• Published 14th Jul 2018
  • 5,526 Views, 2,276 Comments

Prey and a Lamb - Lambs Prey



This is a story about a sheep. A little sheep, locked deep in prison, put there by ponies. He doesn't want to be there, but then he's had to do a lot of things he doesn't want to. It's a shame he deserves to be in there.

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7.0 When you try your best but you don't succeed

Author's Note:

If you see a mistake, please point it out to me. Thanks.
Edit: Thank you once again to Sweetolebob18 for doing just that. 😊

They brought all the information he'd requested, and dumped the reports on the desk without a word. Prey could tell that he wasn't the most popular lamb right now, but then he'd never cared in the first place. So for the next day and a half, he pretended to work.

------

Prey poured over the maps and lists of names, cross referenced them with each other, linked and unlinked them, built up and dismantled stacks of paperwork, read and reread reports for hours on end in a massive display of dedication. It was all a sham.

Prey already knew when and where the thieves were going to strike. All the information he'd requested had been an act to cover it up.

An act because he needed none of it. A cover up because there was only one list out of the many Prey asked for that he was actually interested in. He was copying the thieves strategy of throwing others off their trail by hiding their real goal's in plain sight. Hence why he'd asked for various unimportant things like the nobles names, their party plans, and who'd been out of town recently.

The only information Prey cared about was where the mansions were situated on a map. That would be important later for his plan.

------

And so it was Prey spent each waking hour of his days chained to the desk, (quite literally), pretending to be hard at work. Secretly he carved more runes into the desk. He ate the food they gave him slowly, still not quite able to believe that, a) they fed him, and b) they fed him well. It was nothing like in the Resistance.

He didn't lower his guard though. He didn't let the fact he'd never eaten some of the delicious and seemingly mundane foods provided make him complacent. Things like hay burgers, toast, bananas or oranges, hay wraps and macaroni. Prey gathered that what he served was cheap, fast and lacklustre at best, by their standards anyway. To him, they were the height of luxury. But never the less, he still checked every time for poison or tampering before he ate.

It wasn't just simple paranoia either. One particular memory of a time a hoof full of Resistance members had gotten their hooves on him one evening when they were bored. What they'd then forced him to eat for their amusement came forcefully to mind. He suppressed a shudder and took another bite of his apple, savouring the clean, sharp taste over those in his memories.

Sunshine and Gold Bit had gone back to being little better than slightly more talkative statues when they were on duty guarding him. Prey was fairly sure they'd either decided it was easier to remain detached if they didn't speak with him, or he'd somehow offended their delicate Solar Guard sensibilities. Prey's non-existent bits were on a combination of both.

The other two unicorns who rotated on and off the twelve hour shifts with Sunshine and Gold Bit really were the metaphorical statues. They never spoke a word to him. Prey had still learnt from eves dropping that their names were West Light and Wilful Heart.

Just two more names for The List, although somewhat near the bottom.

The runes progressed, multiplied, interlocked and overlaid. Slowly they became the many complicated arrays they were supposed to be, almost at the final stage of completion. This was the other reason Prey had stalled for time.

All of this occurred over the course of the two days Prey acted out the charade. He shuffled the reports, sorted them, scratched his head and poured over them, ate his three meals a day, pretended to work on the reports more, slept briefly, watched the Guard change, mumbled to himself about dates and places just loud enough for the guards to overhear, went to the toilet, and then returned to compiling the reports.

Celestia's sun fell and her moon rose, and then fell and rose again as Prey continued with his false efforts. Time ticked past as he counted the seconds, weighing the moment and judging his chances for success from behind a face of innocence.

Prey looked up from the reports and stretched, rubbing his back with one hoof while he considered the plaster ceiling. It was a good ceiling he supposed. It was waterproof and didn't have any holes, so it ranked fairly highly on the 'best ceilings' list.

Prey idly rubbed at the long, rope like scars that wound across his back, hidden under the wool. A reminder of Stinger and his whip. Prey hadn't figured out till after the sadistic Earth Pony's death that he'd soaked the whip in Rip'Tuck juice to make its lashes burn and scar horribly. No one had claimed the whip after Stinger's death. They'd burnt it instead.

Prey lightly shook himself, that wasn't important right now. He'd learnt his lesson from Stinger, 'Don't get caught.' It didn't matter if you hadn't done anything, just don't get caught.

Prey took a deep breath, 'It's time.' He decided.

------

"I've got it!" He shouted, "I know what's going to happen." Prey spun round to the two unicorn Guards, right now that consisted of Wilful Soul and West Light who were looking at him in interest, "Quickly, what time is it?" He demanded.

"A little past six pm." West Light answered reluctantly.

Prey stared at him, "What? It's that late- Listen, there's no time! I've worked it out, but you need to call for your captain right away, the thieves are going to strike within the hour."

That motivation proved sufficient to get them moving. One raced to the door and magically unlocked it, ordering one of the Pegasus guards standing in the corridor to go and tell the captain immediately.

In the rush, Prey casually finished tracing the last swirl of the final rune under the desk. He leaned back and smirked as the solar Guards rushed about unknowingly to his bidding. 'Well Captain Valour, soon you'll be nothing but my next tally mark.'

