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A note from Ringo Farr

The second chapter of the Friday the 13th double. Fool On The Hill actually marks the beginning of book two, but I forgot to add that into the A/N. Big yeet.

Bad Moon Risin’




So camping was… Hot. Warm, really, but it was getting hot fast when I tried to go to sleep. Sootina wanted to share her tent with me and me alone, but Bast wanted to cuddle some and Stella had her rights as my girlfriend, but there was also a problem. My original tent had been just large enough to house myself and Bast with Stella cuddled up close as long as no one got too adventurous. That aforementioned tent had been cannibalized for bandages at some point or the other, so I was left to use my gift of gab to convince Sootina to share her luxurious, auto-erecting tent with my squad as long as she got to cuddle with both me and Bast. Bast, never one to let an opportunity pass, was elated in her own way to get someone taller to snuggle up to. Stella didn’t mind sharing me with a Mare for some reason which was all well and good, though it made me wonder if she just wasn’t very possessive or if she didn’t think anything would come of it. Sootina had talked to my Partner enough to be comfortable letting her stay in the tent, but Sootina made it no secret that she’d been raised to despise the Choresh and their ways of selling their children into slavery.

 

Stella wanted to defend her people, but after I’d been whittling her down for so long, she had a hard time seeing why her parents had sold her, and I made sure that she knew she hadn't deserved it. Sootina got through to her better than I did in some ways and fell off in others, but between the two of us, we managed to convince Stella that she should truly free herself from her path if she ever really wanted to be free. My Partner laid on my shoulder and rested while she thought as Sootina and I caught up for old times sake, though Stella occasionally popped in with a question here and there.

 

In the middle of a conversation about the food we’d had in the mining town, Sootina asked, “So Gatian, who’s better? I wanted to wait, but I have to know.”

 

I looked at her blankly, seeing that she was looking down at me expectantly. “... What?”

 

“Me or her?”

 

“... Um… Well, no one kisses like Inova, but… Uh…”

 

The look of disbelief on her face almost hurt my feelings. “Wait, you haven't?

 

“W-Well… We came close once or twice, but-” I felt my right arm practically creak under the pressure of Stella’s grip. “Uh…

 

Sooty’s jaw dropped and she slapped Stella’s arm. “Wake up, you neglectful thing! I can’t believe you haven't slept with your supposed Master!”

 

Stella practically bolted upright. “Chorets wait until marriage!”

 

Sootina sat up herself, almost rolling me over entirely. “That’s a load of wet hay! Your priests are all too happy to ram a rod up your rears for what exactly? Your well-being?

 

Stellara looked like she was rapidly being cornered. “It was how I was raised!

 

“You’re old enough to know better!”

 

“Then give me time to learn!”

 

Learn faster and suck some damn dick!

 

“Maybe I will!” Stella huffed loudly.

 

My pants were kinda loose, so it wasn’t hard for Sootina to expose my bare, pale cheeks and roll my happy ass back over so that my front-tail was flailing about. “Hey, ladies, can we-”

 

“Hush, Auntie Sooty is doing you a favor!” She firmly grasped it and made me fear for my pubes. Once glance and an eye roll later my wedding tackle was more fit to catch the usual fish than for fly-fishing.

 

(Ctrl+F Scene is Over to Skip)

 

I was glad to be rid of the unnecessary hair, but that just meant she could grab it from the base. “Sooty, why don’t-”

 

Inova stuck her finger in my mouth. “No, I will pleasure you! If I must fulfill my wifely duties ahead of time, so be it!”

 

I bit her finger and whacked Sootina’s breast, but that just got me shoved on my back and the second finger in my mouth. It was really hot in a femdom kinda way, but I wasn’t feeling it too terribly at the moment until someone swallowed the tip of my pole and sucked. It was my first oral experience in quite some time, and by that I mean after Rachel did it once and her jaw got tired after two and a half minutes on the dot, there was Sootina and Max. I wasn’t really all that afraid of going out too early since I wasn’t even trying to hold on in the first place. Raising my head showed me the glorious sight of Stellara Inova with my member in her mouth, a determined glint to her eyes that made my knees weak and my week good. Apparently her training hadn’t been for naught since Stellara knew just how to work the tip without letting up on the suction, but then she actually started bobbing her head and I was in fear for my sanity. She’d already pulled her fingers out of my mouth, leaving me to hold her hand as my toes curled and Sootina giggled lightly as she moved behind me. A few seconds passed and we changed positions so that Stella was between my legs and Sootina was bracing my back with her lap. Instead of continuing with her mouth, my Partner shyly caressed her breasts, losing steam rapidly.

