Fallout Equestria: Misfits

by DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 4: On the road again.

Fallout Equestria: Misfits

By DancingOnTheAshes

Chapter 4: On the road again.
“So, what happens now?”
“You know, everypony asks me that.”

I awoke to loud banging.

I groggily lifted my head and took in my surroundings, at first I didn't quite recognize where I was, then it came back to me and I looked down on my new friend, with whom I was sharing a mattress.

And I immediately wanted to sink into the earth, because I was clutching Runs Wild like she was a stuffed animal.  I felt my face fill with blood and in horror I saw that I had nibbled on her ear.  Celestia, just kill me now, it would be faster than slowly dying from embarrassment like this.

The banging on the shack door continued and I started to disentangle myself from the little white mare, she was also waking up and looked around sleepily, her slightly dazed expression was very much like a concussed duckling and she asked me blearily.  "Who's at the door?"

I wondered the same and it felt like no more than an hour or so had passed.  I stepped over her and shouted angrily at whomever was doing the banging.  "Can it! We are awake."

I fiddled with the lock, almost ripping it to pieces before getting a grip on my magic.  My spells and telekinesis had continued to become stronger, like my body was still maturing from it's changes or something similar and it started to worry me a little.  I finally got the door open and ducked my head as I looked out.

Outside of the small shack stood Farsight and I noticed that strapped to his foreleg was the same 12.7 caliber gun I had traded away earlier.  Behind him hid Flour and further back stood a gathering of towns ponies.  One earth pony had a lamp saddle on him and a spirit lamp dangled from the pole that held it up above his head, illuminating the surroundings.  And in my sleep deprived state I wondered what the hell one of them was doing with a pitchfork in her mouth.

"Is there something we can help you with?"  I asked Farsight.  The sentry started to speak but Flour cut him off.

"Are you just going to stand there?  Drive that thing off or something.  Shoot it."  She hid behind Farsight and acted much like a small yapping animal, the entire time she refused to even look at me.

Farsight closed his eyes and it looked like he was mentally counting to ten before he spoke.  "Flour here seems to be under the impression that you murdered Runs Wild, and that you are now breaking into her shack.  She claims to have heard Wild's yelling and ran immediately to me."  He looked like he didn't believe a word of it but had to do his job.

I was taken aback by this and at that moment Runs Wild poked her head out between my forelegs.  "You're hogging the doorway."  She told me before she wriggled out, but I was still making the mental calculations and didn't move.

"Wait a minute, are you talking about the shout of surprise Runs Wild did when I took her flying?"  I was at a loss for words.  That was hours ago, was this mare really this stupid?

"What? What are we talking about?"  Runs Wild looked around and took in the scene, then her eyes fell on the mare hiding behind Farsight and she narrowed her eyes.  "Oh, hi Flour.  Rats in the food stores again?" Flour didn't look at anypony and only mumbled something, the ponies in the audience looked at each other and started to disperse now that the drama seemed to be over, the lamp pony stayed to give us some light.

I explained the situation to Runs Wild and the white mare glared at Flour when I was finished, meanwhile I had moved outside proper and I was sitting on my haunches against the wall, thinking about sleep.

"Really?  That shout I made was hours ago.  Do you really think that Curatie would have stayed here for that long if she had really attacked me?"  Runs Wild was fuming and Flour didn't look up while the little hunter ripped into her, she only mumbled again.

"Speak up please, we can't hear you."  Farsight sounded more than a little miffed at Flour's waste of our time and her lying to him, or at least not telling him the whole story.

"That... thing!"  Flour suddenly got a lot of courage and pointed at me with a hoof as she stared defiantly at the guard pony.  "Is an abomination!  And I don't know what you were thinking letting it in like that!"

I had gotten enough, I was tired and mentally worn from the encounter with the priest.  My horn glowed as I turned her head towards me against her will and gave her a golden glare.  She became fixed on me as her courage faded away like mist, to be replaced by terror when Farsight did nothing.

"Do not talk about me like that.  I am a pony, just like any of you and I did not ask for any of this."  I gestured with a hoof to one of my newly unfurled wings.

I shifted my focus to keep her mouth shut when she started to interrupt me.  "Just a while ago I was a normal unicorn, and I was forced into this against my will.  So I'd appreciate of you'd just leave me alone, and in return I'll leave you alone."  I released her, and she shot off into the night.

I sighed.  "I hope she doesn't do anything as stupid as that again."  Then I looked towards Farsight, he was digging around in a pocket of his barding.

"Sorry for causing all the trouble."  I said to him.  And I really was, it was probably best if I left after getting some sleep and supplies.

"Hey, you didn't cause anything.  Less forgiving ponies might have started to kick her around for doing what she did."  He finally pulled out a small pouch and held it out towards me in his teeth, I took it in my magic and floated it towards me.  "The rest of the batteries I owe you."

"Thanks."  I opened the bag and shook out four small spark batteries into my hooves, I had completley forgotten about those.  "I'll leave tomorrow after I have done some bartering, you do have a trader or something similar here I hope?"

"Sure,"  Runs Wild piped up.  She looked quite satisfied at Flour getting put in her place and I guessed there was some bad blood between the two.  "Receipt has a store in the big house, I'll follow and tell him you're alright."

