• Published 3rd Nov 2012
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In Their Highnesses' Clandestine Corps - AugieDog



The name's Blueblood. Prince Blueblood.

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Act III - Thunderbow

The entire way up the cliff face, Blueblood encouraged memories to flash through his head: the harrowing night he'd spent far to the north last winter evading an enraged polar bear, for instance, and the several times he'd found himself clinging to various runaway railway carriages. As long as it kept him from thinking about the way his life was falling to—

But he wasn't thinking about that. He was thinking about his adventures and how not a one of them had been anywhere near as arduous as this climb. Had he been alone, in fact, he was absolutely certain he would've slipped and fallen several times. Fortunately, however...

One final heave slung him over the edge, and he collapsed into the dirt with a grunt, his cloak a filthy mess of mud, moss, dust and sweat. Wind continued blowing around his mane as it had throughout the climb, and he twisted his head to see Rainbow Dash still firmly bound to him by Green Briar's enchanted ring, her face clenched and her wings pumping. Just then, though, she shivered to a halt and slumped forward, flopping limp across his back.

Blueblood leaped to his hoofs and forced himself to scramble into the trees that rimmed the clearing. Several minutes of running brought him into sight of a massive willow bowing its curtain of leaves all the way to the ground, so he slipped through to the relative shelter within before allowing his knees to bend and settle him onto his stomach. "Dash!" he hissed quietly, craning around once more. "Still with me?"

Her ears flicked, and she groaned. "Ever consider losing some weight?"

The sound of her scratchy voice made him happier than anything had in quite some time. "It's all muscle, I'll have you know."

She looked up, that by-now-familiar wicked grin curling her snout, and he caught his breath at the gentle stroke of her wings, reaching past the edge of his cloak to run along his flanks. "Yeah, I noticed." Her playfulness vanished immediately, though, her front hoofs moving to tug on the rocky band that encircled them both. "So how about muscling this thing off? I mean, we ought to be out of range of whatever magic trap Green Briar set up, shouldn't we?"

About to nod, Blueblood stopped, wracked with doubts of the sort he rarely if ever entertained. He'd been wrong about so much for so long, after all—the hatred he'd always thought he felt toward the Clandestine Corps, for instance, or the trust he'd placed in his valet Chives...

Swallowing, he tried to dig for his usual bravado and just couldn't manage to find it. "I...I don't know," he finally got out, pressing his face between his front legs.

"Oh, no you don't!" A hoof smacked him hard in the back of the head. "You're the super spy here, your Whoness, so you don't get to lose it, not when my friends are lying back there strapped into Green Briar's Octopony spell! Now, you get this thing off us, and we'll go kick some tail!"

Her intensity vibrated through him; Blueblood grabbed hold of it, breathed it in, and let it fill him with the warmth he needed. "Yes, I—" He twisted his neck to look back at her scowl, sweat matting her rainbow mane. "Thank you," he said, a part of him wondering how long it had been since he'd said that to anypony, and a bit of his old self stirred to life. "For having my back, as it were."

She rolled her eyes, and he activated his horn. Touching his magic to the stone ring, he found it to be such a simple ensorcellment that a slight flexing of his will crumbled it to dust.

"Yes!" Dash sprang into the air, Blueblood feeling suddenly cold without her pressed against him. "OK! I'll get Twilight, and you come up with a plan for—"

A rumble shook the ground, the willow tree dropping a cascade of leaves around them, and an even colder chill iced through Blueblood. "Spell discharge." He pushed himself to his hoofs and wished this were the sort of situation where praying to Aunt Celestia might be effective. "Quite powerful, too. He must've had a back-up plan for activating the—"

The rumble this time accompanied a burst of light that tore away the forest's shadows and made the earth feel like a river flowing around his fetlocks. "The Octopony," he finished as a peal of maniacal laughter swept through the trees.

***

Her wings and back aching, Dash could barely keep herself hovering. "But wait!" She spun to face Blueblood. "I thought you said he needed you to make it work?!"

He winced, and Dash winced, too. As annoying as she found his snootiness, it twisted her gut to see how much smaller he looked without it. Because even if Blueblood was a jerk—though by now she'd come to realize that he wasn't as much of a jerk as he wanted everypony to think he was—he sure didn't deserve getting betrayed by this guy Chives the way he had been. "Sorry," she said more quietly.

"Don't be." His jaw tightened. "After all, my entire life has apparently been one continuous mistake. Why should today be any different?"

"No!" She managed to rein in her shout this time, but she couldn't keep from swooping over till her snout was practically pressed against his. "Green Briar's the bad guy, and we're the good guys! That's not a mistake! It's, like, the truest thing ever!" She jabbed a hoof against his chest. "And it's why we're gonna stop him, you and me! You got that?!"

He blinked those big blue eyes, and the smile that curled his muzzle was tired but real. "Well, if you insist...," he murmured, and all she could think of suddenly was how close his lips were to hers.

Face going hot, she pulled back, but he was already moving, his smile vanishing. "Let's see what we're up against, then." Light still poured through the hanging boughs of the willow, and Blueblood pushed them aside, Dash settling to the ground beside him to peer out.

Above the Everfree Forest's thick canopy, the sun sat high in the sky. Of course, it was hanging in a part of the sky way north of anywhere the sun ever went, and it was also shining a whole lot brighter than the sun ever did. "That's right over the castle," Dash heard herself say.

Blueblood's breathing seemed to get louder. "Green Briar said the princesses used the Octopony spell when they took on responsibility for day and night all those years ago. If he's cast it successfully—"

"Double-O-Zeta!" a voice thundered. Wind stirred the uppermost branches of the forest, and squinting, Dash could just make out a winged, shadowy figure floating in the middle of the big, wrong sun. "Perhaps you'd like one final opportunity to beg Lord Thunderbow, the new King of Equestria, not to pop your head like a balloon!"

"Yeah." Cold shivered down Dash's spine. "I'd say he cast it, all right." Wanting to scream and kick things, she instead grabbed the collar of Blueblood's cloak. "I'm going up there to distract him! You get back to the castle and...and—" See if my friends are OK! she nearly shouted. But out loud, all she could manage was, "Do something!"

He was shaking his head, his gaze fixed on the figure above. "This isn't your fight, Ms. Dash."

"What?!" She slung herself right into his face again. "Those are my friends he's kidnapped! That's my town right down the road! They're my princesses he's threatening! How exactly is this not my fight?!"

His expression, a weird mixture of fear and anger, made her gut twist again. "Please, Dash," he choked out. "I...I don't want my stupidity to get you killed as well."

She shook him. "No pony's getting killed! Now, we're doing this!" Wrenching her hoofs away, she spun for the sky. A part of her almost expected his teeth to clamp around her tail like AJ always did to stop her from storming off like this, but it didn't come; looking back down just as she reached the flailing tree canopy, she saw Blueblood charging through the woods in the direction of the castle.

Then she was bursting into open sky, the winds swirling and intense like a storm cell forming. Angling her wings to create a backdraft, she used the partial vacuum to slew herself around and squinted at the glowing figure ahead of her.

His golden horn seemed the same, but the big golden wings spreading out behind him were definitely new. And while she'd seen plenty of lightning-burned ponies in her time working the weather, the jagged white scar ridges that covered Green Briar were so jumbled and thick, Dash couldn't even tell what color his hide actually was. Only a few ash-gray hairs whisked around his neck where his mane should've been, and the way the bandages still wrapped his hindquarters and rear legs, it looked like he didn't have a tail at all. A grin seemed to split his snout from one ear to the other, and while the air all around him was definitely glowing, most of the light, Dash could see now, spilled from his eyes.

And that was when she suddenly realized those eyes were fixed directly on her. "Ms. Dash," he said in a voice that was kind of his and kind of a blast furnace's. "What a pleasant surprise."

***

Hoofs pounding the dirt, Blueblood refused to think about Rainbow Dash racing up alone to face Green Briar when it should be him doing it. He refused to think about what a mad pony like Green Briar could do now that he'd drawn so much power into himself. He refused to think about—

He almost stopped to bash his head against a tree in the hope that it would keep him from thinking about all these things he didn't want to think about, but he didn't have the time. Because, yes, Green Briar had apparently been dozens of steps ahead of him for years now, but Blueblood had learned one thing unequivocally about his arch nemesis in that same time.

