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

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MA1-C7: Memory Rumble

John

I was so relieved to hear another of my friends speak freely, I momentarily forgot where we were. Luckily for me, Cremator didn’t.

She strolled up to Schmidt, grabbed the batpony by both shoulders and dragged him forward until their noses were nearly touching. Schmidt’s front hooves dangled beneath him, not touching the ground.

“Gah!” Schmidt exclaimed. His eyes were wide and his front legs flailed to try and escape in terror at being so close to a fearsome dragon. “Nein! Nein!”

Cremator gave the batpony a hard shake. “Schmidt! Fokus! Englisch nicht Deutsch!”

“Wha… What?” Schmidt stammered, fear still clutching at him as confusion crept in at the feminine voice coming from the dragon.

“Short version,” Cremator stated firmly. “You’re a pony with bat wings now. And I was William when human.”

Some of the fear in Schmidt’s eyes seeped away as he squinted, searching Cremator’s reptilian face for any sign that this dragon was speaking the truth. “William?”

“Yes, it’s me,” Cremator replied. “We need you to help us. We have to find Jackie and Jacob! Remember what they changed into?”

“J-Ja,” Schmidt nodded. “Yak und… und…”

He looked to one side, his face screwed up in thought, tinged with disbelief. He looked at Cremator again and, with his memory kicking into gear, firmly stated, “Und unicorn!”

Cremator suddenly yanked Schmidt forward, pulling the rather confused batpony into a fierce hug. “Good to have you back, buddy!”

Schmidt grunted a breath as Cremator gave him a particularly strong hug. “I— I have questions. Ja, many questions.”

“Ask them later,” I said, keeping my eyes and ears moving in search of threats. Where had Boo got to? Hopefully Iron Lock hadn’t hurt her since having the helmet forced onto his head.

Our rest was brief. Not that it really was a break. For through our little huddle charged two yaks and a minotaur. All wore mind-controlling helmets. And each of them brought their brute strength to bear.

Of us all, Schmidt was the surprise packet. Unlike Cremator who tested herself before daring to try something, Schmidt took flight immediately. He twisted and turned, tucked in his wings and lashed out with his hooves; front and back. He took to his new form like a duck to water. He also fought with a ferocity I had never seen in him before.

It definitely took the minotaur by surprise.

I also wish I could have relied on Cremator more in that moment. When the attack came, like Schmidt, she took to the air and that was when I lost her. Maybe I was watching Schmidt too closely, or perhaps it was the distraction of two yaks with massive horns bearing down on me, but I could have sworn Cremator just disappeared.

I dived out of the way of the yaks. One of them clipped my rear right leg and sent me tumbling across the hard ground. I shook my head, trying to stop the world from spinning, as I rolled onto my stomach. I could hear the thundering of hooves but I was so disoriented, I couldn’t tell which way they were coming from.

Glancing to my side, I felt my heart sink. I knew those horns and the stringy black and grey fur. I was there when they had come into being. Jacqueline…

Now, the yak she had become was charging at me, his helmeted head down ready to crash into me. Send me flying. I was scared, yes. But not for myself. I couldn’t lose control again. This was my sister.

As the yak was about to hit, I squeezed my eyes shut and cringed my whole body down, waiting for the inevitable. The inevitable that came in the form of a shower of dirt and tiny rocks.

The ground rumbled and shook. Hooves slammed down nearby and around me. The clatter and clash came with deep, masculine grunts and snorts. And, strangely, a primal feminine yell.

My eyes snapped open. I knew that yell as well and somehow dreaded it all the same. Daring to lift my head, I was treated to the strangest sight. That of the yak bucking and bouncing this way and that. He was doing everything he could to dislodge…

I stared in absolute shock.

Cremator?!

The emerald green dragon who had been my former friend William was hanging onto the horns of my now male yak sister for dear life. At least I thought she was doing so for her life. It was a little hard to tell with the whoops and laughter Cremator was letting out.

With every jolt and thrust from the yak, Cremator held on with one hand. The other was busy trying to unhook the helmet. It took several attempts and, I had to roll out of the way a few times or be crushed, but eventually, Cremator let out a shout of triumph, pumping at the air with the hand she had used to hold onto the yak.

