• Published 13th Sep 2018
  • 2,449 Views, 162 Comments

Alternate Beginnings: Year Six - Doug Graves

Herd Apple continues to grow, both out and up, as Doug meets a few more colorful characters.

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3 The Dreaded Rhoa

"That's the fourth one in a row," Prince Blueblood growls as the two walk away from yet another run down farmhouse, "I can't believe it!"

"I know," Doug replies. "I think it's really surprising no one has taken care of this yet." He shudders briefly, "I mean, I live near the Everfree Forest, which has all kinds of things like this going on, but I've haven't heard of things like that happening out here. And I never heard of things that attack ponies so eagerly, and yet nothing is being done." He looks around at the broken fences, something Applejack couldn't stand, yet often didn't have the time to get around and check.

"No, not that," Prince Blueblood huffs. "I'm talking about how these farmers keep thinking that I'm Cold Digger! Me! Prince Blueblood! I'm a unicorn, not a pegasus, for Faust's sake! How dense do they have to be?"

"Well, you have to admit," Doug says as they reach the road, "of the two of us, who would you say is more likely to be working as a weatherpony?"

Prince Blueblood glances over at Doug, then at himself. "You. Probably mixing cloudcrete."

Doug rolls his eyes, the forest around them strangely quiet aside from their voices, "There's just no arguing with you, is there?"

"Yes, I've been told that on several occasions." Prince Blueblood sticks his nose in the air, a haughty, "I think that is what makes me such a good diplomat."

Doug scowls, "I'm pretty sure it isn't a compliment."

"And yet, I'm the one who travels to exotic locales like Griffonstone and Dragon's Lair, and you..." Prince Blueblood taps a hoof to his chin, "What do you do again?" He raises his hoof in the air, his mouthing curling in fake happiness, "Oh, that's right, you listen to the complaints of common farmers and kowtow to their every whim." He shakes his head, going back to a normal trot along the ground.

"That's not..." Doug sighs, looking down at the ground, "Okay, that's exactly my job. But I enjoy it, at least."

"And I love my job, too. I am able to be as brash and harsh and all other manner of abrasive synonyms as I like. And Princess Celestia knows this, and as long as her Highness sends me to the right place, I am an excellent tool at her disposal. And she knows how to wield all of her little ponies as well as she wields her sun."

"I can't believe you accept that so readily and don't even bother trying to change."

Prince Blueblood shrugs, "What can I say, I am who I am, and I see no reason to behave any differently."

The two walk silently for several minutes before Doug says, "So, what do you think about those creatures the farmers were talking about? You know, the ones that each of the farmers thought was a serious issue plaguing their farms, that they would like taken care of, etcetera."

Prince Blueblook glances back to the farmhouse they just left, "What are you talking about?"

Doug sighs, "What about the R. H. O. A.'s?"

Prince Blueblood scoffs, "The Rabidly Hungry Omnivorous Animals? I don't think they exist."


Prince Blueblood lets out a shriek, not unlike that of a young filly, as a shadow leaps out of a nearby tree. He grabs onto Doug, spinning the human between him and the large, locust-like creature flying towards them. The rhoa lands on top of Doug, knocking the human to the ground and using its long, thin forelegs to grab onto his arm. Doug roars, beating the creature in the head as it tries to force his hand into the gnashing jaws.

Doug yells, "A little help, please!" as he forces the rhoa's limbs to the side, its mandibles clicking mere inches from his nose, slobber from the crushing jaws raining on his face.

Prince Blueblood takes a step backwards, surveying the situation. "I'm sorry, but you are laying on top of my rapiers. I don't see how I can help."

"No, use your hoof!"

"Okay, but you're still on top of my rapiers."

