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The Secret Rally (Sign-up in OOC Thread)


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As far as most ponies knew, the Society for a New Dawn was little more than a glorified Equestrian fan club for Prof. Morianna Razorclaw and her radical ideas. Aside from reprinting her lectures, advertising public appearances from her and other advocates, and sending political surveys out to its members, nothing about New Dawn stood out of the ordinary. Sure, the surveys were ridiculously long, and often included such strange questions as “Would you support a political movement with the aim of removing the Princesses from power if it had the support of the people?” Or “Would you gleefully take candy from a baby?” And even gems like “Is it fun to be evil?” Overall though, nobody doubted New Dawn’s status as a peaceful advocacy group.

Those New Dawn members who answered the survey questions in a certain way - demonstrating anti-monarchy sympathies without inauthentically passing themself off as a supporter of authoritarian values - earned secret rewards. Upon further background evaluation, such individuals got added onto an exclusive mailing list; one for sympathizers for WRAITH, the ruthless revolutionary organization determined to rule Equestria!

In the last several days, all members of this Shadow List received notification (encrypted with a cipher as a precautionary measure) that a nighttime rally was to be held in Stalliongrad, inside a rusty old warehouse by the river. Here, on the periphery of Equestrian influence, the people’s attachment to the Princesses was nowhere near as strong compared to the equine residents of the Heartland. Assuming these secret sympathizers could decipher their messages correctly, they’d learn that on that very night, the enigmatic Shadowmane herself will speak and lay out WRAITH’s grand vision for the future of Equestria!

No clouds or snow were present on the night of the Rally. From available windows and nearby rooftops, hidden observers watched for signs of REA activity; reinforcements were on standby in case Celestia’s enforcers decided to crash WRAITH’s splendid little get-together. As for the attendees; well, first they’d have to get past Dog. Hopefully, they've remembered the WRAITH motto.....


NOTICE: Unless you've been told otherwise by me, your character must enter through the front entrance and be cleared for entry by Dog. OOC thread is here. :)

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How one like the hulking brute that was Bruschi Bonetrotter managed to read those surveys, let alone answer them properly enough to gain attention, was a grand mystery. Regardless, one would be hard-pressed to say he didn't fit into his strongman position with the utmost enthusiasm. His strength was at WRAITH's disposal, and it was happily employed.

Today, Dog stood by the warehouse door of just one warehouse amongst many, doing what he did best: following orders. 

He was to stand watch at this door, and only let ponies and otherwise through if they had the correct passphrase. If an unauthorized visitor got through him, he better be dead.

The henchman looked about as he towered in front of the door. His knuckles wrapped in cloth and wearing a leather lifting belt, he could pass for a regular worker lounging around if he had to. But for now, he awaited WRAITH's honored members and guests, his massive black arms crossed over his chest as his bright green eyes kept watch, his face as stern and unmoving as a true guardian statue. Except this one got punch-y at times. 

While he had a particular job to do here, he couldn't help but be tremendously excited for the rally itself. He only had minor contact with his fellow members, as he often kept to himself... But when he heard Shadowmane herself would be speaking... He had only ever really heard her name in whispers. Even his orders for this event came in the form of the typical encrypted message. He had a tremendous amount of respect for their leader, mostly because he agreed with her endgoal, but also because of the feats that had been told to him. 

He was glad he was on her side. With that thought, he would not fail! He'd guard this door a hundred times over, and make the devil himself turn and run if he was not welcome.

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Truly, in this world and all others, there was nothing quite like a pep talk to get the troops walking into the line of magical fire. 


Though, from what he'd heard, this particularly rally wasn't going to be nearly as exciting. At least, he hadn't heard any plans involving riling up the grunts to go charging directly into the royal castle. Not very effective, true, but it would have been entirely amusing. 


Still, gratuitous violence or not, this rally had been a long time coming, and The Revenant was well and truly chuffed to bits. The multitude of warehouses and buildings lining the harbor made it easy for the Unicorn to slid in and out of the shadows, waltzing across the rooftops at a languid pace as if he owned every single piece of pavement he stepped upon. Of other lookouts and recons, he saw none, but that didn't stop Reve from throwing grins obscured by his skin-tight garments towards primely placed shadows where he, himself, would have set up shop if he'd been assigned something so mundane as lookout duty. They were there, ready to take action if this all went to pot, even if he couldn't see them. 


And he simply couldn't see them because he couldn't be bothered. 


The last building was just close enough to take a running leap onto the warehouse in question, and Revenant did so with little thought, red eyes fixed on the burly figure he could make out below. Ah - that'd be Dog then, miserable brute he was, and Revenant felt the grin stretch over his face as he briefly leaned over the edge to garner a better look. Dog was ace at his job, no doubt about it - rather amazing, really, considering how exceedingly simple his job was. Follow orders. And yet Dog was better at it than near every other bloke in the organization who made a real dog's breakfast out of it. Apparently "bring down the building you're in to cause a distraction so the rest of us can make away" followed closed by "Oh, and do try not to get yourself captured on the way down" were too complex a set of instructions for some ponies. The Diamond Dog below him, however, never questioned, never caviled, and buck all if the grunts couldn't learn something from him, like how to shut up and take orders.


Then again, Dog's blinding ability to follow orders came at reduced intelligence, charming though it was. Hmm...now there was a thought. Mass brainwashing? He'd need to take a gander at the Education Division. 


