• Published 27th Dec 2014
  • 1,325 Views, 56 Comments

Moonwing - Samey90

A filly gets murdered in the bat pony district of Canterlot. Scootaloo and Archer take the case.

  • ...

Wild Hunt

The time has come. They may be good at hiding, but there’s one place where they’ll just have to be. They know, however, that those caves may be their trap. They’ll do everything to fight us; to slow us down till the ritual is complete.

In their pride, they think they’ll be able to control this thing. They’re like a mouse saying that an erupting volcano worships it. If they actually manage to summon it, it won’t be only Stellar Dust who’ll be dead.

We all will be.

Schwalbe threw her notebook on the table and started to search through the rubbish littering her house.

“Too bad I can’t go with you,” Archer said. Over the last few days, her health improved a lot, but she still couldn’t walk much. Her legs were clearly thinner than they used to be and Scootaloo could see a shade of ribs under her skin. Even after walking out of the room she had to stop to catch a breath.

“You’d better stay here and recover,” Scootaloo replied. “This dungeon... I’m afraid ponies won’t be the only thing we’ll be fighting there.”

“Maybe.” Archer shrugged. “Maybe that’d be better? I’m not sure if I can shoot a pony again.”

“Unlike this thing, ponies at least can be shot.” Scootaloo shook her head. “I hope it won’t come to this, though.”

Archer sighed, shaking her head. “So far, they didn’t seem like they were going to give up,” she said. “I’m afraid that you’re in for a battle.”

“Maybe,” Scootaloo replied. “But that won’t stop us from saving Stellar.”

Dark clouds gathered above Canterlot. The local weather team was sent to dissipate them, but the rain was a clear indication that they failed miserably. Scootaloo looked into the sky and stifled a curse.

Charge looked at the pony in the carriage and shook his head. “Boysenberry, I told you to stay home,” he said. “You were stabbed recently!”

“I’ll be your mission control,” Boysenberry replied. Her side was bandaged and she was sitting in the carriage in a strange way, but her tone was firm. “There won’t be many things to do.”

“Still, I’m afraid that–”

“All the healthy guys will be needed down there,” Boysenberry said. “I won’t be in the direct combat.”

Charge said nothing. He waved his hoof and looked around the bat pony district.

“It’s awfully quiet today, isn’t it?” Riot Shield muttered. “Either they don’t like rain, or they know something.”

“I hope Schwalbe will tell us what’s going on.” Scootaloo checked her crossbow. “Where’s she?”

“Had to ask some ponies about something,” Schwalbe said, landing silently next to them. Her pupils narrowed when she saw a group of about thirty guards standing in the narrow street. “Not good.”

“What’s not good?” Charge asked, his face red. “Remember that I’m a commander here.”

Schwalbe bared her fangs, but hid them quickly. “Too much to be silent. Too few to fight.”

“I can assure you that we can be silent,” Charge muttered.

“Empty street doesn’t seem to ring a bell...” Schwalbe shook her head and turned away from Charge. “We need to split into two groups.”

“Split?” Scootaloo asked. “Not the best idea...”

Schwalbe sighed. “Can’t go all at once it you want to surprise them.” She trotted down the street, towards the entrance of the cave. The guards followed her.

The labyrinth of provisional houses seemed empty. Scootaloo could, however, hear some faint noises and occasionally see an eye of some bat pony watching them through a hole in the wall.

Finally, they stood before the entrances of narrow tunnels. Schwalbe walked to them and sniffed the air. Then she gave out a high-pitched scream, her ears moving frantically to catch every trace of the echo.

“You go there,” she told Charge, pointing at one of the entrances. “Take unicorns with you. First choose the left corridor twice, then go to the right.”

“How can you know that?” Charge asked.

Schwalbe spread her right wing. Charge winced, looking at it – the scar was suggesting that the whole wing had been torn to shreds once and provisionally sewn together, before some more skilled surgeon removed the stitches and patched the wing up.

“I got out of the bottom of a changeling nest with that, using only my ears,” Schwalbe said. “You can trust me.” She turned to Scootaloo. “Earth ponies and pegasi go with me here.” She pointed at another corridor. “We’ll engage them first and the unicorns will flank them. Just listen to my call.”

