• Published 15th Jul 2014
  • 1,545 Views, 106 Comments

Manehattan Madness - Ardashir



It's the Manehattan Spring Fashion Show! And for the first time ever Carousel Boutique wlll be there. Rarity and her models: Applejack and Fluttershy and a Changeling Queen searching for lost changelings -- who do NOT want to be found

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Aftermath: Beneath the Hippodrome, Manehattan

Chapter 9
Aftermath: Beneath the Hippodrome, Manehattan

“MMMF MMMF MMMMMMF!”

Sky Talon squirmed on the cold dirt floor, alone and terrified. Bound foreleg, hindleg, and wings, a drool-soaked gag in her beak, a bag over her head, mud from her own urine caking her fur, she didn’t know how long she’d been there in the darkness since last night. She’d heard nothing since Audra had left her here. Was she still in the Hippodrome? Or somewhere beneath it, in the sewers where, as Audra gloatingly told her, she’d never be found? All she knew was that aside from hunger and the cold dirt speckled with stones, all was darkness and silence since last night’s horrific discovery.

She remembered the red-eyed Changeling bearing her down onto a stone floor, shifting into a mirror image of herself, then something pushing into her head like a hive of bees, then nothing until she awoke lying in the dirt amid darkness and silence.

She didn’t know how long she’d been trying in vain to work the ropes loose, squawk through the gag for help, shake or rub the bag off her head. Finally she’d given up, exhausted, with nothing to think about except what that monster would do to her when it returned.

“I’ll be back as soon as I’ve finished ensuring that nogriff wants to ever see you again. And then? Then I’ll have all the time I need to decide how to deal with a fool griffin like you!”

“I’ll deal with you later.” A soft squawk like a chuckle, in her own voice. “Maybe I’ll just drain all your emotions, leave you a mindless drone. Photo might like that. Or maybe I’ll just have,” the sound of somegriff licking their beak, “a more substantial dinner.”

She’d fled her home aerie to the pony metropolis, clawed her way to the spot of top Equestrian model, cast aside friend and patron alike when Photo Finish had offered her even more wealth and fame. Now she was going to die – here, alone, underground.

Or worse, die like the victims of those Changelings in all the pulps and movies. What would it be like to have all her emotions drained away, to become some empty thing?

“Ah! Vunderful! Please haff all mein thanks, Miss Shapeshifting Monster!”

Sky Talon stood there, nude except for a collar around her neck, drooling mindlessly as Photo Finish spoke to an Audra now back in griffin form. That unicorn nag Yellow Jacket stood nearby, gloating as she admired her reflection in the mirrors all around her. But why did she have a butter-yellow coat, and a pink mane and tail?

Photo spoke. “Dis vay I, Photo Finish, may get some actual use out of her. Not that she ever was much use, now that I haff mein new discovery,” she nodded at Yellow Jacket, who seemed oblivious. “But I suppose she can carry our things or do something else equally vile and degrading.”

The blue fashionista turned and stalked off. Yellow Jacket followed, stopping just long enough to sneer and drop a small pile of luggage before Sky Talon.

“Here, drone, make yourself useful and carry this! I mean, if that’s okay with you.”

Sky Talon did so, her eyes empty, as Audra cackled cruel laughter behind her.

Sky Talon swallowed and fought harder than ever against her bonds, tongue straining against her gag. I have to get out of here! Photo, Finest Silk, somegriff, anygriff, HAALP!

# # #

Hooves pounded on the backstage performers’ entrance to the Hippodrome. The door opened to reveal an earth pony stallion in usher’s livery and gold lace.

“We have to get in!”

“Show’s not until six, ladies,” he snapped to the four unicorns, one pegasus, and one earth pony who all looked the worse for wear. “We won’t be letting anypony in before five – HAY!”

He whinnied as Yellow Jacket and Rarity magically lifted him into the air with a snort.

“We’re in a rush,” she snapped. “Besides, there won’t be any show tonight. Tirek’s in the hospital and Megan’s on her way to the Tombs. So let us in!”