With the helmet released, the yak gave a final flick of its head, sending both the helmet and Cremator soaring into the sky. His hooves hit the ground one final time as he then stood panting from the tussle. My eyes never left the face of the huge yak, even if his eyes were hidden under the unruly mass of stringy hair.

“What?” he grunted. He let out a gasp, possibly shocked by the sound of his voice. “What’s happened to me? I sound…”

“Jackie?” I gently asked, doing my best to stand, my sore leg and stinging back not particularly wanting to oblige.

The yak’s attention snapped to me. At least, I think it did. His head sure turned to face me.

“Who?” he asked.

“That’s going to take a lot of explaining,” I replied, doing my best to ease into the complex issue I needed to discuss with my former sister. “I’m your brother, by the way.”

Jackie shook his head and grunted again. It was so hard trying to tell what he was thinking with his eyes so obscured. “Jon-Jon?”

I did my best to smile and nod. I was about to speak more but got interrupted.

Cremator suddenly landed between us, heavily, on one hand and knee, crushing Jackie’s empty helmet into the ground beneath her. Seriously?! She just did the superhero landing. Truly, William was alive and well within Cremator. Only now she could show off in far more fantastic ways!

Cremator clapped her hands together to get the dust off her claws as she stood up, looked at both me and Jackie, gestured with a thumb over her shoulder and said, with an unnerving lack of urgency, “Weird family reunion later, we need to move.”

“Right,” I agreed and looked to Jackie who nodded hesitantly. We could discuss our odd situation later. Safety first.

With Cremator leading the way, we had only moved about ten paces, admittedly I wasn’t travelling the best after that last hit, before another helmeted attacker confronted us. With a glimpse of his mark-less flank, greyish, deep blue coat and shockingly white tail, I knew who it was. I opened my mouth to shout at him.

“Jaco—” My scream died in my throat as I suddenly became as still as a statue. I could see everything before me, my eyes couldn’t even blink. While the battle around us continued, Shield Breaker stood before us, defiant to the attack. His horn glowed white, as did what little of the magical glow I could see holding Jackie, Cremator and myself in place.

Schmidt tried to dive bomb Shield Breaker from the side, but he was simply snatched by the unicorn’s magic and held in mid-air.

I mentally cursed myself. We were so close to saving everyone! Then I cursed unicorns and magic in general. It was such a cheat!

The smoky cloud swirled past, slipping around Shield Breaker. For a moment, I thought I saw the face of Sombra, the dark unicorn, coalesce inside the smoke. He appeared to be whispering to Shield Breaker. There was a flash and four new helmets blinked into existence, floating in the air above the smoky being that was Sombra.

The smoke swished towards us, wrapping around our frozen bodies. The smoky façade of Sombra coalesced once more, this time right in front of my face. It was a hissing drawn-out voice which brushed my ears, yet it seemed disconnected from the ethereal smoke.

“Little deer,” Sombra said, doing his best to sweeten his voice, trying to make me listen. “I underestimated you.”

One of the helmets floated up next to Sombra’s disembodied head. If I could, my eyes would have widened in fear.

“You would make a fine soldier.”

I wanted to scream. I needed to run. I had to defy what the dark unicorn wanted of us… of me. But, Shield Breaker’s magic held us fast.

Then I glimpsed it and was so very glad I couldn’t move for it meant I could never give away what I saw. The sight of the plain pegasus, Boo.

She moved like a cat. Her head low, her body graceful. Her hooves not adding even the slightest sound to the chaos going on around us. Her attention remained fixed on her target, her ears twitching to listen for any surprise attacks. And, when she felt the moment was right, she bundled up her body and launched herself forward.

She was so fast and silent. If it could have moved, my jaw would have dropped in awe. Springing forward with her wings open wide, she shot over the length of Shield Breaker’s back. Her hooves collected him at the base of the helmet. Only as the helmet started to move, did Shield Breaker turn his attention to try and confront his attacker.

It was too late.

The moment the helmet was struck from his head, the glow holding us vanished and, those of us who lost momentum in the frozen moment and were now off balance, we tumbled to the ground. And trust me, it hurt. My chin and chest could testify if need be.

