• Published 8th Nov 2014
  • 7,999 Views, 623 Comments

An Affliction of the Heart: Volume Five - Anonymous Pegasus

A newly christened Queen attempts to reign in the changeling race and inegrate them into pony society. Even though there are those who would prefer such an effort fail...

  • ...

Harsh Realities

“Warden? Are you okay?”

Kuno’s voice echoed dully from somewhere far away. A peculiar ringing in his ears was drowning out his wife’s voice.

“Warden?” Kuno asked anxiously, dancing on her hooves, biting her bottom lip. “Warden, talk to me.”

Warden took a step back from the body, feeling bile rising in his throat. “I-Im fine…” he mumbled, almost incoherent.

“Warden, you’re not fine,” Kuno insisted, wrapping her hooves around him and pulling him close against her.

Warden stared out from the protection of her hooves with one wide eye, gaze fixed on the lifeless body laying to the side of the path.

Splashes of red coated the grass and the flagstones, and Warden knew instinctively that they were from arterial spray. Some cold, detached part of his mind drank in all the grisly details. He could even see the severed carotid in the slashed throat. It was a neat cut, made by a knife of some kind.

A hundred changelings lurked in the background, standing on the hedges and peering around corners, watching the spectacle with bemused expressions, not quite sure how to react. The royal guard were already present, standing stiffly at attention, spears held loosely in hooves but most definitely ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“Warden, talk to me,” Kuno said urgently.

Warden shifted focus, wheeling dizzily in place for a moment before staring up at his wife. “I’m fine,” he repeated woodenly.

Kuno was frowning. She didn’t beleive him.

“I’m fine,” Warden repeated, blinking once. “I need to… need to breathe,” he explained, pushing away from her, ignoring the clinging hooves trying to tug him back. He staggered a few steps away behind a hedge and then threw up violently.

Kuno watched him, biting her bottom lip, and then turning back to the crowd that had gathered. There were even several ponies present that were neither part of the Consortium nor the royal guard. They had stayed the night after the party, likely ‘with’ changelings.

“Who did this?” Kuno asked flatly.

The soft hum of anxious conversation died out immediately.

“If any of you did this, step forwards now. Your Queen orders it,” Kuno said, stamping her hoof against the flagstone with a resounding crack.

None stepped forward.

“Did anyone see anything?” Kuno asked, sounding slightly more desperate now. “Someone must know something. There’s a hundred of you!”

“I cannot speak for all, but I was was… otherwise indisposed,” one of the changelings said, giving a significant glance towards a large stallion lurking in the back of the crowd.

Kuno gave a long sigh, rubbing her nose with a hoof. “One day. ONE DAY! One fucking day and somepony is murdered!” she hissed, pointing a hoof at the body. “This will not go unsolved! And if one of you are lying about this, I will personally strangle the life from you.”

A soft, anxious buzz of wings answered her.

“Miss Kuno, we’re going to have to lock down the estate. Nopony will be allowed in or out,” a senior guard explained. “There are too many possible murderers here.”

“Nobody is going anywhere,” Kuno growled, watching the crowd with narrowed eyes.

“We will establish a perimeter, and begin questioning suspects. You will be called upon to testify at some point. It’s standard procedure. You understand?” the senior guard asked carefully.

“Yes, I understand,” Kuno said, glancing towards the body. She bit her bottom lip again, her expression softening slightly, wings giving a slow buzz of agitation. “Who... who is going to tell her son? Her husband?”

“The guard will send someone,” the senior guardspony explained. “Was she a friend of the family?”

“Of a sorts…” Kuno said quietly, staring down at her hooves. She looked up after a few moments, rowning. “I can vouch for Warden’s whereabouts last night. And to that end… I want you to let him tell her family. I think he’ll want to tell them himself…”

“I’ll see what happens,” the guardspony said, pursing his lips. “It would be very much outside normal procedure.”

“Ask Celestia, if you have to,” Kuno said quietly, looking back over her shoulder. “I need to find my husband. Do not disturb me unless it is urgent.”

“Yes, Miss Kuno,” the gard said smartly, saluting.

“Warden?” Kuno asked gently, touching at one of his wings lightly.

Warden started at the touch to his wing, looking back over his shoulder with wide eyes. “I threw up.”

“I know,” Kuno said gently, frowning. “I can’t… pretend to know what you’re going through. I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m fine,” Warden repeated stiffly.

“No, no you’re not,” Kuno stressed, her ears splaying back anxiously. “You keep saying that but anyone with a brain can see that you’re… off.”

“I’m fine. It’s just weird is all,” Warden said with a dismissive wave of a hoof. “Here one moment. Gone the next. Just like that.”

“Warden…” Kuno said gently, her wings buzzing.

“I died. But I came back. So it doesn’t really count,” Warden said with another motion of a hoof. “It’s all so weird.”

“Someone needs to tell her husband… and her son,” Kuno said quietly. “Warden, I want you to do it.”

“Oh hi, your mother is dead. Good day ol’ chap,” Warden said in a strangely high-pitched voice. “How do you even put that into words?”

“I don’t know,” Kuno admitted, frowning deeply, and then gently squeezing his side with a hoof. “But I can’t help you through this. I wouldn’t know how. So go. Tell them.”

“Your reasoning makes no sense but I don’t know enough to contradict you,” Warden admitted, rising to his hooves and scratching at an ear distractedly. “I’ll be back for breakfast.”

Without another word, Warden took several bounding steps forwards and launched shakily into the air, winging towards the far end of Canterlot.

Kuno frowned down at her hooves, scratching at the grass for a moment. “Chitin?”