But that would be for later. For now, Dog had the bloody privilege of guarding the front door, whilst Revenant sauntered along the rooftop until he could drop down through one of the large windows decorating the walls near the ceiling of the warehouse. From there, it took a bit of finicky finagling that was less graceful and more 'hup, two!' than his leisurely walk here, but it ended up all the same as the Unicorn scaled from beam to beam until he could safely drop onto the floor.


The cold, cement floor, not the raised stage.


"All right, love," the dark grey stallion called out into the - seemingly - empty space, his voice echoing slightly as he brushed some dust off his draped cloak. Just like with the recons positioned all over the warehouse, the lack of presence from their illustrious leader did not equate to the complete absence of him. Shadowmane was, more than likely, lingering off in the shadows so he could make as dramatic a reveal as needed, when needed, and the thought was enough to bring another hidden smirk to his lips as Revenant languidly positioned himself against a nearby pillar. 


Dramatic reveal or none at all, he still suited him just fine.


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It began when Princess Celestia and her Royal Equestrian Guard ignored Dr. Merlot’s concerns that thieves were stealing relics from his dig sites unpunished. Instead of prosecuting such criminals to the fullest extent of the law, Celestia openly presided over their wedding ceremonies! From the day that she and that adopted niece of hers blessed the union of Merlot’s most-despised nemesis and one of his ex-fillyfriends, the gentlecolt knew once and for all that he could no longer depend on the alicorns to demonstrate good judgement. Law and order would have to be taken into the hooves of... more responsible citizens.

For the esteemed archaeologist, his embrace of anti-monarchism began by attending the fiery lectures of Morianna Razorclaw; incidentally, the griffoness had always been one of the unicorn’s most reliable sponsors. Not too long afterward, Dr. Merlot was solicited by a mystery client eager to not only lavish funding on him, but to supply him with their own elite security at the excavation project. In return, all Merlot had to do was analyze the ruins of a half-buried ancient house on the Itailian coast, and as it turned out, hoof over any that mentioned a Pearl of Destiny, one of the fabled dead-ends of treasure-hunting. Even when it became apparent that his new private security were actually loyal agents of WRAITH, Merlot didn’t bat an eye. Just as long as WRAITH paid the bills and do what the REG could not, the good doctor was all too happy to do business with known enemies of Equestria.

Which was why Dr. Merlot was invited to a night rally for WRAITH sympathizers in Stalliongrad. Like many others, the stallion heard much about the shadowy revolutionary Shadowmane, but precious little on who they actually were. The allure of the mystery only made Merlot more eager to attend, thus he made the necessary arrangements to cancel all other appointments and travel to the northern city. It took some time navigating the warehouse district, but the stallion did find the right address in the end.

Apparently, a diamond dog in laborer’s garb was standing by the front door. Merlot meanwhile dressed much more tastefully in his usual white suit and fedora. However, knowing how these underground people operated, the unicorn wasn’t stupid enough to simply walk towards the door. Instead, he casually trotted over to the diamond dog and initiated what appeared to be idle conversation; “Nice night for a stroll, isn’t it monsieur?”

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The door guard visibly rolled his eyes as the pony approached. He wasn't familiar with Dr. Merlot, having not worked for him or heard/read about his exploits. They probably would've bored him anyway.

But, if this stallion was a guest of WRAITH, he couldn't be too sour at him. He gave the pony a glance, arching a brow in curiosity before the good Doctor greeted him.

“Nice night for a stroll, isn’t it monsieur?”

A nice night? Certainly. Though he wasn't one for sneaking about. Dark or light, it was nice for working. 
For a stroll? No. Because now he was suspecting that this stallion might have just happened upon him by mistake. Stupid well-dressed ponies and their wandering. 
Monsieur? WHAT THE BONES IS A MONSIEUR?! He could hardly speak his own language, let alone bother to understand others.

Too many thoughts! Merlot was upsetting the hulk with pretty much a 'hello'. The simple-minded guard uncrossed his arms, glaring at the visitor. He bared fangs, gleaming white in the dim moonlight as he spoke a single word, carried like a demand: "Password."

The word came with the sickening popping of his massive knuckles as they clenched to fists, watching the pony to see if truly he was here for their glorious rally, or just a wanderer wasting time and drawing attention. 

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'I don't want to be here...This is a horrible idea. I should just be at home enjoying some tea or a book. This isn't fair...' Yù thought to herself as she made her way through the cold and dark alleyways of Canterlot. Before her chance encounter with a 'representative' and their ultimatum, the qilin had enjoyed a nighttime stroll here and there. The air was crisp and cool, and always afforded her a chance to clear her head. But now the night gave her chills. The shadows had eyes and ears everywhere. She didn't want to go to this stupid rally. But when the note had arrived for her and she found the message that laid within? Well she never really had a choice to begin with.

Yù wasn't the most stealthy of qilin, but neither was she the most foolish. A black robe rested atop her body, leaving only her muzzle and antlers sticking forth. She did what she must to assure that she blended in to the shadows but she was far from a ninja, and while an average citizen might not spot her, she likely stuck out like a sore thumb to any of the watchers that lurked the shadows. It sent another chill down her spine. The chill would grow colder still as around the corner she heard voices.

