• Published 18th Apr 2014
  • 2,827 Views, 216 Comments

Dust and Harmony - KitsuneRisu



The notorious outlaw Raven Lune is back! In a bid to defend her fair city, Mayor Celeste sends her best deputy to the burg of Ponyton to find the hidden pieces of a weapon that can stop her - a gun called Harmony.

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Send In The Clowns

The silver bottle, nestled in a brown paper wrapped with hoof-written script, sat on Twilight’s desk. Within, a strange liquid sloshed, a yellowish slick that refused to stick to the sides of the bottle and reflected light with a metallic sheen.

-

FOR WHAT AILS YA

THE BEST PRESCRIPTION

AUTHENTIC - OFFICIAL - 150% REAL

-

FRESHLY PRESSED SNAKE OIL

-

Twilight placed it gently back on the table, clearing her throat. “And what is it for?”

The worried-looking mare standing at the other side of the table twirled her hoof in mid-air.

Twilight rotated the bottle.

-

Directions for Use: For any problem, any time!

-

The sheriff smacked her lips, pursing them into a look of contempt.

“It killed my crops,” the pony complained, harumphing from behind her lace headdress.

“Yes… Miss…”

“Elizabathory Charlese Topp,” she said. “Arborist.”

Twilight stood up. “Miss Topp, your complaint has been registered. If’n you please, I’d like to go take care of this situation.”

“Well, thank you, Miss Sheriff,” the mare gave her her best look of approval. “I rightly appreciate that. These two should not get away with such flagrant deceit!”

“I’ll do what I can, Miss,” Twilight said.

~

“Do we really have the time t’ do this, Twilight?” Spike asked, as they trotted at a brisk pace down the dirty streets. “I mean, it ain’t bad that we’re helpin’ and all, but…”

“Still our job, I s’ppose,” Twilight grumbled, scrunching up her mouth. “Wouldn’t do right to turn ‘em down.”

“But we’ve kinda been puttin’ off Harmony. Is that okay?”

“I ain’t the sort to say no to a person in need, Spike. But you’re right. We better get a-movin’.”

“Guess you shouldn’t’a rode in claimin’ you were takin’ over as the new Sheriff proper, huh.”

“Probably. But still.” Twilight slowed to a stop, staring straight ahead. “The authority helps.”

Directly in front of them was a cart, one covered from roof to wheel in shelves and bottles, much like a travelling sales-stand, except far larger than it had to be. She noted on closer examination, as she made her way through the crowd, that it seemed to also double as a sort of storage wagon or mobile home of some sort, judging by the small door at one end that was currently locked tight.

Across the reds and blues and striped shades pulled out, grand words were painted roughly, proclaiming the owners of this little walking potion shop.

“The Flammery Brothers,” Twilight said, leaning toward Spike.

“Diiiiid someone call?” A voice, sharp and angular, well rehearsed in the art of delivery, and full of a strange electric charge was soon joined by a figure in a pinstripe suit. The unicorn twirled a crooked cane about his body, both as a way of drawing the eye and keeping the space around him spacious.

Everyone turned when he moved through the crowd, and all gave him berth.

“And a good afternoon to you, my dear!” he dictated. “My name is Theodore Flim Flammery, of the Famous Flammery Brothers, and I come to you today to bring you my trove of amazing medicines, captivating cure-alls, and tantalizing tonics! If you have any sort of ailment, then we have just the solution for you! All one hundred percent natural, of course, and organically grown!”

He did a little dance, much to the delight of the crowd, as he made his way closer to Constance S. Twilight, who was currently attempting to find something in her teeth because it calmed her.

“You, my dear, at a single glance, appear to be a mare of great wisdom and great intelligence. Am I right? Am I wrong? Ladies and gentlemen!” He turned over his shoulder, talking to the rest of the crowd. “Who is this fine lady standing before me?”

“The sheriff!” a voice yelled.

“She done good!” another called out.

“Ahhh, the sheriff,” Flim said, hushing his voice and prodding Twilight in the chest with his cane. “And what brings you here today? No doubt you require something to help with the pain of wounds, perhaps, or a strange salve that can make you work faster? Perhaps you require something to keep you awake on those long nights, or something to help you decide right from wrong. I have a potion for it all.”

Twilight’s eyebrow twitched. Something in her head, behind her eye, started to poke her in the brain. The sensation spread, as it crawled across her entire mind, claws digging in and scratching at her sensibilities.

She lowered her head to the ground, letting her hat obscure her expression.

“Sheriff?” Flim asked.

Twilight looked back up, smiling peacefully.

Flim jerked his head back.

“Thankin’ ya kindly,” Twilight said, pushing the staff away. “But I already have them.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” Twilight nodded, her head flipping up and down unevenly. “But you see, I call ‘em by different things. What makes me work faster’s called responsibility. What keeps me up at night is called tenacity. What helps me decide right from wrong is called morals. And what makes me ignore pain is called not being a little pansy-ass pansy.”

“Ah, well. But we still have…” Flim turned, pointing a hoof toward his stock.

“Flim, was it? Flim.” Twilight chuckled. “Please bring me a bottle of that magical elixir that you say can help with pain.”

“Of course! Of course!” Flim smiled brightly, cartwheeling over a small green bottle. “One hundred per-cent dillyblossom nectar and adderroot extract! It was a secret recipe by the dr–”

Flim coughed suddenly, as he turned away from Spike.

“– by the gryphons, and came to my knowledge through trade with the far East!”

“I see.” Twilight nodded. “And how good is this… potion?”

“It numbs all pain instantly! No matter the wound! No matter the size! No matter what, you’ll always be–”

The crowd suddenly turned silent.

Flim started to back up, as he dropped his cane, his bottles causing a merry tinkling sound as he crashed into them.

“W-what are you doing, ma’am?”

Twilight reapplied pressure to his cheek with her pistol.

“You have two choices,” she said, voice low, her smile so far gone that it almost never existed in the first place. “One. You tell all these kind folk here the truth that you and I both know you for.”

“A-and the other?”

“I show all these kind folk here the truth that you and I both know you for.”

“Y-you wouldn’t kill me! I’m just… I’m just trying to scratch out a living!”

“Oh, really?” Twilight turned over her shoulder. “Ladies and Gentlemen! Would this fine lady standing before you kill this stallion of questionable intent?”

The crowd remained quiet.

Someone coughed, and a little voice squeaked up from the depths of strangers.

Yeah, probably, it said.

Twilight turned back to Flim.

“You wouldn’t kill me!” Flim shrieked, his voice getting higher and higher with each frantic yelp.

