• Published 11th Nov 2016
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Intriguing - Purple Patch



In the great and perilous metropolis of Canterlot, Fancy Pants and Fleur must foil a nefarious outbreak of corruption together.

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Chapter 9 Part 2

The fires of Bittsburgh were, at last, dying down.

Princess Celestia soared overhead, checking for any remaining devastation before landing before the cheering crowd.

Between them, her wayward but, no less, valiant student handed a baby filly to her frantic parents.

“She wasn’t burned, ma’am. She might be coughing for a bit but she’ll be alright”

“Sunset Shimmer!” The Princess called out in a commanding tone.

The amber unicorn had been blackened by smoke and drenched in hose-water but her face was full of pride.

“How many times do I have to tell you to think ahead?!” Celestia barked “You should have informed me before rushing into the flames!”

“Hey, I had to save the ponies trapped inside! You know I specialise in manipulating the elements, I wasn’t in any danger”

“Sunset Shimmer, I had to bring down several buildings to prevent the fire from spreading! If you had been in one of them and...and I didn’t know, I...” Celestia felt her eyes watering and not from the smoke and sparks.

Her student’s steadily face fell and she fell into a hug with her teacher.

“I’m sorry, Princess Celestia...I didn’t mean to worry you” There was something begrudging in her tone.

“I’m just...I’m just glad you’re alright” Celestia struggled not to cry “Just please, stay close to me next time”

“I don’t have wings, remember?” the unicorn managed to chuckle.

Celestia looked up to see the throngs of Bittsburgh’s denizens gathered.

The local Mayor, a gaudy, bearded stallion called Rocker Feller, stepped forward and knelt.

“Your highness, on behalf of the city of Bittsburgh, I thank you for your aid today. Had you not appeared when you did, the death toll would have been staggering”

Celestia bowed her head humbly.

“I merely did what any Princess should do, Mr Rocker Feller...and the loss of life was still great...I am truly sorry”

“The city still stands thanks to you” Rocker Feller’s voice was solemn but strong “We will mourn our losses and then set to rebuilding our home” He cleared his throat “It is simply incredible you appeared when you did. We were unable to send out any form of distress signal. Our communications were cut off completely and we couldn’t send away any rescue ponies. We feared no help would come”

Celestia paused.

They hadn’t sent any signal.

Any message.

Or any messenger.

“Could you please repeat that?”


*


Fleur de Lis and Carcassonne stared at the bolter barrels pointed at their faces.

Things did not look peachy for them overall.

“Mr Bloodhound, sir?” One of the assailants asked.

“In a moment” The pegasus they called Bloodhound paced over to the two mares, smiling with that golden tooth of his.

The ponies holding the bolters didn’t look like they would regret using them.

Fleur felt her mind going wild. An explosion in the Royal Council, Fancy Pants abducted and now armed gunponies in the streets.

Had the whole of Canterlot gone mad?

The Princess had only been gone a few hours!

“I’ll be taking that folder now, if you don’t mind, then you’ll be coming with us” Bloodhound said calmly “You’re wanted alive, Miss de Lis”

Fleur looked at the folder in her hooves then at Bloodhound then at Carcassonne.

“Fleur” Carcassonne whispered out the side of her mouth “I’ll need you to run. I’m about to do something stupid!”

Fleur wanted to argue. She’d barely known this unicorn a minute but she’d shown herself to be very brave and eager to do good, despite her roughness.

“Do you want to see your Fancy one last time?” Bloodhound asked.

Fleur’s ears piqued.

“He...” she mumbled “He’s alive?”

“Depends on the time” The pegasus shrugged “So...are you coming? And are you going to hoof over the folder? Please”

He smiled again.

“Buck you, we’re keeping it!” Carcassonne yelled.

Bloodhound clouted her across the face with one hoof and pointed his sword at Fleur’s forehead.

“Last chance, missy” he snarled, his scarred eye twitching.

Fleur forced her eyes away from the sabre and checked on Carcassonne, who was picking herself up off the floor, glaring at the stallion in front of her.

Fleur whispered.

“So am I”

“The folder! Now!”

“You know what?” Fleur said, putting the folder under her foreleg “Buck you too!”

Scowling, Bloodhound raised his sabre.


A blast of cyan and primrose magic took him off his hooves and discombobulated the ponies around him as Fleur and Carcassonne fired a magic pulse simultaneously before rushing for cover in an alleyway to the right of the smouldering council hall, metal bolts flying after them as they took cover behind a concrete barricade.

Carcassonne winced and grabbed her shoulder, bleeding from a cut that had just missed her neck.

In mid-air, Bloodhound spread his wings, slowing his fall, found his hooves and gave a feral growl.

“Oh, you girls wanna’ play rough, eh?! Fine by me!”

The hail of fire continued as Fleur and Carcassonne lowered their heads. Carcassonne’s horn flared and she fired several blazing missiles at her pursuers.

“Back off, plough-pushers!” she yelled “I’ll have you know I was top of my class in self-defence magic!”

“Soon fix that!” they heard Bloodhound yell.

Carcassonne peered over as she saw the red pegasus readying a diamond-shaped vial filled with fine colourless crystals. As he lit it, the crystals swiftly started turning grey then black, hissing and fizzing violently.

