I didn’t even unfurl my wings until I was half-way down.
Now, to be fair, doing what I was currently doing? Hurling downwards at quite literal breakneck speeds, laughing like a loon because some part of my ‘new’ brain really, really, really liked the feel of air rushing past me?
Not the safest.
Even if you discounted things like trying to learn how to fly from a ten-story balcony over asphalt and other foolishness, a modern metropolis like Chicago was hardly built with three-dimensional movement in mind. Power-lines, clotheslines, fog, pigeons that really didn’t like things the size of… well, a pony, just suddenly zipping past ‘em...
There had been some rather nasty accidents, even without counting on the whole semi-magical flight thing.
Heck, there was even some utter idiot in New York that had buzzed Manhattan at Mach freaking six, or something like that, and caused not only a light-show that was making the scientific community tear their hair out, but had caused damage in the high millions if not outright the low billion range.
Falling glass and panic had apparently even killed nearly a dozen people, with wounded in the low hundreds range. Talk about an exemplar of why idiots shouldn’t be trusted with magic. Heck, there had even been talk among the wardens about holding trial for the girl, only barely avoided by how she’d ended up in ‘muggle’ custody before the day was over. The trial wasn’t quite over yet, but it looked as if she wouldn’t be a free mare until her mane had gone grey-scale at the current rate.
Not that I quite expected to reach those speeds anytime soon, even with what a leg up I had in the magic department, but I had to admit, a part of me kept being tempted to see if I could even when I knew that I shouldn’t.
Not that that was a new temptation for a wizard.
Still, dangers aside, flying was just glorious.
The scents, the wind, the adrenaline…
With a snap of tendons that made the muscles on my back strain and burn, my wings caught the air. With a few more maniacal laughs for the road, I moved in an almost lazy arc that made me buzz the pavement, as I set up and off for Mac’s.
Call me paranoid, but with how this day seemed to be careening headlong into a new mess for me to deal with, I wanted to do so with a full stomach.
As the, heh, pony flew it wasn’t very far, and even with cruising and keeping my eyes open for threats —be they of the monster or unintended garrotes variety— I made good time.
It would have been a bit faster without the leather ‘gloves’ over my wings, enchanted in the same way as the rest of my duster. But what can I say? I’ve had a few too many bullets zip by me in my days, to leave entire limbs exposed like that, and most of my new flight was magical, so~o…
Still, even with my duster on, I made good time.
Not much had changed at Mac’s, even with the world turning upside down and pastel colored. It was still the same low-ceilinged hole in the ground. There was still thirteen ceiling fans, thirteen stools, thirteen tables, and so on.
The only real consideration to the end of the world as we knew it, was that thirteen bean-bag chairs had been added to the decor. the rest subtly shifted around to preserve the Feng-shui.
Had to admit. not the most dignified way to have a beer, but it sure was easier on the back than a normal chair.
I paused in the doorway long enough to wave at, and be grunted at in turn by Mac. Didn’t think he’d go for the shotgun I knew he had under that bar just because somepony came trotting in, but no sense in taking chances until everybody was used to the new arrangement of things.
Wasting no time, I… well, trotted up to the bar, fighting down the irritation of barely being able to put my nose on the surface without rearing up. “How’s business, Mac?”
Mac, as wordy as usual, let out a slightly irritated grunt, and did a so-so gesture with his hand.
“People still freaked-out enough to mostly hide away at home, huh?”
With a slightly more irritated grunt, Mac confirmed it with a nod. Guess my business was the odd-duck as usual.
I waved a wing at the door. “Got some company coming I’m not sure how on the level it is.” I nodded towards the spot on the wall were the ‘Accorded Neutral Territory’ plaque still hung. “Don’t think they mean trouble, but they sure aren’t local ponies, if you follow.”
Mac all but exploded with shock and curiosity, as I got a whole eyebrow raised at me in inquiry.
I looked around the bar, but it seemed it was only me and Mac there. Still, even if I trusted Mac, there was no reason to take chances, so I pulled myself up, leaned forward and lowered my voice. “Not quite sure if it’s a bluff yet, but the girl that showed at my office claimed to —get this, be my best friend from my previous life, and we plus four others used to be the land of Equestria’s team of magical girls...”
Slowly, the other one of Mac’s eyebrows joined it’s brethren in pointing heavenward.
“...except this one prick apparently faked being redeemed through The Elements of Harmony, and put some curse on us and half the darn country of Equestria, to be reborn as ‘magicless’ humans.” With a grunt, I let go and sat down again. “And trust me, that was the sane seeming bits that didn’t sound as if they came from a story-book for toddlers.”
“...Joking?” Mac asked, after contemplating the insanity for a few moments.
I paused for a moment, before shaking my head. “No, don’t think so, but I’m honestly uncertain if this Twilight girl’s delusional or not.” I faked twitching, flapping my ear and blinking rapidly a couple of times. “Like that, as soon as you point out the world doesn’t work quite as she imagines it to do.” I did a grimace. “And the lucky, lucky girl got one of everything. Wings, horn, and I’d bet mud to donuts the legs as well. You could feel the darn power seeping from her without even trying.”
With a deep hum, Mac looked suspiciously at the door. “Troublesome.”
I took a deep breath, and got up. “Yeah, just thought you deserved a head’s up, Mac.” I waved over to one of the few tables with cushion seats. “I’ll have a beer while I wait, but hold the food, ‘kay?”
With a smooth motion born of years of practice, Mac both passed me my bottle and opened it, almost in one pass.
I muttered out thanks, as I started hobbling towards my seat with drink in ha- hoof.
Now, the wings? Double strength awesome-sauce, with extra cool sprinkles on top.
The four legs thing? That sucked dust on toast. Don’t get me wrong, that first time you manage a gallop had been near as magical as a first flight…
But how often do you have to run like the wind? Unless you’re me, with my fucked up monster filled life, of course.
But for your average, day-to-day stuff it was just clunky, loud, uncomfortable, and for even carrying as much as a freaking pen you suddenly felt about as graceful and majestic as an icebreaker on stilts.
Broken, broken stilts, fashioned from the shattered dreams of cute little kittens, for whom joy would never be more again than a distant mirage.
I’d just barely gotten a sip of the liquid ambrosia Mac somehow kept stealing from the heavens without repercussion, when my ears perked at the clip-clop of hooves coming down the stairs to the bar.
I carefully put down my bottle, and shook my new, shiny shield-bracelet free from my sleeve. Say what you want about the sometimes strange and slightly worrying things Svartalves charge instead of money, but there was no knocking the end-result.
