• Published 17th Oct 2016
  • 1,157 Views, 28 Comments

Old Fences - Purple Patch

Derpy Doo, now a mother, must struggle to come to terms with her past beside her friends and protectors in Ponyville

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Chapter 3

Hours became days.

And those days would soon become a week.

She had only a week to say goodbye to the life she’d come to love.

Derpy sat awake in her bed in almost pitch darkness.

Her lopsided eyes simply wouldn’t close.

Days had passed. She’d lost track of just how many but she knew that, by the time the sun rose, it would be one less.

The weight of the knowledge hanging over her had set her in a never-ending gloom. The ponies around her had assumed it was simply fatigue and she was partly glad for that.

Knowledge would harm them. She kept on remembering her aunt’s words. She couldn’t tell anypony or even hint at it.

Day after day, she’d met friends, taken care of Dinky, asked the Doctor about his adventures and waited for the next day.

It was Tartarus.

Derpy tried in vain to close her eyes and keep them closed.

Supposing she just didn’t do as she said...

She glanced down at the angry, dark bruise on her foreleg.

That wasn’t an option. Her aunt was cruel to her even when she was on her best behaviour. And the last time she disobeyed her, they sent her to that horrible place.

Three months. Three months of being treated like a toy by the most depraved ponies she’d ever known. She had no wish to ever go near that place again.

Derpy took a deep breath and tried to calm herself, to no avail.

She lowered her head in resignation.

There was no way out of this. It was either give up her life or put the lives of others in danger.

It was the waiting that was the worst.

She rose from the bed and slowly made her way to Dinky’s bedroom. Her foal lay peacefully in her crib, untroubled by the perils of the world. Derpy nearly smiled at the sight of her. Carefully, she leaned down and kissed the week-old filly. Dinky gave a little fidget but remained sound asleep. Derpy turned and walked to the doorway.

She paused and looked back at the sleeping foal. Dinky gave a tiny and utterly adorable squeak as she dreamed.

She couldn’t leave her, no matter what.

She closed her eyes and resolved her predicament.

Her aunt could separate her from her friends.

But not her family.

Kissing Dinky once more, she went back to her bed and very swiftly found sleep in her tired misaligned eyes.

The Doctor swung groggily out of the ‘Timey-Wimey Box’ once it had materialised, muttering in a manner a non-observer would find utterly nonsensical.

“Ugh! I don’t want to see another talking, singing, child-murdering kangaraccoon for as long as I live! ‘Most of the ponies are soooo stupid’ my flank! A black hole was too good for him!”

Stepping into the living-room, immediately feeling refreshed, he threw off his coat and hat. He hadn’t lived long at Derpy’s flat but it had grown on him. He enjoyed staying here in Ponyville, talking to ponies, doing pony things and all it entailed. And Derpy herself? And her little foal...their little foal?

Life was truly magical with them around.

“Honey, I’m home!” the Doctor called out merrily “You’ll never guess the day I’ve had! Are you ready to hear how I defeated an army of vamponies with only a kilt and three slices of Battenberg?! You’re not going to believe it! I winded up at the Settling Solstice in Old Appaloosa and the Chief of the...”

He looked around. Derpy was nowhere to be seen. At this point, the grey, larger-than-life pegasus would be tumbling into the room with a hot muffin for her favourite time-turning friend. Dinky would be in her high-chair in the kitchen, happy and ever-curious.

The house was silent.

He’d never liked the silence.

“Derpy?” he called out “Derpy, are you here?”

He paced, hints of nervousness in his steps, as he approached the bedroom.

“Derpy...where are you?”

“Hi, Doc...” A mumble, little more than a whisper, came from within.

As the scruffy brown stallion entered, he resisted smiling as he saw Derpy lying upside-down on her bed, blanket and duvet similarly thrown about.

“Restless night, eh?” he asked.

“Yeah...you know” Her hoof waved in the air drearily “I really need to work on some good lullabies”

“Well, I know a few but most of them involve summoning star gods” the Doctor chuckled “I’m sure we can come up with something if we put our heads together”

“Last time we did that, we got concussion, remember?”

“Yes, there’s a difference between putting our heads together and crashing into each other in mid-air”


Derpy made an effort to rose but ended up falling out of the bed and tangling herself up in the blankets.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it”

Outside, the acting-mailmare knew Derpy had company when she heard somepony walk to the door without crashing into anything.

“Hi Doctor!” she said as the mysterious stallion opened the door.

“Wotcha’ Parasol!” he replied with a grin “Anything for me?”

