• Published 19th Oct 2014
  • 1,001 Views, 63 Comments

The Great and Magnificent Seven - Lapis-Lazuli and Stitch



In the far south of Equestria, beyond the reach of Princess Celestia's law, seven creatures will come together for a simple job... that will become a legend.

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Unforgotten

~~~~Rosedale~~~~

“As one!”


“HYAH!”

“Better! Next line, get the buck out here and show me what you got!”

Gilda prowled around the fallow field with her talons clasped behind her back. That was more to keep herself from pummeling the crap out of the newbies than anything else. They were… not bad as newbies went. She’d trained worse and it probably helped that she wasn’t trying to teach them swords or anything fancy. Just whatever weapons they had to hand, which tended to be things like pitchforks, wood axes, sledgehammers, and spears.

Actually, the spears had surprised her. Nearly every house in town had at least two lying around somewhere, and no one seemed to have a good explanation as to why. Most of them were pretty fuckin’ old, and this place was more or less eighty percent earth-pony, so maybe that was why. Still, the weapons just needed a quick go on the sharpening wheel of the local blacksmith and they were ready to go.

Which was good because as weapons went, nothing was as good for earth pony fighters as a spear or spear-like thing. (The crossbow was number two, but crossbows were incredibly rare outside the army.) Once she’d distributed the actual weapons to the strongest and most competent fighters in town, everyone else had gotten whatever else was lying to hoof. A good third of the town was actually wielding scythes and hedge-trimmers, for pity’s sake! She still wasn’t sure what the heck they could do with them, but most of the combat training she could give in a short time was going to be about attitude anyway.

The next group of newbies, for example, were all wielding ten-pound, iron headed and oak-hafted sledgehammers. Where they’d gotten the oak… nevermind. The point was, they were the closest thing she had to heavy infantry so she had to treat them a bit differently. “Alright, you losers!” she growled, stalking around the back. “Lay into those dummies! I want to see fast recovery! Watch each other’s backs! Don’t get fussed by your windup!” This was all basic-infantry bullshit, but it seemed to put some heart into them.

The fighters heaved and huffed and probably were doing more physical work than they did all year under normal circumstances. Which was fine, considering they needed some stamina training anyway and this was doing as good a job as anything would. With her students in full swing, Gilda decided she could take a moment to glare outside her little domain and observe the goings on.

The sound of sawing wood and pounding nails was nearly universal now as everypony in town pitched in to help build the defenses. There wasn’t time to build a proper wall, and changelings weren’t usually deterred by such things anyway. So instead, they were going with a tried and true griffon tactic: spiked barricades. Simple enough to build - just half a wall with the front liberally covered in sharpened wooden sticks and a couple sturdy planks to hold it up at an angle.

She really wanted to be practicing with them, since it was kind of hard to describe to ponies just how much like actual bugs Changelings behaved. That was really the down-and-dirty core of griffon strategy when fighting changelings outside a hunting pack. You had to know how they thought and exploit their usual lack of creativity in combat against them. Gilda stretched her arms out and folded them across her chest and huffed. At least these dorks weren’t totally incompetent, or she’d be terrified for her life.

Half an hour later, this team’s turn was done and it was time for a midday break. Nothing substantial got done in the midday out here, seeing as how it could get seriously freakin’ hot. “Are you sure you don’t want me and LD to whip up some cloud cover?” She eyeballed the cloud-free sky above, and tried not to scowl. Out here, far away from the Equestrian Weather Service, somehow these jerks managed to live with the unforgiving and unkind weather the badlands could provide.

The town’s blacksmith apprentice - Annealed Edges or something - just chuckled and shook his head. “Tis’ a mighty kind offer of ya, miz Gilda. But th’ roses need the light. It’s almost harvest season, an’ we want the color to be bright and proper.” Then off he trundled, humming some country tune.

It was maddening, but Gilda didn’t know the first bloody thing about growing flowers, so she’d just have to suffer from boredom for the next few hours. Fortunately, she could at least enjoy a genteel boredom, which was honestly not much better than regular boredom but when on the job she’d take what she could get.

The town had settled into the task of making themselves unpalatable to a changeling attack at the direction of Trixie’s little motley crew. She was one of that motley crew, but that was beside the bloody point. The Flim Flam Doofuses were brewing up some kind of wretched concoction of stuff they swore was absolutely abhorrent to changelings. Gilda was pretty sure it was just abhorrent to everyone, and changelings just happened to be on the list of ‘everyone’. Rover had been dragooned into helping take care of the town’s fledglings under the direction of Miz Ezemerelda, which was probably the most adorably hilarious thing she’d ever seen. The dragon kid… what was his name again? Gargle? Whatever. He’d been dragged off by Trixie for some ‘special’ job that nopony seemed to know much about. Which left LD…

She’d been told the big warehouse style building was typically used to hold the arranged pallets of flowers waiting for delivery carts during the harvest season. But today, it was home to an ever growing army of thunder clouds, hanging fat, heavy, and dark wherever LD could put one. Stepping into the room was like stepping into the most humid possible room in the middle of early spring, and it was glorious. The damn clouds sucked up heat like ice-cubes and there was a constant low fog covering the floor.

