• 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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Mother Feather

"Are you feeling any discomfort?" Crimson asked.

"Er, no..." Pilate stirred where he sat. "And you, sir?"

"We're not through the woods yet," Crimson muttered, his forehead tense with concentration as a steady stream of energy wafted from his horn and illuminated Pilate's metal plate. "Figuratively speaking, of course."

"Try not to make puns, boss," Zenith said as he strolled around their humble camp site under a shade of spreading oak trees. "It comes across like swinging that big hammer of yours inside an outhouse."

"Give me anymore lip and I'll be swinging you into outhouses."

"Wuh oh!" Phoenix smirked at Zenith. "I think we all know who's on latrine duty for the next month!"

"You know nothing, idiot." Zenith swatted his tail against the mustached pony's bruised head.

"Ow ow ow owwwwww..." Phoenix winced, then frowned at his comrade.

"Are you sensing anything yet?" Bellesmith asked, leaning in towards the meditative pair.

"Only a slight tingly sensation in my ears," Pilate said.

"Actually, I wasn't asking you, beloved. But that is good to know." Belle cleared her voice and faced Crimson's way. "The entanglement. Is it still there?"

"It most certainly is," Crimson muttered, his eyes shut. His horn strobed a few shades of gold as the muscular stallion murmured, "I'm approaching the crest of the leylines. My magical dexterity isn't quite like my physical prowess, but once I've ascertained the cluster of manastreams, I should be able to... well... dislodge it from where it's currently inhibiting your companion."

"In all honesty, it hasn't inhibited me at all," Pilate said. "I've been capable of performing normal functions with O.A.S.I.S., at least up until its charge started to run out."

"Yeah, well, this is what we'd like to call in the field a 'psychic mole,'" Zenith uttered from the edge of the camp. "Xonans used to use it all the time on us years ago, until several battle-hardened unicorns started catching onto them. The enemy would infiltrate our ranks and pollute dozens if not hundreds of minds with mental tracking devices that could let the Xonans listen in on all sorts of Ledomaritan strategies."

"That's... quite frightening," Bellesmith remarked.

"Oh, totally. But the Council of Ledo intervened. It took a dozen years or so, but they invented a countermeasure that could prevent Xonans from pulling that trick ever again."

"And what of the poor soldiers who were used against their own country of Ledomare? Were they cured?"

Zenith shrugged, rummaging through a satchel of belongings. "It's hard to say."

"Why is that?"

"Well..." He smirked bitterly. "It's hard to care about being telepathically compromising once you've been executed by a firing squad, now is it?"

Belle winced. With slight trembles, she leaned over against Pilate. Without moving, the zebra rested a hoof on her shoulder.

Rainbow Dash gazed, listening—or at least pretending to be listening. She sat in a slump atop a log of wood bordering an extinguished campfire. There was a lavender shade to her right. She glanced aside.

Eagle Eye glanced back, midway through mending the worn patches in a strip of canvas armor.

Rainbow Dash gazed back at the magical meditation session. After a few seconds, she glanced back.

Eagle Eye was meeting her gaze yet again.

With a sigh, Rainbow Dash squinted. "What are you looking at?"

Eagle Eye gulped. He said, "I was going t-to ask you the same thing."

"I'm a pony with feathers and a rainbow mane. What are you?"

"A pony who wished he had feathers and a rainbow mane." He smiled. "Seriously, do you know how lucky you are?"

"Meh. The ability to fly is super special throughout the world, it seems."

"I was talking more about your mane but... erm... whatever..."

"It's nothing special," Rainbow Dash grumbled, frowning towards the fringes of Foxtaur. "Really." She lingered in silence. Fidgeting, she stealthily raised a hoof to her bangs, felt the silky follicles, then rolled her eyes with a sigh.

"There's so much in this country that's grim and dark and decaying. It's so refreshing to see such color, such vibrance, such—"

"Do me a favor," Rainbow Dash said.

"Lemme guess," Eagle Eye murmured, his ears drooping. "Stop talking."

"As a matter of fact, the opposite of that." She looked fixedly at him. "Say 'Dear Princess Celestia.'"

Eagle Eye's teeth clenched for a moment. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"Just say it."

"Ahem... 'Dear Queen Celestia.'"

"That's not what I asked you to say."

"Look, I don't like saying the 'P' word..." He winced, glancing fitfully over his shoulders. "Especially with those meatheaded bozos always squawking around me."

"Now say 'Spike, take a letter.'"

"'Spike, take a letter,'" Eagle Eye uttered, gazing at Rainbow Dash awkwardly as if she had the plague.

Rainbow Dash rubbed her chin. She squinted, her head tilting slowly from side to side. "You have a round muzzle."

"Jee. Thanks. You have a big one."

"And you're pretty small..."

"You're not exactly a heavyweight yourself."

"And what's your name again?"

"Eagle Eye."

"Yeah, but—like—when you walk into town and go shopping someplace, ponies call you..."

"Corporal Eagle Eye."