------

"What!?"

Prey cringed away from Captain Valour's deafening shout, "I can only narrow it down to two possible mansions, one of which I am certain will be hit tonight, within the next forty five minutes. I'm sorry but I can't be any more precise, there's just no time." Prey repeated, sinking down fearfully in the chair. In his experience, there was no such thing as playing a part too convincingly.

Ponies saw what they expected to see. A cowering prisoner delivering bad news, not a scheming master mind.

The room around him was crowded with thirteen Solar Guards, including the captain. They had all listened to Prey's announcement with grim focus. The number of Solar Guards was close to what Prey had estimated were posted here at the City Guard station, although he wished he could have overestimated instead for once.

Captain Valour breathed deeply in through is nose and held it, then let it all out in a long, frustrated sigh, "Locations. Details. Now." He said.

Prey hastily scrambled onto the desk and grabbed a map of the city, knocking aside stacks of paper to make room as he spread it out, "Here and here. Both Lord Snow and Rich Almond's mansions." He said, tapping on the map at both respective places.

Prey knew which one the thieves were going to be attacking, the mansion belonging to Rich Almond. Lord Snow's place was just another one of his distractions, with one important side point.

It was too far away from Rich Almond's mansion for the Solar Guard to get to if they went to Lord Snow's first. The only way they'd be able to cover both is if they split their forces.

If they had more time, then they might have been able to enlist the city Guard to cover both, but they didn't have time. Prey had waited and chosen this moment well. Looking up, he could see that all the Solar Guards and the Captain had come to the same conclusion. 'What will you do now Captain Valour?' He thought smugly.

"Are you sure of this?" Captain Valour snapped.

"Yes, or as certain as I can be. If I had more time I could review the list and cross reference it with-"

"Spare me your prattle 452. Lieutenant Bright, we are short on time. We will need to split up. You will lead one group, I the other. Gold Bit, Sunshine, Wilful Soul, Swift Flight, Hard Wing and Cloud Weft, you're with Lieutenant Bright. The rest of you, you're with me. Lieutenant, you take Rich Almond's mansion, we'll take Lord Snow."

"Sir yes sir!" Came the instant reply.

Captain Valour glanced over his shoulder as he made for the door, "You're also taking the prisoner." He added.

The smile that Prey had been wearing vanished, "What?" He squeaked. That wasn't part of the plan, they were just supposed to leave him locked up here. There was no tactical reason for Captain Valour to order him brought along.

"Sir, is that necessary-?" The lieutenant began.

"I don't trust this not to be a cunning trap of some kind," Captain Valour snorted glaring at Prey, "You can never trust a mind leech. If it is a trap, he'll be a hostage against his own schemes."

"You can't be serious, this again? What could I possibly have done? I've been here under magical lock and key the entire time-hmphm!" Prey's protests were cut short as lieutenant Bright's magical aura clamped his jaw shut and he was levitated off his seat. Prey tried to grab hold of the desk, desperately hitting one last rune before he lost his grip and floated free.

In a matter of moments, Prey was stuffed back into the too large travelling cloak, the chain unclipped from the floor and transferred into Bright's grasp. Then the two groups of Solar Guards were thundering down the corridor and out the door, across the gravel courtyard and out the stations gate.

The group lead by lieutenant Bright, (and Prey floating along for the ride) rushed left, Captain Valour and his five ponies went right in the fading light of evening.

As Prey spun around helpless in the telekinetic grip, like a leaf caught in the wind, he couldn't even shout his protests at his treatment. In their rush, the Solar Guard lieutenant had forgotten to release the band of magic holding his mouth shut. Or not.

The three Pegasus Solar Guards kept pace with them in the greying sky, while the unicorns galloped down the streets. They dodged bins and carts as straggling ponies hurried to get out of their way. Despite the pace and the distance they had to cover, none slowed, their endurance training as Solar Guard easily seeing them through.

Prey's mind whirled through scenarios as he tried to find a way to adapt to this unexpected change. He hadn't foreseen Captain Valour ordering him brought along, as it was completely illogical. He would just pose a risk and a liability, so why would the captain have brought him along to a potential combat situation? That would only endanger the ponies and increase the chance of the thieves escaping when something went wrong. Did the captain suspect he'd been manipulating them or was the unicorn just crazy?

Prey had planned for multiple situations. Ones where he was left under guard, ones where his magical restraints were reapplied, and others where he'd been stunned and tied up. But how could he have foreseen something as ridiculous as this?

'This was not part of the plan.'

------

"Are you insane?" Prey hissed at Bright the moment the magical gag was removed, "What the hell am I doing here? I have no part in your Solar Guard operations. I've cooperated and done everything you've said so why are you risking my life-"
"Shut up or I'll make you." Bright hissed back, "If you alert them that we're here I'll carry out Captain Valour's threat and beat you within an inch of your life myself."

"You wouldn't be the first." Prey spat back.

They were currently hiding in the dark, narrow alleyway between two shops off from the main road, watching Rich Almond's three story mansion. The light was definitely failing now while the shadows lengthened. As of yet there had been no sign of the thieves.

