• Published 1st Aug 2020
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Ponyville Noire: Misty Streets of Equestria - PonyJosiah13

Scarred from their final encounter with Zugzwang, Phillip Finder and Daring Do struggle to make peace with the past while balancing a slew of new mysteries that will take them beyond Ponyville.

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Case Fourteen, Chapter Six: Quarry

“We should’ve known,” Krein growled, pacing the hallway outside Heim’s office. “He needed money for his son, he knew all of the dragons who went missing...we should’ve known!”

“Easy, Krein,” Daring said, not looking up from her search of Heim’s desk and drawers for any clues. “He’s smarter than we thought.” She paused for a beat, holding up a document with the official seal of Equestria on it. “This says he served in the Crystal War.”

“Yes,” Krein nodded with a growl. “We all knew about Sombra using dragons and dragon blood in his experiments; a blasphemy like that would earn a death sentence in the Dragonlands. The idea that Heim could…” He growled, clenching his claws tight as smoke billowed from his nostrils. “If he hurts Smolder, I’m going to flay him alive!” he declared.

“I think you’ll have to wait in line,” Daring commented dryly, tossing aside a binder. “Dammit. I hope Phil’s having more luck at Heim’s house than I am here.”

The sound of arguing voices from outside drew everycreature’s attention. “What are you doing back?” Niirah’s voice growled.

“Look, I heard about the dragon,” another male voice came. “I need to speak to Daring and Finder.”

“I’m in here, Ace,” Daring said, leaning out.

Detective Hidden Ace trotted up. “I heard what happened about those two dragons,” he said. “And Princess Luna briefed me about Rare Reaction. Did you find anything here?”

“Nope,” Daring said. “Phil’s over at Heim’s house, trying to find anything over there.”

“Well, I might be able to help with that,” Ace said. “Remember that Chevroneigh 1948? We found it outside that last bank.”

Daring blinked, then dove out the door. “You could’ve said that earlier! C’mon!”

The white Chevroneigh truck sat in the alley behind the Equestrian Amalgamated Trust, the beautiful white facade belying the dinginess of the dirty, graffiti-strewn alley. The truck itself molded into the surroundings quite well: the paint was fading and the chassis was covered with dents and bumps, with rust creeping up from the undercarriage.

“License plate’s gone, and the VIN’s been removed,” the forensic unicorn studying the interior of the cab reported as Daring and Ace approached, ducking the crime scene tape at the mouth of the alley. “We might have some trouble narrowing down who owns this.”

Daring noticed a faint chalk circle drawn around the truck. “He used some kinda spell to hide it?” she asked.

“An Ignore-Me spell woven into the circle; we only noticed it when one of our forensic guys broke the circle on accident,” Ace nodded. “Rare’s got some pretty decent magic backing him up.”

Daring walked around the truck to the back. After receiving a nod from the forensic worker, she carefully opened up the hatch to expose the inside.

The large bed of the truck had several grooves in the bottom of it. The first thing she spotted was the small debris embedded in said grooves. “Granite?” she wondered aloud, prodding at the cracked stone fragments. “These look more like broken fragments than just pebbles or something. Like he smashed a stone tablet or something. Hmm...no soil fragments either so it’s not just from the ground.”

“Yeah, but it’s generic,” Ace stated. “It could’ve come from anyw—”

He paused, staring in shock. Daring followed his gaze and spotted one fragment: a piece shaped like a paw print, one toe partially missing, metal instead of stone. Ace slowly reached out with his magic and lifted it up.

As Daring feared, it was indeed a small silver earring.

Ace pulled a picture out of his coat. The photograph was taken in front of some bar and featured Hidden Ace standing with his foreleg around a blue unicorn with a curly blonde mane and three paw prints for a cutie mark, both ponies mugging for the camera with wide grins that could only be worn by best friends without a care in the world.

A silver paw print earring glittered on Paw Print’s ear.

Ace’s hoof trembled, causing the picture to shake violently. His breathing hitched, hissing through gritted teeth. Tears shimmered in his narrowed eyes.

“I need a moment,” he growled before Daring could say anything, retreating to a corner of the alley, away from any prying eyes. He faced the wall, his shoulders shaking, sometimes jerking violently as he fought to control himself.

Daring stared piteously at him for a few seconds, futile words tumbling in her gut, then pushed it aside and focused on her work. She continued to scan the bed, noting some loose scales and bits of fur that would no doubt be collected and analyzed later, but nothing else of note. The granite remained in the grooves: there wasn’t a lot, but enough to be noticeable, and enough to make her wonder.

Daring sat for a moment, allowing the clues to tumble freely in her mind. Rare Reactions’ face floated before her, twisted in rage as the motorcycle came sailing towards Phillip. For just a moment, she saw terror etched in his face before the massive metal crushed him into the ground with a horrific sound, spreading red blood across the asphalt—

Daring shook herself out of the vision, ordering her heart to be still. It didn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen.