She yawned and walked back into her shack, flicking her ear.  "Ear's itchy."  She muttered and I felt my face flush.  "Night Farsight."

When she was out of earshot Farsight said in a low voice.  "She wants to leave you know, explore the wasteland."  He shook his head.  "Doesn't tell anypony, but we've seen it on her ever since her sister died."

He gave me a solemn look.  "You'll take care of her, right?  You're a good pony.  With wings like that you could have just flown off, didn't need to help us with those raiders. "

Great, put more pressure on me why don't you?  I still answered.  "Of course.  If she wants to travel with me I'll look after her."  A companion would feel welcome, though I'd have to watch the ear chomping.

*** *** ***

"Where'd you find this?"  Receipt asked from behind the counter.  He was holding my duster in his hooves while his horn patched holes and reinforced the wing holes so they wouldn't tear.

I stood in a small shop in the main building, we had walked here after waking up.  The shop shared the first floor of the big building with a meeting hall and the town armory.

The walls were stacked to the ceiling with shelves and these were stuffed with all sorts of miscellaneous items, everything from rolls of gecko leather to lunch boxes and ancient magazines.  The store would normally have felt quite cozy, but I was a little cramped.

An aged earth pony sat by the door, smoking a corn cob pipe while keeping a close eye on me, Runs Wild was trying on hats over by the clothing shelf.

Upstairs was the office and living quarters of Farsight, who turned out to be the closest thing to the law in the little settlement.  This was obvious when I thought about it, no wonder that he had such weight in the community and I had learned that he was filling out for a mare who had broken her leg when he guarded the gate.

"I got it from a shack out in the desert.  About a days trot from here."  I answered the owner.  I was looking over the store's collection of mercenary bardings; nothing in my size but I liked to browse while waiting.  "Got the gun Farsight is using from there too."  I added.

"Looks like the duster that..."  He searched for a name.  "oh why can't I remember."  Receipt turned to the stallion sitting my the door and asked.  "What was the name of that stallion with the golden eyes?"  My ears perked up at that.  "You know, the big bastard, wore something like this about twenty five to thirty years ago."

"No idea."  Said the guard simply.

I made a mental note of that.

"Well, anyway.  Guess you'll need some proper saddle bags instead of that duffel."  Receipt sized me up with a merchants practiced eyes.  "Lets see what you have for trade."

*** *** ***

I was trotting down the street, heading towards the shack that belonged to the mare with the broken leg.  My new saddle bags hung securely by my sides and were filled with newly bartered goods.  I had insisted that Runs Wild kept half of what we got from the raider camp.

The bags were leagues better but felt slightly awkward with my wings.

Wild was now trotting beside me, intent on smoothing the way.

I came up to the right door and tapped it with a forehoof.  After a while a small colt opened the door and stared at me with huge eyes.

"Hello, is your mother in?"  I assumed that this was her kid.

The colt slammed the door in my face and I heard him yell on the other side.  "Mommy mommy!  Princess Luna's at the door!"

"Wut."  I stood there in shocked silence for a moment.  "But I'm not..."  Then I gave it some thought.

It wasn't implausible for him to get to that conclusion; there wasn't very much to go on regarding Princess Luna's actual appearance, other than big blue winged unicorn.  But a real princess like Luna would have, I dunno, stars or something for a mane.  Not a sickly green and light blue travesty like I had.

Runs Wild was rolling on the ground laughing her hooves off.  "What?"  I asked her when I snapped out of it.

She had trouble breathing and could only squeeze out.  "The look on your face. Priceless."

I harrumphed just as the door opened again and a midnight unicorn mare with her front leg in a medical brace looked on me in astonishment, then she narrowed her eyes.

"Not Luna.  Who are you?"  She looked me and my wings over.  "I heard Farsight let some alicorn in yesterday, I assume your the one?"  Then she caught sight of Runs Wild, she was picking herself up and waved happily at the mare in the door.

"Hello, me and Curatie came to take a look at your leg."  She gestured at me as if I was on display.  "She's a medic."

"Really?"  The black coated mare gave me a thorough inspection.  "Doesn't look like a medic."

I turned my flank towards her.  Surrounding the skull on my duster, holding on to it, was now three pink butterflies.  The pink butterflies still held a strong connection to the Ministry of Peace and anything having to do with the healing arts, even two hundred years after the megaspells, and I had asked Receipt to change the image on the garment.

"Oh,"  She turned to Wild.  "well if you trust her I do too."  She limped on three legs back inside while saying over her shoulder.  "Just don't drag the street in with you, I have enough trouble with Kite."

I assumed that Kite was the little colt who had slammed the door in my face... and called me a princess.  My ear twitched.

The main room was nothing special, a moth eaten couch, a table and a crooked shelf plus a locker, the shack had a feel of being a single parent's home.

The mare rested on the couch while we sat on the floor around the table, I saw Kite peeking around the edge of a doorway that led further inside.  I made a silly face at him and he disappeared.

"I don't have much to pay with, trouble enough to make ends meet."  She looked slightly worried, as if I'd stand up and walk away just because of that.  "I do have a shield spell I can try to teach you if you have the aptitude.  I met a buck a while ago who taught it to me."

She gave a smile towards the door where Kite had been.  “I was very fond of him.”

