• Published 2nd Jan 2013
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Slipping Through A Sideways Door - hornethead



A man accidently follows his friend, who was believed to be dead, to a strange and colorful land mired in conflict.

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A Parting

Chapter 36: A Parting

The palace was mostly silent now. No longer could the rush of attendants be heard through out the halls, nor the clash and clatter of food being prepared in the kitchens. Instead it had been replaced by the odd sounds of laughter, the racket of Renegades ransacking some of the rooms. The were the new occupants now, the rest of the Royal Guard having been killed or driven out.

Blueblood found it strangely melancholic as he made his way back to the throne room through the battle scarred corridors, but it didn't bother him much. After all, he was the ruler now. The capture of the major cities had been successful, even if there ere still some small pockets of resistance.

The civilian quarter of Canterlot was a particular headache. Off all the cities and towns throughout Equestria, it had yet to be fully conquered. A lot of the fleeing Guard and some of Celestia's pet RSTG members had escaped into the downtown area and held off the advance of his borrowed army. They had become considerably annoying in not bowing to his rule like the rest, but they were trapped there and would be annihilated soon enough.

He sighed as he pushed open the doors to the throne room and casually walked up towards the great chair on the raised dais while his personal attendants stood by for his orders. He leaned back into the throne in a huff and watched the moon beams stream through the tall windows of the room. He was starting to miss the sunlight.

He tapped a hoof on the side of the throne and one of his attendants rushed to bring him a glass of wine, from one of the bottles retrieved from the royal cellars. The attendant hurriedly ascended to the throne and retreated as Blueblood levitated the glass off the platter and raised it to his lips for a sip.

He barely had time to fully appreciate it and relax when a messenger burst in through the doors and galloped up to the base of the dais and bowed. Blueblood groaned and set the glass down beside him. "What is it?" He said.

"Prince Blu—"

"King." Blueblood corrected the messenger in a annoyed tone.

"M-my apologies, King Blueblood." The messenger stammered. "I'm sorry for the interruption, Your Majesty, but a representative from the Renegades has come to see you."

Blueblood lazily waved a hoof. "Hm, very well, send him in."

The messenger rushed back out the doors to let in their guest. A moment later, a lavishly robed Lotkin entered, flanked on either side by a squad of warriors. They stopped at the bottom of the dais, but didn't bow or otherwise acknowledged Blueblood, something that irked him some, though he didn't voice it.

"Ah, Kha'en. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" Blueblood grinned, though not entirely genuinely.

"I see that you are enjoying the fruits of our warriors' blood." Kha'en replied.

"Yes, indeed I am. I suppose you're here about payment? I'm sure you know your soldiers are taking what they please at the moment. If it's gold you want, I'm sure more could be mustered up."

Kha'en shook his head, "Our master does not require such things. Only that you allow the continuation of our activities and of course the eradication of the RSTG."

"I see, so business as usual. Then please tell me, why are you here?"

"I come with a message from our master, a warning, perhaps."

"So you say?"

"Yes and you should heed it. The Watcher has been interfering in the affairs of this world. Already, the stain of her meddling is apparent, it has been a much troubling pain." Kha'en explained.

Intrigued, Blueblood asked, "Really? Who is this 'Watcher', exactly?"

"You would not know her and I doubt that you could do much to stop her. But you should be aware, one who had once disappeared has returned, the Watcher's stain is upon him. It could be very troublesome for his reign." Kha'en told him.

Blueblood picked up his glass and took another sip. "Him? So it's only one poor peasant this 'Watcher' has lent her help to. Hardly a concern. I now have the most powerful army in the land! It is of no importance to me. If that is all you have come to tell me, then you may leave. I am tired and wish to relax."

If Kha'en was slighted by the unicorn's general disregard, he didn't show it. "My words have been passed." Was all he said before gathering his retinue and shuffling out the door of the throne room.

Once they had left, Blueblood drained the rest of the contents of his glass and sighed once again. Impatiently, he waved his attendant over to refill it. As the attendant did so, he asked, "Your Highness. Do you think he might have been talking about that one guy, the one from long ago?"