Green Briar was a slob of the lowest degree.

So it had to be that the other unicorn had overlooked something, had left something undone, or had simply forgotten something in his haste. It had to be. Refusing to think otherwise, Blueblood lowered his head and upped his pace.

The trees blurred by on either side till he was charging into the open space around the ravine, the rope bridge ahead. Crossing at a gallop, he rushed through the castle gate and skidded up to the doorway Green Briar had floated him and Dash through earlier. The room beyond was darker than before, but he didn't dare try his magic in case the trap Green Briar had laid for him was still in effect. So he just stepped inside, perked his ears, flared his nostrils, and widened his eyes.

He could hear breathing, and the smell of living pony sweat mixing with the dry mustiness of the castle banished a whole slew of unpleasant options. He couldn't see the fiery rings of the immobilization spell, though, and that brought his worry levels back up. If they weren't restrained any longer, why would any of them still be here?

Moving carefully brought him to the spot where he'd last seen Green Briar, and by then his eyes had adjusted enough to the gloom to show him the seven stone slabs arrayed in a semi-circle, the same seven individuals still lying upon them. He let his eyes dart over to Chives at the far end, his former valet staring blankly upward, his chest rising and falling slowly under his white shirt front and black cutaway coat.

Some effect of the spell must be holding them here. So the first step to breaking the spell, Blueblood reasoned, would involve waking them up.

With a stomp, he barked, "Confound it, Chives! On your hoofs, sirrah! Or do you think I pay you to loaf about like this?"

Chives stirred, blinked, and raised his head. "Prince...Blueblood?" he muttered. "But you...he...he said you'd be dead by now..."

"Ha!" Whirling on the rest of them, he pitched his voice like it was a rock and they were windows. "The rest of you as well! And you two unicorns! I require a light! Come along, now!"

The mint green unicorn blinked once, but the white one with the purple mane—

Which was when Blueblood recognized her, and he almost laughed at the wonderful synchronicity of it all. He should be able to get her roused easily enough. "Yes, you with that tired hairstyle! Your name's Reveille or something, isn't it? Surely you can manage to spark up some light for the stallion you were so desperately fawning over at last year's Gala?"

The white unicorn's face twitched, and her head rolled to aim narrowed eyes at him.

He gave his best snort of disgust. "Or is even that small a request too great for your meager abilities?"

She was shaking all over now. "How...dare...you?!" she demanded, gasping between the words. Flopping to her side, she levered herself up on one front leg, a pearly glow beginning to waver from her horn. "You pompous...jackanapes!" Her voice got stronger with each syllable. "You almost tempt me, sir, to misremember that I am a lady! Fortunately for you, however—" She took a breath, tossed her head, and gave him a glare he could almost feel. "I am not given to such displays of pique!"

The others were stirring now as well, and Blueblood thanked Aunt Celestia that Ms. Rarity's voice was indeed every bit as piercing as he recalled from that fateful night. Still, he couldn't risk the spell reasserting itself. "Then perhaps you could manage to stir yourself from your lethargy and help?"

"Help?!" She looked away with a sniff. "I'd sooner assist a Diamond Dog than you!"

Actual anger flared inside him. "You listen to me, confound it! Your countrymare Rainbow Dash is confronting the fiend who kidnapped you even as you blather inanely, and the sooner you—!"

"Rainbow Dash?" The butter-yellow pegasus on the slab beside Ms. Rarity stirred: another of Dash's friends, he recalled from the Gala. "She's in trouble?

And as much as Blueblood didn't want to think about it— "Yes! So I must know what Green Briar did while casting the spell he used on you all!"

Ms. Rarity just blinked, the light of her horn fizzling a bit. "I...I fear I've been largely unconscious during most of today's events..."

The others were likewise looking uncomfortable, their eyes shifting, but on the center slab, the zebra sat up rubbing her forehead. "I thought he meant to take a life, the way he slung about that knife."

"Knife?" Blueblood glanced quickly around the room. "What did he do with it?!"

"What indeed!" spat a voice he almost recognized, and Blueblood spun to see Chives off his slab, a very unpleasant dagger clenched expertly in his teeth. "I have it on good authority, sir, that due to my actions these past several years, you are unable to use your magic in this place." Every word, of course, emerged crisp and clear, the knife not wavering so much as a hair's breadth. "Therefore, as you are powerless to stop me, I shall begin by agreeing with the lovely young lady that you are a pompous jackanapes! I shall then continue with all the terms I've been wishing to apply to you for the past thirty-four months, terms which will include such simple ones as fool and dolt and insufferable as well as more complex epithets such as—"

Leaping forward, Blueblood spun and smashed a hind hoof into the side of Chives's head, the earth pony sailing across the room and into the wall with a wet sort of crunch. And as much as Blueblood wanted to descend upon him with further blows, he hadn't the time; eyes following the arc of the knife, he sprinted after it, judged the whirl of the blade as well as he could, and snatched its handle in his teeth before it could strike the floor. Tucking it into his coat pocket, he looked at the others, all now sitting up and staring at him. "Tell me what you remember of Green Briar's spell!" he demanded. "The entire fate of Equestria rests on you!"

***

"So lovely to see you again." Green Briar cocked his head, and it looked so much like a skull, Dash couldn't stop a shudder. "I was, however, expecting my old friend Blueblood." He folded his front legs across the maze of scars coating his chest. "I seem to recall leaving him in your company, Ms. Dash, so might you tell Lord Thunderbow where he could find him now?"

Dash had never felt so out of her league in her entire life. But still, she had a job to do, didn't she? "He's real sorry," she told the horrible winged unicorn in front of her. "Some stuff came up at the last minute, y'know?"

For a few seconds, he just stared at her. Then a twitch pulled at that wide slash of a mouth, his teeth suddenly looking pointed, and he laughed: not the full-blown, wacko laugh she'd heard echoing through the forest earlier, but a little giggle like something she'd expect to hear from Sweetie Belle. "Hide and seek, is it? Well, I suppose the look on his face'll be all that much sweeter when he gets his first and final glimpse of my new self." He twirled, the shredded ends of his bandages dancing around his rear legs. "Do you like it, Ms. Dash? Tell the truth, now."

Not wanting to come within fifty furlongs of that question, Dash thought quickly. "Hey, wait! I thought this whole Octopony thing was supposed to give you back the unicorn powers the princesses took away! So what's with the wings?"

His forehead wrinkled, but he was nodding. "Very good, Ms. Dash. Perhaps I've finally met the brains behind Double-O-Zeta's little organization." He looked down at himself, the fiery glow of his eyes flickering a little. "In truth, this is not at all what I was expecting." When his head came back up, though, that way-too-wide smile was spreading over his muzzle. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you." He made a pushing motion with one front hoof, and Dash felt the wind shift, shoving her sideways. "This will do quite nicely, I think."

"Do?" Getting him to talk about himself, she figured, would be the easiest way to stop him from thinking about whatever Blueblood was doing down there. "What exactly are you going to do, anyway?"

"Ah, Ms. Dash." He spread his hoofs. "The golden age that Lord Thunderbow will usher in shall last forever!" His shoulders rose and fell. "After the inevitable purges, of course, but such unpleasantness is to be expected when replacing one multi-millennial reign with another. Still, it's not anything you'll need to worry about." His grin got wider somehow, his teeth growing even sharper. "You and the other Elements of Harmony are rather high on my purging list, you see, and as long as I've got you here..."

His front legs flexed, but Dash didn't wait around to see what he might make the wind do this time; she flicked her pinion feathers to a steeper angle and let herself drop toward the tree canopy. "Not so fast, Ms. Dash!" she heard him shout, and the air around her just vanished, her wings suddenly beating against emptiness like she'd dropped into some intense vertical turbulence. "For you are in my element now!"

It wasn't the worst wind shear she'd ever been caught in; she let herself roll with it, felt how the pressure gradients had changed, and slid sideways into the updraft she knew had to be there beside it. The column of rising air grabbed her like a griffon's talons and whisked her past Green Briar, the winged unicorn diving toward the spot where she'd just been. Grinning, Dash managed to flail a hoof out and bash him smack in the middle of his startled face as she swept up and away toward the tropopause.

