• Published 17th Nov 2011
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Fallout: Equestria- The Last Sentinel - Adder1



It's hard to kill memories when you remember everything.

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Chapter One: Not Your Typical Tale

Chapter One: Not Your Typical Tale



Every story has a beginning. That said, I don't quite work that way, folks. I can't start back in Stable Seventy-Two. I can't start back in Manehattan. I can't even start so very long ago in the Far North where I was born. We live in the Wasteland, and this is a story of the Wasteland. Therefore, we'll start in the Wasteland.

Every story also has a certain flair to it. This time, I do quite work that way. I like to tell my stories in my own special way. And, on that note...

Get comfortable. Find someplace where you won't need to move around too much. Make sure you're full on food and water, and make sure you can sit for a spell. Now relax. Focus. Stop seeing with your eyes, but don't close them. Stop smelling with your noses. Stop feeling with your hooves. Just listen to the sound of my voice, and let my words fill in the blanks.

Now let the world around you melt away. Let my words cross through the void and build it for you.

Roll back the clock. Forty years. I think that's how much time's passed...

* * *

Something shiny slid across my vision. Something black, sleek. It held my reflection for a fleeting moment, barely visible on its ebony glaze-

-A green unicorn, a little taller than average, sharpened horn; black, short-cut mane and tail, both a little unkempt; eyes with an amber tint, pupils slit-like; lightly-built, thinly-built, rough beard- a green unicorn sheathed in ancient armor, a little demonic, a little archaic, a little Gothic, colors of cool blue and striking violet, a draconic eye on the breastplate with high-capacity saddlebags slung across his back-

The shiny, black, sleek little thing flicked away.

A blade. Dancing before my eyes.

The bewitched audience was snapped out of their spell to the sound of clicks and clacks. The storyteller twirled out a most peculiar knife consisting of a thin, dark blade about four inches long and a pair of slightly longer counter-rotating handles coming from the base. The blade was barely reflecting its surroundings, the handles carved with ornate patterns with a small peg poking out from the lower handle.

Even more peculiar was how he was holding the knife. A thin arm extended from his right shoulder, ending in a griffin-like hand. It appeared scraggly and poorly made as if created for function rather than form. And it was completely formed of ice. Interestingly, his horn was not lit up the slightest.

The unicorn flicked one of the handles around, which pivoted around on a small screw on the blade base, snagging the blade itself as it spun closed against the second handle, completely concealing the blade. He masterfully danced the knife in his hand before his eyes, weaving it between his fingers as its dual handles cantered open and shut, blade in and blade out. The way the blade and handles fanned about was reminiscent of... a butterfly. He spun it back, holding the blade facing up before twirling it and letting go, the knife spinning rapidly through the air. One could swear that the edge gleamed softly with light, forming a silvery crescent before he caught it, the handles closed around the blade.

Don't worry. For the new faces, I'll explain the ice later. As for this beauty...

I guess I'll explain that later too.

So a blade, dancing before my eyes. Wind was rushing past me as I soared through the air high above the Wasteland on a sky wagon. Sky wagons such as this one were created during the pre-war era, during the Age of Industry. They were powered by a spark battery to arcano-technologically lighten the weight of the wagon and its contents. It was enough to allow a lone pegasus to lift the cart plus a full load through the air singlehoofedly.

Or, in this case, a griffin.

Silas was his name I think. He was, like I said before, a griffin. He wore the standard Wasteland fare for his kind- some old leather barding, a holster for a pair of revolvers. He kept on shooting me looks as I flicked around my knife with my ice arm- odd, bitter looks. I'd been doing it for the past hour or so as he flew me toward my destination. And my target. I knew those looks. I knew what he was thinking.

I stopped playing with my little toy, blade currently exposed. “Does it bother you?” I asked, voice raised over the rush of wind. My voice sounded no different then from how I sound now.

“Yeah, kinda!” the griffin grumbled, eying me warily.

The audience once again broke from their trance from the sudden change in voice. But their eyes met only the storyteller's. There was nopony else talking. The storyteller simply smiled, his normal voice dripping out again like liquid honey. Grave, liquid honey.

Not your typical tale, folks.

He maintained his gaze on me as I made a simply flick of the handle, concealing the blade, pushing the peg across to the other handle to activate the safety latch. I slipped the weapon away into a small pouch on my left foreleg. “Better?”

He continued to eye me.

I reduced my ice arm to mist. Sublimated it, for you scientifically inclined folks. “Better?” I repeated.

“Heh, as 'better' as it can be flying a guy like you around,” Silas huffed, something akin to a light smile turning up his beak.

He paused, watching the crowd. Nopony seemed surprised this time when his voice changed completely.

“What is it about a guy like me,” I asked him over the whipping winds, “that riles up the feathers of a guy like you? I paid the fare you set beforehoof.” Oh wait. He was a griffin. “Or rather, beforehand. Three hundred of these bottle caps you Wastelanders use for currency. You get me from Vealville to the outskirts of the Far North.”

The half-lion, half-eagle snorted, “Hah! 'You Wastelanders' he says. You fresh from a Stable or something?”

Yeah, he totally forgot the question. Or dodged it. One of the two. “Could be,” I answered. “I did pay for fast travel to a rather simple location I could've just trotted to, mm?”

