• Published 30th Oct 2019
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A Deer Named John - Teapot Tales - Tael_Spinner

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MA1-C6: Time for Tea!

John

We crept along in the darkness. At least, three of us did. I scowled across at William… Cremator… whatever she wanted to be called now, as she hopped along, giving small flutters of her wings as if testing how to use them. I had to admit, she was getting the hang of them quickly as she hovered for more and more of the journey.

At least she was doing something which could be useful compared to annoying Lieutenant Spears earlier. I even apologised to him for her behaviour as we parted ways to begin our little mission. He warned me that Cremator’s attitude could easily get her killed, but having a dragon willing to go along was too great an opportunity to force her to stay. As he said, a dragon is a wildcard, unpredictable but devastating when focused.

So here we were, traveling under the light of the moon. A moon I was yet to see in any form other than full since arriving in this world, I might add. I shook the oddly irritating idea from my head to focus on the skipping hops of Cremator, particularly the scraping of her claws on the rocky ground whenever she took off and landed again.

“Can you stop doing that?” I whispered harshly at my friend. “Someone might hear you.”

“I need to practise,” Cremator shot back, her voice louder than I was currently comfortable with. “What if I need to suddenly fly if we get caught?”

“We’d be less likely to if you would just walk quietly like everyone else,” I replied, unintentionally raising my voice.

“Both of you need to be quiet,” Iron Lock grumbled. “You’re on semi-probation. Anything you do will count for or against you at decisions about your freedom later.”

Cremator turned side on to us, flapping her wings. She pressed her fists against her hips as she addressed Iron Lock. “Since when are we on probation?”

“Since you were working for King Sombra and your deer friend here damaged part of a village with her plant control,” Iron Lock stated, his voice growing louder at the same rate Cremator’s had been.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Cremator declared, waving her arms in front of her body as if refereeing a football match. “First of all, I wasn’t in control of my actions! I had that helmet thingy on.”

She then gestured to me. “And John couldn’t help that. She’s been a deer for only a short time and probably didn’t know she could do that!”

Okay. Now I was torn. They were getting so loud, but I couldn’t actually fault what Cremator was saying. I just wished she would say it quieter, or when we weren’t trying to sneak up on an encampment of dangerous mind-controlled creatures.

Iron Lock lit his horn with magic as he stomped closer to Cremator, glowering up at her all the way. "I have the authority to restrain you and drag you back to the basecamp if I deem your actions to be a threat to our mission. Don’t push it, little dragoness!”

“Guys,” I tried to warn.

Then we all stopped. Not for Iron Lock or Cremator realising this wasn’t the time or place to argue, but because Boo suddenly stood between them on her hind legs. Her front hooves were raised and pointed at their faces to keep them apart while catching their attention.

She fixed them both with the harshest glare I had ever seen. Even the ones my mother gave when Jackie or I broke something paled in comparison to the withering look Boo set on the squabbling duo. And it wasn’t just for Iron Lock and Cremator. Even I copped a generous amount of her withering eyes.

In the end, Boo said absolutely nothing. Once she was satisfied we understood her silent point, she dropped onto four hooves, turned around and waved us all forward with a flick of a wing. We moved even quieter from that moment. Even Cremator who found it better to softly glide between minimal wingbeats.

How no one had heard us before then, I will never know.

Boo somehow became harder to follow as we reached the edge of the encampment. I often had to stop and look around to search for her. Whenever I managed to spot her, she was lurking in a shadow and I swear her coat was now a shade closer to that of the shadows themselves.

When she knew all of us had her in sight, Boo nodded us forward. Never speaking, always leading, she directed us through the narrow spaces between the tents of the encampment. Sometimes she would have us pause and huddle deeper in the darkness. At others, I would glimpse her ears ever twitching and turning, seeking out the source of even the tiniest sounds. I knew every one of them. My ears were just as desperate in finding them, mostly because the deer instincts I had gained were telling me this was a dangerous and stupid idea and that I should be running in search of safety.

It was a desire I had to repeatedly tamp down, especially whenever we waited for Boo to covertly glimpse inside the many, many tents of the encampment. My fears somehow jumped even higher when Boo, her head peeking beneath the flap of a tent, waved us forward with a wing. I frowned at that. She wanted us to join her?

When we reached her, Boo stepped back and held the flap of the tent slightly open with her wing, just enough for someone to peer inside, and nodded at me. I did as I was silently told. I didn’t want another of her scathing glares directed at me again.

What I saw surprised me. It was a near empty tent. Most of it was kept in shadow except for an odd little barely glowing lantern sitting on a table in the very middle of the tent. On the table, right next to the lantern was the object which made my eyes grow wide.

