• Published 11th May 2013
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Denuo Fortuna - Firecaller



She was a unicorn on the run. She needed somewhere to hide, somewhere quiet and boring. The tourist pamphlet was out of date but the place sounded ideal... Ponyville

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Chapter 17 - Monsters in the Night

Chapter 17 - Monsters In the Night

“Good morning Lulu” Celestia chirped.

Letting loose a massive yawn, Luna sat down in Celestia's private quarters while levitating a huge red mug of coffee.

“I will be turning in soon, something you wished to talk about Tia?”

With a sip of her tea to counteract Luna’s slurp of coffee, Celestia adopted a carefully neutral expression.

“I was called by an old name last night.”

“And what is this name that makes you request my presence at this late hour.”

“Early hour Lulu.” Celestia waved playfully at the sunrise.

“Bah!”

Celestia delicately levitated her cup of tea. “Day Princess.”

Luna mug of coffee stopped halfway up to her mouth. Celestia quietly took a sip of tea and set the cup down with the faintest of clinks. Luna’s mug was set down with a louder bang.

“That is an old name Tia. Who said it?”

“Twilight, but she was repeating what a mare in Ponyville called me.”

With a tilt of her head, Luna brought the coffee mug back up and took a sip.

“Could be just an unfortunate coincidence. You realm is the day after all, a slip of the tongue, a garbled expression maybe.”

“My thoughts exactly, the mare is… troubled, as Twilight delicately put it. A garbled term is indeed a possibility.”

“Tia, you wouldn’t have called me in here if this didn’t trouble you.”

Raising a hoof to giggle behind Celestia continued. “Am I that transparent these days?”

Luna stood up and with regal pose walked over to Celestia, buried her head in her neck, and blew a raspberry.

Celestia jumped sideways. “Oh you jumped up unicorn!”

“Over-inflated pegasus.” Luna rejoined, jabbing a hoof at Celestia’s flank.

“Lulu! Leave my flank out of this!”

“Lardy flank! Lardy flank!”

History doesn’t show who threw the first cushion, but soon every cushion in the room was airborne and en route to its respective target, picked up and thrown again. A lull in the battle descended as both sides were left staring at the sight of a cushion impaled on Celestia’s horn.

The Lunar and Solar guards stationed outside the private quarters all shared a furtive glance, as two sets of fillyish giggles came from the other side of the door.

Luna trotted up and nuzzled Celestia, as Celestia levitated the impaled cushion off her horn.

“Feel better now sister?”

Dropping her head Celestia nodded.

“I really must be transparent if you knew how much I needed that. That name is a reminder of my failure. How many suffered at their hooves because I failed to see what they were doing.”

“I know you Tia. It wasn’t all your fault.”

“I won't lose you again Lulu, I was, in turn, both blind and blinded them. It will not happen again… never again.” Celestia managed to stop her hoof-stamp from cracking the floor tiles.

Luna stopped her nuzzling and simply rested her head on the back of Celestia’s neck. In a second Celestia had rested her head on the back of Luna’s in a mirror image. Neither knew how long they had been like that when a gentle knock on the door by a steward reminded Celestia that breakfast was now being served.

Luna lifted her head first.

“You’re still going to Ponyville aren't you. You still think that any of them are out there?”

“I am only going to see how my favorite element bearers are, maybe have a little get together before the Grand Galloping Disaster.”

“And…”

“And, maybe see if I can help this ‘troubled’ mare, I mean, what good are sovereigns for if they can’t help their subjects personally once in awhile.”

“At least tell me you will not be taking half the guard with you.”

“Oh no, Lulu. If it's nothing, they won’t be needed.”

“If it is something?”

Celestia’s face became a mask.

“Then I won’t want them there.”

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Short Notice looked up and hastily rose to bow to both of the Princesses entering his office.

“Your Highnesses.”

“Please rise Mr Notice. Have you worked out my schedule for the next month?” Celestia inquired.

“Of course your highness.”

Luna stood a little behind Celestia and took a noisy gulp from the red mug floating next to her as the Solar Matriarch looked down and scratched a hoof on the floor. Luna quietly applauded her sisters acting, she actually looked sheepish.