Prey was certain that they were going to make an appearance though. That was yet another strong reason why he wanted to be as far away from here as possible. One of the first things he'd learnt in the a Resistance was to avoid a fight if at all possible. Ambushes and traps were the way to go.

Prey decided to try another tack, "Please lieutenant Bright, think about what you're doing. The thieves are cunning and ruthless, and if you're having to Guard me as well, you'll be outnumbered and at a disadvantage." He said

"Out numbered maybe, but the Solar Guard is never out matched. It's too late for you to hide like a coward, mind leech, so be quiet and let us do our job." Bright replied, never taking his eyes from the large mansion.

He had ordered no magic until they were sure the thieves were inside. It was unlikely the thieves had a unicorn with a sophisticated enough scanning spell to pick it up, but Bright wasn't taking any chances. The Pegasus Solar Guards were currently perched hidden on the roof tops above the alley, watching their backs and the surrounding area.

"Please lieutenant, don't do this. I have no part in any fight. I'm small, weak and in chains, are you trying to get me killed?" Prey whined.

Bright and the rest of the Solar Guards all ignored him.

"What about their mind Mage lieutenant? He's been beating you at every turn so far, surely you don't think this is going to be easy do you? Who ever they are, they'll have a back up plan ready. You're going to get yourselves all killed, and me along with you. How do you plan to stop him or her from simply turning all of our brains to mush?" Prey demanded, sounding desperate.

Although he wasn't too worried about his own minds safety, he was just protesting the point.

Bright grit his teeth in anger, but kept up trying to ignore his prisoner. It was Sunshine who provided an answer, breaking his previous commitment of not speaking to Prey, "We're prepared. All us Solar Guards have a mind lock enchantment installed in our helmet, see?" He said, removing his gold helmet and lifting up the red tassel, tilting it so Prey could see a thin strip of gold inlaid with three yellow crystals that had previously been hidden, "The crystals have been enchanted by our strongest Magi's in the field of mind magic to prevent others from either reading or altering our thoughts."

"The crystals light up if somepony actively starts trying to mess with our heads, mind leech." Gold Bit added with a knowing smirk at Prey, where he still dangled in the ridiculous cloak.

Prey kept his dismay hidden, and was very glad for the fact that so far, he hadn't found the opportunity to try and break one of their minds. He would have been caught straight away and that would have been that. They had laid both a trap and a test for him, to see how honest he was really being.

It was well thought out Prey grudgingly admitted, his heart still racing at the realisation of how close he had come to disaster. Prey had never heard or read anything about these so called 'mind locks', but they were probably an invention of the last fifty seven years while he'd been in prison.

Until he could escape and get his hooves on one of these mind locks to study and figure out how it worked, he had no idea how strong they were or if there was a way around them. Prey was willing to bet there was a way, there almost always was, but right now it looked as if he would be thrown back into Dreverton before he ever got the chance. Or killed in the next half an hour or so.

"At least take this inhibitor off then so I can defend myself and fight back." Prey tried.

Sunshine and Bright glared at him.

"Come on, if you're safe with your mind locks, you don't have anything to fear. But what about me? Shouldn't I be able to defend myself as well if this unicorn mind leech wants to shred my mind? Please, listen, I know better than any of you what a mind mage is capable of!" Prey begged, eyes wide, breath fast, wringing his hooves, going the whole nine yards with the act.

His mind magic was already unlocked, he just couldn't read surface thoughts currently. But he wasn't lying when he said he wanted them to remove the magical inhibitor around his middle so he could defend himself.

Prey didn't have any magic like unicorns. He couldn't even throw his mind out to attack others by mere line of sight like he'd read a powerful unicorn mind mage could. He had to physically lay a rune covered fore hoof on the target. But once he did, he usually won.

There was just the small problem of the two magical inhibitors still on him, the one around his middle and the other around his neck.

That was why he was currently trying to manipulate the situation into tricking lieutenant Bright into removing one or both of them. He may not be scared of the thieves mind mage's attacks, but he was very much afraid of their regular magical attacks. Mage fire, electrocution, drowning, frozen, crushed, there were so many delightful ways to die when facing a powerful unicorn.

And those were just the examples which didn't involve curses or black magic, which had the well deserved reputation for being worse than death. Who knows what might have been in all those books the thieves had been stealing? Forbidden dark spells passed down the noble blood lines weren't too far off the chart of possibilities.

"Please?" Prey begged.

Sunshine grimaced but joined everypony else in ignoring him. Prey was just about to move onto threats in an effort to be taken back and locked up, anything to avoid the upcoming fight, when a low whistle came from above them.

Four unicorns and one sheep all looked up. The pegasus Solar Guard who was leaning out over the brick ledge above them, silhouetted dimly against the gloomy sky. The pegasus made same a few quick signals with his hoof.

Apparently it meant something to the rest of the Solar Guards, as the atmosphere immediately grew charged with tension. Everyone looked to the mansion, and after a second of straining his eyes Prey saw a flicker of movement by one of the first floor prench windows. A tail just passing through the half open window, and a second later a hoof drew it closed behind the tail.

