• 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 12: Clean Up

Shadow felt lost. All of his hopes and plans meant nothing now. He wanted to be a coward and run back to his parents, but he couldn’t do that either.

A background thought broke him out his sulk; Trixie and the foals might still be alive. He looked at Perfida, but her fight with the barbed devil had left her in no condition to help anyone.

“Take it easy,” he said to the demon, “I’ll go find the others.”

Now that the fight was over, he was beginning to remember that a broken wing really hurts. He walked gingerly over to the cloud of mist and said to the group of guards standing nearby, “Can someone clear this mist? There might be someone inside.”

The guards looked to the alicorn for approval and she nodded. The mist was cleared in a matter of moments, revealing nothing but a torn and bloody cape and a piece of rope. No, not them too!

Shadow pulled back from the brink of despair when he noticed the rope seemed to be attached to the wall at a rather unnatural angle. Trixie had said she was an illusionist, could this be a trick?

Shadow walked up to the rope and gave it an experimental tug. The end of the rope appeared to be just touching the wall, but it resisted the strongest force Shadow could muster to pull it off.

He looked again at where the rope was attached and nearly had a heart attack.

“Oh, hello, Claw.” Trixie’s head and neck were sticking out of the blank stone wall right above where the rope was attached. “Trixie is glad to see you survived. Is it safe for the foals to come out?”

Shadow nodded slowly. “There are some soldiers here with…um…”

“Celestia,” the alicorn volunteered. “I only just learned of your arrangement with my sister. I would not have approved this course of action, but the fault is not yours.” She glanced towards Brownie’s body. “I am sorry for your loss.”

Shadow wanted to accuse the princess of using meaningless comfort words when she couldn’t possibly understand how he felt. He looked her in the eyes and saw that she did understand, all too well. “Thanks,” he muttered.

Trixie had gone back into the wall and now returned holding one of the foals by the nape of the neck in her teeth. Shadow reached up and grabbed him in his talons and set him on the ground. They repeated the process with the second colt, and finally Trixie wrapped her legs around the rope and slid to the ground. Her mane was in complete disarray, she was bleeding from a set of gashes in one flank, and she was not using any magic, but she seemed to have retained most of her poise. She grabbed her tattered cape off the ground with her teeth and slung it across her back, ran a forehoof through her mane and turned to face the princess.

“These two colts live in Ponyville, your majesty. Do you suppose you could have some of your guard return them to their homes?”

Celestia nodded. “Of course, Miss Lulamoon. Night Cap, Moon Walker, I trust that to you.” The named guards saluted and each put a foal on their backs. Celestia’s horn glowed briefly and the four disappeared with a pop. She looked back at Trixie and smiled. “Well done.”

Trixie gaped, speechless.

Celestia walked over to where Perfida sat. The demon-pony’s red coat was streaked with black blood and marked by numerous half-healed gashes. She was touching Brownie’s corpse repeatedly with a glowing hoof and mumbling to herself, “…the devil’s poison. The wounds couldn’t heal until the curse was dispelled. I should have known that.” She glanced over her shoulder and gasped when she saw the alicorn standing behind her. “I’m not a threat, I’m with them!” She pointed frantically at Shadow.

Celestia fixed the succubus with a piercing gaze. The demon quailed and shrunk back, but did not dare to speak again. “My sister told me about a ‘reformed demon’ that was with these mercenaries, is that you?”

“Y-yes, your majesty.”

The princess smiled reassuringly. “As long as you are willing to abide by the laws of our land, we welcome you as a resident. One can never have too many friends.”

“Of course, your majesty. Thank you, your majesty,” Perfida babbled.

Shadow reached out a claw and closed Brownie’s eyes.

“Trixie is surprised that went so well. How did you defeat…” Trixie came up behind Shadow and looked over his shoulder. “Oh. Oh dear. Tr—I’m very sorry, Shadow. I was worried about the colts; I thought you trained warriors would be alright.” She looked at the ground awkwardly. “I’m not sure what I could have done…”

Shadow shook his head. “No, it’s good you saved the chicks. None of us were close enough to do anything to help them.” He didn’t see any point in telling Trixie that the devil she had hidden from had turned around and killed Brownie instead; that would just make her feel guilty, and there was plenty of guilt going around already.