She steadied her breathing, focusing. The evidence floated before her: Heim. Smolder. Rare. Banks. Granite. Truck. Seed and mice. Bodies…

A flash of insight raced across her mind. She turned back to the truck, staring at the crushed stone fragments, turning over the broken butterfly earring in her hooves.

“I think I know where these came from, and how he’s getting rid of the bodies,” she said aloud.

“What’s that?” the forensic unicorn asked.

“He’s got a cockatrice,” Daring said. “That explains the seed and the mice he had in his pack. He turns the bodies into stone, smashes them up, and probably dumps them somewhere.”

“I think you’re right,” Ace growled, walking back over. “But that doesn’t solve the problem of where he’s hiding.”

“It’d have to be somewhere he could work uninterrupted, with all the gear that that must include,” Daring mused out loud. “Somewhere he could make the noise of breaking the statues up. And somewhere where he could store all of that cash he’s got by now.”

“And someplace where some gravel wouldn’t be out of place,” Ace added.

“Daring!” a voice called, and Daring looked up with a brief sigh of relief to see Phillip ducking beneath the tape. “You find anything?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Daring said, holding up the earring. “He’s using a cockatrice to get rid of the bodies.”

Phillip stared at the earring for a bit, then closed his eyes for a moment and took a breath. “Bugger. Need to think of a way around that. Anything else?”

“Not much here,” Daring admitted. “You find anything at Heim’s place?”

“Not much,” Phillip admitted. “But there were some odd payments in his checkbook that I found. Listed several checks being paid to somepony named Silver Lining.”

Ace’s ears perked up. “Silver Lining? That's not a pony, that's a real estate company. They own mines and quarries.”

“The payments might be bribes to use one of their properties,” Phillip said. “We’ll have to talk to them, find out which.”

Daring and Phillip stood at the top of a steep decline, looking down a winding dirt road leading to their target. A chain-link fence with a padlock provided a token attempt at security. Behind it was a huge pit of granite walls, gigantic steps of stone that led down into a muddy pit. Set on a plateau of dirt overlooking the pit was a semi-dilapidated factory of rotting wood and rusting metal, the frames in the windows bare. Some rusting construction equipment and a few smaller buildings lay scattered on the dirt plateau, abandoned nearly a year prior when the original company folded and was bought out by Silver Lining Industries.

“You think he’s down there?” Daring asked, staring down at the quarry with her binoculars, the night vision enchantment allowing her to see into the darkening pit with perfect clarity even as the sun crept lower in the sky and more clouds rolled over the domes overhead, rumbling with distant thunder.

“I’m sure,” Phillip said, crouching down on the ground next to the gate. “I recognize this tire track. The truck’s been coming in and out of here.”

Daring gritted her teeth as another roll of thunder echoed around the stone walls. Scanning the construction equipment scattered amongst the plateau, she spotted a machine with a hopper feeding into a conveyer belt. She recognized it as a rock crusher.

She also noticed the gray pebbles that were scattered on the ground around the machine and the tire tracks that led from it to the edge of the pit. A sick feeling nestled in her gut and she growled.

“Smolder could be dead by now. We should be headed down there.”

“You wanna take on a dragon, a cockatrice, and a superstrong insane unicorn by yourself, be my guest,” Phillip commented dryly.

Daring frowned for a moment, then grunted in acquiesce. “Fair.”

A few droplets tumbled from the sky, then sheets of rain began to pour down. “Great,” Daring grumbled, tilting her pith helmet over her face. “Did Awely-Awely and Angkakert really need to do this now?” she asked dryly.

Phillip looked up at the gray skies overhead. Rare Reaction’s face danced before his eyes, twisted in rage as the motorcycle tumbled towards him. For a moment, the traitor’s eyes turned black as pitch and black serpents slithered out of a mouth that was opened impossibly wide. Phillip’s hoof shook and his breathing hitched, heart trembling in his chest.

But the rain poured gently on his back, cool and soothing. The wind whispered over his body, and slowly he breathed in the calming scent. One hoof went up to the necklace of Angkakert around his neck and he rubbed the carved wood. He thought, once again, that he felt a tingle of power inside the totem, like a small lightning bolt dancing against his skin.

Calm, calm, he whispered to himself, his heartbeat slowing to a steady drumbeat.

“You okay?” Daring asked, looking at him in concern. “You were shaking for a bit.”

“I’m fine,” Phillip replied, keeping his eyes on the buildings below. His enemy was down there, along with Smolder, an innocent endangered. He allowed the rage to slowly slither across his body, washing away the fear in his veins like a rising tide, then commanded it to settle in his gut like a coiled serpent, where it lay controlled, ready.

“Are you okay?” he asked Daring.

She frowned for a bit, her own hoof going up as if on its own to the totem of Awely-Awely around her neck. She gently stroked the carved face of the queen of the wandjina for a moment, then took a breath of the rainy wind. “I’m okay,” she nodded, her eyes hard, without a single trace of fear or doubt.