As Bloodhound lobbed it forward, Carcassonne gave a yelp of alarm and fired a small but swift pulse spell, shattering the vial and sending the crystals flying away into the sky.

“Curding hay!” Carcassonne swore “Where the buck did they get one of those?!

“What are you talking about?” Fleur yelled over the sounds of heavy fire as she was grabbed by the shoulders by the scarlet unicorn.

“Fleur, listen” she ordered “I need you to head to the palace with that folder! Let nothing stop you! Lady Cadenza needs to know what’s going on and quickly!”

“I-I-I can’t leave you here!” Fleur stammered.

“Wake up, for Celestia’s sake! Armed hit-ponies are running around the city! This needs to be stopped!” She gave a swallow and Fleur could make out a tear running down her cheek “I’ll make sure they can’t follow”

“I...no!” Fleur shook her head wildly “You shouldn’t...”

“What other choice do we have?!” Carcassonne screamed, watching as Fleur’s eyes drifted behind her.

That might do it”


Bloodhound’s head jerked over his shoulder as he beheld the great ball of magenta magical energy heading towards them.

“Hit the deck!”

Three of the hitponies were thrown across the pavement, the rest ducked and took aim as a pegasus mare with a coat and mane of luscious pinks and purples flew overhead.

“Er...Boss?” One them asked with dread “Was that an alicorn? Because that was not in the contract!”

“Shut up and shoot her, damn it!”

“Step away from my lady!”

A white-coated, blue-maned Palace Guard Sergeant, accompanied by fellow soldiers and officers of the Royal Guard, all shielded and armed with spears, swords, maces, tridents and bows, charged into the street.

“And now there’s this plot-hole!” Bloodhound groaned as he pointed his sabre at the Sergeant before him “You want to run away, boy!”

“No, sir” The sergeant’s horn flared a lavender-purple and a sword and shield levitated in front of him “I do not”

With a roar, Bloodhound and Shining Armour leapt at each other, clashed blades and began to duel. Guards and hitponies did the same across the street.

Bloodhound was a survivor, and often a victor, of some three thousand battles all across Equestria and the lands outside it.

Sergeant Shining Armour was a recently promoted officer with a comfortable upbringing and very little actual experience in the field.

But the mare he had always cared for in ways he still did not quite understand was in danger and he wanted to protect her.

That made them evenly matched.


Fleur stared as the pink alicorn landed in front of her and Carcassonne and flashed a smile.

“You okay, Carrie?” she asked, noticing the cut.

“Not my worst day, Cadey” Carcassonne chuckled “What the hay took you so long?”

“Hey, I had to get someone to watch the palace. I just hope Jet Set and Upper Crust don’t let it go to their heads!” She turned to the alabaster mare “Fleur de Lis, pick your jaw up off the floor”

Fleur de Lis shook her head and blinked as the folder under her foreleg lit up in a magenta field and disappeared.

“That’ll send it to my chambers” Cadence said with satisfaction “Thank you, Fleur, you’ve done very well”

“I...Fancy...” Fleur said anxiously “Where’s Fancy?”

“We don’t know...But I have a way to find out if you trust me” Cadence put a hoof on one of Fleur’s shoulders “Do you have anything belonging to Fancy Pants?”

Fleur nodded and produced the monocle.

“Excellent” Cadence exclaimed, her face lit up with hope “How often has he worn this?”

“All the time”

“Great, now listen to me, Fleur” Cadence took a deep breath “Do you love Fancy Pants?”

“Yes, yes, of course!” Tears began to fall from Fleur’s lilac eyes.

“With all your heart?” Cadence’s horn began to glow.

“And more! I’d do anything to protect him! I love him! I love Fancy Pants!

Cadence smiled.

“That’s very good to hear”

The monocle lit up with magic, a combination of Fleur’s pink and Fancy Pants’ gold, creating an amber, honey-like field around it which started trickling down Fleur’s hooves, illuminated on the ground as, as swift as a bird on the wing, it formed a trail down the streets and alleys, leading far away into Canterlot.

“Follow your heart, Fleur de Lis” Cadence said sagely “And save the stallion you love”

“Thank you, Lady Cadenza, thank you!”

Clutching the monocle to her chest, Fleur ran faster than she had ever done in her life, leaving Cadence and Carcassonne pinned down behind the barricade.

“I hope she makes it” Carcassonne found herself saying.

“There, you see” Cadence chirped “That’s caring. Now come on, prize student, we’re not letting the colts have all the fun!”

Carcassonne burst out laughing as they prepared to go over the top.

“Holy Firsticorn, I’m really rubbing off on you...Celestia’s probably gonna’ kill me for that”


*


As Earl Grey and Crochet closed her eyes, there came the sound of something sharp puncturing flesh.

Then Arquebus giving a pained growl.

“Ow! Son of a nag...what...the?” He turned around, face contorted with indignation as a nurse stood behind him holding an empty syringe.

“Hello” she said cheerfully. Her voice wasn’t female. In fact, not much of her looked at all female.

The nurse was slim and angular but possessed of a definite male physique with a light beige coat and a shaggy dark forest-green mane. Taking off the surgeon’s face mask, Private Timber Spruce of the 3rd Palace Grounds Platoon gave a smile.

“What...” Arquebus stumbled, dropping the rifle with a clatter “What was that?”

“Miss Screwloose’s special medication”

There was a pause as Arquebus stared blankly at the stallion who’d drugged him.