LD was up putting the finishing touches on another cloud before shoving it into place along with its friends. None of the clouds were really ‘done’ per se, but she’d gotten them to the point where turning them all the way on wouldn’t be too hard. The last thing either of them wanted was a room full of buzzing thunderheads. That’d probably blow up the town before they could use them, so they’d take the extra time when things got hairy. “Hey, cloudfucker!” she cat-called, and immediately got the attention of her partner.

“Sup, crag-head?” Dusty jeered back and dropped down to the ground with practiced ease. “Done hammering sense into the brains of a bunch of country rubes? Or do you like being a military scab again?” In any other situation, Gilda might’ve given her a couple of blows to the head for that kind of talk.

Right now, she was seriously not in the mood. “Frag off, flygirl,” she snapped and grabbed one of the much lighter and much less dangerous starter clouds that hung near the floor and hauled herself onto it. “Besides, I’m not the one doing donkwork with these clouds.” She eyed the gathering above and grinned. “I mean, you’ve done a shit ton of these. I’d almost think you miss the weather service.”

Dusty tilted her head then sighed, ruefully chuckling. “Ain’t gonna lie, Gilda. I kinda do. It was boring as shit work, but it was work I was good at.” She grabbed herself a cloud and soon they were just sittin’ together. It was a good feeling to just sit together, for some damn reason. LD might not have been… well, her but it was still good. Good in a way she couldn’t put her talon on. LD was looking at her oddly, and then she smiled. “Fuck this sappy nonsense, G. Let’s go grab a drink.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Flam sunk down into the old wooden chair and casually tossed his straw hat onto the hatrack. The Blushing Rose was not a high-class establishment the likes of which he would engage in usually, but it did have good beer and that was all he could ask for after an exhausting morning in the ad-hoc ‘lab’ they’d cobbled together outside town. He smelled of formaldehyde and cactus juice, and he didn’t even have to speak before a thickly-headed beer plopped down in front of him.

The feisty looking unicorn mare in front of him was smiling coyly. “On the house, Mister.” She winked and frisked off with her tail flowing sassily behind her. He had yet to learn her name in the four days he’d been here, but he was absolutely sure that he wanted to know it. Intimately. By the time Flim joined him, a second beer had appeared magically before them and the brothers shared a moment of silence to enjoy the bitters.

It wasn’t until both had enjoyed a long drink that talk came to the table. “We’ve got to get the distillate to gel,” Flim said in a low tone, leaning in with one hoof on his mug. “If we can’t do that, we’d be better served hopping the first train to the Crystal Empire and hoping nopony comes looking for us.” That was Flim for you, always worried about the chemistry.

Not that Flam disagreed with his basic worry, but they’d overcome this sort of problem before. Worst came to worse, they’d just have to raid somepony’s jam cellar. “Relax, Flim,” he said in a much louder, brighter tone. “Everything’s under control, the stuff works just as well as it did back in Manehatten, and we don’t need it to be perfect.” He patted Flim’s shoulder with a tolerant smile. Flim’s one weakness in this job was that he still didn’t understand that if you showed confidence in your ability to handle a job, other ponies would absorb that confidence and project some of their own.

Flim, on the other hoof, seemed to think that being pessimistic all the bloody time was a good way to do business. “Don’t feed me a line, brother,” he grumbled and took another drink. “Those fields are huge. We can’t hope to spray the entire perimeter of this place with an effective layer.” Then he glared into his beer. “Not without months of work and investment that we don’t have.”

Flam sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “Brother, we both knew that wasn’t going to be a viable solution even when we took this job. That’s why I’m building those pressure sprayers. So we can use it on wherever they’ve been hiding.” He poked Flim in the shoulder and grinned. “Classic anti-wasp measures. You don’t try to blanket the town, you take out the source.”

Flim glared at him for a moment, then relaxed considerably. “I’m just worried, Brother. It keeps feeling like we’re headed for some kind of… disaster that we’re not seeing the angle of.” He bit at his lip for a moment and Flam had to wonder… what was his brother seeing that he wasn’t? Was there really some other game going here that he hadn’t considered?

He put down his mug, and touched his brother’s shoulder. “We’re not committed yet, Flim. We’ve got enough supplies to…” He couldn’t say it, but he had to put it out there. Had to, because to do anything less would be to ignore all of their options… and that would violate one of their big rules.

But Flim shuddered a little and shook his head hard. “No, Flam. I’m scared of death, but I’m more terrified of that than I am of dying.” He put on a wry grin and picked his mug up again. “You know, it’s kind of nice to know there’s actually a fate worse than death. I wish I had thought of it earlier.”

Flam couldn’t help himself, he laughed at that. “I don’t think that’s what I’d say, Brother. But I must salute your ability to recover from the grumps.” He raised his mug and the two clanked them together before another drink. It was never comfortable to think about the thing neither of them spoke of. Necessary, quite often, but never comfortable. Kind of like talking about going to the dentist or paying their taxes every year.

Even so, with his mind on fates worse than death, he cast his thoughts to that very thing to try to wonder if that was really the only way out. Perhaps they could get honest work? Then he laughed, and nearly smacked his head into the table at that absurd thought. No, they had far too well established reputations to find honest work pretty much anywhere. Even this wasn’t exactly honest, just a different kind of scam to run on the customers.

The griffon and the pegasus shoved their way into the bar and Flam smiled faintly.One way or another, Flam was sure they could make it through this alive. There were more than enough real operators here to make sure that when the excrement hit the skids there would be enough time to make for the hills. He just had to make sure they got out before everything went hooves up.

