To Calm a Tempest

by Broman

First published

A Human finds himself in the company of a hot Lieutenant. If only he didn't tell her that.

Spencer is regular human trying to get by in life and wanting to become successful in life. However, when he is suddenly captured by the storm King's minions and taken into his encampment, he will find his life that more challenging. However, he does get placed under the hot Lieutenant Tempest Shadow during his stay. He also gets to learn some interesting facts about the Lieutenants life.

To Spencer, this will be a somewhat fun imprisonment.

This story is my first 1st person story that I ever did. I do hope you come to enjoy.

Editor for this story is A Man Undercover, and I can't thank enough for his help.

Rated T for sexual references mostly involving breasts.

Featured, 03/14 The first that I've seen!
Featured! 07/18
Featured! 01/24/2020
Featured! 07/22/2020
Art was made by the famous Koveliana on Deviantart. Do go check her out.

Hands On Introduction (Edited)

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Get moving, Filthy Scum!” I heard one of the storm creatures yell at me.

I did as I was commanded, moving at a steady pace down a dirt path. The rain above was cascading down on us, and it didn’t help much that I had to slog through it all. It had been non-stop all day and it really got on my nerves. A quick nudge from the storm creature’s halberd put me on my toes.

I quickened my pace off the beaten path and towards the open fields, only to trip and fall face first into the grass and mud.

“Way to go, Spencer.” I berated myself as my captor hovered over me.

“Get up! The Storm King will not be pleased for lateness. Don’t make me say it again!” the storm creature bellowed, aiming his halberd at my head.

Using my hands and feet, I lifted myself off the ground, the mud clinging to my body as I rose to my full height. I winced as the splitting headache remained and I rubbed the side of my head to ease it anyway I could. I eyed the storm creature, who was quite larger in size and was covered in heavy armor, before I nodded back to it and began walking like he ordered.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a human, and a captive of The Storm King’s army. How did this happen to me you might ask. Well, the answer is rather..uh...saddening.

Oh, who am I kidding?! Actually, the answer is rather the result of the dumbest thing that I ever did.

I was in the southern town of Appleloosa, population five hundred, where the town was planning their yearly Rodeo. I was there on behalf of Twilight Sparkle, who said that I should get out of the castle and see the outside world, instead of being cooped up all day in her home.

Granted, she was right. I have been rather enclosed from the world for a while, especially considering the fact that I’m the only human in Equestria because of one certain Alicorn Princess wanting to duplicate a spell from some ancient Swirlstar or whatever. Because of that, I ended up being snatched up from my life on Earth.

I was preparing to register for the final semester of my school, and all of a sudden, some strange magical orb came out of nowhere and pulled me in. I came to their world screaming, and I landed rather hard on a stone floor. Ever since the landing, I had been out for three whole days!

Well, it felt more like a week to me, since the princess was adamant in wanting to test my body and see how different yet similar I was to her kind.

That was well over a year ago, and I had forgiven her, somewhat, over the whole ordeal. I was a bit surprised when I was abducted, ah, I mean brought here. First off, all of the ponies in Equestria were anthros. That’s anthropomorphic to those who don't know or who are illiterate.

Think of it like people in giant furry suits, but, actually real without the people inside of them.

Anyway, despite my life being turned upside down, and denied a chance to graduate, I stayed until they could find a means to send me back. During that time, I waited, and hung out in the town of Ponyville, getting to know the locals and becoming acquainted with Twilight’s friends. Twilight even suggested going out with Applejack on an event down in Appleloosa. I thought to myself “Why not? It shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, meeting new friends away from Ponyville.”

Although, what I later learned about the event was that it was a rodeo, and to tell you the truth, rodeos are not my thing.

Reluctantly, I had no choice when it came to going to the rodeo in Appleloosa and be the unwilling participant. When I arrived with Applejack and Pinkie Pie, the former participating in the rodeo, and the latter wanting to serve some of her creations and create a fun experience, I mostly sat on the side and observed the whole event in the stands. I cheered for Applejack when she performed, but other times, I had remained silent. Although, I was busting a gut when a giant of a pony called Trouble Shoes was trying to go through a hoop while a much smaller guy at around four feet was running away in panic.

I guess some of the rodeo was not all that bad.

After the day’s events, Applejack wanted to celebrate at the local tavern, and everypony had gathered to drink their fill and pass out from the days events. Applejack seemed to be the queen of cider drinking, downing over a dozen drinks and not get tipsy. Unfortunately, I got so cocky on seeing how much Applejack can drink, I challenged her and the two of us got into a competition, along with half of the gathered participants of the rodeo.

I was out like a light after my tenth drink and I passed out gloriously onto the floor.

When I came to, it was the middle of the night and I had a splitting headache. The bar patrons had all collapsed onto the ground after the night of drinking and celebrating, laying down across the floor like a warzone came through.

I thought I saw Applejack sitting on a table, her hat over her face and her chest rising up and down in pure sleep, but didn’t register her or decided to go and wake her. I thought I also spotted Pinkie Pie hanging upside down on a chandelier, and I wondered how she got up there in the first place.

Usually, it’s just Pinkie being Pinke.

All of a sudden, I felt an unusual feeling, and found I needed to take a whizz outside. I fumbled out the doors and into the cool night air, going around the back of the tavern to do my business.

What I didn't expect to find was one of the said storm creatures hiding in the alley and I was relieving myself on his foot. He didn’t much appreciate that at all.

I blacked out the moment his paw-like fist struck me on the head.

With that said, I was dragged across the landscape to who knows where, and storm clouds had gathered to rain down upon the land. It was then I had turned to and the storm creature which I relieved myself on made me walk the rest of the way.

It had a been at least ten hours since I was captured, and I found myself staring at a large encampment within the desert.

I didn’t know know who these guys were, or where they came from. However, they were far from the colorful equines that I’ve come to enjoy.

The storm creature continued to push me forward, and I walked into the middle of the camp. More of these creatures seem to turn up the further I walked into camp. They were all prepared for war, yet, if there was any consolation, they did look rather cool. The halberds looked sharp and at the ready, and their armor polished to pristine condition. The further in I went, the more dense the army became.

I soon found myself in the middle of the camp and standing near a large platform.

The first thing that came into my mind was an execution platform, and I became worried when I spotted blood on top of the wood and the stairs in front of me. I wondered what kind of punishment they would give me, or what torture they would place, although I wasn't sure what sort of retribution they would give for taking a leak on one of the creature’s legs.

The storm creatures went silent, making only the rain be the constant companion that fell around me. The sound of wood creaked behind the platform, and I heard the storm creatures bow down all around me.

Swallowing the lump in the back of my throat, I felt an unyielding sense of dread spread across my body. My stomach was doing flips and uneasiness crept into the deepest part of my gut.

The steps grew louder, and heavy with each step. In the corner of my eye, I spotted a set of horns rising high above the platform. I froze in place, seeing the face of a strange beast that had almost human features, stepping onto the platform.

The creature I was staring at was tall, almost over six to seven feet tall to be precise. It appeared to be like a satyr, similar to the ones in those mmorpg games, with its human beast-like face and a white furred body. Black armor adorned his form which seemed to glisten even with the rain coming down around us. The creature also had three fingers on each hand and cloven hooves similar to a goat, and he held in his paw a large staff that bent up and wrapped around a blue stone that shimmered slightly, with a mist pouring out of the cracks. His blue eyes gazed down at me, piercing my soul with his icy stare. His teeth, which were lopsided on one side, rose to a malicious grin, revealing many rows of sharp fangs.

He was the epitome of a monstrous beast if I ever saw one.

Another figure came behind him and my eyes traced onto an equine form.

It was a black unicorn by the looks of it, but the horn looked a little off from where I was standing. It looked chipped at the top. The unicorn wore black armor similar to that of the other storm creatures, though this unicorn had more protection bearing small intricate designs on the front that went outward. The unicorn also wore a latex suit underneath the armor, probably for some special forces or if this satyr had some sort of kink for all I knew. Along the arms, the unicorn wore steel bracers that, in some strange way, reminded me of what Wonder Woman would wear. The final striking thing I noticed was that the mane was a deep magenta that went upward, like roman plumes that went straight in the air.

All in all, he or she was the right hand of this Storm King and was not to be messed with.

“Hiya, how’s it goin’?” the Storm king spoke to me, and I jumped slightly from the unexpected greeting.

The Storm king, if I recalled from what the guard said earlier, chuckled haughtily and offered a paw and gestured me to come forward.

“Hey, don’t be shy. Come on over, let me get a closer look at you,” he said in the most cheerful manner.

I blinked at him in surprise, a little taken aback by his behavior, and hesitantly made my way up the wooden stairs until I was standing on the platform.

“Are you the...infamous Storm King, I’ve heard so much about?” I asked, trying to feel inferior to this supreme being.

The Storm King raised a brow.

“Infamous? Wow. I’m surprised you’ve heard of me, Kid. Or whatever you are,” he explained, placing a paw onto his chest in astonishment.

“Oh yay, there are many tales of your villainous acts and deviousness,” I explained.

In truth though, I was only rolling with it since I only heard of him an hour ago, and I thought that appeasement would get the Storm King to lessen whatever punishment he would bestow upon me.

“Ahhhh, I knew my name would get out someday. I, The Storm King, the conqueror of the lands beyond Equestria, will be recognized for my conquest and deeds,” he explained, giving a small twirl and praising himself in narcissism.

I turned to the equine next to me, unsure of how to proceed with the Storm King’s mannerisms. The equine stayed silent, and was only staring at me with those opal eyes and a deadpan expression.

I felt a little unnerved by the silent stoicism and returned my gaze back to the Storm King.

The Storm King had stopped in his twirling and had a childlike look, and he began walking around me. I felt a little shiver crawl up my spine as he observed me, eyeing me like some prized cattle that he had won. I felt a bump on my arms from his staff, and I turned to eye him wearily.

“You’re different, yet oddly the same,” he muttered aloud, continuing to prod me with his staff.

I wanted so much to swipe the staff away, but I remained still and allowed myself to be poked for fear of being strung and hung by his staff.

The Storm King continued to circle me, observing my every reaction whenever he was making me move my arms and legs while averting his eyes towards his guard.

After an insufferable minute, the Storm King stopped right in front of me and clasped his finger on my face. I felt his nails piercing at my cheeks and I froze from the contact. He hummed to himself, turning my head from side to side and observing every detail that my face had to offer.

“Something in my gut is telling me that by the looks of it, you’re not from around here.” he said, allowing his paw to fall down and allowing me to speak.

“Well, I’m not from this world. I’m a Human, your evilness. The name is Spencer J…”

“A Hooman?” The Storm King interjected, raising a finger to his chin in bewilderment, “Never heard of one.”

“It’s pronounced Hu-man. Your unholy lordship of the lands beyond.” I replied, trying to be civil to the tyrant king.

The Storm King eyed me and a grin curled up his lips.

“Strange as you are, you have a talent to forge words like silver,” he said.

I nodded to him and remained silent while he took a step towards me and stood over my form.

“You said you’re from another world. Care to explain how this was manageable, how the Princesses of Equestria brought you here?” he asked, his curious nature becoming that of borderline creepiness.

“Well, I come from another planet called Earth,” I explained, swallowing a lump in my throat and trying to explain my predicament, “I was brought here because the Princess of Friendship, Twilight Sparkle, was practicing some old magic that somehow brought me here.”

“Friendship?” The Storm King deadpanned from the word, his eyes lowered and looked quite livid by my answer.

I ignored the warning sign and continued on with my explanation.

“Yeah, Friendship and everything is what she does. Anyway, despite being brought here, I’ve made myself known to the others within Ponyville. I made friends with Twilight’s companions. Rainbow Dash, in a word, is quite the tomboy, quite the bad A grade of awesomeness. Flying around and doing stunts that would make your head spin. Fluttershy is timid and very shy, yet she has a heart of gold in terms of kindness. She’s not only cute, but she also gives killer massages that would make anyone putty in her hands.”

“Cute?” The Storm King muttered, a sneer appearing on his face.

I didn’t pay much attention and continued to ramble on about my friends.

“Pinkie Pie is a whole bundle of joy, and is on it twenty four seven. She always manages to make someone smile over the slightest thing and she makes some delicious baked goods. Rarity is the fashionista of the group, and she always has the kindest and most generous soul around. She even had me go out with her on one of her spa ventures. Let me tell you, those spa ponies have the most sturdy fingers. They turned my aches and pains away into a world of bliss. Applejack is a cowgirl through and through, she’s tough, but honest, and I couldn’t help but feel a close connection with her. Her mannerisms and honesty makes her one of my best friends of the whole group. Did I mention that they tend to be cute and fun whenever I’m around.” I mentioned, but when my eyes landed on the Storm King I was met with absolute fury.

I found out at this moment that my story was not taking kindly to the Storm King.

“I hate Cute!” he lowered his left claw and seized my shirt, hoisting me up into the air.

I gasped and held on for dear life as a ruthless beast seemed to consume him.

“I loathe Friendship!” he slammed his staff into the ground, the end sticking straight into the wood, while he used his free paw to slap me across the face. At the same time I heard the distinct sound of thunder crackling up in the sky. “The meaning of friendship and cuteness, bleh, I spit on such concepts. Friendship with other beings are a means to an end. Friendship leads to betrayal!” He smacked me across the face once more, leaving my cheeks burning from the firm smack. I felt blood in my mouth and a little bit dibbled out of the side of my mouth.

“Cuteness is misleading. Letting your guard down while they bring you down from the inside out!” He clenched a fist, and punched me in the stomach several times, forcing my lungs depletion of all of the air within.

The Storm King drew me close, his nose inches from mine. I could see the burning hatred within his eyes.

“I will destroy notions and concepts, even ones exactly like them! I will conquer these lands for all of their worth and end everything they hold dear!” He shouted out.

As if by instinct, the storm creatures rose up and began chanting his name, pounding their weapons into the ground in some unholy chorus. The Storm King relished in the moment, lifting me up like some prized possession. After taking in the moment, I felt myself being lowered to the ground. When my feet touched the wood, however, the Storm King lowered himself low until his voice was but a whisper.

“You mentioned that you come from another world,” he said, letting go of the hem of my shirt and patting me down from my shoulders and arms. Brushing off imaginary debris while smirking at me. “I look forward to visiting it someday, after I conquer Equestria of course.”

“A new land to claim as my own, I can hardly imagine the screams of your people, and the cries of their children, as I destroy and lay waste to your cities.” he paused, looking rather surprised by what he had said, “You know, that actually sounded better speaking than thinking it in my head. I gotta write that down, use it for future speeches.” he said, tracing a talon to his chin in a pleased manner.

I was livid, apoplectic even.

The Storm King not only threatened my friends and all of Equestria but he even threatened to invade my world. I don’t know what powers he had that could turn the tide in his favor, but if he was to meet Earth’s Military might, he would have no chance when facing off against the sheer military strength, will, and determination to win.

USA baby, all the way.

The Storm King eyed me and looked down to my clenched fist. He grinned and a chuckle escaped past his lips.

“I see that clenched fist of yours. I’ve upset you? Good,” he lowered, placing his claw around my head. Which I forgot to account would likely squeeze my head like a melon, “I have use for someone like you. You would be made a perfect example for those who do not bend to my will.” he explained.

A familiar fear crept up my spine, but it was the way he said it that had me worried. He turned to the pony that stood next to us, remaining silent since his introduction.

“Lieutenant. This human will be under your care, and be of service to whatever whims you need. Treat him as such until the time comes when I have use for him.” he said, he forced my body to stare at his lieutenant, whom I had an impossible time seeing as the rain was pouring down on me. The unicorn nodded in turn, pressing a fist to his chest and nodding down. I then felt my head turn slightly and the Storm King lowered until his head was close to mine.

“Enjoy your stay,” he said, then abruptly shoved my head forward. I stumbled towards the lieutenant, my arms flailing upward to slow my momentum. I was going too fast, and my legs were going to trip up unless I grabbed onto something. The Lieutenant didn’t seem to stop me and I felt my legs tripping up. I was going to fall flat on my face. Using whatever strength I had in my arms, I raised my hands upward so that by some chance my hands would land on the lieutenant’s shoulders.

My hands ended up slapping firmly on his firm breasts and my momentum was stopped.

Wait…hang on…Firm breasts?

I looked up in front of me, and the supposed ‘armor’ that I saw earlier was just the latex, and they were sticking out where my hands were laid upon, like big soft pillows.

This Lieutenant was a she.

My eyes traced up in a flash and, for a brief second, caught the mare’s eyes gazing at me. Time seemed to slow for me as I stared up into her opal eyes. They were, if I was to put it politely, captivatingly beautiful. The almond shaped eyes looked back at me with a bit of surprise, yet the more I stare into them, the more enthralled they seemed to be. Her eyes traced downward and I followed her gaze back down right where my hands were squeezing at her melons. I then realized the truth of my grave mistake.

She was a women!

I looked back to her and I immediately raised my hands off of her breasts, but the damage was done and she had an angry scowl on her face.

“I’m so sorry! I didn't mean to do that!” Is what I should have said.

Instead, I ended up saying the stupidest thing in this sort of situation.

“Man, your hot.”

I sealed my fate when she flared her eyes at me. It was too late for apologies as I felt both of her hands clasp onto my shoulders. She held me in place while her right leg reared up and sent itself straight in between my legs. I felt a bone crushing pain in my pelvis and a wordless cry escaped me when my tenders got smashed upward. I coughed up the blood that was in my mouth and my lungs depleted of air from the blow, but I was not given a reprieve. I felt her right hand lift off my shoulder and I felt a punch directly across my cheek. My head reeled in pain and my eyes were seeing the wooden floor coming to meet me. It did not happen when I saw her left hand clenching and striking me upward. I was seeing stars. I flew a few feet and landed onto the wooden stairs.

She had quite the left hook.

I tumbled downward until my back slammed into the mud, sliding a few feet away from the platform. When I came to a complete stop my body was still and tingling all over, the cascading rain coming down on me. I heard laughter from the Storm King and I remained there in the mud while the Lieutenant stared down at me coldly.

Probably, if not definitely, deserved it since I did cop a feel on her.

My ears were ringing, and my body was sore. I soon felt her hand grab onto my leg and I was dragged through the mud. I soon blacked out after a while and my dreams overtook me.

Well this is going swimmingly, hasn't it?

Target Practice (Edited)

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Hours after the punch the Lieutenant gave me, I awoke. My head was throbbing, and my body ached. When I opened my eyes, I winced from the idle pain that remained.

I raised a hand to my dirty blonde (though more than blonde) hairy head, hoping to temper the minor headache that remained. Opening my eyes, I scanned my environment, wondering where the hec I was. The only light within was a lantern that hung in the center of the open room.

I gave a sigh of relief when I found I was under something dry. That thing being a tent.

I was resting on the ground, which to me at least, was covered in leather and furs.

To my left, I saw what looked like a large trough, with a small fire pit next to it, and a dozen stones placed within the embers.

To my right, I took notice of a large bed that was settled in the corner of the room, covered in fine dark blankets and pillows that would befit a princess.

The Lieutenant is really into black, isn’t she?

I stood up, my body swiveling slightly from the numbing pain in my head.

I looked from where I stood, and I could the place seemed very simple despite the bed and trough. However, I did see a suit of armor and a weapon rack, along with a chest stationed nearby. Both of the racks were bare of any weapons and gear.

I curled a brow at the fact the racks were empty and turned to the trough, which was at least four feet in height. I looked inside and saw that there was some water. Feeling parched, and having eaten nothing at all, I couldn’t help but be drawn to it. I scooped up a handful of water and began drinking the water within.

“Why are you drinking the bathwater?” a harsh feminine voice alerted me.

I immediately spat out water onto the ground, coughing out the awful taste in my mouth.

I looked behind me and saw the Lieutenant standing there before me, her arms crossed.

I froze on contact, seeing her opal eyes piercing right at me. Although, seeing her eyes in this light, I did get a good look of the color. They were teal eyes, almost reflective of the darker color schemes of her armor and latex suit. Speaking of the suit, it looked super hot, only stopping below the shoulders and covering above the hips, exposing much of the skin on her thighs and arms.

I could have sworn she was wearing more armor earlier, but either way, she looked more hotter without it.

“Eyes up here, you lecherous sniveling coward,” she said, wiggling one of her fingers upward so that I would focus on her.

I realized that my eyes had lingered longer than I wanted them to, so I focused my attention solely on her eyes. I had to look up a little since she was possibly a good head taller than me.

I remained still, overwhelmingly nervous over what she might do to me. She moved a hand and waved me back. I was a little hesitant at first, but I backed away far enough until I was standing in the middle of the room. She had me stop, and her eyes traced over me.

While she did this it gave a chance to observe her as well. Her black skin which I thought before was actually a deep redish purple. My eyes looked up to see her face, and I saw that a long thin scar was spread across her right eye. My eyes also lingered on her horn, which apparently wasn't there. It was a short stub, likely broken because of some accident. My eyes focused on her when she looked back me, and I felt certain I was caught scanning her. She gave a curt growl and began walking around me.

Unlike the Storm King, who observed me as a prize, she was more of a predator. She stalked me like a cheetah, with her prey not knowing what her reaction might be and what would set her off. I felt a finger trace on my back. I shivered from the contact, because something about it gave me the chills. Her finger traced along my back, and onto my shoulders. It pushed against my muscles as if testing their pressure points. I remained still, keeping myself steady while she toyed with me.

“Your back is big, but covered in fat.” she replied. I wanted to reply to her, but she poked a finger at my side, “pathetic belly mass.” she added, moving in front of me.

I kind of nodded my head, knowing I was a bit pudgy but not at all overweight. I was lucky enough to get meat from some contacts that Twilight provided.

I know I’ve been healthy with fruits and veggies, but a man needs protein dammit!

“Pushover,” she mentioned, shoving a hand onto my shoulder.

I stumbled back a few feet but managed to kept my balance.

“Hey,” I replied back.

I tried to retort her comment when she raised a hand and turned her head away.

“Don’t stand that close, I can smell the foul stench that emanates from your maw.”she explained.

Upon hearing that, I immediately took offense.

Wasn't my fault I forgot my toothbrush or toothpaste when coming to Appaloosa.

“Now wait just a minute,” I began to say, lifting my right finger to her.

She immediately reacted without emotion, seizing my index finger with the tips of her own fingers and shoved it back, bending it backwards and threatening to break it off. I squirmed and seethed from the unexpected move, and my body was forced to bend down, avoiding the chance she might break my finger. This played right into her hands as she twisted my arm behind my back. Because of her height she had great leverage over me. She held me there, keeping my arm pinned behind my back and I could feel her muzzle whisper in my ear.

“You will be silent you cretin.” she said, low and authoritative.

I felt the pressure on my arm remain and I squirmed a bit in her grasp. She had a pretty solid grip. I heard her snort in disdain at my display.

Slowly, she released the pressure on my hand, but the pain remained.

“Listen closely, if you value your life,” she uttered, keeping me in place, “The Storm King has ordered that you are under my watch. As such, you will do exactly as I say and do everything that I order of you.” She explained, cold and calculating. I felt her grip tighten on my wrist but she didn’t force my hand up behind my back. “You will not talk unless I talk, and you will not question my judgement. If you step out of line you will be punished.”

I felt my arm released and I held it in front of me, rubbing the sore spot on my wrist where she held me. I turned to her, showing much hesitation and unease over what she might do next. She paused and looked at me with a critical eye. No doubt I looked pathetic, being manhandled by her.

Well, equine handled.

Her eyes lingered on me for a few weary seconds before going over to her chest. She began to take off her armor pieces, and I avoided my gaze in hopes that I wouldn’t be caught staring at her. I heard the shuffle of armor being removed and the creaking of a wooden chest being opened up. I waited patiently yet filled with anxiety of what she would do.

I just hoped that whatever she was doing was not going to be anything more painful.

“Put these on, and don’t make me repeat it,” I heard her voice behind me.

I felt something land next to my legs. My eyes wandered south, and I saw what appeared to be padding of some sort. There were multiple pieces, and they were in various sizes. I picked one up and examined it. The material was light, yet the padding was thick and had multiple straps attached to them. Not wanting to delay the inevitable, I placed the chest piece on first, securing it tightly to my body. It was a nice fit and didn’t seem to wear me down at all.

“Why am I doing this exactly?” I asked, finishing strapping the padded chest and began strapping the leggings next.

“This will be your continual punishment.” she said, hearing the chest close with a small thud, and I hurried in getting the piece on his legs. “Besides, your the only one who is big enough to wear it since our last guest and this would be fine for my enjoyment.”

Enjoyment? I thought, a little worried at what she had planned for me.

Once I was done, I heard her walk towards me, yet I dared not look at her. I heard her exasperate in frustration and felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Turn around you spineless cockatrice,” she demanded.

I did I was told, and once I fully turned around, I saw her standing in front of me. With her armor removed she was only clad in her latex suit, which hugged tightly to her body. She had no shame of revealing her arms and legs, which were free of any article of clothing. Also, I couldn’t help but notice that she was definitely taller then me, possibly by several inches.

I was only five nine after all, and she could be at least a head taller or just above six feet.

Damn it, why are tall women scary yet sexy?

She brought out a bandage and placed it on her hands. I didn’t pay attention to what she was doing because my eyes wandered to her feet, which I got to find are connected to an ample amount of thighs, and toned yet shapely legs.

I then traced my eyes back up to her midriff and saw the curvature of her hips, which was accentuated when she leaned onto one side.

I swore I saw vague or toned six pack underneath that latex.

I took notice of her hands in front of her, and she was wrapping bandages around her palm and knuckles. While she did this, my eyes traced on her defined arms. Lovely biceps, noticeable triceps, and those beautifully toned shoulders.

Heck, I might be a prisoner, but as a man, I can’t help but admire the beautifully trained body of the Lieutenant. She might be the envy of Applejack’s incredible muscular body or Rainbow Dash’s athletic frame.

I’m going to have to remind myself not to tell them that when I get out of here. Or if I get out of here, that’s for sure

“I want you to stay still,” she muttered, turning around and moving a few feet away from my current position.

I couldn’t help but have my eyes wander down, watching that lean back of hers. I bit my lower lip, however, when her 'posterior' drew my full attention. They were shapely, and her latex suit curved right into it, with a healthy amount of fat and no doubt mighty muscles. Her tail was also big, and the deep color red made it that more intriguing. The way she moved was both mesmerizing, and that just added to the sex appeal that she has.

You know, even if she was a baddie. I can’t help but admit that she was pretty smoking hot.

“Now hold, stay where you are.” she said, turning around to face me. My eyes refocused on her eyes, those opal eyes being so brilliant in the given light. She readied herself in a stance that I was not paying attention to, but I didn’t really care. I was so enamored by those icy blue eyes that I couldn’t help but give a goofy smile. The lieutenant didn’t even pay attention to me until her eyes began piercing at me. And then, she rushed at me.

Oh cra-

I didn’t get a chance to finish that thought because I suddenly received a punch into my chest. I huffed out air and staggered back a bit, but she immediately countered with sweeping a foot underneath me, and I fell flat on my back. The air went clean out of me and I looked at her to see a disappointing look.

“Get up. If I’m going to train, I’m going to need you to stay still.” she said, and it dawned on me on why she was doing all of this.

“I’m a punching bag?” he muttered, and the Lieutenant snorted at me.

“Of course you are. This is your punishment for fondling me earlier. So get on your feet, maggot.” she said in a very severe manner.

I quickly got up without another word and immediately stood like a statue. I didn’t want to question her any further.

She readied herself for another go.

“This is going to hurt,” I thought.

She came at me with another punch, and I braced upon impact. The second punch was less hurtful, due to the padding from the suit, but I can still feel the impact and I kept myself still for her. She then began her little routine, delivering a series of punches that were meant to incapacitate their opponent. Like a boxer she let out a series of punches before swerving her body to give out another angle of attack.

I took them all like a champ, in my mind that is. My body was less than fortunate.

The pads on my body managed to hold her constant stream of pummeling and occasional kicks at my side. I staggered back whenever she delivered a powerful kick, followed up by a right hook or jab from her. I would quickly situate myself so that she may continue her training. It was still a punishment on my part, and despite the protection from the padding, I could feel the impact of her blows. I simply endured them till whenever she finished.

After nearly thirty minutes of her constant jabs and punches, she gave a few quick hops and shook her arms out from the workout.

“Alright, I’m done.” she said, and I was barely standing up before falling on my hands and knees.

Out of my peripheral vision I saw her lean down a bit. “Spencer, was it? Be sure to put that suit away and go to your bed. It’s right behind you.” she said, lowering her hand and smacking me on my right shoulder.

Somehow that hit was enough for my arms and legs to fail on me, and I collapsed onto the ground, rolling onto my back in exhaustion. She grunted in annoyance by my weakened state and walked over my body to the trough. Despite the padding, my muscles were sore, and I was certain there will be bruising afterward.

I dragged myself up, limping my way over to the chest to deposit the pads inside of it. The lieutenant took notice and sighed in annoyance.

“Oh don’t act that way, I’ve seen stallions last half the time from what I’ve given you.” she explained.

I ignored her for the most part and placed the pads in the chest. I then turned to see a small bedroll spread out in the corner of the room. Weariness and exhaustion took over me, so, I decided it was best to rest on my bed. The bed being my home for the foreseeable future. I sluggishly moved over to the bedroll, and I laid atop the fabric.

Although, once I laid down, I felt like a broken mannequin going through a crash course.

I rolled out on the bed and turned to see her casting her gaze to the fireplace. She took a nearby tong, and grabbed one of the large stones within, moving the hot rock and dropping it into the trough. The water sizzled from contact and bubbled up as the stone settled on the floor. She repeated with several more stones, dropping them within the tub and heating it up.

“I never got your name.” I said, the Lieutenant placing one of the last stones within the tub.

“You don’t speak unless spoken to.” she snapped in her authoritative tone.

I sealed my mouth shut and didn’t say another word. However, I did notice her turning her gaze to give me a critical look. The one blue eye scanned me, looking at my weakened form. I could only imagine her thinking that I was some weakling for her services. She closed that eye and turned back to the trough.

“Tempest Shadow,” she said, not bothering to look back at me.

I grunted in reply, but a thought lingered on her name.

Tempest Shadow? I would have guessed something different. Maybe some type of berry name given her coat color.I thought.

I began resting my head back down on the bedroll. I remained there, hearing the water sizzle in the background and my own thoughts overcoming my mind.

“Well, Spencer ole buddy, you certainly are in the shit now.”

“Is that before or after you went to Appleloosa?”

“That, plus the whole drinking in the bar till I pass out was bit of my fault.”

“No, peeing on a soldier of the Storm King and pissing him off is what really got us here.”

“Good point.”

My thoughts wrestled with each other over the given circumstances, and to sum it up, I will be stuck here for quite some time, and no doubt become some sort of slave to them until they’re finished with me, moving on and leaving me to the wilds.

Actually, Tempest Shadow was going to be my caretaker, half it was both relieving and terrifying at the same time. She thoroughly kicked my ass and handed it to me on a silver platter. I will have to appease her and get on her good side if I was to avoid any more grueling or painful punishment from here on out.

Oh who am I kidding, she’s most likely going to grill me no matter what I do.

“Since you will be staying here,” I heard Tempest speak out and the sound of water being splashed, “There will be a few rules that you must remember. Which also applies to what I said from earlier.” she explained and I raised three fingers up for her reasons.

“Don’t speak unless spoken to. Don’t question your judgement. And don’t cross any line or I’ll be punished for it.” I explained, dropping my hand back down onto my chest. Which still hurt by the way.

“Good, you’re learning,” Tempest replied, turning her head to face me, and I could see her face soften from annoyance to a neutral expression, “You will become my servant, doing whatever I say and doing any chore that I require of you. Even become my ‘punching bag’ from time to time.” She made air quotes with her fingers, and I groaned from the future beatings I’ll be getting.

You would think P.E. in highschool was this bad.

“You will also be expected to fulfill such tasks as polishing my gear, cleaning my tent, and even work outside to help out with any of the tasks from the Storm King’s armies, even when I am indisposed or away on assignment. The Storm King will have plans soon, and you will need to be in fit condition and without distractions so that I may fulfill his will.” she paused, tracing a finger to her chin and giving off a pensive thought while giving off a smug grin, “If you do what you are told, then maybe you will be given a favor that will make your miserable life easier. Is that clear?”

Getting favors is a nice afterthought. Maybe avoid a chore for the day or even get a chance to relax. I raised a hand and gave a salute from off the ground.

“Yes, Captain.” I said nonchalantly.

“That’s Lieutenant, you ignoramus lightweight.” Her stern voice returned, and her eyes narrowed an inch in clear enmity.

“Was trying to make a compliment,” I muttered, and I rubbed a tender spot on my chest from where her first punch landed. My head then became painful when I felt a wooden bucket slamming against my head.

“Don’t try to weasel out with false compliments and flattery. I can tell when stallions give out lies, and you will obviously be no different.”

“Geez I was trying to be nice,” I inwardly thought as I massaged the sore spot on my forehead.

I ran the same hand back down my face and towards my chest, wondering what she will have in store for me.

That is, until I felt something on my neck.

My eyes widened slightly, and I sat myself up. My fingers traced to what felt like a leather collar. I pulled on it slightly, and it was tight around my neck. Not enough to choke or cause discomfort, but enough to be firmly in place.

“Why do I have a collar around my neck?” I asked like an idiot, not wanting to know what kinky stuff that Tempest had in mind.

“That is an insurance policy for during your stay. The Storm King wills it. Now go to bed, I have to take a bath,” she explained, and was pulling on a zipper that was behind her neck. My eyes widened, seeing her fingers pinched on a clasp and pulling it down.

I got a small window of her bare back.

And hamana hamana on steroids that is a sexy back.

“Wha…wait…” I sputtered at what I was seeing, her zipper coming halfway down her back. She turned her gaze, and I saw her broken horn glow slightly. A sputter of magic came out of it.

“Sleep.” She said in a orderly manner.

I suddenly felt a stinging sensation coursing through my neck and wracking my brain. My eyes felt heavy all of a sudden, and my head landed back on the pillow and sleep overcame me within moments.

This was quite the first day.

The First Bath (Edited)

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Time seems to fly when you become bored or when working.

Possibly both, since I was worked every day, and I became bored after being confined to my tent.

Well, it’s Tempest tent, but, you get my point.

The first week of my stay was me simply following their orders around the camp. If I didn’t follow the instructions properly, then I would get zapped by the collar strapped to my neck.

A shock collar of all things. I can do their bidding, but I’m not a dog.

It was ridiculous, keeping me here like some caged animal. Doing chores, doing their bidding, and occasionally, get shocked out of my mind if the Storm King happened to walk by. I can hear him snicker every time I felt the stinging sensation in my neck. I would rather have that Storm King get his due and be zapped constantly.

Though that likelihood will not happen while I’m stuck here.

I worked with moving heavy boxes and cargo from airships that come in daily for the Storm King’s army. They carried rations, weapons stocks, and any given supplies for an army on the go. I had to chop firewood from the nearby woods, and near the end of the day, I would end up picking out the splinters in my fingers. To top it off, I would be target practice from an impassive unicorn who can beat my ass single handedly.

Trust me, it hurt like hell every time I landed on the ground.

I even had to polish Tempest’s armor the other day, which was much more difficult due to the fact I never did so before. I got a healthy dose of berating from Tempest everytime I made a mistake, and cursed more times than a captain to his crew of sailors. I would spend more time cleaning those armor pieces of hers. I would eventually figure out the proper way to clean them, after the first dozen grueling times, and she would lecture me on how to properly clean and care for her weapons next. It became easier since. Although, she was overbearing at times and sounded more like a rich noble who has too much time on their hands.

Note to self, overbearing and reprimanding unicorn overlords is not for everyone. Consult your princess for tender, comforting snuggles before use.

Twilight and her friends always did like to do that when I was around.

Not sure why, but, it always felt nice.

After I was done with my tasks, and when Tempest was out and about doing who knows what, I ended up staying inside the tent, a guard outside as always. I have heard much movement from the storm creatures whenever there’s something going on, but other times, the camp seemed silent for many hours on end. It was uneasy at times, and I felt in my gut that they were going out to raid or plunder a nearby village. Or take the town of Appaloosa!

All of these thoughts in my head made me hope my friends were alright.

I was also not given free reign among the camp. Whenever I poke my head outside, two storm creatures in heavy armor and wielding halberds were present on either side of the entrance. They give one look at me, and they silence any thought or rebellious movement outside of the tent. I ended up staying near the bedroll and did absolutely nothing for the remainder of the day.

The only constant company was the rain outside, which had not stopped since I came here.

I knew he was the Storm King and all, but bringing in bad weather was just ridiculous! It’s like when the local weatherman says it's going to be sunny or cloudy the next day, and you end up either getting snowed on or have large rainfall. Couldn’t count the number of times I got soaked from the rain outside. Whether it’d be a drizzle or a downpour, I always ended up getting wet.

So that has been my predicament for the past week, and I was forced to stay in this tent without anything to do.

I was not going to allow myself to be cooped up and bored out of my skull. So, I did the only logical option instead of sitting around: exercise.

Granted I’ve been pulling heavy equipment and doing meaningless chores and making my muscles weary, but that still didn’t mean I shouldn’t treat my body right. I could have also hummed a tune or listened to a song. However, I left my phone at Twilight’s castle because I should be going outside more and not be cooped up next to a screen.

She sounds like a millennial’s parents at times.

I began with the usual routine of stretches, moving my arms to their farthest extent and bending down to touch my toes. After a dozen or so minutes of stretches, I would jog in place in the center of the room and pretend I was a football player. After a few minutes of that, I would do push ups, squats, jumping jacks, the regular kind of exercises that could help my body.

I had to place the wooden chest on my toes so that I could keep myself down while doing sit ups.

It’s easier when you have a partner to help out.

After nearly a full hour of working out, I was on the ground. Exhausted. I felt like I was in P.E. all over again, with my chest heaving and my body shaking from the exertion.

Granted people need to exercise to have a healthy body and lifestyle.

I eventually brought myself back into a sitting position and sat in lotus style so that I can release the joints and let my muscles not be so constricted. I catched my breath, and slowed my breathing, my body releasing all the tensions within my muscles. I sat there for a while, letting my body rest and be given time to cool off. I could hear the shuffle of footsteps outside and the guards patrolling the camp, along with the pitter patter of rain on top of the tent.

I focused on the rain, hearing the tiny drops on the tent and on various objects outside. The rain making deep splashes against the metal of armor, while at the same time, hearing the gentle touch upon the ground. I sighed deeply at the sound, imagining myself in the middle of a waterfall, yet able to hear the most tiny details around me. It was, in a way, both annoying and relaxing at the same time, with the latter being the better result.

It was a small peace that gave me some comfort while living in this encampment.

After a while, I decided to let my legs spread out, and I rolled onto my belly, stretching the tender muscles so that I wouldn't get cramps later. Like an outstretched cat, I extended my arms out and arched my lower back, trying to make sure I could get the maximum amount of stretch.

“What are you doing?” Tempest’s voice broke the silence and caught me in a compromising position.

I looked at her through my outstretched legs and my rear was present for her in full glory. My cheeks burned a little, my dairyaire showing out like a duck’s rear end. I quickly got up and straightened myself out, Tempest continuing to stare at me with a questioning gaze.

“I was exercising,” I admitted, feeling very sheepish before the wolf.

Tempest curled an eyebrow, a critical eye cast on me.

“I can see that,” she moved closer, her judging eyes washing over me and making me feel like a child having his hand caught in the cookie jar.

I looked away from her gaze, kicking at the rugs underneath me. I suddenly stopped because she came in front of me, and I heard her nostrils flare. I turned back, and her eyes widened slightly. She recoiled a few feet away from me.

“Oh goddess, that stench!” she proclaimed, raising a hand over her muzzle.

I would have taken offense to her harsh rhetoric, but she was right, I did sweat like a dog when I exercised.

“Sorry, exercising for a straight hour does that.” I explained.

Tempest narrowed her eyes at me in clear annoyance.

“Yes, but the amount of stench you made makes me want to gag. You smell like a boar ready to go into a rutting the moment he finds a mate!”

Okay, that was a little uncalled for, but whatever. It’s not like I’m given the option to bath. My rambling thoughts went on, and I waved a hand to her while heading to her chest.

“What are you doing now?” she asked.

“I’m getting the pads so that you can train. You always come back to train if I recall.” I said, opening up the chest within and grabbing the pads.

“Not with a smell like that. I’d rather be facing off against a bear who ate a skunk than laying my fingers on you. You need a bath, and you are not going to take no for an answer.” she said, and I heard her gear drop to the ground.

I turned to her, amazed at how she can belittle me in such a matter. I wondered what other berating vocabulary she had up her...

“Wait…a bath?” I said aloud while she tended to the fire.

“Yes, a bath.” she said, placing some of the large stones within.

The stones began to heat up, “I’ve tolerated your stench ever since your stay. But, I’m surprised that you have no sense of cleanliness and decency.” she turned to me, and I could see the indignation laced upon her face.

“Now strip down and get in.” she ordered, hooking a thumb directly to the trough.

“You can’t be serious?” I said without thinking.

I bit my inner cheek from blatantly speaking out.

The straight face of Tempest remained, but I could have sworn one of her eyes twitched at my blunt question. She took a deep breath through her nose and sighed deeply before raising her teal eyes to meet my own.

“So help me, if you do not take that bath, I’m going to castrate you here and now. Your choice.”

I never went so pale in my life.

For one thing, I was actually going to give my dirty sweating body a good cleaning. The only real downside is that I was being forced to strip down in front of her. I blushed at the mere thought and looked away while contemplating my fate, which, in all honesty, I had no choice.

“Can you at least turn around so that I can change?” I asked, and I looked back to her.

Only to find her back was turned and focusing on the fire.

She doesn't care at all? I thought as I looked at the trough.

Leaving me no choice in the matter, I decided to do what she asked of me. I took off my shirt first, which was muddy and wrinkled for so many days because of being outside. I kept an eye on Tempest, hoping that whatever she was doing was keeping her occupied and was not sneaking peeks at me.

Though, I don’t think she would be interested, my body was not a temple.

I made my way to the trough and dropped the shirt to the side while working on my shoes and pants. I made sure to stay behind the trough so that I had some privacy, but I still kept my eye on her the whole time. She didn’t move in the slightest, not even after I worked my way to my boxers and removed them. I look inside the trough and the water was clear as day.

I thought it had to be since I emptied it and cleaned it daily after she used it.

I put a hand in the water. It was quite cold, although I wasn’t wanting to risk Tempest’s wrath. So, I quickly lifted my feet in and lowered myself inside the trough. The water was absolutely freezing and I instantly wrapped my arms around my body in hopes to get warm. I once again eyed Tempest, when she began to stir and lifted one of the stones with one of the tongs. She immediately dropped it into the trough, the water bubbling from contact. I nudged my feet back, hoping to not get my feet singed from the burning stones.

“Don't back away. These stones have a special warding that prevents burns,” Tempest explained, tossing more of the hot stones inside.

Indeed, I was feeling warmth flowing in the water, and when I brushed my toes against the stone it felt surprisingly warm to the touch. It wasn’t painful at all. I eased a little as more of the stones were placed inside, the water getting to warm soothing temperature. I relaxed somewhat, but still kept an eye on Tempest, who was finishing putting the final stones in. She stood up, grabbed a nearby bottle and poured a few drops within, causing the hot water to materialize into suds.

I realized then and there I was taking a bubble bath.

I chuckled to myself at how silly it was. I haven’t taken a bubble bath when I was a kid. My mom would always do so whenever I was feeling down and splashing in them just made me smile. Tempest looked at me and tilted her head slightly.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

I chuckled again, placing a wet hand behind my head.

“Well, I haven’t had a bubble bath in a long time. Not since I was a kid anyway,” I explained.

Tempest rolled her eyes at my explanation.

“Well, I’m not your mother, so you’re going to clean yourself,” she explained, throwing me a sponge that hit me on the shoulder.

I winced a little from the sponge’s impact while she left to take care of her stuff. I took the sponge and did as instructed, cleaning my arms and legs with the suds and soap. While I did this, I looked over to see that Tempest was putting her gear away into her chest and removed everything except her spandex suit. She looked rather relieved to remove her armor, but I didn’t delve into much. I focused on getting the back of my ears and getting myself as clean as possible.

I was soon distracted when I heard her softly moan.

Out of my peripheral vision, I turned to see her bending down and stretching her arms upward. My eyes widened from the sight and I couldn’t help but stare. Her long forearms reached up to the tops of the tent before bending down to touch her toes. Her subtle curves framed nicely in the given light, and the amount of flexibility she had was just captivating.

Oh Lord, you may strike me down for looking at that gorgeous body. I thought, still in awe of how her body manages to be so versatile.

“You better not be staring at me,” Tempest said, not bothering to turn around.

Happy view is gone. I thought, turning my head away so that she wouldn’t get any idea of beating me.

We remained in silence for a time. I enjoyed the bath and the warmth it brought, while Tempest continued to exercising on her own, occasionally giving off a few moans that were quite hard to ignore.

I kept my focus on cleaning by dunking my head into the water. All noise canceled out as I allowed myself to get a good soak in the trough.

After a few seconds under water, I raised my head back up, wiping away suds that got in my eyes. It didn’t help much that my hands were wet and that only added to the irritation. I fondled my hand out on the side of the trough, hoping to grab a small towel to allow myself to see. I soon found what I was looking for and began to clear away the suds out of my eyes.

“So, why were you exercising? Care to explain yourself?” I heard Tempest say, her voice sounding a lot closer to me.

I opened up one eye and flinched a little when I saw her standing over me. Instinctively, my free hand went down to cover myself, but I realized that I looked more stupid since the suds were already covering the water.

“Well, I…” my words fumbled out like a waiter on their first day of work. Tempest still had that same stoic expression and was waiting for an answer. Clearing the lump in my throat, I responded to the best of my ability. “I wanted to exercise because I wanted to be healthy and strong. Since, no doubt, you would want to use me for various tasks that require strength.” I paused, then added, “Plus, I was bored.”

That was a good explanation.

“I see. However, I am not a weak equine for you to be fawning over. I don’t need false, chivalrous stallions to be defending me.” she explained, folding her arms in irritation.

That’s a strike in the ‘being friendly to overlord’ department.

“Look, I didn’t mean to say it that way.” I raised my hands up defensively, “ I don’t want to slight you in any way shape or form. I only want to make sure I stay healthy enough to be of use to you,” I spoke in honesty, and I hoped that she would see that I was telling the truth.

Her face softened a little and looked rather relaxed.

“Alright. I believe you,” she said, lowering her arms and settling them on her hips. A question came to mind and I cleared my throat to speak to her.

“If I may ask, if that is okay with you, has Appleloosa-“

“It has been conquered,” Tempest interjected, and I nodded my head to her. Fear of my friends capture or even killed started hanging on the back of my mind.

“And, the people within?” I asked with a little hesitation.

“Most escaped. When our army descended upon the town, they fled for the the train station and took off running. A few hard headed folk fought to the last, but we rounded up the remaining citizens.” she explained.

I looked to the foaming water in front of me and I remained silent for a time. I was not sure if Applejack or Pinkie Pie made their escape, but I hoped they were okay.

“So, what was your life like before coming here?” Tempest asked, and I blinked in confusion by the random question.

“That’s a little off topic, isn’t it?” I replied.

She bore a half grin while speaking in a ‘matter of fact’ tone.

“You asked a question and I gave my answer. Now it’s my turn to ask questions.”

That was fair enough. It would at least get my mind off of what is happening in Appaloosa.

“Well, what do you wish to hear?” I asked.

Tempest began lining up questions for me.

In all honesty they were sincere questions that I did not expect to hear from her.

She began with where I came from and what land I resided. She asked what life was like on Earth and what I did professionally. She even asked a question on if there was any animal, particularly if there were ones that were like them. I replied to all the question to the best of my ability.

I told her that I come from California, living in the proud nation of the United States of America. I also told her that life is more advanced, what with the different technologies Earth had than the steam powered machines and works that Equestria had. While her questions for other anthropomorphic creatures like them that was a significant one, I told her there weren’t, but that there were some who like to create art or cosplay as them.

I didn’t know why, there just were.

We talked for quite some time, giving off an extensive history/life lesson about where I come from and who I was when I lived on Earth. I told her about my college life and how I was close to graduating before being pulled here. Whenever I finished one question, she gave a follow up to everyone. She was quite interested to say the least.

Her question on my profession, however, was a bit of a challenge to convey.

“So let me get this straight. You wish to be a writer, but couldn’t graduate because you were brought here against your will?” Tempest asked, having brought a small chair to sit down and listen to my story, which had been going on for twenty to thirty minutes now. I nodded my head and she brought a finger to her chin. “So, what holds you back from pursuing it?”

“Well, I’m not sure,” I said, rubbing the back of my head. “When I was brought here, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would take a few days or a week to send me back home, but the spell that Twilight used was old. She had to scavenge the entire library of Canterlot to find more books about the subject. Even then, it takes time to get it right. They don’t want to send me back to a different timeline or dimension that would be run by apes.”

Tempest gave a peculiar look to me on that last explanation and I waved it off to her.

“Anyway, I’m stuck here. At least until they can create a portal that is stable enough for them to send me home.” I paused for a moment and I looked away from her, “I had plenty of stories in my head while I was growing up, and I always made them, even when I was too young to know what I was doing. I wanted to go to college to get my decree as an English Major and be able to write my works. Writing is much harder because of all the wrong grammar issues, the misspells, the adjectives, and proper nouns, even when you use the tedious word play in making a story stand out to the reader. And the editors you ask to help can’t find the time to even-,”


“I get the gist of it,” Tempest interjected and raised a hand to me, “You don’t need to be repetitive on your explanations. Just be clear and precise to get the message across.” She explained.

I nodded to her and settled myself back in the tub, feeling my fingers becoming spongy from being in the water for so long. I looked back to the towel and grabbed it so that I can clean myself off from the excess suds.

“Well, anyway. Being brought here, and seeing all the amazing things that are different yet similar, my mind has gone on a writers block, and I just couldn’t find it in me to make any stories or do some writing.” I explained as best as I could. She nodded to my explanation and I returned with a smile. “Well, glad I got a bath while I can, despite it being a one time thing.” I said, rubbing behind the ears to remove some of the excess water.

Out of my peripheral vision, Tempest stood from her seat and gave a firm stretch with her hands.

“I will give you access to the bath after your exercises. So long as you clean the tub afterward.” Tempest explained, and I tilt my head in confusion before giving a affirmative nod.

“Well, that’s reasonable at least.” I thought, and gave her a smile.

She didn’t share my smile and kept her stoic demeanor, but I was used to that really. She then promptly turned heel and headed to her wooden chest. I couldn’t help but let my eyes wander down to her backside, her tail bouncing up and down in a hypnotic matter.

Can’t go wrong with work if I can’t get a view like that, I thought.

Tempest soon stopped at her chest and was putting some of her gear away. While she did this, I suddenly felt a familiar stinging sensation in my neck. I placed a hand to it and an electrical current ran through my body. I gave out a ‘manly’ yelp and rubbed the spot on my neck.

“Be sure to go to bed soon, the army will be moving tomorrow and we will need to be ready to move everything out.” Tempest said, and headed towards her bed, but not without giving me a sideways glance, “Also, be sure to keep your wandering eyes from staring too long. I can tell when unwanted eyes are watching me.” she explained and went into her covers, while I remained in my bewildered state.

She may be a sexy yet bad lieutenant, but I have to admit that she’s good.

First Touch (Edited)

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Another week passed during the duration of my stay. Let me tell you, it was not much of a thrill.

The Storm King, since finishing his conquest with Appleloosa, decided to move onto the next town. I had to lug tents, supplies, food, and whatever you can name into wagon trains, ensuring they were secure for the trip. The Storm King would keep a close eye on me during this transition, but it was mostly due to his amusement of giving me a shock in my neck whenever I was in the middle of something. I would fall onto the muddy ground, staining my clothes in thick muck and grime, and I would hear him laugh it off like I was a goof.

I begrudgingly continued my day to day business and work, despite the constant hindrances.

We left the desert region of Equestria, and entered more fertile plains. Instead of harsh sands, the ground was covered with lush grasses and beautiful fields of flowers that ranged for many miles. It didn’t take long for the Storm King's army to march through it and destroy everything. Animals of every kind fled from our approach, and even vile predators that lurked in the region ran off in all directions. To top it all off, it still continued to rain down on us even after we left the deserts of Appleloosa.

The Storm King had a stupid way of bringing the forces of nature down on us, but he should at least be considerate in laying off the storms.

And not every bloody day.

During our travel, I met with the few survivors from Appleloosa. There were about a dozen or so, including their de facto leader, Braeburn, Applejack’s cousin, and his girl/marefriend, Little Strongheart. They were still shocked from the whole experience, mostly because of how fast the Storm King’s forces came down upon them. They told me it was like any normal day, until the skies began to turn dark, and without warning, the army of the Storm King charged down on them.

They recalled that many of their neighbors fled with all haste to the train stations, while others tried to hold the enemy off. The two had fought well, until they were eventually subdued. I asked them if any of my friends escaped, and to my relief, they did, though regretfully. They had hopped aboard the last train when they believed everyone was accounted for, but it was his suggestion for them to leave, since he was not going to abandon his home.

They’re good friends to have when they look out for the well being of others.

In any case, they adjusted quickly and did what they were told by their taskmasters. Though the jobs required were quite brutal, lifting heavy loads and pushing carts out of muddy waters, they were a tough bunch and managed. I never met such sturdy equines than from the ones in Appleloosa. Especially Little Strongheart. She was a buffalo, and she was quite strong in pulling heavy loads that were twice her size.

I’m not kidding. She pulled two heavy loads of weapon racks through the heavy mud and she didn’t break a sweat. I wondered just how much time Braeburn and Little Strongheart would go at it...

“Pay attention!” Tempest yelled.

And just like that, she tripped my legs up and I fell onto my backside once again.

It was fortunate she did, because my mind was going to someplace dirty.

Being back at the present, I stood up and took a stance once again in the center of the tent. Tempest lunged and began unleashing punches onto the padded armor, but I stood my ground. She jabbed several times in my chest and stomach before unleashing a powerful kick on the side, which almost made me stagger onto the ground. However, I managed to stay on my feet this time.

This routine of ours continued on for the past week since we left the desert. She continued to train herself up for the next big assignment, ready to go on any given notice. On occasion, she would have me stay still and she would try to throw me to the ground like a police officer would a criminal.

Or John Cena piledriving Kevin Federline.

Despite the constant aggression and abuse, I started to get used to this ordeal. I would take the ordeal and extreme attacks, and I would try to be a passive aggressive attacker to her. Even then, she would still beat me. Whenever she was done, I would try and stretch out my sore muscles and exercise on my own accord.

The bath privileges she gave me have been a lifesaver, because I had been sweating like crazy after every workout session.

I have noticed, since the past two weeks, that my body has changed somewhat. I had lost the amount of belly fat around my waist, and it was no longer pudgy or sticking out. My upper body felt more toned, and my broad shoulders felt good and strong. I could lift most heavy objects without much resistance and help in some of the more grueling tasks that the Storm King threw at me. I had also been eating light as well, with some daily food of whatever the kitchen decided to dish out. Some apples, veggies, loaf of bread, and even at times, meat.

I was surprised to find out one night that Tempest was eating meat as well, even though she was an equine. I asked her about why she was eating meat, although she simply gave me the finger and told me not to ask again.

Women have their reasons, even the mares here on Equestria.

She would, however, ask me a number of questions about my life and my people. It felt like an interrogation, because she would ask me in my face at times about some certain technology that humans have or what form of government. I answered them all to the best of my knowledge, but she was baffled at what a phone was. I tried to explain to her that it allowed me to contact others from one distance to another, and that it could take pictures and store data. She would tilt her head to the side and look very perplexed by my description.

I found it rather cute when she did that. But I wouldn’t tell her otherwise, because the assurity of my life was on the line.

Trust me. Don’t look into it.

“Alright Spencer, I want to try something different,” Tempest said, distracting me from my thoughts. She took a stance in the center of the room, her chest heaving slightly from her workout session. Despite her wearing the spandex suit, I would hazard a guess that she was sweating underneath that outfit.

God, why do I find that hot?

“What’s any different than you tossing me around like a ragdoll?” I asked, almost sarcastically.

She rolled her eyes and waved me over with her hand. I went forward and stood in front of her, waiting for another round of punching. Instead, she remained where she was and wiggled her finger for me to come closer.

“Don’t stand there lollygagging. Get over here,” she ordered.

I quickly did as I was told. When I stood in front of her, she looked rather annoyed by my hesitation.

“Alright, I want you to grab me,” she ordered me.

“With pleasure,” I said without thinking, and began moving on my own to grab her.

She swatted at my hand with a firm smack and I recoiled.

“Not like that you idiot!” she exclaimed, “I don’t want you to come at me like some prancing school girl! Come at me like you want to strangle me!” she readied herself, taking a stance in the middle of the room.

Feeling emboldened, I decided to bull rush her, aiming low and having my arms outstretched. I was mere inches away when she sidestepped me and karate chopped me across the chest, while at the same time, kicking the back of my knee upward and sweeping me in the air.

This was going to hurt.

I landed on my back hard, the wind in my lungs depleted from the blow. I slowly staggered back upward, while Tempest remained steadfast and at the ready.

“Good Spencer. You charge like a drunkard with his pants down. Try to grab me if you can. Be the aggressor!” she said, goading me.

I was already being the aggressor here. Despite the pain throughout my body, I couldn’t resist her challenge.

So, I went at her. The same thing happened again and I ended up being on the ground. Time and time again, I would end up on the ground, and I would rise up and try and grab her. Despite my best attempts at trying to seize her, she would always slip by me. Tempest, on the other hand, was certainly enjoying this and I even saw a smile crack on her lips. It was faint, but noticeable. After my tenth fall, I laid there on the ground, heaving for air. I was sweating bullets from the amount of exertion in attempting to grab her. The padding had cushioned most of the damage but the weight of my exhaustion racked my body.

While I was down on the ground, Tempest walked over to me until I could see her head upside down from mine. She then bent her legs down to be at a closer level to me.

“Very good, Spencer,” Tempest looked down at me with a half smirk on her countenance, before for some reason, she ruffled my hair, “You nearly got me a few times.” she explained while I remained on the ground gulping for air.

When she stopped, I couldn’t help but blush slightly from her ruffling my hair.

“Tempest! Are you in?!” The Storm King’s voice boomed from the outside.

Hearing the voice, Tempest stood regal and marched towards the tent entrance.

“Be sure to put that away, Spencer. We’re done for now,” she explained while opening up the tent.

I slowly pulled myself up, still taking deep breaths and trying to get back to normal, as well as recompose myself from her ruffling my hair. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see the Storm King entering inside, bearing an annoyed expression. He began conversing with Tempest. I rolled my eyes, mostly ignoring them and heading to the wooden chest, hoping to deposit the padded armor and hopefully rest in my bedroll.

“What!?” Tempest exclaimed. I couldn’t help but turn my head to the side and see both the Storm King and Tempest, the latter looking rather displeased over what he said. “You can’t possibly be serious!”

“No, I came to bring you ice cream,” he told her with a chuckle, “Yes, I’m serious!” The Storm King angrily shouted back unexpectedly, “In case you don’t know, the parade we’re running here hasn’t gone unnoticed. And the further inland we march, the more chances that we’ll be getting harassed and ambushed. I need you to scout ahead before we claim the surrounding towns and villages. We take them, and then we go straight for the grand prize, which is Canterlot!”

“But, I’m already busy commanding the troops and making sure the airships are delivering supplies for our-”

“It doesn’t matter! I’m the leader, and I give the orders. So, get to it!” The Storm King interjected. Tempest remained still while her king began to head out.

“This wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t get rid of Grubber.” she muttered, low yet audible.

I watched as The Storm King turned to her with a seething gaze and stood right in front of his lieutenant. A claw lunged out and clasped onto the edge of her spandex, and she was held there. I watched as Tempest froze in place and her eyes go wide, almost nervous even.

This had me worried because I’ve never seen her get nervous before.

“Let me jog your memory on something. That midget was an annoying eyesore, Tempest! He was doing his duty, until he started slacking off whenever the two of you were put together,” The Storm King yelled at her face, and I swore I saw spittle flying out of his maw, “Whenever you two were around each other, he was always beside you like a magnet and becoming overly friendly. I sent him off when I found him gathering flowers. Bleh, nasty blossoms, useless dirt, always causing the senses to start tingling.” he exclaimed.

“That was not for-,” Tempest Shadow tried to explain, but The Storm King snorted in frustration.

“You will not let friendship cloud your judgement, Tempest. Remember our bargain. You don’t want to forsake it after being with me for so long. Even after bringing you out of that back alley,” he said coldly, letting go of her clothes and turning to leave. He only stopped short when his eyes settled on me sitting there. I felt a chill crawl up my spine as his eyes bore down on me. He kept his gaze for a few moments before giving off a tired sigh.

“Eh sorry, human. My bad. Here's the deal, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night. I had some recurring nightmares that would resurface, and let me tell ya, they were some nasty stuff.” he explained, his attitude from before having shifted quite drastically, “Don’t mind our arguments. They’re nothing for you to be taking notes on.” he said and snapped his fingers.

I suddenly felt my whole body get shocked, and I dropped hard onto the ground in a twitching mess. The Storm King left the tent laughing, and his echoes could be heard long after I remained on the ground. I stayed there for a moment, ticked off as usual and feeling the after affects of the shock. However, my concern was not on myself, but for Tempest.

Look, I know she was a bad guy and everything, but, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

I raised myself up to look at her, and I saw her body still standing where she was. I could hear her shallow breath and her body was as still as a statue. I wanted to say something, ask her what that was about. However, I had no doubt if I raised my voice she would probably take her anger out on me.

My apprehension and fear of another beat down won out and I was silent for the time.

Tempest remained there for another minute longer, before she turned away from the entrance and headed towards her bed. She walked past me, and I took that moment to see her. I saw that she was looking down and appeared upset, if not desolate over what she had heard. It was the first kind sad expression that I had seen her with.

Oh screw my apprehension.

“Tempest?” I asked, reaching out my hand and touching her right shoulder, “Are you al-,” she stopped and swung her body around, her hands clasping on my right arm and holding it like a viper.

Before I could finish my sentence, I was struck in the stomach by one of her elbows, and she pulled my arm over her shoulder and down to the ground, my momentum making me flip over her body. I slammed hard on the ground, and without the padding, I felt the full force strike my back and sending all the air out of my lungs.

“-right?” I managed to say the last of my words.

That was easily the dumbest decision in my life.

Well, second dumbest.

Tempest held my arm for a moment before letting it drop to the side. She then moved in and seized the end of my shirt, pulling me up until I stood face to face with her. A deep scowl was on her face and I focused on her eyes, which seemed to burn with great intensity.

“Do. Not. Touch. Me. Again!” she said, low and threatening.

She released me and pushed my head rather hard onto the floor of the tent. I groaned slightly as she left my side and headed to her bed. Eventually, I crawled myself back into my own bed on the floor and curled up for the rest of the night.

However, my mind continued to wonder about Tempest, and why she acted the way she did.

“What happened to you?” Was my last thought before I drifted off to sleep that night.

Dreamscape (Edited)

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Whenever I sleep, I tend to have very meticulous dreams.

Some would be simple and plain. Others, I could recall vivid details from each recurring dream or nightmare.

That seemed to increase more since being here in Equestria.

In fact, the dream I was having was that I was to do a multitude of work and slaving over the camp, while The Storm King was gloating over his recent victories. I kept moving about and pushing heavy loads, as well as lifting ridiculous sized boulders just so that the Storm King had a view. What made this particular dream was that it was raining heavier than what I experienced in real life.

In a weird way, I was beginning to sense a pattern when rain was involved and my mood would remain foul.

After I did the tasks best on me, I was brought forth to the Storm King, and he had me in the palm of his hands. I was beset by the stinging pain in my neck, and I twisted and writhed in discomfort. I cringed and gritted my teeth, wishing nothing more than for this to end. I could hear the Storm King coming closer and I continued shouting out in hopes that something will come and end this torment. He hovered over me, his claw, much bigger than before, coming in to engulf me. All the while a sinister laughter emanated from him.

“That is enough of that,” a mystic voice broke through the laughter.

The Storm King vanished in a wisp of air, and the pain coursing through my body was gone.

I looked around and saw that I was no longer in the encampment, but standing near the embankment of a lake. Fields of grass surrounded me, and a lazy river came and exited through the large lake. A small island with a single tree stood in the center of the lake, with several patches of lilies surrounding the base. The light of the moon shone brightly around me and I was, for the most part, alone.

Stranger things came to my mind and I felt an unusual vibe about it.

“Is anyone here?” I asked aloud, hoping to get some sort of a reply.

I blinked once and looked around me, hoping to find someone, or somepony, hiding in the grass or lake. I didn’t hear anything or anyone reply and I rubbed the back of my head.

“This is a weird dream,” I muttered to myself.

“And I thought your kind was strange,” I heard a feminine voice nearby. I turned around, searching for the source of the voice, yet I found none. “Over here, Spencer.”

I turned and saw that the tree began to move, the leaves descending off of it at a rapid rate. A non existent wind carried the leaves towards me, dancing in a small twirling motion. The leaves spun faster until they landed on the shore line and a gorgeous figure stood in front of me. I blinked as a mare gowned in a beautiful evening dress, matching her blue coat and stunning blue hair, and glittering like the stars, stood before me.

I recognized her immediately as Princess Luna.

“Princess Luna?!” I exclaimed in pure surprise.

She rushed over to me and enveloped me in a bone crushing hug. I tried to hug back as best I could but I could not outmatch her strength.

Seriously, she is like a demigod, way stronger than me.

“Oh Spencer, tis good to see you safe. We were worried sick!” she explained to me, holding me in her death grip.

Even though I felt like my spine was going to crack, I was finally able to return the hug, taking in the warmness of her body, fur, and dress, as well as the feeling of her curves.

After another moment of hugging, she released me, allowing me to get a breath of fresh air, before she clasped her hands on my shoulders and got a hold of me.

“Tell me, where are you? What has happened? Are you faring well?” she asked a stream of questions to me.

I raised my hand to her to give her pause.

“Princess Luna, it’s great to see you. I’m doing okay. But, how are you here? Is this a dream or is this real?” I asked, looking at the world around me.

Princess nodded and looked at the world around us as well.

“Yes, this is a dream. Since I am the Princess of the Night, I can travel in one’s dreams and alley any nightmare that has crawled its way into their souls.” she explained.

I know I met Princess Luna several times since the year I stayed in Equestria, but, it continued to amaze me on what she can do.

“So...wait,” I asked curiously, “how come you are speaking with me now? I’ve been trapped here by the Storm King for weeks.” I explained, and Luna gave a painful smile.

“My apologies, Spencer. The Storm King’s magics are quite strong, and they are not easy to outmaneuver. Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been probing in his magical defenses in hopes of getting to you. It took me many tries, but I finally managed to reach you without alerting him to my presence.” she explained, lowering her hands off my shoulders and waving a hand in the air.

The space in front of her changed and revealed the large encampment of the Storm King’s army. The camp was large, stretching for at least a mile long, with more long trains of wagons coming into the camp.

“We have been monitoring them ever since the first attack,” Princess Luna explained, her hand hovering over the image and showing the Storm King was in some war tent with sub commanders, none of them being Tempest. “We have hoped to extract you from the camp, but his guards have been on full alert, making it difficult to rescue you. Our best option for the moment is to harry them when they get closer and closer to Canterlot, and to evacuate the neighboring towns and villages before any more innocents are put at risk.”

“I’m glad you’re taking precautions. But, I do wonder what your plan for this is? Will you be making some advance to help us, not just making hit and run tactics?” I asked, hoping for some good answer.

Princess Luna shook her head and waved her hand, the image of the camp disappearing from view.

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. The enemy will no doubt be prepared for us in the event we make a move for you and the other prisoners. We will have to abide from such a measure unless absolutely necessary.” she explained.

I felt a little down by her statement. She caught on when I felt her hand lift my chin up to meet her gaze. She gave a tender smile that looked almost motherly.

“Don’t fret, Spencer. The closer you get to us, the more likelihood that you can be rescued. Don’t give up hope too soon.”

I smiled and nodded to her.

“Alright Luna, I believe you.” I replied.

She nodded in kind. However, her demeanor soon changed when she looked to the right and a frown appeared on her muzzle. I looked in her direction but found nothing but the dream of the landscape that we were in.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, unsure of what she was staring at.

“A mare is having a small nightmare. I can sense it emanating nearby.” she explained.

I wanted to ask her about what she meant, but suddenly, I felt the dream shift around me and the island paradise disappeared from view. I then went into a place that felt ethereal and strange, almost like a space nebula. Luna was still standing by my side and she kept her gaze ever forward. I followed her gaze and many lights of different shades flew past me. We soon stopped at something that showed a haze of red, and was very unnatural like the others.

“What are these?” I asked, unsure of what I was staring at.

“These are dreams. Or doors to said dreams, if you will” she said, opening up a hand towards the red sphere before us. She clasped it with the tips of her fingers and gazed into it like a fortune teller, “This one is experiencing a mild nightmare. Curious, I’ve never seen her before.” she said, and she continued to examine it.

I looked in with her, observing whoever was inside. I couldn’t make out the figure but there was no doubt an equine was inside. Running for her life.

“Let us see what she is running from.” Luna said, her eyes flashing white.

“Wait what?” I asked in bewilderment.

The nebula like landscape changed.

I soon found myself standing in an empty room. I looked about the room, it was old and rickety, with a few chairs set next to a table, and a small kitchen in the back of the room. A few glass windows were visible nearby and Princess Luna was standing there, observing them.

“Princess Luna, I don't understand. What’s going on?” I asked, going to her side to look at the window.

“Let your eyes perceive what is happening outside,” she explained, gesturing to a narrow alleyway before me.

I looked out the window, seeing it empty and nothing of worth. I kept my gaze forward until a noise at the end of the alleyway caught my attention. I saw a small cloaked figure rushing past it, a small cloth wrapped in its hands. Shouts and curses could be heard from behind the little child. I watched as it pushed passed some broken barrels and ladders, shunting them aside while the debris came crashing down. A group of equines turned the corner and were blocked off, while the little cloaked figure turned and rushed through a door, the very door that was on our left.

I turned, seeing the child lock the door behind her and slumping down onto a nearby wall. She was breathing heavily with the bundle of cloth firmly in her grip. I saw her face and noticed a familiar shade of red and purple. She was quite small, with any indication she might have been maybe eight or even ten years of age. After catching her breath, she unwrapped the cloth to reveal a large loaf of bread.

“It appears that we had only arrived at the end of her nightmare.” Princess Luna mused, drawing a finger to her chin and remaining reflective over what they were seeing.

I watched as the little child pushed back the hood of the cloak, instantly seeing a broken horn upon the child's head.

“Tempest,” I muttered, catching Luna off guard.

“You know this mare?” she asked, turning her ever powerful gaze onto me.

I looked at her briefly before staring back at the younger Tempest, who happily gorged herself on the loaf of bread, the loaf making a nice crunch from the first bite. She looked quite famished, chewing the bread with a happy smile. Her eyes would occasionally dart over to the door, hearing the group behind the debris trying to get through.

“I’ve been under her watch at the camp. The Storm King put her in charge of me,” I explained, taking a step forward towards Tempest.

“That is curious,” Princess Luna said, sounding almost like she was brooding from what I uttered.

I ignored her and took a few more steps towards Tempest, who continued to eat her meal. It was then I reached a hand out towards her, my body leaning down to reach her level.

“Spencer, don’t get close too her!” Luna said rather sternly.

I paused, turning to her to see what she was talking about. However, a sharp gasp came in front of me and I looked to see Tempest had locked eyes with mine. Her pupils were wide, her breath short and she dropped the food to place her hands at the back of the wall. I froze in place, unsure of what I was suppose to do.

Could she see me? Was I interacting with her dream?

“Spencer. Back away, slowly,” Princess Luna ordered.

I attempted to move back, but the way my body was positioned I was in a rather unstable balance. My attempt to back up failed when my upper body was leaning forward towards Tempest. My hands slapped firmly onto the ground and Tempest’s feet scurried back from my vision. I looked up to her and I saw tears in her eyes.

“Get away from me!” she screamed out, and the whole room began to shift.

Suddenly, the door began to burst open and shattered to splinters. Outside, the angry mob came rushing in and began to seize her. Tempest’s body disappeared as soon as they touched her and I scurried onto my feet, watching the whole room fading at a rapid pace.

“Princess Luna?! What’s happening?!” I screamed out, albeit in an almost high pitched voice.

I then felt a hand press firmly onto my shoulder, and the room disappeared entirely, leaving the nebula like dreamscape around me.

“You're fine, Spencer. She has merely awaken. Rather abruptly if I may add,” Princess Luna explained. I sighed with relief and turned to Princess Luna who looked rather annoyed, but it was mostly muted due to her smile. “You strayed too far from me, and that allowed you to materialize into her dream.”

“I didn’t think that would happen,” I said, feeling a little sheepish over what I did.

Princess Luna’s annoyance faded and merely chuckled from my remark.

“Don’t worry. So long as you’re by my side, you won’t have anything to…”

A sudden pain entered on my side and I doubled over in the dreamscape. Princess Luna faded from view within an instant.


My eyes opened up to the real world.

“What the hell!” I yelled out.

I looked up to see Tempest standing over me, wearing what happened to be some sort of white tank top and silk pajama bottoms.

I don’t know why, but it it looked rather casual compared to the dark brooding armor that she normally wore. Looked rather normal for her.

“What was that for?!” I shouted a little louder then I should.

Tempest lowered herself down, anger brewing in her eyes.

“That’s for touching me earlier! Because of you I got a nightmare of you in my dream!” She explained, giving me another kick in my side, although, it was rather lighter then the first one.

“It’s just a dream! I was here, not doing anything!” I explained, hoping to calm, pardon the pun, the tempest before me.

She raised her fist at me and I flinched somewhat, but kept my gaze on her. She remained there for a moment, her breath short and her anger still billowing. After what felt like hours, which only lasted a few moments, she slowed her breath and lowered her fist.

She sighed and looked away from me.

“You’re right. It was just a dream. Nothing can hurt me in a dream.” she said, her last words almost audible.