“Okay” he mumbled and promptly collapsed on the floor.

“Ooooookay, he’s out” The other nurse appeared, no more feminine than Timber Spruce, removing a surgeon’s mask and hat to show himself as a bright orange, navy-maned pegasus “What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing much, he won’t be getting up for a while and there’s the boys from the 1st Platoon on the way here”

The orange pegasus narrowed his eyes.

“So why am I standing here dressed as a nurse?” he growled.

“You tell me, Flash” Timber Spruce chuckled.

“The buck, Timber?!” Flash Sentry threw down his disguise with indignation “When I saw you in the outfit, I thought you were on covert ops!”

“I was...and feeling very pretty”

“But why didn’t you tell me I didn’t have to dress up like this?!”

“Well because then it wouldn’t have been funny!” Timber Spruce explained slowly before bursting out with laughter.

Flash Sentry fumed, his coat turning significantly redder.

“Timber Spruce, I swear to Celestia, I will end you!”

“I do beg your pardon...my good ladies...” Earl Grey piped up, his voice fraught with confusion and suspicion “But would you mind telling us what the blazes is going on?!”


*


Seething, Morion tied a bandage round his hoof as his two cohorts held the struggling Fragrant Magnolia and Silvanberry against the wall. One of them chuckled.

“Quite a nasty nip, she gave you”

“Shut up!” the hulking earth pony yelled as he grabbed the pink mare by the chin and pressed her head against the wall, causing her to whimper, struggling helplessly.

“You’re gonna’ regret that” He said, horribly quiet, as he turned to his accomplices “Either of you got a pair of pliers?”

“No, got a mallet though” One of them answered, hoofing it over.

“That’ll do”

“No! Leave her alone!” Silvanberry screeched, desperately trying to muster some magic through the debilitating ring.

“Shut it, both of you, and learn something” Morion snarled “Come tomorrow morning, if you two aren’t the sorriest little pay-rides in Canterlot, then you sure as hay’ll be the sorest!

“Maggie, no!” Silvanberry wailed.

He raised the mallet as Fragrant Magnolia closed her eyes.

“Hey, plot-holes!”

Morion had time to look up as an armoured blue-grey earth pony with a dark, scruffy mane and a white patch over one eye came dropping from the roof of the Hanoverian. His cohorts did not have that same time as the pony’s back hooves came down cracked on their heads, knocking them out cold before he slammed into Morion, grabbing him by the neck.

The blue-grey stallion was dressed in the armour of the Royal Palace Guard, complete with the plumed helmet.

And, while wearing that helmet, he had seen fit to head-butt Morion repeatedly.

“Buck you!” he yelled with each collision between his helm and the villain’s head “Buck you! Buck you! Buck you! Buck you! Buck you! Buck you!”

His rage spent, he threw the bloodied, comatose Morion to the ground distastefully and turned to the two mares. Fragrant Magnolia was gingerly removing the ring from Silvanberry’s horn before bringing her into a thoroughly relieved hug.

“You two ladies okay?” he asked, saluting, slightly dazed “I’m Private Stumbler of the 3rd Palace Grounds Platoon”

“Thank you, sir” Silvanberry said breathlessly, shouldering her sobbing friend “We’re alright”

“Glad to hear it. I need you to head to the club, ask the barpony to call the guard and tell them what happened here. Do you know where they took Hoity Toity and the Prince?”

“They said something about a warehouse. They’ve got a white carriage waiting down the street”

Nodding gratefully, Stumbler looked down to see the carriage.

And an assortment of young mares walking towards it.

In very much the same way guards like him walked into battle.


Cringeworth stopped picking his nose and jumped as the mares started picking the locks of his master’s carriage.

“I say, look here! Stop that at once!” he squawked, addressing a platinum-maned, cyan-coated mare with deep pink shades “This is the carriage of the esteemed Sir Cumbersome Clout! You’ll all be whipped for laying your hooves upon-”

His empty threats were cut off by a very full one, namely the mare’s hoof striking him in the face and pinning him to the front of the carriage.

“Start driving” she ordered calmly.

“Wh-what?” Cringeworth stammered, trembling with fear.

“Zere is a red carriage zat ve vant you to follow”

“B-b-bu-bu-bu-but...”

“If you do not abide to my commands zen I, Photo Finish, vill tear out your intestines zen I, Photo Finish...” The Photographer leaned forward and hissed.

“Vill buck zem!”

The models took a step back from their employer, glancing at each other.

One of Cringeworth’s teeth fell out his open mouth as he stared into Photo Finish’s shades.

“Driving now” he said in a high-pitched, robotic tone.

Vunderbar


*


Photo Finish had been working on a remix, aided by her old college friend, Vinyl Scratch, a heavy-dubstep theme typical of her friend’s preference.

Culverin and his followers had the great privilege of being the first to hear it...at its highest possible volume and accompanied by every combination of strobe lighting available to the photographer.

The intruders were now groaning and spasming on the floor in the grips of colossal seizures.

It was a wonder the set hadn’t caved in.

Corporal Blockbuster, wearing protective dark glasses and earmuffs, calmly turned off the stereo system, walked out the dressing-room and began hoof-cuffing every one.