With a quick glance around the corner she has caught glimpse of a towering diamond dog with arms crossing his chest, making him look all the more threatening, and that was a feat. "Password." was the only word the behemoth of a canine spoke to an almost distinguished unicorn stallion. He looked rather familiar, though Yù couldn't quite place it. But that was neither here nor there. If the beastly looking diamond dog was asking for a password then surely this had to be the right place. Right? Maybe it'd be best to just wait things out a bit and see...

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The Diamond Dog’s fangs and fists made Dr. Merlot flinch momentarily. Normally, the gentlecolt would have laughed off this strong-back as just another dull-witted plebeian. But Merlot was no fool; he knew the sort of characters he was dealing with. To play the role of the wisecrack now was simply not the wise course of action. Seconds later, Merlot recollected himself with a nervous smile. “Very well,” the stallion tried to chuckle before quietly whispering into the guard’s ear; “You cannot kill that which is already dead.” Merlot was suddenly glad he took the invitation ‘recommendation’ to memorize that motto seriously.

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The guard grunted as the pony conceded the password at last. He thought that conversation was going to last forever! What chatterboxes some ponies could be.

The thug had to lean down to hear the pony's whisper, an ear stiffened to pick up the password. Of course, he had a fist clenched and wound up behind him, ready to send this unicorn on an express trip to the solar system if the password was wrong. When he heard the magic 8 words, Dog snorted and stood straight again. "Smart pony..." he gruffly answered. Stepping aside from the door, he hoped the pony would take his opportunity to enter quickly. 

One down, who knows how many to go? Dog almost prayed that some foolish Princess sympathizer would try to get by him. Guard duty was so horribly dull sometimes. But this wasn't any normal guard duty. He wouldn't let himself get distracted! Mostly because he was ordered to.


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Dr. Merlot’s passphrase was accepted by the guard, his nervous grin turning into a flashier smile. Giving a proper tip of the hat to the Diamond Dog, the gentlecolt wasted no time in ushering himself inside the warehouse. As this event was nothing like the typical high-society functions Merlot was accustomed to, he swore to keep more of an open mind towards anything and anyone he encountered. After all, someone with the ambition and resolve to prove their opposition to a careless monarch surely was a cut above the mindless masses content with mediocrity.

As expected of a storage facility in the middle of a Stalliongrad industrial district, the warehouse interior was rather bare-bones. However, fanatic volunteers had saw fit to decorate the walls with propaganda posters and crimson banners depicting a black kraken, the emblem of WRAITH. A stage had also been set up at the front of the chamber, with a map of the world as a backdrop. No benches were present; standing room only. Oh, and there were also grim-faced guards posted at intervals, ready to make life miserable for any enemy of WRAITH that revealed themself.

Merlot must have been one of the early ones, as not too many attendees hadn’t showed up yet. So he’d patiently wait.....

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As Yù watched the suited pony whisper to the surely surly diamond dog, the qilin steeled herself as her nerves began to rise. She knew that the doordog would likely have very little patience for anyone who even looked remotely scared to be here. Taking a deep breath, Yù put on her best poker face and strolled around the corner as the other guest entered the warehouse. If one isn't confident, one can fake it until it's no longer fake.

"Good evening, I hope I'm not too early for the party." she said with a faux confident smile. Though it was already clear that this wall of a canine was not one for pleasantries and chit chat, but more for business and busting heads if the need arose. So there was no need to prolong the awkwardness she felt. "I won't waste your time though with idle banter, you've clearly got a job to do. You cannot kill that which is already dead." while far from a whisper, it was better than her shouting it out where just anyone could hear it.

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Across the street, inside one of the other warehouses in the district, Amber's ears very carefully did not perk. Nor did they strain, jerk, or provide any outward clue that she'd finally heard what she needed to. Instead she kept working on the lock to the front door, one of eight in the building she'd been hired to maintain and the last one she needed to replace. Unlike the seven others, though, this one was already assembled in her pack.

It had taken her the better part of a night to assemble each of the previous locks, and she'd done them on-site. She was taking the same measurements for this one, and soon would withdraw to her makeshift workshop deep in the warehouse itself. 'Conveniently', this workshop had access to the maintenance tunnels that ran through the area, from which the master thief RED HERRING would be making an appearance soon. She was certain the entire block was being watched, including the maintenance entrances for the building itself, but the city hall records she'd acquired showed that aside from the front door, the managers' entrance, and the wiindows, there really wasn't another way in.

The event was too high security for even Red to get in completely unnoticed, so tonight would be a working interview, of sorts. Amber was sure Red would be seen, but she was going to do her best to make sure that the handful of ponies who did see them know that they are the best burglar they were ever going to see.

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According to the general theory of this whole WRAITH rally, the only creatures, ponies or otherwise, that would be in attendance would be those vetted through the thorough process of surveying, psych-testing, and secret invitations.  In practice, of course, matters were to prove more complicated.

Like any other organization, WRAITH didn't just need members, it needed funding.  Revolutions did not come cheap on today's market.  And to its credit, Shadowmane had been quite clever and quite discreet about soliciting donations, from the few bits the duped public, to more substantial annuities from more shadowy and sinister figures.  After all, the Equestrian Regime had no shortage of external enemies who would like nothing more than to see the reign of the Princesses come to an ignoble end.

Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings, was one such enemy.  Twice defeated upon the field of battle, she would naturally turn to more... subtle methods to undermine her enemies, and so had pledged one of her best underlings to fill a top position, as well as promises of greater resources and ling-power should the occasion arise.  So that was all well and good, but like any other good ruler, she wanted to make sure that her resources were actually being put to use in ways that would benefit the Hive.  Hence, she had intervened to attach a "plus one" to Sachadara's invite...