“Yeah, there’s one letter to Derpy,” she hoofed it over “and there’s something for you but I think it’s a prank. That or you somehow made Princess Platinum really, really angry”

The Doctor laughed nervously, blushing in no small amount.

“Oh that Pinkie and her pranks, hahaha...whoo, classic” He took the letter, hid it in his coat and gulped.

“Well the Cakes need to find out where she learnt such language!” the butter-coloured pegasus said, frowning “There’s more swear words in there than in one of Berry Punch’s drunken songs and I only read the envelope!”

“I’m sure it’s just a phase, no need to...” The Doctor stopped as she saw Cherry Berry rushing for their house, her face a picture of fear and despair.

“Doctor! Parasol! Come quick!” She was practically screaming every word “It’s horrible! Oh Celestia, I can’t believe this has happened!”

“What is it, Cherry, what’s happened?!” Parasol asked as Derpy arrived in the living room behind them.

“It...” Cherry was beginning to sob “It’s Carrot Top! She’s been attacked!”

“Wha...” Derpy’s wall-eyes widened as she struggled to take in the words she’d heard “C-C-Carrot T-Top?”

“Derpy, wait here” The Doctor turned to her “If anything comes in, get Dinky and hide in the blue box. I promise I won’t be long”

Mayor Mare, or Merry Weather when she was at home, sat in her living room, warming her hooves by the fireplace.

After yesterday, today had turned out to be really quite chilly. Hearth’s Warming Eve would be around in two months time. She was making an effort to file and sign the necessary paperwork to arrange suitable festivities.

Lady Justice, Liddy for short, was in the kitchen, working on chestnut tarts, just the thing for a cold autumn morning brunch.

As far as the reports she was overlooking went, nothing was out of the ordinary.

She was thankful for that at least as her mind was preoccupied.

The matter of Derpy for one.

Lady’s work in Canterlot was also quite important. It wasn’t so much the cases themselves, though they were indeed most concerning, as much as the reason why she’d been called over. She and Liddy had talked this over and, as it turned out, the Lord Magistrate of Canterlot, who also happened to be the husband of Derpy’s atrocious aunt, had not even informed of this event. The Lord Magistrate was currently running for Council Chairstallion of Canterlot, a position that Fancy Pants held and very much wished to keep, but she had a feeling there was more to it than that.

Coincidently (She rather thought not) the same Lord Magistrate had been involved in a sexual harassment scandal of all things involving a Ponyville-born scholar at the School For Gifted Unicorns, Fleur de Lis. It had taken place mere days before Lady Justice had gotten Fancy Pants’s invitation. She’d done some research on this stallion, Nitpick. According to the more credible papers, he was corrupt to the core and a lecher to boot. This sexual harassment scandal was not the first. His influence had allowed him to escape justice time and time again but, either appeasing the outraged public or outright agreeing with them, Princess Celestia and the Royal Court had relied on him less and less. This may largely have been the reason he was running for Council Chairstallion in the first place, as a means of keeping the spotlight and restoring his reputation.

Well whatever they thought of him in Canterlot, what he tried to do to Fleur had turned him into Ponyville Public Enemy Number One overnight. The poor mare’s parents and many of her friends wouldn’t be satisfied with Nitpick getting anything less than a public whipping for this offence. And privately, Merry hoped that wouldn’t be entirely out of the question, remembering how Fleur had looked when she came to them that day. Weeping, terrified, traumatised, as if warped by the fiendish Discord, it sickened her to think that scum like Nitpick could get away with such crimes using their name and bits.

There was a knock on the door. It was hard and swift, imperative.

Merry got to her hooves, remembering her last uninvited guest and how much it had ruined her day.

“Oh, is that my persimmons?” she heard Liddy ask from the kitchen.

“I’ll check” Merry called back and answered the door.

“Mayor Mare! Mayor Mare!” Two earth pony mares, and stood in the doorway, panic-stricken and weeping.

“Calm down, I’m here. What’s the problem?”

“There...there’s been an attack, down the street!” Cried Shoeshine, a light blue racer, her periwinkle mane and tail quivering as she shook in her hooves with terror.

“It’s Senorita Carrot Top! She’s hurt real bad!” Wailed Pepperdance, a scarlet dancer whose parents had come over from Caballera, her moss-green eyes wide and blinking away tears.

“What?!” The Mayor stepped outside and took notice of a growing throng of horrified ponies outside Carrot Top’s house.

“It’s terrible!” Shoeshine whimpered “She’s been beaten bloody and the weather ponies said her house was on fire!”

“You need to come quickly!” Pepperdance gasped “Everypony’s going totally loco! Whatever did this might still be around!”