"They're here, we're a go." Bright growled. His hoof flickered through a number of sings to the watching Pegasus above, who signalled back and then withdrew. All the Solar Guards got to their hooves and began creeping towards the alley's shadowed mouth.

"Split up and cover as many exits as possible. One of them must have gotten to Rich Almost last night already if they're here today, so they must be heading for the library and expect to go undisturbed. Corner them in the library and block off all exits." Bright ordered.

He didn't wait for acknowledgement of his order before creeping out, he didn't need to. This was the Solar Guard. And their one prisoner. Prey would've been protesting most vocally if Sunshine hadn't magically gagged him again the moment the Pegasus signalled. Apparently the 'no magic' usage rule hadn't extended to that.

Prey glared hatefully at the back of Sunshine's helmet as he was floated along helplessly for the ride. What could he do? He was bound, suppressed, and gagged. Prey couldn't do anything. He was just going to be a powerless observer to whatever came next, a mere spectator to the outcome.

The unicorn Solar Guards crept along with practised silence, keeping out of sight against the low garden wall as they headed for the rear of the mansion. The Pegasus drifted like cloud shadow onto the mansions roof, and began clambering down to the upper windows.

One by one the Solar Guards slipped over the wall by a rose bed, using the thorny stems as cover from anyone who may have been looking out of the mansion. Prey was busily scanning the mansion, counting the windows and their placement to try and build up a mental map of the buildings interior. So focused was Prey on that he almost missed Bright's hoof signal to move out.

The Solar Guards split up and moved with surprising speed out from hiding behind the rose bush. They covered the open ground within three seconds, quickly vanishing round the respective sides of the mansion. That just left the lieutenant still levitating Prey, and Sunshine in the fading light.

Sunshine reached the mansions wall and pressed himself up against it next to the prench window that the thieves had entered through, while Bright took the other side.

Prey was gesturing frantically and trying to speak, flailing about in the cloak and fighting the silencing spell, attempting to inform both the Solar Guards that they were idiots. You don't follow an enemies entry path, it's almost certain to be trapped or guarded. You go around or parallel, not march into the back of them or what ever presents they'd left behind. But, as before, he went ignored.

Bright nodded to Sunshine, who nodded back. In a joint movement so synchronised it could have been rehearsed, Bright pulled the sliding window open and Sunshine leapt through, horn glowing. Prey cringed and braced for explosions to go off, but nothing happened. Prey couldn't see what was in the room until Bright also stepped inside, floating Prey's magical bubble in through the window behind him.

The seemed to be in a sun lounge, although Prey had never seen one personally. All his knowledge on such things came from the reports he'd read. Bright and Sunshine were already creeping for the opposite door, ears swivelling for any sign of the thieves. Preys own large ears were doing the same and his attention was strained to the maximum.

Still nothing, just shadowy stillness. Prey knew sight was going to be less effective than hearing in the mansion's shadowy interior. Neither the thieves nor the Solar Guard would risk a light for fear of raising the alarm.

Prey had heard that spells existed that improved night vision. He wished he'd figured out how to make a rune equivalent to allow himself the same. The door lead into a deserted hallway, half visible paintings and candlesticks hanging from the walls, shadows making the windowless corridor feel like it was either abandoned or underground. Prey knew there must be some stairs somewhere close by.

Sunshine and Bright hurried to the end of the corridor, their armoured hooves making almost no sound. A quick study revealed why, a 'Silent walking' charm on their hooves. Prey couldn't hear their hoofs hitting the carpet, but could still pick up traces of noise when they lifted their hoof back up. An oversight in the charm, but no one had noticed and tried to kill them yet.

Prey closed his eyes and listened harder, searching for any sign of an ambush. But there was nothing aside from the light breathing and stifled movement of his two Guards. He sniffed, but couldn't pick out anything that alerted him to a trap. Faint traces of polish and wax, carpet and fabric, rose blossoms and ponies. Nothing fresh. Scent unfortunately wasn't one of his strongest senses.

This only made him grow more nervous as he floated along, more and more certain they were walking into a trap.

'I don't sense any servants either. Unless they aren't stationed here overnight, the thieves have had an enthralled Rich Almond organise a schedule that removes them all from the premises. Or at least away from the library.' That meant the thieves aimed to be quick about their task, as a servant would be returning at some point.

A grand staircase came into view around the corner at the end of the hallway, just as Prey had predicted. Again they all stopped to listen, but this time Prey caught the faintest traces of noise coming from above. He strained his ears, closing his eyes to better focus. But before he could figure anything out, Sunshine and Gold Bit started up the carpeted stairs, breaking his concentration.

Prey's eye's snapped open and he waved frantically for their attention, pointing up the stairs and trying to speak. Sunshine gave him a dark look and gestured for him to be quiet. 'Idiots!' Prey thought, 'What do you expect me to do over here? Burst into song?!'

Moving cautiously, they got closer and closer to the landing they ascended the staircase, hugging the carved banister as they neared the top. Prey could hear whomever it was approaching from on of the branching off corridors. Bright and Sunshine gave the wide landing a once over, moving to take up positions beside a marble bust of some earth pony. They started signing to each other and shaking their heads, but Prey had no eyes for them. His attention was fixed in the source of the noise.