Somewhat worryingly, it wasn’t Twilight this time, but another winged darn unicorn. This huge mare almost twice my size, with blue pelt, a literally starry mane, and wearing only a black cloak that might have passed for stealthy in a bad Disney movie.
I let out a breath, and drew in a bit more power in the same motion.
Yeah, I was being scouted for something, alright.
I guess I was about to find out if that something was the same as Twilight had actually talked with me about or not, but it sure didn’t make that itchy feeling between my shoulders go away.
The mare, whoever she was, hadn’t noticed me yet.
Because not only had something on entering Mac’s made her frown deeply, but she seemed morbidly fascinated with the ceiling fans, of all things.
Honestly, in that moment, I was tempted to just do my best at veiling and sneaking off. I might not be good with delicate stuff like that, but this mare looked Trouble with a capital T to me.
It wasn’t quite on the level of some of the foul and/or fair stuff I’d seen over the years, but the mare still had this grace and subtle power to her that made me have no doubt I was dealing with something not-quite mortal.
Hey, what can I say? I’d just slunk out of working under a bitch with more fingers than morals, and I wasn’t in a hurry to have that same experience with a nag instead. Call me crazy, but that simply didn’t sound novel enough to be worth the time and effort.
Now, starting a fight on Accorded Neutral Ground? That was a big no-no. You might as well kick the entire Unseelie Court in the ganglies, and well…
I didn’t want to ever draw that particular attention again, not if I could avoid it.
So I came to a conclusion.
I hadn’t experimented much with it, but my wings —and probably by extension all pegasi, were seemingly hell on wheels as far as water and air foci were concerned. Made sense in a way. After all, about a ton of pony, zipping through the air like a hummingbird on crack? Not exactly light lifting.
Of course, the reason I hadn’t experimented much, was that if I blew these foci up, it would be just a bit more painful than normal.
Still, you use what you have, not what you want.
So murmuring my best veil under my breath and using both wings to weave the spell itself, I grabbed my bottle and started slowly backing off into the corner with the deepest shadow I could reach.
To hide with magic, you have to block or redirect things. Sure, you can theoretically make it so that a pipe-bomb sounds like a wet firecracker, but that shockwave suddenly has no-way to go, and will cause far more damage, if in a reduced area.
Sight was no exception, and as I faded into the shadows, my own vision darkened and dimmed. Now, I was hardly a, heh, wiz when it comes to veils, so I could still see and be seen, but for the price of suddenly wearing really dark sunglasses I was now little more than a vague outline in the dark.
Hardly impossible to spot, but much, much harder unless those type of distortions were actively being looked for.
Now, I’m a wizard. We cheat, it’s just part of the job, and my other job of private investigator was hardly an exception in that regard. Still, I’d done a few stake-outs, and with the necessary patience born of such, I sat down in my little corner and played the waiting game.
I saw Mac’s eyes dart over to me, seemingly not even pretending he couldn’t spot me. Still, as much as that made me once again wonder just what Mac really was, the tiny nod I got from him made me almost sigh out-loud in relief.
Curiosity aside? As long as he was still one of the good guys, that was enough for me.
Mac picked up his rag and a glass that already sparkled slightly in the light, and started ‘cleaning’ it.
Had to admit, kinda clever. Not only did it really cement the ‘totally normal barkeep, no need to worry about me’ image, but suddenly he had a projectile quite literally in hand for a sucker-punch.
With her lance of a horn I guess I couldn’t blame whoever she was from being a bit weary of the spinning bits of metal on the low ceiling, but ‘Black Beauty’ over there was still fascinated with them for way too long.
Still, after far too long, Black Beauty looked down, and gave Mac a light glare. “Is such a clear disregard for pegasi standard in this realm…” The mare proclaimed at Mac, in a dark but melodious voice, rather cementing that this wasn’t anybody I wanted to mess with. “...or is it just this one bar?”
I saw a tiny flicker of annoyance on Mac’s face, but he draped the rag over his arm, and pointed at a sign just outside the door I hadn’t noticed before. “I’m the owner, Your Grace, not the architect.”
I fought down the shock at hearing Mac speak in a whole sentence for once, and instead looked at the sign I could just barely see from where I was.
FOR YOUR OWN AND OTHERS SAFETY, PLEASE, NO FLYING.
“...I see,” Black Beauty murmured out after having read it, not sounding completely convinced but still slightly more friendly as she turned back. “...And just why is the magic of this room so… off?”
“Practitioner bar.” Mac grunted and nodded in a way that somehow seemed to point-out the whole decor. ”Arranged to ground and disperse.”
Black Beauty frowned as if that was the most backwards bit of logic she’d ever heard. “...I was informed that this realm had next to no magical practice.”
With what was barely the ghost of a smile, Mac gave a brief shrug. “Things change, secrets revealed…” Mac hesitated, before continuing in a firm but kind voice. “People and things around here, Your Grace? Spooked by the pony thing, so I wouldn’t speak that loudly about ‘realms’ right now. Just friendly advice.”
It had been a long time since I’d heard Mac speaking this much, and that time it had been really bad news.
Mac smiled, if coldly, at the words.
“...Ah,” Black Beauty murmured out with a cold gleam to her eyes that hadn’t been there before, “those sort of ‘things.’”
I got the distinct impression I’d just seen somebody put entire species on their personal hit-list. It was a strange little voice in the back of my head that far too quietly went ‘oh shit.’
Wonder how many of my enemies have gotten that vibe? Ye gods in that case, no wonder people kept trying to kill me.
“Anyway, that is not why I’m here,” Black Beauty said, as she reached into her cloak and pulled out what looked like a faded photo but I couldn’t see of what. “I’m looking for friends of mine, and one of them was supposed to come here today. You’ve seen any of these mares?”
Mac barely looked at the photo before answering. “Sorry, Ma’am.”
The mare’s eyes nearly bulged out of her skull, and I even felt power gather around her.
“Nothing personal... but I don’t know you.”
Black Beauty let out a slow breath, and far more importantly, the power she’d pulled into herself. “...Please?”
Had to admit, if that pained expression was fake, and this ‘mare’ just some new type of spirit? Then the demons had just gotten dethroned from the throne of liars around here.
Firmly, Mac shook his head.
The mare fought down what was clearly a snarl, putting the photo back. “...I will laud your Loyalty, if nothing else,” she said with forced politeness.
I frowned a bit, as I slowly pulled my hoof away from my revolver. It was very, very seldom I’d heard people speak words with such conviction I could hear the darn capital letters on them, and it was just as rarely a good sign.
Frankly, that exit was starting to look more appealing by the second, but with Black Beauty sitting there just by the bar it might as well have been on the moon.