As it turned out, the "plus one" would arrive earlier than the actual invited guest, with undiminished confidence of step.  Not that Kahz the changeling would be so bold as to actually turn up undisguised, but to garb oneself as an earth pony with a twisted back and leg (a necessity enforced by his own deformed chitin) took a certain degree of inner surety.  Much of it came from being entrusted with such an important task by the Queen herself.  A whole program evaluation!  This was high responsibility indeed.  Truth be told, Shadowmane would really have to impress for Kahz to return a favorable report; his favored MO was diplomacy, engagement, and subtle bargaining rather than political subversion.  On the other hoof, he had to admit that if WRAITH was successful, that would pretty much make all diplomacy up to this point moot.  Being first and foremost a Loyalist to the Hive and Chrysalis, the diminutive changeling felt duty-bound to go and make an honest evaluation.

He trotted up to Dog, noting with approval his bearing and readiness.  He smiled, always ready to make a new friend.  Especially in a place where he had so few. "Good to see you, I'm Kahz!" He said in a bright tone of normal volume, before drawing closer to whisper the passphrase he'd gotten from Sachadara, "You can't kill what is already dead."  He was less than certain on that point, if he was completely honest, given that he'd seen ponies successfully fight against undead beasts.  Still, not the best time to bring that up...


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The next two guests showed up rather quickly behind each other. Dog thought this could be the beginning of a big rush of attendees, so he had to steel himself to get these ponies and otherwise through the door quickly, lest they draw too much attention. I mean, a herd of random creatures swarming around a big dog to get into a random warehouse probably didn't look too conspicuous at all.

First, the Qilin. He had never seen one before, and had only heard of them recently. But at least she wasn't a pony. That, dog could be pleased with. 

Dog resisted the urge to reach out and touch those horns that protruded from her hood, moreso because they drew his attention than anything. But, he knew Number One wouldn't be too keen on him putting his paws all over the guests. He was harassing them enough demanding a password and being imposing. So, he resisted his curiosity, and even smiled when she provided the password. Without him having to ask, even! "Thank you!" he responded, gladly standing aside for the not-pony guest.

Next was the guest who introduced himself by name. "Kaaaaaahhz..." he droned slowly, repeating the name as if committing it to what short memory he may have. Even though the pony(?) had supplied the password rather quickly, Dog seemed reluctant to step aside at first. No, instead he leaned forward to inquisitively sniff the air around Kahz, scrunching. "Pony smells funny... Not right..." he noted out loud before standing straight. He knew of changelings, but could never really nail their scent. Well... The strange-smelling pony did give him the password. With a huff, he let Kahz pass as well, though was watching him very closely.

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Yù let out a mental sigh of relief as she saw the diamond dog break into a smile. She even got a thanks! Maybe he wasn't such a scary pup after all...so long as you're not on his bad side at least. "Of course! Have a great night." she replied with a dip of her head. Glancing over her shoulder, the qilin gave the other arrival a quick look over and a soft smile before making her way into the warehouse. It was strange that so far, aside from the guard, everyone who showed up seemed relatively...normal!

With a feeling of trepidation, Yù glanced around the dark and dreary warehouse, the ominous looking banners of WRAITH rustling softly as a breeze rolled in behind her. It seemed that she—along with the dapper stallion from earlier and the pony behind her—was rather early. The only other soul that seemed to be around was a stallion off a little further into the warehouse, leaning on a pillar. Beside the diamond dog, he was the only one here that she could see that gave her a sense of foreboding. Or at least she thought it was foreboding. But ancestors was he gorgeous! The mask he wore only added to the mystique. It was hard to take her eyes off him, but if she kept staring it'd get creepy she was sure. To the best of her ability Yù dragged her attention back to reality and moseyed over to a quiet little corner. Maybe over here no one would bother her. Wishful thinking at the very least.

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Amber had heard the password. Twice now, actually. She had also double checked her measurements and knew her pre-assembled lock would fit this door, and would be considerably more difficult for anyone to pick or break through than its predecessor. Two jobs well done, she retreated into the building's interior and prepared. First came the temporary pelt-dye, an imported concoction that washed out easily, but only when the catalyst she kept in her conditioner was applied. She applied it to her whole face, even though most of it would be covered, leaving the fur a soft crimson. Another batch went into her mane, just in case, this one causing it to turn dark brown from the mixed colours. Next, she slid into her suit and zipped it closed. She was proud of the suit because it provided a lot of padding that also helped mask her build. Finally, once her dye was set, she donned the distinctive helmet that hid her horn, blocked her eyes from casual observation, and prevented her from speaking accidentally thanks to the strap that held it in place.

Red Herring loaded their pockets with the necessary tools for tonight's expedition: a tension wrench, a few lock picks, an honest-to-Celestia paperclip, some rope, a hook, a flashlight, a pepper bomb, a document tube, and a document tube with a recording device set in the cap. Before Red secured the strap to their helmet, they muttered the passphrase into the recording device and readied it so that it could be played back or recorded over if need be. And finally, they descended the stairs into the maintenance tunnels beneath the warehouse district.
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Hm, oh dear.  It seemed the friendly approach wasn't bringing in the dividends with this particular doorkeeper.  Kahz was momentarily nonplussed, before Dog clarified what raised his suspicions.  "Ah, I see.  Well, I didn't have time to apply my cologne before arriving!"  He stepped cheerily through the door, just enough so that he was out of view of the street, before dropping his disguise.  Looking back at Dog, he gave what he hoped look like a reassuring wink.  It wouldn't do his position as the Hive's plenipotentiary any good to leave a trail of suspicion, mistrust, or even confusion behind him.