Because, yeah, maybe he could control the air now. But Dash knew the air, knew it better than she knew Fluttershy or Applejack or any of her other friends. And if Green Briar wanted to play this game, she was more than happy to show him how it was done.

He shouted in wordless rage, and the air behind her began bulging in a way that told her he was chasing her. Of course, the leading edge of his rising bubble fell off with such a nice downdraft that Dash just slipped along it and let it whisk her back toward him. A few flaps of her wings boosted her velocity enough so that when she shot past, missing his rear hoofs by a feather's breadth, her own trail of turbulence crashed into him like a tidal wave, spun him ears over fetlocks, and made him cry out once more.

The whole frontal system he'd been riding broke up, too, so Dash spread her wings to catch one shattered wave of it and surfed forward, adding its speed to her own. Rainbooming him might be her best bet, but the way he could twist air pressure would make it really risky. Still, she—

"Enough!" he shrieked from somewhere, and she slammed headfirst into a mass of air suddenly as solid as a block of concrete. The jolt rattled every single one of her bones, the breath rushing out of her and leaving her gasping, flailing, and then falling, her wing muscles exhausted, colors flashing over her vision.

The air thickened again till she felt like she was sinking in the pond outside town, and she came to rest, her inner ear told her, flat on her back two hundred and seven yards above the forest. No bones seemed broken, but when she finally blinked her eyes clear, a very unhappy Green Briar floated beside her. "My original plan had me crushing you and Blueblood together like lumps of clay into one lovely off-white mass." His lips pulled back from clenched teeth. "I dislike changing my plans, Ms. Dash. But in your case, Lord Thunderbow is more than willing to do so and crush you on your own right here and right now."

***

Every second ticking by set Blueblood's teeth to grinding, but his infernal whispering doubts kept making him hesitate. Would acting on incomplete information make the situation worse than doing nothing?

Thinking of Rainbow Dash up there with that monster decided it, though. "All right, all right!" he shouted at the others gathered around him at the spell's center spot, their voices a babble of thoughts, opinions, and advice. "We have one chance, so back to your slabs!" With a grunt, he muscled Chives's unconscious form onto the last of the flat stones and turned to see the others climbing atop theirs. "I must ask you to remain as motionless as you can throughout this process. For once I've begun, I sincerely doubt I can stop."

A general murmur rose from the six of them, Ms. Rarity gazing at him with something close to the dewy look she'd worn at the start of their first meeting back in Canterlot. "Good luck, Prince Blueblood."

Snorting, he let his nervousness feed his sarcasm and his ego. "Luck will have nothing to do with it, thank you. And perhaps it didn't occur to you, but when I said 'don't move,' I meant your jaw as well."

Her lips went thin, and she threw herself backwards onto the slab, the light of her horn flickering out. Silently breathing a sigh of relief—she was a complication he most certainly did not need—Blueblood couldn't help but swallow at the winds roaring outside. "Stand by, then," he said into the shadowy dimness that filled the chamber. Bending down, he nosed his cloak open and closed his teeth around the hilt of Green Briar's dagger tucked there. He held it aloft and spun the smallest levitation spell he knew, something just strong enough to raise the knife into the air.

Light burst through the room as if the entire castle had caught fire, and the trap Green Briar had set for him snapped shut. It ripped into Blueblood's body and tore every last drop of magical energy from him, the pain more intense than any he'd ever felt. Before he could cry out, though, the magic flooded back—he was standing at the center of Green Briar's pattern, after all—and filled him to overflowing, power pouring into him in orders of magnitude far greater than that which had just been wrenched from him.

Where it might've come from, he had no idea at first, but then his magically enhanced senses showed him the fiery sheets of energy rippling upward from the figures on the slabs, each sheet dangling but a few tendrils to stroke the pony lying beneath it. And while he certainly didn't understand the intricacies of the Octopony spell, the jagged edges at the bottom of those sheets made him think of the dagger and the cutting motions Zecora had described. For if Green Briar had slashed the life energies from these ponies and was using the vast majority of it to fuel himself and his spell—

Quickly, he used the power engorging him to send the dagger slashing at the top of the sheets where they disappeared through the ceiling. They split like damp paper, the cacophonous clangor of it making him recall the time he'd pushed a nosy reporter into an open grand piano. Each sheet dropped as heavily as a collapsing brick wall over the pony below it, and their eyes all bulged, their bodies going stiff. Thick strands still reached out to Blueblood, though; slicing through them, he gasped to feel the power rush out of him again, the room snapping over into darkness once more.

He staggered back, hoping he'd guessed correctly, and his ears pricked at a shriek echoing from outside. Letting the knife drop, he turned, took one step toward the doorway and the light showing through it from the castle courtyard—

And the light vanished with a huge thunderclap, the stones shaking beneath his hoofs. At his next step, rain crashed down in a solid mass, water like a curtain on the other side of the arch. He raced out regardless, shrugging the hood of his cloak over his head as he ran. Barely able to see two yards in front of him, Blueblood pushed through the gate into the clear area between the castle wall and the ravine, craned his head upward, and couldn't stop himself from shouting, "Dash! Rainbow Dash! Can you hear me?!"

In the waterfall roar of the rain, he could barely hear himself, and when lightning crackled on the other side of the tree canopy, the thunder smashed against his ears almost immediately. He refused to let himself think how hard it must be raining above the branches and instead tried to think how he could get up there. With the Octopony spell broken, the two pegasi in the castle might soon be recovered enough to fly. He would get them to—

A blast of wind bent the trees into a crazy thrashing dance, Blueblood wincing back against a sudden burst of water from directly above. Coughing, he glanced back up and almost thought he saw a winged figure descending rapidly through the storm, another figure seemingly draped across its front legs. He blinked, looked again, and saw it more clearly, the figure landing hard in the dirt not far from where he stood, the sky-blue of her wings shining in the next lightning flash.

"Dash!" He sprinted along the castle wall and reached her, down on her side and panting. The other figure lay sprawled in the mud beside her, the unicorn so heavily-scarred, Blueblood barely recognized him as Green Briar.

With some quick telekinesis, Blueblood stripped the cloak from his own back and draped it over Dash, but he had to jump when she snapped her head up, her face wild and frantic. "No time!" she shouted over another roll of thunder. "All the weather magic Green Briar was flinging around must've fouled every system from here to Manehattan! He's spun up a storm like nothing I've ever even heard about!" She slung his cloak back at him, her wings flaring. "Was everypony OK on the slabs?"

"Fine! But what're you—?!"

"Forty-five minutes!" She leaped into the torrents flooding down around them. "I'm guessing that's when the real storm gets here, and if we don't wrestle it down, half of Equestria'll be underwater! So tell Gusty to rouse up every pegasus in Ponyville, then you get Rarity and Fluttershy and Zecora and the rest of them out of this forest and back to town! This place'll be the epicenter even if we do get a handle on it, and I don't want any ponies down here when it hits! So go!" Whooshing straight up, she vanished.

Not stopping to think, he cast a spell to sling Green Briar across his back, a feeble cough telling Blueblood his arch nemesis had survived yet again. "Gusty!" he yelled, and running through the castle gate once more, he wheeled around the corner into the room where he'd left the others.

Except for Chives, they were all on their hoofs again and much more alert than before. The tan pegasus was turning to look over her shoulder, so Blueblood barked out Dash's orders as authoritatively as he knew how.

At least this Gusty seemed to grasp the severity of the situation. Without a single question, she sprang into the air and sped outside. "Now!" Blueblood spun to face the others. "Ms. Dash informs me that this area will quickly become unsafe due to the winds and the rain!" Extending his spell, he grabbed Chives, draped him beside Green Briar, and bound the two of them together across his back with his cloak. "As unpleasant as it will be, we must proceed on hoof for Ponyville." He aimed his glare at the zebra. "I don't suppose you know these woods well enough to lead the way?"

She gave a sniff. "I trust that I can find the path despite the raging weather's wrath."

Her words sparked the darkest level of his imagination, and it spat up an image of Dash impaled by lightning, the gale-force winds hurtling her body into the stratosphere or slamming her to the ground. "Confound it!" He stomped a hoof. "Why then are you all standing around like morons?! You, zebra, will make for town as quickly as you can! The rest of you will follow her, I shall bring up the rear, and I promise, any pony who lollygags or drops behind, I shall mercilessly chivy along with rough language and possibly even biting! Now, we shall be on our way!"