My own irritation faded from what she had uttered and I softened somewhat, wondering what she was implying.

“Tempest?” I asked, wondering what she was thinking.

She took notice of me. I saw her ears fold back and she looked rather annoyed.

“I’m going back to bed, I have much to do tomorrow, so no disturbances. If you disturb me, I’ll have you clean the privy with your teeth” she said, turning around and heading back to her bed.

“Tempest?” I asked again, ignoring the threat.

She merely turned her head to glare at me, she lit her horn some and I felt the same tingling sensation in my neck. I remained silent while she headed off to bed. I settled my head onto my own pillow. We were both silent for the night, and I remained awake for the next few hours, wondering what had transpired between us.

It was strange of me to say it, but I really hoped that she was okay.

The First Hug (Edited)

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Another week went by, and things were pretty much the same as the last. Tempest had gone out and about with her duties, while I remained cooped up in the tent. No doubt she was off to pillage a village or run out any civilians that the Storm King’s army happened to go through. On occasion, one of the guards notified me to do a chore or two and I would be escorted back to the tent. Other than that it had been relatively boring.

Okay, just flat out boring.

I’ve had no contact with Princess Luna in my dreams of late since the last one was cut out so abruptly. Though I can honestly say it was my fault because I didn’t know about the dreamscape and how interactions with other dreams worked. I couldn’t say when she would return, but I hoped she would come back soon. I was beginning to be at my wits end of this place.

I laid there flat on the bed roll. The only source of light was the hanging lantern near the tent entrance. The only sound that I could hear was my own breathing and rain splashing against the tent. I thought I’d grown used to this rain, despite it constantly raining ever since I’ve been here.

If someone decided to waterboard me here and now then I was good, because this constant downpour was torture.

I banged the back of my head gently on the soft furs, trying to numb out the noise that was happening outside. But no matter what I did, or tried to cancel it out, the noise. I tried imagining that I was taking a shower, or even swimming in a pool, but that didn’t work because the noise lingered and made the whole situation worse. I sighed deeply and leaned my head back until I could stare at the wall of tent.

“Well Spencer, this is probably the most boring day you have had to experience. Done exercising, chores and hard labors taken care of, and no sight of Tempest anywhere. This has been going swimmingly hasn't it?” I said aloud, and by instinct I raised one of my hands over my head, the light of the lantern casting its shadow onto the wall.

Trust me, there have been a few people who have gone this far to cure their boredom.

“Don’t say swimmingly, this noise has been driving me bonkers ever since we’ve been here,” my hand puppet spoke back to me in a lower pitch voice.

“Sorry, but with nothing to do, I’m just flat out bored right now. Even an insane asylum sounds more pleasing than this constant rainfall,” I replied back, but my shadow shook its head.

“Doesn't mean you can imagine some better things,” my hand retorted, “Remember that time when you first came through Twilight’s castle and you were in complete awe over what you’ve seen that it was almost a dream?” I chuckled at my hand’s remark.

“Yeah, and at the same time, I accidentally walked into the guards’ showers and some of the mares in there freaked out.”

My hand thought for a second over that particular memory and laughed with me.

“Oh I remember. I also recall that thestral who got really in your grill. That mare was cursing up a storm like a scotsman.”

“I think she was a scotsman, or mare if you will. But she can be a feisty one and curse me out before I have the chance to compose myself,” I replied back.

My shadow hand was going to reply but my left hand raised up and cast its shadow upon the wall.

I had to spice things up you know.

“Guys, careful, Storm King is coming!” he said, before disappearing out of existence.

A few seconds later my left hand made a shadow that almost resembled the Storm King, or half resembled due to the few fingers shaping up a horned head.

“It is I, the Storm King, and I will be your judge, jury, and executioner during your stay here,” the shadow of the Storm King said, laughing and appearing all mighty to the other shadow hand.

“Oh no, it’s Judge Dredd, I mean, the Storm King, whatever shall I do!” his right hand said in an almost mocking tone. The Storm King continued to laugh, and I tried to make it as deep as possible to make him all the more ridiculous.

“That is right, I am dreadful, thank you for the kind compliment. I abhor kindness in all its forms. Therefore, I shall let my lieutenant come in and beat you to a meaty pulp, hahahaha!” The storm king took off, albeit in a silly way, and disappeared from the light. A moment later my left hand returned and the voice of Tempest Shadow came in.

“So, this worm is what the Storm King has given me? You’re nothing but a fat pig,” she explained, in the most feminine voice I could give.

“I’m not fat, I was actually fluffy before I was been worked to the bone,” my right hand said, attempting to flex my thumb to resemble a muscled arm.

“No talking back! Insubordination!” Tempest Shadow cried out.

“What?” My right hand replied, only to gasp when the left hand formed into a gun. I made the sound of a taser and my right shook uncontrollably, and I added an after effect of my own death.

“Blaghhhh,” I cried out, my right hand being as dramatic as possible. However, before I could make a ‘dramatic’ return, the light disappeared and a figure blocked the view.

“Hey hey! Asshole! You're ruining the show,” I said and I looked at the front entrance the tent in annoyance, only to bit my lower lip when I saw it was Tempest at the front entrance.

“Oh hello, Tempest,” I stuttered, cursing under my breath as I tried to stand up and make myself presentable. Though after speaking aloud to her without my knowing I’m fully expecting a big whooping.

Tempest stared blankly at me, her ears low and her authoritative mood the same as ever. Her hair was soaking wet, making the plume-like mane sag slightly from its usual look. Behind her, she dragged a small bag, which had mud scraped to the bottom of it, I also could have sworn that there was blood splattered upon it. She moved towards me, dragging the bag with her, and I froze in place.

Her opal eyes bore into mine and I couldn’t help but stare back. With each heavy step she came forward, her body weary from whatever task she did. Her nostrils flared and a deep sigh escaped her, and still I nearly flinched from her brooding demeanor. When she got five feet away from me, I cringed slightly and waited for her to punch me in the gut and throw me to the ground.

What I didn’t expect from her was to walk past me and go towards her bed.

I blinked in surprise. I was fully expecting a beatdown or some sort of punishment. Instead, she walked on past and pretended I was never there.

I turned back to her, seeing Tempest laying the bag down next to the foot of her bed and slowly sitting on the edge of it. She sighed deeply, her bed creaking slightly from the weight of her armor. She shuffled a hand into the bag and pulled out what appeared to be a bottle of wine. She uncorked the top and the cork came out with ease. Then, she tenderly brought the bottle to her lips and began to drink it down. I blinked in surprise. I had never seen her drink before and didn’t think she would be a drinker. After a few more big gulps, she lowered the bottle and sighed deeply from the heavy alcohol. She brought the bottle up to her lips again, but paused when she noticed me gawking at her.

“What are you staring at?” she asked coldly.

I blinked at her and turned to face away.

“Nothing. It’s just...I never took you as a drinker.” I replied, hoping that by some small chance that she was not going to take her anger out on me.

“Yes, well, everyone has a surprise in them for others,” Tempest said, surprising me, “I do drink certain liquids. You just never knew that.”

I could hear her take another swig of the wine, and I could only wonder what was going on through her head.

“Tempest? What did you do today?” I asked, with a hint of caution, knowing that one wrong inquiry could lead me having my tonsils removed.

Tempest glared at me, her fiery eyes ready to send out daggers while I would remain strapped to a big target. Her military demeanor rose when she stiffened her back and pointed a finger directly at me, while holding the bottle of wine in her hands.

“That, is none of your concern…so zip your…your howling screamer,” she said, the alcohol in her system already making her tipsy. She took the drink to her lips, but she stopped short before her eyes lingered on me for a moment longer. “You should be in bed, it’s already late…for a young child like you,” she said, going at her drink like it was the most precious thing in the world.

Has it already been that long? I thought, looking outside and wondering how dark it was already.

Deciding to do what she said, I went to my bed and laid there, being as still as possible while I listened to her drink to her heart's content. I tried closing my eyes, trying to imagine the sound of silence echoing in the whole room. However, Tempest’s drinking and sighing in satisfaction was a big distraction. A moment later, I heard the wine bottle land with a solid thump and I lifted my head to see Tempest had finished the bottle. She was beginning to undo her armor’s straps. She managed to get a few of the parts off, but struggled to undo a shoulder strap. She cursed and her fist banged against it to remove the armor piece.

“Tempest? Do you need any…”

“Just shut up and leave me be!” she shouted, anger and frustration in her eyes and her body tense. I could see her fist clench up, and she looked ready to fly herself over to me to pummel me to the ground. She bitterly looked away and grabbed the strap, before ripping it off her body and tossing the armor piece to the side with little regard to it. Sensing that she was not willing to talk, I quietly settled back down into the bed.

After a while, I could hear Tempest settle herself on the bed, and sleep soon overcame me.


The dreamscape I found myself in was different. Normally I would find myself in some bar, or imagining I was in a big battle. Even imagining I was at the Academy Awards for Best Actor and I would get the reward, only for those pricks to give it to someone else because they said they ‘made a mistake’. This time nothing greeted me and nothing seemed to take place. I felt myself floating in a big sea, the water flowing through and around my body. I stayed there, feeling my body drift off to the sea of nothingness and nothing anchored me to solid ground.

“Spencer…” a voice called out to me.

I drifted a little further, finding my body flipping over and standing on solid footing. I saw a mist coming towards me, a warmth radiating out of it and calling out to me. Like a moth to a flame, I drew to its presence as the mist slowly swirled around me. I opened my arms out of reflex and the mist encompassed me. I felt part of the mist hold my head close, and I began to feel something holding me back. Not forcibly, more like a gentle hug.

“This is really nice.” I said, relaxing into the warm embrace and rubbing my face on whatever this warm substance is.

“Glad you’re enjoying yourself, Spencer,” the familiar voice of Princess Luna entered my ears.

My eyes opened wide, and I saw nothing but blue in front of me and the soft fuzzy feeling on either side of my cheeks. My eyes darted up and I could see the Princess of the Night giving a small smirk down at me. My face burned red when I realized exactly where my head was. Right between a low cut garment.

I was buried in Princess Luna’s heavenly cleavage.

“I was worried when you were pulled out of your sleep,” she said, patting my back in a motherly sort of way, “But judging by how enamored your face is buried in my bosom I say that you're fine,” she finished, and I immediately lifted my head out of her valley of heaven and looked at her dead in the eye.

She still held me and showed no anger over what I did, but a part of me was glad to see her again.

“I’m glad to see you too,” I said with the straightest face as possible, though I didn’t know how red my face was. “Sorry about that,” I finished, trying to avert my eyes away from her chest.

Princess Luna’s smirk rose even higher.

“Oh? My chest is not stunning or alluring to the eye?” she started to tease, “If you wish to know, my sister’s bosom is far bigger and softer to indulge in.”

“I was not going to say that,” I said, turning back to see her.

I was quite flustered with heat rising in my cheeks.

A wolfish grin quickly appeared on her face.

“No, but you were thinking it,” she teased.

I inwardly groaned. My face was no doubt as red as a cherry at this point and my head naturally buried itself back into her chest in defeat.

Damn..she was right.

“This is completely platonic,” I mumbled in her bosom.

Princess Luna laughed and patted the top of my head.

“Oh Spencer, you are so fun to tease.”

I soon removed myself from her as a pressing question came to mind. “Princess Luna, you’ve been gone for at least a week. Has anything happened?” I wanted to know what had been happening on the front lines.

Princes Luna’s smile faded, and she waved a hand over the air. An of Equestria image appeared before me. I could see Canterlot on the far side. Right before me the Storm King and his army were as large as ever, with some nearby towns and villages popping up here and there.

“Our armies are evacuating the outlying settlements as quickly as possible, but the ones closest to the Storm King are the most in danger. The Storm King has his partols surrounding the villages and we try to smuggle the citizens out as best we can. However, he is patient, and is trying to show us his strength before he goes for the kill.” She pointed a finger toward one settlement in particular, with a large bell tower that stood tall and was surrounded by brick buildings that had an old red look to them. When I looked closer I saw the village was in shambles and smoke emanated off every building.

“This small farming village was attacked recently, but they had besieged it for several weeks beforehand. They plundered it of all its value and put every citizen to the sword. I have not seen such savagery since the time I rebelled against my sister. This…this is just pure hatred.”

The image before me faded.

My heart felt for Princess Luna and for Princess Celestia. No doubt they were trying everything they could to safeguard their people, but even they couldn’t be everywhere at once.The most vulnerable towns and settlements were the most exposed to the Storm King and his forces.

I wondered if Tempest knew anything about this.

“Are the Storm King's defenses lowered? Is that why you are able to meet with me?"” I asked, and Princess Luna nodded.

“Indeed. I’m not certain why they dissipated, but it gives me a good opportunity to relay what has happened so far. It also gives me a chance to speak with the other prisoners and let them know that we are working on a plan to free them. It’s been slow, but it’s a good start,” she explained.

I nodded in kind, hoping that by some chance the Equestrian army could come in and harass the Storm King’s army, even causing some damage and disruption to them.

“Spencer,” Princess Luna inquired, “What happened last week? You awoke so suddenly that I feared you were brought to harm.”

“Well, I remember talking to you, and a second later, I felt a sudden kick in my side. When I awoke I found it was Tempest who jarred me awake,” I explained.

Princess Luna’s brow rose and looked at me with peculiar gaze.

“She awoke you? Pray tell, how is it possible that she got to you so quickly? Was she close by?” she asked, her voice betraying her curiosity over the topic.

“Well, Tempest and I live in the same tent,” I began to say when I caught on to what she was implying. Another shade of red grew on my face and I kept my mouth shut, while her sly grin grew.

“Sleeping with the enemy already? Does that make you an enemy of the state, Spencer?” she teased.

I tried to rectify the situation. “Hey, I didn’t do anything to deserve this. So let me keep abreast with you on…”

“Oh you charlatan!” Princess Luna half mocked, exaggerating while placing a hand to her head, “touching a mare’s breast and you’re easily smitten with the enemy. Oh, how have we lead you astray?”

This mare was really pulling my leg.

“Okay now that’s pushing it, and it’s nothing like that at all. But let me remind you—”

“Oh you’ve seen her butt too? Does this me that you two are intimate and are expecting a child soon?”

My face was burning from ear to ear and I pointed a finger in irritation.

“I did no such thing! That didn’t happen whatsoever!” I decried, knowing full well that little tidbit would be seared in my mind for the rest of my life.

A gleam crossed her eyes and Princess Luna leaned forward and gave a soft whisper to me.


“I know a certain thestral under my command who would very much like to hear this. She’ll no doubt tease you and ask you for all the juicy details.”

I stared blankly at the Princess.

“Ok… now you’re just being mean,” I stated flatly, and Princess Luna smiled like a cheshire cat.

If ‘SHE’ ever heard about what I’ve been doing here, she would have a field day. Nonstop laughter, prodding of the greatest magnitude, and pulling my leg over the mare who is watching over me. I could already feel my self-esteem plummet off the high board and belly flop into a pile of cement. Princess Luna was ready to reply when she paused and a similar red glow came nearby.

“Speaking of which, this Tempest is dreaming again,” she said with a hush tone, her eyes narrowing and laced with concern, “Nothing of which is good.” Her words became more serious, and a worrying feeling entered in the pit of my gut.

“Is she alright?” I asked, looking in the direction where Princess Luna was staring.

I saw the red orb fast approaching us, the twisting lights becoming massive as they drew closer. I felt a hand on my shoulder and Princess Luna held me close.

“We’ll find out soon,” she said, her hand raised towards the orb.

The dream world struck us like a wave and I almost staggered back were it not for Princess Luna supporting me. I blinked a few times as the lights faded and shades of red were in my vision. Shaking my head to get a better vision, I saw that there was a fire before me. I gasped and looked up, seeing a large wooden home in flames, the glass shattering from the intense heat and the sound of furniture collapsing inside. I looked all around me to see more homes were set ablaze and the sound of fighting can be heard.

“Stay close to me,” Princess Luna said, and I quickly obliged.

Screams of women and children hung in the air, and my gaze turned down a narrow alleyway. Princess Luna and I walked at a steady pace towards the the noise. While we moved, we had to walk over the still forms of dead bodies, mostly civilians that couldn’t get out in time. The more I moved, the more unnerving the whole situation was. I’ve played video games which had these type of situations, the sound of battle, people screaming, and buildings collapsing. Those games are falsely exaggerated compared to the real thing. Actual people were dying, conflict and loud explosions were everywhere, and anything could happen at any given time and cause a great catastrophe to many innocents. I felt like I was in an Alliance town being pillaged by the Horde.

Meaning no offense, but the similarities are striking.

We turned the corner. At the far end, we saw movement among the shadows and silhouettes dancing on the walls, heading towards us. Princess Luna stopped me in her tracks, placing a hand on my chest to keep me from going any further. She remained silent and pushed me to the wall of a home, looking at what was ahead. I kept my gaze ahead, seeing the shadows grow and reveal three forms turning the corner. I blinked in surprise when I saw an earth pony family was running towards us. The father, a green burly Earth pony, carried a broken broadsword, while his wife, who had an orange coat and was wearing a small trimmed blouse was running towards us in a frantic pace. Their young daughter, a yellow filly that looked no older than five years of age, was holding onto her mother's hand, trying to keep up.

A part of me hoped that by some chance they would make it.

Then I saw one of the Storm King’s guards charging out of the corner of the alleyway, smacking into the wall and scrapping its claws onto the surface. It charged at them with reckless abandon, screaming and shouting curses that I could not understand. The father turned, pushing his family forward, while he stood his ground against the monster. The Storm creature lunged forward, but barreled right through him, tossing him aside like timber, and kept rushing at the the wife and child. I watched as the father screamed, helpless to fight back. The mother kept running, trying to get her daughter to safety. But the little filly tripped and fell to the ground below.

I wanted to rush in, to shield the little one before the storm creature could strike. However, I was held firm, Princess Luna’s grip holding me in place. I glanced at her. She remained deathly quiet, watching the harrowing scene unfold before us. I looked back and could only watch as the mother turned and used her body as a shield over her daughter, holding her close as the Storm creature raised it’s fist to bring it down.

However, before the Storm creature brought its powerful arms down, a sword came forward and stabbed the back of its neck. I watched, stunned as the creature fell, collapsing in a bloody heap, as it’s perpetrator sat on top of it.

I recognized the same armor and weapon of Tempest Shadow.

“Curious,” Princess Luna muttered, breaking my concentration of the scene before me.

I looked at her in confusion, but saw that she was not going to continue speaking and turned back to see Tempest standing up over her own soldier. The Burly father stood up. He was stunned, but still had his weapon at the ready. The mother held her child close, not sure of what was happening. Tempest kept their gaze upon them, her eyes widening and seeing the young daughter crying to her mother for if the monster was gone. Tempest turned her head, her eyes catching the father getting close to her. Instead of attacking him, instead of beating him down, she merely stepped aside and motioned her head to his family.

Confusion and relief seemed to cross the burly earth pony, but he merely thanked her before rushing to his wife and daughter, checking on them to see if they were alright. I couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face at the sight, the family reuniting for a brief moment before turning to leave. I watched as the young daughter smiled, waving at Tempest in some small thanks. I looked back, and for a brief instant, I saw Tempest smiling back.

It was genuine, not a smile that was put on for false purposes, but a pure one. Tempest waited there for a few moments, looking down the alleyway and seeing the family exit the alley. She looked down at the corpse of the Storm creature, showing no grief or remorse for its death. She quickly leaned down and wiped the blade onto it’s fur, shedding off the dark blood that ran off her sword. She turned around, heading in the opposite direction of where she came from. But a sharp shriek came all around us and she whirled her head in despair, her eyes like pin pricks and losing her cold demeanor.

“No!” she yelled, rushing in our direction.

A part of me wanted to call to her, wanting to ask what was happening. She rushed at me and I waved an arm out to get her attention. However, the moment she drew close to my hand, she rushed past me, my hand becoming a ghostly image when she ran through it. I watched as she continued sprinting down the alleyway and looked to my hand, seeing the wall behind it.

I’ve heard of ghosts before, but being one in a dream was really different.

“She can’t see you, so long as you’re near me,” Princess Luna said, turning in the direction of where Tempest had fled.

“We have to follow her!” I nearly shouted, wanting to take off to find her.

“Stay close, we’ll see her in moments.” she said, her foot stomping on the ground and my body suddenly shifting by unknown means.

The world around me zipped past me in the blink of an eye and my vision blurred for a few moments before settling down. I saw the alley and Tempest turning the corner, her body running at full speed. When she drew close to us, she halted in her tracks, a fear gripping her whole body. I turned my gaze to what she was seeing.

Only wishing that I hadn’t done so.

On the ground, dead upon impact, was the wife and daughter, clutching to each other, a spear having gone through them. The Storm King, appearing bigger than before, held the father in one claw, laughing of his victory and conquest of the entire town. All around me were many storm creatures, ransacking the town and chasing down fleeing ponies. The father tried his best to get free, punching the Storm King’s arm in an attempt to do so. But the Storm King merely laughed and placed his thumb underneath the Burly father’s chin.

Then, in one swift motion, the Storm King flicked his thumb upward, and the father's neck snapped open like a soda can. He then tossed the father towards a fountain in the center of the town, the limp body smacking against the stone structure before splashing into the water below. I felt sick as I saw the body float up, his eyes blood red and staring at the family who remained on the ground. I took an uneasy step back, knowing one thing for certain to what was happening before me.

This…this was just pure evil.

“This is barbaric, beyond anything that I have ever witnessed,” Princess Luna said, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

The Storm King turned his head and eyed us in our direction, though, it was Tempest he was eyeing. He had a disappointed look, giving a scowl to his second in command.

“You’re lucky that I have use for you, Tempest,” he grimly said to her, “If not for our deal, then your head would make a nice ornament, and your blood would’ve given an interesting paint job for this town. Just like them.”

And with that, he turned off to to continue his plunder of the town.

Out of my peripheral vision, Tempest walked past me and moved towards the body of the mother and child. She fell to her knees, dropping her blade in the process. Her hand reached out to them, hovering just over their bodies.

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry,” she whimpered.

Her strong demeanor had cracked and tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She lowered her hand into a clenched fist and settled them above her knees.

While she remained this way, I looked out to the bodies of many other civilians that were killed, their bodies surrounding the courtyard. I looked back to Tempest and she remained there, looking all alone over the chaos around her.

She was not trying to kill them like the Storm King. She was trying to spare them.

“Tempest,” I muttered, wanting to get to her and be at her side.

I stopped when a low growl suddenly made itself known. I stiffened from the noise and looked around to find where the noise came from. But, as I looked around, I could not find the source of the sound. But, I found the world begin to slow down to the point of where everything seemed froze in time. The Storm King had frozen in his laughter, and the storm creatures that seized goods and valuables all remained as still as statues while the same growl came again.

“Princess Luna?” I asked, not turning to her

“I’m just as unsure as you are, Spencer.” she replied.

The growl became deeper and was coming closer to us. I felt the ground shake underneath me at a slow and steady pace. Tempest remained there, her eyes closed and her body still shaking.

“I failed them…They turned me away and I failed them.” she said underneath her breath, which was barely a whisper to me. “They came at me…cast me aside…tried to-” she added, but failed to speak out the last words, her head lowering further and her body becoming racked with fear.
I felt another tremor underneath me and kept myself steady. I looked to Tempest, wondering what was going on, or what was coming. My answers came quickly in the form of a large mist coming out of the burning homes, and heavy steps upon the ground.

“This dream, no, this nightmare, is far worse than I had imagined,” Princess Luna said, feeling her hand grip further onto my shoulder.

“What do you mean? What’s going on!?” I asked, almost wanting to shout it out.

The deep growl, sounding much closer and threatening than the last, was coming from the mist. My eyes lingered on that cold mist, a deep set of red eyes appeared, staring directly down at Tempest.

“This goes beyond normal nightmares. This is something much more. An unfathomable fear has grown inside of her,” Princess Luna explained.

The mist began to take shape. A mouth began to form, and rows of jagged teeth began emanating from its maw, inching ever closer to Tempest. Tempest, who had been idle this whole time, finally stirred, her head raising up to meet this beast. I watched as she stiffened and her eyes widened in pure terror. I could hear a deep heartbeat starting slow and begin to beat faster and faster like a wardrum. The monstrous creature, that was shapeless and formless, moved ever closer. It’s razor sharp teeth shined in the fires of the homes around us, making it all the more terrifying. The creature stopped short of Tempest, its mouth open and its teeth bared before her. I could hear the heartbeat pound more rapidly, hammering away at a far faster rate. I realized then and there that it was coming from her.

Then, within a instant, the creature encompass its mouth over Tempest’s head and crushed it down.

A shrill scream pierced my ears, emanating from Tempest herself within the monsters maw.

“Spencer!” Princess Luna said behind me.

I looked to her and she had a hand raised to me.

“You need to wake her!” she explained, and her hand began glowing a pale white.

“What about that thing? It’s going to…” I began to say until she raised her glowing hand over my head.

“I’ll handle things from here! Be there for her when she wakes up,” she said, touching my head.

The light encompassed my vision. The dream world collapsed all around me and everything went black.


I awoke with a start, hearing the most ear piercing scream. I bolted up and turned to see Tempest thrashing in her own bed. I stood up and rushed to her side, hoping to help her in some way. When I was by her side, I became paralyzed at what I was seeing. Tempest was shouting out while her own hands clung around her neck, almost to where she was choking herself. Her eyes were half awake and half asleep, flickering out as if she was possessed. Her body twitched and twisted, pushing her pillows and blankets off of the bed from her convulsion. I hovered a hand over her frame, hoping to seize her and get her to wake up.

“Get away! Get away from me!” She shouted, her body curling inward and falling forward, rolling on the bed and falling on the ground in front of it.

I went to her side, still seeing her body relenting and waving her hands to ward off some imaginary creature.

“Don’t touch me! Don’t you bloody touch me!” she shouted again, her eyes still closed and still dreaming. She had her back to the bed and was shaking violently.

I saw her closed eyes forming tears, spilling out whenever she stirred. I took a step back, unsure of what to do or how to help. This nightmare of hers was more personal, and there was nothing that could make her wake up.

Unless…

An idea came to my mind, one that would no doubt be crazy enough to be made a death wish. But, the way that Tempest was, the sorry state she was in, what choice did I have? I approached her with a side of caution. She still swung her hands around her, forcing an imaginary foe to leave her. I was not deterred in my objective and approached her, waiting for an opportunity to grab her. When I was within a few feet from her, I found my chance when her arms outstretched to me. I seized both of her wrists, holding on tight until she would stop her violent quaking. She flailed about, trying to resist me. She nearly got loose due to her stronger body, but I managed to keep her arms held together. I looked at her and saw that her eyes were still closed, but they were moving underneath the lids, not sure of what was going on. She sat upright, giving out another shake to make me lose her grip, all the while still shouting out to be let go!

“No! I don’t want this! No…please!” she shouted weakly.

I did not relent, even when her body forced itself back, trying to get away from me. I made my move to grab at her shoulders. I watched as her eyes finally opened wide. They were bloodshot and the size of pinpricks when she stared at me. I quickly rushed forward, wrapping my arms around her frame and pulling her into a hug.

I’ve never heard her scream so loud in my life.

It was inhuman how she wailed, sounding like a cross between shrieking out in fright and howling like a wild animal. I wasn't even sure anyone could make such a sound. It was long and loud, no doubt waking the entire camp with her anguish. Even after the first cry she took a sharp breath and released a second screaming wail out into the night. I still held firm, holding her close and keeping her from hurting herself.

“Tempest! It’s okay! You’re okay!” I shouted back, hoping by some miracle she would snap out of it. While I held her, I could feel her heart pound heavily against her chest and vibrating onto my mine. I tried to soothe her, trying to keep her calm, even when she continued to scream into the night.

Just like the screaming, I’ve never seen someone be so scared….

No, that’s not the word. Petrified, over such a dream.

I could only wonder what was going on and what happened in her past to make her this way.

A few minutes passed and she still screamed out, though it grew weaker after each lament. She still moaned and whimpered even when her throat was dry. I could feel her body still trembling, the tremors under her skin still visible. Her arms were still, no longer thrashing but still visibly shaking. I still held on, still whispering to her and trying my best to calm her down.

“It’s alright. You’re okay Tempest. You’re safe. You’re safe,” I said, trying my best to get her to be as calm as possible. I wanted to do more to ease her discomfort, but felt obligated to stay as I was, even if it meant just holding her. Alhough I had no idea if this was working or if she would snap and turn me into a shish kabob, I had no other choice but to hold on, hoping that she will be okay.

I could feel Tempest’s heart slow down, becoming almost sync with mine. She still whimpered, speaking something that I could not follow. My heart just ached from hearing her like this. Whatever traumatic event got her like this was beyond me. I didn’t know how long we stayed there, but to me it felt like hours. What surprised me was that the guards didn’t bother to show up. Not even the Storm King himself came. Why didn’t they come to help her? While my thoughts lingered on such things, I heard her whimperings stop, yet she was still shaking. I turned my head, looking at her as she stared out at the wall before me. Her breathing was calm, and she was no longer crying, although, I did see the dry tears on her face. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I got the courage to speak to her.

“Tempest? Are you alright?” I asked, waiting for the potential fuse to explode on me.

Tempest said nothing, nor did she seem to acknowledge me, just staring out at the wall of the tent. Nervously, I slowly undid my hold on her, the warmth from her body leaving me while I looked her in the eye. She stared at me while I held her by the shoulders, waiting for some response from her.

“Tempest?” I asked once more.

I saw her eyes flicker and she looked at me once more, those opal eyes staring into my very soul.

Her eyes narrowed and her demeanor had returned.

“I’m alright…it was just...a dream.” she said in between breaths, uneasiness in her voice.

She and I both knew she was lying.

“Tempest, you want to talk about…”

“I said I’m fine.” she interjected, not breaking eye contact with me.

She quickly followed my arms to where my hands were and quickly brushed them off her shoulders. She pushed me very lightly out of her space, and I obliged without resistance. She stayed there, her arms wrapped around herself in comfort. She still kept staring, rubbing her shoulder and arms like they were her own security blanket.

“Tempest, if you need anything…please don’t be afraid to tell me.” I said, hoping to show that I was not a threat to her in anyway.

Tempest looked down, her eyes looking at the floor of her tent. She closed her eyes and looked hurt over the whole incident.

“You touched me,” she muttered, and I barely registered it.

“Tempest?” I asked, but she immediately stood up, still hugging herself.

She looked away and walked towards her bed. She went down to pick up her blankets and crawled herself back into it, before turning her attention and body towards me. She was in a position like Rarity was on her fainting couch.

“Get some sleep, Spencer,” she told me, with little hostility in her voice, “We’ll be moving out tomorrow. I’m sure you must be tired after all of this.”

And with that, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

I stayed there with little words to say. I was unsure of what I witnessed nor could I comprehend what just happened. I could only wonder if what I did helped settle the danger in her heart, or only eased it.

I went back to my own bed, crawling in and curling up to sleep. I stayed there until sleep would eventually overcome me, although before it could...I found myself watching Tempest, who made a light sound with her breathing as she slept and whose breathing was making her chest slowly rise up and down.

I didn’t know why, but to me...she looked absolutely cute when calmly sleeping.

While I slowly drifted off to sleep, for a brief moment, I heard the rain stop outside.

Fire (Edited)

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We traveled for the next few days through Equestria, the army trampling over the lush lands and fertile fields, until we eventually settled ourselves near a large river. Everyday we seemed to get closer and closer to Canterlot and I could still see it far in the distance. It made me hopeful that the Princesses would come for me, but what worried me was that they would likely be forced to clash with the Storm King and his army.

I was helping set up Tempest’s tent, making sure that everything would be settled before it got late. I couldn’t tell if it was getting late or not because of how cloudy it was, but at least the rain wasn’t coming down at the moment.

While I worked, my body felt...unusually different. Normally, I would find myself getting exhausted halfway through the setup and still be forced to work afterwards, but that was many weeks ago. Now, I’ve been getting through this at a much faster pace and I had no issues with lifting or moving heavy objects. My muscles felt more toned, and they weren’t as flabby or loose as before. I lost weight as well, the belly that I once had now gone and having a more toned body shape. Not close to having rock hard abs, but close to having a healthy body.

I guess that’s what happens when you consistently exercise.

Once I settled the tent, I had to move the rest of everything inside. I dragged the rugs and fur pelts onto the floor, placed the empty trough near the side, took my bedroll in the same usual spot, made a small fire pit for heating those warded stones, dragged the chest and armor racks, and finally...got the bed inside. The bed was much more tricky to move because I didn’t have any help moving it.

You would think that one of the storm creatures would help, but they always said no. I would always mutter that they were useless pricks before moving on.

I only managed to get it inside before usually getting berated by Tempest for taking so long. Thankfully, I came in with a plan on how to get this bed inside and today she was out, so I wouldn’t get yelled at. The bed came with a frame that came in separate pieces, which was quite easy to set up. The hard part was moving the mattress itself into position. It was a struggle not only to get it inside the tent due to its size, but also to avoid getting it wet. Despite the cloudy day outside, I still got a feeling that it was going to rain on us. Especially since the clouds were getting darker and I could hear thunder in the distance.

I dragged the mattress through the tent and settled it down onto the frame after an intense struggle. After it was all done, I looked at the mattress and found that it had no cover. She had always told me to never touch her fabrics unless she instructed me to, and since she was not here, I decided to wait it out.
I sat there inside the with nothing else to do, feeling like a dog waiting for its master, waiting for any moment that my owner would come in and do whatever she wished of me.

The sound of a thunderstorm approached closer as I waited, and I could hear rain in the distance steadily approaching. I tried to to think of something else to keep me distracted, but all I could really think about was Tempest. Ever since her nightmare, she had been very quiet around me, even ignoring me unless she was giving an order. I wasn’t sure why she was giving me the silent treatment, but a theory came into my head that she may have been apprehensive for me touching her and holding her close. She was so panic stricken that I didn’t think of anything else to do but hold her.

I couldn’t help but wonder if Princess Luna knew anything about it her reasons based on her dreams, that’s for sure.

The tent flap opened up and I looked up to see Tempest walking inside. She looked tired and didn’t say anything directly at me, so I kept to myself, not wanting to say something that would set her off. I looked away from her and more towards the tent wall in front of me, staying quiet being the best option.

That is, until I heard Tempest open up her trunk.

“Where is it?” she said, in a irritated tone.

I looked up and saw that she was tossing things aside and looking through the contents of her chest, all the while cursing under her breath which I could barely hear. She still kept searching through the chest but still could not find what she was looking for. A part of me felt like I was going to get punished for something, likely what I did days before.

“I can’t find the stupid pads,” she explained, and was removing the armor pieces off her body, “Guess you will have to go without,” she said while getting into her training outfit.

I hate it when I’m right sometimes.

I stood up from my spot and stood in the center of the room, dreading the moment her punches would impact me. I hadn’t done this before without pads, but I knew I had to endure a pummeling without protection.

Already, I felt sore all over my body, and I swore I got bruises on my bruises.

Tempest was soon ready and I took notice that she was not having her hands bandaged up. Before I could question it, she already went up to me and threw a punch straight into my gut. I fell back a few feet, stunned for a moment before Tempest came forward and shoved me to the ground.

“Cmon, Spencer. Get up and take it!” she barked, taking a fighting stance and getting ready to go again.

I stood up and readied myself, tensing my body so that she will continue her ‘training’.

I felt like I was getting the beating of my life. Every time she let out a few light punches into my chest and stomach, she would give a strong kick into my side and I would fall down to the ground again. At least I would always get back up, despite the fact she would continue to beat me down and send me to the floor. She kept this up for nearly thirty minutes, beating me and not relenting. I noticed a few times that she gave more serious punches, and sometimes she made me double over in pain. The latest one made me fall to the ground and I had to take a moment before getting up again. However, when I was halfway off the ground, she kicked me back down and I was left exhausted.

“Get up!” she ordered, wanting to continue.

I was too worn out to get back up.

“We’ve been going at this for thirty minutes. Can’t you give me a break?” I asked, but she kicked me in the side over my question.

“No breaks! You still deserve it for what you’ve done,” she growled lowly, before she seized the end of my shirt and lifted me up.

I hung in her grasp, watching as she lifted a fist and was ready to bring it down. I was more confused on what she meant.

“Was it over me hugging you?” I asked.

“Get up, Spencer!” she ordered, anger still in her eyes, but I saw her voice catch in her throat.

I noticed a glint in her eyes. It was the same that she showed me after I held her close, and the same one she had after she was scared of that nightmare.

Was she regretful for doing this? Was she even getting any benefit from this other than beating me?

I took notice that she looked guilty over what she was doing, her fist shaking and not wanting to throw another punch.

Before I could call her name, a bright flash appeared outside and lit up the room of the tent. A loud boom came after, and I felt vibrations underneath me. A moment of silence passed between us and I began to hear yelling outside. Tempest turned her gaze to the tent entrance, her stern demeanor returning and the blunt bluster from early replaced with a strong temper.

One I was all too familiar with.

“What now?” she asked, dropping me and letting me lay on the ground, exhausted.

I watched Tempest go to the tent entrance and push the flap out to speak to one of her guards. I saw something bright red outside and many shadows moving towards it. I watched Tempest turn and march right up to me, her eyes flared up. Without another word, she lifted me up and had me stand on my own two feet.

“Tempest?” I asked, before she looked me dead in the eye.

“One of our warships is on fire,” she bluntly stated.

Before I could question her, she seized me by my wrist and took me with her. I suddenly felt like a young child being taken away by a scornful mother. When I exited the tent, I was greeted by a strong light that felt like a noon day sun.

She was right. One of the parked airships was on fire.

The giant airship was set ablaze on the back, spreading wildly with each passing minute. I felt the rain splash against my face and tried to keep up as Tempest held onto me. I looked past the line of tents and storm creatures running about, taking supplies out of the hanger of the airship, getting them out before they were destroyed. Up above, I can hear thunder still rolling in the skies above, threatening to strike down over the camp below. It took us roughly ten to two twenty minutes to reach the airships, due to the hustle of the storm creatures and the number of delays of wounded soldiers being carried off. When we came close to the airship, it was still burning wildly and there looked to be no way in stopping the blaze.

“Tinder! Flint! What’s the situation!” Tempest yelled out, and I watched as two of the storm creatures came running up to them.

What I found interesting about these two compared to all of the other chinese copycats that I’ve seen was their coloration. The storm creature on my left had blue and white hair, while the storm creature on my right had a red and white hairstyle. If I put them together, they would be opposite but whole in some way.

I don’t know why I thought about that, but they just looked cool, that’s all.

“Well Lieutenant, Tinder and I were minding our own business, when all of sudden, there was this-,” Flint began to say in a deep voice, until his friend lifted his arms up in the air.

“Boom, glorious Booms!” Tinder shouted out in a deep voice, his red hair waving from his excitement.

I didn't know why he was so excited, even when their airship was burning behind them.

“Yeah, yeah, and we look up and see thunder claps, booming loud around us, big solid ‘Booms’!” Flint emphasized the word ‘boom’ in clear excitement, his red hair pointed at the airship, which was still burning behind him.

“It was amazing!” Tinder clapped his massive paws together, “Though the ship is on fire, but still they were amazing ‘Booms’!”

I watched Tempest raise her free hand and pinch the bridge of her nose, softly sighing under her breath. Clearly she dealt with them before. She lowered her hand and gave a deadpan stare at the two of them.

“So you’re saying that the storm above struck down our airship, which would have been impossible due to the amount of protection we have, and is now caught ablaze and spreading as we speak. Am I hearing this clearly?” she stated.

The two storm creatures looked at each other before turning and nodding at the same time, their hair bouncing wildly in quick succession. I nearly held back a chuckle due because of how insync they were.

Though Tempest caught on and rightfully punched me in the arm.

“I see that both of you managed to get out in one piece, but did you manage to, at the very least, seal any door ways that lead to vital supplies?” she asked.

Flint was the first to speak up. “Well, we made sure brig was secure,”

“Then we sealed off hold,” Tinder added, continuing his friend’s sentence.

“After that, we had to book it since engine room was on fire,”

“Making ‘Booms’ all around!” Tinder shouted ecstatically.

“Yeah! Glorious ‘Booms’!” Flint yelled just as equally.

I didn’t know why, but I was beginning to like these two.

“But you're certain that the other areas of the ship were sealed off before the fire was spreading?” Tempest asked casting a glare to them.

“Oh yes, before big ‘Booms’! We made sure it tight and proper!” Flint said.

“Strong as bank!” Tinder added.

“Tighter than tomb,” Flint poked in.

“Fit as fiddle.”

“Bigger than-

BOOM!

A loud explosion came off the side of the ship, the shock waves sending ripples throughout my chest from the after shock. A large piece of flying hot metal was launched from the left side of the ship and crashed into the side of the second ship parked nearby. It was almost comical when I looked at Flint and Tinder, who remained staring at us. Tempest took a calm breath before raising a hand to her face, a clear captain Picard moment of frustration.

“You forgot the gun deck,” she asked.

“We forgot gun deck,” the two said in unison, but had their gaze on the multiple explosions that were popping off in the first ship, while the second ship was slowly becoming a giant hindenburg.

Somewhat morbid thought, but seeing the priceless faces they were giving and that it was happening to the Storm King’s army, I was all happy for it.

“Alright!” Tempest yelled out, her voice carrying to many of the storm creatures that surrounded her, “This airship is lost. Everyone hurry to the second airship and get the fires put out! Have the remaining airships take off so that they can’t catch fire! Move it!” she barked out her orders.

The storm creatures scrambled like a bunch of lemmings and followed their orders to the letter. I watched as they all went over to the second airship to put it out, while other members of the army went to the remaining airships to get them operating and keep them from getting struck by the explosions. High above, I could hear the rumbling of thunder, and streaks of lightning coursed through the sky.

It could make for a crazy canvas for some high nut artist. Although, in my opinion, it would make an interesting cover for the band Manowar.

“And you...” Tempest released my hand, and I found myself staring at her face to face, “...are staying right here. I was going to have you help with getting the supplies out of the burning airship, but seeing how dangerous the situation is, you will have to stay clear of both of the airships,” she explained.

I gave her a peculiar look.

“Then why bring me out all this way just to send me back?” I asked, seeing how silly the whole situation has become.

I watched as Tempest flared her nostrils and turned her gaze towards the airship.

“I did not realize how severe the fires would be. You’re a valuable asset for the Storm King and must be kept safe.” she explained, avoiding my gaze.

I gave a rather cheeky smirk and leaned my head forward to her.

“Awe…I didn’t know that you cared for me.” I replied.

She turned to me with a stern look.

I instantly regretted my poor choice of words, for a few seconds later, she stomped her foot over my left foot. I yelped and hobbled on one foot while Tempest turned to speak with Flint and Tinder.

“You two. Escort him back to my tent. Once done, come back and help put these fires out. Get to it!” she ordered, and abruptly left for the second burning airship.

I still held onto my foot, hopping about like some cartoon character had a anvil dropped on him. Though with Tempest, it was her heel that struck me, which still hurt to no end. In my own world of pain, I found myself stopped from my hippity hops when two beefy hands grabbed me from behind and lifted me up. Tinder and Flint held me up in either hand and carried me towards the tent.

I felt like a priceless statue being carried by two bumbling movers.

After a few minutes of moving, Tinder suddenly stopped and looked at the airship, nearly breaking my arm since Flint was holding me and nearly kept going were it not for me stopping him.

“Tinder? What’s wrong?” Flint asked, still holding onto my whole arm.
Tinder began moving back, but was stopped when I held him back with my other arm. I grunted from the discomfort while Tinder turned back to his companion.

“Flint, we got to go back,” he said, his voice sounding desperate.

Flint pulled on my arm, wanting to go back in the direction of where Tempest’s tent resided.

“We’ll go back once we put the human in the lieutenant's tent.” Flint explained, still trying to yank me towards him.

Tinder pulled back, making my body jerk towards the burning ship

I felt like a toy doll being torn apart by two obnoxious kids. Although, in this case, two giant dogs ready to rip me to shreds.

“What’s so important?” I called out, hoping they can take a hint before the pull would dislocate my arms from their shoulders.

“Our special project is in there! The big boom!” Tinder explained.

Flint paused and took a step towards his companion, allowing me to have a small reprieve from their constant pulling on my arms, and allowing just the tip of my feet to stand freely on the ground.

“Wait. Are you talking about the ‘Boom of Doom’? The one we worked on a month ago?” Flint asked.

I found myself questioning the naming of such a weapon in my head.

“No, no that didn’t do so well. I’m talking about the big one.” Tinder replied.

Flint brought his free hand up and placed it on his chin, remaining in deep thought for a few moments.

“The ‘Doom Boom Wheel’ that we worked on last week? That was always a kicker.” Flint explained, a pleased look on his face.

I questioned the logical reasoning behind such a name in my head again, for it sounded like some toy for a giant rodent of unusual size to scamper around in.

Still don’t think they exist.

“No, that wasn’t it. That failed after the first few tests, and the black powder wasn’t enough to make it have that ‘Boom’ we wanted,” Tinder paused for a moment before adding, “It had that nickname you always liked.”

I watched Flint give him a peculiar look, though I couldn’t tell with those masks they were wearing.

“Ah, I know!” He said with what looked to be realization, before pointing a finger at him, “It’s ‘Boomie’!”

“Yeah, Boomie, that’s the one. I always liked that design. A big old cannon with that diameter that can make the most glorious booms. It’s just perfect!”

“Yeah, took a whole week to make once we took the parts from the ‘Doom Boom Wheel’ and the ‘Boom of Doom’.”

“Don’t forget about the ‘Boom-A-lot’. We had to get it removed from the ship’s engine after those multiple kicks it gave off.”

“Yeah! Storm King was mighty ballistic about it, but it was just priceless to see his face.”

A part of me really wanted to see what this priceless face that the Storm King gave was.

A moment of them reminiscing of their past achievements suddenly stopped and they threw up their arms in clear horror, sending me up in the air in the process.

“‘BOOMIE’!” they both shouted, while I landed onto the mud strewn ground.

I felt the air deplete from my lungs and moaned slightly from the impact. I looked up stunned as the two panic stricken warriors were looking back to the ship and pacing on the ground.

“We got it get it out! Keep it safe! Boomie needs to be safe!” Flint shouted out.

“But we have orders. We got to go and drop off the human before anything else.” Tinder explained, pacing around and contemplating over the events.

I deadpanned at them and offered my voice to their stupid predicament.

“You know, I can just walk to the tent from here. You don’t have to guard me all the way.” I offered.

The two looked at me for a split second before looking at each other.

“Brilliant!” they both said to each other.

I had a small smile, seeing that the two were so eager to…

“We’ll take him with us!” Flint started.

“And he’ll help us with ‘Boomie’!” Tinder finished.

I had never been so erroneously wrong.

“Now wait a minute, let me suggest-!” I tried to interject, but I felt both of their hands grab me, lifting me next to either side of them.

I felt a little silly, for in a way, I was like a prized animal being hoisted up in the air for winning the blue ribbon. The two then bounded back towards the airship, while I struggled in vain to escape, even shouting to get them to let me go, only for it to end in deaf ears.

Seeing my efforts weren’t working, I groaned and rolled my eyes.

Me and my big mouth.

It wasn't long until we reached the airship, the giant machine still burning from the fire. It was spreading to the edges of the ship and close to the ramp leading inside. I could feel the heat blasting its way to us. Most of the storm creatures had avoided it to go to the second airship, where lines of soldiers were trying to put out the fire, carrying lines of buckets to dump water onto it. I thought I also saw the Storm King among them, directing orders and looking frustrated because of his minions’ incompetence. I could only smile at the fact that he was struggling with his command and losing his valuable airships.

I soon heard their feet clamper up the ramp and looked to see the burning ship above me. I was starting to sweat from the intense heat and could only wonder if I would survive all of this. The two soon settled me down and gently released their hold on me. It allowed me to see the inside of the cargo hold instead of staring at the roof. The cargo hold was massive, and it could easily carry at least a hundred warriors before descending down into a battle. There were also stacks of crates that carried who knows what inside, but no doubt supplies and weapons for the war effort. I was not lead to those crates, however. I was instead dragged by Tinder towards the back of the hold. Flint was ahead, where he was fiddling with a large tarp that settled over their project!

“Boomie!” he cried for joy, pulling the tarp down to reveal what was underneath.

I blinked, looking in awe and shock over what I was staring at.

It was not just a cannon. It was a huge ass cannon.

This cannon was massive compared to other cannons I have read about or even seen. The barrel of the cannon, which normal cannons would be around ten inches in diameter, was twice its size. A chair was hooked to the side with a few large cranks and wheels to allow the cannon to change its angle of attack and range. The two wheels themselves were around ten feet in height, just enough to move this giant of a beast.

I feared to imagine what the other ‘Boom’ projects were before they made this thing.

“This thing is massive,” I said, practically an overstatement over what they made.

“This more than just cannon,” Tinder said, placing a hand on the machine.

“Boomie’s Charge has sixty one kilograms of explosive black powder,” Flint said, rubbing a hand at the controls.

“It fires 13 kilogram size cannon balls,” Tinder added.

“With velocity distance of five hundred yards,” Flint informed.

“With explosive radius,”

“That generates enough force,”

“For big solid ‘Boom’!” the two said in unison, the amount of enthusiasm never wavering.

These two certainly love their booms.

“So how do we move this thing? It probably weighs several hundred tons.” I pointed out, but Flint waved a hand at me.

“Not necessarily. Normally, this weigh around 98.3 tons and be impossible to move without at least twenty of us to get it into position.” Flint explained.

I was still baffled by the amount of weight these things have. I’m certain it would need four horses to pull this thing.

Particularly if the horse was a draft horse. Those are true heavy weight pullers.

“Flint’s right,” Tinder added and I looked at him to see him pressing a few buttons here or there on the giant cannon, and I could hear it hiss out air within, “Normally it take a team to move this, but we managed to make Boomie move without added muscles.” he explained.

A sudden roar of an engine initiated within the cannon.

“She’s steam powered, and Boomie can be moved into any position with little to no guidance from us,” Flint explained, getting into the seat on the side of the cannon.

“Yet we still need to push behind her to make sure she is still on the right course,” Tinder said, getting behind the cannon.

He began to push onto the back. I watched as Flint turned his head around and waved a hand at his companion, the latter looking up to him and was waiting for when to push off.

“Though you have to treat Boomie, like you treat a women,” Flint said, but slammed a hand against the machine’s surface, the cannon making a loud clang sound from impact.

I curled a brow at his statement, seeing how he smacked the cannon like how Ray Rice beat his wife.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you suggesting to treat a girl like you’re going to see you’re mother?” I asked with some mild curiosity.

The two looked at me and back at each other for the briefest moment, even though said moment was taking a tad too long since I could see the fire approaching us nearby. After another moment of silence between them, it was Flint who spoke first.

“No, you have to get inside her fives times a day.”

“And take her to heaven and back,” Tinder finished.

My eyes widened in surprise and I blew out a raspberry.

That sounded so wrong yet so funny at the same time. I nearly doubled over in laughter. I was stopped from that fit of chortling, however, when I felt a big paw like hand grab around my head.

I struggled for a moment while I was lifted up by Flint, yet I soon found myself sitting behind him. Once he released me, he focused on driving Boomie. I held tight behind him while he moved the death machine forward, its engines roaring out and sending smoke into the air. I looked back at Tinder who pushed the machine behind us, ensuring that it moved across the metal floor and towards the exit. In a way, I found this rather cool, considering I’ve never been on a steam powered cannon before.

It’s like a boy’s childhood dream to go into something destructive and knock down a giant lego building in your path.

I had a weird childhood.

A string of loud explosions happened close behind us and I saw Tinder look back in surprise.

“The ship’s going to blow! Put pedal to metal!” he shouted, quickly stopped pushing and jumped up behind the seat.

Before I cold protest, my head was shoved forward and I think my nose smacked into Flint’s elbow, while Tinder tried to squeeze behind us. I soon found myself squished between the two storm creatures. I could barely see what was happening outside of their mass of fur. We were picking up speed as the cannon was going down the ramp of the airship. My ears rung as more series of explosions took off behind me and something lit up the night sky from the resounding explosions.

I could have sworn another thunderclap happened overhead, because the sky lit up like a Christmas tree.

The cannon skidded to the side, and the whole ship was in flames. The hanger that we were in moments ago had turned into the inside of a baked oven and everything inside was burnt to a crisp. I found the pressure off my body release a bit as Tinder leaned back to observe the fire behind us, while Flint slowly stopped the machine and the engine became nothing but a low hum. I felt water on my face and for once I was glad to have it, thinking I could have caught fire from that blaze. Tinder and Flint looked at each other and I could see grins spreading on their faces.

“That….was….Amazing!” Flint shouted in pure joy

“I know!” Tinder yelled back.

“My ears are still ringing and I’ve been nearly deaf for years!” Flint raised a finger to his ear and rubbed against it, while Tinder turned to him and raised a hand.

“What?!” he shouted.

The two look at each other and just laughed it off, and I just shook my head.

Frankly I just wanted to go back to bed and call it a night.

I leaned off the side of the cannon and looked down to the ground below. It was still muddy and wet from the rain, and the flames from the burning ship danced in the water . I leaned forward more, trying to get out of the seat, when I noticed something drop down. There was blood out of my vision, and dropping from my nose. I started to feel light headed, and I didn’t know where the blood came from or why I started to feel this way. Both Flint and Tinder took notice of me because I could see them lean their head down in my field of vision.

“Your nose is bleeding,” Flint noticed, placing a paw on my back.

“You look a little pale. Is that normal?” Tinder said, a paw brushing my head and lifting my hair out the way. I leaned further out, wanting to get out of the seat.

My weight carried me forward and I fell off the seat, falling flat on my back into the mud. I saw the two storm creatures looking down at me with complete worry, before seeing them shout for help by saying things like, ‘Medic!’, ‘We need medic here!’, and ‘Somebody help!’.

It was all I remembered before everything went black.

Reprieve (Edited)

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I awoke inside the tent, and a headache assaulting my brain. I closed my eyes and raised a hand over onto my temple, feeling a cloth wrapped around my noggin. I slowly blinked and wondered how I ended up back in Tempest’s tent. I groaned inwardly and tried to stand up but felt a hand press against my chest.

“Take it easy. Stay down,” I could hear Tempest’s voice next to me.

I looked up and saw that she was sitting over me, while holding a small sponge in one hand. I watched as she took the sponge and cleared the rest of the grime and mud that was on my cheeks.

“Why didn’t you go to my tent like I ordered you to?” she asked.

I merely shrugged my shoulders.

“Can’t be helped by the the fact that those two wanted to save their project.” I explained, and still felt the numbing sensation on my head. “How long was I out?” I asked, the headache persisting.

“You’ve been out for hours. From what Flint and Tinder explained to me, you were pushed abruptly into Flint’s elbow and passed out after falling off their cannon.” she explained.

“You mean Boomie?” I asked.

I regretted saying it, for that name will be stuck in my mind for a long while.

I heard her give an exasperated an sigh over that name.

“Yes, that makeshift monstrosity those knuckleheads made.” she pinched the bridge of her nose, clearly irked by her minions’ experiments. “Those two can be a handful. No matter how many times I warn them, they always make another stupid machine that’s more destructive than ever before. I’m surprised they haven’t killed themselves already,” she stated.

I chuckled at her remark.

“Well, you can’t stop a creative mind,” I said.

She narrowed her eyes at me.

“You should’ve taken the initiative and just ignored what they told you to do,” she claimed.

I stared her in the eye over that comment.

“Like you?” I retorted.

She snorted and dropped the sponge right on top of my head. And by drop I mean that she threw the loofah right on top of my head, making my pool of a headache turn into an ocean of pain.

“Why’d you do that?!” I shouted, raising my hand over my head and moaning a little bit from the onslaught of the headache.

Tempest stood up and looked away from me, clearly vexed over my actions.

“You’re already hurt, but that’s all you will receive. You’re too valuable of a hostage, so your workload will be lessened. The Storm King ordered that you be remained unharmed.” she stated.

A mischievous smirk crossed my face.

“The Storm King’s orders? Or your orders?” I said.

I never knew at the time that I would regret saying that, because Tempest turned to me, and her glare bore into my heart and soul. She then promptly raised a foot and kicked straight into my groin.

My headache felt less painful over my manly bits being smashed.

I curled inward and couldn’t breath as I cried out a wordless sound. Tempest snorted in frustration and walked away from my side.

“Get that perverted mind out of the gutter. Just be lucky you're getting this reprieve rather than nothing at all. Now go to bed!” she ordered.

She went towards the exit and headed outside of the tent.

I remained where I was, silently cursing out my luck while at the same time wanting to apologize in some way. I was grateful to Tempest at the very least for getting a bit of a break, for however long that may be. I decided to do what I was told and promptly went to bed.

However, my dreams had another thing in mind for me.


I dreamed I was on the airship, the fire spreading at a much faster rate. My head felt like it was on fire, burning my brain like a fever. I began to move forward, trying to escape the burning shell of the ship. Everytime I took a step though, I felt a hammer pounding upon the back of my head. I placed both of my hands to my temples, rubbing them as best I could, but even my own touch felt hot and uncomfortable, making me want to lie down and shout out from the pain. I kept moving forward, seeing the rampart at the end of the ship.

However, I saw the metal panels fall off, and I was walking in a thinner and thinner line until I was moving on a tightrope. The walls around me grew thicker, and the blazing of the fire grew bigger, threatening to push me off and be engulfed in the inferno below me.

I kept my eyes focused on the exit, the line extending farther away and the ramparts feeling all the more distant. I kept going, trying to reach the exit and hoping to escape the fires that surrounded me. With the last effort I could give, I jumped out of the ramparts and into the rain. However, I still kept falling and turning in the air. I watched as the airship exploded, my head ringing with every single booming sensation and throbbing like a drum beat. I closed my eyes, screaming out into the rain and darkness.

“It’s okay, Spencer. I got you,” a calm voice pierced through the darkness.

I felt a comforting embrace. I opened my eyes and saw the Lunar monarch before me.

“Princess Luna,” I began to say, but I winced and closed my eyes when my head began to throb once more. I felt the need to fall down.

“That headache of yours is quite troublesome,” she said, still holding me up like an iron rod, “Here, lay down for me. I can help with that.” she gestured me to lay down.

I did what she was told and felt a smooth surface comfort my back while my head lay on the ground. It felt like a soft fuzzy blanket, enveloping me in a warm embrace. I sighed and closed my eyes, but the headache still remained.

“How are you feeling?” I heard her say.

I lifted my hand and moved it in a ‘so and so’ way.

“I feel like crap. But, other than that, I’m ok.” I muttered and opened my eyes to look at her.

I found myself staring up at her and she was looking down at me. Turned out the soft fuzzy texture I was feeling around my head was her legs and dress, and I was resting quite comfortably as she held my head there. She readjusted herself until I felt my head resting between her legs while both of her hands were on the sides of my head to get me in a comfortable position.

“And now?” she asked, lifting her hands away from me as I continued to stare up.

“That’s even better,” I said, but still winced as another throbbing sensation took over my brain.

“This should help. One moment Spencer,” she calmly said.

I watched as the tips of her fingers began to glow a soft blue and cast a light all around us. She then lowered her hands on either side of my head and began to tenderly rub the side of my temples. I cringed at first from the sudden movement, but after another moment of the continuous massage, I began to relax. My persistent headache slowly eased away, and whatever magic she was using was soothing my mind.

“This is actually nice. I didn’t know you did massages.” I said, feeling her fingers work their magic over my head.

She chuckled in a motherly sort of way, “Well, when you live over two thousand years you tend to learn a few things. Although, I may be out of practice with my craft.”

“Huh, every time I see you, you don’t look a day over two hundred,” I quipped, bearing a cheeky smile to the Lunar monarch.

I felt her right hand lift up and lightly swat the side of my head. I cringed somewhat because it aggravated the headache that persisted.

“Flattery can get you to a lot of places, Spencer, just not with a pony of my age.” she explained, halting in her comforting massage.

“Well, you’re not bad with massages, Princess. You’re actually really good.” I replied, trying to rectify the situation because I wished to have the gentle massages on my overgrowing headache continue.

I was rewarded for my honesty, because I felt her fingers run over my head once more.

“That’s better, Spencer.” she said with a smile.

I allowed my head to feel the weightlessness of a full-on head massage.

I stayed where I was, enjoying the comfort that the massage brought. Her hands would alter between her finger tips and her knuckles, softly pressuring the points of my head with her touch. I sighed, and the headache gradually eased as the minutes went by, moving her hands from my temples to the crown of my head. I could feel the soft glowing fingers press into my skin, a cool soothing sensation easing the tension within my skull and making my brain feel like pudding.

“So, how are you faring?” she asked, her hands rubbing the crown of my head as if I had a unicorn horn.

“This is amazing,” I replied.

Princess Luna continued to massage my head before shifting her hands on the back of my neck. I felt her thumb and index fingers press deep into my neck, moving up and down at a steady pace. I inwardly groaned from the contact at first but I sighed as I could feel her work her magic.

“Princess Luna?” I asked, still feeling her hands underneath my head as she hummed to herself before looking at me.

“Yes?” she asked, her finger going into my hair and rubbing my scalp with her gentle touch.

“Have you figured anything out about Tempest?” I asked, hoping that she would have some answer to her behavior as of late.

Princess Luna’s smile faded somewhat but her task didn’t stop.

“After I awoke you from your dream, I tried to suppress the nightmare that plagued her dreams. It was a tough battle, but I managed to quell it. However, once I saw her wake up, it was as if her body had a mind of its own. She was flickering in and out of the dreamscape before finally fading all together.” she explained, her fingers adjusting to gently pinch underneath my neck.

“When I was with her, I saw her body thrashing about. Her eyes were opening in and out, and she grabbed at her throat like something was choking her. It was only after I seized her and wrapped my arms around her that she woke up and began screaming out into the night. She still wailed like a banshee, even when I tried my best to comfort her,” I explained, while Princess Luna pondered a moment from my words.

“I’ve seen that happen before. They are called night frights.” she explained.

I gave her a quizzled look while she stared back down to me.

“Night frights?” I asked, wondering if I heard her right.

“Indeed, though you would normally see these happen more often with children. Gradually, night frights happen less with anypony-or anyone in your case-older than thirteen years of age. However, this night fright that she has experienced, seems to cling to her, growing inside and festering like an old wound.” Princess Luna paused, taking a deep breath before sighing a deep breath, “I believe that something deeper resides within this Tempest Shadow. Something truly heartbreaking that has caused her to shield herself away from the world.” she explained.

I felt a little pain for Tempest. Whatever was going on with her, I feared it went deeper. I recalled that when I tried touching her she would punish me and get me off, and when I held her she had frozen in fear.

I could only fathom as to what was happening with Tempest.

“I hope she’ll be okay,” I muttered, my thoughts muddled over how to help her.

“Indeed, I wish there was something we could do,” Princess Luna said, but I heard her voice trail off at the last words.

I looked up to her and saw her grin like a wolf watching over its prey.

“Luna? What deviousness are you planning now?” I asked, hesitant and dreading the answer that was following.

She leaned her head forward, her fingers on my head tapping me like a miniature drum.

“It’s not deviousness other than a form of deception,” Princess Luna explained, her finger tapping my head in a rhythmic beat.

“I’m starting to believe I won’t have a say in this.” I said.

Princess Luna already began to chuckle at me.

“It’s quite simple. Get to know Tempest, on a ‘personal’ level,” Princess Luna explained.

I turned a beet red from what she suggested.

“Uh Princess, wait...I…” I fumbled for words, but she gently placed a couple of fingers on my lips.

She suddenly spoke to me as if she was giving me a mission of utmost importance, which sounded a lot like it in a way.

“Listen well, Spencer, this will be for your benefit, and the fate of Equestria. You are to woo Tempest until she becomes a gentle storm. You are to gain favor with her, until you are trusted. And when the time is right, have her aid our cause so that we can bring the Storm King’s army down from within!” she said ecstatically, her fingers moving away from my lips.

Her enthusiasm caused me to fear that she would shake me like an enthralled child.

“Princess Luna, please let me have a say in this!” I tried to say.

She gave a lopsided grin and looked down at me with that childlike gaze.

“As much as I appreciate you and platonically love you, your sister, all of our friends, and that of Equestria, I will not do this!”

She gave me a look like she was curious as to why, but still retained her giddy smile.

“Tempest hates me with a passion, and I have no doubt she’ll continue to hate me till the end of my days. I don’t want to burst your happy bubble here, but I don’t see myself as the type that can sway a girl who can kick my ass into a sling till next week. I’ve heard plenty of ideas in my life, but this takes the cake. It’s because frankly this is the most ridiculous plan that I have ever heard!” I shouted out, my voice wanting to scream out in pure unadulterated surprise and shock over the mere idea of getting along with Tempest.

I liked her yes, but, I didn’t ‘like her’ like her. Princess Luna’s smile never wavered, however, and she leaned her head closer to meet my gaze.

“You’re not wanting to help? I can think of another pony who can help with your feelings, even suggest how to proceed with this ‘delicate’ mare.” she teased, her shoulders shifting ever so slightly in pure glee over this plan.

I stared at her nervously over ‘who’ she was referring to.

“You don’t mean-?” I dared asked.

“My favorite niece, Princess Cadance.” she explained.

I blinked in surprise, and I felt my whole world come crashing down.

“Ohhhhhhh no. No. No no no no no no no. I will not. You’re going to have to get me inebriated and wearing a diaper in order to be with her!” I ranted, but I then felt Princess Luna’s fingers grasp the edge of my head.

Her fingers traced on the back of my scalp and down to the base of my neck. She then brought her fingers back up, rubbing the tender muscles while her eyebrows wiggled up and down. She kept doing this massage on my neck, repeating over and over again until my mind became like pudding.

I relented and groaned in defeat.

“Gah, okay fine. You make a good argument.” I grumbled.

I felt myself pulled to where my head and shoulders were on Luna’s stomach, until she wrapped her arms around my shoulder area in an apparent hug.

“Oh we thank thee, Spencer! This will surely be a benefit to both you and Equestria!” She said.

I inwardly groaned from this predicament.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Can you please stop treating me like a little kid?” I asked as politely as I could possibly muster.

It was nothing against her mind you. She was just hugging me in this awkward way where it was just her girls resting on my head. It was making me as beat as a cherry because of that. She soon let go of me and ruffled my hair with her hands.

“You know how much I like to tease.” Princess Luna said.

I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, but you’re more mediocre compared to Princess Cadance. She’s the Ellen Degeneres of teasing,” I said, recalling the few times I had met the Princess of Love face to face and the amount of torture that followed.

Every time I met with her or even spoke to her, she would give me that fun yet smug look on her face, always asking me about my life. I did just that and told her how I felt about living in Equestria, and she was quite a fun friend to hang around. But after the first few months of staying, she had begun asking me about my personal life and how I feel about my friends. I told her I liked them, mainly Twilight and her close knit of friends. But once I uttered them, she insisted on asking if that was all, wiggling her eyebrows in that loving teasing way of hers. I was at a loss, and whatever I said she would deflect it in a teasing manner that I could not escape from. I ended up more red than I could manage. I would always leave embarrassed and have nothing but dirty thoughts in my mind over being with them.

I’m going to remind myself that whenever I see her again, I’ll be sneaking a toy snake in her bed.

“It will be good for you, Spencer,” Princess Luna said, returning to her massage, her fingers tracing circles across my head, “It might also help in figuring out what is wrong with Tempest.” she explained.

I looked to her with a bit of optimism. It was possible that if I got to know her more the way we are now, it might help ease the barriers between us and maybe even get a chance to help ease her discomfort.

Maybe even figure out why she feared me when I touched her.

“Well, I’ll try my best. Though, no guarantees since I might end up being turned into mince meat if she finds out.” I explained.

I felt her fingers trace upward and she patted lightly under my chin and right cheek.

“I’m sure said ‘mince meat’ can handle himself. You’ve endured more by first coming to Equestria than being in the throngs of a tyrant.” she said.

I blinked my eyes to look up at her.

“Since I got injured today, I guess my workload will be different. I might even work for that ape known as the Storm King.”

“All the more better to learn what his plans are, and how we can counter his maneuvers. He won’t suspect a simple human to be sneaking his plans out from under him,” she explained.

I smirked at her cheeky comment.

“You know I enjoy the banter between us,” I said with an honest statement.

“I do too,” she replied, not missing a beat.

We both shared a chuckle, knowing how our friendship had grown with our time together.

“Although, Spencer,” she asked, still stroking the side of my head with the tips of her fingers, “How did you get injured? Was it a task the Storm King forced you to partake in?”

“Well, no,” I replied, recalling the events leading to my injury., “A thunderstorm was happening overhead and took out one of their air blimps. But, how I got injured was because my face met one of the storm creatures elbows by mistake, and I passed out after the blow.” I explained.

It was then that I felt her ministrations stop on my scalp.

I curled a brow to her and saw that she had a guilty look on her face.

A sudden thought came to mind of how the strong storm was formed, and I was looking at one of the causes.

“Princess Luna? Did you have anything to do with that storm?” I asked, but I saw her move one of her fingers, and it hovered over my nose.

“Well, it looks like it’s morning. So I’ll let you go! Bye!” she stammered out, before promptly flicking her finger on my nose.

My eyes blinked once from the blow and I fluttered my eyes to ask what that was about.


Instead, I found I was staring up at the tent above my head, and I was no longer in the dream world.

Luna totally had something to do with that storm.

I looked around me and heard the light rain pattering against the tent, and the shuffling of feet belonging to patrols around the camp. I looked to see if Tempest was here and found that she was not. I could only assume that she was out and about with her duties, so I decided to lay my head back down onto my bedroll. I sighed, and for once in a long while I felt that I could enjoy a little peace and quiet.

To top it off, I no longer had that headache from the night before.

Everything was going to be alright.

“Spencer? Are you awake?” Tempest’s voice spoke.

I lifted my head to see her head pop in the tent entrance, and she was giving me a deadly glare that would make any hardened criminal wet their pants.

“The Storm King requires your presence.” Tempest informed.

I groaned and flopped my head back onto the pillow.

So much for my reprieve.

Hands off Approach

View Online

“Well, this is just great!” The Storm King bellowed sarcastically in a room full of officers, slamming a fist into a wooden table and nearly breaking it in two.

He had been going off like this ever since I arrived a few minutes ago. I’ve been subjugated in listening off to the side while the Storm King raved over his officers and with Tempest, who remained as still as obsidian throughout his outrage. He paced back and forth, looking at the ground and mumbling many vagrancies under his breath before turning to his officers once more.

“We’ve lost two ships in last night’s fire, our supply chain has been drastically cut and the ships we do have are need of REPAIR! How can our defenses to nature be impervious here in this madhouse of a country if everything is going against us!” he shouted, staring at one of the other storm creatures in the room.

“It’s possible that the land’s magic is different than what we have endured in the other lands.” one of the storm creatures suggested.

“Perhaps it will increase the further we move in,” another Storm Creature spoke out.

“No doubt the Equestrians here have adapted to this harsh climate far longer then we have,” another spoke out, and they soon began to argue amongst themselves.

The only one who remained silent was Tempest, who still remained calm throughout this. I did notice, however, that her eyes look glazed over, and I could see the bags under her eyes. I wondered if she was able get any sleep from the night before.

“Enough!” The Storm King shouted, pointing a finger towards the door, “You imbeciles are nothing but expendable! Deplorable! Get out of my sight before I use your manes as toilet brushes! Out!” he shouted, and the storm creatures immediately left before they would incur his wrath.

The Storm King plopped back down into his throne like seat and rubbed a paw up onto his temple. He groaned inwardly and I could see that the whole fire had made him all the more irritated.

“You… Hooman,” he snapped a finger at me, and I almost jumped from his sudden movement.

He motioned with his finger to make me come closer to him and I took a step forward, uncertain as to what he had in mind for me. I stood in front of him, seeing his eyes half lidded and the king reduced to a tired state.

“Since your recent injury, I decided that I would need an assistant. Temporary mind you, I don’t overly like someone foreign doing a job that I personally due, but recent events has lead to minor changes.” he said.

I slowly nodded in somewhat understanding, though I normally thought the king would just sit on his throne all day just to get hemorrhoids.

I watched while the Storm King picked up a pair of glasses, which I found strange because I would never imagine that he would have some, and settled them onto his nose.

I actually found it rather humorous given that he looked like a businessman, if given the proper attire and look.

“From what I overheard from my lieutenant, you are a writer of sorts.” he began, shuffling a few pages in front of him and sorting them out, “Correct?”

“Y-yes Sir.” I nervously replied, “I am a writer, a good one at that. A-although, I’ve been out of practice for over a year now.”

“Good enough. Your task is to make checklists,” he held papers in front of me, “Whatever orders I have, bring them to the troops and ensure that they get them. Then, you are to relay these requests to the taskmasters so that they can put our prisoners to work. Other than that, you are free to rest back in the Lieutenant's tent until the time comes of your services again.” He said, then pointed at my head wound, “Wouldn't want our major bargaining chip to lose his head.” he gave a grim chuckle, and I swallowed the lump in my throat while rubbing the bandage over my head.

Although, now that I think about it, I only recall getting a bloody nose, not a direct crack on the head.

“I-I’ll see it done,” I replied, offering my hand over to the papers. The Storm King eyed me and my hand, likely questioning how eager I was to get the task over with. Though, if I was to help Equestria in any way, I would have to gain their trust.

“See to it that it is done, I don’t want any delays.”

I grabbed the papers and pulled them out of his paw, but one slipped out and drifted to the ground. So, I bent down to pick up the fallen order. However, once I grabbed it, I felt something seize the top of my head. I felt my heart jump, and my head was lifted up to meet the Storm King, whose paw was holding my head. His face was dangerously close to me, and scrutinizing me for any weakness or flaws that I showed to him.

“You really are a strange creature. First, your resistant. And then, afterwards...you’re willing to help take down your… friends.” he shuddered and spat out the last word like it was a rolled up spit wad. “I guess that’s what makes you hoo-man. Ready to take any opportunity to betray your fellow brothers and sisters in order to ensure that you stay in power.” he paused.

One of his fingers tapped onto my skull as if it were a miniature drum.

