• Published 11th Nov 2016
  • 888 Views, 96 Comments

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 8

Fancy Pants more than made up for the morning he’d spent in sullenness the day before. He spent the morning engaging in conversation with anypony who would speak with him, enjoyed a hearty breakfast and a bit of a dance up and down the stairs, his tweed dressing gown flapping round his sides.

He simply felt so much more alive.

He was safe. Fleur was safe. Briefly Manor and all those in it were safe. The ponies he loved and cared for were safe and soon enough, those who had sought to change that would be getting their comeuppance.

He and Fleur’s relationship was the talk of the city and, for once, he cared not. Fleur de Lis had demonstrated herself to be just as magnanimous as him and twice as determined and deserved her growing reputation as a dazzling mare of wonder. He was honoured to be associated with her and have so many believe the two of them belonged with one another and he knew for certain she felt likewise.

Overall, Fancy Pants concluded, things were good.

Below the staircase that the master of the manor was bounding up and down on, Tombola and Mrs Fuss Pot were conversing, enjoying the sight of their master’s mirth.

“Ooh, it really is lovely to see him more his old self, so it is” Fuss sighed “I never could stand to see the young master downcast”

“Yes, dear madam, I do believe the worst is behind us” Tombola chuckled.

“Ay-up, all!” Gruffleby emerged, his face pale “Don’t look now but you might want to make the place presentable. It’s the Nephew-Crusher herself”

Tombola’s face fell.

“Rather spoke too soon” he groaned, taking his leave and heading to the stairs to see his master.

“Sir?” he called “Much as I hate to spoil your jubilation, her ladyship, Mrs Bustle Bloomers, is due to arrive.

Fancy Pants’ moustaches jerked in horror as he rolled his eyes.

“Aunts” he sulked “What a ruddy nuisance”


To be fair, though his aunt has earned the nickname ‘The Nephew-Crusher’ around Briefly Manor, Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers wasn’t by way of being his answer to Countess Magnifying Glass. Thinking about what poor Derpy had endured still made him shudder.

His father’s elder sister had never been outright abusive, especially during his younger years. To call her stern, however, would be the understatement of the century. The overseer of his foalhood, Bustle Bloomers had no patience or toleration for foolishness of any kind. Pantaloon’s family came from centuries of noble heritage and while he may not have made such a fuss about it, Bustle Bloomers certainly did. She had always turned her nose up at Petticoat and, though pleased enough with them bringing up a colt, she took it upon herself to remind her young nephew of his standing and responsibilities at every occasion, treading harshly on any mischief on his or his mother’s part. Since his parent’s death, Aunt Bustle Bloomers had been something of a guardian and while she definitely cared a lot about the safety of her nephew, it would have helped if she didn’t see so many things as being dangerous to him, namely having a life in general. She was one of those unfortunate cases where her concern for the family honour far outweighed her concern for the family itself.

Aunt Bustle Bloomers never ‘visited’, only ever ‘inspected’. If she was at Briefly Manor, chances were her nephew had done something wrong in her eyes and she was going to make her position known.

‘When Aunt Bustle Bloomers wants you to do a thing you do it,’ Fancy had always said ‘Or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with Tirek!’ Checking himself in the mirror to notice anything out of place, he trotted down the stairs and met her aunt in the courtyard.

The carriage Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers travelled in was decorative but small and her aunt, having put on a substantial amount of weight in her elder years, took a significant time getting out, back-end first. Fancy noticed Ramekin, Plumette, Gruffleby and Tinny Can barely stopping themselves from laughing and truthfully, he felt much the same.

Finally, Bustle Bloomers emerged, a tall but portly matriarch with a dark grey coat and a blue-grey perm of a mane that was showing more grey than blue. Dressed in a grand indigo dress that almost carried her along the ground and a hat with feathers of all sorts sticking out, she was not likely to be mistaken in a crowd. Combined with her habit of looking over her opera glasses and anypony and everypony, she was obnoxious to those who knew her for about a minute and terrifying to any who knew her longer.

The silence of the courtyard was broken by the yapping of the Grand Duchess’s constant companion, Horatio, a West Highland White terrier that boasted the impressive skill of being able to bark incessantly nonstop throughout the day pausing only for meals and had contributed to Fancy’s general discomfort around most members of the canine family.

Ambling forwards, showing few signs of her growing age debilitating her, Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers gave her son the once-over with her opera glasses.

