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Post in forum #1905 - An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

Morhoof’s galloping hooves carried him a good distance, slowing down to a brisk trot and then finally a slow walk. A half destination in half a mind, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to be at this moment but he knew where he needed to be at least in a general sense. There wasn’t much he could do now but wait, in both Umbra and Aura.

What…what was that kiss? Payback? A goodbye? Loco’s wry tone floated like an audible grin. A promise? Haha! As if; you couldn’t keep a promise if your life depended on it. But seriously though, throwing caution to the wind with such reckless abandon can be detrimental to your health; I mean even that pegasus back in the day got more tongue.

Morhoof looked up. The blue glow from the street lanterns only went so far up, and yet their combined glow managed to paint the underside of the massive cloud-bank on which Aura perched. It only made the clouds look even more menacing. The single star he managed to glimpse through one of the sizable pegasus-flying-access holes in it looked unspeakably lonely. Did those clouds ever rain? Would it be like walking on sticky cotton candy if they did? Morhoof leveled his gaze back down to earth, noting the drains set in the curb. He glanced up to note the gutters and drainpipes on the buildings. Drainage implied something to drain. Yes, it surely must rain, if only to give this forever-shadowed city a much-needed bath. Too often would just leave Shadowville unpleasantly damp. Mold and mushrooms.

Feeling eyes land on him, Morhoof sent his stare sideways across the street. A blue unicorn, barely out of foalhood, hurriedly went on his way, trying to pretend he hadn’t noticed Morhoof staring. Forte Presto might very well leave Fantasy alone, but that didn’t mean that the unicorn wasn’t going to pay for what he had already done. One way or another. Smog had promised to leave it to the police. Morhoof…had not. And Smog was willing to help Morhoof with that. In typical fashion, Smog kept his promise in his own way. Though out of respect for Fantasy’s wishes, Morhoof wasn’t going hunting. No, Morhoof had developed instincts over his very long life. He knew that he and Forte Presto would meet again. He felt it in his bones. Morhoof wasn’t hunting: he was being hunted. Veering off down a side-street, Morhoof headed for the hole through which he had seen a star. He would find the docking station under it and take an airbus up to Aura.

You realize you looked like you were about to start chasing after Little Boy Blue there with an axe, right?

The trip up was as mundane as could be, although this time he didn’t dare take a glance out the window. He had gotten more comfortable with the whole business of walking on clouds and flying around, but there were still times that it made him feel a little sick. He rested his head on his living hoof and closed his eyes. The gentle sway of the airbus was almost like being on a sea-going ship, except the faint sense of rising was wrong. So very, very wrong.

At the top Morhoof rented a sky-cab, riding a yellow-and-black-checked chariot pulled by two pegasi. It cost, but Morhoof was rolling in bits thanks to Smog. Once at his new apartment home in the depths of the city’s heart, Morhoof lit some lamps here and there, and one candle. He stalked over to his bare kitchenette table and laid out the equipment Smog had delivered. Taking a seat on an un-cushioned stool, Morhoof examined the vial of sungold dust. He didn’t know much about it other than what almost everypony knew: it was impossible to melt or even heat because it turned all heat it absorbed into something exactly like sunlight. Morhoof spent a minute or two just letting his eyes drink in the lovely glow as his living hoof warmed the vial. He almost understood dragons then. Their lust for gems and precious metals. The sungold was almost hypnotically lovely.

After a while, Morhoof set it aside in favor of a flare-gun charge. Boring into the tip with paranoid care, he poured into a teacup the powder that, when lit, would create a brilliant flare of red light. Tipping out a third of the sungold, he mixed the powders with cautious shaking and then muttered a curse. After a pause to fashion a small funnel from paper and tape, he poured the mix back into the charge. A small well-chewed spitball made from paper scraps plugged the hole and a dribble of candle wax sealed it well. The sungold would react in a splendid way to the brief-but-violent heat of the flare. The rest of the sungold went into the other two charges.

