• Published 11th Sep 2019
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Twilight's Nightmare - Nightsclaw

Twilight in her most desperate of moments, issues a cry for help. She was not expecting the Nightmare to be her saviour.

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CH 26 Solar, meet Lunar: Investigation

Moonstone Striker could appreciate the scent of salt on the air and the distant sounds of the waves. He closed his thestral like eyes letting his keen tufted ears take in the sounds.

Opening his eyes, he let his horn darken as shadows wrapped around it. As different as it was from what it used to be, it was very useful for stealth missions. The shadow magic settled around his eyes. To him, solid matter seemed to be nothing but a light mist, only living things and magic seemed unaltered. Looking through the wall to see his current targets were a trio of ponies, one of each of the ‘accepted’ tribes. There were clumsily going about making ready to leave.

He settled in to wait, he had nothing to do until they left as he was currently on his own. He could not even share a joke with his fellow Nightguard as every single member was on mission. A full quarter were tasked with guarding Twilight, Little Star and the Elements of Harmony.

Sitting in the shadows, his dark coat blending in, he watched life in the city carry on around him with nopony any the wiser about his presence. He considered his position and how he became what he was today. Before he entered Luna’s service, he was a nopony, a life of crime and petty violence would have been his only impact on the world.

Celestia would only have looked at him disapprovingly. Luna saw who and what he was and told him he could be of use, despite his flaws, he could still help make Equestria a better place. He smiled at the memory, exposing his fangs.

She extended her hoof to many criminals and undesirables, pointing out nopony is perfect, that ponies make mistakes but they only define you if you let them. Some she pardoned, others she even granted entirely new identities.

He knew that serving the Sovereign was very much like being in a cult. Most of her servants revered her. Celestia came across as a distant and stern but loving teacher or foster parent. Luna deeply cared for each of her servants, she raged when one was hurt and when in private, beamed with approval with each achievement.

Almost a full third of Luna’s servants were made up of ponies whose lives she had saved, either from monster attacks or suicide.

Almost all of Luna’s interactions with her vassals were far more personal than anything Celestia shared with anypony, with perhaps the exception of her student Twilight.

It was absurd the amount of attacks on Twilight they had to prevent. All of them just because of the jealousy Celestia’s affection had invoked in some of the entitled nobility of Canterlot.

Most of the Nightguard loved Luna in one way or another. She was their mentor, their Sovereign, their healer, their confidant. She tended to the dreams of each of them every night. Well, at least when the dreams weren't turned in to some of the most Nightmarish training imaginable.

He had lost count of all the horrible and terrible ways he had been injured or killed in the dream training. As much as they should have terrified him. The few times it had been too much, Luna had held him like she held any that needed such comfort. Softly she whispered to him ‘it was just a dream’ letting her magic sooth the worst of his trauma until it was gone. With the lessons learnt, his skills shaped, the memories of the event softened.

No members of the Nightguard, or any of Luna’s favoured, had PTSD for long no matter what happened to them. Luna was much more involved with tending to the spirits and minds of those who had pledged themselves to her than the general public. The Nightguard knew they could have no secrets from their Sovereign. Luna saw every want, every desire, every twisted fantasy and she never judged any of them from any of it. Only one’s actions deserved either praises or retribution.

He pitied the Solarguard for all the red tape they had to go through. In the Nightguard everything was by Luna’s command, the rule book was basically don’t do bad things to good ponies, save Equestria and do what Luna says.

Finally the individuals he was waiting for stepped out into the street. Something about the way they were moving was wrong. It was as if they wanted to go somewhere else but their hooves would not let them. As the cult he was hunting was said to use mind control, this could be a strong lead.

Slipping from one shadow to the next it was foals play to tail them while remaining undetected. He really loved the thestral magic Luna had blessed him with. If the Noble council knew that Luna was using her magic to effectively create hybrid ponies, they would throw a fit. He almost wanted to tell them just to see how they would react. The one Hybrid in RGIS even got a motion from the nobles to close the whole department down, not that Celestia even allowed it to end up on the docket.