“What’s going on?” Lady Justice walked out, dressed in an apron and oven mitts.

“Liddy, I need to go out!” Mayor Mare declared before galloping to the commotion.

The Doctor and Mayor Mare met each other arriving at the scene.

Carrot Top’s beaten, bloodied form was hanging from the chimney, suspended by a rope around her front-hooves. Her head was lowered, her curly ginger mane hanging in strands as she swung morbidly.

Young Rainbow Dash stood panting upon a nearly drained raincloud as Cloud Kicker, Blossomforth, White Lightning and Sassaflash flew up to untie the injured mare.

“Let me through, quickly” Mayor Mare pushed herself through the crowd and spoke loud and clear.

“Who saw this happen? Anypony?! Quickly!”

“Um...excuse me?” Mayor Mare turned to see a small cream-coloured pegasus filly with a long pink-mane shuffle around on her hooves and speak in little more than a whisper.

“Yes?” Mayor Mare asked. She hadn’t spoken too loud or harshly but the filly shrunk back, trembling nonetheless.

“I’m sorry...to bother you but...I saw what happened...well...sort of...”

“Can you tell me exactly what happened?” The Mayor knelt to talk to her. The filly wasn’t too small but she somehow gave that impression nonetheless “I need you to speak clearly and quickly, if that’s alright”

“Okay...um...” The filly took a deep breath and recollected events “Me and Angel Bunny, he’s my pet rabbit by the way, we’d gone on a walk and we were just coming home down that way,” she gestured to the road leading up from Sweet Apple Acres “Angel started coughing which usually means there’s smoke and, when I looked down the pathway, I saw there was a fire starting in the back of Carrot Top’s house...and a pony was running away”

“Can you describe this pony?”

“He...he was...dark...green-coated, I think...in a black coverall...he looked very tough, not huge muscles like Big Mac or Bulk Biceps but...hard...if that makes sense...he was actually quite scary”

“Which way did he run?” Mayor Mare asked.

“Um...into town, down the alleyway leading to the boutique”

“What did you do then?”

“Well...when I saw the fire, I ran to get Rainbow Dash. I know she’s a really good weather pony and I thought it might put out the fire. So...I got Rainbow Dash...and she put out the fire before it got bad...and that’s when I saw...oh...” she started tearing up and quivering in a heap on the ground “Oh Carrot...poor, poor Carrot Top”

“It’s alright, little one” Mayor Mare said, patting her on the head “You did very well. And you too, Miss Dash. Thank you for getting here when you did” She addressed the ever-eager weather pony landing before them.

“No problem, Mrs Mayor!” he said, before giving her trembling friend a hug “You did good getting everypony here, Fluttershy. I’m proud of you. That was a very brave thing you did”

“Um...thank you, Dash” That brought a small smile to her face.

Derpy sat on the stool by Dinky’s crib, looking over the single piece of mail she’d been sent.

The envelope had been largely empty but for her name, unlike last time, but she recognised her aunt’s handwriting.

Steadily, the sounds of the crowd outside barely audible in the room, she slid open the envelope and opened up the letter.

I’m losing patience.

Consider this a warning. To you and your town.

Come home at once.

Her hoof started shaking as her teeth grinded together to breaking-point and one of her misaligned eyes began to twitch.

With a scream of unbridled fury, she ripped up the letter and stomped the torn shreds into the floor with her hooves, yelling every bad word she knew.

That monster she called her aunt had hurt one of her friends.

As a warning.

She hated her. She hated her more than anything in existence, more than she thought possible. Why couldn’t she just leave her alone? Why couldn’t she...

The sound of Dinky beginning to cry snapped her out of her rage-driven state. She leant over the cradle to see her foal staring at her with her perfect amber eyes filled with fear.

“Oh my little muffin...I’m sorry” Derpy mumbled “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not. I promise” She gently reached forward to pick her up. Dinky was hesitant at first, squirming backwards in her crib, but as Derpy touched her, the little foal soon understood that if her mother wanted to hurt anything, it wasn’t her. Her mother’s hooves were warm and kind, always.

She settled down almost immediately as Derpy held her close, cradling her.

Tears fell from the grey pegasus’s cheeks as guilt gripped her heart.

This was her fault.

Carrot Top had been hurt because of her.

And there was only one way to set it right.

‘I’m sorry, everypony’ she thought aloud, shutting her wall-eyes tight ‘I can’t do this anymore’

The four pegasi mares lowered the body of Carrot Top to the ground and checked her.

Cloud Kicker gave a relieved sigh.

“She’s alive...thank Celestia!” she gasped.

“Get Doctor Horse and the Heart sisters, quickly!” Blossomforth cried.