“Come to think of it, I guess that makes your kind weak. The ambitious and powerful will cling to power, and the weak are used like pawns to further their own goals. That is the greatest flaw, if not weakness, of your whole race. The evil ruling at the top and the good and ‘humble’ are brought low beneath their boots.” he grinned a malicious grin and leaned forward until our eyes met.

I could have sworn I saw a power crazed look emanating off of him.

“I can’t wait to step into your world, as well as even squish it denizens under my hooves. It’ll be entertaining to see what other like minded hoomans are willing to work with me in controlling your feeble race, and those who would end such things as unity and friendship.” he spat that word again.

I felt myself lifted up from off the ground, the tips of his paws clutching tightly around my skull. I struggled in vain from his vice like grip.

“I will seize by force what this world will not give, and your pathetic race will bend to my every whim! I will see to it that they will suffer a thousand curses, the likes of which you will ever see. And I. The Storm King! Will see the lands becoming my personal paradise!” he shouted to the very heavens as if they were at his command.

“Storm King,” Tempest said in a low voice.

“What!” he yelled at her.

She gestured to me.

“I don’t think Spencer is a good source for a stress ball.” she pointed out.

She was right, I could feel my head about to pop if he didn’t let go.

The Storm King gasped and dropped me to the ground, and I nearly collapsed from it all. I staggered back up while the Storm King calmed himself by breathing and speaking to himself.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m cool. I’m fine.” he said it so fast that it ended up being a jumbled mess.

He then eyed me with a bit of concern. Again, that split personality of his, going berserk one moment then to a calm hermit the next.

Instead of being dejected over his normal rants, I felt a deep hatred growing within me. I was livid if not angry, angry over the fact that he insulted all of Humanity as a greedy and selfish people who only care for themselves. He knows nothing of Humanity and why we continue to to be strong.

Both of my parents told me that lesson long ago, and I will never forget it.

“You look angry? Is it towards me for almost crushing your skull?” The Storm King inquired.

I turned my gaze up to him, giving off a sneer of disgust.

“No, it’s the fact that your plans for domination is practically killing off anyone who doesn't agree with you. Reminds me of a few certain tyrants I know from my world. Comparing you to them, they have done more heinous things than you,” I said in a defiant manner.

The Storm King narrowed his eyes at me and a chuckle escaped past him in a manner similar to how Joker would laugh.

The Heath Ledger kind not the new one.

“I’m certain I’ll out pace them soon enough. Be off now, little hooman, and don’t let the shock collar get you on the way out,” he said, and I felt the tingling sensation in my neck.

I sluggishly and bitterly got myself up and the Storm King waved me off. I backed away for a bit and made my way to the exit. But, I caught sight of Tempest going forward to the Storm King.

“Despite our losses, we can take this opportunity to regroup and push further inland. We can make up for lost time by pushing hard into the heartland.” she suggested.

The Storm King waved the suggestion off.

“Yes, yes. Canterlot is the ultimate goal, and the princesses are the valuable prize. We need to secure their capture in order to achieve victory over this miserable country.” he said, putting his fingers together and likely pondering over the events of the last twelve hours.

Deciding that what they were talking about was of little interest to me, I made my way to the exit again.

“Yes, and you will uphold your end of the bargain with me,” she stated.

I paused from the entryway all of a sudden and turned back to look at her. I saw the Storm King eye her curiously, and narrow his eyes.

“Ah yes, your ‘bargain’. I remember it all too well,” he said, slowly getting up to stand over her, “you have no need to worry, for I will ensure that the promise is kept. However,” he paused.

One of his paws lifted up and it laid under Tempest’s chin. She froze slightly from the contact, and I saw her body fidget and her eyes widen a little while she still kept her gaze at him.

“You must remember to follow every order on the letter. I will not reward those who only come back empty handed. The only price for weakness and failure is to be tossed aside, while those who have a backbone and the strongest will shall prevail. Sacrifice the weak while salvaging in the strong is the truest greed that we all must follow,” he said, releasing her chin while she turned her head away.

I could still see her shiver from his touch, and she didn’t look all that comfortable with being this way. The Storm King leaned forward, his gaze ever focused on her.

“Do not disappoint me, Tempest. You still owe me,” he said, before leaning back and plopping down into his seat. He paused, and looked out in the distance as if he was thinking of something. Then, as if a light bulb came over his head, the Storm King gave a half smile to himself.

“I think I just had an apostrophe,” the Storm King stated.

“I think you mean an Epiphany.” Tempest softly corrected, her stern demeanor less than before.

“It’s like lightning had struck my brain, and sent pulsating ideas throughout my body.”

I guess that must’ve hurt. I thought, while I exited out of the tent, only to hear the last bit of dialogue by the Storm King.

“I need to get as many notes as I can, I got to write these evil quotes down before my spur of imagination fades away!” he exclaimed, and the sound of shuffling papers could be heard, along with a happy giddiness within.

When I went outside I could feel a light rain cascade down on my head, something that I think I had just about enough of.

I gave out a loud yawn, feeling more drowsy than usual. Although, that was nothing compared to how irritable I really was. I could put up with the punishment and abuse, but even if I could push past it I now know there is a limit until I start feeling edgy. I huffed out air in annoyance and looked to the paperwork that needed to be done. I knew by then that the quicker I can get this done, the sooner I can go back to Tempest’s tent and just sleep the rest of the day.

I didn’t make it two feet when I felt a rough brush on my side.

“Hey, watch where you’re bloody going!” I snapped.

I suddenly found myself staring at Tempest, who had a disgruntled look on her face. She eyed me at first before rolling her eyes and continued to move on away from me.

“Just get to work and do your job. You might find you’ll live longer.” she stated.

But when she said that, I was not going to take that standing down.

“I would live longer if you didn’t treat me so poorly.” he said, and this caused Tempest to pause in her march. Her head turned slightly, and her eyes focused on me with that all too familiar glare.

“A man as perverted and uncaring as you deserves punishment. I’ve seen stallions like you who only crave for the finer things in life, becoming nothing but monsters that lust over everything that isn’t tied down.” she explained, and I took a step forward towards her.

“I wasn't perverted or sadistic when I woke you up from that nightfri-mmmph!,” and just like that, her hand instantly rushed up to me and clasped over my mouth, interrupting me from finishing my countering.

I froze for a moment, unsure of what she was going to do. I also couldn’t help but note how her hand felt on me as she cupped my mouth. It felt so...soft, and warm. I was afraid she was going to hit me again, but instead, she was looking around, seeing if anyone else was around us, her ears also swiveling as she did so.

“Meet me at my tent, now” she ordered, releasing me.

And with that, she began marching towards her tent.

“What was that about? I’ve got to d-mmmph!” I didn’t get to finish, because she whirled around and cupped my mouth again.

“You egotistical idiot,” she then let go of my mouth and grabbed me by the end of my shirt, pulling me and forcing me to walk with her. The end of my shirt was feeling like it would rip at the seams.

I went along with her for the length of our walk, a few guards eyeing us as we passed them by. I think I saw both Flint and Tinder among them, waving at me like this was normal day business.

I hoped it was, considering my odds of survival with Tempest is going down drastically by the second.

We eventually made it towards her tent, and she abruptly shoved me in. I stumbled a few feet, dropping the papers in the process. I quickly recovered and turned around to meet her, only to see that she poked a finger right at me.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve speaking to me about that,” she said, her voice seething with anger. I didn’t waver, and stood my ground before the mare.

“I couldn’t ignore the obvious screaming you were doing in your sleep! Whatever night fright you had clearly wouldn’t let go, and I could only wonder why no one in this army even bothered to come and check on you.”

“I’ve told them not to come if I do have them. But I don’t expect you to lay your hands all over me. Maybe I should treat you to another round of discipline to quell your rebellious tongue.” she stated with a disgusted look on her face, while looking ready to pummel me into the earth.

I was not going to back down from this.

“What? I’m supposed to bow down and take the punishment day in and day out? I never once gave you any lip over my treatment here and now I’m just more pissed off than ever. Yeah the punches, the kicks, throwing me on the ground and kicking me in the groin, it all hurts. But never once did I complain! What I don’t understand is your constant desire to go to violence when whatever I do to help never calls for it.” I explained, but she became exasperated and waved me off.

“You’re a prisoner, punishment for prisoners is acceptable, given certain…”

“Cut with the bullshit! I can see right through it!” I yelled back, knowing full well what I was getting into. “Everytime you resort to violence you are always in control. I notice that when things go your way you seem to be at your best. But that night… when you were left screaming in the darkness and I held you… you continued to shout and wail as if you didn’t want to be held.” I explained, and I saw Tempest eyes flare up.

I struck a chord and I was not going to back down from this fight. I was going to see it to the end, no matter what came my way.

“Tell me Tempest, why are you so nervous when I get near you, or make a move to grab you?” I stepped forward to stand in front of her, but saw that she took a step back, “Why do you retreat? Did something I did before make you uncomfortable? Did me holding you to comfort you make you as scared as a sheep?” I said, taking another step. I didn't like acting like the bad guy, but what other choice did I have to get Tempest to speak the truth.

Tempest backed up further, her back up against the tent wall. I knew she was a head taller then me, but, she began to look very small when I approached her. I knew what I was doing was out of my mind and that she could lash out at any given moment, but I had to press what I know on her.

“Tell me this, if I was to stay here and do nothing while you pummel me to the ground, would that make yourself feel good?” I asked, and Tempest was silent. Her eyes still remained wide, but her early uneasiness remained, and seemed to grow as I took another step forward.

This was a moment that would likely have me end up in a concussion.

“If I were to raise my hand and touch you on the shoulder, would you resist when I want to know if you’re okay?” I asked, already raising my hand to meet her. She eyed it with a great unmistakable look of fear and she swatted my hand away from her.

“Don’t touch me!” she shouted bitterly and looked away.

I paused from my outreach and saw that she was visibly shaking.

It then occurred to me. While I drew my hand away she still looked at me in obvious fear, but once I took a step back I finally understood.

“Tempest. Are you…. afraid of men?” I asked, my question honest and sincere.

Tempest looked pale over my question and she looked away in trying to avoid my gaze. I took another step back, ready to try and defend myself, however pitiful it may be, in the event she would attack me.

She still looked away, still ignoring me as if I didn’t exist. The revealing statement I made still hung in the air and I pressed the issue once more.

“You said that you’re also afraid of being touched, Tempest,” I said, taking another precarious step back, “Are you just afraid of men touching you?” I asked.

This time I saw Tempest react this time.

Her eyes flared open and she gritted her teeth in pure animalistic rage. She rushed forward at me, faster than I could blink and brought a fist up to my face. I flinched, thinking I was going to meet the inside of my brain. But in that moment, within that fraction of a second, she had stopped her fist and it hovered dangerously close to my face. My eyes focused on that fist, my life flashing slightly before me, thinking how boring it might have been, and thinking death was already at my door. I slowly refocused on my attention to Tempest and I stared into those opal eyes of her.

They were tired eyes, deep bags, and above all, of a mare who has gone through much.

Tempest gave out a weary sigh and lowered her fist away from my face.

“I’m tired…I’ve been up for over twenty-six hours and have not had an inch of sleep. I’m going to bed. This conversation is over.” She softly mumbled, rubbing her eyes and walking away from me. I fell flat on my backside and my body felt relief from that jarring moment. I turned to Tempest, who was already removing her armor and going into something more casual to sleep in.

“But Tempest-,” I began to say, until she turned at me with a deadly glare.

“You will not bring this up again. Do you hear me?” She said, emphasizing each word to me like it was a threat. I remained silent and looked away while she changed, having no answer or response.

In that moment of her raising her fist to me, I felt that she was truly going to punch me then and there, and that I would have my block knocked off. Despite a close call with death, and how grateful I was for not getting to meet him, there was this lingering thought that remained.

She didn’t confirm nor deny my assumptions on her being afraid of being touched.

I can imagine a number of things that could relate to how she became so afraid, but my mind was too muddled over the whole event to give it any further thought.

“Attend to your duties from the Storm King, Spencer. And let me have some peace and quiet.” she said, going into the bed and pulling the covers over her, “And unless it’s an emergency, don’t let anyone come in here for the next eight hours,” she added, before resting her head onto the pillow.

I stayed where I was, not moving from my spot. I was uncertain as to how to proceed with all this and had no clue of how to continue with this.

So much for trying to get to know her.

After a little while longer, I stood back up and looked over to Tempest, who slept peacefully in her bed. I figured she was either a heavy sleeper or she had exerted herself so much that sleep had overcome her. I slowly went to pick up all of the paperwork and headed over to the entrance.

I paused for a moment, a little ingenious idea coming to mind. I grinned a little, unsure if it work but worth a try.

I took a step through the entrance, the appearance of the guards on either side of me. I then stopped and turned my body to face Tempest.

“What was it Tempest?” I whispered in her direction, but not enough for her to hear outright. I nodded my head and gave a few fake assurances before turning back to the two guards next to me.

“Tempest Shadow ordered me to let you know not to disturb her unless it is an emergency.” I explained, and the two guards looked at me and nodded in approval.

I then handed the papers to them and they stared at me in those emotionless masks.

“She also said to give these orders to you and the others throughout the camp. She says it important they get delivered right away.” I said in the most straightest face that I could muster.

I knew it was a lie, but I wanted to see if they would do this.

The two looked at each other for a moment, likely contemplating over what I said. They then nodded, and the guard on my right picked the papers and headed off towards the camp, while the guard on my left remained stationed at his post. My eyes perked up and I hid a smile while I went back into the tent.

I can’t believe that worked, I thought, feeling a little giddy over the fact that the Storm Creatures are willing to follow orders so easily.

I quietly went to my bed, and laid flat upon it. I stretched my arms and wrapped them behind my neck, knowing that the burdensome work was free off my mind.

“At least I can get a little extra shut eye until they call for me.” I thought to myself.

I closed my eyes, and let my little nap overcome me into blissful slumber.

Breaking Boundaries

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“This is quite the workout!” the cheerful voice of Braeburn could be heard nearby. I looked over and saw him taking the axe in his hand before he began slamming into a tree trunk, “Beats havin’ to sit around doin’ nothin’,” he explained.

I rolled my eyes at him.

No matter what horrible situation we may end up in, he always has the infectious optimism that things will get better.

Apple family genes I guess.

It’s been a few days since we left our last encampment, and we have covered little ground compared to before, namely since some of the airships have either been ruined or destroyed by natural weather, and for once. We’ve been traveling at a slower pace towards the capital of Equestria, and I’m actually really thankful for that, because it gives Equestria more time to prepare.

We were outside near a forest, cutting down trees and breaking up the large pieces of lumber. Despite helping out the Storm King and doing the smaller favors he tasked me, he thought, for my ‘best interest’, that chopping wood should be no big deal, since I didn’t need to do anything with my head.

Sometimes I wished that he could just shut up for once and be the typical stupid villain that can be gullible into believing every word you say.

Despite the little hiccup of extra work, it did show me that the Storm King was in trouble. I’ve seen few of their ships out and about, but, they have been appearing less and less as the days go by. It’s likely that their supply lines have been stretched thin, and only a few ships can come in at a time without being destroyed. Because of this, the Storm King has ordered the prisoners to go out and harvest lumber and other materials for his war effort.

I took a mighty swing with the axe into the stubborn tree, making a deep chop into the aged oak. I quickly removed it and swung again, repeating the task over and over again.

We’ve been doing this for several hours now, cutting down large trees and sending them back to the encampment. The taskmasters kept us busy, and often had an ever watchful for anyone being sluggish on the job. It made me worried about what they had planned for all this lumber, but, my gut instinct was telling me it was not going to be good.

I was blessed, at the very least, that the trees I worked under provided a decent amount of shade, creating a cool environment for me to work in. I was able to do my task at ease. Also, the sun seemed to shine out very briefly for some time. Though, it made the rain soaked grounds into a muddy mess that would stick to my feet no matter where I went.

“Let’s hope we can end this day on a good note, and that everyone can get out of this in one piece,” I said back to Braeburn who in turn smiled at me.

“Absolutely! In no time at all, Ah can imagine that the Princesses have already come up with a plan to rescue us.”

“Back to work!” a Taskmaster barked out, a whip cracking against the ground and spooking Braeburn and the others nearby.

Braeburn did as he was told, but kept his mouth shut until the taskmaster moved down the line of the other prisoners. When he was far enough away, I saw Braeburn come closer to me.

“You know, Ah really do hope they will be coming for us. Ah can feel it,” he whispered and I nodded to him in kind.

“I know what you mean. I hope so too,” I spoke back, and the Apple pony smiled at that.

“Are you two chatting it up or what?” a voice came to me.

I turned to find the buffalo known as Strongheart, looking at us with a smirk. She was a little shorter in height then braeburn but she was equally as high as I was. Her body was covered in muck and grime from working and she looked a little burdened, but she still held up a small smile.

“It’s good see you too,” I said, and little Strongheart nodded.

“Likewise, though I would wish our burdens were lessened, even for a little.” she said, and she had my sympathies.

“Yeah, but knowing how the Storm King is, there will no doubt be trouble for all of us if we don’t do what he wants.” I explained, and this pained her a little while she wiped a bit of sweat on her brow.

I took notice that her face looked a little pale then usual and Braeburn held a hand over her shoulder.

“You okay, Strongheart?” Braeburn asked, his other hand dropping his axe and ready to help her. She merely smiled and nodded to him.

“I had morning sickness earlier. But don’t worry, I’m fine,” she explained, and I blinked in great surprise.

“You’re pregnant?” I said in astonishment.

She nodded and gave a warm smile to Braeburn. He gave a sheepish smile, bringing another hand above his head. I eyed him and a small smirk rose on my face.

“If you don’t mind me asking, and not wanting to sound rude here, but...when did it-,” I began to say but Strongheart lifted a hand to me.

“It happened a little before the rodeo. He was just being the romantic self that I always loved about him, and well...It just happened.” she explained, and I could see the blush coming off of Braeburn.

I chuckled at this and gave a hand to them.

“Congrats, you guys. I do hope the child will be healthy when it’s born.” I said.

He smiled back and gave a firm handshake.

“Thank you. Ah hope to become a good father, if we get out of this imprisonment that is,” He said, releasing my hand and giving a tender kiss to his love. My heart fluttered from seeing that, and I smiled when she giggled and kissed him back.

“You know, Braeburn,” I said, a cheeky grin on my face, “Whenever I see you, I knew you were a ladies man. Although, I often heard from others that you likely wouldn’t win a lady’s heart, and not have a good looking girl that loves you to death at your side.”

Braeburn blew a raspberry at me and waved off my joking banter, while Strongheart couldn’t help but chuckle in kind.

“Please friend, you have no idea how many times other ponies say that to my face. Ah always was into mares, but I never got a chance to show it to them. Ah always get told that and it does hurt at times. But nothing can hurt me now that Little Strongheart is in my life, and nothing will ever change that,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and giving her a twirl, the latter giggling as his strong arms held her close to him.

I felt the sheer joy that emanated between them.

“Yeah…but, it still won’t stop others from prodding that on you, even when you have a kid.” I said, and Braeburn stopped in his little dance with Strongheart to give me a determined look in his eye.

“Well whenever that comes again, I’m going to go up to them and say to ‘em that they should shove it up their-”

“Oi! Get back to work!” The taskmaster snapped, and his whip struck the ground, sending us back to work.

Braeburn let's go of his love and quickly got back to chopping up the downed tree.

“Well, you get my point,” he chuckled, chopping down into the wood while Strongheart helped in carrying some of the stacked wood to the carts.

I laughed it off, knowing that they were going to be a fine couple in the future.

In the north I could hear the distinct sound of thunder rolling in the distance. I look up from my task and saw the clouds darkening and slowly approaching us. My smile faded and no doubt in my mind that by the time we get done the whole land will be covered in rain once more. It sour my mood a little, but that was offset by the fact that Braeburn and Strongheart were going to be a family, along with a little one on the way.

Though I wonder if the child will take from the mother or from the father.

Maybe both?


A few hours later...


I continued into my work and worked at a steady pace in getting the current log chopped up. Once it was finished, I saw a few storm creatures that began placing some chopped wood into carts before hauling them away. I may or may not have had a little sway in getting the storm creatures to do what I want. If I did, it would be all thanks to the orders that the Storm King often gave me to hand out to his army. I take the orders to a few of the storm creatures or the guards that guard Tempest’s tent and they immediately obey without another word.

Hey, it might mean less work, but I wouldn’t want to get an order mixed up and fear the Storm King’s wrath.

I drew a breath and sighed a bit as I looked up towards the skies. The light of the sun was slowly disappearing by the cloud cover, and the land will once again be soaked with rain. From where I was I could see the last few guards hustling the prisoners back to the encampment. They hauled their resources and made certain that everyone had returned. All except me that is.

The reason being was that I had to wait for Tempest.

She had went into the woods several hours ago and said that she was going hunting. I had no choice but to wait until she returned. The two of us didn’t speak much since that night. She was very adamant in not speaking about her personal life and because of how I acted. Still, there was a great barrier erected between us because of that talk. We both kept quiet for over our own issues, particular whenever I try to gauge a conversation, she would scowl in so much unblemished fury that I would end up being scared as a rabbit.

I kept myself apart from her at all times whenever she does that.

Despite my time working and waiting here at the edge of the forest, I began to wonder what was going on within the woods. Normally, whenever she goes out hunting, she would always come back around this time, but, it had been nearly an hour longer than necessary. I didn’t know what kept her waiting, but I hoped it wasn't anything that would risk her life.

“Help! Someone help!” A female voice rang out from the forest. I instantly turned to the woods, searching for any signs of where the voice came from. “Help me out!”

“Tempest?” I muttered to myself, taking off in the direction of where her voice was coming from.

I ran through the woods, passing by many old trees that have stood for countless centuries. My feet carried me ever forward, breaking small twigs and leaves that are on the forest floor. A part of me felt like this was nothing, but another part was shouting to me that something was wrong. I doubled my pace, my heart racing through the woods to find her.

A few minutes passed of me running, and I heard her voice close by.

“Tempest!” I yelled out.

I pushed back a tree branch and appeared into a clearing, only to find Tempest was sitting on her back, with her legs hung up next to a tree. On the ground next to her, I saw a dead deer was on the tree’s side with a knife embedded into its neck. I blinked in surprise, wondering what I just walked into.

“Uh...Tempest?” I said, my adrenaline filled body making me worried over why she was in this position.

She looked at me and her eyes narrowed in clear vexation.

“Don’t just stand there like a nearsighted idiot, help me!” she called out, both of her feet struggling in the binds.

I couldn’t help but crack a mild, if not amused, smile.

“You sure you need help? It seems you can handle this on your own.” I said, and she scowled at me in return.

“So help me, if you do not help me out of this, I’m going to rip your arms off and use them as nun chucks!” she threatened, but I leaned my head a bit, a bit of smugness on my countenance.

“I wonder if that will be an improvement on my life here?” I said sarcastically.

“Help me out, Spencer!” she shouted at a near deafening cry.

I relented and went over to the rope to see what could be done. The thick rope had a double bind that looked like it was clearly meant for a large prey. I also happened to notice that there were extra leaves that were spread on the ground so as to hide it from any unwary eyes. From what I could tell, there was a heavy rock nearby that acted as the anchor, and somehow it managed to lift Tempest off the ground.

“What are you waiting for?” Tempest deadpanned at me, and I couldn’t help but bring a finger to my chin and nod at the little mechanism.

“This trap is old but it’s built very sturdily,” I observed, “This is gonna be a tough job, so, I don’t think I can get you out of this right away.”

I could hear Tempest take a deep breath behind me and I looked over my shoulder to see that she place a hand upon her head.

“Spencer,” she calmly spoke, though I can see the irritation upon her face, “I’ve had a long day with ordering minions and doing tasks meant for others. I’ve had a few sleepless nights and long work days. If you would kindly remove this rope that’s around my feet, I would very much appreciate it. If you don’t get me down within the next ten seconds and not dawdle like a wandering obese turkey, I’m going to wring your neck!” the last words came out forcibly, while she ordered in all of her hate filled glory.

“Alright, alright! I’ll work as quickly as possible, but no guarantees on it being in ten seconds,” I responded, having grown used to her threats to the point of not feeling too threatened.

I humbly tried to undo the knot. It was a little harder then I first to manage. The knot was hard to remove, due to how fiercely it tightened around her legs. I tried a few attempts to undo the binds, but they would end up bound.

I turned to Tempest and wondered how or even why she was in this mess, or even if she could get out on her own with her magic. Although, I did realize that with her horn broken, magic was out of the option.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the knife in the deer's neck and made my way over to it. I quickly grabbed the sharp blade out of the deer and went back to Tempest to cut the rope. Tempest remained the way she was, staring at me with those opal eyes, like an owl who had spotted its prey. I ignored her stare and went to grab the rope. However, I saw that Tempest had shifted her body away from me, if only by a little. I turned to her, seeing that uneasiness on her face, but still having her angry look from before.

“If you don’t hold still, I won’t be able to cut the rope.” I explained, yet Tempest looked like she was not having it.

“I just don’t trust you with that knife in your hand.” she explained.

I rolled my eyes and eyed her legs, which were bound by the rope. Instead of moving with the knife, I moved my hand towards her legs to grab a hold of them. However, she again fidgeted in her spot, and I eyed her once more to see that same nervous look.

“Seriously? I’m not going to hurt you. I’m only grabbing your leg so that I can get a better grip on undoing the rope.”

“That’s the thing, just don’t touch my legs,” she stated and I huffed out in annoyance.

“Okay, it’s one thing not being touched by men, but it’s different when a man is trying to help out a women in need.” I explained.

“I still don’t want those perverted hands of yours to touch me.” she said defiantly.

“Oh for the love of-” I rolled my eyes, and I quickly placed a hand around her ankles while I moved the knife in position to cut the rope.

“Don’t touch me! Let go,” she called out, but I outright ignored her.

I held a firm grip on her ankle, feeling the smooth latex suit that she always wore. I placed the knife on the rope that surrounded her feet and began to cut away. I felt Tempest squirm in my grip, her body twisting and turning to get away.

“If you’re not willing to let me help, then I might as well just leave you here.” I explained, slowly trying to cut the rope without harming Tempest.

“You wouldn’t dare. You don’t want to risk your life knowing if I get in harm's way,”

“So are you willing to allow me to touch you?”

“No,” she deadpanned.

“Then hold still,” I said, still holding onto her ankles to cut through the rope, and I could see the rope begin to break apart.

“Let me go! I don’t want you to touch me!” she said, and as much it pained me to hear her this way, yet, I still found the whole situation ridiculous.

“I’m helping you whether or not being touched by a guy is uncomfortable to you. Now hold still!” I shouted, and I could hear the first rope snap as her right leg became free.

“Let go!” she shouted.

I could feel my grip slip when her right leg became free. She pivoted her position, and I turned to see that she was pushing her hands to level herself and positioned her right leg get a foothold on the ground. I watched in amazement in how nimble she was, and she was able to stand up. She then eyed me, and her hand reached out and pushed me to the side. I dropped the knife and she grabbed it in mid-air, seizing it with delicate accuracy and form. She began to cut the rope above the knot.

“You should have cut here!” she shouted, her right leg holding her body up while she did the work, all the while looking flustered over what I had done.

I couldn’t help but stare at her shapely legs and how flexible they were. In the past, while I tried to ignore her body after the incident with her night fright, but now that I was seeing her like that...I just couldn’t help but note how wonderfully toned she was to the point of admiration.

Why is it that tall women are so beautiful? I thought, continuing to look on.

Finally, Tempest cut the final rope, and her left leg fell to the ground. She all of a sudden eyed me once more, her glare being on the borderline of a killer. My appreciation of her long flew out the window as she slowly made her way towards me.

And scary at the same time, I finished my thought, and I raised my hands to Tempest.

“No wait a minute, Tempest,” I tried to explain, but she slowly kept coming forward, her fingers playing with the small knife in her hand, twirling it in a delicate dance and becoming ever more threatening.

“I was only trying to help,” I explained, backing myself until my posterior was against a tree. I slowly went downward, my body feeling all the more smaller as she hovered over me. She then placed a hand right over my head, her other hand holding the knife and moving it close to me. I worried about what she might do.

“Listen to me closely, Spencer,” she stated, baring her teeth and appearing all the more menacing, “I do not want to be touched! Not by you, or any men, or anypony anywhere. And especially from a man like you. The most sniveling, slimy, conniving, and indecent man that I have ever met! So let me get through your thick head. I don’t need your help nor do I need your pity. I just want you to do one thing for me.” she said, her fist pounding against the tree, and I felt the vibrations from each strike she made.

“Don’t! You! Dare! Touch me! Again!” she yelled, sending a punch straight into the tree above me.

I could feel the tree shake from the force of it all. The leaves on the trees fell and I could see small twigs fall haphazardly onto the ground. One large one in particular landed on top of Tempest’s head. However, it didn’t bounce off like the others and it seemed to bend around her shoulders and head. Tempest took notice of that and grabbed at the center of the stick to remove it.

The stick suddenly hissed at her and I realized immediately to what it was.

“Tempest!” I yelled out, and everything seemed to slow down as the snake began to move wildly in her hands.

A snake like head raised itself up and bared its fangs out to Tempest. She opened her eyes in alarm and attempted to throw the pest away. The brown snake didn’t give her a chance, because it went forward and clasped its teeth onto the right side of her neck, its fangs going inside her. Tempest screamed and backed away, throwing the offending creature to the ground. The snake flew, but not too far before landing on the ground and curling in a defensive stance.

“Tempest, are you alright!?” I yelled out, watching her hand clutch her neck with her right hand while she lunged for the snake with the knife.

She screamed out, trying to stab the snake with her knife. The snake slithered away in the brush before she could get a chance to stab it.

“Die! Die! She cried out in desperate pleas, trying to give chase.

In the end thought, the snake disappeared. Although, she seemed so unsatisfied, that she resorted to throwing the knife into the brush.

She grunted in pain and desperation, cursing and shouting out all that has happened. She threw dirt and leaves into the air, trying to give chase, all the while crying out in obvious pain. She pounded at the dirt, trying to go after the venomous fiend even though it was gone, but I quickly stopped her.

“Tempest, don’t move! The venom will spread further,” I shouted, looking out in the direction where I came from and towards were the encampment is. If I remember correctly when it comes to snake bites, it’s that they’re always deadly, and she needed to get treated now before the venom spread, “Tempest, we gotta get you back to camp! C,mon!” I said, leaning in to pull her up.

“I said don’t touch me!” she shouted, pulling away from my advance and resting her back against a tree. She still held to her neck and I could see the bit of blood slipping between her fingers. I lowered myself to her level and tried to move my hands to her neck.

“Here, let me see that,” I gently said, trying to get close to examine the bite.

“Get away from me!” she vehemently spoke out, trying but failing to get away from me.

“I’m trying to help you, Tempest!” I shouted back, and she shook her head at me.

“I don’t need your help! I don’t need to listen to you!” she shouted, and a twinge of pain erupted in my heart.

I had once said those words before.

That was a long time ago, and I didn’t like to have on my mind.

I snorted in frustration and slapped a hand above the tree. Tempest froze and stared at me, her panicked stricken eyes filled with uncertainty and alarm.

It was strange, really. In only a few minutes, we were on opposites sides, where she was the strong and dominant one, and I was the weak and helpless one. But now, she was the one who looked helpless before me.

Now I feel like I had no choice but to assert myself to get her to understand. I held my pose there, still holding my position, and kept my gaze on her. The venom was likely going through her, and whatever time I had to explain myself would mean one step closer to death for her.

“Tempest,” I spoke with a cleared mind and a calm voice, “I’m not trying to harm you. I don’t even want to harm you. All I’m asking is that you trust me. Trust me that what I’m about to do is to help you and not bring any harm to you in any way shape or form. Please…let me help you.” I said in reassurance.

Even after I said that though, Tempest kept her weary gaze upon me. She stayed like that for a time, her opal eyes still upon me and her fearful anger never ceasing.

Only after a little bit longer did she finally relent, closing her eyes and turning her head to the left for me to see her snake bite. Her right hand slowly removed itself, her fingers twitching from much trepidation.

I leaned further, seeing her hand fully removed off the snake bite and seeing it in the given light.

There were two puncture wounds right on her neck, the same spots you would see if a vampire came to take a bite. I moved a little closer, my fingers reaching out and touching her neck. I felt her shiver and she breathed sharply from my contact. I looked at her and her face narrowed, and she had an uneasy look on her face.

“It’s okay, Tempest. It’s okay,” I truthfully said softly, going back to the wound to inspect it.

I saw the two streaks of blood that came from the snake bite and it trickled down her exposed neck. I pressed a hand next to the wound, and when I did, I saw the blood pour out more. I realized that the venom may be coursing through her body every second, and that she was going to need medical attention and antivenom for a cure. Though, with the venom already close to her brain and likely reaching the bloodstream to her heart, it would be problematic getting her to camp in time, because by the time I would get her there, she would die.

I then thought of something, something that was both outrageous and brilliant. The word barely matters to me at the moment though because it might just save her life by slowing the venom and save enough time for me to get her to camp.

Although, my mind was also telling me that Tempest would not be pleased one bit. In fact she would kill me here and now if I went through with it.

Ah, screw it. I thought to myself.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and leaned my head down to see her neck, ready for the inevitable. Tempest caught on to what I was doing and she eyed me with a concerned look.

“What are you doing?” she said hesitantly, and I still kept moving forward. Knowing I couldn't hold back the procedure, I cleared my throat and explained myself and my impending plan to help her.

“Tempest. I’m going to suck the poison out. Forgive me,” I said, and my head went down.

“You’re doing what?!” she panicked and she raised her hands to my chest to stop me. Seizing the initiative, I quickly went down and I swiftly opened my mouth, placing my lips over the bite mark and began to suck the poison out.

I never thought I would hear Tempest gasp like that in my life.

She froze as my mouth was on her neck, sucking the poison that was in her body. Her body went rigid and I continued to suck, all the while her hands pressed firmly on my chest. I could feel the soft fuzzy features on my cheeks and how warm they were to the touch, but I also could feel her trembling underneath. I could hear her voice caught in her throat and she continued to gasp in a high pitch and shake considerably from my touch.

I swore that if any passerby saw me doing this then I would probably be going to jail for a very long time.

But this was life and death here, I had no time for PC-BS.

I quickly lifted my head away and spat out to the side, spit and blood splattering the ground from where it landed. I turned my head back to go down onto the wound once more, and I caught a glimpse of Tempest scar like eye staring in obvious apprehension if not fear over what I was doing.

“Spencer, stop… don’t you dare AHHH!” her plea went silent the moment I went down and placed my mouth over the wound once more.

I sucked onto her wound, trying everything I could to get any venom out of her system. Her breathing became labored and she panted out in heavy breathing. I could feel her chest tremble with each sharp intake of breath. Her hands on my chest weakened and they shakily rested there, not enough to push but not enough to hold me in place. She had gasped once as I siphoned off the poison from her body, trying my best attempt to get it out of her body.

“Please…don’t….” her voice trailed off, her body shuddering from my mouth upon her neck.

I removed myself and spat out the venom, going back a third time upon her neck. I could hear her breathing become more labored and her mouth open up and down, almost to the point where she was gaping like a fish. I couldn’t see what her face was expressing, if this had pained her or if I was hurting her. But I was doing none of that. I was only doing my best to help her get the venom out of her.

Doing my best to help a women in need of help.

I spat out for a third time, less blood and spit then previous, and I looked at the wound before me. It looked more clear, despite the two holes in her neck. I finally looked at her and saw that she looked ragged over what I had done. Her eyes were half open, her mouth agape, and her breathing became heavy and I swore there was a deep shade of red over her face. She stared out to nothing in particular, not even acknowledging me in front of her. She looked distant and her body still quivered, as if she had done a marathon along with a several hour training regiment at once. I lowered my head back down, my lips pressed firmly on her neck and drew the blood out of her once more. Her hands on my chest put up little to no resistance and I could hear her breathing slow down to the point that it almost became a soft sigh.

“Don’t hurt me….I don’t want to die…. please don’t hurt…” she said weakly while I continued to help her.

I then felt something fuzzy press on top of my right cheek and rest there. I narrowed my eyes and looked at her neck, seeing it not even tremble once as the warm surface pressed further into my face. I removed myself to spit out the last spittle and blood and looked back at Tempest.

Only to find that she was still and her eyes closed shut.

Oh Lord, I made her faint.

I quickly placed a finger onto her neck and I could hear a pulse within. I sighed briefly at that, knowing she was still alive for the moment. I looked around me, a strange feeling coming over me like I was being watched over what I did. I ignored the feeling and lowered to her side.

“It’s okay, I got you.” I said, my hands going underneath her frame.

Like the night I first held her, I felt the toned muscles on her back underneath my palm. They were so strong underneath and yet right now she looked so delicate. I wrapped my left arm underneath her legs, holding her behind the knees and slowly lifted her up in a bridal style. I slowly stood up to my full height, holding her up with all the strength I could muster.

Thankfully, I had become stronger in the time that I had spent here.

Once I held her up, I looked down at her face and noted how peaceful she looked. Her eyes were closed and relaxed, not the seriousness that she always had before. Her mouth was slightly open but her breathing was normal. She looked rather nice this way.

Although, if she had woken up right now, I probably would be dead at this point.

Taking a steady breath, I hoisted her up a bit to get better leverage, although, the movement caused her head to jostle a little and she shifted her face down towards my arm. I looked down out of reaction and her head rested comfortably against my arm and chest. I blinked in surprise, because seeing her this calm and relaxed was something I never thought I would see. My eyes trailed down to her chest, and I can’t help but note that it moved up and down in a rhythmic beat. I blinked once when I saw that I was staring at her chest and noticing that the latex suit was fitting comfortably around her body. The suit held tight and showing all the subtle curves underneath that frame of hers. My face turned a slight shade of red and I immediately went back to the camp, an image forming in my mind over what I just did and what I witnessed.

Stupid sexy latex.


Turns out I’m a big idiot.

I sat in silence on top of Tempest’s trunk while watching over Tempest herself in her bed, a bandage wrapped around her neck. She had been like this for several hours and not once woke up over the whole ordeal. I sighed and rubbed my right arm, where a bandage was placed around my own wound.

Ever since I had returned back to camp and brought back Tempest, the guard were immediately on me over what happened. I was able to tell them of what I saw and they hurried over to her tent, where they had administered the antivenom into her. They also gave me one since they believed that if I had sucked the blood out then the venom could have jumped to me as well. They jabbed me with that thin needle and I hated it to no end. They wrapped the bandage around my arm and called it a day.

I was lucky enough that both Braeburn and Strongheart knew how to properly create and administer the cure. They had similar experiences with snakes before and have had more than enough practice in treating it. The Storm creatures had the supplies for it, and they were able to create the cure in no time.

Even though I felt fine, I still think it was a bit much for them to stab me with the antivenom.

I’m never a fan with needles, always have been, and I will never like them.

Does that make me a stab survivor?

After the ordeal, I was to remain in Tempest’s tent, and I had decided to stay by her side if she had woken up, although, I felt a little out of the loop since they injected me with antivenom so I decided to keep it safe and stay where I was. I would occasionally look over to her, a blanket placed over her body and only exposing her neck and head. A small wet bandage was placed over brow and I would often place it back when she shifted her head from side to side and it would fall off her.

I was left alone in my thoughts, and I recalled how she had spoken to me mere hours ago. The moment that struck me the most was when she had said that she didn’t need to listen to me. Those words had burned within me, something that was very personal to me several years ago. I couldn’t help but recall those vivid images, and there was no confabulation or error in them. It pained me even now, not being able to hear his stories.

I heard Tempest stir once more, and her eyes narrowed somewhat in irritation, yet she still remained asleep. It wouldn’t be for another few hours before the need to sleep called for me to end my day. But, I didn’t feel like going to bed, not yet at least, because I still had the image of my family, and every moment I spent thinking about them, the more saddened I felt.

“You know, what you said to me back there, really brought out some memories in me that I don’t want to recall.” I said to myself, not caring if she could hear me, or if she could hear given her state. “Those little things from my past, saying that I wouldn’t want to listen or to help anyone. It really hurt me to think of it, even when I try now more than ever to help others.” I explained, looking down at the palms of my hands.

“Several years ago, when I was still back on Earth, I was going about my life with college and thinking everything was going to run smoothly. My family was supportive of me in my work, and I tried to work hard in getting my degree and graduate as quickly as I could. However, not all laid out plans go on a straight and narrow path. My grandfather, God bless him, had failing health in his late years, about in his mid nineties I believe. My parents urged me to go visit him or come see him during a family visit. I didn’t get to attend much because I was just too busy with school, and I didn’t want to be distracted.”

“I was such an idiot. I ignored them, all because I was too focused on graduating,” I said, lowering my head to stare at the ground, the memories of that night beginning to resurface.

I knew that as I kept going, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

“My grandfather, when I was too busy in the middle of school, passed away in his sleep. I only heard of his death a few days later. I gave a call to my parents, but found a message instead on my phone. It was my grandfather, and it simply said that he wished to speak to me when I was available.” I paused, a few tears beginning to form in my eyes.

“When the time came for the funeral, I came to be there with my family. I had a few older brothers, well, all brothers in my family, and they were disappointed in me that I was not there at Grandpa’s side. I felt deep regret in my heart, all because I didn’t listen to them nor heed their advice to come and see him. I couldn’t count the number of times I apologized to them, but, I do know that I would not forget about what they told me.”

“They said that Grandpa wished to tell me one of his stories.” I fought back fresh tears and placed a hand over my face, still remembering that fateful day.

“Grandpa's life, he had lived a long life and served in World War 2. One of the great wars on my planet. He was a gunner in the those large B-25 Bombers over the Pacific Ocean. When I was there at the display table, I saw the several medals he had earned during his service, gunning down a few fighter planes and downing several gun boats and oil tankers that were critical supplies for the Japanese forces.”

“I never once knew that my grandfather was part of the greatest generation, the ones who gave it their all to defend their country, their family, and people that were their brothers and neighbors. I only wish I could’ve heard his voice, telling me all about his adventures and what happened during that time.” I paused again, rubbing tears out of my eyes.

It was fine for a man to shed tears over his family.

“I guess he was the reason I was able to make a decision in my college life and become a storyteller and writer. I wanted to tell his story, so that others may hear the things they went through, facing against evil forces that wished nothing more than to have power and control. He, like many of his generation, have been ignored back on my world, where people turn on each other because of differences of opinion. I would like to be the fold in helping show them these stories. I want to guide them, tell about what our grandparents did during the great war, and why they are important.”

“I guess…I guess I just wanted to show you that I wanted to help others, even if they don’t want to listen to what I have to say or give them a chance to see the things that can be for the better. As I have.” I finished, lifting my head up and staring at Tempest.

Only to find that her eyes were open and staring at me.

“Tempest?” I said, a little surprised that she was awake.

Her eyes fluttered open and she groaned as she stood up from the bed, the wet cloth on her head falling off her when she rose. A part of me felt relieved that she was alive, but another thing began to dread in the back of mind.

“How long have you been awake?” I asked hesitantly, not sure if she had heard my little story.

“I was awake for most of it. I never heard that side of you before.” she stated, leaning her back against the bed while she rubbed a hand over her neck, “How long was I out?” she asked, still feeling groggy.

“You’ve been out for at least a few hours, it’s almost night right now.” I explained, while she looked out towards the front of the tent, not paying attention to anything in particular. She remained quiet for a moment, and I felt a little uneasy over what she might say next. She still rubbed her neck, her fingers tracing the bandage around her wound. She looked down, looking almost ashamed.

“Spencer, I…” she began to say, but was interrupted when the tent flap opened up. I turned and I saw both Braeburn and Strongheart enter inside. They looked elated to see Tempest awake, and the two walked forward carrying a few extra blankets and some plate of food.

“Glad to see ya made it out alive and in one piece,” Braeburn said, setting down the blankets at the foot of the bed.

“Indeed, if you suffered, then no doubt we would suffer as well,” Strongheart added, setting the food bowl next to her bed.

Tempest eyed the food and I could see it looked like a warm tomato soup. She grabbed for it and began to eat the contents within. Her eyes widened slightly and she dug into the meal with gusto. Strongheart and Braeburn took a step back and were happy to see that she was eating healthily. I turned to them, my own smile present on my face.

“I’m glad that you two were around to help make the cure. Though, I don’t understand why me sucking poison was a bad idea.” I explained, and Braeburn waved me off.

“Well, it’s a bad idea to begin with. Sucking the venom can’t guarantee the poison out of the victim. Besides, you might end up catching the venom yourself.” he explained.

“The best option for any victim of snake venom is to keep the limb off the ground and to remain calm. Any acceleration of the heart will quicken the venom into vulnerable areas.” Strongheart added, and I nodded in understanding.

I could guess that would be a bad idea, and the same goes for cutting the wound or putting ice on your wound or even try to apply a tourniquet.

The best option, in my opinion, would be to help any victim of snake venom by carrying them to the nearest hospital and to ensure they remain calm so it doesn't aggravate or excellerate the blood.

“I’m curious though,” Braeburn asked, tracing a finger to his chin in thought, “we managed to help with the anti-venom, but...what color was the snake? And where was it when it attacked her.” he gestured towards Tempest, who was slowly finishing off her soup.

I gave him a peculiar look, but I didn’t think it would warrant any harm in telling him.

“Sure, it was a brown snake that fell from the trees. It landed on her head and the snake suddenly reacted when she grabbed it.” I explained, but Braeburn and Strongheart looked at me in a funny way.

“A brown tree snake?” the two seemed to say almost in unison. I hesitantly nodded at their reply, but the two only added more fuel to their mirth. The two chuckled to one another and that lead to me being more confused over the whole explanation.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, wanting to get to the bottom of this.

The two looked at me, both smiling from ear to ear.

“A brown tree snake, those little varmints? They don’t give much of a bite.” Braeburn said, still smiling.

“And they are more of a nuisance than anything.” Strongheart added, and that just added more confusion on his plate.

“What do you mean?” I questioned them, standing up to meet them while the two explained themselves.

“Some fool of a gryphon had brought over a pair of Brown snakes without his knowledge and the pair escaped into the wilds. They’re an invasive species, and have been spreading like wildfire through the southern parts of Equestria. However, their venom is mild if not trivial because of it having such weak toxins.”

“Although, it does pose a threat to children because they’re much smaller. But, we’ve been able to take care of them quickly.”

“So, why does it make you all happy about this?” I asked, unsure as to where they were getting at.

“Well for starters, their fangs are in the back of their mouth, so if they wished to inject venom they would have to chew into the skin, and they have difficulty in doing just that. To top it off, from what the doctors told me when I got bit by one, there is roughly over eighty percent of the time that their bites are dry bites, meaning they don’t give off any venom whatsoever. Though, the anti-venom was necessary and just a precaution.” Braeburn explained

“So, you mean that there was a high possibility that Tempest didn’t get injected with venom?”

“Yes,” the two said together, and a single thought came to my mind,

Huh…I guess that means with my sucking the venom out of her neck was not necessary. But…that would mean…

I heard Tempest place the bowl down roughly on the nearby table. I didn’t dare look back but I can see both Braeburn and Strongheart freeze up in place. I saw a few lights of purple flash behind me and I could hear the sheets being moved to the side.

Oh crap

Before I could turn around, I felt an arm wrap around my neck, my chin resting right above the crook of her elbow. My hands instantly went up from the choke hold and held onto her arm, the soft fur gracing my fingertips, but this only allowed Tempest to hold onto me tighter. My body was pulled back and I felt her chest pressed tightly against me.

Despite how nice it felt from what was pushing against my back it was the least of my concerns.

My mind panicked, and before I could even ask Braeburn and Strongheart to help me out of this situation, Tempest clasped her hand over my mouth again, only this time, it was to where I felt my mouth completely pressed against her palm. I couldn’t even make a sound.

Man, what is it about putting her hand over my mouth that amuses her so much? This is the third time she’s done this.

She tightened her grip as I struggled in her hold. I swallowed the lump in my throat and I watched as both Braeburn and Strongheart back away slowly towards the exit, both baring uneasy expressions over my impending doom.

“Take care Spencer!”

“We’ll see you later!”

Both Braeburn and Strongheart left the tent in haste while I remained at the mercy at the tempest before me. Both literally and metaphorically.

I looked up, seeing the sparks coming off her horn and flash above me, while my blue eyes looked up and stared at those opal eyes.

“You sucked the poison out of me even when there was most likely none,” I heard Tempest speak to me, her voice soft yet sounding dangerously irked if not borderline hostile.

Her eyes burned with an unexpecting combination of the largest anger and passion I’ve ever seen.

I think I’m going to die tonight.

“You’re dead.” she darkly whispered, tightening her hold on me.

Yep. I’m dead.

Dialogue

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“Spencer, no matter how many times you explain it, I still cannot fathom it. How did Tempest mange to bend your back the way you describe it?” Princess Luna asked, sitting at my right side while I laid flat on my stomach, pain tingling all throughout my body.

“I don’t know, she just lifted me up and John Cena’d me into the ground,” I explained, knowing how she brought me to the ground was hard to explain.

“I still don’t know who that is,” she replied, and I shrugged my shoulders to her.

“He’s a famous wrestler back on earth who does over the top stunts in the ring.” I explained, but she merely tilted her head at me.

“Still don’t know. And this wrestling you describe sounds fake to my ears.” she replied.

“It is. Though the sport is fake, some people can’t help but enjoy the spectacle of the show.” I explained, but she merely shrugged her shoulders.

“Lets see the damage then,” Princess Luna said, her hands touching my back.

“Gah!” I suddenly shout out, and Princess Luna recoiled from her touch.

“Spencer! I’m so sorry! I didn’t hurt you did I?!” she asked, much concern in her voice.

I turned around with a wide smile on my face.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I just wanted to know your reaction.” I replied, and she huffed out in annoyance.

“Don’t do that.” she said scornfully.

Then, she started pressing firmly into my back. I seethed this time from her touch as she explored my back with her fingers. I groaned inwardly as her fingers pressed into my back, testing where the muscles have been overburdened and abused. I felt like my lower back was taken through a cheese grater and lumped back into place. I gritted my teeth as she pressed further, her finger curling into my back and her thumbs pushing into the tender tissues. She removed her hands after another minute and she clicked her tongue a few times in disappointment.

“Your back is quite badly hurt. Hold still for a moment, I’ll have to adjust it.” she explained, and I heard her shuffle from her spot. I narrowed my eyes, hearing her feet move behind me and I felt her foot brush against my left side. I turned my head and I caught her standing over me.

“Uh, Princess Luna?” I asked, seeing her lower herself down on top of me.

I felt her legs straddle my lower back and I whimpered a little from the pressure. I also felt her adjust herself above me and my cheeks burned with great intensity. She looked at me, and saw my own displeasure and embarrassment. She merely eyed me with a coy smirk.

“Oh come now, it’s not all that bad,” she said, pushing her hair behind her ear while I remained still.

I was definitely feeling the weight of her body on my back and buttocks.

“Maybe not for you,” I replied, still appearing all the more of a cherry to the princess of the night.

She merely giggled and her arms folded with that smug grin on her face.

“I thought you enjoyed this sort of treatment,” she explained, the teasing coming forward in her voice.

I didn’t say anything, and I turned my head away from her in clear and silent contempt.

She giggled once more at my silence.

She was right, I did like it.

“Alright, I will need you to remove your shirt.” she explained, and I felt a tug from my shirt going up with her magic.

“Wait a minute! Why would I need to do that!?” I asked, trying to force my finger to clasp against the bottom hem of my shirt and trying to hold it for dear life. Princess Luna huffed in mild annoyance.

“It needs to be removed if I am to give you a massage. Your shirt acts as a filter and doesn't convey the similar experience of a real one. Besides," she softly whispered, "you are getting this for free while I practice my craft,” she explained truthfully, and I reluctantly agreed to it.

I wouldn’t pay anything for a free massage. Nothing beats that.

My fingers let go of the end of the shirt, and the article of clothing was pulled up and over my arms. My shirt didn’t remove all the way off my body but instead rested around my neck, allowing my back to be completely exposed to the Lunar monarch.

I heard her hands clasped together and she vigorously rubbed them at a quick pace. I noticed her hands began to glow once more, similar to when she dealt with my headache, only this time it was her whole hand that began to shine. She brought her hands down and pressed them firmly on my back, heat and pressure spreading throughout my body before she began her massage.

I moaned from the pressure, and I felt like I was in Heaven.

Luna’s hands started at my lower back, kneading at my muscles, and twisting and turning the sore tendons underneath. I grunted a little when she kneaded into a sore muscle, but, it quickly dissipates when she moved the massage around my back, the tension leaving me as she did her work.

“This is really nice. I didn’t think I would get a full back massage from a leader of an entire nation.” I said, and I could hear Luna huff out in triumph while all ten of her fingers sunk deep into my back.

“I am the princess of the night, and I have a duty to be strictly professional when dealing with my subjects.” she explained, continuing to press her fingers into my back.

I grunted a little before turning my head back to her with a grin.

“Really?” I asked, a little curious if that statement of hers was true.

She looked down at me and subtly tilted her head in a nod.

“Well, mostly professional when you’re around,” I groaned, and my head fell back down to the ground while she continued to do her work. “Would you be so kind as to move your arms up, please?” she asked, and I happily obliged.

I moved my hands up from my side and folded them forward in front of me while resting my chin on my arms, allowing her free access to my back.

She shifted her arms and began working on my back bone. I grunted and groaned a little when she put her knuckles onto my vertebrate, her digits rolling their way up my spine. She applied pressure every chance she could get, and she would restart back down my back and repeat the process once more. My body became relaxed the more she did this, and I eased a little as the muscles in my lower back began to un-knot. I few audible pops came from my back and I blissfully sighed when she pressed up into my spine.

I don’t think any spa treatment could come this close to what Princess Luna was capable of.

“Seems I got out those kinks in your back. Are you enjoying this Spencer?” she asked, and I nodded my head into my arm.

“You-very…good at...” I sighed deeply, my mind more focused on the deep massage on my back than to finish my coherent sentence.

I could hear her giggle while her palms dug deep into my lower muscles and pulled upon every fiber within my back.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she said, continuing with her work. I responded with a incoherent mumble.

Oh yeah, I was enjoying this.

She soon finished on my lower back and I felt her shuffle forward, her legs straddling my waist while her fingers began to work on my upper back. I sighed deeply while feeling my upper back being tenderized by her hands. She curled her fingers into my shoulders, every digit grabbing at the knots that were in my muscles. Princess Luna quickly handled them.

“Relax, Spencer,” she said, trying to get my tense muscles to calm down.

“I am relaxed,” I muttered in reply, and I could hear her giggle.

“Relax,” she replied once more.

I felt her right hand lift up and slap my back several times rather forcibly, my back sounding like a meaty drum on my ears. I grunted a little, but I let her have her fun while she went back into the massage. I eased a lot more this time while she worked on my shoulder blades and my neck, her fingers pawing at my back like a big cat, going back and forth, and repeating the process.

If Princess Luna was a cat, I could probably compare her to a big cougar.

Don’t tell her I said that.

“I’m surprised that your fingers are not going numb from all this exertion,” I said, turning my head to the side to adjust my position while having a eye on Princess Luna, who looked rather pleased with her work.

“The more experience you have the more you can endure. I have experience in fighting and other laborious works from when I grew up, all the way until my banishment and eventual return. So, using my hands for good causes such as this is a nice change. Although,” she paused in her ministrations, “having a sword in hand and wearing the greatest armor in Equestria’s arsenal does have its perks.”

“Remind me not to get on your bad side.” I said, and she giggled once again before going back into the massage, easing the pressure while her hands went into my back.

She worked a little slow this time, her fingers slowly tracing over my upper muscles and taking every inch of my shoulder blades. It still felt relaxing nonetheless.

I did feel a few audible pops come off my upper spine when her thumbs came in contact. I guessed it was safe to say that what Tempest did to me put one or two muscle tendons out of place.

She stopped at a tender spot, the one where most of the pain was emanating on my back, and she began her work on the area.

“Spencer, I believe it’s safe to presume that you have made progress with Tempest?” she asked, working on the main spot of my back.

My relaxed mind became numb from her question, but I knew that I had to be honest about it.

“Well, I sucked poison out of her neck after she was bitten by a snake. She only pummeled my back when Braeburn and Strongheart explained that the snake’s poisonous venom was less effective to adults and larger creatures.” I explained, and she stopped in mid massage and curled an eyebrow at me.

“Really? That’s a bold move on you to go for the throat. Already trying to sweep a mare off her feet before making her yours.” she said, and I rolled my eyes over her mere suggestion. “By the way, how are Braeburn and Strongheart? I have not spent much time with them in the dream world and Applejack is wondering about her cousin’s well being.” Princess Luna asked.

“Both are doing okay despite the hardships that are going on, though there is some good news. Strongheart is pregnant, and you can tell Applejack her cousin is the father.” I explained, and Princess Luna nodded in kind.

“I shall relay that information to her when I have the time available to speak. Although, I am curious...will the child take after the mother or the father?” she paused in her massage and pondered for a moment.

I couldn’t help but smile.

“That’s what I thought when I first heard of it.” I explained.

Luna and I giggled a little at the thought.

She returned to her massage, being a little forceful in the area where the pain is residing.

“Back to the main topic, I still think it was very brave of you to help Tempest, despite your current circumstances. However,” her teasing voice returned, “I wondered what would happen if it was not on her neck…” my eyes widened slightly over where she was going.

“Luna, I know what you’re thinking so don’t you mention it,” I said, but she went on anyway.

“What if the bite was somewhere else?”

“Princess Luna!”

“Maybe on her leg?”” she teased.

"No Luna!" I almost shouted, my face turning more red by the second, but she leaned in for the final blow to give a hushed whisper.

"Or maybe on her bosom?"

My head went forward and I buried myself in my arms, my face and ears already burning red from the mental image she had implanted.

“Great...now I can’t get that image out of my head.” I mumbled, all the while imagining a snake bite going down and biting on her….No, no, bad brain! Don’t think that! Don’t think of that. You’ve got to keep abreast about this, no wait chest…. No rack. Gah!

My head got buried deeper in my arms, and I can imagine steam coming off my head from that numbing image. Princess Luna was loving every bit of this.

“Oh Spencer, you know I am only joking. There is no need to get flustered.” She said, and pushed deep into my back, causing a bone to pop on my vertebrate.

I sighed deeply from that distraction and I groaned a little from the renewed massage that she placed into the sore area.

“There. That should do it. I just need tend to these areas before your finished,” she said, her hands curling in and rubbing the once sore spot once more. As she did this, my mind also reflected over what Tempest had said to me the previous night. I felt it was necessary to tell her. And like a confession, I began to speak to Princess Luna.

“There’s another thing that I picked up with Tempest,” I said, while Luna began rubbing my shoulders of all the remaining kinks I had, “Tempest and I got into an argument once, and I discovered something about her that she won’t openly admit. I believe that she’s afraid of being touched, mostly by men in particular.” I explained.

The massage slowed down in its current rhythm, no doubt making her ponder over my revelation.

“Was there anything else?” Princess Luna asked, some concern in her voice.

“Well, when I did go and and try to help by sucking the poison out of her, she muttered that she didn't want to die. I don’t know what would have happened to her in the past, but by all accounts, I’m starting to believe that something really awful has happened to her.” I explained, but Princess Luna remained steadfast to where she was.

“I believe I’m getting a better picture on her back story, although, that still leaves out the massive creature that I had encountered from her nightmare.” she paused in her talk, but her massage on my shoulder blades remained, “there are so many questions and very few answers.” she explained, and I looked at her with an inquiry.

“Can’t you create a dream sequence or find one that she is dreaming about?” I asked, and she shook her head.

“Well, finding a particular or certain dream of hers is rather challenging. Some of her dreams present themselves with a few items that lead to her past, but finding the right one over the dozens of dreams and images is rather difficult,” she explained, but a knowing smile crawled up her face.

“Although, since you provided me with some information, it will allow me to have some leeway in getting one step closer to the truth. I’m certain I can conjure something the next time you sleep and possibly figure out one piece of this massive puzzle that is Tempest.” she explained.

I soon felt the tension off my shoulders be released, and my back felt relieved once again.

I remained in thought of the possibility of finding the truth. If Princess Luna is able to make a dream that would allow Tempest to ease into it and reveal parts of her history, I could be there to help her without getting turned into a pretzel.

While I contemplate over the whole matter, I felt Princess Luna place her hand on my shoulders and her finger trace along my muscles. She wasn't giving me a massage, but more like physically examining the muscles that were there. I looked at Luna who looked rather pleased at what she was doing.

“Your body has changed since you've been here,” she said, her hand patting my back while I tilted my head to her, “I think this is a good look for you, no longer the pudgy human that you were once before.” she said cheekily, but I understood what she was getting at.

I gave a smile, and a thought suddenly occurred to me on how my body has changed and I’ve become healthier as a result staying here. I felt a little proud that I was able to do something productive for my body, despite the harsh conditions that I am in.

I felt her finger push into my side and instantly squirmed from the unexpected touch.

“I miss that little belly of yours, being able to poke some fun when you’re not looking.” she explained, and I instantly remembered the days she did do that to me.

As I continued to wiggle from her touch, I saw her give a devilish smile from my silent and wriggling state.

Oh no.

“Spencer? Are you ticklish?” she asked, and without hesitation began tickling my sides.

I began to laugh and wheeze out from the tickle torture. I began to shake underneath her, trying in vain to make her stop. I began to move my flail up and down, trying to push her off my back. What I did had the opposite effect for Princess Luna, for all I did was make her bounce her butt on me. She seemed to like it, and soon enough, while l heard her laugh in utter giddiness, she began bouncing her royal butt on my back. She made a childlike squee while lifting a hand to smack it firmly on my buttcheek, while she cheered out from this escapade.

“Ride like the wind, Spencer! Take me to battle and let us face the foe together!” she exclaimed, the cackle coming out of her was most unbecoming of the princess of the night.

“Get your royal fanny off my back! I’m not a horse!” I shouted, trying in vain to buck her off my back, but found that I could not.

Although, now that I said it, I found it rather redundant if not ironic in this given situation that we were in.

After what felt like an eternity of the silly situation, I soon collapsed back onto the ground and Princess Luna was able to get off me. I felt exhausted and rolled on my back to face her. I looked up to her and she still had the giddy smile on her face.

“Take care, Spencer, I’ll see you in the next night,” she said.

Before I could question it, she pressed a finger to my nose and made a boop noise. My eyes closed out of instinct, and everything suddenly went black.

When I opened my eyes again, I was back in Tempest’s tent once more.

I looked back at her bed and saw that Tempest was already gone. No doubt in my mind she was busy with her duties. I raised myself up and placed a hand on my back, feeling rejuvenation from the massage Luna gave me. Whatever she did to me did wonders and I no longer felt pain.

My back doesn't hurt, I thought and lifted my arms in triumph, I’m healed!

However, my jubilation only lasted a few seconds when I suddenly felt a strong pinch on my lower back and my muscles tensed up on the spot. I breathed through my gritted teeth and fell flat on my back and I seethed out in pain. I remained there on my bed, feeling the tingling sensation on my lower back. The only noise accompanying me was the rain that splashed onto the ground outside the tent.

Luna, you missed a spot.

The Party

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The day went by without much issue.

I delivered the Storm King’s orders to his minions without a problem, mostly by having them do it for me, and I remained confined to my quarters while the sound of hammer on wood was being heard outside. Tempest had refused to talk to me, which was to be expected after what I did.

Despite that, and as night fell among the camp, things were going to be interesting if Luna was able to achieve what’s necessary. As I laid on my bed, still and quiet from the outside world, I would hear the tent opening up and Tempest entering inside. I would look at her and she wouldn't even give me a second glance. I respectively turned my head to the side and remained quiet as she changed and went into her bed without ever speaking to me.

It would be hours until I would eventually fall asleep, and Princess Luna would be waiting for me in the dream world.

“Spencer, I’m glad to see you are alright,” she said, gesturing me over to her side.

I nodded to her while I moved to her side, her hand waving up to a small blue sphere that hovered above us. I observed it curiously and looked to her for an answer. She noticed my questioning gaze and directed a hand towards the sphere.

“This is a dream sequence that I have created using the partial ideas that you have given me. I conjured up a few series of dreams that will no doubt lure her into the dream that would be best suited for us. Hopefully, it will peel back this shroud of secrecy that Tempest is holding back.” she explained.

I nodded to her, looking into the blue sphere and wondering what lied inside.

“I’m more curious about what we’ll find.” I said, a little uncertain of what she was hiding from her past.

Princess Luna placed a hand on my shoulder and I eased a little from her touch.

“I wonder what she has to offer as well, and how best we can coax her into helping our cause.” she explained.

A little thought came to my mind on what Luna said, and I turned to her with a cheeky grin.

“Knowing you, you would rather coerce them into getting information.” I said.

She merely smirked at my remark.

“Oh, I have my ways,” she said with a playful snigger.

She turned, and the dream world seemed to shift and change as we began to move forward. I remained still as the other dreams around me sped fast and faded into the distance behind us. I couldn’t imagine what other dreams could be delved in or who I might run into within those dreams.

I wonder if it was like Inception, peering into one’s mind.

Dreamception?

Our journey soon slowed as we saw a red sphere coming in front of us. We came to a stop in front of it, and Luna hovered her Sphere next to it.

“This is her dream, or rather minor ordeal.” Princess Luna said.

She waved a hand over the red sphere.

The sphere grew large inside, allowing us to see what was happening. Tempest was running, a grim determination set on her as she moved. She had a sword in hand and was going through many shadowy figures. Some she lopped off heads, while others she ran through with her blade. The shadows merely fell from where she struck but she kept going forward despite the numbers. Behind her, a growing darkness was slowing gaining on her. No matter how far she ran, and no matter how fast she traveled, the darkness was slowly creeping its way towards her.

“Tempest,” I muttered softly, watching as she continued to push forward.

“Don’t fear, she’ll be alright.” Luna said, her hand pushing her sphere closer to her.

The two orbs touched on contact.

Inside I watched as Tempest felt jolted and stumbled on the ground. She fell from losing her footing, and she looked back to see the encroaching darkness. She clambered back up, trying to escape, but saw a few sets of doors in her path. She tried opening a few of the doors to escape, but found that she couldn’t open any of them. I watched as Luna pursed her lips and a brought a finger to her chin.

“She’s clever, not wanting to reveal anything,” she said, and I look to her in mild confusion before looking back at Tempest.

What was she seeing that I was not?

Tempest went further into the hallway, looking at several doors, hesitant to open any of them and kept moving down the hallway, with the darkness approaching her, engulfing every door that stood in its path. Desperation seemed to take her, trying to find any door that would work, but each one came empty handed.

“She’s getting close to one that will suit her.” Princess Luna said, and I watched as the sphere that surrounded Luna’s became all the more smaller.

I realized then that like a white blood cell attacking a virus, it was being engulfed by Luna’s sphere, slowly absorbing into the dream sequence that Luna had concocted.

Eventually, Tempest slammed herself into a random door and tried to get away. She faced down the hall, her eyes wide and her mouth half open as she looked on in obvious fear. The door seemed to glow as she touched it and she turned to face it. She quickly went in and disappeared, the sphere of hers now absorbed by Luna’s sphere.

“She’s in, and she has chosen a rather interesting place.” Princess Luna said, looking rather pleased with herself.

I was a bit relieved that she was okay and that the darkness was nowhere to be found.

“It’s good to hear that she’s safe,” I said, placing a hand on my chest in such relief.

Princess Luna eyed me, and I took notice of the smugness that she sometimes bores.

“You sound as if you’re infatuated with her. Do you have Stockholm Syndrome, by chance?” she said, and I turned to her full front.

“I do not have Stockholm Syndrome! It’s true I’ve been under their care for the past month, but I do not, by any means, have affections to Tempest!” I practically shouted, trying to defend myself from her supposed affirmation.

Yes, I did find her attractive if not pleasing to the eye, and I did want to help her in certain cases, if only to just be helpful and caring when she needed it. However, there was no way by any means that I had even the slightest hint of affection for her.

Besides, admiring a woman's body is something that many men appreciate.

Princess Luna still had the smug smile on her face, and it was beginning to spread into a full on grin reminiscent to that of the cheshire cat.

“Oh, really now? Then explain why your cheeks are burning as bright as a phoenix during a molt?” She asked, and I did feel heat in my cheeks from her insertion.

I looked away, trying to hide the obvious blush on my face.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said, looking away from her.

I could hear the Lunar monarch giggle affectionately. I gazed at her to see her looking past me, and I grew confused. What was she looking at?

I looked over my shoulder and above my head.

What I found was a large thought bubble that hung over my head, and what was inside was what surprised me. It was showing me and Tempest, standing in front of one other and booping noses, smiling at the little affectionate act. I immediately swiped my hands frantically over the thought bubble and the image disappeared, but Luna was already laughing at the little antics and there was no doubt that she was going to keep that deep in her memory.

“That is not relevant!” I shouted, still removing the remnants of the thought bubble as quickly as possible.

I should have known my thoughts would get out. This is the dream world after all, and Luna might have something to do with it.

“Oh, I’m sure Cadence would love to hear about this. She’ll have such a field day,” Princess Luna said.

I inwardly groaned of the dreadful thought. Knowing the princess of love, she’ll try to pair me up with the mare that wishes to rip my tonsils out and use them for Brass knuckles. Mind you that I liked her because of her looks, but I just couldn’t see myself being with her knowing what she can do to me. I don’t think Cadance will mind either way. I avoided her gaze, rubbing a hand on my back while looking at the sphere before me.

“So, we just walk on in? And see how it all plays out?” I asked, seeing the image of the sphere change and somehow resemble one of those paintings you walk in from Super Mario.

“Indeed. Once inside, we can interact with her, but only through a median that keeps us inconspicuous to our movements.” Princess Luna said.

I slightly groaned in the thought of seeing Tempest again.

“I hope my back can take it if she does another pummeling. I might end up as an accordion once this night is through.” I explained, and I could hear her chuckle from my remark.

“I’m certain I can remove those kinks from your back if she does, I do have nimble fingers,” she said, putting emphasis by cracking her knuckles together and flexing them out.

I rolled my eyes at that.

“I’m sure you will, but maybe miss a few spots as well.” I said, and this caught her attention.

“What do you mean?” Princess Luna asked, hovering her head over my right side. I turned my head and, being the opposite of a colorful and bright peacock, gave her a deadpan stare that even a dull Maud Pie would appreciate.

“Well, when you were giving me that back massage, you got all the kinks except for one spot. Your royal caboose, which has accumulated enough muscle and fat in your derriere, had been sitting on my lower back which hadn’t been cared for. So, in short terms for your royal self, and I would have to say in the most fancy voice possible. ‘The royal Princess Luna has smashed Spencer’s spine with her royal heinie.’”

I finished, and Princess Luna just flat out stared at me at my fancy speech at the end that a royal unicorn of Canterlot would be proud of. She then scrunched up her nose, and I heard her snark before finally guwaffing at my impersonation of one of those snobbish ponies. I crack a smile, knowing that I had, at the very least, made the Princess Monarch have a nice laugh, even if the ‘butt’ of the joke was her.

No pun intended.

After her mirth subsided, she looked at me and I saw a witty smile on her face.

“Spencer, sometimes you are unpredictable.” she said.

I nodded to her.

“Why thank you,” I said in a half-joking half-mocking manner.

Her smile turned into a grin and her eyes narrowed to slits at me.

“So am I,” she said, and she slapped her hand right onto my butt with a firm smack.

I yelped, and the momentum moved me straight into the sphere. I was absorbed into the dream world.

Only a few seconds later, I ran smack dab into a stone wall on the other side.

I rubbed my nose and groaned outwardly from the unexpected hit, both my face and my rear end stinging from the hits. After recomposing myself, and tenderly rubbing the sour spot on my backside, I looked about to see where I was. First and foremost, I was in an alley, the kind that screams out stranger-danger wherever you look, and I could hear some music being played loudly nearby. Voices of ponies were also close, just around the corner it seemed. Curiously, I took a step forward, but still moved with caution.

I felt like something could creep up on me without me knowing it.

“Tickle tickle tickle!” I heard a feminine voice behind me.

My butt suddenly had the most ticklish sensation that I ever felt.

Naturally, in a ticklish state, I jumped and shouted like a little girl.

“Gah!” I yelled out, grabbing my butt cheeks from the sudden attack.

I whipped around, expecting to see Luna up to her tricks again.

Only, I didn’t find Luna. Instead, I found a young blue Unicorn.

“Huh?” I said, confused as to what or who I’m looking at.

The blue unicorn was roughly my height, with a short light blue mane. She wore a casual white tank top that came down roughly below her subtle belly, which was just shy of a few inches and exposing a little bit of skin. She wore denim jeans and a pair of white sneakers, which looked quite stylish. Despite my initial reaction from earlier, I was at a loss of who this pony was.

“Ah…who are you?” I asked.

The mare in question giggled at my response, before cocking her hip to one side and smiling at me.

“You think the mare who pushed you in could be easily recognizable.” she spoke, and an all to familiar voice came out of her.

“Luna?!” I nearly shouted, staring at her and wondering just how she was the way she was.

She chuckled mildy and placed a hand over her chest.

“When your an Alicorn like myself, conjuring up a disguise is quite simple.” she stated, giving herself a twirl to allow her in the process.

“Sounds like how a demigod works.” I countered, and she gave a simple smile.

“Indeed,” she said, before taking a step forward and coming towards me, “You must be given a simple disguise as well.” she paused, before lifting her hands up, “Can you hold still for a moment?” she asked, placing a hand on my shoulder and inspecting parts of my body.

I curled a brow at her, clearly confused as to what she was suggesting.

“What do you mean?” I asked, while she began pressing her fingers into my shoulders and into my muscles.

“Well, if you're going to interact with Tempest, you will need to be somepony else,” she said, and her hands went up to my ears.

She gave them a quick rub, and I felt a slight tingle from the sensation. She then proceeded to poke and prod a few areas around my chest and body, and I squirmed slightly from the intrusions. After she was done, she lifted her hands and ruffled up my hair.

“Is this really necessary?” I asked, while she lifted her hand off my head and began rubbing her fingers on my cheeks.

“It is, but this is a minor disguise compared to more intricate designs that I have made.” she said.

She gave a few firm slaps on my face, which I begrudgingly endured, before she backed away to give me a good once over.