“What do you want me to change?” Short Notice sighed, then remembering himself, he quickly added, “your Highness.”

“A day’s visit to Ponyville before the Grand Galloping Disaster.”

Luna nudged Celestia.

“Grand Galloping Gala.”

Short Notice blanched. “A whole day Princess! I..I..I…Of course Princess, I shall begin rearranging it right away.”

‘There goes any chance of leaving on time for the next week.’

Celestia noticed Short Notice’s ears flatten.

“Aw, poor Short Notice.” Celestia leaned in and nuzzled him for a second. “Put it down as a ‘random inspection of a primary military defense asset in situ’.”

Celestia beamed at him before turning and leaving his office. Luna took another loud slurp of coffee, eyeing Short Notice, before turning to follow her sister.

While being stunned at being nuzzled by his Princess, he was still able to take a pencil and note down: ‘Tea with Elements.’ It was much easier to write after all.

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“Your Highnesses!” Short Notice yelled, galloping up towards them, making sure to slow down before he reached the guards. They did not like it if you galloped right up to the Princesses.

“Yes Mr Notice?” Celestia inquired with a raised eyebrow.

Gathering himself, he flourished a letter. “You wanted to be notified of any travel by…him” Short Notice coughed. ”He left Canterlot this morning, we presume for Ponyville. He has ‘it’.”

A wince was shared by all present, even the guards.

Taking a step towards Short Notice. “Why wasn’t I informed immediately?” Celestia demanded.

“He put the travel notification in the wrong file. It wasn’t spotted until I started rearranging your schedule a minute ago.”

Bringing a hoof to her face Celestia sighed. “He did that on purpose. Still, we have some time to warn them. Have you some note paper ready Mr Notice? Good work in spotting it by the way.”

“Yes your Highness, some paper right here your Highness, thank you for your…”

“Enough!” Luna snorted.

Celestia levitated the scroll and quill and jotted down a quick note, before sending it off in a green puff of smoke.

“I only hope they have time to prepare.”

Luna leaned in to whisper to Celestia. “Does he have any chance?”

“None, Twilight knows what she’s doing, besides, the Elements will stand against him as an added barrier. They will probably just vacate Ponyville upon reading the note.”

Celestia shuddered, as a traitorous thought flashed through her mind of what would happen if he was successful.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sat at the library table Sunbeam flipped a rather dull page over in her current book when a strangled scream was heard from upstairs.

A frazzled looking Twilight raced down the stairs as Greywing charged out of his basement sleeping quarters looking for the cause of the scream.

“Spike! Get everything ready to leave, tell the girls they need to leave for a few days, pack the bags, tell the mayor we’re leaving, ready the…”

“Princess?” Greywings flared, only to find himself ignored.

“Whoa Twilight.” Spike yelled, “I can only do one thing at a time.”

“Right! Right, right, ummm, go tell the girls, I’ll pack. Remember to tell them who is coming.”

“Like I’d forget that.” Spike murmured before bolting out the door.

Both Greywing and Sunbeam watched as Twilight packed books and food into a bag only to throwing them back out.

“Won’t need this, will need this, no I won’t, yes I will… argh!”

Greywing stepped forward. “Princess Twilight what’s wrong?“

“He’s coming, he’s coming…”

“Who?”

“Him!”

Greywing and Sunbeam shared a look, a look that spoke volumes about being the only sane ponies in the room.

“Who is ‘him’?” Sunbeam gently asked.

“Blueblood.”

Now Greywing paled. “He-he’s coming here! How? When?”

Twilight glanced at the clock. “According to the train timetable, in the next fifty-three minutes, approximately.”

“Who is Blueblood?” Sunbeam inquired, her curiosity now piqued.

“Bad news,” Greywing shouted as he galloped back down into the basement.

‘I’m getting the whole, ‘time to leave’ vibe here.’

Sunbeam! How can you sit there so calmly? He’s coming!” Twilight yelled.

“What is wrong with Blueblood?”