As if on cue, the sound of tires crunching on gravel announced the approach of a contingent of cruisers and vans, led by an armored limousine, which parked right behind Phillip and Daring. Princess Luna exited the limousine almost before it had stopped, rain glistening off her silver cuirass.

“Detective Ace, do you have the warrant?” she asked the unicorn detective exiting the unmarked car as she tied her mane back into a ponytail.

“Got it here, Your Highness,” Ace grunted as he exited his cruiser, holding up the signed and sealed piece of paper.

“You joining us, Princess?” Daring asked.

“A dragon, a cockatrice, and a rogue dark magician are at large. This is beyond the scope of normal police,” Luna stated as Iridescence and five other Royal Guards exited, already equipped with full-body armor and N4 submachine guns. “You will stand aside and allow us to handle this.”

A sting of bitterness struck both Phillip and Daring. “Your Highness, we’ve handled eldritch monsters,” Daring protested. “We—”

“Got lucky,” Luna interrupted, giving her a sympathetic look. “You survived last time because you were lucky that it was weakened and underestimated you. Please, you need not endanger yourselves trying to fight somepony who is out of your weight class. Let us handle this.”

Daring glared up at the Princess, who maintained her calm composure. Seeing that she was not going to budge, Daring sighed and reluctantly nodded.

“Thank you,” Luna nodded, turning as a dragon who seemed to be built from slabs of solid gray stone exited a large black van, followed by a half dozen Dragon Guards, each wearing heavy armor and carrying an enchanted lance. “Commander Dwiin?” Luna asked.

“We’ll handle the traitor,” Dwiin growled to Luna. “You worry about the cockatrice and the wizard.”

“We will,” Luna declared as dragons and Royal Guards gathered around her, readying weapons. Luna struck the crescent moon emblem on the chest of her cuirass with a hoof. Metal pieces extended from the cuirass, unfurling into leg armor and a helmet.

“Be still for a moment, all of you. This will be slightly uncomfortable,” Luna announced to the Guards around her. Her horn lit up, then everypony and everydragon’s eyes flashed with azure light, drawing grunts of pain. “There,” Luna declared. “You are now all temporarily immune to the cockatrice’s gaze. But be forewarned: it has other weapons, namely its claws and venomous saliva.”

“Great,” one of the Royal Guards muttered. “Because the dragon and the superstrong wizard weren’t bad enough.”

“The wizard’s strength can be countered,” Luna stated, pulling several syringes filled with a pale green liquid out of her saddlebags. “This is a weakening potion, strong enough to put him into a powerful lassitude. Inject Rare Reaction with this, and he will be easy to defeat.”

“Of course, we have to get close enough to him to do that,” a dragon commented as the Princess handed the syringes out.

“One step at a time,” Dwiin replied as he took one of the syringes. He grunted and tilted his neck to the side, loosening the muscles with a crack. “All right, team, let’s take ‘em down!”

With a chorus of roars, the dragons took to the sky and flew down to the quarry, with Luna and her Royal Guards teleporting down to the bottom of the dirt path in a flash of blue light. Daring, Phillip, and Ace were left standing at the top of the road.

“This is bullshit,” Daring growled to herself, sitting down and huffing like a child being sent to timeout.

“I, for one, am perfectly content to let the dragons and the Royal Guards deal with it,” Ace said, sitting down.

Phillip scowled and raised his binoculars to his eyes, watching as the team stacked up at the metal doors of the factory. His heart continued to beat steadily, like a drumbeat on his ribs.

Wait. Wait.

“Iridescence, be ready,” Luna ordered. Her sergeant nodded tersely, hooves tightly gripping her submachine gun, and her horn glowed silver, a sphere of light like a miniature star blossoming from the tip. The Princess’ horn glowed, then the entire door was yanked off its hinges as if it had been pushed by a giant from inside the building, skidding across the ground.

Iridescence immediately followed by throwing the sphere of light into the factory. Everypony turned away as the light bomb detonated, light pouring out of the doors and windows as if the sun had just risen within. A roar of pain and confusion came from inside.

“Go, go!” Dwiin shouted as the ponies and dragons poured into the door, spreading out to cover every corner. Guns were raised and lances glowed with enchanted fire.

What had been the place where stone from the quarry was shaped, smoothed, carved, and polished was now merely empty rooms with torn-down walls. Dust clung to what little furniture was left.

They cleared the first few rooms, then proceeded around a corner to an open area lined with conveyor belts and countertops. The countertops were littered with laboratory equipment, bottles, and vats filled with ingredients and supplies that no one had a name for: one burner was still on, the green liquid in the jar it was placed beneath bubbling furiously. At the end of one counter was a large cubed water tank. The top was open to reveal that the tank was filled with a thick, dark red liquid that filled the room with a nauseating reek of copper. Dwiin and several of the dragons with him growled at the scent.