Prey's heart began to thump painfully as he floated there, staring down the left hand corridor towards the faintly approaching sound of breathing. Who could it be? Another Solar Guard, a servant, or one of the thieves?

A white Pegasus snuck out of the dark corridor, coated in gold armour. Prey let out a sigh of relief that went unheard as Sunshine and Bright both spotted their fellow Guard. They may not have heard him coming, but they could hardly fail to see the gold wearing Pegasus once he stepped into the half light. A few hoof gestures from Bright and the Pegasus joined them, barely sparing a glance for the floppy cloak wearing sheep.

"Report." Bright whispered.

"No sighting yet. They're further in, near the middle." The Pegasus whispered back. Apparently the Solar Guards didn't have a sign code language for everything, just common orders.

Bright nodded once, then looked to Sunshine, "You're on offensive spells, I'll hold a shield when we engage." He whispered. Sunshine nodded back. All three Solar Guards exchanged a look, then started moving stealthily down the corridor that lead deeper into the mansion.

They hadn't gone fifteen paces when they came upon the thieves.

------

At the end of the corridor was a balcony railing, which encompassed a circular opening, dropping down to the first floor below them.

Carefully, they crept close enough to see through the polished railings. Below, Rich Almond's dimly lit library was laid out. Although perhaps library was a bit too grand of a term. It certainly was still an impressive collection of thick volumes, stacked into oak shelving. It was so tall the top shelf's reached to just underneath the balcony's height where the four of them currently hid. But it was not necessarily a library. The defining factor of a library tends to be its abundance of books. Books which were currently in the process of being stolen.

Six ponies hastily moved about below, sorting through the shelves of books, and occasionally throwing one of the volumes into a crate set in the middle of the floor amid half a dozen comfy armchairs. Three unicorns, two Pegasi and one earth pony, all wearing black, full face masks. For some reason, no sound rose from below.

Sunshine crawled up to the railings to get a better view, and, from where he floated, Prey could see the thieves muzzles moving under their masks in speech. He also saw how a book land heavily in the box, but no sound arose. "A silence bubble." Bright muttered, pointing out the obvious to the Pegasus Solar Guard.

The Pegasus nodded in response, then signalled across to the opposite side of balcony, which encircled the open drop to the library. Prey saw another Pegasus Solar Guard crouched over there, although Prey hadn't seen him arrive. Now they waited, ready for the order to attack.

Below the thieves hurried on with their work, oblivious.

Prey held his breath at a movement from Bright. It was instinct. The lieutenant was slowly raising his armoured fore hoof, eyes fixed on the thieves below. Prey saw Bright's lip curl, this was it.

All Bright had to do was signal and the Solar Guard would attack. They could target and take out the three unicorns before the thieves even knew they where up here. The remaining two Pegasus and one earth pony would be no match for the Solar Guard. The Guards had the element of surprise and magic on their side. This fight was already won.

"This is the Solar Guard! You are surrounded! Lay down and give yourselves up!" Bright shouted, magically amplified voice almost deafening Prey.

'What is that idiot doing?!' Was all Prey had time to think before everything went to Tartarus.

The thieves who had frozen for a second on hearing Bright's deafening bellow, now unfroze and leapt into frenzied motion.

Which ever unicorn had been holding the silence bubble now dropped it, as sound returned from below in a mass of shouting; "The Guards!" "Get the books!" "Don't let them interfere!" The three unicorn thieves horns lit up. Some sort of dark blue magic blasted off two of their horns at the Guards above, while the third charged up something big.

He never finished casting it, as one of the Pegasus Solar Guards crashed into their group, sending ponies flying. Another Solar Guard Pegasus slamming into one of the masked Pegasus a moment later.

Things quickly degenerated from there.

Prey had flinched and tried to duck instinctively when the unicorns thieves shot off their spells, but two separate shields of dazzling golden light sprung into existence for each dark bolt and blocked them in a shower of magical sparks.

Everypony seemed to be shouting at the top of their lungs, the old familiar sound of battle assaulting Prey's ears as he blinked to clear his dazzled eyes from the light show.

He caught a glimpse of Sunshine firing off a rapid succession of stunning spells at one of the enemy Pegasi as they wove desperately between the shelves and arm chairs, yelling out for assistance. A moment later the unicorn guard Wilful Soul charged out from a corridor and threw himself into the fight, swinging a magically empowered fore hoof into the Pegasus's gut as they shot past. Electricity flickered from the gold horse shoe and danced over the pegasus's wings, who promptly crashed muzzle first into the floor, limbs and wings spasaming.

The earth pony thief was trying to drag the half full box of stolen books away. He was so focused and desperate on getting the books out that he didn't even see the Solar Guard Pegasus, who'd just clubbed one of the unicorns over the head into unconsciousness, leap for his exposed back with a yell. A mad wrestle commenced, the large earth pony's strength against the Solar Guard's training.

Another blast from a masked unicorn was intercepted by another shimmering gold shield cast by Bright, who's horn was flashing as his eyes darted back and forth across the brawl below, casting shield after shield in quick succession to block each and every blast from the unicorn who seem intend on shooting his way out amid the yelling.