‘Luckily’ the main lunch rush was just about starting, and Mac’s might not have been the biggest bar around even at the best of times, but he did have a list of regulars with more names than mine on it.
So taking that, or at least getting off a first bop on the nose towards the mare, I slowly started sliding myself closer to the exit. Leaving the beer behind in the corner.
Crime against beer itself, I know, but sacrifices have to be made sometimes.
As a bonus since there had been only one or two ‘one-of-everything ponies’ even to the knowledge of the freakier side of things, nearly everybody entering Mac’s froze for a moment or so, on entering, leaving the door wide-open.
The old joke of: ‘Where does the ten-ton elephant sit?’ i.e. where ever it darn pleases, had proven true. Totally ignoring the layout, Black Beauty had floated over one of the cushions and just plopped it down by the bar to Mac’s barely hidden annoyance.
Honestly, the mare was acting as if the room was flippin’ graced by her presence. As far as I’d spotted, she hadn’t even gone for a token glass of water.
I’m not sure if it was hubris born from her power, or genuine disinterest, but any people actually wearing shoes didn’t even make the mare twitch, no matter how they stared.
Approaching hooves on the other hand…
The unicorn mare was one of the ‘nudists,’ that hadn’t yet managed —or bothered, to update her wardrobe to the quadruped cut, and was wearing only a small handbag slung over her neck and back. Wasn’t sure if I and my sweaty everything felt more annoyed, jealous or embarrassed, to be blunt.
Still, it was a rather mild spring, so I guess it made sense for people to if nothing else try the novelty of walking about with barely a thread in snow.
Not sure what end the decency laws would fall down on ultimately, but for now? Legal limbo. No politician wanted to be the first to give the yay or nay. Yay, and the conservatives would nail ‘em next election. Nay, and the rather frighteningly new, large and unknown ‘pony demographic’ would do the same.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t… but I had to admit. Just speaking personally? If I’d been forced to pick one of two groups to nail me to a wall, I’d prefer people with pants doing it.
Sounds slightly less terrifying that way.
Other than that, though? Rather pretty unicorn mare, truth be told. A bluish-white pelt, and mane/tail arctic blue with a darker blue in stripes.
Very, very blue, but you wouldn’t know from how wide the gal was smiling. Heck, I swear her raspberry —of all darn colors, eyes were quite literally sparkling, even.
It didn’t seem to be quite a glamour or anything, but the girl sure had one of those presences that draws near every eye to her.
Aside from how she seemed to have a shining ruby rather disturbingly merged with her chest, the girl looked just… well, as normal as a Technicolor pony may, at any rate. Even her emblem wasn’t that out there, ‘just’ a heart with a jagged, blue musical note over it.
That is, until Black Beauty balked like she’d seen a ghost with really big teeth, and shot to her hooves. Going from melancholic boredom to fang-bared battle-stance in under a moment.
The newcomer I swear I recognized froze mid-step, looking quite confused.
“Ma’am,” Mac, who’d been serving some of the (slightly) more mundane customers, ordered in one of those voices you can bend steel around, “neutral ground. Behave, or leave.”
Black Beauty didn’t even glance Mac’s way. “That is not a pony.”
“Don’t care. You two got grief, it goes outside.”
Blue, whoever she was, slowly sat down on her haunches. “...I don’t think I know you, Lady,” she calmly said with an almost suspiciously melodious voice. “I don’t want any trouble with you. I’m just here for lunch.”
The winged unicorn’s eyes narrowed further, into an outright glare.
Blue just rolled her eyes, though. Ballsy, I’ll grant that. “The taco-platter, not… whatever you think it is.”
It was darn subtle, but I saw Mac move slightly, as if hitting something with his foot. A silent alarm? Since when did he have that installed?
Either way, about to be extra trouble.
Pausing only to throw her arms up in disgust, Blue rolled her eyes and got up. “Sorry, Mac, but I’m not risking the wrath of Winter —or whoever this nag is, for taco-cravings.”
‘Blue’ left with a huff, but Blackie didn’t even lower her horn until the sound of hooves died off.
“Leave,” Mac said with barely restrained annoyance. “Now.”
Blackie twitched as if slapped. “Do you have any idea, what that was?!”
Mac looked pointedly at the empty spot in front of Blackie, and then pointed at the door, his lips a thin line. “Last warning.”
With a huff and something muttered about “...ungrateful whelp…” Blackie stomped out, in her anger distracted enough not to notice me despite sweeping past so close I could have reached out and dragged my wing against hers.
I felt really damn mixed about it, but if I’d still been human? I would have been a dripping mess right now, as my weak-spot of fiddly stuff having been pushed to its limits…
And yet, I honestly felt as if I could keep this crappy veil up for days. I mean, I’d noticed my magic had been blowing out less light-bulbs lately, but that much greater control?
I guess my new ‘magic circulatory systems’ or whatever the right term would be, was just… better as a pony, but still, the realization freaked me out slightly.
I mean, I’d known I was up Technicolor creek without a rabbit season sign, given the whole canary yellow pegasus thing, but this was really the first time I’d looked up, seen the whistling anvil, and gone ‘oh dear...’
Still… I had a choice. I could keep this spell up, let that… whatever she was, leave, and I’d be home free, and back on Demonreach before dinner.
And all it would take, was letting Darth Wide-load hound after, and judging from the nasty gleam in her eye, ‘force-choke' somebody I was about 70-80% certain was a person I knew. I just couldn’t recognize them right now on first glance.
I didn’t let go of the spell, but I (quietly) stomped after the two.
Not in my town, and not on my freaking watch.
Whoever ‘Blue’ was, she was kinda clever about being followed by a fuming stranger. Wide-open streets with lots of people, and straight for the nearest police department.
And of course, if this had been something normal like a stalker or a purse-snatcher that would have been a great idea.
What I was fairly certain at least clocked in at demi-god, being lead on to this semi-enclosed space with slightly better armed mortals?
Not so much.
“Are you going to ignore me all day, siren?”
I frowned. Really pretty the mare was, sure, but really? Siren? I guess some shape-shifting shenanigans might be a hoof as the case may be…
But a siren in Chicago?
Most of the stuff that hounded the shadows of the world liked to think they were these horrible things of utter darkness. Primal existences that was ancient when the sky was young, and yada, yada…
But if you actually paid attention, even they fell into predictable niches, especially for all those that allowed their hungers and powers do all thinking for them. Ambush predators. Scavengers. Grazers. Oh, so many, many parasites…
So what was a lure using sea monster doing in Chicago?!
I mean, technically I guess lake Michigan could count on the level of ‘large body of water’, but that would be like finding a live polar bear in Sahara. Sure, there was a sea-connection, but that was a long swim through fresh water away.