“Nah. Yer right. I could, but that’s not what I’m here for. I told ya what I want. And I’m gonna get it either way. So mebbe this’ll sting a little. But it’s alright. You have this, now, don’t ya?” Twilight tinked her horn against the floating bottle of pain-away.

Flim swallowed heavily, his eyes flicking down toward the gun, and then back toward Twilight.

~

The cart trundled off into the distance, following the sun. Twilight stood at the exit-line, watching him go.

She sighed.

Spike stepped up beside her, also watching the horizon, clearing his throat.

“Would that I could, Spike,” Twilight said suddenly.

Spike shut his mouth and lowered his finger, his question answered before it even came to be.

“But I can’t protect everyone,” Twilight continued. “Others’ll have to learn how to figure stuff out for themselves. I can’t follow him everywhere he goes.”

“No one asked ya to.”

“I guess so,” Twilight turned away, looking back into town. “I guess so.”

“Where do you think his brother is?” Spike asked as they started pacing, entertainment quarter their final destination.

“Part of the scam, I’d reckon. People trust families. Any hint of a family.”

“How’d you know he was a fraud, anyways?”

“‘Cause he was selling stuff that was… too good.”

Too good?”

“Yeah. Too good, too easy. The world ain’t easy. The world ain’t good. When things seem good and easy, there’s usually something bad behind it.”

“I’m sure that ain’t for all cases, Twi.”

“Only the ones that matter, Spike,” Twilight said, turning a corner.


Dust and Harmony

Chapter Four :: Send in the Clowns


“What do you mean, she’s gone?” Twilight asked, rattling the table with a disbelieving hoof.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, my dear,” the other mare in the room said, putting on her best smile. She was someone trained in the art of smiling when things got a bit rough, but there were still hints of disappointment and sadness trying to crack through. “It was a year ago. She eloped with one of our workers.”

Eloped, Twilight mouthed, slumping back in her chair.

“That’s right,” the mare continued. “Ran off in the middle of night, after house closed up. No one heard or saw her go.”

She sat with a hot cup of coffee in the back room of the hen house, while Spike generously offered to case the main floor, just in case of ‘you-know-whatevers’, as he succinctly put it.

“How do you know she eloped?” Twilight asked.

“She left a letter.”

Twilight shook her head, rubbing her temple.

Even getting to this point had been difficult enough – none of the working mares wanted to talk to her when she first entered, and most were already talking to someone else. There were a different set of rules here, as if the hen house was its own little microcosm, and Twilight’s angry yelling did not attract any attention whatsoever save for the matron, with whom she was having a nice civil conversation at the current.

The matron was gorgeous, just like the house itself. She was just as gilded in gold as the bannisters were, and the fine filigree that wound its way around the woodwork and up the walls were mirrored in the matron’s cutie mark, beautiful swirls of yellow against a lavender and lilac frame.

“So, Miss Cheerilee,” Twilight continued, “what’s the story?”

“Oooh, she was just fine. Just fine. Looked after the girls. Made sure trouble never found their way into the house. Everyone respected her, Sheriff. Myself included. Way back when, when I first started here, I was just a fresh-faced little filly come off the streets. I didn’t even know how to string two words together, but Miss Pie, she took me in and got me an education and showed me how to work.

“And when she left a year ago, all us girls were in tears. We had no idea why she decided to go. But I guess love works in strange ways. And it was strange in on itself, because… why. She always told us never to fall in love with the clientele. We had to be professional, after all.”

“Of course,” Twilight said.

“But I guess she didn’t realise that it wouldn’t be a client she fell in love with.”

“Who did she fall in love with?”

Cheerilee sniffed. “She was a youngling here. One of the newer girls. But Pinkie, she always had an eye for such things. Girl was separated from her family. But she was so young. Barely twenty. So Pinkie said she’d put her up here until she was old enough to go lookin’ for her.”

“What was her name?”

“I’m sorry. We keep our real names secret. Only the matrons know everyone’s real names. But her name here in the house was Pumpkin.”

“And was ‘Pinkie Pie’ her real name?”

“No. And out of respect, Sheriff, even though she might be gone, it’s a tradition. You understand.”

“Of course I do. I weren’t about to ask.”

“You’re a kind soul, Sheriff.”

Twilight nodded, her expression softening. Her eyes roamed around the cluttered office instinctually.

“So Pinkie and Pumpkin both left on the same day.”

“Yes, Sheriff.”

“It’s… very important that I find her. There’s something she has that I need. Do you have any idea where she gone?”

“No. But I don’t think it matters. She left everything behind. Both she and Pumpkin. In fact, in the letter, she asked me to take care of their things until she returned.”

“Until she returns?”

“Yes. It was clearly written. I am to wait for her. But it’s been a year now, and I fear she may not be comin’ back at all.”

“Well. I can’t say.” Twilight shifted in her seat. “But maybe she’ll…”

“Oh, thank you for caring, Sheriff, but really,” Cheerilee beamed, “it’s our job to care for you.”

Twilight cleared her throat, holding up her hoof politely.

“Mindin’ if I see this letter?”

“Of course,” Cheerilee said, moving to her desk.

Thoughts rolled around in Twilight’s head. They didn’t particularly lead anywhere, but they were, unmistakably, thoughts. They were there to fill the otherwise uncomfortable spaces and nothing else.

“Here, sheriff.”

Twilight pored over the neat, hoof-written letter. It said as much as Cheerilee revealed – that she would be leaving with Pumpkin, and that they should take care of her belongings while she was gone.

It was signed with a big heart and two interlocking ‘P’s.

Twilight set down the letter, and rolled her tongue around her mouth for a moment, deliberating.

“Matron, I hate to ask this of you, but I am on a job of utmost importance. With all respect to Matron Pinkie, I have a letter from Mayor Celeste herself, and I–”

Cheerilee held up a hoof.

“Say no more,” she told Twilight. “I will take you to her quarters myself. We have preserved it as it was on the day she left. But you have to agree to allow me to be present. I will ask no more questions than is necessary, I assure you.”

“That’s very… open of you,” Twilight said, raising an eyebrow.

“Openness is part of the job.” Cheerilee shrugged.

~

Past corridors and rooms and lavish domains they walked, tasseled lampshades casting frilly shadows over the velvet carpets. The place was as opulent as they came, each room having its own wash-stand and four-poster bed, as discerned from the few quick glances that Twilight took.

Spike took a few better looks as he walked by, marvelling at the sights – and some sounds – of the den of odd curiosities. But it was fine, as Twilight was told, for the ones who had their doors open usually wanted them open in the first place.

But still, Twilight attempted to keep to herself as much as she could, for her own sake more than anything else.