“And, done. You should see yourself. You look absolutely gorgeous.” she said, her hands just above her mouth and acting all giddy.

I looked down, and I saw that I was still wearing the same old getup from before. I looked to her and just shrugged my shoulders, having no idea what she did to me. She smiled and motioned her head to a nearby barrel.

“Take a look in the water,” she suggested.

I eyed the water barrel next to me, and I took a few steps forward.

I peered inside.

What stared back at me was a white pony with blue hair.

“What the-,” I said, taking a step back in shock before leaning in to take a good look at what I was looking at.

I was a white Earth pony with a curly yet messy blue mane. My blue eyes remained the same, but from what I could see, the disguise looked far different than I had expected. I had the whole pony ears, and the small snout at the end to boot. For a moment, I imagined I was like one of Celestia's guards, only without the armor.

Though, that’s for some of them, a few others are more colorful than the standard one’s I’ve seen.

“Oops, missed a spot,” Princess Luna said, and I felt her hand on my back.

“What are you-” I didn’t get to finish when I felt a slight tug on my back, and my body arched from the pull.

Just as quickly she pulled, she instantly released. I felt a whiplash on my back and I turned around to look while rubbing the sore spot on my back.

Before I could retort, however, I felt the strangest thing that was on my back. I looked behind me and saw a tail attached to my back and just above my butt. The tail was the same blue color as my mane, and it had the average length of any other stallion. I turned a few times, seeing the tail flick from one side to the other. I couldn’t tell if I was controlling the tail or if it was controlling on it’s own accord.

“And to top it off,” Princess Luna added, her fingers snapping together.

A puff of smoke came off my body. When the smoke cleared, I looked down and saw that the worn shirt I had was replaced with a red flannel that went past my elbows, and some clean blue jeans. I inspected my new attire, feeling mighty spiff if not above the casual norm of what I normally wear, but I still looked mighty fine.

“I’m diggin the new looks, Luna. You’ve really outdone yourself,” I explained, and she nodded at my approval.

She then gestured towards the street, and the two of us began walking out of the alley. Once outside, I looked around and found that we were on a fancy street, with blaring lights and the sounds of the city everywhere. I can hear the sound of music loud and clear nearby, and the sight of a club was just there.

“I can sense Tempest inside that club,” she motioned towards the club that had fancy lights on it that read the ‘Hot Rocks’ on its front.

A small line of ponies was at the front, with a single bouncer waiting at the door to let them inside. I felt my arm pulled and Luna wrapped her arm around mine, her shoulder pressing in my chest while baring the happiest grin on her face. I couldn’t lie that I had a slight blush from that gesture, but no doubt she was enjoying every bit of it. She stood close to my side as we went towards the front of the line, where the bouncer raised a hand to stop us.

“You best wait in the back of line.” he said. His demeanor was quite serious, but that was just a part of the job.

Before I could say anything, Luna lifted up two VIP tickets up to the bouncer.

“We have two tickets to meet with the famous DJ of this establishment. It would be shameful to not be able to see her perform.” Princess Luna said, the guard seizing the tickets and inspecting them.

“I know. Being able to meet her face to face would be such a sight. She’s quite the talent,” I said, playing along with her antics.

I know it was a dream sequence, but at least I could make it believable.

“Vinyl Scratch is more than famous. I’ve heard her music is getting the attention of all the ponies in town,” Princess Luna said.

“She’s so going at it. I think she might be the top DJ in all of Equestria!” I shouted in joy.

“Oh, you too! I think so as well!” Princess Luna said.

I smiled widely at her.

“We are so in sync!” I said, knowing how cheesy and cliche that sounded.

“Noses!” Princess Luna said, her nose brushing with mine.

The two of us nuzzled into each other.

This was clearly the most embarrassing thing that I have ever done, acting like a young lovestruck couple that one would see in those cheesy romance flicks.

Although, I would hazard a giant bet that Luna was secretly enjoying every minute of this.

“Alright, you two love birds, the tickets check out,” the bouncer said, handing the tickets back and pushing open the door, “enjoy your time,” he allowed us through without any further incident.

Once we were out of ear’s reach, I could hear Luna’s infectious giggle, while I felt a dread pit in my stomach.

“That was the sapiest, stupidest, and cringiest thing that I have ever done,” I said, and I could hear her giggle to herself while still holding onto me. I eyed her and she was eyeing me. “You’re enjoying this, aren't you?” I said, my eyes narrowed to her.

“Aren’t you?” Princess Luna replied just as quickly with a devious smile.

I simply rolled my eyes.

She giggled again and patted my shoulder, “Imagine Celestia’s face if we did that in front of her. She would be so envious.”

“More like annoyed beyond all reason,” I replied, but chuckled in good humor, “If you got me to do that you're going to have to give me more back massages,” I said.

She brought a finger to her chin and tapped it a few times, clearly thinking about the offer I just made. She then riposted her finger and booped my nose.

“I’ll take it, and I’ll throw in some full body massages for being such a sport.” she said and my mind went blank from her statement.

Getting a back massage was one thing, but having your whole body being massaged, by a Princess no less, was a whole other level.

Being cheeky and giving a smirk to the princess, I gave my final offer to her little plan.

“Wear a bikini and I’ll be sold,” I replied, knowing full well that even the Princess has her limits.

“Deal,” she said so lightly that I could not comprehend if I heard her right.

I blinked at her and my mouth hung open and closed like a fish, while she just kept her cheeky innocent smile on her face.

“You know I was kidding on that last part,” I said, having to bare a small yet growing blush on my cheeks and trying to recover from the situation, for I fully had not expected her to actually go with it.

She shrugged her shoulders ever so slightly, and her mischievous giggle was ever present.

“Oh I know, but I will still hold you up to it,” she replied.

She lets go of my arm, giving herself a twirl before we neared the doors of the club. I groaned inwardly, knowing that I was outclassed in wit by the Princess of the night.

What did I get myself into?

Princess Luna’s mood turned a little serious when she placed her hand on the door.

“Remember, Spencer, this is Tempest’s dream. I may have set the dream in motion, but this is still Tempest’s we are dealing with. You may interact and engage with her, but we shouldn’t set anything off that will alert her to our presence. Otherwise, this whole ordeal will be for naught and she will become more secluded to us. Do you understand?” she said, and I nodded tentatively.

No doubt that things will be playing out as I go, but I had to play it cool when I engage with Tempest.

I just hope that when I meet her I can keep a low profile.

Princess Luna nodded in kind and pushed open the door, and we both walked into the club.

The sound of a DJ was blaring nearby, with many of the bar patrons dancing in the center of the room. A dense smoke hung in the air, adding to the atmosphere of this place. A lone DJ with a white coat and blue mane was tearing it at the station, sending the crowd into a frenzy of uncoordinated dances that fits perfectly with the beat. I was little perplexed when I saw Vinyl though, for one thing her hair was a little shorter than before.

Maybe it was just a new look?

I felt Princess Luna tug at my arm and she brought me in close. When she did, I heard everything around me become muffled and the music was nothing but white noise, while her voice became clear as day.

“I sense Tempest is sitting near the bar. You will find her there.” she explained with a calm and collected manner.

“Got it. But, I’m curious though. Will her nightmare come out to seize her or will it not appear here?” I asked, wondering if she was able to ward off any infiltrating nightmare that would cause Tempest harm.

“I assure you that the dream sequence will not be breached, and that the nightmare will not get in. However, I will double check to see if the wards are in place and to ensure Tempest’s safety.” she explained.

I nodded in kind. I felt confident that Princess Luna had ensured all precautions needed when dealing with the dream world. I was also confident that she could pull me out of the dream and I’ll be safe by her side if by chance things get hairy.

“Alright, I’ll go over to the bar now,” I said.

I began walking, but was stopped by another tug from her.

“Just remember, I’ve set up a situation where she will be engaged by a drunkard in thirty minutes time. Try to impress her if you can. Try to be soothing” she said, her eyebrows bouncing up and down from her last words.

I chuckled because of her little suggestion, but I knew I could take it in stride.

“I’ll remember that,” I said.

I tried to head off once more, but was stopped once more when she pulled me to her side.

“One more thing,” she whispered.

I gave her an annoyed look.

“What?” I droned, putting a little emphasis in the exaggeration to her.

She merely raised a hand and patted me a few times on my right cheek.

“Relax, and don’t be a stranger. Mingle,” she said.

I gave a half smile to her.

“Alright, ‘Mom’. Just don’t come back to me and your just clad in your underwear. “ I replied.

At that reply, Luna gave a me a couple claps on the cheek (a little harder than the previous ones) before giving an amused chuckle. She departed from my side and disappeared into the crowds, and the noise around me returned once more.

I made my way to the bar counter, hoping to find where Tempest might be. I wade through the dancing partygoers and the flaying of limbs in the air. Despite this being a dream, Princess Luna managed to make this seem completely real. From the lights and the sounds, to the fog hanging around me, it brought a sense of immersion to this dream like world. It made me feel like I was almost inside a real life club.

Almost.

I arrived at the bar, where most of the bar stools were mostly empty, and the bartender, having a beige coat with a blue mane and sprouting clean sideburns, was cleaning out a few glasses with a piece of cloth. I took my seat at the bar, my arms resting on the countertop, and waited for the bartender to be ready. After a few minutes of cleaning, he looked up at me and gave me a cheery smile.

“What can I get ya, buddy,” he asked, his voice soothing and deep.

I returned the smile and waved my hand in a so-and-so fashion.

“Get me something light, something that has little to no alcohol. Maybe something that has a fruity taste,” I said.

The bartender raised a brow.

“Oh? Trying to fancy with a mare I see?” he asked.

I gave him a big grin.

“You can say that. Thinking I might catch a girl’s eye if I’m just sober,.” I said, looking down the line of bar stools, yet sadly found them empty.

“Coming right up,” he said, and he began working on a drink in the back.

As he began his work, I kept looking down the line of patrons and partygoers. I still couldn’t find Tempest among the crowd, and I couldn't see Princes Luna anywhere. I wonder if her information was accurate.

“I’m so glad you can join today, what can I get ya?” The bartender's voice spoke out in that deep voice of his.

“Get me the Blue moon with a lemon, lots of ice.” A feminine voice spoke on my left.

As the bartender left to take care of her order, I turned to see Tempest, sitting a few barstools down.

Or rather, a younger version of her.

Tempest, on her part, was not wearing her latex suit or anything resembling her attire belonging to the Storm King. She was wearing a blue jacket that had a white tank top inside that was cut low and shaped like a V, exposing much of her collarbone and chest, and divoting to a small cleft before her breasts. She also wore skinny jeans and a pair of old sneakers. Her mane was shorter than the long plume that she had before, and her tail had a different look compared to what she normally had. It looked cut or shortened by about half of its length.

At the most, if I hazard a guess, she looked no older than eighteen. Would it be illegal to drink at that age? Well, maybe, unless your in Europe.

Maybe since it was her dream, she can have control over how she looks and drinks. It is a dream after all.

The bartender quickly got her drink, which had a froth at the top and some spilling off the side. She thanked him, and the bartender was still working on mine. I was paying too much attention to him and my attention was still lingering on Tempest. She took a good look at her drink, examining the frothing alcohol that subsided at the top and taking the lemon on top to give it a firm squeeze into the drink. She set the lemon aside and took the drink in full.

I watched as she nearly downed the drink in six big gulps before drawing the drink away and smacking her lips together. She settled the drink down, where only one fourth of its contents remained. I gave a subtle nod of approval.

I won’t say that I’m the best drinker, but I’d be colored impressed for those who can down a full glass of beer.

Tempest stared at the wall, not paying much attention to the music or the noise around me, but she turned to me and saw that I was staring. Her eyes narrowed and she gave a livid expression to me.

“What are you staring at?” she asked, clearly already vexed over my presence.

I had to think on my toes if I had any chance at getting on her good side.

“Nothing, just looking at a fine looking mare before me,” I said and her reaction was immediate. She groaned and rolled her eyes, rolling her head to look away from me.

Very smooth Spencer, you couldn’t be any more of a creep by saying that.

“Get lost…not interested,” she deadpanned, still looking ahead of her and ignoring me.

“Now hold on, I mean no offense. I’m just surprised that a girl like you would be in this place,” I said, trying to recover the situation. She turned her head, looking away from me and looking like she was going to leave. If I didn’t do something soon, then I would lose her and she would not be interested ever again.

I guess that would be the same as fishing.

“Here is your drink, Sir,” I heard the bartender say, a drink sliding into my view.

It was a red concoction that I didn’t know what it was, and I curled a brow to the bartender.

“And this is?” I asked, pointing a finger at the drink.

“That’s what you ordered, a Curly Temple.” he said, as he walked away to deal with another patron. I heard the faintest giggle from Tempest, and I turned to see her looking at the drink in front of me.

“For a stallion, I expected you to drink heavy and wasted. Not go light and bright,” she said, while I saw this as an opportunity to gauge her interest.

“Well, what can I say? I may drink, but with a pretty mare, I want to at least be decent and sober.” I explained.

I could see Tempest chuff at my response, while I took a small sip from the drink. The drink was really fruity and delicious, tasting the ginger ale inside with another mixture as well. It was quite good in all honesty. She eyed me and the drink, and she gestured her hand at me.

“Can the mysterious stallion care to give a name?” she asked.

I nodded in kind.

“Yeah its Spa...ahhhh..Spur! Spur Steel.” I said randomly.

Real smooth Spencer. I berated myself, thinking of two random teams from two different sporting events. That is how a whole can of worms, if not sacrilege, to try and name two different team names and presuming they are on the same sport.

“Odd name, where did you get it? Or did you make it up yourself?” Tempest asked.

I gave a half smile, knowing almost how right she was. Hopefully I can still recover the conversation between us.

“Well, my parents originally wanted to name me Bronco Steel, if you would believe it.” I said, trying to make this as normal as can be. Even though I was thankfully comparing two names of the same sport.

American Football never let me down.

“Oh? Is that so?” Tempest said, her eyes half open and looking rather amused by my explanation.

“Oh yeah, it’s true. But then, they realized that the first initials in my first and last name was a bit much if not unexpected. If they hadn't changed it, I’d be walking around with a giant BS on my back for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t want that to hang on my life.” I explained, “You could understand why I couldn’t have that, right?”

Tempest blinked at me once, and for a moment she thought about what I had said. Then, she began to chuckle in earnest over my remark. After her mirth subsided, I watched as she moved seats until she sat next to me on the next barstool.

“Alright, you’ve gotten my interest. My name is Tempest Shadow.” she said.

I couldn’t help but smile at her.

“Operation get in her pants is a go!”

Brain we talked about this, we’re trying to get her to like us.

“Oh, sorry, getting ahead of myself. Something more casual?”

Yeah, something that is subtle, but not offensive to where she’d turn away.

“Hmmm...Operation Jibber Jabber?”

Operation Jibber Jabber.

“That’s great. By the way, this isn’t your brain talking.” A feminine voice soon came that was all too familiar.

Luna! Get out of my head! I shouted in my inner thoughts, and all the while, I heard her cackling in the back of my head.

I realized since this was the dream world that she has dominion over the dreamscape, and would no doubt have access to my head. Or maybe just to telepathically speak to me. I could swear she was in the crowd of dancers staring at me, watching my every move like a giant owl.

Although, it’s Luna, so if this was real life and she was wearing her royal regalia, she would may be more like a giant peacock.

Despite that little hiccup, Tempest and I began to hit it off in stride. Tempest, or the younger version of herself, was really curious about me and had been asking me all sorts of questions. I answered most of them to the best of my ability, giving off little hints here and there about my own real life experiences, but not enough to elude her into believing that I was a human in disguise. When she was done with her questioning, I began to ask her my own questions. They were mostly innocent ones about what she liked to eat, her childhood memories, or anything that she did for just general fun.

She answered in kind, giving off a number of likes that she had when she was younger. She told me that she came from a small town that she hardly knows the name of, but that she loved to be with her family. She had a few childhood friends, where they would be playing all sorts of games and dreaming of making it big in Canterlot. Or even in Manehatten.

She also told me of a particular event that she was fond of where she loved to play with the neighbor’s big shepherd dog named Brute. She explained once that she had ran with him in the mud and got her all of her clothes wet and filthy. Though, the fun part of it was when she pulled two of her friends in with her and went on to have a fun time. I shared a laugh with her, and I happened to notice that her hands inched a little closer towards my own. She looked really calm in this moment.

I was surprised that she was actually fine with revealing this information to me, particularly for revealing a fun moment of playing in the mud with her friends

“I bet if she was mud wrestling, that would certainly pique your interest.” I heard Luna’s words in my head.

Don’t get any ideas Luna. I replied in my head, trying to not blush or grin from ear to ear of such a thought.

“Maybe if she was wearing a two piece bikini?” She suggested, and an image of Tempest in a yellow bikini was moving about in my head

Down Luna! I mentally shouted, trying to get her to be quiet. Although, trying to keep her silent is like trying to keep a kid from telling something extremely embarrassing.

“Woof woof little lamb,” she replied.

I internally groaned, trying to keep myself composed to Tempest.

Can you please butt out of this? I’m trying to focus with Tempest and work my magic. I explained, but I heard a haughty Santa Claus laugh come out of Luna’s mouth.

“Work your magic? So would that be a rabbit in your pocket or you just being happy to see her?”

Okay Luna, your debauchery ends. You're done here! I shouted back.

I could hear the remnants of her laughter echo in my head, and myself trying very hard not to turn into a giant cherry in front of Tempest.

“Okay Spencer, I’ll leave you be and-“ her voice trailed off, and I could no longer hear her. Though, it sounded like she was cut off from speaking to me.

I guess she was preparing me for when that drunkard was going to come in on Tempest.

“Hey Spur?” Tempest waved a hand in front of me.

I instantly looked back at her, seeing how she had some concern on her face.

“You’re not getting drunk off of a Curly Temple that easily are you?” she asked.

There was only one thought going through my head at this point.

Don’t think about bikini, don’t think about bikini, I internally pleaded to myself while I gave her a smile.

“Nah, just thinking is all.” I replied, hoping to steer the conversation away to my depraved thoughts.

“Oh? What is that then?” Tempest asked.

I gave her a smile.

“Well, for starters, I keep seeing that scar on your right eye. You mind if I ask about it?” I replied with a question, hoping to start off a new conversation.

Tempest’s expression saddened somewhat, brushing a hand over her scar.

“Sorry, I don’t like to talk about it,” she said, and I nodded in kind.

“My apologies, I guess that was a bit personal. Shouldn’t have gone with that and I didn’t mean be a complete ass,” I paused and looked at a patron that was sitting a few stools down, “No offense buddy.”

“None taken,” the donkey looking fellow said, taking a quick gulp of his drink before sauntering off towards the crowds. Tempest gave me a half smile, seeing that I was trying to be genuine about it.

“You know, Spur, I’d like to say …” she didn’t get to finish when a bumbling droning sound came to my right. I looked over, seeing a brown equine with a yellowish mane come bumbling in our direction. The way he stumbled and hobbled towards us said that he had way too much to drink, almost comparable to a drunken sailor or Miley Cyrus on one of her drunk rants.

Preferably, with the way he was moving, the latter.

“Another round!” the drunken stallion called out, getting right in between the two of us towards the bartender. Tempest sat back with her own drink while I tried to get a hold of the situation. No doubt this is what Luna intended and I would have to play it by ear in seeing how the situation goes.

What I really wish I had was a four outcome meter so that can I create my own decision.

Except, this was a real life dream, not a video game simulator.

“Hey now buddy, you’re a little bothering me and the lady here,” I said.

But the drunk waved me off, giving off a minor belch in response.

“I ain't no bothering no buddy. Besides, she looks like she is in need ofbabbaba-comforting…. company.” he said, giving off a sly laugh, which sounded more like a wheeze.

Tempest was beside herself, and she looked like she was trying to distance herself from him. She was looking rather uncomfortable, so I tried to see if I could get this drunk dunce off of her.

“Now listen, buddy,”

‘Listen buddy!” He repeated, in a rather drooling and slurring manner.

“I’m trying to talk to you,”

‘I’m trying to talk to you,” he mocked, and laughed in that same wheezing tone.

Tempest looked at me, searching for a way out. I was near my wits end with this stallion fool. The stallion, took notice of me and his eyes almost crossed eyed before narrowing down into a scowl.

“You are sthoooo dull. Dullards both of ya. Let me tell ya… let me tell ya? Yeah... let me say! That I say goes and I say the lady likes to be in some company.” He said, getting a little bit close for comfort with Tempest.

I decided to take the initiative and I placed my hand on his shoulder.

“Now listen, friend,” I said, gaining his attention as he looked at me with the confused drunk look, though he looked rather nearsighted in his attempt to look at me, “You look like a fine gentlestallion. Charming one, probably the best there is, maybe even in the whole bar. But me and my marefriend here are having a nice get together. She really wanted to come to this fine establishment, and listen to some sweet music, so would you please cut this out? We’d like to be left alone. No offense intended.” I said, explaining myself the best to my ability.

The drunk blinked a few times, looking a little sad about the whole prospect, while I could see Tempest eyeing me over my little comment.

“Well,” he drolled, “ain’t no pleasing any folk…. Even with a stallion with his mare.” he said, and began walking away. “Just trying to be friendly… that’s all.” he mumbled about to himself while disappearing into the crowd.

My charm skills are still just as good.

“Nicely done,” Tempest said, and I turned to her to see looking relieved if not more relaxed over my handling of the situation, “If he got any closer, I would have decked him right then and there.”

“I don’t doubt that for a minute.” I replied, a bit of confidence riling inside me over handling the whole affair.

I noticed her hand coming over to mine, and I felt her smooth fingers brush up against my own. I paused to look at her hand before my eyes backed to her own orbs.

“Being a marefriend though?” she said, one of the tips of her fingernails pinch the top of my hand. I winced a little from that. She half smirked before patting the hand that she inflicted the small scratch. “I think you’re going to need more dates and get togethers if you ever consider that reality.” she explained, and I nodded my head in a sideways manner.

“I guess you're right…that would be out of bounds since we hardly know each other.” I replied, and I noticed a glimmer in her eye from my response.

Her right hand hovered over my left before she grabbed my wrist. It was holding firm but wasn't hurting in any way.

“Let’s dance,” she said, pulling me up and heading towards the crowded dance floor.

I was quite surprised by this turn of events, and no doubt in my mind this was going to be fun. Although, I might make a fool out of myself since I hardly know how to pull off any major dance moves. Might just have to wing it from here. I felt her grip loosen and she walked ahead of me. The crowd seemed to part as I followed her deeper into the mass of bodies. While we moved, my eyes trailed down towards the back of her waist and seeing her hips sashay back in forth, her tail having a little bounce in her step.

Only one single thought came into my mind over that hypnotic movement of her backside.

She wore an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikin…

…..

Oh god…. LUNA! I mentally shouted at her over getting that image stuck in my head. I didn’t hear a reply, but I probably would hazard a guess she was internally on the floor, splitting her sides open.

Tempest and I soon reached our destination in the middle of the crowd, just as the next song was coming on. Tempest turned toward me and began to dance to the music, her body being driven into auto mode by each thumping beat. I mentally prepared myself to dance with her, knowing full well that I was going to make a wondrous mess of things. Although, if I don’t impress her, then I already have one foot in the grave and the other foot on a banana peel.

This could go all sorts of wrong.

I began bobbing my head to the beat, getting my body used to the constant thumping of the bass and the shrills of the audience around me. Tempest was swaying her hips and her arms moved about in her own set of dancing, moving to every beat of the music. I had to step it up, so I tried copying her moves, swaying my body from side to side while occasionally jumping up to make myself a dancing genius. A few minutes in, Tempest was still dancing, her body swaying and shaking to the beat, and her arms shooting up to the sky. She spun around and her hair flew around her.

I had to step up my game.

I tried following exactly what she was doing, my body flowing to the rhythm of the beat and trying to create a fun movement that wasn't offbeat with her. Though, soon my flow was not connecting with her and it seemed that Tempest looked like she was getting bored of it all. Thinking back to the one good dance move that I remembered, and knowing I did really well on, I decided to pull it out for the dance floor. Granted though, this was only when I was in college for a school dance and, sad to say, I was there by myself.

Sigh…never go alone to a school dance.

I began to do the dance move, my arms whipping to the side, and my legs moving at a nice beat. I snapped my fingers every time, and swing my arms in a back and forth motion. I was doing this in a fast pace. A few dancers around me saw this and cheered at my little dance. Even Tempest was laughing at my little jig as I continued to dance the same movements. After I was done, and once the music stopped, I paused in my dancing for a breath, and the crowd around me cheered loudly from my performance. Even Tempest cracked a smile at me.

Thank you Carlton dance.

Tempest came forward and that small smile grew on her face, eyeing me over what I did.

“You’re not a bad dancer, Spur.” she said, while I smiled sheepishly and rubbed the back of my neck. She had those bedroom eyes when she looked at me, and I could only imagine what was going on through her head. Despite the lights still blaring around me and the casual glow stick flying in my vision, Tempest was quite striking, and those opal eyes of hers made her look more radiant.

“Hey Spur,” she said, lifting up her index finger and coaxing me forward.

I blinked, seeing the little gesture as she enticed me to come forward. I did as I was told and she was still staring at me. Her right hand went up getting closer to my shoulder. I eyed her hand, and then to her, seeing that subtle smile on her face. Her hand neared my cheek, ready to give a gentle touch. I was a little nervous, unsure of what she was going to do. But that look in her eye was telling me that I should trust her. I closed my eyes, ready to feel that gentle caress.

Yet...it never came to me.

”Spur?” Tempest said in surprise.

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I saw that her eyes were wide, and she was looking around in a concerned manner.

“Tempest, I’m right here.” I replied, raising my hand up to her but she stepped forward and went through my hand. I blinked, seeing my appendage was ghostly and was not making any physical contact with her.

I backed away from her, and suddenly, my hand returned to its normal state.

“Luna…what’s happening?” I spoke out, but I didn’t hear her make a reply or hear her voice.

She was as silent as a grave.

“Hello, Tempest,” a deep voice was heard.

I watched as a large figure came up from behind Tempest.

Before she could even react, the larger stallion grabbed her from behind and placed a hand over her mouth. She panicked and lifted an arm, ramming her elbow back into her assailant. The large thug doubled over, and she kicked up away as he tumbled to the ground. Tempest had her mouth pushed outward, and she quickly tried in vain to spit something out. She then opened her mouth, and forced her finger in her throat until she gagged. Within moments, she gagged and bent over to throw up everything she had ingested.

Among the bile that she spat out I saw a noticeable red pill on the ground.

I backed away, watching the events unfold as a few more stallions came forward, resembling some type of gang due to their attire. Seeing this, she turned tail and left for the exit while they gave chase, including the one she had knocked over. While they were going after her, I heard a horrible scratching sound coming from all around me. I whirled my head, and the patrons in the bar began to disappear and fade. An encroaching darkness coming towards me.

“Luna! Where are you?! What’s going on?!” I shouted, seeing the darkness coming ever closer, consuming everything in its path.

I looked down and gasped to see the floors beneath me beginning to fade. I backpedaled away from the area that I was in. I turned around toward the exit where Tempest left and saw a light at the end of it. The darkness was closing in around me, and with no voice coming from Luna, I had no choice but to follow. I ran as far and as fast as my feet would carry me. However, I felt like I was being dragged towards the approaching darkness and the saving grace of the light was growing ever further away. A deep growl was coming from behind, and I dared cast a glance back to see what was chasing me.

I saw a pair of red eyes and large jowls emanating from the black abyss.

I bolted ever onward, getting as far away from whatever that creature was. No matter how fast I ran, I got an eerie feeling that thing was on me, breathing down my neck. I closed my eyes, rushing at a breakneck pace before I lunged myself towards the light. The next thing I knew, I felt something strike my shin, causing me to tumble forward. I rolled and slammed myself into a wall, my back taking the brunt of the impact. I shook my head and opened my eyes to look at what was behind me.

I was back in the same alley, and the door I went through was no longer there. On either side of me, the alley stretched on for miles on either side. The walls of the buildings stretched so high I felt dwarfed by its massive size. It almost felt claustrophobic with how it loomed over my head.

“Get off me!” Tempest shouted nearby.

I looked to my right and saw four shadowy stallions, all standing around her, while the fifth one was holding her from behind. They were all big, menacing, and looked like they could take on anything that could come their way. Their hateful gazes were casting daggers straight at Tempest.

“After what you did to us! Not a chance!” The leader of this supposed group, which stood out from the shadowy counterparts, with a lime green style mane shouted out, “We find you all alone, take you into our gang, and even made you like one of us. But after two years, you ditch us and steal the loot?! It was our score and you ratted us out!” He shouted, while the goon holding up Tempest gave her a kidney punch. She groaned from the impact while the goons just laughed it off.

“Not so tough now are, ya?” One screamed at her.

“That’s for all the trouble youse caused!” Another cried out.

“We’re going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!” the ringleader shouted out, ready to throw another punch at her.

But Tempest reacted first.

Before the ring leader could get close, she lifted her legs up and pressed them against his chest. He was pushed back and the momentum forced the goon behind her to slam into the wall. He hollered out, and one of his hands holding onto her was lifted, giving her a moment of reprieve. She grabbed him by the end of his shirt, as well as by the other arm, and pulled him over her shoulder, throwing him straight into the ground. He heaved from the impact and curled inward, while the remaining gang members all made a run at her.

I’ve seen Tempest in a fight when it came with me. But, to fight a group such as this was a whole other ball game.

Tempest reacted at lightning fast reflexes, countering and blocking incoming throws, punches, and kicks. She would then dish out a few blows of her own, either by elbowing one in the chest, a punch in the face, or even dropping a kick down onto a goon’s head. All in all she was holding her own, but she was struggling to hold them all back. Every time they got close, they would claw at her like rabid wolves. They clawed and bruised at her arms, slashed at her chest and ripped parts of her clothes. Despite this, she was still holding on, beating them down each time and sending them to the ground.

I wanted to go in there. To help her out in some way. However, my body refused to move from its spot, more in awe by the amount of punishment she is dealing with them.

For another several minutes, they fought, neither side giving a inch in the fight. After she made a punch at one of the goons, she leaped at the wall and bounded off it. She then brought her leg up mid air and drop kicked onto the leader, sending him into the pavement. He coughed up blood from the impact, and Tempest looked like she was going in for another go. However, the goon that previously held her got back up and wrapped his arms around her. He was able to hold onto her, but his other friends were either on the ground or struggling to get back into the fight.

“Let go of me!” she yelled out, and her mouth moved close to his ear. Before the big goon could react, she bit down hard onto his ear. He screamed loud and hard, and he let her go. But she was still biting, forcing him to back away. He did so by pushing her away, but at the same time it allowed her to exact her own vengeance.

“The slag bit my ear off!” he screamed out, reaching up to grab his missing ear.

Tempest spat the ear onto the ground, her mouth covered in blood. She was huffing and wheezing out air, and her body was shuddering all over. The ring leader rushed forward, bellowing out to her while having his arms outward and resembling a football player. Tempest didn’t react fast enough, her body already running on empty from the fight. He ran into her, lifting her up, and slamming her body into the wall. She coughed and gagged when all the air ran out of her, and she tried desperately to punch into his back, but to no avail. She failed and kicked at her assailant, but he was just too big and held her firm. He moved one of his hands and encompassed her face with his grip.

Seeing this was going south really fast, I was able to muster up whatever courage I had and bum rushed him, hoping to get him off of her.

The moment I made contact, however, my body simply went through them.

I stumbled on the ground until I tasted dirt, rolling on my side and feeling bruised. My eyes darted up to see Tempest, and she instantly opened her mouth and bit deep into his hand. The ringer leader cursed and dragged his hand out, but his hand got caught in her tank top and the momentum tore it to shreds, leaving her body exposed. The ring leader growled and once again encompassed his hand around her, but this time he slammed her head into the back of the wall.

She was still when the bone crushing impact hit and her body slumped slightly to the ground. He removed his hand from her head, and she stared blankly at him. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot, and her chest was heaving in gulps for air. Her clothes were a mess and torn in various places, most notably the rip down her shirt, with scratch marks and bruises underneath. Her chest was exposed to the air and part of her bra was visible through the scraps. She didn’t move from her spot, and she remained where she was. I attempted once more to go after them in some hope of helping her.

Although, my legs would not respond. I tried moving them or push my hands off the ground, but I couldn’t get up.

Something was holding me there and making me witness all of this.

“You put up a good fight, Tempest,” the ringleader said, looking at the defeated form of Tempest. I could hear his subtle snickering at her loss, “You should have seen this coming.” he lowered himself until they were eye to eye.

Tempest said nothing, remaining were she was, while her former compatriot rambled on. “After all these years you are still the same feckless little mare. Pathetic, weak, childish, and foolish. That’s what sums you up.” he lifted his right hand until it brushed against her chin, holding her there like some prize possession, “It’s sad to see such a fair mare like you be out of this kind of work. You would have been the best there is of our gang,” he said, his fingers tracing down towards her neck and encompassing her throat.

He then leaned forward, a smile creeping on the edge of his face.

“I will be sure to make it quick. After I’m done with you that is,” he stated.

Tempest’s eyes widened and she reacted almost immediately. Her right foot shot out and struck right in between his legs. He made a sharp cry, his free hand cradling his nethers from the blow, yet he still held his grip around her neck. Despite the painful blow, he was not deterred, and he soon seized her and pulled her into him. He then wrap his other arms around her body and began to squeeze.

“On second thought! Killing you off now would be better!” he shouted.

Tempest began to cry out in pain. Both of her arms were pressed against her, and her legs kicked out in an attempt to get him off. But he still held firm. The leader’s arms began to bulge, and his veins were visible underneath his skin. I heard a few loud pops coming from her back and sides, and she soon let out a out a terrified shrill. Once again I tried to move, to go and save her, but my body refused to do it.

Why can’t I move?! My mind was screaming, having no choice but for Tempest’s life to be crushed in front of her.

Just as her life was about to be crushed, a loud buzzing noise came behind them. In a flash, the bright light struck the side of the leader, the light easily going through his head like paper. In a instant, his arms fell off of Tempest and he collapsed right in front of me. I repressed myself not to gag from seeing a hole in his head and fresh blood pooling around the ground. I followed my gaze down the alley and my breath hitched at who I was seeing.

He was the last person I expected to be here.

“Wow. Now this is interesting,” the Storm King said, slowly approaching the supposed warzone before him, “I hear a commotion while personally overseeing a scouting, and I find that a girl is being harassed by a group of full-grown men. Not something I want to be having a ticket for, that’s for sure,” he said, while the remaining goons stood up and looked ready to avenge their fallen leader.

“Hey, who do you think you-,” one began to say, but was forever silenced when the Storm King pointed his staff at the goon and fired a beam straight into his chest. He was thrown back and slammed into the wall, creating a crater upon impact and remaining there.

Two more tried to gang up on him, but he swiped his staff across the face of one, cutting a deep gash and sending him flying, while smacking his claw into the face of the other. However, before he could hit the ground, he grabbed him by the back of the leg and pulled him up and over him.

The goon was then slammed on the ground like Hulk did to Loki in the first Avengers film, and I could hear every bone and vertebrae break in his body. After several moments of constant pounding, the Storm King held the limp body of the deceased goon and haphazardly tossed him on the side. The final goon stuttered backwards, seeing his former comrades dead before him. He took off running, going past the Storm King and down past the alley.

“Typical weasel,” the Storm King sighed.

Without looking, the Storm King pointed his spear behind him and fired another beam, the projectile hitting the goon square in the back, causing him to collapse on the ground. Dead. After it was done, he flipped the staff, observing the end of it that had some blood upon it.

“How do you like that? You kill something with nothing but a quick death, and you end up with a mess,” he said, flicking the staff of any residue before walking over to Tempest.

As he did, I felt a eerie dread coming on me, and the familiar darkness seemed to encompass all around us. I still couldn’t move, and I was still watching the scene unfold. I could also feel an unexpected chill crawl up my spine, and a crosshair getting over closer on the back of my neck.

“Hey, hey… it’s alright, Kid. You’re still in one piece….” he said, placing a hand on the back of her head.

She shuddered and shriveled away from his touch, cradling herself up while the darkness around us grew even greater. I saw in the darkness some haunting eyes, peering at her and hovering everywhere. It crawled upon the walls, and upon the floor, trying to get to them.

The image I was seeing was like that out of a horror movie.

“Hello, Spencer,” a feminine voice called to me.

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prick up, and I felt my breath caught in my throat. I recognized that voice, that dreadful hateful voice.

The pair of eyes from the darkness turned to me, seeing me for the first time. It walked forward, taking form in the shape of a women. I remained petrified, and I couldn’t do anything to stop her coming towards me. Sweat was pouring down the side of my head and my heart hammered in my chest when she came into being.

Why is she here! Why is she Here! My mind was screaming.

The shadow took its final shape, crouching down in front of me. There was no doubt in my mind of the women who did me wrong.

That auburn hair, those green eyes, and that all too familiar sneer.

“Oh? Well, what do ya know. One more left,” The Storm King called out, turning towards me.

My attention drew to him, seeing his staff being raised up.

“Sayonara!!!” he said in a singsong voice.

The end of his spear charged up, ready to fire and evaporate me within a blink of an eye.

“Spencer!” a voice came from behind, and a pair of blue arms enveloped around me.

The women in front of me immediately tried to seize me, but I was suddenly thrown back, and the world around me disappeared before me. I landed hard on the ground, but I felt a comforting embrace holding me from behind.

“Thank the goddess, Spencer! You're safe!” I heard Princess Luna speak, holding me close to her chest while I remained in a daze.

“Luna….What?” Shaking my head from the stupor.

My eyes focused on the orb that was in front of me, and it began to vanish before my eyes.

“Luna? What happened?” I asked, feeling her hands patting my chest while she adjusted from her position. I felt her grip tighten and I couldn’t help but feel the shakiness from her touch.

“I was somehow kicked out from the dream. The darkness that I thought I had sealed off somehow got through my defenses. I was in the middle of talking with you, when I was sent out rather forcibly. I tried to pry myself back in, but the darkness was far more formidable. I had to physically claw at it just so that I could break through, and even then it took my entire will power just to penetrate into the dream and pull you out.” she paused, lowering her head and nuzzling her cheek against mine.

“I thought for certain you would have been lost,” she explained, hearing her shudder out the last of her words.

It was one thing for a woman to get worried. If a demigod begins to worry then that raises much concern. If she was unsure of what she was dealing with, then that is definitely troubling. The last of the sphere has disappeared, and the dream that Tempest resided in was gone. Only the afterglow of the magic remained.

“Luna, what happened to Tempest?” I asked.

“I no longer sense her. She must be awake from her ordeal.” she explained, but held me just a little closer, “I’ve come to perceive that there is something far darker that has gripped her, and I fear it might have corrupted you as well.”

“Corrupted?” I said, recalling the moments of that women.

I shuddered at the thought of having to see her. I tried to block her out of my head, but seeing her again had resurfaced on the forefront of my mind. It was the one thing that I didn’t wish to remember.

“Spencer? How are you feeling. Are you alright?” she asked in that motherly tone that she had.

“Well…I…” I began to speak, but the most unexpected feeling coursed in my neck. Lightning spurted out around me, and I began to cry out from the sudden pain.

“Spencer!” Luna cried out as the dream around me began to fade.


I awoke with a start, my neck feeling the shocking sensation and sending my body into full alert. My arms went up, pushing the blanket off me while I grabbed at the collar around my neck. I spasmed and tried to remove the collar around my neck, trying to stop the electrical current coursing through my veins. No matter how hard I pulled it would not move, and it only increased the shock. After what felt like a full minute of shock therapy, it ended and I was left exhausted on the floor. In my agitated state my eyes landed on the only form that was next to me.

The familiar shade of red and the magic coming off her broken horn that jolted me awake was Tempest.

“Tempest!” I yelled, getting to my knees, “What’s the frug-gmph pemphh” I didn’t get to finish because I felt something force into my mouth. I tasted wool, and it was stuffed further into my maw.

I wanted to speak something, but I gagged from the awful taste in my mouth. I tried to back away, but Tempest suddenly grabbed me by the shoulders, her fingers clasping on my muscles and tightening like a vipers grip. She forced me on my knees. I grunted in annoyance and tried to force myself back, even shouting to get her to let me go despite the sudden gag, all that was coming out being muffles. Tempest suddenly gave me a firm shake.

“You. Will. Stay. Still.” she seethed, each word dropping like a hammer upon a nail.

I went rigid, uncertain of what she was wanting to do. My mind flashed of that women and fear began to grip me once again. I tried to worm away from her but to no avail, her strength was just too strong. I could see Tempest’s eyes flash in the given light, and I saw her teeth open up as she got down on her knees to be at my level. I froze and let out a shudder, waiting for whatever punishment she was going to do. I then felt Tempest wrap her arms around me and I tensed up, expecting her to throw me down.

However, she remained like that. She didn’t pile drive me into the ground. She didn’t wrap her arm around my head and put me in a chokehold. She didn’t even put weight into me to try and deliver any punch into me. She simply held me there.

She was giving me a hug.

I dared open an eye and in the given light, I was able to see the right side of her face with her scar. I could see tears streaming down her cheek, and she shuddered while she held me. I had a number of questions running through my head, too many to comprehend or form into a single sentence. I instead remained there, letting the most feared commander of the Storm King's army cry on my shoulder.

“Tempest?” I said, but was heavily muffled through the sock shoved in my mouth. The only thing that came because of it was ‘Mmmpephhh?’

I felt her tense up and a hush whisper escaped her.

“Just shut up. Don’t speak.” she said sharply, her chest pressing into me while her arms tightened around my frame.

I remained as still as possible, unsure of how to even process what was happening and why she was even doing this. She was still shaken, and I had no doubt in my mind that it had something to do with the nightmare. A part of me wanted to return the hug, to show that I care for her in return. Instinctively, my arms raised up, but Tempest was the first to react.

“Keep your arms to yourself,” she seethed, despite the tears coming down her cheeks, “Just...let me have this.” the last of her words coming out weakly.

My arms remained at my sides and I waited for Tempest to finish.

Each passing moment lasted for several minutes, with Tempest still silently sobbing while she held me. Once again I wanted to return the gesture, but I reminded myself to stay still or she would be cross with me. As if she read my mind or something like that, she slid her arms down mine and moved her hands towards my own, likely to keep my arms from moving. She also leaned herself into me more, her neck resting into the crook of my shoulder. Her fur was warm and sent a flurry of vibrations into my skin from where she rubbed into me. Not long after I felt the tips of her fingers brushing against my hands and it felt like she was almost cradling them.

I suddenly heard her silently breathe through her nose, her chest rising as she inhaled and the feeling of it rising against mine sending tingly feelings to me. I then heard her exhale, and I felt her chest diminish.

In the current situation that I was in I didn’t know what to make of it all.

After another unsettling minute or two, she eventually parted away, the warmth on my neck leaving me. She then wiped a few tears from her eyes and sighing deeply.

“You will not tell anyone about this. Do you understand?” she asked, her opal eyes looking directly into my own. I could have given a reply if it weren’t for the gag in my mouth.

“I said, do you understand?” she asked, albeit a bit more sternly.

How can I answer you if I can’t say a word? I thought, though I wished to say it to her.

Instead, I merely nodded my head to her rather quickly and she took it as her leave. She then headed back to her bed, her arms wrapped around her while still shuddered. I spat out the wool sock from my mouth, spitting multiple times because of the taste and scratching my tongue.

Finally, after feeling like the taste was lessening, I looked over to Tempest, who went back to resting with her back facing me and her arms wrapped around herself, as well as her tail hanging off the edge.

I settled myself back into my bed.

Despite my mind drifting off to sleep, I couldn’t help but continue to wonder over what had transpired between us.

The Hunt Part 1 (Edited)

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I ran through the Everfree Forest, trying to get out as fast as possible, with a giant angry Manticore on my heels.

Now, I know what you’re all wondering. Why am I running for my life in the middle of Equestria’s most dangerous forest? And how did I end up with a feral beast right on my heels? Well, it’s pretty interesting on how it all started.

You see, it had been a few days since I was stuck in the dream sequence with Tempest. After that fateful night, she had been quite distant from me, not even speaking to me unless it was to give an order. I was not sure what to expect from it all. To make matters worse, I hadn’t been able to make contact with Princess Luna. I waited every night for the past three days, hoping to hear from her but things were different after the harsh dream sequence I endured.

I only had a few bad dreams of that woman in my head.

I still don’t understand why she’s back.

We recently moved again, having traveled until we were at the edge of the Everfree Forest. From there, we had been heaving stockpiles of lumber from the old woods for the Storm King’s war machines. I was cutting lumber when I had cast my gaze towards the shadows of those ancient trees. I was told time and time again from the locals, and even from Twilight herself, that there were dangerous things that not even magic could interfere with, and that the beasts that roam within were too dangerous to face alone. Even in a group it’s said to be impossible without the right knowledge and skill set for certain creatures.

Well, it couldn’t be worse than the streets of New York… hopefully.

I had contemplated a lot about making a run for it for weeks now, not only gaining some minuscule trust with the Storm King, but also with Tempest. I could only imagine that the chances of me leaving were quite slim. In fact, even if I was able to elude the guards, the chances of surviving out on my own was very slim. I’m not exactly a boy scout, but I still have at least some idea of how to survive.

Find shelter, water, food. The basics. That sums it up.

I think.

Anyway, the reason that I was wanting to leave was because the opportunity was right in front of me. And it started a lot like this.
****
I was just here, close to the forest’s reach, and the guards were far away dealing with some of the other prisoners. I was left to my own devices, taking care of some of the lumber and preparing for transport, yet none of the guards were watching me. I had to decide fast whether I wanted to be cooped up here or take my chances in the world’s most deadly forest and hope to survive.

Well, given the fact that in the past three days, I had more electric shocks from the Storm King than I can count. Every few hours, he would come by and give me shock therapy, even throwing in some dry jokes and puns, and make me do the macarena on the floor. I could still hear him cackle whenever he passed by, but I guess he wanted to take out his frustrations and I was the only subject of entertainment to him. My only guess was that because of his army moving more slowly, and not getting the results he wanted for his grand plan, he needed to vent out his pent up aggression out on a helpless human.

Because of that and being worked around the clock for this mad king, I didn’t want to subject myself to his hospitality any longer.

I made up my mind and there was no turning back. I turned my head toward the forest, lifted one leg to take off running—

“Thinking about going for a jog?”

—and pivoted one-eighty degrees to give Tempest a sheepish grin.

My opportunity was dashed before I could even get off the ground.

“Tempest! I...didn’t know you were there!” I nearly shouted in surprise.

She was staring at me with a blank if not annoyed expression, while I continued to play the gullible fool in front of her, putting off an innocent smile and pretending nothing was happening.

“You want to leave, don’t you?” she asked, motioning her head toward the forest behind me.

I took a quick glance, and she could see my apprehension as I tried to avoid her gaze.

“Well, no, ah...you see I was, ah, wanting to see if I could maybe go and do my business behind that bush,” I tried to explain the first thing that came out of the top of my head.

“You’re a horrible liar, you know that?” she said, crossing her arms in clear disappointment. I looked away, knowing full well I was caught. I didn’t know what she was going to do with me, but I felt like a boy caught by his mother trying to take a cookie out of a jar without asking. I heard her sigh and step closer to me, until she towered over me.

“I’ll give you thirty minutes,”

I knew I was in trouble and that I would be given the….wait.

“What’d you say?” I asked, looking her in the eye while she remained steadfast as a statute.

“You’re right. Thirty minutes won’t do…” she said, before eyeing the forest behind me and putting a hand on her hip “...an hour is more efficient.”

To say that I was thrown in for a loop would be correct. I cast a glance to the forest and back at her, and my mouth opened and closed like a fish, wanting to question her over what she said yet remaining uncertain over why she gave me a time.

“Okay….You lost me,” I replied.

She rolled her eyes at me.

“You heard exactly what I said. I’m letting you loose into the forest to see how far you’ll get. When the hour is up, I will hunt you down and bring you back here.” She leaned forward, and I pulled my head back, “Do you get it now?”

“You’re going to hunt me?”

“Yep,” a smile curled on the side of her face.

“And I only have an hour?” I took an uneasy step backwards.

“Well, now you have fifty-eight minutes,” she explained, one of her eyebrows curling up and down.

I took off like a bat out of hell and kept running, wanting to get as far away as possible. I didn’t know how long it would be before the hour came or when she would start tracking me, but it didn’t matter. I was on the run and I had to make use of what little time I had.

Although, it was very hard to see where I was going when the sun was obscured by the canopy.

It was still midday, but the forest around me was dark, casting black shadows all around me. I felt that everywhere I ran, there was something unexpected around the corner, and it would always give me a fright. Gnarled up branches looked like outreaching hands, drooping moss resembled long hair and serrated teeth, and the animals that scurried above me shook the branches from my wake. Every moment I spent in this forest, I felt like something was closing in on me.

I think Twilight was right. A great darkness was within the Everfree Forest.

For the next thirty minutes, I stayed at a steady jog, becoming more exhausted as I kept running as far as I could go. The forest around me still felt enclosed around me and most of the old oak trees looked the same. I felt trapped in a maze, and no matter where I went the area that would come to next felt the same. Eventually I came to a halt, passing by a gangly looking tree that I swore I had passed at least five times now. I took a breather. The air around felt so thick in my lungs, and the weight of the forest on my shoulders threatened to crush me. Taking a second to catch my breath, I wondered how far I had traveled in the woods. I took a look around me and saw there was no light in either direction, meaning I was probably either already deep inside the forest, or I was completely lost. Likely the latter at this point.

Looking behind me, and seeing the tracks I made through the brush, I wondered how long it had been since Tempest started and when she would come for me. In the back of my mind, I imagined her already preparing some diabolical device that would scoop me up into the air like the in Predator movies, stringing me up in some giant net or a net that the ewoks would make.

Hey, I watch great movies.

With that in mind, I believed I should get as far away as possible. However, a thought lingered on my path. If I could somehow retrace my steps, double back on the path and maybe by chance take a different route, then maybe I could try and deceive her.

It was a long shot, and I didn’t have any other ideas come to mind, so I had to go with it.

I turned around and retraced my steps to the best of my ability. For the next ten minutes or so I followed the small deer trail that I created and tried to retrace the steps that I had taken, hoping that I would be able to get back to where I had been, and could take a different path.

That’s the same tree again…

I was hopelessly lost and going in circles.

“What am going to do now?” I said aloud, trying to figure out how I ended up back at this gnarled tree.

I went over the same area and yet somehow my path had lead me back here. Either there was something weird going on, or maybe I’m just really bad at directions. It couldn’t be physically possible for me to travel back the way I came and just end up back in the same spot.

It was like that Hunger Games coliseum arena where no matter where you go you'd always end up in the same spot you were before.

*Snap*

I froze as I heard the sound of a tree branch breaking off. I looked behind me and I saw movement within the brush. It had to be Tempest. She was already here to get me. However, that was thrown out the window when I heard a deep ominous growl coming from the figure, and saw a large pair of bright eyes staring at me. I remained where I was, seeing this creature looking back at me. It soon stepped out of the brush and my heart dropped.

It was a manticore.

Twilight had told me about these creatures and how she encountered some on a few of her adventures, but I’d never seen one up close. It’s head and body was that of a lion, but upon it’s back it had large bat like wings, and a scorpion tail that had venom dripping from it. My body tensed up, seeing the manticore coming slowly towards me, its shoulders high and its head low. A growl emanated from its maw, baring its fangs while its massive paws strode towards me. I was scared out of my mind, unsure of what to do against such a creature. I had no weapons, I had no means of quickly making an escape, and with every second I waited it got closer. It stopped in place, its body ready to pounce at me.

I could hardly breathe, feeling my lungs were in the back of my throat and my heart hammering in my chest.

The manticore, without a moment of hesitation, roared and charged at me.

I froze, watching the giant beast come right at me. My blood felt cold like ice, my breath hitched in my throat, and everything seemed to slow down as the beast was coming straight for me. I was going to die, my fate sealed in this forsaken forest to be eaten alive by a man-eating monster. I could only watch as the manticore approached me.

Until it abruptly stopped in front of me.

I felt the wind brush past me as the beast stood over me. It was a false charge and the manticore was now that much closer and far more scarier up close. The hot breath came on me like a steam vent, and I peered into the maw of the ferocious beast, its rows of sharp fangs glistening in the wan light and the fumes it gave off all the more revolting. In a brief moment, I looked up and locked eyes with the feral beast, its piercing yellow eyes going through to the deepest recesses of my soul. A part of me also relieved itself down my pant legs.

I was but a small snack to this god of the forest.

Without warning, the large manticore roared in my face, bathing me in spittle and the foul stench of previous meals. I felt wet slavia strike at my face, and I winced and gagged from the impact.

I sympathized with Captain Jack Sparrow when he came face to face with the kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

I coughed and rubbed the spittle off, but the movement caught the manticore’s attention. I was batted away like a giant ball of yarn and tossed haphazardly towards a tree. My back smacked hard against the branches and I felt my lungs empty. I gagged for breath when I landed and looked back up to see the manticore was hunched low, its scorpion tail hovering over its head. The manticore raised its wings, and in one fluid motion lunged at me, its teeth bared to chew down on my body.

It was at this moment...well...I think you’d know the rest….

****
I ran like the wind.

I spun around the tree just as its teeth slammed into the bark. I took off as fast as my feet would carry me, dodging low hanging branches and roots that were sticking out from the ground. I turned my head to look back at the manticore as it tore the bark that its teeth were impaled on and ripping it off like it was wax off paper. I screamed and ran through the forest with the manticore hot on my heels.

I began to wonder how best to describe how I got in this situation and where it all started. But, a sudden growl that was nipping near my back erased all thoughts and made me concentrate on running. I dared not look back as I ducked under several branches, scrambled over others, and tried my best to avoid being turned into food. The manticore lost its footing on the branches and roots of the trees, but kept coming towards me. Looking ahead, and seeing a large hanging branch, I decided to make a grab at it. I grabbed its edge and pulled it with me, the tree bending back like bamboo. After stretching it as far as it would go I let it loose behind me.

I heard a loud smack and a howl of rage come from behind.

A quick glance back confirmed that the branch hit its mark and struck the manticore right in its face, its massive paws rubbing it’s sore nose from the blow. I kept running forward, hoping to put some distance between us. But the moment of victory was short lived as I heard it roar in clear anger. Curse my luck! I could hear the monster tear itself through the foliage and come for vengeance.

Instead of getting rid of the hornets nest, I instead attracted the entire hive to bear down on me.

I kept up my mad dash, but it was only a matter of time before my body gave out on me. Looking ahead and coming out of a clearing, I saw a large tree with several low hanging branches. Thinking that the height will save me, I bolted towards it, all the while the bounding manticore crashed through the forest behind me. I kept up my pace towards the old tree, my heart pounding. When I got close, I reached my hand up to seize the low hanging branch.

Before I could secure my grip, I felt a sudden stinging shoot through my left shoulder.

I hollered in pain and nearly stumbled, before reaching the lowest branch with my hand. I turned my head to see a scorpion-like tail embedded in my back. The manticore was backing up to try and take me with him. I almost expected the creature to shout out ‘get over here’ while he was at it. I lifted my body up onto the branches and forced myself off the scorpion stinger, the small needle in me like a sliver in a finger. I felt insurmountable pain coursing through my left shoulder, spreading fast. It was so numbing that I felt my body become molasses. It took every ounce of strength to pull myself up onto the branches and climb the tree.

But the manticore was too persistent. I felt its thunderous claws smack into the tree, threatening to shake me off balance. I held on for dear life, but the pain in my left shoulder was beginning to turn numb and my left arm began to feel all tingly. I pushed hard and kept climbing, until the throbbing intensity of my shoulder was too much. I hung upside down in a way that a sloth would be proud of and looked down to see the large manticore’s head, lifting to reach me, its massive paws pushing against the base of the tree. I heard the creaking of the old wood as it splinters underneath its weight, but it did not give way and I remained where I was. I hoped that by some miracle the beast would eventually go away.

However, the immobility I was feeling in my left arm was causing my grip to slip, and my sloth like powers were quickly evaporating.

The manticore took notice of this and was once again raising its head up to seize me with its maw. I desperately tried to hang on, praying to whatever god exists in this world to come and save me. But I knew my prayers would not be answered, for the grip on my left hand was starting to fade and I began to lose all functions from the poison. I was still able to hold on with my right hand and with my legs, but the amount of exertion to keep myself suspended was taxing. I gritted my teeth, hoping to hold out and force myself to pull up and over the branch.

I yelped when I felt the back of my shirt grabbed by its massive teeth, and I was yanked off the branch.

I flailed about, trying in vain to get myself out of its grip, but the manticore held firmly and managed to remove me from the tree. I tried to move my left arm to smack it, but the arm hardly moved and did not respond to my commands. It was essentially dead weight at this point. Using my right arm, I tried to smack it in the nose or some vulnerable part on its face, but the manticore had other plans.

After it managed to get me out of the tree, I felt myself get thrown to the forest floor, my shirt being torn from my back as I rolled a few feet from where I impacted the ground. I laid flat on my back, my body completely spent, and I could no longer feel my left arm or shoulder. I was immobilized on the ground. I heard the soft thumps of the manticore coming towards me. My mind was still ablaze, wanting to move, but my legs were pinned by the manticore’s massive paws. Looking down, I saw the shadow of the manticore loom over me and its jaws coming into view. A low growl emanated from its chest and its teeth bared before me. Its piercing eyes stared at me, and I could see my scared reflection from within. I was defenseless, helpless, and no matter what I did, I was going to die right then and there, eaten by this king of the forest. The manticore licked its chops and snarled its fangs before going for the kill.

Something blinding flashed before me.

The pressure on my legs diminished. I heard the manticore backing away, so this allowed me to do the same, while hearing a fwoosh-like sound. When my eyes cleared, I saw the manticore backpedaling away, its snarls turning into groans of annoyance as it rubbed its eyes with its paws. Another flash prompted the manticore to shield its eyes and allowed me to see who it was.

I was both relieved and terrified when I saw that it was Tempest.

She was wearing her full latex suit and armor, and was ready for a fight. In her right hand, she carried her sword, while in her left hand was what appeared to be a small orb that flashed every few seconds. On her back, she had a shield, with the emblem of the Storm King’s forces. She steadily moved forward, keeping the flashing orb in front of her to keep the manticore at bay.

For a moment, I had to chuckle, because this time...Tempest was the saving Patronum instead of me.

I regretted nothing for saying that.

The manticore, still dazed by the blinding light, attempted to swipe a claw at her. She merely pivoted her sword arm and slashed across his paw, drawing blood. The manticore growled and withdrawed, turning its head before making a dash into the forest. Its scorpion tail was the last thing that trailed off before disappearing in the foliage. The light from the orb continued to glow and flash as I stood back up, illuminating the forest around us and making it as bright as the sun. The distant sound of the manticore fleeing was fading and I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

After another moment or two of uneasy silence, the orb from Tempest’s hand began to fade, and the light that it gave off slowly evaporated. I noticed Tempest eying the small orb, and she dropped it to the forest floor. She kept her sword at the ready, looking about to see if there was anything else within the forest that may pose a threat.

While she was on guard, I stood there like a useless idiot, looking at my left arm, which hung like a wet noodle. I had no feeling whatsoever in my left arm. I couldn’t even move a muscle. I hoped that I didn’t lose feeling completely, but I would have to ask Tempest if there was anything to help my arm.

“Your shoulder is damaged. Did the manticore sting you?” Tempest asked, making me look up to her, seeing that she was still eyeing the forest’s shadows.

“Yeah, right on the shoulder. I can’t feel most of my back or my left arm,” I explained, trying to move my arm, but it merely swayed from side to side. “How did you manage to…” I didn’t get to finish when she turned around and stared past me.

“That is unfortunate. But that will be dealt with later. Just be grateful I was watching nearby to intervene on your sorry behalf,” she calmly explained, not once looking at me. I felt my eyes twitch and I snorted in irritation.

“Didn’t you see that I was nearly killed by a freaking manticore! That thing nearly had me in its jaws several times as I traipsed through this forest! Were you just watching while I was nearly being eviscerated by that thing this whole time!?” I demanded, my voice raising an octave from the ordeal.

“Yet you are alive and well. That’s all that matters,” she speaked haughtily, not even acknowledging my presence, “Since that’s out of the way, we can return to camp.”

I was getting angry, livid over the whole situation. It was her idea to chase me off, and it was her plan to to hunt me down. It was by her little ‘hunt’ that caused this situation, where I was out of breath, and exhausted. To make matters worse, she was watching me the whole time while I was nearly made into a meatball. There were times where I could have brushed this off, but this was too much. I didn’t know what she was playing at, but it was starting to tick me off. My mind became filled with pent up aggression.

“Return to camp? Return to…didn’t you even hear a word I said? I nearly died, and you wave it off like it was nothing? You don’t care if I had my guts ripped open and displayed to all passerby that should enter this forest?!” I shouted, thinking the whole forest would have heard that.

Tempest turned her head, and her scarred eye caught onto me.

“What of it? I’ve survived worse than what you’ve endured,” she carefully explained. I lifted my good arm in the air, smacked it against my thigh in exasperation and turned away from her, taking a few steps forward to ensure she couldn’t grab me, “What do you know of pain, Spencer? You don’t know what it’s like to survive on your own, and live while others would have tried to kill you.” she continued as I vented my annoyance. “Did you think that me sending you out here was for enjoyment? That this was to use you? You don’t even…” she ranted at me, but I ignored her words.

Her words became nothing but white noise to my broiling anger. The air around me seemed to grow thicker and weighed heavily on me. Her words were like a hornet buzzing in my ear. My mind was filled with so many thoughts that her voice cluttered everything up.

She acted like she was in control, and like she knew everything. She feigned being a caretaker and helper when in fact she allowed this to happen. She acted like she knew nothing and made me feel worse than I already was. Even when I think she would help me, she turned her back at my moment of need. She was just like the others, what they did to me. The way that they treated me all those years ago. She was just like them. She was just like that woman.

She was acting like that woman even now. And I hated it. With every fiber of my being.

“Spencer, get a hold of yourself and listen,” I didn’t even hear her finish when I suddenly spun around to stare back at her.

“No! You listen, you ungrateful—"

Smack!

I failed to realize what I had done until I turned around and see her head rolled to the side. The back side of my left hand struck Tempest’s left cheek. I turned around so fast that my numb arm had accidentally swung out. She staggered back, placing a hand over the bruised cheek and stared at me with wild eyes. I looked back, stunned over what I just did.

I’d struck the most fearsome woman in Equestria.

The Hunt Part 2 (Edited)

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“Tempest…I…” I wanted to say something, but nothing came out in a complete sentence. I was too overwhelmed by the fact that I struck her.

Tempest wiped her cheek, her eyes glaring daggers into mine.

I definitely made a huge mistake.

“Alright…The hunt isn’t over just yet. I’ll give you one minute to head in that direction, and you better give me a good chase,” she said, gritting her teeth while at the same time drawing her shield out.

I backed away slowly, unsure of what she had in mind, but the way she was preparing herself made me all the more worried for my well being.

“Tempest, that was a mistake…I didn’t mean-”

“I’d start running, Spencer. If you know what’s good for you.” she said, looking at the edge of her sword, and taking a moment to admire its sheen.

I took another step back, not wanting to say something to provoke her.

“Tempest, please. I didn’t mean to do that. I never once would have…”

“You’ve got thirty seconds,” she interjected, and watching me like a hawk. “If you want to waste your precious time trying to convince me why I shouldn’t throttle you instead, then you should start running this instant,” she seethed, her legs parting on the ground and taking a running stance to begin her chase.

“Run, little rabbit, run.” she said, as the seconds ticked away.

Reluctantly, I had a mind to agree with her on this. I hastily nodded my head and gave her a friendly wave to the predator that was going to hunt me down.

“Avec plaisir,” I said.

I took off running, my exhausted frame already trying to run into overdrive to get away. I was firing on all cylinders to keep my legs moving and to avoid her. My left arm dragged behind me, whipping about in a ragdoll effect as I continued to run. It would have been laughable any other time, but right now I just didn’t care. I just had to escape her before she could do me harm. The sounds of twigs breaking and the pounding of feet was close behind me and I dared look back to see her in the line of trees.

She was gunning for me hard, running at full sprint to catch me, kicking up dirt and grass in the process.

I was a dead man running.

I looked forward, nearly crying out in panic as I attempted to keep the distance between us, but my endurance was not enough to keep myself apace and I was slowly losing steam. I tried my hardest, but I could hear her gaining ground with each passing second. I cast a glance back once more and saw she was closing with me, ready to tackle me at any given moment.

I looked ahead, searching for anything that could help trip her or make her stall her advance. I saw a thick branch up ahead. It looked sturdy enough to buy me a few seconds. Reaching out with my good hand, I grabbed the edge and began to pull it back. I whipped around, seeing her approaching me. She was nearly on me. With the last of my strength, I pulled the branch as far as it would go and I released it, the branch whiplashing back to its original position.

I saw Tempest see this and she raised a hand, but the branch hit dead center, halting her entirely

“I can’t believe that worked!” I shouted in my mind as I took a few steps back.

But my heart fell flat when she pushed the branch away, her hand holding the wood firmly. There was no injury whatsoever on her face. Said face also sneered at me and her brows knitted together as she broke the branch in two. I made an eep like noise and kept going, despite failing to stop her.

“This is getting ridiculous!” I practically shouted out to the world around me, not caring if Tempest had heard me. I doubt she would care.

“Are you done running and laughing like a buffon?!” Tempest called out, and I heard her right behind me.

I looked behind me to catch a glimpse of her, only to see something I did not expect.

Tempest leapt off a fallen log, and using the momentum, flipped over my head. In mid motion, I could see that she was moving with elegant, terrifying beauty that it made me stare in awe for a brief moment before I saw that she landed ten feet in front of me. My first reaction in the space between us was being mighty impressed, and thinking ‘How did she do that?’ within the moment. Although, I panicked when I saw her readying a stance, and I raised my one good arm up to block her.

However, my arm was dangerously low and threatening to make contact right on her bosom.

Not again! NOT AGAIN! I mentally shouted, knowing how our first encounter didn’t end all that well. I winced up, and I just couldn’t slow down. I knew that if my hand touched her breast again I would be in a world of hurt.

Seeing this coming, however, Tempest merely sidestepped my oncoming approach, and I went flying past her. But not before receiving a swift smack on my back, tumbling forward into the ground. I rolled a few feet before my back slammed into a tree, my body hanging upside down. I groaned outwardly from the pain and could only stare at Tempest who merely brushed off her hand.

“You were close there. Expecting a swift beatdown like last time?” she asked.

“Nah, just glad it didn’t repeat itself,” I replied, rolling onto my side as I tried to get back up.

I coughed a little as I sluggishly got back on my feet.

After what felt like an agonizing hour, I got myself to stand once more and was able to focus my attention on Tempest. Yet she remained there, staring at me with those eyes that seemed to bore straight into my skull.

“Aren’t you going to bring me down?” I asked, unsure as to why she was simply standing there.

“I like to play with my prey before I bring them down. Now get back to it,” she said, motioning with her sword to have me run.

Ah that makes much more sense. I thought, knowing how a tigress readies to take down the weakened monkey.

I moved forward, thinking she would let me go past her. But, she started to mirror move me everywhere I moved. Every step to the side or even the slightest of movements, she would get in my way, taunting me in every subtle gesture.

“Really? Still messing with me?” I said, flapping my good arm up in defeat.

“If you went the other way, it might’ve helped,”

“Well fine, didn’t notice I had time to turn around. But I don’t want to make this a hobby of fleeing women,” I explained.

I turned around and took off, but I instantly heard her reply “Mind making it a hobby to duck?”

“What?” I managed to get out.

I looked to what was ahead, but only too late did I notice a low hanging branch coming right at me. My face instantly made contact, and my body was thrown back from the blow. I hit the ground, and my body began to tumble on its left side, rolling down the hill that was at a steep angle. My body ragdolled, sliding and bouncing off of the grass and brush that got in my path, and narrowly avoiding hitting trees down my fall.

The only thing that was missing from this situation was me shouting out ‘As You Wish!’ while tumbling down the hill.

I eventually found myself rolled onto my back, and I was able to catch a glance at the top of the hill where Tempest was waiting up above. At first she remained there, watching me continue my fall.

But like a predator to its prey, she followed, her feet surfing the grass and slowly gaining speed.

Before I could admire the feat, however, my back hit a rock and I spun again, shouting curses and grunting from the pain. Eventually, my body rolled to an even surface and I rolled onto my back, groaning in pain as I remained still. My whole body was sore and I had no feeling in my left arm or back. My hearing was good at least, because I heard Tempest sliding to a halt several feet away.

I took a gulp of air, which I found was surprisingly fresh compared to the closed air I had moments before. I breathed slowly, taking in what was around me. My mind was becoming clear. My arms stayed at my side, and I remained still while I heard Tempest approaching me. I didn’t care if I got caught, I was just glad to breathe air that was better than before. Everything seemed to be lessened. I wasn’t feeling as closed in as I was before.

I could even see the sky through the tree line.

“I’d give you points for style on that landing, if I wasn't chasing you,” Tempest said, her body coming into view. I took notice that her breathing was heavy but controlled, clearly not showing that she broke a sweat from our chase.

Well, more of a hunt than a chase.

“That’s too bad…” I paused for a breath as I turned to look at her. “I thought I would get an A plus for effort on the fall,” I replied, thinking of the posible bones I might have broken from the descent.

Tempest lowered herself until she was on one of her knees, her body hovering over mine while she kept her gaze on me.

“Well, you did land on your flank, so that counts,” she explained as she grabbed the hem of my shirt and slowly lifted me up off the ground.

I was nearly face to face with her, my head slightly sluggish from the manticore poison and the immersion I had in my freefall. She breathed through her nose in annoyance, and she once again had that same stoic look on her countenance.

Despite how menacing she looked, I was still captivated by her opal eyes. However, the fact that she caught me was something that my emotions got ahold of.

“But still,” she continued, “it doesn't excuse the fact tha-”

“Go ahead.” I responded with saddened submission.

My response seemed to cause her expression to change from menacing to puzzled.

“What?” She said.

“I said ‘go ahead’,” I repeated, “Do whatever you want with me. Punch me in the face. Throw me to the ground. I don’t care anymore. It’s all you ever seem to do with me anyway, treat me as a punching bag instead of a living being. Just...make it quick.”

And with the last word said, I closed my eyes, ready for whatever punishment Tempest was going to give me. A tear dripped down my eyes, and I clenched my fists while being ready. It seemed as if minutes were going by already, but I didn’t care how long this was going to take.

Imagine my surprise when I felt my feet touch the ground.

I opened my eyes and found that Tempest had put me down, before letting go of my shirt. I saw her rubbing her arm, as well as looking from me to the side for a bit with a look of surprising guilt.

“Spencer…” she suddenly said, “I’m sorry. I should’ve remem-”

*Snap*

A twig snapped loudly nearby. I noticed Tempest’s eyes scan to the right. Unexpectedly, she quickly moved forward to me, before using her arm to pull me closer to her.

“Stay close to me,” she ordered.

I did as she said, also not having a choice in the matter, because she wrapped one of her arms across the front of my shoulder area. The palm of her hand seemed to really hold to the shoulder it touched and I could feel her arm press onto me in a protective sort of way. The back of my head had even touched her chest to where I felt really pressed against it. The protectiveness she was displaying and her touch felt so...comforting.

She slowly turned around, lowering into a defensive stance while holding me, and ready to take on whatever was out there. I managed to turn my head and see into the brush nearby. I spotted something large move and I feared the manticore had returned. However, the creature, or whatever it was, was moving through the brush at a slow, lumbering pace. Tempest took several paces forward, her sword at the ready for anything, and still holding me close to her. Her shield was nearby on the ground, as she had apparently disregarded it in favor of unexpectedly trying to keep me safe.

“Come out, beast. I know you're there,” she said, but it sounded more like a hushed whisper.

A deep growl came from within the forest, and a sudden chill crawled up my spine, making me want to lean into Tempest more for comfort as I gave off a meek chuckle, although I feared she would just pulverize me if I did. That is, until she protectively pressed me further into her, where it felt like the back of my head was practically digging into her chest.. A deep huffing noise came after and repeated several times, the figure turning its attention on her and her alone. A pair of unfriendly, beady eyes appeared, and the creature came into view.

It was a large grizzly bear.

Of all the things I was expecting to encounter in this magical land, a plain old bear was not on that list.

I imagined that Tempest would have an easy time dealing with a simple bear. In fact, she would more than likely beat the bear, skin it, and use it for a giant rug. And also to have me clean it every now and then. I turned to Tempest, expecting to go full out on the bear without any mercy. The manticore was easily dealt with ease, a grizzly should be no problem for Tempest.

However, she did not move from her spot in the slightest.

In fact, I noticed her body was trembling, and I could feel vibrations from her against my body and from her hold on me.

“Tempest?” I called her name, hoping she would hear me.

Yet, despite my call, she refused to answer. The only reply I got was her hand and arm slowly dropping from me, and I could swear I felt her hand unwittingly brush against my right hand. She gripped her sword tightly and I noticed that her knuckles were turning white from the grip.

“No…no. Not again…not again,” she said in a hushed whisper, her eyes were wide with shock and her once steady breathing coming out in shudders.

The grizzly bear huffed and gruffed, swiping a claw onto the ground and sniffing the air around him. I remained deathly still, unsure of what the bear would do. I watched its beady eyes turn tous, a deep growl coming out of its maw. The bear then lifted itself onto its haunches, standing what I guessed to be almost ten feet in staggering height. The bear let out a roar that was long and loud, and my body shook from its bellow. Tempest’s sword then dropped out of her hands, and her body remained still as ever.

“He’s going to kill me! He’s going to kill me!” Tempest said, her body quivering.

“Tempest! Snap out of it!” I called out, but once again I was ignored. She looked to be in a state of shock. I managed to sit upright but my left arm was still dead. I looked to Tempest once more, hoping for some small sign that she was responsive, but her focus was solely on the bear itself. I looked down to the sword and shield that was by her feet and wondered if the bear could be scared off.

I didn’t pay much attention to those nature documentaries, but it was worth a shot if we wanted to get out of this alive.

