• Published 4th Jan 2015
  • 8,809 Views, 1,015 Comments

Dark Horse — A Five Score Tale From The Dresden Files - Lord Of Dorkness



One strange day, Harry Dresden turned into a tiny pastel horse. Weird, but what else is new, right? Except now, months later, this country with a silly name wonders what became of one of their lost heroes and just why she never returned...

  • ...
36
 1,015
 8,809

05 — ... And All The Princesses’ Men,...

Reality is rather distressingly lax in its standards of dramatic tension, sometimes.

Sure, I'd just put the kibosh on four demi-gods, Nemo had proposed a terrifying idea for what their ultimate plan of doom would entail, and we would now have to brave a haunted island full of hostiles to measure our wills and wit against those same immortals in a desperate bid to stop their foul plans...

And those dramatics didn't mean jack-squat for the mile or so of rough terrain we'd need to cross to get to my cottage, let alone the rather draining decent to the cells of Demonreach themselves. No, the fate of the world —neigh, humanity itself might rest on what we do in the coming hours, and yet we still had to put one hoof in front of the others like everypony else. No quick and easy jump-cut for us; we had to drag our sorry asses over there all by ourselves whether we like it or not...

(Let alone the magical teleporters the ponies had somehow figured out, or however that works. Seriously, why does every dark lord, mustache twirler and televangelist always have better stuff than I do? I swear, one day I'm going to figure out how to enchant my revolver to never run out of ammo, or something, and the first damn corner I turn will have some goon with a Davy Crockett aimed straight at me.)

Of course, Nemo and I weren't actually walking.

That would have been too dignified.

We were crawling, just in case. Sure, according my link with Demonreach both groups had stayed in 'their' spots, but the Equestrians' had already shown they consider magic as I know it mere guidelines. It was a tiny chance, but even not counting some type of super-veil there might still be scouts in the air, and we couldn't take that chance.

Still, as we dragged ourselves forward, inch by agonizingly slow inch, I couldn't help my mind from wandering. Know it was a bad idea, but there was simply too much silence and white only interspersed with bare trees all around us for my thoughts not to start drifting a bit.

You know the strangest thing I miss about being human?

The sense of touch, and to a lesser degree what being cold feels like.

Don’t get me wrong, pegasi aren’t in a constant state of numbness, or anything… But there is this oddly muted feel compared to what I’m used to. Not only does the fur get in the way —try patting your head and your elbow, compare the two, and I think you’ll know what I mean— but the skin underneath is less sensitive as well.

Ever heard about a little thing called Braille? Those tiny dots on the buttons on the ATM so that blind people can use them as well? That only works because, believe it or not, humans have one of the best somatosensory systems in the whole animal kingdom.

Again, don’t get me wrong, the pegasi sense of touch works just fine, especially if you swallow your darn ‘I am not an animal!’ pride and use your nose… although pulling that off in any social context but making adorable little girls squeal was another matter.

Anyway, the point being? Imagine being used to cruising along every day in a Humvee with all the trimmings, only for somebody, somewhere to jam a lightsaber into their flux-capacitor, with the resulting multi-spectral reflection sorting of space-time causing your car to go through this horrible, soul crushing Kafka style metamorphosis into a pink Leyland Mini.

Sure, the other cars are never, ever, ever going to let the Mini down easy about that, but at the end of the day it’s still a car. It’s got four wheels, a steering wheel, a just as hard bonnet it can now slam into the crotches of hecklers far easier and harder thanks to lower ground clearance…

Still, point being, it’s just one of those things that nag you once you’ve noticed it.

The cold (And heat technically, but it’s spring, right? Far ‘more’ of one of those...) thing was more a social hurdle, believe it or not.

On the personal level, especially with my enforced almost technophobic lifestyle since magic and tech won’t kiss and make up already? Being able to do such simple things as taking a long shower without being blue around the lips on exit? Or still wear a decently normal coverage of clothes, without there being rivulets of sweat coming out of my sleeves and cuffs? Or even on the level of cooking semi-normally, without needing oven-socks?

Kinda neat, I must admit, even if it was another alienating thing.

But when it came to others, be they human or (now) ponies? I hadn’t been refused service, or anything that bad, but my new ears had swiveled quite a few times towards annoyed grumblings of various kinds.

‘Oh, so the pegasuses gets to wear pants without melting, huh? Lucky bastards...’

‘Look at her! Fifty fucking below and she’s wearing a t-shirt! I haven’t even found one of those for ponies yet, my new fucking teats are near snapping off, and she can fucking fly as well?! How in the hell is that fair?!’

“Oh, come on! Why is it always the elevens that have managed to get a hold of pants?!”

And so on. You don’t usually realize what a clothes obsessed species humans are until pants are suddenly technically optional, and you get to hear everybody complain how you’re doing it wrong no matter what you do.

Anyway, it wasn’t just snide remarks and being able to fly fast without things dropping off. Just back during the last days of summer when I’d realized this whole mare thing might be for keeps, Billy and the other Alphas had helped me spruce up my living conditions out here…

Just in case I really was going ‘full pony,’ and would need to be chained to a wall when my mind went it kinda helps to have a wall, after all.

Can’t buy friends like that, not at all.

Since there hadn’t been any signs of me cracking except from raw nerves —No matter how little sense that made magically, grumble, grumble...— I got put on cooking duty, if under supervision.

Big mistake.

In the category of mixed blessings coupled to the pony thing I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about even now, taste and smell was probably near the top of the list. They weren’t worse, per se, but both senses had been… warped for me, for lack of a better word. Nothing tasted the same anymore, or smelled the same, for that matter.

Most of it was just subtle differences I could, and had, gotten quite used to. Noticing more details concerning the blends of whatever coffee or tea I was drinking, for example. Or actually noticing if corn or normal flour had been used in a cookie, for instance.

Other was just weird, or outright disgusting. Somebody cutting their lawn? Cut it out stomach, we just ate; making me drool enough to ruin this shirt won’t change that. Oh, so that otherwise finely dressed and spotless gentlemen down the street (and upwind) over there hasn't actually bothered with exchanging his underwear for long enough that there’s mold on the skid marks? Why thank you nose, I’ll be sure to drink to the memory of your fine performance today for many years to come.

All that, and not having quite the same scale of temperature anymore? In cooking? Yeah...

I didn’t end up poisoning everybody or anything —thank God, but I did make what to me was a nicely warm and not too shabby stew…

And to my friends, a pot of ‘the unholy spawn of lava, beef, cabbage, raw rubber and broth; Rubber-izon! He-Who-Is-And-For-Always-Will-Be-Chewed!’ to quote Billy.

Philistines.

I thought it was a lovely first try at cooking for another species, Harry. Don't let one mistake at something that difficult drag you down.

On the other hoof as the case may be, I for the most part liked the new eyes, and I was ambivalent about the ears.

Having a pair of high-contrast binoculars that can induce diabetes at twenty paces built in? What can I say, I found the larger ‘bull’s eye’ for soulgazes worth that.

The ears were… weirdly normal. Sure, for the first month or so it had been hellish as the instinctive movements made it feel as if something was crawling and twitching on the top of my skull… but once I was actually semi-used to it? It was just normal hearing, but I had two extra freaky hands cooped there at all times; not actually making me hear better, but ensuring I could focus on individual sounds easier.

The strange, strange things a man may get used to, huh? Even if he’s now a mare.

Anyway, all that in combo with the low ground clearance and the added —as mixed as I felt about it, ‘extra padding’ from now being female? It made for a really potent surveillance combo; just fly up on a nearby rooftop, lie down near regardless of the surface, and stare your creepy little eyes out on whatever you’ve been hired to keep tabs on.

And if somebody notices the rather unfortunate anti-camouflage colored canary yellow and little-girl-pink colored mare lounging around on their roof? Give ‘em the big, baby-blue, soul stealing puppy-dog eyes of adorable doom, wait five seconds to be sure no heart attack is incoming, and you’re golden.

Of course, that didn’t work quite as well against trained soldiers with assault rifles compared to the average adorable-ODed civilian, and thus why I and Nemo were skimming along the ground to scout out just what type of creeps were at my cottage.

Normally I wouldn’t have even considered dragging myself through snow and ice for that long when I had no idea when next I’d have a pair of dry clothes…

But when you can all but go —whatever the name for skinny dipping is when you have a pelt instead, in Alaska in December, and barely feel a chill? (Or drawing strength from a certain damned mantle, for that matter.)

Without being mad or Russian?

If life give you lemons, you may as well pick ‘em up and go kill vampires with ‘em, right?

The snow was slightly frozen, but even so Nemo and I made a decent clip thanks to equal measure of cold resistance and having about a horse power to muscle through with.

I was having a somewhat easier time with it even so thanks to my link with Demonreach, but even with her prison get-up looking more and more ragged, Nemo kept up with me without complaining.

Right up to the first corpse, at least.

“...Oh God…”

I hushed her, and dragged myself a bit closer to look the poor stiff over. I must admit I still had trouble telling just how old a pony is, but the stallion couldn’t have been much older than me.

Believe it or not, but ponies are apparently tough enough to be outright bullet resistant, and I’m not even talking about that thing with Luna, Celestia and Twilight. There wasn’t hard numbers out yet, but there had been quite a few reports about ‘miraculous survival’ before people started noticing a trend. Heck, this one pegasus gall in… Belgium, I think? Well, she survived being pulled into a jet engine… if barely.

Thing is, the pegasus stallion in front of me hadn’t been shot with normal small arms; if I was any judge he’d been almost broken in half by a deer slug. His armor was so damaged, that even that ‘uniform’ enchantment was fading; revealing his real colors. A rather pleasant beige for the coat, and an almost strangely normal dark brown for his mane.