The usher’s expression went from smug to shocked at the mention of Manehattan’s infamous city jail.

“Go and send a messenger to Dressage Hall if you doubt me. But right now we have to search your basements for any sign of a foalnapped griffin!” Yellow Jacket brought him closer, making her eyes glow a fierce gold. “Understood?”

Applejack pushed her way forward and yelled. “Ah’m the Element of Honesty, and Ah say we hafta get in! NOW!”

“My dear fellow,” Fancy Pants interrupted. “These are three of the Elements of Harmony, the Countesses Lipizzan, Appleoosa, and Caspian, from the court of the Princess herself. We have reason to believe a griffin is being held or in distress somewhere in your theater’s basements. We’re coming in, one way or another.”

The usher nodded.

“Yellow Jacket, set him down.”

As soon as his hooves touched sidewalk, he leaped aside with a panicked whinny as the five mares and one stallion charged past into the backstage. None of the Hippodrome ponies setting up dared get in their way as the six galloped for Audra’s dressing room.

“Oh dear,” Fluttershy half-panted as they reached the door. “I hope… Sky Talon… isn’t hurt or frightened!”

“She’s a griffin,” Yellow Jacket yelled up to her, then braked outside as three unicorn horns and an earth pony body slam wrenched the door open. Applejack plunged in first, only to trip with a whinny on the thick carpeting. Yellow Jacket ignored her as she said, “Griffins don’t scare easy.”

# # #

Not easily, but they did scare. Especially if they’d spent more time than wise reading many of the horror novels and pulp stories about carnivorous changelings over the past year. Especially the really explicit griffin-authored ones.

“Hmm,” the Changeling Queen said, licking chitinous lips as she looked down on a helpless Sky Talon stretched on a giant silver serving platter before her. Nearby stood platters heaped high with rack of dragon, Diamond hot Dogs, and barbequed pony ribs. Her horn glowed as small jars of various sauces, ranging from savory to sweet, floated out to set down around the griffin. Her fangs gleamed as she said in a voice thickened with hunger, “I’ve never eaten a whole griffin before. Plain emotions get so boring after a while? But the emotions you’ll feel as I eat you alive!”

Giant apple jammed into her mouth, Sky Talon writhed against her bonds, formed of whole sides of minotaur bacon made into ropes, as Audra said, “Oh, now this will be such a memorable meal!”

And as in Sky Talon’s imagination, that long neck lowered monstrous fangs for their first mouthful of blood-raw griffin, she tried so very, very hard to scream.

She couldn’t as much as chirp past the apple in her mouth.

Anygriff! Anypony! Get me outta here already! PLEASE!

# # #

As Yellow Jacket waited outside – after last night and this morning, she didn’t want to risk a relapse – five ponies looked around a room filled with sweet-scented bouquets, thick Saddle Arabian carpet underhoof, fine perry and icewine in crystal bottles on a side table, and a vanity set with enough makeup to give Rarity a run for her bits. On one table a small glowgem lamp laid, hood drawn.

Applejack picked herself off the floor. “Two griffs went in, one came out, that’s what Asterion said.… How?”

Five ponies scanned the walls – the glowgem wall sconces done in the fashion of cressets from a hundred years ago protruding from the brilliant russet wallpaper. Crystals dangled from the sconces; wooden trim dividers cut the wallpaper into sections wide enough to fit a pony or griffin.

“Uh, secret door, like in all the movies?”

Fancy’s, Fleur’s, and Rarity’s horns all glowed as one, sending magical auras over the wallpaper. Applejack circled the room, thumping the wainscoting with one forehoof; Rarity tried to pull and twist the sconce-lights with both horn and hoof while the other two unicorns pushed against the walls.

“Yellow Jacket! Can you sense anything?”

The Changeling Queen let her empathic sense expand outwards. Confusion and shock in the theater outside. Apparently they’d learned about the loss of two of their big show’s main performers. From Fluttershy, mostly worry for Sky Talon, and no fear of her at all – and only a very little of it coming from Rarity and Applejack.

And from somewhere below her, another source of fear and panic, distant but surging and spiking.