“Yep, fresh from a Stable...” Silas snickered. “I coulda' extorted you for all you know!”

Which was quite true, I realized with a light frown. An unfortunate if not minor inconvenience. Changing the subject, I asked, “So what did you think I was?”

“So many questions... definitely fresh from a Stable,” he murmured, probably guessing I couldn't hear him from the wind. He yelled back, “Thought you were a bounty hunter or something!”

“How'd you guess?” I smirked a little. A bounty hunter. I mean, really?

“You look the type,” the griffin answered. “The armor and everything!”

I looked over myself. Now that he brought it up...

“So, how far off are we?”

“Few more minutes, few more minutes,” he replied, descending as if on cue.

He was putting us back down on the Wastes. Not much to fill in here- cracked, dry landscape with a bleached skeleton here and a random boulder there with foothills to the north. Judging by the softening glow of the clouds above, there were still at least a couple hours of daylight left. Still had plenty of time for what I needed to do.

“Well, here's your stop,” Silas said after we touched down, a light puff of dust heralding our arrival. I dismounted, and he began to undo the harness that bound him to the sky wagon.

“Much obliged for a fast and smooth flight, griffin.” I lifted a hoof to tip an imaginary hat before turning away and walking north. “Take care.”

I had this nagging feeling ever since accepting the air taxi, and a glance back at Silas out of the corner of my confirmed it- he was drawing his revolvers.

I kicked off sideways, already feeling twin shots ping off of my armor. Damn, he was fast on the draw- and accurate too! As I turned around, I saw that he was standing upright on his hind legs so he could use his claws to hold the weapons. Ice crackled over me without so much as a spark from my horn, encasing me in a layer of armor that crunched at first to the next alternated pair of shots. By the time the next pair of bullets flew my way, my ice armor was properly formed and gently sloped with oblique angles; the rounds dug into the hardened ice only just a little before rolling off. Too close and too unprepared to quick-draw a weapon of my own, I rushed him instead. I closed the distance quickly, formed a pair of ice arms, and latched onto their barrels, pulling the revolvers against his trigger talons while I struck a metal-plated hoof against his solar plexus. With the wind knocked out of his chest and toward his trachea, I jabbed at his throat. His grip easily slacked and I pulled away the weapons as he fell, flipping the revolvers around to face him while conjuring up ice shackles to lock him against his own wagon. I left nothing to chance- his wrists, ankles, neck, tail and wings were restrained.

Anticipate, react, disarm and cripple, turn the tables. Reversal. Four simple steps. The whole exchange took less than five seconds. Sloppy, but I got it done.

He was gasping for breath, eyes wide in surprise. “Th... the fuck?”

“I thought you were a bounty hunter or something.” I leveled my gaze at him, keeping the revolvers trained on his head.

“How'd you guess?” Silas grunted, trying to break free of his restraints.

“You look the type,” I answered, a smirk playing across my lips. Sweet, sweet reversal.

“Oh, don't fuck with me, dammit,” he growled, finding no luck against the restraints and slumping in his locked position. “How'd you know?”

Okay, that kind of question just invited a gloat. Well, I wasn't one to disappoint...

“You really must be new at this. Honestly, an air taxi service in the Wasteland? Really, I just went along with it because you just so happened to be heading where I wanted.”

He was silent, but his eyes were glaring daggers at me.

“But last I checked...” I went on, “I'm only worth seven-hundred-fifty caps, two-hundred-fifty dead. While I congratulate you on your judgment to attempt to take me dead over alive, two-fifty caps for all this trouble? You were here for another reason, weren't you? I just happened to cross paths with you along the way.”

“You gloat too much,” Silas growled. Ooh. Called me out on that one.

I shrugged. “The routine grows stale after so many times. A few theatrics freshens the mood.” I flashed him as sly a smile as I could muster. “So again- you were here for another reason, weren't you?”

He was silent.

“Let me guess,” I began, smile fading, “Sewn Britches. Earth pony stallion, average height and musculature. Denim-blue coat, solid black mane and tail. Brown eyes. Cutie-mark is a pair of stitches. All of that is with the most recent available description. Wanted alive at two-thousand caps for twenty-one cases of foalnapping, seventeen of them armed. An alleged slaver.”

The griffin said nothing but his eyes betrayed what his beak did not.

“Funnily enough, I'm after him myself,” I said to him, turning the revolvers up and away for him. “How about this: Last I checked, I'm only worth seven-fifty caps alive, two-fifty dead. Seeing as how you would rather take me dead, I think we can forget about this little incident, particularly since I already gave you three-hundred. Covers my 'dead' bounty with enough left over for compensation.”

He gave me a puzzled look. “Compensation?”

“For the flight,” I answered him. I looked over the revolvers. Double-action .357 Magnum six-shooters. Finely-crafted things. Simple, reliable firepower, and jamming was unheard of for these beauties.

Ice tendrils peeled from my hands, unwound the screws, pulled out bolts, and let the two weapons clatter to the ground in pieces.

“And this,” I added.

Oh boy did he glare at me. If looks could kill...

