• Published 2nd Apr 2019
  • 540 Views, 30 Comments

Knight of Equestria III: Pizzicato and Changelings - scifipony



Vinyl Scratch lands a gig for DJ Flopsy Mopsy: the public party for the royal Canterlot Wedding—in a stadium-sized venue! Handling this taxes her fledgling abilities, but, when she thinks she owns all the hooves, all Tartarus beaks loose.

  • ...
3
 30
 540

Hard Choices

Ghost Zapper's horn burnt out, or worse...

One life risked for the many...

I wasn't going to explain to anypony that this was the essence of my cutie mark—earned about the time of my encounter with Princess Nightmare Moon—not music. My special talent had to be about what I was doing and how, or I'd be a pony-sociopath. I didn't want to be a pony who could act this way. I didn't, hadn't, wouldn't have chosen my special talent.

Who would have?

Even if I felt suddenly incredibly alive during these episodes.

Tears made it hard to see what Ghost Zapper and I had wrought as I flew above the strand, but I wiped furiously with a fuzzy fetlock and saw that the crowds had thinned enough. Still, when I saw a pink earth pony rear, I dived, landed in front of her with a bang that made my knees ache, and embraced her.

"It's nothing to fear," I lied, pulling her to all fours despite her superior strength. She must have needed to hear that. "It's nothing. Just be calm and go inside."

I turned my head to the gathered crowd. "All of you. Calmly. Go inside. Stay there." Nods. Horseshoes clattering away across the cobblestones.

To the pink blue-maned mare: "You're okay."

Her nodding head rubbed against my neck. I reluctantly released her. I felt cheese-holes opening in my overly-stretched and bruised psyche. I'd needed the hug as badly as she had.

I jumped into the sky again, seeing from on high that ponies were generally running for shelter but not panicked. Nopony stampeded down any of the streets I could see down.

I looked up for what had spooked the pink mare.

Black, weirdly-shaped ponies streamed into the sky from the castle.

"Oh, bloody Tartarus." I hissed.

Tiring, I landed on a fourth story roof and hid between the chimneys, doing as Princess Nightmare Moon would have done: scoping out the enemy. I kept my eyes darting around, trying to count how many flew into upper Canterlot, pushing back the thought that the creatures had defeated the princesses and Twilight Sparkle, too. That wasn't possible. Twilight Sparkle never failed.

No matter what I did, I wasn't able to save everypony. I was one pony. I watched as the monsters flitted around on their transparent wings, hissing at ponies with a forked snake-tongue. That spooked most ponies, though a few fainted. That convinced others to run, but the panic didn't spread from ones and twos. Ponies just ran for shelter.

When the monsters cornered somepony, they vomited a glob of green goo and used their horn to spin a spiderweb around the victim, sticking him or her in place.

None brought their fangs to bear. Thank Celestia for that.

Others performed an ugly tactic. They'd duplicate a fleeing pony, run alongside others, then lead them into an ambush of his or her peers. I couldn't tell the monsters' stallions from mares; if they were like bees, they might be neither or all mares.

They rapidly turned Canterlot into a larder. I shuddered.

I had to do something.

I stood jittering and fuming. I didn't want to kill myself needlessly. When I saw one duplication result in the monster flying off in pegasus form, I jumped into the sky as a plan condensed in my head.

I winged upward toward a flight of shapeshifters, reining in every instinct to veer off or to let my fur raise as I snugged in on their left. I could decipher no expression on their chitinous muzzles or from the diffraction rainbow glinting off their faceted metallic green eyes. What made me think they could read mine? My stupid luck...?

They eyed me in the crosswind that curled my primaries to the right and washed my fringe between them and my eyes, but... they didn't attack. I mean, what pony would realistically join them? I grinned as I spotted ponies cowering in the doorway of a store, sped up into the lead, and curved away toward an empty alleyway, pointing furiously. The flight took my direction and swooped downward.

