• Published 6th Jul 2018
  • 869 Views, 91 Comments

Five Friendly Venoms - Tumbleweed

It was supposed to be a routine visit to Ponyville-- But, as always, things soon take a turn for the worse as Flash Sentry finds himself facing stunning news-- as well as a brand new mission.

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Chapter 2

I decamped to the only tavern in all of Ponyville: a rustic little establishment, much like nearly every other business in town. It was a quiet night, which meant the purple mare slinging drinks was forced to listen to my ongoing monologue as I pounded down ciders. Poor sod.

“She was the only mare who loved me for who I really am.” I said with a self-pitying sniffle. “And what I really am is a terrible pony, who has done terrible things.” It probably says something about the potency of Ponyville cider that it was enough to wring honesty out of even a lout like me.

Wordlessly, the purple pony poured me another tankard.

“But that's the rub, isn't it? I'm terrible ... so wouldn't that make her terrible for putting up with me? Guilt by association, and all that. Which ... means I'm better off without her.” I nodded to myself, allowing my dejection to morph into celebration. “Why, this could be the best thing that's ever happened to me! Yes-- this is quite the opportunity to move on to a new stage in my life. Why, I'vjust got to be optimistic, that's all.” To fuel this optimism, I took a pull from my tankard, then wiped the foam from my upper lip with my free hoof. “It's like the saying goes-- the best way to get over somepony is to get under somepony else.”

The mare behind the bar arched a brow. She was pretty enough, in that solid, earth-pony kind of way. She had some fruit and a bunch of grapes for a cutie mark, which invited the mind to wonder about sinking one's teeth into her round derriere. Still, I knew I'd have to look elsewhere for a proper romp; she'd listened to my mewling for at least half a dozen ciders, which put me in a most unflattering light. No, I realized, I'd have to find some pretty young pony who would be properly smitten by the legend of Lieutenant Flash Sentry, Hero of Equestria. And, of course, I knew exactly where to look.

With that, I finished my cider, paid my tab, and then set out for Princess Twilight's castle.

Had I just a few drinks fewer, I would've rightly realized this to be a terrible idea.

Had I just a few drinks more, I would've been too foxed to do much of anything besides pass out in a gutter somewhere.

But there I was, balanced at that precise state of intoxication to get into the maximum amount of trouble. I can't help but find this to be something of a metaphor for my life in general.

One would think the seduction of a princess would be a daunting task, but it wasn't as if I hadn't done it before. Kind of.* But even without that, one look at Princess Twilight Sparkle's Castle of Friendship told me everything I needed to know about wooing her.

You see, Princess Twilight had a balcony.

*See: Octavia's Eleven.

If you, dear reader, aren't as much of a ladies' colt as I am (and you're probably not), let me tell you something about romance. A balcony is basically an architectural invitation to an assignation. It's baked into our culture, to the point where every hack writer that wants to start pulling at your heartstrings will plunk the heroine down on a balcony, and, sure enough, the heroine's love interest will come a-calling to sweep her off her hooves. Every time a young filly sees this in a story or a play or whatever, her yearning for this to happen to her will grow, until that little filly becomes a fully grown mare with her own house with its own balcony that just coincidentally is connected to her bedroom, and there you go.

As everypony knows, Princess Twilight Sparkle read a lot of books.

I circled around the tree-shaped castle first, doing my proper reconnaissance. It wouldn't do to wake Princess Twilight unexpectedly, after all. Thankfully, she was still awake, hunched over her writing desk in the corner. Probably scribbling out a journal entry, I imagined. I resolved to give her something to really write about.

With a showboating splay of my wings, I swooped down to alight on Princess Twilight's balcony. She didn't notice me at first, still poring over some letters on her desk. Even still, I couldn't help but admire the way her wings folded neatly against her back. That's what I'd been missing, spending all that time with an earth pony. Oh sure, Carrot Top was rather attractive, in a dangerous sort of way, but she didn't have any plumage. There's something to be said for a big set of wings on a pegasus mare. Or a princess, for that matter. That'd show Carrot Top-- Royal Consort Sentry certainly had a ring to it, after all.

But I was getting ahead of myself.

Princess Twilight kept working away-- that is, until I rapped gently upon her window and cleared my throat. The princess jerked her head up in surprise, turning to look my way. “Flash?” she said, voice slightly muffled by the glass.