“Something from below. I think she’s still alive.”

Applejack turned from where she was tapping the wall section. “Now how do we get down there?”

“I’ve been down to the main basements…” Yellow Jacket started to turn in the direction of the ramps leading down.

“Let's finish checkin' here first.” Applejack neighed as the tapping, pulling, twisting, and pushing finally got results; a section of wall swung open to reveal a lightless stone passage leading down.

Taking a deep breath and holding it, Yellow Jacket dashed into the room and into the secret passage.

“Don’t just stand there!” she whinnied as she disappeared into the darkness, a flash of golden fire lighting up the passage as she shifted back into her true form. Her night vision would be better that way. “Bring that lantern and come on!”

# # #

Sky Talon shuddered and convulsed within the slimy transformation cocoon, kicking out with her powerful hind legs at the walls that stretched and gave without tearing. She gagged on the thick slime that surrounded her, breathing it in as it filled her mind with new and coldly alien thoughts.

“I thought this would work,” Audra chitter-purred as the Changeling caressed the cocoon holding Sky Talon. All around her, other cocoons held other beings, ponies and griffins.

Sky Talon wished she could shriek her pain as she felt her bones melt and ooze through her skin to become a carapace, a curved horn splitting her forehead to thrust outwards. Perforated hooves replaced her talons; clear membrane replaced her gorgeous feathered wings and her beak dropped away, replaced by a structure of flesh and chitin thrusting itself outwards.

She tasted the blood of her sprouting fangs as Audra said, “I need strong new changelings to swell my Hive, and I can start with your griffin aerie. They’ll accept you, and then we can build our numbers back up by transforming others.” The cocoon split open, spilling the transformed griffin out onto the floor. Audra smiled down at her.

“What do you think of that, my pet?”

Sky Talon looked up at her destroyer, a chasm of hunger and cold emptiness and desire to serve within her, nothing else, no longer a lovely griffin, not ever again.

“Yesssss, O Queen,” she hissed, a perfectly loyal slimy horror of a Changeling.

Sky Talon fought more savagely than ever against her restraints, half mad with fear and loathing. Not that, never that! Don’t let me become a hideous, slimy changeling, just a monster! Let me die first!

# # #

In the darkness beneath the Hippodrome, a section of stone wall pivoted and five ponies and a Changeling Queen poured out into the basements. A small lantern hung from the yellow pegasus’ mouth, casting a small circle of glowgem light amid stone pillars and vaults and shadows and the golden shine of Changeling eyes.

The three unicorns lit their horns, revealing piles of old sets and props stretching into the darkness like an underground Everfree, everything from a farmhouse to the Sun Palace in Canterlot.

Fluttershy eeped as the sudden light revealed a long-forgotten plaster statue of Nightmare Night’s Nightmare Moon, rearing to attack with fangs showing in a dusty snarl; the lantern clattered to the floor.

“What now?”

“Is she down here?”

“Can you trail her?”

“I think so.” Vespid closed her shining eyes, sent her empathic sense through the labyrinth, taking in every trace of emotion and scent. A long moment later, she opened her eyes and addressed the ponies.

“Yes and no. I can sense something down here that feels like a griffin, but not enough to get a direction. The five of you are too much noise, too close by. Only that it’s somewhere below us, and radiating fear.”

“She’s alive, then?” Fluttershy said as she picked up the fallen lantern with her teeth. "Somewhere down in all this," she gulped and looked around, "these closed walls?" Vespid felt Fluttershy's fears, a very pegasi-like claustrophobia, beating against her worry for the ponynapped griffin, and failing to defeat it as she kept searching.

“I think so…”

“Iffen we split up,” Applejack interrupted, “we can search faster.”

“Agreed,” Fancy Pants replied.

A quick huddle and the six split into three pairs; Fancy and Fleur set off in one direction for the lower basements, Rarity and Applejack in another, calling Sky Talon’s name and going quiet, ears swiveling for any reply.

Vespid headed in a third direction, stopping to catch scent; Fluttershy followed her, a few steps behind. As the unicorn hornlights faded and cries of “Sky Talon!” echoed, the pegasus spoke through the lantern handle in her mouth.