At the end of the hall was a sharp turn, and an immediate change where the carpets ended and the wallpaper stopped, leading into a simple wood-planked floor and whitewashed walls.

Grey doors lined up like little soldiers all in a row, and everything there was silent and smelt of bleach.

They reached a door at the far end, where a little window was, and to the right was the door that Cheerilee opened with a key.

The room was remarkably bare.

It was clean, maintained, and dust-free, but there was absolutely nothing save for a small mirror, a pathetic bed, and the space of one and a half closets put together. The walls were coated in the thinnest of scratched-out white paint, and it seemed to be one of the few things unmaintained in the whole building.

It was smaller than Twilight’s old lodgings in Cantermore, even, and it made it very clear why Cheerilee was so certain that Pinkie had left all her belongings behind.

“This is her room?” Twilight had to ask.

“All our rooms are like this, Sheriff,” was the explanation. “We live not in avarice.”

“But all those rooms back there…”

“Are for the clients, of course.”

Twilight stepped in and looked around, stunned, hoping to find something – anything – to make the room a bit more forthcoming with information.

There was a small locker under the bed.

“That was a box of her personal belongings,” Cheerilee said. “The only things that mattered to her.”

Twilight placed it on the mattress, throwing it open.

Within was a collection of assorted knick-knacks and scattered bric-a-brac, the sort of stuff that one might find on the floor.

An old fading photo here, a broken toy there, a flower that had long since wilted to dust in that corner...

“All she cared about was making others happy.” Cheerilee sniffed, holding a hoof up to her face. “She had nothing of her own. Only memories of the best times. Every item in there holds a story, Sheriff. And I can tell you every one of those stories save for a few. But I assure you I know everything in that box, and I can at least tell you why she owned every one of ‘em, barrin’ details. I do not think any one of those things is the thing you are looking for.”

Twilight gently stirred through the collection.

Finally, she closed the box with a sigh and returned it to its spot under the bed.

“I don’t suppose there’s any hidden compartments here in this room, or anywhere Pinkie might have kept something of extreme importance, would she?”

“I don’t think so, Sheriff. You can look, by all means. All the money’s kept in the safe downstairs, and there ain’t nothin’ in there except money and a few things some customers have us hold. We ain’t never had a situation before in all these years.”

Twilight let out a puff of hot air.

“Tell me, please,” she said, a frown appearing. “Have you see anything like… a bag or a case of metal things?”

“Things?”

“Well… sorta like… metal things. Six-sided… long things. Metal.”

“That… doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever seen before. And I’d probably remember if I had.”

Twilight tisked in frustration.

“Alright. Spike. Help me search the room. We’re lookin’ for loose boards. Squirrel holes. Anythin’. Ain’t certain it’ll be here, but we gotta try.”

Cheerilee stood, patiently, watching, as over the next few minutes, the Sheriff and her assistant scoured the room from top to bottom.

They were thorough, but respectful, and ended up with nothing to speak of for their troubles.

Spike frowned, pushing the bed frame back into place.

“Nothing here, Twi,” he called over.

Twilight turned over from her examination of the far corner, rubbing her eyes as she slumped down, huffing into the air as she leaned back against the fading whitewash.

“Hey, come on, Twi,” Spike said, laying a hand on her shoulder once he walked over. “We’ll go look around some more, alright? It’s gotta be here somewhere.”

“It could be anywhere,” Twilight shot out. “What if it ain’t even here? What if she took it? Or if someone else made off with it?”

Spike himself froze in place as he gave the situation his due consideration.

“Well, what now?” he asked eventually. “Do we go back to the mayor?”

“If only we could ask her. If we could find her…”

“Sheriff,” Cheerilee said, softly, through the door frame, the lights from the hallway dancing against her face. “This isn’t something that I normally would do. But this seems… rather important.”

“Lives are at stake, Matron. A lot of lives.”

“Well, that there sounds mighty serious. I suppose… serious enough for me to tell you this one thing.”

“What?” Twilight perked up, pushing herself up against the wall.

“Pinkie had a client. One she saw quite often. And she did see him two nights before she left. We never managed ta get anythin’ out of him, and we rightly think he truly don’t know anything, but maybe you’ll have better luck. He was the last to see her in this town.”

“Who is he?” Twilight scrambled to her hooves, rushing to the door.

“He’s an odd little character. Plays piano at the watering hole. Name of Bagtail Brown.”

“Well, I’ll be,” Spike muttered.

“Son of a bitch,” Twilight whispered. “Ain’t that a kick in the ass?”

The tinkling of keys could be heard even before the swinging doors of the watering hole were in sight; it was the afternoon, and the afternoon was when all the building’s clientele were recovering from last night’s festivities. The rancorous choir, full of fight and spit, was now at rest, allowing the clean, unaided piano music to pierce the skies.

Pianists were paid to play, and so the piano continued throughout the day for anyone who cared to listen.

At the moment, that consisted of two tables silently playing poker, a couple of lonely drunks, a bespectacled gentleman reading a newspaper in the driest corner he could find, and the bartender, who was busy cleaning his glasses as usual.

Twilight very nearly smiled at the absence of a certain other figure, but then remembered that smiling for happiness was something other people did.

She made her way across the vacant floor, having a quick word with the bartender, and finally sliding up behind Bagtail to listen to a few bars.

He didn’t break for a second, nor did he turn, but spoke in and around the notes, not adhering to the rhythm in order to speak freely, in that odd way that he did.

“Sheriff Twilight. It is nice… to see you once more, especially in this… time of the afternoon. Any requests…?”

Twilight could almost feel him smiling with his back turned, sitting there in his black-and-white pianist’s outfit, one lapel sticking outward at an odd angle. Upon his rear legs were a slick pair of snake-skin boots, which struck the floor as he kept time.

“Brown.” Twilight tipped her hat whether he saw or not. “We gotta talk. I already cleared with the bartender. I can have ya for a while.”

“Oh… really?” Bagtail slurred, moving up a key, hitting the keys with an odd fanaticism. “And… how much are you going to tip… me for it?”

“What you say?” Twilight frowned.

The piano playing stopped abruptly in mid-transition; cut short suddenly before the tune was complete; leaving the song to fade away without a fair conclusion. Bagtail spun around, looking over his scruffy face through focused eyes.

“Just… kidding, Sheriff.” He smiled. “It’s a joke.”

“Well, I’m afraid I ain’t really in the mood right now, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to get this over with.”

“Has anyone told you… Sheriff…” Bagtail rose from his seat, his heavy boots cascading a deep beat on the floorboards. “That you are… quite remarkable?”

“Pardon me?”