The wind changed as I peeled away into their backdraft. It was like opening the door to a bakery the day before Hearthswarming. I got hit with a wall of cinnamon, clove, and whatnot. I actually coughed, banked reflexively back into the stream, and followed in my surprise. As waves of different scents spread out—one each for the five I momentarily followed—I felt a panoply of emotions.

All of them good. I mean, Hearthswarming, right? Mulled cider and figgy pudding. A cedar log in the fireplace warming and scenting the cottage. Aunts. Goofy cousins. Gifts.

I dived away, confused. Why could a creature so horrible smell like familial love? Worse, they stank of it as if they were incense candles burning an essential oil at an outrageous rate.

It did give me an idea how to fit in better.

I'd noticed a bakery on the Strand. I soared down into the alley behind it. Beside a stack of old bread left for the homeless ponies, around behind a rubbish bin filled with flour sacks, I found the back entrance.

A green door.

Latched.

I bucked it open in three loud kicks, splintering the jamb into flying wood chips, and trotted into the empty yeasty-smelling shop. I scoured the shelves and cabinets of the kitchen, then found the bulk spices and flavored oils beside the oven. I saw the baker's saddlebags, black turned grey by ground-in dustings of flour. I piled in clattering bottles of cinnamon extract, vanilla, licorice water, and clove oil, and shrugged into them.

I stopped in the hall. I looked down at the splinters of green-painted wood on the stained red tile floor, then at the rear exit and felt my skin cool. That's breaking and entering, and burglary, young filly! The dichotomy between the thought and my reasons caused me to giggle. I grabbed a hoofful of gold bits from my coin pocket and dropped them before dashing into the alley. There, I bathed my wings in cinnamon and vanilla, fluttering like a sparrow in a bird bath, wanting to smell like the Hearthswarming soft cinnamon buns I so adored (with a huge dollop of butter, naturally). I fluffed them to work the scents in deep and leapt into the sky.

The ruse worked amazingly well. A half dozen times I managed to drift away when I saw gathered ponies in a courtyard or milling on the pavement. Sometimes pony-curiosity defeated common sense. I slammed doors and screamed at some ponies hanging out of windows trying for a better view. There were hundreds more, and I shooed them safely inside.

All wasn't puppy dogs and rainbows, however. As I circled back up Alicorn Way with the seventh flight I would misdirect, I found no perfect choices. Just bad and worse choices. Six mares and a colt ran toward the castle a block away, while somepony I recognized, north at the intersection, ushered a pair of school fillies in blue and white uniforms through the shadows. I suddenly felt what Aurora Australis had felt.

Queasy.

One life risked for the many, but I too was one pony. I had to choose. I had been to the left of the flight. I swooped over to the right and herded the six shapeshifters through their cinnamon-y slipstream toward the castle. Having captured their attention, I swooped down on the mares and colt. I pulled up as the flight landed and surrounded them, banking sharply between two chimneys and away.

Eyes briefly blurred with tears, I flapped as fast as I could over sculptured gingerbread tile roofs and into an adjacent shadowed alley where I shot south just above the wet cobbles toward distant Oak Street, slaloming around parked wagons and rancid rubbish bins into the street as Octavia Melody came into view. I skimmed her back with my hooves. I somersaulted to avoid the fillies and landed skidding. Octavia gasped. The two fillies inhaled to scream, but I reared, waving my hooves and shushing with a wing. I briefly scanned the sky, found it empty, and looked for cover.

Octavia hustled the kids after me, whispering, "The monsters followed a pony inside the store we were hiding in..."

I flew to various doorways until I found a basement door cracked open. I waved the group in. The fillies dashed through the door, turned, and squeaked, "Thank you!" in unison.

As Octavia followed, she smiled.

I forced a smile and said, "This time lock the door and push something against it for good measure."

"I will," came through the silently shut door, followed by a latching sound.

I dashed up the stair and leapt into the sky.

As I cleared the roof line, a rapidly moving shapeshifter dive-bombed me. I barely dodged a rear kick and tumbled bruisingly onto a blue-tiled roof. Hooves up, I slid down the ceramic slope on my flank as my attacker took advantage of my exposed belly.