“Uh, excuse me for asking, but where are we going?”

Vespid looked over her shoulder as she trotted along, following the faint scent of sewers.

“That Hive I mentioned before, the dead one in the sewers; we should be almost on top of them. They must have used this chamber as an adit to go Topside and feed on the audience. Pegasi and griffins go for altitude, Changelings go deep.” She kept walking, over a stone floor that pitched down into the dark.

Fluttershy caught up with her around the second stop-and-take scent.

“What when we find her? I mean,” Fluttershy hurriedly explained to Vespid when the Changeling Queen turned and frowned, annoyed at the interruption, “We have to get her out of here. She might be injured, and she’s almost certainly terrified.” She shuddered. “I know I would be.”

“I wonder,” Vespid responded, honestly wondering. This little pegasus struck her as braver than even she herself guessed, if she was this willing to go on looking for someling who despised her while scared half to death. If not for the way it would affect the opinion many ponies still held of her kind, she would have let Sky Talon save herself if she could.

Vespid said, “Be careful when we find her. I know you want to help her, but if she is scared or injured she’s likely going to be half wild with rage and fear. And she already hates you.” She turned and looked Fluttershy in the eyes, holding her gaze as she would with one of her own drones. “Be careful. I doubt I have the strength and energy to carry the both of you out of here, especially if you’re both wounded. Stand back and let me handle her.”

She turned and began looking again. A smile stretched her lips as she found the right trace, a sharp fear of discovery mixed with cold shuddering terror of death. And more, a deeper and wilder panic afloat in nightmares.

“This way.” She headed for a spot against the far wall underneath an old iron torch cresset. A real one, not a mockup like those upstairs. A push with Changeling magic, and the wall beneath it opened onto a rough-hewn tunnel, chewed out of the earth and reinforced with hardened goop.

“Changeling tunnel adit.” Probably one of those leading up from two nights ago. “Block it open; when it’s shut, only a Changeling can open it.”

“If she is scared or hurt,” Fluttershy insisted behind her, “Please, let me help her.”

“If she cooperates,” Vespid snapped back. “If.”

# # #

Sky Talon shuddered and gurgled, her belly swollen obscenely and with small bulges seeming to crawl just under the fur and feathers. Audra stood nearby in her true form, a strangely gentle expression on her face as she reached out with one clawed forelimb to gently caress her belly. Sky Talon groaned at the touch, a ripple passing along her bloated body.

“In retrospect, I’m so very glad I didn’t kill you, Sky Talon,” she said, her voice a gentle rasp. “There are so few changelings left since Chrysalis failed to conquer Equestria.” She added, thinking out loud as the bulges began moving even more swiftly under Sky Talon’s skin, “Better be glad they didn’t try attacking griffins, or we’d all be dead. But I say again, I am glad of this,” She smiled down as the agonized griffin’s skin began to split, revealing small insect-like horrors with blood-stained, crimson carapaces.

“Who else could be strong enough to bear my hatchlings into the world?”

The newly-hatched larvae looked up at their mother, showing tiny fangs in eager grins before saying in shrill little voices remarkably like Photo Finish’s, “Mommy!”

“Yes,” Audra crowed as they sank back inside to devour the griffin alive, “Eat and get big and strong, my children!”

Sky Talon wondered how her heart could beat so hard without exploding in her chest. Her pulse sounded like thunder in her ears, louder and louder. Her talons and claws scrabbled at the dirt, wild to rend and tear, to find something, anything, to fight back against. Panting like she’d flown a hundred-mile race, she shrieked in her mind.

Sun-flank and Moon-flan – I mean Princesses Celestia and Luna! Save me and I swear I’ll never say anything nasty to a pony, ever again! Not even the dweebs!

She froze. What was that? Hoofbeats? Pony voices?

“SKY TALON…?”

Ponies! Help! She thought with almost mad joy. I’m being rescued!

She shrieked an answer into the gag, with full griffin lungpower.

“MMMMMMMMF!!!!!”