Charge opened his mouth to say something, but Schwalbe was already walking towards the cave. Scootaloo followed her, along with other guards – nine earth ponies and four pegasi, carrying crossbows and wearing metal shoes on their front legs to increase the strength of their punches.

“Take those off,” Schwalbe muttered. “Too much noise.”

Groaning, the guards took the shoes off and put them in their saddlebags. Scootaloo turned on her earpiece.

“Boysenberry, can you hear me?” she asked.

“Hardly.” Boysenberry’s voice was barely audible. “I’m afraid we’re gonna lose the connection soon. In case you don’t come back, I’ll send the second group soon.”

“Copy,” Scootaloo replied. “Let’s hope it won’t be necessary.”

Schwalbe smirked. “The second group will only have to clean the bodies.”

“We’re catching them alive.” Scootaloo frowned. “They need to be punished for their deeds.”

Schwalbe chuckled. “Oh, please. They won’t get an army of lawyers if they’re dead. Need to know your enemy. Those guys are not your typical thugs.”

They trotted down the corridor. Even though they were trying to walk silently, every step was echoing through the caves, and coming back to them. Boysenberry’s weak voice soon disappeared behind the layer of static. Scootaloo sighed and turned the radio off.

The air around them grew colder. The guards started to whisper to each other, glancing at Schwalbe, who was walking forward, occasionally squeaking and listening to the echo.

Finally, they reached a place where one of the walls had partially collapsed, leaving a large window in the side of the corridor. Behind it, they could her a faint echo of wind. Schwalbe stopped and raised her hoof. “We’re close,” she muttered. “You may now put on your metal thingies.” She produced a large hoof-mounted blade from her saddlebags. “We’re gonna go hunting.”

Scootaloo frowned. “Remember that we need to catch them alive, Schwalbe.”

“Well, it depends on how they’ll behave,” Schwalbe replied, swinging the blade. “If I don’t like their attitude, they’re dead. That’s my policy.”

“Your policy will get you arrested.” Scootaloo muttered. “And I won’t be able to protect you.”

“Who’s protecting whom?” Schwalbe crawled to the edge of the cliff. “They’re already there,” she whispered. “May find a good use for your crossbow.”

Scootaloo leaned from behind the rock. Below them there was a large cave – even larger than the one where they’d found Stellar Dust. On the opposite wall there was something that looked like a collapsed entrance of some tunnel; in front of it, a large piece of white limestone was lying on its side. Around it, there was a crowd of ponies, all clad in grey cloaks. Scootaloo slowly realised that the hum she was hearing wasn’t wind – it was a faint echo of hundreds of whispers. She started to count them unconsciously.

“One hundred fifty two,” Schwalbe muttered. “Not bad. When it starts, they’ll mostly get in each other’s way.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure…” Scootaloo watched the crowd more carefully. Many of them had weapons hidden under their cloaks. She also spotted Stellar – the filly was standing next to a tall pony, staggering slightly. Even though she wasn’t tied or magically restrained, she didn’t try to run away and Scootaloo thought that she probably had been given some sedatives.

Suddenly, Schwalbe patted Scootaloo’s back and gestured at the group, pointing at the corridor they came from. They quickly retreated there, while Schwalbe took off and grabbed the stalactite with her tail.

A single pony in grey cloak walked from the other tunnel. Scootaloo stretched her hooves, ready to attack him if he walked towards them, but suddenly, Schwalbe descended from the ceiling right behind him. A quick move of a long blade attached to her hoof and the pony fell to the ground with a slit throat, choking on his blood.

Schwalbe landed on the ground next to him and watched him struggling in death throes, before stabbing him to end his suffering.

Scootaloo walked to the bat pony. “I told you something about killing them!”