"Grr!" Doug grunts as he rolls, his arm dangerously close to being bitten off, the four back legs whirling uselessly in the air. A loud 'schwing' comes from behind Doug as Prince Blueblood reaches over, pulling the gold hilted rapier out of the bag, gripping it in his hoof and disdainfully poking the rhoa in the joint between wing and middle leg. It lets out a shriek, turning its head towards Prince Blueblood who pulls the rapier out, this time sticking the rapier deep in the creature's neck. The beast writhes as the rapier withdraws, Doug grunting as he heaves the dead weight away from him.

"Thanks," Doug icily grumbles, inspecting his arms and making sure the only wounds he has are bruises.

"You're welcome," Prince Blueblood says with a small bow. "I still don't know why you wanted me to use my hoof."

"I meant for you to buck the thing off me, not wield the rapier with your hoof." Doug lets out a long sigh, thankful to be in one piece, "Your magic would have been just fine for that."

"That sounds like a really easy way to chip a hoof. It's not like these boots offer a lot of protection against that, you know."

Doug groans as he pushes the rhoa over, looking at the creature. Armor plated thorax; long, muscled, limbs; thick, round abdomen. A morbid thought crosses Doug's mind as he glances over at Prince Blueblood, the unicorn cleaning his rapier off and inspecting the point. "So, do you know how to butcher an animal?"

Prince Blueblood doesn't bother hiding his disgust. "Of course; Auntie Celestia made me learn before I went to the griffon lands, both to accustom me to their culture and acclimate to the very likely possibility of bloodshed and the similarly high chance of the very act being performed in front of me. Why would you want to know that?"

Doug shrugs, "Well, I eat meat, or I can, and I'm looking at a lot of it that I would hate to go to waste."

Prince Blueblood stares at Doug, then at the occasionally twitching corpse in front of him. "You would... eat... that? Do you know where it's been?"

"Well, it seems healthy, and I'll be sure to cook the meat thoroughly to kill whatever parasites are swarming around in it." Doug rolls his eyes as Prince Blueblood takes another step backwards, his eyes going wide and mouth pulling back.

"Eww ew ew! No!" Doug crosses his arms as Prince Blueblood pouts, "Look at it! You are thinking about eating that? No!"

"Maybe it's delicious?" Doug's face lights up, holding a finger in the air, "Ooh, I know! We can both try it, get you used to it, then we can pass it off as a Vanhoover delicacy! And then get your noble friends to try it!"

"I am insulted that you think that I consider any of those stuck up mules as my friend." A second passes before a sneer spreads over Prince Blueblood's muzzle, "Doug, I just had the best idea."

"Yeah?" Doug's mouth creeps into a grin.

"How about, we cut this... rhoa apart, take the meat, prepare it, and I pass it off as a Vanhoover specialty, getting those pompous fools Auntie Celestia forces me to hang out with to try some?"

Doug rolls his eyes, "That sounds like an excellent plan. Now, do you have a knife? Or machete?"

"Pff," Prince Blueblood snorts, "I would think that you are the type to carry around something as barbaric as a machete. I only need my rapiers and my wit."

"Well, I don't have a knife or ax, and I don't think your wit is sharp enough to cut this chitin. We could walk back to the last farmhouse, see if they have anything."

"Indeed, or we could keep walking to the next one, and see if they have anything, and save ourselves several minutes of walking around." Prince Blueblood looks down at the rhoa, "Hey, wait a second."

Doug ignores Prince Blueblood's second statement, "Alright then, you want to carry this?"

Prince Blueblood looks askance at Doug, holding a hoof to his chest and mouthing the word, 'Me?'

"Come on, you could levitate it, and I won't get blood all over me." Doug motions to the body, blood oozing out of the hole in the neck. "I'm just lucky I was on top of the thing when you stabbed it, not underneath."

"Or, we can leave it here, and never speak of this." Prince Blueblood turns, facing the road to continue onward.

Doug holds a hand to his chin, "Maybe I'll just use your saddlebags to keep my hands clean."

Prince Blueblood retorts, "But then the rest of your clothes will have blood all over them."

