rain poncho, but she kept sweating, too, and shivers of terror gripped her, starting in her groin and extending up to her nose and down her tail.
And then, ahead of the ponies, a wood and stone barricade blocked the tunnel, with several armored Diamond Dogs waiting behind it with spears and bows.
"Ponies faster than Rex expected," called one of them.
Rarity belly-crawled, feeling the grit of the cave floor grind into her coat and tail. "Twilight," she whispered. "Want me to go—"
"Sshh!" Twilight rasped. She stared forward, rapt, watching Dusky, twenty yards ahead.
The batpony was also flat on her belly, and her tail twitched, right-right-left, right-left-left, left-right-left.
Code, Rarity realized. Dusky was spelling orders to Twilight with the tail twitches.
Davenport crawled up as Twilight squelched a few more light fixtures, leaving the ponies in deep darkness and the dogs in solid light.
"What's the plan, princess?" Davenport asked.
"The major wants me to teleport the barricade away without hurting the dogs behind it. She'll hit them with a stun grenade and your troopers will make a pike wall to keep them back. Pass the word."
"Can you teleport the barricade?" asked the lieutenant.
"Easily... although I'm not sure about the 'not hurt the dogs' part... I'm going to teleport it to the middle of Luna Bay, and hope that none of them are holding on too tight. ....I... I think Dusky is going to use me as an artillery piece. That's actually not a bad idea, but I feel like I could do more."
"There's no class called 'Proper Utilization of an Alicorn' in reserve training," Davenport said. "The skipper went to the Academy, but I suspect they don't have that class, either."
The dogs rattled their shields and banged their spears. The two armed with bows nocked arrows.
Davenport crawled from trooper to trooper, and each one nodded as he whispered to them.
Rarity squirmed, burrowing deeper into the dirt that covered the rocky floor. Her unarmored spine prickled, and the two bow-armed dogs held her full attention.
She really, really should have grabbed some armor earlier, darling, but it was so rushed and confused...
In a deep shadow, Rarity saw a brief glint of gold as Dusky flagged up her blond tail—
—and then slashed it down.
Twilight jumped to her hooves and charged her horn.
The dogs drew back their bowstrings, aiming towards Twilight.
A small orb flew through the cavern, from Dusky's shadow, toward the dogs.
Twilight's horn flashed.
The barricade disappeared in a purple miasma.
The dogs fell, off-balance, and two arrows flew wild.
Dusky's grenade bounced off a dog's helmet.
Rarity clapped her hooves over her ears and buried her face into the dirt.