• Published 30th Oct 2018
  • 1,189 Views, 582 Comments

Ponyville Noire: Kriegspiel—Black, White, and Scarlet - PonyJosiah13

War has come to Ponyville. As a criminal mastermind, a cruel pirate, and a mare with mysterious motives fight for control, Daring Do and Phillip Finder are put to the test with new cases and new foes.

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Case Seven, Prologue: Hunted

His rapid breath burned in his lungs, even as every exhalation condensed into a cloud before his face that he could barely see. What little light that filtered down from the stars above through the thick tree canopy above him only allowed him to see a few feet in front of him. And all that he could see were the trees that jutted out of the thick snow that his hooves rapidly crunched through. Every massive trunk blocked his path, forming a twisting maze for him to run through; every one looked the same in his terrified eyes, denying him any landmarks, any ability to determine where he was or where he was going.

All he knew was that he must run. Run until he could not move anymore, run until the pain in his damned foreleg overwhelmed his senses, run until he reached safety, run…

He didn’t see the gnarled root that jutted out of the ground until it was too late. Like a bony hoof reaching out of its grave to seize him and drag him under, the thick wood entangled itself around his hoof and he tumbled into the snow, the impact driving all the breath from his lungs. Twisting around onto his side, he struggled to free his hoof, but the roots hung on determinedly, their grip as tight as a vise. Grunting in frustration and shivering in the cold wind that made the branches above him groan and creak, the stallion fought to free himself.

Suddenly, he stopped, his breath catching. A sound came to his frostbitten ears, carried on the wind.

No, not a sound. A voice. Singing.

O-oh, death….whoa-oh, death...won’t you spare me over til another year?

Panic gripped the stallion’s heart, and he redoubled his efforts to free himself. The root refused to let go of his hoof. With a desperate cry, the stallion seized his hind leg in his front hooves and violently wrenched as hard as he could, biting down on his lip to stifle his own cries. The root pulled back on his limb, stretching muscle and bone to the breaking point, then finally let go. Gasping in pain, he rolled over and tried to get back up; his injured leg trembled as he put his weight upon it, adding to the pain of his injured foreleg. Wincing with every movement, he forced himself to limp through the snow.

Oh, what is this, that I can’t see, with ice-cold hooves taking hold of me?

The voice was closer now, a song backed up by the whistling wind, the creaking of branches, and his own hoofsteps in the snow. “When Mother is gone, and the darkness takes hold, who will have mercy upon your soul?

Panting, wincing with every movement that sent fresh waves of pain up his lame leg, the hunted pony trudged onwards through the snow. The distant song continued, coming closer and closer with every passing minute.

He had to hide somewhere. Looking up, he spotted a low-hanging branch on a nearby tree. Turning, he quickly used his long purple tail to obliterate his tracks in the snow behind him, sweeping them out of existence. Then he grasped the branch with his forelegs and hauled himself up with a grunt. The branch groaned in protest, but held his weight. Grunting and puffing with exertion, the stallion pulled himself higher into the tree. The wind bit at his bare body, ruffling through his wings, wings that had been violently plucked hours before, leaving behind tufts of feathers that barely clung to the bony patagium. The stallion shivered, biting back a whimper as the dull pain reignited itself, but forced himself to keep climbing.

Oh, Death, oh, Death, consider my age, please don’t take me at this stage…”

He froze. The voice was very, very close now. Not daring to move, halted in the middle of climbing up a thicker branch, the stallion looked down.

Less than fifteen feet below him was the hunter. The figure beneath was dressed in a dark winter coat lined with white fur that rustled in the wind, the hood pulled up to shield his face. He was stalking slowly through the snow beneath him, head panning from side to side. In his hoof he held a double rifle, snowflakes melting on the polished barrels, the lacquered stock cuddled into his shoulder. From his position in the tree, the prey could see the hunter’s cutie mark: a bullet imprinted on a paw print. His voice, rough and slow, floated up to his ears.

The hunter stopped at the base of the tree; his singing ceased as well. Slowly, his head panned upwards, eyes slithering up the trunk. His gaze reached up to the little nook where his prey sat; the hidden pony’s heart thudded in his chest as the pale golden eyes fixed upon his position.

He couldn’t see him. He was too high up, too well hidden amongst the branches. The night was too dark. He couldn’t see him.

But the golden eyes were fixed on him. They seemed to shine in the dark, framed in the shadows of his hood, and the hunted stallion realized that the hunter was smiling. Slowly, the figure beneath shook his head from side to side. The stallion’s eyes darted to the double rifle.

But instead of raising the weapon, the hunter turned and walked away, his pace casual. Once more, he raised his voice in song: “Oh, I am Death, none can excel, I’ll open the door to Heaven or Hell…”

The prey remained where he was, barely daring to breathe until the song had long faded into the night. Only when he was sure that the hunter was gone did he slowly climb back down from the tree. Alighting back into the snow with a brief grunt, he turned and started walking back the way he’d come, still limping on his wounded leg.

Just keep moving. Just keep breathing. Never mind the pain. Never mind the cold.

Just survive.

Author's Note:

And so begins the new adventures of Phillip Finder and Daring Do!

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