He looked towards where the magic sword had fallen. “I wasn’t paying attention, how did she get the sword to work?”

“She jumped in front of us while I was trying to heal you,” Perfida replied, “even though she was unarmed. The sword jumped halfway out of the sheath by itself and she just grabbed it.” The succubus noticed that Shadow’s wing was dragging on the ground. “Oh, I missed your wing. Brace yourself, this will hurt.”

Without waiting for an answer, she grabbed the tip of the wing in her mouth and pulled it straight with a sickening crunch. Shadow screamed and fell prone, clawing the ground with his talons. Perfida illuminated her forehoof again and rubbed it along the leading edge of the wing. Shadow continued to writhe for a few more seconds, and then lay still.

“I wasn’t ready!” he gasped. “It felt like you were tearing my wing right off!”

“I said it would hurt, didn’t I?”

Shadow gingerly flapped the wing. “It’s…it’s fine now…thanks.”

“That’s all I’ve got, so be careful.”

Celestia and her guards had looked taken aback at the demon’s bedside manner, but when Shadow relaxed, they relaxed too. “We should get you out of this cave,” Celestia said. “We can return you to Ponyville, or take you back to Canterlot, with us.”

Trixie looked undecided and Perfida looked to Shadow for a decision.

Shadow stared at the ground for a while, and then sighed, “Ponyville, I guess. We…know some of the ponies there. Give me a minute.”

He walked over to the sword and carefully put a talon on the hilt. The sword’s glow flickered for a moment, but he was able to pick it up without resistance. He carried it back to Brownie’s body and set it on top of her with the hilt towards her head.

The sword glowed a little brighter.

“I guess the sword’s as disappointed as I am,” Shadow mused. “It barely decided that Brownie was worthy to wield it before she…” he trailed off.

“Died,” Trixie offered, not noticing Shadow wince at her candor.

The griffon reached out a talon to pet Brownie’s mane. Before he touched it, a bolt of lightning shot from his talon to the hilt of the sword, and the sword glowed brightly.

He pulled back quickly, but the sword continued to shine. A voice seemed to speak in his head, but there were no words.

On a sudden impulse, he pressed both talons against the flat of the exposed blade.

Lightning crackled around the pony, the sword and the griffon. Shadow felt some of his strength being drained. The sword glowed brighter and brighter, until everyone besides the sun princess had to shield their eyes or turn away.

There was a sound like rushing wind and the glow vanished. Brownie’s body convulsed, dumping the sword onto the ground. She vomited a torrent of blood, gave a ragged gasp and opened her eyes.

For an instant, she stared at Shadow in fear and surprise, then she wrapped her forehooves around his shoulders and hugged him tightly.

Shadow hugged her back, not sure he believed his eyes, but unwilling to let the illusion escape.

“Shadow, I was so afraid,” Brownie said. “I saw the mare of death. She wanted to take me away.”

“Don’t worry, you’re back,” Shadow said, reassuring himself as much as her. “Everything’s okay now; everyone’s alive, everyone’s safe.” He continued to hold her tightly. “Queen Celestia is here, and she’s going to take us back to Ponyville, and everything is going to be fine.”

Celestia looked slightly annoyed at the promotion, but let it go without comment.

Brownie couldn’t see Shadow’s face, but his choking and sniffling told her all she needed to know. “Trixie was right, you really do—“

“We can talk about that later,” Shadow interrupted, “let’s get out of this horrible cave.”

Brownie released Shadow from her grip and tried to stand, but her legs felt like wet noodles. She floundered around on the ground for a moment before Shadow grabbed her with his talons and tried to pull her up. Instead, he joined her on the floor.

“Um, a little help?” Brownie said, sheepishly.

Trixie obligingly aimed her horn at the pair, and nothing happened. She crossed her eyes to look at her horn. “Trixie seems to have overtaxed her magic.”

Perfida shrugged and waved the stump of her right foreleg.

A yellow glow surrounded the Sword of the Helpless and slid it back into the scabbard on Brownie’s back. “Allow me,” Celestia said gently. The glow expanded to surround the whole group, and then, with a pop, they vanished.

