Imperius

Remorseless Winter (Bat Pony)

Sep 16th, 2013
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  1. >”By Luna’s mane, what is this?” demanded an armored pony with a dull grey coat, her gold mane seeming to glitter in the perpetual twilight of the forest.
  2. >”Hmm, no clue.” came the disinterested reply of her partner, her coat of a much lighter grey than her counterpart, her light blue mane speckled with flecks of black and white.
  3. >The two bat pony guards regarded their finding warily, the object of their curiosity being some manner of unknown creature clad in thick armor colored the dull blue-grey of a fresh bruise.
  4. >From what they could tell it was bipedal, though at the moment it lay prone on its back in a small clearing lit dimly by the bioluminescent mushrooms that were so common in the Hollow Shades.
  5. >”Well whatever it is it’s not gonna be filling us in itself.” the first guard commented.
  6. >Whatever the creature was it was quite clearly dead. It’s skin was a deathly grey and its facial features were sunken and sallow, what little hair covered its head was white and wispy, all things indicative of something well past its prime.
  7. >On top of this neither of the bat guards’ sharp ears could pick up the sound of a heartbeat.
  8. >Though all of these points were rather irrelevant considering the leg-sized branch driven straight through the thing’s chest.
  9. >The second of the pair casually trotted up to the curiosity, the clinking of her armor the only sound in the oddly silent clearing.
  10. >”Oi, don’t get too close to it, Bi.”
  11. >However her words went disregarded as Bi began to inspect the oddity. Her eye was caught by a thin ray of light so dim it would have gone unnoticed by any without the sharp eyes of those who dwell in Hollow Shades.
  12. >She followed the light’s path upwards discovering a small passage of broken limbs leading up through the thick canopy.
  13. >”Well I suppose that explains how it got here.” she mumbled. “Wonder what it was doing up in the sky. Care for a look, Bru?”
  14. >Bru sighed and followed her partner’s path over to the creature. “I say we should have alerted others before getting too close, who knows where this thing’s been.”
  15.  
  16. >Taking her place next to Bi she glanced up at the path of broken limbs and then down to the limb impaling the creature.
  17. >”Hm, no blood on this branch. Like it was dead before it hit the ground.”
  18. >”Considering everything it hit on the way down I’d say that’s not too much of a stretch.” Bi remarked, still staring up at the dim light.
  19. >Bru shook her head. “No, like dead for a while. Even if it’d died on the first impact there’d have still been blood. This thing’s beaten to all Tartarus and there’s not a drop of blood.”
  20. >Bi looked down at the creature to make her own observations, though she didn’t look much further than the armor it wore.
  21. >Skulls, spikes, and chains decorated the thing’s bruise colored armor, and a fur cloak hung from its shoulders. Or it would have hung if it wasn’t pinned to the creature’s body by the branch through its abdomen.
  22. >”Tch. Maybe it bled out after nicking itself a few too many times on that armor.” Bi remarked, prompting an amused snort from Bru.
  23. >”But really, I think we should go back and get a few more guards before we do anything else. This thing looks like a warrior and judging by its armor it’s anything but friendly. If there’s more of these things around the Shadeguard should be warned.” Bru said as she trotted away, Bi following by her side.
  24. >As they reached the edge of the small clearing Bru released the claws attached to her greaves, the blades snapping down around her hooves and sparking to life.
  25. >With them she carved a large cross on a nearby tree.
  26. >”Mark a tree every so often so we can find our way back, alright?” Bru asked.
  27. >”Mhm.” Bi responded.
  28. >”And stop fidgeting, that clinking is getting annoying.” she said, casting a glance at Bi.
  29. >Except that Bi wasn’t moving.
  30. >As one the two Shadeguards slowly turned their heads back to the clearing and the dead warrior.
  31. >Who was now very much alive.
  32.  
  33. >The creature was up on one knee, struggling to keep its balance.
  34. >Bi and Bru watched in grim fascination as it forced itself to its feet where it stood unsteadily for a moment before looking down and the branch still impaling it.
  35. >Slowly it gripped the branch with both hands and tugged.
  36. >The first attempt met with failure, the splintered limb lodged firmly within its midsection.
  37. >Once more the warrior pulled and this time didn’t let up.
  38. >Slowly the branch began to move, inch by inch, foot by foot until the four foot long limb was ripped free and tossed into the woods with little care.
  39. >”Nightmare’s mane…” Bru whispered hesitantly. “Bi, we need to get out of here.”
  40. >Bi couldn’t budge though, transfixed as she was by the grisly sight.
  41. >”Bi!” Bru whispered harshly.
  42. >Suddenly the creature turned its attention to the two bat ponies, two bright blue orbs glowing coldly in place of eyes.
  43. >”Now, Bi!” Bru demanded, all sense of subtlety gone.
  44. >Bi managed to tear her gaze away from the deathless monster and the two made to bolt from the clearing.
  45. >Before they could manage more than two paces, however, a ribbon of void-black energy ensnared Bi, yanking her back into the clearing towards the monster.
  46. >”Bi!” Bru shouted in panic.
  47. >The black tendril dragged Bi through the air and into the monster’s waiting hand which closed like a vice around Bi’s throat.
  48. >In a single, terrifying moment the monster’s ice blue orbs met Bi’s own and everything seemed to freeze, all she could concentrate on was the monsters empty gaze and the deathly cold spreading from where its hand met her flesh.
  49. >The moment then ended as Bru’s hoof connected with the thing’s skull, sending it careening backwards and releasing its grip on Bi.
  50. >Though while she tried to catch her breath Bru wasted no time bringing her seldom-used spear to bear and following up her assault on the monster.
  51. >Just as the monster regained its balance Bru came at it again, but this time it was her spear that connected rather than a hoof.
  52.  
  53. >With the force of the strike the spear went right through the monster’s chest and out its back, the power behind the blow sending it backwards into a tree where the spear stuck, skewering it.
  54. >Using the last of her momentum to carry her forward, Bru brought both pairs of lightning claws to bear and drove all four of the crackling blades through the monster’s collar bone and into the tree behind it.
  55. >But still those horrible blue orbs stayed lit and fixed firmly upon her own as she sat there panting while her various weapons had the monster pinned to the tree in five places.