Even Cremator hit hard. The other empty helmets clattered to the ground around us, the smoky form having dissipated. Boo was only on the ground again for a moment. She twisted her body and kicked off again, darting back behind Jacob to kick another attacking pegasus in the side of the head.

We didn’t stay grounded for long. Jacob didn’t even get a chance to ask any questions before Boo had him under wing and started rushing him to the edge of the battle. The rest of us weren’t far behind.

Scrambling to get out of the way, we all dodged this way and that. A mixed group of six different creatures, only half of them ponies, hurried across the battlefield until we started up the slippery slope. When a ground pony charged at us, I heard my sister give out a deep throaty yelp of surprise. I turned to help, only to witness my former sister rear up and crack the pony so hard in the head, not only did the pony fall, but his helmet split in two.

Clearly, Jackie could handle things, even when in a far more brutish form than I was used to seeing. The group clambered on, everyone slipped every now and then, even me. And I was supposed to be sure-footed. I witnessed many other things in that climb, the one that stuck out most to me was the one that made me remember why I was friends with William in the first place.

She may be unpredictable, even more so now that she was a dragon, but when I heard Cremator grunting, I couldn’t help but smile. She was behind my now yak sister, her back pressed against Jackie’s furry rear end, doing her best to help force Jackie up the rocky slope.

When we reached the peak, I saw Boo hurl Jacob to the other side. It startled me until I bounded over the top to find Jacob now sprawled on the ground behind a small solid rock ledge. Boo stayed at the very peak, ushering the others over. She waited until all of us were safely down then, looking back to the battlefield one last time, she dropped down to join us.

“Would someone please tell us what is going on?”

I looked to Schmidt. I guess this was as safe a place as any right now to try and explain a few things. I glanced at Boo. She was doing her best to monitor the action happening in the battle.

“You all remember landing in that cage and meeting the unicorn, right?” I asked tentatively. Hoping they would so it could save some time. All three frowned in thought. At least Jacob and Schmidt did. Jackie was impossible to read.

When they nodded, I was about to continue but Cremator cut in.

“Ooh! Can I tell it seeing as you don’t have a new name?” Cremator asked, exuberantly holding up a clawed hand as if I were a teacher and this was my classroom. “Miss John Doe?”

I shot her a flat glare. Cremator simply grinned and I shuddered at the sight of her vicious looking teeth. The others looked at me rather dumbfounded.

“Fine,” I said, sitting back. “Go ahead.”

“Yes! I was William, but my name’s Cremator, now,” the emerald dragon declared, her grin never fading. “You got new names from that unicorn too.”

I sighed and gave Cremator an exasperated look. “Really? That’s how you handle it?”

Cremator shrugged. “Gives them the option.”

When I didn’t respond quickly enough, she lightly punched me in the shoulder. I say lightly. She probably thought it was light. Thing is, dragons are strong and, judging from Cremator, rather boisterous. Deer are the exact opposite.

“Tell them their new names,” Cremator urged.

I drew in a breath and let it out in a long sigh. “Fine. Not that you needed to interrupt, I was getting there.”

I looked at the others and tried to explain further. “When the unicorn put the helmets on you to control you, he gave you all new names.”

Cremator, being my long-time friend and someone who clearly knew when tact was needed, leaned against my side, wrapped an arm around my shoulders and proceeded to point at each of the three in turn and announce their names. All while grinning, I might add.

Although, with Schmidt and Jacob, the ripping off the sticky bandage approach went over surprisingly well.

Schmidt shrugged and said, “Sounds good to me.”

Jacob simply nodded so fast he appeared to be vibrating.

I blinked away some of my astonishment, pointed at them with a hoof and asked, “You sure?”

“Shield Breaker is an awesome new name!” Jacob shouted. And, with energy and dexterity I wasn’t expecting, Jacob leapt up onto the ledge, struck an elegant pose, pressed a hoof to his chest and proclaimed, “I am now a unicorn. The most gifted of all the races in—”

Whatever he was going to say was lost when Boo jumped up, wrapped her body around Jacob, Shield Breaker, and hauled him heavily to the ground in our hiding spot.

“Stay down!” Boo hissed, glaring at Shield Breaker.