Then the sound of hooves approaching; she thrashed half-upright, tufted tail lashing.

“MMMMMMF! MMMF! MMMF! MMMMMMMMMMF!!!!”

The breeze from wings ruffled her fur; a second, softer set of hooves joined the first; a faint light penetrated the fabric over her eyes. Two ponies! I AM being rescued! They’re saving me from that Changeling Queen!

“WE FOUND HER! SHE’S ALIVE!” The voice was a pony’s, but not quite a pony’s with a chittering, buzzing undertone…

With a golden glow of magic, the bag whipped off her head to reveal two figures before her. One was that coward of a pegasus with a lantern in her mouth; the other, behind her…

Sky Talon stared into the face of a golden-maned, golden-eyed Changeling Queen with swollen belly and ready ovipositor.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!

# # #

Fluttershy jerked back, dropping her lantern as the golden griffin’s eyes engulfed her face and she exploded into a frenzy of thrashing and muffled screaming.

“Yellow Jacket, I mean Queen Vespid, look out…! Never mind.”

Beside her, Queen Vespid jerked back from a panic-driven beak-peck; feathers flew and tail-tuft lashed; eagle and lion limbs strained against the torn curtain cords that bound her.

“MMF MMF MMF MMF MMF MMF MMF MMF MMF!!!!!”

“Ungrateful vermin!” The Changeling Queen’s eyes blazed and her horn glowed like a torch as the burlap bag began to replace itself over the griffin’s head. More feathers flew, bound talons clawed air, the stink of waste and fear filled the stone chamber.

“No! Don’t!” Fluttershy rushed forward, putting herself between the griffin and the Changeling, wrinkling her nose at the foul reek of Sky Talon voiding herself. “Can’t you see how frightened she is?”

Vespid stepped back; Sky Talon’s wide eyes darted between her and Fluttershy. She gave a muffled whimper.

The yellow pegasus looked around the chamber, noticing the small size, the chewed-up walls, the silted-in floor, the raw patches on the griffin’s body where she’d rubbed feathers and fur away in her struggles. “She couldn’t hear or see or even feel anything, she had nothing but silence and darkness for a whole day! She’s been half-crazy with fear… and I know what that’s like.”

Fluttershy pressed against the whimpering griffin in a pony hug. “It’s all right. You’re safe now. That’s not the same Changeling, she’s with us, she’s all right…”

“Get back, you fool! The mood she’s in right now, she’d kill on instinct!”

Vespid’s voice trailed off as Fluttershy embraced the bound griffin like a dam embracing a foal, felt the fear she’d been radiating fade. Hooves echoed on stone behind her; she flashed back into her Yellow Jacket form as they approached. All the while she watched Fluttershy and Sky Talon.

Fluttershy’s cheek nuzzled the griffin’s. “We’re going to untie you now… If you’ll let us. Promise not to bite or scream?”


“Umm hmm…” Sky Talon nodded, eyes still darting between the two. With her teeth, Fluttershy pulled down the griffin’s gag; as it fell loose against her chest plumage, Sky Talon’s breath exploded out in a whimpering wail. Instead of biting or pecking, she pressed up against the smaller pegasus like a grifflet to her mother, eyes squeezed shut.

“Please don’t kill me I don’t wanna die not the eggs don’t leave me here I’m so scared please no eggs I’m sorry what I did to you I’m sorry it’s so dark not the eggs…”

Fluttershy rocked her as the tears came. “It’s all right, we’ll get you out of here… Yellow Jacket, could you untie her?”

The curtain-cord bonds glowed yellow as the unicorn-form Changeling went to work; as her foretalons loosed, the weeping griffin clutched the pegasus and held her close.

“It’s all right,” Fluttershy said, cuddling the griffin, speaking as soft and gentle as to one of her frightened animal friends. She began to sing.

“Hush now, quiet now…”

Author's Note:

So, there's kind of a brutal scene in this one, though I personally think it's mitigated by the somewhat dark comedy involved. Does anyone thing there should be warning with the story or just this chapter, or is the rating okay as it is?

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