“Very good work, Private Comet Tail. You certainly proved yourself useful getting the message to Miss Finish”

“What?!” Comet Tail, a yellow-coated, blue-maned Ponyville-born unicorn asked, yelling over the earmuffs.

Blockbuster sighed.

“I turned off the music, Private. You may remove the earmuffs”

“What?!”

Rolling her emerald eyes, Blockbuster marched over to her subordinate and removed his earmuffs for him.

“Aw, I was enjoying that. Vinyl’s a legend back in Ponyville...Hope I can get the download”

Comet Tail chipped in, hoof-cuffing the criminals while humming the tune and bopping his head.

“Do you believe Miss Finish and her girls can handle things, Private?” Blockbuster asked.

“Oh trust me, you don’t know Photo Finish” he chuckled.

“And what of Nitpick’s venture to Ponyville?”

“You don’t know Ponyville”

There was a pause.

“And Miss Fleur de Lis?”

“Seriously, Busty, how often do you get out?” Comet Tail asked, exasperated.

Blockbuster rose to her full height, towering over Comet Tail and snarled.

Don’t...call me...Busty

Below her, Culverin gave a groan. The Corporal eyed him distastefully, remembered his filthy words and knocked him out with a mighty hoof to the temples.

She turned back to a concerned Comet Tail and gave him an innocent look.

“Resisting arrest”

Comet Tail laughed, shaking his head.

“Whatever you say, Corporal”


*


Briefly Manor appeared to be asleep. No lights were on and no doors were open.

Sir Cumbersome Clout and his gang changed that as they kicked open the doors to the great hall and marched in.

Sir Cumbersome himself carried a sledgehammer. He was looking forward to smashing the statue of Knickerbocker.

He saw it before his gleaming eyes.

“Take whatever you like and then burn it! Burn it to the ground!”

“Do we have guests?” A voice called out, its owner hidden in the corners of the manor.

The thugs pointed their weapons out in front of them, the cover of darkness no longer on their side.

“Who’s there?!” Cumbersome barked “Surrender!”

Pacing into their view, the inimitable Tombola smiled, took of his hat and revealed a horn glowing eggplant-purple as magic-enveloped weapons, instruments and even suits of armour turned to face the intruders.

“You really should have knocked”

Chaos erupted in Briefly Manor as its attendants leapt into the fray and gave the unwanted guests the welcome they deserved.

Mrs Fuss Pot slung hot foodstuffs at anypony unlucky enough to catch her eye and followed them up by the pots and pans she’d used to prepare them. Ramekin cantered through the skirmish, silver platters spinning around him in an aerial ballet, knocking down those who drew close. Plumette flew down from the rafters, twirling and weaving with grace but, instead of brushes and feather dusters, he carried in her hooves a pair of Okineighwan tonfas which she wielded with equal elegance and ferocity. MacTrowel strode in from behind them, blocking the door, wielding a hefty spade he swung around his head like the claymores of his Highland kin. Gruffleby took a swig of brandy from his hip-flask, reared up on his hind-legs and with a great bleat of ‘Charge, me’ boys!’, stampeded into the heart of the battle, horns down, sending any foe he made contact with flying through the air.

Before Sir Cumbersome could bring the sledgehammer upon the statue, Tombola sprang up and grappled him, landing several punches upon the mean-spirited aristocrat with a free hoof.

“Cad! Bounder! Rapscallion!” he roared before being thrown to the ground, Cumbersome’s brute strength overcoming his own. The monstrous stallion raised the hammer high above his head with a triumphant leer.

There was a hiss behind them. Cumbersome’s face snapped to an expression of abundant discomfort as he dropped the hammer on the floor and jumped a clear five feet in the air, yelping in a high-pitched manner as Tinny Can appeared from behind where Sir Cumbersome had once stood, a red hot poker in his hoof raised victoriously.

“THEY DO NOT LIKE IT UP ‘EM!” he yelled at the top of his voice, rivalling his opponent’s scream.

Tombola blinked.


*


Nitpick’s journey to Ponyville was made possible by a squalid cargo train that stopped by Ponyville on its way to Trottingham.

Again, he cursed his enemies for forcing him to this level.

He and his hired thugs swarmed off the train and made their way to the humble ton of Ponyville.

The town was quiet at this time of night. There were only a few late-workers out and the rest were calling it a day.

Even so, a cadre of armed stallions marching into their local square did not go unnoticed.

But Nitpick didn’t care. He wanted to make an example.

A large blue stallion with a wild mane and a wilder moustache was approaching a parlour marked ‘Crème de la Crème’ with bags full of groceries when he noticed the old noblestallion and his guard approaching him.

Excusez-moi, can I ‘elp you?” he asked, his Prench accent thick as cheese.

“You there!” Nitpick snapped “Where is Fleur de Lis?! I demand you show us to her immediately!”

The moustached stallion was quiet for a moment, then narrowed his eyes.

“Why is it you wish to know?”

“That is none of your concern! Fleur de Lis is a wanted criminal and this town will not shelter her unless it wishes to suffer severe retribution at our hooves!”

“I do not know you, monsieur

“Pah!” Nitpick scoffed, puffing out his chest “Ignorant, foreign trash. I am Lord Magistrate Nitpick, the Sixth Earl of Speck and soon to be Chairstallion of the Royal Canterlot Council!”

The stallion in front of him tilted his head and placed the bags down beside the parlour door. He slowly spoke.