“Fancy...” she began, her voice reedy but strong, every word straight from the diaphragm “You look very unhealthy...You really shouldn’t spend so much time in the city...We must talk inside”


*


The first time Princess Celestia had ever sat upon the royal throne, she had been little more than a foal under the tutelage of Star-Swirl and Princess Laurelore. She and Luna had clambered over the gaudy seat for hours, giggling all the while.

And even now, after centuries, the throne always made Princess Celestia feel like a child.

She took one look over the latest polling reports.

Fancy Pants was ahead by nearly ten times the number of votes of his opponents.

On that particular front she could rest easy.

On another matter she was, at present, hearing from her niece, Lady Mi Amore Cadenza, about her recent visits to the Council Archives.

“I hope you understand, young Cadence, that you should have requested permission from a council member” Her tone was serious but not stern. Nonetheless, Cadence shifted about on her hooves uncomfortably.

“I know, Princess, and I’m sorry, but the information in those vaults were crucial to my studies”

“And what studies were those, may I ask?” Celestia raised one eyebrow.

“Combating political corruption” Cadence looked up with a proud expression “I believe Nitpick’s been hiding something from his fellow councillors and covered up a monstrous act many years ago”

“It wouldn’t surprise me, my niece, but most of various misdemeanours are, at this point, common knowledge” She leaned forward “I’m told you’ve been conducting these ‘studies’ of yours with Miss Carcassonne”

“That’s right” Cadence took note of her aunt’s suspicious expression “I really think I can help her. I know you and her never really got along and both she and I can accept that was mostly her fault but I’ve already got her to come to terms with most of her mistakes”

“I am grateful for that but allowing her to chase after her political rivals, with aid from the royalty no less, could set her down the path of something much worse”

“Princess Celestia, I know Carcassonne can be reckless and perhaps quite vindictive but I believe I’m becoming a good influence on her. She’s agreed to let me handle the...”


“Princess Celestia!” A messenger burst in, pale-faced and ashen “It...It’s an emergency! You’re needed at once!”

The two alicorns spun round and took great notice of the newcomer’s panic.

“What has happened?!” the Princess asked.

The messenger took a breath and explained in an anxious tone.

“Bittsburgh...The city of Bittsburgh...It’s burning!

“What?!” Celestia’s pearl-pink eyes widened with horror.

“The steelworks...there was an explosion...well, a chain of them...all over the industrial districts! The flames are spreading all over the streets! The weather ponies can’t cope! Hundreds will die! We...we need you”

“Worry no more. I will head to the city with all haste. Lady Mi Amore Cadenza...” The Princess of Equestria’s sun turned to her niece “You and the Royal Council shall meet here at the palace and take charge over Canterlot until my return. I should not be long but I expect you to act with prudence”

“Of course, auntie...er, you highness” Cadence bowed.

“Good messenger, please rest in Canterlot, you have done very well” Celestia told the messenger before her horn lit near up as bright as the sun she carried up at daybreak and teleported out Canterlot.

The messenger looked closely at Princess Cadence, his face blank.

‘Vibrant coat. Mane multi-chromatic but blended. Eyes wide and slightly diagonal with heavy lashes and extended lacrimal area. Slight change in colour at the wingtip. Wings are wide-feathered like that of a peahen. Non-Equestrian origins. Definite. Flutter Valley? Possible. Crystal Empire? Much more likely’

“Are you alright?” Cadence asked.

“F-f-forgive me, my lady” the messenger stammered, bowing “I...I’ve never seen an alicorn before”

“It’s alright” she said smiling “I need to be going. I’ll be back soon if there’s anything else so wait in the palace rooms if you’ve nowhere else to go. If not, nopony will mind if you explore the city”

‘Cutie-Mark. The Crystal Heart. Confirmed Imperial, possibly of the ancient lineage, pre-Sombra. Wings are kept clean but show signs of moulting marks typical of withdrawn pegasi. Used them a lot in younger years, not so much now. Closer to pegasus than unicorn, stronger genes on the pegasus side. Cutie-mark seems old judging by the length and blending of the coat colour on and around it so acquired it younger than most, prodigious, gifted with magic and awakened alicorn power early. Alicorn power- Unknown, definitely cosmic, possibly psychological phenomena, most likely high level’

“Thank you, your grace” he said.

‘Best Course Of Action: Examine Weaknesses While Avoiding Direct Confrontation’

And he was gone.