Very expensive fireworks. He had no intention of using them all, or even one of them if he could help it, but it seemed a better gambit to have three shots rather than one, even if those three were weaker. He hoped they wouldn’t be needed but feared they might. He loaded the flare gun and stuck the other two inside the hollow grip. It didn’t have room for another. The roll of duct tape, the hacksaw, and all the glassy spheres of knockout gas joined the crowd of unsettling things found under Morhoof’s cloak. The flare gun might have left him nervous, but it was nothing compared to the cockatrice eye he already carried. Anything more and he’d end up a walking department store. Hah, if the black market had department stores. Knowing Smog, they probably did: with warrantees and store credit and bad music.

Morhoof loudly exhaled, sat back on his stool, and stared at the ceiling. Silence. Well, almost silence. There was that constant white noise of a living city all around him. That and Loco’s inane chirping. It seemed that the whole of Aura and Umbra were a fast-sinking ship and the only thing that could stop it was a dispirited cross-breed with a shot glass instead of a bucket. Morhoof looked back down at the table, one hoof going to the flares under his cloak. ‘I wonder,’ he thought, ‘if Breaking Dawn needs these more than I do.’

Har har. But that brings up a good point. Everything flops. Everything turns into cow flops. What will you do then? The ‘dragon’ slain or jailed or fled and dearest Fantasy at the mercy of a deranged unicorn, because let’s face it: Fantasy is on her own if Smog needs you. That’s why you suggested for her to run, isn’t it?

Morhoof’s lips twitched as he thought at Loco: ‘I told her to be ready to leave so she will be prepared to run if things go bad. Things will only go bad if Smog fails, and if he fails he falls, and if he falls he’s beyond my power to help. I must still stand by him, of course. I must for the same reason I told Fantasy to stand ready to swiftly take her family from this place. That reason is something that you, spawn of malice, can never truly understand. I care about them.’

Loco fell silent, radiating sullen and somewhat baffled fury. It was an insight Morhoof had taken an inexcusably long time to have. Windigos weren’t just harmed by the power of friendship and love. They were confounded by it. Literally could not understand. To them it was madness, irrational, beyond all sense. So it always surprised them what a pony would do, if they did it for a friend.

Morhoof migrated over to his couch, nothing but the building across the street visible through the window. The bottle of nectar brandy remained where he had left it, along with his lute. It managed to look neglected. Morhoof opened the case and drew it out, probably the oldest individual instrument in the world. Technically. Parts had needed replacing now and then, and the shape had subtly changed. There wasn’t a scrap of the original wood left, but he was sure in his heart that it was the same instrument he had carried with him when he ran away from home to find his true destiny so very, very long ago. Rather than finding it, a windigo had given him a fate that was arguably worse than death. Irony of ironies, it was only the ambivalence in his heart, which found neither hate nor love easy to feel, which had kept him from quickly falling to evil and being consumed. Some papers had slipped free of the pocket inside the lid. One of them fluttered to lie in his lap. A monochrome but eerily lifelike drawing of a bouquet of flowers and the words I’m sorry. Morhoof looked to his lute and then back to the drawing. Strange emotions filed him.

Loco spoke with bitter sarcasm. Shall we buy him a dress and stand him on a balcony? Or her, as the case may be, though we both know that Smog has feelings for you either way. Only you don’t, for so many reasons. Like good taste.

Morhoof returned his lute to its case, slung it over his back, and filled his little flask with brandy. Half a mind still, but even half a mind could fathom half a thought. Breaking Dawn was going to do all he could to save Aura, and even though Morhoof wouldn’t be able to help with that, maybe some music could help keep Smog sane while he tried. Fantasy had claimed, what felt like long ago, that Smog had never stopped loving music. Just enjoyed it in secret. Morhoof could keep his spirits up; give him hope and strength of spirit. That was what true bards did. True bards and true friends. Morhoof would do anything he could to help.

Loco’s mental tone could have greased axles. Anything?

Morhoof spoke aloud. “Go away.”

Then Loco came as close as either of them had to breaching the subject of the miraculous artificial leg he would be fitted with. Of the very real possibility that soon Morhoof could open his heart to friendship and love without opening it to the long-denied ravages of Time. Of Loco’s destruction.

You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.

It sounded less like a threat than a prophecy.