“I see. Well...I am very glad to have found you...finally...”

“Oh?” Nitpick raised one eyebrow, alarmed that the small-town pony knew of him “And why is that?”

He only received the answer to his question once he was sprawled out on the dirt, floored by a mighty hoof as the great Prench stallion roared with unbridled rage.

“Because you’re the salaud who made my daughter’s life a living Tartarus, you disgusting barbarian!”

“Where is he?!” An enraged, accented female voice rang out the parlour as a demented-looking mare rushed forward, her horn blazing beige “Where’s that codardo! I’ll kill him! I swear to la Principessa, I’ll kill him!”

“Stop! Stop, I say!” Nitpick screamed as his guards honed in, pointing their weapons meaningfully at the vengeance-driven husband and wife.

The Lord Magistrate slowly got to his hooves, nursing his injury, his eyes twitching.

This was the final indignation. Did nopony have any respect for him?

He’d be avenged on the whole pack of them if he had to burn down all of Canterlot.

“You have struck a noble of Canterlot...” he hissed “Your punishment will not be light!”

“Excuse me?”

“WHAT NOW?!” Nitpick spun round, frustrated beyond all measure...

And slowly gaped at the mass of Ponyville’s denizens gathered behind him and his gang, armed with an imaginative variety of instruments and grinning like they’d just found the biggest Hearth’s Warming Gift of all time.

A dumpy blue mare with a pink mane twirled around her head stepped forward, a rolling-pin in one hoof.

“Lord Magistrate Nitpick. We’ve all heard so much about you” she said sweetly “Our little Pinkie’s asleep at this hour but, on her behalf, let me be the first to say...”

She raised her rolling-pin as the mob surged forward.

“WELCOME TO PONYVILLE!”


*


“Now what do you reckon we ought to do with ‘em first?”

Blueblood and Hoity Toity, tied to opposite chairs, whimpered in unison as the thugs that held them prisoner eyed them as if decided how to rearrange their faces.

“I say we wait for Morion” one of them suggested “He’s the one his lordship left in charge and he might bring those two mares with him. Wouldn’t mind getting to know them myself”

“Nah, knowing Morion, they’ll probably show up with their teeth missing”

“Morion’s a nut! He knows torture better than any of us”

“So it’ll be worth finding out what he’s got in store for these two suckers”

“Please...” Hoity Toity squealed “Whatever Nitpick’s paying you, I’ll double it”

“Can’t do that, I’m afraid. It wouldn’t do betray his lordship’s trust now would it, boys?” One of the larger members of the gang said to the agreement of his colleagues.

“You can’t trust anything Nitpick says” Blueblood pleaded “He’ll swindle you first chance he gets!”

“Well then...” Another ruffian said, drawing a knife “We’d better make sure he knows we’re serious”

Helpless as their captors advanced on them, the two prisoners shut their eyes tight.


“Help meeeeeee!” Cringeworth screamed in terror as he burst through the door and jumped behind the henchponies, cowering pathetically.

He was swiftly followed by Sir Cumbersome’s white carriage smashing through the door and most of the wall around it.

Falling about, blinded and choked by dust, the thugs looked up to see the eccentric photographer and her models standing over them.

“I...Photo Finish” she declared “Have Arrived!”

Morion’s henchponies rushed to fight off their assailants, grabbing their weapons.

The models, all bedecked in tinted glasses of various colours and shapes, responded by demonstrating what their employer had taught them in the field of photography as they started taking shots of their foes with old cameras.

The ones with the heavy flash.

As their foes stumbled blindly, the mares set about giving each one bruises that were likely to hurt a great deal in the morning.

In mere moments the warehouse was theirs.

“Photo!” Hoity Toity said, sobbing with happiness as Powder Rouge cut their conds “Oh, you magnificent belladonna!

“Hoity, my friend...I, Photo Finish...am glad you’re safe”

The critic and photographer hugged warmly, to the shock of all those present who had never known the two to be friendly ponies at the best of times.

Blueblood cleared his throat.

“Well...ahem...very nice work, girls. Much appreciated” He straightened his mane and gave Pretty Vision a dashing grin “I don’t suppose any of you fine ladies would like to-”

“No chance” Soigné Folio interrupted.

The Prince gave dismal shrug.

“Worth a shot”


*


Briefly Manor had been, so far, successfully defended.

Many of Sir Cumbersome’s less ambitious subordinates had already fled the premises.

Sir Cumbersome Clout himself was hiding in one of the corridors, nursing the undignified injury inflicted on him the colt from earlier and walking in a peculiar fashion.

“Boss!” One of the gang called out “We’ve found his old bag!”

Four thugs had located Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers who had just left the powder room and was taking in the sight of the quartet of armed assailants before her.

“Ha!” Cumbersome guffawed, victory somewhat closer at hoof “Trapped like the rat you are! Back down, madam, and order your household to do the same!”

Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers raised her eyebrows slightly.

“Well, well...Whatever will I do?” she asked in a level tone.

In the next instant, some mean strikes from her hooves had brought down two of her foes, a blast from her horn had sorted a third and the fourth was finished by a clobber from her handbag.

Suddenly Cumbersome felt far less certain of victory as he took a step back from the fearsome matriarch.