*


“Fancy”

“Aunt Bustle Bloomers”

The two noble ponies sat on opposite sides of the dining table, trying their hardest to enjoy a light brunch. Horatio occupied a chair of his own beside his owner, who fed him treats of freeze-dried shrimp in a tender fashion reserved for him alone. Bustle Bloomers adjusted her opera glasses, sipped from a teacup and spoke in an imperious tone to his nephew.

“I wish to question you sharply on recent events and how they have been interpreted by the public”

“I see” Fancy said “Carry on”

“I am told you allowed a...‘Modelling Shoot’ to be held here at Briefly Manor”

“Yes, that’s right” Fancy answered, clearing his throat and bracing himself “The photographer’s a friend of mine”

Bustle Bloomers gave a drawn-out sniff.

“And I am also told you and one of the models, a gangly, ostentatious and...common individual were at each other’s side”

The gentlecolt sighed.

“Manner of speaking...yes”

“Fancy” Bustle Bloomers shot him a withering glare “It is young stallions like you that make a pony with the future of the race at heart despair

Fancy tapped his hooves and gave a small reply.

“Oh”

“Do not act as if this is a minor inconvenience, Fancy. I can assure you, it is not” She stood up and paced around impatiently “For years I have sought about making you a match with a decent wife. For goodness sake, you grew up with countless young mares of equal or higher standing. If you had simply shown more interest when I showed you to the Princess and her ward...”

“I told you, Miss Cadence was already seeing a stallion” Fancy said in a level tone.

“That was completely beside the point! The match would have cemented the family with royal status and lineage” she snapped “You are thirty years of age, Fancy. You should be breeding foals by now. Instead, you waste your time behind a clerk’s desk and ignore the responsibilities of the family. And now...now I hear you’re cavorting with a backwater mare who is paid to flaunt herself on the morning publications! Well, what have you to say?”


Fancy Pants eyed his aunt for a moment.

The fear he had of his aunt made way for his indignation of hearing Fleur’s name insulted.

Turning to his plate, he took a sip of tea and spoke plainly.

“Her name is Fleur de Lis...and she saved my life”

Bustle Bloomers titled her head suspiciously.

“I beg your pardon?”

Fancy Pants closed his eyes in bitter recollection and continued.

“I almost gave up yesterday, auntie. I suppose you would have been relieved if that happened. I met Fleur a while ago when I visited Ponyville. She came to Canterlot to find work and we started seeing each other. At the time, I really wasn’t certain if I was in love with her or not. Then she was attacked, by ponies who sought to destroy me as well as her. I put a stop to it and saw fit to take care of her. We grew fond of one another, I have to say”

“Fancy, I...”

Fancy Pants held up one hoof slightly, quite gingerly, as the words came pouring out his mouth regardless of how he thought they’d sound on his or his aunt’s ears. Bustle Bloomers looked distinctly peeved that she’d been interrupted but seemed resolved to listen.

“Then they tried to harm me but harming her and vice versa with blackmail and slander of the most heinous kind. They wanted me to surrender and Fleur to suffer. At first, I had a chance to leave with dignity and so I gave Fleur the same opportunity...and only by breaking her heart. Looking back I probably should have done something about this. I am, after all, a kinspony of Knickerbocker and a Lord of Briefly Manor. Showing courage in the dragon’s mouth is our way of living. But...at that point I was simply far too worried. They came back with far worse demands and would be satisfied with nothing more than the utter destruction and degradation of myself and all beside me. Everything and everypony I loved was threatened and I had not enough time or resources to foil their scheme but, unknown to me, Fleur de Lis did. It is largely thanks to her that our family stand proud...by her ‘Flaunting herself on the morning publications’ as you put it”
He paused, taking in Bustle Bloomers’ incredulous stare.

“Well, what have you to say?” he asked, mirroring her aunt’s words moments before.


“Now listen to me, nephew of mine” the matriarch said sternly “You mistake me, entirely. Firstly...I would most certainly not been relieved. While it is true I believe your dabbling in politics is bad for you, and a waste of time, I would not have wanted you to leave in disgrace”

“Afraid it’ll shame the family name?” Fancy asked, sipping his tea.