“Yes, yes. Quite remarkable, my Sheriff. A pony… of great deeds and great name.”

Twilight glanced out of the side of her eyes to Spike, who gave her a little shrug in return.

“I heard about… the Diamond Dogs. Or what was… left of them, anyway,” Bagtail explained. “Glad to see you were… successful on your little… venture. You know, you’ve done us all here… a great service. You’ve given us all a… new chance at peace. And I think a lot of us are mighty… grateful that you did.”

“Well, I were just doin’ my job, was all,” Twilight muttered, letting her hunched shoulders drop.

“Not your job. Your sense of right and… wrong. People don’t appreciate you enough, Sheriff Twilight. People just let… your deeds slide under a carpet. But I just want to say… I’m glad you’re here to lead. To bring a little… order to our world.”

Bagtail nodded, his head jerking up and down like a pony struck with the palsy.

“And Dust knows we need more… order in our lives.” He licked his lips, grinning shakily, turning his head toward a table. “Shall we… talk?”

“Yeah. Let’s.” Twilight pushed toward a chair.

“So, what’s all this… about?”

“I’m here in town lookin’ for someone. And that someone ain’t around no more,” Twilight explained. “Way I hear it, you was the last person she talked to.”

Bagtail stuck his neck outward over the table, tilting his head at an awkward angle, as if he were a bird trying to peer around a branch overhead. His only response was a soft whisper of nothingness, like the escaping of air from a ruptured tank.

With a hoof, he brushed away a few muddy strands of hair from his face.

“Matron Pinkie,” he clarified.

Twilight nodded. “You were the last to see her before she skipped town.”

“Yes, I… was.”

“I’m gonna need ta know what you met her for, Mister Brown.”

“Well.” Bagtail shrugged, “what does… anyone see a little chicken for?”

“Oh ho ho ho,” Spike chuckled. “Ho!”

Twilight cleared her throat. “Right. Mind if I ask if you knew of Miss Pinkie’s intentions?”

Bagtail pursed his lips, creening his neck in the other direction. His eyes gazed upward, to the ceiling.

“I know nothin’,” he said.

Twilight scratched the back of her ear. “Mister Brown…”

“I... know nothin’,” he repeated.

“Listen. I ain’t tryin’ to make this hard. I like you, Brown. But I know you know somethin’.”

“Yeah.” He wiped his mouth. “I know you know.”

“Then why not just tell me?” Twilight leaned in closer.

Bagtail leaned back.

He took a long breath through his nose.

“Listen,” he said. “I got promises I need… to keep. I got friends I need… to protect. I think you’ll be the one who needs’ta explain why you need ta know things so much.”

Twilight smacked her lips.

“Alright,” she said. “That’s fair. I need to talk to her. I need ta ask her somethin’. Somethin’ that I reckon only she knows. I ain’t interested in draggin’ her back t’ town. I ain’t interested in tellin’ anyone where she is. I need t’ talk to her and that’s it.”

“I don’t know where… she is, but I can assure you she wouldn’t take kindly t’ being bothered,” Bagtail stated.

“Even just for a question?”

“She’s careful, Sheriff. I’m sure you… can understand that?”

“What’s got her so spooked, then?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone gets… into a spot of trouble once in a while…” Bagtail said softly. “Even the nicest… of people. Ain’t my story t’ tell. Maybe you can ask her yourself… if she comes back one day.”

“And when will that be, do you reckon?”

“Years. Months. Days.”

“I ain’t got time for this!” Twilight slammed the table, drawing eyes from a few poker players.

She looked over her shoulder, only continuing once she had glared the others back into submission. “Listen, I need to know. This is really important!”

“Well, I ain’t turnin’... my back on a friend.” Bagtail stared, dead-eyed. “I ain’t… ever gonna tell you where she is.”

Twilight’s horn twitched with anxiety, magical flickers running up and down its shaft.

“But…” Bagtail held up a hoof. “I am… willin’ ta help you out. If you can explain t’ me why this is all so important, I’ll do what I can. But it stops short of tellin’ ya where she is.”

Once again, Twilight stared off into the distance, considering the circumstances. Her jaw always felt itchy in such cases, she couldn’t help it, and only running her tongue over her teeth kept her thoughts in check.

A moment passed. Spike stared at the table. Bagtail sat there in focused silence.

Twilight tapped the table. “Fine.”

“Fine,” she repeated. “Fine.”

“We have… accord?” Bagtail asked.

“Yeah. Whatever. Listen. I need to trust that you keep this silent. What I’m about ta say – it ain’t no good if a lot of people know, hear?”

“I can… keep a secret. I promise.”

“I was sent here by Mayor Celeste to find a number of individuals. They have something that I’m lookin’ for. We need these things to defend against a… bandit.”

“A bandit?”

“Yeah. A pretty dangerous one.”

“You… you talkin’ Lune?”

“Yeah.”

Bagtail tilted his head back, his eyes rolling back into his skull before abruptly snapping back into place. “Well, that change… that change a whole lot, don’t it?”

“Maybe.”

“Lune… Lune is… coming back?”

“We think so.”

“And these things… you’re findin’...”

“Parts of a weapon.”

“I see.”

Bagtail’s body shook slightly, rhythmically, as the sound of a boot knocking against wood floated up from under the table.

“So, Matron Pinkie held one of these pieces. Or a whole mess of ‘em. We need to ask her where she put it. Now. I know you ain’t gonna tell me where she is. But mebbe you could go to her on my behalf–”

“That won’t be… necessary, Sheriff.”

“Pardon?”

“Tell me somethin’. How do… I know your story’s ain’t all gammon?”

“Spike. Show him.” Twilight turned to her partner.

The scroll was produced. It was read, and stowed.

“Well… then,” Bagtail smacked his lips. “I… think you’d better follow… me.”

~

He closed the door to his room, holding out a small leather bag that was drawn tight with a cord. By all accounts, it was a simple thing that wouldn’t be given a second look even by thieves; no self-respecting pony, dragon or gryphon would keep their money in something that shoddy.

“So, that’s it, is it?” Twilight asked.

“Yes. I always wondered what… they were. But she told me one… day someone’s gonna come askin’ for it. And I were t’ give it to… them.”

“Why did she give it to you?”

“I… wouldn’t know. I’ll have to… ask her, next time I see her. Maybe she knew whoever was… gonna come lookin’ for her would… find me?”

Twilight leaned against the wall.

Spike turned to her. “Hey, at least we got the piece, right?”

“I suppose so. Anyway. Thankin’ ya kindly, Mister Brown, but we’ll be takin’ this off ya now.”

She reached out, grabbing it with her horn, but felt a resistance when she tried to pull it away.