 

“What? Don’t tell me you’ve lost your nerve, little gi.rl~” Sootina teased mercilessly.

 

Stellara’s face grew red quickly. “I’ve not lost anything! I-I was… I was just wondering if Gatian might like something a little-”

 

“For the sake of the land, girl! Use them or do what you were doing before! Or just fuck him. That’s perfectly acceptable.”

 

If I wasn’t so… Stiff, we’ll say, I probably would have stopped Stella there, but... There… Honestly, all that was on my mind was the sensation of her tongue, the warmth of her breath, and the careful attention my Partner paid to my lifelong friend. Lust clouded my thoughts as I remembered that bopping bologna didn’t truly hit the spot. When Stella looked me in the eye and asked her question, I didn’t hear what she said and probably mumbled something along the lines of ‘This is the best day of my life’, which was probably what made her smile and blush.

 

“I’m glad you think so, Gatian.” She took her tunic off easily, her breasts rising as she inhaled deeply.

 

My eyes were glued to her form while I saw Stellara completely topless. It was a sight to behold since she had tanned lightly while we were in the dusty old town, though the difference in her complexion was barely noticeable. Her cinnamon hue hadn’t deepened by much, but she still looked more and more delectable as she hovered over me. Sootina’s hands covered my bare chest and played with my most vestigial of fleshy bits for some reason, though for another, stranger reason it felt wonderful. There were a lot of things I wanted to happen, and Stella putting my member between her breasts was on the top of my list for the moment. My Partner lowered her chest to my groin, the moment her breasts touched my member I sighed at their warm, plush softness. Even as they wrapped themselves around my member and encompassed it with their weighty-yet-pliable goodness, I felt the old familiar feeling start to rise up. Then Stella put her mouth on the tip and started slowly, although it was just too much for me. Having the woman who’d claimed my heart help me find release was exhilarating. My stamina had been built up during my time in Hooversdum, but it had faded completely in my time away from women that wanted to sex my man muffin. However, it was safe to say that I’d never had a more satisfying orgasm in my life.

 

I tried to warn Stella, but even before I could mutter whatever it was that I said, she had increased her suction on the tip and swirled her tongue around it faster, using her tastebuds on every side somehow. I tried to think about how it was possible as I cracked a macadamia in her mouth, or in other words, I had to crack a mac with thoughts in the back. She got a mouthful of who I was in particular and I was sure that the load was unpleasant, but much to my surprise, Stella went from grimacing to furrowing her brow. Then, as my third shot landed, her eyebrows shot open and she went at it all over again and I either couldn’t or wouldn’t stop. Either way Stellara made me orgasm until my balls fucking ached, sucking load after load out of me like it was normal or something. She finally let off when she decided to just let her cheeks fill and shared it with Sootina as proof of the fact or whatever something-something God-fucking-damn! My eyes were blurry as Stella and Sootina traded my seed between themselves over me, which is exactly what Rasputin walked in on. He promptly walked out on it and it wasn’t as though anything had stopped, so I just watched and felt as Sootina took one of my hands and placed it on my Partner’s chest. I’d never felt something so satisfying before, nor had I ever really considered the fact that Stella would be okay with me just doing it. Then, as if a breeze had blown through her, Stella slowly pulled away and wiped her lips off, swallowing and blushing like mad.

 

“... I can serve. I can be of service.” The resolve in her voice was undeniable and the look in her eye was enlightening, to say the least.

 

Aww...” I eloquently enunciated.

 

Sootina nodded and huffed. “Good girl. I suppose there’s still a Partner in you somewhere after all.”

 

“There always has been.”

 

As much as I would’ve liked to say something, the lull of sleep pulled me under. I passed the fuck out and promptly started snoring until nightfall because I was hella tired from the walk, being up for so long, and having to bust the shell of such a fat, hard, intense, long nut, but I awoke alone to my surprise. I had plenty of time to think of what Stella had said and what I hadn’t… She didn’t really want to do what she did; she’d felt like it was her duty. She’d been pressured into it. I felt like a fucking slave-master… It… It wasn’t a good feeling, Booksy... After getting myself dressed, collecting my thoughts, and exiting the tent, I saw my posse of peoples and a cat sitting around a campfire, everyone eating something or other. I decided to join them in the consumption of the nutritional foods, so I grabbed some dried fruits and meat from my pack and plopped down next to Stella. She gave me a warm smile when I sat down and I returned it with a lazy, bleary one of my own. With the guilt in my heart, it was a little rough to try and keep up with the conversation as it went along, but even as I sat I started noticing something.