“Fancy! That is unreasonable!” His aunt blustered, distinctly offended “I do worry about you, Fancy! I do not want you to come to harm for any reason, I had hoped you had realised that” She cleared her throat “And...As to this mare, this...Fleur. If, indeed, she has taken to helping the family then, by all means, I would be grateful and I may even see fit to reward her for it but engaging in this liaison with her is irrational”

“I don’t see why not. Me and her share a great many things”

“Then, by all means, keep her as a friend. That would be perfectly acceptable. I would not wish to share in that friendship but I would not object to it. Who you are friends with is your business. But starting this relationship with her. To what end?”

“She makes me happy”

“And what of the family name, you foolish colt?!” she barked, slamming her hoof on the floor “Your happiness does not take priority. This mare is not of noble-blood or even marginally wealthy and has few prospects to improve that. She readily engages in a career that is fundamentally pretentious and that’s not even counting her...aesthetic disproportions” She paused a moment “I am sorry for pointing it out but though you may see her dissimilarity as no fault of her own and, knowing you, quite endearing, there would be no guarantee society would think likewise. She would fail to raise the family’s status or even keep it where it is. And if your story is to be believed, she put you in danger more than she got you out of it”

Fancy narrowed his eyes at that statement.

It was true that they had tried to harm him through his love for Fleur.

But his love for Fleur wasn’t something he was prepared to lose. She was worth any danger.

“If you enjoy her company, Fancy, continue your friendship with her but I tell you now, you will not marry her and expect my approval”

“I’m sorry to hear that, auntie” He took another sip of tea “I’ll have to do without it”

Bustle Bloomers stared at her nephew.

“You never used to be this way, Fancy” he said disapprovingly “This Fleur has a bad influence on you”

“I know. I like it. I think I’ll keep seeing her”

Bustle Bloomers gave an infuriated sigh and sat back down, tossing a shrimp to Horatio.

“I have been away far too long” she clucked “You have seen fit to forget your duties”

“Duties, aunt of mine?” Fancy looked up “Do you not read the paper? My duties are to Canterlot and its Royal Council. How can you say I’m wasting my time? How can you say I am not good enough for it when most of the city is contradicting you”

Bustle Bloomers gave a deep sniff, frustrated by her nephew’s nerve.

“I am displeased that you think of me this way, Fancy” There was a hint of desolation in her voice “I have never believed you are not good at what you do. I personally believe you’ve done very well as...Chairstallion, is it? Well, as a politician, you have excelled, I do not deny it. I simply believe it is not in your best interests to pursue this endeavour. You were born to be a noble, Fancy Pants, instead you choose to be a bureaucrat. I did not approve when your father admired your mother for engaging in this field, I approve of you following her path even less. Your mother was a very good Chairmare and I understand that your father loved her very much and I do not begrudge him of that. My point is, he could have done a lot better, given his standing and opportunities, and so could you”

“You would rather I stand down and let a stallion like Nitpick take control?”

“Ah yes, I was rather expecting you to ask that” Bustle Bloomers did something quite surprising.

She removed her glasses and smiled.

Fancy Pants was not used to her smiling.


“Now Fancy, I understand that Royal Council Chairstallion is a prestigious position, no doubt the reason the Lord Magistrate covets it. Oh yes, I know what sort of stallion he is and I don’t deny he’d make an awful ruler, vain, cruel and self-seeking. But he wouldn’t really be a ruler, would he, not in practice. The Princess is the ruler. The Chairstallion is merely the monitor”

“You can’t deny it’s a powerful position, auntie. I’ve done a great deal as Chairstallion”

“Yes, but was that solely because of your position, Fancy, my colt?”

Fancy Pants thought a moment, stunned by his aunt’s words.

“No...” he said quietly “I did a great deal because of others...a Chairstallion needs to be agreed with, supported, backed and obeyed in order to get anywhere and to do that, he must appeal to his equals. There’s no obligation to serve him and no reprisal for refusing him”

“And why did nopony refuse you?”

“Well...” Fancy thought the answer was obvious “Because I’m popular”

“And is Nitpick popular? In the Council, that is?”

“Of course not. They can’t stand him. Not even Jet Set and Blueblood think he’s any good. He doesn’t show up to most meetings because of it. It wouldn’t matter how many ponies voted for him. Even if he gets in power, if the council don’t support him then he’s little more than a scapegoat and there’s nothing he can-”

He stopped, utterly flabbergasted and staring at his aunt, who sat nodding sagely and petting Horatio.