“May I come in?” I said with a charming smile and gallant bow.

“Oh! Of course.” Princess Twilight said, and showed me in. “This is quite a surprise--”

“I couldn't sleep.” I said. “So I went out for a quick jaunt-- and when I saw you were still up, I thought I'd drop by for a ... friendly chat.”

“Oh.” Princess Twilight said, cheeks tinting in a rather fetching blush. She was beautiful-- but paradoxically so. The she had the demure innocence of a young schoolteacher, and the regally perfect body of a capital-P Princess. A pair of glasses or a golden tiara would have been equally enticing accessories-- though both at the same time would have been a bit much. “I wasn't expecting you, but I'm glad you came. But ... “ She bit her lower lip, looked away. Oh, this was going to be easy. “I need to tell you something, Flash.”

“By all means.”

“When I invited you to speak at my school, I had ... um ... other, intentions.”

“You did?” I feigned subtle shock, and fought down the urge to smile. Why this was going to be easier than I thought.

“I need you, Flash.” Princess Twilight blinked, and immediately launched into an avalanche of clarification. “I mean! Uh-- I need a pony like you, Flash. Er-- wait, no, that sounded worse-- what I meant to say is ... I need your help.

“You do?” Even in my booze-addled state, I realized the trap-- one that I could hardly bolt out of, either.

“After that trip to Spitespire, I ... I read your file.”

“You did?” My voice may have cracked, if only a little.

“For purely professional reasons!” Princess Twilight blurted. “Not like I'm stalking you or anything. It's just, um. Research, you know? Just ... research on ... you.”

“I'm flattered. I think.”

“You should be.” Princess Twilight nodded, proud of me for some inexplicable reason. “Your service record is exemplary. You're brave. You're clever. And ... maybe most importantly, you're discreet.”

“Er--” I tried to think of something, anything to say to weasel out of it, but Princess Twilight held up a hoof.

“I know you've done work for the Equestrian Intelligence Office. A lot of it. Which is why I asked you to come to Ponyville, Flash.”

“Oh.” I said, even as my guts started turning over each other in an attempt to escape. “What ... what seems to be the matter?”

“I have a friend, Flash.”

“More than one, I hope.” I blurted.

Terrible as my joke was, Princess Twilight still laughed-- quite the pleasant sound, really. I would've enjoyed it more if she weren't about to send me into the (perhaps literal) jaws of certain peril. “That's true, but this friend ... she's different. Our relationship is kind of ... uh, complicated, I guess? And some of my other friends are still just a little bit suspicious of her-- they're just scared, really – not that I can blame them after everything that happened.”

“So, uh ... what's the problem?”

“My friend has been traveling the world, keeping in touch with me via letter ... until recently. I started making a few subtle inquiries about it-- and I only got a letter confirming my fears an hour ago: my friend's gone missing. Which could mean that something terrible has happened to her ... or it could mean that she turned evil again. I wish I could go look for her myself, but I just can't. I mean, I'm fairly certain my School of Friendship could run without me, but-- and this is a big but –if my friend really did turn evil, and somepony like Chancellor Neighsay found out ... accreditation or no, he'd find a way to close my school. And maybe he'd be right.” Princess Twilight sniffled.

Of the many (too many) dangers I've faced, one of the most terrifying is the sight of a crying Princess. Because when she's staring at you, her eyes wide and teary, even a craven cad like me is inclined to do something, anything, in order to make it stop. No matter how invariably, inexorably stupid that anything is.

“What can I do to help?” I damned myself.

Princess Twilight brightened, ears perking up. “I knew I could count on you, Flash!” She promptly launched herself at me, pulling me into a surprisingly tight hug. While such closeness was the exact thing I'd been angling for mere minutes before, the all too familiar sense of impending doom shut down my libido as surely as a bucket of icy water. “This should be easy for a pony of your qualifications-- I've already assembled a dossier on my friend's last known location. From there, all you need to do is track her down and help her out of whatever trouble she's gotten into ... or, if she really has turned evil, and was never my friend to begin with ... then you've got to stop her.”

“Right.” I wheezed as Princess Twilight squeezed the breath from my lungs. “One question, though.”

“Hm?” Princess Twilight let me go and leaned back to look me in the eye.

“Just ... who am I supposed to be looking for?”

“Her name is Tempest Shadow.”