I carefully ran my hoof over the now almost cold metal of his armor, feeling both the fraying power woven into it, and the near ‘v’ shaped wedge that had formed in its side, just behind the kid’s left wing. It seemed whatever anti-impact enchantments on the golden Equestrian armor meant to deal with bucks and blows had apparently not been designed with guns in mind, and the forces involved had basically turned the ‘armor’ into something halfway between a hammer and a blunt axe.

There wasn’t any blood on the snow, but the kid’s trunk was almost half as thick as it should have been; his entire right side crushed as if some cruel giant had tried to play soccer with him as the ball.

“...Poor kid,” I mumbled, reaching out and gently closing his vacant chocolate brown eyes with one my wing-tips.

I froze with my wing still extended, as a metallic, familiar type of click echoed just from behind my head. “Hooves, wings and foci were I can see them,” a cold, even woman’s voice I swear I’d heard before said. “Slightest glimmer of magic, and you won’t ever need a hat again.”

Pinkie?! Oh, horse feathers…

I slowly straightened up with my wings extended and my arms in the air.

“Who won the major league last year?”

I felt my left ear twitch. “...What?”

A metal circle touched the back of my head, making my mane part. “You heard me.”

Is it a sign how fucked up my life is that I could tell it was a 12 gauge shotgun from just the size of the barrel against my head? I think that’s a bad sign, but might just be me.

“...Not the Red Socks?” I volunteered carefully. “I don’t know, I’m not a baseball fan.” I suddenly got a sneaking suspicion who I was talking with. “And if you are who I think you are, you know exactly whose dirty work I was busy with last year… Marcone.”

“Oh?” The voice had all the marks of being slightly amused… and all the actual warmth of a snake dropped into an ice tray. “Normally I’d take that barely held back acidic tone and the ‘witty repartee’ as proof enough, but…” The cold barrel poked my further down the neck. “...I’d like to hear why you’re so suspiciously underdressed, ‘Miss Dresden?’”

I was so weirded out by being called ‘Miss’ of all darn titles, I frankly blanked for a few moments. Another, far harder poke got my mental gears grinding along again. “The bastards switched out my pentacle.”

Even in my ears, my voice sounded hard and flat.

Incidentally, a spot about in the snow about a hundred feet away from me started steaming… but it simply didn’t seem that important at the moment.

“Snagged it right from around my neck, and slipped one of those damned ‘Elements’ in its stead.” I let out a chuckle that even I thought sounded dark. “You should have seen the look on that Cadance bitch’s face once she realized she was up against a wizard instead of some shaky little girl, though.”

I heard Marcone hesitate; this moment of stillness that really couldn’t have been anything else. “...Well, you don’t sound like the toy-wannabees.”

My ears perked. I’d seen Marcone put a bullet through a man’s head without raising his voice, but she’d all but spat the word ‘toy-wannabees.’

“That bastard there?” A lump of snow got kicked from behind me, and onto the corpse. “Kept gibbering about ‘Untie Pinkie’ this and that, even as he tried to force that ludicrous looking amulet back around my throat.” The cold metal circle poked me on the lower bit of my mane again. “So what’s your reaction to hearing that, ‘Miss Dresden?’”

I gave a slow, exaggerated shrug; taking a few moments extra to pick my words carefully.

“...Either he had a choice when it came to putting on that uniform… or he did not; either way, by the time he was standing before you, Marcone, he was a soldier.” My eyes drifted over the shoddy armor that frankly looked as if it had been designed by a… well, toy company, as Marcone had said. “And ‘poor kid’ kinda sums the rest of it up either way, doesn’t it?”

The sound I heard behind me couldn’t have been a fought down sob.

Not from Marcone, no matter what the shape of the throat.

Must have been just poorly timed phlegm, because her voice was even again as she spoke again. “...Fair enough, Dresden.”

My ears perked slightly at the shift in tone on my name. “...And if you have started to believe me, why not just have me swear on my power what my name is?”

“Are you so sure right now that your True-True Name is really Harry Dresden…?” Even by Marcone’s standards, there was no humor in the chuckle as the shotgun got slowly moved from my head. “Well, are you, Fluttershy?”

A shiver raced all the way from my neck… down to the tip of my freakin’ tail, making the later twitch over the snow.

“Of course, if you feel like risking part of your Power while four goddesses that will not take ‘no’ for an answer are hounding us, I will not stop you…”

I resisted the rather strong urge to whirl around and see how far I could make a certain crime lord fly just by throwing a haymaker at her teats, and instead turned to check on Nemo.

And what I saw… made me blink.

Somehow Marcone had not only disabled Nemo non-lethally in total silence…but she’d done it by hog-tying and gagging the other mare with what looked like…

Party streamers.

Big, fluffy, impossibly pink party streamers.

They weren’t even some weird variant made from metal or even plastic, but just… paper. A kid on a sugar high should have been able to tear right through them, —let alone a grown mare, but Nemo was just lying there. Staring in wide-eyed horror behind me.

“You vouch for Miss Schwartz’s state of mind, Dresden?”

I fought down the snarky response about ‘Well, not now after that damn stunt...’ to avoid any head-splattering levels of bad misunderstandings. “Yeah, kid’s been solid so far,” I turned to actually look the new and improved —Hey, can only go up with that slime ball, right? — Marcone, “so unt-”

...Oh, star and stones. What happened to you, Pinkie?

Even ignoring the very pink mare thing, who I’d freely admit from inside my fabulous and totally not ironic glasshouse wasn’t his fault… Well, there was really no other word for it, Marcone was a wreck; a pale shadow of the powerful crime boss I’d seen as late as a year ago.

She was wearing what presumably had only hours ago been a luxuriously tailored four-piece business suit; made from high-quality red cotton.

I didn’t recognize the tailor or the cut, but whoever they were, they should have charged double whatever Marcone had given them. There was these ‘ribbons’ of material making up the whole thing in this strange mix of pants and a skirt, clearly meant to shift around between ‘two and four-wheel’ drive, and still look good.

The whole thing actually reminded me of some type of giant origami construct; pull on the tab, and the swan turns into a bull, or thereabout.

Even when whole the thing had been an utter waste on Marcone, but after a couple of rounds of battle it was just a waste in general. The various scrapes and tears did give me a look at patches of netting, clearly normally meant to be hidden by the sweeps of fabric; again making me silently curse that Marcone of all people was wearing something that comfy looking.

The words died in my throat as my mind actually processed what I was seeing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some horrible shit in my days…

But most of that? That had been magical crap. Eldritch things clawing themselves out of no longer quite willing hosts. The two Queens of Faery, glorious and terrifying in equally titanic measure, as they forged the very field meant for their upcoming battle. The very deepest and most hidden vaults of Tartarus, glittering in the dark with the treasures of entire ages…

But Marcone? There was just something wrong with her eyes —now an icy blue rather than green, that made me wonder if she’d gained the power of the soulgaze; this feel that she was seeing far deeper than just the surface, and that you didn’t want to know what she was seeing.

The rest of her wasn’t in much better shape. I’ve never seen anybody still standing twitch and shake that much. Just short of full-body convulsions, and yet somehow Marcone still kept her shotgun —one of those boxy ‘Striker’ things meant for crowd control, as still as if on a flipping firing-range. Hell’s bells, she was almost rippling, but despite that not as much as a strand of her ruler straight dark pink mane as much as wobbled, let alone the gaping gun barrel aimed at my head.

There was just something deeply and yet terrifyingly mundanely wrong with having a woman clearly just short of mental meltdown standing behind you with a big shotgun.

Marcone raised her right hoof, and made its surface twist and fold somehow in a way that made my eyes water, but all that happened was that the sound of what was almost but not quite like fingers snapping rang out..

I flinched as what might have been the strangest burst of magic I’ve ever felt washed over me. It only lasted for a moment, but I swear I smelled rotten frosting, nearly gagged from a taste of stale punch, and the whole scene looked as if it was covered —no, made from garlands

Garlands made from rotted corpse flowers, and dried entrails.

All that actually happened was that the streamers holding Nemo down burst into ectoplasm, but I still almost fell over gagging from the experience.

I’ve never felt anything quite like that burst of ‘magic’… but I was still certain it shouldn’t have felt like that.

I guess the ‘rotted joy’ magic or whatever the crap Marcone had figured out wasn’t exactly healthy for her, either, because the moment her ‘spell’ faded completely she let out a sigh, and quite a bit of the twitching stopped.

Not all of it, but enough that she went from ‘jello mare in a tumble dryer’ to what could have passed for a bad but mundane case of Tourettes.

“I do apologize for my appearance, Dresden,” Marcone drawled out in that infuriatingly self-assured way of hi- hers, lifting a shaking hoof and studying it as if it was some neat new bug, “it appears these ‘Elements of Harmony’ don’t consider medication to be ‘harmonious’ enough…”

Nemo had come to the somewhat understandable conclusion that even she wasn’t hot enough stuff to dodge bullets, and was doing her best to bravely cower behind me.

I gave Marcone a long, hard look. “...’Medication?’”

Marcone actually showed off that ‘behind my back and gone’ trick I’d seen the Equestrians’ use, as she somehow slid the whole freakin’ Striker down her sleeve in a way that made even my eyes hurt.

“Yes, Dresden, medication,” Marcone sighed out as she got down on all fours. With a rather sour grimace she waved a hoof at her own, rather twitchy face, “Or did you think everypony would end up with the same bill of health after this mess…?”

I did a small double take as the words sank in.