“Exactly” she said “So why are you so worried about him? He becomes Chairstallion, so what? The ponies that didn’t vote for him will never support him, and the ponies that did will stop when they learn his promises were all sour grapes. He’ll have spent eons worth of time and wealth on an enormous target on his trousers. I knew his father, Nosepick, a cheat, a liar and a paradigmatic buffoon. He pursued the position of...oh what was it...Grand Treasurer, finally got it through bribery and threats of all kinds, beating all his rivals, my husband among them. And do you know what happened? He walked out after his first month in office and he looked half-dead by the end of it, some said he was actually dribbling! He never got to touch the money he thought would all be his and his desk was never allowed not to be flooded with paperwork. I’ve seen sixteen Chairstallions in my lifetime, weak and strong, but not one of them could ever be as mighty as they were as candidates. Acquiring your position is easy. Keeping it and making use of it is altogether more difficult. But you’ve kept it for eight years and been among the most active of its holders. That takes true power. And I’ve always been impressed by it, Fancy, I just believe you could more with it than serving a glorified desk-job and cavorting with a small-town social climber”

Fancy had never seen this side of her before. Her aunt had always been intelligent, that much could be said but this wasn’t simply smart, this was wise.

The benefits of age and a life spent examining the higher echelons of society.

Fancy took a deep breath. Weighing her aunt’s words proved arduous but he made up his mind.

“I understand, auntie. And I am grateful for your concern and your advice...” he said bluntly “But I am still staying on for my third term...and I’m still seeing Fleur de Lis”

Bustle Bloomers’ face fell and she gave a weighty sigh.

“Whatever for, you silly colt?” she grumbled.

“The same reason I became Chairstallion in the first place” Fancy answered smiling “Because ponies want me to”


Shaking her head, Grand Duchess Bustle Bloomers, rose from her chair, gathered up Horatio and eyed her nephew one last time.

“Sometimes I really do despair of you, nephew of mine” she said gravely “As you wish, if you will not take my advice, I will not force you. You are old enough to make your own decisions. But should those decisions lead to unpleasantness, do not expect my sympathy”

“I wouldn’t dream of it” Fancy said, hiding a smirk at the corner of his mouth.

“Very well” She sounded tired “Mister Tombola, please be so good as to call back my carriage”

“At once, your ladyship” Tombola said, bowing. The butler, until now, had been transfixed by the conversation between the master of the manor and the dreaded aunt.

“And if you must keep seeing this mare, Fancy, at the very least...” she gave him an icy glare that, to his shock, steadily mellowed out.

“Take good care of her”

“Of course”

Bustle Bloomers cleared her throat and spoke with a modicum of respect for her nephew.

“Not that it’s the smart thing...or the wise thing...but it’s the right thing”

“Sir?!” Gruffleby cantered in, or whatever the goat equivalent was, out of breath.

“Permission to speak, sir!” he panted, knowing that waiting for an answer was unnecessary with Fancy Pants “Lady Mi Amore Cadenza and Earl Grey summon you to the Royal Council while the Princess is in absentia”

“Really?”

“Yes, sir. Her ladyship also asks that you retrieve some documents from the council archives, dated as follows”

He handed him a slip of paper with a few dates scrawled on it. Fancy Pants deposited it into his jacket pocket and nodded.

“Inform her I’ll be on my way”


*


The messenger had indeed explored the city.

In fact, he'd explored most of the mountain and the river below...many ages past.

Swirled in mist, supplies and munitions from overseas were received on the river bank only on rare occasions. Smugglers had once used this part of Equestria to peddle illegal cargo into Canterlot but the Royal Guard had put a stop to that kind of thing centuries ago. Not much point smuggling in Canterlot anymore.

But nonetheless, in the mist and silence, a small passenger boat went largely unnoticed. It was a poor excuse of a ship, rusted and creaking, but it served its purpose.

The boat was carrying an old friend.

“Hey, you!” The boat’s driver and captain, a stallion as out of shape and crude as his ship, gave Cascadius a yell “You the contact?”

“That’s me” The messenger threw off his garb and showed himself.

The captain glanced behind him to one of his passengers.

“That him?” he asked.

“Oh yes”

A dark red pegasus with a spiky burnt-umber mane and black spots running from his face all the way down his back, jumped up onto the pier. He was dressed in a khaki coat with plenty of pockets and belts slung across his body and his head was topped with a bottle-green beret. His once rugged face was marred by a pale diagonal scar that covered one eye and nearly split his face in two.