The other still conscious unicorn thief decided to change tactics. With a shrill cry of desperation, the masked unicorn levitated up three of the big arm chairs and heaved them at Sunshine before making a break for it.

Sunshine ducked behind the railing as the armchairs shot overhead or impacted the banister and bounced off, falling towards the fighting ponies below. Prey thought he heard Sunshine shout, "Oh no you don't!" Before his magic snatched the falling chairs out of the air right before they crashed into the fighting mess ponies below.

At that moment the Pegasus wrestling with the earth pony finally got the upper hoof and closed out the fight by putting the earth pony in a double leg lock, the pegasus's wings beating furiously as he hovered in place, forcing the earth pony's muzzle into the floor, muffling his curses.

The unicorn that had been fleeing had almost made it to the door when a binding spell hit him in the back, magical chains lashing around his legs and bringing him crashing down. A moment later Wilful Soul, who'd cast the spell, pounced on the downed unicorn, grabbing the masked pony's horn and slipping an inhibitor ring over it.

'...What?'

Prey looked back just in time to see the last unicorn thief brought down. A combination of the Solar Guard Pegasus launching constant attacks dodging and weaving around the unicorns head, Bright's shielding spells blocking the thief's every attack, and Sunshine's constant quick cast barrage of stunning spells finally working their way through what ever counter charm the unicorn had cast upon himself.

With a groan, the unicorn crumpled into unconsciousness, a moment later the final thief joining him on the floor as the third and final Solar Guard Pegasus, who had so far been absent from the fight, finally made an appearance from one of the dark corridors and dump tackled the last thief.

'What's going on?' Prey thought in shock as he watched the Solar Guard expertly twist the downed Pegasus's hooves behind his back and cuffed them there.

The fight was over. All of the six thieves they'd jumped had been accounted for, in varying stages of consciousness. The Solar Guards started dragging both the responsive and unresponsive masked ponies into the middle of the library, slipping inhibitor rings over the unicorns horns and cuffing all of them.

Bright let out a long breath, relief clear in the way his ears fell forwards, "Thank Celestia." He muttered. Beside his lieutenant, Sunshine joined him, "It's over. After all those bucking sleepless nights and patrols." He glanced at Bright with a wry grin, "Drinks on me tonight, if you're coming sir." He said.

Bright snorted, "I'll think about it after were finished here." He replied, then called out, "Hey, Cloud Weft! Get up here and give us a lift down."

The Pegasus Cloud Weft flew up without complaint and grabbed hold of Sunshine round the barrel, lifting the armoured unicorn first over the banister rail and then swooping down to the floor without apparent effort. A second later he was back for Bright. The Pegasus spared a raised eyebrow for Prey, but said nothing and gave Bright a lift down too. Prey's magical bubble floated over the banister and along behind him like some balloon on a string.

Somepony cast a light spell, and a globe of white light floated up into the air, illuminating the library properly, clearly showing the mess that had been caused. "Well done ponies. Let's get this sorry lot ready for transport while I notify the captain and the city Guard of what's happened. Sunshine, keep a stunning spell ready in case they get frisky." Bright ordered.

The Solar Guards all saluted and got to it, shoving their prisoners into a kneeling line, pulling off their face masks and relieving them of anything else they had on their person, while one of the Pegasus Solar Guards stood in front of them and began reading off their rights from memory.

"You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to legal advice and counselling, you have the right..." He droned on.

Sunshine sauntered over to Prey, although he still kept his eyes firmly on the defeated prisoners, as the lone earth pony and the one conscious unicorn glared around hatefully. The rest of their compatriots all either unconscious or seemingly in a stunned daze.

"What was that about them being prepared for us little lamb?" Sunshine asked Prey with a smirk.

Prey glowered back silently through narrowed eyes and waited. It took a beat before Sunshine caught on.

"Oh, right. Lieutenant Bright, think you can take the silencing spell of 452 now?" He called out.

"Right, okay." Bright replied distractedly, still focused on finishing his message and sending it off. A moment later Prey felt a slight change in the bubble. It was nothing you would normally be able to notice so slight was it, but Prey did and he assumed it was the silencing spell being lifted. He decided to confirm it.

"What was that?" Prey spat out, as if the words burnt his tongue.

"Huh?" Came Sunshine's eloquent response.

"Why are they still alive?" Prey demanded, waving his small hoof wildly at the captured thieves, "That wasn't a fight, that was a childish scuffle! You could have blasted them to ash before they even knew we were here, but no, you just go and announce your presence and shout 'surrender' instead. Fools! Why aren't they blood splatters on the floor right now?"

Sunshine was taken aback, visibly shocked at Prey's bloodthirsty words then the unicorn scowled in outrage and stepped up to Prey shoving his muzzle in the sheep's face, "No, what are you doing? Thinking you can give us orders and we'll to follow your vile little expectations?! We aren't some sick killers, where do you think this is, the Bad Lands? We are the Solar Guard! We protect, not destroy. Ponies. Do. Not. Kill. Other. Ponies!"