With a frown, I fell back onto my haunches, and flexed… well, whatever the biceps analogue is called on a horse.

Extensor carpus. Biceps is totally OK for daily speech, though…

I frowned a bit as I slowly flexed my arm back and forth a few times; concentrating on how the muscles felt as they contracted and relaxed under the stiff scar tissue. “Can’t say I’ve noticed that much difference…”

And no sooner had the words left my lips, before I realized what I’d just said.

‘Luckily,’ aside from how my cheeks heated up, not much happened. Both Marcone and Nemo just put their hooves to their mouths and let out what might have passed for coughs to a deaf man.

“I meant aside from anything that could be chalked up to the whole testosterone slash estrogen crap.” I stiffly clarified. I aimed away from everybody to avoid misunderstandings, and threw a punch; taking a slight bit of pride on the low whistle that resulted. “I wasn’t exactly The Hulk before or anything, but I’m still pressing about the same and stuff like that…”

Granted, my 'new' weight set was still in metric, for some foul reason. An annoying industry standard, or just bad luck? Heck if I know. Anyway, not that important and couldn't really complain with how cheap I'd gotten it second hand, but it didn't make it any easier on my poor noggin. No idea what it is in real numbers, but I'd just stopped caring around the eight hundred mark; instead adding more weight whenever I more or less felt like it.

Both Nemo and Marcone’s eyes went slightly wide, but Marcone hid it better.

“Um, dude?” Nemo rubbed at her neck, making the colors of her mane temporarily dance around without actually mixing. Huh, some type of natural ‘prism,’ or something? Interesting. “I’m not calling you a liar, Harry… but you do know what a horsepower is, right?”

I tensed slightly.

Marcone’s ears perked, but she said nothing; face still twitching but otherwise unreadable.

I let out a deep sigh. “Cliff notes: I haven’t been normal for years before this…” I waved a hoof at my snout. “...crap happened.”

Slowly, Nemo just raised an eyebrow at me.

With a groan, I continued. “Fine, there was a mess, and I wasn’t strong enough to pull everybody I needed to out of the fire.” I sucked in a breath through clenched teeth, as this light clicked on in Nemo’s eyes. “...So I found myself something that wanted a price I could actually stand.” For just a moment I felt actually cold, and my fur fluffed up to near double the size. “...If barely.”

“...Oh,” Nemo blinked, “...so that was why…”

I cut her off. “Yeah... Personal experience’s a bitch.”

A shudder swept over me, and I had to close my eyes for a bit. The burning purpose. The predatory drive. The cold, seductive power…

I hated to admit it…

But part of me missed that power the Mantle of the Winter Knight had offered me.

What can I say? I’m not perfect... and being able to simply all but fling obstacles aside? For even some dark and twisted things to fall silent and still as I passed?

Another shudder made my wings rustle.

That’s the real problem with capital P Power; it’s damn easy to forgot about the great responsibility part and just… indulge.

I hadn’t gone over that line, but… I’d toed it. Far closer than I’d care to admit.

“...I’m sorry, but… that’s about how much I want to say to somebody I’ve just met.” I had to take a couple of even breaths before my feathers would settle again. “...Got out of it rather well all things considered, but my life got… dark for a few years.”

Nemo studied me for a few moments, the gears all but clicking fast enough it was a buzz instead. “...That’s one of the reasons why you find the mare thing so mixed? You had some contract in blood that got nullified by the pony thing?”

Marcone let out a dark chuckle without any humor in it. “Wasn’t that body fluid from what I’ve heard…”

Nemo spluttered a bit, and her cheeks turned the same rose pink as her eyes.

I let out an annoyed grunt, and ignoring my burning cheeks I switched subjects. “Nemo Schwartz,” I said pointing at her, “and yeah, the kid that did that rather poorly timed sonic boom in Manhattan.”

Nemo flinched and wilted a bit, but Marcone just let out a neutral hum.

“Kid’s got a talent for booster spells that’s going to make the whole Olympic games’ board weep openly in a few years, but she’s so wet behind the ears you could plant kelp there.”

Nemo didn’t exactly look happy with my assessment, but she gave off a grunt and a nod at it.

Marcone’s new rather fittingly icy blue eyes swept over Nemo, giving her a once over.

“...Look, my dad was in SWAT,” Nemo reluctantly explained while scanning the woods. “I’m not going to pretend I’m quite sure how I’ll react in real combat, but I know how to hold a gun without blowing my own foot off.”

I frowned slightly but kept quiet.

There had been the tiniest of pause between ‘my dad’ and ‘was in SWAT’ that frankly told a rather sad story all on its own.

If Marcone cared, she damn sure didn’t show it. “I don’t trust newbies I’ve never met with firearms.”

Nemo looked as if she was about to protest, but she stopped as Marcone rummaged around under her suit. “Consider this…” Marcone let out a dry chuckle and threw something to Nemo. “...a party favor.”

Another burst of whatever cobbled together mess Marcone was using instead of real magic happened, (A short snippet of a funeral dirge… on kazoos and vuvuzelas.) and the thing more or less just… inflated as it flew at Nemo.

When it landed in Nemo’s hoof —nearly making the girl bend double before she corrected for the weight I might add, the blob of color and magic had turned into the nastiest and girliest flanged mace I’d ever seen.

The weapon’s main body —about two and a half feet long, looked almost like ivory, but with ‘wood grains’ that kept flowing around; not unlike the shimmering on a puddle contaminated with oil. The handle, about eight inches, was wrapped in black leather that almost looked normal… until you noticed that it wasn’t dyed but shining with a dark light that made my ears itch of all damn things. The head gleamed even in the fading light, these inch-thick bits of what almost looked like volcanic glass, but red like aged wine; all six pairs of them shaped like broken hearts with the ‘cracks’ up and outwards..

Near needlessly to say, Nemo was holding the thing as far away as she could without dropping it.

“What.” I pointed at the… thing. “The. Fuck?”

Marcone just waved me off, like she’d thrown somebody a ten-dollar switchblade, and not pulled what looked like at least a minor artifact squarely out of her ass. “Oh, just a bit of this, a bit of that, a dash of then, and a pinch of -”

My glare actually made Marcone drift off for a moment or so. “...Honestly, Dresden, did you expect me to gain magic and not to do anything with it for six months? With the Fomor encroaching on my territories?” The flames of my temper faltered, and Marcone’s own eyes narrowed at me. “On Chicago?”

I grumbled, and looked back at the nasty bit of work the nasty bit of work had made.

“...Fomor?”

I blinked, and let out an unhappy grunt. “The inbred cousins of Cthulhu and Dr. Frankenstein,” I answered Nemo, making her blink. “Bunch of really sick bastards that think they’re hot shit, but they’re not important right now.”

Nemo hesitated before scowling and nodding at me. “Another bunch of monsters in the dark that’s going to be shown the modern wonders of napalm, blessed dum-dum bullets and white phosphor come Halloween, got it.”

Despite everything… I couldn’t help but smile; big and wide.

How Marcone eyed me just made me smile wider. “...Dresden, what have you done this time?”

“Wrote a pamphlet,” I waved at the smile splitting my muzzle again. “You know, since I was running headlong into Law #2 anyway. Nothing big, just a few things for the Paranet.”

Despite her tics, Marcone managed a rather impressively even stony glare my way. Nemo on the other hand looked mostly confused.

“A few nice luck charms. My recipe for ghost dust. The dread secret all immortals want mortal kind to forget that everybody is mortal on Halloween. A really good recipe for roasted oats I figured out about then…”

Marcone stared at me for a few moments, only to facepalm. “...Yes, you’re Dresden, alright.

Nemo clearly wanted a clarification on what the fuck we were talking about, but she went for the task at hand instead. “So,” she said holding up the strange mace, “this thing won’t suck my soul out through my nostrils…?”

Marcone let out a snort, and —ugh, started walking off towards my cottage..

“...Put it on the ground for a moment.”

Nemo frowned, but did as I’d asked.

‘Asking’ Demonreach ‘What the fuck is that?’ got me a little info… and a whole lot more questions.

“...I think that’s some type of magical construct, but I’m not recognizing the type.” I hated to admit it, but I was curious just what the hell Marcone had figured out. “Can’t tell much more than that without dismantling it and probably won’t last a sunrise, but just using it should be fine.”

“...So you, as a Warden, are telling me this thing won’t ding the First Law because it’s magical in nature, but not in application?”

“Enchanted weapons is an old exception,” I explained, before nodding to the quickly disappearing maker of the thing. “So, any chance it’s something Miss Pretty In Pink over there can do on that ‘show?’”

Nemo let out a wince, not quite looking at me and rubbing at her neck. “...Pinkie Pie the character is…” Nemo’s eyes darted between the mace and the mare. “...basically a benign reality-warper.”

I swear, my eyes near fired from my skull from how far they bulged out.

“You know those old Warner cartoons where anything goes as long as it’s funny enough?”

Both I and Nemo stared down at the gleaming flanged mace.

“...Yeah,” Nemo winced out, rubbing at the back of her head with her free hoof, “I don't think this Marcone fellow has seen much point in them being funny when you can just brute force it instead…”

I fought down a shiver and started moving after the devil in question.

And as I actually cleared that little hill… sure felt as if I’d stepped into some type of hell, alright.

There were bodies everywhere. Mares and stallions, most in that tin-foil called ‘the Equestrian Royal Armor,’ but a few in what almost looked like —I kid you not, superhero spandex.

That later bit would have been far more humorous without the blood and bullet holes.

I ignored how the gulp from Nemo who’d been hobbling after me on three legs thanks to the mace, and went over to the nearest ‘super’ to check her over.