Light glittered in the back. Luna turned the spotlight beam from her horn upon it and discovered the source to be piles and piles of bits and diamonds, the stolen loot from the banks.

“Keep your eyes open,” Iridescence ordered as they proceeded forward, eyes and flashlights panning over every shadow three times.

A feeble moaning from the corner drew the group’s attention. The beams of the flashlights revealed Smolder, chained down to a slab with iron manacles, her mouth secured with a metal muzzle, head and eyes rolling slowly. A needle had been stabbed into her forearm, with a long vein carrying her blood into a large vat, which was about a quarter full; another IV led to a stand with a jar of pale white liquid that trickled down into her other forearm.

“I’ll get her out,” Dwiin stated, rushing forward. He carefully pulled the tubes from Smolder’s arm and began to bandage the wounds as two other guards began to remove her shackles. Smolder groaned as she fought the sedative; she tried to sit up, but Dwiin gently pushed her down. “Easy, it’s okay,” he soothed.

“Contact!” a Royal Guard shouted, whipping his submachine gun around. Everycreature turned their head to follow, eyes focusing on the shape that was lunging out at them from the shadows.

Heim stood stock-still beneath their gazes, eyes wide in horror, one forearm held up before his face as if to shield himself. He didn’t move despite having several guns aimed directly at him.

A moment later, everyone realized that this was because he’d been turned into stone. Weapons were slowly lowered.

“Guess Rare didn’t need his help anymore,” a dragon commented.

Luna swept the statue up and down with a beam of azure magic. "He is recently petrified," she reported. "He can be restored, but will die soon if we do not make haste."

"Leave him like that, I say," one of the dragon guards grumbled.

A faint whistling caused everyone to pause. Luna sniffed the air and her nose wrinkled at the acrid scent of kerosene.

Then she realized that it was coming from the bubbling green liquid in the boiling jar. Which was bubbling even more violently and now starting to whistle loudly. Before her eyes, the liquid caught fire as the shriek reached a crescendo, flames billowing out of the top of the jar into the air like clouds.

“OUT!” she ordered. Dwiin seized Smolder and dove for the exit as everyone turned and sprinted for the door. The flames spread over the air, sparks falling like rain onto the concrete.

And then came a great roar.

The explosion echoed off the stone of the quarry, roaring back at the thundering skies. Flames shot out of the factory doors and windows, smoke catapulting into the air. Bodies were hurled out of the factory like rag dolls, tumbling across the ground.

“Shit!” Daring cried, springing to her hooves. With a flap of her wings, she took to the sky and soared down to the faintly stirring forms that surrounded the burning edifice.

“Daring!” Phillip called. “Don’t—bugger,” he growled, vaulting the fence and sprinting down after her. Ace clumsily climbed over the fence and tumbled to the ground before giving chase, coat flapping in the rainy wind.

Over to the right, Phillip spotted movement between the abandoned construction equipment. Raising his binoculars to his eyes as he slowed to a trot, he spotted Rare Reaction, face twisted in rage, emerging from behind the rock crusher, stamping the granite pebbles into the mud beneath his hooves. He drew back his teeth in a snarl, and Phillip saw through the lenses that his teeth had sharpened into fangs, and his tongue was now slightly forked.

And then came a slithering motion behind him and for the first time, Phillip saw the cockatrice. Its body was shaped like a chicken, but only vaguely, for instead of feathers, it was clothed in dark green scales that shimmered dangerously, with viciously sharp claws extending from its rotund belly. Its tail was like that of a dinosaur, long and studded with purple spines. It flapped its reptilian wings to propel itself forward in a bizarre motion that combined slithering, hopping, and gliding. Its head was the only part of it that was made of feathers, but it resembled a chicken like a timberwolf resembles a pomeranian. Its red crest appeared to be made of sharp spines, needle-like fangs dangled from its hawkishly sharp beak, and its eyes glowed a solid crimson.

It should’ve looked ridiculous. It was horrifying.

As Phillip watched, the cockatrice pounced upon one of the dazed dragons. The dragon locked eyes with the beast, seemingly unable to turn away, but nothing happened. The cockatrice hissed like an enormous serpent, then spat into the dragon’s face. Sickly green liquid spewed from its beak right into the dragon’s eyes. The armored dragon screeched in pain and clutched his face, writhing as tears and acid ran down his face.

Rare Reaction’s horn lit up and he began to chant, a circle of purple energy burning into the ground around him. “Thutshig nd b’kn, gb’ran nd nt’yah!” he howled. “Rise again and serve me!”

The muddy water bubbled and churned, and then granite pebbles flew from the surface like they were pulled by a tornado, forcing the soldiers and dragons to duck beneath the projectiles. They circled around the laughing Rare Reaction. Stone legs formed, then trunks, tails, wings, and heads.

The fourteen missing dragons and Detective Paw Print stood before them, stone expressions forever frozen into looks of fear as they staggered towards the still-dazed ponies and dragons, every motion making a low grinding noise.