If that wasn’t a rather large sign of ‘I’ve got no interest in my ‘dread powers,’ I honestly wasn’t sure what would be.
I guess the girl could be to what I thought of as siren, like I was to a mix of sea-foam and gorgon blood, but still. Threw even my weirdness scale for a bit of a loop.
Blue tensed at the words though, and slowly turned around. “...Look, I just got the spontaneous a- butt tattoos from nowhere, like everybody else.” The girl waved a hoof angrily at her pursuer. “I don’t know what holier than thou crap you’ve been smoking, or how you knew I’ve gotten a higher grade of freaky pushed on me, but I haven’t hurt anybody, so back the fuck off!”
For a moment, Blackie actually balked at the language. Really? Can’t say I’d seen that one before…
Except from Twilight.
Then, scraping her hoof in a really equine way, Blackie held her head high, and glared the other mare down. “I find that hard to swallow, siren, or are you truly naive enough to believe the disharmony you sow is victimless?”
To my surprise, Blue actually jerked slightly. “...Wait, that’s what I’ve been taking deep breaths of…?” she muttered a bit glassy-eyed, before shaking her head so that her long —heh, ponytail danced around, before re-doubling her glare and raising her voice. “I haven’t sown anything you creepy stalker!”
The girl reared up, and swung in a little circle with both her fore-legs out. “This is flippin’ Chicago, home to two point seven million souls; saints, sinners and all shades in-between!” The girl cocked her hip and rested her hoof on it in a way that made my pulse spike, even at this distance.
Stupid, sexy ponies without any clothes on…
“If I want that type of meal, I’ll go stalk one of those creepy party clowns for a bit.” Blue waved her other hoof utterly dismissively at Blackie, all while wearing nothing but a purse and a cocky smile. “So unless you’ve got proof I’ve harmed anybody, or stones big enough to throw the first punch, I’d drop this if I were you.”
Why are all the naked girls I meet totally crazy nowadays?
“Because I might have only been an ectomancer before, Lady,” Blue continued, making me do a double take, “but that was six months ago, and I’ve learned a thing or two thanks to this power-boost of mine since then.”
I’ve seen some weird shit in my day.
Both fairy queens, in their full glory, as they prepared for battle.
I’ve ridden a polka powered, undead t-rex.
An eldritch abomination, eating a woman using her own warped flesh in a mockery of sanity to do so.
Stars and stones, mold demons, even!
And my mind still went, quite frankly, tilt.
That mare, the cute blue one, with a cute rump and teats bigger than freaking mine?
That was Mortimer Freaking Lindquist?!
Honestly, I’m not sure if one’s libido can get whiplash, but mine certainly did a good try at it.
For a totally unrelated but super important and clever tactical reasons I can't discuss, my veil fell then.
Still… I owed Mortimer big time. Can’t say I wasn’t slightly worried about that ‘disharmony’ thing, but hey, you don’t let somebody that has done you a solid go hang.
“Hey!” I shouted, instantly getting both mares attention. “Tall, dark and wide! Back off!”
Blackie balked, as if she’d just seen that Donald Duck Nazi short Disney has tried to bury for so long for the first time.
That was actually a rather nice side-effect of this whole business. If the new me, in all her mind-melting adorableness, as much as said ‘fuck,’ then suddenly the entire room was just standing there frozen.
I took this opportunity to get up on my back-legs and draw my blasting rod. A bit uncomfortable, but better some back-pain later, than dead. “That really you, Morty?”
Blue blinked, and hissed in a way that rather removed all doubt for me. “Jesus, Dresden, do you have to drag me into your crap every damned time?”
Mortimer jabbed a hoof down into her purse while Blackie was distracted, and came out with some type of focus I didn’t recognize at first glance, but judging from how it was a tuning fork near slobbered in quartz-crystals I would have bet the tattered remains of my man-card against lipstick it was some type of sound focus.
Now that made me nervous. Sound had some rather nifty uses magically speaking, even in combat. Distractions. Disabling without permanent wounds. Armor bypassing…
What sound did not do, however, was be discriminating. You throw enough sound based attacks around, and you wouldn’t only liquefy the enemies’ organs, but quite probably his, your own, your allies and poor little cripple Timmy down the street as well.
Let us say that I like throwing fire around in combat, and I still suddenly felt a bit nervous about being down-range in Morty’s line of fire.
“Sorry, Morty,” said my mouth on autopilot as I kept my eyes glued on Blackie, who seemed content to stare between me and Mortimer right now, “you probably won’t believe this, but I met a pretty girl that suddenly wasn’t on the level.”
Despite everything, Mortimer let out a deep snort.
“You’ve got my word I was only at Mac’s for the neutral ground. I didn’t think anybody would be dumb enough to start anything there.”
At the implication I’d been there but hiding, this look of just pure betrayal flashed over Luna’s face.
I glared her as close in the eye as I dared a close thing with a pony even at the best of times. “Don’t know what grief you have with Mortimer, but I’m not terribly impressed with the ignorant buffoon I’ve seen so far.” I jabbed a hoof over my shoulder. “So unless you’ve got more than snarled accusations and snide remarks to show as proof, I think I’m going to go side with my friend over there.”
“Oh?” Morty snarked, but there was a real edge to the words. “So now I’m a ‘friend’ instead of a ‘useful patsy,’ huh?”
I shrugged my shoulders, before continuing in a serious voice. “...I’ll own up to that, but you did me a real solid you didn’t expect anything in turn for.” I gave a nod to the stunned winged unicorn in between us. “Just not right this moment, OK?”
Mortimer hesitated, but gave me the tiniest of nods.
Blackie was still frowning furiously, head darting between us…
But finally, she settled on staring warily at me. Oh, joy. “...And what sort of services could a siren even offer you, Fluttershy?”
I winced with a grimace, and almost clutched at my head, but I just barely managed to keep my blasting rod aimed her way. “My. Name. Is. Dresden.” I’m not sure if the words, my death glare or the snarl made the mare flinch back the most, but flinch she did. I swept my hoof in a wide, angry arc backwards. “If you can’t even give me that damned courtesy, you can go shove whatever creep-tastic recruitment offer you and the other goons have lined up for me sideways up your asses!”
To my shock, not only did the mare go slack jawed, but a couple of tears started dripping down her face. “...Oh, Fluttershy, what has this horrible creature done to you?”
Mortimer let out a nervous cough. “Harry, I think you’ve forgotten something.”
I blinked for a moment, and nearly face palmed on pure reflex once it dawned on me. “Right, the ‘A’ word is racist now.” With my tail lashing from irritation, I waved Blackie off. “Fine, fine, shove it up your butts then, if it makes so much difference.”