The uniform was… weird. No rank pips, and no symbols except rather plain yellow lightning bolts around the fetlocks and on the buttocks, with a larger one down the chest. Other than that it was just a jumpsuit in what looked like normal blue spandex.

It frankly looked more like the uniform of a sports-team mascot, than a military branch.

The mare herself was kinda plain… Well, at least as far as ponies go. A pleasant enough (if rather ill-kept and wind-swept) dark purple for her mane and tail… but it clashed rather horribly with this orange-grey coat of hers.

Then again, I’m not quite sure what color would have gone with that coat since it almost looked a moldy peach… but certainly not purple and dark blue.

I don’t think the mare was much older than I, —Chronologically at least, but a bit hard to judge when you're both unsure of your current species maximum lifespan and your own biological age— but judging from enough crow’s feet and other lines on her face to be slightly visible even through fur she’d lead a hard life.

I frowned slightly as I looked over what had actually killed this mare. It seemed that, again, there was this strange refusal to armor the wings. Seriously? Not even some chain-mail, or anything?

Anyway, a bullet had taken her in the right wing, and blown it clean off; leaving nothing but a ragged wound just above the carpal joint. Again, there was surprisingly little blood, making me wonder if there was some type of blood-clotting enchantment woven into this gear.

If so that was kinda bad news, because those type of enchantments are finicky as hell to get right… And if you get ‘em wrong? You don’t actually end up with a first-aid charm, but an instant brain-aneurysm inducer.

Now, I’m no bumbling apprentice when it comes to enchantments; a bit too pricey and time-consuming for most applications, but I’ve done some impressive things over the years.

I put my hoof on the girl’s trunk and tried feeling out the magic of her suit, but it was simply lost against the magic leaking out of her corpse.

Problem was, that anybody that can serial produce something like flipping healing charms? That was a grand-master of the art, and how the flipping hell could somebody like that not have factored in firearms?

It would be like a naval yard that builds a next gen prototype that can’t take saltwater. Sure, idiots will be idiots… but something that large overlooked?

Nemo came stumbling up behind me. “...Can you tell anything from… her?”

I turned to Nemo. “Yeah, these silly body-condoms are enchanted as well, but they stop bullets about as well as the equally silly armor.” I glanced around at the carnage a bit, secretly glad it was still spring; it would give me a bit more time to get rid of the bodies before they became a health hazard, at any rate. “Hate to jinx it, but those ‘alicorns’ are the only real threat I’ve seen so far.”

Nemo forced her eyes away from the broken girl, and swallowed something I wasn’t quite sure was spit.

She still kept that mace in her hoof, though, even if it was shaking a bit.

I got up, and brushed the snow off my haunches. “If it makes it any better,” I told her kindly, “it gets easier, you just have to remember the important bit.”

“...Yeah? What?”

I frowned and looked out over the small sea of bodies, taking a gut wrenching moment to remind myself that —one way or the other, all of these still forms had been a person.

“Just because it gets easier, doesn’t make it any righter.” I resisted the urge to spit as four certain idiots flashed through my mind. “You forget that, and you lose something far more important than a fight, or even your life.”

Something wet splashed on my shoulder.

I twitched, and nearly had a shield up before I even could think about it consciously…

With a grimace, I lowered my hoof.

It hadn’t been an ambush, ‘just’ some poor bastard lying broken on my roof. The grey coated stallion near bent in half, and bleeding from out under the cheese-grater something had turned about half his armor into; his left hind leg hanging just far out enough to bypass my gutters.

I shuffled a step or so to the left to avoid the morbid shower, my ears turning as I heard hooves coming closer.

The mare —the one I hadn’t been able to peg the type of via Demonreach, was large, easily almost a head taller than even Celestia. Even if, to be fair, her large cruelly curved horn added quite a bit to that height. She wasn’t quite nude by pony standards, but with only a white leather vest and these matching strange but expertly sewn mix of socks and knee-high boots I’d hesitate to call her fully dressed either.

We just stood there for a bit, as I met her almost luminescent slitted green eyes for a minute or so. Vaguely, I saw her wings ‘buzz’ nervously as our stare down continued.

I’d heard a couple of names for the bug-ponies, as I preferred to call them. Flutter ponies, no idea why. Xenomorphs, even if that one was apparently fast becoming a slur. Changelings, from somebody ‘clever’ that clearly wanted to give all of us in the supernatural community headaches…

Decent sorts, most of them. I’d never met one so big before, but I’d had quite a few in my office. The fangs, holes, armored skin and blue-white pupil-less eyes were a bit creepy… but most of them were just sad. Kinda hard not to be when your neighbor turns into a pretty unicorn, while you can suddenly read ‘Metamorphosis’ as a biography.

Still, most of them were easy enough if heartbreaking clients. Gently but firmly tell them about Law #2 and how that meant I couldn’t just turn them back, a small stack of pamphlets so they won’t do anything foolish one way or the other, a few ‘there, there’ and pats on the back, and you could usually send most of them home after that.

With this particular bug-pony though, I was rather more fixated on the unmarred silver pentacle around her neck, visible just over the neckline of her vest.

“...Thomas?” I managed, just as she went “...Harry?” in just as disbelieving a tone, if with a more ‘buzzy’ voice.

On confirmation that, yes, this was my idiot brother —now idiot sister I guess, I went from befuddled to absolutely livid in half a second.

Let me tell you, only reason I stomped up glaring instead of screaming at the top of my lungs was the enemy presence, and it was still a close call.

Still, Thomas winced and flinched away from me, and only the small burst of black smoke from her cheek made me tone down the death glare a few notches.

“Where the fuck have you been!?” I hissed at her, not caring one iota I had to jump to jab my hoof into her chest. “I’ve been calling daily for the last half a fucking year! I had to send Toot-toot out to check on you, just to make certain you weren’t dead in a freaking ditch somewhere!” I gave another jab bordering on an uppercut, and snarled at the big, shiny idiot. “Stars and fucking stones, six months! What the hell do you have to say for yourself?!”

Thomas’ eyes flickered from me, to Nemo, and back again. “...Look, something happened, and I’ve been busy, OK?”

“...Busy? Busy? BU-!”

My scream of outrage was cut off, as Thomas’ hoof snaked out, and gently but as firm as steel wrapped around my nuzzle.

“Because,” Thomas said, leaning forward to whisper in my ear, “whatever this transformation did else it warped my Hunger just as badly, and the moment Justine figured that out I got dragged away by my tail to Vegas before I could even say ‘I do.’”

One blink later, and my righteous wrath had deflated like a pool-toy at a cactus lover’s convention.

“...Define ‘warped,’” I asked carefully after having pried my muzzle free with my own hooves.

I, thanks to the Winter Knight stuff was no stranger to the pony thing ‘warping’ how some magics work…

Thing is? My br- sister isn’t a wizard, but a —or was at least, a White Court vampire; the real basis for succubi, incubi, and probably over a dozen other legends about inhumanly beautiful and strong sexual supernatural predators.

Granted, as soon as I scoff and turn my nose up at even the silliest sounding legend… I end up with the Jersey Devil dogging my footsteps (and trying to kill me), an Akaneme licking my bathroom (and trying to kill me), mold demons infesting my car (and trying to kill me)...

I’ve seen a lot of strange things (that have tried to kill me), is all I’m saying.

Anyway, the White Court is the most human like, and weakest of the vampiric breeds… but they more than make up for it in sheer deviousness. Unlike the other breeds, those of the White Court are born (mostly) human, not turned, and they may use the lifeforce they’ve stolen as fuel for supernatural feats. Strength, speed, healing… That type of stuff.

Of course that spiritual parasite granting those powers —the Hunger, isn’t a free ride. You don’t keep feeding it? It starts gnawing on you just as happily. I’d never quite dared to ask if it was an actual limit or a ‘favorite flavor’ type deal, but a White Court vampire needs to inspire certain emotions to steal that lifeforce.

Despair, Horror, and in the Raith family’s case, Lust.

They don’t have most of the ‘classical’ vampire weaknesses… but instead, the opposite —or even strong enough symbols, of their ‘favorite' emotion would burn them. Hope, Courage…

Or Love.

I’d personally seen a woman in True Love —Justine in fact, just to add to the cruel irony of it all, turn a fully powered up White Court vampire from a terrifying sex-goddess into a half burned spam sculpture by dragging her hair over the other ‘woman.’

Near needless to say, all of the above was my short-winded little way of saying that hearing that Thomas’ Hunger had been that ‘warped?’ A bit like hearing the good news how all America’s energy problems had been solved, because these nice, shiny green rocks have started raining from the sky.

With one of the biggest and goofiest smiles I’d ever seen —even with fangs and everything, Thomas’ lifted her left hoof, yanked off the sock/shoe thing…

Something lurched in my chest as I stared at the engraved wedding band around my beaming sis’ almost equally gleaming hoof. Wedding band, by the way? Hell, it was more or less a wedding bangle; almost a flipping inch of gold inlaid with silver in the shape of ‘white’ roses.

The good, the bad, and the really ugly, all of it tried to jump out my throat at once on seeing that ring.

It was so, so utterly horrible of me… but of the two of us? Hell’s bells, my love life might be a bunker in the middle of a demilitarized zone… but Thomas' situation with Justine had always been a flippin’ cardboard box.

On the sun, and soaked in gasoline.

I know, I know, utter —ugh, bitch moment… but on some level I’d honestly expected my romantic prospects to stop turning to dust and ashes before my eyes way before Thomas’ ever did.

