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The Secret Rally (Sign-up in OOC Thread)


Bellosh
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There was a sudden burst of noise from inside the warehouse, and the mood of the entrance instantly changed.  It was apparently starting, whatever 'it' was, and now all the obvious gate guards were eager to get inside.  A stroke of luck in some ways, but it also meant 'Sure Strike' risked missing something as well.  She shoved aside Shield Tsunder, who was moving too slow for her tastes, and put her head close to the gate guard's before muttering “You cannot kill that which is already dead” at a volume she hoped would be just loud enough for the dog to hear but quiet enough that nopony else would be able to cheat the pass phrase.

 

Either it was good enough, or the gate guard was eager enough to get going that he got sloppy, but moments later 'Sure Strike' was practically being shoved into the warehouse.  And she had to admit, she really wasn't expecting the crowd.  She certainly wasn't expecting them to be this noisy.  So much for “secret”, the way this was going half of Stalliongrad would probably know what was happening here by the end of the evening.  It might make her job easier though, as it was all the more likely that no one would notice what she was doing with all the commotion and energy in the room, as long as she didn't draw any attention to herself.

 

The speech, and more importantly the resulting reaction from the crowd, were...intense.  Fortunately for 'Sure Strike', she'd experienced this sort of thing before, if differently directed.  She'd been to a rally similar to this once, and she'd felt hate often enough to have built up a bit of a thicker hide to it.  As it was, she shuddered a bit, but then was ready to do what she'd set out to do.

 

'Sure Strike' took subtle glances around the room, disguised as simple curiosity, but in truth she was looking for anyone that stood out as noteworthy.  No one stood out at first, except perhaps for Shadowmane, who was of course completely obscured.  Although there was one interesting bit of information there.  Supposedly Shadowmane was once a student of Princess Celestia's.  'Sure Strike' knew it could be a lie spoken as part of the act, but it might be worth looking into later.

 

Then she noted a crippled changeling, Kahz, that she'd seen a couple of times before.  For a moment she paused, staring at him, before remembering where she was and shifting hergaze onward.  This could be a problem.  The last thing 'Sure Strike' was expecting was somepony who actually might recognize her alter-ego.  Granted, Kahz had never seen this disguise of hers, so if she playing it safe like she already was then everything should be alright.  She was more concerned that Kahz was here at all, given that the previous time they met he'd seemed so friendly for a loyalist changeling, until she noticed how unhappy he seemed to be there.  Wondering what it was he was doing there then, 'Sure Strike' started sidling closer to him in the hopes of catching snippets of conversation, which she played off as trying to get a better position from which to see the stage.

 

---

 

Elsewhere in the room, off to the side of the crowd, a side door opened and an imposing purple earth pony emerged, ducking a little as she strode through the door.  She wore only her travelling cloak at the moment, as likely wouldn't have been allowed her usual equipment past the entrance.  Her broadsword and bandoleers were nearby regardless, hidden away with a trusted lieutenant she'd brought with her to Stalliongrad.  Providence had just returned from a meeting of sorts, with a few member's of the rally's security.  Not quite here as a guest, but also not being a member of the security detail, had left her in a peculiar position.  Whether or not she would provide support and horsepower for WRAITH would depend on money and if Providence could provide a useful service for them, not idealogy, so the rally wasn't meant for her.  But neither were any of the ponies in charge available for discussion.  So, she'd been passing the time 'talking shop' as it were with some of the lower ranking guards.

 

The commotion in the main chamber had drawn Providence back out.  The rally proper was getting underway, and Providence walked just as the assembles creatures were...venting their frustrations at Equestria's foremost princess.  Providence agreed with a few of them, she personally found Princess Celestia weak and somewhat gullible given the current state of the world, but soon her attitude changed.

 

For just a moment, a scowl of rage flashed across Providence's face.  How dare they!  They, who could benefit so much from the princess' benefit so much, if they hadn't already, being so willing to throw her to the wolves and use her as a punching bag!
And then the earth pony regained her composure, reminding herself that now was not the time to be overcome with emotion.  This...fault, could be corrected later, but for the moment Providence would simply be professional.  She was hear to learn.

 

As such, Providence shifted her focus from the crowd, to Shadowmane herself.  As she did, the earth pony noticed two things.  First, obviously Shadowmane's goal was to get the crowd riled up.  No big surprise, these were likely meant to be the in the planned and, ultimately necessary revolution.  Second, was the Shadowmane's own complaints were conspicuously absent, perhaps allowing the crowd the first word and thus letting them hear whatever they wanted to hear.  “Just was is your plan? Providence voiced her thoughts aloud, going for the most part unheard in the din of the room.

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It was difficult to hide his scoff at the sheer level of bombast in the speech.

 

Thankfully, the cheers of the crowd drowned out anything that Daedalus could possibly have said.  The voice that Shadowmane used was distorted, heavily processed by some sort of magical filter, making it impossible to determine gender, age, or ethnicity.  The cadence of their speech matched Common Equestrian, but Daedalus was at a loss as to where in Equestria the accent was based.  Shadowmane’s voice itself also made use of magical tricks and amplifiers scattered throughout the warehouse.  Daedalus could feel emitters go online as Shadowmane spoke, making their voice seem to come from everywhere at once instead of merely being on stage.  The level of spectacle was maddening, and it was easy to see how they were managing to rile the crowd of sheep up like they did.

 

The content of Shadowmane’s speech was just as curious as their diction and cadence.  Daedalus had access to all of Twilight’s records in the Keep and with a little prodding could also likely gain access to the Canterlot Royal Archives to fact check anything that might have been said.  While he had done little in depth research into Celestia’s personal history, he knew from speaking with Twilight and his cursory readings that there were very few ponies who could consider themselves to be Princess Celestia’s personal students.  Daedalus knew of only two and he was working for one of them.  Either Shadowmane was a liar or the conspiracy went so deep that Daedalus risked drowning in it.  It was easy to deduce which was more likely.