“It's terrible, he’s coming to... He wants to... He’s trying to marry me!”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunbeam walked with Twilight, Rainbow, Rarity and Greywing. The others were planning on joining them at the rendezvous point.

“Ever since my coronation, he’s been…” Twilight winced, unable to continue.

“Sniffing around you like a timberwolf in heat. He sees you as a way to the throne.” Rarity stated with a sniff.

This brought thoughtful silence to the group, as they all considered Rarity's choice of words.

“So a simple ‘no’ doesn’t work?”

“It’s complicated, he found some old obscure law that if a prince presents a princess with a special rose at a certain time, they are considered married. He went out and managed to find one.”

“Trust that ruffian to desecrate such a romantic gesture.”

“Ouch, surely Princess Celestia can stop it though?”

Twilight placed a hoof on her face. “It’s going through the process to be taken off the books as we speak, but it’s being purposely delayed. If it comes to it the Princess will just announce the laws annulment. But...”

Greywing leaned in. “The political fallout from such a move would be enormous, even with such an outdated law. It would cause chaos, especially if somepony is trying to act on it at the time.” Taking a deep breath he continued. “And that’s what they want. And before you ask, I’m referring to a certain set of nobles. In such a state of chaos, they could push through many laws and acts. It would take forever to untangle and get rid of them.”

“Uncouth barbarians. To think I wanted to be among them.” Rarity interjected. “He was supposed to be sequestered in Canterlot until the law was revoked, apparently, he’s got out. This is what this little trip is about. If he can’t find Twilight, he can’t do the dastardly deed. ”

Sunbeam nodded. “So gathering some guards up and dropping him down a well isn’t an option?”

“No.”

“Well....”

“Humm...”

“Already suggested.”

Twilight bristled. “Rarity, Rainbow, the words you are both looking for is, ‘no’, Greywing, I am not even going to dignify your answer with a response. Look ponies he’s being manipulated by the rest of the nobles, he just doesn’t realise it. However, he is still a prince and due all the respect of one.” Sunbeam noted a twitch on Twilight's face as she said that.

“Only in name darling. Only in name.” Rarity poofed her main with a hoof. “And for the record, I do indeed give him all the respect he is due.” The emphasis she placed on that one word gave Sunbeam an idea of how far that went.

Realising they were on the outskirts of Ponyville, Sunbeam turned to leave. “Well, girls, I’ll head back now. You said where you’ll be camping so I can come get you when he leaves.”

“No, no, no. What if he found out you were with me. What if he compels you to talk, what if he throws you in a dungeon” Twilight’s main suddenly looked a lot messier than Sunbeam ever remembered seeing it being before. Sunbeam took a step back as Twilight shook her head. “What if he tortures you with feathers… no, no, no you have to come with us now.”

“Erm, feathers? Twilight what are you talking abooooouuuttt.” A lavender nimbus surrounded her and she found herself levitated off the ground.

“You have to come with us now. I can’t let you stay and suffer.”

“Rainbow, Rarity, Greywing even, help!”

Rainbow and Rarity looked at Sunbeam then at each other, then at Twilight. After a second of staring at the flustered princess, both solemnly shook their heads, as Greywing just grinned at Sunbeam.

‘This is not doing my exposure therapy any good, and so help me Greywing, I will do unpleasant things to you.’

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“I’m sorry Sunbeam. I sort of panicked there.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’ll write you a letter to Quick Service explaining things. Why you couldn’t go to work.”

“Hehe, a note from your parents Sunbe…”

Greywing’s jibe died in his throat at the look he got. He shuffled slightly away from the mare.

“Hey look sugar, we can all get to know each other better.”

Twilight clapped her hooves together. “Oh yeah, we can all bond.”

“Tell scary stories,” Rainbow added, then pointed a hoof at Sunbeam. “And no cheating, this time, Sunbeam, your last one was more like a history lesson, we only jumped from that stunt you pulled. Just saying.”

“Noted.” Was the laconic reply.

Sunbeam lay her head on the ground. ‘A ready saddlebag, three days of supplies in, survival gear, just sat inside my door… still just sat inside my door...’