Sunshine waved a hoof back at the middle of the library with the prisoners and their Guards, who weren't paying Sunshine and Prey any attention.

"Do you think this is some game? That none of it's really real? Well it's not, everypony here including you is flesh and blood. They live, breathe, have families, and have just as much of a right to live, in fact even more than you." Sunshine told Prey, nostrils flaring and hoof unconsciously poring the ground.

Prey glared right back at him, not backing down an inch.

"Don't speak to me of who deserves to live or not. I know full well there are many more deserving than I. And guess what? They're all already buried in the mud. And to think I used to believe that the Solar Guard were supposed to be elites. What good is an elite fighting force who's scared of a little blood? You're precious equestrian peace has made you blind to the realities of life." Prey responded coldly.

Prey couldn't understand it. He just couldn't wrap his head around it. What about the war? What about all that killing and death, why was this any different? The thieves were the Solar Guards enemies, so why hadn't they killed them? They were the enemy!

So why weren't they dead yet? Prey just couldn't understand it.

Sunshine jerked back in angry disgust, "You really are a sick, twisted little lamb, you know that?" He asked coldly.

"Oh yes, more than you can possibly imagine. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm right. You're all fools."

"I'm warning you, stop slandering us or I'll-"
"If you're not a fool, then where's Gold Bit?" Prey interrupted.

"That's none of your business-" Sunshine started to snap.
"Fool. He's fallen to their mind Mage, who's already escaped."

Sunshine faltered, his anger clearly affecting him as he tried to shift mental directions, "...What?" Sunshine asked.

"Look around you, where is he? Everyone within the mansion would have heard the fight and converged on this point, so there's no way he's still relying on stealth. That means he's been defeated, and as their mind Mage isn't among the captured unicorns, that also means he or she's escaped. And none of the crystals in your helmets lit up, none of those three unicorns tried mind attacks, which proves they're not the mind Mage. Likely he or she were dealing with Rich Almond's memories when you sprung your little ambush. They heard the racket and fled, running into and defeating Gold Bit in the process." Prey said, enjoying the look of realisation that stole over Sunshine's face as he explained.

"No, you said there would only be six thieves-"
"I said six to eight actually."

"You can't know that for sure." Sunshine insisted.

"I already do." Prey said.

"How?" Sunshine demanded hotly.

"You mean aside from the explanation I just gave? Easy," Prey said, lowering his voice, "That earth pony has been trying to listen in to this entire conversation and, from his expression, I can see that I'm right." He replied.

Sunshine spun round just in time to catch the earth pony jerk his head to face forwards again and try to school his features back from vicious satisfaction into sullen rebellion. But he wasn't fast enough and Sunshine still caught it. Sunshine didn't waste any more time on exchanging further words with Prey, "Lieutenant!" He yelled.

There was a pop and a shower of green sparks from Bright's direction as he finally finished and sent off the scroll he had been writing. He looked up, "What is it?" He asked.

"Gold Bit and the mind Mage aren't here." That was all Sunshine needed to say for the lieutenant to draw the conclusion.

"Pony down, pony down! We have a potential casualty. Reinforcements will be here in fifteen minutes. Wilful Soul, Sunshine, Hard Wing, secure the prisoners and sit tight. You other two, you're with me. Keep formation and don't separate, that's how he's got one of us." Bright ordered, rushing for the far corridor as the two Pegasus lifted of with a clap of wings and shot after him.

Prey let out a startled squeak as his floating prison was yanked after Bright's retreating form. Spinning round and around helplessly in the bubble, he was pulled down first one corridor then the next, shadowy paintings and tapestries passing in a blur.

Mercifully his prison spell was a tracking sort of magic, as it followed Bright's twisting path exactly rather than a straight line. If not, Prey would have smashed into any number of corners and furniture as he was yanked along, like a run away cart dragged by its traces.

The Pegasus blitzed along just behind and to either side of Bright, wing tips barely an inch from brushing the walls. Amid the constant dizzying spinning caused by their back wash, Prey spat out a mouthful of cloak and tried to find up from down so he could get enough air to yell at Bright that; 'There's no point in running! What ever damage has been done to Gold Bit's mind is already done, and the mind Mage is long gone.' But before he got the chance the trio of Solar Guards skidded to a stop, the Pegasus flaring their wings.

Prey finally righted himself and pulled the stupid cloak off his head, but then had to still flick first one then the other tangled ear out of his face before he could see why.

Bright was crouched next to the still figure of Gold Bit. The downed Solar Guards eyes were open but it was obvious he didn't see. His helmet lay on its side a few feet away, ignored.

"I've got a pulse, quick, help me lay him on his side." Cloud Weft instructed, rolling the prone unicorn over into a recovery position.

"What are you doing?!" Prey yelped, "Don't touch him, it might set of a delayed trap-"

"You shut your face!" Bright roared, "One more word out of you mind leech and I'll crush you like an egg."

Prey's mouth snapped shut and he tried to make himself look as small and contrite as possible. Bright was currently emotionally unstable as a result of the casualty before him, even if the extent of the damage had yet to be established. Anything that could push the unicorn who currently held him in their magical field over the edge was a bad idea.