 

What concerned Daedalus, however, was not Shadowmane themself, but the reaction of the crowd.  "Liar!" "Cheater!" "Corrupt!" "Speciest!" "Weak!" "Traitor!"  Such chants did not even belong in the halls of the Assembly of Heads.  Corruption may have run rampant in the halls of power in Kastrot, but everypony knew their place in the system and how to play the game.  Their rhetoric was mere lip service to cover well-acknowledged machinations of those in the background.  This… this was raw uninhibited rage, rage that would ordinarily come only from years of systematic oppression.  There were inklings of it in Hipposton and in the uncivilized parts of Hesperia where slavery still existed in small criminal enclaves, but it was nearly unheard of in mainland Equestria.

 

His ear twitched at the chant of “Long Live Luna” that barely registered above the din of Celestia-hate.  Nightmare was defeated, was she not?  And the Luna that ruled now was very much aligned with her sister in opinions on governance.  Again, Daedalus was not one to immediately advocate conspiracy theories, but his curiosity was very much piqued.  Just what kind of Luna were they cheering on?  Was Shadowmane some sort of proxy or were they truly the boss of the outfit?


While mentally cataloguing, Daedalus ensured that an ear was kept to the scryer for warning of any further surprises.

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Even after emptying his guts, Kahz still felt as if some internal chemistry had soured.  A lump of bitterness sat in his stomach like an iron weight, but he was no longer so distracted that he couldn't analyze the situation.  It wasn't good, that much was obvious, but was this a sign of deeply hidden animosity in Equestrian society, or was this simply a gathering of all the crazies?

 

Or rather... just enough of the crazies?  Crowd dynamics could affect the Hive as much as any other polity, and localized exceptions could move a mass.  Given what he had seen of Equestria, this... this had to be an exception.  An exception in an echo chamber; dear Chrysalis, he was feeling ill again.  The tides of hatred were battering against his mind like waves, threatening to sweep him into the crowd, just to make himself feel just that slightest bit less out of place-

 

And then he felt a pair of hooves seize him, breaking the current.  Yu's emotions were not the sweetest, fear combined with a search for comfort, but there was something like affection there.  Clinging to this rock of relative wholesomeness, Kahz reached his own hoof up to hold hers in place.  "Thank you... please don't let go for now."  They both needed to keep their heads right now, and they would need each other to do that.

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It wasn't until Kahz' hoof touched hers that Yù had realized she had even to them, a blush of embarrassment had spread across her cheeks. At first she was going to make to move, but when he didn't seem troubled by it, in fact rather thankful, she stayed. Both of these things brought a measure of comfort that distracted the qilin enough to relax some. In that same moment though she realized just why he was fine with it. Changelings fed on emotions, didn't they? With all the anger and vitriol being spat, it must have been akin to being force fed nothing but garbage.
 

The changeling would easily feel a shift in Yù's emotions. Pity? No not quite, but concern. She may not know Kahz that well, but that doesn't mean they deserve something like that. Regardless of where she was now, and how she practiced her profession, she was still a therapist, comforting others was part of the job. A few deep calming breaths later, one could smell the faint scent of lavender and rain hovering around the duo. Just a small little breath spell to add a tiny bit of ease to an otherwise tense situation. It was enough to help her swallow more of her fear and give a smile to her new friend once more.  "Perhaps we can find somewhere nicer for the second date, ah?" she said with a playful chuckle.

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Red listened in mounting horror, reassessing the assumption that she would be allowed to leave here. She was all too aware of the eyes on her, though, so she controlled her demeanor and posture, attempting to affect the same lessaiz-faire attitude and confidence she had on entry here, and wishing she had the use of her magic to disperse the last of the pepper dust still trapped in her suit. Her hobbles would be easy enough to deal with. Even now she had a pretty good idea of how far they extended, and therefore how to adjust her stride and gait to compensate. It wouldn't be fun, but she was pretty sure she could maintain a running pace for a short distance by running like a cat, with many tiny steps.

 

An eye shot up to the rafters and confirmed that her rope was still affixed to the outer window. She could use that as well if she could reach it. However, for more pressing matters, she needed to keep the act up. "Many important ponies are mares. Odds are in Red's favour. Besides, is easier for mare to hide she is mare than for stallion to hide he is stallion, понимаете?" she commented, looking over her shoulder and smirking in a 'see my point?' kind of way.

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7zbcbKd.png

 

 

Alright, perhaps that was a bit of a point, that. 

 

Revenant would keel over before admitting though, and only shrugged as he continued lounging against the pillar, almost as if he was bored with the entire display. The ring kept a damper on the thief's magic, and the shackles ensured about a fast an escape as a tortoise could manage. "All the more reason to differentiate himself, then," the dark colored stallion mused, red eyes fixed on the figure on the stage. "You might have noticed how many times those important mares have gotten themselves and Equestria in a right brilliant bind, too busy doing...what." 

 

Because honestly, what could those bloody princesses be doing that was so important, they had to send an untrained and untested little filly to decide the fate of the country they so proclaimed to love?

 

"Maybe it's time for a change," Revenant finished, gaze straying from the stand towards the frothing mass towards the roof. The extra patrols he'd ordered, thanks to the thief's bungled entry, would probably have finished scouring the warehouse and surrounding buildings by now, and removed any items of suspect for him to inspect later. "Personally, I wouldn't mind a leader who didn't leave every bloody decision to a little protege while she shoves off for a nice nap," he snarked, though he only half-paid attention to the thief as his eyes landed on a familiar Qilin and Changeling in the midst of the crowd. A bit brilliant he'd even managed to spot them in the mass...though perhaps it was their stillness that gave them away, standing in seemingly shocked silence as the ponies around them cheered and waved their hooves around like loonies. He was too far away to really get a good look at their expressions, but just judging by their body language, neither of them seemed particularly pleased.

