• Published 8th Oct 2017
  • 1,019 Views, 37 Comments

"You Do NOT Pass!" - Pennington Inkwell



Tempest Shadow is no stranger to struggling in life. But the one thing hardest for her to win is trust. Can she convince even one pony of her changed heart?

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Bring It On!

"Okay, Tempest, remember what we told you..." Moonstone whispered, rubbing her shoulders.

"I need to get in close, and fast. He's dangerous at a distance."

"And?"

Tempest smiled. Not only was this the first time she'd ever had a pre-fight massage, but Moonstone and Quick Strike's coaching had bolstered her already-strong confidence. "Since we're both unicorns, magic will be allowed, so I should use it to my advantage. If I find myself forced back, I need to use my explosions as cover to get back in his face."

"Exactly!" Moonstone hopped down from her back, walking in front of her to look her in the eye. "You know, after a few years of having to work WITH him, it's kind of cathartic to be working against him like this."

"If you don't mind me asking, why DO you work with him? You seem like someone with a good head on her shoulders, you could probably go far in any profession you wanted, not just an assistant to some stubborn unicorn!"

Moonstone chuckled. "Believe it or not, it's because I like him. My family has been a part of Equestrian outreach for millennia, and the Princesses asked me to keep an eye on him. He's done a lot of good since what happened with the changelings, but he always needs somebody to keep him on track."

"Are you seriously trying to sell me on the 'He's nice once you get to know him' argument?"

"Well, when you put it that way, you make it sound like I'M the dumb one." Moonstone rolled her eyes. "I guess only time will tell, but that's why I stick with him. He's my friend, for good and for ill."

"Fillies and gentlecolts! Today, it is my genuine pleasure to announce a top-notch brawl! A true clash of the titans!" Quick Strike's voice made her way through the open doors and back to the two of them, clearly excited to be announcing the fight.

"She really gets a kick out of this, doesn't she?" Tempest whispered.

"Today, our competitors consist of my two greatest students, two world-travelers who have seen the best and the worst that Equestria has to offer, and overcome it all!"

"If there's one thing Quick Strike enjoys more than beating ponies up, it's watching other ponies beat each other up!" Moonstone snickered, stepping aside and clearing Tempest's path.

"In the first corner, we have the pony who we all thought we'd never see again, raised from his retirement like our very own mummy from a tomb! Back from the frosty peaks of Mount Aris, risen straight from the darkest crypts.... SCORCHIIIING QUIIIILLL!"

Tempest cringed at the sound of the crowd roaring and cheering in favor of her opponent. This was his turf, he had the home field advantage. As usual, it was Fizzlepop Berrytwist against the world...

"Oof. Exhibition matches don't usually draw a very big crowd. I guess Quick Strike really hyped this one up..." Moonstone muttered. "How are you under pressure?"

"And in the second corner, the mare who brings the rolling thunder! The unicorn who single-hoofedly rose to the top with only the sweat on her brow and the strength of her hooves!"

Correction: Fizzlepop, Moonstone, and Quick Strike against the world...

"Well, here goes. Get out there!"

Tempest nodded, forcing herself to start walking forward.

"Put your hooves together for... TEMPEST SHADOW!"

As she stepped into the arena, Tempest was greeted with a chorus of booing and jeering.

"BOO!"

"GET OUT OF HERE!"

"WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO THE STORM KING, HUH?"

The "Arena" was a glorified gymnasium, with hard rubber mats laid across the floor, a high ceiling and hanging lights, and obvious hiding places for other sporting equipment. Quill and Quick Strike were each waiting at the center, Quick Strike giving her an encouraging smile while Quill was waiting with a terse frown.

"YOU THINK WE'VE FORGOTTEN WHAT YOU DID?"

"YOU'LL NEVER BE A TRUE REPUBLICAN!"

She did her best to ignore the insults and hatred, keeping her gaze locked onto the only other person who mattered: her opponent. The closer she got, the more Quill's poker face crumbled, starting with a twitch in his eye and morphing into an angry sneer. What felt like an eternity later, she finally joined Quill and Quick Strike at the center of the room.

"WHAT A FREAK!"