Nonetheless his smile was quite friendly, at least to the messenger, showing off his gold tooth.

“Cascadius, you magnificent plot-hole!” he guffawed “It’s been too long”

Cascadius laughed and hugged the pegasus before him.

Bloodhound” he chuckled “So glad you could make it”

“Aw, you know I could never turn you down...not when there’s money involved” Bloodhound, a fellow mercenary feared across all of Outer Equestria, gave a wink “Got us what you needed. Weapons straight from Fort Alaric, Boulette”

Cascadius rolled his eyes.

“Really?! Ploughing hay, if I’d asked you to get a bag of ice you’d have gone to the freaking Summit of the Windigos!”

“What? You asked for proper weapons” Bloodhound said, shrugging “And after that job in Bangdok went south, I’m not taking any chances. No worries. The Boulette Marine Corp’s armaments are just as good as ever but the folk who use them leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately I found fine fellows who could handle them more than sufficiently”

He gave a whistle and a gang of hard-faced, cold-eyed mares and stallions from the every corner of Equestria emerged from the boat


“Excellent” Cascadius sighed “So you know the drill. The colt we said we’d spare last time you were here?”

“Yeah?”

“Plans changed”

“Ah, shame” Bloodhound sucked his teeth “Still, last time, Corax and Blue Murder were with us? You think we can still pull this off?”

“It’s all in hoof” Cascadius said casually “How are those two, by the way?”

“Well, Corax went missing in the Cognito Rainforest, but I expect he’ll pop up sooner or later”

“He could cut his way out of anything. Did he find the Headstone Horn then?”

“Oh yeah, and he’s enjoying its tune”

Cascadius gave a sigh.

“Fantastic. A half-insane Shaking-Spear-spouting cannibal with a newly-acquired army of ghouls. Oh, he’s gonna’ be Tartarus to work with and no mistake”

“Damn right” Bloodhound chuckled “And as for Blue Murder, I hear she’s got a job in North Onageria as a principal interrogator”

“Really?” Cascadius asked, slightly puzzled “A full-time job at her age?”

“Well, she’s got a foal to care for now, hasn’t she”

“Ah yes. Little Tungsten. I must remember to send him a birthday present”

“You’d better. Old Blue’s very protective of her little offspring. Remember that bully four houses down?”

Cascadius hooted with laughter.

“Whoo, she was not happy with that colt, was she?”

“No, she was not”

“Speaking of which, did you get even with that senator who stiffed you?”

“Yep. I took your advice” Bloodhound grinned, his gold tooth gleaming “I didn’t lose my temper or even use a bad word. I just left him a little message”

“What?”

“His daughter”

Cascadius eyed his friend.

“A little unprofessional”

“Hey, I didn’t kill her. I didn’t even touch her. Most of her was alright...” he cleared his throat “The parts that wouldn’t burn

Cascadius and Bloodhound looked at each other a moment.

Then both of them burst out laughing.

“Oh Tartarus, I have missed you!” Cascadius chuckled.


“Right then, to business” Bloodhound said, calming down “Am I to help you with the wet work again?”

“Not this time. I need you to be a bit more proactive”

“Continue”

Cascadius produced a photo of a scarlet unicorn with a multi-coloured mane.

“This is Carcassonne. Adept in elemental magic but not the best strategist from what I’ve seen”

Bloodhound gazed at the photo.

“And?” he asked.

“I’d like you to kill her” Cascadius said “My treat. Consider it a late Hearth’s Warming Gift”

“Oh, Cassie, you shouldn’t have” Bloodhound chuckled, catching sight of Cascadius’s irritated expression.

“Don’t call me Cassie” he grumbled.

“Hey, love-birds!” the ship’s captain yelled “Times a’ wasting! Where’s my damn money?!”

“Alright, keep your mane on” Bloodhound said, drawing an augmented knife from his coat pocket. Holding it in his hooves, he let in catch the sun “This is an Imperial Haustrian Ceremonial Dagger. Only twelve of these exist in the world. This one was gifted to me eight years ago by Archduke Freischutz in the Battle of Stohnendenwald. It was used to skin the false King of the Moanwood Deer alive. The blade saw over a hundred battles before then and has seen over a thousand since”

“I’m not interested in your bucking life story, buddy! How much is it worth?!”

Bloodhound narrowed his eyes and answered in a flat tone.

“Just over a quarter of a million bits on the underground auction”

“That’s more like it!” the ship’s captain licked his lips and held out his hoof “Throw it over!”