I slowly crouched my way to Tempest’s feet, the sword my prize. The plan was to grab the sword and smack it against the shield, with the hope that there would be enough noise to spook the bear. My movement did not go unnoticed. The grizzly bear eyed my snail-like pace and huffed out in clear vexation. It roared once more, its massive body looming over us before landing on the ground with a mighty thud. The bear charged, its rumbling body quickly shortening the distance between us. My focus on the sword was imperative, and I quickly went and grabbed it with my right hand. My eyes focused on the shield, seeing it on its back. I cursed as I fumbled getting the shield off the ground. The bear was seconds away, its body coming like a giant wrecking ball. I managed to flip the shield over and onto its front side, and I looked to see the bear was almost upon us. I let out a scream of defiance and smacked the blade’s edge onto the shield, creating a loud clang from the impact.

The bear halted its charge and staggered back from the noise.

“Hey! HEY! Go away!” I shouted out, repeating myself while smacking the sword against the shield.

The noise reverberated around me as I continued to strike the sword against the shield, making it as loud as possible for the bear to get the message. The tiny ears on its head folded back and it shook its head from the noise. I kept at it as long as I could, clanging and banging the shield as loudly as possible. My heart was like a drum pounding in my chest. I was too scared to do anything but create such a racket that the bear would be forced to leave. I continued to shout, curse, and bellow the best war cry I could, in an effort to get the bear to go away.

I’m not sure what god was watching over us, but after another few tense moments, the bear reared up and took off into the woods.

Even after it was gone I still continued to smash the sword into the shield, hoping that my continued racket would not only keep the bear away, but deter any other animal from getting close to us.

After about a minute of pounding the shield, and my arm becoming sore from the workout, I stopped all together and breathed out in exhaustion. I shuddered and felt the need to collapse then and have sleep overtake me. I looked down to the shield, seeing noticeable dents in its frame, while the sword looked like it had a few chips here and there. I was probably going to be berated for using the sword in such a way, but it was the least of my worries at the moment.

I cast a glance up to Tempest, wondering if she had snapped out of her stupor. When I looked upon her, she was as still as a rock, her eyes, the size of pinpricks, were the only things quivering in place. I shakily stood up and tried to see if Tempest was responsive in any way. Even while standing in front of her, she was still shell shocked, not even regarding me in the slightest.

“Tempest?” I asked, my hand reaching for hers in an attempt to get her to snap out of it. I held her right hand with my left, her fingers curling into my own.

“Tempest?” I spoke again, my face right in front of her own.

Once again, I stared into those opal eyes of hers and wondered what was going through her mind. I felt a small reaction out of her right hand, and its grip tightened somewhat in mine. Tempest blinked and her eyes slowly returned to normal, almost as if she came out of a dream. She then stared at me as if for the first time, and her breathing seemed to return to normal the longer she looked at me.

“Spencer?” she almost whispered, her voice was shuddering slightly from the experience.

Strangely enough, she didn't say anything else. I thought this little moment was peaceful.

I saw her eyes become directed towards our hands holding each other, obviously finding that she was feeling something warm. Her look became one of shock upon finding my hand holding hers, especially with how tightly held they were.

“Oh! Um…” I said with realization, slowly and gently unfurling my hand from hers in nervousness while blushing.

She let go of my hand in return, clearing her throat and blushing slightly as if she felt nervous like I was.

Even after that, though, and despite how nervous each of us felt, we stared at one another. I just couldn’t stop looking at her and her eyes for some reason. I wasn’t sure why Tempest was staring at me, that’s for sure. But, it seemed like there was something about me that caught her attention in return.

“Lieutenant!”

“Are you here?!”

The moment was ruined when two familiar voices came out of the trees, and I turned my head to see who could be coming.

Before I could turn my head back to Tempest, I was shoved back, the initial pushback forcing me violently to the ground. I groaned outwardly, and while on my back, I could see both Flint and Tinder rushing out of the trees. Both were carrying what appeared to be miniature cannons.

Those two have so much free time it's insane.

“Lieutenant! Are you alright?!” Flint was the first to speak.

“We did exactly as you ordered and came to find you after thirty minutes time.” Tinder spoke next, hefting the large cannon in his hand, which looked quite an awful lot like a larger version of a blunderbuss the more I looked at it.

“I’m fine. We ran into some trouble with the wildlife, but they were scared off,” Tempest said in the calmest voice possible, but there was a hint of apprehension that still remained.

“Awww…I wanted to try out our little boom booms,” Flint said, as Tinder lifted a hand onto his friend's shoulder.

“It’s okay, boom booms can get a chance to go Boom another time,” he explained.

I couldn’t help but repress a chuckle at the names, reminding me all too much of one of my young nieces accidently going in her diaper and calling out ‘I went boom boom.’

Probably one of the funniest moments I had ever seen in my life.

“I need one of you to take Spencer back to camp. He is injured and his wounds need to be attended to.”

“On it!” the two said in unison, and Flint, though it may have been Tinder because of how out of it I was, came toward me and lifted me up onto his shoulder.

I hung over his shoulder like a prized buck and the two began heading back to camp. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tempest gather her gear and start walking alongside us. She was silent during our short journey and I couldn’t help but wonder what she was going through.

Wanting to get my mind off things, I asked a question to Flint and Tinder.

“How did you two find us so quickly and not get lost out here?” I asked and I heard Flint perk up.

“Well that is simple, the collar around your neck has a tracker in it.” he explained.

“Indeed, the tracker keeps close contact with the camp, so any user wearing it will be guided back to the camp, no matter how far they try to escape.”

I groaned internally over that remark. Knowing that I was not going in circles, rather, the collar was keeping in check and had me go out a certain range like an electric dog fence.

I’d been going in circles for nothing.

“It’s a good thing we found you when we did,” Tinder continued.

“Yeah...if you didn’t have the collar, we would have been lost and got up into each others faces over where to go.” Flint explained.

“Why would you two get lost?” I yawned, trying to continue before my body gave into exhaustion.

“Well, you see, we went into these woods to hunt some game. And yet the further we went, the more the air started to close in on us.”

“It was not natural,” Tinder added to his partner, “We got irritable, started arguing, and even fought with each other over where the game is.”

“When we eventually returned to camp, our minds were clear and we both were perplexed about the whole deal.” Flint finished.

I pondered over his words. My mind had been rather unfocused and I had thought of things I shouldn’t have. I even went so far as to try and put the blame on Tempest when she was close by. It looked like she was also experiencing some of it the longer she stayed in the woods. I shuddered to imagine if we had stayed any longer than necessary imagined what else would have happened to us.

There was a great mystery in these woods, and not even magic could solve or comprehend it.

After another ten minutes or so, the four of us were out of the woods and heading towards the camp. The light of the sun seemed to be low in the sky. I yawned again, my worn body already wanting to go to sleep. I cast a sideways glance to Tempest, who continued to hold the sword and shield in her hands. However, she looked rather downcast, and her mood remained the same ever since we got out of the Everfree. I wanted to say something to gauge her attention but couldn’t find the right words to speak to her.

Before I could say anything, I heard a low humming sound coming from up above. Both Flint and Tinder stopped in their tracks to look up, the movement causing my head to hang upside down uncomfortably, and causing my depraved mind to feel loopy. It was possible that my flight from Tempest had taken more out of me than I realized, or the numbing paralysis of the manticore stinger acted as a sedative.

Either way, I was probably moments away from just wanting to sleep the rest of the night away.

“Ah, it’s her!” Tinder spoke in enthusiasm.

“I hope we can get more materials for our new models.” Flint added.

“You can treat with her later, right now our prisoner is our top priority,” Tempest spoke in a rather annoyed tone.

I managed to tilt my head to the side. I was able to see a large ship that was coming port side, and spotted that it had a giant blimp at the top that kept the ship afloat while the bottom half resembled an actual ship at sea. The top of the blimp had a headpiece that resembled a bird of some sort, but instead of that, it resembled something I couldn’t quite put a finger on. From what I could tell, there were a few figures moving about on the ship, and from the looks of things, they were wearing very different attire than all the black that the Storm King’s armies would normally wear.

Some were even wearing hats.

On the edge of the ramparts of the ship, I caught sight of a strange looking figure with a large hat and a single earring over a wing. She had a sword in one hand and a pegleg that resembled a crystal. Before I could pass out from the amount of toxins and exhaustion ravaging my body, I got a glimpse of her face and couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Heh…that's funny. A parrot looking like a pirate. Now I’ve... seen… everything,” was all I could mutter and slur out of my mouth before everything turned to black and the dream world took me.

As sleep took me, I felt something soft and warm touch my cheek. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it felt like someone was caressing me. Slumber took me before I had the strength to peek at who it was.

A Princess Intermission

View Online

I stirred in the dream world and felt like I was in a river. My mind felt numb, my body drifting in the lazy current as I continued to stare up into the sky. The water was soothing my brain and it flowed naturally around my body, and it made me feel at ease. However, all subtle things must come to a end and all too soon I began to hearing voices that was causing me to stir in my peaceful drift.

“You’re pathetic!” one voice called out, making me flinch from the response.

“You are so despicable!” A feminine voice shouted, filled with venom. I felt something shear across my face and I winced from the pain.

“You are just like all the men! This is what you should all get!” another woman's voice came screeching at me.

Then, something was splashed onto my head, the faint scent was repugnant to my nose. I coughed and gagged, being pelted by unknown projectiles that felt all too familiar. The waters around me started to become more violent, thrashing me about in a rapid current that threatened to sink me down and drown me in the white waters.

“Look at him! He grovels! He’s such a loser!” another woman's voice spoke out, this one more annoying then the others.

They were all laughing. A chorus of women were who they were, and they were laughing and belittling me. I didn’t do anything wrong to them, yet they treat me like garbage, human refuse. I dared open an eye and I saw a pair of red glowing eyes, the same ones that I was all too acquainted with. It hovered over my body, piercing my very soul. The feminine form scorning and laughing at me. I shuddered and the waters around me turned to ice, making my blood cold and and my breath come to a gasping shudder. I wanted to tear my eyes off her and escape. Yet, I was held there, prisoner to this beast.

I did not do anything to them.

The black feminine form sneered, its lips cracking at the edge of its mouth like the cheshire cat. It's hands, whispering pales of darkness, enveloped over my head, pushing me into the ice and forcing me to drink the water, which blackened by its presence. I frantically struggled, my body flailing to the point that my skin could peel off from the ice. While I continued to drink the poisoned waters unwillingly, I could still hear their laughter all around me. I could not plead for them to stop. I could not have this be halted. I couldn’t do anything while they put me down.

Why did she betray me?

My thoughts were of that women and my thoughts turned to anger and bitterness. I wanted to break away and fight back, to make them suffer as I have. But the more I struggled against them, the more they pushed back. It was almost as if they were enjoying my suffering. My vision began to fade, my breath becoming short, and soon I felt my life was going to pass from me.

“That’s enough of this.” a soothing voice broke through the laughter of those sirens, ceasing their mirth and hissing at a light that came into my view.

I blinked once, my breath once again found air and the weight of the darkness pressing on my chest was lifted. A familiar humming emanated nearby and the river around me began to disperse.I began to float out of the miasma and drift towards a warm embrace.

“There, there… You’re safe now, Spencer.”

I opened my eyes and I shuddered slightly, seeing Princess Luna watching over me. My breath came out in quick succession and my body shivered though I felt no cold. I felt Luna’s warmth welcoming and my head was resting on her lap facing her abdomen. I curled myself inward, feeling she was the only source of heat.

“Luna,” I almost shouted in joy and sadness, my arms curling around her waist and pulling myself closer to her.

I held onto her as if she was the only island in the sea of darkness. My body continued to quake while she tended to me, her fingers tracing tiny ministrations on my back and my scalp and her wings wrapping around me to give me a winghug.

“Shh… It’s okay… You're safe, Spencer. The corruption can’t get you.” She replied, whispering soothing words as I continued to shudder in her embrace.

I felt so small, like a child beside its mother.

“Luna… I—” I went to say, but I heard a loud thump nearby.

Casting my gaze slightly I saw that both of us were in a blue shield, and all around us was utter blackness. The only thing visible was a wraith-like form hovering over the sphere, its red eyes glaring daggers at me.

“It won’t get in. This creature is to weak to break through my defenses,” she claimed.

I eased somewhat, yet still kept my gaze onto the creature that surrounded us.

“How did you find me? I thought you could only work at night?” I asked, yet she only giggled in reply.

“Even a Princess needs naps now and then. I tend to sleep during the early hours of the day as my sister sleeps during the night. Yet, despite that, I can still sense those around me who are off in the dream scape. I saw your distress and immediately found you. Surprisingly, it was much easier to reach you this time than the previous nights,” she explained.

I wonder how that could be possible? Wouldn’t the Storm King's magic be difficult to penetrate? I thought she was having trouble? I wondered.

While my mind wandered I felt Luna trace her fingers over my left shoulder, the same spot where the manticore had struck me with its stinger. I noticed a hitch in her breath while she gently brushed over my back.

“You’ve been poisoned and your body is badly damaged,” she pressed a thumb onto shoulder and traced over the wound but I hardly even felt it, “What did the Storm King do to you?” I shook my head to her, my face brushing against her abdomen, which felt more comforting the longer I was there.

“Nothing. . . I was hit by a manticore stinger in the Everfree Forest. The beast would have killed me were it not for Tempest’s intervention,” I explained, looking up to meet her in the eye. “It wasn't them that did it, but I did have a nasty tumble down a hill. I don’t think it’s all bad, just got away with some minor bruises and some numbness in my left arm.”

“Your left arm is broken Spencer, and your shoulder is dislocated,” she said impassively.

“Okay nevermind, that explains my numbness,” I mumbled.

I was wondering why I didn’t feel any pain at that point. The venom’s poisoning agent must have suppressed any feeling in my left arm.

I hopoed that when I wake up, my arm woudn't be in serious pain.

*Smack*

The creature outside Princess Luna’s sphere crashed into her barrier, attempting to break in. It freaked me out as its face looked distorted and changed in ways that made my stomach curl. Luna sighed in annoyance and looked up to the creature, who hovered over the sphere, baring its serrated teeth as it was trying to break through her shield.

“Persistent aren’t you?” she said, lifting a hand off my back and facing her right palm towards it, as well as pulling her wings back to herself.

A surge of light enveloped the sphere and I was able to witness the light form underneath the shadow creature. Within seconds, the creature was only able to cast a glance before the powerful beam shot out, rippling across its body from the impact. The creature disappeared into the air, and the darkness around us began to become clear once again. I sighed in relief when the land around us became more lush with life of an open field, the darkness finally dissipating from sight.

“Strange,” Princess Luna muttered. I looked up to her and saw that her body remained looking ahead, her complexion turning a little pale from what I could see, “Why did that creature feel so familiar?”

“Luna, is something wrong?” I asked, unsure of why she seemed more concerned.

Before I could get her reply I started to feel something strange on my left shoulder. A burning sensation was draining my body and I inwardly groaned from the pain. My discomfort drew Luna’s attention for she immediately snapped out of her stupor and began examining my back.

“I sense your captors are injecting you with a cure to combat the poison. It is a crude medicine they have administered to you, but it will likely help ease you,” she explained.

I had to agree with her.

If I was awake I would no doubt pass out from just seeing the needle.

It’s one thing I hate the most when I visit the doctor's office.

I felt at ease a little when I felt Luna’s hand caress my head, wiping away some sweat that trickled down my face.

“Listen Spencer, I must go and tell my sister about not only your condition, but of the creature I had to driven off,” she explained. I worried that she hadn't completely destroyed it. Before I could reply she placed a finger onto my lips to quiet me, “Shhh…. be at ease. I will return in due time. Just be strong Spencer. I must be certain of my assumptions before I can tell you what is afflicting both you and Tempest. I will see you when I am able,” she said.

I felt the light begin to change around us and the dream-like realm had slowly shifted away.


A loud pop came out of my left shoulder and I inwardly groaned from the pain. My eyes opened up and all I could see was a blur and seeing stars in my sight. It looked like it was night. Light rain pattered against my face and cheeks. I was breathing heavily and out of my vision, I saw that I was sitting upright. I could see a pair of feet in front of me. I felt lightheaded and I couldn’t feel most parts of my body.

Limbo struck me hard with the side of numbness on the side for being still for so long.

“That should do the trick. His arm is back in its socket, but can’t say much about the rest of him.” I heard a familiar feminine voice nearby. I felt weighted and I couldn't see who’s voice it was or where it belonged to. A hand pressed against my head, the only part of my body that I could feel at the moment, and I was gently lowered back down onto the ground. Despite my blurry sight I could see Tempest was over me, her hands around my head and holding me up. I felt her fingers on either side of my head, cradling me up from all the aches and pains that I had.

The moment she was holding me like this, I found it to be really nice.

“Tempest… You okay?” I muttered, but the words that came out did not sound that at all. Instead what I felt like I had was a slab of meat in my mouth that wouldn’t move on its own. Tempest took notice of this and she looked up to someone nearby.

“It appears the cure for the manticore’s poison is working, but I'm not sure if your cure also had a side effect of making his tongue go numb, ”

Numb Tongue?! That’s just great! I thought, groaning in disbelief over not only how I cannot fell half the left side of my body, but that my only way of communication was now incapable of any speech.

Hitting my funny bone and couldn’t feel it for minutes is child's play compared to what I was experiencing.

“Don’t worry. It may be a slight side effect, but he will be better in no time,” a new voice came in, one that sounde quite sassy in her remark.

I managed to see past Tempest and spotted a long red feather coming into view above her. Said feather began to move in my peripheral vision and sprouted from a large hat. When the hat came behindTempest and in my sight, I saw that it was none other then a bird.

A big, womanly, curvious, parrot-like, pirate bird.

I couldn’t make this up if I was drunk and passed out with Pinkie Pie dancing in a flamingo outfit.

Actually, I think she would dress up like that.

The pirate parrot lady, or lady parrot, or whatever she could be called, was a tall woman with green feathers as hair, and a tail that flowed naturally as she moved. She wore a yellow vest or armor of some sort, which had a strange viking valkyrie vibe going on with the way it made her body shaped and curved out her chest, along with a green sash around the waist. Her feathers were gray, and on her right leg was a crystal peg leg. She had a red raspberry eyes with green eyeliner, a small beauty mark on her left cheek, and an earring on her left ear.

All in all, she definitely had the fancy look of a pirate. The kind like Anne Bonny or Mary Read during the early 18th Century and the late pirate era.

Piracy was still alive and well in Equestria it seemed.

“Well, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. He will be out of it for some time, if not for several weeks. But lucky enough for you, we have some special antivenom in our stores that will help him.” She said, casting a glance to Tempest, who in turn looked to the pirate, “I’d give him ten days at best,” she said.

I groaned inwardly.

Ten whole days of having this poison still running amok in my body was probably the second worst thing of happening to me while being here. The first being getting captured in the stupidest way possible.

Actually, I take that back, getting drunk and taking a piss on a Storm Guard was the stupidest thing possible.

Or… maybe accidentally landing my hands on Tempest breasts.

Yeah, probably that.

“Oh little monkey,” the pirate parrot noticed my discomforted moan and one of her talons booped my nose and chuckled. “Have a little faith. Ole Captain Celaeno and her trusted crew will bring you back to full health in no time.” She smiled at me and gave a friendly chuckle. “My crew can attend to him if you wish,” she directed towards Tempest

The commander nodded in kind.

Captain Celaeno, as she called herself, gestured to two other bird-like crew members nearby and they went to either side of me and lifted me up with ease and out of Tempest’s grasp. My eyes rested on the two crew members.

I couldn’t help but blush at the two bird parrot women that I was staring at.

On my right was a red eyed, green feathered pirate with brown feathers and wearing an eye patch on her right eye, with a black armband on her right elbow and a pair of black leather gauntlets. She wore a belt buckle around her waist and a dark blue leather shirt with several strings going across her chest. On my left was a green eyed red headed pirate with light yellow feathers across her body. She wore a orange leather shirt, bearing a small earing on her right ear, along with a red sash that strapped around her waist. She also bore a small scar going around the middle of her sternum and up to her right collarbone.

These two looked like they have seen their fair share of adventures but they took their captain’s orders and did not seemed bothered about caring for me. They might have dealt with a manticore before but it was a guess at this point. Yet, despite the way they looked, they held me with care and both gave me kind smiles.

In fact… I didn’t mind my recovery being nurtured by these two fine and, if I may be so kind, beautifully endowed girls.

Unless it's a bunch of feathers underneath. Then I’ll be greatly disappointed. I think.

I hope not.

My head was clasped once again by Tempest, her fingernails pressing gently into the back of my neck. My eyes shifted to her as the three carried me away.

“Don’t worry, Spencer. Just hold on. Everything will be alright” she said, her voice smooth as silk. It was the only thing I could focus on.

I gave a weak smile, the effects of the anti-venom taking its toll on me and sending me off to dreamland.

Oh lord… if this is a dream… surrounded and being cared for by beautiful women...please do not let it end.

It was my last thought before Tempest faded and I was once again in peaceful slumber.

The Storm King's Wrath

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“Ah boy. I feel like a sloth,” the Storm King mumbled while sitting on his throne.

He had slouched over slightly and his arms hung on either side of his seat, possibly in an attempt to achieve the most relaxed position that can rival a cat, or to veg out and not have a care in the world.

As for me, I stayed silent in the corner of the room, with a small notebook on my lap and a quill in my right hand.

It had been at least three days since my tussle with the beasts of the Everfree, and today, my work schedule was to be at the Storm King’s side. He wanted to keep an eye on me since I was valued as a worthy prize or bargaining chip of some kind with Equestria. It didn’t matter much to me. I knew in my heart that Princess Luna, Celestia, and everyone else, was coming up with a plan on how to get me out of here.

I just wished they’d hurry the hell up.

Despite myself being in this position, and being up and about, I was still in my recovering phase. Currently, I was sporting a few bandages around my body that would make any warrior proud. Although, if they knew what happened they would laugh themselves in a tissy. For starters, a sling was wrapped around my left arm, supporting it rather comfortably. It was broken due to my tumble down the hill and needed a good solid few weeks, if not months, to recover. Another heavy dressing was on the back of my left shoulder, where the manticore stabbed me with its stinger. There were a few small gauze pads placed on my cheeks and forehead from all the scrapes I took from the fall.

I looked like Rocky Balboa after a fight with all the purple and blue bruises but much worse.

My body was sore all over, my left side was still numb, and my shirt had so many holes people would assume I was a changeling for the hell of it. And for the life of me, I had this terrible itch under my left side that I couldn’t scratch because the sling was in the way. I wanted nothing more than to tear this sling off and scratch that annoying spot like a dog dragging his butt across a carpet.

That would bring more relief than anything else for me. There’s really nothing like it after you get rid of the itch.

Despite my own protest of the new gimmick, I did find that it was by the doctor’s orders. As in, two parrot pirate ladies who said so or my recovery would not be successful. In fact, when I woke up this morning, they were carefully finishing dressing my wounds and caring for my every need. It turned out later on that they both were the ship’s doctors/barbers of the pirate crew, and they were very careful in my treatment.

Although, despite their care and wellbeing, I still felt like I was cheated.

As in, I didn’t even get to experience anything from what they did to me.

Don’t understand? Let me explain.

From what they told me, they gave me the whole one over of a complete and full body massage. Their massaging helped me feel much more relaxed and my back feels a whole lot better. It was true in fact that I did, since the poison had encompassed seventy percent of my body. They told me that my body was healing and that I would make a faster recovery.

However, in the past few days, I didn’t even get to experience it. I was practically in and out of sleep, my body slipping into a near limbo of consciousness, only to fall back to sleep with barely a glimpse of the bodacious parrot ladies that cared for me. I was only able to experience the last bit this morning when I was finally able to get up from bed. They were putting up the finishing touches of my sling and giving a small massage on my numbed shoulder, which I still barely felt due to how numb the center of my left shoulder and back was feeling. Afterwards, they said they would come back after a few days once they finished up some assignments with their captain.

I hate to say it, but even after what they did for me, and being adrift in sleep and alertness, I felt like a baby robbed of its candy.

I didn’t even get their names.

“So, anything else you humans do that’s beyond breaking a piggy bank?” The Storm King spoke, startling me, his eyes not even drifting in my direction, “Anything? Come on, thrill me. Chill me.”

I rolled my eyes because of his demand, having grown tired of telling him about all of the bad stuff people on my world did.

I placed the small quill and began writing on the notebook in big letters for him to read. After a minute of writing with my good hand I lifted the parchment and presented it to him, and it read, ‘Can I tell you about the Iron Maiden again or the wooden rack that pulls the limbs of the victims until they break from the pressure?’

The Storm King merely glanced at me because of the written words, groaning while rolling his eyes in annoyance.

“Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t exactly find them to be original by my standards,” he grumbled, his sharp talons gripping the edge of the armrest and tapping them back and forth.

I sighed internally over that and ripped the used piece of paper out. I tossed it to a small pile of balled up sheets at my feet.

For the last few hours now, I had been subjected in speaking with the Storm King over a number of things. He mostly wanted to keep an eye on me since I was deemed too valuable of an asset to be harmed any further. He couldn’t amuse himself either by torturing me with the shock collar around my neck and had delegated earlier with his senior officers over their latest works and duties before sending them off. Now, it seemed like he had nothing to do and was bored out of his mind.

He decided to give me the quill and notebook, mainly because he assumed that my voice didn't return yet due to the manticore poison. However, my voice did return in a slightly understandable way, and I was able to speak briefly with Tempest and the pirates before they had to leave for their respective duties.

But I didn’t want to tell him. Where’s the fun in that?

Getting a little idea that was springing up in my head I quickly jotted down a few lines into the parchment. After a few tedious moments I lifted the quill off the paper and showed the notebook to the Storm King. He eyed what I had written, which said ‘Do you wish for me to tell you about anything else that is sinister. Or something that you haven’t heard before?’

“Ugh...kid, I doubt that what you’re gonna tell me is cruel and unusual enough to pique my interest.” the Storm King stated.

I took a moment to write again, mumbling and pretending that I can’t speak. After another moment, I showed him the next line within the notebook, which said, ‘That’s fine. Guess you don’t want to hear about the tool that causes crippling depression to everyone who uses it.”

For some reason, that was enough to make the Storm King stir and look at me with inquisitive eyes.

“Okay, now that’s got my interest.” he said, his eyes focused squarely on me.

It took me another minute to write once more, but I knew what I was planning. After a little bit of writing I showed him what I had and watched him as he read, “Well, for starters, it’s something that was created in order to bring people together. However, ever since its inception, it began to take a dark turn.”

I watched one of the Storm King’s brows curl upward, and a sinister smile that would rival the Grinch slowly crept up his countenance.

“Kid, my intrigue levels have just increased to 100%. Mind giving me the rundown?” he asked, clearly intrigued by how I was telling this.

I couldn’t help but crack a cheeky grin. This was going to be fun.

A couple of minutes of writing later, I showed him the next bit onto the notebook.

‘Well, after the sudden setback it got, many people from all around the world gathered to write their own experiences in life. They did it on a day to day basis, keeping in touch with each other and stuff. However, once it grew darker, people started to become more selfless to the point of being self-lovingly narcissistic.’

The Storm King hummed to himself while leaning on his throne, clearly enjoying what I had to say. He urged me to go on with a wave of his hand and I wrote down once again.

‘They became all the more self centered, glorifying themselves that they would show the whole world what they loved to the point that it becomes a daily phenomenon. Every aspect of their lives is broadcast to the world on a platter, but the way it's done is constantly shoved into your face by all these different people. No matter what you would do, they always showed you these random things that they believed was the most important thing in their life, when in fact...it just degrades whoever sees them. They realize that their lives suck compared to others.’

The Storm King rubbed under the crook of his chin, amusing to my point of view. He waited patiently as I wrote a few more lines into the notebook.

‘What’s worse is that there are trolls. People who say nasty things to the good hearted or insecure. They pepper their lies and deceit onto others in order to make them feel worse. In fact, just one certain comment from a person is enough to make others think their pathetic. While some wish to silence others by putting a false narrative over another’s opinions, it becomes nothing but propaganda to the masses. Not even humble folk who wish to speak their minds are safe.’

The Storm King was utterly giddy, his teeth flashing out like a gorilla. I had to repress the urge to laugh over the face he was making, but I kept my composure as he leaned further out of his seat.

“What’s it called?” The Storm King asked, on the edge of pure unadulterated joy.

I wrote the next few lines into the notebook, taking my entire will from not bursting out laughing.

I turned the notebook around to show him, ‘It’s called…social media.’

The Storm King narrowed his eyes at the words and his smile was diminished to a puzzled expression.

“Social media?” he drew a finger on his chin and looked away, trying to decipher the meaning behind the name, “Sounds too friendship-y to me.”

My inner child was wanting to laugh out loud and promptly roll on the floor over this. Despite that, I held myself together and decided to write a few more words into the notebook, while my lips were threatening to split into a smile. After a minute or two I turned the note back to the Storm King.

‘It’s often the category that many would refer to places, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are strange names, but they’re only called those names to fool people and lure them in. People often place personal information people place into them was thought to be kept in close circles. However, the creators of social media made history with them only for personal gain, and the trolls on the site will take the most sacred of personal information and use it to destroy another human being.’

“I see,” The Storm King mumbled, trying to piece together what I entailed him.

Normally, I’m not against social media websites at all. In fact, I’m a user of Facebook, and I know people tend to gather on the internet to talk about experiences that are goodhearted and filled with joy. In certain aspects they’re not all that bad. Though…I never used it often because my friends back on earth weren’t far away from me. It’s also because, to me, the more one used it, the more the person would lose connection to others outside the internet. Plus, a lot of times people would post things that weren’t important, such as someone saying that they had a sandwich, so it only fueled the need to not be a part of it too much.

“I gotta tell ya, whoever made these ‘social media’ clubs must be quite the slick con men. What do they particularly look like?” the Storm King asked, snapping me from my thoughts and focusing on what's at hand.

I began writing once again in the notebook, and after another minute, I presented my reply, ‘Imagine a tall man with red hair and blue eyes, always so full of himself.’

“Scary. But, not that impressive,” The Storm King gave a half smirk at my reply, cleary thinking that he may have heard of this kind of thing before.

A moment or two of scribbling down more words later…

‘The man never even blinks, and he is constantly watching.’ was what I wrote.

“Is that what every social media founder is like?”

Right when I heard that question, I immediately felt so giddy at writing my reply. However, I suddenly froze, my pencil touching the piece of paper I had. What would make him ask that question?

Slowly, I turned around, feeling very nervous all of a sudden. But when I was only halfway turned around, I suddenly felt a clawed hand clutch itself around my neck, choking me and turning me around. It was the Storm King who was holding me by the throat, standing up from his chair unlike before and lifting me up into the air. I saw that he looked very peeved, but also amused in some way.

The Storm King chuckled, “Pretty sneaky. You had a really great prank going, but I caught on when I asked what the people you were talking about looked like.”

I didn’t say anything, only thinking that my eyes were going to pop out of my sockets and my windpipe was going to be crushed if he didn’t let go.

“Let me tell you a little secret. Before I got to where I am today, I lived in a small village in the mountains and often pulled pranks on others to have some laughs, and many would try to get me back in return,” the Storm King explained, “Using every experience, and everything I learned when it comes to pranking, I learned how to immediately tell when somebody’s trying to pull my leg.”

“Oh shut up. You’re crushing my windpipe!” I mentally shouted as I gagged for breath, my right arm trying to hold on for dear life while I frantically tried to get free.

“But, the days of joking for all in good fun are behind me now, so I’d like for you to know something,” He grimly told me, tightening his claw around my throat to where tears started coming out of my eyes, “The only reason I’m keeping you alive instead of killing you, and using your body as a rag to clean up your spilled blood afterwards, is because I find that you’re the perfect bargaining chip to use against Equestria’s head honchoes. But, try to make me look like an idiot again, and I’ll be pounding your head with my fist like a hammer would a nail. Get it?”

I immediately shook my head ‘yes’ in response, understanding now that there would be big consequences for me if I tried pranking him again.

“Good.” he said.

And just like that, he threw me to the ground until I landed right next to the left wall of the tent, oxygen slowly coming back to me after landing and my windpipe no longer feeling like it was going to explode.

“Sir,” Tempest’s voice entered the tent.

From the corner of my eye, I saw the tent flap open and Tempest enter inside.

The Storm King whirled his head and scowled.

“If this is about our deal, Tempest, I’m really not in the mood for talking about that at the moment,” He said to her, before sighing, “Any reason you’re here besides that?”

“I have the plans ready for your approval.” she stated, her demeanor being as straight and emotionless as it often was when in front of the Storm King.

The Storm King’s eyes suddenly widened upon hearing that.

“Oh,” he said, before suddenly becoming glad and joyful, “Well, why didn’t you say so? I thought that you’d be here for something that would make today all-the-more uneventful, but now we’re getting somewhere.” he said, before strolling over to Tempest while not regarding me in the slightest.

I collapsed in a heap, which gave me a reprieve of some sorts and a chance to finally get some air. The Storm King was with Tempest, who carried a large map of some sort and placed it on the table nearby. I managed to get up despite my lungs needing air and my limbs needing energy. I decided to remain where I was, recovering from a near death experience from a crazy psycho.

“The Ghastly Gorge?” The Storm King asked, my attention drawn to him as he looked over the map.

“Yes. I discussed this with the other lieutenants, and they approved of this plan. The path to follow shows that we are nearing a major river, which is near both Ghastly Gorge and the southern end of the Everfree. Once we pass the gorge, we can take the army upriver and to the heart of Equestria. The capital would be easier to reach if we follow the river and avoid the natural barrier of the Everfree Forest.” she explained.

“Seems like a logical course, but...I’d like for the camp to get to Canterlot faster. We have to get there before they prepare further defenses, and I’m not in the mood for an enemy to be shooting an arrow in my butt,” The Storm King said, placing a finger under his chin and contemplating some diabolical scheme in his mind.

I was silently amused by all of this. They were unwittingly discussing their plans in front of a prisoner, who just so happened to have a connection with the princess of the night.

Just pretend I’m not paying attention Spencer, let them play it all out.

“I still recommend that we follow the train tracks over the gorge so it would be easier to avoid-”

“No,” The Storm King interjected, slapping a firm hand onto the table, “We’ll take the ships and get to the river quicker. I’m tired of waiting because of whatever ‘hocus pocus’ that’s been getting thrown at us.”

“Your Excellency,” she calmly replied, “If I may be sensible on the matter, we lost two ships from the previous storm, and to my point of view, taking the ships again would be unwise. If we lose more because of another freak storm that comes our way, or a surprise attack while we’re vulnerable, the number of troops and ships we have will drop drastically as we make our way to the capital.”

I eyed the Storm King giving her the stink eye. A sneer appeared on his face. He slowly turned to her, his prodigious frame dwarfing her as she stood her ground. He lowered a hand and a single finger pressed underneath her chin. She fidgeted in place while he lowered himself until he was right in front of her face. I felt an uneasy feeling creep up my spine while he glared at her.

“I’m gonna be honest about this, Tempest. I wasted far too much time gathering and preparing for this invasion. The entire army is mustered at my disposal and is ready to deliver its package to Equestria. And only the Princesses have the magic that I require to obtain unlimited power. Once it’s absorbed, I’ll have the means to conquer the rest of this world with one claw tied behind my back. I’m in no mood to be deterred or held back any longer with further interruptions or necessary precautions. I have a reputation to uphold, and I want to be ruler of this world before you can have me smiling for the camera.”

Tempest remained where she was, twitching ever so slightly in place from her master.

“I, understand. But, you do remember our bargain, don’t you? I assist you in this endeavor, and in return, you would restore my- gah!” she stopped mid sentence when the Storm King, in the blink of an eye, removed his finger from her chin and clasped his hand over her head.

She froze on the spot as his hand encompassed over her head, a few of his fingers tapping the broken edge of her horn.

“You don’t have to constantly remind me every time we talk about this, you know! Once I obtain the magic of this land, I’ll get that magical pencil of yours sharpened back to its former glory!” He leaned further, his head near her own as he looked out to something distant.

“If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be stuck in the gutter with no one to get you out, useless and pitiful. You owe me a life debt for this, and only after I get the prize I absolutely want, you’ll get what’s coming to you. Keep this in mind, Tempest. Because you might just live to see your horn restored if you do.” he coldly stated, letting go off her head while she remained in a motionless state.

“My King,” a new voice spoke in the tent.

I cast a glance at the entrance and saw a burly Storm Creature come inside.

The Storm King sighed upon seeing the new visitor.

“Alright, what’s up? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” he replied rather harshly.

“One of the prisoners refuses to work. We dragged him and two others who were helping him over here.” the guard explained.

I heard the Storm King groan in some strange satisfaction before leaving Tempest.

“Really? Wonderful,” he said, going to his seat in the center of the tent, “Okay, guards, come on in. No invitation needed.”

Tempest moved over to my side, standing at attention while the guards came in and I was getting up. I kept watch as several guards came inside, but from my angle, I could see that Tempest looked shaken up.

I couldn’t tell what was going on in her head, but I knew that the two of us would need to have a conversation about this.

Away from the Storm King, that is.

“Alright. Let’s get this party started.” The Storm King called out as the last of the guards came through, motioning for the prisoners to be brought in.

From the last of the pack of troops that came in, I saw that they brought along an elderly earth pony with brown fur and a grey mane, with some remnants of blonde on the edges. He looked haggard and ready to collapse at any moment were it not for the guard at his side. Right behind them, I saw both Strongheart and Braeburn being brought along behind them. They didn’t look happy to be here, that’s for sure. I had an unsettling feeling over the whole event, but I couldn’t do anything but watch it play out.

“Hold it,” The Storm King finally spoke, before snapping his fingers and having a minion come out of nowhere with a drink.

He took the drink from the guard, taking a sip through a straw. Once he finished, he motioned for the guard to go while he kept the bottle.

“Okay, go.” he ordered, wanting to know what was going on.

One of the guards came forward, presenting the elderly pony before him.

“My King. This one has been refusing to work, claiming that he is overburdened with the tasks presented to him.”

“I say we punish him. Ten lashes for his misconduct.” Another spoke, pulling out a whip that had barbed edges at the end.

“That’s not true!” Braeburn called out, “He’s been pushed too far. His body can’t handle the pressure anymore with all this arduous labor!”

“Hey, hey, hey. Did I ask you to speak?” The Storm King directed his attention to Braeburn, the latter shaking his head after an uncomfortable moment of silence. “No? Alright, then shut up.”

He diverted his attention to the elderly pony.

“You refuse to work Mr…” he curled his hand and gestured for him to reply.

The guard next to him pushed him down so that he was on his knees, but the old pony was able to look up to meet the Storm King’s gaze.

“Grum. The name’s Grum.” he replied, his voice deep but very parched.

The guard adjusted his position while Grum leaned on him, trying to not collapse.

“Alright, Grum, what’s the deal? Don’t you get where you are? You lost whatever mudhole you were living in, so you work for me now. Even if you drop, you’ll still have to get up and complete your work.”

I groaned inwardly from his remark. The whole thing reminded me of the time I worked in a fast food restaurant that was so grinding it made my bones ache.

Glad I’m out of that joint.

Grum remained silent, his eyes glazed in an apparent haze and not paying any heed to what the Storm King had to say. The Storm King’s brow knitted together, deciphering why a simple farmer was ignoring him or even refusing to give him any ear to his words.

Personally, I felt that the farmer obviously had enough and wanted nothing more than to call it quits right here and now.

“Okay, if all you’re going to do is give me the silent treatment, then I might as well send you back to wor-”

“I won’t go back,” Grum cut him off, his sunken eyes still low and his breath shaky.

“Oh? And who died and made you king?” The Storm King asked, a hint of irritation creeping in his voice.

Grum managed to look up to him, and when he did, I caught a little color in his eyes as he stared blankly at his master.

“I don’t follow any king.” he replied.

The Storm King snorted in amusement, waving him off and looking to the side towards the table containing his plans and other machinations.

“Give him ten lashes and send him to the brig. No food or water for him for twenty four hours. Maybe then he’ll learn what happens when he wastes my time.” He said, looking ready to get up and wanting to go to his work station.

The guard next to Grum’s side began to lift the old farmer up. But, a ragged cough, which sounded more like a chuckle, escaped past the farmer’s mouth.

“Is that what the old king has to do? Beat me and starve me? Worst idea to come off the top of your head, I’ll tell you that.”

The room went silent, and the guards suddenly stiffened from his remark. Most bore angry glares at him, while others remained silent and stoic. The Storm King turned his head slightly, leering at Grum for speaking out. I watched in timid curiosity of what might happen next.

“You got short term memory loss or something? Keep this up, and I can double the punishment. Or how about I triple it to make things-”

“Not as bad as other bloody villains and monsters that had roamed these lands.” Buck interrupted.

A noticeable grunt came from the Storm King. From my angle, I could saw a vein forming on the side of his head. Yet, he showed no outrage, remaining where he was like a stone gargoyle and watching the farmer’s every move.

A part of me felt uncomfortable from the way he was staring at the old pony.

Grum then cackled, wheezing out his breath. Braeburn struggled in the grips of the guards holding him in an attempt to try and intervene. After the elder subsided his mirth his eyes glossed over the Storm King.

“You think that you are special in this world? Equestria has been bisect by the conflicts of villains many times before. I’ve heard the tales of the great windigos who threatened to turn our kind into popsicles. The tale of a ghostly king who encompassed his land in shadow and turned its citizens into mindless puppets,” he coughed, sending his body forward and making his limbs shake, “Discord and his chaotic nature. Queen Chrysalis and her bag of ugly swarm minions. And lastly, Lord Tirek, when he seized the magic of this land by force.” He paused for breath, his chest heaving in some great exertion.

The Storm King remained where he was, the noticeable vein on his brow bulging ever slightly.

“And what’s that got to do with me?” The Storm King inquired, his eyes narrowing until his brows stitched together.

“Each one of them has been defeated by the hands of Equestria and that of her princesses.” he replied, not missing a beat.

Another vein popped onto the Storm King’s head, this time on the side of his temple. I nervously took one step back, as I felt an overwhelming sensation wash over me.

“They all had power,” he continued, not caring for the concerns or anger from those in the room, “Each had the capacity to destroy. To control. To twist their fate. To bend the knee. Yet, they’re all the same. There are none the wiser, and they are blind to their quest for power and control.” He paused, staring up at the king and defying him with his resistance.

“You are no different, and I will not sully myself to bow my head to a pathetic despot like you.” he said, spitting upon the ground in front of him.

The room went silent, and the guards all stiffened. The Storm King remained fixated on his throne, never once moving from his spot. A few of the guards were taking a step back and away from Grum. Even Tempest took a step back and stood at my side. A dark haze seemed to cover of the Storm King’s eyes and he tilted his head to Grum, yet it was so slow it appeared he hadn't moved at all.

“Do you not fear death?” His words slow, methodical, and above all sinister, “Did the word ever get out to you on who I am? And those who defy me? In case you don’t know, I’m ten times better than the second rates you call ‘villains’. Your people are like punching bags. You always get attacked and subjugated by those in power. I will claim this land in my name, and unlike those other guys, I’ll be giving everyone something bigger to remember. In the end, you will always kneel.” He finished, goading him into speaking out once more.

Grum did not hesitate.

“Not to the likes of you, for there are always monsters like you.”

A noticeable crack emanated in the room. I saw that Storm King's knuckles were bone white as they tightened onto the edge of his wooden seat. Cracks appeared in the wood and they groaned from the pressure. After an uncomfortable moment of silence between them the Storm King slowly rose out of his seat and grabbed his staff from nearby. The guard that was holding Grum stepped away, allowing the old pony to remain on his knees. The Storm King walked forward, and I saw more visible veins on his face and neck. The hairs on the back of my head were standing on end and I swallowed the lump in my throat.

The Storm King stood over the old pony, not once looking at him as he held his staff in place. He gripped his staff, and once again I felt electricity creeping on the back of my head.

I stepped back, but soon felt a hand clasp onto my right shoulder. I cast a small brief glance and saw that Tempest was holding me there, but her eyes were locked on the old pony. In spite of this, though, her hold on me felt like she was to help me be calm and stay where I was.

The Storm King, meanwhile, lifted his staff clenching it in both hands in front of him.

“Perhaps it’s time I give you the bigger picture. The purpose: to explain precisely who I am.” The Storm King spoke.

His staff suddenly burst to life. An electrical current coursed around the staff, striking the ground and reaching to the top of the tent in a display of beauty and terrifying power. Grum's eyes widened, and before he could react, the Storm King thrust the end of his staff into his chest, the electrical current washing over him. Grum stiffened from this attack, a wordless cry escaping him as the staff glowed and thrummed in the air. A green mist formed at the end of the staff and plunged itself inside Grum. The Storm King removed his staff and the lightning soon ceased.

Grum remained where he was, dazed, but for the most part unharmed. He looked down, puzzled over what was done. However, a strange noise like the forming of ice freezing above water crackled in the air. I watched as the center of Grum’s chest began to turn into a black crystal like state. Panic gripped Grum as he tried to remove it, but it spread like wildfire across his body. He screamed out, his left hand infused into his chest, while the other hand reached out to find anyone who could help him. The last of the black obsidian soon encomped his face and his body remained still. It became a solid statue in the middle of the room.

A shudder ran through me as I watched what happened before me, and as if it was by instinct or something, Tempest’s grasp on my shoulder tightened somewhat. What was even worse, though, was that I thought I saw a faint breath escape pas Grum’s open mouth. His whole body was covered in a black crystal prison, every edge smooth and unblemished from the transformation.

Both Braeburn and Strongheart’s mouths were agape and tears streamed down their faces.

“You killed him!” Braeburn shouted, being held back by one of the guards.

“Not yet.” The Storm King corrected him.

And then, in the blink of an eye, the Storm King took out a silver ax. With just one quick swipe, he chopped Grum’s stoned head off of the top of his body. It flew in the air for a moment, before falling on the ground and rolling towards Tempest and I. It stopped right in front of the two of us, the expression on the body-less head being one of horror.

The Storm King raised his brow, glinting a smile in Braeburn and Strongheart’s direction.

“He asked for it, so he got it.” He said, lifting the staff and rubbing a finger onto its surface, marveling its design, “The Staff of Sacanas is the big mama of any magical artifact I’ve held, and will be the one to bring this kingdom’s house down.” He claimed, giving off a giddy expression.

“You can’t stop Princess Celestia and Princess Luna! They can outmatch you in every shape or form. Like a jackrabbit outwitting a coyote!” Braeburn shouted, forcing himself to stand up to him.

“Braeburn, don’t!” Strongheart called out, but the Storm King set his eyes on him.

With an impassioned grunt, he lunged his staff and into the statue. Lightning coursed through Grum’s body again, until finally, the body blew into pieces. The pieces flew everywhere, one of them even hitting me above the eye and causing me to rub it.

“You challenging me? If you are, I’m certainly all for taking it. But...” The Storm King said, stepping towards Braeburn while his staff began to make the same electrical charge. “Do you really want to be today’s second lawn ornament?” he said, stopping a few feet in front of Braeburn.

Little Strongheart attempted to stand between them, but she was held back by one of the Storm creatures.

Braeburn stiffened, but he did not attempt to stand down in front of the murderous creature.

“If it’s a bet you want, I wouldn’t mind throwing my two cents in, but I’m pretty sure your bandleaders won’t beat me. I have the power to turn this country's magic against itself. I have the power to place everything under my banner and everyone under my rule. By the time I absorb this nation’s magic, my reign will encompass this entire world. And all who dwell within will either bow to me. Or die.” he lifted his staff and pointed it right in front of Braeburn.

I was compelled to try and step forward and stop him, but the tightened grip from Tempest only kept me there. I looked towards her to see if I could silently get her to free me, but she looked at me as if she was silently telling me I would only make things worse.

I felt so hopeless in this situation.

“Want to test my patience? Want me to give you the same treatment as him? How about I choke you until I snap and break your neck?” He asked him.

He stepped once more, only this time towards Strongheart. My heart went to my throat when I saw him place the staff directly onto her pregnant belly.

“Or how about I kill your unborn child that’s inside your wife here? And all you get is a stillborn? Huh?” He demanded, the end of his staff shooting off electrical currents around her.

Braeburn stiffened, and a cold shudder passed over him while Strongheart could only weep as the guard behind her held her in position for murdering their child. The Storm King lowered his head until he was face to face with the earth pony.

“So let me ask again. Is this really what you want to go for?” he said, the staff thrumming once more around her.

When Braeburn eyed the Storm King his earlier mask of bravado and resistance was replaced with fear. The proud Apple of Applejack’s family could only show his apprehension and worry for the woman he loved. He soon lowered his gaze from the Storm King, tears coming down his face.

“No.” he replied.

“Good.” The Storm King said, the staff’s power fading before its owner used it to smack Braeburn beside the head and sending him down to the ground.

The guard relieved Strongheart and the buffalo quickly went to his side, while he could only wrap his arms around her for comfort. He then placed a hand over her belly and she in turn placed a hand over his own their concern for the child growing inside ger. Strongheart looked up towards the Storm King, who only stared at her with an emotionless expression, until he turned himself away and headed over to his chair.

“Now, get back to work! Both of you!” He loudly demanded the couple.

The guards behind them escorted the two of them out of the tent, the only expressions my friends had being forlorn and submissive looks. Once they and the guards escorting them were gone, the Storm King turned his attention to the rest of his army.

“This war will be over before anyone can realize it. I don’t care how many tricks Equestria or her allies will throw at me. We’ll crush them all like pancakes and be the true rulers of this world until there’s nothing left.” He paused, whipping around to present his staff in the air, “Or should I say: The Storm King WILL PREVAIL!”

His guards roared in approval, brandishing their weapons and banging on their shields. The Storm King took in the admiration, smiling all the while with the deeds he accomplished.

I felt sick to my stomach over what he had done.

Meanwhile, the Storm King turned his gaze to Tempest, who was still standing by my side.

“Lieutenant,” The Storm King said to Tempest while the guards continued to cheer.

She lowered her hand off my shoulder when he called to her.

“Yes, Sir?” she replied, walking until she stood in front of him.

“How soon can we travel?” He asked her.

“It’ll take us three to five days to get ready for the long march.”

“Make it two and no less! I’d like for us to surprise them before they mount a counteroffensive,” he slammed his staff into the ground, “I will not make the same mistake twice in underestimating them.”

“It won’t be a problem.” she said, placing a fist onto her chest in a salute before turning to the guards, “Dismissed.”

The guards gave her a salute and began to disperse.

“And someone clean this mess up,” he gestured to the remains of Gruff’s severed head and pieces of his body everywhere, “Take these pieces to the nearest river and throw them in it. And take the head and throw it off the nearest cliff. In the meantime, I’ll be here coming up with more lines for my next speech. So everyone, move out.”

The Storm King went to his table and picked at a small chest that was nearby, while I showed myself out. The guards all headed out first, with me following behind them. Tempest followed behind me, until she walked past me and began shouting orders to everyone. I found myself wanting to speak with her, but...

“Help me,”

I heard an eerie voice come from behind. I dared looked back to see where it came from, and I didn’t think anyone else may have heard it. My eyes settled on the remnant of Gruff’s head as it was carried away by a couple of guards, while another guard was carrying the pieces of his crystallized body. I could only wonder if he was truly gone or suffered a fate worse than death. I peeked through the tent flap and lingered on the Storm King, who took what appeared to be a red thin stone with sharp edges before slamming it on the table. Not wanting to linger on what it was or incurring his wrath anymore, I moved away from the tent.

I took a gulp of fresh air, and my legs shook considerably over the experience I witnessed. I felt sweat on the side of my temple and I felt like I wanted to jump into a hot bath and drown from what I had to see. My mind had several questions running at once, but my first and utmost one was getting this information to Princess Luna.

“Spencer.” A familiar voice said to me from behind.

I turned to find Tempest to be beside me, her demeanor being as tough as ever, likely to keep her commanding image up.

“It’s getting late. Head back to the tent and rest.” She commanded me, but it was in a less harsh way.

“Yes, Ma’m,” I replied with a weak salute, before politely asking, “May I take a warm bath while I’m there?”

“Of course.” She granted with a nod.

And with that, I went off to the tent, leaving Tempest behind to continue her duties.

Where Demons Lie

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That night, I couldn’t sleep.

And how could I?

Hours ago the Storm King murdered a elderly pony. The army is assembling to march to the Equestrian capital within a matter of days. The mad king had a powerful artifact of sorts that was capable of turning others to stone, and whatever else one could imagine or not. To top that off, I went to bed with no dinner!

Guess it's what I get for trying to pull a fast one on the Storm King.

I was in a situation that was steadily and progressively getting worse as each day went by. The Storm King would use whatever was in his disposal to get what he wanted. Either through intimidation, murder, the extinction of an entire village, or killing an unborn child that had no voice.

I think that was one that unsettled me the most.

It was late in the night when Tempest eventually returned to the tent. I watched as she dragged herself to bed, not even bothering to take off her gear and armor, and collapsed onto the sheets. She outright ignored me or didn’t bother to talk to me. She looked like death came in and plastered depression and fatigue onto her. I think it was for the best anyway. I didn’t want to say anything to her at the moment.

I itched my broken arm while my eyes traced circles around the roof of the tent. I wanted to get some sleep, and to hope that somehow I can explain all that I saw to Princess Luna. I turned my head onto the pillow to get a better sleep on the floor, although I felt certain I was sitting under a rock underneath the tent.

Finally, I slowly drifted off to sleep.

It wasn't long until my mind was aware that I was in the dream world as everything around me was dark.

“Spencer?” a voice broke through the darkness.

I blinked, unsure of what I had heard. I looked around the area, but everything remained in total darkness. I shook my head, trying to get my bearings, and hoping that I was just hearing things.

“You’re such a goof, Spencer.” a cheery voice came at my left.

I turned and saw the light begin to fade.

Auburn hair. Green eyes. And the sweetest smile that would melt any hardened man’s heart.

“Sorry, Ava. Was just out of it I guess.” I smiled back to her.

She chuckled again, taking a sip of her orange soda in front of her.

“You oughta get out more. It’ll be good for your health.” she explained.

I smirked and gestured to the orange fanta soda.

“You’re one to talk, drinking those sodas like they’re part of a water fountain. You might as well be addicted to them,” I mentioned.

She took a quick look at her drink and rolled her eyes.

“I don’t drink them all like a water fountain. These are just delicious drinks for my enjoyment.”

“You had six of them in the last thirty minutes,” I replied, gesturing to the neat pyramid style of fanta drinks.

She eyed them and blew a raspberry at me.

“Your point?” she asked in a curious fashion, chuckling while having another go at her fizzy drink.

“You’re hopeless.” I said, laughing with her.

Soon the two of us quieted down to observe the surroundings.

We were in a park, with many trees dotting the grounds. We were situated on a hill where the pavilion provided the chairs and tables. Below was a beautiful lake that glimmered in the noon sun, and a family of ducks were swimming across the surface. A path was next to the lake, where skaters, bicyclists, and the occasional rollerblader would go down. To the right was a large playground where kids ran rampant on the makeshift bars, swings, and slides down the hill. Laughter filled the air from the joyous and imaginative play that it made me wonder what I had done in my own youth. To our right was a balloon salesman, along with some drinks that were priced at a reasonable fifty cents a piece.

It’s no wonder she needed my three bucks for it.

All in all, today was a smooth day, and life was beautiful.

“I wish things were always like this,” She said, looking out to the scenery around us.

I followed her gaze, taking in the fresh air around us.

“I wish so too, Ava.” I said.

The last thing I said was something that I didn’t think she heard. She kept staring out to the distance, casually sipping on her fanta drink like it was the most important thing in the world. I followed where she was looking, watching a young couple looking into each other’s eyes, exchanging a quick peck on the cheek and giggling over it. Ava sighed over the sight and I felt a little flutter in my chest. I looked back at Ava, wondering why she was so enticed by the sight.

Only, I saw something black and ominous a few yards behind her.

The figure was tall and lanky, it’s body covered with what looked like loose rags and leather. It had no color adorning its body, and the skin looked pale white under the sun. It’s head looked like it was behind a cover, a thin veil that hung over its face, where the only thing visible through the slit was it’s vibrant green eyes. It stared at us, namely me from the way it’s head was tilted, and it seemed like all sounds around me were muffled by its presence. I shivered from an unnatural cold that clung around me like a blanket, suffocating me in an icy prison to drain me of any warmth.

I turned my head away, facing towards where Ava was looking at the couple. But they were no longer there. The only things in their place were two lone statues in an embrace, while some limbs were taken off and strewn upon the ground.

The landscape changed drastically as well, the park around me, where mere moments ago was green and filled with life, was suddenly only gray and lifeless. The trees were dead and hollowed, the lake itself was parched of any water, and remnants of fish bones and ducks scattered about the floor of the lake.

What was more disturbing was that I saw many more statues scattered about the park. All of them were people. Many families, men, women, and children were all as solid as stone, their bodies twisted and turned as if they were trying to run away from something but had frozen in place. Some were crawling on the ground, others accepting fate and holding onto their loved ones. I felt a revulsion creep inside my body, and I wanted nothing more than to escape. I tried to speak to Ava but found no words forming out of my mouth. I turned to her and she was still staring out to the distance, her fanta drink now rusted with age and shekels of dust dropping from the metal and resembling old tin.

The ominous figure was now much closer, standing just behind Ava.

I swear the creature made me think that if Five Nights At Freddies and the Babadook had a kid, this would be it.

The figure was watching me, its fierce green eyes never leaving me. A few fingers popped and cracked, pressing its hands onto the surface of the table, right next to Ava, who was oblivious to the whole thing. It’s veil slipped from its face, turning to dust in the wind around us, while I could see the woman’s face and hair.

My heart leapt in my chest when I saw that same sneer.

Those same green eyes, the same sneer, and the Auburn hair now in full display before me.

“Why…” I muttered, seeing the woman before me, the girl resembling my friend Ava.

I looked at the real Ava, who had turned to see me as if for the first time. Her hair was now pale and gray, her face sagged and was lifeless and her face melted into dust, crumbling onto the table. My heartbeat was thumping in my chest, and my eyes were fixated on the women before me.

“You’re pathetic.” she said, crawling up onto the table, her eyes never leaving my sight.

“You’re weak…” she said, crouching down in an unnatural way.

Her eyes were glowing, ready to snuff me out in a moments notice.

“Ava… why…” I uttered, before I felt her fingers clutching my throat, her face mere inches from mine.

“I always hated men like you! You should all disappear and die!” she screamed.

And with that, she threw me forward like a rag doll, so fast that one would barely comprehend.

And then, I suddenly landed on the ground, my head hurting because I hit it on the ground, causing me to rub it.

It was then that I felt something rough slither on my left arm with a slight raddle following it, and so I looked to see what it was. It was a large rope, and it was slithering on me like it was a snake. As if it noticed me looking at it, it slithered fast like lightning on me until it was tied around my frame. Realizing what was happening, I tried to break the rope off of me since it was just one. But then more ropes followed, and they started around the upper half of my arms, all the way until they were around my body, stopping below my shoulders and above my feet. It felt like I was in some kind of cocoon.

I struggled to get free, but the ropes were too tight!

“HEL-MMMPPH!” I called out, but was suddenly gagged by a white piece of cloth that tied itself around me, keeping me from making a sound even as I shouted.

A chorus of women suddenly appeared in front of me by the blink of a light. And after just one look at me, they began shouting out in some grand deluded joy, shouting, cursing, laughing, and beating me by throwing tomatoes and other rotten vegetables at me. The impact of the tomatoes hurt so much, but I couldn’t scream because I was muffled by the gag. All I could do was wriggle and constantly give pained grunts. The weight of this began to feel unbearable to me, and I suddenly felt the ground beneath me begin to give way.

I looked down to see that the ground was all falling apart, and no sooner did I fall into the abyss while still tied up, the weight still pressing me even as I fell. I cried out and screamed, alone and afraid, with the gag muffling me.

Just as I thought I was going to be falling for an eternity, I found myself landing into something, the impact being a splash. I was in water! And I was drowning in it!

Scared beyond belief, I vainly struggled and twisted, which sadly only made me sink faster. Now I know how Aladdin felt when the villainous Jafar threw him off a cliff and into the water. The only difference between me and him being that there was no magic lamp to help me out of this.

I felt like I could barely breathe or see anything in the blackness surrounding me. But, before I comprehend my situation, a white hole came out of nowhere in the blink of an eye, and it pulled me right into it. I didn’t even struggle considering that there was no point in it.

I fell through the hole, the gravity causing me to constantly spin and twirl as I was falling, until I fell onto a hard and white floor, the impact causing me to grunt with pain.

I was in the middle of a pitch black room. All alone, and hyperventilating through my nose.

Then, another spotlight activated itself, and I saw that the demoness was in it. Her auburn hair came alive, flying in the air and resembling vipers. I felt my mind quickly getting clouded with fear and anxiety, that same sneer the demoness had on her countenance burning into my mind. I struggled and fought, trying to use my arms to push the ropes off of me, but they wouldn’t break.

And then, the spotlight turned off, and the demoness disappeared with it.

“You really are a unique specimen, Spencer.” I heard a cold and haunting voice say to me.

The voice did nothing but send chills down my spine, and with all the strength I had, I managed to get myself, albeit in a rather awkward pose, and to move away from the noise, which was where I thought the voice was coming from. But then, I felt myself gently bump against something. I couldn’t feel what I was sitting against with my body, but with the back of my head...I found that I was up against a leg. The leg of something living.

My worst fears were confirmed when I saw a viper inch its way to my face level from up above, hissing at me upon making eye contact and causing me to yelp with a jolt. As if my fear of it made it content, it went back to where it was before. The whole scene was followed by a malicious chuckle.

“You poor unfortunate soul,” the voice said, before sliding her fingers down my cheek, the feel of her touch giving me a cold sweat, “So pathetic. Yet so interesting.”

I was then lifted up from my sitting position on the ground, two hands grabbing the top rope that was around me. I was lifted to where it looked like I was standing up, all the way to the eye level of a person, before being turned around to face the demoness torturing me. Her eyes were yellow with black reptilian-like slits, and her sneer was still plastered on her.

“An amazing creature indeed. And your fears and insecurities are so delicious to feed on.” She said to me, bringing her face closer to mine.

Having had enough of this, I decided to fight back by headbutting her. But, instead of hurting her, my head merely phased through her. A shadowy blackness, like smoke, was what my head passed through, before her head returned to her body.

I was afraid she would get mad at me for that, but instead, she gave another sinister chuckle.

“You can’t touch me,” she told me in a mocking tone, before twirling me in a spin and putting a claw-like hand behind my back before I could fall to the ground. It was like she was leading me in a dance, yet she was the one pulling the strings of where I was to be lead.

“Mortals such as yourself are unable to hurt me.”

She brought me right back to her eye level again.

“You know. When I found you interfering with my feeding off of Tempest, I literally couldn’t help but think you were an insignificant welp, but now…” she put one of her hands to my cheeks, squishing and playing with them as she said, “I find you to be such a wonderful, and might I add, handsome victim.”

I struggled again because of this, wanting to be free of her grip.

“MMP! MMP PMP!!!” I muffled as I struggled, trying to say I wanted her to stop.

As if I said the magic words, she stopped playing with my cheeks and held me out in the air in front of her like I was a precious toy to her.

“Oh, but I can’t stop, Darling,” she said wickedly, before bringing me close to her again using her right arm, wrapping it around me, and putting my cheek against hers, while putting her left hand on my other cheek, and using it and her own cheek to squish them again, “I find this to be too much fun.”

“PMMP!” I shouted again, as if I thought she could understand me despite the gag. Cold shivers ran down my body as she rubbed her cheek against mine, feeling ice prick along my cheek.

It felt worse then dropping your pants and sliding on thin ice in winter.

“Not even saying the magic word twice will save you now,” She told me, before using her hand to boop me on the nose, causing me to blink before she put her hand back on my cheek and squished it again, “Think of it as your reward, Spencer-Wencer. You wanted to help Tempest, so this is your prize for it.”

“You want to know what the prize is for helping her?” she asked while moving my head from side to side with hers, before leaning herself away and whispering in my ear, “For helping Tempest, you’re now my newest pet.”

She cackled to herself and put her cheek back against mine, once again squishing it.

At the words she said before doing that again, my heart burned with hatred and rage because I could not do anything but suffer and struggle in a grip that I couldn’t get free of. All because I wanted to help Tempest. I couldn’t hurt this demon, tell her off, or say anything that would deter her. As much as I wanted to get away, I just couldn’t escape her.

Hate festered in my heart not just toward this monster, but towards the old flame I once had.

And how I can not forgive her?

“Enough!” A soothing but stern voice broke through the barrier of shadow.

The spectral figure before me loosened its grip on my neck and hissed, baring its teeth at the approaching light.

I turned my gaze, trying to find the source, but the light was already on me and swiping away the darkness. I closed my eyes, but they burned my sight even while I had my pupils shut. The weight and hold on my body was lifted from the creature retreating, and I found myself falling onto the ground again, only this time it was on a soft surface, like a giant pillow was underneath me. I sat in a motionless state on my back. I carefully opened my eyes halfway and although it may be blurred, I could at least tell that I was in clear and spacious room of the dreamscape.

“Spencer,” I heard Princess Luna speak, already at my side.

I felt a hand pull me up from lying on the ground, carefully lifting me up from the floor. All of a sudden, I even felt the gag coming off of my mouth, finally being free to speak and move my tongue outside of it.

My vision clearing, I saw the lunar princess herself in front of me, a smile and expression of compassion on her face.

“Luna!” I shouted, before tears welled in my eyes, “Th-thank you, I-”

“Shhh,” she shushed, putting a finger to my mouth, silencing me before giving me a motherly hug by wrapping her arms around my neck, “It’s alright. You’re safe now.”

As I leaned into her embrace, all I could do was cry. I gave saddened sounds. Tears streamed down from my eyes, staining my cheeks and the princess’s shoulders.

“Shhh,” she shushed again, before petting me on the head and whispering softly in my ear, “It’s alright. It’s alright.”

And with the soft lighting of her horn, she undid the ropes that were on me, the objects dropping to the ground with a smack and disappearing from my sight. I was free. And with that freedom, I hugged her back and leaned into her more, and she moved her arms down my body.

She was like a caring mother, always looking after you when you fall and get hurt. Mothers would always be there to pick you back up when you needed it the most.

I sat upright, my vision still foggy and my head spinning. I tried to speak but my words were slurred, and so I leaned my head into her chest, which was as warm as ever.

“Awe, look at that. He’s like a wee baby, all tuckered out and no bottle to feed it,” a new feminine voice spoke, one that had a thick and heavy accent.

It was then that Luna let go from embracing me and her body left mine.

Suddenly, I saw a pair of wings appear in my view, and they felt awfully leathery. They pressed into my eyes, and I was suddenly enveloped in another warm embrace that was strangely comfortable. A rough hand brushed my hair and the back of my head was against something that was cold. The female being embraced me tighter with her arms, and I could hear and feel a soft chuckle emanating from said cold being too. I managed to get my vision cleared and looked to see Luna standing in front of me, her smile ever present, but she also seemed to be stifling herself from chuckling.
I managed to turn myself around somehow, to where my cheeks were now against the cold being instead of my head. Out of the corner of my eye, I found my face to be next to a metal chest plate that had the symbol of the Royal Lunar Guard dead center on the mare’s chest.

“Keep the Heid,” She said in her scottish accent. “Ya like what ya see whelp? Other stallions would sell their wives to be enamored in this position.” she replied, patting me on the head like I was some boy.

Wait a sec.

Lunar Guard armor, which is the most Bad to the Ass armor around. Leathery wings, which is a far different texture to the feathers of other ponies. An accent that is all too familiar and belonging to the great men of Scotland.

That could only mean Luna and I were with one person I met since I came to this world.

“Sean Connery, is that you?” I asked, albeit a little mockingly.

Lifting my head, I stared right into the yellow slitted eyes of the female guard Luna and I were with, where she flashed a toothy grin.

“You betcha ya sweet arse ya doaty princess! The one and only sexiest Lunar Guard, Stelle Sabre, is here!” she said, her hug pressing me tighter against her chest plate.

Lord help us all.

The Shadows Beckon (edit)

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Stella Sabre, the queen of comebacks and the most witty pony I had ever met. Also the most sarcastic and sassy pony you’d ever meet.

She was around my height, if you cut off an inch with the steel boots she was wearing. Her mane was midnight blue, her fur was light gray, and she had piercing yellow eyes that would give Fluttershy’s stare a run for her money. Another fun perk was that she had more similarities to a bat, hence her race being Thestrals. She had fuzzy ears that were more pointed compared to regular ponies, particularly with the tufts of hair on the tips of her ears. She had bat wings that resembled the wings from the famous Gargoyle TV show. The last part that was very bat affiliate was that she had a snaggle tooth that stuck out whenever she smiled.

She became a corporal around the time I had arrived in Equestria. From then till today, I learned that she quickly became a lieutenant, or Leftenant as she liked to call it, promoted to be a personal guard of Princess Luna. She had always wanted the role, as she came from a long line of military veterans that served under Princess Luna for many generations. She even boasted that her family could be traced to the earliest times of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna’s rule in Equestria, which would have been centuries ago.

All in all, I was quite happy for her and for her wellbeing.

Except at this current moment.

For she was trying to envelop me by holding my body to hers, with my head pressed into her chest piece.

“C’mon, Boyo. Just say that you’re glad to see me,” she said cheekily, her wings, which were currently wrapped around me, tightening ever more.

“I’m glad to see you...I’m glad to see you,” I said, struggling in her grip.

“Aye? I didn't quite hear that. Speak to me wee louder for me, will ya?” she said, clearly enjoying my struggle in her grip.

“I’m happy that you're here, now get off!” I forced my hands out from under her, one hand on the ground and another trying to get her off.

“Heh? Is that a bug clambering on the window? Can you speak a wee louder, laddie? I can’t hear the proper words from ya. It’s like your head is stuck somewhere it shouldn’t be.” she said, while one of her hands was brushing the top of my head, enjoying every minute of this.

“Let go you mad bat!” I yelled, firmly slapping my hands on her sides, trying to push away from her, yet she could only laugh at my attempts of escaping, especially since she had me in this predicament.

“Oh that’s mighty rough of ya. Ya might treat a mare right if ya didn’t lack a strong arm. But I still need to hear ya say it. You’re not doing any favors by resisting and I can hold ya like this all day if I wanted to. So don’t be a daft idiot any longer.”

I groaned inwardly, knowing full well what she wanted me to say. I sighed in defeat before shouting out for her.

“Please let go of me the most glorious, respectable, sassiest, and sexiest of all the mares! The most highly esteemed bat mare around, with the body of a goddess and the voice of a soothing trash talking angel, Stella Sabre! NOW LET GO OF ME!”

As soon as I finished, I felt her let go of my body. I flung backwards, landing a few feet away from her. I looked back to her from my position and I swear I could see the smarminess wash over her as she stood up and looked down at me, her hands planted on her hips with a smirk that rose ever higher on her face. The latter which became all the more punchable the longer I was sitting here.

“Ya see…that wasn't so hard. If ya said that sooner I would have smothered ya even more for good behavior, boyo.” she explained, while I remain exasperated on the floor.

“Now, lieutenant. He’s already had a rough night as it is.” Princess Luna said, hovering over me and offering a hand.

I took her hand with my own and she lifted me up off the ground.

“Was merely showin’ my friendly side, Princess Luna.” she explained, her smugness giving away.

“Your friendly side being the equivalent of both a passive aggressive bully with a twisted sense of humor and a chum that acts as your shadow and defends you from all harm?” I quirked.

“Exactly, ya flea bitten sorry excuse for a fannybaws. If anyone says otherwise, I’ll be slappin’ it intae them until their body is blue and purple and they be walkin’ with a splint.” she said, chuckling to herself.

I rolled my eyes at her, “It’s hard to hate you, Stella. You know that?”

“Eh…I can rub anyone off and they would either hate my guts, or respect me and stand takin’ a pint. We laugh, drink, feast until our heid’s a loupin, and we're fair puckled away from keelin over the table. But hey…that’s what friendship is. Well…after the pukin, cursin, and finding out how they end up in your bed and you’re on the floor. Good times, though.” she explained.

The way she stated that couldn’t help but make me smile even more.

“Remind me to tell you later to never change.” I told her.

“I’ll be makin’ a note of that.” She replied to me.

“So, in all seriousness,” My words became directed towards Luna, “How is it that Stella’s here?”

“Well, it’s quite simple actually.” Princess Luna explained, using one of her hands and gesturing down a narrow hallway, which was folding and forming in front of us.

I walked alongside her right as Stella took her position on her other side.

“Since I am the Princess of the Night, I have the ability to perceive into the dreams of anyone. However, on occasion when I encounter a strong mind, a mental barrier if you will, there are ponies who wish to hide themselves and the information they contain within the dreamscape. Even if I was able to enter freely into their dreamscape, I could not penetrate the mental defenses that they have trained and disciplined themselves for. For that reason, I have a countermeasure in the form of a guard, one who knows and has a strong sense of understanding of the mentality in dealing with certain individuals.”

I briefly looked over to Stella, trying to comprehend how out of all of the guards in Equestria’s army, she was the one who gets picked for such a position.

“I'm sorry, I’m a little confused at how Stella fits that description. She would more than likely try and throttle her way through, like when going to a bar just to get the last pint of the day’s special brew.”

“Damn right you are, ya milksop! Any little bampot who gets in my way will be drinking through a straw,” Stella perked, raising a fist into the air in a triumphant response. Obviously, that would be her appropriate answer.

Mental note to self, don’t get in front of a mare and her alcohol.

“Got to remind myself not to get on your bad side then. Otherwise, I might have to appease you with that special alcohol that you love so much. What was it exactly…” I took a moment to try recalling it, before remembering, “Northern Sapphire's cutie or something?”

The moment I mentioned it, she whirled her head to me and she seemed to salivate over the words. The way she perked up to the sound of her favorite alcohol reminded me of a dog wanting to get his favorite bone.

“Oh ho HO...now you’re talkin’ laddie! You tryin’ to seduce me and get in bed with your’s truly?” she asked, her mouth in a half grin.