“One… moment,” Bagtail said. “Before I give them to… you.”

“What?” Twilight glowered.

“Please. I… want to help. I realise… things have been quite difficult… and I can’t imagine that… I have made that better in… any way. So, if I can ever… help you in the future, all you have to do is… ask.”

And with that, Bagtail released his own magic, letting the bag fly towards Twilight with a sudden burst of speed.

Steadying it, she flew it into Spike’s little bag.

“I’ll keep that in mind, Mister Brown.”

“No. Really. I can be… quite resourceful, you’ll find. I hear… a lot. I see… everything. People don’t pay me… any heed. And I have good relations with the rest… of the townfolk. And I think I can help you.” He tapped the side of his head twice.

“Yeah?”

“For example, the townsfolk are… more liable to talk to me than old… Moonshine. I have it in better than… an old drunk. She is helping you out, am… I right?”

“Yeah. And how you figured that out?” Twilight stood up a little straighter.

“You were sitting near me at the bar that night… remember? And she stops comin’ into the hole a few days after you… ride into town? Ain’t seem like a coincidence. I can guess she… was one of the others that held a piece of this… weapon too, right?”

“Keep talkin’.”

“And I’m… going to guess that you will be going to her shop… right after this. Seein’ how you need to keep those thingies… somewhere, and the Sheriff’s office don’t got no safe.”

“And how do you know the Sheriff’s office don’t have a safe?”

“I might have been in there… once or twice before, Sheriff.”

“Should I ask why?” Twilight pointed a hoof at Bagtail’s chest.

“Barkeep has me… drag in some of the rowdy ones sometimes. Ones that cause… too much trouble. That was a while ago, of course, before… the old Sheriff turned tail.”

“You know,” Twilight retracted her hoof to her chin, “I was kinda curious about that. Why are you just a piano player, anyway?”

Bagtail shrugged, his eyes narrowing slightly. “What I like t’ do, there ain’t a job for it yet.”

“Have you ever thought about being part of enforcement?”

“Hah,” Bagtail said. “No. Look… at me. How I… talk. I know… my limitations, Sheriff. I am… queer. That’s what people think. Ain’t a thing, but… I wouldn’t make for a good deputy.”

“Well.” Twilight flicked her head. “We’ll keep in touch.”

She turned, nodded to Spike, as the two of them made their way down the corridor, headed back to the bar proper.

“Goodbye… Sheriff,” Bagtail called after. “Hope the rest of your… tasks are as easy as the ones… you’ve already done.”

Twilight stopped.

Her head dipped.

Then tilted up toward the ceiling.

All of a sudden, she turned, at the top of the stairs, staring back at the poor sodden stallion who stood there.

“You know what?” She grumbled. “Come to the Sheriff’s office in an hour.”

“Comin’!” Dash called out, lifting the goggles off her face. Rudimentary, but effective, they were nothing more than four panes of glass, with sheets of cloth pressed between, bolted together in metallic clasps and hung over her eyes.

A bucket of water exploded into steam as she dropped her tongs into it, and she rushed, apron and all, to the front of the shop.

“Hey! Twilight!” she called cheerfully. “Spike!”

“Hi, Moonshine,” Twilight returned the greeting.

“Hey.” Spike waved.

“Great to see you!” Dash continued. “You know, I heard about that whole business the other day with the Diamond Dogs. That sure was rough stuff, huh?”

“What are you talkin’ about, Dash? You were there.” Twilight flattened her expression.

“Yeah… I know,” Dash mumbled. “I was just tryin’ ta see what it’d be like if I weren’t.”

“And how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

“Anyway,” Dash dusted her hooves off on her sides, “how you guys doin’? Ain’t seen ya for a while. How goes the search?”

Twilight dropped the bag on the table with a clunk.

“Oh, hey. The ammo?” Dash spilled them out onto the counter. “Ammo.”

“Yeah, we been… busy with other things. This town of yours has a lot of problems.”

“These are funny,” Dash said, reminiscing. “They ain’t got no caps. No casing. Just… Mayor Celeste told me, just make ‘em as tough as possible. So they’re just like… little rocks. Might as well be, really.”

“Really.”

“Yeah.”

“So how are they fired, then?”

“That’s why I said this gun don’t work, Twilight.”

“Hm,” Twilight grimaced.

“Anyway, I’ll put ‘em with the others. They’re all still safe.”

“Thankin’ ya kindly, Dash.”

“So, tell me. What’s been goin’ on?” Dash asked as she moved over to the metal box in the corner.

“I saw a whole bunch of whores!” Spike chortled gleefully.

“Uh…” Dash muttered.

“The bullets were with Matron Pinkie of the Hen House,” Twilight translated.

“Matron Pinkie? Didn’t she…”

“Yeah.”

“So how…”

“Long story short,” Twilight leaned up against the counter, “the piece was with Bagtail Brown.”

“The pianist? That Bagtail?”

“There’s more’n one? Turns out she gave it to him before she left, for safekeepin’. Once we got that all out of th’ way, he handed it over, no fuss.”

“Well, that could’a been a lot more problematic,” Dash said. “Lucky things went so easy.”

“Yeah… easy.” Twilight frowned.

“So… ah… who’s next?” Dash returned to the counter.

“We got two le–”

“Rarity Burke,” Spike interrupted with a declaration. “The hubbadusherer.”

“Wait, she’s one?” Dash exclaimed.

“Yeah.” Twilight eyeballed Spike with the best of her ability. “What about?”

“Oh… I… uh… I don’t get along with her too well. We got… different… points of view,” Dash uttered. “Who’s the last one?”

“Doctor. Doctor Shy something.”

“Doctor Roderick McShy?” Dash clarified.

“Yeah, them’s the one.”

“Well, that one I can understand. But Rarity Burke? I mean… whoa. Couldn’t have…”

“What’s so bad about her?” Spike spoke up. “She looks real purdy in her pictures.”

“Yeah, I suppose. That’s the problem, ain’t it?” Dash said. “Anyway, look. I ain’t gonna raise sand with y’all over her, right? So all I can do is hope that your dealings with her are gonna be… smooth.”

“We’ll keep that in mind. I guess we could always go after th’ doctor first. I’m kinda surprised we ain’t needed his services yet.” Twilight commented.

“Aw, come on, Twilight!” Spike grunted. “Every time!”

“Hey, listen,” Twilight said, turning to face Dash head-on, a sign that Dash had come to understand meant serious dealings. “I need to ask you for your opinion.”

“‘Bout what?”

“Bagtail. Can we trust ‘im?”

“Well, he’s been… around since forever, Sheriff. He’s been playin’ piano for forever. He seems pretty happy, doin’ what he do.”