Seemed fair enough to me.  "Sounds good."  With a gentle smile I asked.  "Can you please show me your leg?"  She stretched it out to me and my horn glowed as I gave it a magical inspection, I didn't like what I found.

After a minute of thinking I said matter-of-factly.  "I have bad news and I have worse news."  Her eyes closed, waiting for the verdict.  "The bad news is that the leg isn't set properly, and there is a large chance that you'll develop a limp later on."

"Did you do it yourself?"  She nodded to my question.  "The worse news is that I'll have to re-break the leg to fix it properly, but there should be significantly less chance of a limp after that."  I would not enjoy doing that.

I was starting to pull out medical tools that I had bought in the shop earlier as I talked.  "I guess you did it by hoof?"

"Yeah, I'm a guard not a doctor."  She was looking downcast.

"The decision is yours, but in my medical opinion, it's for the best.  I can also make it almost painless, although the sound will still be ugly."  I was ready to proceed at any moment, I gave her a reassuring smile.  I didn't want to force her.  "You don't have to."

"No, but I want you to go ahead anyway."  She gave my friend a nervous glance.  "You do trust her, right?"

The gray maned mare gave me a reassuring look.  "Yes."

I closed my mind to the surrounding world. Right now there was only me and my patient.

I started to remove the brace and the bandages underneath and the old bandages flew over my shoulder on a cloud of magic as I set the brace aside.  Underneath the bandaging the leg was clean and well looked after.

To her credit the mare was good at first aid, I couldn't complain about anything other than the bad setting of the bone.

I poured a powder I had prepared earlier into a water bottle and set it aside, then I magically rolled the leather pouch into a tube and levitated it between the teeth of the mare.  "Bite down."

Then I cast a pain numbing spell on her leg.  I poked it hard with a hoof.  "Feel that?"  She shook her head, Runs Wild had moved up beside her and held her free hoof.

I closed my eyes, focusing on what I was doing as I probed the leg and felt my way up the offending bone.  I held the leg in my hooves as I concentrated, it felt small in my grasp.

I found the old break, half healed and looking wonky to my magical eye.  This was going to hurt, even with my best pain-numbing spell.

The bone separated into two.

I was amazed that she didn't cry out.  There was only a tensing of her muscles as I broke the mares leg with focused magic.

"Didn't that hurt?"  I asked her, a little distracted.  She shook her head.  

Right, alicorn.  I thought bitterly.

I returned to the matter at hoof.  I guided the ends towards each other properly and magically cleaned the surrounding tissues before pouring healing magic into the bone, fusing it together, much better than if it had healed on its own.

After that I cleaned and rebandaged the outer wound, it was almost definitely from the accident, with some proper magical bandages and refastened the medical brace.

When I was done, and she was as good as new, I flopped down on the floor.  Sweat was pouring down my muzzle.  "Keep that brace on for a week, just in case."

I levitated out a sparkle cola and gulped it down in one long pull. "Drink this before you go to bed tonight, and you should be okay to work the day after tomorrow."  I floated the water bottle with it's powder mixture to the black coated mare.

"Mommy?"  We all turned to the doorway.  "Are they hurting you?"  Young Kite looked like he didn't know whenever to cry or charge me as fast as his little hooves could carry him.

"Mommy's okay sweetheart.  She just made my leg better.  Nothing more."  She looked like she was completely drained from the experience and I didn't blame her; even while painless it wasn't pleasant.

The little colt rushed across the room and hugged my leg before rushing off just as fast into the other part of the house.  That hug made my day.

Runs Wild was looking at me with a thoughtful expression.

"What?"  I asked her, still slightly fuzzy from the hug.

She didn't say anything as she walked up to me, at first I thought she was going to hug me too, then she bowed down and grabbed my coat in her teeth and pulled it back.  My breath caught in my throat and a lump grew there.

I couldn't believe it, I didn't dare believe it.  I reached a hoof down to my bared flank.

And touched my cutie mark.  It was back.

The tourniquet of white silk shone like a newborn star in the ultramarine blue of my flank.

I couldn't help myself, I started to bawl like a foal.  Tears of pure happiness streamed down my face and I was blubbering thanks to Celestia like a simpleton.  My patient just looked on in confusion and Runs Wild explained while I hugged the white mare for dear life, not daring to let go, just in case the wasteland would wake me up.

"She's been without her cutie mark since she changed.  I think that her first act as a healer brought it back."  I felt her squirm a little, and I was probably crushing her a bit.

"I saw the flash of light from under your duster while you were putting back the medical brace."  She told me as she attempted to work her front legs free.

"I'm really happy for you but I can't breathe."  The mare in my grasp squeaked and I finally managed to lighten my grip.

*** *** ***

It was an hour later.

I sat on the floor practicing the shield spell I had just been taught.  Runs Wild looked on while drinking out of a juice box and the mare, who's name I had found out was Shelter, slept on the couch.  Kite was nowhere to be seen and we assumed that he was in one of the back rooms.

I was working on making the shield assume different shapes when the spell did an odd lurch and shifted.

The wall of protective energy that was floating in the air between us like a sheet bucked and heaved.  Then it closed up on me before I could stop it and started to increase in force, finally forming a big bubble around me.

"Bloody hell!"  I exclaimed and Shelter shifted on the couch.