“Now, since we're both after the same pony,” I smiled down at him, “and since I think I'm now no longer worth the trouble for some measly caps, how about a little contest? A race for this Sewn Britches guy, hm?” Without waiting for a response, I added, “Just one problem. You've already made an attempt to kill me. That's a personal foul. For that, a penalty.”

His death glare turned to a look of shock as his wings iced over, weighing him down as if they were turned into lead blocks. They fell with a light crinkle to the Wasteland floor as I reduced his restraints to mist, gave him a quick “so long” wave with a hoof and galloped off north towards the foothills. The string of colorful names he had for me brought a smile to my face. I snaked large tendrils of ice from my body down my legs, twisting them in a string of helices and moving them in time with my movements to give me a boost of strength and speed- ice muscles. My pace doubled as I took off for the foothills with a little less daytime left than I would've liked.

* * *

Dusk was falling on the Wasteland, creating a true silver lining on the cloud cover above as it began to grow dark. For anypony else, it would've warranted seeking shelter. Nighttime was never a safe time in the Wasteland.

But I am a friend of the night. I can see perfectly fine in the dark. Granted, daylight is a little...stronger to me, but that's beside the point for now.

I ascended the highest hill I could find in the general vicinity and used it as a lookout point. I was looking for a campfire. Anypony who wanted to cook food had to have a source of heat, and last I checked, we're a little short on microwave ovens and toasters in the Wasteland. Of course, anypony would've taken great lengths to conceal his or her campfire in the middle of the Wasteland. Slavers like Sewn Britches still had raiders to worry about- even in a place as desolate as the outskirts of the Far North. Experienced denizens of the Wasteland like ourselves would cover up the fire so that only the smoke could get out, which would be practically invisible in the darkness unless you already knew where to look.

But I am a friend of the night. I can see perfectly fine in the dark.

And so by the time night fell, a thin column of smoke was already rising in the air not too far from where I was already situated- the only one for miles. As the northern cold invigorated me, I moved up for a closer look. I sublimated my ice muscles as I neared and slowed down to a light trot, rolling my hooves along the ground to minimize noise. The smoke came from a large crevice open in only one direction and also to the sky. That told me two things, should Sewn Britches indeed be in there. One, that Sewn Britches eliminated the avenues of entry into his position by setting camp in such a place. Two, that if I came from the open end of the canyon, he have nowhere else to go with the steep walls impossible to scale for an earth pony.

Make it too tough for the enemy to get in, and you won't be able to get out.

Especially since I can cheat.

If you've ever had the luck to see snow, you'd know it's white to varying degrees. If you've ever had the even greater luck to see ice, you'd know it's transparent to varying degrees. By now, you can probably guess I specialize in cryomancy- ice magic, in other words. By altering the thickness of ice to bend light juuuust the right way, one can make oneself almost invisible.

Which is exactly what I did, using cryomancy to sheath myself in ice and alter how it bent light.

Veiled behind an ice “cloak” and rolling my hooves to keep quiet, I stealthily made my way down to the Wasteland floor and into the opening of the crevice. And indeed, there he was. Earth pony stallion, average height and musculature. Denim-blue coat, solid black mane and tail. Brown eyes. Cutie mark was a pair of stitches. That was Sewn Britches alright. And judging from his occasional glances above him and at the crevice entrance, he knew he was hunted.

He was huddled around his fire as he ate what looked like cooked canned food of some sort. The fire itself was hidden from view by a dome of scrap metal with a hole in the top to let the smoke out, bathing the narrow area in a soft, pulsing light. Nearby in his campsite was a covered wagon with a brahmin hooked up to it- a cow with two heads courtesy of radiation from The Great War for folks who don't know. A civilian-model carbine was propped against the wagon within foreleg's reach. There were- I frowned- two chained mares, both with explosive-rigged slave collars ringing their necks, both of them lying down in the dust. I was mildly surprised- not because I hadn't seen those types of measures employed before but because only the better-supplied slavers had access to those. Somepony really wanted slaves enough to warrant use of those collars. That left some questions for Sewn Britches.

I would find out about that later. For now, I had a hunt to draw to a close. There was just one problem- the nearby campfire.

Another tool of the trade.

The storyteller's spell broke once more as he swung out another weapon, this time sprouting ice arms from both shoulders in order to display it. It was a pump-action shotgun, colored black with the stock removed and the barrel lengthened. The feed had been altered to accept crude drum magazines instead of having to be loaded shell by shell. Strangely, the drum's design was so that the ejection port would spit out spent shells back into the drum well. Most peculiar was the fact that a long crowbar was welded to the top of the weapon, the curved end looping downward past where the stock should have been, forming an impromptu replacement while the sharpened end formed an improvised bayonet. A set of crude ironsights were even built on top of the crowbar. An intricate string of silvery, leafy designs were engraved into the sides of the shotgun. The storyteller was concealing the weapon's barrel behind him as if hiding something for later. Overall, the weapon looked cobbled together and jury-rigged in true Wasteland fashion, yet it held a certain beauty, a certain sense of refinement from the personalized touches.

And so I sprouted a pair of ice arms, whipped out my shotgun, dropped my ice cloak, and fired a magically-enhanced two-kilogram slug into the campfire.

