• Published 19th Oct 2012
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Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon

Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Eagle Eye

Elsewhere, the golden bands of sunlight scattered through the hanging leaves of Foxtaur, casting a platinum spotlight on a tuft of flowers atop which a single monarch butterfly gracefully perched. Its amber wings bent the light around it as the delicate insect fiddled with the silken petals of a blooming red clover.

Behind it, like rising moons, a pair of violet eyes came into focus, followed by a gentle smile. Squatting down low, a young stallion with a smooth, lavender coat stealthily approached the lone butterfly. Licking his lips, he concentrated and focused a beam of magic through his horn. Silken, violet tresses danced in an air of magic as he levitated a pad of paper on one side of his mane and a stick of graphite on the other.

"Okay... please... please... pleeeeease don't get scared off like the last dozen of your siblings," he said in a wavering pitch, his rounded muzzle haloed by a sheen of nervous sweat. Quietly, so as not to disturb the insect's pollinating, he scratched a swift sketch onto the paper floating beside him. "At least not before I get to capture this moment in all its brilliance."

The monarch butterfly pivoted slightly, as if to regard the unicorn with its beady black eyes. Then, as swiftly as it had stopped, it resumed its motions atop the pink flower.

The stallion stifled a foalish giggle, almost finished with his sketch. "Oh, thank Goddess! You have no idea how much this means to me. There are so few beautiful things left in this country, and you're one of them. Yes you are!" he cooed. "Yes, you most certainly—"

A shrill whistle flew through the air, like a songbird in its death throes. The leaves overhead shook, and the fateful vibrations ultimately scared the fluttering monarch away.

The pony stood there in a stupor, blinking. Slowly, a burning red came to his lavender cheeks as he hissed, "Now?! Oh, you gotta be flippin' kidding me!" Groaning, he shoved the pencil and paper into his black vest pockets, then fumbled over towards a bush where a set of weapons were lying. "Unnnngh... I picked the worst week to be sober!"

Frowning, the petite unicorn levitated a sword and shield and fastened them to the saddlepiece of his vest. Then, with remarkable swiftness, he galloped through the woods, jumping and hurdling over underbrush. Rodents ran into hiding and flocks of doves flew into the kaleidoscopic canopy as he made his way into the thick of Foxtaur, following the sound of the shrill whistle as it grew louder and louder in his twitching ears.

Soon, he had made his way to the base of a ridiculously thick tree. Panting, he stood on a disturbed cluster of leaves right where a partially obscured length of rope was fastened tightly to a wooden stake positioned below him.

"Ungh, what is this, a joke?" He pouted, glaring with hot violet eyes into the surrounding thickets. "I could have sworn I heard the signal."

"You did, Eagle Eye," uttered a deep voice from behind.

"Aackies!" Eagle Eye flinched, pressing himself against the tree. He panted heavily as a much taller unicorn shuffled out of the thick forest. "Zenith!"

"Shhh!" Zenith frowned, telekinetically sheathing a polearm into his saddlepiece as he marched up beside the smaller pony's side. "Don't shriek so loudly."

"Yeah, well, don't scare me so... so... stupidly!" Eagle Eye hissed.

"Ungh, just try to shriek like a filly a little less," Zenith said with a groan as he approached the disturbed patch of leaves where Eagle Eye was standing. He kicked some of the weeds and moss away with his hooves. "Phoenix is making enough racket as it is with his stupid signal."

"You think it's something important?" Eagle Eye gulped, trying his futile best to hide a series of trembles up his lavender spine. "Like... maybe the Enforcers have found us?"

"Meh. I'm sure it's nothing," Zenith spat and pulled a dagger out of his vest. "Probably just a canis minor that wandered out of its den. So quit your worrying, princess."

Eagle Eye frowned. "Look, Zenith. I've been in as many scuffles as you. I think I'm battle-hardened enough at this point for you not to call me prin—"

"Whatever." Zenith sliced the rope with the dagger. A second rope sprang into being, attaching a hidden wooden platform beneath them to a dangling net of weights high above. As the net fell, the platform beneath the two ponies soared up, sending them flying high towards the uppermost branches of the tree.