Thomas let out a small cough, making me stop staring at her huge bit of bling, and instead start staring up at her now slightly forced looking smile. “...You OK there, Harry?”

I did know one thing, though. All else aside, I’d rather use time magic, gnaw off my own head and eat it without seasoning, than ruin this for Thomas. I owed hi- her that much.

“...I…” I forced down a gulp, and managed to continue with what might have passed for a smile to a zombie Martian. “...Congratulations.”

Thomas didn’t say anything in response. She just scowled down at me without looking away, as she stuffed her hoof back into that shoe sock of hers.

With a grimace, I held my hooves up in surrender. “...Look, I’m sorry, dude, you deserve far better than that response, I just…”

“Wasn’t expecting me to ever end up actually better off than you,” Thomas calmly stated, a honestly rather pretty jade green aura matching her eyes briefly lighting her massive horn, while she spread her gossamer wings. “Or for me and Justine to ever really work out, for that matter.”

I’ll admit, even without any real acid to the words I cringed a bit.

If only for a moment. “Thomas, I’m not going to deny I’m feeling a bit conflicted…” I growled. “Thing is, I was starting to fucking worry if your creepy sister had a pair of new rugs, or something!” The careful mask on Thomas’ face turned to a grimace even a few seconds before my hoof hit her chest. “And now you show six months later and tell me the joys of lesbian sex were more important than saying goodbye when we both thought our minds were rotting from the inside?!”

With a snarl I leaned forward and slammed both hooves up into Thomas’ teats, the impact from my hipposandals on her armored skin sounding not that unlike a coconut being dropped into a bowl of jello.

Alas, as with many great triumphs in my life, I only had time to smirk before karma came crashing down on me like a four ton fat-ass that really needed to cut down on the junk-food.

Coughing and gasping after having Mt. Thomas topple over me, I clawed myself out. “Air, sweet air!”

The groans from my bro- sister got interrupted by a soft pat of Nemo, now nearby, face-palming. “...Guys, I get that you have some big things to talk over, but is now really the time?”

“Can’t I get to maim my now least favorite acquaintance just a bit first?” Thomas growled at me, her new voice and its buzz making the act sound almost like she had a tiny chainsaw in her throat. Something, a bit of rebar with some concrete on the end by the feel of it, smacked me in the back of my head. “I mean seriously, Harry, what the fuck?”

“Yeah, well, next time you go missing during the end of the world as we know it…” I muttered sourly as I tried to pull myself fully out, but my hooves had gotten stuck between the snow and my sis the humpback xenomorph. “...I guess I’ll just bust out the vodka and beer right away, huh?”

Thomas had (barely, given the no pants thing) enough decency to let out a wince and look away.

Still, I fought down most of the hurt and anger. As much as I wanted to call enough winds to juggle even my big sis up to the stratosphere, now was not quite the time for that. “Nemo Schwartz, Thomas Raith.”

Both mares traded a manly grunt each in a way that would have been quite a bit more humorous without the anvil on my back.

“And would you please get off me?” I pulled a bit, but I was as stuck as the petrified log up Ancient Mai’s ass. “Now, please? Before I break my back again?”

Nemo twitched slightly in surprise at the ‘again.’

Thomas rolled her eyes at me, but started to fumble around to be able to get up without stepping on me.

Nemo fought down something that sounded disturbingly like the girly cousin to both a snicker and a nicker at the ‘dance,’ but bit her lip and extended her free hoof to pull me out.

And no sooner had I taken her hoof, when that corpse I’d been checking out earlier came flying from out behind us.

I and Nemo had just enough time to not scream like little girls, before the old nag of a superhero wannabe grabbed both our fetlocks in a dive tackle.

She mumbled out what I’m fairly sure was meant to be: “For Equestria!” but came out as “Flor Ecolostria!” thanks to the…

Leather string in her mouth?

I just had time to make the connection ‘one-use magical amulet,’ pull my other hoof back for the haymaker…

When a loud crunch came from the wounded mare’s mouth —loud enough it sounded as if she lost a couple of teeth, and the world went plaid.

You know those really shitty sixties cartoons where anything ‘trippy’ or ‘otherworldly’ got represented with the animators just filming the inside of a kaleidoscope, overlaying the characters and calling it a day?

Imagine that, but combined with this lovely blender and tumbler combo just big enough for you to be stuffed inside, but not big enough for you to actually be able to even scream properly in. I swear I even caught a glimpse of my own head.

From the back.

And that was really it. Somehow the whole thing was both a minor eternity of Technicolor torment, and over as quick as a pin-prick at the doctor’s.

And sadly, I recognized the feeling instantly. Not the type, but this was a Way; a gateway into the Nevernever, the spirit world...

There was just no mistaking that feeling of being squished and stretched, all at the same time.

Whoever had constructed that charm was a grand-master, because we’d barely gotten our manes ruffled from transit as (relative) normalcy returned.

The Super-Zero did a strange flick with her remaining wing, and instantly came to a stop in a way that made my inner physicist throw his strudel in the air, and shout: ‘Nein! Does not der compute!’ before stomping home for the day.

She slammed down to the ground and did her best to hold us both; spitting out what looked like blood and mirror shards. “Quick, help! They’re not cured ye-!”

Super-Zero didn’t get further than that, before my hoof and Nemo’s mace came whistling towards her face, slamming her jaw closed so hard we actually got a brief shower of teeth.

The pain apparently finally too much, the old nag’s eyes rolled up into her head, and she sank down in a boneless heap on the marble floor.

“Scoots!”

I wasted no time, and put my game face on, getting up on two legs and pulling my rod and revolver.

Nemo followed my example, and went back to back with me, brandishing that freaky mace of her with two hooves.

Believe it or not, but the first thing of all I noticed was the magic of the place.

And I nearly fell gagging down on the spot from it.

Magic, is supposed to be a thing of hope and wonder, all the little things that make life worth living. The joy, the sorrow, the ups, the downs…

The room me and Nero had found ourselves in?

It felt dead. Just… dead.

I’ve been near necromancy —heck, even waltzed right on the line of the Laws and performed it once or twice when nothing else would work to save people, but even that had this liveliness to it; if as a corrupted and dark mirror to what magic should be.

That magic around us was… Imagine suddenly being inside a sealed room that somebody died in decades if not centuries ago. There’s no light, no life, no hope… just this vaguely wrong smell like a museum store-room, and a horrible stillness that consumes all it touches until even the screams fade to nothingness.

Speaking of screams, I forced down the one my throat wanted to give off, and quickly scanned the room physically.

I kid you not; it looked like some type of ballroom, and from one of those Old World castles that like to pretend it sprang from dreams and pixie dust, rather than peasant blood and tasteless nobles, at that.

On second look, I wasn’t sure if the floor was marble, but whatever the squares of purple-grey and purple stone really was, it had been polished until it was like walking on a mirror. There wasn’t many walls, as such, but instead the entire space was lined with stained glass windows; most of natural things like flames or cresting waves, but a few with what looked like historical scenes. Just with ponies instead of humans in the latter case. And all of it crowned with a single golden chandelier as big as my freaking office, crowned with so many glittering gems it passed ‘gaudy,’ circled clean around ‘nuevue rich,’ and landed back somewhere around ‘classical’ again.

It didn’t look like there’d been balls for a long, long time there, though. The classy tables and rich carpets my mind’s eye wanted to project over the place simply wasn’t there, instead replaced with tons upon tons of the girliest damn military gear I’ve ever seen.

Computers… that looked as if they’d come alive and escaped from the Smithsonian; their magnetic tapes and graph-paper read-outs clicking quietly away. Industrial steel tables clashing horribly with the rest of the room… that somebody still had seemed bothered enough by to cover them up with what looked like floor length tablecloths made from real linen.

There was even —I kid you not, a few silver potpourri bowls, resting out of sight and mind on discrete plinths near the walls; far enough not to interfere but still close enough to drive away some of the chemical stench from the scientific and alchemical equipment.

All in all, it was a bit like having been dropped into Oprah's evil lair. Sure, we might be nestled under Death Mountain, but that’s no reason not to look fabalu~s.

I took advantage how our sudden appearance had stunned the people in the room —about two-three dozen ponies, most in either lab-coats or wizard robes, but with a few guards as well— and quickly looked over behind us.

The only real difference there was this line of full-length mirrors. Twenty in total, and so heavily enchanted the air around them shimmered slightly even to my normal sight. About half or so of them were seemingly currently being unused and showed just normal reflections.

Not so with the rest.

One showed a bird’s eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the portal seemingly suspended mid-air. Another, what looked suspiciously like the sculpture outside the Chicago Fire Academy, the three copper ‘flames’ gleaming in a under-shilled rain that seemed to be falling just a bit too quickly. A third, on the top of the left hand of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

My eyes were drawn to the one just behind me, Nemo and the Super-Zero, however. Because not only was it showing a top-down view of a rather familiar snowy field outside a cottage littered with broken ponies, but my bro- sister was in it as well; moving at chipmunk on crack speeds that would have been comical if not for the clear desperation on her face.

Sadly, I only had time to come to the conclusion ‘portal’ myself, before the leader of the PG-rated Stargate program we’d stumbled onto —the same unicorn mare that had screamed ‘Scoots’ earlier, started barking orders.

“Everypony with a horn, stun them! Quick, before they can make it back through the portal!”

The strangest thing was that I didn’t hear any spells called or even feel the magic being manipulated… until I turned my head and saw what was near this rainbow of death of differently colored, raw magic coming towards us.

If I hadn’t already been halfway through casting a shield thanks to instincts born from thousands of fights, I would probably just have stood there and taken it on the shin from pure dumbstruck-ness.