Doug raises an eyebrow, "But where would-" before Prince Blueblood smirks at him, his rapier waggling back and forth. "Fine." Doug reaches down, grabbing one of the rhoa's back legs. "Lead the way."

"Ugh, you're going to drag it the whole way?"

"Would you like to help?" Doug asks he follows Prince Blueblood down the road, the chitin clinking along the ground.

Prince Blueblood turns, sticking his nose in the air, "No, and if you continue like this you will be carrying the packs the rest of the way."

"That was an option?" Doug pretends to consider as Prince Blueblood rolls his eyes.

"Alright, fine. You win. At least the next farmhouse is close by." Prince Blueblood turns and snorts, his head held in the air.

The two walk along in silence, Doug dropping off the rhoa as they come to the outskirts of the farm. Prince Blueblood steps forward, knocking on the front door, Doug standing off to the side. A mare opens the door, raising an eyebrow at the well-groomed stallion in front of her. She asks, "What can I do ya for?" before she glances off to the side, seeing Doug standing there, and startling back a little.

Prince Blueblood smiles, "Hello, Ma'am, my partner and I are here on behalf of the Cloudsdale Weather Support team, in order to collect information about your weather needs."

"Oh, Cold Digger, it's right pleasant to meet ya!" Prince Blueblood's eye twitches as she continues, "I'd tell ya more, but we've had a right infestation of these varmints about. Makes it hard to think a lot about planning for future harvests when they eat everything right up."

"Yes, yes, we've heard about it. If you have any concerns or feedback with the weather scheduling, we'd be happy to know. However, on a note related to those varmints, do you happen to have a large knife? Or ax?"

"Oh, so, I've got the old wood chipper out back, you see, but what would you need it for?" The mare glances past Blueblood, looking closer at Doug, before glancing to the side at the wood pile.

"We came across one of those varmints. It is... better left unsaid."

"Gonna chop it up to take back home with you to study, eh? I sure hope you do something, those pests have been all over the place! Getting fat off of our hard work! About time, I say."

Prince Blueblood raises an eyebrow, "Indeed."

"Well, why didn't you say so earlier! I'll go get it, you park yourself right there and I'll be right back in a jiffy."

Prince Blueblood looks over to Doug, motioning for him to come over. He gets to the door about the time the pony comes around the side of the house, holding a well-worn ax in her teeth. She walks up to Prince Blueblood, who redirects her with a slight shake of the head towards Doug. She pauses, a brief hesitation before moving towards him and holding the ax out. He takes it with a smile, "Thank you for your help. I have some bits, for the ax."

"Oh, don't worry about it, buddy, it's not a problem. Just glad to see somepony dealing with those R. H. O. A.'s. Thank you, Cold Digger and friend." She nods, first to Prince Blueblood and then to Doug, a friendly wave as she steps back to her house. Prince Blueblood initially smiles before turning and scowling, slowly walking away before a loud 'whew!' and a thud against the closed door comes from the house.

"Hey, only the third one that did that," Doug remarks as they walk back to the road. Both of them stop as they see two more rhoas gathered around the body with several others mingling around the nearby trees. The chitin cracks as the two rhoas tear it apart, exposing the soft tissue underneath.

"I don't suppose we can just walk away from this?" Prince Blueblood asks, inspecting his blue rapier, the gold rapier floating next to him.

"I don't know, pretty sure there are a lot of nobles up in Canterlot."

Prince Blueblood huffs, his horn shining, "If only they were so easily dealt with." The point on the blue rapier shines, glinting as it sharpens. Prince Blueblood whistles to himself as the two rapiers levitate over to the two rhoas, the sharp points stabbing them in the neck. Gurgling noises come from each as the rapiers pull out, the two rhoas collapsing to the ground. "I don't know why the farmers are having so much trouble. Well, besides the lack of enchanted rapiers and my expertise."