"You okay?"  My companion asked me when she had gotten her breath back.  The spells shifting had startled us both, and I was no better off than she was.  I gave the barrier a nervous poke.

"Doesn't feel any different than the first spell I cast, other than I cant move it around now."  I started to concentrate again, feeding power into my horn.  The spell resisted me but eventually gave way and was again malleable.

I made it into a cube then a seven pointed star before letting it do what it wanted, the shield powered up again and reformed as a bubble around me.  Wild looked on over her juice box, she looked slightly blurry when I looked on her through the wall of energy.

"I think it's more powerful when it's in a bubble."  I studied the spell again before dismissing it.  "I wont really know until I’m getting shot at."  I said as I stuffed the items I had used back into my new saddlebags.

"Are you leaving now?  Shelter was the only one who had any real injury here."  She sounded like she really wanted to ask if she could follow me.  I took pity on her.

"Do you want to travel with me?"  I sat in front of her and looked her earnestly in the eyes.  "I can't promise that it will be safe, or that it will be pleasant.  But I can at least explain what I'm doing and why."

She steeled herself and said.  "Tell me."

So I did, I told her of the caravan, and my fears for it.  That I wanted to go look for it and the first place would be Shattered Hoof.  I also told her that from there I didn't know where I was going and I was going to have to wing it.

*** *** ***

I sat on the train cart wedged into the entrance of the small canyon.  An earth pony, different from Farsight, stood by the rifle mounted on the walls railing.  He gave me the occasional glance but didn't say anything.

I was waiting for Wild, she had agreed to accompany me and I had drawn a sigh of relief at that.  She was now packing and making her goodbyes to the town ponies she knew.  She also had to give the key to the shack back to Receipt, apparently her home had just been a rental.  The more you know.

We were going to fly to the Shattered Hoof Detention Center, I had figured that flight would take us the least amount of time, even if I didn't know how far I could travel with a passenger on my back.  I had also advised her to get her own pair of goggles to protect from the wind.

There was only one condition of hers before she joined me; that I let her brush and braid my mane so she wouldn't have the mass of hair in her face while we were flying.

When I was a stallion I had kept it short and had suggested that to Wild, she had just looked at me in horror and told me I was crazy before brandishing a worn brush like a holy sword.

She had spent a considerable effort working out the tangles I had gained from what wasn't just a few days, but what seemed to be at least several weeks worth.  Another reminder that I had memories missing.  I did enjoy the experience but the thick braid made me feel like I looked a bit silly, my tail didn't escape unbrushed and unbraided either.

After she was done I returned the favor, it reminded me of combing my sister mane and I fell into a pit of nostalgia for a moment or two while the comb floated in my magical grasp.

I felt a tug on one of my wings and my musings died with a pop.  I looked down from my study of the wasteland.

Kite was sticking something under my left wing and gave me a smile before running off down the plank.  I unfurled the limb and caught a folded up piece of paper in my magic.  It looked like a page from a ruined book and I unfolded it.

On the page was a crayon drawing of me, Shelter, Kite and Runs Wild.  Under the image, badly spelled, was a single sentence.  'tank yu prety princesss pny for fixxin mommy'

I looked up along the road, Kite was sitting further up it and was waving at me.  I returned the wave with a big dumb grin on my muzzle. The colt ran off.

"What was that about?"  Runs Wild asked as she walked up the plank that lead up to the roof of the wall.  She hadn't just bought a pair of goggles but a headband too.

I showed her the drawing.

"Aww, isn't that sweet."  She smiled and poked me in the side.  "You deserve it, you did a good job."

I stowed the drawing in my bag.  "Ready to go?"  I asked her.

"Sure, just a moment."  She dug around in her left saddlebag for a moment and brought out a new slouch hat in her teeth.  This one was roughly the same size as the one I had lost to buckshot yesterday and the same gray as my greatcoat.  She reared up and shoved it down on my head.  "I thought you looked quite good in your last one and I asked Receipt to make the hole for the horn."

"Thanks."  I adjusted the hat around my ears with my hooves.  "Ready?"  I laid down on my knees and let her climb aboard.

"Giddy-up."  She said playfully as I stood.

I gave her a deadpan look.  "Don't push it."  But I couldn't quite keep the smile from my face.

She waved goodbye to the current guard as I spread my wings and sprang into the air.  Heading towards Shattered Hoof.

*** *** ***

"Don't you ever eat anything?"  Runs Wild asked when I figured that we were at least three quarters of the way there, she had to raise her voice to be heard.  To be honest, I was feeling like a break would be a good idea, flying long distance with a passenger was hard work.

The trip had thankfully been uneventful, I had kept low to avoid the attention of the Enclave ships and only had to dodge the occasional raider bullet.  The problem would be later during the night when bloodwings would wake up.  I shuddered at the thought.

I spotted an abandoned building with a collapsed roof that led into a big attic and aimed for the structure.  It looked abandoned and after landing in said attic there was only a few radroaches to greet us.

After some bug stomping we prepared to eat.  Runs Wild did so at least, I wasn't hungry, I was almost never hungry.  There had been the occasional soft drink and cactus apple these past two days, but not much more.  Wild was eating from a box of apple cereal, spearing them with her claws and eating them one by one, while I told her this.

