• Published 2nd Apr 2019
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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.

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Swept Away

Gale force winds thrust the two Rainbow Dashes into a wooden balcony baluster as if a tornado had hit them. I heard a chitinous krump! One changed back into a black insect pony. They bounced off a glass paneled door, one-two, the second one shattering a pane as the wind swept them upward. The others veered and got blown in eddies, unable to steer clear of lamp posts, overhanging eaves, or walls. I was spared the brunt of the wind, but it made it hard to steer as each correction I made to attitude caused a yaw or slide in the air. It blew my mane furiously, beating my eyes.

The insistent airflow seemed almost sentient. As I tried to land, it forced me into a spin that lifted me upward. It was almost like when Discord had turned me into a whirligig, only now I felt controlled as if by puppet strings.

I saw the changelings blown totally out of control.

Riverdale slammed into my left side, incidentally striking my rib. The sharp pain made me gasp. Using the flow of air upward and away from the building, with a foreleg over my withers, he steered and shoved me to land in a controlled crash on somepony's red-tiled terrace. I slid on my belly, knocking away a deck chair, spinning through an open door to miss the stairwell and hit a Prance door. It creaked open. The insistent air sucked me to the balcony's wall with a bang of my horseshoes against stucco.

Riverdale held me tightly.

I found myself shivering as I said, "Cheeky colt." While the freakish wind mussed my fringe and ruffled my fur, his ginger mane lay still against his neck. It didn't move. The wind didn't affect him at all!

Sparkles.

Sparkles rushed by.

The type of thing that accompanied a magical manifestation. I looked at the street. A faintly spherical green wave, like a unicorn's aura, pulsed repeatedly down the street towards the east, grabbing at my mane each time as it did. Looking skyward, I saw black pony-shaped dots spinning uncontrollably in the thaumaturgical gale.

Swept away.

I glanced left and saw Riverdale's amber eyes darting. He was seeing it, too.

I pointed a hoof. "See. I'm evil." I blinked and felt my eyes burn. It felt good to have confirmed what I knew about myself.

"No. They're swept away by it. You're only—"

"Dashed against things like the rubbish—"

"Hey! I'll believe you're 'broken', but I saw this last time. Whatever Nightmare Moon—"

"Princess Nightmare Moon—"

"—did to you, you made a decision to save the defenseless set of ponies. That was absolutely the moral choice—and I know I'm nowhere as strong as you are to have made the decision myself. I'd have likely fought futilely and gotten everypony caught. Her 'influence' may have made you strong, but you made yourself a hero."

I struggled to get from under his grasp, away from the nettling incomprehensible word that burned my ears, but he held me tightly, controlling me like a kite fighting against a tempest. "I am no—"

"Shush." He held me even more tightly, like a frightened foal. "Shush."

I felt my eyebrows lift, but I rested my head on his warm furry side anyway. That way, I didn't have to look into his too virtuous eyes, or let him see mine glisten. I murmured, "I am a knight of Equestria. It's first." Princess Nightmare Moon promised!

Maybe I'd said that last aloud in a whisper.

"That I would believe, like in fairytales and chivalric legends."

The wind faded to the weakest of non-magical breezes. The changelings were gone. "Okay, Dame FM, we need to get some injuries tended to."

"My name is Flopsy Mopsy."

"Charmed, Dame Flopsy Mopsy." He helped me up.

As I nibbled back in place all the feathers the wind had ruffled, I studied him to see if he was being patronizing. Maybe not. The taste of cloves numbed my tongue. My cut lip stung and began to bleed, which left my right wing stained with dabs of red.

I thought of Ghost Zapper.

After relating what I'd done to him, he said, "You are a hard master Dame Flopsy Mopsy, but together you two saved thousands of lives. I've heard that the Princess' physician is good at healing magical burnouts."

When we landed in Palisades Park, the green belt between the cliffs and the Strand, I saw a clock on an ornate green-painted wrought-iron pole. It read 5:50. Less than an hour had passed, but it felt like an eternity. I had meant to start our search where I'd last seen Ghost Zapper, only to immediately find him beside Aurora Australis on the grass.

Bits of fluorescent yellowish-green flecked their fur and I deduced that the wind that had threatened to sweep me away, broke apart the changeling's web, too. The lime-green mare surged upright between the stallion and me. As her eyes tracked to the blood dripping down my neck from my chin, she said, "Back off!"

Riverdale's wings made a loud swooping backwash as he made a three-point landing. "My my, Dame Flopsy Mopsy, you do know how to make friends, don't you?" He held his rear leg up as he limped around the unicorn mare to peer at the unconscious illusionist's forehead.

I said, "We're going to take him to be cared for."

"Care, is it?" The businessmare spat on the grass. "You broke him!'

I didn't say that I knew how that felt.

Riverdale let go of Ghost Zapper's horn, laying his head down. He said, "He's too heavy to carry for either of us without finding a cart. Do you mind lending a helping horn?"

Aurora Australis proved barely able to lift his weight, but that sufficed as she grunted while trotting off with the lieutenant flying beside her. He glanced back and said, "You, too."