There was a dull whistle as the knife went sailing through the air and, rather than land in the captain’s hooves, elected instead to bury itself in the stallion’s forehead, causing him to topple back, open-mouthed, goggle-eyed and very, very dead.

Very poor choice of words” Bloodhound said dismally as he silently flew over and retrieved the dagger. As he did so, Cascadius grabbed the edge of the boat and attempted to pull it open at the hull. There was a mighty metallic groan and the front of the ship tore open and took in water. His work done, Cascadius gave the boat a great push out to sea where both and its late captain steadily started to sink.

Bloodhound flew back to the port, cleaned his dagger, took one look at the sinking ship and turned back to his old friend.

“No respect for culture, some ponies” he tutted “Right then, let’s get cracking”


*


Fancy Pants arrived at the Royal Council in good time. It wasn’t too far away from Briefly Manor and taking the carriage would have been far more costly, time-wise, as there seemed to be a general congestion city-wide. Travelling by hoof was best in this case.

Flinging open the doors, he found Earl Grey, his distinguished old mentor.

“Fancy” he greeted him “Did you hear the news?”

“Not all of it, old colt” Fancy answered, catching his breath “What exactly has the Princess flying off so fast?”

“You’re not going to believe this...A firestorm at Bittsburgh”

“Goodness gracious” Fancy Pants’ eyes widened, though not enough for him to drop his monocle “I very much hope it’ll be alright”

“It was their good fortune a messenger got through. Unfortunately most of the council cannot. I don’t know if you saw the traffic outside but I’ve already heard Jet Set can’t make it and...” Earl said, before the door slammed open again.

An oddly dressed and dishevelled stallion had appeared.

“Mr Grey, sir?”

“Yes, that would be me” Earl Grey turned to him “What seems to be the problem”

“I came from the telegram office, sir” the messenger said “Your...your wife, sir...”

Earl Grey paled.

“What do you mean?”

“She sent a message, sir. Your sons, Pokey and Ponet...they had an accident...she doesn’t know how it happened but a magic bow...they lost control and...”

“Wh-wh-what happened to my sons?!” Earl Grey cried, grabbing the messenger’s shoulder.

“They’re in the hospital, sir” the messenger said “In the next street. Would you like me to call a carriage?”

“No, no, I’ll walk. Thank you” The messenger took his leave as a panic-stricken Earl Grey turned to his Chairstallion.

“Fancy, I...”

“You go and see your sons, Earl. You’re needed with your family. I’ll explain everything” Fancy Pants said calmly “Good luck”


Earl Grey dashed out the doors as Fancy Pants watched.

His prayers were with them.

Venturing into the Council chambers, he unlocked the door to the archives and checked the dates.

Upon realising, his heart was gripped by concern.

All of the dates were in the very same month his parents were killed.

Checking down the archives, he found the drawer and leafed through the folders.

His mind was tumultuous with questions he’d always wanted answered.

Why was Lady Cadence interested now? What possible reason did she have? She was little more than a filly when this took place.

The folder felt heavy, more heavy than others and shutting the drawer took more effort than normally required. With great effort, Fancy slammed the folder down on the table and opened it.

The documents were blurry. Instinctively, Fancy Pants removed his monocle and set to cleaning it.

He only just realised that the archives smelt appallingly musty. So much that it was almost...

He swayed.

Overpowering.

‘What...’ he thought, fumbling with his monocle and struggling to keep balanced ‘What’s going on’

Then he heard something.

Singing.


“Oh ‘twas mighty brave to storm a cave.

A’ teemed with jaws of knives.

And tha’ bravery brought them endless fame

But cost them all their lives”


The singing was slow, mournful and had a certain rustic drawl to it.

It seemed familiar.


“Till at last from out the blackness

came a poor dishevelled soul.

A’ cradling his brother’s body

And a' weeping like a foal”


Then he recalled the lyrics.

This was the song Gruffleby sung when he was drunk and a song his father had sung him to bed with as a lullaby.

The song of his ancestor, Knickerbocker, and the Gallivanters.


“H’away boys, to and fro.

We’ll teach ‘em how to fear.

We hold the Gallivanting line”


The singer was coming closer, heavy hoof-beats, drumming to his song, echoing down the hall.

Barely able to stand, Fancy Pants scrambled behind the door and waited, gasping for clean air and utterly terrified.