“Oh don’t worry” she said, smirking devilishly “I’ve got something special for you”

Lighting her horn, a hefty slice of foil-wrapped meat was removed from her handbag, unravelled, and quickly jammed in the back of Sir Cumbersome’s belt.

She then gave a piercing whistle and called out.

“Dinner time, Horatio!”


Screaming like a terrified schoolfilly, Sir Cumbersome Clout galloped frantically out of the Manor, a frienzied white terrier on his fetlocks, yapping wildly.

The Grand Duchess shook with laughter, stomping her hoof on the ground.

“Such fun!” she hooted.

All across the manor, the household celebrated their triumph. Plumette took the opportunity to grab Ramekin and give him a mighty kiss on the lips which Fuss Pot made sure to shield Tinny’s eyes from.

“A fine days work, if I may say so” Tombola said with satisfaction, though secretly harbouring abject fear.

Only he had been privy to the exact details of the message.

His master had gone missing.

He prayed Fleur would find him as Lady Cadence had promised she would.

Outside, Sir Cumbersome shoved his way to the head of the fleeing ruffians as thy piled into three armoured carriages parked outside the manor. The noblestallion thumped his hoof on the seats once he was sat down, grimacing in pain.

“Get us out of this rancid madhouse! To Invitro Hall! Now! We must...wait a moment” He and his cohorts glanced around with worry. “I didn’t have any carriages parked!”

The door shut behind them and bolted. A suave-looking white earth pony stallion with a slicked-back baby-blue mane appeared in the barred window.

“That’s right, you didn’t...but we did” He said, flashing a smile “Pleased to meet you. I’m Sergeant Orion, Royal Guard. You’re under arrest”


*


Stained Glass didn’t sleep as well as he used to. It would take time, Nurse Redheart had said, for the pschological trauma to recede.

He had become partial to walks down Ponyville’s main street in his dressing gown. Night was quiet in Ponyville and easy for ponies to relax.

This night, however, turned out to be an exception.

Stained watched with curiosity while passing Carrot Top’s garden as Ponyville’s locals were engaged in an almighty brawl with a collection of shifty-looking fellows clearly not used to such stiff opposition.

Fillies and colts across the street had woken and were poking their heads outside, enjoying the show with shouts of ‘That’s my dad down there!’ and ‘Smash ‘em up, big sis!’

Sitting down and magically lighting a pipe, he watched a bedraggled old stallion crawl over.

“Quick! Hide me!” he wheezed.

Stained narrowed his eyes.

“Is that you?” he asked “Nitpick?”

His son-in-law, battered and bruised all over his horn crooked and useless from a direct blow, raised his head and grabbed hold of Stained’s foreleg.

“Stained! Thank Paradise! Please, you need to stop this!”

“My dear fellow...I don’t quite understand?” he said calmly, removing his hoof from Nitpick’s grip.

“Th-they...they’re trying to kill me!” Nitpick pleaded “You need to help me, your lordship, hide me, get me out of here, anything!”

“Oh I...I’m terribly sorry, sir...I don’t understand...I’m a little slow of mind, you see” Stained said as slow as he could manage “My mind isn’t what it used to be, I’m afraid...It’s probably why my dear daughter and her grand old husband saw fit to send me to the loony-bin”

“Oh...now...now listen, that...” the Lord Magistrate whimpered “That was her idea! I-I-I was against the whole thing, truly! P-Please, your lordship, be reasonable!”

“There you are!” An eager Lyra Heartstrings approached them and began dragging Nitpick by the fetlocks with deep orange magic “You get back over there, you dirty old creep! We’re not done with you yet!”

“Nooooo! Stained! Help me!” The subject of Ponyville’s indignation was dragged away, hooves trailing feebly across the grass as he loudly lamented his fate.

Count Stained Glass gave a contented chuckle, puffing on his pipe.

‘And it serves you jolly well right, you filthy little blister!’


*


The trail took her further and further into Canterlot, some streets bustling with life, others as empty as a void.

Still Fleur galloped on, her thoughts of Fancy overwhelming any feeling or acknowledgement of fatigue.

It took her down filthy alleyways, puddles splashing as she dashed through them, likely staining her socks considerably but she didn’t care.

All that mattered to her was Fancy.

She started to feel cramping around her chest and limbs but forced herself to fight through it.

Then she realised these were no cramps at all.

They felt like cuts. Deep ones.

The trail finally took her into a run-down part of the city and led inside a condemned skyscraper. Kicking down the boarded-up doors, Fleur found her way inside, numerous rats retreating into the brickwork at her coming. The trail lead upwards, how far, Fleur had no idea.

There was an elevator in the middle of the room, a squalid thing but it looked functional.

Getting inside, and lighting up her horn, the elevator whirred into life, taking her up at at steady pace.

The trail ascended upwards, as if dripping from the ceiling. Fleur gazed upwards. It looked as if it went all the way to the top.

Another bout of pain shot through her and she found herself screaming, clutching at her chest. It felt as if she was being flayed.

Then another scream. But it wasn’t her own. She could hear the sound of Fancy Pants’ cries of agony ringing in her ears.

Removing the monocle and looking into it, she saw it turning red.

Then a pair of eyes, crimson as blood, glowed in the middle of a hellish gas mask as a figure, glad in protective gear, looked up at her.

“Well...it doesn’t look like you’ll last very much longer”

The way he said that, one would’ve thought he regretted his actions.