I cantered to catch up. The businessmare pointedly kept to the opposite side of Riverdale, with her charge kept to her left farthest from me. Considering her accent, and Ghost Zapper's Equestrian one, they weren't mother and son.

We entered Castle Canterlot through the portcullis at the end of Alicorn Way near the Bank of Equestria building. The guard—both stained with yellowish-green, armor worn out of kilter, and one blue mare with a bad bruise on her cheek—saluted as we passed through the double-walls. The interior city had its own buildings and towers in the same shade of white, all with a blue-and-gold mare-and-heart accent, but none were commercial properties or homes. It looked institutional in an aristocratic way. Riverdale sent a page ahead of us as we cut through the castle gardens full of fern trees, weeping willows, and flowering shrubs. A profusion of red, pink, and yellow roses bloomed around us. Regardless, Riverdale's licorice overpowered any floral scent.

Royal guards in similarly battered armor stood before a two-story square building that proved to be our destination. They held the door open for us and said, "Second floor. "

The walls were plaster with teak wainscoting and the doors mahogany with frosted crystal windows. The banister on travertine the staircase gleamed with brass polished for the wedding. Which office on the second floor became obvious. An officer in full parade dress—a red wool jacket with a blue sash, gold collar, gold spats, all of which looked antique to my eye—guarded the door. His white fetlocks and dark blue hooves were stained yellow-green.

"Captain Shining Armor," Riverdale said, saluting. "First Lieutenant Riverdale reporting with casualties."

The beefy, albeit below average-sized, white unicorn looked disheveled. Not his uniform, but his fur was all over the place, his cyan on blue mane sagged left, and he had prominent dark circles below his eyes. I stood on the stairs behind the heavily breathing Aurora Australis and didn't hear exactly what Riverdale said next, but the captain focused on Ghost Zapper's head for a few moments, before his eyes lingered on me.

I reflexively narrowed my gaze and returned his blue-eyed appraisal.

As he waved in Riverdale and Aurora Australis, I recalled who Shining Armor was: Twilight Sparkle's brother, the captain of the royal guard, and the bridegroom. It explained a lot.

I stepped to the top of the stair. "Hi, sir," I tried. A salute wasn't proper, so I sketched a quick curtsey.

He gave a gentle snort, which I interpreted as amusement, and continued to appraise me.

For a long time.

I finally said, "I'm Flopsy Mopsy, DJ FM."

"So you joined groups of changelings and misdirected them?"

I wasn't comfortable saying I had, because, really... not normal. What normal pony would admit, well, being able to do that? I couldn't not admit it; Riverdale had blabbed it. I mumbled a lackluster, "Yeah. Sorta."

He snorted again, but reached forward and sniffed.

I understood and said, "The first time I got near them, they smelled like Heartswarming Eve."

His eyes moved as he thought. "Rrright."

"So I found some flavored oils in a bakery—"

"And bathed in them." He nodded and smiled, "Love."

Love, not luv. He hadn't used the Trottingham familiar pronoun. I said, "Hearthswarming was what the smells evoked for me, anyway."

"No, I meant love, the actual emotion. Changelings eat love. Metabolize it."

That explained the smell when they flew. I shuddered, suddenly wondering if my lack of typical pony emotions had made it easier to pretend to be a changeling. Was self-love an important thing? "What about their fangs?"

He shrugged.

He leaned forward and sniffed. "Had I understood that Cadance's sudden choice of... 'bakery' perfumes meant something significant, I might have realized she'd been ponynapped."

The puzzle pieces came together and I wondered about the nature of the attack at the ceremony an hour ago. I didn't get a chance to find the courage to ask for the particulars because the office door opened slightly. Twilight Sparkle looked out. What struck me, compared to her brother and even my diminutive self, the Element of Magic was really petite. The purple mare had bandages taped to her cheek and wound around her right foreleg. Her fur looked scorched on her chest, and I saw crusted blood on her muzzle and bruises purpling her hide darkly along her ribs. She'd fought in an epic battle, the one I'd seen her charge into, no doubt. A roiling cloud of her ruddy magic opened the door fully as she stepped aside.

Princess Celestia appeared.

My Trottingham upbringing took control. I eeped, fluttered out of the way of the stairs into the hall, and curtseyed deeply. I declared, "Your Royal Highness!"

I fought to keep my eyes down but failed. The tall white alicorn wore none of her regalia. I saw fur worn off her left side, though she displayed no bruises. Scorches blackened her horn visibly. She, too, had been in a fight.

She looked to her left at me, her violet eyes alighting on the blood that wept from my lips, then blinking as if I wasn't entirely what she expected to see. She took a deep breath and said, "An illusion?"

Ghost Zapper's. "Yes, Mum," I replied.

"Thousands—" she started, only to be cut off by a crashing bang.

I tensed, my heart beating rapidly as adrenaline surged through my blood. I got a sharp pain in my rib, and maybe that kept me holding my curtsey and not immediately flying into the air above the hallway, ready to fight.