~~~~~~~

Fwoooooosh!

The column of flame that erupted from his mouth was a good one. About a 7 on his personal best scale. Nice and even, plenty of power, no extra flamey bits. The fact that all four dry and cracked bushes immediately set aflame was an extra point of pride for him. He’d gotten much better at controlling the heat of his blast to be the most effective. “Good!” the unicorn mare enthused, and a moment later the bushes were snuffed under a field of magic. Each one smoked and smelled kinda delicious, actually. Garble always wondered why the smell of charred wood was so appealing to him.

The unicorn girl smiled up at him. “Now, you understand what you will be doing?” She kept her voice even and patient, but she didn’t sound patronizing. Which was nice, since Garble’s mom had always been like that. Talking down to him like he couldn’t understand road-speak.

“Yup.” He grinned, shoving his fists into his hips. “You can count on me to get the job done.” He had to admit, the mare’s plan was pretty darned clever sounding. The fact that he wouldn’t be expected to do much except set a bunch of bushes on fire was just icing on the awesome cake. Still, he did kind of want to get into the fight… maybe once he was done, he could run on in and kick some changeling butt just for fun.

The unicorn nodded shortly, and adjusted her impressive hat. “Good. Trixie is going to do a little scouting over the hill. I shall meet you and the rest at the tavern tonight so that we can go over the plan with the town leaders.” And with that, she turned away and began to trot toward the western edge of town. She didn’t say another word, turn around, or even offer a high-hoof.

And Garble thought Rover was a little weird.

Oh well, not his business what other creatures acted like. She was paying him, and that was that. Back to town he went, with more than a little swagger in his step. The locals here weren’t so much afraid of him as they were kind of wary. This far out beyond Equestrian borders, he was sure they’d seen plenty of dragons before. Garble had heard legends of undead bone dragons sleeping in the sands far to the south of here, and even more incredible stories of metallic scaled dragons that roamed the skies in a strange nation beyond the shifting sands. Were they true? Fictional? He didn’t know, and didn’t much care. They were cool stories to think about on the long walk back to town.