Blackie still looked disgusted with me, but now she was frowning slightly less about it.
I just barely kept a snarl of my face. “You want to know why I was willing to humor that Twilight kid, you creep? Here’s a fucking hint: She didn’t act as if my hometown was some type of lice-ridden scum-pound graced by her damned presence, and I didn’t see her stalking down one of my friends either!”
Blackie twitched, as if I’d slapped her… but her stubborn fool head remained held high.
“And are you even slightly better prepared for this, than that bleeding hearted kid?” I mercilessly pressed on. “What part of the word ‘cursed rebirth into another world’ is beyond your comprehension?! Did it never pass through the cavern you call a brain, that that means that Fluttershy…” I paused for just a second to wince. “...and all the others cursed are dead?”
Blackie shuddered, but still the head got kept high. “You seem quite chatty for a dead mare… Fluttershy.”
I grimaced, but didn’t take my eyes off the twit it seemed clearer and clearer wasn’t interested in me in the slightest. All she cared for was ‘her chosen champion of cutesy crap,’ or whatever the title was.
So I started slowly side-stepping around and behind her, to reach Mortimer. If nothing else, we’d be better able to concentrate our fire on the twit.
I saw Blackie’s eyes dart around, clearly seeing what I was trying to do, but seemingly not having a good counter that wouldn’t make it clear whatever her real intentions were.
“Does it even matter to you,” she began in a tense, hard voice, keeping her face aimed squarely at me and ignoring Mortimer for now, “that I’m here because Twilight returned to us in tears, because not only did you clearly not actually believe a word from her, but you off-hoofedly told her of magics so foul and wretched I barely have words for them.”
I didn’t even hide the snort. “Would you have preferred I hadn’t and the kid gone on and introduced herself in full to a wizard with less scruples than I have…?”
Mortimer did a small choking sound, and almost dropped her focus.
Blackie barely lowered the glower, though. “And the threat, however idle, to take her magic away…?”
I actually felt the darn glare from Mortimer. “The girl was still arguing name magic can't be that bad, after I’d given her a Master’s Love-tap,” I explained without even turning or stopping. “So I bluffed without actually using her Name to drive the point home.”
I felt the glare die away, as Mortimer let out a hum. “...Fair enough.”
Blackie’s eyes nearly left her sockets.
“Name magic can make you eat your own children with a smile, if you get caught in the clutches of the wrong bastard,” Mortimer countered calmly, as Blackie for a moment turned into Greenie. “You are clearly at least a practitioner. Shouldn’t you know already, that ignorance about the dangers of magic can get you worse than killed?”
Blackie whirled around, and stomped a hoof so hard, that it send cracks through the pavement three feet across. “Magic doesn’t work like that!” she snarled, lifting the same hoof and pointing it shakily at Mortimer. “Unless twisted by short sighted and cruel monsters like you!”
Mortimer just looked disgusted.
“She’s either some type of new pony spirit so wet behind the ears there’s leakage, a crazy kid with more power than sanity points, or some big shot from another dimension that thinks that one is the bee’s knees.” I explained in a tired voice. “Honestly, that Twilight kid was slightly saner, but she wouldn’t even believe I’m a wizard just because I’ve got wings now, for some foul reason.”
Mortimer frowned, as Blackie glared between the two of us. “...What, really? Don’t get me wrong, flying is awesome, but what does that have to do with magical talent?”
Now hearing that made me blink for a moment.
I just got waved off, though. “I’ll show you later.”
I gave a wide shrug, taking it slow as to not lose my balance. “Fair enough.” I turned to the fuming winged unicorn, and continued in far less friendly voice. “I’ll grant you this much, Lady: You’re one of the most entitled brats I’ve ever met so far in my entire life, but aside from being a fool —something I’m not quite ready to go around clobber people on the head for, you’ve mostly been a rude creep.” I took a calculated risk, and waved my blasting rod back over my shoulder while the mare balked at me. “You leave now and act like you at least can pretend to give a damn about me and mine whenever you come crawling back, and I might actually return that damn favor by pretending I care about you and yours.”
Blackie actually looked as if I, again, had slapped her.
“What? You actually expected me to give a big smile, and say: ‘Oh golly gee, fighting somebody else’s battles again sounds just peachy!’” I did a disgusted grimace. “For fuck’s sake, child, even the freaking Queen of Air and Darkness didn’t expect me to be her lapdog by asking freaking nicely. You think I’ve never gotten offers with a thousand darn strings attached before?” Safety be damned, I threw my arms up in the air in utter disgust. “Hell’s bells, girl, even the Red Court had enough brains to actually bait these oh so sweet little promises they tried to give me!”
Blackie was frowning deeper and deeper, even as her tail lashed around. “...Red Court?”
How may any mortal resist such a line?
“Oh, the biggest clan of vampires around here. Nasty buggers, one of the foulest monsters on this globe” So I smiled wide and sweet, and told the truth. “Until I killed them all, that is.”
Blackie went so many shades paler, that she nearly turned cornflower.
“Then there was the Summer Lady, of course.” I continued mercilessly. “Cute kid, such a pity she tried to upset the balance between Summer and Winter.” I gave a tiny shrug. “Not sure if you can call using their bane against them clean, but it sure was a quick death I gave the poor fairy fool.”
I didn’t even bother to keep my rod aimed at the current fool I was dealing with, I just started stalking up to her.
“Then there was the Winter Lady. Now there was a bitch of the highest order.” I put my hoof to my temple, and mimed using a gun. “Quick and clean…” I smiled even wider, as the worthless little pretender started shaking. “Did you know that there are ways to undo immortals? I shan’t tell you how, of course, but that bitch went from being an aspect of Winter, to worm food, and she is never, ever coming back.”
Not that it was hard for a pony, but Blackie went as wide-eyed as one may.
“Oh, and there have been so, so many, many more!”
My hoof snaked out, grabbed at the clasp of her cloak, and before Luna could even protest with more than I yelp, I had her at glare height.
“So, Nightmare Moon,” I growled at her, making her face twist with fury, and eyes fill with tears, “unless you intend to either start showing some civility, or walk the villain walk beyond tormenting woodland animals I’m frankly not particularly afraid of telling you to go mount yourself.”
The mare was shaking from humiliation and fury, but she just barely kept her temper in check. “...If you truly don’t remember…”
“Because Twilight told me all about her and her friends’ little adventures, of course.” I had to tear my eyes away from hers, because I was —to my shock, starting to feel the tugging of a soul gaze. “I’ve bled and fought for this world and city, and I’m not giving any of it up because four goddesses are apparently too squeamish to kill a single —quite possibly literally, thrice damned spirit.”