“Die!” Rare Reaction screamed, seizing a frontloader’s rear wheels and heaving it up with a massive grunt. The metal behemoth rolled end over end, crashing noisily against the ground as it tumbled towards a pair of Royal Guards, who looked up too late to dodge.

A beam of azure magic pierced the sky with a scream and the tractor was destroyed in a flash.

“Get up, soldiers!” Luna ordered, drawing her silver broadsword from its sheath. “We are not dead yet!”

Rare pointed and the golems lunged forward, stone limbs flailing at every enemy they could reach. With a crashing, the still petrified Heim staggered out of the burning factory, lunging at a Royal Guard that just barely managed to roll out of the way.

Luna zipped past the golems and charged at Rare, who stood his ground. “I do not fear you!” the former major snarled. “I served in the war!”

He snapped his hoof out in a punch, the limb racing through the air like a train, enough power to plow through bone and flesh with one strike. A train that came to an abrupt halt when it impacted against Luna’s hoof, the reverberation of the crash echoing across the quarry.

“I have served in dozens,” Luna snarled to the shocked Rare before a glowing blue cannonball sent him flying back into a stone wall. The crash of his body against the stone mixed with the growing chaos of gunfire, roars, shouts, and hissing flames as the golems lunged at the guards; the sound of battle was matched by crackles and booms from the storm overhead.

Hauling a dragon guard back to his claws, Daring looked up just in time to see what had been a sea dragon swinging her granite fists down at her head. Diving to one side, Daring rolled through the mud, drawing a smoke bomb from her vest and flinging it at her hooves. A flash of light and a billowing of acrid smoke covered her escape as she retreated back to where Dwiin was holding up Smolder. The young dragon's head was rolling and she groaned as she tried to rouse herself.

As Daring reached her, another stone golem crashed down in front of them. Everyone looked up at the dragoness before them. The once-brown eyes were now dark and wide with horror, the smiling jaw locked open in a silent scream, but they all recognized her stony build and sharpened teeth.

“Kreidol,” Smolder whispered.

With a long grinding noise, Kreidol raised her forearm to crush her friend, her stone body backlit by a flash of lightning.

Dwiin dived to one side to avoid it as Daring lunged at the blow, kusarifundo held tight between both hooves. She met the blow and twisted to one side, entangling the stone limb in her rope as she pulled forward, stretching out her hind leg in front of Kreidol’s. She grinned as the golem stumbled forward, tripping over her leg and toppling into the mud with a crash.

Daring’s grin was wiped from her face when a granite wing smashed into her chest, sending her flying. She crashed to the ground and clumsily rolled with a grunt, wheezing and clutching her burning ribs.

Hurts, but nothing’s broken. Get the fuck up! she ordered herself.

Hissing in breaths, she pulled herself to her hooves just in time to see Paw Print lumbering towards her; the unicorn’s mouth was locked open in what looked like a wail and Daring realized that she had died crying. That didn’t stop her from charging at her with murderous intent.

“Great,” she grumbled, squinting through the rain at her foe and spinning her kusarifundo to gain momentum, trying to consider how she was going to hurt stone.


A bright blue bolt struck Paw Print and encompassed her in a fuzzy aura, and the golem slowed as if it was trying to run through molasses. Phillip bounded past Daring and seized the statue’s forelimbs, twisting to throw it over his shoulder and onto the ground with a crash of mud.

“You okay?” he called to Daring as Hidden Ace caught up to them, wrapping magical bands around the golem to pin it to the ground.

“I’m fine,” Daring wheezed, clutching her chest as another wave of pain crashed through her body in protest of speech.

“No need to thank me,” Ace muttered, turning and firing another slowing spell at Kreidol, who was attacking one of the Dragon Guards. The Dragon Guard swung her lance with a grunt, the blunt end smashing the statue's legs beneath the knees.

The other dragons were currently fighting the golems: Daring spotted Dwiin trying to protect Smolder while holding off a stone dragon that was clawing violently at Dwiin’s wings. Princess Luna, having been disarmed of her sword, was fighting Rare with the aid of her Guards; the mad unicorn was wearing a suit of armor constructed of solid purple magic that glowed as it blocked bullets and blows alike. Rare slipped one of Luna’s punches and countered with an uppercut that dented her cuirass like a sledgehammer warping a tin sheet, then turned and ripped a chunk of stone the size of an engine block from the ground, hurling it at Iridescence, who was currently fighting another golem. The Guardsmare teleported out of the way just in time to dodge the boulder, but was immediately seized from behind by the golem of a sea dragon.

“Let’s help Luna!” she called, rallying herself to charge.

A scream bade her halt. Daring looked over to see Hidden Ace, holding a hoof up before his terrified eyes as he screamed in horror. A hoof that was rapidly turning to stone.