As he followed them, it was clear to see Vanhoover was a mess with all the Solarguard in it. Even when they were trying to be unobtrusive, the stallions in their golden armour were visible almost everywhere. They were too blind to see how much suffering they were causing. By keeping ponies that looked undesirable or slightly shifty from going about their normal everyday life, even getting food became difficult for some. Just because a pony had the misfortune to be poor or get involved in a few minor crimes did not mean they were a bad pony. But that is what the holier than thou Celestia worshiping Solarguard thought. He had only ever seen a couple of Solarguard even stand up for the Nightguard when they were being trashed talked. The Hybrid from RGIS was one of them. I wonder if Sovereign Luna would consider acquiring her for the Nightguard.

Just in the first day of his investigation, he had seen three low paid workers lose their jobs because they were late as the Solars had held them up at checkpoints. He made a mental note to try and get somepony to check up on them to make sure they would be all right. He would mention what was happening to Luna next time he slept.

His targets stopped at a coffee shop and placing the same large order as they did yesterday. Getting more than enough for twenty ponies before continuing on. Unlike yesterday, they stopped at a hayburger, collecting another larger order to go. As both places had the orders ready to go, they must of prearranged it. With the additional food, it would mean there would be more ponies.

Despite the fact these ponies were clearly minded controlled, the Solarguard just let them pass. Yet another example of how useless they were, how could they not see what was wrong with these ponies? Do they train them in anything other than looking impressive and standing still? He thought.

Unfortunately the magic on their armour stopped him seeing who he was dealing with, only those equipped with solar armour could really see the identities of the ponies under the uniform enchantment. Even his enspelled eyes could not see past that effect.

None of the guards used any names in the time he had to listen, so he would only be able to say when and where he saw them when he reported this, and he would report this.

His targets moved on, heading into an apartment building, the building had a pair of bulky looking earthponies standing guard. Given there did not seem to be anything special about the building, the guards looked out of place. Are these foals trying to get caught?

With his vision, he scoped out the places and looked for ways to sneak in unnoticed, there were some forty ponies in the building, a flash of gold in his vision caught his attention. Focusing on it, one of the ponies in the building seemed to be on the floor in a small room. By the awkward position they were in, it seemed they were tied up.

The flash of gold appeared again from within that pony, it was a hidden marker used to identify undercover Solar agents. Well that makes things more interesting, how did that foal get themselves caught?

He wondered how many bragging rights the Nightguard would get from pulling this agent out of the fire they had landed themselves in.

A simple shadow step into the small cupboard was all it took to get inside. He then slid out into the room. Switching his eyesight to a spell that let him see perfectly in the dark, he looked over her in more detail. She was indeed tied up and in a rather uncomfortable position. With no light in the small space, he could not tell what her colours were but he could make every detail of her form.

Loosing her bonds, he at least got the idiot in a more comfortable position. His attempts to wake her up however were not fruitful. After a moment of consideration, he wondered if this was some sort of sting or operation in progress. I should really check before I rescue her.

He placed his horn to her forehead and cast a spell that the Sovereign has taught him personally. He was meant to use to for mission briefings and passing reports between Nightguard but here it could be used to find out how and why she was here.

The spell completed and the waking world faded as he pressed the question into her mind, Why are you here?

Revealing Light, RGIS agent number seven was in a bad mood. Normally a lack of possible leads was the one thing that slowed investigations. Paper Pusher had his hybrid marefriend cooped up in an office with all the files RGIS had ever produced. Now with all of the paperwork coming out of that sealed office, the problem was reversed. There were too many leads, far too many leads, and Celestia wanted them all investigated, right now.

Unfortunately, with all the possible things that might be out there, some bright spark scrambled the guard. This forced all the rats underground, in some cases literally. It was almost as if the nobles were doing everything they could to make life hard for the agents. With all the Solarguards, dressed in their enchanted golden armour, being all over the place, the bad guys and most of RGIS’s informants had gone to ground. You think they would learn that plate armour is not discrete.