When I was done she gave me a sour look.  "I know you're new to being a mare but if you tell some filly about that, especially an overweight one, she'll probably try and tear your ears off."

I was about to ask her where in the name of Celestia's heavenly mane, you'd find somepony who was overweight in the wasteland, when the creak of a rusty hinge interrupted me.

I turned my head towards the far off corner, from an open hatch we had missed rose a figure from a little foals nightmare.  A decayed head, bare of any fur and mane, turned towards us from the opening.  The dead eyes glowed with an eerie yellow light and the rotted hinges opened, displaying decayed teeth like ancient tombstones in an abandoned graveyard.

Here it comes.  I thought as I prepared to levitate my plasma revolver out.  That hellish, nails on the chalkboard, howl of...

"What the hell are you ponies doing in my attic?"  The ghoul said indignantly, he sounded like he was gargling gravel.

My train of thought was derailed so hard that the train carts must have stacked at least three stories high in the pileup.

"Uhm, eating?"  I finally said.  I looked towards Runs Wild, she sat frozen to the spot, a piece of dried apple halfway to her mouth.

She started to squeeze out. “"Z...z...zom..."  Before I put a hoof on over her muzzle.

"He's not a zombie, he's just a ghoul.  And it seems like we are trespassing."  She still looked scared but was calming visibly from the shock.

"Your darned right."  The ghoul said.  "And I’ve lived in this house for the past fifty years."  He was working his way up into the attic.  "How did you get up here anywa..."  He had caught sight of my wings when he was all the way into the roofless room and stopped dead...um... deader.

"Sorry, we were just having a food break."  I kept my tone civil and amiable to avoid any screaming and firing of weapons, although it looked like he wasn't armed.  He just sounded offended at finding intruders and it was bad enough that I had almost pulled a gun on him, I didn't want to make the situation worse.

"Y-y-you’re like Ditzy, right?"  Wild finally said as she managed to find her voice.

"Yeah, I am."  He looked us over.  "You know her?"

"S-sure.  I have met her a few times when she was exchanging goods with Receipt."  She explained as she put her box of cereal down and took a swig from a canteen of water.

"Receipt?  You know that old fox?"  Runs Wild nodded and the old ghoul lightened up and sat down on his haunches.  "How's the old scoundrel nowadays?  Still cheating hard earned scrap from prospectors?"  He sounded quite jovial when the situation had been defused and I drew a sigh of relief.

"He looked quite good as far as I could tell,"  I broke in.  "and he did spare me a few caps when we were done."

The ghoul gave me a corpse light gaze that sent shivers down my back.  "Heh, getting soft in his old age I bet."  He chuckled.  "Listen, if the two of you wants to stay the night here in the attic, you're welcome to it."  The undead pony's joints creaked as he stood.  "Where are you heading anyway?"

"Shattered Hoof."  Wild said.

"Looking for some old friends of mine."  I added as I considered sleeping here.  It had become late and we might as well, we could leave at first light.  As worthless as first light was with the never ending clouds.

"Well, I wish the both of you luck."  He walked down the stairs again and closed the hatch.  A moment later he opened it again.  "I'm Blighthoof by the way, say hi to Receipt for me next time you see him."

After telling him our names he disappeared again down the hatch.

"So whats the plan for when we arrive?"  Runs Wild asked.

I had actually thought about this and spent a while explaining it.

"If you don't want to I can think of something else."  I said as I finished and prepared to get some sleep.

"No, it's fine."  Wild said around a yawn.  Damn she was cute when she yawned.

We curled up in a corner that still had a roof and drew a couple of blankets around us, mostly to preserve body heat.

*** *** ***

That morning Runs Wild gave me a crash course on stealth.

She gave my very lacking technique a dusting off and polish and helped make sure that nothing rattled or made any noise when I moved by tying it down with string.  I squirmed as she climbed around me with the ball of string in her mouth.

The plan was simple;  She goes in with me invisible behind her, then she asks the guards about the caravan while I whisper any necessary directions in her ear.  If things should go south I grab her, throw up my shield, and fly away.  I cringed as I thought about field testing the shield like that.

I had halfway expected her to tell me to jump in a lake but she had no problems with the plan.  We just needed to find out if Trader had passed through here and if he had, where had he headed, then leave.

We were nearing Shattered Hoof now, walking on the dusty road leading down to the old prison.  Matching our pace.

The collection of old prison buildings were surrounded by a large sturdy fence, this was topped by razor wire and a large metal net was suspended over the entire yard.  A large hole could be found in one corner of the net, over what looked like a large cargo lift leading down into the ground.

On each of the four corners of the yard stood a large metal tower topped with a guard post, like a metal bird nest.  I thought that I could make out the spread wings of a griffin in one.  

Two smaller towers stood on each side of the large gate.  Each of the smaller towers had a pony and a griffin respectively, and they operated mounted light machine guns.  Two earth pony guards, one blue and the other a light green, guarded the gate on the ground.  The grounded pair were both equipped with dual-rifle battle saddles.

They became alert when Runs Wild came into view.

"Halt."  The blue said loudly.  "What are you doing here and why?"

The white mare glanced at my hoof marks before drawing a deep breath and saying in a clear voice.  "I'm looking for some information about Traders Caravan.  Have they come through here?"