“Ah, no, but thanks Stella.” I kindly waved her off with a flick of my hand, “I just wouldn’t want to explain the next morning to the doctor how I got a broken pelvis, scratch, and fang marks all over my body. I would no doubt resemble a scratching post used by a tiger.”

“Awe, where's the fun in that? We thestrals are very ‘affectionate’ creatures, ya know?” she said, sashaying her hips while revealing that snaggletooth of hers. “Think of it as a cultural exchange between species.”

“I’d rather not. I don’t want to explain the embarrassing details of how I got mauled by a guard in her full armor, and who may or may not have a bad case of tourette's.”

Stella gave out a hoarse laugh, looking away and wiping away a tear. Princess Luna herself couldn’t help but stifle a giggle, placing a hand over mouth in amusement. After a few moments passed, and when her tittering subsided, Stella gave a half smirk at me.

“You kill me sometimes, you know that?” She said, making me smile in return. She then looked forward, closing her eyes and gave a shrug to me, “Though, I suppose that means you be declining my offer. Tis sad really, I was hoping to cure ya of your virgin ways. Now no mare will respect ya anymore.”

“Hey, now wait just a minute! What’s that supposed to mean?!” I tried to question and rebutte Stella, but Princess Luna moved her wings and blocked the two of us from viewpoint.

“Moving on, we have bigger things that have need of our attention.” She reminded.

She put more step in her stride as she moved down a long hallway, which was rapidly forming and shaping in front of us. I kept my pace with her while she turned her head to see me.

“To my earlier point, Spencer, I would bring along a guard who has the knowledge to combat these special individuals. I have only a select few who can manage such martial prowess within the dreamscape. Since their minds and bodies are trained for such endeavors, they can fight them in the physical realm of the dreamscape, while I am trying to face them mentally. Once the target has been rendered immovable, then we can safely extract the information we need.”

“Think of it this way, Laddie.” Stella chimed in. “It’s like a breastwork. You have a small and easily defensible position that you wish to protect and fortify it as best as possible. Well, your mind can conjure up anything it wants. An image of a hard diamond, a poem or riddle that can be played over in your head, or even something random. I like to conjure a hard bottle of beer that never runs out. And a gigantic chocolate chip cookie on the side.”

“That's…actually pretty cool.” I commented with astoundment.

I imagined that they would be on the breaking point of taking out the target entirely, but to render them by both attacking their mind and body at the same time?! It’s like being mind freaked by a magician’s tricks and pummeled by a boxer at once.

My mind turned to Luna and I couldn’t help but ask, “So, how is it that Stella was chosen then? What did she do to garner your attention?”

“Well…that’s an obvious one. It was during her one week vacation, roughly a year ago around when you first appeared in our world, that she had one of her drunk rants. Or rather, as she claims, a drinking contest that was participated by her and the rest of the inhabitants within the bar. She became so inebriated that day she couldn’t tell friend from foe, and the whole bar went into a brawl after she called somepony out. It was only after the guards arrived they found her, lying on top of seven drunkards with welts and bruises, and only clad in her…well…undergarments, if I have to boldly say.”

“In my defense, it was the slag buffoon from a worthless codger that wouldn’t stow it,” Stella cutting in to the discussion.

Both myself and Luna turned to see Stella, but I also couldn’t help notice that the scenery changed. Namely that the hallway we were walking in was leading us to a large pair of doors. They looked old, yet sturdy, and were only illuminated by two torches on either side of the walls.

I had several questions…one being why we were heading towards this door, and why Luna didn’t say anything about it.

I hoped it wasn’t that arrange deal that she wanted, and that we were heading in Celestia’s domain to have that sappy moment for her annoyance.

Actually… I might like that. It should be a fun distraction to get my mind off the demoness that recently appeared.

Wait a sec….I should probably mention that now before I get distracted.

“Um, Princess Luna...I-”

“Quiet, Spencer, I’m talkin’ here so shut yer face,” Stella interrupted.

I simply tuned in after having ignored her for the last few minutes.

“Then after they challenge me to a bet, the high and mighty kingspone claims he can drink me under the table and still be the victor. I’m sorry tae say, but I would wager that he could drink all the beer and slush he wants, because that guttered fishface slackjaw wouldn’t beat me. What’s worse is that he and his mates were out partying hard and plastered in the drink. Saying how they would go out with their mares in celebration in some crackin’ good times. Slurring and brandishing all extravagant like and proclaiming that they will be endlessly drinking, feasting, and fu-”

“Ahem!” Princess Luna interjected, giving a glare at the solider.

Stella’s eyes widened slightly over what she was about to utter.

“Ah…fornicating themselves with their wives silly, as I was about to say. Yeah... that is what I was trying to say.” she trailed off at the last bit.

I couldn’t help but snirk from how she was able to catch herself and that a higher authority would keep someone like Stella under control.

“That’s better. I can tolerate some of your choice words, but utmost profanity in front of me is not tolerable.” Princess Luna explained.

Stella nodded.

“Sorry. I tend to get carried away, otherwise I would have had to throw two bits in the ole jar,” Stella said, rubbing the back of her head.

“If you had a jar for every time you did swear, you’d have enough to buy yourself a yacht,” I mentioned, to which Stella blew a raspberry at me.

“Spencer, with the amount a cursin and swearin I’d do, I would have enough jars to buy myself several penthouses and an entire city block in Manehattan.”

“That’s living the dream for you,” I replied, sharing a laugh with her.

Wait a sec… I’m getting distracted again. I need to redirect this conversation now before I forget it.

“By the way Luna, there’s something I wanted to-”

“Lad, hold it…I’m not done with my story. Give me another moment.” Stella intervened once more.

I remained silent in slight annoyance.

“Anyway, after they had their drinking bout with me I soundly beat every single one of those slouches. Don’t exactly recall what happened after that though,” she claimed.

Luna soon stepped into the conversation.

“I can fill in the rest,” she turned her attention to me while gesturing a hand to Stella, “After word caught my ears about the brawl, I had to come and ensure that whoever the perpetrator was would be disciplined. Having seen her laid bare to the world in her undergarments and on top of a pile of unconscious equines, I had to dive into her mind and quickly establish if she was either the instigator or the retaliator. When I went into her mind, I found her mind had a strong barrier like the fortress gates of a bastion. Despite her body being unconscious, her mind was still fighting, wanting to break down anyone who got in her way.” she paused, looking over to her guard by her side.

“Without seeing first hand how powerful her mind was, I would never have considered her for the position of my personal guard.” she said.

Upon hearing that, Stella took pride in her remark and began having a little pep in her step.

“That’s amazing, truly,” I commented, “Though, I guess I never would’ve taken Stella as a personal guard if her requirements for being a guard was initiation through intoxication.”

That generated a reaction by both Stella and Princess Luna. Luna was laughing her guts up, and Stella was cursing and shouting in approval as she laughed.

While they settled in the mirth and high praises, the door that we were approaching was already before us, roughly ten yards away before we reached the entrance. In the back of my head, I felt an ominous feeling grow about the door and wondered why in our right minds we were going towards it.

Speaking of which, the encounter with the demoness and all the wicked things she was doing to me was still fresh in my mind, and I had no doubt they needed to be addressed.

“Ah Luna, if I may ask…”

“About the door?” Princess Luna inclined, interrupting me, “Well, this is our intended destination. On the other side may lay our hope to solving what ales you and Miss Tempest, and we might remove the nightmare that had plagued you earlier.”

She headed toward the door in front of us.

“Yes, but Luna, there’s something about that thing that I-”

“Oi…yer such a jabber, Spencer. Be quiet now. You’re bein’ rude,” Stella said, rolling her R’s for emphasis.

Before I could retort to her, Princess Luna was already opening the door.

It was after the door opened that I felt that an uncomfortable chill crawl its way up my spine, and I could see a strange darkness approaching the three of us. Like a mist, an inky blackness poured out of the door and spread around us, before wafting through our bodies. This one was different from the other that plagued me, but still...I felt weary.

I sidled up to Princess Luna, uncertain about what lied inside.

“Luna? What's happening?” I asked, seeing that we were slowly entering the doorway, or rather...the darkness was pulling us in.

Having obviously sensed how weary I was, Luna latched her hand onto mine. It was in a way that was both comforting and assuring.

“Be calm, Spencer,” She said to me, her hand tightening on mine a bit, “Whatever you do, don't speak unless spoken to.”

Princess Luna then lifted her head and remain dignified as everything around us turned to darkness. The door behind us shut, the sound booming like a distant drum. A moment later her horn lit up, surrounding us in a pale moonlight.

For a moment, there was nothing but silence. It felt as if we were all waiting for something to jump out at us the longer we were here. I remained on edge because of this. Stella on the other hand was calm and stoic, not once drawing her weapon.

“Who dares to disturb my rest?” A voice that didn’t belong to any of us broke through the darkness.

I was unsettled by how the voice spoke, but suddenly found myself calmed when a warm hand touched my shoulder. I turned to see that it was Stella, who was giving me a look assuring me that she had my back.

“Greetings, Darkness who lies in shadow. I've come to speak to you once more.” Princess Luna spoke, her voice echoing around us as if we were in the deepest cave in Equestria.

The three of us waited for a reply.

“Why have you come?” The voice replied through the darkness.

Once the voice spoke again, I discovered something about it. It was haunting, yet flowing. In a sense, it reminded me of how Luna spoke. I tried searching for the person, but all I could see was the ink-colored black that surrounded us.

“I beseech thee, for there is a danger that is in need of our attention. A black magic that I cannot easily dispel is plaguing this one's mind…” she gestured a hand to me, “...and that of another. I sense that if it not confronted, then all of Equestria will be in danger. I have need of you once again. If thou will have me that is.”

The darkness eased somewhat, revealing a large spacious room. On our sides, there was expensive and lavish furniture that a noble or even a royal would possess. Rugs and pelts of various sizes littered the ground, while up above a bright chandelier gave off a dim light. In front of us, however, the pitch void remained and a cold voice emanated from within.

“A long time ago, Princess Luna, you locked me in here. You kept me in a cage until time consumed me, and I would be forgotten. My power wastes away while you are off either galavanting with your sister, or trying to find a stallion to be a potential suitor for the absent longing in your heart. Why must you torment me while I'm imprisoned in your own mind? Whilst you struggle with the confines of leadership and balance amongst your people?” She seethed, the sound of chains clacked together.

A pair of bright eyes came from the blackness before us. A thick chain dangled in front of it, scraping against the floor.

“You know that isn’t true. I’ve come to visit you many times after that day. Our conversations were always full of life, meaning, and joy,” Princess Luna replied in a tempered tone, not sharing any enmity toward the mysterious deity that stood before us, “I would never forget what I have done nor what I asked of you to do on my behalf. You know me. You are a part of me. I would not have come unless the need was dire, and now is the time we put our past behind us."

The light on her horn faded, and the barrier of energy gently dispersed. Princess Luna stepped towards to the darkness. She lifted a hand and pressed it against what appeared to be a face. The two bright eyes shifted into focus, and two purple orbs that were slightly slitted formed and they looked to the hand that touched it. The orbs stared back at her, a questioning gaze beginning to appear.

“No matter what I say, you are not guilty for what you have done nor anything you wish to accomplish. Correct?” The voice spoke back in a female voice, this time more soothing and not once having any fuming anger or detest to her.

The shadows near Princess Luna formed outward and took shape, wrapping themselves around Luna’s form. The shadows shimmered slightly till a solid shape turned into a pair of arms, revealing to be a purple hue of its coat. Princess Luna lowered her hand and proceeded to wrap her arms around the shadow’s form. The darkness around her and the room brightened, and the inky blackness faded away. The rest of the room revealed itself, showing a large bed in the back of the room that appeared to be queen sized, with blue drapes that hung from the top of the bed posts. In the center of the room, I noticed the chain anchored to the ground, leading up to the abyss that hovered in front of Princess Luna and hugging her.

“No, never in the slightest. I have learned from those mistakes, and they shall not happen again, my old friend,” Princes Luna then wrapped her own arms around the ghostly darkness, and a body took shape while she hugged tightly.

My jaw dropped from what I was staring at.

The inky blackness surrounding Luna had faded, replacing it with a purplish aura that surrounded the two of them. When the aura faded to take form a few moments later, I saw a purple unicorn that stood a good head taller than Princess Luna. Her body was entirely purple from head to toe, where a single chain was wrapped around one of her ankles. Her hair, which had a deeper purple color, was much larger as well, stretching out in both length and volume over Princess Luna’s. Luna’s mane had waved and shown stars that reflected the night sky. This thing, it’s mane projected entire planets and stars, glistening and ever moving through her translucent mane. When comparing Luna’s mane to, whatever it was I was staring at, it was like comparing a single star to an entire galaxy.

I was so fixated on what I was staring at I had goosebumps all over my body. And yet, I never even noticed.

I was both equally terrified and in awe of what was standing before me.

When the two separated, I was able to see the rest of her body. Her body was tall, and admittingly terrifying to me at the moment, with Luna meeting her just above the shoulders. She had a gorgeous hourglass figure, which would make any fashion model jealous. She wore a long silk dress that had a night sky violet hue to it. Her dress had a cut in it, allowing for her right leg to be exposed about halfway up her thigh. The chain that was placed around her ankle lead to an iron plate on the ground. Looking upward, I saw that her raiment was cropped at the shoulders and going down in a V shape, exposing much of her arms and chest.

Which by the way for the latter, looked far more bigger then Luna’s. Or possibly even Celestia’s.

Despite the chain that was wrapped around her ankle, she was absolutely stunning. Yet, that was not the only thing that my jaw dropped at.

When Luna and this being came toward Stella and I, she was the spitting image of her. She had Luna’s visage from her jawline, to her cheeks, and even the eyebrow’s length. The only slight difference was that her eyes were purple and slitted compared to Luna’s bright blue eyes.

A niggling thought came to mind and I turned my attention to Stella, who was in awe by the being’s presence.

“Ah, Stella? Am I staring at Nightmare Moon or is this Luna’s long lost sister?” I asked, hoping to get some answers out of her.

After another moment of gawking, she shook her head and turned to me.

“Ah, no you poor excuse of a virgin gelding. This is most certainly not Nightmare Moon. If it was, I would have drawn my blade and cut her down just to free Princess Luna from her grasp.”

“Then, who is she?” I said, seeing as how the creature was making her way to me.

“Aye, only met her once or twice with Princess Luna. Never met her face to face, though. I was always at the door and never heard much other than hushed whispers. She did mention a name about her…I think it was-”

“Tantabus, is my name. I am Luna’s confidant and trusted friend.” The creature spoke.

I turned and suddenly saw her right in front of me, her height ever imposing. I swallowed a lump in my throat after having heard her, as it was both soothing yet terrifying to hear. It was as if she would lash out at any moment if I said the wrong thing, but also gently speak to a child in a tenderly and motherly way. I kept my eyes on her, her frame towering over me at around what I assumed was six feet and five inches.

In the back of my head, she would no doubt fit in with the people of Sweden.

Or…was it Norway? Finland?

“So…this is the human I have heard so much about.” the Tantabus spoke, tilting her gaze toward Luna.

Princess Luna nodded in kind.

“Yes, it is he. He has been suffering with this affliction, while we have been pandering and debating on how we should tackle this predicament.”

“I see,” the Tantabus spoke, bending down to my height.

In the back of my mind I felt that I should run, a creeping darkness looming over me and my instincts telling me to bolt. Yet, I remained where I was, feeling some assurance that Princess Luna was here and that she would help if things were to go wrong.

A moment of silence passed between us as Tantabus eyed me, taking me in. Then, without warning, she moved her hands and placed them on either side of my face, her hands making a firm clapping sound when she hit my cheeks. My eyes remained focused on her while her hands ran through my cheeks back and forth, moving them about like a baker kneading his bread. While her fingers clasped on my cheeks, she used her thumb to rub under my eyes while the tips of her fingers touched and poked into my face.

“Well, this is unexpected,” I thought, feeling my face being mushed and squeezed by the being, “I feel like a corgi being pampered.”

“You know what, Spencer. Luna has told me so much about you, but there was one thing she didn’t mention.” Tantabus said to me.

“Huh?” I said, a look of confusion appearing on my face.

And then, the most unexpected thing happened, which started when a mischievous smile appeared on her face.

“YOU’RE ADORABLE!” She exclaimed to me.

Come again!?

Before I could even say anything else, she wrapped her arms around my head and pulled me into a tight embrace, effectively smothering me in her chest. I felt my body lifted off the ground while she held me and continued to cherish me.

“Why didn’t Luna send you here sooner?! You’re so appealing!” She exclaimed, giving a twirl while she remained in a giddy state.

Brain status!

“Can’t compute, detecting extreme softness. Can’t ignore.”

You're no help!

I had no choice but to endure while being dangled in the air, my head being buried in her chest and her arms covering the back of my head.

She’s supposed to be an all powerful deity, yet she was acting like a child and treating me like a teddy bear.

Stella was not helping much because she was busting her gut from the scene, and Princess Luna couldn’t help but stifle her own amusement. When Stella paused for breath, she pointed at me with tears in her eyes.

“Spencer, I said to work on yer breastwork. Not be in a literal one!” She exclaimed, wheezing with each breath and doubling over.

The tips of my ears burned red and I groaned internally, which was muffled because my mouth was squished to Tantabus’s arms. Despite being in this position, I couldn’t attempt to break free of her hold because her unnatural strength kept me in place. Despite how nice this might feel, if she didn’t let go, I was going to suffocate for need of oxygen.

Actually…that wouldn’t be a bad way to go to be honest.

After a few more moments, she eventually let go of me. I was able to get some fresh air and take a step back and did a complete one eighty. Her arms, however, slid down my body until she put her hands together like cuffs and her arms went around my chest. My face was no doubt red at this point. I didn’t care, though, because when my eyes wandered up, I was able to see her face again and was immediately entranced by those eyes once more. They gave off a motherly look, one that was similar to what Luna would have.

“I do apologize,” Princess Luna said, standing by my side while Tantabus held onto me, “Tantabus was created by me many years ago, long before you were born. Her upbringing had mostly been around me, and as such, was very limited to whom she interacted with. Needless to say, she has adopted more of my personality since I was her only contact for the longest time.”

“So, in this case, a very doting mother?” I replied to her, feeling the Tantabus rough up my hair and teasing it with her fingers.

“More or less,” Tantabus said with a giggle, before she turned me around again to face her and continued giving me affection, “And might I say, Spencer, that you’re quite fetching for an adolescent.”

I suddenly couldn’t help but feel confused by this. Why would she think of me as that? A teenager.

“Wait a sec, I’m an adult. I can handle myself quite well if I need to.” I exclaimed, but this only encouraged Tantabus and she brushed imaginary locks of hair out of my face.

“Young child, you’re naivety is quite obvious. Both the Princesses, and myself included, all see others as young children. No matter how old they may appear or act, they will never be as benevolent, wise, and understanding to the ways of the world. So in mine eyes, you are just a cute little babe who is taking his first steps into the world.” she said, gently patting my head and cooing at me.

At this point, I didn’t know if I should complain of her treatment or just let it happen and continued to get pampered the way that I am now.

Her affections and ministrations were quite nice, but also...felt a little weird to me.

“Don’t let her fool you, Spencer. I heard from Princess Luna that Tantabus had run amok once, trying to escape the dream world and into the real world.” Stella muttered.

“What?” I asked, a little bit alarmed.

“Anyway, I’ll leave you three at it. There is a matter I must attend to since we shall have need of Tantabus’s expertise,” Princess Luna said, stepping to the side while shifting to a nearby wall and into the dream realm.

As I watched her, I noticed multiple doors and spheres appearing in front of her before she began sorting them out.

“Okay, first off, what is she doing right now?” I asked, gesturing to Princess Luna before doing the same with Tantabus in particular, “And what did you actually do when you were trying to escape?”

Tantabus turned her attention to Luna, who was using her magic to find whatever she was looking for.

“She is searching for any disturbance within the dreamscape. She had been rather busy these past few days searching for the source of the darkness and where it is coming from. As for me,” she let go of me, placing a hand on her chest and smiling to herself, “I am ‘The Tantabus’, created by Princess Luna in order to help safeguard and protect the dreams of all-”

“Well, from what Luna had once said to me, she’s literally a torture machine for the Princess. She made her relive her nightmares over and over again,” Stella interrupted and speaking in a blunt manner, causing Tantabus to look at her with glaring eyes.

“Huh?” I turned to her, quite confused by her claim.

“The memory is coming back to me now. Years ago, before you came along and became such a sensation to the rest of Equestria, she was plaguing the dreams of the unlucky chaps down in Ponyville. She escaped the confines of her prison and went out to see everypony in the dreamscape. She was quite the annoying blighter, causing everypony she encountered to have unsettlin’ dreams that they did not wish to experience. Aye was among the unfortunate sod to be a part of that fateful nightmare and remember full well what she did. It only took the effort of the entire town, and the Princess to accept of her past mistakes and misery, to get Tantabus to finally be brought back to her.” she explained, shuddering right after. “I’ll never forget that dreadful pony who looked like an alicorn having a bad sunburn that was the color of a tomato. Tis unsettlin’ it is.”

“How would you know that if you had only met her just now?” I asked, a bit suspicious and confused over how she knew Tantabus even if this was the first meeting between the two.

“Well welp, after waking up from that encounter, I had to dip my head in the sauce till I was such a tosspot that I forgot about it entirely. Till now at least.”

“Of course.” I said with a roll of the eyes.

“That was because I wanted to explore the world around me!” Tantabus exclaimed, having her hands in front of her and looked ready to whine at her. “I wanted to see everything that I never saw before. You know how boring and dreadful it was to have to replay the same nightmare over and over again. You can describe every perfect detail in tangent so that there was no mistake.”

“It was only after seeing my friends that she began to get curious, and curiosity nearly claimed many of the lives of all the ponies in Ponyville,” Princess Luna chipped in from afar while she was searching through the dreamscape, and then added, “By the way, can you come to me. I believe I nearly found what we have been searching for.” she said before diverting her attention back to the dreamscape, where the doors became fewer and the dream like orbs were becoming few and far between.”

And right away, the three of us headed straight to Princess Luna, leaving the room Tantabus was staying in and into the dreamscape. There, we saw that, with the exception of the door leading into Tantabus’s room, there were doors switching everywhere. My guess for why Tantabus’s door wasn’t moving was that it was likely because of it being open.

“So wait…why did you torment Princess Luna in the first place?” I asked, turning my attention to Tantabus again after doing so.

“Well young child, Luna had wished this of me herself.” I tilted my head at her, which she had found amusing and patted me on the head, “Knowing how adorable your bewildered predicament it is, I can explain that things were rather rough for my creator when she returned from her banishment. You see, I was only created as but a familiar to Princess Luna. A construct if you will. For many years, and for long hours into the night, she would be practicing the arts of the elder magic, or dark magic if you wish for the most basic of terms.”

“And quite bias from the sounds of it,” Princess Luna chimed in, throwing aside spheres and doors that didn’t concern her, becoming fewer by the minute.

“In any case, she had practiced the elder magic for many long years. However, she had dabbled far too much into it, and due to her studies and jealousy of her sister at the time, she succumbed to the darkness and became Nightmare Moon.”

“A reality that I humbly regret and accept as fact even to this very day.” Princess Luna spoke, the spheres becoming more then a few dozen remaining and a half dozen doors still standing.

“After her thousand year imprisonment on the surface of the moon, she returned and was purified by the Elements of Harmony. Later on, she had awakened me from my stasis and tasked me to deliver punishment onto her. She had me repeat this onto her for neigh a year and a half before I had explored outside of her dream to interact with others within the dreamscape. However, my own carelessness and interactions to the world around me had lead me to try and rectify the little mistakes that were being presented to me. When I tried to fix the dreams to suite what I believed was needed, I inserted too much of my powers and altered the dreams into living nightmares for the inhabitants. I was fed a continuing stream of guilt from Princess Luna that I was a giant amongst the pony populace.”

“And Princess Luna was able to revert you back after accepting for the guilt she had committed?” I asked, earning a cheeky smile from her and another pat on the head.

I don’t think it’s going to get old any time soon.

“You are correct. If left unchecked, and if I kept blindly following her orders, I would have been outside the dream realm and into the real world, where everything that was ever conjured in the dreamscape would be made reality and living hell would be sown on all of Equestria. Tis merely doing my duty as my master had told me all those years ago.”

“Must’ve been hard,” I muttered, feeling some immediate sympathy for her.

She shook her head, her mane tossing around and shaking the planets and stars about.

“I managed. Though after she had removed the spells that bound me, I remained here until she believed she would have need of me.” She then wriggled her brows and I felt an uncomfortable chill move it’s way up my spine.

“Though Luna really needed to let me out sooner. Having someone to interact and not be terrified to a weakling state is a new experience for me. Even for one who is so cute like yourself,” she then proceeded to pinch my cheek.

I groaned inwardly over her motherly affection.

“Everypony. I believe I nearly found what we have been searching for.” Princess Luna spoke, the remaining spheres were now just a dozen or so left and where there remained a single black door that stood before her.

“Princess Luna,” the Tantabus spoke, her eyes focusing on the Lunar monarch.

“I believe it to be this door,” Princess Luna said, using some incantation with her hands before reaching for the door, “Whatever dream sequence we will use will help us in finding out the source of the darkness plaguing its-”

Suddenly, however, an eerie combination of a howl and a moan made itself known. Tantabus’s eyes flared up and she rushed in uncanny speeds to Princess Luna. The moment she was in front of her, she raised her hand in the air and balls of energy appeared around them.

“Stay close to me, Laddie.” Stella told me, putting herself in front of me and getting in a defensive position.

Then, when it seemed like silence was going to be the only thing accompanying us now, the ghastly sound made itself known again. And within that moment, a dark cloud of smoke appeared out of nowhere, shooting itself out like a missile before it slashed itself against Tantabus. Everyone jumped as she held her position, and to the amazement of all of us, she was able to hold her own and throw the dark cloud off of herself. She didn’t even seem phased by the attack.

The darkness landed in front of her and Luna with a silent thud.

Stella, meanwhile, charged straight for it as it was on the ground, brandishing a sword and shield as she did so. Just when she got close enough, though, the cloud quickly moved out of the way. It floated up into the air to be out of reach of the warrior, before charging towards Luna like an arrow. Just when it was close enough to the princess, though, Luna blasted it with her horn and caused it to fly back again. It flew onto the ground a few feet away from us all.

Then, the darkness took a moment to recover and began floating in the air again. This time, it stayed where it was and looked directly at the three mares, who separated from themselves but still maintained defensive positions.

“My my…was not expecting that,” the darkness spoke, a chilling female voice of the attacker showing up.

The hair on the back of my neck prickled as the darkness formed into shape. It formed into an orange monstrous looking creature, the upper half of its body having a human-like chest and neck, with long human-like arms and five-fingered hands, and overgrown fingernails, while the lower half of her body was like a snake, and her face and head…was like that of a pony. A unicorn to be precise.

It was her yellow eyes with black reptilian-slits that made her instantly recognizable to me, revealing her all too well to be the demoness that I had encountered.

“By the goddess! What is that hackit thing!?” Stella shouted, her grip on the sword and shield tightening.

Princess Luna stared wide eyed at the creature, seemingly at a loss for words.

The demoness merely chuffed, looking longingly to each of them in turn.

“Quite a few familiar faces I see.” she said, before taking her misty form again.

She began hovering around them like a banshee, inspecting them closely as if she was studying their every move, feature, and expression. That is, until her sights focused on me and a look that appeared to be both seductive and excited plastered on her ghostly face.

“Spencer-Wencer!” she exclaimed, and before I had a chance to move she shot straight towards me.

My body remained frozen as she formed herself into the cross-creature body from before and slithered up my body, her lower serpent part binding me in place, while the top human half of her was holding me in a hug and her head rested against mine. As if that wasn’t enough, she gave me a side to side nuzzle on my left cheek with her nose, which felt like a cactus thorn was scratching it, before putting her head back against mine again.

“Spencer!” Luna called out, while Tantabus edged forward with her shields and Stella stayed behind to protect Luna.

“Thou will let go of him!” Tantabus demanded, her magical field increasing and threatening to deliver a killing blow to the demoness.

“Oh, but I’ve only been with him for nearly an hour,” the demoness replied, pouting her face while one of her hands clutched my face and made my lips push out, “My little pumpkin-wumpkin here is so in need of attention, and I just would hate to part with him when we have so much to do. He’s just too handsome and unique to ever be away from.” She stated, giggling in some twisted fashion while stroking one index finger across my chin before turning to me and saying, “Isn’t that right, Pumpkin-wumpkin?”

“Pumpkin-wumpkin? Spencer, what the devil is she talkin aboot? Was there something ya neglected to tell us?” Stella asked out.

I glared at her while I was silently fuming inside, knowing full well she had interjected whenever I tried to finish what I had to say earlier.

It was then that demoness leaned her head away from mine once more.

“I’m just so glad I found you again, you handsome little boy,” She said to me, shaking my head sideways while holding my face at what she called me before stopping, “After the Princess of the Night cut me away from you, I could barely stand not having you by my side.”

Before I could iterate that the feeling wasn’t mutual, the sound of magic chiming to life suddenly made itself known. The demoness turned her head in the direction of the sound while I directed my eyes in the same direction. The two of us found both Tantabus and Princess Luna lighting their horns and in offensive positions, looking like they were readying themselves for a fight.

“You will let go of him, and then leave our sights at once,” Tantabus seethingly warned the demoness, “After all, it’s pointless to be in the presence of two powerful magic users and a Lunar guard when you are clearly not strong enough for such a fight.”

For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Luna and Tantabus maintained their positions while Stella was putting herself in her own battle stance. The demoness, meanwhile, just kept herself where she was, holding my face and squishing my cheeks, the snake-like part of her body wrapped around me and her chest pressed against me.

Then, as if a miracle had just happened, she let go of my face and cheeks before turning to face me.

“It seems our fun will have to wait another time then, Spencer-Wencer,” the demoness said to me with a sigh, her body loosening around me and allowing me the freedom to move again, though she still kept herself too close to me for comfort, “But before I go.”

And in just those few seconds, the unthinkable happened. She grabbed my face with both hands and gave me a firm kiss, lip to lip. I stared at her wide-eyed while her eyes were closed and she twisted her lips on mine using her head, like she was digging in them. They felt so cold and lifeless, like I was kissing a corpse.

Finally, her lips parted away from mine with a smack.

It was the most painful sensation that I had ever felt when she withdrew.

Think of it like having your tongue stuck to a pole in winter. But ten times worse, and your tongue is being removed harshly off with sandpaper.

“A parting gift, Darling,” She paused, before sliding her left hand down my cheek, “But we will be together again soon enough.”

To my relief, she finally parted away from me, leaving me to roughly rub every trace of her off my lips as she turned to everyone else.

“It’s good to see you again, sister of the shadows,” She said to Tantabus, before turning to Luna, “Along with you, Princess Luna.

She slithered herself a little bit towards them.

“Yet formalities and pleasantries will be postponed in the meantime. I have a great many things to do. For soon, I will no longer be contained in the dream world, and the human...will be mine. To keep. Forever. Ta.” she said, before her body turned into a cloud of smoke.

The smoke spun around me so fast I staggered and fell backward. I closed my eyes and feared I was going to hit the cold ground really hard. However...I didn’t. Instead of that, I found myself laying on something warm and comfy, like a pillow.

When I opened my eyes, I looked up to see Tantabus’s face staring down at me with a warm smile. A motherly kind, just like before. The astounding thing about it, though, was that she seemed so much bigger than before.

Wanting to see what I was laying on, I found myself to be in her arms, which were cradling me like a baby and rocking me side to side with her body. And just like her head, I noticed that her arms and body were bigger too.

In all honesty, even though I felt a little embarrassed to be in this position considering that I’m a man and not a baby, I was actually glad to be in her arms.

“Are you alright?” Tantabus asked me with concern.

“Yay. I’m fine” I assured her, “I’m not the only one who finds the fact that a demoness is attracted to me strange, right?”

“Oh no. You’re not alone on that.”

“Tantabus…” Princess Luna voiced, causing the both of us to direct our attention to her, “T-the magic of that creature. Is it...” Princess Luna asked, her body stiffened and shaking.

Tantabus strolled towards her, carrying me with her in a way that seemed both hesitant and willing, like wanting and not wanting to go to a job at the same time.

When she stopped in front of her, she said with a nod, “I’m afraid so. Especially now that I’ve seen it for myself.”

Princess Luna then gritted her teeth and her once proud hair flared up like a wildfire.

“So that bastard is still alive!” she said, turning to the black door that was in front of her.

Without another word, she grabbed onto the handle and thrusted it open, the door crashing into an invisible wall and sending jagged cracks all along the edges of the frame. She stormed inside the door, disappearing into the dark veil. Stella quickly followed inside, not even looking back to see if Tantabus and I were coming.

“Tantabus? What’s happening?” I asked, while she remained fixated on the door ahead of us.

“All will be revealed to you soon.” She said, before giving me a soothing pet on the head.

And so, Tantabus followed after Luna and Stella, holding me as she did. However, as we were approaching the door, I didn’t know how we were going to get in without Tantabus putting me down and shrinking back to her normal size. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be out of her hold, really. I just didn’t want to bump my head against the door and for Tantabus to be unable to get in because of being too big.

As we were close to the door, though, I saw Tantabus light her horn. To my amazement, the door widened itself and got taller, likely to suit her size and my safety as she held me. I found that it worked, because we went through the door with no problem at all.

Once inside the room the door lead in, it slammed shut behind us, plunging the world around us into darkness. At first, all I could hear was the breathing and the subtle heartbeat I felt from Tantabus, which was surprisingly low, whereas mine had quickened since our encounter with the demoness.

I looked about. Soon enough, a room that was a mix of black and grey was present before us. I saw the backs of Princess Luna and Stella, both staring at what’s ahead. Despite how I was held, I managed to follow their gaze as best I could. A flicker of light came forward and a roaring fire from a fireplace was present, illuminating the room around us. The whole room was covered in books and stylish decor, ranging from furniture that looked centuries old to drapes of fine tapestries. Black and red sheets covered the floor and bed nearby, while a large carcass of a bear was outstretched on the floor of the room. A small record player was turning lazily and soft music was being played, which sounded operatic and gothic at the same time. In the center of the room, next to the fireplace, was a lone figure sitting in a large cushioned high chair, the legs of the being stretched out on a cushioned seat. Whatever or whoever was sitting there was covered by a ridiculous newspaper that stretched out tall and wide.

It sort of reminded me of the old man in the movie “Kung Fu Hustle”.

After an uncomfortable silence, the person behind the paper stirred.

“Company? That’s surprising. It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors.” a male voice that was rich and deep spoke, from the velvet high chair, which looked neon red next to the roaring fire.

My ears perked up from the voice, striking a chord on how familiar it was. The paper lowered a few inches, revealing a red horn on the other side.

It looked very eerily similar to the one that the Storm King had brought out from that box.

I heard the mares near me hitch their breathes, while the Tantabus remained ever calm.

“Princess Luna. I believe this is who you have been searching for.” the Tantabus calmly spoke, not once releasing her cradle on me. In fact, her cradling tightened somewhat in a protective manner, and I could only watch helplessly while being suspended in her grip.

“Ah…I haven’t heard that voice for nigh a millennia.” The paper lowered further, revealing a unicorn that had long black hair and red eyes.

Princess Luna stepped forward and stomped her foot, her nostrils flaring and her wings outstretched. The unicorn eyed her first and smiled, revealing a toothy grin.

“It’s been a long time, Princess of the Night. I’ve missed you.” he said.

Princess Luna, without warning, lunged at him, “Sombra!”

The Trapped King

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Princess Luna lunged from where she stood, flying directly towards the black unicorn. As she did so, the unicorn didn’t move or evade her attack, until finally...Luna collided right into him in a way that would make any rushing lineman proud. He grunted from the contact a split second before Luna kept moving, sending him out of his seat and into the wall.

I barely had time to comprehend all that was happening by the time his seat hit the ground. Minutes ago, she was as happy as rain and content with what was around her. Now, she had an arm shunted directly against the mysterious unicorn’s chest and pinned him in place, while a sword of excellent craftsmanship materialized out of thin air and pointed directly at his neck. She seethed in anger and bore the eyes of a killer, ready to strike him down at a moment’s notice. However, despite her apparent threat against him, the unicorn remained completely calm.

In fact, he didn't even seem fazed by her charge or the fact she was holding him at sword point. Instead, he looked rather bemused by this turn of events.

"Always the feisty one, Luna. Clearly, after all these years you have not changed in the slightest. For a thousand years being spent on the moon, you would think the time apart would have taught you patience." he smugly said.

Princess Luna responded by shunting a knee straight into his stomach. He coughed once before Luna placed the blade's edge against his throat.

“The only thing I’ve learned is to harden my senses and ensure that I temper my mind from monsters like you!” she exclaimed, her fingers tightening around the pommel and ready to chop off his head at any given moment.

Sombra flashed his row of teeth at her and merely laughed, chuckling at her bravado.

“Are you trying to kill me, my dear? Like so many times before? Last I recall, you and Celestia were struggling to lay a dent in me before the whole of the Crystal Empire disappeared.” he asked, looking all the more amused by her.

“I did not hesitate then, and I will not hesitate now. I am stronger than you, and you cannot stand up against me.” she retorted.

“That is mighty rich for a young princess who didn’t know how to properly wield a sword and flapped it about like some third rate amateur. I’ve taught you better elegance than that. You should know that, without me, you wouldn’t have been the way you are. You should have taken my advice back then. Which was to commit more to the dark arts and hone your craft.” he said, but Luna pressed her blade ever closer into his neck.

“I don’t need the elder magic to help me hone my blade and swordsmanship. If I had to take advice from you, it would be like taking depression medication advice from a precarious obscura addict.”

“Your near sighted omniscience is painful to watch. My ‘experience’ in the matter gives me a level of expertise that you so thoroughly denied. Your jealousy of your sister had allowed your craft to grow over the decades, if not centuries, under my tutorship. It made such a lasting effect over the centuries, even when you were imprisoned on the moon.”

“One would think that after all the stunts you have pulled and blinded against me, my sister, the ponies of all of the Crystal Empire, and her beloved ruler would defeat you once and for all! You deserve nothing but the sweet taste of death after you killed the empire’s previous ruler, who was also one of my cherished friends, so that you could take the throne. If you were half as mad or downright insane over the things you did, I would have gladly given you a parade with the smallest of banners, streamers, and pathetic ponies you called black guard.” she exclaimed, causing the black unicorn to sigh and shake his head at her.

“I’m not saying ‘I told you so’ because you and I both know damn well that I was in the right at the time. We knew of the dangers that awaited the Crystal Empire, and yet you and your sister would tie your hands behind your backs and let the countryside be plundered and ransacked until you eventually decided to act.” the black unicorn stated, before pausing to give her a half grin, “Oh, and in addition, it seems that even now you're both hesitant in dealing with the present threat of the Storm King and how to deter him without risking it all whilst he is pillaging Equestria without much deterrence. Such squandering in politics and the like is what caused you to split with your sister in the first place.”

Princess Luna snorted and growled in irritation at his wordplay.

As the two ponies kept arguing, I continually watched as the conversation kept going as the feeling that nothing was going to snap them out of it at the moment. I was deeply confused about everything and wanted to get to the bottom of it all.

Suddenly, though, I felt Tantabus shift her arms as they were underneath me and heard her clear her voice. I found that my head, back, and neck were apparently straightened so that I could look her in the eye without her having to bend her neck down.

“Is something troubling you?” Tantabus asked me with concern.

“Well, yes,” I told her, “But…”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence, though, because Tantabus gave me a gentle stroke with her fingers down the side of my face.

“It’s alright. Tell me what’s wrong.” Tantabus soothingly said to me.

“I’m just really confused. I don’t know what’s going on here or who this ‘Sombra’ guy is, and it seems like I’m not going to be getting an answer from him or Luna due to how busy they are stabbing colorful word shivs into each other.” I told her.

Tantabus giggled at me with a smile upon seeing, “Well, you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up sometimes when you want to know something. But, I will gladly tell you all you need to know.”

And then as if she wanted to give me some kind of motherly comfort, Tantabus placed the hand of her other arm onto my right cheek. Her irises also began to glow somewhat.

“The new pony we are seeing here is King Sombra, the Shadow King and former ruler of the Crystal Empire.” She started, my reaction being that of a raise of the eyebrow, “Long ago, he was once a servant to the king of Equestria, the father of Luna and Celestia. He and his brother were attacked in a meeting with the Gryphon Empire, among the results being that the gryphons killed both of them. A brutal melee ensued between Canterlot’s populace and the gryphons who escorted the mad king. The battle led to the First Contact war between the two nations, which lasted twenty years before the gryphons soon surrendered. King Sombra later became a caretaker and teacher while Starswirl the Bearded, one of the Pillars of Old Equestria, helped in guiding them on the right course. After the war, he and the guards under him went to help Queen Amore, a distant or close relative to Princess Cadance, and protect her from the oncoming Changeling invasion. During that time, he also became a tutor to Luna as Starswirl was to Celestia. Over the years, however, he embraced a darker path that lead him to embrace the shadows. He overthrew Queen Amore and took the Crystal Empire as his own, ending the changeling threat once and for all. The cost of it, though, was the elimination of many lives. For several decades, if not centuries, he had ruled the Crystal Empire until he was stopped by both of the Princesses, but not before he, the Crystal Empire, and its denizens disappeared.” she finished, her eyes having stopped glowing once she was finished.

Her look then became a playful smile.

“I hope that was able to bring you up to speed.” she said to me.

“Sadly you lost me halfway.” I bluntly stated, still trying to cope with the amount of information that she bestowed upon me.

“Tantabus.” Sombra suddenly spoke.

Our attention peeked, the two of us turned to find Sombra and Luna looking at us. Each of them had a different expression. Luna’s expression was that of an expressionless sort, while Sombra’s was more of a smug and pompous kind.

“It’s been far too long. How fare you and the pet you have in your possession.” he asked with a sense of smug equal to his expression.

Suddenly, though, I felt a singe of annoyance overcome me. It was true I was being carried around in a bridal style fashion by Tantabus, but I was in no way a pet!

“Now wait just a minute! I...,” I began to say out loud, but struggled in Tantabus’s grippingly strong cradle as she held me.

I looked towards her to find she had an innocent smile on her face while I frantically tried to get out.

“You’re so cute when you act like a toddler.” she stated, which made me grow even more irritated by the way she was treating me.

“Let go of me.” I said to her softly.

As if she was sensing my seriousness and irritation, Tantabus shifted her arms as they were underneath me again to where I was no longer sitting up. Then, she gently lowered me to the ground.

“I’ll have you know I haven’t been having a good night for who knows how long, and that’s not even counting the times I had a peaceful rest while being imprisoned by a psycho maniac. I...” I paused briefly when I found Tantabus lowered me to where I could gently land my feet to the ground. I was ready to immediately get up and continue my rant, but when I tried to...well, Tantabus didn’t let me go again. So I looked towards Tantabus again and chided, “Do you mind?”.

I didn’t know whether she was going to be persistent about continuing to cradle me. However, she suddenly sighed. And as if some kind of hidden strength was eased, I was able to get up and out of Tantabus’s huge arms. My feet touched onto the soft furs while I felt my back being propped up by her, before I faced Sombra again

“I don’t recall how many weeks I’ve been trapped! Day in and day out, I’ve been forced to…”

But before I could fully get back in my rant, I heard Tantabus giggling. I turned to face her and found her patting my back and shoulders like she was cleaning imaginary dust off of me. She also appeared to be back to her normal size.

Having enough of this, I swatted away at Tantabus’s hand while it was on my right shoulder like a horse’s tail would a fly.

“You don’t need to do that,” I softly told her.

She gave me a mock surprise and giggled at my resistance.

“Anyway…” I said, before turning back to Sombra, “I’ve been forced to work to the bone. I’ve been emasculated, run down, having melancholy nightmares, and having to deal with a mare who seems to both hate and tolerate me every single day. So to compare me to some pet that should be smothered on a daily basis is the opposite of what I’ve gone through. In fact, I’ve been treated like a worthless toy ever since I’ve been here!”

“In all seriousness, fallen king,” Tantabus voiced, before stepping herself to the right of me and draping an arm over my shoulders and behind my neck, “This one here isn’t my pet. He is my friend, and he is an equal just like the rest of us. Even if he wasn’t born in this world to begin with, I would rather protect him and give him support even if it costs me my life.”

Upon hearing how supportive she was for me in testifying that I wasn’t her pet, I couldn’t help but meet her fond-looking gaze and look towards her with a thankful smile.

“Thank you.” I said to her with gratitude.

“It’s my pleasure, young one.” Tantabus told me, before ruffling my hair with the hand of the arm draped over me.

I tell you this’ll never get old, and I don’t think she’s ever going to get tired of doing it.

All of a sudden, though, the two of us heard the sound of something chiming. We turned to find Sombra making his body turn black. Well, not as black as his coat, but into a liquid pitch. He melded into the wall so fast that it caused Princess Luna to catch herself when she no longer had him pinned.

A second later, a small black circle appeared in front of me and Sombra houdinied himself before me. I blinked in surprise and looked up to see his coat had changed back to its normal state, and his clothes materialized on his body and appeared all the more regal.

And good lord he was big, and I’m not talking about the football kind.

I stood at five eight to Sombra and my head only came up to his shoulders. He had lean muscles and broad shoulders, making him all the more intimidating. His jawline was sharp and his hair was long and wild, going past his shoulders. He wore stylish clothes that appeared silver in nature, representing a bygone age that I couldn’t remember. He carried himself and was not bothered by Princess Luna approaching behind him, or Stella brandishing her sword and shield, looking ready to take him on.

“Not a step closer, brathadair. You touch him or harm my princess I’ll castrate you here and now.” Stella said, taking a step forward, her blade going ever closer to him.

He seemed to pay her no heed, which showed when he rolled his eyes in boredom at her.

“Please, at the state I’m in, I’m no more dangerous than a willow tree high up on the mountains. Besides, I believe your flimsy swordplay would harm you more then it would I.” he said, taking a step towards me.

“Ho ho that tears it slag. I’m going to break every bone in your body and turn your tendons into puppet strings. I’ll take this blade and shove it right up your-”

She didn’t get to finish, though, because her mouth sealed up.

Literally speaking.

Sombra had waved his hand towards her direction and her lips began to seal shut until her mouth was completely gone, all that remained being flesh. Her sword and shield clattered to the ground when she placed a hand over where her mouth used to be and her eyes widened in pure horror. Sombra, on the other hand, remained as calm as ever.

“I don’t need to hear your unnecessary dribble, nor do I wish to trade barbs with one who is equally prone to trading insults with another. So your current speechless state is most welcome while us elders speak.” he finished.

Stella merely gave him a blank stare and promptly flipped him the bird.

Sombra stood in front of me, placing his hands behind his back like a military veteran before he began to inspect me. I felt Tantabus move her arm away from my neck and shoulders before moving it to my arm and giving it a tight grip with her hand, but not tight enough to break it in two. Sombra leaned himself towards me, paying Tantabus no mind despite her being next to me. He kept examining me like I was some prized possession ready to be viewed before hand and sold at an auction. Princess Luna was behind him, her weapon at the ready if he was to make a move. He began to pace himself back and forth, keeping his hands behind him yet his head remained on me at all times.

I swear he would resemble an owl with the way his head kept itself in place.

After at least a minute passed, he stopped in front of me and nodded his head to me.

“You certainly are an interesting one, Spencer.” Sombra said, surprising me in the process.

“How’d you know my name?” I asked, unsettled that the equine that I just met had known my name.

“Simple really. It was-” he stopped speaking when his eyes flared and his body stiffened. “Not again.”

Sombra’s body hunched over. And no sooner had Tantabus removed her hand away from my arm and quickly placed both of her arms downwards to the center of my chest, forming a triangle with one hand over the other, keeping me in place and holding me close to her like a mother would a child.

Meanwhile, both Stella and Princess Luna took a step back away from Sombra as he clutched at his sides and grunted in pain, a light beginning to shine around him. Within moments, lightning struck him. Tantabus jumped back, moving me with her and pushed my body against her to where I felt like I was pressed to a pillow, while both Stella and Princess Luna guarded themselves. Sombra clenched his teeth as strings of light traveled across his body, the epicenter being forced onto his horn. From his horn it glowed and turned a hot bright red. He seethed and hissed, moving his hands up onto his head as he cried out.

After a few moments, the lightning was gone and the light faded as soon as it appeared. Sombra stood motionless where he was, his body giving off tiny tremors from where the electricity struck him. After another moment he slumped to the ground, one of his hands slapping into the fur pelts as he attempted to compose himself.

“What...just happened?” I asked, suddenly noting how uncomfortably close Tantabus was holding me against herself.

“Strong magic,” Tantabus stated, moving herself and her right arm away from me while she kept her other hand on my chest and her arm on my shoulder, “Magic that has the power to take and be used against their owners.”

Sombra lifted his head, bemused my her statement.

“An astute observation, Tantabus.” he said, placing a hand onto his knee to support himself upright. “It’s that damnable staff that has been siphoning my power.”

The moment he mentioned the staff, my thoughts turned to the Storm King.

“The same one that had turned an old man into stone?” I asked, and Sombra nodded in kind.

Princess Luna turned her attention to me, a serious look on her countenance.

“Spencer. Did the staff the Storm King wield have two forked points with a blue gemstone in its center? And when activated, does a blue electrical current would disperse out?” she asked, scarily accurate to what she was describing.

“Um…” I said to her, uncertain and nervous over whether I should tell her. Ultimately knowing I needed to conquer my nervousness, I slowly nodded my head up and down and said, “Yes.”

And no sooner had I said that, Tantabus tensed up and held me closer to her chest, that feeling of being pressed against a warm pillow coming back.

Two big pillows, mind you.

“If what you say is true, then we are dealing with the Staff of Sacanas.” she explained, to which, in my non historical mind of this world, caused me to promptly turn my head to the side and look directly to her.

“The what?” I asked.

Once again, I felt Tantabus ruffle my hair with her hand before she parted from me, the soft warmness leaving me as she moved to where she stood in front of everyone else.

“The Staff of Sacanas. A deadly staff created by the late Sultan Sacanas, the namesake of the weapon.” she began to explain, her eyes glowing bright. She waved a hand in front of her and a small sphere began to appear. “In order to understand the weapons. We must understand its history and origin.”

Inside of the sphere, an image began to take shape. An arabian desert, and a golden city in the distance. The city grew closer to where a large palace stood high above the city, with high spiral towers and golden domes that reflect in the light. I stood in awe as the image zoomed closer and a single brown equine, garbed in black and red garments, with a cheeky goatee and long black beard, came into view. He was certainly taller than most ponies I’ve met, but he no doubt had the villain vibe about him.

“Sacanas is from Saddle Arabia, a land were the people that live there are larger than the ponies of Equestria.”

Huh… well that answered that question.

“The Sultan and his people were not affiliated with magic as the rest of Equestria or her allied nations. Despite his wealth, glory, and an extensive empire, he grew envious over our abilities to control the elements. His people always had very little rain and harvests to survive through the years, relying on trade and other means to secure themselves. Because of this, his jealousy grew to rage over Equestria and her allies, and he began to rally his people into a fervor.” Tantabus said. The image soon changed, showing the sultan shouting at his people for their woes and misgivings as they shouted in kind. “Many flocked to him and began to arm themselves for war. Yet, a few princes in the land outright refused his call, seeing that his vision and hatred were clouded and misjudged. They were the first to fall in the sultan’s conquest.”

The next image showed the same princes being cut down by the sultan’s men while others were fleeing from him.

“After many months of preparation, and securing the undying loyalty of his subjects, Sacanas realized that even with a strong army that numbered tens of thousands, they were not strong enough to combat the magic of Equestria head on. It was at this time he procured, or in some cases, stole from a griffin caravan and took a single most pure crystal from their possession. He then had taken the liberty of forcing several ponies of each race to craft him the staff that was necessary for him to control the magic they wielded. They resisted at first, but one by one, they were broken and complied with his demand.” she explained, while the image changed and showed ponies of all three races, an earth pony, a unicorn, and a pegasus, helping forge the staff to the sultan’s design.

While she explained this, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Sombra had moved himself to his seat, bringing the fallen chair up with his magic and sitting down to rest. He had a tired look on his face but still showed interest in what Tantabus had to say. Meanwhile Princess Luna and Stella, the latter still having her lips sealed tight, remained silent and listened patiently throughout the story.

“Once the staff was completed, he took the crystal and placed it within the staff’s notch. It immediately took the crystal, its magic creating lightning from its edge. Then, he unceremoniously struck down the ponies who crafted it, stealing their magic and killing them in the process. By taking their magic, Sacanas powered the staff he wielded, took the might of his nation, and marched against Equestria’s allies.”

“So...did the equestrian allies manage to stop him?” I asked, curious as to how this story was going.

“Initially no.” Tantabus explained, hovering her hand to show what appeared to be pyramids and a vast army approaching it. “This was over four hundred years ago, and during this time, messaging and long range communication was difficult. Only a select few had direct communication to Princess Celestia at this time.”

This revelation caused me to pause and I waved my hand in a questioning manner.

“So, wait, if Princess Luna was stuck on the moon during this time...how do you know this?”

She turned to meet me in the eye and gave a fun smile.

“Once Princess Luna returned she had to be up to speed with the world’s events and past histories. So I had a lot of free time.” She said, before turning back to the sphere and rearranging the image.

Of course, I thought, while feeling the stern gaze from one pony in particular. I couldn’t help but cast my gaze to Sombra, who looked me over my ignorance. I decided to ignore him and continue to listen.

“One by one, nations fell. Sacanas used his army, the staff, and every tactic he knew of to overwhelm the nations he took in a few weeks time. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who surrendered had their magic stolen and fed into the staff’s power. Barely any life was able to escape his clutches, but those that did fled into the neighboring countries.” she said, more images propping up with people fleeing their homes with their families and belongings, while in the background distant cities were burning in the far off distance.

“Sacanas soon discovered that the magic he absorbed into the staff was able to create powerful storms of any kind. Especially rain. Yet, despite this discovery, he had no intention of bringing this newfound power to his home country, and his taste for conquest made him all the more ambitious.” she explained, showing the Sultan’s armies preparing a fleet and Sacanas all too eager to continue expanding his reign. “It was soon after the fleet was created and after conscripting more unwilling fighters into his forces, he moved his ships to the neighboring countries across the seas. Using the staff’s powers, he created winds to guide his army forward, while outlying villages suffered from the storms that were left in its wake. From here on his armies marched onto the shores of many countries. From the coasts of The Greedcian city states, the heartland of Maredonia, the spice trading hub of Coltstantinople and even to the shores of The Roama Empire. All had suffered from his wake. With much territories claimed, he focused on one city that would be the centerpiece of his conquest before he could turn on Equestria. The famous city of Lipizzaner.”

She waved her hand, the sphere rippling and enlarging before showing a massive city with high walls and towers. The walls surrounding the entire city, where parts of the wall would jut out in a triangle or star shape and soldiers were deployed on all sides to attack anyone that would come for a fight. The inside of the city gleamed in the light of the noon day sun, where near the center a dozen or so towers shout out to the sky, with a massive one in the center of the city itself, next to a grand palace that overlooked the city. Within the city, the denizens were preparing for the battle ahead, fortifying their defenses and arming themselves for battle.

There was one thing that I noticed about them. The adults were all pure white whereas the children were all black.

The children were all black or bay in color. From what I could also tell, the teenagers and young adults share a mixed color of lighter grey to white, with hints of black upon their coats surrounding their arms and legs. It could have been some genetics or some other inexplicable explanation, but I found it rather interesting.

“So, what made this city in particular so special?” I asked, my endless supply of questions never ceasing to desist.

“Lipizzaner is homed to the most prestigious college of magic. Celestia and Princess Luna, before she was banished, had created it for the people when they had a distinctive use of magic. Compared to the School of gifted unicorns, the Magic College of Lipizzan was used for other gifted equines who have an affinity for it, even for ones without horns or wings. It was known for its deep relationship with many of the nations that surrounded it, as they all sent their own students and pupils to attend the college.”

“As much as I would love to hear more of this college, can we get on with this story? There are far more important things to discuss.” Sombra called out, sitting upright and clearly wanting to get to the point of the story.

Tantabus paid him no heed, but waved her hand to change the image within the sphere. The next thing I saw was the army of the Sultan marching towards the city. Yet, instead of going at the walls, they prepared a siege.

“Wanting to preserve the college of magic and not destroy the city, Sacanas decided to hold out and starve the populace while having the city surrounded and every road blocked to prevent outside aid, his soldiers being at the ready. However, due to his want to preserve the city, he made a fatal flaw which allowed Equestria’s allies to muster their forces and prepare for a counterstrike.”

The next scene showed the city and its inhabitants firing cannons off against the Sultan’s massive army, keeping them at bay and not allowing them to get closer.

“The Lipizzaner defenders held out for fifty nine days, but they were losing supplies and beginning to starve. They had only enough rations to last them another fortnight. However, Celstia and her allies were gathering, and on the sixtieth day they arrived.”

The next image showed the armies of Equestria and her allies, gathering from the northwest. Her forces were gathered together on a hill, overlooking the city. Celestia was wearing golden armor that glistened in the light, wielding a spear that was decorative and equally deadly. Her hair billowed in the wind, and a determined look was upon her countenance. Her army was present, along with many allies that stood with her. The Sultan, though, looked undeterred by their presence and pointed his staff towards them and the city.

“When the armies arrived, Sultan Sacanas was not perturbed by their presence and instead began channeling his staff. It began to emanate storms and he sent them towards his opposers while he ordered his forces to take the city, not caring if the walls were damaged in the assault. Celstia and her allies, in response, conjured their own magic to fight off the Sultan’s massive storms, but the result hindered their movements while his forces made their assault on the city.”

The next image showed the Lipizzaner defenders putting up a strong resistance against the Sultan’s armies. Yet every time they repelled the enemy, more kept coming into the breach of the assault and were getting onto the walls.

At one point there was a section of the wall that got taken and several individuals attempted to raise a flag and claim that the wall was taken. Thunderous cheers broke out in the Sultan’s forces but it was not meant to be. A single group of Lipizzaner soldiers manned one of the cannons that was fifty yards away. It had a broken wheel and couldn’t turn properly, but an equine, who was quite likely the largest out of everyone, managed to move the cannon with his bare hands alone. The others managed to prop the cannon on a broken stone slab and prepared to fire. The Janissaries who saw this panicked upon the wall, but it was already too late. The group fired the cannon and it barreled through the enemy soldiers, tearing at their armor and ripping them to shreds. The responding explosion struck where the flag was raised and smoke covered the section of the wall. Moments later, I saw the flag of the sultan burning and tumbling over the ramparts below.

Yet, that was mediocre to what happened to the cannon. In one hilarious motion, since the cannon was not propped up right, the cannon flung backwards off the wall, and struck into the side of a siege tower, collapsing part of it and sending more of the sultan’s forces tumbling to the ground.

It was either complete stupidity, or sheer dumb luck, but the soliders mannning that cannon managed to buy time for a small detachment to reclaim the walls.

“Despite the heavy fighting and the casualties massing on both sides, Sultan Sacanas was not going to let Equestria or her allies prevent him from obtaining what he wanted. He ordered all of his forces to strike at the walls and batter down the gates. If he achieved this, then he would go straight for the college, and seize the magic contained within. Yet, as the Sultan’s forces surged towards the walls, this is what Celestia had wanted to happen and allowed another force to come from the West.”

An image soon changed and revealed a tightly packed forest, where many figures began to move but were not visible due to the thick foliage. From what I could guess, though there were either hundreds or thousands of soldiers coming out of the woodwork.

“At the earliest hour of the evening, the warriors of Wojnasaw had arrived to relieve the city.” Tantabus paused, turning her head towards me in an educated moment, “For Celestia this was a crucial moment. She and her army would have been there with the first few weeks of the siege, but political opponents and leaders were very finicky and demanded for troop movements within their lands and restitution for what was lost. Wojnasaw was very adamant that if the fight was won the spoils would go to them, whereas other nations would demand property to be returned and lands to be reinstated. Celestia had to carefully wove through the political landscape and internal affairs to gain their trust and convince them of the fight ahead. She had to make very few concessions from the weeks that followed, making political maneuverings, offering river taxes, sharing glory in battle, and trade. It all came to a decisive political win for Princess Celestia as she managed to gain their forces so that they may push back against the Sultan and his horde.”

Tantabus turned back, changing the image within the sphere and keeping it on the forest, where the equine army had gathered.

The Wojnasaw warriors were covered in plated cuirass armor with accompanying shoulder pauldrons, as well as what looked like a pelt of a Jaguar or some other large cat on their shoulders. They wielded their spears and sabers, the weapons glistening in the noon day sun, and shields with an image of an eagle claw reaching out to its prey. They were all pegasus soldiers, since I saw each one having wings upon their backs with had a red line going up and showing white wings spreading out. They were accompanied by the soldiers who marched out of the trees, their banners and flags waving behind them as they moved forward. On closer inspection, and to my disbelief, every single one of the Wojnasaw warriors had wings.

I mean…all of them.

There were earth ponies and unicorns who also wore the wings upon their backs while the pegasus had their real wings displayed. The wings on the ponies of the foreign two races were highly decorative, almost giving off the false appearance that they were pegasi as well. The wings of the pegasus warriors were massive to say the least, each one stretching out and making them larger than they appeared. Another noticeable feature they had was, for the pegasus in particular, that they all had red paint upon their armor. The paint covered their lower bodies and moved its way up their chest, with paint pointing out every so often until it reached the center of the collar bone. The red lines ended when it headed up towards their necks and reached their lower lips. They all had grim determination on their faces, and the armor they wore and the paint on it and their bodies made them all the more fierce.

They were truly noble warriors born for battle.

Off to the side, I noticed a hand movement being waved about and turned to see Stella waving at her face. I blinked and slightly grinned in smug amusement over how beat red she was as she stared at those warriors. Even if her mouth was missing, I imagined that her tongue was rolled out and fawning over those guys. I also couldn’t help but think that she had one thought on her mind if she was to be in their company.

And that involved lots and lots of babies.

Soon after, the image changed and revealed the whole army exiting the forest. The Sultan’s forces were stunned by their presence and the fact that they were right behind them. In a glorious, shout the army charged forth, starting with a simple jog before gaining speed and rushing towards the enemy. The warriors of Wojnasaw were at the head of the column, forming into a triangle formation and rushing at breakneck speeds, with the pegasi taking to the skies and shouting out their warcry.

“3,000 Wojnasaw warriors charged at the lead with 15,000 soliders of the Roama empire following behind, making the largest charge ever recorded in Equus history.” Tantabus said, shifting focus on the city itself.

“With Celestia and her forces, they too began to move out as well. Seeing the sight of their allies charging to their aid, the valiant defenders of Lipizzaner sallied forth to meet the armies of the sultan. Sacanas’s army was not only stunned by the charge, but they went into utter panic. The clash was swift, the lightly armored Arabians being no match for the heavy armored warriors of both Roama and Wojnasaw. The army fought and labored for so long that seeing the sight of the enemy crashing and breaking through their lines broke their resolve. Sacanas and the few most loyal to him attempted to rally his army and surge to the city so that they can get to the college. However, the magic that he had created for the storms was stopped by Celestia and her strongest magic wielders, who were able to subdue the storms and turn it’s direction onto them instead.”

“The Sultan’s forces were battered and beaten down by the storm while Celestia and her allies clashed his army from three different points. Many were slaughtered by the initial clash, while only the elite Janissary were able to hold their own and the personal guard of the sultan remained standing. The remaining army began to flee in a panic, but they were picked off by the Wojnasaw forces and ripped apart by the cannon fire from the walls. The sultan’s loyal followers surged towards the gates, attempting to break through the stalwart defenders. Yet this was not meant to be.” she explained.

The image changed to show Celestia breaking through the ranks of the Sultan’s personal guard, with her own royal guard seizing the moment to rush and attempt to kill the mad tyrant.

“However, the Sultan’s end was not by their hand but by one of his own. Or rather, one who had longed for vengeance.” Tantabus said.

The image changed and it beheld a single guard standing behind the mad Sultan. In the midst of the fighting, as Sacanas was shouting and screaming out his anger for his army’s incompetence and failure, he didn’t pay heed to one of his soldiers approaching him from behind. In one swift stroke, the guard thrust his blade into Sultan Sacanas’s back. The blade protruded from his chest, and his staff fell into the dirt below. The guard then removed the turban over his head and revealed to the stunned Princess Celestia who he really was.

It was a pegasus that had a red body and blue mane, and he had a heavy black eyeliner that went around his eyes and carried outward towards his temples.

“Prince Hisan, last heir of Canaanite whose country was the first to fall to Sacanas, became a hero for killing the Sultan. He had sought vengeance for his family's death, his country’s ravaging, and the personal destruction of his family dynasty. With their leader gone the rest of the army faltered, with many surrendering soon after. Pockets of resisting soldiers were within the army, not knowing that the sultan was gone.”

The next image showed the many combatants of the Sultan surrendering eagerly to the allied armies, whereas many of the others fled into the countryside.

“After the battle, the Wojnasaw warriors were able to get the first spoils, while the others sent relief and aid to the starving citizens of the city. Celestia, along with her close allies and advisors, discussed what they would do with the Staff of Sacanas. Knowing full well how dangerous it was, they opted to destroy it. But Prince Hisan, seeing the staff’s work first hand, offered to take it and use it for the benefit of the people in both Saddle Arabia and to others living in the desert regions of Equus. After much deliberation Celstia agreed, so long as they kept constant watch over the staff and that it was being used correctly.”

“After that, the war was over, the regions that were conquered were returned, and the staff was used to bring water to their regions. Canaanite, however, would never return to its former glory. They were reduced to merely one small town, knowing the work they would have to do would take many decades if not centuries to rebuild their lost civilization. To accompany this fact, the name was changed to Somnambula. Finally, in closing, the people of Saddle Arabia were humble in their defeat, knowing full well that they had served the Sultan out of fear than in complete adherence to their leader. When a few surviving princes came back from exile, they reformed their kingdom and made changes to better suit their needs, using the wealth they had to help rebuild the nations they had ravaged. Today, they are steadfast and close allies to Equestria, as well as a close trading partner in the region.”

Tantabus soon finished, her glowing eyes fading to its natural state while I remained where I was motionless.

Or rather, I was speechless over the whole story.

I was always under the assumption that Equestria would be all powerful and they’d save the day in the end. But it turned out to not be the case. They were strong in their right, but they needed allies to help them engage a much more powerful foe. Having to navigate the political landscape and the dilemmas amongst them was a challenge, but to have it succeed and bring the nations that more close was daunting onto itself. There were many things that could go wrong, and it was an entire balancing act to keep things in line and get the nations what they needed.

I couldn’t help but understand, if not respect, a bit more about how Equestria got things done and that every party involved was given an equal chance to speak out.

“So, after the staff was returned to the people, what happened to it? How did it fall into the hands of the Storm King?” I asked, curious as to how it ended up in his claws.

Tantabus’s ears folded back and she turned her attention to me before shaking her head.

“There is little to no record of what became of the staff. From what I was able to find, for a few centuries, the staff had been transferred between the desert regions in order for the rainfall to be produced, only for it to be taken in transit.”

“Thieves and bounty hunters who have a keen eye for treasure and wealth would no doubt have taken it.” King Sombra spoke out, sitting upright in his seat as he placed a hand over his record player and began to tune it.

“An astute observation, Sombra, but we didn’t need to hear your opinion.” Princess Luna chimed in, bearing a contemplative look as she drew a finger to her chin.

“And yet you do. With the staff now in the possession of the Storm King, history will repeat itself upon your very city.”

“I understand that!” Princess Luna raised her voice slightly, annoyed that she was even speaking in the same room as him, “What I will not stand is for you to foul our presence with your vagrancies and lies. You should be grateful that I allow you to even speak with us, despite the fact that your company would be better suited for a windigo in heat!”

Sombra sighed deeply and rolled his eyes at her.

“Luna, you can name every moniker for what you can call me. But, if you want to stop the Storm King, then I wish detente between us. We share a mutual enemy.”

“That is absurd! I will not stand by and watch you skullduggery your way behind our backs. What can you possibly offer us when we would more than likely trade one villain for another.” Princess Luna stated, her arms folded and clearly agitated by his mere suggestion.

“Trust me, I do not wish to share this camaraderie with you either. However, if we are to safeguard your kingdom from the Storm King then you mayhaps wish to learn from what I know of him, as well as what he plans for your kingdom and for the magic he wishes to seize: Alicorn Magic.” he stated, and this caused Princess Luna to pause.

“Our magic?” Luna said in shock, “What do you mean-”

“What I mean...” Sombra interrupted, more sternly than before, “...is that you will need my aid if you are to combat the magic that he is siphoning from me. I know for a fact that you do not want my magic to befell your precious kingdom. Especially since ‘she’ has broken free from the wards that suppressed her before.”

The room fell silent after that. I looked at Princess Luna and she looked rather alert over what he had said. I couldn’t imagine what kind of magic that Sombra had to begin with. Did he have some relation to the storms that were being made during our long march? Or something more sinister?

For a time that felt like hours Princess Luna stood there, contemplating his words, while he remained sitting in his chair, watching over her like an aged gargoyle that still had its pristine look.

Then, as if a spell was lifted, she lowered her head to him.

“I will convey your message to my sister so that we may arrange this. But know this,” she raised her head, a searing gaze revealed before him. “I will not hesitate to strike you down. If you make the slightest inclination that you will betray us, I will bring you pain so unimaginable that you wished you were dead and that your carcass be given to the vultures.” she said, not once backing away.

Although the opposite could be said for me when I had to back away from her. There were only a few times where I saw her angry. Trust me…it’s best to stay away at a reasonable twenty meter pace if you want to avoid her burning wrath.

Sombra, on the other hand, appeared to be calm and collected by her threat. He inclined his head to her and remained there as such. Her glare dissipated as she understood that both of them were in agreement. Both Tantabus and Stella went to her side as Luna remained quiet. Tantabus conversed with her while Stella merely shook her head since she didn’t have a mouth, while Sombra sat where he was. I was only thankful that things didn’t get out of hand.

“Luna,” Sombra suddenly voiced, catching the attention of the three mares, “There is one thing that needs to be done.”

Or...maybe not?

I looked to Sombra, who stood up from his seat and turned to look at me. I took an uneasy step back when I noticed that his body faded. I bumped into something behind me and I whipped around to see what I hit. It was Sombra, and he reached a hand at me before I could even react.

“Spencer!” Princess Luna shouted out, while I felt Sombra’s hand encompass my head.

I felt a burning sensation reach into my mind and screamed out. And then, everything went black.


I awoke with a start, kicking the blanket off in the process. I placed a hand on my chest and felt my heart hammer against it. I looked about the room I was in, trying to figure out if I was still in the dream realm or if I was awake. Everything was still dark. I saw that Tempest was sleeping on her bed, still wearing her armor. And as Tempest slept, I remained on the floor as the soft sound of rain pattered against the tent.

Annoyingly, I found myself having to deal with the sound of the constant downpour as I was awake.

I breathed easily, trying to calm my nerves and wondering what the Shadow King did to me. I placed a hand on my head, wondering why he grabbed me that way. I thought of a million different things, but yet I couldn’t comprehend why he did what he did. Or what he did for that matter.

“Glad that’s over,” I muttered, adjusting the blanket back over me in an attempt to go back to sleep.

‘It’s not over.’ I heard Sombra’s voice mere inches from me.

Alert and panicked, I looked around the room, wondering if he somehow managed to escape the dream realm.

‘It has only begun.’ His voice said again.

I was even more panicked when I heard him the second time, but yet...I couldn’t find him. With the exception of Tempest and I, the tent was void of life.

“How? Where?” I managed to stutter.

When I said those words, I heard the sound of bones knocking together, which made me jolt my back straight. As the noise kept going, I realized that it was coming from below me. When I looked down, I found that my knees were knocking together. I quickly put my hands on my knees to get them to stop, and as I held onto them, I couldn’t help but feel surprised that Tempest didn’t wake up from hearing that.

‘You can only hear me boy. I am still in the dream realm.’ Sombra’s voice spoke again, which made me feel a tingling sensation in my mind.

“You’re in my head!?” I nearly shouted, before I clasped my hands over my mouth.

I turned in Tempest’s direction to see if I accidentally woke her up or had caused her to stir in her sleep. To my relief, she did none of that. My knees weren’t knocking against each other again, so that was good.

‘I have a direct link to you, yes,’ Sombra’s voice spoke, and I didn’t even bother swiveling my head everywhere, ‘You and I have much to discuss. I know that you must have a million questions running through your head and I will not hesitate to answer them, but for now...you have the gratification that I will be watching over a mere diminutive being like you thanks to this link.’

I didn’t know if I should be spooked or unnerved by the way he said that.

I removed my hands from my mouth and tried to take a calming breath. As I lowered my hands and arms down, I attempted to open and close my fists like I was holding a stress ball. However, the moment I clenched my right hand...I felt something. Looking down, and in the pale light that the gloomy weather seemed to provide outside, I turned my right hand and opened it up.

I shuddered when I saw red in the palm of my hand, and a lightning flash accompanied by thunder helped me confirm what it was:

Blood.

I shuddered at the sight and placed the tips of my fingers onto my lips, which felt warm and hot to the touch. I removed my hand again and saw small drops of blood on the edge of my fingers. The blood from my lips felt cracked and I tasted it when it entered my mouth.

“Why are they bleeding? It’s not dry out?” I said to myself softly, continually bewildered as I was wiping the blood off me.

As a last resort, I decided to shut my lips together to stop any further bleeding. Luckily, nothing else came out. But, by using my tongue, I felt two small holes on my lips.

I couldn’t have bitten them when I slept. Could I?

‘She has left her mark on you.’ Sombra said.

“What?” I quietly asked.

‘The dark creature. The one who has been haunting you and the mare called Tempest, has left her mark on you.’ Sombra clarified.

I tensed up when the memory about the demoness surfaced. My body shivered and my breath became shaky as I remembered when she had her hands on me, how she held me close to her body, and...the kiss she gave me.

I was starting to think I had become a doll to a monster who could tear my head off if I didn’t please her.

‘Do not worry. The wounds will heal. I cannot say much about the scars though.’ Sombra spoke again, which was enough to bring me out of my thoughts.