Firing a normal solid slug is loud enough. Firing one that weighs two kilograms is even louder. The produced effect was quite what I anticipated. The slug punched right through the scrap metal dome of the campfire and blew it and the firewood away towards the back of the cave, the fire snuffing out in a spray of twisted metal and embers. I pumped the action, ejecting the spent shell back into the drum and chambering a new one. The cave plunged into darkness. The brahmin mooed loudly. One of the young mares shrieked and curled up. Sewn Britches swore colorfully, dropping his food and scrambling for his carbine. All in that order. From the way the shot echoed down the crevice and back out, I was guessing everypony but me had their ears ringing.

Now that I dropped the ice cloak, I reformed it into ice armor and rushed my target. If it weren't for the slaves nearby, I would have been a bit more... theatrical. But with those slave collars, there could be no margin for error. I couldn't afford a slip-up for personal enjoyment. I moved fast, galloping for Sewn Britches as he fumbled to bring his carbine's grip bit up to his muzzle in the darkness.

To give credit where credit is due, he managed to get a shot off at me in spite of the sudden darkness and deafness brought by my thundering shot. Unfortunately- for Sewn Britches, not me- it was a .22 rimfire cartridge. Such a tiny round simply glanced off of the oblique angles of my lightly sloped ice armor. It was hardly enough to stop me as I closed the distance and whipped upward at the carbine with the crowbar “stock” of my shotgun. I hit with enough force to wrench the weapon out of his jaw and tilt his head up, leaving his neck exposed for a blunt jab from my forehoof. Sewn Britches crumpled hard to the ground, sputtering for breath. I quickly shackled his limbs, tail, and neck to the ground. The exchange was over in seconds.

“Pardon.” I tipped an invisible hat to the brahmin, who kept on watching with a bemused expression. They're still cows, folks, even if with two heads. They can still understand us. I looked back down at the prone earth pony, stepping over him so that I was behind his field of view.

“The fuck are you?” Sewn coughed, his words defiant as he struggled uselessly against the shackles. “The fuck you want?”

Hm, I guess I did perhaps look a bit demonic in the darkness.

“Shhh...” I hushed him, nudging his head with the jagged bayonet of my shotgun. He quickly got the message. Keeping my shotgun aimed at him, I sprouted a third arm to sift through his saddlebags. Ammunition, healing potions, a can opener, ah... there it is- the detonator. I removed it from his possession and looked it over. Collars are tricky... in addition to a detonator, they could be set off by moving outside of a certain range, through tampering with the collars themselves, and sometimes all three and more.

I needed answers.

“The... the fuck are you doing?” Sewn Britches growled, breath regained. His tone was rough, grating. “Are you... aw hell no, you actually taking the slaves from me?!” Hm. Well that was one way to look at it without context. I arced an eyebrow at that and held onto the device. With all pending serious matters out of the way, now I could afford a little... theatricality, a little... dramatic flair.

“Oh yes, I'm Eulogy Jones and I'm here to take back stock that's rightfully mine,” I huffed in a fittingly snooty tone. I rolled my eyes and returned to my normal tone of voice. “Nonlethal takedown. Shackles. Put two and two together.” I lightly poked him with the bayonet out of spite.

Oh, and a little comedy, too.

He grunted, “Bounty hunter.”

“Yep. I'm guessing you didn't expect a bulletproof bounty hunter going after your head for what you're worth, hm?” I asked, allowing myself a smirk.

“Yeah, yeah, fuck you,” Sewn snorted. “I'm wanted alive. Let's get this over with.”

“I know,” I said. “Alive. But first, I have some questions. And you're going to answer them. Cooperate with me, and no further harm will befall you.”

He nickered- actually nickered at that. “I'm wanted alive, dumbass. You touch me, you lose your caps.”

“Oh, well I hadn't thought of that,” I said in a contemplative tone. Back to serious: “You know what? I'll just cut to the chase. I'll ask nicely. How do the collars work?”

“Yeah, fuck you with Luna's forehooves.”

I twitched a little. And then I frowned. Darkly.

“Alive, huh?” I pulled away my shotgun and slung it back. “Alright.”

A few metallic clicks cut his sigh of relief short. A flash of the blade before his eyes and he fell silent. I couldn't see the expression on his face since I stayed behind him, but I could only guess what it looked like.

Just kept the blade there for a bit, tweaking it between my fingers. Around the World, Full Twirl to close, Half Twirl to backhand grip, Backhand Screwdriver, Latch Drop, Y-two-K Rollover, a simple Aerial to close it... and then I flicked it open once more.

“Now that I have your attention,” I spoke, and for his sake, I hope I sounded like Death Himself, “let's talk for a spell.” I paced around him, my hooves striking down with enough force so that I made him feel each footfall around him. All the while, I kept the blade revealed before him. “In the reflection. What do you see?”

He struggled against the neck shackle as if trying to eye me critically. “The fuck are you on about? It's pitch bla-”

What do you see?!” I bellowed, my echoes carrying back and forth from the walls.

He flinched. Oh, he didn't expect that...

Answer me!” I roared.

“Oh buck me right now, it's a psychotic bounty hun-”

Answer. The. Question!”

“Fine, fine,” Sewn grunted, playing along. “I see myself. Happy, bitch?”

“And are you proud of it?” I spat, suddenly quiet again. That got another flinch from him. “This reflection sums up everything you've done, everywhere you've been, everyone you affected, and everyone who affected you. Are you proud of it?!