The changeling lurking in the shadows started in surprise, but stepped forwards carefully. “Yes, my Q… Kuno?”

“Follow him. Make sure he comes back safe,” Kuno said softly.

“Yes, Kuno,” Chitin said, bowing quickly before turning on her hooves and launching after the pegasus.

Warden paused outside the front door of the building, hoof lifted to knock. There was already rustles of movement inside, as the two ponies got ready for the day ahead, not even knowing that in a matter of moments they would never be the same again.

“Is mom at the farm again?” Mint Green asked.

“She must be,” Stunning Facet responded.

Warden heard the clink of bowls being set up for breakfast, and the whistling of a kettle.

“She’s never here in the mornings,” Mint Green said, pouting.

“Well, she is helping to grow that plant,” Stunning Facet said, a smile in his voice. “But I’ll make sure she’s here for tomorrow’s breakfast, okay? We’ll have pancakes.”

“Pancakes are good,” Mint Green said noncommittally.

Warden’s hoof dropped, and he swallowed thickly, his vision blurring slightly.

They were talking about school now. Mundane, everyday things. They didn’t even know, couldn’t even suspect what had happened. They were completely normal, right up until the point Warden would walk in and ruin their morning and the rest of their mornings thereafter.

Warden swallowed thickly, lifting his hoof to knock again, feeling his entire body going slightly numb. It was more of a scrape than a knock, a slide of his hoof down the front of the door.

“Hello?” Stunning Facet called. “Someone there?”

Warden opened his mouth to answer, but no words came out.

After a few moments, the door opened, and Stunning Facet poked his head out.

“Oh, hey, Warden. What’s the problem? You’re not going to be keeping Green Hoof later than usual, are you?” he asked, utterly mundanely.

Warden stared up at him, his expression falling. He could just see Mint Green in the background, looking over curiously.

“Warden? What’s the matter?” Stunning Facet asked, his expression turning serious. “Warden?”

Warden shook his head, finding his tongue with some difficulty. “P-private.”

Stunning Facet frowned deeply. “Minty, wait there,” he said, stepping out the front door and closing it behind him. “Now. Spill it out.”

Warden stared up at him, his wings giving an agitated flick, hoof digging at the ground slowly. “Green Hoof… she…”

“Oh no…” Stunning Facet whispered, paling. “Did something happen to her?”

Warden tried to hold it together, biting his tongue for a moment. He could feel hot tears spilling down his cheeks as he placed a reassuring hoof on Stunning Facet’s shoulder. “S… s-she’s dead.”

Stunning Facet’s eyes widened slightly, and his expression fell. He stared at the ground for several long moments, his entire form seeming to droop and darken. “How?”

“Murdered,” Warden managed to rasp, shaking his head and then covering his face with a wing, trying to wipe away his tears. He was almost sobbing when he lowered his wing. “D-do you… do you want me to tell him?” He made a vague motion towards the house.

“N-no,” Stunning Facet said, his voice cracking slightly. “I’ll do it.”

With no further words, he rose to his hooves and returned inside, closing the door after himself.

Warden heard a muffled conversation from within, and then, with tones of disbelief. “So she’s not going to be here for pancakes tomorrow?”

Warden turned away, biting his tongue so hard he felt blood, before rising to his hooves and galloping away, leaving nothing behind but a trail of tears.

“Warden?” Kuno asked.

“I’m here,” Warden said, turning the spear over and over in his hooves, squeezing along the reassuring wooden shaft, staring at the now-covered body of Green Hoof. A white sheet had been placed over her body.

“You’re… you’re still acting strange,” Kuno said warily, ears pinning back. “Are you okay?”

“He doesn’t understand,” Warden said simply.

“Stunning Facet?” Kuno asked, confused.

Warden shook his head. “Mint Green. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t get it. He’s not old enough to understand that she’s never coming back. How do you even try to make a foal understand that his life will never be the same again?”

“You can’t,” Kuno said, shaking her head gently.

“Exactly,” Warden said, growling, twisting the spear again. “But whoever did this… for whatever stupid, pathetic reason. They took that foal’s life away. His life will never be the same again. And I’m going to kill them.”

“Warden?” Kuno asked warily. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just a little bit absolutely blindingly angry,” Warden said airily. His hooves flexed on the shaft of the spear. “I’m going to strangle them. I’m going to remove their heart and make them watch me crush it with the butt of a spear. I’m going to do terrible, unspeakable things to them.”

“You don’t sound okay,” Kuno said anxiously, dancing from hoof to hoof.

“I’m not okay,” Warden said calmly. “And neither is Mint Green. Or Stunning Facet. They’re never going to be okay again. And Green Hoof sure as tartarus won’t ever be okay again. And whoever did this won’t be, either.” He hummed thoughtfully, testing the tip of the spear with his hoof.

“Warden… I think you need to put the spear down,” Kuno said gently.

Warden gave her a piercing, completely sober stare. “No. You’re going to find out who did this. Changeling, pony, I don’t care who did it. I don’t care if Celestia herself came down from the sky and did this. You find out who did this, and you tell me. And then I’m going to kill them.”

“Warden…” Kuno said, shaking her head. She stepped closer, and gently took the spear from him, laying it against the hedge and then gathering the pegasus into a warm hug. She squeezed around his middle, nuzzling into his neck soothingly.

Warden growled faintly, pushing against her, baring his teeth angrily and then just sagging against her weakly. “I’m going to kill them…” he sobbed raggedly. “I’m going to fucking kill them…”

Kuno shook her head, squeezing soothingly around her husband. “I’ll find out who did this. I promise.”

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!