“Yeah.” Schwalbe wiped the blade into the pony’s cloak. “He’d scream if you tried to arrest him. Now he won’t.” She gestured Scootaloo to the edge of the tunnel. “It starts soon. The guy in the middle. Hope that good aim runs in the family, or else…”

Scootaloo gulped. She walked to the edge and looked into the cave. Two ponies were leading Stellar to the limestone. A large pony was awaiting her there, levitating a curved knife. Something else drew Scootaloo’s attention – a large crossbow hanging from a harness he was wearing under the cloak.

“He shot Archer,” Scootaloo whispered, grabbing her crossbow and lying by the edge of the cliff with it. “After I shoot, we’ll attack them. Pegasi should try to get Stellar out of it.”

The guards nodded, preparing their weapons. Scootaloo looked through the scope. Now she could see every crack in the limestone, as well as the horn of the cult’s priest protruding from under the hood. She held her breath, watching as the two acolytes put Stellar on the altar, and set the crosshair on the chest of the pony above her.

She was aware that a shot to the head would mean an instant death, but she wasn’t sure about her aim. Also, her crossbow was a heavy model, designed to fire accurately at large distances. Reloading it would take ages, but at the distance she was from the altar, a second shot simply wouldn’t be needed.

The masked priest walked to the altar and raised the knife. Scootaloo could hear her own heartbeat echoing in her ears. The crossbow trembled in her hoof, but she held it steady.

The crowd cheered and at the same moment, Scootaloo pulled the trigger. The bolt flew through the cave, its whistling drowning in the noise. It hit the priest’s right leg, scraping the bone and nearly piercing the flesh completely.

The knife rang on the floor, released from the magic field. The crowd looked around, but it was too late – earth ponies jumped from behind their cover, right on the heads of the nearby cultists. First couple of them fell unconscious after the heavy blows of the armoured hooves, unable to draw their weapons. Chasing the cultists, the guards rushed forward.

Scootaloo darted forward, her gaze focused on the altar. One of the acolytes was helping the priest up, while the other grabbed Stellar Dust. Before they could run away, however, the acolyte staggered and fell down, struck by a rock.

“Gotta use everything we have!” Schwalbe exclaimed, throwing a few more rocks at the cultists. Scootaloo dived towards the altar and grabbed the filly.

Suddenly, a powerful burst of magic threw them both off the stone. Scootaloo rolled on the floor of the cave and hit a stalagmite. Feeling the bruises quickly forming on her back and right wing, she stood up slowly to face the tall and thin unicorn in front of her.

“Fleur, huh?” Scootaloo asked, looking at her opponent. “I know it’s you even with that cloak. And I’m pretty sure I know who I just shot…”

The pony threw her head backwards, letting the hood slide off of it. “Yes, it’s me,” she said, producing a knife from under her cloak. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to finish it…” She walked to Stellar Dust, who was sitting on the ground, turning her head.

“No, you won’t!” Scootaloo darted towards the unicorn. Fleur charged her horn, but Scootaloo was ready. The spell burned a few feathers off her left wing, but she managed to tackle the older mare. The knife fell out of her hoof and disappeared in some hole.

“You think I’ll let the guards stop us?” Fleur laughed, kicking Scootaloo off of her. “Look at us! How many of us are here! And those are only the most important ones!” She screamed when Scootaloo punched her, sending her towards the altar.

“I’m pretty sure Princess Celestia won’t be looking at who you are…” Scootaloo muttered, flying towards Fleur. She crouched in mid-air, ready to kick the unicorn with her hind hooves.

Suddenly, she saw a flash of light and noticed Fleur charging her horn. She spread her wings to dodge, but they were too close to each other. Fleur’s magic engulfed her, causing her to fall into darkness.

Schwalbe let out a powerful scream. She was standing on the top of the altar, surrounded by acolytes, protecting the priest from her. The headless body of one of them was lying in front of her. The other was coughing, trying to stop blood pouring from a large gash in his stomach. Yet another was sitting in some distance from the others, staring at two bite wounds in his hoof.

Schwalbe was panting heavily. There was a long cut in her hind leg, and the magic of one of the unicorns burned fur off her right ear. Her blade was covered in blood; its mount was a bit loose on her hoof, but she quickly tightened it.