*I really need to polish the scent aspect of my disguise kit; the Diamond Dog clans are split in their loyalties, and some may be siding with... well, anyone, really.*  Reflecting ruefully on this oversight, he stepped into the main room for the rally.  He gave a low whistle at the decor; suitably impressive and sinister.  Perhaps the Queen's meeting rooms could use a few banners of similar make?  Not many seemed to be present, but among the few who were...

 "Well well, good doctor!" Kahz smiled, approaching the unicorn he recognized from a certain wedding he had performed at.  "I wouldn't have guessed your disaffection ran so deep, nor that such would run so high in Equestrian society.  I'm afraid most of the rest here will be mere oiks like me."  He passed the self-deprecating remark off with a laugh, but he was truly surprised, inwardly.  In his own reconnaissance ventures, he couldn't name one pony he'd ever met that was rebellion material.  And from his own experiences in the Hive, the higher up one was, the more satisfied one tended to be with the status quo.  Very interesting, then, to find Merlot here.  Very interesting indeed...


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So the night wasn't turning out to be a right bust. Blimey.


After all, fear of the ruling sisters spread far and wide, enticing all the right good colts and fillies into behaving how they needed them to behave to maintain their iron clad rule. That fact alone would make most ponies skip off, if they'd even gotten as far as figuring out the secret rally. No matter how often they proved their ruling methods were a shambles, that fear sent ponies scurrying right back into their swarmy hooves. It was fear of the unknown, that's what it was. Equestria had only ever known an Alicorn Princess sitting 'top her flank on the royal throne, and no matter how barmy she was, that was all they would ever understand. That's why WRAITH was needed - to show Equestria there was another way, a better way, one that would prove how gaff those two incompetent sisters were.


The organization was already working its magic.


Revenant vaguely recognized the posh stallion that had wandered in - some sort of business partner? Investor? Liked to waffle on. One of WRAITH's allies who liked playing dirty but keeping his hooves prim - but the one that really got his attention was the Qilin that ambled inside after him. Her, he also recognized, but only because she stuck out like a sore hoof. It had been after an, admittedly bodged job, that he noticed her being brought in. Too tired to do anything other than simply notice, but enough for Revenant to recognize her.


Again - wasn't all difficult, that.  


She wasn't being all that subtle, either, and Revenant didn't bother hiding his interest the same way she so blatantly displayed hers. In fact, his red eyes remained fixed on the Qilin long after she'd settled down into her corner, one eyebrow quirked in amusement. Bit of a wallflower, she was.


No, nonono, that wouldn't do at all, now would it. It took little thought to push himself off the pillar and saunter over to said reclusive corner - and not so reclusive, now that he was here. 


"Evenin', lovlie," Revenant chimed up, though he supposed he needn't really have - he hadn't exactly snuck through the shadows, right. His new leaning post became the wall beside the Qilin, on the side against the back wall so as not to obstruct her view of the other ponies milling about. Less obtrusive, it was, less of an attack. To her, at least. "Doing all right there? You know, a nice meet 'n greet works better than having a bubble and moving off to this corner," he commented idly, a grin stretching out under his mask that the Qilin probably couldn't make out in the dim atmosphere. He was hoping she wasn't one of those meek and mild researcher types, the ones who jumped right out of their skins if a higher-up so much as glanced at them, but...well.


They had their uses, too.

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Apparently, Dr. Merlot was remembered by at least one misshapen earth pony. Unfortunately, the reverse wasn’t true as well, giving the good doctor reason for concern. Was this supposed to be some sort of attempt at blackmail? No, it couldn’t be; Merlot had few enemies, and they were all treasure-snatching thieves rather than schemers. He kept good business deals with all his clients too, even through those bad times when fiends like Pathfinder plundered at will. Perhaps Merlot was envisioning enemies where none existed? Perhaps so, but the stallion was ever mindful that attending this Rally could be construed as an act of rebellion; something that could land him in a dungeon one day.

With that in mind, the Merlot wavered for a moment before flashing one of his fake grins. “Excuse me,” the gentlecolt asked; “Do I know you from somewhere?” As far as the unicorn knew, nopony among high-society looked as misshapen as this stranger. Well, at least had this been a more social occasion, Merlot’s ego would have been satisfied from being recognized so easily.

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Kahz was at first puzzled by Merlot's non-recognition of him.  He would have thought that seeing a changeling willing to walk in undisguised at at a society wedding would have been memorable enough to stick permanently in a pony's mind... before realizing that he'd reassumed his disguise instinctively.  "Huh, well, I guess you wouldn't; not having been formally introduced to this particular face before."  The changeling dropped disguise again, this time for good.  "Perhaps I ought to sing a few notes; wedding songs aren't usually catchy, but I think mine buck the trend."