The green guard waved her closer to avoid shouting.  I followed as silently as I could just beside her.

"Trader?  Ain't he the big khaki colored bastard with no temper?"  The green asked his companion as we drew closer.  The two above us lost interest and the griffin gave a yawn.

Blue nodded and turned to Wild.  "That's the one.  Yeah they came through here.  I can ask the boss where they went."  I nearly let out a woop of triumph.

"Pff,"  Dismissed the griffin up in the tower.  "no need to ask Gawd you nimrod.  I was there when they came by."  The half eagle made a graceful leap and landed with a heavy thud beside the two guards.

"Hey, you aren't supposed to leave the tower."  The green earth pony said indignantly.

The griffin simply gave the guard a flick on the muzzle with her tail as she walked past.  "Don't mind the bore."  She told Runs Wild. The earth pony looked like he was about to say something but the other guard gave him a kick.

Her black talon armor creaked as she strode towards the two of us, stopping just in front of Wild.  I didn't like how close she was.

Then she inspected Wild and gave her a poke in the breast with a talon.  "Whats a mare doing out here alone anyway?"  Sweat started to trickle down my back.  This could go bad real quick.

"I'm good at keeping myself unnoticed."  My friend stated simply.  Well, that wasn't a lie at least.  She had managed to escape my notice in the attic earlier when she showed me some of her moves.

The griffin gave a harrumph and clicked her beak.  "Well little shadow, as to where that puffed up old stallion went."

She gave a lazy wave of her claw in the general direction of Trottingham.  "The caravan went that way, intent on selling some of the gems they got in Trottingham Hole."

She smirked.  "He talked about finding a new medic too, apparently the old one just walked off in the middle of the night."

I was torn.  On the one hoof I was relieved that they were apparently somewhat okay, on the other I wanted to kick something.  I had to stand still though, the griffin was too close for comfort.

"Alright, thanks."  Wild said before turning and walking away, I did my best to match her hoof steps but it was awkward with my longer stride.

We had the info we wanted, now we just had to get away safely.

"Hey, kiddo!"  The griffin yelled as we had gotten someways off and we both stopped and turned our heads.

"Yeah?"  Wild called back.

"Tell your friend with the stealth buck that he needs to work on his sneaking!"  She yelled to us while flying up to her perch.

The two earth ponies at the ground looked at each other, then back to us.

"Time to go."  I said before scooping up the mare and holding her to my chest as I flew, I dropped my invisibility spell as I heard gunshots behind me.  The griffin was howling with laughter as a few bullets flew past.

They were too far away to be accurate and they missed us completely.

After flying for a while Runs Wild asked me.  "Do you think she lied?"

"About Trottingham?"  I shifted my grip slightly while thinking.  "I don't think so, Trader has an old bunker outside of the city that he uses as base."  I explained.

"Oh, I guess we are going that way then?"  She pointed in the direction we were going.  "Onwards."

I rolled my eyes before putting on more speed.

Getting to Trottingham this way would take us at least three days and I pondered taking a slight detour around to Red Light Crossing.  The ponies in Red Light Crossing would let in anyone with caps.

All sorts ended up in the pits of that place.  Mostly ponies and a collection of zebra lived there but there were also a few buffalo and even a donkey or two.

It started to rain.  Perfect.

*** *** ***

The day was drawing to a close and it had started to darken even more with the rainclouds adding their weight on the skies.  The increasing darkness made me fear that bloodwings would attack.

I was cold and soaked, but intent on reaching Red Light Crossing before we got to sleep.  Maybe not the smartest choice but it was becoming personal between me and the rain.


I started to slow.  That was not a thought of mine, it felt familiar.

My blood started to freeze as I recognised the feeling;  I had felt it in my dreams, It was the feeling of unity.  I tried to ignore it.

~~...Sister... please...~~

The forlorn tone of the invading thought made me hesitate.

"Something wrong?"  Runs Wild asked from my back.

~~...Sister...I'm dying...~~

Oh Luna dammit.  Now I had to check it out.

"Just checking something out, it probably wont take too long."  I fervently hoped that anyway.

I stopped and flew in place.  Listening for the call again.


There it was, just ahead and to the left.

I set out towards the mental call.

"What is it?"  Wild asked me as she shifted position.  She was as worn by the days flight as I was.

"Something."  I answered.

~~...Sister...~~  There it was again, just ahead.  I was on the right track.

"Very helpful."  She said sarcastically.

"Look, It's an alicorn thing."  Oh crap, I was getting snippy with her.  I did not like that.

She just got silent and settled down.

After three more calls I finally found the source of the voice.  I stopped dead in the air.

"Oh bugger."  I swore as I hovered.

"What?"  Wild asked as she looked down.  "Oh..."

"Yeah."  I agreed as I looked down on the devastation below.  Too gobsmacked to do anything else.

In the center of a smoking crater lay a dark green alicorn, so dark green coat almost looked black in the gloom.  She was covered in cuts and tears, one wing was badly damaged, missing most of its feathers and the other didn't look much better.  But she was still moving, barely.

The source of her wounds lay around her in a widening circle.  There must have been at least two dozen of the black bloodwings laying around.  The bodies were all broken and twisted, the charred flesh was smoking.