It was a bit like being stuck inside a closet with a two person rave going on, but the bursts of magic splashed of my screen of congealed air as if had been bugs on a windshield.

Who the fuck uses raw magic as an attack?! You might as have a fifty caliber machine gun and throw the bullets at people!

It’s called ‘non-le-thal com-bat’ Harry. You know, kinda like that thing you keep doing to Nicodemus instead of gutting the creep, but resulting from compassion and restraint instead of annoying circumstances and overpowered artifacts in the hands of evil...?

Stars and stones, you could probably have roasted a whole pack of ghouls with that much magic! Why the hell would anybody just throw that type of power away in a fight?!

Sigh… Honestly, Harry, sometimes I wish you’d develop alien-hoof-syndrome, just so I could smack you a few times...

You could have heard a pin falling as the lightshow died off. Ponies just staring in wide-eyed with a mix of wonder and horror that not even a single hair had been ruffled in mine or Nemo’s manes.

Then the screaming stampede started.

The leader from earlier and another even older mare —a stark white unicorn with fraying but still purple and pink mane and an ancient looking zebra of all possible creatures, did a decent try at restoring order, but to no avail. Even without the barked command the two just screamed 'commanders.' Not only with how everypony still there subtly looked towards them for further orders, but the rank and file typically don't get custom clothes; some type of fusion between a the general cut of a wizards robe, with the waxed white fabric of a lab-coat. Long enough it covered their backs (including their emblems), but short enough the two could stand on only their legs without the hem touching the ground.

They actually looked kinda neat and practical. I made a mental note a robe like that could be worth looking into, and shoved it into the back of my mind.

Once the stampede had gone, all that remained was me, Nemo, the unicorn, the still unconscious Super-Zero, the zebra, and four of the clone guard.

I pulled the hammer back on my Smith & Wesson 500, producing a rather satisfyingly loud and threatening ‘click.’ “Scram,” I coldly told the minions, jerking my head back to the carnage filled mirror, “not even those four Stooges of yours were much of an act by my town’s standards, and you guys wouldn’t even warm a crowd.”

I gave the Super-Zero a hard kick on her whole wing, making her roll bonelessly and every’pony’ in the room except Nemo gasp.

“Fuck off now,” I continued at a growl, “and you get to do it on your own power. Scout's honor.”

Alas, the guards didn’t heed my warning, instead opting to falling into defensive line with the senior researchers; two burly stallions per mare.

“Hey, Harry?” Nemo asked in a rather suspiciously chipper voice.

“Yeah?” I asked without turning my head.

“Those computers and notes sure do look important, don’t they, Ms. Wizard?”

The single pointy headed idiot remaining cleared her throat. “...Fluttershy,” she more or less squeaked at us, but it sounded as if it was just her normal, rather annoying, voice rather than any fear. “I don’t know what type of delusions you are under thanks to Discord, but you’re a pegasus; you can’t be a wizard.”

My grin froze in place.

The overgrown girl noticed, and hesitated. “...Please, I don’t know how you resisted like that, but please stand down and we can treat you and Dash.”

All six remaining idiots gasped as I drew power to my blasting rod, making the carved runes light with inner flames, and snarled out a spell. “Flickum Bickum.”

Normally, this was a spell I just used to light candles and similar. It had been years since I’d used my most basic fire spell with an actual focus, but the result was quite decent.

The frilly idiot gasped (again) in shock, paling to near snow white as every book, ledger, tome and credit card receipt in the whole ‘lab’ mysteriously and ‘spontaneously’ combusted.

“No, stop! Please!” The zebra shouted in a thick accent that sounded vaguely African. Not making a racist joke or anything, she really sounded as if she’d come from thereabout but spent many years abroad. “Rebuilding this place would take months even with the right expertise!”

“Oh, why didn’t you just say so?” I smirked with false cheer, pointing my rod at the line of computers. “Melivosa!”

The effect of my anti-tech spell was almost as flashy as the fires even now making sooty smoke climb towards the richly decorated ceiling

I’m not sure if it was how utterly beyond ticked I was at all this or just such ancient and worn looking gear, but the computers all but exploded; bits of magnetic tape and shards of radio-tubes flying so hard it took out a few of the stained windows.

One of the guards, the nearest of the pair protecting Ms. Pointy, actually got a quite decent shower of plastic and glass over himself… but it looked as if his armor protected him.

I let my grin come back. What can I say? Two ‘experts’ staring in disbelief and horror at the wizard actually turning out to be a wizard was just deeply cathartic for me.

I waved a wing back towards the mirrors. “Start smashing all but the one to San Fran,” I whispered Nemo’s way.

Nemo blinked at me. “...You sure?”

I gave a tiny nod, not taking my eyes of the ‘locals.’ “I know a Way back to Chicago from there, ‘kay? It will get us home, but slow these twits.”

I’m not sure if Nemo had overheard of what a Way is, if she mistook it for the mundane type of ‘a way,’ or just trusted me, but jump into action she did.

Pumping her booster spell to eleven again, Nemo all but blurred away from my side; these loud and expensive sounds starting up behind me within nearly a second.

The two old researchers reacted a bit differently at that. The zebra just covered her face with her hooves in horror, but Ms. Pointy started barking orders again.

“Men,” she screamed, a leaf green light gathering around her horn, “stop the-!”

I didn’t hesitate; I just squeezed of two shots in rapid sequence.

Would you believe I’ve become a better shot thanks to this pony crap? Not that the lack of fingers help, but the whole tactile telekinesis thing plus a horsepower let me keep even something as beefy as my revolver far steadier.

Wasn’t like I could hit tossed coins or parlor tricks like that… but six idiots, just standing there as if being half a room away made them safe? I could hit those targets, alright.

At first, the unicorn mare just stood there; blinking up at the ruined mess her horn had suddenly become.

For a few moments, all was silent.

Then the screaming started. Again.

The unicorn just collapsed; crying in a heap with her eyes open and unblinking in what looked like shock.

The zebra let out a mortified gasp, and rushed to her friend, but the other mare barely reacted. It was as if a puppet had had it strings cut.

The guards? I doubt the Devil himself would have gotten the type of disbelieving, horrified stares of disgust they aimed my way.

“The Smith & Wesson 500 holds five bullets, each one packing enough of a wallop to kill a bull elephant mid charge. Four of you fine gentleman and three bullets left, so what will it be? Save the bastards bleeding on the floor there...” I droned as I pulled back the hammer again, making the soldiers flinch like one creature. “...or do you feel lucky. Well, do yah, punk?”

Amazingly, despite the blood pooling out from behind her hooves as she rendered first aid, the zebra still had some steel and fight in her. “Fluttershy, please, nopony blames you your madness,” the mare forced out, quite literally pleading through gritted teeth. “Stop this now, and we may end this without further horror and sadness!”

In my mind, I could see it. Two faces, one a little girl with dark but sparkling eyes, the other a skull of carved wood crawling with motes of green light.

One, asking my dear friend she actually lived with more seldom and seldom with less and less hope where Daddy had gone…

The other, simply wailing alone in a cottage that got colder and colder in my absence.

And would I even miss them? Or would this ‘Fluttershy’ creep just smile emptily at the memory? A stranger, trying to be polite on seeing somebody else’s children?

...I don’t actually know. Depends on the ‘cure,’ I guess.

I swear, I nearly put a bullet in both the mares where their hearts should have been, just to ensure I’d never end up in this tainted realm ever again.

My friends, let alone my little girls, deserve better than another empty casket.

“...You want this ended?” I countered coldly. “Leave us alone, and the favor will be returned. Simple as that.”

Silence once more descended on the room, as I pulled back the hammer again; the click damn near echoing off the walls. "Your move, creep."

The zebra was about to retort something, but one of ‘her’ guards showed some initiative and grabbed her; picking her up easily enough but jostling her arm enough that whatever she’d intended to say got switched out for a long string of harsh words in a oddly ‘clicky’ tongue I didn’t recognize.

The other guards followed his example, and took a strategic retreat. Pausing only long enough to frantically scrape as much of the unicorn's alicorn off the floor as possible while another grabbed the mare herself.

The now rather less pointy unicorn didn’t even blink, as she got dragged away; leaving me and Nemo alone in the smoky room.

I barely waited for the two ‘free’ stallions to slam the main door shut, before doing my best to seal it behind them. With a few flicks of flame towards it and any other door I could see (some added randomly to the tables for good measure), the room was soon this cozy little deathtrap in waiting.

Something gleaming on one of the nearest tables made me hesitate just a moment, though.

“...What are you doing?” Nemo screamed after me, as I put away my weapons and trotted over. “We need to go, now!”

It was a small table with just a few basic instruments on it, magnifying glasses and the like. I couldn’t read the swirling text on the neat sign on the end…

’Off-world Artifacts! Caution!’

...but from the strange collection of odds and ends, it seemed like this was a ‘cross dimensional artifacts’ sorting and cataloging table. Or at least, the carefully orchestrated semblance of one, depending on how much truth Nemo’s 'Home-brewed World-domination' theory had to it.

A weather bit pocket-book (Pyramid Scheme. Good book, but I’d already read it.) with so many stains on it I’d missed it during my little purge. It looked as if it had been taken from a landfill, but even so there was a small notebook nearby with a few neat notes still visible even in the ash.

A car tire, old and near falling apart, but with neat sample bags nearby, and a note; probably about chemical analysis.

’For alchemical analysis ASAP. Initial test show twice the tensile-strength and three-times the durability of our own rubber, but with no traceable enchantments. (!) Further, fresher samples should be made a priority, if possible.’ Huh, interesting...