In less than ten seconds, they ascended to a series of wooden walkways fastened haphazardly to the tree's summit. Once the platform reached the top, it latched into place. Zenith calmly glanced down from where he was sheathing his dagger.

Eagle Eye was clinging to him, his eyes clenched shut from the harrowing ascent. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and chuckled nervously.

Zenith nearly shoved him over the platform's edge before marching towards the far end of the lofty walkway. "Mmmf. You're pathetic."

"H-hey! Am not!" Eagle Eye fumbled to trot after him. "I'll have you know I was out scouting like Crimson ordered!"

"Scouting for what?" Zenith remarked with a smirk cast over his shoulder. "Butterflies?"

"I... but... it... that..." Eagle Eye's violet eyes crossed. He stamped his hoof. "No!" Fidgeting, he followed Zenith, all the while keeping a tentative distance from the winding platform's creaking edge. "I'll have you know that I was... uh... faithfully minding the edges of our camp for signs of the Council of Ledo having sent reconaissance ponies to track our whereabouts!"

"You were making more damned sketches of nature and you know it."

"So what if I was?!" Eagle's voice cracked as he tripped over a knot of wood and nearly plummeted over the edge. Gulping, he straightened his silken mane and hurried after Zenith. "When we and the guys get back to Franzington, I wanna have a chronicle of our journeys that—for once—isn't full of blood and gore!"

"You enlisted in the Blades Guild," Zenith droned, ducking an errant branch of leaves as the two unicorns approached the source of the shrill whistling. "You should have expected nothing but blood and gore."

"Yeah, well, I was—pfft!" Eagle Eye spat out a few leaves as he failed to duck the branch. "Ahem—I was young and stupid then!"

"You're still young and stupid."

"But I know how to look after myself!"

"You mean you know how to condition your mane!"

"Hey!" Eagle Eye frowned. "At least I'm doing something about the lice!"

"Yeah. You're attracting them with that ridiculous shine."

"What? No! It's driving them away! Honest—"

"Shhhh!" Zenith hissed, climbing up a series of wooden rungs onto the topmost platform. "We can talk fru-fru fashion later. Let's see what all the hubub is about..."

Eagle Eye hesitated at the base of the ladder, gazing melancholically aside as he smoothed his mane back. "So what if I like the shine?" he muttered, the ascended after his comrade.

On the top platform, a mustached stallion with a dark coat sat, planting a pair of hooves over his mouth as he whistled shrilly into the air over the expansive Foxtaur canopy.

"Put a sock in it, Phoenix!" Zenith grumbled from behind the equine sentry. "We're here already!"

The stallion spun around, levitating a spiked mace. He blinked at Zenith. "About time you got here. This is big stuff."

"It'd better be. You're liable to attract all of Ledomare with that stupid birdsong crap."

"How else was I to get you guys up here?"

"Throwing rocks is a start."

"Oh, whatever, Zenith." Phoenix glanced over and smirked at the ladder. "Good afternoon, princess."

"For the last time, don't call me—" Eagle Eye gasped as he slipped from the ladder.

Zenith was already stretching a hoof out to catch him. Rolling his eyes, he gave his limb a firm yank and dragged Eagle Eye beside the two.

"Erm..." Eagle Eye bit his lip and straightened his vest. "Th-thanks..."

"So where the heck is Crimson?" Phoenix whispered, scanning the emerald horizon of leaves, leaves, leaves. "He's got the sharpest ears of all of us."

Zenith shrugged. "Odds are he's entrails-deep in another kill."

"Ugh, I swear, if I have to eat another boar tonight, I'm gonna drown myself in Eagle Eye's conditioner."

"Come on, guys!" Eagle Eye hissed back at the larger stallions. "It's not poisonous!"

"What, you've tested it yourself enough to know?"

"You two could use some of it yourselves! It'll drive the lice away!"

"Not to mention get a healthy shine," Zenith said, winking at Phoenix.

"And what's wrong with that?" Eagle squeaked.

The other two laughed into the high canopy winds.

