DUNGEONS, DRAGONS, AND PONIES
CHAPTER TWO- AN AXE AND A SCORE TO SETTLE
The trio got to the fort by the time the sun set in the distance. The night brought the eerie atmosphere around the stronghold, especially since there seemed no one around to guard the gates or the top side. The heroines thought that the worst had already happened here, and hoped they could find any survivors inside. Applejack view the fort in a pensive mood, her body rigid and her mouth clenched. Twilight looked at her and shared the same thoughts about their situation.
"Come on ya'll." the fighter said, walking towards the opened gate as the other two followed. Fluttershy managed to move along, even if her instincts kept screaming to stop her and turn back. As soon as they were insde, they noticed bodies of both ponies and monsters, each looking a lot gruesome than the last. A big fight happened here, and the guards seemed to put everything they got to defend themselves, as well as to try and stop the raiding beasts from reaching the city behind. Not wanting to dwell among the dead, the trio approached a door that led to the inside of the fort. Applejack held up a hoof and motioned the rest to stop while she examined the door. She looked at Twilight and she nodded in turn, then Applejack opened the door slowly, the darkness inside made things worse than what they saw outside. They all entered one by one, trying not to get much attention in case monsters were nearby. Fluttershy lighted a torch to make things easier to see. She held it up and looked around as did the rest. The room seemed empty altogheter, but then they noticed a lump on the far side of the floor. Fluttershy walked near it to take a closer look and gasped. In the shadows there was another guard, but unlike the unfortunate souls outside, he seemed to still be breathing. The ponies gathered around him and offered as much help as they could. Applejack was the first to speak.
"You alright? You know of any survivors here?"
The guard coughed harshly but managed to utteer some words. Fluttershy lowered her head to listen properly at what he was saying. The guard whispered to her ear, finding it easier to do so than to actually speak outloud. After a few words, she raised her head and looked at her friends.
"He says that there might be more soldiers upstairs in need of help, but he hasn't heard anything since he managed to escape certain death. He also said not to worry about him and to aid the others..."
They all frowned at this but decided to do as told. Fluttershy stopped the bleeding from one of his wounds tying it tightly with bandages, then followed the rest upstairs. Another empty room awaited them once they came out of the stairs. Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to happened there. Just when they decided to move forward, they heard steps coming closer from the sole exit. As the shapes became clearer, they noticed that it was a group of gnolls carrying not only axes, but also bows and arrows. They seemed to be chatting among themselves in a way that suggested amusement, the trio guessed these creatures were responsible to what happened here and decided to stay to see if they could find anything else they could do in case they found any survivors. As soon as they entered completely, they looked at the ponies and howled, bearing their teeth and raising their weapons to meet them in battle.
"Sigh, why do these guys keep showin' up?" Applejack sighed as she drew her sword at the ready. Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy followed suit, although the latter wished she didn't had to fight in a dark room like this, especially since she had to lower the torch to the side. One of the gnolls prepared an arrow and pointed at Applejack, but was stricken in the leg by an arrow from Twilight, who held her own bow with her magic before the fiend could react. The gnoll fell to the side clutching his leg and cursing her in his native tongue. The rest charged forward, raising their long axes and meeting them with swords and a mace. Although it was difficult to see, neither side gave up entirely on their fight. Applejack dodged, deflected a few blows, and even managed to sock a hoof on the gnoll's stomach, driving him behind a few steps before it charged at her again. Fluttershy kept herself out of the way, hovering around her opponent as he kept growling in annoyance, trying to strike her down with a few slashes in the air. She trid to go high and bring down her mace on his head as she did with the last gnoll she fought, but the beast blocked the attack and pushed her down to the ground. Landing on her back, Fluttershy looked as the gnoll approached her, axe high in the air and getting ready to strike her down. She yelped and brought up her mace under him, hitting him in a very tender area. The gnoll yiped and his eyes bulged out, dropping the axe and covering his hurt genitals, falling on his knees whimpering miserably. Fluttershy didn't wait for another chance and swung her mace at his head, sending the gnoll flying to the wall and crashing besides it. Twilight tried her best to defend herself wit her small blade against the bigger axe, as much as she wanted, she could not knock it out from the gnoll's paws. She noticed that this axe had a pike in the end, and got an idea if this creature ever wanted to try and impale her with it. As if reading her mind, the gnoll backed up a bit and decided to poke her with the pike on his axe. Twilight moved aside and caught the shaft with her right arm, locking it and pulling the gnoll towards her waiting hoof. She struck at the right eye of the gnoll, sending him backwards as he let go of his weapon to cover his face. Twilight then rushed at him with her blade in hoof and sliced at the gnoll's backside of his legs, bringing him down with a non-lethal blow. The creatuer now was holding his injured legs as he whimpered loudly. Twilight smacked him over the face with the hilt of her sword, rending him unconsious. Applejack kept helding up on her own against one of the remaining gnolls. While her companions were a bit merciful with their enemies, Applejack was thought to use her blade to the finish when challenged, and today was going to be no different. She raised her sword to pull one of the arked sides of the axe to the side, and then pushed her weapon deep into the gnoll's chest. A look of agony was all the canine expressed before falling down with his last breath of life. She turned to the gnoll with the bow and arrows, but the creature held up his paws offering his surrender. Applejack towards him with a glare in her eye, making the gnoll feel smaller all of the sudden.