Then the monocle showed her what this masked pony was looking at.

She covered her mouth in horror as the limp body of Fancy Pants hung helplessly from his shackles, bleeding from lacerations both he and his tormentor had lost count of.

He gave a series of weak, muffled whimpers as he struggled to muster up the energy to raise his head.

“It is a shame...I’d hoped to bring her in here with you...but no worries”

A wickedly-sharp knife glinted in his hooves.

“You’re both going to the same place after all”

Another scream rushed through her skull as Fleur felt agony pierce between her ribs.

She raised her head to the ceiling, breathing heavily.

He was killing him!

He was killing her Fancy!

Baring her teeth and shuddering with rage, she lit up her horn, causing the elevator to jolt and rocket upwards at five times its speed.

It found its destination at last, slamming to a halt on the ceiling as Fleur ripped open the grate and rushed forwards, following the trail like a hound following the scent of its quarry.

She would protect him!


*


Bloodhound didn’t look like he was faltering as he wiped his brow with his free hoof and spun his sword around him with a bellow.

‘So much for that idea’ thought Shining Armour grimly.

But while Lady Cadence was in danger, he wouldn’t back down either.

Once again they charged at each other, blades clashing, sending sparks flying in all directions.

As the chaos unfolded, Lady Cadence turned to Carcassonne with a wild grin.

“Carrie, I’m gonna’ sing it!”

“No, don’t sing it!” the scarlet unicorn groaned.

“Oh, you bet I’m gonna sing it!”

“Yeah, you’re gonna sing it”

“And you’re gonna sing with me!”

“That is something that’s gonna’ happen, isn’t it” Carcassonne said with resignation.

“You know it is! And a one, and a two, and a one-two-three”

“What are they doing?” Bloodhound asked his opponent, genuinely puzzled.

Shining Armour shrugged, sharing that same puzzlement as Carcassonne and Cadence burst into song.

It was a song based of a Disneigh masterpiece that a young Carcassonne had written for herself to stroke her own ego and only sung it quietly to herself when she felt anxious or stressed, which was often.

One day Cadence had overheard it and Carcassonne had caught her singing it, causing her to throw a volley of insults at the alicorn for spying on her.

Now, however, between friends, it felt very different.


“Nooooo-oooooone tricks Carcassonne”

“No-one sticks Carcassonne”

“And she never can break so don’t fix Carcassonne”

“As you see, I excell at In-ci-ner-ating!”

“Yeah, what a mare, CARCASSOOOOONNE!”


The two mares spun around in circles, the full extent of their magical capabilities demonstrated with a bombardment of powerful self-defence spells, causing chaos among the mercenaries, many of whom saw fit to quit while they still had the hooves to carry them.

“Gah, plough this! Abort!” Bloodhound barked “Abort, I said! We’re not taking on an alicorn! Get out of this damn city!”

His wings took him off the ground as he threw a look of loathing and rage at Sergeant Shining Armour.

“This isn’t over, boy!” he snarled “I’ve got your scent!”

And he took to the air as his cohorts dispersed as quickly as they’d appeared.

Regaining his breath, Shining Armour responded.

“Yeah, I’ve got yours too! You know what? It stinks!”

He didn’t think that comeback was excellent but it earned him a raucous applause from the guard who gathered their injured and cleared the area. The Sergeant’s first instinct was to check on the acting-Princess of Equestria.

“My lady” He knelt, wincing from his injuries “We responded to your instructions. The Royal Guard have secured the city. Nitpick’s attempted coup has been foiled”

He felt the alicorn remove his helmet and give him a gentle kiss on the forehead.

Shining Armour’s face glowed pinker than the coat of the mare he’d grown to love.

“Well done, Sergeant. I was right to rely on you” She looked up at the night sky.

“Now the rest of our hopes lie with the power of true love”


*


The torturer was nearly finished. Fancy Pants could tell from his hesitation as he hung from his restraints as limp and broken a ragdoll.

Even breathing had become hard.

The music had stopped at last.

“Mr Fancy Pants...are you listening?”

A cold metal hoof tilted his head upwards as he stared, once more, into the lifeless red eyes of his soon-to-be-killer, feeling the edge of a knife resting below his chin.

“I’d like you to do something for me...Now this is very important so pay attention...When you find the next world...whatever that might be...I want you to find your parents...and tell them I’m sorry”

Fancy Pants blinked.

Had he finally gone mad?

“When I met them, they asked that I spare you, their precious colt...They were prepared to die together, nothing else suited them, but their son...They could not bear to see him hurt. I told them that, regrettably, I could not make any promises...As you see”

Fancy Pants stared with horror at the pony before him. Memories from between hours or years flooded through his mind.

Fourteen years, he’d wondered what sort of pony could have murdered his parents in cold blood.

He’d always seen the unknown culprit as a monster, not a pony at all, driven by a need to cause chaos and mayhem, hurting as many innocents as possible.

Instead it was this pony before him, a pony so nonchalant and casual in his atrocities.

This was worse than anything he could have imagined.

“Yes...I know this is a lot to take in, but trust me...It’s all over now. I just need you to do that for me? Understood? Excellent”

Fancy felt the knife dig into his neck. Soon, he knew, it would cut through him and he would bleed out, sending him to the great unknown and leaving countless life-long questions unanswered.

He closed his eyes, wondering how his parents must have felt as they accepted their fate.