She bared her fangs, drops of an enemy’s blood dripping from them. “Come on!” she yelled at the wounded priest. “Are you gonna hide behind them?”

Her ears shot up and she turned back to face a grey pegasus. The momentum of the collision threw her off the altar. She spread her wings, trying to get on the top of her opponent.

“Icewind…” Schwalbe hissed, looking into the eyes of her opponent. They were flying above the battlefield; the cultists who hadn’t been caught off-guard by the attackers, formed a ring around the altar. The guards were trying to break their ranks, but there were too few of them.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Icewind replied, trying to stab Schwalbe with a blade attached to her wing. “And you’re dead, bloodsucker.”

Schwalbe kicked Icewind in the stomach, knocking her back. She stood on her hooves, spreading her wings and standing on her hind legs to make better use of the blade on her hoof. “I’ll put you in the fridge, like that friend of yours,” she hissed.

Icewind chuckled. “I hardly think so,” she said. “I outsmarted you all and stole that filly right from under your nose. I–“ Suddenly, her voice changed into a high-pitched shriek, when Schwalbe tackled her, cutting off one-third of her wing. The wing blade fell down, along with red-stained feathers. Schwalbe punched Icewind with her other hoof, causing her to fall on her wounded wing.

“For such a smartass, you talk too much.” Schwalbe pointed the blade at Icewind’s throat. “I’ll cure you from that habit…”

Icewind’s eyes widened when she started to shudder. “Don’t kill me!” she screamed. “I… I helped the guards, remember?”

“And then you betrayed them,” Schwalbe stated calmly. “Outsmarted, as you called it.”

Icewind trembled. She felt warmth spreading from her crotch and realised that her bladder gave up. “B-but I wanted to help you again!” she exclaimed in a high-pitched voice. “I… I would stop them… I wanted to do that but then you all appeared and…” She paused, seeing that Schwalbe lowered her blade.

“A notorious traitor,” Schwalbe muttered, more to herself than to anypony else. “Then, you’ll get a reward a traitor deserves.”

Icewind screamed and choked when Schwalbe stabbed her in the exposed stomach and moved the blade to the side, cutting it open. The bat pony withdrew the weapon, watching Icewind cowering and clutching to her abdomen.

“From the looks of it, you have fifteen to thirty minutes for thinking about your life,” Schwalbe said, watching the blade with disgust. “Maybe less, if you find someone merciful enough to cut off your head. Auf wiedersehen, my dear Icewind.”

The battle continued. Ponies clad in grey cloaks managed to regroup and were now pushing the guards towards the wall of the cave. Wounded and dead ponies from both sides were lying on the floor. Pegasi were circling above the battlefield, diving at the opponents and punching them with their hooves. Some of them were fighting each other, chasing the enemies around stalactites.

Scootaloo blinked and opened her eyes. The world was spinning around her and she nearly collapsed again. A tall silhouette with a filly on her back was slowly disappearing in the distance.

“Schwalbe!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “She’s running away!”

“Schwalbe’s not here...” somepony muttered, standing above Scootaloo. “Pretty sure she won’t mind if you get hurt...”

Scootaloo barely managed to roll on the floor, when an axe hit the rock, sending sparks around. The tall stallion raised his weapon again to strike her, but at the same time a magic beam hit him in the back.

“Hello!” Riot Shield exclaimed. “Figured you’d need help.”

Scootaloo stood up and looked around. The group of unicorn guards led by Charge was flanking the cultists, striking them with spells. Pegasi and earth ponies who saw it gave out a powerful scream; they charged at their opponents, shooting at them with crossbows or beating them with iron-clad hooves.

“Fleur!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “She ran away with Stellar Dust!”

“Where?” Riot Shield asked.

Scootaloo looked around and gulped. “They’re going deeper into the caves!”

They ran together, tripping over the stones. They saw Schwalbe, flying in a different direction. Her fur was covered in blood, but she seemed unharmed; she raised the blade attached to her hoof and waved at Scootaloo.

“Fleur!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “We need to catch her!”

“Chasing their leader,” Schwalbe muttered. “They’re taking him to the surface.” She flapped her wings and flew away.