Even the ponies selling slightly dodgy magazines had closed up shop and headed out of town.

After being stopped by yet another guard patrol, the RGIS agent had her paperwork checked, twice. She was told to get a new photo as she looked much older than in the photo on her ID. The only reason she looked older is that she had lines under her eyes due to the stress.

Finally, she managed to get back to the hideout, one that fortunately was not on any books or by now it would have had a dozen Solarguards using it as a garrison.

She slipped into the secret room in the back, letting out a long-suffering sigh as she took in the work waiting for her. The stack of places she was meant to investigate before the end of the day, was at least as thick as her hoof. But the job had to be done. It would not have been sent to her otherwise.

Each of them should take weeks of careful infiltration and making connections before even attempting to enter them. With the pressure from on high though, shortcuts had to be taken.

After she read and memorized each location, she burnt the paper, leaving nothing but ash. She added it to the fireplace, making it look like it had been used.

With the information on the dozen places, she thought she could investigate firmly in her mind, she checked her appearance. Looking into the mirror, she could see her disguise, her coat expertly dyed to a pale blue, her mane a lovely purple. Her cutie mark was altered to now appear as a bush with blue berries on it instead of its normal Ray of Light piercing a gloomy sky.

If she had time, she could assume a different identity for each place, today, unfortunately, she would be burning this identity. There would be no way to hide checking out so many shady places in a single day.

She looked around what had been her home for the past few months, she had enjoyed some of it, she had at least a few ponies who thought she was their friend.

She, like many agents, was jealous of agent Sweetie Drops. The Agent who had gotten to stay in the same place for years on end, becoming friends with almost everypony in the town the Element of Magic lived in. How much of that was planned? She thought. Did she put herself in a position to be known to the Element of Magic just to make it harder for anypony else to force her to move on?

Looking at a single photo with her soon to be former friends, she began collecting the rest of the photos, the memories and the small keepsakes slipping the most-precious into a bag. “The life of an agent is never dull.” She said to that one photo, tucking it in her mane on its own.

The illusion on her horn faded for a moment as she used a shrinking spell so all her keepsakes would fit in a small pouch that she then secured in her mane.

Finally ready, she headed out of her room and into the main area of the affordable apartment building. This is going to be the last Blue Berry sees of this place. She lamented for what she was about to lose.

The building still had a receptionist. She offered her thanks and a smile to him. Placing a bag of coins on the desk, she left a tip knowing this would be the last time she talked to the chess master that she had past time with on occasion. Everypony has something to hide. She thought back to how embarrassed he was about his skill at the game and how he would be most upset if she told anypony about his ability.

He had, unknowingly for him, been playing chess by post with the Princess of the Sun for the last ten years and had never known who he was playing. She had figured this out when she had seen notes on the game on the Princess’s desk.

Turned out that the Princess played many such games, seemingly picking one pony to play per settlement. Some she communicated with via the papers, some by letters that did not look anything like her horn writing. One or two had apparently even managed to work out who their opponent was and approached Celestia about the game.

She often wondered if it was some sort of test. It was rumoured that at least one of the analysts back in Canterlot was recruited for playing well. Was it possible that was the reason they let a hybrid pony into the RGIS? Despite the fact that there was no way for them to follow the uniform regulations?

Would the receptionist get a letter one day, inviting him to play her in Canterlot? He would die of shock. She thought, having to hide her laugh.

Blue Berry waved just before she let herself out of the door to the outside world.

The first set of places on the list proved to be nothing, they were the sort of place where terrible things could have happened. But with the work of RGIS, things were kept down to just slightly naughty. These places were empty like the owners had likely taken some effort in hiding themselves.

The next place she had to look into was a large ally. Seeing the state of the building, she remembered her mother wanting her to have a more normal career. Normal careers did not offer much cause to go out and look for hidden things. How was she going to go on adventures or do something that actually worked towards keeping Equestria safe if she did that?

Turning a corner, she saw in the peripheral vision, a large earthpony with a mark of a skull under an iron hoof, guarding the door. What sort of pony has a mark like that? she thought.