Luna twitched, and suddenly just looked sad.
“You want to ‘reconnect’ or whatever? Fine, we’ll bake s'mores, sing happy little camp songs, or what-fucking-ever…” I let go, and ungently brushed the clasp off. “But you want dirty work done, you go get your own damn goons to do it. You’ve got legitimate work that needs to be done, and after today I might allow you to bribe me into it.” I stopped fighting down my snarl, and jabbed my sandaled hoof into her chest so hard it drove her breath out. “But you ever threaten anybody in my town again, it better be with far better reasoning then just what they are, or I swear I’ll gut you like a pig myself.”
All the fight just seemed to have drained out of the mare, and her haunches came crashing down, as Luna started to weep openly. “...Oh, Fluttershy, what has this horrible world done to you?”
Well, given me a freaking spine, from what I’ve read between the lines…
Out-loud however, I said in a voice so even it surprised even me: “Turned me into the type of person whose help I think you need, but you haven’t gotten desperate enough to come calling for quite yet.” I slipped my rod into my duster, and got down on all fours. “You want my help? Fine, that Disco creep —or whatever the bad villain name was, sounds like a twit needing stopping... but don’t expect me to hold back.”
Cheeks still wet, Blackie just stared at me for a while.
Then, with exaggerated care, she reached behind her back. I tensed and prepared for a fight as I felt a tiny ‘flash’ of magic…
And that deep thrumming of magic I’d felt only a few times before, and only a hour or so last, returned as she pulled forth that darn necklace Twilight had shown me.
Honestly, no gem cut like a pink butterfly had any right to give off such a scary amount of magic.
“And if there is a kinder alternative?” Bl- Luna asked gently, as she simply held the darn thing out to me. “But only if we can find the others, and you…” Luna took a shuddering breath, almost dropping the ‘Element.’ “...And you, whoever you’ve become, trust us?”
I couldn’t quite take my eyes of the necklace. There are simply certain things that never, ever happen, even with magic in the picture…
An actually free lunch is one of those impossibilities.
Just being handed what was clearly an artifact on the level of at least a splinter of the true cross, just like that? With ‘no’ strings attached?
I gently but firmly pushed the thing back, making sure to touch only her hoof.
I’d learned that lesson about ancient relics the hard way, and I frankly didn’t feel like having something put a new brand on my ha- hoof.
And it was still like stroking a live high-voltage line. This sense that were it not for that thin layer of insulation you’d be cooked in moments.
Ye gods, and this mare couldn’t just evaporate that Discord twit?
“Ma’am, when mad gods pop-up, you pull out all the stops and you waste the prick. Preferable before he or she can even manifest properly.” I explained, calmly but firmly. “You want allies for that type of fight? You should really be talking with somebody else. Preferably somebody that hasn’t needed to relearn how to walk this year, at that.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I just barely saw a blue and striped tail vanish around the corner.
Sadly, Luna noticed me noticing, and with a frown glared after Mortimer. “...And that is what passes for a ‘friend’ in this world?”
I didn’t quite keep the snarl out of my voice. “Luna, that ma- mare is nearly solely responsible for keeping this entire city’s population of ghosts under control.” I fought down a shiver. “And yeah, that includes the violently mad ones that quite literally hunt the living. Mortimer is hell on wheels when dealing with the unquiet dead, but she simply isn’t a front-line fighter.”
Luna frowned down at me, like I’d gone ‘mad’ again. “...Fluttershy, there are no such things as ghosts.”
“Said the horse goddess from another dimension without a shred of irony,” I snarked at her, to Luna’s clear irritation. I just waved her off. “If it makes any difference, they’re not the actual spirit of the people they resemble. They’re these… echoes of memory. Like fossils, but with the spirit world and memories, instead of bones and stone.”
Luna frowned down at me, seemingly slightly uncertain but still not believing me. “...And why, would people need to be saved from… mental echoes in the local magic field?”
“Well, for just one example, I once met these adorable ex-twins,” I explained calmly. “These just darling little pair of girls that drowned and post-mortem liked to find other children to…” Luna’s eyes went wide, as I paused for dramatic effect, and did air-quotes. “...’play’ with, down by the shore.”
For some reason, Luna suddenly didn’t seem to have a counter.
“So, yeah, I’m frankly willing to cut somebody that deals with that type of crap daily quite a bit of slack, no matter what else I might owe hi- her.” I jabbed the mare hard in her chest with something just short of a snarl on my face. “So care to tell me just why I shouldn’t backhand you straight back wherever you came from, for trying to stalk down and gut my friend for walking into a public bar?!”
Luna spluttered, just missing my face. “Gut her?! Gut her?!”
I angrily rolled my eyes at her, and the outrage. “Yeah, because being dragged away from one’s life, friends and family by some creature from another realm to serve time for ‘crimes’ committed in a past fucking life is oh so much kinder than a death that only takes hours...” I did my best wizardly take on glaring Luna in the eye without actually meeting her gaze. “Or do you have a counter to that, Your Highness, Luna, Mistress of Dreams, the Night and the Moon. Quad-arc —or whatever the fuck the right word is, of the otherworldly nation of Equestria…?”
I’m not sure if it was the glare or how dryly I listed the titles I’d heard from Twilight, but Luna wilted away from me and against the nearby wall nonetheless.
“Sirens aren’t ponies, Fluttershy,” Luna stated through gritted teeth, and with her wing ‘shielding’ her face from me, “they are beings of disharmony, whose singing can turn entire cities against one another. That is how they feed their magic.”
Luna balked my way, seemingly almost having her eyeballs plop out from it.
“Don’t get me wrong, growing stronger from strife and conflict, plus a way to encourage both? Nasty, nasty potential of a downward spiral with that combo…” It didn’t quite work without fingers, but I did my best to mime opening my mouth and baring fangs. “But I’m used to anything deserving of the word monster to actually be, you know, monstrous.”
Luna glared at me…
Right up to when I continued and she just turned green instead.
“Do they eat the flesh of innocents? Kill them, and steal their bones? Warp and break their minds, until there’s nothing left of that person except this tiny bit that screams…?” I waved her on, but Luna just stood there, looking green around the gills. “Do they only multiply by infecting mortals through that song, or something? Is the person they feed on never again able to actually feel anything but disharmony…?”
Something that I didn’t care to think about too deeply filled Luna’s cheeks, and she had to swallow it before choking out a tense and unhappy “...No.”