“For Sparklesake, colt, you already got me!” Sewn snapped. “Enough with the fucking plays! Just get it over with!”

I sucked the inside of my left cheek in and licked it a bit. And then I... smiled. Keeping the blade before him, I walked around and lied down in front of him, our muzzles only inches apart. I just kept that smile as he just looked at me in confusion. Then, as he saw my more... distinguishing features this close- my armor, perhaps my slit pupils- his eyes widened.

“What the hell are you...?” he asked, suddenly quiet.

'What'. I liked that.

Do you like games?” I asked, ignoring the question and maintaining my toothy smile.

He froze, silent. His ears perked up as if questioning whether or not he heard that correctly.

“Come on.” I smiled, still lying down so he could see me. “There are no wrong answers.”

“Y-Yes?” He offered weakly.

“Yes?” I raised an eyebrow, shifting to a grin. “That's a question, not an answer.” I stood up and walked back behind him. “But you seem to like questions. I like questions.” I leaned closer to stab each verbal dagger into his ears with a cold whisper. “How... would you like... a game … about... questionssss? … hm?” I whispered just centimeters away from his stiffened-straight ears. “Would you like that?”

No answer.

“Mister Britches, I don't like silence, at least not from other ponies I'm trying to have a conversation with,” I spoke as I stepped behind him to his other ear. “It's impolite, you know. But you seem to like silence. We have here a difference of opinion.” Whispers again, straight to his other ear. “I'm a good pony. I respect differences of opinions. It used to be my job to at one point. But times have changed.”

I stepped away, sighing coldly over him. Cool mist from my mouth and down over him, causing him to flinch.

“Let's play a game.” I grinned. “Yes, let's... play a game about questions. I ask you a simple question. You answer it. If it's an answer I don't like... well...” I laughed darkly, overdoing it just a bit. Had to get the point across. All a part of the act, of course. “Well... paint the picture. I'm sure you still have enough mental capacity for that.”

“I'm wanted alive,” Sewn Britches whispered quietly as I spoke. It was more to comfort himself than to declare to me. “I'm wanted alive. You can't touch me.”

Yes, you are wanted alive!” I cut him off. “Yes, it's true! But they didn't say anything about a little... injury. You just have to be alive.”

I could just see that single thought he held onto for solace crumble. I loomed back around to savor that shocked expression. “You wouldn't...”

I kept the blade in front of him as I smiled wide. “Oh I totally would. Believe me. You're wanted alive. That's a very, very vague descriptor, wouldn't you agree?” I paced around him, just smiling to myself. “I admire the equine body, you know. It can withstand so much punishment- so much that the Old World had to devise weapons to destroy it. You can remove a few organs, take off a leg.” I looked down knowingly at him. “You'd live through that.”

“You wouldn't,” he said, visibly shaking now. “You wouldn't.”

“I would. Oh, I would.” I drew in a deep breath and stepped behind him again, blade still hovering before him. “Mister Britches, I've seen torture by and large across the Wasteland. But... it's just never quite done...” I made a wrestling motion with my forehooves, even if he couldn't see it. Don't just act the part- play it. “Never quite done... right. You know what the best form of torture is, Mister Britches?”

I received no answer.

I grinned dangerously. “The best torture- I advocate- is the one you never see coming.”

I removed the blade from his view.

For... you know.

Emphasis.

I never heard a grown stallion whine like a dog quite like that- not for a long time.

I tapped his back with a hoof, causing him to flinch; nipped him with my blade, causing him to whimper; traced along his spine with an icy finger, causing him to mutter words under his breath. He shuddered when I melted a bit of ice into water and it just dripped on him! Shuddered! From water! I would add so many wonderfully random things to the mix, all at random times so he couldn't expect what would happen. Gradually, he steeled himself. I was doing no harm. I was just playing with my food. He knew that. He relaxed. Soon he made no response to any of it. He became conditioned like a good dog. He thought he was in no real danger.

Wrong.

I plunged the blade into his barding. It wouldn't hit him in a vital organ. I knew my anatomy. It would just put him in a bit of pain. Or a lot of pain.

For... you know.

Emphasis.

He screamed, heaving against the shackles. Yes, a lot of pain.

“Can you guess how many times I touched you with my blade?” I whispered, pulling it out and wiping the blood on his barding over his grunts and hisses of pain. “Oh, and the game starts now, if you didn't know.”

“S-seven...?” He weakly offered.

“Now, now...” I grinned, “I'm the one asking the questions here. Alright? I'm!”

Stab.

“The one!”

Stab.

“Asking!”

Stab.

“The questions!”

Twist. To keep the wound open.

For... you know.

Emphasis.

“Got it?” I hissed, still keeping out of view but oh so close to him.

“Yes...” he whimpered.

“There we go!” I clopped my hooves together over his broken cries. “It wasn't so hard. But that was the first question. And now it's seven times, by the way. There's the arithmetic. Second question. Can you guess where you feel the most pain? Obvious... places aside for gents like us, of course.”

“... um... uh... the... chest.” He weakly put forth.

“NNNNope.”

I plunged the blade into a forehoof, letting it sink into the handle, leaving it there. He screamed like a foal, a foal I tell you! Then I iced it over. Forehoof. Blade. All of it.