"YEAH, LOOK AT HER HORN!"

When Quill moved, Tempest almost didn't see it. He snatched Quick Strike's microphone from her hooves and spun around to face the crowd.

"ENOUGH!"

The angry scream was magnified through the speakers scattered across the room to near-deafening levels, causing everyone in the stands to quickly comply with his demand. Quick Strike and Tempest exchanged surprised glances, but Quick Strike didn't move to take it back, yet. Moments later, Tempest could have heard a pin drop in the room.

"Need I remind you all of basic training?" Quill continued, more softly now that he had the room's attention. "The Children of the Mourning Star? BLOOD MOON? The Lunar Republic has always been a rabble of reprobates and terrorists, we're just allowed to be pickier about who we accept, now! For the love of the moon, need I remind anyone that NIGHTMARE MOON came JUST as close to taking over Equestria as anyone else?"

Tempest had to admit, she had never seen awkward silences blown up to such a massive scale that they could include an entire audience, but she was entirely confused.

Is he... defending me?

"None of you are allowed to judge Tempest!" He turned back to them, smugly grinning at her. "By Princess Twilight and Princess Luna's decree, only I'M allowed to judge Tempest!" With those final words, the crowd began cheering again, once more excited for the confrontation between the two of them. Having spoken his mind, he handed back the microphone to Quick Strike.

Never mind.

"Well... uh... Tempest? Anything to say in reply?" Quick Strike offered her the microphone.

Tempest thought for a moment, then pulled Quick Strike's hoof closer so she could speak into the microphone.

"I don't want your pity, Quill, and I don't need anypony's approval. I'm here because I want to start fresh as a simple Night Guard. If you think you can stand between me and my goals, then I'll give you the same advice I've given everyone else who thought they could stop me..."

She paused to look over the crowd, indicating that the message was intended for all of them, as well.

"Bring it on."

To her surprise, this time, the crowd didn't retort with booing and hissing. This time, the reaction was a mix of pleasant and shocked surprise.

"OOOH! Scorching just got BURNED!"

"Show her who's boss, Quill!"

"Is it wrong I'm kinda rooting for her, now?"

Quick Strike grinned, covering the mic with her hoof for a moment.

"You go, girl."

"Don't misunderstand, I'm not going to take it easy on you, and I certainly don't like you..." Quill muttered, rolling his eyes. "But I'm sure you understand why that kind of behavior needs to be dealt with."

For a moment, Tempest thought back to her time as the Storm King's second-in-command. "I'm no stranger to keeping the lower ranks in line. It's good to see that management around here knows SOMETHING about doing their jobs."

"Okay, everypony! I know we've got a new wave of rookies coming in, so I'm going to refresh everyone on the rules!" Quick Strike smiled, stepping between them and walking to the edge of the room.

"I wanna see a clean fight! You're both unicorns, so magic WILL be allowed! I've evaluated both of your abilities, and I feel confident saying that I can declare this a no-holds-barred match without the two of you killing each other! We're all professionals here, so I'll be giving you only three rules!"

"One, no killing and no maiming!"

That was simple enough. Her specialty had been information gathering, non-lethal takedowns were something she was well-versed in.

"Two, this place has been built to last, but TRY not to break the gymnasium!"

That would be more difficult, considering the explosive nature of her magic, but it was doable.

"Three, remember the stakes! If Tempest wins, Quill loses the title of 'Quick Strike's Best Student!' If Quill wins, Tempest will be banned from joining the Night Guard! The match ends when one side either surrenders or is unable to continue fighting!"

Those really aren't fair wagers, but whatever...

"Ready?"

Tempest lowered herself into a ready position, bracing herself.

"Set?

She had to strike hard and fast in an all-out attack. She was confident she could break through his defenses and end this in a matter of seconds.

"G-"

Tempest sprung forward, striking with everything she had... at empty air.

Quill, meanwhile, had taken to the air. While she had lowered herself to the ground, he had leaped upward and over her. A heavy set of hooves came crashing down into the small of her back. The sudden weight, combined with her being off-balance from her failed attack, knocked her hooves out from under her and slammed her into the ground. She could feel her ribs straining under the pressure as the air rushed out from her lungs.