Scootaloo shrugged and ran with Riot Shield into the small corridor. They could see a faint light of Fleur’s magic far in front of them, flickering and disappearing behind the turns.

“Faster,” Scootaloo whispered. “I’d rather not learn what’s at the end of this corridor...”

The beam of Fleur’s magic destroyed the nearby stalagmite, spraying debris on them. Riot cursed under his breath as they ran faster.

The tunnel widened a bit and Scootaloo realised that she could fly in it. She spread her wings and flew behind Fleur, gritting her teeth. Riot lit his horn brightly, helping Scootaloo see the obstacles.

Fleur turned back and aimed her horn at Scootaloo, who spread her wings, trying to slow down. The blast of magic destroyed part of the ceiling. Scootaloo darted forward, dodging the falling rocks, and tackled the unicorn. Stellar Dust fell off Fleur’s back.

“This is the end,” Scootaloo muttered, pinning Fleur to the ground. “We caught all your friends and we won’t let you go anywhere with this filly...”

Fleur laughed. “I don’t think so. Do you know where we are?” She looked around. “It’s his kingdom. Since the day I was bitten... I knew that I had to find a way to put this power into a good use.”

“You’ll tell that to a shrink.” Scootaloo produced the hoofcuffs and a magic-blocking ring. “Riot, get Stellar outta here and let’s go!”

“Scootaloo...” Riot’s voice was weak and seemed to be coming from a great distance.

Scootaloo looked around and saw green gas seeping from below the floor and the walls. It was slowly engulfing her and Fleur, creeping towards Stellar as well. Riot grabbed the filly and pulled her further away, but the gas was slowly surrounding him.

The sound of hoofcuffs clinging snapped Scootaloo out of trance. She looked down and saw that Fleur cuffed them together. Scootaloo looked for the keys, but saw that Fleur levitated them away from her.

“You’re going to meet him with me...” Fleur licked her lips and smiled, throwing the key away.

Schwalbe took a deep breath and opened her eyes. The system of caves beneath Canterlot had many entrances. The one she’d just used was a small hole on the top of the hill – Schwalbe had to crawl the last few hundred of metres to get out of it.

She spread her wings and took off into the night sky. Canterlot at night was full of lights, but the bat pony district was a dark spot on the image of the town. Schwalbe lowered her flight, scanning the area and looking for the escaping group.

Finally, she noticed them. A group of ponies dragging their injured leader across the street was slow and easy to be seen. Schwalbe smirked and raised her blade, diving at them.

Suddenly, she felt a small pin prick in her wing. She looked at it and saw a small dart with red feathers in it. “What the–”

Her vision blurred. She lowered her blade and spread her wings, dropping on the street. Her muscles stopped responding to the commands from her brain; her wings fell loose as she skid to a halt in front of the pony who shot her.

“Hello.” Boysenberry trotted to her, limping. “I’m afraid you’re arrested.”

“Are you... with them?” Schwalbe shuddered, barely able to form words.

“Oh no, they’re arrested too.” Boysenberry walked to the side, allowing Schwalbe to see the guards surrounding the group of cultists. “You, however...” She lowered her head to Schwalbe. “They found a pony in the caves, eviscerated with something that looks awfully similar to this thing you’re wearing. Once Charge managed to contact me, he put you on a ‘wanted’ list.”

“It was...” Schwalbe’s tongue went stiff.

“Here, let me take it.” Boysenberry unstrapped Schwalbe’s blade. “The court will decide if it was self-defence. They also have some more mysterious murders they’ll love to explain...”

Schwalbe could only move her eyes. However, the way she looked at Boysenberry caused the guard to shudder.

“We’ll talk about it later,” Boysenberry muttered, limping away. “Let’s see how about those...”

The four cultists were sitting silently, each of them restrained by the guards. The fifth one was lying on the ground. Two paramedics Boysenberry had called were looking at his hoof.

“Mr. Fancy Pants,” Boysenberry muttered. “What a nice meeting...”