“Well,” I calmly but firmly said, as I waved away the smell of hay and stomach-acids, “in that case, I think you have a really fun time ahead in updating your definition of ‘monster,’ because by my standards, Luna, the ‘sirens’ you’re describing sound simply adorable.”
“You cannot be serious, Fluttershy.”
I bit down a wince and simply ignored the name. “Fine, then illuminate me, oh star smith,” I snarked. “What exactly stays your hoof against this Discord prick, when my friend’s blatant walking in a public space was enough to call you to action, oh ‘wise’ one…?” I jerked my head slightly towards the empty street, not taking my eyes of the fuming mare. “Not to mention how you nearly attacked a US citizen on US soil —without provocation I might add, Your Highness. The matter of a successful cross-dimensional landfall on such a scale aside, don’t you as a regent think that might be this tiny bit of a casus freaking belli?”
Luna jerked as if slapped again.
“Or are you again forgetting the whole ‘cursed’ rebirth matter as soon as it’s convenient for you and Equestria…? Because you're certainly acting as if you think I owe you anything, let alone stuff on the level of loyalty and fealty.” With my lips a line, I swept a hoof towards the corner Mortimer had skedaddled around. “And guess what, ‘friend?’ That, the ‘prissy pony princess’ shtick or how you acted at Mac’s was not a good first, second or even third impression!”
Throughout all this, Luna’s haughty attitude had barely faltered.
Except now her face fell, and she looked as if I’d all but had bucked her in the teats. “...You have a new liege?”
Frankly, it was just pathetic enough that I actually bought that it wasn’t faked.
What can I say? It kinda dropped a bucket of water on these warm little flames of righteous indignation I’d been feeding for an hour or so now.
“Luna, I’m thirty nine,” I managed in a slightly more kindly voice, “with all due respect, but don’t you think I might have —even if I had ‘remembered’ anything, you know, moved on by now?” I threw my hooves out, and let them drop down again, making the leather of my duster creak slightly. “If nothing else by freaking necessity, since human newborn aren’t exactly known for their luscious all-weather coats, and wilderness survival capabilities…?”
Some of that indignation snuck back, as I pointed a hoof at the Bling of Destiny. still in Luna’s hoof. “Because I’m getting this rather infuriating vibe that you say ‘friend’ but what you actually mean and want is your old minion so you won’t have to get your own damn hooves dirty!”
Of all looks I could have gotten, I was not expecting ‘disapproving mother.’ “For you information, Fluttershy, my sister, Cadance, Twilight and I, have been taking turns every fourth day to battle Discord.” Luna trust her hoof out, the one holding the bling, at me. “Without the Elements, it’s the best we’ve been able to do to keep Discord distracted.”
I looked down at the necklace, and up at Luna again. “And have any of you children that turn green at warnings about the darker sides to magic as much as thrown a fireball at him during this time…?” I waved a hoof towards the sliver of a moon still visibly in the sky. “You can’t at worst lure him to some patch of wasteland, and slam a star or fifteen down the throat of what frankly sounds like an overgrown poltergeist?”
I’m not sure if it was something ‘wrong’ about the moon compared to what she was used to or the star comment, but Luna had to re-swallow her breakfast again. “...That is not how we do things in Equestria,” she lectured me tartly.
“Oh, so all sins are forgiven, and everypony gets a second chance, huh?” I looked down once at the ‘Element of Kindness,’ before looking up again and continuing in the same dry voice. “By that logic, can’t you and your sister weep and beg for the kindness of forgiveness, until you are once more are worthy of six certain bits of ancient bling…?”
Luna went wide-eyed, as if the very concept of what I’d just said was utter blasphemy.
Have to admit, though? The way a certain piece of jewelry flashed pink in the most fabulously angry way, was a bit distracting.
For me it didn’t even leave after-images, but Luna winced and flinched as if the thing had been a million degrees for just a moment or so. “...The Elements choose their own wielders.”
My eyebrow rose, near on its own. “So, this horrible bastard of a spirit is somehow worthy of forgiveness, but not a mare that has been bending over backwards for decades...?”
You know, if the story I was being fed was true... but adding that bit out-loud seemed just slightly stupid.
I saw another one of those ‘warning flashes’ gather in the gem, but aside from Luna looking away, nothing happened.
“...Discord is, for his many, many faults and crimes aside, an innocent,” Luna carefully explained, eyes averted from both my and the Element she was holding. “To him it is all just this… game, while I called the Nightmare with open eyes.”
I glared at the bling for a bit, especially how the pink ‘flash bang’ seemed to be powering down at Luna having been honest. “Su~ure,” I snarked, “because a kid ‘innocently’ throwing kittens into a furnace because they dance and make such funny sounds isn’t even nearly as bad morally as somebody with a severe and untreated depression having a mental breakdown after years of neglect…”
Luna froze, but again, her little ‘gift’ to me was the real show.
Not sure if it was my ‘link’ with the thing, but for just a moment, the darn butterfly gem went black. As if it had been temporarily filled with tar.
I have to admit. Never thought even my life would get screwed up enough for me to freak out the pet rock I had in a previous life…
“So, yeah, innocence and actually not having done anything wrong really aren’t the same by local law… or my own moral opinion.” I slowly pointed a few times towards the still rather dull looking rock. “And I can’t say I’d care for the touch of an ancient artifact that believes somebody that apparently erased the minds of millions if not billions for a freaking laugh, somehow being more redeemable than the mare that…” I took a gamble, and looked Luna straight in the eye for a few moments. “you know, was suffering from a mental illness.”
I took a calculated risk, and turned away.
Luna didn’t move. Heck, I wasn’t even sure if she was breathing.
“Besides,” I told her gently but firmly, “thanks to the whole magic being slowly dragged into the open there’s a lot of crap going on right now. I’m sorry, but even if I thought I was really some reincarnated, destined hero? A world hounded by one spirit... compared to one wherein every damn ghoul, vampire, and whatever nasty you care to mention is either having a panic attack, trying to dig deep, or gearing up for a fight against all of humanity?” I slowly shook my head. “I’m sorry, but even from that perspective I’m needed here more.”
“...What are you talking about?”
I gave Luna an even look. “Luna… I don’t know what constitutes monsters in your realm, but here? Most of them are idiots with big teeth that have only survived because the clever ones with big teeth have been shielding them by proxy.”
I waved a hoof along the empty road, that despite being lunch-hour in the middle of Chicago, barely had cars pass at more than one or two per hour.
“Some of the lambs turned into… well, unicorns, and now all of the flock knows that there are actually bears out there in the shadows. Bears that went from being ‘just myth and legend’ with all that means in safety, to having their ugly mugs on wanted posters.” I gave the stunned pegasus/unicorn a bemused look. “You don’t think that evil twits used to warm and cold running virgin’s blood suddenly needing to work and hide to get their flesh of the innocents fix might be a bit desperate and pissed at the ‘brief mortals’ suddenly having gotten half a clue?”