  56. >”By the Nightmare, what are you?” she demanded between heavy breaths.
  57. “A merciful end to a dying world.” it hissed in a voice like the cracking of ice.
  58. >Momentarily taken aback by the unexpected response, Bru was unprepared when shackles of ice ensnared her limbs and dragged her off the undying warrior, tearing her lightning claws from its body as she went.
  59. >Free of her, the knight tore the spear from its abdomen and stumbled forward a few paces before catching itself.
  60. >It tossed her spear aside and began advancing on the immobile bat guard.
  61. >After a scant few steps another spear point erupted from its chest followed by two more pairs of lightning claws, the blows sending it to its knees.
  62. >Quickly as she came Bi tore her claws free of the knight and leapt from its back, propelled by a quick, strong flap of her wings, to land before Bru, prepared to defend her immobile friend.
  63. >Surprisingly the warrior did not rise this time, but rather fell forward onto its hands.
  64. >Slowly, almost lethargically it tore the spear free of its back and tossed it away as well before forcing itself back up to its knees.
  65. >In the dim light Bru and Bi could see all the puncture marks in its armor from where they had wounded it, along with the hole from the limb. How this thing still clung to life was beyond either of them.
  66. >But as it knelt it gathered magic to it, motes of the same void black energy coalescing around it and wreathing it in an unholy aura.
  67. >It reached forward with a single hand, glowing with a necromantic unlight and uttered a single word.
  68. “RISE.”
  69. >Bi tensed, ready to defend against whatever trick was next to come, but nothing happened.
  70. >The warrior looked almost puzzled for a moment, but then repeated the action.
  71. “RISE!” it demanded again, more forcefully this time, the unholy energy flaring intensely.
  72. >When nothing happened its sallow features took on a look that might have been worry.
  73. “Rise!” it demanded again, a hint of desperation coloring its words.
  74. >But still nothing happened.
  75. >Slowly it lowered its hand and looked around the clearing as though searching for someone.
  76. >Bi relaxed her stance marginally, mirroring the monster’s confusion.
  77. >Once more the monster spoke, but now in little more than a desperate whisper.
  78. “It’s so quiet…”
  79. >It then fell forward, thudding against the mossy earth where it lay still.
  80. >The chains of ice ensnaring Bru then dissipated, freeing her from the frozen bonds.
  81. >Bru wasted no time getting to her hooves and joining Bi by her side, both of them keeping a healthy distance between themselves and the monster.
  82. >”Think it’s finally dead?” Bi asked. “We put enough holes in it.”
  83. >”I certainly hope so, but I doubt we’re that lucky.”
  84. >Seemingly in response to their words the knight’s outstretched hand clenched into a fist.
  85. >Slowly it pulled the arm back and under it, raising itself up and resting its weight on its forearm.
  86. >”Damnit.” Bru cursed. “Why doesn’t it just stay down?”
  87. >”I wouldn’t worry too much,” Bi remarked. “I don’t think it’s in any shape to keep fighting.”
  88. >”It didn’t look in any shape to be moving with that branch impaling it, but it got up anyways.” Bru countered.
  89. >”Eh, either way we’ll find out.” Bi remarked. “I don’t think we can just leave this thing here if it’s still moving.”
  90.  
  91. >The knight managed to push itself back up to its knees, but made no move to rise further. It simply knelt there staring at the ground as though waiting for something.
  92. >After a few more moments of waiting Bi quickly became bored.
  93. >”Hey, you gonna attack us or what? I’ve got stuff to do.” she called to it.
  94. >”Bi!” Bru hissed.
  95. >”What? This is boring.”
  96. >When she turned her attention back to the knight she was surprised to find it staring at them, its unblinking orbs fixed firmly on their position.
  97. “No.” it replied after a moment.
  98. >Neither of the pair had expected it to answer at all and its words caught them off guard.
  99. >”Well there you go.” Bi said.
  100. >Needless to say Bru remained unconvinced. “And you’re just gonna take its word on that?”
  101. >Bi shrugged. “Not much else we can do.”
  102. >”We can alert the damned Shadeguard is what we can do.” Bru said.
  103. >”And just leave it here alone?”
  104. >Bru thought a moment on Bi’s remark. “One of us guards it while the other gets the others?”
  105. >”We could just ask it nicely to come along with us.” Bi suggested.
  106. >The look on Bru’s face said everything about what she thought of Bi’s current state of mind.
  107. >”Hey, we promise to stop kicking your flank if you come with us.” Bi called to the warrior.
  108. >”And you really think that’s going to work?”
  109. >”I don’t see you coming up with anything better.” Bi said, a small smirk on her face.
  110. >The sound of clattering armor plates cut off whatever Bru might have said next, drawing the bat ponies’ attention back to the warrior who was now unsteadily making its way back to its feet.
  111. >Bi and Bru tensed as it slowly advanced towards them, their lightning claws sparking with anticipation.
  112. >It halted before them staring down at the pair.
  113. “Fine. Take me from this damnable quiet then.” is said in a dry, rasping voice.
  114.  
  115. >”Sounds good to me, let’s go show the guard what we found.” Bi said as she turned and cantered from the clearing.
  116. >Before Bru could argue the knight stepped by her after Bi, the both of them leaving her behind.
  117. >After a few moments of looking incredulously after the pair her senses returned to her and she took to the air in pursuit.
  118. >She alighted next to a very nonplussed Bi and matched her pace.
  119. >”Are you insane? That thing just tried to kill us!”
  120. >”Well we tried to kill it too, I think that makes us even.”
  121. >”What if it tries again?” Bru demanded.
  122. >“You gonna try and kill us again?” Bi asked the knight.
  123. “No point in trying.” it responded.
  124. >”There you go.” Bi answered.
  125. >”And you’re going to believe it?”
  126. >”You know he’s right there, you don’t have to keep asking me.” Bi said.
  127. >Bru glared at her before addressing the knight.
  128. >”So you expect us to just take your word that you won’t try something when our backs are turned, then?”
  129. “Couldn’t even if I wanted to.” it replied almost distractedly.
  130. >”Oh really? And why is that?”