Sunbeam looked around the campsite. Seven sleeping bags and a set of blankets were arranged around the campfire with all the ponies sat on their bags. Sunbeam herself had been given the blankets for her bedding as her attendance had been... unexpected. The campsite itself was set up just outside the treeline of WhiteTail Woods, just as the sun had started getting low. With only a red tint on the horizon now, the campfire provided all the light around the camp.

With a grin, Greywing pointed to Sunbeam, “So, we're all bonding now eh, so, what’s you’re favorite food then?”

“Goodnight all!” Was her response as Sunbeam turned onto her side and pulled the blanket over her head.

“Aw, don’t be like that.” Greywing mock whispered. “Besides, I do have a proper question.”

Sunbeam flipped the blanket down from over her face. “As long as it’s not the one ‘where do foal’s come from’.” A grin formed on her face. “Because I might just have to tell you.”

Leaning back, Greywing held up a hoof. “No, no, no. I was actually going to ask about the whole Ice thing you do.”

“Ugh, Twi, your department.” She groaned and flipped the blanket back over her head.

Clapping her hooves, Twilight squealed in delight as she got to go into lecture mode and dispense information to her captive audience.

“You see certain unicorns have an affinity with certain elements. I thoroughly tested Sunbeam…” Most of the ponies around the campfire noted the shudder from under the blankets. “...and she does have an affinity with ice. Most unusual, for ponies that is, it's a much more a common occurrence for Griffons. Anyway, it means that she can cast ice related spell much more easily, powerfully and a lot more efficiently. Certainly compared to ponies without such an affinity.”

Twilight paused for a breath.

“With some ponies its fire, some weather, whatever the affinity is with, they get a benefit when doing those types of spells. With Sunbeam its ice, in fact, she has such an affinity that the ‘power expenditure to reserve usage’ ratio when casting ice spells is close to my own.”

In the stunned silence that followed, a muffled voice from under the blankets was heard.

“My overall reserve is slightly below average. And my unusually high affinity to ice results in any other type of spell costing more than it should. Of course Twilight with her affinity for ‘magic itself’ can do any spell she like with that benefit. Of course, couple that with her, what’s the word… 'impossibly-huge reserve' and you have the epitome of magic. Being close to her level is a relative term.”

Pinkie giggled while toasting a marshmallow, “Sounds like little Sunny is jealous of little Twi.”

Folding the blanket back and sitting up she pointed a hoof at Pinky. “Huh, what’s to be jealous of, being able to do any spell, at any power level with never having to worry about draining your reserve, like ever. Oh no, no, no, yes. Totally.” Sunbeam fell backwards onto her blankets, throwing a foreleg over her eyes.

Twilight looked down at her hoof and drew circles on the ground. “It’s not all ladybugs and sunshine. I have to do calculations, risk analysis, emergency planning for any new spell. Plus Celestia wants to be there with me every time. I mean the hoops I have to...”

Rainbow cut her off with a yawn. “Well I don’t know about everypony else, but this magic lecture has made me all sleepy, I’m turning in.”

A murmur of agreement passed round the camp and all but Greywing started to settle down into their sleeping bags. Leaning over Greywing prodded the mound of blankets where Sunbeam was hiding under.

“We’re gonna need someone to stand watch, just in case. I’ll go after you.” A malicious grin spread on his face as he leaned in and whispered to the mound. “You’re first.”

Two sets of eyes watched from a grassy ridge in the tree line, as a grey pegasus took the air as magically propelled blanket was launched at him.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“How many?”

“Three maybe four pegasi, same number unicorn, two earth. Can’t tell if purple one is unicorn or pegasus. Eight total.”

The two Diamond Dogs watched the campsite. One pony was still sat up, obviously on watch, while the other slept around the campfire.

“Go tell Night Runner, eight ponies for capture. He right to set up camp in woods, ponies do keep coming here.”

Sweet Howl nodded and in a jog took off down the track in the moonlight.

Keen Eye watched him go with a shake of his head. “Too keen to please.”