A cellphone, so busted it had been in two halves even before my bit of sabotage; now nearly two smoldering stains.

’Unknown but damaged communication device. Very fine and complex, but poorly warded circuitry. DO NOT HANDLE WITH MAGIC! Further study needed.’

An old, only partially cleaned wedding ring; having spent years in sand from the looks of it. The tiny diamond on it looked real, but even so the thing couldn’t have been worth as much as three digits even while new.

’Initial surveys show extremely poor gem density and quality. Unknown why, further surveys needed. Possible economic and political use?’ Well, that sounds potentially annoying...

A far cleaner book I’d missed thanks to an old tuba. The thing, a simple astronomy book intended for children didn’t look like anything special, but was near covered in notes with lots and lots of exclamation marks. Honestly not sure what the deal was, but it gave me a funny feeling.

’PRIORITY ONE! FOR THE PRINCESSES’ EYES ONLY! PRIORITY ONE! This thing contains references to stable and self-regulating solar and lunar orbits! This could either make or break Equestria as we know it, ponies! Not a word to the public until we’ve verified this in a laboratory or by further observation of Earth Δ! ~S.B.’

I lingered for a bit on the longer note, but it was all a Greek speaking gibberish in Klingon to me. Freaky thing, though, it didn't feel as if it should have been that way; it felt as if it should have been as clear and simple to me as any normal English. Like one of those Magic Eye pictures; squint just right, and the whole thing becomes a perfectly normal if odd looking bunny.

...I’ll grant them this much, the grunts at least believe they’re really working for the Princesses. Not sure if that makes all this worse or better to be honest, but at least it’s something.

“Dresden!” Nemo hissed at me from across the room. “We need to go!”

“Relax, I’ve been in plenty of burning buildings…” I nonchalantly pointed up at the stone ceiling. “It’s a whole ten minutes or so until we start choking…”

And in my well-researched opinion we were in about as much danger from burning in this room, as during (the average) beach visit and with about as high a health risk. Sure, there were quite a lot of chemicals, materials and gear burning... but the stone room was simply so gigantic it didn't matter even before I perforated the windows. We could have piled the entire lab into a big, costly bonfire, and still not have any problems with the fumes or smoke.

“Well, I don’t want to test that freaking hypothesis, so get going already!”

I rolled my eyes, before picking up one of the object that had drawn me there to begin with.

The black leather dog collar with a silver, diamond shaped tag near gleamed on my hoof, the words: ‘My Name Is Nemo Schwartz. If I’ve Forgotten That, Please Call My Parents.’ in a tiny inlaid script I could read without problem even from a distance.

I took a second to feel it out for magic, but when I didn’t sense any I lobbed it over to Nemo.

I didn’t stop to watch the full reaction since she’d a point… but I still smirked slightly at the big, goofy grin I caught a glimpse off before turning.

There was a few other thing in the ‘new crap’ in-box; a literal cardboard-box with more strange scribbles on the side.

’Bearer artifacts. For immediate analysis. Any of this disappears and ends up as celebrity memorabilia, and you’ll wish I find you before any of the Princesses’ do! ~S.B.’ ’

Nemo’s collar had been hanging on the edge for some reason, and I’d probably have missed the nondescript thing if it hadn’t. It was just… a box, nothing more, nothing less.

As my hoof closed on the silver chain and I felt the familiar magic, a sigh of relief I didn’t realize I’d been holding in forced itself out of me.

I honestly felt whole once my pentacle was once more around my neck; as if something missing had quietly clicked in place despite how minor an act it might have looked from the outside.

A whole empire of evil bastards after me, a plan seemingly decades in the making ruined within a day or so, and a roof crackling cheerfully on fire above me?

“Oh, feels good to be back in the saddle again…” I murmured happily with a huge grin on my face, while rifling through the box of nicked knick-knacks.

Most of it was the type of crap only the finest of stalker shrines are forged from. Disturbing, but only important in what it said about the stalkers thoughts and intentions for the stalk-e.

A few tufts of hair and feathers I took great care in throwing on the nearest blaze. One of my business cards. A stark-white silk handkerchief that looked as if it had never been used with the letters ‘E. T’ engraved on the corner. Another business card, but for Mike my mechanic. A newspaper about that mess Nemo had caused in New York…

My ears perked slightly. “Hey, question?”

“...Yeah?”

I held up the paper, including the picture of a rainbow ‘explosion’ from ground level. “If you’d actually seen that ‘show’ thing, how come?”

Nemo flinched slightly, making the Super-Zero still unconscious but now over her back rustle slightly. “...You expected to run a four-minute mile the first time you went jogging?”

With a hum threw the paper back into the box. “Fair enough, makes sense,” I grunted out, hoisting the whole thing on my back.

I stalked over to the one remaining mirror, frowning a bit as I peered through it…

And an idea struck me, and I made one of those split-second decisions I hoped I could live with afterwards.

And down at the Golden Gate, this near dizzyingly fast stream of traffic clearly visibly thanks to the bird-eye perspective. “...No idea how jostled we’ll be on exit given the time differential.” I gave the load on Nemo’s back a nod. “And from the looks of things, we’ll need to hit the air flying…”

It barely took a second for Nemo to get it, her ears glued back even as she stared from me to Super-Zero.

I reached out and poked the still shiny (and creep-tastic) mace, now stuck inside her prison clothes like the best-worst shiv ever. “This box of loose ends and that party stick of yours are one thing…” I just swept a hoof at the hundred feet drop we’d be stepping out ‘on.’ “Don’t think even a pony can survive that, especially not with those kinds of wounds…”

Nemo bit her lip, and started more or less prancing from hoof to hoof; eyes darting around between the flames. “...But… we can’t just leave her!”

My own eyes darted around for a bit, taking in the rather modest flames, the still cold stone and giant windows any fireman worth his salt wouldn’t hesitated a moment in smashing.

“...Why not?” I asked nonchalantly, making Nemo’s eyes near bulge out of her skull. “She’s been unconscious for so long by now, she probably has serious brain-damage. Hell, even her own comrades left her behind for dead.”

I saw some hesitation in Nemo’s eyes, and she started prancing a bit slower.

“Even if your own Not-Quite-Excalibur-But-Close-Enough theory isn’t right I near knocked Luna’s wings off just moments before we met,” I waved at the unconscious mare on her back. “And well, you saw her yourself, Nemo; right as rain within the freaking hour. Right now, that mare over your shoulders is just a casualty among many, just another corpse that gets to lie where she fell. Who cares if she technically died by that whopper, or the smoke after?”

I saw a tiny bit of blood start pooling under her teeth, as Nemo bit her lip even harder.

“Well? Your call, kid. Nopony seemingly cares if this mare lives or dies… and I’m not in a generous mood myself after being snatched from my own doorstep. Drop her into the bay, a bullet in her head to make it quick, or do you roll the dice for her…?”

Nemo seemingly couldn’t keep looking at me, and turned her head away.

“I’ve done the ‘let the minion live out of pity’ thing a few times before,” I continued in a slightly kinder voice. “Seems to be fifty-fifty if they actually care, or just come back swinging.”

“...Do you know who this girl’s supposed to be?” Nemo forced out without turning her head. “And that unicorn you blew the horn off, for that matter?”

“Look around, kid,” I swept a wing around the burning lab, making Nemo’s ears twitch slightly at the creak of the leather in my duster. “This isn't what it looks like when mind-wiped slaves are set on a task; this is the work of wide-eyed collaborators. Both these mares had the same chance to run as all the others in this room, but they picked to stand their ground…”

“…You honestly don’t care, do you?”

I frowned a bit at the heat in her words, but ultimately just shrugged. “Sure I do… I just care more about my actual friends than bastards that claim to be my friends.”

Nemo finally turned her head, face unreadable. “...And if I told you the ‘old’ you used to foal sit these girls, and sing them lullabies…?”

Hush now, quiet now...

My eyes drifted over to the broken mare over Nemo’s back. She was still breathing, but even through the facemask I could see how near half her face was even now turning into one giant bruise; not helped by this thin dribble of spit and blood pooling on the floor.

If she survived, it would be months if not years before she’d be able to chew her own food again, not even counting the ragged little stump that one wing of hers had become and how much work that would require.

Or brain damage and that bag of horrors.

And yet… was I really prepared to do this? She’d hurt me and mine, sure…

But was I really a hundred and ten percent sure this was some wretched evil from beyond the void…

The girl stirred slightly. She didn’t wake properly, but her eyelids fluttered, and she mumbled out something that sounded like “Drasch…”

With a strangely soft clink another of her teeth hit the floor, a molar cracked clean at the root.

...or was this ‘just’ fate having thrown me another curveball covered in razor-wire? Wouldn’t even be the first time I’d stumbled headfirst into a tragedy decades in the making.

Hell, a long, near fruitless search for friends long lost… ending in tragedy over misunderstandings and battle. One side refusing to give up their lives… the other in denial that their rescue might no longer be needed, or even wanted?

It hadn’t quite struck me as that ‘Discord’ creep’s style, but some of the nastier immortals? The ending of entire cities and lineages in blood and flames is basically their version of a six-pack and a porno mag.

Just no other way to kick of a really great weekend quite like it.

I made my decision. Making sure Nemo actually got what wonder and horror there can be to a wizard's life was important with her talents, but the mare over her shoulder had suffered more than enough. Adding further to that by me using her like a living study-aid would just be cruel.

Still, there are worse reactions to a trial by... well, fire, than asking somebody that seems competent for help. Just doesn't work all the time.