“Let me see, please” Mayor Mare got a closer look.

Carrot Top had clearly taken a beating. Her body was a patchwork piece of bruises and cuts. Below her shoulder was an angry, cracked burn of sorts that still smoked. Despite this, her body wasn’t severely burned.

The calmest ponies in the crowd took a closer look.

“Those are definitely hoof-marks” Caramel said grimly.

“I’ve seen burns like this one before. My dad’s in the Manehattan police department” Sassaflash added, horrified “That’s a taser burn!”

“...help...me...” It was a relief to some that Carrot Top was speaking “...why...why...talk to me...why...”

“Carrot, can you hear me?” Nurse Redheart pushed her way to the injured mare and spoke calmly, getting out her first-aid kit “You’re going to be fine. Doctor Horse is on his way. Do you remember anything?”

Watching the scene, unfold, the Doctor slowly became aware of a tugging at his coat. He looked down to see a small white rabbit frantically gesturing to his house.

“Angel, something wrong, mate?” He bent down and turned his ear to the little critter.

“What do you mean gone?” Having said that out loud, he lurched to hit hooves, bolt upright and sped off.

“Derpy!” he yelled.

With Carrot Top lying so badly injured, the Doctor’s retreat didn’t attract too much attention.

Mayor Mare however had not ignored it. A cold feeling gripped her insides.

Something was definitely not right.

The chestnut tarts were almost done.

Unfortunately, Lady Justice’s usual cooking enthusiasm had been severely diminished. She desperately wanted to come out and see what had happened. But her wife had kept her here for a reason. Too many ponies in a small and dangerous space was a sure-fire way to find trouble. She sat on the edge of the table, twiddling her mitt-clad hooves as she waited for the news.

At last, the heard the door open, close and lock in the hall.

“Merry” she walked briskly out the kitchen “What in Equestria’s going on out there? Please tell me Carrot’s al-”

She stopped and stood stock-still, her wide indigo eyes fixed on the pony in front of her.

He was a green earth-pony with a close-cropped sandy-blonde mane and a slim but muscular build. He was wearing a tight brown coverall with several belts, each containing a variety of munitions and weapons.

His face was what got her attention. His eyes were a dull yellow and looking straight at her in the most unsettling way. He was smiling. And it was not the smile of a good pony.

“Who are you?” Lady Justice struggled to keep calm. She was alone, in the house, with a dangerous pony “Why are you in my house?”

The stallion’s eyes gleamed and his grin grew wider as he slowly paced toward the mare before him.

She took a step back and took a deep breath that quivered in her throat.

“It was you, wasn’t it...” Her voice was little more than a whisper.

He smiled some more.

She didn’t like that smile.

She chanced it, throwing a punch with her left front-hoof. She felt it caught in the stallion’s right. He eyed her hoof with a glance that suggested either contempt or eagerness as he pressed it forward.

Lady Justice gave a cry of pain as her hoof was forcibly bent back in a way it wasn’t supposed to, giving a series of small but prominent cracks. Falling to one knee, she looked up to the intruder turn his head sideways, his eyes still set on her, as he unsheathed a thick, menacing machete from over his shoulder, gripping it in his teeth as his smile widened. He gave a hiss as he backed her up.

Lady felt the hard wood of her wife’s desk behind her as the stallion moved in, throwing out his front legs to his sides as if to highlight how futile sidestepping would be.

She was trapped in the middle of the living room, completely at his mercy.

“Stop! Please, put that down!” she pleaded, crouching against the desk “What do you want! Why are doing this!”

The stallion gave another slow hiss as his machete edged toward her neck.

“No...stop...” She shut her eyes tight “Stop!”

“Excuse me?”

Lady Justice and her assailant both turned their heads to see Mayor Mare standing in the bathroom doorway behind them, a concerned look on her face as she gently stepped forward. The expression on the stallion was irritated in a way that looked almost feral, as if she’d interrupted something he’d been waiting his whole life to do.

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced” She held up a hoof in greeting “My name is Mayor Merry Weather, ponies around town just call me Mayor Mare” She paused, placing one hoof on her desk “What should I call you?”

Her hoof fumbled idly at a drawer doorknob.

There was a click and, with an undignified scream, the stallion disappeared into an open trap-door in front of the two mares. The scream went long and grew quiet until a collection of crashes and smashes sounded from below, suggesting he’d landed in an area predominantly filled with hard detritus.

Lady Justice looked at her wife as one would toward Laurelore come to earth as Merry Weather peered into the hole and called down.

“An ambulance, perhaps?!”

