• Published 25th May 2015
  • 635 Views, 51 Comments

The Sword of the Helpless - albedoequals1



Brownie Sundae is a simple mercenary. She does her job and keeps her promises. All she wants is to find employment that won't leave a bad taste in her mouth, but when gods and devils conspire to create havoc, what can one pony do?

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Chapter 10: Into the Fire

Brownie peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse of the enemy. The devil was nearly seven feet tall, but so skinny that it probably weighed less than she did. Its entire body was covered with long, razor-sharp spikes. It was facing away from the group and towards two unicorn colts that were locked in a small cage. Brownie looked over her shoulder and nodded at Shadow. He stepped into the open and drew his bow.

As Shadow fired, Brownie charged.

The arrow struck the devil in the back. It spun around, looking more surprised than hurt, just in time for Trixie to fire a volley of arcane blasts directly into its face. The magic seemed to cause no damage at all, but the devil was distracted long enough for Brownie to reach it.

She swung her sword with all her strength, but the blade did not cut the monster in half as she had hoped. The attack did leave a large gash in the creature’s chest, but Brownie’s neck was raked by the nearest spikes as she came close.

The devil responded by lashing out with clawed hands, missing with one, but raking Brownie’s neck again with the other.

“Shadow, wait!” Perfida called as the griffon reached for another arrow. She hovered over his quiver and touched the arrows with a glowing forehoof. “Luminace, strike the evil creature with these arrows!” Then, with a poof, she became ethereal again.

Shadow nocked one of the holy arrows and fired at the devil, only to have the arrow ricochet off of a spike. He quickly tried again, and missed. The griffon growled in frustration.

“Look out, Sundae!” Trixie called as she conjured a small thundercloud and sent it flying towards the barbed devil. It came to rest over the creature’s head and fired a thunderbolt to little effect.

Brownie stepped to the side and swung her sword again, carving another divot in the monster, but lacerating her own legs on its barbed tail.

The devil had recovered from its initial surprise and lunged at Brownie, stabbing its long claws into her sides in spite of her armor. It tried to pull her against its spikey chest, but she shielded herself with her forehooves.

“Hang in there, Brownie, I’ve got you!” Perfida’s voice revealed her location a split second before she coalesced. She looked into the devil’s eyes and shouted, “REPENT!”

The devil staggered backward, dropping the bleeding earth pony and pummeling itself with its own claws.

Shadow's continuing volley of arrows finally connected, and the enemy howled in pain as the arrows sank much deeper than before.

The thundercloud continued its impotent assault as Trixie launched a ball of magic that exploded in the devil’s face with a bright flash, but no obvious effect.

Brownie pursued the retreating devil and struck at its legs with her sword, bloodying herself further on its barbed skin.

Perfida came up behind Brownie and touched her back with a forehoof, closing some of her wounds. The devil lashed out at the succubus in response, stabbing a claw into her haunch. She cried out and fled to her incorporeal form.

Trixie’s horn glowed, but she hesitated and looked towards the caged foals. A determined look came over her face and the glow from her horn intensified. She vanished with a pop and reappeared next to the cage. The two unicorn colts were cowering in the center of the cage with their eyes squeezed tightly shut, but looked up when they heard the sound of Trixie’s teleport.

“T-t-t-trixie!?”

Trixie offered the foals her best stage smile. “Fear not, my young admirers! Trixie has come to rescue you!” She studied the padlock on the cage door. “This simple lock is no match for an escape artist like Trixie!” The lock sprang open in response to a pulse from her horn and she pulled the door open. “Come quickly.”

“Yes Trixie, coming Trixie,” the colts replied, dutifully adhering to either side of the unicorn.

Meanwhile, the barbed devil had recovered from the succubus’ attack on its mind. It held up a claw and fired a pair of fiery beams at Shadow Claw, burning his chest and left wing.

“Hot! Hot, hot, hot!” Shadow fluttered sideways, belatedly trying to dodge the attack.

Brownie sliced upwards with her sword, amputating the devil’s extended claw.

The devil held its crippled limb against itself and flailed at Brownie with its tail and remaining claw. The spiked tail slashed her legs and swept them out from under her. She fell flat and twisted around to point her sword at the devil just as it tried to crush her with its barbed chest. The monster’s weight pushed the sword deep into its guts before it stopped.