 

That -

 

...could be a problem. Nothing he could really do about the Changeling, but Revenant made a mental note to have a word with one of their enforcers. Wouldn't hurt to make sure they were keeping the Qilin on point.

 

 

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While there were a few discontented onlookers, the vast majority couldn't get enough of Shadowmane's words. "When I dared confront Her Majesty about her true devious nature, she ordered her minions to place me under arrest. I was condemned to exile for the crime of disturbing Celestia's manufactured harmony. Left without food or water, left without friends..... left for dead. My body... was scarred and deformed from the ordeal. Lying exhausted in the Badlands, bleeding uncontrollably after escaping the jaws of a hungry manticore... all I could see was light. My essence... had slipped away completely."

 

"But..... it was not the end. I heard a voice cry out; 'You cannot kill that which is already dead'. With those words, life flowed through me again. I no longer felt hunger, thirst... pain. That day, I had not been allowed to perish, for I represent an Idea that Princess Celestia suppresses to keep her subjects coddled, weak; dependent on her for everything! This Idea; the belief that Equestrians should not be pampered into laziness, that it is the duty of all Equestrians to wield strength and stop threats before they happen, that those who do great wrong are punished without mercy... these are the beliefs Celestia needs to stamp out to keep her corrupt regime in place."

 

"Just as she makes you dependent on her for your day and night," a sly reference to one of the more popular conspiracy theories that Celestia actually ended the natural cycle of Sunrise and Sunset millennia ago to make the entire world dependant on her sun-raising abilities; "Celestia will stop at nothing to ensure that you live in a world where only she can protect you and your loved ones. Those who fail to pay her homage... suffer the same fate as my family and I."


"What that witch queen doesn't understand however is that an Idea does not thrive the same way as an organism. Just like a wraith, an Idea... transcends life. It cannot be confined by the whims of a mare who thinks herself a goddess above all. WE will teach that plotting scheming... that Ideas Cannot Be Killed!!!" While Shadowmane had been interrupted with appropriate cheers and jeers throughout the speech, that last line earned WRAITH's leader the loudest applause of the entire night yet. The masked figure had to wait some time before the roars and chants quieted down.....

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  • 1 month later...

'Sure Strike' was only half listening to the speech itself.  A few outrageous claims were made, such as the idea that Princess Celestia was oppressing the populace or that the princess had once abandoned a student of hers.  Having met the princess, 'Sure Strike' couldn't imagine any of it being true.  Granted, she could see a few ponies being mistaken, and thinking Equestria was ruled with an iron hoof because they didn't know what such things looked like, but she didn't think it a rational notion that the mare that would welcome a changeling to Equestria while she and the hive were still in conflict with one another would be the type to just abandon an apprentice.

 

Thus far however, the speech didn't seem to be much noteworthy.  It was probably all just propaganda really, and anything that happened to be true was likely just a useless detail.  So instead she turned her attention to something that seemed more worth investigating, particularly the two attendees which were clearly not from Equestria.  It seemed clear to 'Sure Strike' that goal here was to rile up the locals, so why bring a few any non-Equestrians at all?  And one of them was a changeling loyalist, no less.

 

The only way to learn at this stage would be to ask, so 'Sure Strike' approached.  She spoke when she was close enough, keeping her voice low enough that the crowd likely wouldn't hear her (fairly easy given the noise in the room) yet loud enough that the changeling and qilin in front of her would hear.  “I'd thought this would just be an Equestrian affair.  Why are you two here?”  The words were blunt, but 'Sure Strike' played up the curiosity in her voice.

 

---

 

Providence stood, her expression unreadable, as she listened to Shadowmane's speech.  There wasn't really a whole lot there, at least not for a mercenary.  The whole show was clearly directed at the rabble, and meant to rile them up more than anything else.  Providence snorted.  Succumbing to emotion was one of the easier ways to lost a battle.  Even if the message had been intended for her, she wouldn't have let herself be affected, of that she was certain.

 

Providence was starting to believe that her services had no use here after all, and this whole thing might turn out to be a waste of time for her.  Still, she had to give it a proper assessment before she could confirm that.  And even if nothing came of this night directly, WRAITH was a group she was already watching as best she could which was admittedly very limited at the moment, and this night was sure to provide some useful insight into their operations.  She was sure she'd be hired to face WRAITH's operations at some point, if nothing else.

 

Having gotten more than she needed the speech, Providence turned and began looking around, eventually spotting what she believed was a high ranking lieutenant, and next to him was a pony in shackles.  It didn't take Providence long to guess what was going on there.  She began walking in that direction, and as she approached she called out, “I see you have a vermin problem.”  However the lieutenant responded, it was bound to be more useful and interesting than what the leader was currently saying.

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'Second Date,' heh.  Not the cleverest of jokes, perhaps, but Kahz at this point would cling to any scrap of laughter that he could in this harmony-forsaken place.  He kept a hold of Yù's hoof, the calming scent of lavender from her lungs soothing him further, though more from the intent and emotion behind it than the aroma itself.  Changeling physiology made several forms of therapy technically ineffectual, but in this matter, it really was the thought that counted.