Ponyville’s Mayor erupted into a hearty, satisfied cackle as her relieved wife gasped for air.

“Wh...wha...” Lady Justice stammered incredulously “Who has a trap-door in front of their desk?!”

“Somepony who really hopes Countess Magnifying Glass will return one day” Merry Weather answered before closing the trap, walking round and hugging her wife tenderly “Are you alright, darling?”

“Yes, yes, I’m...I’m fine” She at last found her breath “Oh you’re a marvel, Merry!”

“Liddy...I’m so happy you’re safe”

They kissed rapidly, glad to be alive.

Before they could sufficiently bask in the tender moment, the door was subject to a series of lightning-fast knocks.

Rolling her eyes, Merry rushed over to the door and answered.


“She’s gone!”

Mayor Mare took in the sight of the Doctor, leaning against the doorway, gasping for air. He was dishevelled, wide-eyed, looking older than he had ever done in his unknown lifespan. His face was twisted with despair. Tears were noticeable in his eyes and running down his cheeks.

“Doctor?” she asked worriedly.

“It’s Derpy! She’s only gone and bloody left me! And she’s taken Dinky!” he gasped

“Come on inside, quickly” Merry gestured him inside. The Doctor stumbled on the way in, too confused to focus, and found the chair to a desk “Sit down here and tell us everything”

“Doctor?” Liddy got to her hooves, obligingly collecting herself for sake of helping another do the same “What on earth happened?”

“I can’t...I don’t...” he held his head in his hooves and screamed “I DON’T KNOW!”

“Here” The Mayor opened the desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of brandy and three glasses. She poured one for the guest and hoofed it to him.

“Drink this and tell us what happened, take your time. I won’t be a moment” Liddy said in a gentle tone, taking a moment to nip back into the kitchen to retrieve the chestnut tarts before they burned.

“There...” The Doctor drank the brandy, allowed himself to settle, and spoke in an exhausted fashion “There isn’t anything to say...Angel, Fluttershy’s pet rabbit, told me Derpy was gone”

“You speak rabbit?” Merry Weather asked before regretting it “Sorry, stupid question. Carry on”

“Right, well, that’s it really. When I got back to Derpy’s flat, she and Dinky had disappeared. I thought they’d hid in my machine but, when I got there, she'd left this on its door”

He pulled out a small piece of paper with messy crayon writing that Merry knew at once to be Derpy’s.

The paper was stained in tears.

I can’t stay.

I’m a danger to you. Now more than ever.

Go to the Mayor for help but please don’t come looking for me.

It’s better this way.

Thank you for being so nice to me.

I’ll miss you all so much.

I’m so sorry I have to go.

But I promise I’ll take care of Dinky.

Goodbye Ponyville.

Goodbye Doctor.

“What does it mean?” The Doctor’s eyes were moist and darting about rapidly “What does she mean by ‘help’?”

Mayor Mare gave a nearly silent groan and placed a hoof on that of the Doctor’s.

“Doctor” she began “I’m afraid something very serious has been going on. Derpy wanted this kept secret but...I think you need to know”

Little by little, Mayor Merry Weather and Lady Justice related the sordid background behind Derpy Doo, the threats that had been made by her family, the promises the council had kept.

By the end, the Doctor could do nothing but stare into his brandy glass which was shaking in his hooves as his dull eyes blazed with anger.

“Why...” he growled at length “Wasn’t...I...Told?!”

“Derpy didn’t want this knowledge to hurt anypony she cared about”

“HURT?!” The Doctor narrowly resisted the urge to hurl the brandy glass at something close by as he shook his hooves in the air dementedly “SHE’S GONE, MERRY! DERPY IS GONE! AND SO IS DINKY!”

“Doctor, please calm down, I know you care about Derpy and Dinky very much”

“WHADYA’ MEAN VERY MUCH?! SHE’S MY FOAL! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO...” He stopped mid-rant, gurgling slightly as both the mare stared with jaws hanging a clear foot below their faces.

He facehoofed.


“She’s your WHAT?!” Lady shrieked at the top of her voice.

“Now look, I can explain”

“You’re damn right you can explain, right now! Have you any idea-”

“Ponies, please!” Merry Weather, while at home, didn’t often use her typical Mayor ‘manner’ but she did so in this case in an effort to calm those around her.

“Now is not a good time for this. Doctor, I think we’ve found Carrot Top’s attacker”

“Really?” the Doctor glanced around “Where is he now?”

“Buried in a mountain of recyclables, I believe” the Mayor shook her head, preparing for a long and arduous day “Bring first-aid and guards. We need to get to the bottom of this. If this attack and Derpy’s troubles aren’t connected, I’m going to drink my own hair dye!”