***

She felt like a filly out on her first weather flight, the wind slamming and roaring around her in a way she'd almost forgotten nature could. Air like this was no pony's friend, and she found herself using every bit of her training as well as every wing roll, hoof jab, and body spin she learned these last couple years on the job just to keep the storm from smashing her to rainbow colored bits. "Not today!" she shouted into the teeth of it more than once, the memory of Blueblood's smile warming her against the lashing rain. "Maybe someday, yeah, but not today!"

Green Briar's spell had sent stress fractures through the entire atmosphere as near as Dash could tell, multiple eyewalls forming, heat exchanges trying to swirl into existence, and convection waves deepening everywhere she looked. She knew that the crazier the storm, the more subtle a pony had to be with it, but smoothing over the damage in one piece of sky just seemed to make cracks burst out somewhere else. Where in Celestia's name was the rest of the—

A whistle cut through the screaming wind, the simple cadences of the standard 'here and ready' signal. Dash pulled up and felt more than saw the five dozen spots of warmth whisking in her direction. Swooping toward them, she fired off whistle signals of her own, directing the night shift pegasi to keep the smaller storms that were spinning off the super storm from expanding into civilized territory, the swing shift pegasi to do what they could over the Everfree itself, and the day shift to follow her.

Whistles of 'OK, got it' reached her, and twenty ponies shot through the air to surround her. "OK!" she shouted. "Hope you got your big pony wings on! Because we either knock this monster down, or we got no homes to come back to! Is that understood?!"

Manes and tails dripping, they were still grinning like true weather wranglers. Dash snapped them her sharpest salute. "Company?! Fall in!" She turned and dove with her team into the very heart of the onrushing super storm.

***

The slog was every bit as horrible as Blueblood had thought it would be, the hard and constant rain making the mud cold and slippery. After Dash's friend Fluttershy had nearly collapsed the third time under the weight of her waterlogged wings, Blueblood had heaved a loud sigh and had begun to say that he would carry her alongside the two unconscious ponies he already had slung over his back. But Ms. Rarity had cut him off with a look that could've curdled milk, had informed him that his help was in no way necessary, and had wedged herself against the swaying pegasus's side. They both kept themselves upright and moving, at least, and that was all Blueblood would let himself focus on.

Fortunately the others seemed to be made of sterner stuff, and even more fortunately, Zecora actually proved to know where she was going. The trees thinned after half an hour's march, and they came out from under the canopy at the edge of the forest, open sky over his head for the first time in what seemed like days.

In another small mercy, the rain had begun falling with less severity as well—he'd been more than a little worried about how bad the deluge might be once they no longer had the branches to partially deflect it. It was still a downpour to be sure, but he could actually see a few hundred feet across the meadows, the roar of the water dropping to more of a sizzling sound now. "Head for the library!" he called to Zecora. It was the closest large public building he know of in town, and he needed to utilize whatever direct line to Canterlot Ms. Sparkle possessed.

The rain continued to decline in ferocity during the next half hour's miserable plodding, and Blueblood began noticing pegasi darting through the clouds. His heart quickened every time he detected movement, but it slumped again so hard when no rainbow trailed in the figure's wake that he forced his gaze to remain on the ground, his mind not wanting to think about her but unable to think about anything but her.

At last the outskirts of Ponyville come into view, every shutter firmly latched against the weather, and Zecora led their sodden steps to the front door of the library. She tapped a front hoof against it, but by this time, all Blueblood could see was an obstacle he could finally overcome; shouldering past the others, he spun and lashed out with his hind legs, channeling every last ounce of his current frustrations into the kick.

The door shattered, and he gestured to the open-mouthed ponies in his group. "Inside! Now!" He stumbled in himself, shrugged Green Briar and Chives off onto the floor, and managed a bow to Ms. Sparkle, staring back at him from where she stood by the library's fireplace with her dragon and two earth ponies, one the farmer he'd brushed past earlier and the other the odd baker. "My apologies, Ms. Sparkle," he told her. "But we have something of an emergency."

The next half hour flashed by in a flurry of activity, Ms. Sparkle bundling Zecora and the others in blankets and tea and settling them onto cushions before her fireplace while Blueblood commandeered Spike to get word through to Auntie. Fears still lingered in his mind about what Green Briar's Octopony spell might have done to the princesses, but the message that the little dragon coughed up in answer to Blueblood's note was overflowing with reassurance. Both Celestia and Luna were well and were much more concerned about the storm than they'd ever been for their own safety.

His second message filled in what details he knew—writing Rainbow Dash's name made his horn falter and the quill shake, but he forced himself to continue—and he asked for a troop of soldiers with an armored chariot to transport the two prisoners back to Canterlot. Auntie's reply informed him that she'd just dispatched the soldiers, but the turbulence of the super storm made flying with any sort of chariot simply too dangerous. Since the weather had also delayed the regular morning train from Ponyville back to Canterlot, the soldiers were bearing a message to the station master requisitioning one of the carriages. Blueblood was to wait for the armed pegasi at the station with his prisoners, then return with them to headquarters for debriefing.

He glanced over to where he'd dumped the two beside the improvised door the earth pony farmer had put together to keep the storm out. The bare flicker of Green Briar's magical aura told Blueblood that the unicorn remained unconscious, but Chives's cold, sullen eyes were staring directly at him.

And as much as Blueblood wanted to get up and kick those eyes closed once more, the awful little nagging voice of his doubts started whispering to him as it had for most of the day: All your fault, it told him. If you'd treated Chives better, he wouldn't've sold you out to Green Briar. Green Briar wouldn't've been able to do any of the things he did today, and Rainbow Dash wouldn't be out there now getting torn to shreds by this—

Springing to his hoofs, Blueblood stomped across the room, fired his levitation spell at the cloak that bound Chives and Green Briar, and slapped the whole thing across his back, the hood stretching just enough to cover his head. Focusing the spell on the make-shift door, he lifted it out of the way and stepped into the rain.

"Your Highness?" a tentative voice asked, and he looked back to see Ms. Sparkle, a cup of tea suspended in the purple pulse of her magic. "Is...is everything all right?"

No! he wanted to bellow at her, but instead he forced a smile, his still-damp mane hanging in tendrils before his face. "I've been ordered to escort the prisoners back to Canterlot on the next train. Again, please forward the bill for repairing your door to me at the palace." He slid the piece of wood back into place over the opening, turned, and began his march through the soggy streets.

Because he couldn't deny it. All of this was his fault. And Dash, he knew, would figure that out as soon as she had a minute to think about it—with all the smart and clever ponies he'd met working for the Clandestine Corps, he'd never met another as intrinsically sharp as Rainbow Dash. She would put all the pieces together, and once she came to realize what he'd done not just to her but to her town and to her princesses—

At the very least, she'd certainly never want to see him again.

So. Back to the station. Back to Canterlot. Back to being the same horrible pony he'd always been, living among ponies every bit as horrible, and hoping his next assignment—

Hoping his next assignment might finally be the one he didn't come back from...

***

The tipping point wasn't any one thing—it never was with a really big storm. But Dash could still feel it when the torrential rains and winds subsided just to the other side of the line that divided 'uncontrolled' from 'controlled.' Even better, that moment came more quickly than she'd imagined: not even an hour and a half after Green Briar's snarl of victory had crumpled into a howl of defeat, his wings and power vanishing and all Tartarus breaking loose.

She gave a couple blinks, took a couple sniffs, let the air rush through her pinions to make sure, then finished her arc over the top of the main supercell. Her whistle got Thunderlane's attention, and she dropped into the space beside him at the front of the team carving chunks of cloud from the storm's perimeter. "You guys got this?!"

He looked at her, the swirling wall behind him towering a good seventy thousand feet into the air. "Oh, yeah!" he shouted. "No problem!"

She punched his shoulder and swooped away, knowing they could manage it. This close to the Everfree, Ponyville's weather wranglers had to be the best. Besides, she had some urgent business to take care of.

Because for all that she'd had a few other things on her mind, she'd found Blueblood not far from the center of her thoughts the whole time. Without him unplugging Green Briar when he did, that would've been it for, like, all of Equestria. And she trusted him with the even more important job of getting her friends out of the forest before the storm could hit. Knowing that he was down there taking care of things had let her focus on all the stuff going on up here, and she wanted to tell him that. She wanted to tell him a lot of things, wanted to hear if he maybe had any things he wanted to tell her, things he might maybe say in the sweet deep voice he slipped into when he wasn't wearing his whole snooty 'Your Highness' face and pretending to be the pony she absolutely knew by now he wasn't.