 

"Indeed.  The Badlands, perhaps.  Or maybe I could take you home to meet the folks."  He replied, in the same vein of humor, managing a slightly less wan tone of voice.  That, of course, made the pair stand out all the more in the rallied crowd, a fact that Kahz could not overlook.  Granted, WRAITH leadership would have known he was here as an ambassador and inspector from Chrysalis, rather than a recruit... unless Sachadara forgot, or rather 'forgot' to tell them.  A disturbing and not improbable possibility.  And what of Yù?  She was certainly a recruit, unless she was an ambassador from across the sea, a more improbable possibility.  That was particularly unfortunate, since there was likely not going to be anywhere where she could seek sanctuary.  Kahz felt no confidence in the ability of Equestria's guards to protect defectors.

 

Oh, speaking of which... somepony was approaching.  Somepony with an oddly familiar aura.  Kahz couldn't quite be sure, of course, he wasn't that skilled of a magic-user.  But all Hive members were trained to recognize each other under cover, and this one felt like home to him.  One of Chrysalis' internal agents, checking up on him?  Was there a budget for that?  In any case, he had to be circumspect in his answers, without seeming too disingenuous.  "One cannot raise a ruckus without incurring curiosity from the neighbors."

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Red glanced over as she heard a voice hailing her captor. She looked as bored as the other pony (a mercenary Red decided) probably did. The charisma this 'Shadowmane' was exuding was a powerful pull, but Red had dealt with rock stars before, and even if WRAITH's methods were frankly terrifying and effective, Red wasn't impressed by them. Or at least that's the face she was putting on.

 

Her workshop, if searched in the building she was supposed to be working in, wouldn't contain anything unusual, and her absence could be explained away later as being in the little filly's room, or having stepped out the back for more supplies or to stretch her legs. Red had used similar tactics with police and the REA before, once when the heist in question was on an REA base. She wouldn't be concerned, and aside from an extraordinary lock mostly assembled in the workshop there wasn't anything to indicate who she was.

 

Back in the Rally though, Red started rubbing the back of one hoof with it's neighbor, surreptitiously testing the give of the cuff there and disguising the motion as scratching the ankle. Given the suit's padding a tight fit would be impossible, and she was fairly confident she could slip out of the cuff by sliding her hooves free of the padding, causing it to crumple inward which should then cause the shackle to fall free. The real issue, in that case, would be doing so stealthily. What she needed was to be left in a cell alone, or for the crowd to close around her enough that she couldn't be directly seen. Once one hoof was free she could use it to pick the other shackles or slip them the same way she did the first. Then she could remove the jamming ring and walk out of the building at her leisure, albeit without her helmet or document tube, and with nothing to show for it.

 

Aside from what she'd already heard, but she wasn't sure who she could sell this mindless propaganda and pack of lies to. Well, who she could sell it to that could both afford and believe it without being here themselves. The Guard wouldn't pay her, they'd just arrest her. Same with the police force. She was counting on that, in fact.

 

One thing at a time, though. Escape first, profit later.

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Yù chuckled softly, the Badlands huh? From the sound of the name alone, it likely wasn't the kind of place Equestrian's first thought of when 'Second Date' came up. True the comment was meant partially as a joke to ease the mood, but she did have to admit his company was charming in an awkwardly adorable way. "Oh my, meeting the family after just the first date? Well I must be doing something right then. I was thinking a cafe or bistro, maybe Seaddle, I hear it's a lovely city." Before the qilin could get a response one way or the other however, another guest of this little...soiree, made their way over.


In some aspect, it was a welcome reprieve, to be further distracted from the vile nonsense being spouted left and right. The arrival's question, while innocuous enough, still felt like it could a bit, well, loaded. Sure being the only qilin here did make her stick out a bit, at least she hadn't spotted any other qilin, not that she was particularly trying. "True, and how does that saying go? When in Roam do as the Roamans? And what, pray tell, brings you here Miss...?"

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Aranak had been looking forward to this, actually. A group working against the Equestrian government was perfect for his goals. He wanted to rule, and a world with less immortal enemies was a good one to fight for. Facing mortal enemies, he could afford patience, but that wouldn't work against the princesses. Not in the same way, at least. 

 

In any case, the dragon had arrived at the warehouse the meeting was to take place in, spotting what appeared to be the guard. He landed in front of the dog, an impressive specimen if looks were anything to go by, and walked towards the door. Being a dragon that still walked on two legs, and a strong one at that, Aranak was not intimidated by the guard dog's stature in the slightest. He was wearing nothing aside from his typical necklace, leaving no room for any hidden weapons. 

 

"You cannot kill that which is already dead." He said to the dog, not breaking stride at all as he aimed to enter the building. When he got inside, assuming he wasn't stopped on his way in, he took a position against a wall, leaning against it and smiling as he listened to the pony on the stage while his eyes scanned over the crowd. Aranak couldn't wait to get started, really. He wanted to rule, and this would help pave his way. 

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7zbcbKd.png

 

 

No response?

 

Sad.

 

That was a trait, Revenant had found, with the more ardent of Celestia's supporters. How quick they were to sing her praises, citing a thousand year rule as he right to leadership. Which was just, bloody, barmy. Any one could rule a thousand years of peace as the most benevolent and beloved ruler in existence, right. But it was the wars and the tribulations and the trials that separated the fake from true, that brought up the real leaders, and Equestria knew how Celestia tended to handle a crisis nowadays. And thus when her supporters were presented with the simple facts, they fell silent.

 

Perhaps one thousand years had finally cast their price on the once competent leader. Just further proof of a much needed change. 

 

The thief made no further case in defense of the Tyrant Queen, and Revenant was a bit disappointed, at that, but let it go in favor of glancing back towards the stage, where Number One had further increased the intensity. He could only imagine what the Changeling was feeling right now. Probably a mixture of righteous indignation and perhaps some mild indigestion. 