The cockatrice was standing before him, red eyes shining with malice. Before either Phil or Daring could do anything, Ace was completely encased in stone, jaw locked in a scream. With a hiss, the cockatrice turned to them.

Slamming his eyes shut, Phillip sprinted at the cockatrice, snapping his baton open. The cockatrice growled and flapped away from him: tracking the beast by sound, Phillip drew his boomerang and threw it in one swift motion. The weapon whistled as it spun through the air, its sound carrying even through the cacophony of battle, and Phillip heard it strike scaly flesh with a thwack and a squawk. Grinning in victory, he smashed his baton down like a hammer at the source of the noise.

His strike impacted against mud instead of flesh, and then he heard a heavy step beside him. Risking a look up, he spotted Heim, his tortured countenance inches away from his own face, about to bring his stone claws down onto his head.

“Fuck!” he shouted, diving to the side and rolling through the mud, narrowly avoiding the blow that would’ve crushed him.

The cockatrice turned now to a flanking Daring. With a gasp, Daring turned away and shut her eyes. Too late, she heard it hissing in a breath.

Burning pain spread across her foreleg and she screamed as the acidic breath ravaged her flesh, instinctively opening her eyes to study the wound. The green saliva was spread across her foreleg, boils and burns bubbling up her reddening skin.

A moment later, her gaze was drawn like a magnet upwards. The red eyes locked onto hers and she felt a wave of power crash over her; she swore that the monster’s beak curled into a grin.

A terrible feeling of coldness began to spread across her hind legs, and Daring felt her heart tremble as she realized that she could no longer feel her hooves. The image of her limbs turning into stone, the granite crawling up her body to her head, flashed before her eyes.

Look away! Move! Do something! she screamed at herself.

But her eyes were locked onto the red orbs like she was already paralyzed. The horrific numbness was already spreading up her flanks, to her wings. She tried to lift her foreleg to her shoulder holster, but it moved slowly, the injured muscles screeching in agony.

She was sliding her foreleg into the weapon's sleeve, but already her body was numbing and she was choking as her lungs failed. Her vision was blurring, the red eyes seemingly growing in size to encompass her vision, and she knew that it would be the last thing she saw…

And then a purple jet of light cleaved her vision and the cockatrice was sent flying, squawking and screeching in pain. Feeling returned to Daring in a flash and she collapsed, gasping and shaking. She glanced back at her hind legs and let out a hysterical laugh of relief when she saw not a trace of stone on her body.

Looking up, she saw Smolder standing a few feet away, swaying slightly even as smoke billowed from her nostrils and her eyes glowed with defiance.

“Fuck off,” she snarled at the cockatrice, which was feebly stirring in the scorched mud, smoke hissing as it rose off its blackened scales.

Snapping back to reality, Daring drew her pistol fully and opened fire, six disciplined shots barking out. Bullets smacked into the cockatrice’s body, with Daring’s two final shots snapping its head back like a twig, but no blood was to be seen. The cockatrice writhed on the ground, hissing in anger as it tried to get back onto its feet.

“Crap,” Daring muttered, taking a step back, her mind racing furiously. A desperate idea flashed across her mind, and she grabbed at her vest.

The cockatrice squawked in fury and its head snapped up, furious red eyes locking onto Daring again. But then it let out a cry of alarm, fear flashing across its beaked face when it saw what she was carrying.

“Ha!” Daring taunted, holding out her hoof mirror like a shield as she approached. “Reflect on this, you creep!”

The cockatrice let out a high-pitched screech of fear, its gaze seemingly frozen on its reflection. First its tail, then its legs and wings turned to stone. The beast shrieked and writhed to escape, but all in vain: the stone spread up its body, then its head, then lastly covered its eyes, the red glow fading away behind the stone seals. The statue fell to the ground, rain falling into its shadowed eye sockets.

With a snap, the stone encasing Hidden Ace cracked and broke apart like a shell. The unicorn shook his head, shuddering. “Holy shit, I’m alive!” he gasped, patting his chest.

Kreidol, Paw Print, and the other golems crumbled, then fell apart into pieces, sinking into the mud. Heim’s stone body cracked, then he too was returned to flesh, his punch freezing in midair. He barely had time to gasp out a “What—?” before Phillip seized his extended forelimb, flinging him over his shoulder and onto the ground with a wet smack. His yelp of fear turned into a cry of pain when Phillip trapped his forearm in a pin, pressing the dragon’s elbow against his knee.

“Stop! Stop! I surrender!” Heim wailed.

“Yeah, you probably should’ve tried that sooner,” Daring snarled, giving him a kick in the gut for good measure that left him wheezing and her wincing as fresh pain ran up her leg. Three Dragon Guards ran up to shackle Heim.

Looking up, Daring caught sight of Hidden Ace staring down at a pile of pebbles where Paw Print had once lain, a haunted look in his eyes like he was staring right through the ground. Her heart twisted like something had grabbed it in her chest and squeezed.