"Tell me, are there any pony survivors left behind?"
The gnoll quickly nodded and pointed towards the place they just came from. The ponies marched towards the arched exit, ignoring the whimpers from the arrow-stricken gnoll. Only Fluttershy stopped briefly to look at him, but said nothing and followed her friends inside. Once inside the next room, there were torches ignited to make things easier to see. Sure enough, there were a couple of guards on the floor, leaning their back to the wall as a third unwounded guard tend to them. He turned his head to expect more of those gnolls, but a look of relief washed over his face when he noticed the ponies. He walked up to them with a happy demeanor. Twilight stated how she was grateful to see more of them alive and asked him what had happened the time they were attacked.
"The monsters retreated when they found nothing more to plunder, or guards to hurt. I was one of the lucky ones to escape such fate, although when those last gnolls came to this chamber, they picked us clean and then showed "mercy" when they knocked us a few times before leaving. Good thing you showed up, I heard the commotion but could not leave my friends behind."
"It's alright, we are glad you are OK at least...you said there are more guards around?"
"Yes," the guard said to Twilight, "in fact, one of the monsters who refused to leave is fighting with another pony who came to help us, along with her griffin friend. Some of us decided to help along, but I haven't found out just how things ended up there."
Applejack spoke next, "well point us to the right direction to lend them a hoof at least."
The guard pointed at the stairs behind an exit parallel to another exit that was besides it. The trio climbed the stairs up to the next level of the fort. Once at the top of the structure, they heard faint screams and colorful cursing on the oiutside of the tower they were standing on. Curiosity enveloped their minds as they neared the exit of the tower. On the distance, there was a cyan coated pegasus, brandishing an axe over what appeared to be two overgrown panthers. On one side there was a griffin, clutching her chest as she watched the fight between pony and creature ensue. They heard a moan on their side and noticed yet another guard, clutching his head with his hoofs. Fluttershy knelt beside him and asked what happened.
"That beast...it refused to leave us alone even when its friends left us...that barbarian and her fighter griffin friend showed up in time to defend us when we were rendered useless against that fiend. However that thing is proving hard even to that skilled fighter, you should help her!"
They all started leaving when the soldier clutched Fluttershy's shirt, trying to get her attention.
"I must say this...why should two creatures cast but one shadow? Strike at the one with said shadow, its using an image of itself to confuse the barbarian!"
Fluttershy nodded and joined her friends to fight the beast. As they got closer, they noticed that what it appeared to be a panther of sorts, was in fact, a displacer beast. Using its whip like tentacles to strike at the cyan pegasus whenever she failed to swing a hit on it. The barbarian let out a cry of rage and swung at the head of the beast, which unfortunately it sliced right through it without any sign of damage. The pegasus sighed and then got slammed to the small wall that prevented her from falling down the ground. She immediately got up and charged again, her rainbow-colored mane covering one of her eyes. She stopped abruptly when she heard screams nearby. Turning her head around, she noticed three ponies galloping towards her, weapons drawn and at the ready.
"What? What are you doing here?" she asked in an annoyed tone "Stay back! I am personally handling this bastard!"
No sooner did she said this than the displacer beast struck her again, sending her rolling away.
"Yeah, you clearly don't need our help at all!" Applejack screamed, swinging at the creature with her sword. The displacer beast dodged swiftly, tentacles snapping at the new enemy. Twilight pushed the fighter out of the way, even if it meant that she now was struck and sent backwards by the powerful strikes the beast given her. Fluttershy tossed a hammer to the creature that casted the shadow. The beast looked up before being struck on the head by said hammer. It stumbled around trying to shake its head to clear its mind. Applejack swung again and this time, it caught the beast on its shoulder, leaving a gash as the creature hissed in pain. It soon jumped out of the way and tried to confuse the group by splitting into more images of itself. This time, Twilight joined and shot an arrow past the illusions at the real beast, hitting it on its side. The beast, moer confused than hurt, tried to hit anyone on its way, but since they now saw through its ruse, ended up hitting nothing but the ground, snarling at the sheer number of opponents it now was facing. The ponies circled her slowly, trying to intimidate the beast into surrendering. Then, a cry was heard behind the beast as a shadow was cast over it, it looked up just in time to see an axe buried into its skull. The displacer beast looked up crosseyed before falling to its side, dead. The cyan barbarian jumped to the sky and pumped one hoof in the air, hollering in victory.
"Whoo, YEAH! Take THAT you miserable pile of-"
Twilight cleared her throat, which stopped the pegasus from saying another colorful explamation. The pegasus landed besides the displacer beast's body and pulled her axe out with ease, much to the discomfort from Fluttershy. She then walked oveer to her wounded friend, the griffin Applejack and the rest noticed before they came to their aid. She knelt beside her and rested a hoof on her shoulder. The griffin smiled at her.