“You use hair dye?” The Doctor asked as Merry glanced round innocently and replied with amazing swiftness.

“No. No hair dye round here. Nopony mentioned hair dye. Never seen it, never heard of it. You’re imagining things. Crazy old stallion. Moving on”

The stallion woke up with aches all over, not helped by the fact that he was tied to a chair and surrounded by very angry ponies.

Having retrieved the assailant from below her house and tied him up in her cellar, Mayor Mare had swiftly summoned the town council and told them to bring something that could be used as a weapon. To say this unnerved them would be putting it lightly but when Lady Justice had added that they’d caught the pony who’d assaulted Carrot Top, their consciences had very much eased themselves. It was amazing when they thought about it. On any normal day, the idea of inflicting violence upon another was something that repulsed and frightened them no matter what. But the moment a friend was threatened, arms of all kinds were drawn and ready in the blink of an eye. This stallion had hurt a very dear friend and had intended to continue doing so with others. This was not a pony they liked in the slightest. They were in agreement that something very bad should happen to him.

They now surrounded him, all armed with a variety of convenient objects. Mayor Mare had her old trophy-winning baseball bat from her school days, Tall Order had a golf club, Lady Justice had her gavel, Miss Cheerilee had a yard stick, Pokey Pierce had an ornamental blade, Colgate had a pair of pliers, Roseluck had a rake and so on. All present and correct seemed very much ticked off.

“Let me explain something to you, young stallion” the Mayor began.

“When you come into our town, assault an innocent mare, leave her to die in a fire, break into my house and threaten my wife...” She took a deep breath “...you’re going to find yourself in an awful lot of trouble”

The prisoner took in the angry ponies around him and tilted his head with an expression that suggested he wasn’t impressed.

Aside, the Doctor was examining the items confiscated from the prisoner. A variety of knifes, bolts, a crossbow, a recently-used taser and explosives. He’d found strontium sticks, flammable devices that had surely been used to start the fire at Carrot Top’s.

“We want answers and we want them now. What were you doing here? Why target Carrot Top?”

The prisoner said nothing. He simply gazed at them with that dry, sardonic look.

“GIVE ME FIVE MINUTES ALONE WITH HIM!” The prisoner jerked his neck at the ceiling to look into the blazing red eyes of Bulk Biceps who’d appeared behind him, cracking his hooves and billowing steam out of his nostrils.

The smug look on his face steadily faded. Not even he fancied his chances with the enormous white pegasus.

“So you know what you’re up against” Colgate said “So why aren’t you talking?”

“He can’t” The Doctor left his examinations and approached the prisoner.

“Open your mouth” he commanded.

The stallion in the chair smiled, as if it was he who was in control, and obliged.

“Holy...Firsticorn!” Roseluck gasped.

“That is messed up!” Pokey Pierce blanched.

“What the hay happened to him?” Raindrops exclaimed.

The prisoner had no tongue. In his open mouth was simply a stiff, fleshy grey stump. The Doctor nodded, his hunch confirmed.

“That’s what they do” he said “The Echo Squad”

“Who?” Colgate asked.

“Anypony here heard of them?” The Doctor surveyed the room.

“I have” Pokey Pierce put up a hoof, a worried look on his face “History studies”

“Same here” Lady Justice and Tall Order put up their hooves.

“Right, for those of you who haven’t had the immense displeasure of knowing them,” the Doctor began “the Echo Squad is a particularly infamous mercenary group”

“Mercenary Group?” Raindrops asked quizzically. The Doctor wasn’t entirely surprised that the unwarlike Ponyville was unfamiliar with the concept.

“An army for hire, essentially. A practice that largely fell out of favour after the Second Age of Magic. When Rememberly the Bonnycorn was exiled, the patricians of the high-ranking noble families known as the High Hooves took control of most of Equestria, hiring a large mercenary army to keep order. After the common ponies rebelled to found the pegasus, earth pony and unicorn kingdoms, the High Hooves ran out of money and the army turned on them, sacking the capital. Years later, in the chaos that followed, the mercenary army itself split into many factions, the Echo Squad among them. After Laurelore restored the Alicorn Monarchy, the Echo Squad found work largely among anarchist factions across history from Tirek to Discord to who knows what else. Now they largely serve the highest bidder. They’re not really an organised army any more, most of them quit and went freelance in the wake of so many defeats. But still, ex-members or even unofficial members are prized among those needing somepony else to do their dirty work”

“But why do they have no tongues?” Roseluck gagged, green-faced.