  131. “My sword is lost.”
  132. >”You seemed pretty capable back there.” Bru argued.
  133. >”Well we did kind of wipe the floor with him.” Bi reminded her.
  134. >”Why’s your sword so important?” Bru continued.
  135. “My strength comes from my blade, I might as well fight without arms.”
  136. >”Magic sword?” Bi asked.
  137. “Yes.”
  138. >”Well there you have it. He hasn’t got his magic sword so he can’t fight us. Simple as that.”
  139. >”I still refuse to believe he’d just give up that easily.”
  140. “You defeated me with little effort.” the knight pointed out.
  141. >”Yeah, just like I said.” Bi agreed.
  142. >”But he tried to kill us!”
  143. “You attacked first.”
  144. >”You attacked Bi!”
  145. “Wanted a closer look, didn’t know you were sentient.”
  146. >”No worries.” Bi said. “Mistakes happen.”
  147. >”Mistakes? He tried to-”
  148. >”You know you’re the only one with a problem with all this, Bru. He said he was sorry.”
  149. >”No he didn’t!”
  150. >”Are you sorry?”
  151. “No.”
  152. >”Apology accepted.”
  153. >”But he’s not sorry!”
  154. >”Details.”
  155.  
  156. >After a few minutes of trekking through the forest the silence was beginning to wear on the two bat ponies.
  157. >It was enough for Bi to attempt conversation again.
  158. >”So what are you doing in Hollow Shades?” she asked the silent knight.
  159. “Don’t know.” it said.
  160. >”How’d you get here?”
  161. “Battle with a mage. Threw me into a portal.”
  162. >”Never trusted magic users myself. So where are you from?”
  163. “Azeroth.”
  164. >”Never heard of it. Where is it?”
  165. “Don’t know where I am now, can’t say.”
  166. >”Fair enough. So what’s your name? Can’t just keep calling you ‘he’ or ‘it’.”
  167. “Haven’t got one.”
  168. >”Huh.” Bi muttered. “Well I’m Bifrost, or Bi for short. And my grumpy friend here is Gjallerbru. You can just call her Bru.”
  169. “Hn.” was its noncommittal response.
  170. >By now even Bru’s curiosity had grown, even as wary as she still was of the creature.
  171. >”So what are you?” she asked.
  172. >The knight was silent for a moment and Bru wondered if it was ignoring her.
  173. “Alone, it would seem.” it replied, almost forlorn.
  174. >”That doesn’t exactly answer my question.”
  175. >The knight let out what could have been a sigh, its frigid breath fogging in the air.
  176. “I am a knight of King Arthas. Many call us death knights.”
  177. >”Death knight?” Bru asked apprehensively.
  178. “A warrior necromancer.”
  179. >”Necromancer?” Bi asked. “Like, you can raise the dead? Is that what you tried to do when we were fighting?”
  180. “Yes.” it said.
  181. >”Why didn’t it work?”
  182. “No souls heeded my call.” he sounded distressed as he said it. “I cannot hear any of them. I am alone.”
  183. >”What do you mean alone?” Bru asked.
  184. “The souls of the legion dead are mine to command, always do they whisper to me. But now I cannot hear any of them. I am cut off.”
  185.  
  186. >”Ouch, that’s rough.” Bi remarked.
  187. >”So all told, you’re an undead necromancer knight from another world who’s been cut off from his ghost friends and you’re looking for your lost sword and a way to get home? That about sum it all up?”
  188. “Yes.” the knight answered.
  189. >”Seems legit to me.” Bi remarked.
  190. >”How does any of that make even the smallest amount of sense?”
  191. >”I’ve heard some crazier stories.”
  192. >”Like what?”
  193. >”Like that time Princess Luna went crazy and tried to take over the world, but was banished to the moon for a thousand years, only to be defeated upon her return by six random ponies with the power of friendship?”
  194. >Bru found herself unable to come up with any kind of rational argument against that as, admittedly, that just about summed up an actual event in Equestrian history, and when put in such words sounded about just as credible as the death knight’s story.
  195. >”Touche.”
  196. >”That’s what I thought.” Bi said with a smirk.
  197. >”So if you’re some big, bad death knight obsessed with raising the dead what are you doing following a couple of ponies around?”
  198. “Mindless killing is for ghouls, I am a death knight, I am above such single mindedness. I must retrieve my sword and find the mage that sent me here, killing you would not help me achieve my goals any faster.”
  199. >”Well there’s also the fact that we kind of messed you up.” Bi reminded him.
  200. “Hn.” the knight grunted.
  201. >”Wait, how do you know the mage who sent you here is here as well?”
  202. “Dragged him through the portal with me. He was weakened from our encounter, if I can find him then I can slay him, place him under my thrall, and force him to send me back to Azeroth to join my brothers.”
  203. >”I’m not sure how I feel about you talking about murdering an innocent person.” Bru said disapprovingly.
  204. >What could pass for a grin came to the knight’s face.
  205. “The Scarlet Crusade are anything but innocent. His kind have no regard for life. Likely he’ll burn this world to cinders searching for me.”
  206.  
  207. >”So are you a good guy or a bad guy?” Bi asked.
  208. “Until such a time as my runeblade is back in my possession I shall consider us allies. After that I cannot say. How it goes from there depends heavily on whether you stand between me and my quarry.”
  209. >”Well it’s really none of our business I suppose.” Bi said.
  210. >”Bifrost!” Bru admonished. “How can you just stand there and abide these plans for murdering another living creature?”
  211. >”Well it really isn’t our business.” Bi said. “We don’t know anything about them or their conflict. All we have to go on right now is his word, and while he’s freely admitted he deals with things like necromancy he’s also told us that there’s a murderous, magical pyromaniac with no regard for life currently loose in Equestria. If that’s true, and I’ll remind you we have no reason so far to believe otherwise, then it really seems like we have no business getting in his way. And don’t misunderstand me, I still think it’s wrong, but better we arm him and send him off to fight this psycho than deal with him ourselves.”
  212. >Bru growled in agitation. “It still doesn’t seem right that we should just let him do it.”
  213. “Your friend is right. Do not concern yourselves with matters which do not concern you. I simply ask you to help me find my blade, in return I give my word that I will leave you in peace when it is in my possession.”