It was the teapot.

I quickly turned to Boo and nodded. She ushered me into the tent with a flick of her head. I was followed by Iron Lock and Cremator. Thankfully, they also remained quiet. Boo was last, letting the flap fall behind her. How could it be so easy? Words Cremator put voice to in a sceptical whisper.

I shrugged and whispered back, “That’s it, though.”

“Right,” Iron Lock said, lighting his horn with magic.

Shouting suddenly erupted outside the tent. Not the kind which came with orders, more the shouts of someone trying to get attention. We all slunk back into the shadows, except for Boo. She glanced back at the tent flaps then turned her attention to our goal. When a rapid thundering of many hooves rumbled past the tent on either side and the shouting became punctuated by yells of attack, Boo decided to act fast.

She jumped at the top of the table, clearly trying to wrap the teapot in a soft wing and snatch it without sound. Except, she misjudged her leap, sending her straight down on top of the table and its meagre adornments.

When she hit, she passed through both the teapot and the table beneath. The lantern hit the ground with the clatter of metal hitting rock. I felt strangely relieved when the glass in it didn’t break. I looked to Boo. She shook her head in confusion while the rest of us watched the teapot and table burst into a cloud of black smoke.

The smoke swirled around the tent in ever-widening circles until it brushed against the farthest fabric wall. At its touch, the wall vanished, exposing three helmet clad ponies with bat-like wings; one of which I recalled from the cage of the dark unicorn. His charcoal-grey coat, blonde tail and deep purple leather wings were far too familiar.

“Schmidt?” I gasped. I don’t think anyone heard me or, if they did, no one reacted. At least not to me.

The three batponies launched themselves into the open tent, all targeting those who were still standing. One tackled Cremator out of the air after her latest hop. Another dipped low, slipping past Iron Lock before he could light his horn. The final one aimed for me.

In what I was reluctantly beginning to think of as my style, I immediately backpedalled, causing the attack to fall short. My escape was short lived as I quickly ran out of room when I bumped into the taut fabric of the tent wall. The batpony was on me seconds later, pining me to the ground while the smoke swirled in the empty space above us.

I tried to lash out at my attacker with what little I had, which mostly meant my diminutive horns. I wasn’t exactly built for physical confrontations. The batpony easily dodged my attempt and pinned me with her hooves. As the smoke drew near, it suddenly dissipated when another batpony was thrown through it. The wayward batpony crashed into the one holding me, sending them both tumbling across the ground.

I scrambled to my hooves in time to see Cremator, unmolested by any attacker, draw back her head while sucking in a huge breath. My eyes widened at the implication and I darted away from the tangle of batponies. Meanwhile, Iron Lock was being twisted around as he tried to target his attacker with his now glowing horn, a target which simply kept bounding around him in circles of ever-increasing speed. It was also a familiar target; Schmidt, or Comet Streak as the dark unicorn had renamed him.

When Cremator felt she was ready, she closed her mouth, threw her chest and head forward and let out… a squeak of air.

I stared at her in dismay. I knew what she was trying to do. I’d seen enough fantasy movies with dragons in them. “Where’s the fire?”

By now, the two batponies were returning to their hooves and shaking off the dizziness of their collision. I started to back away.

“How should I know?” Cremator shot back. “It’s my first time trying!”

There came several crashes of meaty bodies. Boo had tackled the two struggling batponies. I turned in time to see Iron Lock down with Comet Streak standing over him. The glow of Iron Lock’s horn was gone and his eyes were closed. Comet Streak’s helmeted head turned to us and he prowled forward. Keeping his wings slightly open, he gave them a rustle.

Behind him, the smoke was gathering in the air above Iron Lock. The smoke swirled tighter and tighter before bringing forth a new mind controlling helmet out of its very existence. While Iron Lock was down, the ephemeral smoke slipped the helmet onto the unicorn’s head. Iron Lock didn’t stay down long.

With rather mechanical movements, the unicorn returned to his hooves, the smoke wafting about him like an over-eager parent coaching their child in a sport they thought they knew more about than the actual coach. A parent which didn’t hesitate to whisper dangerous thoughts into their child’s ears.

“Oh no,” I murmured.

I should have kept my mouth shut. That utterance earned me the attention of Iron Lock and I was quickly lifted off my hooves in his magic. As the smoke drew near, I glimpsed Boo as she dived at the unicorn with an empty helmet between her hooves. She slammed it hard against his helmeted head, throwing him off balance and disrupting his magical focus.

His magic dragged me with him until it vanished, tossing me across the room. I skidded to a stop in time to see Comet Streak drawing closer. I sighed. This was not our day.