“Mister Garble?” A small voice behind him made him jump a little, which he tried to parlay into looking like a fast turn-around and probably just looked like a moron in doing so. But the little messenger pony didn’t seem to much mind, patiently holding up a stamped letter for him. How in the name of blue-blazes the mail kept getting delivered was a mystery to him, but he was glad for it.

“Thanks kid,” he grumbled, snatching up the letter and flicking a little blue gem from a pouch. It was gonna be a snack later, but it made the little pegasus colt give him a huge grin and zoom off. It was the little things in life, really. The letter itself was from Mister Rich, detailing his accounts and giving him the usual updates as to how the hoard was coming along. Which was… well, it wasn’t bad. It was still a shamefully small number, but it was a heckofalot bigger than it had been six months ago.

The letter went into a pouch, carefully preserved alongside the others. He was starting to learn how his money was working for him, and that meant he’d be able to make smarter business decisions down the line. But for now, he focused on the next best part of the day: a nice stiff drink.

That was when he heard the low sound, coming in from the distance. It was faint at first, like some kind of weird background hum… then it grew larger by the moment, and Garble was sure it was something he’d better pay attention to. Then the sound of hooves caught his ear, running like fury. ”Garble!” the voice of the unicorn mare screamed over the low droning sound, and he turned to see her come racing over the hill…

Followed by a swarm of sinister Changeling drones speeding towards him. Sharp looking fangs, buzzing bug-wings, chitinous hides gleaming in the midday sun. Everything about an undisguised changeling was designed to be intimidating to pretty much anything facing them.

But that was exactly the wrong sort of thing to show Garble, who had a reputation to uphold. He was a fuck-mothering dragon, the longest lived, most ass-kicking species on the entire face of his planet. Nothing and no one intimidated a dragon, and especially not one of his age who had shit to prove. So he drew in the hardest breath he could hold just as Trixie passed him by, and let loose with an old-fashioned Number 10.

The blast of flame was as big, flashy, and hot as he could possibly make it on short notice. He could do better with a belly full of coal, but that was all back in his bunk waiting for the planned fight. But the flame was more than enough to catch a bunch of the incoming bug swarm by surprise and light an unfortunate scrap of wooden fencing on fire in the process. A half dozen bugs hit the ground in a smoking heap while the rest of them scattered around the incoming blast of flame.