 

I figured it had been because I’d known them so well over the past few months, but I was getting similar vibes from Sootina and Rasputin as they talked with Bast and Stella. I was out of the conversation, but I always had a feeling that I knew who was going to speak next, something along the lines of what they were going to say, and what they really meant by it. For example, I knew Rasputin was going to use a Russian expression before he actually finished the topic he was using to lead into it, despite never having heard the phrase. I also knew that it equated to ‘harvesting rocks yields no crop’, which got him hit by Sootina once I said something and he agreed. No one really said anything about it but I was beginning to think that I was either seeing incredible patterns in the way people talked and aligned them without paying attention or my Gift of Gab extended to other people’s conversations and had grown stronger over my seclusion.

 

… Somehow.

 

How that somehow was some-howing I didn’t know, but I did know that the blue moon shone brighter than the red one, her brother. Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned the names of the moons, but that’s probably because just about every different race calls them something else. In Common, they’re just the colored moons but Bast calls them Astra Alva and Rojol Empere, so I’m inclined to call them that. As I said, Astra was glowing more than the smaller Rojol, but they were both beautiful in the sky. I’d once asked Bast if the moons were magical in any sense and she told me that they weren’t, but that they did affect the tides when they grew apart. They seemed as close as ever to me, though with the blue moon emanating its calm over the other more florid one, I couldn’t help the general feeling that something was afoot. The ominous presence of a warning hung in the air rather than an immediate threat, and trying to shake the feeling off did me no good until I had my weapons on me.

 

Sootina noticed first, raising a brow. “Really, now? What are you going to do with that, Gatian?”

 

I frowned and settled into my seat. “Hopefully nothing comes out of the woodwork and makes me use it. I feel like tonight’s not a good night for a fire.”

 

Rasputin shrugged. “You sit with a master of Earthly Magicks and the Terruc Arts. Fear not, young man.”

 

Sooty rolled her eyes. “Do I need to go on over-watch?”

 

Stella leveled a look at her. “River Folk may not be the best fighters, but they still develop instincts worthy of note. Gatian’s rifle-contraption is marvelous for dispatching small and medium-sized targets!”

 

The look I got from the Longinus-nuva-Gratana master was shaming to say the least. “Don’t tell me that’s a Magna-Gun.”

 

I raised my chin. “It’s a nail gun modified into a Gauss rifle.”

 

“That’s a Magna-Gun but with better bullets.”

 

“How about I shoot you in the hoof and we converse after that?”

 

“First of all, if you put a nail in my hoof, you’d better be damn ready to pull it out and bend that sweet, juicy little rump of yours over.” She shook a finger at me. “Second, that thing won’t pierce armor.”

 

“That’s why I have Clockly. He hits hard enough with the Arca-Blasts, or Spell-Shots, that I don’t need a heavy weapon.”

 

“Just get a normal rifle.”

 

“I get my ammo back with this one!”

 

The look she gave me after that really hurt my feelings. “Don’t be cheap and lazy.”

 

“I fight with Arca too!”

 

“Prove-”

 

I’d already made the hand gestures, the tares, behind the broad side of my weapon and whipped my hand down toward Sooty’s hooves. “Hoarime!

 

“...” She looked at her frost covered hooves and shook the snowy stuff off. “... Was… Was that it?”

 

I smiled triumphantly. “That’s all I need for now,” I said as she stood up and stomped her hooves, more frost falling off as she did so.

 

“Wait… How thick is this?” She shook and shook to no avail.

 

“Oh, it’s not that thick.” I traded a look with Rasputin and he wore an ‘Eh, I’ve seen better with less effort’ kinda expression. I pulled a face. “Hey, now.”

 

“What? It’s not the best I’ve seen, not the worst. I think more is yet to come, da?”

 

I gestured toward Sootina as she kicked harder and harder. “Dammit, Gatian! This crap is cold!

 

Mhmm.” I hummed smugly, inspecting my nails.

 

“You have to the- The- The count of now!” Sootina started toward her pack and found no purchase on the ground. “What in the-” She slipped and slid around. “Mother of a sow!