Turning back to the campsite he looked for the pony on watch.

“Where unicorn go?”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sweet Howl jogged into the camp. Three wheeled cages with harness and a wagon formed a circle in the clearing. Several tables and chairs had been set up in the middle, with four tents sat haphazardly to the side of the ring. There were no sources of light in the camp, the moonlight provided more than enough light for Diamond Dogs to see well.

Jogging up to Night Runner, Sweet Howl stopped a respectful distance from the big Diamond Dog.

Most Dogs in the pack knew that he would be next Alpha, so did the current Alpha. So he’d been sent out to capture at least six more ponies for mines, in the hope that he’d come back short and in disgrace. Night Runner had no intention of this happening, coming back with six or more ponies would improve his position and weaken the current Alpha. Not enough to usurp him… yet.

“Night Runner, eight ponies, two earth, three four unicorns, three four pegasi, had trouble identifying one.”

Night Runner gave Sweet Howl a playful swipe with a paw. “Ha, Keen Eye can’t tell wing from horn now. I go see, see if I can help him tell difference.” This brought a chuckle from the other five Diamond Dogs.

“Show me where Sweet Howl, rest of you, prepare for capture.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sweet Howl looked around in confusion.

“Keen Eye should be here! He said watch ponies from here!”

Night Runner looked at the campsite with the ponies, the campfire cast enough glow to illuminate all seven of them sleeping. Looking down at the ridge he could see the flattened grass where two dogs would have been laying.

“This is where he was.” Night Runner pointed to the grass, leaning in he gave it a sniff. “Keen Eye here while ago. Where he now?” Rubbing his jaw he shrugged. “Maybe he head back to camp, lets go, then we all come back to capture ponies.”

He smiled at Sweet Howl’s joy at the prospect.

‘Eager, he soon learn some ponies fight.’

“Come.”

They both jogged back to the campsite.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sweet Howl yelped as he pitched forward into the mud on the track.

“Something trip me up.” He exclaimed as he pulled his muzzle out of the mud.

Night Runner laughed at the inexperienced Dog.

“Probably tripped over own paws Sweet Howl. When you tell left paw from right you catch up. I go on, want to start readying for capture.”

Still laying sprawled in mud Sweet Howl nodded and watched Night Runner jog round the bend in the track. He lifted a paw to wipe more mud off his face.

Something heavy crashed into the top of his back, forcing his face back down into the mud drowning out any cry. Before he could lift his muzzle, his head was pushed deeper into the mud.

‘Can’t breathe! Can’t breathe!’

As his head was pushed into the mud as he thrashed in panic.

His face was kept in the mud, even after he had stopped struggling. His body was then dragged into the undergrowth.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Where Keen Eye?” Night Runner asked.

The other looked around and shook their heads. Night Runner scouted round the camp in case Keen Eye and come back and had not been noticed.

‘Keen Eye not here and Sweet Howl should be back now as well. Something not right.’

He thought for a minute. “You, Runt. Stay here. Guard Camp. Rest of you, with me. Weapons. Something not right.”

Within a minute five armed Diamond Dogs ran off up the track. Little Paw, who hated that nickname, sat in chair with a sword across his lap in the centre of the camp.

‘Guard camp, no fun. Never let Little Paw show how good he could be. I be good tracker, I be good warrior, if let me show.’

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Night Runner looked at the mud, he could see the mud spray of a fight and where something had been dragged into the woods.

Long Jaw spoke up. “This not good. Something take Sweet Howl, where is Keen Eye? You said he missing, missing like Sweet Howl maybe?”

Ignoring him Night Runner knelt down to examine a head sized indent in the mud. Standing back up he pulled his lips back into a snarl.

“Anything?” He angrily called into the woods.

Two Dogs came out and shook their heads.

“Nothing, trail lead up to stream, then stop. Odd though, stream look like it be thawing from winter still.”

“Argh, head hurt, get back to camp.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Entering the clearing they knew something was wrong. All the cages and the wagon were listing to one side or another. Supplies, tables and chairs had been scattered all over the camp and the tents collapsed. Little Paw was nowhere to be seen.