The agent moved on, showing no sign she wished to linger. Deliberately ignoring the concealed guard as if she did not see the powerful crossbow hidden behind a bin but still in easy reach. A weapon that was most definitely not for self-defense. This place is better defended than I thought it was. But why? She thought.

She moved on, having to take a long walk to prevent whatever other guards the place might have taking her unaware. She would have to come back later and try to observe form stealth before taking any action. She thought she would find herself quite allergic to crossbow bolts.

The salt air did a lot to conceal any other scents in the air. If she was not trotting on her own in the bad part of town, she could have called it a relaxing outing.

“This was so much easier when…” She started to say to her self.

The sound of hooves behind her cut her words off.

“What's a pretty thing like you doing here?” said the large earthpony from before, apparently he had followed her.

She smiled and slowly walked towards him. “The question is, do you have enough bits to find out?” She asked, letting a seductive purr enter her voice.

He paused for a moment, his body language eased. He clearly no longer saw her as a threat. Good, that will make this easier. She thought.

He moved closer “I have more than enough for you…” He started leaning close.

She mirrored the movement, drawing closer as if to kiss him. She wrapped a leg around him, pulling them closer. A flash cast, point-blank, overpowered, knockout spell sizzled through the air singeing his coat. He staggered back, dazed but still standing.

Sweeping his legs out from under him, she slammed a hoof into the side of his head followed up by another pair of knockout spells. To Tartarus with earthpony toughness. She thought panting. It had only been seconds but her heart was pounding. She was an actual spy, an investigator, not some sort of comic book secret agent. Things were not meant to go this way.

She used her magic to cast a binding spell, holding all four of his legs together and dragged him to a large dumpster in an alleyway. Looking at the dumpster for a moment she gave up and just dragged him behind it, there was no way she was going to get such a large pony up and over into the dumpster.

To buy some more time she gagged and blindfolded him. She hoped the rest of the low-lives here would not do more than rob him but she did not have time to take him in.

She wrapped an invisibility spell around herself, slipping soft padded shoes from her saddlebags, she put them on. The sound of muffled hooves on the pavement as she galloped back, were quite enough to blend into the background sounds of the city.

On a time limit, she used a lock pick spell to break in and began to search the building the thug had guarded. The other defenders outside on the other side of the building paid her no attention as they continued the conversation about hoofball.

Fortunately her special talent was finding hidden things as well as apparently hiding things. So she was good at locating things hidden away in secret compartments, finding secret passageways, and hiding places. Though how anypony thought they could hide all the counterfeit magic items under a floorboard was another question. All it would take would be somepony with a horn to get close to find them.

She gathered up all the stuff she could into her dimensional pocket. It was now full of stolen food, tools, weapons, bundles of many things she had no idea what they were. Some of it would be returned to their owners the rest would end up in the evidence lockup. So likely would be taken by The Night Princess and logged as yet more ‘disappearances’ form the evidence storage.

The last items she found gave her pause, they were a collection of magical writings, just looking at them made her shiver. Despite all of her training, finding magical texts scribed in blood upon the flayed skin of a pony was not something most could just ignore.

She was not an expert at this sort of magic but she could recognize that they were bad news. By how complicated they were and how large the spell array would need to be, this was probably another attack like the one in Manehatten.

A slight ripple of magic passed over her, she tensed moving into a hiding place, despite the fact she was invisible. Her talent at finding hiding places also served her well locating places to hide herself.

“Where is Skull Crusher?” A voice downstairs called out.

Agent Seven carefully and slowly made her way to the window, it was a bit of a drop but it would be her most reliable form of escape.

She could hear hooves moving around downstairs, if her ears were not lying to her, one of them was moving closer to the stairs.

She lit her horn and using her aura, slowly started to open the window. That pulse of magic brushed over her again. She did not recognize the spell, but you didn’t have to be a ‘Twilight Sparkle’ to work out when you had been spotted by magic.