"Oh, and Quill gets the first blow, dodging over Tempest's attack!" Quick Strike called out, narrating the fight into the microphone.

Placing all of his weight on her, however, came with its disadvantages.

Tempest tucked in two of her legs, planted the other two on the ground, and rolled her body out from underneath Quill, hoping to trip him up.

Quill, however, simply hopped off of her, easily keeping his balance and landing deftly on the ground. Keeping his back to her, he wound up one of his back hooves for a buck to her face. Using such a clearly telegraphed move, however, gave Tempest ample time to prepare.

When he kicked, Tempest continued rolling, then seized his leg. Using his weight for leverage, she pulled herself underneath him, where she could slam all four of her hooves into his stomach at once.

"OH! But Tempest comes back with a slick maneuver from the ground!"

Quill was thrown across the room, and judging by the obvious struggle he was making to get up, he was equally winded.

There was a moment of silent peace as the two of them each shakily got up onto their hooves.

I made an opening blunder. I underestimated how fast he could be, and I made it obvious what my first move would be in exchange for a powerful blow I wasted. Now he's at a distance, just like Moonstone said NOT to allow!

Tempest forced herself to stand up straight, despite the ache in her chest. Wasting no time, she sprinted towards him, trying to close the gap.

Quill, however, had already lowered his horn at her. Rather than blasting her or levitating her, though, he seemed to be creating a smokescreen, shrouding himself in a glowing white mist. Tempest summoned up a blast of her own magic and launched it into the mist, hoping to blow away the cloud and reveal her enemy.

CLANG!

Just as her magic was about to reach him, a portion of the mist pulled in on itself, bunching together into a solid object that blocked her attack. Tempest's eyes widened in shock as Quill strode out of the magical cloud, a shimmering blue copy of his sword hovering just over his shoulder. The rest of the mist followed after him, as if drawn by some kind of magnetic attraction.

It's his own magical power made into a physical form... I haven't seen that spell since...

"Hey! They never told me you studied magic in Africa!" Tempest called, beginning to strafe to the side. Her opponent was armed, now, this was going to require a change in strategy. "I haven't seen THAT spell since I challenged a shaman three years ago!"

Quill raised an eyebrow, obviously impressed she had recognized the source of his technique. "I was lucky enough to befriend one who left her country to see the world. She taught me a lot of tricks..."

As the two of them quietly circled one another, Tempest's eyes flicked between the single sword and the massive cloud of mist.

"She obviously didn't teach you good form. All that energy for just ONE little sword?"

Quill chuckled, giving the sword a couple of experimental swings.

"I'm afraid I've lost a lot of my finesse for the finer points of magic. I operate with a hammer, not a scalpel... But it gets the job done."

"I suppose that's another thing we have in common?" Tempest was drawing closer and closer to her goal. As the two of them circled one another, Quill was outpacing his own smokescreen.

"Fizzlepop, my dear, you have NO idea..." Quill muttered. With those words, he finally came to a stop, turning to face her head-on in a ready position.

That was the signal Tempest had been waiting for. They both had been bantering for a chance to each catch their breath, but Tempest had taken the time to also get as close to the smokescreen as possible. When she spotted Quill adjusting his posture, she bolted for the cloud of mist, throwing herself headfirst into it.

Tempest had studied many, many sources of magical knowledge on her quest to restore her horn, and she had learned a lot about the nature of magic. Magic was intuitive, above all else. It was a force that responded to feelings first and study second. Obviously both were needed for high-level spells, but the most important aspect was one's heart, channeled through some medium, whether a horn, a wand, or some dusty old artifact.

Thankfully, Quill hadn't just made a smokescreen. He'd made a smokescreen out of his own magical energy. The job of channeling had already been done.

When she collided with the cloud, time slowed to a crawl for Tempest. Everything, even her own movement ground to a halt. Her vision blurred and her skin tingled with electric current. As she inhaled, she could feel power surging through and into her body, and the stump of her horn was pounding against her skull, pulsing in the presence of all the raw energy around her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Quill's sword coming through the mist in slow-motion. She didn't have time to dilly-dally. She focused on the task before her, screwing her eyes shut.