“H’away boys, on we go.

Be heard from far and near.

For one more Gallivanting time”


He was in the doorway, whoever he was. Fancy Pants did his best to hold his breath.

If he could just get a jump on him...

WHAM!

In the time it took to blink, a hoof, clad in metal, burst through the door and knocked the Chairstallion against the wall.

His monocle went sailing across the room as he hit the ground.

Stunned, Fancy Pants rolled on the floor, his vision growing worse by the moment.

The intruder shut the door, now left with a great hole in the middle. His hooves were encased in steel but the rest of him was covered by black rubber gear and his head was hidden by a gas mask, two glowing scarlet disks staring into him.

His voice was clear through the mask, he knew not how, but disguised, far too low for any normal pony and his tone was utterly devoid of emotion


“Hello, Mister Fancy Pants...I’d like you to come with me”


Managing to place one hoof on the ground, Fancy Pants glared at his attacker and lit up his horn with golden magic.

He never truly saw him move but in an instant, Fancy’s face was covered by something that felt like salt and smelt like soot. Shaking his head, blinking away the crystals in his eyes, he looked around, trying to make sense of his surroundings.

He found that impossible.

He was in a dark place.

And he could hear Fleur screaming.

Finding he could walk, he stood up and turned round.

A horrific sight met his eyes.

Fleur was being torn apart, inside and out, by a repulsive creature, a seething mass of tentacles and tusks.

Looking closer, he realised the creature possessed the leering face of Lord Magistrate Nitpick.

Stunned at the sight, Fancy fell to his knees and his vision blurred.

He felt hot, burning. He could smell burning.

He looked up and saw burning. Briefly Manor burning.

The windows were boarded up and the hooves of his household were flailing around desperately.

The screams of his friends rang in his ears. Tombola, Fuss Pot, Gruffleby, Ramekin, Plumette, MacTrowel and little Tinny Can cried out for help as they burned alive.

The creature causing Fleur such pain rose above the burning house in the clouds of smoke, cackling like a madpony.

He was losing.

Fancy was losing everything.

Grinding his hooves into the ground and lowering his head, Fancy Pants charged forward with a bellow.

The door gave way and he fell in a heap. The new feeling of coldness gripped him to the bone, shutting his lips together and locking his muscles tight.

He felt wetness beneath him and blinked.

The floor was red. The walls were red.

His parents were red. Hung up on the wall by chains, facing each other, mutilated and degraded in almost every way. They were all red.

Everything was red.

In vain, he tried his utmost to open his mouth to scream but only a huffing noise, like a bellows came from his lungs.

Then he realised the noise was coming from elsewhere.

Right in front of him.

The scarlet eyes of the gas mask drew back as Fancy’s vision cleared.

He was chained to the wall in a dark, dank room.

The gas-mask-wearing stallion stood before him. Beside him was what looked like a rolled-up tent.

A single light above them flickered.

The stallion looked up, adjusted the bulb and spoke.


“Do you know what nemesis means?”


Fancy Pants couldn’t speak. A gag around his face and between his teeth impeded any attempt to open his mouth.

He drew his head back as ‘Gas-Mask’ unravelled the tent, revealing nearly every variety of instruments of pain and torture. Knives, pliers, clubs, hooks, electro-shockers, the list was endless.

‘Gas-Mask’ answered his own question.


“A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by a horrible plot. Me”

Author's Note:

Well, I've been saying all this time that Cascadius is going to be frightening...
Did I do good? :pinkiecrazy::pinkiecrazy::pinkiecrazy:
Aunt Bustle Bloomers is based off the dreaded Aunt Agatha from P.G Wodehouse with a bit of Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones. I tried to make her come across as a mare with severely outdated ideals but fair-minded enough to at least accept those that don't share them, at least when they're family.
Her little monologue is essentially my way of taking 2016 in my stride, if anyone's anxious.
I hope it's helped in some small way.
Bloodhound is one of Cascadius's long-time contacts and friends.
That conversation between them, just chummily regaling each other with tales of horrible death and torture, I think really establishes their characters.
I'm definitely going to see if I can involve Corax and Blue Murder in my later stories.
Fans of Guy Richie films might enjoy the Brick-Top reference at the end and please don't make any jokes about the 'horrible plot'. I'm doing my best here, cut me some slack. :applecry:
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you can. My recent chapters have been completely dry and making me really anxious. :unsuresweetie: