• Published 11th Mar 2019
  • 982 Views, 80 Comments

The Pegasus who Kicked the Changelings' Hive - A M Shark

After being injured during the events of "The Ponies who Played with Fire" a now-captive Discord is facing trial for murder, while Fluttershy and her small band of allies are in a desperate struggle both to clear his name and avoid their own capture.

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Chapter 3. Psalm 88:18

Chapter 3

"You have removed lover, and friend far from me; My acquaintances are in darkness."—Psalms 88:18

Skywishes pushed herself up onto her hooves. "Bleh, I'm going to bed."

"That's it?!" Applejack demanded, leaping to her own hooves to glare at the pegasus. "How can you even think about sleep at a time like this?!"

"Because I haven't slept since Tuesday," Skywishes replied, cricking her neck, "and I need it." She turned away from the group, only for Twilight to call out to her this time.

"Wait a minute! I just remembered another way we can contact Celestia!" She raised a front hoof, exposing the heart-shaped charm on its underside. "Who else still has a charm like this?"

A quick inventory revealed that apart from her only Dinky and Highflyer still had their hoof charms.

"Both of you!" Twilight ordered. "Slam those charms against the floor and will them to break, quick!"

Skywishes's eyes widened. "Wait, Twilight—!"

But the three ponies had already brought their hooves down. Fluttershy braced herself for the shriek of the blaring alarm, but instead there was only a faint crackling sound. And as everypony watched in shock, the charms crumbled into dust.

Everypony that is, except Skywishes.

"What the hey were you trying to do?! Advertise our whereabouts to all of Equestria?!" she berated Twilight through clenched teeth. "You think I took the trouble of getting all of you here, just to bring a bunch of changelings down on us?!"

"And while we're safe in here, that same bunch of changelings is probably going after our families!" Applejack shot back before Twilight could respond.

Skywishes shut her eyes, and wearily massaged the bridge of her muzzle with a hoof. "We can't do your families any good if we get caught as well, and I'm too tired to care about them anymore."

Applejack snorted contemptuously. "Of course you wouldn't care about them. It's not like you've got anything to lose when the only family you've got has been rotting in the ground for the past eleven years!"

Several ponies sucked in their breath at this. Skywishes didn't open her eyes, or take her hoof away from the bridge of her muzzle, but her whole posture seemed to tense up, her wings lifting an inch off her back.

"Applejack!" Rarity exclaimed, shocked at her friend.

"Low blow, Apps," Highflyer muttered disgustedly.

Maybe it was just his use of that loathed nickname, but Applejack turned her glare on the masked stallion. "Sure, take her side. It's not like you have any family to worry about either!"

"Applejack!" Rarity repeated as Screwjob started to say, "Well, there is—"

"Jobs! Shut your mouth!" Highflyer snarled.

For a brief moment Screwjob's expression went defiant, and he opened his mouth to reply, only for Highflyer to cut him off with a sharp, "No!"

Screwjob gave his fellow wrestler a second more considering look before Highflyer growled, "Not a word." Which seemed to convince Screwjob to hold his tongue. Fluttershy wondered what he had been about to say, but given Highflyer's vehemence at keeping him silent, she felt now might not be the best time to pursue the subject.

Applejack on the other hoof, was too busy turning her temper on Rarity to care about the wrestlers' exchange. "And as for you! You cared enough to save a stupid trunk of clothes but you couldn't be bothered to protect my sister!"

Rarity looked too shocked at this accusation to respond, but Spike bristled to her defense with a sharp, "Hey!"

"Applejack, that's enough!" Twilight added.

Applejack stared incredulously at them. "Don't any of you care that our families are in danger out there?!"

"Shut up!" Skywishes bellowed. "Just shut up!" She marched over to the section of floor they'd entered through and kicked the panel open. "If you don't stay quiet, I'll throw you down there for the forest to deal with. Got it?!"

When she was met with silence, she exhaled gustily. "Good." She pulled the panel shut again. "Now for the second time: I'm. Going. To. Bed." She stalked past the other ponies when Fluttershy's small tentative voice reached her.

"Um, Skywishes?" Fluttershy fought the urge to cower and squirm when Skywishes seemed to skewer her with those hard cold eyes. "Um, where should the rest of us sleep?" she asked, trying to keep her tone placating.

The hard look in Skywishes's eyes seemed to soften a tad before she turned away from Fluttershy. "Anywhere. I don't care. Scrounge around. Just give me some peace." And with that she walked away from the group, disappearing around a curved wall, and presumably heading to wherever her bed was located. Fluttershy noted absently that she'd never actually seen where Skywishes slept on her first visit to the TreeHAB.

She turned back to the rest of the group. Skywishes's outburst seemed to have cowed the lot of them, so Fluttershy decided to try smoothing things over.

"It's probably best we all get to sleep as well," she said gently. While she suspected (or at least wanted to believe) that Skywishes's threat to throw them out was all bark and no bite, she wasn't completely sure. Plus, even without taking that into consideration, it was probably best that they keep their voices down as there was no telling just what might hear them outside. She turned to Dinky, Highflyer, and Screwjob. "You three should especially get some rest, since you're still recovering."

Dinky, who had spent the whole argument stretched out exhausted on the floor, lifted her head enough to give Fluttershy a wry weary smile. "No arguments here."

"About those sleeping arrangements..." said Screwjob, darting a calculating glance at Applejack and grinning. "We could probably all sleep in a big pile like—"

"No!" was Applejack's immediate response before glaring at the wrestler. "And you better not try to go stealing kisses or anything like that while I'm sleeping."

He gave her a mock-indignant look. "Why, Apps, I wouldn't think of it."

She arched a skeptical eyebrow, and he rolled his head around in defeat.

"Okay, so I think about it a bunch, but I'm not actually going to do it."

"Yeah, like I believe that," she muttered.

"Would the Screwjob Stipulation convince you?"

"The what?"

"Cross my heart, hope to die, may High hit me right in the eye if I lie."

Applejack grimaced. "I think I'll stick with the Pinkie Promise."

"Yeah, but with that one there's no chance of me getting punched, so where's the fun in that?" Then his expression sobered. "Plus ... I know this probably sounds tacky but isn't the Pinkie Promise a bit obsolete now that...?"

There was a thump of Highflyer's hoof hitting his masked forehead as he groaned, "Come on, Jobs..."

Even so, Screwjob's question caused Fluttershy to look around, realizing it was the first time since she had met Skywishes that all her closest friends were assembled. All of them. Judging by their expressions, Twilight, Spike, Applejack, and Rarity were also coming to the same realization.

"Twilight darling," said Rarity in a voice that clearly feared the answer, but still had to ask. "Isn't there any chance that ... that they're not dead?"

Twilight's head bowed. "I wish there was, Rarity. How I wish there was, but I ran every possible test I could on their remains, and they matched Rainbow and Pinkie in a way that couldn't have been faked."

"So they really are ..." Rarity's voice broke. "Gone." Her wall of control collapsed and she buried her face in her hooves, sobbing. The fact that she wasn't doing her usual theatrical wailing in an over-the-top display of grief made the sight only harder to bear.

Fluttershy didn't remember rushing to Rarity's side, but suddenly she and the rest of her friends were there, all clinging to each other. They wept for their murdered friends, for all the ponies now out there unaware of the threat currently sneaking up on them in the guise of friends and loved ones, and at their own inability to fix the situation.

And Fluttershy also wept for the former partner whose whereabouts and welfare she still didn't know.

Sometime later that night, Fluttershy lay in the dark, squirming about on a bundle of camouflage she had formed into a make-shift mattress. Nearby she could make out the dim forms of the other six ponies and the one dragon all sleeping on similar bundles. The day's events plus that last crying session had left Fluttershy exhausted enough to fall asleep, but ... for some reason she just couldn't seem to do it.

Don't kid yourself Fluttershy, said a small voice in the back of her head. You know why you can't fall asleep. It's because of Discord.

Fluttershy felt herself blushing. It was true. She was afraid that if she fell asleep she would see him in her dreams as she had so many, many times over the past year. Dreams she had shared with nopony, and the thought of why made her blush all the deeper. If the dreams had been nightmares, she would certainly have confided in her friends about them, but they had been far from nightmares. They had been ... wonderful. They often had strange puzzling surroundings that ordinarily would have frightened her, but all her usual anxiety seemed to be swept away as soon as Discord showed up. For those cherished moments of sleep, it was as if Discord had never left her, as if...

Fluttershy's head jerked up as she felt herself nodding off. Ever since her realization earlier that day that she loved Discord, part of her had been longing for a chance to escape into one of those dreams where she could confess her newly-discovered feelings to him and just know from the way he treated her that he felt the same way. But at the same time another part of her dreaded having such a wonderful dream only to wake later and be forced to remember how far it was from reality.

She looked toward a blind-covered window and wondered where her love was now. Was he even still alive?

A low groan from nearby jerked her out of these thoughts and she looked in its direction to see Highflyer with his head, chest, and one front leg resting on Dinky's side. Whether by accident or intention, the young unicorn had ended up sleeping between the two wrestlers, and now lay back-to-back with Screwjob, while facing Highflyer. Or rather she would have been facing Highflyer if the tiny pegasus hadn't partially migrated on top of her in his sleep. He let out another groan as he shifted slightly, and Fluttershy wondered if his joints were paining him again. If so, should she try massaging them?

She got up and padded softly over to him. The room's current darkness, combined with the fact that most of his facial features were, as usual, hidden in his mask made it difficult to read his expression but it seemed to be relaxed. He seemed to be dry-eyed as well. Neither he nor Screwjob had joined her and the rest of her friends in their earlier crying session. Anypony who hadn't known the wrestlers long might have thought they didn't care about the murders, but—

Hadn't known them long?! the small voice in the back of her head piped up. Fluttershy, you've barely known them five days! Not even a week!

While she had already known this on a subconscious level, it still stunned her to think that in less than a week she and her friends had gone from following their ordinary everyday routines ... to this.

Highflyer let out another groan, pulling her from her musing again. It would probably be best to loosen up his muscles. She put her hooves on his shoulder, only to have the still-sleeping wrestler bare his teeth and roll over enough to lash out at her with the leg connected to that shoulder. Fluttershy let out a small yip as she stumbled backward and landed on her rump, just barely avoiding first his swiping foreleg, and the follow up double kick that lifted his whole lower body off the floor.

His back hooves thudded sharply against the floor and he mumbled something unintelligible as he lifted his head. Judging by the way it was weaving about, he was probably only half-awake.

Not wanting him to wake anypony else up, she quickly tried to soothe him, whispering, "Shhh. It's okay, Highflyer. It's all right."

The wrestler yawned widely, and let his head drop back down onto Dinky's neck. On second thought, maybe it was better to just let him sleep for now. Especially since neither his groaning nor his thumping about seemed to have woken up anypony else. Dinky and Screwjob hadn't stirred even though Highflyer was practically on top of them. A likely testament to just how exhausted they really were.

Fluttershy looked to her other friends who were also fast asleep. She noticed Spike's head poking out from under Twilight's wing, and felt her thoughts drifting back to that shocking moment when they learned just what that new spell Princess Celestia had placed on Spike actually did. What had the Sun Princess been thinking to simply cut off their only means of contacting her like that?!

How do you know it was really Celestia who did that?

Fluttershy wasn't sure which was worse. The idea that a changeling had taken Celestia's place to put such things in motion, or the actual princess herself doing it.

Fluttershy padded to the nearest window and peeked out through a chink in the blinds. The sky must have still been overcast because there wasn't even a single star visible in the black night sky. It was as if the TreeHAB were floating all alone in a vast empty space. She thought of Mache Max, and wondered if he would be able to find them. For that matter would any of the changelings out there be able to find them? How could she know the TreeHAB wasn't surrounded by changelings right now, considering those semitransparent bodies were as good as invisible in the current darkness?

As she sunk deeper and deeper into these troubling thoughts, a small shaft of moonlight suddenly came through a tiny break in the cloud cover. At the sight of it, Fluttershy's mind flashed to the memory of Celestia (Maybe-Celestia, she mentally amended.) describing how she and Luna were bound both to each other and to the sun and the moon.

She thought of how Maybe-Celestia had mentioned banishing her sister not to be cruel, but to save both their lives, and by extension the sun and the moon as well. And of how Maybe-Celestia had never really explained why she had kept that summoning spell from Fluttershy, robbing her of the chance to contact Discord ...

The wingless pegasus leaned her head against the wall, gazing up at that small shaft of moonlight, hoping its existence meant both the Princesses were still alive wherever they were. Could this, like Luna's banishment, be another situation where Celestia understood what was going on, but didn't have time to stop and explain it? Was that why she and Luna had vanished so suddenly after ordering Discord be taken to the hospital?

Oh, please let that be the case, Fluttershy prayed, her longing to believe this warring with her feelings of abandonment.

She didn't remember falling asleep, but the next thing she knew she was blinking dazedly out the window at a very pale gray cloudy sky as something soft and warm surrounded her body. Looking down, she saw a pair of coral-colored wings tucking a camouflage-patterned blanket around her.

"Skywishes...?" The name came out sleep-slurred, and when the pegasus in question stepped back, Fluttershy saw that she was dressed in a bulky camouflage coat with a black watch cap hiding most of her mane and pulled down almost to her eyebrows.

"What are—?" Fluttershy started to ask.

"It's a lot colder than it was yesterday, so we've got to get bundled up," said Skywishes, lifting a pile of identical blankets and moving toward the other sleeping ponies. Then she paused and looked back at Fluttershy. "Also I'm going to make hot cocoa. Would you like some?"

Fluttershy felt a little nonplussed at Skywishes's sudden shift from threatening-to-throw-them-out to apparently playing hostess. However, she then noticed just how cold her face (and by extension the air around it) was, and quickly nodded.

Author's Note:

Wow, lookie there. A short chapter. *Chuckles* I'd forgotten what those looked like. Yeah, this one ended up being a bit of breather chapter (at least for me) before we jump back into action with Chapter 4.

This is also where I realized that while The Draconequus with the Dragon Tattoo takes place over the course of at least a month, (and likely more) everything in The Ponies who Played with Fire happens in less than a week. (*Chuckles* So guess which one took longer to write.)

Regarding Fluttershy's dreams: *Shakes head ruefully* Oh, Fluttershy, if you only knew...

And as always, thank you to Nightwalker for his suggestions and editing.