The most important part of the spell was to visualize the result she wanted as clearly as she possibly could...

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Moonstone was right at the edge of her seat, nervously chewing on her claws. The fight hadn't been going on for long, but every blow that they'd exchanged had looked powerful and painful. Now Pennington had brought out the big guns by using his magical constructs.

The blade of the sword is obviously dull, but it means that he can hit her from a distance. If she can't get back in close, she doesn't stand a chance!

Moonstone could only watch as Tempest threw herself into the cloud of magical energy and disappeared from sight.

"What are you doing, Tempest?" she muttered. There was no way that she could hide in such a small cloud for more than a few seconds.

Pennington didn't seem put off by her actions, simply smiling and nodding towards the magical mist. The sword followed his movement, shooting forward to strike at her.

Moonstone couldn't restrain herself, jumping up in her seat and shouting at the top of her lungs. "LOOK OUT!"

In the same moment, there was an ear-splitting crack like a thunderclap, and a blinding flash of Tempest's lightning magic, forcing everyone in the room to flinch away and cover their eyes, including Moonstone.

When the light had faded, Moonstone lowered her wing and nervously glanced out to see what the result had been.

The entire cloud of magic was gone, leaving only the two ponies. Moonstone's jaw dropped at the sight of the results of Tempest's spell.

There she stood, wearing a set of magical armor. It was a perfect recreation of the armor she'd worn while working under the Storm King, with the cruel tyrant's emblem replaced by a glowing NLR Insignia. In addition, she'd added plates to her legs and neck, leaving her head protected only by the threat of her still-crackling horn. The armor itself was the same translucent blue material as Penn's sword, but filled with cracking currents of Tempest's own magic, showing her dominance over the spell. She glanced down at herself, ensuring that everything was as she wanted it, then stood tall at the center of the arena, a confident smirk on her face.

Moonstone tore her gaze away for only a moment to glance at the rest of the ponies in the audience. She was relatively certain there wasn't a mouth in the room that wasn't hanging open in shock.

Slowly, deliberately, Tempest raised her hoof, pointed at Pennington, then gestured for him to come closer. It was a clear message:

Bring it on.

"You absolute madmare..." Moonstone whispered, her grin growing wide enough to physically hurt her mouth. "Get him."

As Tempest took off at a sprint towards her opponent, Quick Strike had finally collected herself enough to resume commentating.

"I-I don't believe what I'm seeing here, fillies and gentlecolts! Tempest has HIJACKED Quill's construct spell and formed a set of armor!"

Pennington finally snapped out of his shock after Tempest had closed almost half of the distance between them. His own horn glowed, pulling his sword back and placing it in front of him with the flat of the blade facing her. It was his standard defensive position, and Moonstone knew that it was just his unconscious default.

He's flustered, his reactions are going to suffer...

As Tempest drew in close, he tried to use the blade to push her away again. Tempest deftly used one of her armored hooves to deflect it while sliding underneath the blow and Penn's defenses. Before he could react, she sprung up to her full height, knocking him up and off of his front hooves, exposing his belly. Even Moonstone flinched as she watched Tempest plant her hoof directly under his ribcage, knocking the air straight out of his lungs and flinging the full-grown stallion back against the wall. While gravity pulled him back down onto four hooves, Tempest continued to press her advantage, making a blow to one of his front legs and forcing him down onto one knee. Reeling back, she had the perfect angle to strike at his temple with everything she had.

If Penn doesn't get back up from this, she's going to win!

Just as Tempest swung at him, however, Pennington dropped down, attempting to roll under her punch.

Snap!

The sound was almost nothing compared to the thunderclap, but just enough for Moonstone to tell that something had gone very, very wrong.

Penn did make it out of Tempest's attack, but his movements were stilted and stiff, and he had one hoof up against his head.

Oh no... tell me she didn't...

Being a wyvern came with a few distinct advantages, including better eyesight than the typical dragon. Down below, she could see a small, blue object rolling on the floor.

Tempest was frozen, staring in horror at the object. The armor was quickly dissolving away, her concentration absolutely destroyed.