* * *

Late in the morning of the next day, Brownie sat in a bed at Ponyville General Hospital, propped up in a sitting position by a pile of pillows. She wore a frown common to ponies deep in thought. She was so preoccupied that she did not even react when Perfida and Trixie walked into the room.

Trixie cleared her throat loudly and conjured a knocking sound.

Brownie started and looked several wrong directions before focusing on the pair. Perfida was still missing a leg, and bore several significant scars, but seemed to be in perfect health otherwise. Trixie’s barrel was wrapped in bandages, but they were mostly covered by her abused cape.

“How are you feeling, Sundae?”

“For a dead mare, pretty good,” Brownie replied, smiling cautiously.

Trixie nodded, smiling smugly. “Trixie just wanted to thank you for the part you played in Trixie’s return to favor.”

Brownie raised an eyebrow.

“Snips and Snails have told all of Ponyville the story of their heroic rescuers.” Seeing Brownie’s confusion, she added, “The two colts we rescued are named Snips and Snails.”

“Fortunately, they have no idea what happened to you,” Perfida chimed in. “They don’t seem to realize how bad things were, and how much worse they could have been.”

Trixie polished a forehoof on the front of her cape. “Princess Celestia suggested that all four of us be awarded medals, but in a show of sincere humility, Trixie recommended spending an equivalent amount of bits on a new water heater for the Ponyville orphanage instead.”

Brownie poorly contained a snicker.

Trixie looked hurt. “Laugh if you must, Sundae. The new Trixie is a mare of many virtues, but some come harder than others.”

“That’s fine with me, as long as we still get what Luna promised us.”

“Farewell, Sundae. Perhaps we will meet again.” Trixie reflexively reached a hoof into her satchel only to pull it out again still empty. “Heh, um,” she blushed, “Trixie still needs to restock her magic supplies.” She swished her cape in front of her face and sprinted out of sight.

Perfida and Brownie waited awkwardly for the other to say something. Finally, Brownie held up a corner of her gown with a hoof. “Does it seem odd to you that these ponies go about their business naked, but when you’re in the hospital they give you a gown?”

The succubus nodded absently. “That did strike me as somewhat strange.”

“And they make you wear them backwards, I just don’t get it.”

Perfida seemed to be gathering her nerve for a moment, then blurted, “Can I stay with you?”

“Stay with me?”

“You and Shadow. You’re good people and you treated me well. I need role models if I’m going to make this whole repentance thing work.”

“We’re not the best role models you could find; I was basically out for myself the whole time.”

“No you weren’t, you were always putting yourself in bad places to protect the rest of us. You didn’t have to get hurt so much; you did it on purpose.”

“I was just being practical,” Brownie protested, looking increasingly uncomfortable.

“For goodness sake, Brownie, you died to keep those foals safe. Luna just hired you to look. As soon as you knew the colts were in danger, you didn’t even ask if we should try to save them, you just went to save them.”

Brownie stayed silent.

“That’s what I need; you’re not perfect, but you have qualities I can aspire to. Please let me travel with you,” Perfida pleaded.

“Uh, I…I’ll talk to Shadow about it,” Brownie conceded. “I don’t really know what we’re going to do next.” She smiled slightly. “If we did bring you along, I don’t think we’d have to tie you up when we weren’t watching you.”

Perfida smiled. “You never did tie me up after that first time.” A feathered talon reached out slowly from beyond the doorway towards Perfida’s head. “Hi Shadow.”

The talon stiffened and pulled back quickly. “How did you know it was me?” The griffon walked sheepishly into the room. He bore no signs of his recent injuries, and seemed to be in a good mood.

“Hey, Shadow. Is it okay with you if Perfida follows us wherever we go next?” Brownie asked.

“Sure, she’s fun to have around, even if she does ruin all of my pranks.”

“I guess you’re part of ‘The Team’.” Brownie made air quotes with her forehooves.

Perfida beamed at both of them. "Thanks guys!" She turned to wink at Shadow, saying, "I’ll leave you alone now,” and became non-corporeal.

“So…” Shadow began awkwardly, “are you feeling better?”