“The place where you feel the most pain, aside from obvious places, is quite unsurprisingly the parts you feel around with the. Your hooves! Hah! Imagine that! There's also the lips...” I looked at him with a sick smile. I knew my anatomy.

He whined again.

“But I still need you to talk.” I smiled, leaning close as he moaned from what was probably the dull, throbbing pain he felt. “Now... here comes the most important questions. Remember what I said about answers I don't like. An answer I don't like, and I start removing that ice. And when I remove that ice, all those pretty little pain receptors are going to let your brain know- Hey! Hey! Hey, stallion! I'm in a lot of fucking pain right now! I'm just letting you know so that, oh, you can realize there's a four-inch blade stuck in your hoof!”

For... you know.

Emphasis.

“Now then...” I said as I circled around. This time, I stood and kept my head above him. He had to look up at me now, and this time, my expression was dead serious to reinforce this position of power over him. “Who are your clients?”

“I-I don't know... I don't know...” he hissed, “a unicorn mare! I don't know her name, it's just her!”

“Just her?” I asked, ice crinkling dangerously along his hoof.

“Yes! Yes! Just her! I don't know what she wants them for! I just do the deliveries!”

“Just... her?” I repeated, the ice pulling away a little. That ear-splitting cry of pain... oh, yes...

“She runs, she runs a brothel! I don't know what she does with foals! I honestly don't-”

“Foals?”

“Y-Yes... I swear-” The rest was lost over his screams as more of the ice receded.

“Interesting. Foals. You sure you don't know what she does with them?”

“I don't! I honest-to-Goddesses don't-”

Oh the screams. Oh the pain.

“You have no right to speak of the Goddesses,” I spoke grimly, maintaining my stern expression. “Let that remain clear. Now. Where... is... this brothel?”

“Manehattan!”

“I see.” I grimaced. “We're nearing the end of the game. Which part of Manehattan?”

“Hoofstead! The northernmost part of the city! Come on, make it fast!”

“Eagerness. I like that. How do the collars work?”

“... wh-what?”

I sighed a long, deep sigh, “And you were doing so good, Mister Britches.”

“Oh... nononononono, please don't-”

I calmly removed the blade and sublimated the ice.

Or...was it sublimating the ice and then removing the blade?

The storyteller shrugged.

It doesn't matter. He screamed either way.

His screams died down to whimpers in short order as I stood over him. “Rrrrrr, wh-what the fuck!” he yelped. “I t-told you the truth, you bitch!”

“Yes, but I said I'd recede the ice if I didn't like the answers,” I spoke down to him, no longer reveling in his pain. “I didn't say it was if you lied or not. And I didn't like those answers.”

He just kept on whimpering in pain, his ruined forehoof twitching spasmodically.

“So, how do the collars work?” I asked. “More importantly, how do I get them off?”

“Range detonation,” he blurted out. “Manual detonation. Tampering sets off. P-Please stop now...”

“Now now, how do I get them off?” I calmly reminded him.

“Keys. In the wagon. Next to the collars.”

“Next to the collars,” I parroted. “As in plural. So you have more of them?”

“Yes,” he panted. “Yes.”

“Hm.” I looked at the wagon. “That's interesting.” Eyes back on him. “Well done, Mister Britches. No more knife.” I dabbed the blood away on his barding and swept the blade shut with a fluid windmill motion, stowing it as I headed over to the wagon to search. Hmph... three more collars. Big earner.

“Oh thank Goddesses...” Sewn sighed in relief. Sweat matted down his fur, and he sagged against the dust. “Thank Goddesses...”

I loomed over him from behind. “What did I say about the Goddesses?”

“U-Uh...”

Chink, beep.

“Wh-What was that?” he asked, eyes wide as I moved around him. “What's that on my leg?”

Chink, beep.

“What was that?” Sewn blabbered as I moved to his front. “What the fuck was that?!”

I brought up an ice arm, dangling the last remaining slave collar in front of his eyes. Even in the dark, he could see that. His whimper made it all too evident. I made sure he saw me as I reached around his uninjured foreleg.

Chink, beep.

For... you know.

Emphasis.

A putrid smell filled the air as he wet himself.

“Tampering sets them off, hm?” I asked, undeterred.

“You wouldn't-”

“I would,” I said. “I very much would.” I held up the keyring, twirling it around on a finger. “You hold the keys to the kingdom, Mister Britches. But which one opens the door?”

“Th-That one!” he blurted uselessly, giving no frame of reference, trying to point by nudging forward with his head. And so I picked... not quite 'that one'. “No! No!”

“Is it... this one?” I asked coyly.

“No! Not that one!”

“Maybe... this one?” I flicked to the next in line, inching it for the lock.

No! No, no, no!”

“How about thiiiiis o-”

“Yes! Yes! That's it!”

“Well.” I... smiled. Ice armor crinkled over me. “I still think we should test out the other ones.”

Nooooooo!” he cried out, tears streaking down his cheeks.

“Hah!” I giggled. “I'm just fooling!” I inserted the key into the lock of the collar around his foreleg and turned.

Beep-beep, click.

I sublimated the ice and pulled away the slave collar as Sewn Britches slumped back down, drained.