“You have no right!” Fancy Pants exclaimed. “I’m going to–”

“You were caught with a bolt in your hoof, running away from the cave where almost two hundred ponies saw you trying to sacrifice a filly.” Boysenberry chuckled. “The crossbow we find with you is similar to one that was used to shoot a guard. We’ll check how similar it was...” Boysenberry looked into Fancy Pants’ eyes. “I’m afraid your only right now is the right to remain silent...”

Scootaloo struggled to pull Fleur away from the cloud of gas. She couldn’t see Riot Shield anywhere.

“Riot?” she asked. “Run away with Stellar!” She coughed. “Don’t wait for me!”

“I can’t!” Riot shouted. “If it gets you, it won’t just kill you! Remember Berry Punch?”

“Run!” Scootaloo pulled Fleur, but she lay on the ground, laughing maniacally. “Or there’ll be four Berries here, instead of just two...”

She sighed with relief, hearing Riot’s hoofsteps. Breathing heavily, she made one more attempt to pull Fleur with her.

“It’s no use,” Fleur muttered. “We’ll serve him together...”

“Never!” Scootaloo exclaimed. She looked around. They were completely engulfed in gas, but she felt that her mind was clean. Fleur noticed that.

“Don’t worry about the gas,” she said. “Look there.”

Scootaloo looked into the darkness in front of them. At first, she didn’t see anything – just the limestone walls of the uneven corridor, full of stalactites and stalagmites.

Then, she finally noticed it. Her eyes widened and she froze, staring into the thin outline slowly emerging from the darkness. Maybe it was more than just an outline – Scootaloo felt that her brain was trying to block it out, to stop itself from watching it. And yet, she couldn’t turn her gaze away.

The sound of Fleur’s magic barely reached Scootaloo’s ears. Time around them seemed to slow to a crawl. Even the light needed a few seconds to reach Scootaloo’s retinas, causing her vision to become red-tinted.

“Let’s play a game.” Fleur’s voice seemed low and slowed down. “He’s weak and will need some time to reach us.” She pointed at the hoofcuffs and Scootaloo saw that the chain connecting them melted. “You can either stay here trying to ‘save’ me, or run away...” Fleur smirked, “... forever blaming yourself for that...”

“No!” Scootaloo exclaimed, trying to drag Fleur out. A thought appeared in her mind, but she rejected it with a shudder.

“Leave me,” Fleur said with a chuckle. “I’m going to become more powerful once he reaches me...”

Scootaloo looked at Fleur, sitting by the entrance of the cave. She then looked into the entrance of the cave. The drone in her ears deafened her. Her vision blurred; the edges of everything around her drowned in static. Buzzing filled her ears, as if she were surrounded by moths.

Scootaloo screamed, covering her ears. Buzzing changed into a thousand of whispers, each telling her what to do – the very thought she’d rejected earlier now came back, taking over her body.

The rock somehow found its way to Scootaloo’s hoof. She picked it up, barely seeing it. She raised it to her face and watched it carefully, trying to estimate its weight.

Then she threw it at Fleur.

As if in slow motion, she watched the rock hitting Fleur’s head, cutting the white skin and sending droplets of blood spraying around. The laughter silenced as Fleur fell to the ground. Scootaloo jumped to her, grabbing the rock and hitting the unicorn repeatedly. The whispers changed; voices were now screaming in her ears. The outline in front of her trembled and, although she couldn’t see it, she had a feeling that she was being watched.

“It won’t... have... any... use... of your body...” Scootaloo panted, crushing Fleur’s skull with the rock. Warm tissues stuck to her fur, but she didn’t care. She knew from Dr. Stable’s story how Berry Punch’s body looked when they found her. The damage had to be as big as possible.

Fleur’s body jerked and hung limply in Scootaloo’s hooves. The pegasus raised her head and screamed, her eyes widening. Now she was staring at it, but she could barely see it; thousands of years of evolution didn’t prepare her mind to perceive it properly.

The rock fell out of Scootaloo’s hoof, splashing in the puddle of blood. Scootaloo backpedalled, sliding on the wet stones. The deafening drone slowly left her ears and the time went back to its usual speed. Still screaming, Scootaloo turned back and flew up the tunnel.