For just a moment or so, I saw doubt in Luna’s eyes… but she quickly either fought it down or hid it. Don’t know which.
“Stars and stones, you know what happened last week?” I disinterestedly waved a hoof roughly towards downtown. “One of the local gangs got ahold of a ghoul, and lynched the thing in broad daylight! And not only did people stand and cheer, but it made the freaking local news!”
Luna looked a bit green. “And just what had this ‘ghoul’ done to deserve this fate…?”
“Well, being so starved for fresh flesh that she tried nabbing a baby straight out of a stroller, for one…”
Luna went a bit greener, but she simply sat and stared at me.
“Except when the bastard went for the bite, the local brand of thugs took umbrage, to put it mildly.” I lifted my hoof and mimed using a gun. “Apparently there were so many holes in her, that the bonfire was mostly a rather painful coup de grâce.”
The only sound from the entire street was how a car zipped us by. The first I think I’d seen actually moving today, at that.
“...No idea if the mother and kid made it,” I added solemnly, “but one less monster in the world, at least. Small favors.”
Luna sucked in a deep breath, and got to her hooves.
I pretended not to notice how they were shaking slightly. “...I will not lie to you, Fluttershy…”
I bit down a wince. Why, oh why, did there need to exist a ‘Power Word, Give Dresden a Headache’ spell?
And did it have to sound like the name of the cutest sugar fairy that farts sunshine and gumdrops from some type of Technicolor nightmare aimed at girls age one and down? Talk about insult to injury.
Story of my life but it just wasn’t freaking fair.
“...but even by my count it has been many, many years since I saw a pegasus with such battle-hardened eyes…” Luna actually had to pause, and for a moment I was frankly wondering if she was about to cry. “...And as much as it may break my heart, it doesn’t change that you are the Bearer of Kindness. We need you, Fluttershy.”
I tried not to draw in much power, but I started gathering concentration for a shield. “And is this the part where you tell me that my cooperation would be a nice bonus, but is not actually necessary…?”
Luna did that ‘as if slapped by invisible hands’ jerk again.
Frankly, I nearly didn’t need to put magic into my words for them to freeze things, as I continued. “Because I haven’t actually heard any counter to why you —or your sister, can’t mare up, act like, you know, regents by shouldering responsibility for what needs to be done, and simply gut the pig.” I let out a tired sigh, before pressing on in a slightly warmer voice. “Stars and stones, girl, we’re talking about a mass murder that unmade entire communities. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘god’ of chaos crap sounds like he’d be a nasty fight, but —again, having the sun, the moon, love and freaking magic themselves made manifest in the other corners still sounds like a decent enough curb-stomp to me.”
Luna just stood there, looking at me with sad and worried eyes. Like I was a raving mad… well, mare.
“Hell’s bells, just have Twilight tear his magic away!” I waved a hoof vaguely in the air, as Kindness went blackish and Luna went greenish again. “Have her curse the sod using the powers rather implied by her freaking domain, and poof! Just like that and he’ll never, ever as much as harm a single hair on somebody ever again.”
“And you think the same girl you made throw up by describing a common magical practice around here,” Luna countered calmly, after again having swallowed something. “You really think Twilight could commit…” Luna’s face twisted into a mask of disgust. “...that level of utter atrocity against everything Harmony and Friendship is meant to stand for, and stay sane?”
“Luna,” I stated, with the ice once more returning to my voice, “you haven’t as much as said please. On some annoying level, you clearly think you’re my freaking liege, and I refuse to fight a mad god, and hold back, just because you don’t want to dirty your damned hooves yourself!”
With a crack of metal against stone, my sandaled hooves hit the pavement as I jumped to the air.
I’d barely gotten air, before Luna’s magic grabbed me by the tail. Stopping me mid-air in a both quick and painful fashion.
I fought down a swear, and strained, but the only result was that it felt as if I lost half the hairs in my tail.
“I’m sorry, Fluttershy,” Luna dared tell me in a sad but resolute voice, I’m sure wasn’t even slightly fake! “But the Elements are the only way we know of to stop Discord non-lethally, and without massive collateral damage...”
I didn’t bother even listening past that. Instead, I flapped my wings to flip around, and with a snarl I unleashed every force ‘ring’ in my sandals, both left and right.
Aimed straight at both wings the idiot had flared in a dominance display.
Now, as much as it irked me to admit, ponies are seemingly on the higher end on the durability scale. I hadn’t exactly experimented much myself, but from what I’d read between the lines in newspapers and similar, it took a lot of force to put a pony down.
Luckily for me, that’s exactly what my force rings are designed to do. They save up a tiny bit of kinetic force when they move, allowing me to let it all go in a strike later for a pittance of the magic it would have taken to conjure the same force.
Two battering rams of invisible force that could have each upturned a truck slammed down on Luna’s wings. Snapping the limbs with a sound not unlike gunshots, and even tearing her cloak off at the clasp.
There are two big variations when it comes to immortals and dealing with pain.
The most common one, and naturally with my luck nastiest, variety is for the being in question to be so used to it, and shrug pain of so easily, that at best you might get a wince or two per maiming.
And then, there was the variant Luna showed.
Wherein the creature —be it through guile, powers or even a combination of the two, hasn’t felt pain for so long, it is all but forgotten to them. This boring, uninteresting thing that only the brief, unimportant mortals have to suffer.
Believe it or not, but the second variant is actually the dangerous one. Sure, fighting Wolverine’s bigger, nastier cousin that got beat up with somebody’s knife collection as a kid sure isn’t easy, but it’s rather straightforward.
Even knowing that, I barely had time to raise my hoof and feed some power into my shield bracelet, before Luna threw her head back and screamed.
I have no idea what that mare had done to her vocal cords, but it wasn’t as much a scream, as this blast wave. The air around her shook, and every light and window for a block or so just more or less winked out of existence as the glass in them turned to dust.
I caught glimpse of a flash of cobalt light, as Luna used the same type of spell Twilight had. Seemingly deciding to retreat rather than risk another such blow from me.
That, and this look of betrayal, that I swear made some tiny part of me give out a whimper and die on the spot. It honestly felt as if a needle had been stabbed into my heart.
And that was the last thing I saw, before the shock-wave hit. Cracking my shield like an light-bulb on an anvil, and sending me screaming uncontrollably through the sky.
The blue sky above, the stone of the buildings, and the black asphalt hurling sickeningly all around me, as the latter two came closer and closer.