“I guess third time's the charm, isn't it?” I chuckled huskily.

“Yeah... yeah it is...”

“You know we're still playing the game.”

He froze.

“Now... just how far is the range your slaves are allowed to wander before the collar goes off?”

“Twenty meters...”

“Hm.” I looked up at the high walls of the crevice.

Sewn Britches did too.

I looked back down at him.

He looked back at me.

Sewn went wide-eyed again. “You...”

I tossed the detonator to the ground.

Sewn gulped. “You would...”

“Now you're getting it,” I said with a smile as I covered myself in ice armor and grasped the back of his neck with a pair of arms, sublimating the shackles. I made for the walls, forming claws at the end of my hooves to start the climb up.

“Please!” he begged. “Don't do this! I already gave you what you want for Sparklesake! Pleeeease!”

“No you didn't,” I answered calmly. Five meters...

“Stop this!” Sewn pleaded, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I'm not even fighting! See? Come on! I'm not even fighting back!

I shrugged. “Your loss.” Ten meters...

“Fuck you!” Sewn tried to beat at me with his hindlegs and his lone good foreleg, flailing against me. “Fuck you! Celestia fuck you in the ass! Luna fuck you in the face!”

I paused. At fifteen meters. He stopped fighting.

“You know, Mister Britches, I was just going to let you go right now,” I said with a sigh. “But then you had go bring the Goddesses into this.” I started climbing again.

Fuck you!” he belted out at the top of his lungs. “Fuck you! Fuck-

Beepbeepbeepbeep.

Sewn absolutely screamed as his hindlegs blew off with a sharp, twin bang, staining my side red. “Rrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! Motherfuckerrrrrrrrrr!”

I looked back, watching the torn bone, muscle, and flesh drop back to the ground. The denim-blue stallion wailed at the top of his lungs, arching his head back and squinting his tear-spilling eyes tight.

“Oh hush, you,” I huffed. “The heat from the explosion probably cauterized your nerve endings.” I looked at his stumps, watching them continue to sputter out blood to the ground below. “No, no, you're still bleeding. Never mind. Carry on.”

He screamed repeatedly, blabbering obscenities. I rolled my eyes at them and waited patiently as he gritted his teeth against the pain, his teeth snapping as he broke some of them. Eventually- eventually- he wound down to sniffling and hissing. Tears and mucus streamed down his face now.

“P-Please... just s-stop,” he stammered weakly.

“Hmmm?” I leaned my head toward him. “Oh, sorry.” I sublimated the ice armor. “Ice made it heard to hear.” No it didn't. “What was that?”

“Just... s-stop...”

“Whaaaat?” I leaned closer, holding a hoof up to my ear. “Whaaaat?”

Just let me go, you sick fuck!

I eyed him for a moment, eyebrow raised. “Very poor choice of words.”

I released him and let him drop back down to the ground beneath. He only had time to scream for a split second before landing with a solid smack and falling forward. I think I might have heard his pelvis crack...

Rrrrraaaaaaa! Rrrrrrr- fuck you! Fuck you fuck you fuck you!”

Definitely his pelvis. I dropped back down and landed in a crouch to dull the impact, rising up. I waited. Again. Patiently, until after the cursing and screaming broke down.

Sewn sobbed softly. “But I'm wanted alive... I'm gonna die like this...”

“Oh hush, you,” I snorted, picking up the keyring and heading for the two mares. “You've got some healing potions back there to tide you over the journey south. I envy you earth ponies sometimes, though. Both legs gone and you still haven't gone into shock.” I removed their collars quickly, even as one of them tried to shy away. “Shhhh... shhhh, you're alright, you're alright... I'm here to help.”

Sewn sniffled, “Fine... fine... just... just heal me up... you get your Goddessdamned caps...”

Chink, beep. Chink, beep. Chink, beep.

He widened his eyes, craning his neck. His lip quivered as he saw me reattach the mares' collars and the last remaining one to his neck. He looked back at me, expression aghast.

“You won't need those healing potions,” I said, expression grim. “Because you're going very, very south.”

“Wait...”

I held up the detonator and flipped up the protective cover. “Celestia protects.”

“Wait! No! I'm wanted ali-”

“Luna defends.”

The sharp, triple bang rolled between the walls. Dots of red and bits of pink stained my view.

I canted my head to the left and right, cracking my neck as I looked up with a smile.

“Hello again, Silas.”

As expected, the griffin was standing at the entrance to the crevice, wings still laden with ice. His revolvers slackened as he stared at me in shock and surprise. No... no, he was probably staring at the late Mister Britches in shock and surprise.

“You... you...” He gawked, voice tinny.

“I...?” Trying to fish for the rest of the sentence here.

You killed him?!” the griffin roared.

“Killed him?” I blinked, an icy hand pressing against my chest, wounded. “Me? Well... let's see.”

I placed an icy, metal hoof against Mister Britches' forehoof- the still-bleeding one, by the way- while holding my ear against his side.

“No pulse.” I concluded.

I held my ear against his muzzle, which was torn pulp near the stupefied griffin's foot.

“No breath. No inhale. No exhale.”

I trotted back, looking at Mister Britches' head- or rather, where it used to be.

“... zero brain activity. Well, he's certainly dead.”