As he made small talk, Kahz's wings began to flap and buzz idly; needing to be stretched after so long a disguised compression.  His compound eyes enabled him to gain a wider field of view than most pony's with their one iris, and thus he was able to devote some attention to the other pair of guests in the corner.  If his instincts and deduction were not leading him wrong, he would guess the cloth-swathed stallion was taking the opportunity to place a few moves on the exotic beauty before the meeting began.  Like you do.

*Hmph.  Wish I'd thought to do that; but that... whatever she is, looks new.  Not likely to give any really valuable information.  Should probably talk to the stallion at some point, though; I don't believe he came in through the front door, so he's part of the host team...*


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Yù's ears twitched softly as she heard a voice break the stillness around her. Glancing up, the qilin's surprise was clear on her face as she saw that it was the stallion she had just finished admiring. A pleasant surprise thought to be sure.

Clearing her throat, the young mare pulled her hood down at last and gave the masked pony a sweet smile of her own as she brushed a few strands of her dark mane away from her face. "Well hello yourself, handsome." Yù replied, the smile growing into a grin. "I'm doing better than I was before, to be sure. Truth be told though I was a little apprehensive about this to say the least but, well, I figure I should at least know who I'm working for and who I'm working with."

Yù stood up a little straighter and glanced around the warehouse. For a big terrifying organization, it was still rather barren here. But how many were here that she just couldn't see. Better to not dwell on that now. "And if they're all as easy on the eyes as you? Maybe this night won't be so bad after all." she added with a wink.

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Red ghosted through the access tunnels, not quite sewers but nowhere near well-traveled, and took seemingly random turns at each intersection. They knew perfectly where they were, of course, and were keeping a keen eye out for signs of recent travel. This was the weakest link in their plan, and their heart was pounding in their ears as they sped this way and that. Finally, they reached a locked grate under the disused warehouse next to their ultimate destination. The lock had been upgraded for a combination lock, and recently.

It was the work of half a moment to surround the lock with their subtle magics. Ten seconds and they could feel the dial. Fifteen seconds and they could hear the casters as they turned it. Thirty and they could almost see the tumblers as they slid into position. By fourty-five, Red Herring was on the other side of the gate, and the lock was just on the cusp of being relocked, where they left it carefully balanced. Red wasn't sure if they were being observed as they mounted the stairs of the ostensibly empty warehouse, but acted as if there were observers everywhere. They extended their senses, slipping the aura quickly around the room as they entered and slipping through as silent as a dream.

Their final objective for this leg of their journey was a room on the upper level, ordinarily reserved for the management office, where they had discovered, quite by accident, one of the windows had been removed before the building was vacated. Their goal was simple. Check to see if the building was observed. Get the hook and rope from one building to the next, cross over and open a window upstairs, and slip in quietly to watch and listen. They could already see a few ponies on the opposite side of the warehouse, but suspected they were either plants, decoys, or mannequins.
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Secrets were power.  Power was security.  Security was life.  No one knew this better than Daedalus.  Maretonian politics were all about the trade and leveraging of secrets.  The fungibility of secrets at times even exceeded that of raw currency.  With money, you could buy services.  With secrets, you could buy power and ensure its safety.

His “concierge” in Canterlot had received a letter for him while he was in Ponyville, a coded communique with only one clue as to its origin: a Society for a New Dawn.  Research within the Keep was enough to jog Daedalus’ memory of a survey he had filled out long ago during a job in Aquellia.  Admittedly, it was done mostly in jest.  After all, how could one seriously answer “Would you gleefully take candy from a baby?”

Obviously, there was another layer that he had missed on the first pass.  A bit of rudimentary codebreaking revealed the plaintext to be an address and time with a simple passphrase: “You cannot kill that which is already dead.”  The passphrase was enough to give Daedalus pause upon first discovery.  There was a certain ring of familiarity with it, a few barely tangible whispers that had circled in the background while he had been “taking care” of a client with ties to Aquellian parliament.  Something lurked in the shadows, something powerful, something ripe for harvest.  Both curiosity and the mania of Kastroti fixation drove him to investigate.

Thus, Daedalus found himself deep in the Forge District of Stalliongrad at an ostensibly unassuming warehouse with ostensibly standard security and ostensibly uninteresting contents.  It was obviously a lie.  A stealthy, low-powered scrying pulse all but confirmed what a morning walkabout had revealed.  It was less a warehouse than an assembly area.  Armed guards patrolled the perimeter.  Areion observers kept a watchful eye above.  A gruff diamond dog blocked the entrance with sheer muscle mass.  An outlaw party this was not.  Something important was happening, something that Daedalus could feel in his bones.

As he neared, Daedalus ensured his personal wards were prepared.  He anticipated no combat, but he was certain there would be plenty of intelligence gathered on those present.  That was his game and he would not be outplayed by a bunch of amateurs!  If he was to be identified or otherwise catalogued, it would only be the information he allowed to do so.

The spell array he assembled was simple: a misdirection enchantment, a perception screen, and a scrying ward all stored within his tattoo reservoir.  Individually, the spells constituted a mere party trick.  Together, they ensured that he would be difficult to recognize face to face, difficult to notice by those not looking specifically for him, and virtually invisible to cameras or scrying.  That would be sufficient for him to find leads without jeopardizing this unique opportunity.  Though the spells left no measurable signature, an unearthly chill seemed to follow Daedalus as he arrived.

Finally, Daedalus reached the door.  Even behind the spells and cloak, he could not hide a self-satisfied smirk as he addressed the guard dog.  “I take it this is the place?”