  214. >”So you promise not to kill us if we help you? How generous.” Bru remarked, her sarcasm palpable. “How do we know you won’t just try to kill us anyways?”
  215.  
  216. “Because you mean nothing to me. This world means nothing to me. My only interest is advancing the will of my king and killing you does nothing to help that. I have no stake in the goings on of this land, I simply wish to find my blade and leave. And I might remind you that this mage will burn everything in his path to get to me, that includes you and your home. Aid me and that fate will not befall you.”
  217. >”Hard to argue with that kind of logic.” Bi said.
  218. >”We’ll decide what to do with you when we get back to town.” Bru said. “For now let’s just walk. This conversation is starting to wear on me. I liked it better when you didn’t talk.”
  219. “Likewise, little one.”
  220.  
  221. >”Have you got a hood on that cloak?” Bru asked the knight.
  222. “Aye.”
  223. >”Put it up. We’re getting closed to the city and you’re conspicuous enough as it is, I’d rather that no one realize they’re looking at a walking corpse on top of the grimdark armor. Bat ponies are a pretty tolerant bunch, but I think zombie warrior is just a step over the line.”
  224. “Hn.” the knight grunted in acknowledgement, pulling the deep fur cowl over his head.
  225. >However there was a problem with that plan.
  226. >”Eugh, I think that might be even worse. Those glowing eyes aren’t doing you any favors.”
  227. “I recommend you get used to it. Quickly.”
  228. >”Hey, I’m just trying to make sure nobody else tries to put a spear through at first sight, don’t get mad at me.”
  229. >”To be fair, I think trying to hide the fact that he’s undead is kind of futile when he’s walking around with all those, ya know, gaping holes in him.” Bi remarked.
  230. >Bru let out an explosive, exasperated sigh. “I don’t know then, Bi!” she exclaimed. “I just feel a little out of my league here. We go on patrol, once in a while we fight off a monster, then we go home where we live normal lives. Now suddenly here’s this undead knight from Luna only knows where and I just have no idea how to deal with this. I mean what do we even tell the captain when we bring him back?”
  231. >”How does ‘Hey, we found this guy out in the woods and accidentally filled him with holes, but it turns out he’s an undead knight so he’s fine and now he needs help finding his magic sword so he can hunt down a psychotic, xenophobic mage and go back to his world.’ sound?” Bi quipped.
  232. >”It sounds like a one-way ticket to an asylum,” Bru groaned.
  233. “You yourselves do not believe my story, so say only what you believe. You found a wandering knight in need of a place to rest for a few days.” the death knight offered unexpectedly.
  234.  
  235. >”You know, that’s actually not a bat idea.” Bi offered.
  236. >”Sure, why not? Why don’t w- what did you just say?” Bru said, cutting herself off.
  237. >”Just that it wasn’t a bad idea, why?” Bi asked innocently.
  238. >”No you didn’t. You said ‘bat,’ not ‘bad’. I heard it.”
  239. >”No I didn’t.”
  240. >”You said it, I heard you say it. She said it, didn’t she?”
  241. “You have no way of conceiving of just how little I care.”
  242. >Bi finally cracked a smile. “Oh come on, you love bat puns.”
  243. >”I cannot stand bat puns.”
  244. >”Then how come you’re smiling?”
  245. >”I’m not smiling.”
  246. >”You are a little, I can see it right there.”
  247. >”I hate to interrupt,” a masculine voice cut in, “but please state your names, business, and what in Tartarus that thing following you is.”
  248. >”Oh look, we’re already back at the gate.” Bi observed, glancing about at the small checkpoint they’d arrived at.
  249. >”Yes,” the gate guard they’d almost walked right into confirmed. “you are. Now please; name, business, and monster.”
  250. >”We do this every day, Gulltoppr, you know who we are,” Bi sighed in boredom. “Do you not get tired of it?”
  251. >”It’s procedure, Bifrost.” the gate guard said, just as bored. “The sooner you get on with it the faster you can get that thing away from me.”
  252. >With a reluctant, over exaggerated sigh Bi started. “Guards Bifrost and Gjallerbru returning from patrol, nothing to report.”
  253. >The gate guard cocked an eyebrow at her.
  254. >It took her a moment but she finally realized what he was getting at.
  255. >”Oh right, him.” she said, glancing back at the death knight.
  256. >”We found him on our patrol route.” Bru cut in. “He’s…”
  257. >Here she hesitated, unsure of what to tell him.
  258. “A travelling knight. I was lost and and in need of somewhere to stay for a few days. Your friends were kind enough to show me to town.” the knight filled in for her.
  259.  
  260. >”Lost in the forest? Do you require any medical attention?” the guard asked.
  261. “No.”
  262. >”There is a hole in your stomach that I can see through.” the guard said bluntly.
  263. “Yes.”
  264. >”Are those lightning claw punctures?”
  265. “There was a misunderstanding.”
  266. >”How are you still alive?”
  267. “Magic.”
  268. >”Good enough for me. Welcome to Hollow Shades. Gjallarhorn! Open the gate!” he called up to a guard on the wall.
  269. >After a moment a low rumble began to sound as the gates began to slowly grind open.
  270. >Bi and Bru trotted past the guard saluting as they went, the knight following close behind.
  271. >”Like Gull said, welcome to Hollow Shades.” Bi said as the group entered the city limits. “Our little slice of paradise.”
  272. >The knight took a brief glance about the city, though it was more of a large town than anything.
  273. >Conservative, geometrical buildings populated the city, and though it was in the artificial twilight of the forest illumination was sparse.
  274. >What light there was came primarily from bioluminescent mushrooms strategically grown along roads and by buildings.
  275. >The sound of flapping wings followed by the clopping of hooves striking the ground cut his observation short.
  276. >”Bifrost, Gjallerbru.” a deep, bass voice demanded.
  277. >Bi and Bru both snapped hasty salutes at the newcomer's arrival.
  278. >The speaker cantered into sight, an ostentatiously armored bat pony of pure white from his coat to his mane. The two fangs protruding from his mouth were both gold replacements, and at his side hung a bronze horn.