Or something like that.

Streaking through the more corralled parts of the storm system, she tingled like the times she and the girls had faced down Nightmare Moon and Discord and the changelings. Except that this right now was even better. Not to say anything bad about AJ and Twilight and the others, of course, but this had been just her, Rainbow Dash, and just him, Agent Blueblood of the Clandestine Corps. And while the guys she'd dated since flight school had all promised her fun and excitement, not a one of them had given her anything even close to a day like this.

A little cloud ahead was trying to form up into a thunderhead; she did a loop around it before stomping it into vapor, then she shot out query whistles to the ponies riding the air around her. The signals she got back were all positive, and she finally skated over the Everfree boundary into Ponyville territory with the rain stroking her back more softly and gently than any she'd felt all day. Blueblood would've headed for Twilight's place, she was sure, so he could let his spy bosses in Canterlot know he had Green Briar. Angling her flight to land her right in front of the library tree, she reached for the door—

Or not the door. A big sheet of wood stood leaning over the hole where the door used to be.

But the storm shouldn't've hit town that hard, not unless somepony on the night crew had really messed up. Stepping forward, she nudged her nose at the crack, slid it aside, and slipped in, calling out, "Knock, knock! Anypony home?"

"Rainbow Dash!" A pink blur swooshed from the library's main room, and the tiny bit of uncertainty that had been floating around in Dash's middle vanished, all her friends sitting there...except Pinkie who was now hopping up and down in front of her. "We were all so worried about you! Well, OK, not really worried 'cause, I mean, you're Rainbow Dash! No stupid bunch of clouds or evil magical mad geniuses could ever do anything to you!"

She touched a hoof to Pinkie's nose. "Pinkie? I'm still in a little hurry right now." Because the one face she realized she wasn't seeing here meant she had more work to do. Moving past Pinkie, she focused on Rarity, bundled up next to Fluttershy on a cushion beside the fireplace. "Look, Rare, I know this prob'bly isn't the right way to do this, but like I said, I'm not quite done today, so I'll just say it flat out." She swallowed, her heart pounding, rainwater dripping from her wings and mane. "If you still want Blueblood, tell me, and I'll back right off right now. Because you and me? We're friends. So say the word, and you'll never hear me bring it up again, OK?"

Silence froze the room, Rarity looking like somepony'd just told her the cocoa she was sipping was really mud. "Blueblood?! Are you mad?! After the way he treated me today?! And not to mention poor Fluttershy!"

Fluttershy's face became as pink as her mane. "It was fine, Rarity, really. He was only offering to—"

"Ha!" Turning her head away, Rarity closed her eyes and pushed her lower lip out. "If I never see that blackguard again, I shall count my life as one well lived!"

The pounding in Dash's chest turned to something more like a soaring, and she felt a goofy smile spreading over her face. "You mean that?"

Rarity looked back, and Dash could almost smell the ozone of her brain straining not to put the pieces together. "Rainbow? You...you can't seriously be saying that you...that you—!" She flailed her hoofs at the ceiling. "But he's so horribly obnoxious!"

Mostly because she knew it would drive her friend crazy, Dash put an edge on her smile and said, "Isn't he, though?"

With a little choking sound, Rarity's jaw dropped, and Dash turned to Twilight. "Where'd Blueblood go, anyway?"

From the way Twilight's brow was wrinkling, Dash figured she didn't even know there were any pieces to put together. "Well, he said he'd been ordered to take the prisoners back to Canterlot, so—"

"Canterlot?!" Dash couldn't keep from leaping into the air. "Did he say—?! I mean, did he leave a...a note or anything?!"

More confusion filled Twilight's face, and it was Rarity who spoke, her voice quiet and trembling: "Oh, Rainbow Dash, you mustn't blame yourself. Prince Blueblood, he's...he's not to sort who leaves notes."

Dash held up a hoof, her mind flying faster than when she'd been wrangling the super storm. "They couldn't've flown Green Briar out, and the way this weather's all because of his spell, I'm betting magic wouldn't've worked, either. Which means—" She spun, blasted around the wood covering the doorway, and arched herself through the rain outside so quickly, she didn't feel one drop. A trail of smoke puffs from the other side of town told her the train had pulled out of the station maybe two minutes ago, but she knew she could catch it no problem. The only question was—

It nearly froze her in place in the gray, chilly air. Should she catch it? Should she bash her way on board, grab Blueblood—Prince Blueblood, she had to remind herself, Princess Celestia's nephew, whatever in Equestria that meant—and demand that he tell her—

Tell her what?

'Cause what if Rarity was right? What if he was just an obnoxious, stuck-up, lousy—?

But he wasn't! Not really! Not more than Dash was herself, anyway... Because she knew she'd seen the real him a couple times today, and what she'd seen, she...she kind of liked.

She reached the station then, the lights reflecting in the splashing puddles along the platform. Pulling into a hover, she stared down the tracks. If today really had meant nothing to him, fine. Whatever. She was Rainbow Dash, right? She could get any guy she wanted any time she wanted!

A shiver rustled through her, and she told herself it was from the cold. But if he really wanted to vanish from her life and slink back into the towers of Canterlot, he would have to tell her that to her face. She bunched up her wings, ready to take off after the—

"Dash!" a voice gasped from the platform to her right, and she snapped her head over to see the shadows move, a figure emerging in a soaked and muddy cloak, blue eyes bright, a smile spreading over his muzzle.

Her heart jumped into her throat, and it took her a couple seconds to swallow it. "Oh. There you are," she said not quite as coolly as she wanted to, and she flapped over to settle on the platform beside him. "I—" She had to clear her throat again, and as much as she wanted to, she found she couldn't look at him and get words out at the same time. So she faced forward and watched the raindrops spatter. "I thought maybe you'd left. I mean, since you had to take Green Briar back to Canterlot and all."

"I couldn't." It was barely a whisper, but it hit her ears harder than the thunder she'd had crashing around her all morning. She stole a glance over and saw he wasn't looking at her, either, his gaze fixed on the tracks, wet and shiny in the dimness. "Not without telling you..." The air turned solid in her lungs, but then he finished: "How sorry I am about all this."

"What?!" Dash felt like she'd finally been hit by one of the thousands of lightning bolts she'd been dodging. "You're sorry?!"

He whirled on her, real pain in his eyes. "If I hadn't been such a bloated, pompous ass the past several years, I would've stopped Green Briar long before this and would never have put you in such terrible danger!"

It took a second for his words to sink in, and when they did, she couldn't help laughing out loud. "Wait! That's what you're sorry about? Putting me in danger?"

His expression hardened, started edging toward his Royal Whoness face. "Yes, it was unforgivable, but I don't see what's so funny about—"

"You wanna know?" She couldn't keep the grin off her face. "See, I was afraid you might say you were sorry you ever met me."

He blinked, then huffed out something that could've been a laugh. "Oh, no," he murmured, turning back to the tracks again. "I shall never be sorry about that. For you see, I seem to have fallen utterly, madly—one might even say stupidly—in love with you, Rainbow Dash."

***

"Sir?" the captain had asked, the other pegasi in the troop securing hoofcuffs around Chives and Green Briar as well as sliding an inhibitor ring over Green Briar's horn. "Our orders are to leave for Canterlot immediately."

But Blueblood had found himself unable to step aboard the car. "There's one more thing I need to do, captain." Even if Dash never wanted to see him again, he had to apologize to her pony to pony. He owed her so much more, but he couldn't imagine she'd accept even that... "Go on ahead. I...I'll catch the next train."