Rare Reaction’s bellow of rage caught everyone’s attention. Three of Luna’s Royal Guards, their armor dented and covered in mud, had dogpiled the unicorn, who was writhing beneath them in impotent hatred; the other Royal Guards lay dazed around the battlefield. Luna, her armor battered and her one eye shining in fury, was pulling out a syringe of pale green liquid as she approached.

“Hold him still!” she commanded her guards, who were struggling to keep Rare still even as he nearly heaved them all off. One of the Guards grabbed at Rare’s horn, tilting his head back to expose his neck.

“No!” Rare howled, his forked tongue flashing as Luna jammed the syringe into his neck, pushing down on the plunger.

His horn sparked, then there was a boom like thunder and all of the Guards and Luna were flung like ragdolls by a great wave of purple energy, sent screaming through the rain. Snarling, Rare grabbed the syringe from his neck, glaring at the half-full container, then the syringe glowed with a purple aura.

A moment later, both it and the syringes being carried by the other ponies and dragons shattered into pieces, the weakening potion spilling into the mud to be washed away by the rain.

“Great!” Daring snapped.

Panting, Rare Reaction looked around as his magic armor fizzled out, assessing the situation. Luna and her Guards were scrambling back to their hooves; worse, Dwiin and the other Dragon Guards were fast approaching. With a growl, he sprinted up towards the path, his body glowing with purple energy that carried him at the speed of a car.

Time froze for Phillip. His eyes tracked the path of his target, predicting his movement. He knew that he was going to pass him, that he was going to run between him and the great mud pit where stone had once been extracted.

A plan flashed in his mind. He watched as in the span of a single inhalation, Rare came in range; Phillip could see now the subtle tinting of the tattoos that were added over his real cutie marks, the sweat covering his coat, his pointed teeth clenched in rage.


With a yell, he dove forward and his forelegs met flesh. Rare screamed in shocked rage as the two stallions flew through the air, propelled by their combined momentum.

The ground left them, the wind whistled, and then they splashed into the mud. Filthy water filled Phillip’s lungs and he rolled away in the knee-deep muck, sputtering and coughing, allowing the rain to wash the mud from his face.

Then he bumped into a wall where there shouldn’t have been one and the rain suddenly ceased, like a shower had been turned off. Looking up, he realized that he was trapped inside a purple bubble of energy. Daring was currently flying about it, huffing in exhaustion as she pounded weakly against the shield; Ace was firing spells at it, all of them bouncing off harmlessly. The dragons stood on the ledge of the pit, staring down at him with bated breath.

The mud behind him rippled. Phillip dove aside and rolled through the mud as a bellowing stallion leaped at him, narrowly missing. Drawing his pistol in the middle of his roll, Phillip snapped his sights up to Rare’s torso and pressed down on the trigger.

The bullet whistled over Rare’s form as he ducked and a purple aura seized his weapon, yanking it from his foreleg and flinging it into the mud, where it sank beneath the surface.

“There’s no way out for you,” Phillip snarled at Rare, snapping his baton open with a flick of his wrist.

“I don’t care!” the mad pony shouted back, lifting up a stick that had fallen into the mud. The stick, about as wide across as a pony’s thigh bone, cracked in his grip, then snapped in half. “You are trapped in here, and I’ll gladly die here to crush your skull!” Rare snarled.

Crap, Phillip thought, watching the two halves of the stick splash into the mud. The weakening potion must have had some effect, but Rare was still strong enough to break him in half if he got a good hold on him.

So don’t let him get a hold of you.

Rare Reaction’s screech of hate mixed with a crackle of thunder as he charged. Instantly, Phillip realized that he had an advantage: knee-deep in the mud, Rare was slowed down significantly.

He sidestepped and swung his baton, the weapon cracking down on Rare’s horn. The appendage splintered and purple sparks flew from it as the shield shuddered and flickered. Rare shrieked like a rabid animal and threw himself at Phillip. His shoulder rammed into Phillip’s gut and he was sent flying with a grunt, tumbling through the mud and striking the ground to break his fall. His heart pounded in his chest with a quick, but steady beat.

That’s good. Use the fear. Use the anger. He’s just another punk. You can do this.

Rare was after him again, sloshing through the muck and sending a wild haymaker at Phillip’s head. Slipping the sloppy attack, Phillip countered with a baton strike to floating ribs, a thrill of victory rushing through his body at the crackle of breaking bones.

An elbow rushed at his face like a bullet. Phillip ducked, his trilby falling from his head over his eyes; snatching it up, he tossed the hat at Rare’s face. The unicorn roared, swinging blindly, and Phillip’s struck at his kneecap, cursing as Rare's last-second shift caused the blow to smack against his thigh instead.

The two combatants disengaged, then circled each other like caged tigers. Lightning crackled overhead and rain began to fall in earnest, pounding on the flickering shield. Rare panted and snarled, limping slightly on the wounded leg; Phillip glared coldly, tightening his grip on his baton as he drew his breath in heavy, controlled cycles.