Buck subtly. She thought, lunging the few steps, diving at the still closed window. A kinetic blast launched from her horn, shattering it, sending glass flying into the night air shortly followed by a wingless pony.

As the ground rushed towards her, she thought back to her training, she prepared a large kinetic blast and let it become fuzzy around the edges.

She could hear the ponies inside the building galloping about and shouting. They were heading into the room she had just left. Unless they had any with wings, all she needed to do was get to the next street and she would be safe.

The deliberately faulty kinetic blast spell released from her horn, impacting the ground and splashing back in a dispersed wave of force.

She twisted her body and started to line her hooves up to take off at a gallop upon landing, hoping she got the power in her spell right. She hated the physical part of her training.

The unknown magic pulse happened again, but this time it seemed to settle on her, her limbs started to feel heavy, her heart felt tight, like no matter how hard it beat, it could not pump enough blood.

She tried to fight the spell with her own magic. Trying to force her body to move, it felt like she was going to tear something inside with each attempt. Before she had time to get desperate enough to see if she would tear herself apart by trying too hard, she hit her spell.

Impacting the softened spell felt like falling into jelly, if it was made from warm air and yet still slowed you. Sinking through it, now completely unable to move, she was very glad it was magic and not the dessert. Drowning in jelly would have been very embarrassing.

She settled laying on her side in a very awkward pose. She could not even move her tail to preserve her modesty from the ponies she could hear walking up behind her. She wanted to run, wanted to strike out with her magic, but she could not even breath.

The world started to darken before the familiar sound of a stun bolt ripping through the air let her know what sped her descent into the dark of unconsciousness.

Striker blinked, pulling back from the agent before him. He had not expected the vision to be that intense. He placed a hoof over his heart, he could still feel the ache of the blood magic constricting the agent’s blood flow. He only wanted to know if rescuing her would interfere with her mission. Having felt everything she had been though from the first pony point of view, he now knew.

The spells she had in her pocket were far more important than dealing with the ponies here. He had no way to get to them without her consent, So rescue mission it is then. Time to play the dashing hero and hope she does not buck me in the face while trying to escape my rescue attempt.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he made ready to shadow step out of there. It was always so much harder with a passenger. He did not want to have to use the extra reserve of magic his Sovereign had blessed him with. That was for a true emergency, this was just an inconvenience.

Letting his power build, he wrapped his limbs around the agent. Closing his eyes, he felt the world fall out from under him as they both fell into the shadow leaving the room, and the cultists, far behind.

His body was still trembling from the lack of magic. He had used a lot to get here. He was hidden in a broken clock tower. All the mechanisms about made the place look like a comic book villain’s lair.

He had wrapped the agent in a blanket and sat as far away from her as he could, waiting. He would need to sleep to inform his Sovereign about what had happened, but knowing his luck if he did that she would wake up and either flee or attack him.

His aura reached out, pulling a mango from the box next to him. Ever since his change, these things had been a little too moreish. His fangs bit into its juicy flesh. He much preferred using his fangs on fruits instead of ponies. It was a little too personal. Using his hoof to fight was one thing, but his mouth… he guessed he would get used to it, he had seen how effective thestral fangs could be in a fight many times before.

He watched his solar guest, eating mango after mango, glad for being a unicorn. With the amount of energy a pony could burn using spells, it gave him all the justified opportunities he could possibly want to eat the fruit.

Slowly the Solar agent began to stir, a groan escaped her lips.

“Welcome back to the land of the free, Light,” he said, hoping his opening would put her at ease.

She slowly looked around. He could see the edge of fear on her but it was tempered by her training. She had already clocked the two exits to the room and the small pile of his weapons and armour in the corner. Good, I’d hoped she would see them. He thought knowing it would lend credibility to his being a Nightguard. Not that she should fail to notice his Nightchosen traits.

“How do you know that name, Night Lover?” She asked, her eyes staring at him.

Flicking his ears in annoyance, he glared at her with his slitted eyes. “So this is the thanks I get for saving you?”

“I…” She started before he cut her off.