The stench of ozone lay heavy in the air, along with the smell of blood.

"Should we try to help her?"  Wild hesitantly asked in my ear.

That snapped me out of it.  I took a breath.  "Yeah."  I agreed and started to fly lower.

"Keep an eye out for more of these."  I warned Wild.  "They are way too dangerous for my liking."

Runs Wild was working herself loose from my back, flexing stiff limbs while looking around.  "Sure, although I think she has taken care of most that live in this area."  She jumped down as I landed beside the dying alicorn.

~~...Sister, you came for me...you wouldn't let me die alone...~~  I heard her, but her lips didn't move.

Goddesses that voice in my head felt creepy.

"I'm here.  I think I can help you."  I couldn't do anything else, for all I knew this pony had been abducted, just like me.  "Just hold still."

The dying alicorn smiled.  ~~...too late...already dead...~~

A spasm shook her and I started to cast my pain numbing spell across her body, it would be less effective over her whole body but lower her agony in general.  I examined her with my eyes as I went over her body parts one at a time, lessening the pain.

She was indeed dying, it was a miracle that she was still conscious.

~~...thank you...just don't want to die alo...~~  Her eye finally managed to meet mine.


Okay, that was not the reaction I had expected.

Runs Wild was looking on, casting the occasional glance at the sky, looking for more bloodwings.  I wondered if she could hear the mental speech.

"What about me?"  I asked the alicorn.

~~...memories...fragments...tuch my horn...I can tell you...~~

Very helpful.  I thought to myself as I lowered my long blue horn to meet hers.

"How is this supposed to..."  But my sentence died on my lips as my world fell away.


At first I thought that I was blind, but there was simply nothing to see.

An endless blank vista spread out before me and it felt like I was levitating because there wasn't even anything that could be called ground, I just stood on nothing.

My wings flared as I nervously turned around, looking for anything at all to rest my eyes upon, but there wasn't anything in sight.

"Hello."  Said a sad voice behind me and I spun.

Behind me stood the same green alicorn I had seen broken on the ground just a moment ago.  She didn't have any wounds but she looked tired and... old?  Yeah that was it, she looked aged.  With lines around her red eyes and old worn feathers on her wings.

"Uhm, hi."  I answered hesitantly.  "Where is this?"  I was getting more than a little worried.

"This,"  She said as she showed off the nothingness around us with a spread wing.  "is just a blank space I created for the purposes of talking to you."  She had a kind but tired voice, like a grandmother educating her grandkids.  "When out horns are in contact, communicating is much easier."

"And why did you want to talk to me?"  I asked.

"Because you want to know why you were taken, right?"  She had put her hoof right on it and the knowing smile made it all the more creepy.

"Yes, I do."  I answered.  "I want to know why just I was kidnapped and not the whole caravan."

She lay down on what, for lack of a better word, could be called the ground and motioned me to do the same.  I wasn't sure but she looked like she was aging before my eyes.  Was this a mental representation of her slowly dying from blood loss?

When I had laid down she looked me in the eyes for a second or two.  I felt a fluttering in my mind, like somepony flipping all the pages of a book at once.  After that she made a humming noise and the nothingness shifted.

Into a scene of carnage.  Dead alicorns and mutilated hellhounds lay everywhere, craters from exploded mines were scattered across the ancient blacktop that lead to a big building.  We were floating over the devastation and the sight of the slaughter turned my stomach.

"That."  My floating alicorn said as she pointed a wing towards the building.  "Is where you and I was born."  An image of the vats filled with taint flickered before me and I felt nauseous.

"And at this moment."  Another image, this time of a fleeing group of ponies, a little unicorn girl in the front.  "Littlepip is on her way to set off a series of events that would, in the end, result in the death of The Goddess."

I had no idea who Littlepip was but I didn't interrupt the alicorns explaining.

The green alicorn shook her head.  "Trixie was powerful, and she had a great deal of knowledge."  She sighed.  "But she lacked wisdom, and she was arrogant."

"But no matter.  That isn't the reason she chose you."  She waved off her ramblings with a hoof.

"Right at this moment, our forces had taken massive casualties by an hellhound ambush."  She motioned to the carnage.  "And The Goddess needed more of us to replenish the ranks."

I was astonished, a group of hellhounds had done this much damage to a hoard of alicorns?

The Alicorn floating over the ground with me continued to explain while I saw gray creeping into the color of her mane and tail.  "We had captured one very exceptional pony a couple of decades ago, she showed great promise and a magical potential quite unlike that of our ordinary ranks.  So The Goddess decided that we should hunt for every pony we could find with those same characteristics."

Oh no, please don't tell me that she was talking about what I thought she was.

"This showed up as golden eyes once she had been reborn, alas, we didn't know where exactly this pony originated from.  All we had was a Stable number, and this eludes me."  She shook her head irritably.  "Memories are tricky when you have been bound to Unity as long as I have."

Yep, there it was, those fucking golden eyes.  Then a couple of cards started to flip into place in my head.

A Stable, golden eyes, my home town, a generation originating from a Stable.  I groaned.

"You're talking about Stable 10, aren't you?"  I asked her and she lit up.

Her mane and tail had lost almost all its color by now.