  279. >”Captain Heimdallr, sir.” Bi said in greeting.
  280. >”Any reports to make?” he inquired.
  281. >”Nothing out of the ordinary, sir. No monsters on our route.” Bru responded.
  282. >”And him? What’s his story?” he asked, glancing up at the knight.
  283. >”A traveling knight lost in the woods, we escorted him to the city at his request..”
  284. >The captain cocked an eyebrow at the two guards. “And where are your spears?”
  285. >Bru hesitated, unsure of what to say.
  286. >”There was a… misunderstanding when we found him.” Bi offered.
  287.  
  288. >”Would you care to expand upon that?” Heimdallr asked in a tone that said it wasn’t a request.
  289. “We mistakenly perceived each other as hostile. You’ll be glad to know your guards are very effective at their jobs.” the knight said, a hint of sarcasm making itself known at the end..
  290. >The guard eyed the knight, warily noting the various rents in his armor.
  291. >”Well if you’re still standing I imagine they’re not that effective.”
  292. “I assure you, as effective as they are it will take much more than that to put me down. I’m much hardier than I appear.”
  293. >”I hope you’re a bit friendlier than you appear too. I’ve never seen a knight that looks like you before.”
  294. “I’ve never seen a talking vampire pony in armor before.”
  295. >Heimdallr’s eyes narrowed as he stared up into the knight’s cowl.
  296. >The knight’s glowing, icy orbs narrowed as he returned the glare.
  297. >The contest lasted several long, tense seconds, Bi and Bru holding their breaths in anticipation all the while.
  298. >Heimdallr broke eye contact first, unwilling to continue suffering the knight’s withering gaze.
  299. >He immediately turned his attention back to Bi and Bru.
  300. >”So you two are done with your patrol then?”
  301. >”Yes sir.” Bru confirmed.
  302. >”Excellent, then you should have plenty of time to see to your new friend’s accommodations Dismissed.”
  303. >With that Heimdallr took to the air, soaring over the group back towards the wall.
  304. >Bru and Bi dropped their salutes and slumped forward, both sighing loudly.
  305. >”Damn it,” Bi groaned. “Are we really stuck giving Mr. Spooky the grand tour? Was that an actual order?”
  306. >”Yes Bi, that was an order,” Bru sighed in turn. “And what happened to all that enthusiasm? I thought you liked Mr. Spooky?”
  307. “If either of you call me Mr. Spooky again I’ll turn you both into paperweights.” the knight said, veins of frost menacingly crawling across his gauntlets.
  308.  
  309. >”I do like him, but it’s a pain to have to show him around. I was hoping to grab a snack.”
  310. >”Let’s just show him to the inn, grab something to eat there, and be done with it.” Bru suggested.
  311. >”The inn?” Bi repeated, hesitantly looking back at the knight. “You don’t think anyone would like, freak out at the sight of him or anything?”
  312. >Bru shrugged and started off towards the inn. “It’s their choice if they want to overreact to how he looks. Not much we can do about it.”
  313. >Bi and the knight lagged behind a moment before starting off after her.
  314. “Your friend seems to be frustrated.” the knight remarked sounding almost amused.
  315. >”Eh, she had a bad experience when she tried to join the Royal Guard. That stuff’s kind of a sensitive topic with her. Though to be fair I think it’s a totally reasonable concern to have, I mean you look freaking terrifying. No offense.”
  316. “It is a poor excuse for a death knight that doesn’t make the living uncomfortable.”
  317. >”Hmm. Point taken. Though I’m sure it won’t have any negative impact on our attempts to find you a place to stay at all.”
  318. MOMENTS LATER
  319. >”Bru he can’t stay here.” Bi said before biting into a mango.
  320. >”I see no reason why.” Bru countered as she sipped on her drink.
  321. “You are not very observant, then.” the knight said as he stared curiously at an untouched mango sitting on the table in front of him while perched almost comically upon a chair many magnitudes too small.
  322. >The trio sat at a table in the tavern of the local inn, having decided to get something to eat.
  323. >The tavern was large and frequented by many locals quite regularly and as such it should follow that such a large crowd would make for a loud atmosphere.
  324. >However from the moment they entered all conversation had died and the tavern had grown silent.
  325. >Most of the patrons were either staring uneasily at the hulking knight or making it a point to look anywhere but.
  326.  
  327. >Bru sucked her drink up quickly, downing it in seconds. “I think it’s fine.”
  328. >Bi glanced around at the obviously unsettled patrons. “Bru, it’s not happening. Mr. Spooky’s freaking them out.” she said before going back to sucking down a glass of juice through a needlessly elaborate crazy straw. Though before the juice could navigate through the straw the glass froze solid, stopping it in its tracks.
  329. >Bi followed a line of frost trailing from her glass across the table and originating at the knight’s hand resting upon the table.
  330. “I was not joking about that.” he said as Bi glared at him.
  331. >”Alright, fine. What would you suggest then, Bi?”
  332. “If there is a graveyard in this town I might suggest there. I need neither food, drink, or sleep, and it would keep interaction with the locals at a minimum.”
  333. >”Because nothing bad could possibly come of leaving a necromancer alone in a graveyard.” Bru remarked.
  334. “Your dead will stay where they are.” the knight promised.
  335. >”Technically he’s a lich, not a necromancer.” Bi remarked.
  336. >”He’s not a lich, Bi, liches are undead mages and he’s a knight. Did you even read the Monstrous Manual?” Bru shot back.
  337. >”He can use magic.” Bi argued.
  338. >”Yeah but not enough to qualify for a lich, he probably didn’t even get those powers until he was raised. Plus he’s way too martial to be a lich, liches don’t do close combat. This is why we don’t let you DM, Bi.”
  339. “My lord is a powerful death knight who calls himself the Lich King.” the knight said.
  340. >”Well he better start calling himself the Death Knight King then, because he’s no lich.”
  341.  
  342. >”All that aside, though, you’re not staying in a graveyard.” Bi interjected.
  343. >”Well where’s he gonna stay then? He can’t damned well stay with us.”
  344. >”I dunno, we have a lot of spare room with your brother moved out.” Bi suggested.
  345. >”His kids are still staying with me, he’d terrify them.” Bru countered.