I looked to Boo. “You’ve been in the guard a while.”

Boo nodded. “Three years.”

“Shouldn’t you help the other guards out there?” I asked, pointing a hoof beyond the ledge.

Boo fixed me with a hard eye. “Keep civilians safe. Lieutenant’s words to me before mission started.”

She eyed Jackie and said, “Yak not easy to hide. Needed big hole.”

Jackie looked a little sheepish at that and did his best to shrink his massive frame.

Boo shook her head and patted Jackie’s side with a hoof. “Not an insult. I understand change can be very surprising.”

She looked over her shoulder at the battle beyond the ledge. “Many more down there. They will be just as shocked to be freed.”

Boo sighed and her whole body drooped. “If they live that long.”

“What do you mean?” Comet Streak asked, his tone rather subdued.

“I have seen many battles,” Boo said softly. “Ponies and others get hurt. Ponies and others die. Mostly because they aren’t ready.”

She looked at the four who had been under Sombra’s control. From Jackie to Shield Breaker, then Comet Streak and, finally Cremator. Her gaze lingered the longest on Cremator. “Were you ready when you woke up? When your helmet came off, were you still a fighter without him in control?”

I watched as the thought struck home in Cremator and she visibly deflated. It was the first time since meeting her properly as a dragon that I truly saw her reflect on an action and have the gravity of our situation really sink in. Cremator didn’t reply. She didn’t need to.

Boo looked to the ledge again. “All of you, you are former humans. I made sure to get you all, help you reach safety. Down there…”

She shook her head. “So many more. I only hope, when they awake, the other guards can stop themselves. This is not their fight. It is not their fault. Some I helped before finding you again. Others…”

She let her head droop. “The loss of any more like us, I will grieve them.”

The mood in our little safety nook grew very sombre. And, though slightly muted, we could hear the continuing clashes of bodies and the explosions of magic on the rocky field below. That was until another sound reached us. It started small and distant but rapidly grew in strength until an all-encompassing roar ripped at the air.

I looked to the sky in question, wondering what it could be. Maybe Cremator saw something we didn’t, because she was the first to react differently.

“Oh wow!” Cremator shouted as she leapt to her feet. Her eyes remained fixed on the sky as she grabbed hold of the ledge. Clearly her energy was back.

I looked up and my mouth dropped at what I saw. Dragons. Several dragons of different colours and sizes swept across the skies of the battlefield. All appeared bipedal much like Cremator. Speaking of Cremator, I glanced back to her as the other dragons joined the fight against Sombra’s winged forces.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Cremator chanted in excitement, her tail swishing back and forth while her body bounced from side to side. She even started to pump her fists in the air. I couldn’t help but giggle, Jackie laughed too. Cremator looked so much like a cheerleader dancing about as she cheered on her team.

Daring to know more, the others, ignoring Boo’s warnings, peeked their heads up over the ledge. I quickly joined them. What I saw was truly a sight. Where the wings of the guards had been holding their own against Sombra’s air forces, they now pulled them from the skies, the dragons taking to their task with the greatest enthusiasm.

I heard Boo sigh as she stood beside me. “This battle is done. The other side just needs to realise it.”

Moments later, the strangest thing I had yet seen occurred. All the tents and battlements which had once dotted much of the battlefield disintegrated, bursting into clouds of black smoke. The very same smoke which had taken the appearance of Sombra. The clouds came together and swamped the land in a rush, engulfing any of the continuing fights.

Just as quickly, the smoke washed back, leaving behind those already without helmets and all who had fought against Sombra’s forces. None of the dark unicorn’s current fighters remained. All had vanished within the smoke as it whipped away from the battlefield.

As Boo had said, it was over.

Author's Note:

This was a weird one. When this and the previous chapter were still one joined chapter, pretty well everything in this chapter except the first paragraph was written in one sitting. The problem was what became the previous chapter. It just took forever for the stealth section to click in my head.

Glad I did start with Schmidt waking up then jumped around to the other wake up moments. They were truly the most important things to get right. Though, where Cremator decided to do an homage to Deadpool, I have no idea where that came from. Just felt funny to me.

So, next chapter we begin the arc wind down. Thank you all for reading this so far.