“It’s their main selling point and how they got their name. Their most defining trait and the reason they’re so well sought after is their guarantee for secrecy, practically built-in. As an initiation exercise, Echo Squad members cut out their own tongues so that if they are ever captured, like this stallion right here, they can’t very well give away their colleagues or employers, even if they wanted to. They even perform a brainwashing spell which robs them of the ability to read and write so they can’t even spell their secrets”

“Sheesh...” Colgate said, grimacing “Who’d hire ponies like that?”

“Someone who can afford them. Mercenaries, by their very nature, are loyal only to your bits so the safety and novelty in hiring somepony literally unable to sell you out is a pretty good system. If a mercenary group can be loyal, even involuntarily, they’re worth a pretty price” He looked the prisoner in the eye “Still, this one seemed a little poor on the planning. No disguise? Letting your victims see you? Letting your victims live? I’ve got a feeling somepony got swindled” He smiled as the mercenary grimaced noticeably “Oh the old grey Squad, she ain’t what she used to be” He resisted the urge to do the jingle “You’re only second-rate goods aren’t you. All the proper members are either employed or dead. Or are you just trying to impress the mares back home?”

The stallion growled like a wolf.

“Thought so. This isn’t a genuine Echo Squad member” The Doctor said.

“So what is he?” Cheerilee asked.

“He is, essentially, a fancolt. The Echo Squad were some of the highest-paid ponies in the land, back in the day. You get the odd copycat, now and again” The Doctor’s comment earned him a snarl from the prisoner “So...who sent you?”

The stallion looked away. The Doctor sighed.

“You probably wonder how Echo Squad fell apart, don’t you” he said “It must have been strange to hear about it. These big, rich, tough, fearless, highly trained killers suddenly turning on themselves in the blink of an eye, going mad and fleeing Equestria forever? You know why that happened?” The Doctor paused and leaned forwards, staring the would-be assassin dead in the eyes.

“They hurt some friends of mine”

The stallion raised one eyebrow.

“You don’t believe me?” The Doctor reached inside his coat “That wand they said was wielded by the pony who broke the Echo Squad. The wand that could open doors, break weapons, blow up machines and, in the middle of the barracks, call down the sight of a supernova to strike them blind and trap them forever with their worst nightmares?” He pulled out his sonic screwdriver and showed it to the stallion.

“Ta-dah...” His voice was deadpan and emotionless but the so-called mercenary drew back in his chair as a pony would from a dangerous animal or even a blazing fire, fear apparent on his hard features.

“I think I made my point”

The time-travelling pony replaced his screwdriver in his coat pocket “Okay, you may not be able to speak but you can still hear. Were you the one who attacked Carrot Top?”

The stallion paused, scowled at the ponies surrounding him, and nodded.

“Okay. Were you trying to get to Derpy?”

The stallion looked at him quizzically.

“The grey, blonde pegasus with the lopsided eyes”

The stallion made a clueless face and shook his head.

The Mayor tried a different tactic.

“What about Irregular Glass, have you heard of her?”

The stallion shook his head.

TWO MINUTES ALONE WITH HIM!” Bulk Biceps insisted.

“No, there’s no point” The Doctor looked resigned “He knows that what he did to Carrot Top and trying to kill Ponyville’s own judge won’t go down well in court and he’ll get worse if his boss finds out he blabbed. He’s got no reason to lie to us. He’s biting the dust no matter what he says” He turned back to the prisoner “So if you weren’t after Derpy, who were you after?”

The stallion, his hooves tied behind his back, craned his neck and gestured as best he could to Mayor Mare.

“Wait, he was after the Mayor?” Raindrops asked “I thought Carrot Top was his target”

“If that was the case, Raindrops, then Carrot Top would be dead and buried where no-one could find her” The Doctor said, with a hint of loathing “What he did to her was little more than a distraction”

“Distraction?!” Tall Order barked indignantly “She was beaten half to death and hung from a burning building!”

“With exactly the desired effect. Everypony crowded around and the Mayor left her house unguarded. He would’ve snuck in, largely unnoticed, killed or incapacitated Lady, waited for the Mayor to return and dealt with her”

“Dear Celestia! What sort of pony does that?”

“It’s another of their calling-cards” the Doctor said “Two-thousand, three hundred and eighty-two years ago, they were hired to hunt down a weather pony in Boulette City. They lured him out...by burning the city to the ground”

The ponies shook their heads. This day had diminished their sense of innocence a great deal. They were always aware things were bad in the old times, when evil forces sought to overthrow the Princesses, but the thought of ponies still wishing to emulate those forces, in the modern day, frightened and disgusted them.

“Okay so your target was the Mayor. Why?”