"Looks like you finally got that thing..." the griffin said.
"Yeah, I told you I would get it someday...heh, even if I had to get help in doing so."
"Speaking of our newfound allies, take a look at them, they seem to want to talk to you..."
The cyan pegasus got up from her injured friend and looked at the trio of ponies nearing them. One of them, the cleric, hurriedly approached the griffin and knelt besides her, examining her injuries while her hooves were envelpoed in a yellow glow. The fighter approached her and raised a hoof to meet the barbarian.
"Sure seems you gave it what it was gettin'. Name's Applejack, to my side there's Twilight Sparkle, and the one trying to cure your pardner is names Fluttershy..."
"Thanks, name's Rainbow Dash!" She said when she bumped Applejack's hoof with her own. Applejack blinked, not expecting this sort of greeting but said none of it. "My friend there is named Gilda."
Gilda nodded to the rest of the ponies while Fluttershy kept mending broken ribs and a few bruises. The soft clop of hoofs on stone behind them alerted them to see the guard left behind approaching with a smile of his own. He expressed his thanks to all of them, stating that they will be rewarded with food and board since the night would prove much too dangerous to go back to the city or elsewhere. Applejack nodded at this.
"Seems better than sleepin' on the ground outside..."
"Well," Twilight began, "At least we should send some sort of report back at the city, letting them know the fort has been secured."
At this the guard turned and whistled. A few seconds later, a female grey pegasus with blonde mane and tail, covered in a hard leather vest, landed near the bunch. At close, the ponies noted that her eyes were looking sideways, something they raised their own eyes at. The pegasus however, didn't seem to notice and waited patiently for the guard to write a scroll and rolled up so he could give it to her. The mare grasped it in her mouth and set it inside her saddlebags, then saluted and flew away towards the city. Twilight couldn't imagine how this mare would be able to see where she was going, but decided not to ask such questions, just hoped she would not find trouble in her way there.
"Oh, Ditzy Doo's the best messenger we got," the guard said, as if reading her mind, "She was the one who notified the city of our attack."
Minutes later, the group were inside the guards' quarters, which were occupied by a few wounded guards themselves. Each pony was on bed except Fluttershy, who was kneeling besides her bed deep in prayer. Applejack looked at her with a soft smile on her face. Twilight was using her horn to gain more light than what the torches were giving to check on her map. The guard stated that the road to the capital from where they were currently situated was highly dangerous, but there was a way to go around it without finding much trouble on the way. A boat that crossed a river going directly to the capital's limits. Twilight calculated the time they would take them to go to said boat without having to wait for another one should they miss their ride. Satisfied with finding time to do this, she rolled the map up and set it inside her bags besides heer bed. Rainbow Dash in the meantime, was explaining to Applejack about the reason why they followed the displacer beast from their own home while her friend Gilda was sleeping soundly without any signs of her wounds bothering her thanks to Fluttershy's intervention.
"Yeah, that thing was among the beasts that attacked our village days ago," the barbarian explained, "me and Gilda both decided to follow them and teach t hem a lesson for raising our home to the point that most of our people were left without homes. Heh, well, I couldn't have done it without you, guys. Thanks again for the help."
"Our pleasure, friend. Where will you go now that you accomplished your mission?"
At this, Rainbow Dash looked down. She felt that her work was done and should go back to her home to help them rebuild, plus there was the matter of Gilda to aid her back there as well. On the other hoof, she wanted to know what was happening since said attacks were now everywhere as she heard the guards say when she confronted the displacer beast. Now she had a chance to make things right and she could accompany this group in order to get to the bottom of it all. But what about Gilda...
Rainbow Dash turned her head to her friend, who was now looking at her as if she was listening to the conversation all along.
"I think you should help these ponies on their quest."
"What? What about you?"
"I will be fine," the griffin said, getting into a sitted position without much pain as she was before. "I will stay here and recover until I am well enough to travel back home."
The pegasus hesitated. She furrowed her brow to think this through for a minute and then nodded to her friend.
"Alright, I will do it...but if I find out you die during your trip back home, I will personally go to the afterlife and kick your feathers."
At this the griffin chuckled, although doing so made her wince. Rainbow Dash got from her bed and went to embrace Gilda in a careful hug, which the griffin returned in kind. She then hopped back to bed and smiled at Applejack.
"Looks like you got yourselves another friend in your quest!"
"Heh, we wouldn't mind if you tagged along, Rainbow."
At this, the ponies and griffin went to sleep. All but Fluttershy who looked up the stony ceiling wondering what was going to happen on their way to the capital. She prayed to the gods about a safe journey and prayed hard she did. She glanced over at Twilight who by now was under a deep slumber, then looked up gain.
"Guess we will have to find out after all..."
The cleric pegasus closed her eyes and let sleep take over for the rest of the night.
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER THREE: THE PRINCESS IN THE CAPITAL