The captain had shrugged, saluted, signaled the conductor, and Blueblood had stepped back into the meager shelter of the station wall to watch the train pull out. Never mind that he was disobeying direct orders. He had to tell Dash—

Not just that he was sorry, though that had to come first, of course. No, he also had to tell her how much she'd inspired him today. Tell her how all he wanted to do with the rest of his life was make her happy...even if that meant leaving so she would never have to see him again. Tell her how, of all the revelations he'd had as large chunks of his life had begun crumbling to pieces around him during these past twenty-four hours, the revelation that she'd sparked in him with her steadfastness and grace, the revelation that he could actually feel this way about another pony—

And then she was there, hovering above the tracks, and he stepped forward calling her name, his heart suddenly too big for his body. She came over, and when he tried to apologize, she laughed. Laughed! As if the way he'd thrown her into the midst of the worst storm Equestria had ever seen was all in a day's work for her! The old part of him tried to rise up all haughty and resentful at this, of course, but the new part popped that bubble pretty easily by speaking the simple honest truth in the way he'd been doing since meeting her: "I seem to have fallen utterly, madly—one might even say stupidly—in love with you, Rainbow Dash."

He hadn't been able to look at her while saying it, and even in the silence that followed, the only sound the constant hiss of the rain falling around them, he still couldn't look, more terrified of her eyes at that moment than of anything he'd ever encountered before.

"Huh," she finally said. "OK. I guess I can see how that might happen."

Her cavalier tone froze him solid, but she was going on. "I mean, it's like when you see some guy at the train station, and he's this jerk who once blew off your friend. But then, y'know, what with one thing and another, you end up saving each other's lives and stopping some bigger jerk from taking over the world, and, well..." Movement caught the corner of his vision, Dash stepping directly in front of him, those incredible violet eyes fixing him like he'd been run through with a spear. "And you maybe get to thinking you'd like to get to know this guy better." She was moving again, her neck stretching, her lips—

Oh, her lips touched his so soft and gentle but so firm and assured, like she'd kissed ponies before but wasn't quite sure how to do it in this particular situation. At least, that was how Blueblood felt, the memory of every other mare he'd ever kissed puffing away like smoke and leaving him as uncertain and wonder-filled as a colt at his first dance.

How long it went on, he had no idea...except that when she stepped back, her chest heaving as much as his, he realized it had been much, much too short. Unfortunately, that was also when reality chose to crash down around him, and he heard himself blurting out, "I can't leave the Corps!"

She blinked those beautiful violet eyes. "I'm not asking you to. Just like you're not asking me to leave Ponyville." Those eyes narrowed. "You're not asking me to leave Ponyville, are you?"

He cleared his throat. "Well, now that I know better, I'm not."

For a moment, he just looked at her, the rain pattering down. Then he was laughing, the situation too absurd for any other reaction, and Dash was joining in. "Maybe one thing at a time?" she asked after a moment.

"I should say so." He touched her face, the pure happiness he saw there reflected twenty times over in his chest. "After all, how did you put it? We just saved the world. We should be able to come up with some solution here." He turned a sour look upward. "Perhaps if we get out of this blasted rain..."

"OK," she said simply. Her legs flexing and her wings flaring, she shot up from the station platform like an explosive device, the blue streak of her reaching the clouds in a fraction of an instant. A flash of rainbow sparked where she hit and spread out in an irregular pattern, a crack of thunder folding his ears. The clouds seemed to boil, melting away like snow on an April morning, and a large, heart-shaped patch of blue sky opened up above him. It grew wider as he stood gaping until, with one final raindrop tapping his nose, it uncovered the sun, and another larger rainbow blossomed where clouds still floated over the Everfree Forest.

The blue streak descended, Blueblood not wanting to blink for fear of missing yet another of her marvels. Dash gave her wings a little flip as she landed in front of him, that glorious grin on those delicious lips. "You want anything else, your Whoness, you just let me know."

"Well, actually," he said; leaning forward, he reached for her—

And her front legs were wrapping around his neck, her lips pressing his more fervently than before. He caught her up, held her so perfect and warm, and knew his life was never going to be the same again.

***

"Ha ha!" Luna crowed, dancing through the spaces between space to the platform atop Canterlot Tower, the note dancing with her in the dark light of her horn. "Didn't I say it? Didn't I?"

Smiling that little smile of hers, Celestia cocked her head. "Good news, I take it, Starry?"

She wafted the note toward her sister. "Double-O-Zeta! Not only does he stop the threat of the Octopony by capturing Green Briar before he can do more than foul up the weather a bit, but then he also requests permission to form a new branch of the Clandestine Corps centered in Ponyville! And look who he's requesting be granted admission into the Corps' ranks! Look!"

Celestia was glancing along the page and nodding. "Spitfire's already in the Double-O program; she'd make a perfect mentor for young Dash, I would think."

"And you'd think correctly!" Luna did a few more steps of some gavotte or other she hadn't remembered she even knew till just then. "But isn't this what I said? Having succeeded, Blueblood will now enter into a life more wonderful than anything he's ever dreamed!"

That lecturing look started to come over Celestia's face. "Let's not get carried away, now, Starry. These are promising first steps, but Prince Blueblood's journey will no doubt be—"

"Nonsense!" Luna brushed the idea aside with a toss of her mane. "You mark my words, Sunny: Blueblood will soon become not just a credit to the Corps but a credit to all Equestria!"

"Indeed." Celestia's smile came back. "You know, you almost speak of him as if he were your faithful student."

Ready to laugh, Luna paused. She'd not had a student of her own since, well, since she last danced a gavotte, truth to tell....

"And will you grant his request?" Celestia asked.

Luna pretended to be thinking it over. "I don't know. Haven't we had enough excitement around here recently?"

Her horn flickering, Celestia laughed, and the reins of the world snapped away from her directly into Luna's face. "You, my dear sister, have not seen anything yet."

Adjusting creation's joyous weight across her back, Luna pursed her lips. "I believe the phrase is, 'You ain't seen nothing yet.'"

With a wink, Celestia flowed away into the gathering evening. "Well, if you want to be ungrammatical about it..."

Comments ( 86 )

And there it is!

A couple thousand more words than I expected, but, well, you can't have everything. 'Cause, I mean, where would you put it?

Mike

Interesting, I haven't read this yet but I am about to. I have an idea that seems to be somewhat similar to this (Rainbow Dash with a 007 swing to it) I may write it, may not... But i cant wait to dive into this!

"Well, if you want to be ungrammatical about it..."

:twilightoops:

Oh yeah. That was awesome! :rainbowkiss:

Don't know what plans you have, if any, regarding this story, but I certainly wouldn't be adverse to a sequel. :pinkiehappy:

Sequel or no, I am definitely watching for what you write next.

Hrm. You know, secret agent Blueblood is actually coming pretty close to replacing my headcanon right now. Another story, and you might even have it.
I look forward to seeing what you write next.

Absolutely spledifferous

Seeing that ship I was a bit afraid that this might end like "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
Thank you for not doing that.
If you write a sequel, remember to put in "You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look GOOD." That line may not be Bond, but it is sooo Rainbow Dash. :rainbowkiss:

B-b-b-b-baby you just ain't seen nothin' yet...

Admittedly; I've never seen a James Bond movie, but if they're all as good as this I should go pick up a DVD pack from Walmart of somthin'. If you ever think up some grand sequel to this, I'll read it in a heart beat.

Excellent ending, and let me join the chorus begging for a sequel.

I trust there will be more:trixieshiftright:

Well, the resolution for this was awesome indeed. The fight was very nice and engaging and the pacing of the last two chapters was very well handled.

It was an interesting twist that the real threat to Equestria was the storm resulting from Briar's actions rather than the unicorn himself. Blueblood being assertive in the face of what had happened to him was also a nice piece of character development, although I did end up feeling that he ought to have a little bit more time to showcase just why he's thought of as the best agent on the payroll.

Also on the department of things I didn't quite get, just how was the spell triggered in the end? Were they not out of its range when Blueblood freed them from their bonds?

Now, if I were a mature, sensible reader I'd say that ending where you did was the perfect place to do it as the story had already been told in full, all i's dotted and all t's crossed. That said, I will now proceed to my impersonation of a raving fanboy.

OMFG you need to make a sequel for this thing! It's great! What's going to happen with Dash in the service? Will she accept? What about Rarity? I don't care what she says, she sees Dash and Blueblood out one day and she's going to want a piece of that flank for herself or I'll eat my hat. If they get together and end up married, does that make Dash nobility? (poor, poor country).

Moar Luna! She had 3 pages in the story or thereabouts and they were great! She deserves more page :P

Great job man, looking forward to more of your work even if you decide to shelf this particular AU.