“Ain’t what I asked ya.”

“Right. I reckon… I don’t know enough about him t’ really say. Kinda bad of me t’ speak of it such, but I ain’t ever given him a right look twice. He ain’t the kind of guy you really pay attention to, y’know?”

“I’m seeing that.”

“So… I ain’t got an opinion one way or another. He’s kinda just there and that’s it.”

“Sounds pretty useful. What’s with the way he talks?”

“No idea. Rumour has it he’s got a split tongue in an accident with a knife.”

“Naw. I got a good look at it. He got a regular tongue like everyone else.”

“Then you already know more than me, Twilight.” Dash shrugged. “Sorry I ain’t more help.”

“Well, I’m gonna talk to him in a bit. Check up on him. Guessin’ he could help. Since you don’t like this Rarity pony, mayhaps he can be of use there, huh?”

“Sure, Twilight. If you reckon he’s good, he’s good.” Dash nodded.

“I better get back.” Twilight said, turning.

“Oh hey!” Dash called out. “Ah… you wanna… get some grub later?”

“Grub?”

“Yeah. You know. Food.”

“Do I wanna get some food?” Twilight repeated.

“She’s asking you out for dinner, Twi,” Spike said.

“Oh. Oh. Right,” Twilight said, shifting her jaw. “Uh… I guess so. Right. I gotta eat. Right? And Spike, too? He eats too, right?”

“‘Course.” Dash replied.

“She means ‘yes’,” Spike told Dash.

“Uh… yeah. Come down later, I guess. The office.” Twilight grunted.

“Hey, I’m gonna stay behind, alright?” Spike said, turning to Dash. “Those guns you made for me? They’re real nice. But there’s a bit of a rattle in the grip and I was wonderin’...”

“Yeah! No problem!” Dash said, flipping them over as soon as Spike put them on the table.

“Well… alright then.” Twilight coughed a little, turning back and stepping out of the door.

The last thing she heard was laughter and a few words being said not to worry about something as the door slammed shut.

She swallowed hard, blinking, straightening her vest out for reasons she couldn’t fathom herself.

And then she began to walk, headed for home.

It was fifteen minutes before Bagtail arrived. The sun had begun to set, and a chill swept through the house, prompting Twilight to light a few lanterns and keep the stove ready.

She stood, alone in the office, staring at the faces on the wall.

It hadn’t been that long since she was standing by herself. She had only met Spike a few weeks before. But there was a distance now, a distance that she could actually feel now that she had some perspective.

Fifteen minutes.

The dust on the floor stirred, a phantom wind picking up the grains with a mischievous intent.

Fifteen minutes.

Why was she counting the time? What had she been pulling out her pocket watch over and over, merely to stare at the seconds ticking by? The watch always returned to her vest just the same, and withdrawn just the same, multiple times in the span of a single minute, and many more across those fifteen dreadful minutes.

Twilight found herself swallowing at air.

The door creaked open, a silhouette appearing, the sun sparkling red behind, as a pair of heavy boots thundered across the floor.

“Sheriff.”

“Thanks for comin’, Mister Brown.” Twilight swung away from her desk, lighting a final lantern to warm the corners.

“Thank… you for invitin’ me here,” Brown said, his smile creaking upward. “How can I help… ya?”

“Couple’a things. Noticin’ you’re carryin’.”

“These?” Bagtail looked down toward his chest. A brown belt strapped across his midriff was home to a pair of holsters. They were noticeably filled.

“Mind if ya hang ‘em up by the door?” Twilight pointed. “Coat rack.”

“Of… course. Of course,” Bagtail nodded, undoing the entire thing and stringing it along a couple of wooden pegs normally meant for hats. “I… understand.”

“Policy.”

“Of course.”

Twilight took a step toward the middle of the room. “So, I oughta be fair. I haven’t quite decided if I’m’a use you yet. But you know a lot about these here comin’s and goin’s and that’s what I had you in for.”

Brown started a pace, walking around the office with slow, deliberate steps. His eyes didn’t follow whom he was speaking to. They roamed. They discovered. “Anything I can… do to help, as I mentioned. It would be my… pleasure.”

Twilight continued past the center of the room, stopping a few steps away from the coat rack.

She stared at the guns, hanging like fruit from a tree.

“You’re accommodatin’,” Twilight said.

“Yes, ma’am. My daddy learned me good.”

Bagtail was almost at the opposite end of the station now; where Twilight had begun. He ran his eyes across the walls, across the posters, across the briefcase on the table. He turned to look at Twilight.

“Real accommodatin’,” Twilight repeated, continuing to stare at the set of pistols.

“I… thank you again. But surely… this is not what you had me in… for?”

“No.” Twilight chuckled over an acidic tone. “No.”

Bagtail had stopped moving. Twilight could hear the lack of his boots tromping about.

She continued. “I’m gonna have ta ask ya for your forgiveness, Mister Brown. But a pony as accommodatin’ as you oughta understand why I gotta ask a buncha questions.”

“Ask… away.”

“Today went strange. And I don’t know why. I wanna know why. This is what I had you in for, Brown. I wanna know why today went strange.”

“Well, I have… no idea what you’re talkin’ about, Sheriff. I’d think today went… pretty well for you.”

“That bothers me, Brown. Things never go well.”

“You against… things swingin’ in your favour?”

“’Course not.” Twilight reached out with her horn, grabbing Bagtail’s guns and hoisting them off the rack. “What I’m against is things goin’ too smoothly.”

“Ain’t that the same…thing?”

“Naw,” Twilight said, carrying the guns to the front door. “See, when things look real bad, you feel like there’s gotta be a struggle. You gotta fight for what you need. Ain’t no such thing in this world as stuff just falls into yer saddlebags from the skies.”

She nudged the door open with a hoof, staring out into the deep crimson haze of mid-sunset, when the sun lit up the desert and cast it in a bloody film.

“For instance, how agreeable you are. How nice you are.”

“Those are not… crimes, surely?”

“How you’re lettin’ me throw your guns out th’ door without a single word of d–”

A second apart was the time between realisation and reaction.

In fact, Twilight’s mind clicked as the final gear slid calmly into place, without any fanfare and without any glorification. Those were the most dangerous of realisations, because they meant the whole clockwork would start running whether you were ready or not, and the gears fell into place a second too late.

A shot rang out, blindingly painful, screeching through Twilight’s ears and sending a shock into her heart, freezing it for the time it took for her to catch up with what she should have known long ago.

The holster of guns slumped to the ground, hitting the floor with complete inconsequentiality.

The magical aura cast around it started to flicker and fade.