Blueblood huffed in anger. "You would do well to remember your place and never mention that to me again. And no, it couldn't be him, you simpleton. He died years ago. The worst he could do is molder in his pauper's grave."

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James was jostled awake. He sat up in the back seat he was napping in and rubbed his face before glancing out the window. Low branches and thick brambles shot by. They his another bump and the chassis shook. In the driver's seat, Quick Fix was still on the wheel, navigating the vehicle through the rough terrain. She looked tired. A second later, James realized they were heading up a slope.

"We getting close yet?" James asked, peering out the windshield at the rugged old trail they were following, lit by the pallid luminescence of the head lights.

"Not quite." Quick Fix replied in an exhausted voice. "I had to make a detour an hour and a half back. Some kind of strange encampment way out in the woods. Looked like a tent city refuge, but I couldn't be sure."

"Probably for the best, no telling what could be out here at this point." James glanced at at the small clock set in the dash board. It had been almost four hours since their last stop. He looked back to the unicorn driving and saw that she looked close to passing out. "When was your last break?"

"The last time we stopped." Quick Fix said, confirming his suspicions.

James sat forward and checked his weapons, all still in good order. "Pull over at the next clearing you find, you need to rest."

"No, I'm fine." She told him tiredly. "We're almost there, just a few more hours."

"Nuh-uh, you're wrecked. Pull over." James ordered.

"Fine." She said grumpily.

A few minutes later, she pulled into a small space cleared of most of the trees and under brush. James had her park Daisy to one side and then hopped out, giving it a quick sweep with his rifle out, just in case. Fortunately, the area was uninhabited, but did possess a small stream a little ways off in the woods which he used to refill their water.

When he returned, he found the driver's side door open, but Quick Fix was still in the seat, slumped over. She had apparently fallen asleep. James let her be and instead went about gathering wood for a small fire. Once he got it going, he went back to the the armored car and took out some of the few unspoiled vegetables they had left and a small pot to make a stew.

He had already got the pot boiling and was adding the ingredients when he heard soft steps on the grass. He turned and saw Quick Fix shuffling towards the fire, the residue of sleep still upon her face. She sat down bay him and yawned. "What'cha makin'?" She rubbed one eye.

"Thought we could use a quick bite." James said as he stirred the pot with a stick.

Quick Fix sniffed. "Hm, smells kinda bland."

"Yeah, it's just some of the vegetables we had. We're pretty much out, maybe we should have stopped at that camp after all." He suggested.

"Nah. Too late now, anyway." They sat there for a moment, just listening to the crackle of the fire and the sounds of a still sleeping forest. After a while, Quick Fix got up and retrieved a couple of old cans from their vehicle and rinsed them out before returning. James accepted one of them, muttered a thanks and then started carefully pouring some of the contents of the pot into it. "So, we're pretty close now, how're we gonna do this?" Quick Fix asked.

"We?" James chuckled, "No. I appreciate you letting me use Daisy there, but you're done when we get to Canterlot."

Quick Fix snorted. "That's ridiculous. If the rest of Equestria got it as bad as Ponyville, then Canterlot was hit at least twice as hard. You need all the help you can get."

"Yeah, but remember the Headquarters for the RSTG is there. A lot of them'll have made it into the city, either fighting or laying low for their chance. If anybody will help, it'll be them. As it is, I don't want you heading into something you're not prepared for."

"Not prepared? Not prepared?" She laughed. "How far do you think you could've gotten without me, seriously? You'd still be slogging through the woods a hundred miles back!"

"That's different. I'm talking about combat here. It's either kill or be killed. You think you can handle that? You think you can handle something you've never done before?" James sighed and took a gulp of the stew from his can, chewing on the rubbery chunks of vegetables before swallowing. 'You ever hear the phrase 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger?'"

"Yeah, a couple times." Quick Fix answered, swirling the contents of her own can.