It was not, unfortunately, enough to send them packing. More continued to swarm toward him, and Garble raised his talons and bared his fangs. “You think you’re fuckin’ hard enough?” he roared at the stupid bigs, and sucked in a deep breath again. “Then come get it!” Another roar, ended by a blast of hot blue flames that seared through three changelings before they were too close for a good fire blast. His claws rent into the shell of the first attacker as the town around him erupted into chaos.

~~~~~~

Trixie ran.

She ran like she’d never run before in her life, screaming at the top of her lungs. “To arms! TO ARMS!” Every pony she passed looked confused at first, then the low buzzing sound cued them into her warning. Some grabbed weapons, others simply joined the battle with hooves and whatever they could find to swing at a changeling.

She passed the town’s tavern just in time to see most of those she’d hired burst out of it, the griffon Gilda leading the way with a bar stool in one talon and a kitchen cleaver in the other. She was roaring instructions to the ponies as she swung into the fight, but Trixie couldn’t make out what she was saying over the din. Flim and Flam were racing behind her at first, then quickly alongside her as they put their longer limbs to use. “We’ve got to get to our lab!” they yelled to her, and she nodded once, taking the turn toward the warehouse they’d appropriated for their use.

Lightning Dust went racing past her at an absurd speed, and an equally absurd ten seconds later was racing back with a buzzing black storm cloud toward the fight. Fortunately for Trixie’s sanity, the ponies of the town seemed to be running toward the combat, rather than away from it. Some were carrying weapons, others with whatever farm implements or other such sundries they’d had to hoof. Regardless, they were going to fight, and that was a massive load off of Trixie’s mind.

She came to a halt outside Flim and Flam’s little shack before turning to regard the town behind them. The attack was not as bad as she’d feared, but there was more than enough violence running around that she needed to get in there and do something. But what? Lead, you imbecile, her brain snarled at her, and she smacked her forehead. Yes, she was going to lead these morons, because if she didn’t she’d get in serious trouble. “Go, kid!” Flam yelled out a window and a crashing glass something made him wince. “We’ll bring up the rear!” He yelled again before vanishing back into the place.

Trixie settled her hat atop her head and took a deep breath. She was not a combat mage, she was not a fighter of any sort. She was an illusionist, a stage magician who’d gotten stuck out here because of a bunch of dumb decisions and- Now wasn’t the time. The sound of fighting filled her ears as she raced back into town. What could she do? What in the name of all that was Celestia’s plothole could she contribute to this madness aside from her scheme?

But there was a group of locals milling about a yard with ad-hoc spears and looking quite lost. Aha! Minions! She exulted, grabbing the brim of her hat and feeling her good mood swiftly return. “Come on, you lunkheads!” She struck a dramatic pose, her voice ringing with extra bravado. “Do you want to live forever? Let’s get those bugs!” Gracious, where the heck had that come from? It was total tripe too! Sheesh, she was off her game today…

Fortunately, the locals bought into it pretty quickly. Soon enough, the crowd of peasants were lining up and marching smartly towards the swarm of changeling bugs. A mass of earth pony muscle bristling with spears made from sharpened stakes and kitchen knives strapped to the end of rake handles. It was absurd in the extreme, but Trixie was nopony’s fool. No one who had read a lick of history underestimated the tenacity of earth pony farmers with something to prove, and this lot had a massive chip on their shoulder already. All she needed to do now was inspire them.

Ahead, a knot of changeling warrior drones ripping apart a store front turned to look at them. “Avaunt, you villains!” She screamed, hurling herself to the fore of the crowd. Destructive magic was far from her forte, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t conjure up an energy blast or two. Which she did on the spot, knocking one of the stupid bugs head over plot with his head smoking from the impact. “You’re not going to steal one more whit of our life-force while I’m around!” She snarled out, but didn’t dare to turn around to see how the crowd was taking it.

Mostly because she had to dodge out of the way of a barrage of incoming changeling bolts, some of which took the locals by surprise. “What are you doing standing around!?” Her scream made nearly everyone in the milling crowd jump. They gripped their spears and growled a challenge, and Trixie pointed towards the bugs. “GET IN THERE AND FIGHT!” She yelled, and the battle was joined.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the wait. Going to try and do one of these every seven days or so.

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Comments ( 16 )

Let's kick some changeling tail! First comment!

he roared at the stupid bigs,

bugs

Battle start

Aw yeah, fight time! :pinkiehappy:

This is pretty good. It's great that I don't know what it's based on, so I'll never compare it to anything.

I love this fic

yeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss

“Do you want to live forever? Let’s get those bugs!”

Ahhh Starship Troopers, okay pro Militarism book, hilarious anti militarism movie.

And here we see the first wave. Curious, I wonder what triggered the attack?

what was his brother seeing that he wasn’t? Was there really some other game going here that he hadn’t considered?

Hmmm, I'm curious what this is all about.

I'm thinking there were already changelings inside the city. A sorta coup d'état if you will, or whatever it is when a small faction of disguised members of society launch an assault from the inside. I love the story and am hoping for somepony's/gryphon's war cry. I just hope the story continues on after the changeling problem is taken care of. This seems like a beginning instead of the full story.

Very awesome way to take us readers by surprise with the sudden action. Only one quibble:

Kind of like talking about going to the dentist or paying their taxes every year.

Yeah, I'm sure Flim and Flam pay every cent they owe. :rainbowlaugh:

Love all the creative curses and oaths you're coming up with, as well as the image of Trixie wandering off to scout only to come racing back a minute later with an army on her tail. Claaaaaassic Trixie.

Shame about the cancellation. I was looking forward to seeing which ones died.

5478953

Not Cancled. Hiatused. I will be coming back to this.

I really hope you'll work more on this. I was greatly enjoying it!

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