“Goodbye, Fancy Pants. I am happy I got this chance to meet you”


‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’

The masked pony turned his head as there came noises from behind the door. The sound of hooves kicking and stomping upon it.

This wasn’t meant to happen.

Nopony was meant to be here.

Nopony was meant to find them.

Glancing back at Fancy Pants’ prone form, he edged toward his table and reached for a bolt pistol.

The door smashed open and a furious unicorn mare emerged, her horn a primrose inferno as she readied a mighty spell.

The pistol rose, the metal hoof curling round the trigger.

“GET AWAY FROM MY FANCY, YOU MONSTER!!!”

The unicorn’s bellow was followed by the roar of a colossal magic surge, sending the torturer flying back, hitting the wall and then falling through it as the wall itself gave way to the unstoppable magic.

He fell from the top of the skyscraper, legs flailing with an anguished cry.

“DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN!"

The cry became fainter and fainter as he vanished into the city underworld.

Panting, barely keeping on her hooves, Fleur de Lis stared at the twisted figure of Fancy Pants.

Sobbing at the sight, she lit up her horn, near exhausted from the spell, and unlocked the bolts holding him to the wall.

The gentlecolt’s body slumped forward into the forelegs of the mare he loved.

His entire body had been sliced in every direction, burned in other places with methods she did not wish to think about.

His horn was grey and cracked, tiny crystals stuck to it like wasps.

Fleur tore off the blood-soaked gag covering his mouth.

He wasn’t breathing.

“Fancy...” Fleur wept “My poor Fancy..”

He gave a groan and coughed, blood running out the corners of his lips.

“Fancy! Fancy, it’s alright!” Fleur used what little magic she had left to heal him some way, working carefully to keep his heart beating at a safe speed while steadily closing his lacerations “It’s alright, Fancy, I’m here! I’m here for you”

The stallion's eyes flickered.

“F-F-Fleur?” he mumbled.

“Yes, Fancy...Fleur is here”

“Whoa!” A royal guard had flown through the enormous hole in the wall and fumbled with a transceiver. Fleur and Fancy Pants knew him from the gala.

“This is Flash Sentry! The Chairstallion has been found on Crooked Horn Boulevard alive but seriously wounded, highest floor of the tallest building. You’ll know it when you see it. Bring a sky chariot and medics! Now!”

He smiled at the two.

“Don’t worry. Help is on its way”

Fleur’s tears fell in torrents down her cheeks but she smiled as Fancy’s eyes opened at last.

“You hear that, Fancy? Help is coming!” She held him close and closed her eyes.

“I’ll protect you...my love”


*


“Damn”

In the darkness of a particularly grimy and unseen part of Crooked Horn Boulevard’s alleyways, a gas-masked pony gave a groan as one of his metal hooves finally rose and pushed himself off the ground.

Overhead, a sky chariot soared across the streets and hovered by the skyscraper, ponies entering and exiting through the great hole he’d fallen through.

Instinctively, he removed his mask and turned his rubber suit inside-out to show a dirty woollen coat which he wrapped around his body.

Anypony who saw him would mistake him for a common vagrant down on his luck.

Not worth their attention.

His transceiver buzzed as he discreetly held it to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Cascadius, what the buck?!” Bloodhound sounded furious “You told us the alicorn would stay in her palace! All in hoof, you said!”

“Something...went wrong” he said, coughing.

There was a pause. Then Bloodhound continued in a worried tone.

“Cass...Pal, are you okay?”

“I...I made a mistake”

“Cass, you never make mistakes!”

"I know...I haven’t been keeping control...But I’ll soon fix that. I’m sorry about this, Bloody. This is my fault. I’ll make it up to you. Abandon the mission. Rendezvous outside the city. I’ll meet up with you later”

“You sure you’re alright, pal?”

“Yeah, yeah, I just...” He gave a grunt as he forcibly shoved a dislocated shoulder back into place “Just need to reflect a bit”

“Okay...We still get paid, right?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. Leave it with me”

“Alright. Meet up with you later. Good luck”

The transceiver gave a buzz of static and switched off.

Propping himself up against the wall, waiting to recover from the both figurative and literal fall he’d suffered, Cascadius rose his head to the sky with cold, callous eyes.

‘Fleur de Lis...I underestimated you. That’s not a mistake I make twice' A metal hoof scraped along the ground 'You interrupted my work and made me look like a fool...that was your mistake...you won’t get to make it twice. Seven years is long enough for me to have a plan. You’d better hope it’s not long enough for you to forget. You’d better hope, by the time I’m ready, you’ve ascended to alicornhood, because once I’m done with those who wronged me before...You’re Next!'

Author's Note:

Brute force can never overcome the bonds of friendship.
And no nefarious plot will ever undermine the power of true love.
These are the principles of harmony.
The battle is won!
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
Stumbler is based of Silver-Quill's Clutterstep, a very well-made OC and the hero of a story that moves me greatly. I recommend reading it.
References to Archer, V For Vendetta, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Abridged, Beauty and the Beast, Dad's Army, Barnyard, Miranda and Batman Arkham Asylum. I recommend these as well.
Cascadius got more than he bargained for.
This is what happened when you don't plan ahead.
Tune in for the finale where we tie up all the loose ends.
Thank you for viewing and please let me know what you think.