  346. >”I think you’ve got that the wrong way around.” Bi mumbled, earning herself a glare from Bru.
  347. >”Hey, I’m not saying they’re not sweet kids or anything, I’m just saying they terrify me.”
  348. >Bru’s glare didn’t lessen in the slightest.
  349. >”You won’t be staying long, right?” Bi asked the knight.
  350. “Only until I can find my sword which is within the forest. I wish to rest and take stock of my situation first, but it should not take much time for me to be on my way.”
  351. >”He can’t stay with us, Bi.” Bru said.
  352. >”Well I guess if you’re fine with just leaving him here in the middle of the city.” Bi trailed off, tapping on her frozen glass of juice.
  353. >Bru angrily bit into a mango, stubbornly refusing to pay any mind to the fact that several patrons were slowly scooting their tables away from them.
  354. >If the attention bothered the knight he made no indication, opting instead to continue observing the plate of mangoes before him. Idly he prodded one with a mailed finger, the mango freezing solid at the touch.
  355. >”Stop doing that.” Bi chided. “You’re wasting good mangoes.”
  356. >The knight glanced up at her and locked eyes. He slowly maneuvered the finger to another mango, freezing it as well.
  357. >Bi’s eyes narrowed at the challenge, and she glared right back at the knight as his finger hovered over the third mango on his plate.
  358. >The lightning claws of one hoof snapped active and began to crackle.
  359. >In response the knight’s finger began to draw closer to the mango.
  360. >After a moment one of Bru’s hooves connected with her forehead as she groaned loudly in exasperation.
  361. >”Okay, fine, if you two will stop acting like children then fine, he can stay with us.”
  362. >Bi and the knight paid her words no mind.
  363. >The knight’s finger connected with the mango, finishing the task of freezing all the fruit before him.
  364. >The tension between the two was palpable.
  365. >”Shots fired.” Bi muttered to herself as lightning flared along her claws.
  366.  
  367. One bar brawl later
  368. >”I cannot believe you did that, Bi,” Bru growled.
  369. >”Hey, I warned him. He totally had it coming.” Bi said, shaking icicles from her mane and wings.
  370. “Hn.” the knight grunted, sporting two great gashes across his chest.
  371. >”You’re lucky he’s undead.”
  372. >”Well he’s lucky I was feeling merciful.”
  373. “And you are lucky that I am not in possession of my sword.”
  374. >”Let’s just get home before you two do anything stupid again.” Bru said.
  375. “I still say a graveyard would be more appropriate. It would cause you the least trouble.”
  376. >”And I still say we’re not leaving a death knight alone in a graveyard.” Bi retorted.
  377. “I have promised your dead will remain undisturbed. I could not even raise them if the spirits won’t heed my call.”
  378. >”It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’d just rather not leave you alone.”
  379. >”Likewise.” Bru added.
  380. “Suit yourselves.”
  381. >”Your objections are noted, now please kindly deal with it. We’re here anyways.” Bru said as they arrived before a modest house.
  382. >The trio made their way into the house, the knight being forced to crouch through the pony-sized door.
  383. >Bi wasted no time divesting herself of her armor, dropping it in a haphazard pile by the door. “Oh thank Luna that’s done with,” she sighed. “I’m so glad the day’s done with.”
  384. >”I think you may be forgetting something.” Bru deadpanned as the knight finally managed to navigate the undersized door.
  385. >”Eh, just give him your brother’s old room and be done with it.” Bi said dismissively. “The sun’s starting to come up.”
  386. “If there is a basement that will suffice.” the knight said. “I do not need sleep.”
  387. >”You are really adamant about just curling up in your own little corner and sulking in the shadows, aren’t you?” Bi commented.
  388. “I would simply prefer to be left to myself.”
  389.  
  390. >”So have you got any plans worked out or anything?” Bru asked, organizing her armor into a neat pile.
  391. “I wish to rest for a day or two, after which I will set out in search of my sword.”
  392. >”Oh nice, that leaves the weekend completely free.” Bi said.
  393. “And if it is possible I would prefer to rearm myself. If I encounter the mage I would rather have some means of defending against him.”
  394. >”What, you mean like a sword or something?” Bi asked.
  395. “Yes, are there any reliable swordsmiths in Hollow Shades?”
  396. >Bi put a hoof to her chin in thought. “I suppose I could grab you one from the barracks, we need new spears anyways. But that’d probably be a bit costly.”
  397. >The knight grabbed a small pouch from his belt that jingled with coins.
  398. “I can provide compensation.” he said, dropping the bag before them.
  399. >Dozens of gold coins spilled from the bag as it hit the floor, Bi and Bru’s eyes both going wide at the sight.
  400. >”Holy mangos, is that gold?” Bi asked in awe.
  401. “Gold is the preferred currency of Azeroth.”
  402. >”You mean you all just walk around with pockets full of gold?” Bru said skeptically.
  403. "Copper and silver too." the knight added. "There should be around fifty gold pieces in there, will that cover the cost of a blade?"
  404. >Bi stared in wonder at the small fortune in front of her. “I, uh… I think we’ll be able to manage something.”
  405.  
  406. >”So now you want to give the death knight a sword?” Bru demanded. “Because nothing could possibly go wrong, right?”
  407. >”He promised he wasn’t gonna hurt anyone, remember?”
  408. >”And what assurance do we have he won’t just turn on us the second we give him a sword?” Bru demanded.
  409. >Without warning the knight raised his hand and plunged it into the hole through his chest, jerking it free after a moment.
  410. >He then held out the hand and when it opened a small black gem rested upon his mailed palm surrounded by dust.
  411. >The small crystal was blacker than the night, a void of color so complete it felt as though it devoured the light around it.
  412. “This is my phylactery, it is an anchor for my soul in the event my body is struck down, given to me as a gift by a powerful lich. Next to my sword it is the most valuable item I possess, if this is what it takes to convince you of my sincerity then I will give you this to hold until I have recovered my blade.” he explained, offering the gem to the ponies.
  413. >Bi and Bru stared at the gem with mixed reactions until Bi eventually broke the silence.
  414. >”Phylactery?” she asked. “Given to you by a lich?”