I mean, what type of foolish, bleeding-heart pansy would waste time, energy and effort on an enemy that's already unconscious and half dead? And far behind enemy lines, at that? In a place where reinforcements can come at any second?

You'd have to be a total idiot with a martyr complex a mile-wide to do something that stupid.

With a sigh, I hoisted the box of my back. “Make a circle,” with a small kick, I sent it over towards Nemo, “and hold this.”

That's my boy.

Nemo frowned, but started putting Super-Zero down as gently as she could. “...What are you going to do?”

“I, out of the goodness of my heart and the sagely wisdom inherent to all wizards…” I solemnly stated with a hoof to my chest, ignoring the just plain wrong disbelieving snort from behind me. “...intend to go reach way, way outside my comfort zone, and actually un-set a house on fire.”

“...You mean extinguish it, right?” Nemo deadpanned, all while dragging one hoof behind her as she hobbled around in a circle.

I waved her off without looking her way. “Cease your strange and complicated technobabble, woman; I’m the wizard here, so I get to mumble the archaic words nobody else gets.”

I ignored the lies and slander being muttered my way, and instead leaned back on my haunches with my front hooves ‘clasped’ and wings half extended; my attention focused on —ugh, drawing in the ‘magic’ of this place.

My earlier bits of wizardly C.V. had been quick and easy things, but for what I had in mind now I needed to ‘suck’ in quite a bit.

Imagine there’s somebody you want to spit in the eye, but there is only rather yucky stuff around to do it with. Basically, the difference between a mouthful of mud spat out as quickly… and needing to swivel around what you damn well hope was snow with somebody’s spilled lemonade in it for long enough that it melts.

Ugh… It’s like trying to eat raw bacon from a flipping dirty jockstrap! What the buck have they done with this place?!

Still, I’d give the nudist creeps’ their due; whatever ‘purification’ ritual or whatever they’d used for this place it had left the magic almost amazingly pure, if strangely stagnant. So, ice from a glacier, but with a nasty layer of dust on top, perhaps?

Either way, I’d never felt anything quite like it. I’d visited a ‘haunted’ shrine once that had been just short of falling into decay but still held some shred of serenity about it… but that was the closest I could think of.

“...Dresden!” Nemo squeaked out from behind me. “Your wings!”

I frowned, and turned my head, making sure to keep my spell winding up.

I hadn’t even been feeling it, but there was an outline of St. Elmo’s fire all over my ‘wing-sleeves.’ An outline of bluish-white thunder crawling all over my wings, and all the way down towards my tail, the furthest ‘flames’ even arcing between the hairs on the same.

Frankly, I was so baffled, only decades of experience in keeping my spells together despite the circumstances stopped me from just ‘dropping’ all the energy I’d drawn in.

Thing is, I wasn’t even near the type of level of overflow to cause this type of side-effect. I was drawing in a bit more than normal, yes, but nowhere near a ‘full’ tank.

Was this a side-effect to using my wings as foci? A bleed over of energy, manifesting as static electricity?

Or was this the reason for the ‘stale’ magic? Some… ritual I’ve never encountered before that makes magic slightly less palatable, but easier to draw in, shape and use? Like processed baby-food compared to an actual meal, but with ambient energies?

I squared my shoulders and looked forward again. Interesting, but now was not the time for nerding out about magic.

Sweeping my wings forward, out and back, I let go of my spell. “Vento servitas!”

I’d put some care into crafting this one, and oh boy did it show. The twin blasts of wind tore down the lines of gear and tables, sending it all in a shower of flaming debris towards the walls. Wrecked computers, paper ash, beakers of mysterious liquid… all of it got sent towards the windows.

Or should I say, where the windows should have been.

The antique glass and their frames simply couldn’t stand up against typhoon level winds from the inside, and with a rather satisfying mix of plopping and cracking sounds, soon followed by loud smacks of impacts as the frames themselves got pelted with flying debris.

The crown on it all, though… was the chandelier.

The massive, ancient chain it hung on simply wasn’t made to resist the forces from such a massive thing swinging, and snapped with a crack as if from a giant’s whip.

With that paradoxical fast slowness of massive things falling, the chandelier fell; the strange not-quite candles in it streaming flames behind them during the fall.

The crash was near deafening, cracking the floor for near twenty feet away, and sent shards of crystal and gilded metal all over the room. I shielded my eyes with my hoof, but none of the debris hit me.

Chuckling I turned and trotted over to Nemo, who was staring at me slack-jawed. “...Well,” I smirked, as somepony finally got half a clue and started up the air-raid sirens, “the room isn’t on fire anymore, right?”

Seemingly not feeling my grand act was worthy of mere words, Nemo just face-palmed.

Philistine.

With a snort, I waved a hoof at the one remaining mirror. “You go first with the box; try to keep a hold of it, but the important bit is that it doesn’t stay here.”

With only a brief glance at the destruction and the unconscious girl, Nemo got to it.

Balancing on both legs and with the box in her arms, Nemo leapt through the portal.

It was actually a bit interesting to see from the outside. This line of bright light formed all around where she touched the mirror, but the image didn’t even distort as Nemo made it through.

I stood still and looked for a bit, but aside from the ‘chipmunk’ speed, her passing seemed to have been uneventful. Box and everything still in ‘hoof,’ Nemo circled down, and came in for a untroubled landing; causing a slight stir on the sidewalk, but nothing else.

I heard the ‘clip-clop’ of many, many hooves drawing nearer so I jumped at it.

...Only to nearly fall over, as something vice-like snaked around the fetlock of my right hind hoof.

“...Well,” I carefully said, barely even surprised as I looked back down, and saw the hooves covered in blue spandex holding me in a death-grip, “aren’t you the stubborn gal?”

“Phleash,” Super-Zero winded out around her broken teeth, “schtop, whee cha-”

“I can hear your comrades coming,” I stated in the coldest voice I could manage. “Let go of my hoof, or I will defend myself.”

For just a moment, the mare hesitated.

Then, with eyes hardening enough that they near looked like amethysts, she tightened her grip into a vice; making both her own and my hoof creak.

I bit down a wince, and instead let it out as a sigh. “Props where they’re due, girl; you’ve gotten closer than even those four idiots that doesn’t even know what ‘alicorn’ really means.”

For a moment she just looked confused… then her eyes widened in horror.

The angle was a bit uncomfortable, but I managed to bend my wing at her and still gather power to it; making that lightshow start up again. “You’re a decade or four too young and rosy eyed to tango with me, but decent try. Did that uniform of yours’ proud, I’ll give you that.”

The mare’s eyes turned to pin-pricks as I gathered more power and spread my wing-fingers wide; the crackling power reflected in her wide and terrified eyes.

“Last chance, girl, or you get to see one of the tricks I didn’t show your lieges; up close and personal even.”

The mare came to a conclusion, eyes darting once between me, the portal, and the blocked doors.

Tears streaming she let go with one hoof and took a swing with the other. A decent attempt, but she was so spent that I frankly barely felt it.

“You’ve got guts, kudos for that, kid,” I tipped my head at her, before murmuring out my spell. “Dormius, dorme. Dormius, dorme…”

Mental spells are tricky —and usually highly illegal, business, but sleep spells are an old exception.

Even the most warlock paranoid old-guard of the Wardens will admit that, yes, there are times when a deep, dreamless sleep is the greatest mercy you can offer.

The mare was so spent thanks to her wounds, that lulling her to sleep was barely more effort than blowing out a candle. Heck, her free hoof even clattered to the ground, mid second swing.

I shook my hoof free, and carefully stepped around her.

The journey was no less pleasant the other way, but at least it was over just as quickly as the first time.

And despite suddenly being in freefall over a city I’d never actually been to with a small army in hot pursuit, I couldn’t quite stop a huge grin.

I sucked in a deep breath of salty sea-air and traffic fumes, taking a precious but glorious moment to just bask in the wind, the setting sun and proper magic again.

“...Feels good to be home,” I murmured happily as I spread my wings, and set course for the blue-orange spot on the Golden Gate Bridge. “Now, I just have to keep it that way…”

Author's Note:

Yup, that was Pound Cake in the snow. War and irony are both hell, huh?

For the record, the ‘elemental resistance 5: cold and fire’ of pegasi in this story? I’m going with the D&D 3.5 thing where it’s near immunity to mundane effects like say, blizzards or heat-waves, but against any actual attack grade stuff or magic it’s just a relatively minor mitigation.

In other words to use a Dresden example, Harry’s hoof would have still been cocked in the same situation against a flamethrower; just slightly less so than it was in canon.

I think that works with what we’ve seen in MLP canon without being absurdly game-breaking, while still being interestingly ‘other.’

Oh, and for the muscle joke?

Just citing my source.


An Akeneme is a, I kid you not, Japanese bathroom ghost. They haunt dirty bathrooms, and lick the filth from between the cracks in the walls and ceilings.

Aside from being horrifyingly ugly, they are supposed to be utterly harmless.


For those of you wondering about Apple Bloom?

Let us say she’s got medical leave from a promising career as a Norwegian whaler for physical rehabilitation since growing hooves and storms at sea doesn’t mix, and leave it mostly at that.

She’s doing rather well for herself, but will not be appearing in this story.


Speaking of this story, my muse ran away with things a bit.

There is indeed a chapter already written, but I’m going to need another in between to actually get there.

The whole excursion after the cottage wasn’t there on the planning stage, but I simply had to do it once it popped into my head. Hope you guys found it interesting.

Oh, and please do give feedback on the new way of me distinguishing the ‘two’ Fluttershys. I think small caps give an interesting dimension to things without being as hard to read as tiny text, but I want to hear what you guys think.