 

A quick glance around the room had Revenant catching the eye of one of the grunts he had sent after the dodgy fellow, too, and the negative shake of her head was enough to raise the figurative hackles on his back. The crimson stallion was definitely up to something, most likely was making use of some magics and enhancements that kept him hidden, because Revenant did not just bloody forget faces the way he had. Mysterious as her presence was, the 'master thief' would need to be delegated to one of the interrogators, see exactly what she could offer WRAITH...and more than likely be done with her when she fell short.

 

And then he would be free to hunt down the crimson stallion.

 

That would have to be for later, however, as a calm and rational voice spoke up over the din of crazed cheering. Revenant didn't move his head however, still staring at the stage as if he were enraptured. "Oh, I don't know about that," the dark colored stallion chuckled, letting his gaze slowly drift away from Number One and onto the mare in question. Middle-aged Earth Pony, it looked like - and more importantly, completely unaffected by the atmosphere around her, and Revenant slowly got up from his languid slouch against the pillar. "She and I, we've been having a right grand time. Ain't it right, love." An unseen smile underneath the mask nonetheless made his eyes crinkle upwards slightly, as the stallion repositioned himself on the other side of the thief, once again falling into a lazy slant against the wall, this time. The new position offered him a view of both the thief and the newcomer, keeping both in his line of sights at the same time. 

 

"So, now," Revenant added a moment later, his entire body giving off a relaxed and casual vibe as he turned his head towards the mare in full. "Who's this that's come to join the party?" 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

*SEVERAL MINUTES PASS*

 

JuGSG6R.png?1

 

For a good while longer, Shadowmane continued to rant and rave about the failings of the Royal Pony Sisters and what WRAITH had to offer to Equestria. The masked leader went into nauseating detail on every instance within the last decade when Celestia and her cohorts gotten themselves captured with the greatest of ease. All the times their incompetence put Equestria in mortal danger. WRAITH would do more than protect the realm however; an Equestria liberated by WRAITH would be a land that ALL nations of the world paid the long-overdue homage owed to it.

 

"...And with I at the head of our ranks, Princess Celestia has no chance of stopping our righteous crusade!" That was the Number Two's cue to... play his part.....

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Now this was an interesting answer.  'Sure Strike' hadn't expecting the sort of answer like she'd just heard from Kahz to be freely given.  His answer implied that the hive didn't fully trust WRAITH's intentions, seeing as he framed it as Chrysalis sending someone to investigate rather than someone to show support.  Not that 'Sure Strike' doubted the hive would want to keep tabs on their allies for a second, but she would have expected them to keep that sort of attitude hidden.

 

The qilin's answer, meanwhile, just didn't make sense to.  How did joining a revolutionary organization count as 'doing as the locals do'?  If anything, it struck 'Sure Strike' as the opposite, trying to overturn what 'the locals do'.  Given that the mare had seemed uncomfortable earlier, 'Sure Strike' guessed that in truth it was more a generic answer, meant to look, if not inconspicuous then at least like something that would not draw unwanted attention from the crowd.  'Sure Strike' could understand that, if nothing else.

 

The false earth pony had gotten the vague sense that neither of the two she was talking two were all that happy to be here.  Thought naturally she couldn't confirm it, 'Sure Strike' got the sense that these two might be sympathetic to her own cause, her actual one.  Of course, she couldn't just tell them about it in the midst of the rally, she'd have to find some way to signal it that the greater rally, or worse the ponies organizing it, wouldn't notice.

 

It was almost fortunate then that the qilin asked 'Sure Strike' a question in turn.  “Me?”  'Sure Strike' took a moment to mentally organize her answer.  “I was looking for a better option.  It's undeniable that Equestria is on the verge of something horrible, and change needs to happen.  But this...”  She looked around the room, crowd of creature cheering an overthrow of the ruling Princess.  “...It's more than I was ready for.”  She allowed uncertainty to creep into her voice as she spoke.  Then she looked back at the qilin.  “My name's Sure Strike.  What can I call you?”  She looked between Kahz and the qilin, indicating the question was meant for both of them.

 

---

 

On 10/9/2016 at 10:55 PM, Zeig said:

"She and I, we've been having a right grand time. Ain't it right, love."

Providence looked between the knight and the thief he'd apprehended, considering for a moment before she broke into a grin.  “Yes, I'm sure you are.”  In her view, the thief seemed to be up to something.  But that wasn't any of her concern.  Surely, local security would have control of the situation, and she was content to see how things played out.

 

On 10/9/2016 at 10:55 PM, Zeig said:

"Who's this that's come to join the party?" 

“Providence,” the mare replied after a moment, “And I am but a simple mercenary, looking for work.”  Perhaps this pony could answer her question for the evening.  She turned back towards the stage, her ears alone giving her enough information about the ponies next to her.  “I was invited for the prospect of my soldiers and I entering your organization's employ, yet I arrive and find that you have already assembled an army.”  She looked over the crowd, a horde of cheering creatures watching the stage.  “And one of fanatics no less.  So I must ask, do you even have a use for my services?”  Providence returned her gaze to the stage.

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Now here was a surprise, at that. 

 

After all, curious onlookers interested in joining WRAITH most often approached with the opposite. As was only natural, really. They were putting their entire livelihoods on the line, as it were, to join up with an organization that could land them in a whole mess of hot water with the Sun Queen and her government, come down the line - only natural for a pony to question, "what do I get out of this?" A land freed from the incompetent rule of washed-up sisters, true - what most of them were after, here - but it wasn't uncommon for ponies to ask for more. 

 

Rarely did Revenant get asked what a pony could offer WRAITH, though, and the darkly colored stallion couldn't help raising an eyebrow at the mare, the sudden curiosity in his gaze at odds with his lax position. "The dead's always got use for the living," Revenant answered vaguely, a grin stretching out his lips underneath the face mask, "at the very least, strength in numbers, love." Not that he wanted to imply the mare and her company could only be useful as canon fodder. Seemed like a mare who'd take mighty good offense to such an implication.