A thin stream of blood flowed down Twilight’s forehead.

Her breathing quickened, she fumbled, in a blank, echo-laden void of her own mind, her hoof moving upward to her horn, pulling away with the feeling of an uncomforting warmth and a sharp tip.

Her body, struggling to regain control of the complete numbness that spread from the end of her horn throughout the rest of her head, turned, in slow, uneven twitches, to face the stallion that stood at the other side of the room.

It took Twilight everything she had in her power just to concentrate on breathing.

Bagtail lowered his gun – a tiny derringer, a gun that could only fire once, but was small enough to be concealed in an article of clothing, like a boot.

“Feels strange, don’t… it?” he smiled, stepping forward in a dance. “Feels… different. I remember the last time I banged my… horn against a doorway. Hurt like a… mother. Couldn’t move for… couple minutes.”

He stepped toward Twilight, her shivering, quaking form, pulling her own pistols from her holsters and brandishing them.

Bagtail smacked his lips, an expression of curiousity running across his face, like a child who found out the answer to a particularly difficult math problem but didn’t understand why the answers were such.

“So, while I have ya,” Bagtail retreated backward, training his guns on the Sheriff, who was now slouching over herself like a wind-up puppet that was slowly losing tension.

Her wincing was evidence of the pain now returning, of her body finally returning control.

“Y-you s-son o…”

“No. I ain’t. I ain’t. I really ain’t.”

Over shuddering breath, as a single tear squeezed out from Twilight’s eye, she forced the words through her teeth. “I k-knew i-it…”

“Did you? Did you really? But you played… so well into everything I did, Twilight. It was… barely a challenge.”

Twilight’s body fell heavily to the ground, her knees knocking the floor, tiny drops of blood scattering themselves around her from the fractured tip of her horn like a festival of roses.

“This is it? Really? I was… hoping for more. After all I… heard. After all I… saw. I wanted more.” The stallion almost looked sad. “But you were… so easy to play. It was like simply… clicking my heels together was enough… to make you dance for me.

“Ever since you… pulled into town. Givin’ up the entire… thing right there in the… bar. I heard it all. And I realised… you. You was the one I was… waitin’ for one whole year.”

“W-what do you want?” Twilight sputtered.

“I want the other… pieces of the weapon, Sheriff. I already know the rest are… in the safe, and I think it won’t be a problem… for me t’ convince Miss Moonshine t’ open up, once I go to her with the final two pieces, of course.”

“An...and ya think she won’t be checkin’ with me first?” Twilight growled.

“Probably… not. I mean… after all, you had to suddenly… go take care of somethin’ way out in th’ desert with your deputy, didn’t… ya?”

Twilight slowly pushed herself up on unsteady limbs, her mane falling over her face, matted to her skin.

“Say, I think I even know… where you went. You and your… dragon went out to the two Canyon Pines South of… Town, about fifteen minutes out at full… gallop.” Bagtail nodded. “You went there to meet old Pinkie Pie and that other whore.”

Twilight squeezed her eyes shut.

“Where… I… buried… them.”

A burning fury bit up from inside Twilight’s chest, a hot, rhythmic beat that reverberated through her torso and into her mind. It was like a pounding headache, each throbbing pulse causing her to get angrier and angrier.

“Why? Why?” she yelled, pushing herself up even further, stumbling as she finally got to her hooves.

“Was the… easiest way. Heard her a year ago… after… a session. Talkin’ about havin’ somethin’... important she needed to keep. Talkin’ to that… other whore. So’s I decided t’ take it. In case maybe it was worth… somethin’.”

“One year…” Twilight said to herself.

“Had her write a… note. Marched ‘em out to the desert. She… really liked that other whore. Did anything for… her.”

“You didn’t have to kill her!” Twilight spat out the blood that had trickled into her mouth.

“Didn’t… wanna. Only killed the other whore… make her talk. Said I was gonna kill all her… other little chicks. Told me everythin’. Didn’t tell me… who the others were. Didn’t know. She told me… take her life. Send her to the Dust for ‘twas a day she… didn’t have a good story t’ tell.”

“You’re a monster.”

“Oh,” Bagtail levelled the gun. “That’s a bit much, ain’t… it? I mean, I just maybe like to cause a bit… of mischief here and there. You law types… you have a word for that… don’t ya? For them who deal a tad of… ruckus once in a while?”

“You are far from social discord,” Twilight said, her eyes focusing.

“I beg to differ. I think that is… exactly what I am.”

Twilight spat once more. She drew inward, breathing, controlling. The situation was dire, but it needed a Twilight who could keep constant. It needed a Twilight who could think.

“I’ve been… behavin’ for a year, Sheriff. So… maybe you could… overlook this one thing here. Time off for… bein’ good?”

The guns – his original guns – were clearly empty. There was no need to take hers if they weren’t. But now was the best time to catch him off-guard. He had had his little bravado. He had his chance to rub things in.

“To be honest… I just want to see… what things’ll be like if the weapon weren’t there t’ stop Lune. Might be a right bit of… fun.”

She needed a weapon. Weapon. He had weapons. But she didn’t. Did she?

“Alright… enough… talking.”

Her horn.

She grit her teeth, squeezed them together, clenched her jaw and focused.

Sparks flew out, a white, silvery light, erupting from her tip like an overheated sparkler. The pain was excruciating.

“Hey! What… are you doing?” Bagtail frowned, raising the gun toward the Sheriff.

It fired off nothing but a loud click.

The other gun followed suit.

A smile started to return to Twilight’s face. “I… prepare… too, you bastard!”

“Stop!” Bagtail roared, throwing the empty pistols aside.

Twilight swivelled, turned, pushed past, and aimed at her desk.

With a furious scream, and a horrendous roar, glass shattered and wood warped, metal tangs twisted out of place and a huge ball of fire erupted from the lantern that had been resting on Twilight’s desk, all within the flash of a white light that engulfed the room a moment before the flames rained down.

Bagtail twisted and turned, his mane, clothes, boots, face and body all squirming in the dance of burning retribution, as the fires swept across the floor, consuming everything in its path.

A gurgling throe, the final calls of a character being eaten alive, escaped burning lips as the figure crashed around desks, lamps, cupboards, two charred limbs clawing out of the heat and smashing against a wall.

As the flames spread, Twilight shook her head back into the present, trying to ignore the pain, and fell back heavily against the door as it juddered open, allowing the mare to spill out into the streets.

In front of her was another figure, lit up brightly and fighting for attention with the bloody sun, as he fell, over and over again, against the hard dirt and unforgiving rock, the last licks of flame finally extinguishing themselves with his repeated attacks.