"Guys... knock it off! I mean it—"

Just then, the entire platform swayed from a heavy body landing in their midst. A muscular stallion had just swung in on a rope system. Tossing the thing away with a flicker of telekinesis, the stubble-chinned warrior glanced at the others, adjusted the heavy hammer on his back, and trotted into the center of the platform. "Well, at least you're all punctual. Wish I could say that you were silent as the wind, but that'd be insulting the wind."

Phoenix glanced apologetically. "Look, I was only making sure you could hear—"

"Try throwing rocks next time."

"That's what I said—!"

Zenith planted a hoof over Phoenix's lips and smiled the leader's way. "Thanks for as smart as always, Crimson."

Phoenix spat Zenith's limb out and sighed. "Waiting on your word, Crimson."

"Uhhm..." Eagle Eye fidgeted beside the others, making an extreme effort to look anywhere but at the leader's chiseled facial features. "Reporting f-for duty, Crimson," he said with a touch of the same color to his cheeks.

Crimson glanced at his three subordinates. His eyes briefly rested on Eagle Eye. He groaned, but resumed pacing as he spoke. "No doubt, Phoenix's cry is about the object in the sky."

"Wuh oh," Zenith muttered, blinking between Crimson and the mustached stallion. "We got another scorpius trying to make a home in Foxtaur?"

"Idiot," Phoenix grunted. "Scorpiuses can't fly."

"Yeah, but they can fall!"


"Let me guess, Phoenix," Crimson exclaimed. "West by northwest? Hanging low over the canopy?"

"It's approaching slowly." Phoenix said, pointing as the other three ponies turned to see. "At first, I thought it was a thunder cloud. Then I realized it was dipping up and down, as if with propeller blades."

"What?" Zenith made a face. "It's a battleship? This far into the wilderness?"

"A b-battleship?" Eagle Eye gulped.

"It's hard to tell from down here, but I suspect something of Ledomaritan design," Crimson said "Phoenix, could you tell?"

"All I saw was something obviously pony-driven. At the rate it's coming, it'll be here by late afternoon."

"Well, what colors are it flying?" Eagle Eye remarked. "Xonan or Ledomaritan?"

"I was hoping you'd tell us, EE," Crimson said.

Eagle Eye did a double-take. "Me?"

"You live up to your name better than the rest of us."

All three sets of stallions glanced at the smallest of the group. He fidgeted, the sunlight exposing every unquestionable angle of his "spyglass" cutie mark. With a shuddering sigh, he said, "Alright. Phoenix, if you don't mind. You've got the best seat of the house."

"Yeah, don't get any ideas, Eagle Eye."

"Look, will you just move your flank!"

Phoenix chuckled, until Crimson glared at him. With ears drooping, the mustached sentry surrendered his chair. Eagle Eye hopped up and stood on his hind legs, leaning on a branch to stay upright. He squinted hard, studying the incoming bogey from the west. The high wind kicked at his silken mane, but still he didn't move.

"You see anything yet?" Phoenix asked.

"Let the stallion do his thing," Crimson uttered.

"Maybe he got too much conditioner in his eyes," Zenith muttered. A muscular forelimb slapped across his horn. "Ow! Come on, boss!"


Finally, Eagle Eye blinked. "Blue crest... silver emblems... what looks to be... the Queen Ledo's profile. But then..." He leaned forward, his eyes reduced to thin slits. "There is a figure on the bow... a bird of sorts." His eyes darted slightly. "The port side and starboard sides have silver illustrations... and the hull of the gondola is steel-reinforced!"

"Then it's as I thought," Crimson said in a breathy voice. "They sent the Steel Wing."

Phoenix almost pratfalled off the platform. "The Steel Wing?!"

"That's the biggest ship in the Ledomaritan Armada," Zenith added. He scratched his head and squinted. "Do they really wanna find us that bad?"

"Maybe it's because of that incident in the Upper Xonan Heights," Phoenix said. "They never did punish us for disobeying orders."

"Phoenix, the only reason they never punished us is because we galloped too quickly for them to catch!" Zenith said. "You can't punish whom you can't control."