 

Which was bloody fine. A good dosage of healthy pride was never all that bad, now was it.

 

"You were invited," Revenant acknowledged with a tilt of his head, "that alone says it all, doesn't it. You and your services, and your crew - all undoubtedly welcomed additions to our little family, eh?" The stallion tossed a jaunty wink at the mare, but anything she might have responded with was momentarily lost in a sudden swell of cheering, breaking Revenant's focus off of Providence and back onto the stage. 

 

Where Number One was looking directly at him.

 

Or so he assumed. His head remained fixed on the crowd, but Revenant could just imagine the sort of look Number One was sporting under his mask, which was enough to sharpen his own grin into something more dangerous, more anticipatory. The dark colored stallion beckoned over an officer with the toss of his head, switching off babysitting duties as he raised a winked at Providence for a second time, before casually disappearing into the crowd with all the casualness of a midday stroll in the park.

 

Before he abruptly appeared again, vaulting upwards onto the right side of the stage.

 

Not in front of it, no - on the side, so the crowd still had full view of Number One. The cheering was quick to die down at his sudden appearance, confused murmurs mixing with some more anticipatory mumbles from WRAITH grunts who knew what was about to happen. A demonstration for potential members, for the most part...though, it never did hurt to remind the grunts why the seldom seen Number One was in charge of the entire organization. Faith in the head, as it were.

 

Which was the dual point of this entire thing. Revenant casually walked forward a few more steps, completely at ease with the way Number One stood stock still, eyes no doubt assessing him beneath the mask. In the sudden quiet, the scrape of metal as he pulled both weapons from their sheathes rang through the warehouse, a few gasps echoing out as the intention of what was about to happen caught up with the dull minded. Throughout it all, Number One remained still, dominating, and Revenant let the silence and the tension spiral for a full two minutes. 

 

- and lunged forward. 

 

 

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Red sat stone-faced. On the one hoof, this would likely be taken as a sign of fear and may cost her a client. On the other, it might be taken as a sign of detachment, which is essential in clandestine affairs. And clandestine affairs, of course, but that was far from the top of her list of priorities. She had managed to get both her forehooves to the tipping point of her shackles and rock them back and forth across the line a couple of times, so she was fairly sure she could escape the manacles when the time came. Which left the rear set that she'd need to manually pick unless she could get her magic back, and her horn.

 

She needed a good distraction, or to be left in a cell somewhere, but neither was likely to happen in the immediate future. She thought a few unkind thoughts about her captors and their over-blown...well, no it was probably an appropriate level of security given the actual sedition and treason going on behind the cartoon-villain persona on stage. Still, there had to be SOMETHING she c-

 

Her captor left. He took to the stage and started a performance of some sort. Drawing weapons against his superior? That qualified as a distraction, yes.

 

She rocked her hoof up and let the sleeve collapse and the manacle fall off, then quickly pulled the hairpin out of the lining in the other sleeve. She kept her movements small and subtle enough to not draw attention, but in less than two minutes had all three remaining manacles picked open and slipped down to the floor. She put the pin back in the sleeve's lining and held her breath, trying to listen to the pony guarding her. 'Just a restless shuffle,' she thought, fidgeting a little to reinforce that idea ', no reason to get excited or look too closely. 

 

She waited with tense breaths. Either the alarm would be raised or it would not. If she hadn't been found out she planned to act as if she were still shackled and wait for an opportunity to abscond or to blend in with the crowd, whichever seemed most likely.

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The instincts of an infiltrator, suppressed in Kahz by slight nausea and a need to maintain a social disposition in the midst of utter chaos and insanity, finally broke through to ring the alarm bells in his head.  Here he was making small talk with Yu, and literally no one else here was.  Granted, it was not exactly a secret that he was here as a foreign observer, but to stand out amidst fanatics was asking to be singed out for nothing pleasant.  Therefore, he only swallowed and nodded at Yu's little joke about 'meeting the family,' a little smile only, no response.  Best to direct attention to the matter at hoof.  He didn't let go of her hoof, though.

 

Now, this 'Sure Strike' required more of an answer, and Kahz decided to gamble upon openness.  He was, after all, currently undisguised.  And if the earth pony across from him was from the Hive, she would have recognized him already.  And if she wasn't... well, he'd have to be careful to disguise himself when in her presence, or perhaps just avoid it altogether.  "You can call me Kahz."  He replied, simply.  "I can't say I have as much of a stake in the governance of Equestria, to be honest."  It was arguable, in fact, that if Celestia's rule was as incompetent as WRAITH would have ponies believe, Chryalis should be trying to prop it up rather than topple it for a better.  After all, why replace an enemy you have defeated before with a potential threat claiming to be stronger?  Even in terms of realpolitik Kahz wouldn't have necessarily argued for a WRAITH alliance, and his motivations were certainly less cynical than that.  "I wouldn't have thought they could find so many..."  It was the numbers, indeed, that he found most troubling.  A few plotting attacks in a dark room, that was an irreducible minimum.  This... was something else.

 

The speech continued.  The changeling tried to keep his eyes on the crowd.  That was key.  Were they all fervent, as it superficially seemed?  Or was this an echo chamber of the slightly disaffected, all poking themselves into an irritated fury?  Were there any defectors-

Wait, was that pony in hoofcuffs?  Her guardian seemed to have just taken his leave to go on stage, with the mare left alone to her devices.  Hm... she seemed to be shuffling restlessly.  Fidgeting out of bonds?  Kahz quickly looked away.  He wasn't going to blow her cover.  If she made a bolt, he might even try to cover her escape.  If he could track her down again, he'd call in that little favor of gratitude then.  Something bad was going down, and he wanted a few friends in the know...