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Perhaps a bit newer blood than he had thought.


Which was a bit of a stunner, to realize she was such a recent recruit that she really had no idea what she had gotten herself into. That, or she was playing coy, sniffing about for more information before revealing all much about her. But if that wasn't the case...then she had willingly walked into this rally on her own accord, without the faintest idea of the paths she was making. Was she barking? 


...Or! Or, perhaps she wasn't as wiling as he had initially believed. WRAITH preferred its members and associates voluntary and willfully, for the most part - right easier to command a grunt to jump in front of an arrow if they actually wanted to. But on the...rare, occasion, where a specific individual's skills were required and said individual wasn't feeling particularly accommodating...well. There was always room for...discussion. 


This Qilin, however, didn't really give off a feeling of either, prompting Revenant to do nothing more than shift one eyebrow up a bit, not bothering to remove his own face mask as she took down her hood. "Ah, now that's the rub, isn't it," the Unicorn commented slyly, jabbing his snout towards the few ponies milling about the large space, "I'm afraid I'm one of a kind." 


Which is when Revenant became aware of the heat emitting from the pouch strapped to his right hindleg.


Whatever reassurances he was ready to pitch to the Qilin about the quality and quaint of her new acquaintances fell off his lips, even as the Unicorn casually straightened out against the wall as if he were attempting to find a more comfortable position. In truth, the shift pressed the stone against his leg and the wall, allowing Revenant to confirm the fact that yes, one of the magically coded gates to the maintenance tunnels beneath the river docks had been opened. Every bloody inch of the area had been combed over from snout to tail, from the highest buildings to the lowest sewers, and while security had been more concerned with topside, they hadn't forgotten to account for bottoms-up. 


Unfortunately, the magic stone he'd been given didn't account for which maintenance gate, grate, or shaft had been opened - only that one of them had. The amount of spellpower and security it would have taken to code each gate to a specific stone, or station guards at every waypoint, would have been barking mad...but now, was looking a little bit less. Still, no use dwelling on it now.


Not while there was an intruder in their midst. 


"No use puttin' it off," Revenant spoke up again, and waved one black-swathed hoof at the other few ponies in the area, "get to mingling. Make some friends. None are as handsome as I, true, but they're fine blokes, nonetheless." A quick wink was his last parting gift as Revenant pushed off of the wall, a last, "Go on, then," before he was sauntering away from the corner, pulling up his hood in a well-practiced movement as he strode all the way 'cross the floor to end up at the entrance door - and where he wasted no time poking his head out. 


"Oi oi," Revenant called out softly, not really expecting an answer as he brought himself out the rest of the way, moving to against the wall of the warehouse next to Dog - next to him, not on the other side of the entrance. "All right, mate. Hey, how 'ya doing,"  the Unicorn murmured briefly to the red stallion waiting for entrance, red eyes trained on the individual before roving back to the Diamond Dog. 


"Listen here, Dog," the darkly colored stallion said after a moment, head tilting to the side to better speak with the Diamond Dog in a tone low enough to avoid eavesdropping from the waiting guest, "listen. Seems we've got ourselves a bit of an intruder, right. Someone wanting to play by their own rules." Revenant paused to the let the words sink in - and also to give the Diamond Dog time to comprehend them. He took the opportunity to briefly lower his face mask and let out one sharp, but not shrill, whistle, uncaring if the sound irritated the sensitive ears of the being next to him. Because he was watching for it, Revenant barely caught scant movement from the rooftops as the scouts took notice of his signal, now on hyper-alert as the Unicorn turned back to his companion.


That he did all of this in front of the red stallion didn't bother him, either - no, that self-satifised smirk told Revenant the other stallion knew exactly what was going on here, and the cloak-and-dagger routine didn't work so well on those with the know-how and information. That in itself warranted some deeper exploration, but in truth, most of Revenant's attention for the other stallion fell onto the curious hexagonal pattern folded around one of his forelegs.


What the blast. When had it gotten so chilled outside?


"He's trying to make fools of us, ai? Trying to sneak inside - like some sort of, sneak pony," he continued after pulling his face mask back over his snout, eyebrows raised in supplication even as he continued speaking in a low tone. This was probably a dangerous thing to do with a guest waiting just at the doorway, but Revenant needed to make sure the bumbling brute knew what he was doing. "You need to make sure these sneak ponies won't be waltzing on all brilliant like, all right?" Revenant paused again - it was always a safe bet to go slow with Dog, lest he miss some vital information in that pitifully small brain of his - before leaning inwards, head cocked as he pointed a hoof to his ear. "Go on mate, tell me again - what's the secret passphrase you're looking to hear." 

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He was being a good Dog. So far, everypony he saw and he let through gave him the passphrase. The Changeling changing back didn't go unnoticed however, making Dog mumble and growl to himself. "Stupid bug-things..." he complained under his breath. Regardless of the intent, the guard seemed to take the Changeling's wink as provocation. That, and he didn't like feeling duped. "Stupid bug-thing not be so smug when Dog crush his STUPID-!"

But the Changeling gave the password... And he was getting louder with each word of his threat of bodily harm to an honored guest. In an odd change of heart, he stopped himself from finishing his little tantrum. "Cannot upset Number One. Number One count on Dog. Number One need Dog..." he kept babbling to himself in this manner until her did indeed feel a chill, without any wind. Taking stock of his surroundings, he spotted a very odd pony before him. He noticed the pony but it felt like he wasn't all there, making the dog arch a brow as he studied the stallion probably for a big longer than appropriate. Even after his inquiry,  “I take it this is the place?”