Penn took his chance, reeling back both of this back legs and bucking at the side of Tempest's head.

Moonstone's spirits were crushed as she watched Tempest drop like a sack of bricks. Pennington didn't take any time to celebrate his victory, turning his back to the crowd and walking away. Moonstone saw him picking up the item, disguising the motion as a weak stumble. Judging from the fact that nopony was shouting about what had happened, Moonstone was relatively certain she and Quick Strike were the only ones who could have seen it from such a distance.

"And... I believe we have our winner, everypony!" Quick Strike called out as a pair of nurses rushed out onto the field. One of them attempted to help Pennington, who simply brushed her off and disappeared through the door to the gymnasium, while the other began checking Tempest's injuries. "Tempest Shadow is unable to continue!"

Moonstone's eyes narrowed and she took to the air, quickly flying after Pennington and leaving behind the rest of the crowd. It took only moments for her to catch up with the wounded stallion, who had limped his way to the locker room and laid down on one of the benches, his chest heaving up and down. Moonstone landed beside him, giving up a quick once-over with her eyes. He was definitely in need of a trip to the infirmary.

"You want me to call Close and Constant?"

Pennington shook his head. Close Care and Constant Care were the two best doctors in the NLR, and two of the only ponies who knew enough about him to treat him properly. Unfortunately, they both worked aboard the NLR's flagship vessel, where they were constantly on call for the most dangerous missions.

"I haven't seen you this badly thrashed since the last time you fought Full Sails..." she muttered, poking at his side. The choking repression of his scream confirmed her suspicion. "Yup, definitely broke SOMETHING. Probably a rib or two."

"I'll be... fine..." he huffed.

Moonstone folded her arms over her chest, giving him a suspicious glare. "And what about your horn?"

Pennington nodded down. Sitting on the floor beside him was the broken remains of his horn, neatly set aside. Moonstone picked it up and began examining it closely. After a moment, she wiped a bead of sweat from her brow.

"Thank goodness. Looks like the adhesive just gave out. Turvian would probably curse us BOTH if he found out you broke ANOTHER prosthesis!"

Pennington chuckled weakly.

"Remember last time? We were stuck talking backwards for a week! You had to lock yourself in your house and send letters to everyone saying you caught the pony pox!"

Pennington chuckled a little harder, only to stop abruptly and hiss in pain.

"Yeah, suck it up, you've got it all coming. Taking advantage of her shock was a dirty trick."

Pennington shrugged, making a weak attempt to sit up.

"I haven't played fair since I had to put down your uncle, Moon Moon. You know what they say about love and war..."

Moonstone raised a single eyebrow.

"Oh, really? Maybe I should write a letter to Princess Cadence for you about that?"

She couldn't resist smirking as Penn's eyes nearly bulged out of his head.

"I do NOT need another 30-page dissertation on why I need to forgive Twilight!"

Moonstone grimaced as the memory of their last conversation with Cadence resurfaced. She'd been far from happy to hear about Pennington's fight with her sister-in-law. Moonstone had been belching up pages for almost ten minutes straight.

"Anyway, what are you going to do, now? You won." Moonstone sighed, taking a seat beside him. "Send her away forever?"

Pennington paused, contemplating the question. After a few seconds, he gave a tired sigh before rolling off of the bench and onto his hooves. He turned and looked Moonstone in the eye, halfheartedly glaring at her.

"You knew that a fight would blow off enough steam for me to cool down, didn't you?"

"She's almost there! She's SO close to passing, Penn! She explicitly asked Quick Strike and I for help prepping for this fight!"

Pennington shook his head and limped towards the door.

"Fine. But I am NOT recommending her for the Night Guard. She's not cut out for it with that temper!"

Moonstone nodded. Secretly, she suspected that he was coming to the same conclusion she had.

"Wait, You're headed to the infirmary, right?"

"Yeah, sure, whatever..." He muttered, waving her concerns aside. "Soon as I get my horn glued back on."

"Penn, you'd better not be lying to me!" Moonstone placed her hands on her hips, giving him an angry glare of her own.

"Penn? PENN?"

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