The heart-shaped cloud felt a touch heavy handed but that's the only tiny petty criticism I can level at this. Lovely as always. You perfectly captured BB and RD. Any chance you plan to do more in this universe?

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Thanks, folks!

Next up from me is actually a sequel to the story of mine that's so far proven to be the least popular here on FiMFiction, my nearly-clopless clopfic "Biology: A Romance." "History: A Romance Continued" should take up most of my Pony writing time for the rest of the year (and will likely have even less clop in it than "Romance" does), and after that I might just see about writing the Princess Cadance story that Skywriter accidentally suggested to me last month.

I'd definitely enjoy visiting this version of Blueblood and Dash again mostly to see how Blueblood and Ponyville react to each other. Gotta get a good maguffin for it, though: some fiend that needs vanquishing or some important object that needs securing. I always hafta start a story outline with "a person in a place with a problem," and in a spy story, well, that problem's always gotta be something world-shattering, doesn't it? :pinkiehappy:

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As for the Octopony spell, Green Briar has a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A uses Blueblood as its trigger, but Dash stops that one from happening. So Green Briar initiates Plan B, the one with the dagger, at the end of Act II, and casts the spell that way instead.

The chemistry between Luna and Blueblood really took me by surprise, I hafta admit, and pretty much forced me to add those two scenes between Celestia and Luna to dig a little more into what was going on there. That's always a fun part of the writing process, the way my brain sometimes does things without running them by me first... :pinkiecrazy:

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Dash punching a heart-shaped hole in the clouds was the very first image that came into my head once I had the basic outline of the story, to tell the truth, so I felt duty-bound to include it. I'm a sucker for that kinda happy-ending stuff... :twilightblush:

Mike

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Evil guy wants to spark a war between the Diamond Dogs and the Griffins.

1691217 *laughs* I totally understand you there, it wasn't really meant to be a big deal just mior quirk. but it did make me groan and smile.

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Eh, I think the best part of writing is when you realize your characters do things without bothering to ask your permission. Then, when you stop you look at the page and realize there is no way you can delete all those pages you just wrote and still be telling a story about those characters.

In regards to your future prospects, I will read your other work and see what you come up with. If this is the bar for your quality, the rest must also be well written. I may not like other stories as much as this, but good writing deserves to be read!

As to needing a someone, somewhere with something of a problem? I totally agree. That it needs to be world shattering? Not necessarily... Unlike Bond, Blueblood is not only a spy but a noble in and of himself. Who's to say he doesn't stumble onto some uncomfortable secret some other noble doesn't want to make public? No world ending there, but there's a lot of potential for personal discomfort :P.

Okay, that was a crack paring to be true, but also a fun read. Well done. I don't see many authors portray ol' Blueblood sympathetically without trying to "fix" him.

Edit: this story also agreed with my head-canon, where the princesses are grooming the mane six for duty to the nation...

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Yeah, vanquish so we an watch!
Wait, that came out wrong...:facehoof:

Rainbow dash/Prince blueblood is a new one for me but I love it already since blueblood barely gets any pairings and when he does its with the great and annoying trixie.(no offence to trixie/blueblood shippers out there) This was a very good story.:twilightsmile:

Nicely done. A bit of That Escalated Quickly (not much, just a bit) on the pairup; part of me would have liked a shaky-but-hopeful end that would let us extrapolate to future adventures (even if you aren't planning on writing any). But all in all, an excellent addition to my faves library.

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I always have trouble:

Writing romance 'cause I've never actually been involved in one. :twilightblush: But, yeah, the rules for the contest that put the initial idea for this story into my head stipulated that it must be ponies who don't have a lotta romance stories written about them and that they must end up happy and together at the end. Still, if there is a second story, it'd hinge on the two of them realizing the practical difficulties of their relationship and working to overcome them 'cause, well, turns out I'm all about the "happily ever after" thing.

A question, though, if I might. The two strikes this story's gotten from the pre-readers at Equestria Daily have focused largely on its "awkward phrasing." From the specific examples they gave me, I came to the conclusion that they didn't care for my use of absolute constructions, and since that's nearly my favorite thing in English grammar, I've spent the past several days rewriting a fair percentage of the story to eliminate all such sentences that I could find. I'm curious if you recall anything that particularly tripped you up in your reading.

Anyway, I'm glad you liked the story!

Mike

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No particular examples leap to mind, although I must admit that the absolute construction has never bothered me much.

Love the adventure-y bits. As far as a secret agent fic using Blueblood goes? This is great. Character growth using said fic? Absolutely amazing. I think the story had some minor pacing issues towards the end of the first chapter; the elements you put into play were well orchestrated, and often when I found myself thinking "he could have done so and so", the next paragraph would show why you did differently. Very competently written, with one minor complaint.

And the problem, I think, is that I call it a "Minor" complaint. I speak of the romance bits.

If this fic didn't have a romance tag, if it instead fixed on Blueblood's changes (and they were excellent!), that'd be great, but the romance feels shoehorned. Take this with a grain of salt considering that I have particular tastes, but it felt like an attraction build on a relationship build on an attraction built on--what, exactly? When RD and BB both made comments on each others' physiques at their first meetings/sightings, I kind of had to stop and re-read it. I don't know if it was tone-breaking, but it felt very out of place, especially for Dash.

Then it just sort of kept happening. Let me jump to the end here before I sound way harsh; Blueblood's thoughts about RD before he left the library were very, very good, but they could've just as well fit into a friendshipping framework. Everything else before that felt very baseless, and I just sat here thinking "why?"

I love shipping, I love adventure, and I absolutely do not believe that you need a long list of "why pony X loves pony Y". Furthermore, I feel a physical attraction relationship fits well with something secret agent-y. It just feels like you never really declared for a side on the romance aspects, and the result is me tilting my head everything something happens - like the little entendre during their first forest walk.

I don't say this because I would rather it wasn't a shipping fic, I just feel as it stands it's a great adventure fic that does BB, character growth and suspense credit, burdened by a slightly clumsy romance subtext that detracts from it. Lots of things I loved about it, and if I may say so (mostly to your comment above); I personally don't mind absolute constructions at all. I love the way it fits the theme here, and it plays into it.

1806207

Thank you:

So much for the comments! They pretty much parallel my own thoughts on how things turned out here. Because, see, every time I start a story, I like to try something new with it. Whether it's the sixth in the series I've been selling to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress anthology or my first My Little Pony novel, I just enjoy stretching myself toward things I'm not sure I know how to do. So when my first thought after stumbling over TAW's contest announcement was, "Oh, that's romance. I can't do that," well, I pretty much sealed my own fate right there.

I know I learned some things from writing this, and I'm definitely enjoying going through the other entries. I'll be reading and rereading them with a mind toward seeing what techniques I can pick up. :pinkiehappy:

Mike

In my opinion, I love 007 as much as the next guy, but this seems... not quite right. Phrases like "double O Zeta" don't exactly roll off the tongue. To me, this is a scrambled mess of 007 references and puns slopped on a page with a couple of ponies copy-pasted in. After reading, I'm not even sure what the plot is.

Please do not take this personally. It's just my opinion. There are some good things about it ^^ It's just not my cup of soup :twilightsmile:

1912133

Mmmmm:

Soup... :eeyup:

Mike

I would really, really like to a sequel to this epic fic :pinkiehappy:

I'm very glad to see this finally got a post-it from the other pre-readers. Welcome to the small cadre of Blueblood authors! This story made me laugh and smile, though funny enough I prefer the grittier Bonds and Bond movies, and this was quite carefree. But when you have a fun, quick read that leaves you wanting more, there's no cause to complain. Maybe the next one could be a spoof of the Bourne series? hahaha

1916485

I'm not sure:

But I think I may have stumbled across a title for a possible sequel the other day. I need to think about it, but it's a definite possibility at this point. :pinkiehappy:

1933364

Thank you!

Y'know, I was thinking about it, and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen an actual Bond film since Moonraker was first released. As I mentioned somewhere further upstream in these comments, this story ended up drawing a lot more on my memories of the old British TV series "The Avengers" with Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg than anything else. I haven't seen any of the Bourne films, either, but the concept fits so nicely into the possible title I've come up with for a sequel that I'm beginning to smell the hand of Destiny here... :twilightsmile:

Mike

I skipped this story when it popped up on EQD because of the pairing. After reading Chris' review on OMPR, I decided to give it a look, and I'm glad I did. It's a very enjoyable story and if anything could convince me that Bluedash could conceivably happen, this would be it. Thumbs up.