Prey could quite easily see the sub conscious connection that had formed in Bright's mind. He, Prey, was a criminal, and all other outlets for Bright's fury at failing to both protect his subordinate and capture the mind mage were nowhere in sight. Added to all that, Prey was a mind leech, and so associated with the escaped mind mage's despicableness.

Prey knew that he was currently climbing on thin branches over the Timberwolf pack.

Prey kept silent and still as Bright and the two Pegasus tried to get Gold Bit to respond, even going so far as to slap the downed unicorn in an attempt to bring him round. Prey could have told them that it was a fruitless endeavour. Unless they had a unicorn of their own skilled in mind magic, there was nothing they could do except wait and see if Gold Bit came round on his own.

------

The city Guard arrived en-mass ten minutes later in a rush of shouting and demands to secure the building and evidence, but Bright pulled rank and ordered them out of the room and to "Go do your job elsewhere."

Sunshine came in to inform the lieutenant that the other prisoners were being transported to the city station under guard. Bright stoically told him to go with the city Guard and make sure nothing went wrong, and that he and the two pegasi would wait for Captain Valour with Gold Bit. Sunshine saluted and told him that a medical team from the hospital were on their way and then departed.

And then Captain Valour turned up.

------

He marched in with the other half of the Solar Guard he had taken to investigate Lord Snow's mansion behind him.

"Report."

Bright snapped to attention, "Sir, the building has been secured. We encountered the thieves in the act of stealing from the library and apprehended them. Six were captured and have been taken to the city jail under guard. But there was a seventh thief not in the room, the mind leech, and they escaped. But, before they did..." Bright trailed off and half turned to look at where Gold Bit lay, the two Pegasus standing guard either side of him.

Captain Valour sighed, a world weary sound, "Thank you lieutenant. You did the best that you could." He reached out a large hoof and rested it in Bright's armoured shoulder, "Don't worry, he's going to be fine. Gold Bit's strong, he'll get through whatever spell that mind leech put on him." Valour assured his lieutenant. Prey would have snorted at the display of compassion if it wouldn't have drawn attention to himself.
Bright swallowed and nodded just once, then stepped back and saluted, "Sir. Orders?"

"Wait till the hospital staff arrive, then go with them and keep a watch on Gold Bit. Hard Wing, you go with him. I'll send replacements in about five hours time. Aside from that, there's nothing more we can do here. There's no need to investigate the mansion, not when we have the thieves under lock and key. They'll tell us everything we want to know, and then some." Captain Valour said with almost gleeful certainty.

"Speaking of telling us everything," Bright began, turning to face the cloaked figure of Prey floating along haplessly, "This mind leech hasn't been telling us everything, I'm sure of it."

Prey opened his mouth to protest and offer valid excuses but Captain Valour didn't even look at Prey. "Oh I'm certain he hasn't. He's a liar and a criminal, utter trash staining the face of Equestria. But not for much longer, we don't need him any more. We're sending the leech back to Dreverton tonight." Captain Valour told Bright.

"No, you can't do this to me!" Prey shouted, "This isn't fair, after all I've done? Is this your way of showing gratitude?! I've done everything you said, followed every order and gotten you everything you wanted, and I've done what you could not. How can you just throw me away? How is that fair?!" Prey demanded, frantically gesturing.

Captain Valour's strong jaw clenched in anger, but he still didn't even turn to face Prey, "Your crimes are not forgotten, 452. What service you've offered, as twisted and unwilling as it was, does not absolve you of your guilt. Equestria thanks you for your service, and now its time to do Equestria a far greater service and protect it from something like you." Captain Valour told him.

"This isn't justice! You're just trying to take your anger out on me. I've completed your task, given to you by your Princess herself, my information has lead to the capture of ponies who have caused hundreds of thousands bits worth of damage, and done so in the face of your scorn and derision. And you're forgetting the most important thing; You. Still. Need. Me!" Prey emphasised each word, voice tight with desperation, "That mind Mage is still out there. You can't do this without me."

"We'll get everything we need to know from the prisoners." Captain Valour nodded to the Solar Guards who had accompanied him, "Take him."

"They won't tell you anything, the mind Mage would have removed any sensitive knowledge from his followers memories. You have nothing, you still need me-"

"Lieutenant, if you would be so kind, please give me a detailed run down of the encounter, perhaps there was something you missed." Captain Valour said to Bright, completely ignoring Prey's squeaky shouts as the Solar Guards clicked the chain into place around the inhibitor collar and began pulling him away, as if the captain couldn't even hear him. Like Prey was no longer worth the effort it took to even notice.

Prey gave one last thrash in the tangle of cloak and manacles, snarling something vicious in zebrican that would have made the Guards eyes water if they'd understood it. He got one last hateful look at Captain Valour, standing there so calm and free as Prey was dragged away.

There the unicorn stood, giving orders to Bright, the lieutenant of a whole platoon under his command, who'd follow his every order, who served under the Sun Wolf, a literal goddess. What could Prey do compared to that?

Then Prey was dragged around the corner, and the Solar Guard Captain was lost from sight.

------

[[[Bonus Picture - Sketch Balcony Fire Fight Scene]]]

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