That was when Cremator had the bright idea to try her fire breath again. My eyes grew wide when I noticed the smoke coming from her nostrils as she drew her head back. I scrambled to my hooves and charged at her with my head down, even as Comet Streak started his next darting movement.

Cremator opened her mouth as she threw her head forward, unleashing a burst of fire that raced to engulf our former friend.

I slammed my head into her stomach, causing her to curl up with the impact. I let out a bleat of pain as the gout of flame licked at the fur on my back and flanks. We hit the ground and rolled across it together. Thankfully my hit on Cremator caused her to end her fire breath. That and the rolling helped put out any flames still on me.

When we stopped, I cringed at the stinging sensation from the burn on my back but still did my best to stand up.

“Don’t hit Schmidt!”

“Yeah, I know,” Cremator groaned as she pushed herself onto her feet and we both tried to get our bearings.

We were out of the tent. Good. Downside? The distraction created by Lieutenant Spears and the guards had not only turned into a full-blown battle, but we were now standing right in the middle of it.

Not that we had much time to react as the smoke swirled in front of us, drawing our attention back to the tent.

Boo was doing her best, not only to distract Iron Lock from us, but to keep moving so he couldn’t focus his magic on her. They both disappeared among the other tents, leaving us to deal with the remaining two batpoines. Two batponies who were already stalking towards us while that strangely sentient smoke swirled around them.

I swear even I heard a voice hiss from the smoke itself. “Catch them!”

Comet Streak didn’t hesitate. He launched himself at us. At first, keeping low, throwing us off guard. With the leap of his first move, we expected him to soar above us. He darted around us, swinging so fast, when we tried to follow his movement, he suddenly struck Cremator from the opposite side. He wasn’t the only one, the female batpony was out of the tent and charging straight at me again.

I looked to either side of me and started backing up, my eyes widening in fear as I tried to find a way out. Unlike the last time, this time I felt it. A welling of life and the desperation to live on formed deep within my core. When my front hooves crashed down, the rocky ground rumbled before a thick batch of slender roots burst forth, creating what appeared to be a hairy wall between us.

It didn’t stop the batpony for long. She darted to the side, taking to her wings to try and slip around the trap. I kept my gaze on her and, as I stepped to face her, the roots moved to block her again. I don’t doubt she was getting frustrated.

Giving up on her flanking moves, she launched herself high into the sky. I watched as she shot past Cremator and Comet Streak who were constantly switching who was in the lead as they chased each other high above me.

I blinked and lost the three of them for a minute. There were so many winged ponies chasing each other and clashing in the sky. It was only for an odd whistle on the wind that I turned in time to see the female batpony streaking towards me with Comet Streak right behind her.

Not even thinking, I ducked and shifted, flailing out with a hoof as if I could swat them away to defend myself. Strangely, the wall of roots moved with me. They tightened together then lashed out at the diving batponies. The roots clipped the wing of the first one, sending her spiralling off to another part of the battlefield.

Comet Streak, however, tried to dodge but was soon ensnared in the roots. He pulled and struggled against the roots, trying to find any weakness to escape. I don’t doubt if the helmet didn’t also cover his entire snout, he probably would have tried to chew his way free.

Now I had a problem. Comet Streak was stuck in my root trap but I had no idea how to get to him. Could I retract them somehow? Maybe lower them? How was this ability of mine supposed to work?! Also, where was Cremator? What had happened to her?

Thankfully, some of my answers came quickly. Diving from the sky, Cremator wrapped her arms and legs around Comet Streak’s writhing body as she passed and ripped him free of my roots. I opened my mouth to shout in celebration, but it quickly turned to horror as the two of them crashed heavily to the ground. I dashed to their side, the wall of roots wilting behind me. I found Cremator groggily rising from a small impact crater of her own making.

“You let him go?” I exclaimed when I saw Cremator staggering back a few steps without Comet Streak in her arms.

Quickly looking around, I found the batpony in question laying on his stomach, still in the crater with his helmet nearby, no longer on his head. My heart skipped a beat when I didn’t see him move at first. Then, hearing him groan, I watched as he groggily pushed himself up on his front hooves.

Comet Streak shook his head, blinking at the shock of losing his helmet. “Was zum—? Wo bin ich?”

I couldn’t help but smile. That was a voice and language I was so grateful to hear!

Author's Note:

The first half of this chapter took forever but it finally clicked. It was also much longer until I realised it weighed in at over 6000 words. So it was split in two. Finding a natural break was a bit frustrating but I think I got it right.

One more action chapter then two wrap up chapters and we will reach the end of Arc 1. This has been a lot of fun to write so far. Hope it's fun for others to read.