I looked at the scraps of metal lying about. “Investigation of the scene of death yields parts of slave collars, likely the cause of said death. Ah! And I hold the detonator!” I held it proudly. “In my hand! Yes! I did, in fact, kill him! Oh, and I do commend your speed at tracking me to this location despite your wings!”

I beamed at the still-stupefied griffin.

For... you kno-

Okay, this running gag is now officially an over-beaten dead horse. Moving on, pardon my language.

“... why?!” Silas boomed. “He was wanted alive you dipshit motherfucker! Alive! Now nobody can get those Goddess-fucking ca-”

I was at his throat so fast he didn't have a chance to raise his revolvers. Nor did he try.

As I held my blade against his gullet, I whispered, “Don't you ever... use the holy name of the Goddesses, the Avatars of the Night and Day, our Princesses Luna and Celestia who gave their lives to save all of Equestria- for which you can thank your existence for- in such a profane manner.”

Silas turned the revolvers toward me- I knew- and fired both. Twice. At my head. The rounds just popped in the air, crunched flat against my helm, before clinking to the ground.

I was the one glaring daggers at him now. “I'm tempted to kill you. And I think you've been standing here long enough to know you don't want that. But, as much as I don't look the part, I'm a stallion of reason. You might have been robbed of perhaps a vital financial resource and you might have helped me get here in the first place, so I'll reconsider. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.” I turned the ice covering his wings to mist. “Your wings will be numb for the next hour, possibly two. Keep massaging them and trying to move them. Nighttime is a dangerous time to be caught without shelter in the Wasteland.” I leaned in close to the side of his head. “Run.”

I removed the blade, flicking it closed before he took off running, staggering from the numbness in his wings. After a short distance, he looked back at me, eyes filled with confusion.

“Why?” he asked.

“Think of it as returning a debt,” I responded. “You used up capital and lost a financial asset for my sake. Now I let you keep something far more valuable for yours- your life. For nopony, no one can place a price on that.”

“I... I meant why did you kill him? All those caps...”

Oh. Or he meant that.

I sighed, “Silas, Silas, Silas.” I spoke louder, “That was truly my objective all along. You've heard what he's done, the crimes he was charged with. And you know he had no regret for it. What's to stop him from doing more? And read the bounty board a little closer next time. He was wanted alive so that those related to his foalnapped kin could exact revenge on him. I think they'll find greater satisfaction when I try to find out what happened to their daughters, sisters, and mothers- possibly bringing them back alive- than if they torture, maim, or otherwise brutalize him without working towards a more suitable goal. Besides... I like to think I did a better job at it.” I nodded back at the corpse. “He was always worth more to me dead. A lot of bounties I take are. It's why I have a small price on my own head. For 'cheating' these ponies of their revenge.”

I noticed he was still standing there.

“Silas, you're running out of time.” I reminded him.

Priorities set in order, the griffin jolted off, lopsidedly trying to flap his wings.

With that taken care of, I turned my attention to the two mares, trotting over to where they were chained and worked down the keyring to set the first one free. She was a unicorn that looked like she was near the end of her fillyhood and was about average height. She had an earthy coat with a mane and tail the color of clouds. The other was a pale yellow one with a blonde mane. She was... passed out? No...

“Dammit,” I whispered as I went to her, felt for a pulse, a breath, anything.

Nothing.

I looked at the other young mare. I let out a cool, misty sigh. “... how long?” I asked her. My voice was a little softer now, though no less grave.

“Three weeks,” she answered at last. Her voice was soft, but it had a certain strength to it. A certain inexplicable strength. She still spoke carefully, wary of me. It was dark for her, yes, but she still saw what I did. “You didn't matter. She died from illness.”

The storyteller smiled a little as the audience realized he could alter his voice to fit a female role as well.

“I'm sorry,” I whispered. “And you. First off, my... apologies for you having to bear witness to what I did here. There are methods to my madness.” The filly nodded lightly, though I doubted she trusted me. I asked, “What's your name? How long have you been in...?”

My gaze dropped down to her left fetlock. I had been trying to undo the shackle there. I couldn't- quite simply because the shackle wasn't there. A PipBuck took its place, the shackle placed up higher to compensate.

I smiled as softly as I could, looking deep into her indigo eyes.

“Welcome to the Wasteland.”

* * *

Footnote: Maximum Level
Quest perk added: Wrath of the Divine- Celestia protects. Luna defends. You receive a +15% damage bonus upon inflicting a crippling hit (one time per enemy) and a +10% bonus to critical hit damage against those who make profane use of the Goddesses. You also gain unique dialogue options with such ponies (provided you haven't already brutally dismembered them).

Unlockable added: Soundtrack- Do you like games?

Commission Art- Frost Windchill by spyroconspirator

Author's Note:

And this is the special anniversary reworking of chapter one. Many thanks to the FoE community for inspiring me to do this in the first place. You are all SHO AWESOME! /)^3^(\

Additionally, many thanks to Lazer726 for editing. Lastly, thank you for reading. Please leave a comment- feedback in any shape or form (especially critique!) is very useful to me as a writer and I can use it to improve your reading experience

And check out the Ask Frost Windchill tumblr! Spoilers there, though, so perhaps read the rest first!

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