“Sombra. Who is she?” I asked him.

Sombra said nothing. His voice was a void to the darkness around me. I shuddered again, wanting to know what that demon did to me.

“What did she do to me? Answer me!” I said, wanting to force it out, but my body continued to shake in obvious fear.

Again he did not reply.

I was alone.

“What’s her name? What is she?” I asked in a weak tone.

But again, Sombra didn’t answer.

Silence was the only response I was given, and it seemed like it was going to be that way.

I decided to give up on the matter, knowing the ‘secret king of shadows’ would not give me any acknowledgment to my questions. I was even more alone in the dark than when this night began. I slipped the blanket over my body and attempted to rekindle my sleep. I closed my eyes, trying to think of other things to clear my mind off of what happened.

‘My creation. The very being that I had forged and has broken away from me.’ Sombra finally replied.

Even though my eyes were closed, I suddenly saw a pair of red eyes staring back at me. Sombra’s eyes looked fierce yet almost sympathetic. I opened mine up to avoid his gaze, only to instead find a cloud of shadow in front of me. His eyes were still there and it hovered in front of me as I remained at a loss for words. His eyes then glowed brighter than before and a mouth materialized below them.

“Her name...is Misery.” I heard him say in front of me.

The shadow disappeared just as soon as it emerged, once again leaving me alone in the tent.

I didn’t go to sleep for the remainder of that night. The very name of the demoness, Misery, haunted my mind all through the night, along with wondering what she could want with me.

A Heated Cordial Caper (Edited)

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It’s been a rough thirty six hours since my encounter with the demoness, Sombra, and Tantabus. As well as my reunion with Stella, of course.

Those 36 hours, though...were also ones of no sleeping. Even as I was only sitting on the edge of the bed.

Ever since Sombra materialized before me and told me a demoness named Misery “left her mark on me”, I became worried that she would be waiting for me in my dreams. In fact, I half assumed that she would plague me even if I was asleep or not. I don’t think I’ve ever been up this long with no sleep. Not since that time I played a video game when I was done with college semester finals anyway. Totally crashed after that but it was worth it.

But now…I didn’t want to go to sleep.

I was so tired. I wanted to rest, but I didn’t want to sleep only to suddenly meet Misery again and be played with by her.

My pillow was calling like it was singing a lullaby to me, but…no! I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to sleep.

To top it all off, I had no idea where Tempest was. I had hardly seen her since waking up in the middle of the night. As a matter of fact, right when I at one point blinked and opened my eyes after that...I suddenly saw that she was gone. Either I blacked out after that very blink or something else, because I don’t recall anyone disappearing in just a blink. She didn’t even come back to sleep like she normally did when night came.

All the while, I was stuck in the tent with an itchy shoulder.

I think I might be paranoid, but something about knowing the name of the demon who’s been haunting me and that she’s awaiting me in my dreams was making me think rather irrationally. It was like being in a horror movie, walking down a dark street only to suddenly be surprised by a monster or ghost. The moment I have the slightest inclination to fall asleep, that witch would be waiting to pluck me up in my dreams and torment me.

Although, in a strange way, she has the hots for me and I’m weirded out by that prospect. I mean, I’m not that bad looking, right?

I’m getting slimmer from the workout of constantly pulling double duty loads for the Storm King, with a nice helping of getting electrified by my taser collar. I gained my scars and bruises while being here, and yet I doubt any woman would go head over heels for me. Even with my current mood and state of affairs I wasn’t happy in the slightest. I didn’t think any woman would want to be near me, that’s for sure.

The itch on my shoulder blade was not helping either.

In fact, the whole time I’ve been awake I remained inside the tent. Even if I wasn’t ordered by Tempest to do so.

You guys want to know what I did?

Nothing. Absolutely freakin nothing.

I’ve been trying to keep myself sane by thinking of anything but sleep, like things that happened in the past while I was trapped in the Storm King’s camp. Despite this, though, my attention kept wandering to the pillows, and every time I looked at them...they were so inviting. I could be in fluffy saccharine heaven if I just lay my head down on those pillows and…

No!’ My subconscious said to me, before directly ordering, ‘Stay awake!

And with a shake of my head, I put myself back into my no-sleep strike.

To keep myself from sleeping, I began wondering what Tempest would be doing once I saw her again. For that matter, I wondered what she would be doing with me.

I pictured in my head that a hit job was going to be played on me the moment she came back. That she would come in through the tent walls, grab me from behind, throw me on the floor, toss me into that…very lovely pillow…she would slide on over, let me rest my head on her legs, and soothingly stroke my face. All the while, she would sing a lullaby and lull me to never ending blissful torment with those demon like eyes, before throwing me in the air and grabbing me, her arms wrapped around my mouth area and smothering me in that-

I realized then that my head was resting on a pillow and that my eyes were closed. I immediately bolted upward from the bed, completely wide awake from seeing the sight of Misery from my half awake, half asleep dream.

GAH! I screamed.

I smacked myself with my good hand and stomped around the floor of the room, all being in an attempt to make myself active and clear my thoughts.

Never in a million years would Tempest do what came in my head, not unless it came with preconditions. The real Tempest would bend my knees until they bent the wrong way, break every vertebrae in my spine, rip my ribcage upward, stomp on my open flesh, and pour molten lead into the wounds.

After a few moments of stomping, I sat cross legged on the floor. All the while, I couldn’t help but take haggard breaths and reflect on what I saw.

The itch was really annoying me right now.

I’ve been having these thoughts for the last few days now and I don’t know why they keep surfacing. I’ve not had anything occurring with Tempest besides the interactions with her in her dreams and learning a bit about her history. Yet, ever since Misery french kissed me, I think she did it french, that itch kept bugging me. I’ve been getting nothing but these thoughts of being with Tempest. I’m not sure if it had to do with Misery or with what King Sombra made that link did on me, but now I can’t get my head out of the clouds without thinking about Tempest.

Speaking of shady kings, Sombra hardly appeared to me since he first told me about the link. I kept speaking his name so that he would be here and tell me what he was doing, but all I’ve gotten was silence. It was starting to feel like he disregarded me all together.

I couldn’t stand that itch.

He claimed he would be by my side and offer sage advice, not outright give me the cold shoulder.

That itch.

He said he gave me a link to him, but he never showed up and assisted me when I needed it the most.

Itch.

I guess the same went for Tempest. She outright ignored me like I didn’t exist, and now she’s been gone for longer than expected like she was never coming back!

ITCH!

I screamed out and thrusted my right arm toward my left shoulder. I tore at my bandages and dug underneath the fabric to go straight at the itchy spot, feeling the skin where the unbearable sensation was. My fingers dug and scratched back and forth, going over the area. Yet the bandage still clung to my body and wouldn’t let me dig and scratch further. I pushed onward, my hand charging forth into the unknown, pushing the fabric aside and peeling away the annoying cloth that leached on me for so long. My fingernails dug and scratched the annoying spot, relief rushing through me while I did so. But it wasn't enough. The itch was being scratched but there were other areas that infuriated me. I dug my nails, pushing further onto the area, going in circle motion and digging into the itchy skin. However, I stopped midway when my left arm drooped from it’s sling and I felt an area that I did not expect.

I found a small indentation in my skin. It felt off from where my fingers pressed into it. The flesh, or what appeared to be flesh, was soft and tender. Muscle that should have been there wasn’t there, and normal tissue that was upon my shoulder blade felt raw and unnatural. I felt something warm beneath my fingertips, the first sensation on my shoulder ever since I started losing the numbness. I withdrew my hand from the wound, and when I looked at it...I saw blood on my fingertips.

Was bleeding going to start becoming a regular thing for me or something?

“I see you’ve opened your wound.” A voice said, snapping me from my trance.

I turned to the tent entrance to find that Tempest was standing there, a pile of parchments in her arm while a look of annoyance was plastered on her face. I saw similar bags under her eyes. The crescent mane that normally shot straight up in a mohawk had lost some of its luster and drooped slightly, almost in the shape of a crescent moon. She looked worse for wear than I was.

“Poor sod. You’ve been bored all day and decided to pick at your wound for entertainment,” She said, walking past me and towards her bed, “What am I going to do with you?”

I chose to ignore her and kept my head low, trying to stay awake and not slouch forward to the temptations of sleep.

“Although, I suppose it can’t be helped. I have been gone longer than normal after all.” Tempest said, “Apologies for my absence, but there were duties that kept me from coming back and I lost track of the time.”

I could hear the ruffling of papers and a chest being opened nearby.

I didn’t bother paying attention to her actions. That bed before me was all the more alluring at the moment. I leaned my head, slumping and almost wanting to plop right then and there. A brief image of Misery flashed before me, bigger than before and a slender smile gracing her lips, waiting for me to fall into the depths of the dream world.

“Spencer. Come, my dear.” She said to me.

And no sooner had she said that did I suddenly find myself moving towards her. I turned my head to find that a long and dark cloud was against my back and pushing me towards her.

“Come to me.” She said to me again, her arms wide open and ready to give me a cold embrace.

“NO!” I shouted, snapping my head up and feeling the back of my head brush against something hard, along with a grunt from Tempest.

“Take it easy. I’m just going to remove your old bandages.” Tempest said sternly.

Recovering from that fright, I found that the back of my head was against Tempest’s abdomen while she kept a firm hand onto my wounded shoulder.

I sat upright while she remained where she was and saw her hands removing the bandages, the old leather coming off like bandaids that should’ve been removed long after their expiration date. I felt her poke and press into my wounded shoulder as she continued to examine my scar. I barely registered most of what she was doing, my mind too preoccupied with the image of Misery. I closed my eyes for a brief moment, attempting to breathe normally and think of anything but sleep.

A slight touch from Tempest made me wince a little while she moved her hands over my wounded shoulder. I decided to focus on her hands, keeping special attention to where her fingers glided. I allowed my mind to wander with the flow of her fingers tracing over my left shoulder. I felt her fingers press into the muscle that remained. They were gone a moment later, only to be joining with the sound of something squishy being wrung. Not a thought before I could question what that was I felt a cold sensation dressed onto my shoulder.

I also realized that I could feel again, so it was really cold.

“Gah! That’s cold!” I yelled, shrinking back from her touch.

Yet, despite the protest, she held me there and stalled resistance from me.

“Don’t be such a baby. This is necessary for you.” she explained, rubbing into the wounded shoulder and helping ease the tension within.

I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed by the tone in her voice.

“Be a baby. Sure. That’s the only thing you think I am, isn’t it?” I asked, yet I didn’t get an immediate reply from her.

She continued to apply the ointment on my shoulder and the small stinging sensation went away as she rubbed on it. I sighed initially at first, but my earlier annoyance from her comment made me irritable. She kept at it, her hands going over the tender muscles and sore spots. I don’t know how long I remained there but it was alluring and calm.

All of a sudden, the room around me was encompassed by a pitch black darkness. I sat up with a jolt and got out of the bed, wondering what had happened and what was going on.

“Spencer,” a familiar and alluring voice called me.

Knowing all too well who it was, I turned around to see her.

Misery, standing a few feet away from me with her arms crossed.

I gasped with fright and decided to run, but then...I felt something cold and scaly wrap around my arms and right below my shoulders. I looked to find that Misery had apparently wrapped her tail around me. And then, she lifted me into the air with her tail before staring into my very soul. I struggled by shrugging my arms around and violently kicking my legs, but so far, it was no use.

“Oh, I’ve missed you so much,” She said to me, “Let me give you a hug. It's to die for.”

And just like that, she lowered me towards her with her arms once again wide open.

In a final attempt to break free, I clasped my hands at the bottom side of her tail and pushed myself downward. Right when I gave my first push, though…I managed to break free and fall out of her scaly grasp. I landed right on the ground with a hard thud..

“Stop!” I shouted, sitting up with a jolt and opening my eyes, expecting to see Misery right then and there.

As I hyperventilated, though, I noticed that I was back in the tent again, staring in the direction of the tent’s entrance/exit. I also found that I was on the floor.

“I’m not doing anything.” Tempest said, a little farther away and behind me.

I turned my head, seeing her near the chest and gathering a few things from within.

“When did she get over there? Was I out for that long?” I wondered.

As Tempest dug in the chest, she looked back to me with a stare that was curious, yet matched her authoritative personality.

“You seem more worn out and exhausted than I am. Did you get any sleep recently?” She asked, returning to my side with a new set of bandages.

Instead of answering her question, I merely ignored it and laid on the ground. My silence apparently didn’t sit well with her, though. She moved around to my left side and sat on her knees. And then, she leaned herself down towards me, my face a foot away from hers. I felt her hand lay itself onto my forehead, pressing into me until she moved her hand down to my left eye, using two of her fingers to stretch my eyelids wide.

“Bloodshot eyes…” she moved her thumb away from the bottom of my eye and using it and her other finger to grab the top eyelid, “...saggy eyelids…” she let go of my eyelid, which collided with a snap, and gently slid her two index fingers at the area below my eye, “...crows feet…” she moved her fingers away from the bottom area of my temple and moved her hand to the bottom of my right cheek, which made me feel annoyed yet unusually...tingly, “...and a scraggly beard.”

She then took her hand away from my cheek and placed it on her lap, the tingly sensation leaving me.

“You haven’t been resting at all, have you?” she said while curiously raising an eyebrow.

As annoyed as I was with the unwanted contact from Tempest, I raised my right hand up and pressed it under my chin. She was right. I was growing a bunch of stubble on my chin and the underside of my cheek bones. I didn’t remember when I last shaved, but maybe being here has made me lazy in cleaning my body properly.

Or maybe they didn’t bother providing a shaving kit and razor.

“What’s this?” she said.

I saw that her eyes were focused on my face again. While she examined me for some weird section of my face I examined her. Her eyes were slightly red. The bags under her eyes were deep and she looked ready to sleep as well.

“What happened to your lips?” she asked.

I felt her hand move mine away while holding my chin down. It was then that I remembered when Misery kissed me and left those small imprints on my lips. The two holes had yet to heal and now Tempest was here looking at me like I cheated on her or something.

Like that was possible. There was no other female around except for the witch in my dreams.

I sucked in my lips and attempted to look away from her curious gaze.

“Now hold on, let me see.” She said to me.

But I resisted by continually moving my head to face away from her gaze, not wanting her to see despite her already noticing. The fourth time I did this, I was looking under her bed. That is, until she grabbed my face by placing a hand on my cheeks, which made me face an aggravated look of hers. She was right in front of me too, sitting on her knees and between my legs, blocking the view of the tent flap. In an unexpected turn of events, she also tightened her hold on me and sat me up to where my back was straight and I was sitting upright. Her hold and lifting made me groan with pain, even as I sucked my lips in my mouth.

“Let. Me. See.” Tempest sternly said to me, each word pounding on me like a hammer would a nail like that one time before she hugged me. Or maybe the time when I sucked at her neck and she decided to throw me to the ground afterward.

Yeah, I don’t want that to happen.

Without another word, I complied and showed my lips. Afterwards, she used her hand to press firmly on my cheeks, making my lips purse outward. I ended up looking like a pufferfish while she examined my only other smolder source.

My own patience was wearing thin. I wasn’t going to tolerate this any further, yet I found myself in a hold that my body was partly not motivated into moving from. For some reason, I couldn’t help but feel captivated by her tired yet curious stare towards me as she was inspecting my lips. My own irritation towards her, though, was overpowering.

I couldn’t take it anymore!

She had been toying with me, she practically hated me, and whenever she did care it was for some ulterior motive. I tried. I tried many times. She was only doing this because she was under orders.

My mind became all the more muddled, feeling pain, every slight, and making me feel so belittled. She rejected my kindness and offers to assist, she denied me any solace. She didn't care about me.

She didn't care about me or anyone at all!

“Spencer? How did this-” she was saying, but I cut her off instantly by using my own fingers to flick her on the forehead at the base of her broken horn, “OW!”

Right when she cried out, she jolted away from me. She clasped her hands at where I flicked her, standing up with her eyes closed while grunting with pain. As she did so, I stood up and sat back on my bed.

When it looked like whatever pain she was feeling was subsiding, she looked back to me with an angered glare and took her hands away from her forehead.

Why did you do that?!” Tempest yelled at me.

“Who gave you permission to touch me like that?” I aggravatingly said.

“Permission?” she seethed, before making her way back to me and standing in front of me, “Since when do I need permission? It’s not like you have been asking permission from me anyway, no matter how many times I told you not to touch me.”

“I only did that when you were in danger. I was trying to help you, and as far as I can remember, I had no choice but to touch you.”

“Which is just like me and not having a choice but to touch you as I be your doctor of the day, you know?” Tempest scathingly said, before taking out a bandage and focusing on my shoulder, “If you really don’t want me tending to you, why not just say so?”

“Say so? I haven’t been able to do that ever since I arrived.” I said, while I felt her hand touch my wounded shoulder and place the bandage over the wound, “Every time I try to speak up, you repressed me for doing so. I can’t even say anything without you throttling me before I finish a single SENtence!” I shouted the last bit in a high pitched wail when I felt her press her hand onto my wound and made the bandage tight.

“You have ample opportunity to speak,” she replied, pressing into my wound and making me hiss from the contact.

“You’re acting like an ignorant child, Spencer,” she stated, wrapping the bandage around my shoulder and arm while I continued to fume.

“Oh, of course. A child.” I replied with annoyance, “Anything else to describe my behavior?”

When she finished with the bandage, she aggravatingly looked towards me and said, “Yes. A grouchy old stallion. A whiny rich pony. And a crabby griffin.”

“Oh, really? I bet you have loads of fun frightening them while you raid the local towns and villages, destroying their homes and butchering their families.”

“You know that’s not true!” My conscious spoke to me. I didn’t heed it. My anger was on the forefront of my mind.

“I do no such thing.” Tempest defensively said.

“Yet you watch the Storm King kill and purge them at will, not even raising a finger to help them like with that old man at the Storm King’s tent.” I interjected, which earned a tightening around my chest as she pulled rather tightly on my bandage.

“How would you know that?!” Tempest hotly said to me, “You have no idea what the Storm King is capable of! If anyone stood up to him, he’d immediately eviscerate them off the face of the planet! Is that really worth risking your life over?!”

“It is if you’re standing up for what’s right-AAAGH!!!” I said, but got cut off when Tempest tightened the bandages again, “Why do you even work for that guy anyway?!”

Tempest looked at me hotly, “Because I owe him, that’s why. He helped me out of a tough spot once, so I’m paying him back for it. And as long as I work for him, I still owe him and he still owes me. We have a deal.”

“And that deal is?” I raised an eyebrow in question.

She sighed and inhaled through her nose, “The deal we had was that in return for helping him, and once he’s conquered the country, he would restore my horn.”

“Oh, your horn. It’s all about your horn, huh? You know that some things can never heal right? That there are some things you lose that you can never get back?”

“Like your grandfather?” She asked me with a raised eyebrow.

And that...had literally struck a nerve in me. It made me want to snap out at her, to literally put her down for comparing her losing a horn to me losing my grandfather.

“Don’t think I heard what you told me that night, Spencer. I may not have heard everything, but I heard enough to know what happened,” Tempest said to me, interrupting me from lashing out at her, “Unlike my horn, the dead are what can never be brought back, and friendship, love, and family bonds can hardly be repaired.”

“And what makes you so sure that King Kong out there can actually bring your horn back?” I scathingly asked her, before she tightened the bandage till it hurt.

“He can and he will,” Tempest said, before she left my side, “He made a promise, and I’m willing to stick by it until the time comes. It’s the only thing keeping me going, and I find that it’s better than asking some incompetent and soft-hearted ‘princess’ for help.”

“Oh, so now you’re saying that help from a psychotic yeti guy is better than help from some of the most kind-hearted ponies I’ve ever met? Do you really think getting your horn back, even on an assumption that it may or may not happen, would work? You’re situation is no better than mine.” I said, standing up and turning to face her. “I’ve been brought here against my will, trapped in a world that is vastly different from my own. I had to adjust drastically, hoping that one day the kind inhabitants here can send me back.”

I took a step toward Tempest, hoping to show her that I was not afraid. I stood in front of her, a few feet apart where I could show my bravado and keep from getting a swift beat down from her at any moment. She stood her ground, staring down at me with that glare of hers and her expression amplifying with that scar down her eye.

Yet I showed the same mutual feeling to her.

“And you know what? The more the days seemed to slip by, the more I’ve lost faith in ever going home. Everything was taken from me, far worse than what anyone else had to deal with. And the worst part of it all is that I’m stuck with you.” I poked at her collarbone and she flinched but did not react.

I kept poking her, emphasizing with each one I spoke. “The most cynical, unfeeling, and selfish person I’ve ever met. I bet that even if you did get your horn back, you’ll have nothing to go back to. You’ll be alone, afraid, and tossed aside while others treat you like trash. NOTHING. AND NO ONE! WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU!”

Tempest swatted my hand away and her fast reflexes snaked its way around my neck.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

We both stood there, statues in a garden of anger. Her eyes burned with a deep passionate ire, ready to tear my throat out if need be. I had my good arm on her wrist, holding it in place. She didn’t seem to care as she attempted to force me to my knees, the pressure being present on my neck and shoulders. My knees nearly buckled had my legs not locked up. I held my ground as she held me. Our eyes locked and kept our gaze for what felt like hours. Her teeth flashed and the tip of her horn began to spark. An eerie darkness seemed to encompass us, ready to smother us both in its wake. Her eyes seemed to glow and a hiss seemed to come around us.

Along with faint laughter coming from Misery.

Wait…Misery.

Before I could say anything the hiss grew loud and the sound of a whistle emanated from around us. Tempest horn dissipated and the glow in her eyes faded. She turned away toward the tent briefly before looking at me. She snorted and forced me back, letting go of my neck. I stumbled back a bit but was still standing. She pointed toward the tent entrance and looked down towards the ground.

“Go. Just. Go,” she seethed, “Walk straight to the nearest airship and find some new quarters, because once you do...we won’t have to see or speak to each other ever again.”

And just like that, she slowly lowered her arm down and turned away from me. As she faced the wall of the tent, she clenched her fist.

After taking a moment to let exactly what Tempest said sink in, I realized that she really meant it and slowly walked towards the exit of the tent. As I walked I couldn’t help but feel like I was wanting to pass out and flop onto the floor, but I made sure to keep myself steady and my mind sharp.

Once I got outside, rain dripping on me as I was out in the sky, I took a breath of fresh air before continuing on. The only thing was that I wasn’t planning on heading to some airship and finding a place to sleep. Instead, I wanted to take some time to walk around the camp before having to board a ship.

As I kept going, I cast one last glance at the tent I had come out of to find Tempest in front of the entrance, her head lowered and a hand on her arm. The most surprising thing, though, was that she seemed...sad. Hurt even. She hardly seemed to bother covering that up at all in case storm guards were around. I decided to look forward once more, not caring how Tempest was feeling at the moment and wanting to focus on finding a place where I could be by myself.

Moments later, after I was as far away from the tent as possible and I was no longer able to see it, I found a wooden crate and decided to sit down. All that walking wore me out some but I didn’t feel tired enough to shut my eyes or let sleep overcome me.

However, as I sat on the crate...I couldn’t help but think about how sad Tempest appeared to be. In all the days I’ve been around her, I never saw her so sad like that. For that matter, I haven’t seen her show any expressions of sadness until now. Or at least before or after that time she cried on my shoulder, but that was different. It made me wonder what she’d be sad about to begin with. I mean, it wasn’t like she had a reas-

But then it hit on me. The realization for why she was sad dawned on so much that I felt heartbroken. Mainly because the reason for why...was because of me. Because of all those things I said to her and how I acted. My chest felt like it was constricting itself as I thought about it more.

What have I done?” I thought to myself.

An argument that was not of your control. That’s what you’ve done.” I heard someone speak to me.

I jolted and stiffened my back in surprise. But, the surprise exchanged itself for annoyance, because I recognized that voice from anywhere.

“Sombra?” I asked for confirmation in a peeved voice.

Yes?” He replied.

“Why didn’t you get to me sooner?” I nearly shouted.

“Oi,” I heard another voice speak.

I turned to find the very first storm guard I met to be in front of me. The one I unleashed my bladder on, and accompanied by one of his friends.

“Who are you talking to?” The one I tinkled on asked.

I rolled my eyes.

“Talking to a ghost, what do you think?” I said, turning my gaze away from him and his pal.

The guard snorted, and then he grabbed my head and turned me to look at him.

“Is that so?” The first guard said, before letting go of me and shouting around us mockingly, “Be gone and piss off, evil spirit! Heed my warning or you shall feel the wrath of my mighty girl-swooning muscles.”

At his declaration, he suddenly made poses to show off the muscles in his arms, grunting while he did so. I heard the other guard snickering behind me, obviously having fun with the whole thing. I felt so peeved by the whole thing I slapped a hand on my forehead.

“Anywho, you hairless Miscreant,” The first guard said to me, and I turned my attention to him since it wouldn’t be polite not to given my current situation, “The lieutenant sent us to find you and escort you to whatever airship is closest to here. She told us you didn’t find any quarters yourself as ordered, so she thought you needed a little…” He paused, waving a hand in circles like he was trying to find the right word before saying, “...motivation.”

“What?” I responded with a questioning look, but was grabbed by the guards by the sides of my arms, holding me rather tightly and lifting me off the ground, my feet dangling in the air.

“As you can see, no walking will be necessary for you. And we get to pick the airship you’ll be staying in,” The same guard said to me, looking like he was enjoying causing me discomfort before turning to his companion, “Let’s go.”

And so they walked on, carrying me with them like they didn’t care if I was injured or if they were causing me pain and irritation. I took a moment to breath normally, collecting myself in my tired state and gathering my thoughts.

I guess Tempest really wanted me to do as she said,’ I thought to myself, ‘And that this is what I get for not listening to her. Typical.’

As I was carried, I looked around and managed to take in the state of the camp. A large amount of tents were removed or packed up and entire regiments of troops moved about in their formations, while a small amount of them went into the ships ahead. Large swaths of land were being used for the airships, with many soldiers loading several of the ships with supplies. Obviously I was going to be taken to one of them, but the guard said that they’d be the ones to choose where they’d take me.

“Are you finished sightseeing?” I heard Sombra speak to me, for once not feeling surprised that he’d speak to me again and knowing that I couldn’t have a moment of peace.

In my tired state, I opened my mouth to respond and answer his question. But before I could speak...

“Speak with your thoughts boy. It will be easy to avoid unwanted ears that way.” Sombra stated, and I felt that same shadow pressed over me when we first spoke.

“Oh. Well, in that case, yes I am,” I said. Well, in my thoughts that is, “What took you so long to contact me?”

“A black cat crossed my path and I had to take a detour,” he almost sarcastically replied.

“You're joking right?”

“Yes and no. I had to convince the Princess of the Night that what I did to you would not bring you harm, but it was not without getting chased me all throughout the dreamscape. It wasn’t until she had me cornered that she eventually realized the gravity of the situation.”

I couldn’t help but smirk

“Yeah, that would be Luna alright,” I said with understanding, almost wanting to laugh if not for me wanting to know why I kept hearing Misery and what’s been causing me to get easily filled with rage, “So, can you explain to me what happened back there? What’s happening to me?

“It is hard to explain, Human. I don’t think your mind can handle such implications of what is at stake and what has been happening to you.”

“Well, can you give me a run down version to save time?” I asked, my question almost being one of a plea.

“For a diminutive being such as yourself, that should be easy to do,” Sombra stated, much to my annoyance, “Misery’s influence has had its effect on you in the last few days.”

“Her influence? Can you clarify on that?” I asked, knowing one answer will lead to a thousand more questions.

“Have you noticed that ever since you met her you haven’t been yourself? That you’ve been acting irrational or making hasty decisions that lead to horrible outcomes? In most recent events, your heated argument with Tempest?”

The way that Sombra described that unsettled me more than the sharp cold updraft that came. I almost wondered why the guards didn’t find an airship to take me to yet, but that wasn’t important to me at the moment.

“Yes actually. After you told me her name, I decided to not sleep. I kept getting these vivid images of her since then. She’s been lulling me in like some siren, trying to get me to sleep and waiting for me. I’ve been forcing myself to stay awake because I’ve been scared of meeting her. I replied to him in earnest.

Sombra gave a hefty sigh, the kind you would hear when you're in a deep cave.

“That is Misery at her work, and you are playing into her hands young whelp.” Sombra said, which made me more annoyed than before.

“So tell me then. What is making me fall into her trap? Why do I have these images and visions? Why is she even doing all of this other than to torment me?”

“A trickle of answers becomes a flood of questions, boy. Speak with an explicit mind and I might be able to reward you with honest candor.” He said.

Realizing that he was right, I took a moment to clear my thoughts of what was occurring and what needed to be answered. Finally, how I wanted to sum everything up came to me, almost hearing the sound of footsteps on metal.

“What has she done to me?” I asked him.

“Now we are getting somewhere,” Sombra said in a cold tone, but more relaxed in a way, “When you met Misery before meeting me, she left an imprint on you. Or rather, she left a mark that makes you lose control of yourself.”

I remained silent while he continued to give me the details of what she did. My mind also shifted to when she had kissed me and left those bite marks on my lips. I sucked my lip against one another, which felt like they were kissed by a rotten clam.

“Misery is making you believe these irrational things because she’s using the mark left on you to influence you from the dreamscape.”

He paused for a moment, the sound of something creaking on old wood making itself known. I was too preoccupied to know what was happening because my mind weighed heavily on the implications of whatever curse or spell was afflicting me.

“Think of it in these simple terms. You know of your routines and daily drudgery. Well, after she kissed you, things had changed. Your fears and emotions of negativity are causing you to get restless and are making you think that what you’re doing normal is wrong and the opposite is right. Take for example your lack of sleep these past few nights.”

My mind wandered to when my decision to not sleep had taken effect, resulting in me becoming bitter, irritable, and loathsome.

“I see where you're getting at.” I replied.

“You’ve barely scratched the surface,” Sombra chided before continuing, “Your decision to not rest has not only caused a negative effect on your health, but it is making you delirious and causing your mind to become that of a fevered dream. Your mind is combating with itself over what is right and wrong and you yourself are not in control of it. You think that it is right to not rest so as to avoid Misery from taking over and coming to you. Yet, at the same time, she made you believe that resisting her will force you to break down mentally, unsure of what she will do next when she is doing nothing at all but watching from the shadows. She’s getting in your head, turning your thoughts on yourself, causing you to do irrational things and to lash out at anything in your way. With Misery, and to what she is doing, she plays you right into her hands all the while making you tear yourself apart.”

“Hey,” I heard another voice say, before getting bonked on the top of my head by the large clenched hand of a storm creature, “Wake up.”

I rubbed my head from the blow that the guard gave me. Before I could even question why he did that, I looked around to find myself surrounded by walls, the right being aligned with doorways to rooms. The ceiling also had quite an oval shape with a purple texture. In all the time I was talking to Sombra in my thoughts, the storm creatures must’ve chosen an airship and took me inside while I was distracted.

“Aw, what’s the matter with you? Are you pea-brained or something?” The guard who obviously bonked me on the head asked, before pushing me backward and saying, “Get in there.”

I was pushed back so hard that I stumbled into a room. I landed on the floor flat on my belly. I grunted and hissed because of the pain caused by the impact before rolling into my back and picking myself up by rocking forward. I sat on my butt as I faced the storm creatures, the first of them being in the doorway and looking like he was getting ready to close it.

“This is where you’ll be staying for the duration of the trip. Until we reach the capital of those peaceful hay-eaters, you aren’t allowed to leave even if you ask nicely. Once we get everything sorted, we’ll bring you something to eat, but only so that you won’t turn into some withering carcass later on.” The guard told me, before chuckling, “Not that it wouldn’t be fun to see that happen, of course.”

And before anything else could happen, he slammed the door. Afterwards, I heard the soft click of a lock on the other side. I was left alone to my own devices as I heard the footsteps of the guards become all the more distant.

After gathering myself and standing on my own two legs, I looked about the room.

It was a modest room, roughly fifty feet in length and across. There was a single cabinet and a stocky bed that was set up next to a porthole, which provided the only source of light, and a small nightstand. I sighed briefly knowing how the majority of my time will be cooped up in here. On the bright side, it did beat sleeping on the floor of a tent.

“In the cabinet, there is a candle and some sheets inside of it. Go to them.” Sombra spoke.

I made my move to them, albeit reluctantly. Once I came to the cabinet I opened it up. Sure enough, there was a single candle and some old dusty sheets inside.

“How did you know these were here?” I asked aloud while grabbing the items inside.

“I have my ways. And they’re ones that I hardly have the interest in explaining.”

“Oh sure, now you're telling me you have a unique sense that you don’t tell anyone about.” I thought, taking the sheets over and setting the candle on the nightstand.

I’m glad he can’t read my thoughts.

“I heard that.” Sombra said.

“Damn.” I said aloud, trying to ignore the fact the king of shadows is now in my mind and reading everything I’m thinking.

I ignored him while I focused on getting the bed set up. The sheets were worn out and had a few holes in them as I covered the bed. The bed was hard as well, having little to no softness as I stretched the fabric over the edges. After having nothing else to do, I grabbed the pillow on the end and tested it out. There was little to no structure and it was basically flat. I groaned when I discovered this and decided to leave the pillow while I looked out the window. The outside world showed a number of other ships being prepared for lift off.

I couldn’t imagine what horrors they’d unleash if they came to Ponyville, or worse...Canterlot. Is Celestia preparing as best she can or is she still trying to remove all the civilians out of the Storm King's path?

Knowing that the ships would be taking off in the air soon, and having a feeling in my gut saying that their next course will likely be either Ponyville or Canterlot, I hoped that the people within those towns would be ready to fend off the attack.

“Attend to the candle.” Sombra said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I turned to face the candle. I still couldn’t understand what Sombra would want me to do with it. There was no use for it. There wasn’t anything to light it with either.

“Hover your hand over it.” He said to me, which caused me to give a questionable look.

“What? You plan on taking my hand for a blood sacrifice or something?” I asked, unsure whether to comply or not.

“If that’s what you want me to do, I can humbly oblige.” He retorted.

“Um, I’d actually prefer the opposite.” I heartily replied, although a little hastily.

“Then hover your hand over the candle. It’s not going to bite you or anything.”

Giving in, I did what he said. I hovered the palm of my hand over the candle and waited for something to happen. Then, I felt a single twitch in my right hand and suddenly saw what looked like a black blotch of ink shoot out from my palm and onto the candle. I jumped and retracted my hand, watching the single black spot stick on the candle wick. It remained there briefly before it looked like it was burning the wax, sending a strange light around the whole room. I looked about to see a hue of nightshade purple reflect off the wooden room. The bloom of the small light spread outward until a face appeared within. The glow of those red eyes and a purple aura surrounding them appeared, staring straight at me. Finally, the shadow king’s face appeared in the candle.

“Sombra?” I asked, astounded by the whole thing.

This is a little better. I can speak properly without using more magic than necessary.” he said.

“More magic? You mean speaking telepathically drains more magic from you?” I said, finding quite interesting how he manages to do it.

“Well, yes and no. In my current state, my magic can only be used sparingly since the Storm King has been draining me as of late. However, if I have a median, or a source that I can draw upon, I can appear to you much easier without draining myself.

His explanation only caused more questions to generate in my head than answers. Although, there was one question I just had to ask.

“Or like draining life from grass and using the energy for your own devices?” I asked him.

“More or less. I’m surprised a being of your stature understands how some elder magic works,” he said, a bit impressed at what I had to say.

“I learned it from a movie called Warcraft. It’s where a necromancer stole life from a deer to save a dying child, but his flesh turned green because of that.” I replied.

“Hmmmm,” Sombra said, looking like he was trying to figure something out in his head, “I’m beginning to wonder how your people managed to understand such concepts without even realizing what potential they can bring.”

“We're humans. Most of the time we can be inventive and creative, other times there are those who squabble for power and become tyrants, often trying to rule the world some way or another.”

“Your people are quite the...how shall I say...peculiar race.” he said.

I nodded my head to him. However, talking about Humanity and their faults wasn’t something I wished to speak about.

“About what you said earlier. Does this mean that, no matter what I do, Misery will still be calling the shots? That she’ll be controlling my actions and that I'll be manipulated even when I try to fight back?” I asked.

Sombra’s eyes turned away from me, likely to search for an answer. As he did, I felt my body lurch. The ship was beginning to move. I immediately went to the window and looked outside, and sure enough, I saw that the ship was ascending into the air. And not just the one I was in, but the others as well.

To put to your point, yes.” Sombra answered, which made me turn my attention to him, “She will not stop until she has control over you, to make you a puppet used for her own deeds.

At this revelation, I turned around and banged my head on the wall, closing my eyes after doing so. When he put it like that, I didn’t know if I would ever win a fight against Misery.

“But there is a way to stop her.” he said, a glimmer of hope rising in my chest over that.

I turned to him as the black flame continued to flicker.

“However,” he explained, “The means to do so will be rather complicated.”

There’s always a catch.

“So, then tell me. How do we stop her? What can I do to beat her?” I asked him, almost pleading in wanting to get to the truth.

Sombra lazily blinked his eyes and his black flickered out to me. The flame disappeared from the candle, turning the whole room dark while the black liquid entered into my body.

“For starters, you need rest. In order to get your mind clear for the time that is to come, you must sleep.” I heard his voice in my head. I blinked and shook my head.

“WHAT?!” I shouted with fear and surprise, “Oh no. No, no, no, I do not want to sleep. Misery is waiting for me, and if I go to sleep, she’ll-”

“You will not succumb to her.” He strongly stated in my head, which made my frightened babbling stop like a steel trap was put on it, “Listen to me. For as long as I have this link you will not fall prey to her. You must trust me.”

“Well, how do I know that this won’t be some hollow promise in the long run?” I replied, wanting to ensure that his word will be true.

He sighed, obviously noticing how apprehensive I was.

“You have my word. The word of a king.” He replied calmly.

I was terrified. The very thought of sleeping at the cost of getting played with by Misery again plagued my mind like a disease. Despite how doubtful I felt, though, I couldn’t help but find myself instantly trusting him.

What other choice did I even have at this point?

“Okay.” I said.

Immediately but hesitantly, I made my way to the bed. I got onto it and began pulling the sheets over myself when I noticed that the sling still hung on my left side. Deciding that it might be better to keep it on, I kept it on me. I pulled the covers over me with my good hand until they covered everything but my arms, shoulder area, and head, the latter which I laid on the flat pillow.

I would have taken my shirt off but I didn’t think it would have done much. It was basically destroyed at this point and all that hung on me were scraps.

Adjusting myself and allowing the sound of the ship to lull me to sleep I couldn’t help but look outside. The sky was blue, adjusting to a lighter orange as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful sight but I did not have the energy to sit up. I was wiped out for not sleeping for so long. Sombra was right. I needed rest. I did have the feeling that Misery would still be there, watching me the moment I slept. But, I put that aside in order to be brave and do as Sombra said.

I closed my eyes, allowing sleep to overcome me.


I slowly opened my eyes with a couple of blinks, feeling as if the weight of the world was on top of me. When I fully opened them, I found myself staring not at a wooden roof...but an open dark plain. I also felt something off. I was not covered in a blanket or sleeping on a bed. Instead, I was in a gigantic mud puddle, and everything but my face was submerged in it.

I tried to sit up, but the mud clung to me like glue and held me down. Finally, I sat myself up using all the strength I had, my body sinking somewhat while I did. When I finally succeeded at doing so, I tried to assess where I was. All around me, I saw nothing but mud in sight and darkness in every direction.

However, there was laughter all around me.

It was faint, but slowly growing. I looked around again, trying to find the source of the laughter. I couldn’t find the sources but the laughter grew in volume, becoming more numerous. I attempted to get out of this mud, but...it wouldn’t let me go that easily. I pulled my hands free and tried moving my legs to stand but the mud still clung to me. It felt unusual, like glue was holding me down. Everytime I broke free the laughter grew ever more.

Finally, I managed to get onto my own two feet and stand up. But then…

Something whipped onto the front of my right shoulder area and latched on me. I looked to see what was on me to find what looked like a limb, the fingers inching themselves up to grab on the top of my shoulder. I looked to the left side of me in the direction the limb came from to find the scariest thing I ever saw.

Connected to the very end of the limb was a face in the mud, with white pupiless eyes and teeth in its mouth that were the shape of stalactites. It was smiling at me in a way that was the opposite of friendly and was laughing at me in a mocking sort of way.

Suddenly, I found myself getting grabbed by something from all directions. I looked to find that there were multiple limbs from the mud grasping me, their owners being faces that were staring and laughing at me.

Their laughter was sharp and piercing, like that of a deranged harpy. They all bore the same look. Of their disgust, their hatred, and vitriol mixed with joy at making me suffer. Their eyes were like hawks, calculating, powerful, dangerous, and above all belittling of me. There were so many of them. So many hurting me. Their talon-like fingers then clutched at my chest and face, attempting to pull me back and make me fall. They all looked so familiar, but it hardly mattered to me because of the pain they were inflicting on me.

With all of the willpower I had, I tore away from them and broke free from their strong grips. Hardly wanting to stick around, I started running across the mud strewn field. It was difficult, though, because each step made the mud impossible to traverse. It kept sticking to my feet, causing me to sink to where, at times, I’d sink up to my knees. Suddenly, I heard a cackle that was louder and deeper than any of the others I heard, and when I looked behind me...I saw something that made my skin crawl. Forming behind me was a hideous mud monster, and when it finished taking shape it looked like that of a giant demon. Once it saw me, it’s expression became one of pure evil and it started walking right toward me, all the while laughing at me and the fact that I was struggling to get away.

I was stuck in a bog that wouldn’t let me go.

“Sombra! Princess Luna! Help me!” I shouted for them, hoping by some chance that I could get out of the situation that I was in. I attempted to storm my way out but the harder I pressed on the more the mud clinged to my body. It was forcing me back and I trudged on, attempting to break out of this pit and away from that thing.

“You’ll never escape me, pet. You’ll never get away.” I heard the voice of Misery around me, echoing in my head, “You. Belong. To me.”

I doubled my efforts, pounding every foot into the mud stricken ground. I did not want to see her. She was waiting for me. She was going to get me.

“Somebody. Anybody. Please help me.” I desperately said in my thoughts, “I don’t care if even Tempest comes to help, just...please. Help me!”

At that very moment, I gave up hope of ever getting out of this. I heard the monster getting closer and closer by the second, and my knees were starting to feel weak.

“RUN!”

I heard a voice. It was faint, but close. I opened my eyes, seeing a distant light ahead. My strength regaining, as well as a new sense of hope and relief inside of me, I broke free from the mud and ran towards the light. The mud lessened as I drew closer, hardly keeping me in place. The laughing from the monster behind me ceased, replaced with an angry snarl and the sound of it lashing in a fit of rage. I did not dare look back. I only aimed for the light.

I felt that my legs would give out on me while I was running on dryer ground, but I kept going and pushing, reaching for the light that I was getting closer to. I could see a silhouette on the other side of the light, which looked a lot like Luna. She was waiting for me.

I sprinted as fast as I could, the mud creature from before still hot on my heels, screeching, and bleating for blood. The sounds it was making sent chills through my veins.

Finally, I reached the light and jumped through it, and when I made it to the other side I embraced Luna. I wrapped around her form, my arms clasped around her back. I felt much relief in her presence.

“Princess Luna! You're here!” I replied in several huffs, rubbing my head against her flat chest.

Wait a minute...flat?

“Ahem.” the deep voice of Sombra said, right above me.

I opened my eyes and looked at my unexpected savior. Sombra looked down at me with a questioning gaze while I still clung to him like a lifeline. Not wanting to let this awkwardness get out of hand I let go of Sombra, brushed away any dirt that was on his metal chest plate, and backed away.

Next time I should look before jumping into anyone's chest.

“I would ask what that’s about, but I believe you had enough of a chase from her.” he said, unbothered by what I did and waving a hand.

I turned around and saw the tunnel that I exited from had disappeared, leaving Misery and whatever abominable imagination that was on the other side behind. Deciding to take in my surroundings, I saw that we were on a large busy street, with many ponies going about their business. Most of them were heading into a large building that looked like a concert hall.

I say that many of its patrons were wearing fancy get up that resembled clothes from the late 19th to early 20th century.

The women were in fine gowns and fashionable dresses while the men were wearing royal regalia that made them stand out like military officers. There were a few high nobles wearing what appeared to be simple tuxes, but they were probably on the low end of nobility compared to the commanding officers. They all commanded a regal air about them and carried themselves with a purpose. They went toward the building where the sound of opera music was being played, and they were all very lively.

I on the other hand look like I got dragged through a low tide storm that spit me out into a pig pen.

“Hmmmm...you’ll need to have appropriate attire if you are to attend this.” he said, making me turn to him in question.

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

Before I could question him further, though, he waved his hand in front of me. I blinked from the unexpected flash. For a brief moment, nothing happened. But then, I saw the mud strip away from my body and disappear before me. My ripped shirt was gone and fabric crawled its way up my body. Red cloth went over my form. I felt my hair change and tingle from a changed haircut.

After a few moments, it was finished. The magic was gone. I looked down and I could tell that I was wearing a red uniform with a white sash going from my right shoulder to my left hip. My pants were black and well pressed, and my feet had shiny boots that seemed to clack every time I took a step.

“Nevermind. This looks really good,” I admitted.

“Let us be off then.” Sombra gestured to the theater.

And with that, the two of us went straight towards the theater.

“What about Princess Luna? Is she here?” I asked, curious to know if they have a truce still active between them.

“She, Tantabus, and the royal guard from yesterday are waiting inside. We should not keep them waiting.” Sombra explained, marching in good order towards the entrance.

I followed close behind, hoping l that I could meet with Princess Luna. When we drew closer, I looked at the mirror next to the entrance and I took a pause.

The suit I was wearing was a military one, where I had the red suit with the white sash going down my shoulder. My shoulder pads had those tassel looking things, the kind you would see in the civil war and 18th century armies. A white belt was nicely tucked around my waist and the pants had two white stripes going down the legs. I even noticed that my mask was on, with the white coat and blue hair to boot, albeit the hair combed back and being sleek.

“I see that Luna has given you a disguise, though meager it may be.” Sombra stated, standing next to me.

I gave him a look over, his armor making him all the more intimidating yet strong as well. The main chest plate had several layers going off the sides that looked like they contained extra padding and stopping halfway. Over it he wore a standard uniform, with eight buttons going down the length in the middle and a red sash going around the waist. Underneath all of it, starting from the neck, he had a traditional white shirt that extended out and stopped at his wrists, and he wore armbands on each side of his arm. He wore stylish gloves and greaves that completed his outfit.

I felt so out of place compared to Sombra.

“I won’t pry about the necessity. It does at least give you a cover to hide behind, so long as the mask is not removed.” Sombra stated, before turning to look at my head. “Although, you look like more of a standard guardsman than an actual pony that can blend in to the crowds. But, it will due for now.” he said while heading to the door, waiting for me to join him.

“I wonder what he means by mask?” I thought to myself.

As the two of us got closer to the doors, they opened up and we entered inside. We were greeted by a noise chamber of ponies, all gossiping and chatting like they were on top of everything. Ladies were dressed in elegant fashion while the men were speaking about either military feats or their own personal lives. There were even a couple of stallions who were comparing their facial hair and having waxed beards and mustaches.

Can’t go wrong with men and their facial hair. Respect to those guys who can maintain it.

“It's strange how a dream like this can make everything so real.” I said while observing, walking next to Sombra as he merely grunted in reply.

“Princess Luna and I had to dedicate our time in conjuring this dream so that Misery would not get in. But beware of those who attempt to get close to you, because they may be a part of her darker powers as well.” he said.

I paused to look at him.

“You mean...Misery might infiltrate this dream, despite your preparations?” I asked.

Sombra stopped moving and he turned to me. I remained still as he looked me over, trying to find some critical flaw from what I said.

“It's... a possibility, but you can prepare for such an event if you are careful,” he said, turning to look around the room. I followed his gaze, observing the number of ponies within the room. “She could very much be here, or she could not. The way you can tell is if the equines in here are acting more out of the ordinary than they should appear. In dreams, when you feel that you’re in control, you can conjure up weapons to defend yourself.”

I watched as he lifted a sword from out of nowhere.

I blinked in surprise. I was astounded to see the weapon materialize in front of him, the blade looking as equally sharp and deadly as its creator.

“Any conjuring of thought and feeling will create the image before you and allow you to properly defend yourself. Thoughts, images, beliefs, anything your imagination comes up with will materialize to you and help you to defend yourself from the realms of dreams.” he stated, his sword vanishing as quickly as it appeared.

“I see that you're teaching Spencer the ways of defending oneself in the dreamscape,” I heard Princess Luna’s voice.

I turned in the direction her voice came from. Once I laid eyes on her, I was struck by the dress she wore and how beautiful she was. She wore a fashionable ocean blue dress that complimented her coat. She was bedecked with striking crystals within her dress that made her glow from the light around us. Her hair fell back behind her, revealing her bare shoulders and neckline. She also had a light blue sash going from her right shoulder to her left hip, with a flower on the area of her shoulder.

Disney Princesses can step aside when Princess Luna’s in town, that’s for sure.

“I also see that you neglected to inform him of the basic defenses in fortifying his mind from unnatural forces. Are your teachings lacking precision, Princess Luna?” Sombra stated, almost sounding off on Princess Luna and her teachings methods.

Luna calmly walked over to us, offering a smile before dipping her head.

“And for you to claim that I have neglected him is an obvious mistake. You forget that the two of us have spent centuries of practice in those arts. You can’t simply force him to understand everything within the time frame without straining his mind.”

“With that I can agree. But these are not auspicious times. He’ll need to learn at least the most modicum of lessons in order to stave off any attack. If you disagree with my methods, you wouldn't have taken them in the first place all of those years ago.” he said.

I waited for her to respond, expecting her to bite back like she often did with him the last time I saw them together.

Instead of a retort or witty remark, though...she smiled at him, albeit a small one.

“After all these years, and despite your flaws, you haven’t changed.” she said, her gaze drifting to the equines around her. “I’m surprised that you even kept some of the culture of the Crystal Empire. Most of it was destroyed when you took power.”

“There are things that I committed myself to during my rule of power. Yet, the arts that the empire made were the ones I did not seek to destroy. Far too much history was too important to end or be rid of. Even for one such as myself.” he replied, looking out to the throng of ponies that continued to mingle and chat.

I couldn’t help but wonder, by some small measure, at what their bond was like back before they had split apart. Maybe some small respect for their past lives before their roads led to different fates. For all things considered, and from what Tantabus had mentioned the other day, I couldn’t help but think that Sombra was not all that bad.

Okay, he might have been a tyrant afterward and enslaved a whole kingdom. And ruled with an iron first. But yet...before that, he might have been good.

I guess I could say that something in his life changed that made him become a villain.

“I still disapprove of your actions, Sombra.” Luna’s calm voice became sharp and she turned her gaze to meet him. “Having a link to Spencer, and possibly planning behind our backs?”

Sombra waved his hand to her almost dismissively.

“Tis necessary for the lad. He will need guidance, and a link to him was the best directive. It will help me monitor him from afar, and give him information when he is not in contact with you. Please understand, Luna, he could very well walk into one of Misery’s traps if I don’t have a connection with him.” he explained, his reasoning's being sound.

Princess Luna looked at him critically, casting a glance at me briefly before going back to him.

“Will you allow me to examine him. I want to ensure that you have not tampered with his mental psyche. I won’t allow any sort of dark dealings to befall him and for you to use him as his puppet.” Princess Luna demanded, although in an authoritative way.

Instead of being taken aback by this, though...Sombra merely chuckled.

“Princess Luna. You wound me. You can peer into his mind and find that I have not left anything obscure. There was hardly anything to tamper with anyway.” he explained, to which she gave a tolerable smile.

Hey, wait a minute! My mind is not a blank slate! Unless, I need it to be.

“I am still suspicious of your tricks,” Princess Luna said, waving a hand over me and her eyes flickered with light for a brief moment, “However, I shall keep careful watch.”

“Of course, you never know what I am capable of. However, with my powers being diminished as it is, I am magically limited.” Sombra stated.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” I stepped in, trying to get myself into the conversation, “Since you said you were going to help defend myself, will that mean that I could think of anything that I want and create before me something that can detect anyone that would be considered hostile?”

“To answer your palpable question, the answer is a yes and a no.” Sombra dully said, diminishing my already miniscule status, “Sometimes, if you are confronted by an unknown entity, the best way to find out if they are secretly a threat is to ask it an assortment of questions that would identify who the person truly is. Other times, which leads to much harder fights ahead, your mind will attempt to conjure a weapon to repeal the attacker.”

“So, how would I know when someone approaches me and I figure out how to appropriately respond?” I asked, wanting to get more detail.

“I think I can help with that.” a new voice had entered into our conversation, one that was all too familiar and right behind me.

“If you say you can help,” I began without turning my head, “How will I know you’re real?”

Instead of a reply, I saw arms wrap themselves over the front of my shoulder area and I was forcibly turned around. And before I could blink, I was pulled into a tight embrace by Tantabus, who enveloped me in a loving hug.

“Oh, you can be so cute when you ask complex questions.” she said, never once letting go of that motherly instinct.

‘Yep, she’s real.’ I confirmed in my head since she was amply loving me in every possible way.

Sombra harrumphed at the display while Luna merely stifled a chortle.

My ears were no doubt burning from this but I couldn’t blame her. Tantabus, unlike Misery, was welcoming and warm.

“Does this answer your question?” Tantabus asked me.

“Oh yeah.” I said, nodding ‘yes’ to her despite my head being against her ample chest.

Once I parted from her I was able to get a look at her dress for the occasion. She wore a lovely violet dress, similar in style to what Princess Luna was wearing, with a few slight changes here and there. Her hair was tied back and flowing off her shoulders, and she wore a brooch of interesting design placed in the center of the sternum. The dress she wore was a stunning off-shoulder strapless dress, making her stand out among the other royal ladies. Seeing this, I couldn’t help but give a small bow of my head to her.

“I couldn’t help but be taken by your beauty, Tantabus. You are truly a real specimen of great caliber.” I said, trying to make my words sound fancy.

She placed her fingers next to her lips and laughed while Princess Luna gave the most childish chortle. Sombra, from my angle, pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head at me.

“One of these days, you need to be taught proper etiquette when we’re not in mortal danger.” Sombra stated, clearly showing more annoyance over my lack of candor.

While I observed the three of them I noticed that there was one more missing pony. Now where was...

“Oh, curse this dress!”

There she is.

I turned my gaze when I heard the quick steps upon the floor to see a very flustered Stella approaching. I had to silence the snicker that came up but I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Stella coming up to us. She was wearing a black off shoulder stylish dress, which I believed suited her, and also had an almost flamboyant flower. A pendant hung around her neck and a small sash wrapped neatly around her waist. Speaking of which, the dress made her waist and hips tighter than normal. I couldn't tell if that was by accident or if it was because it was part of the style that was created for the time.

“You could have given me a proper chance to fit this in, Tantabus!” Stella said when she came up to us.

I gave a wild eye to Tantabus, who looked rather pleased with herself.

“Oh little Stella. This is a classical Crystalian dress dating back many centuries since the Crystal Empire’s founding. You are honoring them by wearing it.” Tantabus stated, the ever motherly smile still present on her face.

“Well they have a terrible sense in fashion!” Stella yelled back, clearly irked by how she phrased it.

“And why is that my dear?” Tantabus replied, cocking her head to the side in childish curiosity.

“Isn’t it obvious!?” she said, gesturing to me to take another quick look at her. “The dress is tight across the waist and chest, and it’s sucking the very life of me through a peg hole.” She gestured at her hips and waist, where the dress looked rather tight than it normally would. She then pointed at her chest and bosom and moved her fingers up and down for emphasis. “I don’t know what constitutes a dress, but this corset is too tight. I’d prefer me armor any day than this jammin cork you strapped me in!” she bellowed. She then turned to Princess Luna, who looked rather amused at her display, “Princess Luna, I would happily be relegated to a stationary guard or even long patrols in the Everfree Forest, just get me out of this dress!” she begged, hoping that her employer would give her some respite.

Princess Luna shook her head, not once allowing her any respite.

“I fear Tantabus is rather fickle at this time. She loves to play dress up. So no matter how much you fuss, you have to play the part.” Princess Luna stated.

Stella looked absolutely dumbfounded. Uncertainty poured from her face while I took in the priceless expression. She looked upon Tantabus and sneered at her.

“Well I won’t have it!” She said, grabbing the front end of her dress. She pulled on her bust and the fabric ribbed from her strength, freeing her from her confinement of the cloth and nearly exposing herself.

Although, I don’t think she even cared for that as long as the dress remained in tatters.

“Now, now Stella.” Tantaubs said.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wave of her hand. The small rippings that Stella created stitched themselves back over her chest and her hands were removed from touching the fabric. The front part of her dress was unblemished and remained as beautiful as before.

Though I wouldn’t tell her that. For what she saw in beauty would be the armor she wore to the field of battle.

“Oh, c’mon!” she cried, remaining flustered and attempting to tear it once more.

Yet, each tug and tear of the dress only resewn itself back into place and it remained as undamaged as ever. It was almost comical the way she tried to shred the dress over and over again to no avail. After several more attempts, she soon after gave up and sighed in defeat. She would remain untenable against the magic that Tantabus brought.

“Oh don’t fret, Stella,” Tantabus said. “Your dress makes you stand out more amongst the crowd. It suits you, and I bet the stallions would go head over heels for you.”

“Shut yer hole! I’m a guard, not some pansy with a fetish for clothes!” Stella’s usual demeanor returned, despite the position she was in. “Why would anypony in their right mind wear such getup!? I know simple fashion and this is not the type of clothing that even my own nan would wear.”

Thank you Stella, for putting that horrifying image in my mind. Reminds me of the two old ladies from the Last Airbender.

And I might have just made it worse.

“Now Stella. Surely you can see the benefits in wanting to preserve history and cherishing those who have fallen by wearing such fine garb.”

“If by garb you mean allowing stallions to ogle over my body and stare at me front package. Armor of fine design and strong resolve is what I wish for. Don’t talk high and mighty about clothes. I don’t need to point out how your bust is probably going to burst out of the seams any moment now.” she stated, drawing Tantabus to blink in surprise.

She’s got a point there. Compared to Stella it was hard to imagine how she managed to fit into that dress in the first place.

“My bust is symbolic of maturity and great fertility. Equating my aptitude of one who represents wonderful values of love, life, and cherishing family.” she replied, giving off a wry smile to Stella. “Whereas for you, if going by said logic, you would be the least…how should I put it without sounding obvious…fitting.”

I took a step back as a noticeable twitch from one of Stella’s eyes was visible. She looked down and examined herself before returning her gaze back at Tantabus. She strode over to her, using her own wings for leverage and hovering in front of the mystical being, the latter bearing a great smug on her countenance.

“Oi, that is uncalled for. I’m just as sexy to all the lads out there, and they love women of 'any' size. Aye don’t need to point out your 'back breakers' but I’m fine with ‘my’ size. So how about you buzz off and we can-”

I was pulled to the side by Sombra while Stella continued to argue, going over things that would rather be left out. When I was with him Luna was waiting for us.

“I believe it is time we attended the show. We can let them argue as much as they like.” Sombra said, letting go of me and offering an arm to Luna. “May I have the pleasure of being your escort?” he asked, being all the gentleman.

Princess Luna looked at his arm, and for a moment it seemed like she was stunned. Then she looked back to him, drawing a breath before lifting a hand to him. Sombra took the hand, pulling her in and allowing her arm to wrap around his own.

“If I must then I must,” Princess Luna said, walking alongside him.

I noticed Sombra gave a smirk at her response.

“Don’t tell me you are enjoying this, my dear?” he asked.

But Princess Luna chuffed at him.

“I don’t care for this in the slightest. This is merely formality.” she retorted, which caused him to chuckle.

“Like the times I taught you etiquette and form whenever you attended the Grand Galloping Gala.”

She looked away and harrumphed, while the two headed down the halls. I went to follow them, but was stopped when two different pairs of arms grabbed me on either side.

“I shall be your escort, my dear,” Tantabus stated, pulling me in towards her in a gentle manner.

“No, I shall escort Spencer. I know him better, and you only met him twice.” Stella insisted, pulling me in, and I felt my arm brush up against the side of her dress after she did so. From my angle Stella was clearly enjoying this.

“That is true, but he needs an adult in the room,” Tantabus said, pulling me towards her and even pulling Stella with me.

“I’m a proper escort and can better defend him ya thunder tits! I’m the adult and proper woman here!” she said, and began a tug of war with Tantabus.

You can pretty much guess that I was the one they were tugging over.

I think I need a ‘real’ adult in this room.

Ahead of us, Luna and Sombra were already moving, heedless to my plight. I kept being pulled back and forth by Stella and Tantabus, uncertain if I should be blessed or cursed to have their way over me.

Our group went down the hall. The walls were adorned with faces of actors and famous plays, and every few paintings there was a small fancy lamp hanging off the side. Various ponies of elegant grace and stylish military were moving down the hall towards several different doors up ahead. Princess Luna and Sombra headed left and we followed suite. Or rather, I was dragged by both Stella and Tantabus, who kept insisting on being the proper escort. We soon climbed up a set of stairs and went down another hallway where less ponies were visible. I could hear the orchestra in the background, slowly growing in size the further we moved.

Ahead there was a door, and we calmly walked through it and up a small flight of stairs. Once the trek was complete, we entered a room that contained box seats and overlooked the entire room of the theater. When Stella and Tantabus finally let go of me, I headed to the edge and observed the new surroundings.

It was amazing.

Several rows of red carpet ran down the steps of the isles. The theater was spacious, bearing a second and third row of balconies overlooking the stage. The seats were covered in lavish gold and red, and hanging above the center of the theatre was a large crystal chandelier. Inside the chandelier were several dozen candles, making hundreds if not thousands of crystals sparkle and causing the room to glow. Music emanated from the orchestra pit and I saw ponies inside of it that were tuning their instruments. I could only fathom if this was a real place conjured up by them or if this was an actual place in the Crystal Empire.

I gotta get out more.

“After you,” Sombra spoke, guiding a hand towards the seats before us.

Stella decided to take the seat that was farthest. Princess Luna followed and guided me with her, to which I didn’t question as to why. Sombra sat next to me and Tantabus took the far end. The five of us remained there, watching the theatre fill to the brim with ponies. I lingered my eyes on the stage, seeing the setting of either an open field or a garden. The props and stage settings were excellently crafted, standing out so much they would look like they were the real thing. I had a hunch that this was either an opera or a musical, but I couldn’t guess as to what kind of play they were performing.

“Here we can at least be at some peace while Beyor Horiseye plays.” Sombra stated, not taking his gaze away from the stage.

The five of us watched as the final occupants sat in their seats. The candles from the chandelier dimmed, no doubt from magic, and the music began to play.

“This is a classical ballet, celebrating the founding of the Crystal Empire. I didn’t know that you enjoyed this one.” Princess Luna stated, while Sombra, from my peripheral vision, cast a sideways smile.

“As I have said earlier, I may have been a tyrant, but I am not someone who would destroy art.” he replied.

“Unless you use art as propaganda and fuel the speculation that said art is to prompt the tyrant rather than the artist behind the art.” I piped in.

Sombra stared at me, his smile vanished and he remained complacent. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed before he harrumphed at me and watched the stage below.

“Clever boy,” Sombra stated.

I felt a gentle hand from Princess Luna. I saw from the corner of my eye that she looked rather pleased from my retort. She let go of my hand as we began to watch the ballet before us.

The first show opening had a few characters explaining the history of the play. It then opened up with fun and playful music about a group of colonists leaving Canterlot and heading to the north, hoping to find a suitable colony for their people. While this continued, there were a couple of characters narrating the story as it happened. There were some interesting characters, such as a captain leading the expedition who was serious but had fun quirks. He kept talking to younger versions of Celestia and Luna, who acted more carefree than what how were today.

Princess Luna had a hand on her face, slightly embarrassed over the somewhat very similar appearance of her youth. Whereas Stella was fully enjoying the show so far, and I could see Tantabus was giddy with excitement. Sombra, on the other hand, remained stoic, watching the play with keen interest.

Guess everyone has their own way of enjoying a play. Even I could get the gist of it.

The play continued with the captain leading the expedition north, all the while dancing in a fun and vibrant fashion. The group soon ended up in the frozen north, where they found a group of ponies that lived off the land. The natives and settlers had a falling out and the two sides were in a bitter disagreement, one side consisting of the high aristocracy of Canterlot and the other side consisting of the native religious groups.

It was an interesting setting, given the natives were very respectful of the land. Their skins were different due to the crystals that they mined and were a part of.

Time went on with the play, and it appeared that things were getting out of hand between the people. Along with that, the dancing began to become more elaborate. The Captain’s forces, led by his second in command, were rousing them up for a fight, their dances powerful and bearing a strong tempo. The Captain, shaking his head, wandered off away from his men and the colonists and headed into the trees of the north. While the native crystal ponies, as they were later called, were beating upon their own drums of war, kicking high and spinning so fast that I often lost my senses. A village elder continued to ring out the call in order to remove the colonists by force.

Yet, amongst them, unseen by their fervor, a single pony walked away from them and left them to their own devices. This pony was hidden behind a blood red veil and a snow white cloak. The only one who noticed the pony leaving was a younger elder, who quickly followed the cloaked pony.

It was then that Princess Luna, after being silent while watching the play for so long, finally stirred.

“Oh, I know what’s coming. The Grace of De Lune.” Princess Luna stated.

“The what?” I turned to her, confused.

“It’s what's to come. Apologies, but I don’t wish to spoil. The guitar solo is just too pure.” she replied.

I remained uncertain about what she meant.

Sombra also stirred, having remained a pure gargoyle for most of the performance.

“It’s a memorable moment. A night of passion and grace that made the foundations of the Crystal Empire.” King Sombra putted.

I turned to him, slightly confused over what he meant.

“Judging by Spencer’s face, he has no idea of what is to happen.” Princess Luna said.

I turned to her.

Seriously, this was the first time I’m seeing this play. How was I supposed to know what was going to happen?

“If you wish, we can let loose and have a little fun since my wards are contained in this dream world.” Sombra stated with a slightly mischievous tone.

Upon hearing what Sombra said, Princess Luna couldn’t help herself from snickering.

“I’m sorry, but since I’m in the middle of this both literally and metaphorically, what are you guys talking about?” I asked, wondering what these two ancients knew that I didn’t know.

I felt a soft hand from Princess Luna and noticed a wry smile appear on her.

“Oh don’t worry, this will just be a little slight change of the program.” Princess Luna said to me teasingly.

“Spencer be wearying skivvies, Princess Luna?” I heard Stella ask, leaning her head forward and bearing a mischievous grin on her face.

“I think that would be most cute to see,” Tantabus said after leaning forward, her innocent smile looking all the most devious.

Having none of this, I decided to stand, but I suddenly felt the strong hand of Princess Luna keeping me in place.

“Boy, to be blunt in this, the adults will need to have a discussion from unwanted ears.” Sombra stated.

I quickly turned to Sombra and asked, “What do you me-”

But before I could complete my sentence, Sombra grabbed me by the shoulder. The moment he did I saw his eyes flare up. My vision changed and everything turned black.

When my eyes opened, I found myself standing on my own two feet. It was dark where I was, the only light that was visible being a simple spotlight before me. Curiously, I took a step forward. I was unsure of what was going on, but somehow I was promoted to go to the light. I didn’t know what prompted me to do so, but I had a feeling inside of me saying that something, or someone, was waiting for me.

“Of all the things that I committed, I can never be rid of this guilt.” I heard a voice close by.

I wondered where it came from while I continued towards the light. I had thought that this was one of Princess Luna’s tricks but I wasn’t sure. This genuinely felt real enough.

“Oh, how am I tormented and not be able to see this folly. Maybe I pushed too far. Maybe I didn’t do enough. The elders will never forgive me for being in love with him.” the voice again spoke, genuinely feminine and sounding much closer this time.

As I kept moving forward, I saw a figure appear just on the edge of the light. The woman, from what I could see, was wearing what appeared to be a long robe of pure white which had fur on the shoulders and a hood that was obscuring the eyes. She stood there, hesitant to enter the light. I kept moving towards her, unaware if she even knew that I was coming. When I drew closer I stopped at the edge of the light. I watched as her head dipped, and from my angle I saw tears coming down, falling to the floor below.

“A gentle voice upon the winter breeze, soothing the tempest of my heart. How can such beauty be marred by tears when one's spirit is with her people.” I said, or rather, my mouth moved for me.

My mind flashed with questions.

Why did I speak that? Why is my mouth moving on its own?

My mind was frantic and my body moved into the light without my permission.

I was beginning to freak out.

Why was I not in control of my own movements? Why was I not in control of what I said?

And why are a thousand audience members staring at me?

My head moved, and from where I was standing I could see hundreds of eyes watching me.

It was the audience.

I was on the stage. In the play.

My head kept turning without me telling it to, and from the corner of my eye, I saw Princess Luna, Sombra, Tantabus and Stella were all still sitting in the same box seats. The only difference is that I wasn’t there. There was just an empty space. I saw that Luna and Sombra were conversing with one another, and I had no idea what they were saying.

“How long must this torment last? How much time must we be separated in times of strife? If I do break this barrier between us, then we can be united as one heart and one soul.” I kept saying, getting really frustrated that I had no control over this even as my head lowered down. “If only, that this time, things can be different, and the long awaited reunion may finally come.”

I noticed that my outfit had changed. I was wearing a thin leotard. I couldn’t help but want to laugh and point at it but I was not in control of my own voice and limbs. I hoped that for some odd chance, I could actually be in control of myself. But, a calm presence began to fill my mind and Luna’s voice was in my head.

“Worry not, Spencer. You are safe. Just relax. Enjoy yourself.” I heard her speak.

My head moved up and I saw that Princess Luna gave a small nod to me while she conversed with Sombra.

It was then that I noticed the figure step into the light, and I saw that the mare in question had raised her head. The little cover on her head remained, but from what I could see past the blood red veil she wore over her snout and mouth, she was smiling to me. Her head tilted in mild curiosity.

“Our reunion is here, my love. Together, we can forge the land that was promised between us.” she said, her voice being as warm as a furnace.

The light around us grew and I imagined, ever briefly, that I was in a land of snow.

Then a single guitar string was played.

Then another.

Then a simple melody of a guitar came to life around us.

I couldn’t find where the music was, only that it surrounded us both. It was nice. Serene. I felt calm, if not a little lethargic to the melodious tune. The music continued, and the mare began to circle me, her legs stretching out and gently kicking up the snow around us. I noticed the length of her legs exposed underneath. She began moving, twisting her hands and arms in a pirouette and beckoned me to join her. I was not sure, and my body, again not on my own volition, was gesturing that I could not. Then, she pulled me forward and I was taken with her.

The land around me remained as white as snow as I pulled with her. She kept dancing, feeling the rush of the wind around her. I was in awe of the mare, who was uplifting to the love and care of the world around her. My body, whimsically, joined in on the dance.

The music of the guitar was breathtaking. I felt a sway of emotions course through me. Sadness, happiness, regret, relaxation and love.

Love?

Why was love so important?

I hardly knew her, but yet...I felt so connected with her.

Her dancing quickened from the pace and I saw her white cape get thrown back, the only thing remaining being the veil over her face, obscuring her. Her skin was purplish red, a nice hue to it, and her tail and mane were equally as red, the mane being done in a ponytail. Her leotard was a one piece suit, a blue color that complimented her coat and matched her tail and mane. A line of crystals crawled up the suit from the lowest part of her leotard, aligning on the sides of her body and stretching across her chest in dazzling beauty that made them glisten in the light. A blue gauntlet was on each arm, bearing crystals that both dazzled as she twisted and turned her body.

The two of us, beckoned by the sound of the guitar, twisted and turned, going at an equally faster pace when it quickened, and going at a slow tempo when it lessened. My body flexed and loosened from each twist and turn. I leapt into the air and curled down for when the music was most impactful. She did so in kind with my movements, drawing closer to me as the two of us spun into one another.

My arms were wrapped around her, holding her. Protecting her. She held onto my arms at that comfort, despite the fact that she was a little taller than me. She didn’t seem to care, though, because she looked at me with a smile appearing on her graces. She knew that I was her protector, and I was there to be her shield. To comfort and love her when she needed it most.

We parted when the music quickened once more, her arms flailing into the air and twisting in a splendorous fashion. I followed her moves, leaping, spinning, and attempting to copy her movements. My body, for some reason, didn’t feel the strain of such difficult movements. But that didn’t matter. I was too enamored by all this to feel it.

She spun again, kicking her legs into the air and landing hard, only to spin around to face me. I stopped, several meters away from her. She then rushed over to me and my arms instinctively went up. I caught her when she landed, and I held her up, spinning around from the force. I eventually slowed down, still holding her at the waist and holding her like she was the world and I was her atlas.

Was I always this strong?

The guitar slowed once more, and I lowered her down, her arms gliding down to my shoulders to suspend herself before slowly coming down to face me. We spun slowly, looking at one another, her feet carrying us across the snow in mindless circles. I kept focused on that smile of hers, a small gesture that made my heart unmistakably warm. Her arms gilded under me, grabbing my back and even my shoulders as she pulled herself in. The smile never wavered, never losing its grace and beauty. I wanted to kiss it, to share in that passion that was blossoming in my heart. But, I felt it was not right.

It would just ruin the moment.

The guitar slowed its tempo, the chords echoing in the background and lost to time. My body then pulled her in, my arms wrapping behind her back and holding her close. She welcomed it, her head pulling closer to my own. My eyes closed halfway, lost to the tranquility of the guitar and the mare in my arms. Her head lowered and rested into my neck and chest. I heard her hum in turn. I lowered my head onto hers and felt a small bump on my cheek from where her horn was.

The last of the strings faded into nothing and all was silent. Everything was at peace.

Not a moment later the audience boomed with rounded applause. My eyes creaked open, the first movement that I had control over, and I saw that the crowds were cheering enthusiastically, giving a standing ovation to the performance. I looked out, the audience oblivious to my actions but a spare few, and saw them standing in the box seat. Sombra, Luna, Tantabus, and Stella were giving standing ovations, the latter two giving off whoops and calls to me from my ‘performance’. All of this being despite the fact I had no idea what I was doing other than letting my body guide me.