Brownie nodded. “There’s still some pain, but I really should feel a lot worse.”

“What’s it like, you know…?” Shadow trailed off self-consciously.

Brownie swallowed hesitantly. “To die, you mean?”

The griffon nodded.

“Well…I couldn’t breathe, and passed out. I figured that would be it, and that would be the last thing I ever knew.” She pulled one of her ears with a forehoof. “It seemed like just a second later, I woke up in this big open space full of stars and stuff. There was another pony there. She had bandages wrapped around her and covering her face.” She shuddered. “She welcomed me to the afterlife and asked me who I followed. I said I didn’t know. She pulled out a scythe from behind her and started walking towards me. I ran away from her, but she stayed right behind me. Suddenly, there was a glowing sword right in front of me. I jumped at it, but it turned into a hole and I fell into it. Next thing I knew, all the pain came back and I could breathe again.”

Shadow had walked over to the side of the bed while Brownie was talking. When she finished, he patted her shoulder experimentally.

The pony gave him a strange look, but didn’t stop him. “I’ve been thinking about…stuff all morning,” she continued. “The last seven years, I’ve been trying to avoid making any friends. I expected everyone to die, and I was afraid to get attached. I expected to die myself at any moment, but I had nothing to lose, and didn’t really care,” she sighed.

“I care,” Shadow reassured her.

Brownie petted his head. “I know you do; that’s why I was so scared when the Mare of Death tried to take me away. I realized that I do have something to lose, and I don’t want to give it up.” She turned her head to look at the bandages on her back. “Do you think you could, um, scratch me back there? I can’t reach.”

Shadow obligingly dragged his talon across her back.

“Ahh, thanks. That’s been itching for hours. How long have—I mean, what was the first—“ She nickered in annoyance. “When did you get so serious – about me, that is?

“In the mine. Everyone else pretended to be my friend because I pretended to be their friend. You pretended to hate me, but then you got shot protecting me from my own stupid plan. No griffon I know would do that, except maybe my own family.” He smiled ruefully. “It’s ironic that the virtues I look for in a griffon, I find in a pony.”

Brownie opened her mouth, but Shadow put a talon on her muzzle. “Hold on, there’s more I need to say. My family has always looked down on the ponies for being weak and dependent. I was always told that only griffons are fit to lead, or worthy of respect. I ran away from home, planning to travel all of Everglow and see if it was true.”

He continued, “Now I’m trapped in a different dimension that might not even have griffons, with a pony that treats me like family, and who will probably die a gruesome death within a month if I don’t protect her.”

Brownie frowned at this remark, but Shadow still held her mouth.

“What I’m trying to say is…” Shadow released Brownie’s muzzle, “will you marry me?”

Brownie stared. A refusal was at the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t get it out. She was sure getting married was a horrible idea, but she struggled to remember why. If one of them died the other would be upset? That was already true. They were different species? Other ponies weren’t so wonderful, at least not the ones she’d met. What if they couldn’t have foals? She had never really planned to have foals anyway. What if they did have foals? That could be a problem.

“What if we had foals?” she asked. “What would they be? What if I’m a terrible parent like my father? What if we die and leave them orphans?”

“That’s a lot of ‘if’s,” Shadow said. “I’m not even sure we’re compatible, but if you take care of your foals the way you take care of your friends, I’m sure they’ll be fine.” He sighed. “I know it’s strange, and sudden, and risky, and my parents would probably disown me if they ever see me again, but…will you? Please?”

“Okay,” Brownie said in a tiny voice, then slightly louder, “Yes. I will marry you, Short Beak.”

Shadow hugged her tightly, hauling her half out of the bed. “I don’t know what we’re going to do next, but as long as we do it together, I don’t care.”

“Aw,” a voice said from under the bed.

“Perfida?” Brownie asked, suspiciously.

The pony and griffon heard an “Eep” followed by the distinctive poof of a succubus turning ethereal.

“Great, I hope she doesn’t spread it all over the country.”

Shadow put her back down on the bed. “If we’re serious about this, word will get out eventually. While we’re talking about friendship and togetherness…” He gave Brownie a sidelong glance.

“Yes?”