  415. “Correct.”
  416. >Bi turned to her companion whose hooves were already massaging her temples, a look of unparalleled satisfaction upon her face.
  417. >”So I guess I was-”
  418. >”Yes, yes, fine, you were right, he’s a lich.” Bru said with a groan.
  419. “You understand the significance of this gesture then?” the knight asked.
  420.  
  421. >Bi looked back to the gem. “Bru, you do realize what he’s doing, right? What he’s giving us as collateral? You are the lich expert after all.”
  422. >Bru glowered at the crystal, sincerely wishing to distrust the knight but finding little reason to, the meaning of his actions not lost upon her.
  423. >She stared for a moment unsure of what to do.
  424. >If the knight’s story was true then this was no idle gesture. All told the knight, currently greatly underpowered by the loss of his weapon was hunting an incredibly powerful magic user, and that now he was offering her the one item that could ensure his survival.
  425. >Provided the knowledge gained through her years as a Dungeons and Ponies dungeon master was trustworthy, if the mage was to defeat him the phylactery would allow him to regenerate and continue his quest.
  426. >”Fine.” she said at last, extending a hoof and taking the trinket, the crystal unnaturally cold in her hoof. “I’ll trust you, and we’ll get you a sword. But if you so much as twitch funny I’ll shatter this thing.”
  427. “Then I shall endeavor to keep my twitching under control.” the knight said.
  428. >”Whoever this guy is you must really want him dead, it’s hard to imagine a lich giving up his phylactery so easily.” Bi remarked.
  429. “The mage is an extremely high priority to me, he is my only means of returning home.”
  430. >”Fair enough.” Bi said. “So should we set him up in your brother’s old room?”
  431. >”I suppose so.” Bru said, managing to tear her gaze away from the unearthly gem. “Come on, I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”
  432. “As I said, I do not require sleep. If you have a basement that would be more than sufficient, it would allow me to better keep to myself.”
  433. >Bru cast an uncertain glance at Bi who returned her look with a shrug.
  434. >”If that’s what you really want, I suppose. You’re sure?”
  435.  
  436. “I understand that my appearance is unsettling, it is nothing new, I will keep to myself as best I can.”
  437. >For a moment Bru’s expression softened, something like understanding coming to her face.
  438. >”Alright, come on then, I’ll show you to the basement.” she said trotting off into the house, the knight close behind.
  439. >”And I’ll go to the quartermaster and requisition some gear, I’ll be back in a bit.” Bi called after the two.
  440. >Bi watched the two disappear into the house with a sigh before snatching up the pouch of gold pieces from the floor.
  441. >”This certainly is shaping up to be an interesting day.” she mumbled around the pouch.
  442. >With that she cantered from the house and set off on her errand.
  443. >Meanwhile Bru was showing the nameless knight his new quarters.
  444. >”So this is it.” Bru said, indicating the cool, dim basement. “It’s not much to look at, it was mainly used by my brother to store all his stuff, but when he moved out he took all that with him. I hope a big concrete box is enough for you.”
  445. “It will suffice. You have my thanks for the accommodations.”
  446. >”It was nothing.” Bru said, looking around uncertainly, staying rooted to her spot though her business with the knight was done, her face unreadable as she thought.
  447. “There is something on your mind.” the knight observed. “Speak your peace or leave me to mine.”
  448.  
  449. >”Well…” she began hesitantly, unsure of how to give voice to her thoughts. “What’s it like? Being undead, I mean.”
  450. >The knight stared down at her from within his cowl, his face unreadable.
  451. >”I just…” she stammered. “I imagine it must be a little off-putting to others, how do you deal with that?”
  452. “A wolf does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep. I have only taken such things into consideration in return for the hospitality you’ve shown me. I would not want to overstay my welcome.”
  453. >”You mean it doesn’t bother you? You don’t care that they might think you’re, well, creepy?”
  454. “All that matters is my master’s mission, the opinions of the living are their own and do not affect me. Does this answer your question, Gjallerbru?”
  455. >Bru stared at the knight for a few moments in contemplation. “Yes,” she said at last. “it does. I’ll leave you alone now, I’m sure you’re tired. I’ll let you know when Bifrost comes back with that sword.”
  456. “You have my thanks, Gjallerbru. And keep safe my phylactery, I would sorely hate for any misfortune to befall it.”
  457. >”Of course.” she said. “Just keep to your word and I’ll keep to mine.”
  458.  
  459. >”So this should cover two spears and a sword, right?”
  460. >A grizzled bat guard leveled a flat stare down at the pile of gold coins that had been unceremoniously dropped onto his desk.
  461. >After a moment he redirected his gaze back to the mare before him.
  462. >”Are you really doing this right now, Bifrost? My shift ends in twenty minutes and you’re dropping a pile of gold on my desk?”
  463. >Wordlessly Bifrost slid a gold coin across the desk towards the quartermaster.
  464. >”Bifrost-“
  465. >Another coin joined the first.
  466. >”It’s nearly midday, I just want to close up shop and go home, Bifrost, can’t you come back tomorrow night?”
  467. >Without breaking eye contact Bi slid a third coin over to the pony.
  468. >He glared down at the coins for a few moments before loosing an aggravated sigh.
  469. >He slid the three coins off the desk and pocketed them, glaring at Bi the whole time.
  470. >”What can I get for you, Bifrost?”
  471. >”Got any Night Guard issue spears in?”
  472. >”Just got a few pieces of Night Guard gear a few nights ago. Anything else?”
  473. >”A sword.”
  474. >”Yes, I know you want a sword. What kind of sword?”
  475. >”They come in kinds?”
  476. >The quartermaster glared at her.
  477. >”Alright, fine,” Bi sighed. “just get me the biggest, flashiest sword you’ve got. Bonus points if it’s enchanted.”
  478. >”I’ll see what I can do.” the pony grumbled.
  479.  
  480. >The quartermaster returned moments later with two extensively artificed spears, some of the most impressive pieces of weaponry Bi had ever laid eyes on.
  481. >He set them down and Bi had to stop herself from drooling as she got a close up look.
  482. ”They’re beautiful.” she said as she picked one up reverently.
