• Published 21st Jan 2015
  • 4,050 Views, 198 Comments

The Mailmare - Bad Horse

The Equestrian Postal Carrier's Hoofbook lists three circumstances under which mail service may be suspended. The end of the world is not one of them.

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2. Company

Derpy closed her eyes and stretched her wings out to their fullest, feeling the wind rush over her face. It wasn’t really safe to fly, especially on a clear day. But her gray fur was hardly distinguishable from the dusty sky, and flying always made her feel better. On the ground, or with other ponies, she always felt like she was probably doing something wrong. Now, all she had to do was keep the sun to her two-o-clock and flap.

She shivered, and not from the cold. That farmer had been pointing a rifle at her, Derpy was sure of it.

Delivering the letters had seemed important. Even fun, at first. But now she just wanted to get back to her little tree house in what was left of Ponyville and stay there.

She looked down at the land sliding away below, red and orange in the endless sunset. Everything had been shades of brown and red and orange for so long, it was hard to remember there were other colors. Even her dreams were in browns and reds. Though sometimes, when her mind wandered, she still caught herself thinking that before long the stars would come out.

Behind her, out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something flicker. She looked over her shoulder, but didn’t see anything.

The land below her now was all dry plains and scrub. Nowhere to hide. Off ahead to her left, a few miles away, a cumulus cloud was forming above the edge of a hill, its side glowing red in the reflected light. It was only half a mile off her path. She banked towards it. She could be inside it in two minutes if she pushed it.

She took deeper strokes with her wings, huffing with the effort of pushing great wingfuls of air. A snap at the end of the downbeat and a twist and flick back up, like they’d taught her in flight school, trying not to catch the air on the turn-over. She’d always been a sloppy flier.

She glanced back again and still didn’t see anything. Maybe she’d imagined it.

It wasn’t until she reached the haze around the cloud that she noticed it. Dancing ripples of dark amidst the sparkling vapor off to her left. Coming together to form… a shadow.

But the sun was to her right. That must mean it was her own shadow.

Then she noticed there were two of them, getting closer.

She spread her wings to pull herself up to a stop, and something grabbed her shoulders.

She whinnied in terror, flapped wildly, and bucked, but her legs just flailed wildly beneath her. Somepony had landed on top of her and was now grasping her with all four hooves. She felt a wet nose in her ear.

“Take us down on that hill,” a rough voice said. “That looks like a nice spot for us to get better acquainted.”

Derpy tried to shake him off, twisting her barrel in the air, but he gripped harder. “Ooh,” he said. “Or this works for me too.” He crawled a few inches further forward and wrapped his forelegs securely around her neck. “Now buck like that again.”

Derpy spun and rolled, screaming. His hindlegs were wrapped tightly around her flank. His rear hooves were wedged in under her hips, spreading her legs apart painfully. “Ride ‘em, cowpony!” the voice whooped in her ear.

The ground was coming closer, and she had to level off and just glide, panting.

“You’re overdressed for the occasion, honey,” the stallion said. “Let me get these bags offa you so’s I can slip into something more comfortable.” He reached down under her and began uncinching the straps of her Equestrian Postal Service saddlebags.

Derpy angled down into a dive. Then she tucked in her legs, folded her wings to her side, and fell like a stone.

The stallion still clung to her back. “Hah!” he shouted over the roaring wind. “You think I’ll blink first?”

She gulped and nodded. “‘’Coz my eyes are closed.”

She heard a few foul words, and suddenly she was free, and she spread her wings and banked and she opened her eyes and felt grass whip her belly until she tilted and rose and was gliding over a field. A line of trees rushed at her, and she whistled between them, hopping and swerving like a Wonderbolt. Her flight school instructor would have been proud.

She pulled up abruptly into a tall pine tree and landed near its top. She wrapped her forelegs around its trunk and tried not to move. She peered through its branches, down at the forest floor, up at the sky. Nothing. Behind her, all was silent except the rustling of branches in the wind. Only then did she notice her mailbags were gone.

She clung to the tree for hours. The sun, of course, stayed exactly where it was. The darkness she needed would never come.

Funny, she thought, how ponies had always been afraid of the dark. Only now that it was gone did they miss its protection.

She looked down at the ground fifty feet below, and felt a new sympathy for cats. Flying up here had been easier than getting down would be. The branches were too thick. She considered climbing down. Finally, she climbed up instead, until the tree bent under her weight, then jumped off and flew low over the trees.

She landed not far from where she’d entered the forest, on the other side of the hill above which everything had happened.

If she had any sense, she’d head straight home. Maybe hole up in the forest first, waiting for some some cloud cover, even some rain. Forget the mailbags. She could get more just like them from the wreckage of the Ponyville mail depot.

She’d been hardly more than a filly when Box Jumper had assigned them to her on her first route. She’d been so excited to put them on that somehow she’d gotten completely tangled up in them. He’d laughed, and then apologized, and showed her how to put them on and buckle the straps. He’d been so embarrassed for laughing at her that he went easy on her for days after that.

She sighed and started climbing the hill.

Halfway up, she saw her mailbags, lying in plain view in the grass. She was lucky they’d landed where they did; dense bushes sprung up on either side.

She stopped, sniffed the air, and listened. She heard nothing but the wind.

She stepped forward cautiously. Some letters had fallen when it hit. She began gathering them in her mouth. She was just pushing them back into the left-side bag when she felt a twig break under her left rear hoof, and heard a swish, and she felt something draw tight around her leg and pull it back and up.

Four shapes sprang from the bushes. She leapt up and spread her wings, but the rope around her leg held her fast to the ground. Eight strong forelegs grasped her and pulled her back to the ground. They pinned her wings to her side, and a rope passed under her belly and was thrown across her back and pulled tight, holding her wings there. More ropes went around her other three legs, and the four pegasus stallions yanked them back, pulling her legs slightly apart so that she couldn’t raise one without falling over. They quickly staked the other ends of the ropes into the ground.

Then she realized that they weren’t rope at all, and that was more horrifying than anything she’d thought the stallions had in mind. “Get it off me! Get it OFF!” she screamed. She kicked hard with both hind legs, but only fell and landed hard on her stomach, knocking the wind out of her.

One of the stallions, tall and dark, stepped up to stand over her. He looked down and smiled almost apologetically. “Out here,” he said, “we use every part of a pony.”