Long Jaw walked up to the wheeled cages. “Look like axe taken to wheels.”

Night Runner walked up the chair where Little Paw had been sitting when they left. Unlike the rest of the camp, it was still stood up with a sword neatly placed neatly across it. He could see two lines in the grass where something had been dragged away. Taking a step towards the chair a crunch under his paw gave him pause. What looked like little rubies and pearls were scattered on the ground near the chair. Picking up what looked like a ruby, he found it cold to the touch and rough in cut. Holding it in his paw he felt it warm up, and amazingly, melt, into a blob of…

He shook his paw vigorously, then dragged it across the ground.

Long Jaw said what was going through all their minds. “Something hunting us.”

Night Runner spun round to face Long Jaw. “Shut up! That not help.“

He looked around at the other four Diamond Dogs. All of them showed fear in their eyes to some degree.

‘Need ponies, lose face if not come back with them. But other Dogs ready to run, fear spreading like illness through them. Alpha not say how soon need ponies though. We go get more dogs, fight later, capture ponies later.’

“Gather supplies, we leave for Den, then come back with more Dogs, then we hunt.”

As Night Runner watched the Dogs start to root around the camp for usable supplies he rubbed the pommel on his sword. ‘Good keep them busy, take mind off what out there. If one runs, others follow. We come back, we find this, we kill this.’

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Light Paw whined at Tough Flank. “Please. Need to do this.”

“No, you need to go, go. I not hold hand. Or anything else.”

“Just need you to keep watch. I not be long.”

“We supposed to be getting supplies. Argh, quick then. Do not go far into wood.”

Light Paw bounded off towards the tree line, as Tough Flank followed at a more sedate pace.
‘Guess he need to go.’

Light Paw bounced from paw to paw a look of impatience and Tough Flank took his time, glaring at the trees.

“Be quick”

“I just go behind tree.”

Tough Flank carefully watched the trees, his grip on his spear tightening at each little noise from the night-time wood. He tried to block out the new sounds coming from around the tree, a grimace forming as he did so.

The sounds ended, then, silence.

“Light Paw? Light Paw don’t make me come round.”

The silence stretched on.

“Light Paw?”

“I be fine.” Light Paw came back round the tree. “Needed that.”

“Com’on, Night Runner not in good mood.”

Light Paw nodded and waved a paw at Silent Step on the other side of the camp.

Silent Step raised his paw...

The white beam hung there, stretching from out of the woods to Silent Step’s chest. Blinding in the night, causing both dogs to shield their eyes briefly, both saw what happened next though. Silent Step’s entire chest burst into a cascade of rubies and pearls bouncing down over the lower half of his body. With his head tumbling backwards and his arms cartwheeling away from where his shoulders once were, his lower torso crumpled to the ground.

Both screamed.

Night Runner, already alerted by the flash was sprinting over to them.

“What happen?”

Tough Flank found his voice first. “A, a beam. A beam hit Silent Step, then, then… he, fall apart.”

Howling with frustration, Night grabbed both of the dogs and shoved them towards the remains of Silent Step. “A Beam, you saw where it came from, why you not chase it down? Instead you stand there and scream like little ponies.” Night Runner towered over the terrified Dogs. “You two stand there, while Dog dies.” He screamed. “You two, bad dogs.”

Both were whimpering now.

“We should go, before it hunt again.” Long Jaw spoke up, having jogged after Night Runner when he had sprinted off.

Night Runner turned and back-pawed him across the muzzle, sending him stumbling backwards.

“You shut up. You put fear in Dogs.”

Rubbing his muzzle, Long Jaw stared defiantly back at Night Runner. “We stood in plain sight, arguing, we should be running.”

“We need supplies then go.”

“It hunt us! It going to kill us, all of us! We need to run! Now!” Long Jaw took a step as if to do this.

Night Runner grabbed Long Jaw in both paws and dragged him close. Bearing his teeth he opened his mouth…

The flash of white light was blinding. To Night Runner it felt like the flash had been right in front of his eyes, while his face was pelted with ice shards at the same time. Letting go of Long Jaw he covered his eyes and stumbled forward, only to fall over and land heavily on the ground.