  483. >”See that rune there on the haft?” the quartermaster said, pointing at the spear.
  484. ”Yeah?” Bi confirmed.
  485. >”Touch it.”
  486. >She complied, prodding the rune with a hoof, nearly dropping the spear in fright as lightning flared along its head.
  487. >When the shock subsided, though, her eyes practically sparkled in delight.
  488. ”They’re enchanted?” she exclaimed as giddy as a school filly.
  489. >”Lightning enchantments come standard with Night Guard weapons.” the quartermaster said as he headed back to the store room.
  490. >While the quartermaster rummaged through weapons Bi admired her own, silently thanking the dead knight for the gold he’d given her.
  491. >Soon she was pulled from her thoughts by a loud thud on the desk before her.
  492. >”And one sword. The biggest one I’ve got.” the quartermaster said.
  493. >Bi almost dropped her spear as she took in the beast of a blade she’d been presented with. A greatsword of almost absurd size and ornamentation, coming to nearly five feet in length.
  494. As she gazed at the behemoth weapon one thought came to mind. ”Who would even use such a weapon?” Bi asked incredulously.
  495. >”These are meant for unicorns or earth ponies.” he said. “And you, apparently. Is this big and flashy enough?”
  496.  
  497. >Bi admired the blade, for a time wishing dearly she had the strength necessary to wield it. Though she had to wonder whether the knight himself even did, the weapon being barely a foot shorter than he was tall.
  498. ”Is it enchanted?” she asked as she inspected the blade.
  499. >”Lightning, same as your spear and claws.”
  500. >Bi spied an activation rune on the hilt and brushed her hoof across it, lightning arcing across the blade at her touch.
  501. >She withdrew her hoof and a fanged grin came to her face as the magic faded from the blade.
  502. ”How much?”
  503. >The quartermaster eyed the pile of coins.
  504. >”Ten of those coins should cover it.” he said.
  505. ”Sold.” she said, sliding ten coins over the desk.
  506. >”Can I get you anything else?” the quartermaster grumbled, his tone saying clearly that he wanted to do nothing of the sort.
  507. >Bi tapped her chin as she gazed around at all the armor on display, her eyes widening in awe as they came to rest on a set of Night Guard armor.
  508. >”Well now that you mention it…”
  509. >The quartermaster followed her eyes to the armor, grimacing when he saw it.
  510. ”Have you got one of those in a small?” she asked.
  511. >The pony rolled his eyes and reluctantly trotted towards the storeroom, grumbling to himself the whole way.
  512. ”Thank you!” she called cheerily after him.
  513.  
  514. MUCH LATER
  515. >”Now let’s try this again. Is there anything else I can do for you?” the quartermaster asked in obvious irritation.
  516. >Bi just stood there, clad head to hoof in shiney new finned Night Guard armor, a second set along with all her weapons loaded up into an implausibly oversized bag sitting next to her, with a look on her face akin to that of a filly on Hearth’s Warming Eve.
  517. ”I think I’m all set.”
  518. >”Excellent. Thank you for coming, now get out of my shop.”
  519. >With a cheery wave of goodbye, Bi clamped her teeth around the bag and began hauling with all her might.
  520. >After a brief struggle trying to force her load out the door, she turned around, full nearly to bursting with enthusiasm, and scoped out the road back home.
  521. >Then she immediately deflated when she realized just how far from her house she was.
  522. >Taking a glance up into the towering canopy of the forest, she could just barely make out a glimmer of sunlight at the highest point.
  523. >Though when taking into account how many wonderful goodies rested in her bag she steeled her resolve, grabbed hold of the bag, and managed to move it a full foot.
  524. ”Oh sweet merciful Luna are you serious?” she groaned.
  525. >Her question was answered by the flapping of wings.
  526. >”You need some help with that?” a voice asked.
  527. >Bi glanced in the voice’s direction, but found nothing.
  528. >Curious, she directed her gaze downward with it eventually coming to rest on a white bat filly with a gold mane leaning against the bag wearing a sly smirk.
  529. ”What are you doing here, Loki?” Bru demanded. “It’s the middle of the day, why aren’t you in bed?”
  530. >”I can’t say hi to my favorite aunt?” Loki asked innocently.
  531. ”You can fool Bru, but not me. I’m wise to your games you little demon.”
  532.  
  533. >The young filly dropped the act and a deceptively cute smirk came to her face. “I just thought we might be able to help each other?”
  534. ”Oh we can, can we?” Bi asked skeptically.
  535. >”I need a way of making sure Aunt Bru doesn’t find out I was out and you need a way to get this stuff home before sundown.” Loki explained.
  536. “And you can get this home?”
  537. >”I’ll make you a deal. If I can get your stuff back home then you vouch for our whereabouts if Bru ever gets suspicious.”
  538. “And you’re telling me you can get this back to the house?” Bi demanded again. “You, a child, can do what I, a fully grown pony in the Shadeguard cannot?”
  539. >”It’s no loss to you if I can’t do it, really.” Loki reasoned. “It doesn’t hurt you to accept and I can’t deliver, your situation will stay the same.”
  540. “Alright, I’ll bite.” Bi said, holding out a hoof to shake. “Move my bag and I’ll cover you.”
  541. >”Pleasure doing business with you, Auntie Bifrost.” Loki said as she shook Bi’s hoof.
  542. >With that she gave a sharp whistle and within a moment the bag was hoisted up into the air much to Bi’s distress.
  543. “Svaoilfari is here too?” she demanded, aghast.
  544. >”Hi Aunt Bi!” chirped the black bat colt currently lifting far more than should be possible.
  545. >”And Sleipnir.” Loki said nonchalantly.
  546. >A second colt, this one grey, fluttered over and alighted next to Loki.
  547. >”Hi Aunt Bi.” he said politely.
  548. >Bi stared at the trio feeling a headache start to come on.
  549. >”Well? A deal’s a deal.” Loki said. “I’m getting your stuff home.”
  550. Bi loosed an aggravated groan. “Fine. I’m not even gonna get into it with you. You win. Let’s go.”
  551. >”You heard her, Fari, move out.”
  552. >”Yes ma’am!” Svaoilfari said, cantering off towards home.
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