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There was something that could be said about the fervent passion that these ponies had. Their fury and vitriolic chants that echoed through the warehouse spoke volumes. But was it really pure hate for their Princesses that drove them? Or were they just sheep flocking to whoever had the promises of a better tomorrow. But what sort of better tomorrow would be built with this kind of anger? Not one that Yù wants to be part of...Not as though she has much choice in the matter.


It seemed for now that the speech was winding down. Really to her it seemed to just boil down to a lot of the same themes repeating. Down with the Princesses, they suck, we can do it better, etc. etc. She had lost focus on what was being said for the most part to keep embroiled in mostly sane conversation. "Let's just say I was...given an offer I couldn't refuse ahah...Yù Xīn" she said with a little bow of her head. "I'm not sure what I was expecting from this get together but...It's certainly passionate to say the least."

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  • 4 weeks later...

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Like that overambitious flop he was, Shadowmane's right-hoof stallion used this very public moment to stage a coup on WRAITH's very own founder. Heh heh heh..... all according to plan. Of course, none of this fighting was actually real. This was all just a show for the audience; a demonstration of the masked figure's abilities in the martial arts. All the WRAITH personnel charged with organizing the event were in on the plan; hence why nobody seemed to rush to Number One's defense.

 

"I should have known," Shadowmane snorted in that distinctive golem-like voice; "Only Celestia would be devious enough to send one of her minions to end me!" Ah, the ever-timeless way to demonize an enemy; harp on how impossibly weak they are, while at the same time warn of their immensely dangerous nature. It was an effective propaganda technique WRAITH planned to keep on exploiting.

 

When Revenant finally made his move, Shadowmane dodged the lieutenant's sword attacks with ease. And yet Number One did not fight back, instead giving ground to Number Two to highlight the superiority of the "traitor's" fighting skills. Which would then serve to make Shadowmane all the more impressive when the leader's moment arrived.

 

Although both combatants knew how the fight was to end, Number Two was given strict orders to fight his boss as if Shadowmane was an actual enemy. Number One had 100% confidence in coming out on top anyway, so they might as well make this fight look as convincing as possible.....

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He couldn't.

 

It wasn't intentional, wasn't a direct disobeying of an order he'd been expected to comply with. 

 

But he couldn't. He couldn't. Physically, mentally, could not

 

His body fair screamed against it, a silent symphony that strained against near every movement he made. He had no conscious control over it. He was suppose to be coming at Number One as if he were an enemy, a tangible threat, a force that challenged the might of WRAITH and needed to be thrown down against the floor in utter defiance of the tyranny of the Sun Queen -

 

But he could sooner fly headfirst into the sun and burn himself to ruin than cause physical harm to the pony he loved. 

 

Never.

 

He fought, oh, he fought, twin blades dancing and shimmering as Number One easily sidestepped every whistling swing of metal, and to even the eyes of a trained master his movements were lethal, determined, intent on causing serious harm. But beneath it all was him, and a body that sang out for and strained towards one being and one being alone. Each swing, pulled back just a moment too soon - each thrust, stopped a hair's breadth away from true lethality. A stab that retreated just a touch too quickly. A slice that tilted at just an awkward enough angle to glance off metal and cloth. 

 

A look, a lingering glance, just a little longer

 

It would be over soon. The show was just that - a show, a point being proven, and Number One's effortless dodges and sidesteps against his blades had done for that, sharply. A bead of sweat dripped down the back of his neck, the strain of orders fighting against instinct, but he soldiered on, carrying himself forward - as he had always done, and he always would do, against it all.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

'Sure Strike' wasn't entirely sure when she'd left the warehouse and entered the theatre.  If she truly thought about it, she would probably say it was the moment she gave the secret pass phrase to get inside.  Whatever the answer was though, she had to say they were putting on quite a show.  It came complete with plot twists apparently, when a high ranking WRAITH soldier 'revealed himself' to be a double agent of Celestia's.  Being a double agent herself, 'Sure Strike' had to mentally criticize him a little, thinking the timing wasn't really ideal for a grand reveal, where everyone was watching and his target had ample space to react.

 

'Sure Strike' supposed that was the point.  The foolish members in the audience would further demonize Celestia for underhooved tactics, while the more canny would see her as ineffectual to employ such a foolhardy attempt.  A select few might clue in to the implication that this was all part of the propaganda, but 'Sure Strike' suspected almost all of them would already be in WRAITH's employ.  She wasn't sure she'd get much more from the performance itself.

 

So she turned back to her conversation partners.  After introducing himself, Kahz expressed a certain disinterest.  It seemed somewhat at odds to his earlier emotions, but maybe it was a sign that he just wanted to wash his hooves of the whole thing.  'Sure Strike' could understand that, if she was in his position that would be what she would want to do.  There wasn't really much more to say on the matter, as far as she could tell.

 

The qilin, who introduced herself as Yu Xin, presented a more intriguing case.  'SureStrike' was to understand that the mare didn't have a choice in whether or not she would be joining the organization?  'Sure Strike' felt a pang of sympathy.  She knew what it was like to do things one didn't want to do out of necessity.

 

There wasn't much she could say without risking both revealing herself as a spy and drawing random ire from the crowd, but 'Sure Strike' had a professional reason to want to help this mare, as well as a personal one.  If WRAITH cared enough about this mare's services to press her into the group, denying her to WRAITH was sure to be worth pursuing.  EPIC might be convinced to provide safe haven.  For the moment she could only drop vague hints, however.  “Perhaps this is something we could discuss further after after the gathering.”  It was, she hoped, vague enough that anyone listening in could mistake it for her wanting to discuss after the fact.