"Yes, but, like, when you're with friends and fami—" Rainbow Dash groaned and rolled her eyes. "You know what?" She waved her hoof. "Just forget it. Forget it."

Eagle Eye blinked quizzically. "Huh?"

"It's not important. Whatever."

Eagle Eye's eyes darted left and right, then his whole body jolted. "I'm a stallion!"

"Yeah, I got that finally..."

"For real, lady!" his voice cracked. "I'm a mother feathering stallion!"

"It's just that—Snkkkkt!" Rainbow Dash almost collapsed across the campsite. "Nnngh—Did you just..." She broke through a crooked grin. "Did you just say 'mother feathering?'"

"Yeah... well..." Eagle Eye folded his forelimbs. "I don't like saying the real thing!"

"And just what is the real thing?"

"None of your beeswax, girl!"

"Hah! Smoothe. I bet you use that on all the ladies."

"Not at all! Er... I mean..." He went bugeyed and barked, "Sure I do! I mean... not lately, because of the forest and the stallions and the running and sweating for our lives and all—"

Rainbow Dash hugged herself, chuckling.

"Stop laughing!" he exclaimed, his voice reaching a high pitch again. He covered his muzzle and growled. "Rrrrgh... This is crueler than when you were beating up my friends and I!"

"Oh come on..." She breathed slower, still smirking. "I hardly touched you."

"You treated Captain Crimson like he was a punching bag!"

"Yeah, but I did a number on your other friends even worse."

"Yes. Well..." Eagle Eye fumed, staring into the dormant campfire. "You had no excuse to beat up on Crimso—er... on us like you did."

"Something tells me the bunch of you are used to getting bumps and scrapes."

"Not like this," Eagle Eye muttered. He glanced forlornly over his flank. "I've never seen Crimson take a beating like that before."

"Hey, we all have our lousy moments," Rainbow Dash remarked with a shrug. "Goddess knows, I've had mine."

"Pffft. Yeah right," Eagle Eye chuckled while rolling his eyes. "You looked like the blue sky gave birth to you. What could you possibly fear?"

"You ever been dead?"

"Uhhhhh... no...?"

"It's not pleasant, trust me."

Eagle Eye could only blink at that.

"Still..." Rainbow Dash leaned back, reclining on the log and dangling one leg over another as she sighed towards the tree canopy. "The only thing I regret about the whole 'being dead' thing is what got me there to begin with. I hate losing; I know how much it sucks. So, for what it's worth, I'm sorry that you and your friends did the opposite of winning to day... mmm... because of me."

Eagle Eye opened his mouth to say something, but he was at a loss for words. His violet eyes wandered across the site and caught a glint of light shining off of Rainbow's pendant. He looked at the ruby lightning bolt within the center of the neckpiece.

Finally, he spoke.

"You must be from a long way's away."

"Hmmm?" She looked up. "Oh. Yeah. I'm totally not from around here."

"Are you going on an adventure of some sorts?"

Her head tilted up to squint at him. "What makes you say that?"

"Because if I had wings, that's the first thing I'd do."

"Heck, dude. You're a mercenary in the friggin' army." Rainbow Dash shrugged then laid back again. "Or, at least, you were. I'm sure you've seen enough adventure to make a lifetime."

"Too much, if you ask me," Eagle Eye said, "And none of it all that... well... colorful."

"Then why the heck did you sign up to begin with?"

He shrugged. "The whole family was born into it. Franzington Guild Members have very few talents beyond using a blade or a shield."

"Yeah... heh... I can totallllllly see that you're built for gladitorial combat."

Eagle Eye glanced at her. His eyes fell to the canvas armor he was delicately sewing shut. With a groan, he tossed the scrap aside and slumped down, his forelimbs framing his drooping chin.

"I'm a good soldier. I really am..."

"Uh huh..." Rainbow Dash muttered towards the forested ceiling.

He briefly frowned her way. "For real! I may not be as smart at Zenith or as resourceful as Phoenix or... or..." His cheeks flamed up for a moment as he stared into the trees. "As st-strong as Crimson..."

"So what?"

"So..." He glanced at her again. "If I can do stuff to protect other ponies' lives, then I'm happy to do it."

"Even if it means killing a ton of other ponies to make things... y'know... 'safe?'"

Eagle Eye took a deep breath. "I may not be Ledomaritan, but I was still born on this continent and I have a duty to do. Besides, I've never expected loyalty to be a clean thing to live by."

Rainbow Dash blinked. She sat up, her wings flexing. With a slight frown, she gestured towards the stallion's companions. "Yeah, well, it seems that loyalty can run out, right?"

"Hmmm..." He smirked tiredly. "Yeah, I guess it can. Well, some of it, at least..."

"Some of it?"

"Not all loyalty has to get dirty, y'know. Loyalty to one's self... that's about as clean as it gets. Sure, Crimson and I and the rest of us turned our backs on Ledomare, but considering what they wanted us to do... and considering what we didn't do..." He straightened his violet bangs with a trembling hoof, but managed a sincere smile. "I know I'm a wanted criminal, but I've never felt so clean in my life."