“You did well, Spencer,” I heard Princess Luna say in the back of my mind.

For some reason, when I was dancing on this stage, I felt like I had the most fun I’ve ever had in the longest time. In fact, whoever this mare was in my arms, I felt the most calm in all of my life. I nestled my head back down on her head, feeling the horn underneath my cheek. However, I noticed several bumps pressing into my cheek, it was as if it was…

Broken.

I removed my head away from hers and looked at her. She in turn looked at me. The veil over her face was pulled back and fell onto the ground.

My heart stopped when I saw that it was Tempest in my arms.

My breath was still, my arms frozen and my mind spinning.

Why was she here? Why was she here!?” I frantically thought.

I still held her there, unsure of what to do or what to say. She kept looking at me, oblivious of me and even, to my surprise, bringing a genuine smile. The audience in the background was no help. Their applause still continued, still encouraging me when the scene should have ended. I felt a strange sensation crawl in the back of my mind, and a familiar voice was shouting at me.

“Spencer! Spencer!”

I didn’t know who was calling me, but the voice sounded urgent. For some reason, I couldn’t move my head in the direction the voice was coming from. I was too terrified because Tempest was right here with me. I felt one of Tempest’s hands remove itself from my shoulders and something stirred behind her eyes. Her smile lowered slightly, a curiosity growing in her eyes. I wanted to go away, to release her and run. But I felt something hold me down, and it wasn’t just her. Her right hand reached up and caressed my face. It was gentle and warm to the touch, but she found no satisfaction from the contact. Instead, she appeared more nervous the longer she lingered.

Her hand then clasped onto my nose and, as if a veil was over my face, removed the mask that I wore. I felt my human features return, showing her who I was. Her eyes turned to horror and her lips parted slightly to utter a single name.

“Spencer? H-how?” she said.

It was as if a spell had been removed from her facial features, replacing it with one that was as nervous and scared as I was. She was petrified, holding me in the same position, unsure of what to do. Just like me.

Suddenly, as if an imaginary needle decided to break me from my nervous state, I heard the sounds of cracking and crackling from above Tempest and I. Tempest apparently noticed too, as her ears swiveled in the direction of where the sounds was coming from.

We looked up to find the most frightening thing happening:

There was a wooden beam up above, and it was burning. The fire was eating away at it.

And then...

The beam fell straight down at us.

For a moment, it seemed like my life was flashing in front of my eyes. I wasn’t able to move, and it seemed like my death wasn’t going to be far. But to my utter surprise, Tempest tackled me like a football player and quickly got us out of the way of the falling beam. We landed a few feet away from where we stood, with me landing flat on my back. Across from us, the beam fell on the stage and went straight through it.

The fire from the beam began to spread from where it landed, causing everything to burn.

Ponies in the audience suddenly screamed because of all that happened, and I turned my head to find that everyone was leaving their seats and running straight out the doors. I was terrified to see a few ponies near the front still clapping and applauding, some having that sinister laughter that I had heard from before. Some caught fire and they didn't seem to care if they were burned. They were consumed by madness and they reveled in the unholy blaze. When I also looked in the direction of the box that Luna, Sombra, Tantabus, and Stella were sitting inside of, I discovered the second most shocking thing that night:

They were gone!

It was like they just vanished into thin air.

“Spencer?” the confused voice of Tempest said to me.

It was then that I realized I had forgotten that Tempest was still right there with me. I turned my head to find that she was sitting above me, looking right at me with an expression of continual shock and confusion. I also noticed that her hands were planted on the ground and my head was between them. I would have said something questionable, like why she is straddling me, but I found that I couldn't. I was enraptured by her stare, like she was keeping me in place with just her eyes alone.

But then…

The floor started cracking into small pieces, and it gave way under Tempest and I. When we were immediately no longer on solid ground, Tempest and I fell through a dark and enormous hole, screaming as gravity was overtaking us.

For a moment, it felt as if we were falling through an endless void, and what was merely seconds seemed like an eternity. That is, until I landed on my back on a pitch black floor. A moment later Tempest fell right on top of me. I felt the wind knocked out of me from the impact and my vision blurred for a moment. We both groaned from the impact and Tempest rolled off to my left, laying beside me. I clutched my chest and found that my ribs were bruised from the fall. I didn’t know how Tempest was feeling after landing so hard, but for me...I felt like I landed between a bed of rocks and was a cushion for an amazon.

“Well, well.” a voice slowly said, which was all too familiar to Misery’s.

As if the voice elicited a magical command, my arms got pinned against my sides and my legs were pinned against each other. I noticed the same thing happen to Tempest as well.

Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Misery standing to my right, her head low, her eyes closed, and the end of her tail going side-to-side like a clock.

“Not you,” Tempest said, and I looked towards her to see that she was looking at Misery as well.

When I turned my attention back to Misery, I saw that she lifted her head and opened her yellow-slitted eyes, a malicious smile forming.

“Yes, me,” She responded to Tempest.

At that very moment, Misery casually slithered towards us until she stopped right above our heads. Then, she lowered her head and upper body closer to our eyes.

“How interesting. After so long apart…” she paused and put a finger under Tempest’s chin, “...the powerful commander…” she paused again, taking her finger away from Tempest with ease before clasping her hand on my face and squishing my cheeks, “...and the prisoner. The handsome hunk of a prisoner. Are together again.”

She slowly unclasped her hand from my face, almost as if she was relishing the feel of my skin despite my irritation with her doing this.

And then, her arms outstretched towards both Tempest and I.

“And now. At last. You both belong to me. Forever.” she said, clasping her hands onto our shoulders.

A course of lighting went through Tempest and I. All around us everything flared into a dizzying miasma of darkness and flame. It was so painful that I screamed in agony as Misery held onto me and I looked at Tempest to find her doing the same. It felt as if this would never end.

“Spencer! Awaken!” The voice of Sombra reached me.

The darkness grew rapidly around Tempest and I. Immediately, everything went black, the fading echoing laughter of Misery remaining.


I opened my eyes and bolted from my bed. I clutched at my chest and felt my body shake from the cold. I heard thunder and lightning booming outside my window and rain pattering against the glass. The room was lit several times by the lightning, casting long shadows throughout the room. I closed my eyes, attempting to calm myself from the scene.

“How did Misery find me? How did she slip past Sombra and Luna’s defenses?” I wondered to myself, “How did Tempest…”

My eyes opened up as the thought occurred to me.

“How did Tempest appear in my dream?” I said in a shaky voice, uncertain as to how it was possible that she appeared.

I tried to gather my thoughts, attempting to think of some possibilities out of the thousands of outcomes that occurred. It was only stopped when I heard a disgruntled voice soon after.

“Boy! What did you do!?” Sombra spoke to me.

I grew annoyed and angry at him.

“Nothing! I don’t even know what I did!” I shouted back, not caring if anyone heard me in this pathetic room or this ship.

“That remains to be seen! But that must come later. We have other worries about you and you need to move now!” Sombra spoke back to me.

“Move? Move?! I can hardly comprehend everything that happened these last few minutes, and you want me to move?! Why should I listen to you when all you’ve done is keep me in the dark?! Why should I listen to you when Misery is now just as dangerous as before?!” I shouted, my hands gripping on the sheets and my face contorting in anger, “You left me in her merry company! Left me to be played with her like a ragdoll! And with Tempest! Why?!”

I was so caught up in my emotions. So angry at Sombra for all that happened. But before I could say anything else, I felt a shadow grip my head, forcing me to look right. My emotions soon abated when I was looking next and a rush of warmth was spreading towards me from the hall outside.

“Why is the door to the room on fire?” I bluntly asked.

“The reason is beyond me. But, if you hadn’t been so caught up in your ranting, you’d have noticed this sooner.” Sombra stated.

Escape From the Flame

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Fire.

The door was on fire and the hall was ablaze.

I backed up from my bed, suddenly afraid and wondering how that happened. My mind became riddled with questions, much more than anyone could answer at this time. The heat was becoming apparent and I began to sweat from the intensity. A flash of lightning illuminated the room, the casting light causing the flames to be all-the-more dreadful on the other side. Thunder came soon after, but much closer and far brighter. An explosion took place soon after and I whipped my head around to see what was happening outside.

Six of the Storm King’s ships were burning in the skies. Several of them managed to stay afloat with their giant zeppelin-like balloons, but their main decks were being struck by the fire. I could see soldiers among the decks, desperately trying to put out the flames. More lightning and thunder crashed across the sky and broke through the darkness of the night. Not a moment later, a large clap of thunder broke down on one of the ships, tearing through it and striking onto the deck. Wood splintered and was sent flying everywhere, and the crew of the ship was doomed as it became a giant fireball that fell to the earth below.

It was then that I felt prompted to back away from the window.

“I’ve gotta get out of here,” I said aloud, turning to the doors where a similar fire was on the other side.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself, had you paid attention to your surroundings.” Sombra stated, with a hint of annoyance in his voice, overstating the obvious.

I snorted at him before I took a step up and out of the bed. I felt a growing headache press in my head and hissed from the pain. But that was the least of my worries.

“Sombra. There’s one problem. The door is locked and it’s on fire, and if I open it the fire will just spread faster. I also can’t get out the porthole since I will more than likely drop to my death.” I said, surmising the fact that I was trapped in a corner here.

“Not to worry, I might be able to help with that.” Sombra replied.

I felt a strange sensation grip over me. A chill crawled up my spine and I was feeling unbearably cold. After a few moments passed, the sensation ceased but I was left with the cold all over my body. I checked my hands to find nothing out of the ordinary but they still felt cold.

“Go to the door and open it.” Sombra stated, my mind already triggering fire alarms in my brain.
“Wait. Don’t you know that the fire is still raging out there?! If I go I’ll get roasted!” I claimed, knowing full well that it was never a good idea to open a door to fire. Once it had an opening, it would spread so fast that you’ll get burned in an instant.

I learned that off of the Discovery Channel.

“Trust me, the quicker this is done the faster you can get out of this alive. Your time is limited, so get your legs moving.”

I gulped in apprehension and walked towards the door, the flames on the other side burning brightly. I adjusted my sling with my good arm and said a quick prayer to whatever god would listen in this world as I approached the door.

When I was in front of the door, I placed a hand on the knob, thinking the heat would force me away. However, once I touched it, it was cool to the touch. I enveloped my hand on the knob and gently pulled it back. When the door creaked open it burst from the fire, enveloping me. I raised my hands to defend myself but found the flames were not scorching. It was actually almost ticklish. Relaxing even.

I stepped through the door, wading my way through flame and burning of wood. I looked down the left end of the hall, where everything was engulfed in an inferno, and then down the right end, where I saw a small area that was left untouched from the flame. Sensing an opportunity I hastily moved towards the right of the hallway. As I moved the flames spun and moved around me, but I was untouched and completely unharmed from its deadly heat. A moment later, I was out of the flames and was cleared of any fire around me.

I think I just became Moses.

“Go. Follow the path. There are several flights of stairs that you need to climb.” Sombra said.

I followed as instructed. I didn’t know why but I just continued down the hall unabated, and after turning a corner, just like Sombra suggested, I found a set of stairs on the other end of the hall. I quickened my pace, hoping by some chance that I can get out of this in one piece.

Soon I found the stairwell and climbed up it, but as I did, I was hearing voices of warriors nearby. I cursed my luck but decided to keep moving, hoping that if I can get up the stairs quickly before they caught sight of me that I could be in the clear.

“Quickly, get to the deck! Get those fires out now!” I heard one shout.

Suddenly I heard the shuffling of footsteps climbing on the stairs. My head went up and I saw several storm guards climbing for the higher decks. I remained low while I went up the stairs, hoping they didn’t see me.

“It’s no use! The fire’s too much!” the voice of a storm creature shouted from above, more already ascending up to escape the fires.

On another floor, I saw the head of one of the storm creatures, directing his men to go to the fires in an attempt to put them out. I stayed for a moment, waiting to see if they would go away. The storm creature turned its head and got ready to follow the others. It was then that I took the moment to climb a few extra steps.

Then the ship rocked.

My body jolted forward, hitting the stairs rather hard. I grunted in pain and quickly looked up to find, to my utter fright, that the storm creature was seeing me. I saw his eyes grow wide and a paw reached out to me.

“Hey! You gotta get out of-”

But he didn’t get to finish because the ship rocked again, following by an explosion nearby. The storm creature turned to his left down the hall to my right and its eyes widened in fear, while a rumbling noise steadily grew in intensity toward us.

“Boy, stay still, and keep your head down.” Sombra said to me.

“Get down!” the storm creature screamed, but that was the last he said when a fire engulfed his body.

I covered my head and hugged against the stairs, hearing the cries of the storm creature near me. I felt the cold sensation across my body and knew Sombra’s magic was working from the flames, but that didn’t stop the howling cries of the storm creatures around me. I dared open an eye. I saw that the storm creature was flailing about and screeching because his entire body was on fire. He came towards me, his body tumbling down. I ducked my head, feeling his body roll over me before stopping on the corner of the steps. He was still when I took a look at him again, the body a smoldering ruin. I was ready to hurl my insides out upon seeing this.

“Come, boy. You have to keep moving.” Sombra said, his voice sounding a little weak but stable.

I pushed myself up, uneasy because the pit of my stomach was doing somersaults. I was banged up and hurt, and despite the magic protecting me from the flames, it didn’t help me with the physical pain. I took a few uneasy steps, walking through the flames surrounding me and looking down the hall to see death and destruction stretch across the floors of it. The bodies that I saw were either burning and blackened or eviscerated by shards of wood blasted into them. As the fire continued to spread, I leaned against a wall and doubled over, throwing up whatever was in my stomach like my intestines were threatening to drop out. I wiped my mouth and shook my head off, trying to clear the nagging headache and the drowsiness in my eyes. In the end, I looked away from the grisly scene.

“The hallway is too much,” Sombra stated, “Go to your left and keep heading that way. There should be another hatch or stairway that will lead you to the top deck.”

“But, your magic protected me earlier. Why would this be any different?” I said, taking a glance back to see the stairs were on the other end of the fire.

“You forget that I am not as strong as I once was. When the explosion from earlier struck it caused my magic to decrease faster, and keeping this link intact ‘and’ keeping you alive is taking a toll on me. It won’t be long before my protection over you is gone, and I will have to rekindle my magic in order to keep doing so. Now get moving, and don’t stop for the dead or you will be one of them.” Sombra stated, his logic being something I couldn’t argue with.

I kept my pace down the hall, the sound of the fire and the resounding explosions being ever paramount. I felt like I was trapped in a glass bowl, everything around me shaking that bowl more violently than the last time. Thunder and lightning crackled in the night sky, and the ship steered or leaned from one side to the other to avoid it. I had no choice but to go along with the ride, attempting to outstretch my hand to clasp on a wall only to slam into the opposite one moments later. It took my entire strength to just hold onto any object that stuck out of the walls before the ship calmed enough for me to move.

It was a difficult task. By the time I reached the next set of stairs I was already worn out.

When I was at the top of the stairs I saw another open hallway, or rather the hold as it appeared to be. I groaned and cursed whoever made this ship to have so many levels on this flying beast. However, there was a silver lining. I heard a number of footsteps right above me and shouting of orders and several panicked voices. I was getting close to the deck, and I hope, beyond all hope, that I was going to get there in one piece. I looked about the hold, seeing the stocks and supplies of whatever was inside those barrels and boxes. On the other end of the hold, I saw what looked like another stairwell or even an escape hatch. Believing I could reach it I began to make my move towards the other end of the hold.

“Boy, wait!” Sombra demanded, making me stop in my tracks.

“What?” I asked him, “The exit is right there, I could-”

“Get to cover now!”

I heard the eerie sound of metal bending. It steadily grew louder. Guards yelled in fear and something began breaking on the ship’s side. Before I could take a step back, another ship's front hull crashed into the room. I fell back, watching as the front bow rammed itself in, sending wood exploding outward. I ducked my head, hearing barrels and boxes breaking and the sound of metal painfully creaking in resistance. As the ship tilted, my body rolled to the left side of the room. Seeing a wooden beam ahead, I grabbed onto it and held on for dear life, watching as more barrels crashed and broke against the side of the wall or tumbled into the open abyss below. I groaned as the pain in my left arm grew. I struggled to maintain my grip on the beam, all the while feeling the rush of air blasting against the side of my face. The ship that rammed us was suddenly pulled out before falling down towards the earth. The noise was deafening as metal and wood splintered and cracked in the air. And once it touched the ground, a fireball exploded to life.

I held onto the wooden post, too frightened to move.

“Boy, you can’t stay here.” Sombra said, his voice sounding weaker than before.

I still held on, looking to the massive hole that took out part of the floor I was on. I could see part of the deck and the night sky, along with a blasting rainfall that was soaking the floor. It felt like the whole ship was coming apart, and I was afraid that if I let go I could fall at any minute. My heart was pounding, my head weary and spinning. I couldn’t think of anything else instead of holding on for dear life. Then, the ship tilted back to its usual position, stopping the boxes and barrels from falling down to the earth below. Fire came from the floors below, slowly engulfing the hull of the ship. In spite of this, I still remained where I was.

“If you do not move, then you will not like what I’m about to do.” Sombra stated.

What was he talking abou-

I heard it before I saw it. I turned to see several barrels tumbling towards me, a black aura surrounding them. I attempted to stand but my legs remained locked in place. I gritted my teeth and embraced for the barrels to hit. They hit me indeed, which caused me to get knocked off the post and into the side of the ship, the barrels going with me. One such barrel landed on my chest and lap, pinning me against the side of the ship. I screamed out, feeling hopeless as I was trapped against the hardwood of the ship and the barrels that pinned me. They were unbearably heavy, either that or I was out of it to even try to move. I still screamed out, feeling the pressure grow as I attempted to move them off of me. But they were still too heavy and were trapping me under their weight.

“Give it a moment. Help will come, but not in the way you wish.” I heard Sombra, his voice failing in my head.

“Sombra! Why!? Let me out!” I shouted, my lungs tearing out and demanding an explanation.

“I can’t help you at this time. My magic is draining. But another source of help will come.” Sombra said, his voice fading on the last words and disappearing altogether.

I sneered in disgust and screamed in anger once more.

How could he leave me? How could he abandon me when I needed his help now?

I attempted to push a heavy barrel off me with all the strength I had, but it was no use. Whatever was inside of it obviously weighed more than a ton.

I shouted out once more, my head hitting the back of the wall while I wailed for any sort of aid to come.

“Grandpa, please help me.” I desperately pleaded in my head, which to many would’ve seemed like a childish and vain attempt.

In the back of my head, and in my exhausted state, I couldn’t help but remember Grandpa. The fire was growing nearby, I felt the heat on my cheeks, yet I didn’t seem to care or notice it. For a split second, I was seeing him and my eyes widened with joy. My grandfather, his large hand reaching out to grasp me. I went out, attempting to reach it and managing to successfully grab it.

“No worries, mate.” I heard somebody say.

And as suddenly as I heard the voice that I knew wasn’t my grandfather’s, my vision caught sight of a storm creature. My head jerked up and I found my hand to be encompassed in his paw. He was the one that I peed on and the one that escorted me to the airship and room. He looked more weary than angry and showed concern for me more than having any grievance in his eyes.

“How did he get here?” I couldn’t help but wonder.

The Storm creature shoved the barrel off of me like it was nothing. The weight on me seemed lighter the moment he touched it and the barrel fell to the earth below. He pulled me up by grabbing me by the shoulders. He looked around, seeing the devastation of the hull.

“Hold tight! I’ll get you out!” He ordered, his head looking upward.

I followed his gaze, seeing several other storm creatures waiting for us. I felt the storm creature's massive arm wrap over my sides, squishing my arms to where they crisscrossed over each other. Ultimately, I found myself being held like a suitcase.

He then squatted his legs, and in one leap we were both out of the hull. He jumped to the deck of the ship, the other storm creatures ready to intercept us. Two of them caught the storm creature, not bothering to do the same with me because I was in his grip anyway.

I managed to tilt my head around to see that everything was in chaos.

The back part of the deck was on fire, the flames reaching the balloon above. A dozen bodies lay dead on the wooden floor, some being burned or having wood jammed into them. Soldiers were disorderly, shouting out for help or needing attention to keep the ship in control. I saw prisoners huddled together near the front of the ship, and from what I could see Braeburn and Stongheart were among them. I looked out to the horizon to find that the ship itself was not the only thing that was messed up.

Many of the Storm King's ships, at least half a dozen from what I could count, were either on fire or rapidly descending to the earth below. I heard some ships crash into the earth in the distance, as well as metal breaking and snapping like twigs while the wood splintered asunder. Distant cries of mourn or death from soldiers and prisoners were all around me. A nearby explosion set off nearby, sending flame onto the wood. A dozen or more Storm Creatures attempted to put out the flames but their efforts were of little success.

I attempted to move. I wanted to get out of here, but I was held in place by the guard. He wouldn’t let me go.

“Is everyone on deck?! Tell me now!” The guard who held me shouted.

Several subordinates came forward from the throng of soldiers.

“Hundreds are dead in the lower levels! And fires are spreading to the cargo hold!” One of the guards spoke, his armor dented and stained.

“All the wounded that we’ve managed to gather are with the prisoners! There are still some survivors below but they're trapped by debris!”

“The lieutenant jumped to another ship to help put out the flames but has not returned!” Another shouted.

I wondered if he was referring to Tempest.

“Sergeant!” I heard a new voice from behind.

My guard turned around and I followed his gaze, seeing a lone Storm Creature rushing over to us. He had soot from head to toe and several wrappings around his paws and upper arms. He came to a halt, kneeling and catching his breath.

“What’s wrong?” The guard who held me responded.

The storm creature looked up with fear in his eyes.

“The boiler is unstable. It can’t take the pressure of the fires!” He said, drawing another breath.

“Is that all!? Can’t you see the situation around you with your own eyes, you mook?! Our ships are falling from the skies and our men are dying! I could care less about this ship! It’s been gutted! We need to hightail out of here before it blows itself into smithereens!” he shouted out, irritated by the subordinate.

“That’s my point!” He shouted back, “The boiler’s going past its limits. It’ll explode and send us all to the depths if we don’t descend and land!” He explained, the other weary soldiers eyeing each other nervously while the sergeant remained steadfast.

“How much time do we have?” he asked, his voice a bit calmer.

In the distance, more lightning streaked across the sky.

“Ten minutes at the most, but if we’re struck by another bolt of lightning, then we're as good as dead.” He explained.

And with that, the sergeant turned to the rest of the soldiers.

“Don’t just stand there ya swabs! Get this ship to the ground as fast as you can! Warn the ships that aren’t on fire to do the same. Head below deck and check if anyone is trapped. And if you find someone, break ‘em out and bring them back up here!” He shouted to the troops.

“Sir?!” One guard in the troop shouts back, “What do we do if we don’t land this bird in time?!”

“If that’s the case, we abandon ship!” He replied to the soldier, “Now go! To your stations!”

And with that order, the soldiers dispersed, spreading the news to all who weren’t within the ranks and quickly getting to work. The sergeant quickly turned, still carrying me with him. He marched towards the mast of the ship, where I could see the balloon above us still holding up. Multiple warriors were near the balloon structure, climbing on rope riggings before opening vents that were twice their size. Suddenly, the ship started to lurch and the clouds around us looked like they were levitating themselves higher while the ship was dropping down. A couple of other ships followed as well, attempting to avoid the lightning that veined its way across the sky. The sergeant used the other side of his massive body to shield me as best as he could from the elements.

For once I think I should be grateful that he was here.

The ship lurched again and the sergeant grabbed onto the edge. The prisoners at the front of the ship were screaming and also grabbed onto the edge, hanging onto it tightly while their guards provided themselves as an anchor for the most vulnerable. The ship went into a free fall, descending at a fast pace.

I felt like I was in Tower of Terror all over again.

All of a sudden, the ship slowed its descent and the sound of the vents closing was heard up above. I felt like I hardly had a stomach anymore, even while the Sergeant still held me under his armpit. When I got my bearings I saw that the ship was below the cover of some of the clouds. It rained heavily, dampening the fires that were causing the most damage. However, lightning was still in the sky and thunder boomed in the distance. I saw a few other ships rapidly descend out of the clouds, yet they were going down too fast and disappearing from my sight. A distant boom echoed from one of them afar. There was even one in particular coming straight at us.

“Look out!” I shouted, managing to lift an arm and point a finger as the ship with the head of a bird coming at us.

The Sergeant looked at it and appeared relieved.

“Destiny's Bounty! Those Parrot Pirates are coming to help!” He shouted.

The other crew members of the ship were cheering as they made their approach. They circled around the back before coming alongside on the right side of the ship.

Or was it called port or Starboard?

I have no idea.

On the edge of the ship, I saw a familiar captain with a green crystal pegleg and feathered hat.

“Everyone! Your ship is gutted and will not last much longer! Get on board now!” She called out.

Two large gangplanks suddenly came out from her ship. They adjusted in place before they landed onto the ship I was on, forming a bridge. Several pirates were already getting on and heading for the other side.

The prisoners, seeing the gangplanks, rushed over without so much as a second thought, desperately wanting to get to safety. The pirates offered their hands, escorting them as quickly as they could across the gap. The guards assisted, carrying the injured in their arms and rushing across the planks. Orders were being shouted as more guards and prisoners came, attempting to get onto Destiny’s Bounty. It was chaotic. The confusion was rampant and so many were bottlenecking the gangplanks. I did see, however, a few of the guards using their own feet to jump from one ship to the other. Their powerful legs were able to close the gap between them and arrive at Destiny’s Bounty safely.

On the other end of the ship, pirates and soldiers were escorting the prisoners and wounded after they came onboard. The prisoners were all gathered on the other side from where I could see, some of the soldiers guarding them.

And then...I saw her.

Tempest.

There was no way I could forget that Mohawk of hers.

She was among the crowd, calling out orders, tending to the wounded, and getting prisoners down below the ship.

“Sergeant! We freed the trapped soldiers, but they’re as beat up as punching bags!” A voice came to our right.

I turned my head to see a group of Storm Creatures coming out of the stairs and onto the deck, several dragging their wounded comrades with them.

“Get to the ship! We are evacuating!” He ordered.

The soldiers filed by, heading to Destiny’s Bounty. Some were burned but alive. Others had broken or bruised limbs. A few carried their brethren as best they could. There was even one whose legs were burned beyond recognition and was being carried to safety. There were two dozen or so that headed past us. However, instead of following them, my guard kept his gaze on the lower doors. He waited there, seeing if there were any signs of other warriors or wounded individuals coming.

After an uncomfortable minute, the sound of lightning struck around us. The guard finally turned towards the other ship and headed towards it to get off this death trap, carrying me with him.

A bright flash coursed through the skies, illuminating everything around us in bright white light. The hairs on my head and arms stood on end from the electrical current.

Thunder boomed a split second later, my ears rang severely from the close range. I felt the guard lower me down and put me on the wooden floor of the ship, later turning my head to see that he too was grabbing his ears from the deafening noise. Lightning coursed its way down from the skies, striking nearby. A loud explosion followed upon a distant ship. I was able to catch a glimpse of one of the ships from afar through a hole on the bottom of the beam. A thunderclap came overhead, striking the ship on top of the balloon, going straight through it and onto the deck. The fire spread moments later, engulfing the entire ship into a flaming inferno. Although my ears were ringing, I could still see some crewmen on the other ship burning on the deck. The ship plummeted downwards and crashed below moments later.

Judging on how close the crash was, we were either far closer to the ground than we should or the ship was losing altitude at a faster rate.

I felt the guard grab me again, his arm pinning all two of my own to my sides. This time, once he got me off the ground, he straightened my body upwards and carried me like he was holding a book close to him, his arm being across my body.

With surprising speed, he quickly ran towards the other ship to get off of the broken down one we were on. However, he stopped after taking a few feet forward and saw other guards ahead doing the same. I wanted to get off this wreck but the guard held me in place, and some of the prisoners that remained were screaming out. Of what I could not understand, yet, they pointed up, screaming in abject terror. I followed their gaze, seeing nothing but the large balloon above us and the other guards that hung on the rope riggings. I followed to look into the air, seeing dark clouds that were accompanied by a large orange light in the skies. It was steadily coming towards us. I squinted my eyes, attempting to figure out what was in the sky that was getting everyone so worried.

Moments later, the orange light broke through the cloud cover and I saw what it was. It was another ship, falling in a ball of flame straight towards us. It was then my hearing returned.

“Incoming!” The guards ahead shouted, attempting to outrun the flaming projectile.

And before I could say anything, the guard bolted for the gangplanks. The remaining prisoners were clambering onto them in fear and other guards were grabbing whoever they could get before jumping to the other ship. The storm creatures on the shroud were caught on the rigging above, frantically trying to break free and attempting to jump down. The guard that carried me breathed heavily before crossing the deck in an attempt to reach the other ship. I caught a glimpse of the one that was coming down from above us.

Like a comet from the sky, the descending fireball slammed straight into the wrecked ship everyone was trying to get off of.

I felt everything slow from the moment of impact, and my body felt the vibrations. The whole ship buckled and tilted to the left, the massive fiery ship plunging into the bow of it. The Sergeant fell forward, the fall slamming both himself and me on the ground like a falling tree. The wind was knocked out of me in particular because of being squished by the bulk of the guard. The storm creatures near the balloon structure fell from the riggings, some landing on the deck while others fell to the earth below. Other guards were shunted forward, with a few falling overboard from the impact. The few dozen or so prisoners were thrown off, some being caught, thankfully, by their guards, while others hit the floor of the deck.

The ship cracked and waned, making us tilt farther back. We began sliding, the force and weight of the other ship pulling to the left side of the one that wasn’t on fire. The sergeant used his right paw and jammed it down into the wood, causing it to crack and break from the impact but stopping us from sliding off. He held on tightly to the ship, knowing that both of our lives were depending on it. Several of the other storm creatures did the same, yet only a few managed to do so. Those that didn’t grab on or hold tight tumbled off the side of the ship, their cries filling the air as they descended to the earth below. The prisoners that remained were being held by the guards that kept their ground as best as possible. The front of the ship began to buckle and break wood splintering and jutting out as the destruction of the ship was taking its toll. The ship tilted again as it righted itself. However, the fire spread swiftly into the balloon above and the rope that held up the mast began to snap. I saw the right side of a rope snapping from the strain from both the top riggings and below. That very rope fell end over end, sprawling itself onto the side of the other ship. The sergeant took notice of this as well and attempted to stand up on the awkward angle.

“Evacuate now! Jump!” He ordered, straining to keep himself up while still carrying me.

The guards did as they were told, each holding a prisoner before jumping onto the other ship. Some were able to leap off the railing and jump into the waiting arms of their comrades. A few managed to jump and land near the edge of the rope, climbing and being pulled up by whoever was standing by. The Sergeant kept his balance as he held me, trying to keep us both alive. The ship continued to buckle, the inferno of the broken ship spreading ferociously and claiming anything in its path. It was slowly surrounding us, yet, the sergeant paid no heed. He instead stared at Destiny’s Bounty, seeing the rope that still hung on the edge of it.

The ship began to tilt again, rocking towards the right side and to the one that was burning. The fire spread rapidly towards us, engulfing anything flammable within its reach. The sergeant stirred and I felt his arm tighten around me. A loud explosion came underneath our feet. His body tensed and hunched low, taking several steps before turning into a full-on run down the ship’s side. He sprinted down the side of the deck to the point where he could no longer stop and took long strides, his speed increasing as the ship tilted farther. A few more yards, the amount of space left of the deck was diminishing every second before we hit the railing. He bounded a few more times before landing hard onto the edge of the railing, the old wood creaking from the weight.

He lunged off, carrying me with him and going straight for the dangling ropes. My heart felt like it was in the back of my throat, my mind ablaze with panic, and my body tensing up all at once. I didn’t know if we could make it or if he would catch the rope. All I knew was that if he missed...I was as good as dead. I prayed to God that we could make it and get to safety. The rope was in reach and we were almost there...but we were going down, far faster than I’d like. The sergeant outstretched a paw towards the rope, as it became clear we were not going to be on the deck. He snagged the rope with his paw and the two of us crashed against the side of Destiny’s Bounty. The initial impact from the heavyweight caused a slight dent in the ship but we stayed hanging there.

We were alive.

I nearly choked in pure joy, my heart thumping in my chest and relief running through my veins. The sergeant was breathing heavily, holding tight to the rope and keeping me secured. I felt him prod into me and I turned to him. However, I screamed when I noticed that we were still swinging in the air before I saw the land below. We were a hundred meters, maybe two, from the ground. I saw the earth below but the majority of what was down there was the river, tossing and churning from the ships crashing into the water. The guard held me tight as he looked back towards the burning ship, and from my angle, I could see the destruction that was laid out.

The ship was gutted. Several layers of the floors were exposed, each cavity filled with flames that continued to burn unabated. Broken wood and timber broke and bent from the destroyed carcass of the ship. Remnants of the ship that crashed into us fell away to the earth below, crashing seconds later. Whatever ropes that remained snapped and I noticed the mast was breaking apart, falling, thankfully, on the other side of the ship. I breathed a small sigh of relief, knowing the nightmare was over. The sergeant moved and lifted his arm, beginning to climb the rope while I was still held under his armpit.

A rumble within the burning ship stopped the sergeant’s ascent. His breath hitched and he turned toward it. A series of explosions rippled inside, sending debris and wood everywhere. Each sounding explosion grew larger in intensity. A series of more rumblings were exploding in the ship, threatening to burst from the seams. Then, all at once, the middle of the ship exploded outward in a blazing inferno and was heading straight at us. The Sergeant covered me. The knockback from the explosion shook the rope violently and caused us to get knocked against Destiny’s Bounty. From what I could see the whole ship we were on rocked after getting thrown back somewhat from the violent explosion. Wood and debris flew everywhere, striking the ship above and hitting into the rope, some of which was on fire and catching part of the rope ablaze.

The strong wind quickly subsided after the violent explosion, and from my angle, I could hear the ship falling down. The people on Destiny’s Bounty were scrambling to put out the fires and orders were being given. Rumbling footsteps were everywhere and my ears were still ringing from the explosion. As I was held tightly by the sergeant, I continually hoped to get onto Destiny’s Bounty and out of harm's way. It was then I felt something on my shoulder. I didn’t notice at first, but it was warm to the touch and went down the length of my right arm. I looked down and saw it was blood.

“Brother….Forgive me.” The sergeant spoke, almost like he was nearly out of breath.

I traced the blood to him and my breath hitched in my throat.

The sergeant had a broken piece of wood sticking out of his mouth, blood pouring out of the wound. There was also a half dozen more wood and metal stuck into his back. He used his own body to save me, and now he was dying. He looked at me, his eyes filled with sadness but also relief. Then, his body shifted, his head rolling back and his grip on the rope slipping. He fell from the rope and plummeted to the river below.

He also unintentionally let go of me in the process.

I began to fall, but as I did I grabbed onto the rope with the hand of my good arm, the sling from my wounded arm falling off of me before drifting in the wind, never to be seen again. I gripped the rope tightly as I held onto it while slipping, my hand burning with blisters before I finally stopped. I screamed out, the pain from my hand being immense enough to where it felt like it was in a torture machine because of the skin on it burning. Despite no longer having the sling on my left arm, I couldn’t move it or use it to grab the rope due to it still feeling a little numb, and my right hand was already feeling like it wasn’t gonna hold onto the rope for much longer.

“Sombra, help me!” I shouted.

In spite of my cry, I didn’t hear his voice. Only silence in my head and a thunderclap in the night sky. I looked up from the rope I was at. I was roughly halfway towards the top of the railing of the ship, but the rope was burning at the top of the ropes and slowly creeping its way down towards me. Occasionally, a piece of the rope would snap, jostling me and lowering me further away from Destiny’s Bounty. I panicked and held on, my hand tightening on the rope as best as I could muster, but I was losing strength fast. I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to hang on.

Another piece of rope snapped near the top, shaking me up and making my hand tense up. My strength was waning out and my numb left arm felt like a weight that I couldn’t lift. There were voices up above, and I could hear them shouting out orders while the fires were quelled.

“Someone help!” I shouted, but my voice sounded weak.

My body swung dangerously towards the side of the ship, almost striking the wooden hull. My heart was pounding, my head was spinning, and my body was drained. I had no energy left to continue. I sobbed uncontrollably, either because I was unable to contain myself or didn’t care to stop it from happening.

I was going to lose my grip and fall to the earth. To die without ever getting a chance to do so many things. I lowered my head, my tears flowing freely down my face because I didn’t know what else to do. Below me, the ground appeared closer. The water was turbulent from the crashing of the ships. If I could make it, I might be able to get into the water. But at such a precarious height, I would likely die upon impact. The grip on the rope with my right hand wasn’t going to last much longer. I knew then and there that my fate was going to be to fall to my death. Through heavy tears I decided to try once more, to call out to them. I lifted my head toward the edge of the ropes, the fires finally put out at the top, but the rope was close to snapping. I kept my eyes on the edge of the rail, hoping for someone, anyone to appear. I didn’t care, but I had to try. Sucking in the last vestige of air within me, I called out one last time.

“Help!” I screamed, but a flash of lightning boomed not a second later, drowning out my voice.

I kept yelling until my voice died in my throat. I waited, hoping and praying that someone near the side heard me. I cried again, the tears coming out and my lungs needing air. My grip was almost gone and I was slipping, my right hand shaking considerably. It was then that I noticed a flash of red come over the railing.

There was someone up there.

“Man overboard! Man overboard!” Someone shouted, the voice sounding female.

My vision cleared to see Captain Celaeno was up there.

The grip in my right hand tightened, a small hope kindling in my heart. More faces appeared, seeing me dangle on the last lifeline between life and death. They were shouting above, some pointing at me, others demanding for more rope.

Another voice, which was also feminine, familiar, broke through the crowd. A familiar face appeared:

It was Tempest, looking down at me with fear in her eyes. She called out to me, I think, but her voice was drowned by the others surrounding her. I kept watching her, and I saw her horn begin to charge. Could she really pull me up with her magic? Even with her horn broken, I was willing to take on anything. I saw that part of the rope was surrounded by a blue aura and found myself being lifted up. Her broken horn was sparking and her face contorted as she tried to hold the rope. She was losing control, but I believed she could do it. I was going to get out of here.

Suddenly, the rope snapped from its post and my weight took me down.

Everything slowed for me. I was in a free fall, watching and flailing my arms towards the boat while it continued to move away from me. As I fell I heard Tempest shouting my name. My head angled slightly from the fall, seeing the water coming towards me fast.

I hit the river much faster than I realized, my body tumbling into the cold frigid waters. I was alive. I didn’t know how, yet I didn’t care. I was in the water and needed to get out. However, I spun head over heels in the water and my sense of direction was thrown out the window as I tried to breach the surface. I struggled for air as I tried to get to the surface. I saw light ahead and went for it, my legs having the strength to propel me forward. But, debris in the water as I went for the surface, metal and broken wood scattering in every direction. My ears were coming back when I reached the edge and broke the waterline.

I gasped for breath, my lungs filling with much-needed air. I kicked and treaded water, keeping my head afloat as best I could. The ship was above me, still high up but far closer to the ground. Water went over my head, sending me back under but not deep enough to keep me from quickly breaching the surface once more. The ship that had crashed before was still falling in large pieces, slamming against the river and sending waves and debris everywhere. I couldn’t dodge in my current state and I felt my stomach churning as the waters took me with them. I treaded water, staying afloat in the river as best as I could, looking up to see the ship and seeing activity near the edge. They may still be able to help, maybe they still see me. Maybe if…

*SLAM*

I felt something hard strike against my stomach, sending me down. A wooden beam, from what I saw as I went under the water, was on top of me and caused me to sink to the bottom of the river. I tried to move but the beam was so big and heavy that I was practically immobile. Everything was dark and bright all at once. My sight was blurred, seeing the surface of the water slipping out of reach. My arms and legs weightlessly went up as my body sank with the beam on top of it.

This was it then.

I was going to die here, a drowned man with nothing left in the tank to give to this world. I wouldn’t even get to say anything else.

Maybe it was for the best.

I blinked lazily, my eyes seeing wood brushing through the current. I felt my back land on the riverbed, small rocks, and stones greeting me uncomfortably. I didn’t care. My mind was drifting, my ears were ringing, and I was losing sight. I stared up, seeing the orange glow of the burning ship that had remained out of the water. Everything was darkening. Bubbles of air slipped from my mouth, tracing towards the surface. I tried to lift the beam off of me with my only good arm, yet, despite my best efforts, it wouldn’t budge. The fire in me was fizzling, and I had nothing left to give.

My eyes glazed, darkness slipping over me.

Yet, it didn’t end.

Despite how blurry my vision was, I saw something splash into the water. Three somethings. And they were darting towards me. I shook my head to clear my eyesight, seeing three figures swimming directly to me.

It was Tempest. And behind her were Flint and Tinder.

With all the grace and strength she had, Tempest swam towards me as fast as she could. Flint and Tinder also swam to me quickly with their huge arms.

Instinctively, I reached out to Tempest with the hand of my good arm before resting it back on the beam.

When they finally reached me, Tempest and the others saw the beam that was on top of me. Immediately, Tempest tried to move the beam herself. With both of her hands and arms too. However, she wasn’t strong enough to move the beam off me. It was then that I saw her directing Flint and Tinder with hand motions to help her lift the beam off me, and they knew right away what they had to do. Together, the three of them grabbed the beam. It took a lot of effort because of the weight the water put on it, but they managed to get the beam off of me.

I slowly floated up in the water, becoming too weak to swim or move anything outside of my neck and head. But then, I felt pressure on my good hand. I turned to see that Tempest was grasping it as she was keeping herself afloat in the water. She then came over to me and wrapped my good arm over her neck and shoulders, before using her other arm to wrap it around my body and bring me close to her.

With no time to spare, Tempest quickly swam and carried me with her to the surface. I felt every fiber of my being reaching it, getting closer and closer as Tempest kicked her legs in the water. Beside us, I saw that Flint and Tinder were rushing back up the surface too.

We breached the surface, the four of us gasping for air like we went a thousand years without it. I coughed and gagged as the water came out of my body. At one point, I even coughed up blood, which stained the river red, and barely missed touching Tempest.

In no time at all, three new ropes dropped in front of us. Flint and Tinder quickly grabbed onto the ones on the left and right and started climbing towards Destiny’s Bounty. As for Tempest, she used her free hand to grab on the rope in the middle before tying it around her waist and tugging on it a couple of times.

“Pull!” I heard a voice shout from above.

And then, Tempest and I were quickly pulled up, albeit a little jerkily considering whoever was pulling us up struggled with the weight of myself and Tempest.

“Come on, lads! Heave!” The voice (which I recognized as a female) shouted from above, the rope tightening and pulling the two of us out of the water and into the air.

I held on tight to Tempest as I felt her muscles harden and keep me level with her. I looked up to see that as we were getting pulled up, Flint and Tinder managed to safely make it all the way to the top and climbed back on the ship.

“Pull! Pull! Put your back into it lads! Pull!” The voice shouted again, and that time I knew it was Captain Celaeno.

It took a few minutes, but Tempest and I were finally able to get to the ship’s railing. And as she quickly grabbed the rail us upwards herself a bit, I peeked my head and saw a dozen hands pulling onto the rope to keep us from falling, each being crew members, Storm Creatures, and a few prisoners. Among the people pulling us up as Captain Celaeno, and I saw her hand grasping at the edge of the rope and the railing. Very quickly, Captain Celaeno and a couple of her crew members managed to grab me and lift me up, while some of the Storm Creatures helped Tempest up.

The pirates carried me steadily before they sat me down on the side of the ship a little ways apart from the Storm Creatures and Tempest. I gasped for breath, coughing out whatever water remained in my lungs, and spat out blood on the deck. I was on my back and struggled to sit up, my body shaking considerably from the cold. My vision became fuzzy, seeing several hands reaching me and letting me sit up. I heard cheering, the crew shouting in praise that we managed to live. I heard Captain Celaneo call out orders, I was not sure since I couldn’t pay attention to everything around me, but the crew quickly dispersed onto other tasks. My vision became blurry again and I coughed more blood. I looked forward, seeing a fresh pair of hands reaching out to me. I felt them press onto my face, making me look forward.

My vision cleared to see that Tempest was holding me, sitting on her knees and breathing heavily with concern in her eyes while her hands clasped my face, the palms of them feeling so warm against my cheeks.

“Spencer? Are you alright? Can you see the broken horn on my head?” She asked me, traces of vulnerability, and worry in her voice.

She was sitting on her knees in front of me, observing my wounds before feeling my forehead and face.

“You’re burning up! You must have a fever!” She exclaimed with fright, before turning her head in another direction “Doctor! Someone get a doctor! Quick!”

I blinked once, not once thinking about anything else. Just her. She was different than she was in the dream, and far different than the last time I saw her in the real world. Seeing her now was calming enough. I wanted to say something to her, but I stopped when I felt the ship begin to shake and my body would’ve been shifting back if Tempest didn’t hold me.

“Brace! Brace! Brace for impact!” I heard a crewman shout.

The ship suddenly shunted as it slammed onto the ground. It caused me to fall right onto Tempest and we both fell to the other side of the ship before tumbling out. I heard the crash and the wood of the boat either creaking or cracking after it fell on land as Tempest and I tumbled over one another. We finally came to a stop after hitting against something hard.

As all two of us were still, I heard screaming behind us. I attempted to move in order to see what was going on but found that I could not.

I then heard a heartbeat in my left ear and realized where I was.

My head was on Tempest’s chest. Not only that, but her arms wrapped over my right cheek and my left cheek was squished gently to her, causing my lips to purse a bit. My body was parallel with her own, with half of my body being on hers, while the rest of me was sitting on the ground. My left arm was also draped over her lower body and my fingers touched the back of her latex uniform. She was propped up with her back against a huge rock (just like I thought). I felt the soft surface of her uniform, which was warm and comforting. I was able to look up, to see if she would notice. What I saw instead was that she was staring blankly out to the ship, breathing deeply but in a controlled way through her nose. That is until she looked down at me. For a moment, I was afraid she was going to throw me pulverize me if she saw me like this. In a sudden turn of events, though, her eyes gained a sense of care and she warmly smiled.

“It’s okay, Spencer,” She said to me, her voice being as smooth as honey, “I’ve got you. You’re safe.”

Her voice, the soft heartbeat. It was all I could hear, drowning out the rest of the noise around us. Tears streamed down my eyes because of how caring she was being. First, she saved my life, and now...she was comforting me like I was a valuable treasure. When Tempest noticed that I was crying, she moved her right hand away from my head and soothingly ran it to the right on my hair.

Little Small Fryyyyyy
No Need to Cryyyyy
Think of a Peeeeeeaceful Skyyyyyyyyy

She softly sang to me, before putting her hand back on my head to hold it again. And then, she lowered her head and rested her right cheek on my head.

No Need to Feel Loooooow
When Your Days Aren’t so Melloooooow
For I will Never Let You Gooooooooo

She sang again, gently Swaying me side to side with her as she did like we were slow dancing together in a ballroom.

Her singing was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. It was like a soothing angel was comforting a person down on his luck, placing a warm blanket on top of him. Tears no longer streamed down my eyes and I felt so much more relaxed. I even offered a smile of my own.

I closed my eyes, letting the sound of Tempest’s heart and her humming take me into a lulling sleep. I raised my right hand upward, attempting to grab ahold of her own as they were wrapped around my head. All I managed to do was let it fall over and cusp her right hand.

As sleep took over me, sending me back into the void of dreams, I felt her hand move and place itself over my own, gently cupping it.

Current State of Affairs

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I woke up with a painful headache. I winced from the pain and gritted my teeth. I could barely move my arms because they felt like hot lead. My whole body ached from head to toe, the kind where you get thrown into a meat grinder before being reassembled.

I tried to open my eyes but found that I couldn’t. It felt too excruciating.

My breathing was slow, and it was painful to the point of where it was like sucking through a straw while my lungs were clogged with gunk. I coughed, twisting in my bed from the discomfort and feeling the blanket twist with me. Suddenly, something cold and wet slid off my head. A hand touched my brow (at least, I thought it was a hand), and it was giving my head a soft and gentle caress. I tried to open my eyes but the splitting migraine I was having persisted.

“Relax, Spencer. Take it easy,” I heard Tempest speak, and the sound of a towel being wringed out in a small bowl was heard. “You’re okay.”

The cold touch of the cloth pressed on my head, simmering the pain. I relaxed a little. My head was spinning but the damp coolness of the rag calmed me. I opened up an eye to see my surroundings. It was blurry at first, but my eyes managed to adjust to the light around me. I saw a wooden roof above me, a bit fancy in a way but overall sturdy. Light crept through a window, but I couldn’t tell what time of day it was. When I glanced over to my left I was able to see her:

Tempest.

Her mane was disheveled, losing its luster of a mohawk and drooping until it was over the side of her left shoulder. Her eyes were slightly baggy and she was breathing slowly. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t angry either. She was no doubt exhausted, but she still tended to me. She leaned forward, pressing the cloth and brushing over my head several times. It was then that she put the cloth on top of my forehead, before resting her right palm against my left cheek and smiling.

“You’ve had it rough. But, you were able to pull through like a trooper. I’m so proud of you,” she said, taking her hand away from my face before standing up, “You should get some sleep. After all, we need to give you more time to regain your strength.”

I closed my eyes and remained there, hearing her footsteps on the wooden floor as they were leaving my side. My mind was drifting to sleep, yet the noise of several footsteps was keeping me from sleeping and a door creaked open. Light from the sun drifted into the room, and my eyes squinted in annoyance. At least it wasn’t raining, because that was starting to get old.

“What have you found? Are there any survivors?” Tempest spoke, my ears catching on to the conversation.

“We’ve been working for most of the night, Lieutenant. Twenty-three crew members from the Iron Dread are still alive. We’ve already gathered some of the supplies and found the survivors stuck in the crew’s quarters. Yet the other ships we have found before are too severely damaged to be recovered. Not to mention some are still burning,” One of the guards spoke, explaining the situation, “We only account for about one-fourth of our initial fighting force, and all from just six ships.”

“I see.” I heard Tempest respond to the guard.

I figured that I may as well listen in, mainly to figure out what’s been happening while I was unconscious. Judging by how the conversation was going, I could guess that it’s been roughly half a day since the incident occurred.

To help me get a clearer picture, I peeked at my right eye with a slight crack despite how painful it was to do so. I saw that there were two guards standing in front of a wooden wall, and Tempest was talking to them with her back to me.

“There’s more,” another guard spoke, “Some of the other ships that have fallen earlier are too far from this location. It would take us a day and a half of searching before we could return with any equipment or survivors.” he paused, sounding so distracted that I almost strained to hear what he said next. “We don’t know how many are still out there. Or how many are even alive. The advance ships that were to lead the invasion have gone awry.”

An advance party? Just how many ships did the Storm King have? How many did they even send out?

“So many losses…so many good men…gone…” Tempest spoke softly, her tone disenchanted by the news before ordering. “Send out search and rescue parties of every able-bodied guard we have to the rest of the broken vessels. If you return with any survivors, let me know so that I may come to see them. And when you come back with whatever supplies you find from the wreckages, send me an inventory of what remains and what can be salvaged.”

“Yes, Miss,” The guard said with a salute, the other one doing so at the same time as him, “Do you want us to pass this order on to the other officers?”

“Absolutely,” Tempest replied with a nod, “And to the pirates as well.”

I heard the shackle of armor as I saw the guards salute again, and without a second thought, they turned towards the door and ran outside, wood creaking as they did. When they left the building, Tempest walked to the door and closed it.

With the conversation over, I decided to try to get myself to sleep again. Yet, I couldn’t help but note the creaking of the wooden door before it was shut.

We were alone again. The sound of one storm creature outside barking orders before others did the same seemed all the more distant. I heard Tempest approaching me, her feet sounding heavy as she moved. I heard a chair pull up next to the bed, the scraping of the chair’s legs skidding across the wood in protest. I heard the seat of the chair creak, meaning that she was obviously sitting down. I felt her hand grasping the wet cloth on my brow once again. I heard the sound of her placing the cloth in a bin of water, splashing it about before taking it out once more. She wrung it out, the water dripping into the bowl as she held it there. I waited for her to place it back but she didn’t do so. Instead, she remained there and didn't do anything.

“I know you’re not actually sleeping, Spencer,” I heard her say to me, “There’s no need to keep your eyes closed.”

I laid there silently, a small bead of sweat forming on my brow. I didn’t stir or respond. I didn’t even want to say anything because that would give away the fact that I was listening in on the conversation she was having with the guards.

“You have questions. I know you do,” Tempest said to me, “So do I.”

I still remained silent, more sweat forming on my head. She knew that I was awake, despite my attempts to hide that fact. I just had to keep my cool somehow without her knowing that I was still active. I heard her lean forward, the chair she sat in creaking somewhat as she drew closer.

I’m dead.

“You don’t have to hide it from me. I can see clear as day that you’re awake. Even a child whose own hand is in the cookie jar knows when he’s caught.” she said, her voice becoming more of a whisper as she drew closer.

I felt a tendril of breath on my face, making me shiver from the touch. She was no doubt hovering over me but I stayed as still as possible.

“I’m a corpse. I’m stone. I’m the annoying painting that no one ever liked,” I thought, thinking of anything to everything that would make me not react in the slightest to her. More sweat formed on my brow and I felt it drain from my face.

“Come on, big boy,” she said, and I nearly flinched as she placed a finger right between my eyes, “No need to be shy. Open up your eyes and look at me,” she said, emphasizing her words by lightly poking at my head, her voice low and intimidating yet also a little playful.

She hovered over me like some vulture, waiting to see if I’d make a move. She kept prodding me, trying to get me to stir. I felt her fingers trace my face until they stopped on the corners of my mouth, moving them and almost forcing me to smile. Not long after, I felt her trace her fingers along my lips until they stopped at the center of my mouth, before she stuck them inside my lips and moved them up and down.

What was she even hoping to accomplish with this? Get me to kiss her mouth to mouth?

Just when it seemed like this was gonna go on forever and I’d finally crack, I felt the movements of her fingers in my lips stop and heard her sigh.

“Who am I kidding? For all I know, you’re too far gone into Dreamsville.” She said with a bummed sort of voice, and I heard her lean back in her chair.

I took a deep breath, slowly though so that I didn’t draw attention to myself. I waited patiently, unsure of what she was doing. Then, I felt my left arm getting brushed by her. She pressed the wet cloth onto my arm, rubbing it up and down, and repeated the process. I assumed I had dirt on my arm. Maybe even a wound. But I didn’t say anything. It felt nice, feeling the cloth gently patted against my skin and rubbing down the length of my arm.

“I don’t even know what’s going on anymore,” she stated, mumbling to herself.

I laid still, letting her speak and not interfering.

“Every night is the same. Waylaid orders, backtracks, last-minute changes...all of which become a blur later on. Everything should go smoothly, everything is complete, following the letter and no dramatic changes.” she paused in her ministrations with her hand falling down from my arm, “How is that things drastically shift so fast your world becomes a living nightmare? Ruining your day in the process?” she returned to tending to me, draining the water from the cloth and rubbing against my left shoulder.

I felt a slight twinge when she touched near the back of it, where the sting from the Manticore resided. I guess the pain was back now and I no longer felt the numbing sensation from the medicine.

“I always thought that when you dream, you can become anything. That you can get away from the world in the best way possible. And that when you sleep, you go into a trance-like state and let all of your troubles ease away, unaware of everything except your own imagination. All of your troubles be eased and that you are your own master and you are at peace in your dreams. Not to mention that you can control everything.” she said, her attention moved to rubbing my shoulder blade with the cloth, allowing the soft wet texture to rub against me.

I sighed internally from the pressure, feeling the old muscle on my shoulder relaxing from the touch. She did this a few times, tracing the cloth back and forth over me until she paused as it neared my neck.

“Yet, in all dreams, I can’t control everything. Like you.” she said in a harsh tone, yet it was not as bitter.

I could only guess what was coming but I had to let it play out.

“How are you appearing in my dreams? Why is it that you keep appearing when my dreams turn into nightmares? Why is it that you’re always there?!” she said, sounding desperate over the list of questions. I heard the chair shift and the cloth was left to remain on my shoulder.

I dared open an eye and was able to see her fully. She was standing in front of the wall of the cabin, and her head was low and facing away from me. I couldn’t tell what expressions were on her face, but the voice alone told me that she sounded deeply crestfallen.

“Even when I don’t wish to see you, you always turn up at the last moment. It’s almost as if you know when to turn up. What’s worse…is that she appeared. The monster that’s been appearing in my head so much that it seems like even dreams aren’t much of a safe haven. Why did she show up? Just...why?” she said with a distressed voice, raising her arms up and pressing them against her head at the last part and lowering her head more.

I remained silent, watching her while she remained this way. I didn’t know what to say or utter to her. Unless…if she was willing to hear me.

“T-Tempest.” I uttered, my mouth feeling painfully dry and coughed.

It was at that moment that Tempest stirred. Her ears perked and she lifted her head up fully before turning it towards me. Her eyes locked with mine even as she turned the rest of her body around. For a moment, neither of us did anything. None of us moved, spoke, or changed expressions.

That is, until Tempest gave me a mischievous smile and giggled.

“I guess you weren't asleep after all,” she said, almost expecting it. She then folded her arms in a crisscross kind of way before sashaying her right hip to the very direction it pointed to. “I had a feeling that you weren’t.”

“I-” I tried to speak, but I suddenly coughed and cracked.

The sight of me coughing caused Tempest’s expression to change to one of worry and concern.

“O-Oh, uh, hang on a minute. I’ll be right there.” She said, quickly running over to me and sitting back down on her chair.

She lowered down and reached for something near the foot of my bed. I continued to cough, the pain in my throat hurting me considerably. She lifted herself up and I saw a water pouch in her hands. She pulled the cork loose and came forward to me. And then, she placed her right hand behind my head and lifted me up, before she placed the lip of the water pouch into my mouth. Cool fresh water came pouring in and I took it for all its worth.

“That’s it,” Tempest supportively said to me, giving a couple of pats at my throat, “Drink up, big guy. You’re doing great.”

I took several deep drinks before she removed the water pouch and I sighed deeply from the relief. She settled the pouch aside, and slowly and surely...she took her arm out from under my head before grabbing it with both hands and settling it back on the pillow.

Once she took her hands away from my head, she put her arms and hands on her lap.

“How’s that? Your throat any better?” She asked me with a warm smile.

“Yay.” I told her with a thumbs up.

“That’s good,” She said to me with a nod, “I can’t imagine what it must be like to not have enough water in your body.”

That reminded me. I felt the need for a deep shower right now. The kind where you have no running water at a cabin and you're stuck for nearly a week without any plumbing. In fact, a deep hot bath for a whole hour sounded pretty good right now.

“I have to go.” Tempest said to me, before suddenly getting up and heading towards the door to the cabin.

When I saw her leaving, my heart felt like it was going out of my chest. Even as I was seeing her hips swaying side to side and her tail going sideways.

“Tempest,” I spoke, which caused her to stop halfway between me and the door.

I was glad that she stopped. I hoped to talk to her not only because my throat didn’t feel dry anymore, and maybe that I wanted to explain everything to her, but because...I didn’t want her to leave.

I didn't know why, but, it felt right.

She turned her head and gave a look of curiosity to me, obviously wondering what I wanted from her. Instead of asking what I wanted from her, though...she sighed, before giving a bummed sort of and turning her body in my direction.

“I can’t stay, Spencer. As much as I’d like to, I have duties to take care of. I have a lot on my mind as well, and you and I both know that we have questions for one another. Rest assured...I will get to the bottom of this, and we’ll be seeing each other again soon.” she explained.

I had a feeling that there was an interrogation coming up.

“All I need you to do right now is sleep.” She told me.

“But Tempest, I-” I said, but before I could say anything else…

...a gigantic yawn escaped me. I suddenly felt so sleepy I could hardly stay awake.

After I finally stopped yawning, I looked back towards Tempest to find her looking at me with a wry smile while her arms were crossed over one another again.

“You were saying?” She spoke with a raise of an eyebrow.

Instead of just complying with my head, though, I merely shook it so that I could say something without feeling drowsy.

“Tempest, I-I-” I spoke, but my tongue was tied.

Nevertheless, Tempest gained a look of curiosity upon seeing how desperate I was to talk to her.

“Yes?” She asked with a raise of her brow.

After just a little moment, I took a deep breath in order for my throat to not feel so constricted and to relax myself.

“Why?” I asked her.

“Why what?” She responded, her brow going up more.

I sighed when I knew I had to clarify, “Why did you save me?”

Tempest’s look then became one of complete wide-eyed shock. It lasted for a brief bit until she took a deep breath of her own, her chest heaving as she did. A warm smile formed on her face.

“I know we don’t have the prettiest history between us, and that I’m working for someone whom everyone considers a maniac. But…” her arms lowered down until her hands were at her belly, one hand over the other, “Whether they’re a soldier or a prisoner, no one gets left behind on my watch.”

Despite feeling a bit of a pang in my heart, I smiled in response. The answer she gave was good enough for me, and I was grateful that she came for me.

“Thank you.” I told her, wanting to show how grateful I was, “For saving my life.”

Tempest took her hands away from her belly and put them against her sides in response, “You’re welcome.”

And with that, Tempest turned away from me and continued walking out. I once again watched her as her hips swayed and her tail swished as she strolled, feeling enraptured by her flank for some reason and my heart suddenly beating like I didn’t have one before. When she made it to the door and opened it, she turned to look at me again with a smile.

“Sleep well, Spencer,” Tempest said with a nod.

Despite my head laying against the pillow, I gave a nod in response.

A moment of silence then passed between us, and just when it seemed like it wasn’t going to end Tempest went out the door and closed it behind her. Leaving me alone to sleep. Right on cue, I yawned again and let my eyes droop shut. Going right to sleep with a smile.


I awoke in pain. My entire being was consumed in an ocean of agony. My head was splitting from the inside out and I grabbed at the side of my noggin. I seethed from the constant throbbing and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep my head from breaking open so that my brain wouldn’t burst out. I was on the ground writhing around in a fetal position and I struggled to get my bearings.

In the distance, I heard a peal of distant laughter. An all too familiar one. It was her, and she was coming.

I wanted to move but my head felt like a heavy bomb was inside of it and was ready to explode.

“You can’t hide from me, Spencer-Wencer,” I heard her speak, the voice of Misery closing in, “I will see you soon.”

Panic was coursing through me. I had to get out. To getaway. But there was nowhere to go, and the pain in my head was so enormous it kept me in place. Her laughter grew and was on top of me, and it sounded as if Misery was going in circles around me. I gritted my teeth. The ache in my head was too much. I rolled onto my back and just screamed as I felt a pair of hands grasp my face.

“Spencer! Spencer! It’s alright, it’s me!” I heard a familiar calming voice.

Surprised to hear that it wasn’t Misery, I opened my eyes.

Princess Luna was over me, and her hands gently held me and supported my head. Seeing her brought me relief and I smiled at her while she came closer to hug me. I returned the gesture as best I could while I remained on the floor.

“Thank the goddess, Spencer. I thought we lost you.” She stated, still holding me tight.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

“But Luna, I thought you were a goddess,” I quipped.

She hummed in amusement, her hands tracing onto my head. She pulled away briefly and her fingers would adjust every few seconds to feel my head. Her eyes said it all and she was concerned.

“I sense some negative energy within you. From what I could see you might have suffered a concussion. Maybe some brain damage.” she stated.

I was more than a little concerned about how she stated that.

“You mean…I’m going to be disabled in some way? Is it permanent?” I asked, unsure how she’d respond.

“Well,” she adjusted herself by sitting on her legs and propping my head, “It won’t fix any unused brain cells, but I’m certain you will be alright,” she said, chuckling before bringing my head down to rest on her lap.

“Not very reassuring,” I said, a bit annoyed that she laughed at my pain.

But, I guess I fell right into that joke so I’m not mad about it.

“If the two of you are done bantering,” Sombra's voice came in and I was able to cast a glance at the shadowy king. He had his arms folded and a look of disgust plastered on his face. His red eyes were fierce and bitter, looking clearly agitated from the previous night's events, “I believe we have a more important topic that needs to be discussed.”

“Discussion? What discussion? How about the possibility that you and Princess Luna left me on that stage with Tempest before we got surprised by Misery and-” but before I could finish my sentence, my head spiked from a massive headache.

I tried to speak again but was held back by Princess Luna. I felt her hands gently press onto my head and a sudden surge of pressure was exerted inside. I winced from the pain. The migraine was killing me, and even though I tried to keep myself composed my discomfort was obvious to Luna and Sombra.

“Hold still, Spencer. We can explain everything, but you need to be motionless if I am to help you,” she said, keeping my head steady and locking me in place.

Not having much of a choice, I allowed Luna to help me. I watched her hover her hands over my head and she closed her eyes. She began muttering something that I couldn’t pick up and I noticed a strange flicker. Above my head, I could see a small miniature hurricane that was hovering over me. The thing spun above, remaining there as such until I watched Princess Luna’s hands remain there. She then placed her hands into the little vortex but what came out was an ethereal hand coming towards me.

“Luna?” I asked, unsure why her see-through hands were right above me.

She didn’t say anything, but she was still keeping her hands where they were as they neared my skull.

“Relax, Spencer. I’m just removing the negative energy that is causing your headaches. I want to ensure you didn’t receive any permanent damage.” she said, before she placed the ghost-like hands onto the side of my head.

At first, nothing happened. All I felt was her hands and the feeling of running water rushing over them. Then, she pulled something from the side of my head and I shivered from the contact. I saw something black being pulled away from me and it was flung out of the way. Never to return. When it was gone, a small relief came in the back of my mind. My headache was easing away.

“Don’t be too relaxed, Boy. You still need to answer my question,” Sombra said, standing closer to me.

I kept my attention on him while Princess Luna was removing whatever negative juju was in my head. He leaned forward, clearly wanting to probe whatever information I had despite the fact I didn't know what he wanted to talk to me about. Although, I did have an idea as to what it could be.

“Sombra, as much as you want an answer out of me I have no idea how Tempest got into my dream,” I told him, only to earn a snort of frustration in response.

“That is not what I am seeking to find out! I want to know how Misery managed to slip by our defenses,” he said, kneeling down so that he was at my side. “How did she get in the dream that I took every precaution in making it secure? And why? All current roads to that possibility lie through you.”

He kept an eye on me while I tried to come up with some explanation as to what I could have done. I flinched a few times when Princess Luna would pull out some negative energy that was affecting me. When I didn’t give any answers Sombra snorted in irritation.

“We need answers, Boy!” He demanded, but I saw Princess Luna wave a hand above me.

“Calm down, Sombra. He is hurt. He needs time to collect himself. If you are patient, maybe the answer will come to you.” She said, returning to her collective task.

Sombra harrumphed and leaned back, looking away and was deep in thought.

“If you don’t mind me asking…where are Tantabus and Stella?” I asked, curious since I didn’t see them around.

“Tantabus is retrieving something for me. She will be here shortly,” Princess Luna explained with assurance.

“And Stella?”

“She is out of commission at the moment. Under my leave.”

“Why?”

“Let's just say she decided to hit the local tavern and drown herself from what she classified as the…” she paused like she was looking for the right word before saying, “...‘smiling wicker men”, as she called them. She’s too hungover to be here with us at this time.”

My mind went back to the dream. I guess seeing smiling people being burned alive and cheering like there’s no tomorrow would no doubt unsettle anyone. Even someone as stoic as Stella. I wondered if Misery was trying to demoralize us but I doubt it would do much to offset Princess Luna. Or King Sombra for that matter. Although I don’t know what kind of pony he is, other than the few tidbits here and there from Tantabus and Princess Luna.

We remained there for a time, with Luna clearing away the last vestiges of the pain that remained inside my head, with my headache clearing up as a result. The little vortex soon dispersed and her hands reformed to normal. She then proceeded to give me a gentle massage, using the tips of her fingers to knead into my temples and head. I relaxed because of that, closing my eyes and allowing the rhythm of her digits to clear my head. But, I later remembered something very important.

“What happened to you guys?” I asked both Luna and Sombra, opening my eyes so that I could see them.

“I beg your pardon?” Sombra said, turning his attention back to me.

“At the opera. After the fire started, I noticed that the two of you were missing. Along with Stella and Tantabus,” I clarified, “Why did you guys just leave me?”

Right after I asked that, Luna suddenly stopped her massage.

“It was never our intention to leave you, Spencer. Really it wasn’t,” Luna told me, “After your dance was over, we were unexpectedly attacked by Misery.”

“She somehow managed to sneak up on me, your princess, and her two guardians from behind,” Sombra added, mostly as if his pride was wounded, “In the blink of an eye, she took us straight out of the dream until we were outside of its borders. We tried to return, but Misery turned every countermeasure I made to repel her against us.”

“We were unable to get back to you, and so the only way to help you escape Misery’s clutches at that moment alone was to wake you up. It was the only thing Sombra could do since he sensed there was danger in the waking world anyway,” Luna finished for him, “I can only guess the same thing happened with Tempest Shadow since she was in the same dream as you.”

“You guess?” Sombra said, not so amused by Luna theorizing, “Of course she woke up, and it was at the same time as this lad here did. She wasn’t a part of the dream either, so how could the waking spell not…”

But as he spoke, Sombra suddenly stopped and his eyes widened to where they were as big as dinner plates. From the looks of it, something must’ve crossed his mind as he was talking about Tempest.

“Lad?” He asked me, and not a hint of cynicism was in his voice.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Before you escaped Misery. Before you came through and entered the dream realm we created, did you call out for this...Tempest?” he questioned.

I had the answer, obviously. But, I was confused as to why he’d ask this.

“Call out for her? For help? NO WAY!” I told him with a raise of my voice, managing to get up and stand on my own two feet afterward, “When I was stuck in that mud pit, I was running from Misery because I thought she’d drag me back to whatever dark hell she wanted to take me. I yelled for Luna. And for you. For help. But I did not yell for Tempest.”

“You make your point quite clear,” Sombra said, “But, did you think about her? Did you hope she would somehow help you in your own head?”

Originally, I was going to respond by saying ‘no’. But as I processed the question more and more, I started to remember something. I actually did think about Tempest before getting rescued by Sombra.

“Actually, now that you bring that up...yes. I did think about her. I was so desperate for help that I didn’t care if Tempest was the one who rescued me. I kept thinking about her so much afterward.”

Sombra turned his head, his eyes scrutinizing me for a fallout that I unknowingly committed.

“So, she was the one you thought of before entering the dream?” Sombra asked.

I shook my head, unsure what he was getting at.

His eyes traced to Princess Luna while he brought a hand onto his chin, “If she was able to make a connection-”

“Then that would mean that she had been used to lure him in.” Luna jumped onto the conversation.

“She was more than likely a trap once his mind focused on her.”

“But that would mean that she was as much of a victim as Spencer was. Which may mean-”

“That she is planning something for the both of them. Something dire.” Sombra finished, his eyes widening with some realization.

He shook his head slowly and hitched his breath, looking away as if he was disgusted. I felt like I was given the short end of the stick since I didn’t know exactly what just occurred.

Something dire?

What made me so special to Misery?

As if my discomfort was noticed, I felt an arm wrap over my shoulder area and back of my neck. I recognized the blue hand and arm that were over me, but to be absolutely sure...I turned my head to see that Luna was beside me. She gave me a small smile, letting me know that she was right there with me without actually saying it. I relaxed somewhat and smiled back, feeling calmed by the fact that she was still there to help despite the current circumstances. We remained there for a time, with Princess Luna and I enjoying each other’s company while Sombra was silently brooding.

“You will need to prepare,” Sombra spoke, having been silent for so long.

I turned my attention back to Sombra to see him looking more serious than ever.

“Prepare?” I asked, knowing how dumb my response was.

“Sombra, you know that this would be dangerous,” Luna warned him, before leaving my side to confront Sombra at a closer proximity, “You know what is at stake, don’t you? Spencer would not have the mental fortitude to endure this kind of punishment, no matter how hard we train and assemble him for what’s to come.”

Train? Assemble?

What the heck were they talking about? And why is Luna in agreement with Sombra?!

“Of course,” Sombra stated, standing up and brushing off his legs, “We’ve already talked about this. We know what must be done. If my suspicions as to what Misery is doing are correct, then it is only a matter of time before she strikes again. We will have no choice but to train him, as hard and as vigorously as we can.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, feeling a cold sweating forming on my brow.

“King Sombra and Princess Luna will be instilling you with a training regiment that will help you better prepare yourself when you come to face Misery again,” Tantabus said, her voice coming out of nowhere.

It was then that Tantabus materialized next to me, nearly making me jump. She was wearing the same dress she wore back when I first met her, and I noticed that she was carrying what appeared to be a bag of some sort, a strap being over her shoulder.

“Oh, Spencer,” Tantabus said with a smile upon seeing me, before wrapping her arms around me in a hug.

She lifted me off the ground until my head was over the shoulder without the strap. My feet were hanging in the air and my chest was completely level with hers. The hug she was giving me was likewise much more gentle than the last couple of times she did this, and as my nose was facing her neck I couldn’t help but note the smell of perfume.

“I was so worried about you. Are you alright?” She softly asked me.

“I’m okay,” I told her, before hugging her back in response, albeit a little arkwadly due to the way she held me, “It’s good to see you again too.”

For a little bit, we relished in one another’s warmth. But our embracing came to an end after we heard Sombra clearing his throat, causing us to direct our attention to him. His look being one of bemusement, which wasn’t a surprise.

“Did you bring what I asked of you?” Sombra asked Tantabus.

I looked at Tantabus, who gave a firm nod to Sombra.

“It was Princess Luna who asked me to recover these things, not you,” Tantabus corrected, before putting me back down on the ground, “However, I know the need for them is of the utmost importance.”

She tossed the bag towards Sombra and he seized it in quick succession. He looked inside and pulled out what appeared to be a large training sword. He smirked as he looked at it, like it was reminding him of something from his past. He then turned his attention to me, his stare causing a cold chill to run up my spine.

“When a pony is a squire of the Crystal Empire, it would take three years for them to eventually become a knight by the ruler. I know this from both experience and research. For you, we will pound the ancient teachings of swordsmanship and elder arts within a two months time. Perhaps even one once you recover.”

I felt very ill at this point going forward.