“What I need is to get a look at those magic notes you took from my targets. I know you hid them in your pocket and I can’t continue my investigation without them.”

“How can I trust you’re not in bed with the Cultists?”

“Oh for Luna’s sake, we are not some Nightmare Moon cult.” He said anger flaring. At least not anymore. He added in the privacy of his own mind. “Look do you want to save this city or let it go up in flames, incase you have not noticed, Twilight Sparkle is not here and unless we find out where they are going to do that… whatever they are going to do, we might need to update the map of Equestria.”

She took a calming breath, he could see her trying to get a read on him. Most ponies found it harder to read the emotions and honesty of Thestrals. He wondered how much of that had carried over to him.

“Fine,” she said, snatching up one of his mangos from the box with her aura. “So, who are you?”

He tracked the stolen fruit with his eyes, it took more effort than he wanted to admit, to not use a stun bolt on her to save his treat. He grabbed another from the box and took a bite out of it before the temptation became too great.

Offering a casual salute with his hoof, he answered. “Striker.”

She nodded, her body language settling into a well practised professional manor. So she is going to be no fun, but at least if she stays civil, we should be able to work together.

“So how do you know my name?”

“You do know Celeista put tags on her Agents don't you?” He asked, hoping she would not ask if these tags had names on them.

The look of confusion that crossed her face told him he was safe, she clearly didn't know about them.

“Look, to make sure the Nightguard does not… inconvenience any of your’s that are under cover, she made sure all of you are marked. It's one of the things we have to check for before we doing anything too permanent.”

Her ears lowered fractionally. So she is another one that does not like what we do. He thought.

“So the spell?” He asked.

She lit her horn and the pieces of cured pony skin were placed on the floor. She seemed to cringe away from them, muzzle wrinkled in disgust.

Striker walked over and took a good look at them. “So, what do you know about these things?” He pointed with a hoof at the spells.

“Not much, I did not get much time to study them before… before my little enforced nap,” She said, getting to her hooves and walking over, turning her eyes to the spell text, holding her face as if it was a mask. “I know you would need at least a small warehouse to fit this outer ring of runes in.” She pointed to a section.

He followed where she was directing his attention to. He lamented his lack of education, sure he knew the spells he could cast very well. Luna had even praised him on his mastery of two of them. Yet when it came to magical theory, he had next to none. He eyes caught an imperfection on the surface of the pony leather the writing was on. He lit his horn, letting his magic improve his already sharp eyes, the impression of words becoming clear.

Three-One-Nine East ST. Remember to bring the stuff, everything could be ready in ten days.

He grinned, showing his fangs, the foals had written a note resting atop the spell texts and left an address.

“What?” She asked with annoyance, glaring at his grinning face.

“I know where they are going,” He answered, hiding his fangs but keeping his grin.

“How could you possibly get that from this spell?”

“They leaned on it when they wrote down the address.”

She blinked, he saw her hoof start to lift, he just knew she almost facehooved. “So… I got captured by a bunch of amateurs.”

“They are evil cultists that worship Sombra, not agents. Expect crazy magic and a definite lack of common sense.”

She nodded slowly. “So what do you want to do now?”

“I'm glad you asked, we are going to take a peek and see what we can see.”

“Just the two of us?” She asked in disbelief.

He tilted his head and looked at her, “You want to go on your own?”

“No… we need backup to deal with something like this.” She insisted.

“Once we have a look and see how far they have gotten, we will know how much and what sort of reinforcements we need.”

She still looked doubtful, “What makes you think we can even do this?”

“Getting places unnoticed is what the Nightguard is best at…”

“They managed to find me when I was invisible.” She interrupted.

“So… I need to worry about some sort of magical detection?” He asked already knowing the answer from her memories.

“Yes, it was a pulse of energy I did not recognize, they used it somehow to paralyze me.”

Striker nodded, “Thanks, that will be useful, did you notice what sort of range it has?”

She shook her head. “I was not close enough to tell how far it went.”

He headed over and started putting on his armour. “So, you coming?”

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