"Well, it's more like; 'What doesn't kill you, mentally fucks you up.' Or usually get's you the second time around, depending on who you talk to."

Quick Fix downed the rest of her stew. "Is that why you act so weird?"

"Yeah... probably. Honestly, i don't know any more." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his flask, taking a long pull off it.

"You know, you probably should stop drinking that stuff. Whatever problems you got, that isn't helping." Quick fix warned.

"No, but it's not making it worse either." He held the flask out to her in offering. "Want some?"

"Mmm. Maybe a little." She took it in her magical grip and sniffed the opening, cringing as she did. "Ugh, how much alcohol is in this stuff?"

"Only about ninety-two proof. It's rum."

"Uh, ok..." she lifted it to her lips and took a few tentative sips. She did it delicately until James reached over and tipped the bottom up. She sputtered and coughed as the caustic liquid flooded her mouth. James laughed and she shot him a scathing look. "That's not funny!"

"It was kinda funny. Try not to spit that up everywhere, I got a limited supply." James grinned.

"You really are messed up, you know that?" Angrily, she used here magic to whip the flask at James' head.

Effortlessly and to her chagrin, he plucked it out of the air and screwed the cap back on before depositing it back in his pocket. "Tell me something I don't know."

Their bickering fell back into silence and Quick Fix leaned back to stare up at the stars, still fuming in her annoyance. Then, after a moment, "What did one of the Elements even see in you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Rainbow Dash. One of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony? You know, that mare you've been living with the past four or five years?"

"Oh." James let out a humorless chuckle. "I've actually asked that question myself sometimes. Before, I would say maybe it was my charm or good looks. Of course that's a joke, I was never really sure. Now? I'm not sure she would like what she'd see..."

"Oh come on, what would be any different now? She loves you."

"Sure, but that was when I actually cared about taking a life."

Quick Fix tensed at his words. She certainly wasn't expecting that. "Ok, now you're gonna have to tell me what you mean. You remember back there at the river bend? You cared then. I was in over my head and you came back to help free all those ponies."

"Please." James said in a low tone. "I came back because I still needed you to help get me to Canterlot. Killing all those shitheads and freeing those ponies was just a bonus." Quick Fix gasped and felt new anger growing at his words. "You want to really know what's going on?" James leaned towards the fire and cradled his head in his hands. "Ever since that night in the Everfree, something woke up inside me. Something new, or maybe it's been there all along, I don't know. I hear this voice, but it's not really a voice, more like the urging of another presence, a mind telling me to maim, destroy and kill."

He sat up again and pulled the flask back out, taking a long draw and almost emptying it. Quick Fix regarded him for a moment and then stood up. "You know what? You really are messed up. And then me for actually thinking you wanted to help." Spewing rage, she stomped over to Daisy and opened the back hatch. James watched her as she began grabbing ammo bags and his weapons and began dumping them on the ground. "I just want you to know that you sound like a psychopath right now and that I'm done with this."

"Is that so?" James said calmly.

"Yup!" After dumping the last of his items she walked around to the driver's door and hopped in. "You can walk the rest of the way, i don't care. I'm going back to that camp to see if I can find somepony without your issues."

"Fine by me."

"Fine!" She started up the engine and slammed the door shut.

James calmly continued to sit there and watched her pull back out onto the trail and turn back to the way they came. A minute later, the dust cloud settled and she was gone. James let out a sigh, got up and started to kick out the fire.

Finally, he went over to the pile of his stuff and threw the bag of ammunition over his back, along with his rifle. The rest he would have to leave, it would be too much to carry. He did, however, stash it in the hollow of a tree, taking only the scope off the M110. Then he began the long walk to Canterlot, hiking up the slope of the trail.

He was kind of glad that she left, he didn't need her going and getting herself killed just to help him out. No, it was better that he went alone. It was the reason he had told her all that. Truth was, he actually had cared about the captives at the river bend and he had feared for her life then. The rest however, hadn't needed to lie about.

Soon enough, he'd make sure the sun would rise again. But the morning would be stained red.

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