Dog was bewildered, but scowled. It didn't take a genius to know what was afoot. "Stupid magic..." he grumbled, well audible to the possible guest. He didn't really like ponies in general, but unicorns rubbed him the worst. They tended to be more fragile, though. "This is place..." he responded, trying his best to sound vague, and awaited the password.

But, as he waited, his friend the Revenant appeared next to him. He thought he got along fine with him. But his sudden appearance caused the guard to squint at him, giving the pony a hesitant jab with his sausage finger to make sure he wasn't an apparition or something. The fact that the familiar pony didn't pop or change shape or something seemed to satisfy him. "Dog listen!" he finally affirmed before he was given a new set of instructions. As soon as the word 'intruder' came out of his mouth, a more than audible whine came from the guard, suddenly looking terrified. Did somepony get past him?! Was he in trouble?! DID HE FAIL?!

But as he was given time to let it sink in, his fear very quickly grew to rage. His fur stood on end, his eyes like pinpricks as he involuntary started to snarl, practically foaming. The jarring whistle brought him slightly back to reality, shaking his head to try and alleviate the ring. 

"You need to make sure these sneak ponies won't be waltzing on all brilliant like, all right?"

"Dog will crush stupid sneak pony! Dog will grind his bones to DUST!" he shouted, before being given a test. Probably to make sure he was still in command of his faculties. Or if he could remember his previous instructions before these ones came along. Information storage was at a premium in Dog's brain. Dog knealt down and leaned in to meet the Revenant's ear, covering the space between them with a meaty paw to mumble 'you cannot kill that which is already dead'. He had to reherse it several times before today just to make sure he couldn't screw up his own password. 

When he stood back up, the Diamond Dog was shaking with anger, ready to bury his fists into something. His gaze shot back at the mage, too riled up to take caution of what dark power this stallion might possess. "Are you sneak pony?! WHAT IS PASSWORD?!" he roared, waiting.

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The guard dog stared long and hard at Daedalus, his mouth moving ever so slightly as if to say something but never quite getting words out.  Daedalus could almost hear the gears grinding inside the poor dog’s head.  The slightest of snorts escaped Daedalus’ nostrils as he stifled a laugh.  Oh dear, he’d really thrown the diamond dog for a loop hadn’t he?

“Stupid magic…”  He finally mumbled.  “This is place…”

"Ah, excellent.  Good to know that the map they sent was -- "

Daedalus was interrupted by the sudden opening of the door behind Dog.  A dark stallion with a single lock of teal mane drooping past his face poked his head out.  The stallion from inside tossed a quick greeting to Daedalus, to which the mage acknowledged with a nod of his chin.  Daedalus, however, was far more interested in the conversation between the new arrival and “Dog,” as he called the guard.  Quaint.

Though the conversation started out in hushed whispers, the other stallion spoke slowly enough and with sufficient enunciation (presumably more for Dog’s edification than his own) to easily pick out what was said.  It appeared there was an intruder on the grounds, one that had obviously managed to slip past the perimeter and was not coming in the front door.  Oh ho ho, something interesting was happening.

But as the whispered conversation continued, as curious change befell Dog.  First he was clearly afraid, his body language made it plain.  Then he was puzzled, as if it took extra effort to comprehend what the other stallion was trying to tell him.  Finally, came anger, smoldering, growling consternation at first that rapidly escalated into a berserker’s rage.

"Dog will crush stupid sneak pony! Dog will grind his bones to DUST!"

Daedalus took a step back, not in fear, but in preparation to leap or blink aside if Dog decided to take his frustrations out upon the nearest bystander.  He’d rather not finish the night in the hospital with nothing to show for it.

"Are you sneak pony?! WHAT IS PASSWORD?!"

The force of Dog’s inflection was sufficient to billow Daedalus’ cape out behind him and suspend his braided mane and tail as if being blown by a small hurricane.  Daedalus scrunched his muzzle at the rank odor that accompanied Dog’s bellowing screech.  Did he ever brush his teeth?  Finally, the guard dog’s agitated roar faded, allowing Daedalus’ attire and coiffure to return to some semblance of normality.

There were easily a dozen ways that the mage could have ended Dog right then -- a crystalline wall, a portal into the void, a spectral wall of spears, an exploding aetheric double -- but all were excessive.  The outburst was a tantrum, a consequence of being frustrated with things beyond the poor dog’s control, less an act of intimidation than an act of catharsis.  Thus, Daedalus stayed his hoof and calmly recited the password.

“You cannot kill that which is already dead.” He said flatly.  The password recited, the natural lilt in Daedalus’ tone returned.  “Now, forgive me for eavesdropping, but I could not help but overhear something about ‘sneak ponies.’  Perhaps I can offer my services in asssistance?”

There were plenty of reasons to offer help immediately.  If the party packed up because of an uninvited guest, Daedalus walked away with nothing.  It was in his best interest to ensure that the show went on.  Second, if he ingratiated himself to those in charge, he was more likely to gain access to information that would otherwise be restricted.  Finally, he could also scout for potential allies within the order itself.  The more assets he could claim, the better.  Perhaps the blue stallion would be willing to accommodate him?

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