The mercenary shrugged.

“Were you hired by the Glass family?” Lady Justice asked. It was met with curious looks from the ponies around her and a dismissive shrug from the mercenary.

“Do you know who hired you?” The Doctor asked.

The mercenary shook his head.

“But that would mean you’d need a paymaster”

The mercenary nodded, smiling.

“But...the Echo Squad hasn’t had a paymaster since it fell apart. Who could have given you the job?”

The mercenary paused and tugged at his bonds.

“Bulk, undo one of his hooves. Keep a close eye on him”

Bulk Biceps looked uneasily at the Doctor and their prisoner but begrudgingly obeyed. The mercenary didn’t try freeing himself, instead pointing slowly toward a barrel in the cellar. All eyes looked at him like he was crazy.

“You’re thirsty?” Colgate asked.

The mercenary rolled his eyes and pointed again to the barrel, then to a nearby first-aid box, his hoof tapping at the word ‘aid’, then waved his hoof in a circle motion in front of him.

“You want us to get drunk...and...take our medicine?” Raindrops asked worriedly.

The mercenary was glad he could facehoof. He looked to see if the Doctor had worked it out.

Sure enough, the scruffy brown stallion’s mind looked busy.

“Alright, I’ll need to look into this” he said at last “Take him to the holding cell and send for the Royal Guard”

“Wait, what did he mean?” Mayor Mare asked as Bulk Biceps led the mercenary away “A barrel...and a first aid kit...and a...what on earth was he talking about?”

“I’ll look into it. In the meantime...” he took a deep breath, afraid to go back to the subject “I need to go...settle some things”

Mayor Mare and the town council watched with concern as the normally delightfully quirky stallion stumbled back to Derpy’s flat.

He slammed the door shut behind him and practically fell onto a nearby couch. He held his head in his hands, closed his eyes and he could have sworn he was weeping.

His past was catching up to him.

And it was about to hurt Derpy.

He remembered the look on the mercenary’s face as he gave his hints.

A barrel. A Cask.


All of Us.

This did not bode well.

He regretted it. He regretted every moment he’d thought staying would be good for Derpy. He should have just let her be and get on with her life with her friends. He should’ve...

It was in that moment he looked up and noticed that resting on the arm of the couch was a little soft toy.

A pegasus pony with the little googly eyes that rolled around.

It belonged to Dinky.

Getting to his feet, he massaged his temples.

‘Get it together, you thick cretin!’ he snapped at himself ‘Dinky and Derpy are worth all regret! Never forget that! You’ve faced far worse things than this on your bank holidays for Rememberly’s sake! You’re going to get through this. You’re going to own up, first things first. You’re going to get help from Ponyville, from Celestia, from everypony you can and then you’re going to find them...Well don’t ask me how, you’re the boss of that! But you’re going to think of something...and it’s gonna’ be fantastic!’


At Invitro Hall, a quill rose from an inkwell, levitated by carmine magic, and signed the waver.

“Let’s hope this is worth the expense” Countess Magnifying Glass sneered to her guest.

“It’s a comparatively modest sum” The guest said in a relaxed tone “Last time, I remember I asked for nearly ten times as much”

“Last time required no small amount of time, resources and planning”

“And we accomplished those requirements. Two very important Canterlot ponies, dangerously close to undoing everything you’d formulated all these years...” The guest drew a hoof across thin air “Out of the picture. Ponyville is going to be a cakewalk”

“You’re quite certain this won’t come back to bite us”

“Certain as ever. The Echo Squad is still very dependable. And if even if my employee somehow manages to shame their reputation, I’ll deal with it myself”

There was a pause.

“Very well. From now on, you’ll monitor our political campaigns”

“I’m not much of a politician”

“Neither is my husband. I don’t need you to do anything you’re not used to. Just look out for any more spies and make examples of them as you did before”

“Understood, my lady” The guest rose and gave a bow “I am yours to command”

“I am very glad to hear it...Mr Cascadius”

Author's Note:

Yeah, I just keep finding new ways to make my viewers hate Derpy's aunt, don't I?
You're not a good writer if you don't enjoy creating villains.
You know I said earlier that she knows some really dangerous ponies?
Yeah, they're about to make an appearance.
Also, try to work out which 'Two Very Important Canterlot Ponies' the Countess had 'Put out of the picture' last time.
Let's just say, when you work it out...
There's references to Dingo Pictures and their review by Phelous. You will know true awfulness.
Also a reference to St. Trinians 2. It's not an excellent movie but Rupert Everett is always very funny.
I'm afraid this particular story may end on a sad note but I assure you, this is only the beginning.