“I know what we should call our band of mercenaries. How do you like the sound of 'Sundae Best?'”

The End

Author's Note:

“Folks never says how they really feels about ya, less’n ya die first.”
-Curly McLain, Oklahoma!

That's the end of this arc. I have lots more I can do with these characters, but I'm leaning towards a sequel format. I write much slower than I publish (I wrote 8 chapters before I published any) so it might be a while before the next one shows up. Also, David Silver is currently expanding the griffons in the parent series, so I plan to wait and see what they're like before I take my own griffon back to Everglow.

Since this is my first published story, I would appreciate any feedback on what I did well, what I did poorly, and what you would like to see in a sequel.

Comments ( 18 )

When a griffon and a pony mate, the kids are swarms of giant bees. :twilightoops: Look it up! :twilightsmile:

6178901 They're hippogriffs, but you already knew that.

Funny thing, my original plan was to kill Shadow off in the first chapter. I changed my mind because he was useful as a foil to draw out Brownie's feelings, and next thing I know, I'm looking up the Ponyfinder rules for hippogriffs. That griffon made out like a bandit, and I'm still not sure how it happened.

the band name sound like some sort of icecream

6180102 It's probably not going to stick; Shadow is actually terrible at coming up with nicknames.

6180685 compare to human...yeah...compare to ponies...eh

What a great finish.I look forward to any next installments you make! :scootangel:

This was a really fun story, from start to finish, and I admit I was surprised at the happy ending... Maybe I've been reading too many unhappy fics, lately, heh. Glad you took it the way you did, though~

Even if Shadow is terrible with nicknames, I kinda hope his mercenary band name sticks.

6237260

I admit I was surprised at the happy ending

Excellent. That is exactly what I wanted. I knew if I was going to pull off that fakeout, it would have to be early in my writing career, before everybody figured out that I can't do sad endings.

That was a great story, :twilightsmile: I'm glad you self promoted when you were helping me :twilightblush: I look forward to see how their travels in Equestria go, I have a feeling they could get into a lot of trouble :pinkiecrazy: or cake :rainbowlaugh: Nicely done can't wait for the sequels :twilightsmile:

“Princess Celestia suggested that all four of us be awarded metals

It seems Celestia has gotten a bit senile in her old age and has been giving out unworked hunks of iron and copper to ponies who save the day recently.
Because the Great and Powerful Trixie is incapable of being wrong and had meant to say medals.

I enjoyed this very much though, I've been looking for more dungeon crawling/adventuring stories lately and this one did not disappoint.

6394416 Thanks for the correction. Fixed.

I'm glad you liked it.

Guess what I just finished! I liked it! Didn't expect it to end like it did. (And I'll admit... I'm always a little wary of "other universe in Equestria" stories, but I say you did it well.)

7297635 Aw, thanks! My current concept for Brownie is a little different than this, but I'm content enough to leave this alone. The "other universe" trope is twisted a little when the other universe is also ponies. :rainbowderp:

I enjoyed this! Cute interactions and characters, and I like the rarely seen manifestation of a warrior who is reasonably competent at combat, but still ends a pincushion far too often. Kinda bummed no sequels, but I can understand why given the lukewarm reception.

:moustache:

9837282
Thank you for the kind words. It's encouraging to hear that people still read it from time to time. (My gosh, I really got carried away with the gore though, ick :pinkiesick:)

Any word on if Ponyfinder has been updated for the new Pathfinder Ed or not?

9935921
Pathfinder 2E is not so much an update and more a completely different system. Making Ponyfinder add-ons for D&D 5E took a few years, so PF2E will probably be similar, if it turns out to be popular. If you want up-to-date info on that, you should ask David Silver, he's the Ponyfinder guy.

9939922

I'm just glad that Pathfinder (even with the present political nonsense, because it's 2019), at least left gathering and crafting skills in the game (as professions and knowledge types instead of the old craft and gather skills from 3.0-3.75) unlike 4th and 5th Ed. D&D. I mean...it's very frustrating to play a dwarf and you can't do your traditional mining, smithing, etc...because of "streamlining" (IE: Dumbing down.). We shall indeed see how well new Pathfinder does in the marketplace.

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