Laying there he made sure to keep low to the ground while his sight returned and the after images became more manageable. Blinking he turned his head to focus on what he had fallen over. Long Jaw lay there under his rear paws, just that instead of a head, his neck now ended in a crystallized red stump.

Looking up he saw no sign of the other two dogs, both of them having long since run off into the woods.

Laying there, staring at the neck stump for a few minutes, he felt the rage and frustration of the failed mission rise in him. Standing up with a snarl, he drew his sword.

“Come out, fight me coward.” He screamed into the woods.

He kept turning round and round in a half crouch, sword in paw, scanning the tree line around the camp.

“Come on! Come fight me!”

A white glow appeared in the woods behind him.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Greywing grunted as Sunbeam prodded him.

“You’re turn on watch. There’s still coffee in the pot.”

Greywing slowly got up and stretched, spreading his wings as well.

“Hey watch it with those things.”

Sitting down was able to study Sunbeam from light cast from the camp-fire.

“Why are you covered in mud and branches? You look like you've been rolling in the mud, your entire back is brown.”

Sunbeam looked down and rubbed a hoof on the ground.

“Too much coffee and *ahem* had to go into the woods. Slipped in some mud and fell into the trees going in. Got most of it off now but I still need to go dunk myself in the stream. Thought I’d better wake you first.” She grinned at him.

Barely suppressing a snigger he reached up and took a branch out of her mane near her ears, causing them both to twitch.

“You must have looked like a bush if this is just what's left. Really can't tell where you end and the tree begins.” Sniggering quietly, he could imagine Sunbeam as a walking bush. “Well, anything happen?”

“Nothing of interest.” Was quipped back as Sunbeam headed off into the night.

‘How can she see where the stream is?’

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunbeam, having cleaned and dried herself by the fire while managing to ignore most of Greywings playful jibes, had settled down in her blankets.

‘You killed them.’

Sunbeam sighed.

‘They deserved it. It was a 'justifiable resolution' to that threat they presented.’

‘Yes they were justified kills. That is not the issue. You are the issue! You enjoyed it! You had fun!’

‘No! I...’

‘You are a...’

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Gah! Don’t sneak up on me like that Sunbeam, you nearly gave me a heart attack. Why are you up?”

Giving Greywing a faint smile she replied with a quiet voice. “Oh you know, feel all sleepy, but as soon as you lay your head down, you’re wide awake.”

Greywing nodded. Both sat in silence staring into the fire.

“How’s your exposure therapy going.” Greywing asked, restraining himself from doing the air quote thing as he said it.

Shifting position, Sunbeam looked at the fire. “It’s going fine, hanging around Twilight and getting to see all her… personality quirks. I’m beginning to see a pony that happens to have horns and wings. Seeing all her neurosis is enough to see that she is not an omniscient, omnipotent, vengeful being.”

‘And she’s hasn’t seen through the cutie mark enchantment. Yet.’

“Well I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that.” Greywing playfully shoved Sunbeam with a wing.

They sat in silence for a few more minutes as fire crackled loudly.

“Strawberry Ice Cream.”

“Huh?”

“Earlier, you asked my favorite food, Strawberry Ice Cream.”

Turning to Sunbeam, Greywing noticed her face was in the shadows.

“My parents gave it to me on my fifth birthday. It was so wonderful, I’d never had anything like it before. I remember thinking ‘I have never been happier’, heh, even with the ice cream headache I gave myself, twice. That day I felt like the happiest, most loved filly in the world. I never told them that, I said I was happy but I wish I could have told them that. I wish I could have told Mummy and Daddy that I....”

Both sat in silence as Greywing tried to work out if Sunbeam was going to continue.

“Greywing, can I ask you a question?”

“You can ask.”

Sunbeam made sure her voice was neutral.

‘You are a…’

“What would your description of a monster be?”

Author's Note:

Spot anything let me know, I'll try and correct it.

Thanks going out to DerpieDoo for corrections on last chapter.

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