“Come on, Phil!” Daring shouted, still trying to beat through the shield. Luna was hovering over her, concentrating a beam of thin azure magic onto the dome, which was crackling as it fought off her invasion. Ace had given up trying to break the shield and was now watching in silence, eyes wide with horror. Upon the ledge, the dragons and Royal Guards were roaring and cheering, stamping their hooves and lances against the ground in support.

Rare leaped again and again Phillip sidestepped, flinging a hoofful of mud into Rare’s face. The blinded beast crashed into the ground and Phillip bucked him hard in the side with a crash like thunder. Rare stumbled, breath whooshing out of his chest as ribs fractured, but stayed on his hooves and lunged.

His hoof seized Phillip’s tail and Phillip gasped in shock as he was yanked towards his foe. Looking up, he spotted Rare's face twisted in rage, hooves raised in preparation to squash him beneath. With an almost reflexive motion, Phillip sent his elbow up into Rare's crotch and the unicorn doubled over with a hiss of pain, holding his family jewels as he kicked at Phil. Phil rolled out of the way, cold mud splashing over him as he climbed back to his hooves.

A living avalanche that bellowed like a steam engine splashed towards him, too fast to dodge. A hoof crashed into his jaw and Phillip felt like he’d been hit by a train, somehow managing to roll with the blow; his head spun, his vision whited out with pain, and he felt himself whirling through the air. He landed facedown in the mud, gasping, spitting out blood and teeth, vision returning in watercolor blurs of gray and brown.

“Look out!” Daring and Luna both shouted.

Lifting his pounding head, Phillip saw five Rare Reactions racing at him. He forced himself to roll away, drawing his boomerang and flinging it out. The weapon flailed clumsily through the air and landed pathetically into the muck.

“Fuck!” he gasped and then Rare Reaction was upon him, seizing him by the throat and lifting him up. Phillip choked and sputtered, flailing helplessly at the iron rod that was crushing his neck. Blackness was creeping in around his vision, which was centered on Rare’s venomous eyes, burning with hate.

“This mud hole is your grave!” the unicorn snarled.

No! I am not dying here!

With a defiant burst of energy like a lightning bolt, Phillip simultaneously struck Rare on both ears with his forelegs, simultaneously driving his hind hooves into the unicorn's knees. Rare howled in pain and staggered, clutching his head.

Phillip gasped in air as he landed, and immediately, blindly pounced, wrapping his forelimbs around Rare’s hind legs and driving his shoulder forward even as his aching body protested every movement. Rare toppled over, scrabbling at him to try to pull him down with him. Phil wound up on top of his foe, who was trying to bear hug him.

Don't let him get up!

Shoving the offending limbs away, Phillip drove his knee up with a convulsive movement like a cough, grinning as he felt his bone slamming into the soft flesh of Rare's crotch. The unicorn's scream was cut off when Phil struck him with two quick hooks to the face, then headbutted him in the nose. Warm blood washed over his face as the bone broke and Rare clutched at his face.

Seizing Rare's right foreleg, Phillip stood up and yanked it out straight like a lever. Once more, he drove his knee up, right at Rare's elbow. Bones snapped like thunder and Rare screamed in agony as his limb was pushed past the breaking point.

Twin hammers slammed into the back of Phil's hind legs and Phillip splashed back into the mud with a grunt, rolling back faceup in a heartbeat. Rare slithered back through the mud, drawing his knee back and sending it at Phillip’s chest, the movement sluggish and desperate.

Finish it.

A burst of energy rushed through his veins and he dodged to one side, trapping Rare's hind leg in his own forelegs. Phillip laid down on his side so that he wound up perpendicular to his foe, his own limbs wrapped python-like around Rare’s hind leg, which he pulled straight out. Rare yelled in disbelief, futilely writhing to escape the lock.

“You made a mistake,” he growled through a mouthful of mud as thunder boomed overhead. “You didn’t trap me here with you. You trapped yourself in here with me.”

He pushed. Bones and joints cracked and broke. Rare Reaction screamed, the shield disintegrating into purple specks of light. He curled up into a ball, covering his bloodied face and choking on mud even as Luna pounced upon him, binding him with bands of magical energy.

Panting, Phillip lay in the mud as the rain washed over his aching body, fresh pain covering up the adrenaline; his head began to pound rhythmically like someone was using his skull as a clock tower bell. Daring landed next to him, worry glowing in her eyes as she checked him over, hissing as she ran her hooves over his bruises. The dragons were roaring in triumphant cheers as Dwiin wrapped Rare Reaction in shackles.

“We won, right?” Phillip muttered to Daring, still gripping Angkakert in his hoof.

“Yeah, I think we did,” Daring grinned at him.

“Okay, good,” Phillip nodded with a smile and gratefully passed out.

Author's Note:

Long chapter. I hope that you enjoyed that fight! Just one more chapter and then we can call this case closed.

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