"But they must be pissed that we've been gone for so long! There were twelve of us total who went AWOL!"

"And there're only four of us now! We mean nothing to them!" Zenith gestured towards the western edge of Foxtaur. "This makes no sense!"

"Perhaps it's not us whom they're looking for," Crimson thought out loud.

The other unicorns looked at him.

Eagle Eye hopped down from the seat, gazing up at the leader. "If not us... then for who, Cr-Crimson?"

"Something's coming this way," Crimson said. "A group. A pack, perhaps. It's disturbed several of the animals, and I've felt... a magical presence, as if there's a leyline entanglement nearby."

"Unicorns?" Phoenix raised an eyebrow. "On the run from the Ledomaritan Army?"

"But why would they come into Foxtaur of all places?" Eagle Eye asked.

"If they're that desperate to flee Enforcers, then maybe that explains why the Queen's Force is desperate enough to send a friggin' battlecruiser after them," Zenith said.

"Whatever the case, something is leading that thing towards us," Phoenix said. "And once they find our little merry hideout..." He bit his lip.

Zenith sighed and smirked sardonically. "I've always wanted to have a neck extension."

Eagle Eye shuddered. He looked nervously at the others. "Well, we gotta pack up! We gotta relocate the camp until winter comes to give us a good escape route to the south!"

"What we need to do right now is not panic," Crimson said. "We don't even know if this leyline entanglement is the reason for the Steel Wing being here."

"But it wouldn't hurt to check!" Phoenix exclaimed.

"Indeed." Crimson nodded. "This is what we'll do. We'll break up into two groups. Zenith? You and Phoenix flank the equines from the north. EE?"


"You're with me."

Eagle Eye blinked, his ears drooping. "I-I am...?"

"We'll approach them from the treeline. If they don't prove a threat, we'll subdue them swiftly for questioning."

"I... I..."

Crimson glared. "I need you to be clear-headed, EE. One small slip-up, and our covern will be blown."

"Heh, good luck with that, boss," Phoenix said before sliding down a ropeline, followed by a snickering Crimson.

"Yeah, well... you guys... uhm... smell!" Eagle Eye barked down at the retreating pair. He adjusted the sword and shield on his spine with a huff. "Can't believe I don't friggin' poison their stew everynight..."

"Listen, don't pay those morons too much attention," Crimson said, laying a hoof gently on the petite unicorn's shoulder. "They don't know how much you've given for our Guild. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have made it as far into Foxtaur."

"Uhhhh..." Eagle Eye glanced between Crimson and his hoof on his shoulder. He chuckled nervously, his upper neck flush-red. "Well, I was just... y'know... doing everything th-that you taught me, Crimson! Eheheh..."

"Look at me." Crimson said, staring firmly. "What we've learned in the field, we taught ourselves. I only showed you the way. I promise, one way or another, we're gonna get out of this stupid Confederacy."

Eagle Eye bit his lip, glancing aside with a melancholic breath. "There's no going back to Franzington for me, boss. You kn-know that...."

"Still. You'll get out, and you'll be alive. Which—as it turns out—is all that matters in this world. Now... can I count on you to keep your head in the game."

Eagle Eye took a deep breath. He stood up straight. "Sir, yes, sir."

"No need to be formal. Just be smart." Crimson prepared to slide down a ropeline to another series of platforms. "You're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit."

Eagle Eye beamed. "Even smarter than Zenith?"

"Let's... do things one hoof at a time, EE."

The stallion sighed as Crimson slid away. "Right." By himself, he muttered into the air. "Way to go, Eagle Eye. Really professional. Just run up and hug him, why don't you—"

"You coming, EE?"

"Oh! Uhm... Absolutely!" The small stallion gripped onto the rope. "Right after you, boss!"

Eagle Eye grabbed onto the rope, stepped off the platform, and immediately slipped. He fell—shrieking—through several snapping twigs before landing haphazardly on a jutting branch below.

"You alright?"

"I'll..." Eagle Eye wheezed and grunted as he climbed down the tree. "I'll be about five minutes—Gaah!" He slipped again.

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