Well, I gotta say, I loved this. Maybe its because Blueblood isn't a character I usually read about (ok, I really don't at all) but I found this whole thing pretty unique and very entertaining. Aaaand now I like Bluedash. Stranger things have probably happened. :derpytongue2:

I really liked the bit at the end with Luna displaying her sneaky orchestrator skills - it was adorable. Personally, I don't feel like the romance was shoehorned in or anything. Could the story have existed without it? Yeah. Would I have enjoyed it as much? Probably not. Blueblood falling in love quickly - or at least thinking he's in love - makes sense, considering he's never really had any meaningful interaction before this point. Anyone who went out of their way to help him out for him, and not because he was ordering them to do it would probably have a much larger affect on him than on someone who may be more well adjusted to the reciprocal social scene.

Anywho, thanks for a super fun and entertaining read. If a sequel ever happened to pop up, I'd definitely read it :pinkiehappy:

So I really liked this and want to just make a few points:
1) I know everyone is saying the romance feels off, which makes me wonder "Have you never seen a Bond film?" From the start, I knew there had to be a romance angle to it - bond after all - and given that it wasn't going to be a deep romance. honestly given that I think you covered it well enough. As for escalating quickly...again, ever seen a Bond movie? He's in the pants of every girl he meets within, like, a minute. I think getting smooch-face with RD at the end is just fine (honestly I like it better as it seems less shallow)
2) I like stories like this that have two characters that bring out the best in each other, whether they are overall similar (such as BB and RD here) or radically different (like in "Fancy That" with Pinkie and fancy pants). I like that because...that's how it is (or should be). A couple should bring out the best in each other, compensating for the bad and multiplying the good. That sort of interaction gives me the warm fuzzies.
3) I absolutely love Luna in this story. She is wonderful. Especially her interaction with BlueBlood, especially after it was tempered by seeing her love for her subjects, including the one she just terrified.
4) The only issue is that sometimes it got hard to get what was happening. Especially at the castle. I was confused about the ritual blue blood did (less how it worked and more "what's happening"). Also ti was left ambiguous whether the spell was actually affecting the princesses. I got the impression that the spell was less what the princesses did to gain power, and more a short cut to alicornism some power mad mage thought up, and really had no impact on the princesses.

1966404
2001806

Thanks!

The whole point behind this one was to write an unusual ship, and I'm glad folks can get past the rancid smell of Blueblood's initial impression to give it a try. There will definitely be another story in this sequence--having Discord available now to be 'Q' in the Clandestine Corps is too good an opportunity to pass up, after all! :pinkiehappy:

2058975

Yeah, with the spell at the castle, I kind of wanted things to be a little confusing especially since it turns out that the spell doesn't do what Green Briar thinks it's going to do. Blueblood then pretty much improvises a spell out of the bits that Green Briar left behind and uses that spell to break the first one. So no one knows what's going on, but everything turns out all right in the end. :twilightsmile:

Mike

This was pure, unrestrained genius. It not only gives credibility to a crackship, but it does so with wit, humor, and a very well planned story. In fact, as far as shipfics go, I'd say it is second only to "It is always sunny in Fillydelphia", being slightly lower simply because their love comes a little too strong for two ponies that didn't really know each other before (not that strange considering it is Dash, but still).

But the story is the real stand-out here. X Pony is a secret agent has been done before, but certainly not with this level of writing. It is like Ian Flemming channeled Wodehouse, and I loved the creative word play, the clashing descriptions, and just about everything here. Maybe the action (what little there was) could have been a bit sharper, but that is more of a nitpick than anything, and certainly didn't impact my enjoyment.

I can't wait to read more on this continuity, so thank you very much for the great read.

2525614

Well, thank you right back!

The sequel will be called "PieFall," by the way--I don't know if I've mentioned that anywhere yet--and will start up once I finish this whole Cadance thing I'm currently knocking together. Before the end of summer, I'm hoping!

Mike

D48

This was fantastic. I really like stories that add more depth to characters that are left annoyingly shallow in the show, and Blueblood is at the top of this list with enough lines to not be a background pony or joke, but no personality beyond being an unbelievable one-dimensional hyper-asshole. You went above and beyond on this by making Blueblood into an interesting character, and then continued with an engaging story and a more idealized spin on the traditional bod romance that managed to feel about right given the characters and stress involved.

2527349 Two questions. One, do you have a better estimate of when PieFall will come out? And two, are you planning on posting a notification "chapter" at the end of this when it does? Just don't forget that little line about Spitfire mentoring Dash and everything should be great, especially with Discord making a guest appearance.

3008265

Thanks!

Right now, I'm working on the final chapter of my Cadance story, "Calling You," and I'm aiming to get it posted by August 12. I've then got three pieces of writing that I have to get to--revisions on two non-Pony novels and the remaining two or three chapters of my Pony mini-epic poem "The Laughter and the Night."

After that, I can get to chapter one of PieFall, tentatively titled "Live and Let Pie." I've already commissioned a lovely, lovely, lovely piece of cover art from the artist known on Deviant Art as Pinmissile, and I'm aiming for the last day of summer, Sept. 20, to get that first chapter up where folks can read it.

Mike

D48

3010888 Thanks for the update, and I am loving the cover art. It also makes me think that this next installment is going to have a lot of interesting drama given that Pinkie seems to be taking on the villain roll.:rainbowhuh:

Thoroughly enjoyable. A great take on Blueblood as a magnificent bastard in the Bond mold, a wonderful characterization of Rainbow Dash, and Luna playing the role of Judy Dench's M. Bravo! :rainbowdetermined2::duck:

3049054

Thanks!

I'm gearing up to start the sequel, Piefall, and hope to have the frst chapter, "Live and Let Pie," ready to post on or about Sept. 20th! :pinkiehappy:

Mike

3077434

Thanks!

I think.

Still, I guess it's like they say: "About the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE."

Mike

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I dunno about that shipping. I'll give it a 'you tried'. But the rest? Fantastic, utter joy to read. :D

3098296

The shipping:

Was the hardest part of this whole thing for me, but I'm hoping to develop it more in the next story as Dash and Blueblood start trying to make it work. We'll see what I can do with it at any rate. And thanks for all your comments! :twilightsmile:

Mike

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

3102218
3102253
>Piefall
Oh man, you're doing more of this? :D That's awesome!

3103173

I've already:

Commissioned the cover image if you want a bit of a spoiler, and I hope to have the first chapter, "Live and Let Pie," up here for folks to peruse on or about Sept. 20th.

Mike

Caught this little error while re-reading this fun fic.
Cause what it (if) Rarity

Always a pleasure to revisit a good fanfic.
EDIT
It seems I never fav'd this fic, and with the enjoyment I've gotten from it not just once but twice now... I think I'll use that oft forgotten tag. Let it be so.

3459224

Thanks for the catch:

And for the "thumb-up." I just finished the sequel, Piefall, last week if you haven't seen it yet... :twilightblush:

Mike

Well, after seeing how enthusiastic Chris was about this story, I figured I'd give it a read-through. All in all, it was... okay. The humour didn't make me laugh, the action didn't excite me, and the romance didn't engage me. It was a servicable story that ticked the boxes and seemed to be perfectly content with that. I can't offer much in the way of constructive criticism since my forte is more making bad into good than good into great, although a stronger villain, both in terms of presence and power, would have been quite welcome. Green Briar simply never felt threatening, no doubt a part of Blueblood and the narrative seeming to always downplay his abilities. When the story itself states that he's lost several times before it's hard for me sidle up to the edge of my seat and wonder how Blueblood is going to escape his clutches since, by most accounts, Briar is all about repeat performances. This problem is only exabberated by his anti-climatic defeat. The shipping also felt forced, especially when Blueblood did a nosedive into self-loathing. For a story that seems to draw inspiration from James Bond, it sure does eschew a lot of the things that make its inspiration memorable.

3512626

One of the basic problems I've always had with the story:

Is that, for all that I set it up as a James Bond parody, I've never really cared for James Bond and have maybe seen two or three of the movies from beginning to end. :twilightblush:

Sorry it didn't tick your boxes, but thanks for reading anyway!

Mike

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