The crackle of wood and the stench of nidor was an overwhelming combination. The heat was still strong, and the commotion drew a large crowd that started running, and yelling, and there were just things that happened – all things to Twilight who couldn’t do much more but drag herself to the husk that lay still, but breathing, at her hooves.

A crag of reds and blacks coated a great portion of the stallion’s body, like the scales of some unearthly beast. The metal tangs of one of his boots had melted, fusing to his skin, giving him a single lizard-like leg. His mane was charred in places, patches of baldness covering his brown skin, and his eyes, they glowed deep red behind crusts of black, blood vessels having burst from within and colouring it with a mix of hatred and pain.

He stared, the only thing he could do.

“Y-you’re under arrest,” Twilight said, breathing heavily. “So go to hell.”

She turned, walking away, only stopping once she heard, beyond all possibilities she could fathom, that Bagtail was still able to speak.

“G-gear… head…” the shell croaked. “Y… you’re rui...ne….d. I will… tell… every… one…

Twilight’s shoulders tensed.

“Um…” came another voice. “Idiot.”

Twilight looked to her right.

“You know, you should have looked better,” Spike said, pursing his lips and breathing out a small wisp of flame from somewhere deep within his chest.

“H...heh. O...f cour...se.” The husk gave a semblance of a smile, and finally fell silent, eyelids closing as much as they could, as the pianist passed out.

“Twilight, we need a doctor.” Spike wasted no time.

“I’m fine,” she replied.

“Twi–”

“I’m fine!” she yelled.

The flickering flames cast shadows that danced and scratched their way across Twilight’s face. A thrall of ponies had already formed a bucket-chain. But their business didn’t help the image reflected in Twilight’s eyes.

Most of the Sheriff’s office was embers. All there was left to do was to wait for the end.

Spike didn’t repeat himself, but rather, jerked a thumb at the remains of Bagtail with a certain sadness in his voice. “What do we do with him?”

“Get him a doctor.”

“What?”

“He lives.”

“What?”

“The Dust decided not to take him today. And it ain’t me to do the job of the world. We’re gonna ship him off t’ Cantermore. He will stand trial. I will send Mayor Celeste a telegraph myself. The law will be done.”

“Twilight…” Spike muttered, looking back over his shoulder. “Why?”

“Because he ain’t gonna ever tell me what to do again.”

Twilight hissed as she drew air into her lungs.

“Sorry,” Spike apologized, continuing to dab at the tip of Twilight’s horn with a cotton bud soaked in some weird brown liquid. “You really should go see a proper doctor about this.”

Twilight sat on an upturned bucket in the middle of the remnants of her Ponyton home. There was a point when the majority of the crowd just gave up and decided to watch. But now, they were dispersing. The flames drew ponies from far and wide to the location, including someone Twilight was rather thankful for.

“Doctor’d be best,” Big Mac agreed.

Behind him, what was left of Bagtail was being hefted up on a stretcher.

“You know what to do?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah. Don’t worry. I got a lot of rope. I’ll have him escorted to Cantermore on the midnight train.”

“Thanks, Big Mac.”

“Least I could do,” he rumbled.

“How’s the leg?” Twilight asked.

“Just fine.” The mustache shuffled. “All healed up.”

There wasn’t even a scar.

“Uh…” Spike murmured, pointing.

“Thanks again,” Twilight nodded.

“You take care of yourself, y’hear?” Mac replied, trundling towards his associated. He barked a few orders at them, and the whole lot made off into the night.

“Nice fella,” Twilight commented, as he went.

“If you say so, Twi. I can’t tell, honestly.” Spike continued cleaning the wound.

It wasn’t as bad as originally thought. The tip was completely taken off, leaving a jagged shard in its place. She found no deterioration in her magical skills, although it still ached a little to use her third arm.

She was left with an interesting story.

Stories.

Whether kept in a box or worn like a crown that you couldn’t take off…

“Poor girl,” Twilight said.

“Who?”

“Pinkie. That bastard killed her a year ago.”

“Oh.”

“Kinda wish I knew her. Feels like a right shame.”

“It’s always a shame, ain’t it?”

“Everything’s a shame.”

Twilight rubbed at her eyes.

“Fill me in?” Spike asked.

“I’ll tell ya later.”

“Alright.”

Twilight turned upward, facing the dragon, who pulled back, holding bottle in one hand and stained cotton in the other.

“Spike?”

“Yeah?”

“I… uh…”

“What’s up, Twi?”

“About that thing… uh… just now…”

“Yeah, no problem, Twi.”

A cold wind blew, as the night brought the song of crickets humming their songs.

“We… we can go see Rarity tomorrow,” Twilight offered.

“What? No way! We’re going to see the doctor. We’re gonna get you checked up!”

“Ah.”

“Yeah, idiot.”

Twilight shifted her jaw around. At least that still worked.

Spike tapped the side of his head.

“Hey, Twilight?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“What?”

“Are you a gearhead?”

The bucket shifted in place.

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Alright. Let’s go get something to eat.”

The bucket shifted again.

“What?”

“I’m hungry. Let’s go get something to eat.”

“I… okay.”

“Okay.”

The unicorn lifted herself off the bucket.

The dragon put the bottle down.

Nothing had changed.

“Thank you, Spike,” Twilight whispered.

“What for?”

“Don’t know.”

Two shadows shuffled off, stepping over rubble and cinders and piles of ash. They’d worry about it tomorrow. There were other things to think about now.

“Hey, wasn’t… Dash supposed to join us for eatin’?” Twilight asked as they walked away.

“Yeah. Don’t know what happened to her. She left before I did, in fact. Should’a got to you before I did.”

THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES AGO

Moonshine huffed, frozen, face pressed up against a window.

Her wing twitched. Her mind twitched. The scene in front of her was something that she needed to act on.

Now.

“Come on…” Dash pleaded, willing her hoof to move. “Gotta…”

The blood… that horrible stallion… poisonous words slung everywhere… and she had nothing.

Not a single item to help with.

Not a single thing she could do but stare and hope and wish that the Dust would will her to do anything else.

She gasped, a large flash of bright, white light filling the entire room.

When she opened her eyes again, all she could see was the fire. All she could hear were those screams that either pleaded for death or attempted to deny it.

Her mind finally released her body at the threat of flames. And she turned, stumbling over herself, and she ran.

She ran, letting the night take her.

CHAPTER FOUR - END

Author's Note:

~

Isn't it bliss?

Don't you approve?

One who keeps tearing around,

One who can't move.

Where are the clowns?

~


With assistance from Crack Javelin.
Edited by Meridian Prime.
And thanks to you, for reading.

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