"That's right.  That was the number."  She said, then she deflated a bit.  "And it didn't go anywhere, you were the only pony who fit the criteria that we could find on short notice;  Unicorn and golden eyes."  She thought a bit then added.  "At least I think so, I don't really remember."

"And you had barely opened your wings before Maripony was destroyed."  She gestured again to the building.  "Littlepip had snuck in a balefire bomb under the facility.  This was just three or four days ago."

She settled down and the landscape under us shifted back to the previous void.  She seemed to somber and I guessed that she didn't have much time left.  If time even passed normally here.

"I could have tried to help.  I'm not certain that I could save you, but I could have tried."  I told her.  She gave my offer a sad smile.

"No, I've been too long in Unity, one and a half century at least."  I was taken aback by her statement, she was that old?

She continued.  "Alicorns of my age are far too likely to go insane when we have been separated from Unity.  The option is to recreate it and there is a collection of alicorns intent on serving Red Eye, but I guess that isn't an option for you.  Not with what happened to your son."

"Don't talk about that."  I said hotly.  She must have learned about that when she went over my memories, if that fluttering in my mind had been what I suspected it was.

She shook her head but didn't say anything more on the subject.

"Serving a self righteous monster like that isn't an option for me either.  And I had started to feel the first tendrils of madness when I got attacked by this swarm of bloodwings."

The void shifted again to the same location we were standing on.  I looked down at the still landscape where my body was standing, my horn and hers glowing at the point they touched.  Runs Wild stood just beside me, frozen, with an expression of worry on her face.

"I think its for the best,"  Her voice now sounded a little sad and tears started to flow down her ancient cheeks.  "that I have the chance to die as myself, not a raving mad pony."

I stood up, ignoring the scene below as I walked over to her on nothing.  I laid down beside her and draped a wing over her.  She felt brittle and her rapidly aging body slowly started to deflate.

"I guess this is a confession of sorts."  She said.  "From one dying pony to a young one.  I just didn't want to be alone."

"I've done bad things in my long life, some knowingly, others reflexively when commanded."  She confessed. "Ugly things, like taking ponies from their homes to swell the ranks of Unity."

I didn't say anything, I just let her pull this poisoned barb from her heart by herself without interrupting.

"I so miss my grandchildren."  She sniffed.  "But I cant even remember their little faces, not even my own name."  I just hugged her tighter, holding her together as her body slowly stopped to function.

"But I can do one last thing."  She turned and looked me in the eyes.  "I can leave you a teacher, someone who can educate you and be a friend."  She looked down at Runs Wild.  The still image hadn't moved since I looked down last.

"Everypony needs friends."  And as she said that I felt a tendril of thought enter my mind.

I jerked and tried to resist.  "What are you doing?"  I asked as I tried to stand.

"I'm leaving you a confidant, a teacher and a friend.  Someone who can help you when you are in dark places."  She explained as something was dropped into the back corners of my brain.

It was black and egg shaped.  How I knew that eluded me, but it felt partly familiar and part alien.

I staggered away from her and glared at the alicorn as her coat too started to lose color.

What is it?  I wanted to ask but the thought couldn't form properly.  The surroundings faded and the void was starting to shatter and fall away.  The dying alicorn was mummifying before my eyes and I felt myself slowly falling backwards.

The last thing I saw was her body shattering into dust and a young unicorn with a yellow coat picked itself up from the dust.

She waved goodbye to me as a shape moved up behind her and took her away.

I fell back into oblivion.


"Curatie? Curatie!?"

I started awake and Runs Wild was shaking me.

"What happened?" I asked her groggily as I rolled over on my stomach and pulled my legs under me.

"I don't know."  She sounded scared.  "You touched her with your horn and then you stood still for a minute."  She explained as I forced myself to my hooves.  “You didn’t react to anything and I couldn’t move you.”

"Then you just collapsed on your side."  She finished as she dropped to her haunches.  "What happened to you?"

"We had a long talk."  I answered her. It felt long anyway and I was tired.

I shook my head and the black egg rattled around in my mind.  What the hell was this thing anyway?  She had said that it was a companion but how was this a companion.  I just hoped that it wouldn't break something in my head.  I was messed up enough.

I looked down to the alicorn, she was dead.  That didn't come as a surprise.

Then I looked over the corpses of the bloodwings and got an idea.

"Lets take a few teeth with us, I have a plan for when we come to Red Light."

"Another plan?  What sort?"  Wild asked me dubiously and I remembered how well my last plan went.

"Oh nothing big, just a little something against pick pockets."  I told her.  "But we better find a safe place to sleep.  I can explain what happened while we walk.”

After finding an abandoned sky wagon we could hide in, out of the rain, we got some sleep.  We would arrive at Red Light Crossing by noon the next day.

Footnote:  Level Up
New Spell:  Alicorn Shield  (Rank 1)  -  This Shield spell, sturdier than most, will resist most types of kinetic force up to a certain point.  It wont be able to fully resist attacks with damage exceeding 20% of your total health.  This spell is also immovable in relation to you and wont take any other forms than a sphere around your body.

Quest Spell:  Shelter  -  This shield is not as sturdy as your normal Alicorn Shield but its far more maneuverable and can take on different shapes at your command.  This spell wont resist attacks above 10% of your total health.

Official proof-reader: NeverKnown