Brownie scrambled out from under the devil just before it fell the rest of the way, severing its own spine. Shadow stepped up next to her and fired an arrow into the monster’s brain. It stiffened, and then went limp.

For a moment, they both watched the devil to make sure it was really dead, then they looked at each other.

Brownie groaned and gently lay down on the cave floor. She held up one of her lacerated legs. “Barbed devils suck,” she commented.

“I’m sorry—“ Shadow started to say.

“Stop doing that,” Brownie cut him off, “it’s not your fault. None of this is your fault.”

“If I hadn’t talked you into exploring the mine—“

“No,” she stopped him again, “I’m an adult; I chose for myself.” Before Shadow could argue, she continued, “I decided to go with you on the job. It was the spider’s fault you were unconscious. It was those other adventurers that threw us in the hole and shot me. “

“But if—“

“I messed with the sword before you did. I said we should follow the devil to Equestria. I charged the timberwolves. I accepted this job from Princess Luna. I walked across the bridge. I made the call to come in here without talking to Luna first. I tried to swordfight with a creature made out of spikes.” She punctuated her point by poking Shadow with a bloody forehoof on each word. “Not. Your. Fault.”

Shadow nodded, but didn’t look her in the eye.

“If anything, I’ve been getting you into trouble. You have been more loyal and honest than any pony I’ve met.”

Perfida rematerialized next to her, showing no trace of the claw marks in her haunch. “I’m sorry I bailed on you. Here, let me fix that.” She poured out her healing magic on the pair until no sign of their wounds remained.

“Aren’t you worried about running out of that?” Brownie asked, getting slowly back to her hooves.

“Well, I don’t know all that much about being an oracle yet,” Perfida admitted, “but I’m pretty sure I still have more healing magic. Besides, without you two, the rest of us are doomed.”

Trixie was breathing rapidly and staring at the deceased devil with unfocused eyes.

The taller of the two colts looked up at Trixie. “Were you scared, Great and Powerful Trixie?”

“Trixie’s not scared of anything smaller than an ursa minor,” his companion rebuked him.

“Trixie was scared,” the magician admitted, “Trixie has never been more scared in her life.” She stepped away from the colts and turned to face them. “I know I treated you two rather badly the last time we met; I was still mad at you for what happened with the ursa, but it was really my fault. I’ve been wishing for a chance to make it better ever since. Do you…forgive me?”

The colts were staring at Trixie with a mixture of awe and confusion, but they both nodded.

“Trixie, do you think you could pull my sword out of that thing?” Brownie asked. “I can’t get close enough without stabbing myself on all those spines.”

Trixie grabbed the sword with her magic, but it was trapped under the devil’s corpse. She thought for a moment before surrounding the whole body with her magic and attempting to roll it over. The monster was not only heavy, but also very not-round; by the time it had moved enough to free the sword, Trixie was covered with sweat and panting.

Brownie reclaimed the sword Trixie levitated in front of her. “Thanks, I really didn’t want to cuddle that thing again.”

“Sparkle probably would have lifted that thing straight up and pulled the sword out without looking,” Trixie grumbled.

“Twilight Sparkle?” Shadow asked. “We heard about her. Isn’t she a princess and one of the most powerful sorcerers in your world?”

Trixie sat on her haunches and used her magic to smooth her mane. “Twilight Sparkle was selected as a filly by Princess Celestia herself to be her personal student, but I didn’t find that out until after I had publicly challenged her.” Trixie looked at the others to see they were all watching her expectantly. “Ugh, fine. I was performing a magic show in Ponyville, and some of the locals were heckling me, so I made up a story about defeating a huge monster in hopes of intimidating them into leaving me alone. Instead, three of the townsponies challenged me to a competition. I humiliated all three of them by turning their stunts against them and became overconfident, challenging a random pony in the crowd to face me like they had. She declined to show her power and I thought I had won.”

“That night, these two,” she gestured at the colts, “went into the Everfree forest and brought back the very monster I had claimed to defeat. I tried to chase the monster off, but I was not strong enough. The pony I had challenged earlier turned out to be none other than Twilight Sparkle, personal student of the princess, bearer of the Element of Magic, and the most powerful unicorn in the last thousand years. She defeated the monster without even hurting it, and if that wasn’t enough, she levitated several multi-ton objects simultaneously and without being able to see them.”