Rainbow Dash stared at him. She felt a weight on her neck, and her hoof gently stroked the edges of her golden pendant. She let a warm breath out her lips and quietly murmured, "Funny how fugitives can be so lost, and yet they're the ponies who find themselves in the end, huh?"

Eagle Eye blinked at her. "Huh?"

A bright flash of light emanated from across the site. Eagle Eye gasped as a familiar figure fell onto his flank with a grunt.

"Unnngh..." Crimson stirred on the ground, his horn smoking as if it had been dipped into boiling tar. "That's certainly a wake-up call..."

"Crimson!" Eagle Eye rushed over, stopped himself at the last second, and simply squatted beside him. "Captain, are you alright?"

"I will be once the forest stops spinning."

"Looks like you took quite the tumble, Crimson," Phoenix said.

"Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Corporal Windbag," Zenith muttered his way.

"I don't understand!" Pilate exclaimed, sitting perfectly still and safe. "I didn't even feel a thing! What happened?"

"There was a burst of manafeedback..." Crimson stood up, dusting his legs off. "It would appear that whoever is on the otherside of the leyline entanglement, he or she has had a professional practitioner of magic buffer the junction. It's kind of a ramshackled job—as magic goes—but it's too dense for me to break through." Crimson caught his breath and bowed slightly. "I'm so sorry, Mister Pilate, but I'm not sure I can clear your connections like I had originally hoped. We're dealing with Prime Enforcer levels of magical prowess."

"Prime Enforcer?!" Bellesmith exclaimed. "That would suggest we have a huge chunk of the Ledomaritan army on our flanks!"

"I wouldn't doubt it, especially considering the battleship we have seen circling nearby."

"How could a Prime Enforcer have gotten entangled with that device's magical web thingy?" Eagle Eye asked. "It couldn't have been by accident!"

"Or, y'know, it could have been," Zenith remarked. "A really freaky accident."

"What say you?" Crimson remarked, squinting at the couple. "Have you three wanderers had a run-in with an Enforcer recently?"

Belle shook her head. "Not since we first set out from where we met Rainbow Dash—"

"Beloved, the town," Pilate quietly remarked. "The Province of Green Slope... the local sheriff..."

Belle blinked. She glanced at Pilate, at the O.A.S.I.S. sphere, then at Rainbow Dash. Slowly, she sighed and gave Rainbow a lethargic stare.

Rainbow Dash blinked. Her blue cheeks burned, and she hovered instinctually. "Eh heh heh heh..." She rubbed the back of her neck with an errant hoof. "Yeahhhh..."

"I don't get it..." Phoenix craned his neck to stare at her. "What's the deal?"

"Well, I kind of sort of maaaaaaybe threw Pilate's magical ball thingy into the horn of this really homicidal unicorn stallion..." Rainbow gulped. "Who was totally wearing a beret."

Zenith, Crimson, and Phoenix groaned.

Eagle Eye glanced at his slumped partners. "Is that a bad thing?"

Zenith waved a hoof towards Rainbow. "What it means is that Wonder Mare here may have inadvertently entangled the leylines in the first place when she decided to play lame soccer with the zebra's mana sphere!"

"Hey!" Rainbow Dash frowned. "I'm not lame when I play soccer!"

"Oh go bore a hole in your brain and let the 'idiot' pour out," Zenith scoffed. "Why not write to Queen Ledo herself and just tell her your whereabouts while you're at it!"

"I was too busy kicking your sorry flank to think about it at!"

"Let's all calm down, ponies," Crimson droned.

"Yes! Stop picking on her!" Belle exclaimed with a frown.

"Seriously!" Zenith gestured towards Pilate and Bellesmith. "Why do you even follow this colorful bonehead around?"

"She's done nothing but save our lives," Pilate emphatically said.

"Plus, she's adorable!" Belle squeaked.

"Hey, watch it," Rainbow muttered aside.

"Well, what do we do now?!" Phoenix exclaimed. He winced, rubbed his aching head, and grumbled straight into Crimson's ear. "Boss, the longer we let the zebra's mana thingy connect to the bad guys' mana thingies, the sooner they'll find us here and soon we'll all become hanging thingies!"

"You're a hanging thingy," Zenith muttered.

"Your mom's a hanging thingy!"

"Enough!" Crimson grunted, silencing his subordinates. "I may have jumped the gun when I said it was impossible to clear the entanglement."

"But you already tried it yourself!" Belle said. "What more can be done?"

"Maybe not more, but instead less," Crimson thought out loud. "I'm a soldier, not a surgeon. Maybe what we need here is a unicorn mind that's not meant for bone-crushing. Perhaps the entanglement can be cleared if we just approach it a bit more delicately."

Rainbow Dash's ruby eyes widened. She hovered down, smiling. "Did somepony say 'delicately?'"

"Yes, why?"

Smirking, she looked over at Eagle Eye. Crimson looked at Eagle Eye. Everybody was looking at Eagle Eye.

He looked back, pale as a sheet. "What?" After a few blinks, his ears drooped on either side of his horn like lavender underscores. "Aw motherfeather..."

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