One of the nearby rhoas cautiously makes its way to its fallen brethren, a keening call coming out. Many of the surrounding trees echo with the same call, Doug and Prince Blueblood exchanging scared looks. "I think I figured it out," Doug says as the rhoas take to the air, short bursts of their large wings propelling themselves to the center around their fallen comrades. They pause, staring at the bodies for a second before reorienting themselves towards the two. "Run?" Doug asks, slowly backing up.

"More like a tactical retreat," Prince Blueblood says, turning to the side. "You distract them, and I'll... be over there." Prince Blueblood takes off at a fast pace, putting Doug between himself and the rhoas while his rapiers levitate towards the human.

"WHAT?" Doug yells, hastily shedding the bags he is carrying. Two of the rhoas leap towards him as he sprints back, narrowly dodging the second as it tries to correct with its wings. It stops for a second, slowly walking towards Doug before a second powerful leap eats up the distance that Doug put between it.

The first rhoa lays down on the ground, stabbed through the neck by a golden rapier, Prince Blueblood exclaiming, "Good work! Keep it up!"

"Blueblood, so help me, if I get eaten by these I am coming back for you!" Doug yells as the main group leaps towards him. He quickly changes course, the rhoa closest to him dispatched by a blue rapier.

"Don't worry Doug, I feel you're doing well!" Prince Blueblood shouts, inspecting one of his hooves for chips. "Maybe try to hit one yourself, they don't move very much immediately after they land."

"Are you crazy?" Doug says as he takes a wild swing with the ax. The nearby rhoa clicks angrily, mandibles gnashing as it swipes at Doug, many of the others closing the gap.

"Or, just keep running! You're quick!" Prince Blueblood calls, fiddling around with another one of his hooves. Two of the RHOAs that came at him collapse, a golden blur weaving between them. "Whatever you like, just try to be more aggravating! It's difficult to concentrate over here!"

Doug zigzags, dodging away from the two rhoas chasing him as another two make their way to Prince Blueblood. He yawns as his rapiers whirls between them, heavy thuds as they fall to the ground. The rapiers spin towards Doug, the rhoas hot on his heels as he runs towards the fallen saddlebags. The last two rhoas screech at the incoming weapons, attempting to swipe at the metal but find themselves run through just as easily as their brethren.

Doug bends over, his hands on his knees, hard breaths in and out as he recovers. Prince Blueblood walks over, inspecting his rapiers as they return to his side. The unicorn remarks, "Ugh, I think I chipped a hoof running over here. You'll have to do better next time, but I do say we make a pretty good team. Now, what do you say we hurry it up a little, I would hate to be around here for too much longer, the smell will be atrocious."

"Yeah," Doug pants, "I'll get right on that." He straightens up, stretching one leg and then the other. "You're pretty good with those weapons, almost like they're an extension of you."

"Yes, and I have trained hard to get here. The Dancing Duo, I've been called." Prince Blueblood looks down at one of the rhoas Doug is dragging off the road away from the farms, a disdainful look as he levitates the ax. "So, what parts are you interested in? Also, where are we putting the meat? And how are we preserving it? Who will be taking what parts?"

"I think we can stick to major muscles, maybe some of the internal organs. Not that I couldn't eat everything, I'm just less sure of what is safe. Muscles I'm pretty confident on. None of the chitin, the outer shell. As for preservation, if you don't have some sort of spell, um, I think we need to dry it out. And salt it, maybe other spices if we have access to them. Smoke helps dry it out, with the fire."

"You are going to put salt in this?" Prince Blueblood smirks, "Oh, this delicacy will go over spectacularly, though the salt may make it seem too much like common fare. However, if we can keep the salt limited, so it is barely distinguishable, it should work." He looks over at the sun, then at the area around them, "So, you keep watch, and drag the rest of those rhoas over here." The ax comes down with a heavy thunk, separating the leg from the thorax. His magic holds pieces of the chitin apart while continuing his butchering, Doug making his way to the farmhouse to ask about obtaining a large crate or cart. If only they had a wheelbarrow!