“After seeing the comparison I had foolishly demanded, the ponies of Ponyville laughed me out of town. My show fell into disfavor and I blamed Sparkle for my misfortune, so I searched for a way to become more powerful than her. I eventually found a cursed artifact that gave me great power, but quickly corrupted my personality. I was briefly able to defeat Sparkle and ruled Ponyville for a few days, but she tricked me into parting with the artifact and I fled in disgrace once again.”

“Twilight Sparkle deserved none of my resentment and quickly forgave me afterwards. Since then I have been trying to repair my reputation and improve myself through legitimate means. Someday, I hope to do something that will impress even the ‘Princess of Friendship’ as they call her now.”

She pointed a hoof at the two foals. “Spread this around and I’ll turn you into frogs.”

They gulped and nodded.

Shadow turned to Perfida. “Okay, Bats, which way out of here?”

“I…uh…” the succubus stammered with growing alarm, “I was just following the colts’ thoughts; I don’t remember which tunnels we chose.”

Brownie facehooved. “We may need some more light.”

Trixie touched her glowing horn to Brownie’s armor, causing it to glow as well.

“I can help with that.” Perfida touched Shadow’s pack, creating another light source.

“Trixie doesn’t mean to pry, but your teeth look…unusual.”

Brownie self-consciously closed her mouth tightly.

“I noticed that too, yesterday,” Perfida added. “They’re not your original teeth, are they?”

“No. I got my face kicked in by an antean, and the dwarves built me a new one.”

“Is that why you speak strangely?” Trixie probed.

Shadow rushed to her defense. “Hey, you’re one to talk! She speaks just fine!”

“My hero,” Brownie deadpanned. “But yes, I’m still not used to the new teeth, so it makes me talk funny.” She inspected the room briefly. “Let’s see, when we came into the cave, we went left first, so if we always take the right-most option on the way out, we should be able to find the entrance.”

“Stay close to Trixie,” the showmare instructed the foals, “and don’t make a sound.”

Brownie led the group back into the tunnel, her sword held in her mouth.

* * *

Princess Celestia woke to a timid knock on her door. She opened her eyes to see that it was still dark. “Who is it?”

“Luna.”

Celestia quickly got out of bed, turned on the lights and opened the door, revealing a distressed-looking Princess Luna. “What’s wrong?”

“I have a confession to make, sister.”

The day princess ushered her sister into the room and closed the door. “I’m listening.”

“Nine days past, an earth pony and a griffon rescued three fillies from timberwolves in the Everfree forest. The pony was badly hurt, and the fillies asked me in their dreams to see to her welfare. Her injuries were such that I could not visit her dreams until almost a week later, but when I did, she told a most peculiar tale.”

Celestia nodded. “Go on.”

“She said her name was Brownie Sundae and claimed to come from another country that did not know the princesses of Equestria. Miss Sundae was the pony that warned me of the monster that I spoke to you about.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “I already knew most of this, what is it you feel the need to confess?”

“When Twilight Sparkle failed to respond to your letter, I went to speak with her in person, but her castle was empty.” Luna scuffed a hoof on the floor. “Not knowing what else to do I went to the two strangers and…hired them to find the monster.”

“What!?” Celestia’s wings opened reflexively. “They are not even citizens and you sent them to face an unknown danger?”

“There is more,” Luna said quietly. She recounted what Brownie had told her the previous night, and added, “It is currently an hour past midnight and I have been unable to find Sundae in the dreamscape; I fear she may have come to harm.”

Celestia frowned. “Do you know where they are?”

“Last night they were in the Everfree forest and traveling towards Rambling Rock Ridge.”

Celestia remained silent for a moment. “Continue to watch the night,” she said at last, “I will go look for them.” Her horn glowed brightly and she vanished with a pop.

As Luna returned to the throne room, she could hear the night guard mobilizing all around the palace. She passed several thestrals running the other way. They stopped to salute, but she waved them on. “Keep my sister safe.”

Author's Note:

Luna's still new to this whole send-them-on-a-quest-and-hope-they-learn-a-valuable-lesson-about-friendship-instead-of-getting-killed thing. Fortunately, the expert is readily available.