 

---

 

The knight seemed friendly enough, and assured Providence that WRAITH would have a use for her and her soldiers.  He was still frustratingly lacking in specifics however.  In other circumstances, she might have been more offended by the insinuation that her group would be yet more bodies to add to the horde.  Given the turnout tonight however, and it was an impressive number that had gathered, her foremost thought was that it would be a very expensive way to merely increase numbers.  The knight also pointed out that Providence was invited, and indeed from what she could see she was one of the only creatures here who wasn't a local.  Some effort had been undertaken for her to get here, and not just on her end.  Clearly WRAITH had some design for her, now she just needed to know what that was, and whether or not it was agreeable or negotiable.  She remained cautiously optimistic.

 

Providence couldn't help but let out a laugh when the knight took the stage.  Who would have thought, she called out, that WRAITH's own second in command would be so enthralled by Princess Celestia!  By the reactions of the other WRAITH guards in the warehouse if nothing else, Providence could tell this was all part of the act.  She had to wonder though.  If this little skit was put on to impress the rank and file (and given that it seemed to be working), how would said rabble react to seeing the knight acting as the princess' agent?  Not an approach Providence would have taken, but then this wasn't her show.

 

Speaking of things which were none of her business, Providence snuck a glance at the momentarily unattended thief.  The shuffling motion prompted a second glance, at which point Providence noticed the shackles around the mare's ankles.  Providence took note of it, and gave the thief a look, but ultimately turned her attention back to the show.  This wasn't her responsibility, at least not yet.  Until a contract of some sort had actually been agreed upon, securing undesirables in WRAITH's gathering would be interfering with their operation.  Or at least that would be her official reason, in truth she was interested in seeing how this played out.

 

Providence did however comment on it, though her gaze remained on the stage.  “Leaving so soon?  But we the best part yet!”  She herself was still waiting to see what the plan was.  Presumably this wouldn't just be about riling up the gathered creatures, but there would also be some sort of announcement of a particular goal or method, yes?

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Bah, he is soon to 'surrender', mark Red's words. Showmareship." Red said in her ludicrous Stalliongradi accent. She knew a thing or two about pretending, and she was starting to have her suspicions...still, how to deal with the situation...

 

The knight, Providence, did she name herself? seemed the mercenary sort. Red had met a few in her time, and they usually responded well to things Red was in the business of having. But would she want information, a trinket, or cold hard bits? Always a tricky prospect, and the dyed mare considered her erstwhile minder out of the corner of her eye. After a few moments, she smiled and added to her previous sentence "Red would certainly be wagering on the outcome, if she were free to do so. But no, Red is not leaving her hosts until is time to leave, да?"

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Changelings, being what they were, could not avoid being associated with lies and illusions.  They were practically trained from birth to weave and navigate webs of them, but Kahz was, to a certain extent, unusual.  His own specialty was taking advantage of being the one liar in a roomful of honest ponies, and the one honest changeling in a hive of backstabbers and intriguers.  Being the exception could be powerful, if you played your cards right, but it was hard to time the bluffs, checks, and bets when you weren't feeling too hot.

 

The little 'ling took a few deep breaths, and managed a smile.  "Ah, that kind of bargaining, eh?  Well, one still might manage a good return on investment, provided one doesn't do anything stupid and stays alive."  He passed it off as a light comment, but squeezed Yu's hoof for support.  He nodded to 'Sure Strike,' by now having a reasonable guess as to her true identity, but not trusting himself to say more.  The less said, the less discovered by listening ears.

 

Fortunately, the keenest pair of those had departed for the stage, in an attempt at the leader, apparently.  'Apparently' because Kahz had a hard time believing this to a genuine assassination attempt by a double-agent.  What he'd seen of their security would have discouraged any Hive infiltrators, for sure; he wouldn't have tried to enter himself without a ticket.  And the circumstances were far from ideal; even if he did succeed, he would be surrounded by fanatics who would tear him to pieces.  Shadowmane wouldn't even have to defeat Revenant itself to survive, just hold out long enough for the loyalists to arrive.

 

So, most likely explanation was stage-play, but he could tell that the Audience were eating it up like buttered popcorn.  So, not unlike politics as he knew it, frankly; Kahz was a bit of a showling himself, and couldn't blame Number One for pandering, even if the emotional cocktail stirred up burned his throat on the way down.

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Yù managed had only just managed to really reign in her emotions. Partly because of her own line of work, but also thanks to the hoofhold of her new acquaintance. When you feel like the only sane pony in the room, it's good to have someone else who feels the same."That certainly sounds lovely. If we have the time that is, knowing how busy things can get for me, I can't promise anything ahah..." the qilin sighed. She still wasn't sure what side this Sure Strike was on. The hint that she dropped wasn't lost on her, no. But in a place like this you can never know if it's a sympathizer looking to help or an enforcer looking to remind you who you're messing with.


The sound of fighting drew Yù's attention back to the stage. Which was strange in and of itself, there was no raise of alarm and no clamoring of the guards. The second bit of confusion was just who was doing the fighting. Revenant was swinging and slashing at the 'dear' leader but something was off. Besides the fact that none of these loyal guards were rushing to their aid...No it was the way that the stallion was carrying himself. Yù was a therapist, a dream therapist sure but a therapist none the less. To her part of her job meant learning to read even the most subtle of changes in somepony. In this case it was the slight off timing of Rev's swings, the look of...it almost seemed like pain, in his eyes, and the sweat that was beading across his neck. The mare actually managed a giggle at this. "They're faking it." Yù gently shook her head. Was WRAITH truly so desperate to rally ponies against the Equestrian government that they'd resort to practically putting on a foal's play?

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