 

“Yeah, turns out I’m adept with ice for some reason, even though I’m a Tempestian. Who’da thunk?

 

Sootina fell on her face and Rasputin got a laugh out of that. “Ha! Such a spell is more fit for pranks than battle, but its uses… I admit interest.”

 

I cracked a smile. “Yeah, it’s more of a joke than-”

 

Gatian Gauner!” Sootina roared.

 

Rasputin and I traded a very worried look. “You grab her guns.”

 

He returned my crazy suggestion with a fucked up expression. “I am innocent here. Do not include me, da?”

 

I peeked at Sootina to see her shivering and crawling toward me with fire in her eyes while Stella and Bast appeared all too amused. “G-Gatian, would you like to undo your Arca for dear Aunty Sooty?

 

Rimeinol. Look, Sootina, I-”

 

“Proved your point.” She said, sitting and rubbing the rest of the frost off of her legs. “I’d better not be- Wait, what the- Gatian, what the hay!?” She started patting her legs, looking confused, then she rubbed them normally.

 

“I wouldn’t make something that hurts without making a good enough cure for it, Sootina.”

 

Rasputin raised his brows and Sootina looked a little surprised herself. “That one was yours? I thought Lucine taught you.”

 

“Well, yeah, but I don’t really like hurting people in general and I actually like you so…”

 

“Oh. Well, thank you for your consideration.” She pulled out a derringer and shot me in the shoulder, the sound and impact stunning me for a second and I jerked to the left for a moment. It was like getting pushed with… Well, a bullet, but then that shit stung. I had to look at my arm at some point, but I wasn’t bleeding. Still, that bitch hurt.

 

I stared at Sootina. “Well, fuckin’ ow!

 

“Sorry, I don’t have your apropos for healing, apparently.”

 

I gave her a look. “Next time I’m letting you get frostbite.”

 

“That’s meaner than shooting you with a plasbe bullet!” Sootina protested.

 

Rasputin looked elsewhere, Stella smiled, and Bast appeared to go to sleep. “Those fucking things still hurt! And that was point blank!”

 

“I could’ve aimed lower.”

 

I could’ve aimed higher.

 

We both shut up and I helped my dear young, femdom Aunty to her feet- Er, hooves. Then she showed that she was hardcore into that femdom life by slapping me and grabbing my face. “Remember who Aunty is, Gatian. That was unnecessary.”

 

I heard Stella before Sootina rolled her eyes and looked to her. The creak of her bow was telltale, and the venom in her voice was something else. “Incensing me to perform my duties as a Partner is one thing, but don’t you dare lay another hand on him.

 

“Shoot me and you regret it. Gatian likes to play. We’re playing. He just needs to remember the rules.” Sootina said calmly, removing her hand from my face.

 

The thing was I could have sided with either party and probably gotten to the same place I ended up. Even taking the middle road sucked. “How about we all play nice?

 

Sootina looked back at me. “There’s a price on your head, Gatian. You killed a Champion of Chorell. It would be-”

 

“Sootina, stop fucking threatening me, pack up, and let’s get to our next site. You’re fuckin’ killin’ me here.” I walked away, grabbed my shit, and started disassembling the tent.

 

Stella came over to help right away and so did Sootina with a few minutes of waiting, but Rasputin and Bast were apparently content to either use Terru or sleep until we prepared to get back on the road to wherever. Sootina had to lead the way since Rasputin was officially on guard duty, but I couldn’t have cared less. At that point I knew I was walking into a trap and there was a lot I could do about it, but I wanted to see what the Songweavers had in store for me. Whether it was a life of music or a fight to be lost, I wanted to see who’d saved my skin and prove that I wasn’t just some ‘drunk murder-gypsy’ or whatever.

 

Even as we walked I had a hard time staying out of my head. Sootina’s true colors had shown once I got the better of her, and it was harder to see the same Mare I’d felt so much for so long ago. It would’ve been less troubling if I didn’t know that killing her would end in my death, or if I knew what kind of bull Ras was packing. However, the situation was growing suckier by the second as Sootina informed us that we would be to the nearest ‘Den’ in two days time if we kept at our pace. Instead of keeping at our pace, Rasputin pulled a pipe from his pack and started a jaunty tune like there was nothing wrong with the fact that we were getting more and more wired as we walked along. I eventually joined him with my Plublass, but the two instruments tended to clash whenever we misread each other’s movements. IT was hard playing free-form on the go, but we managed well enough for the most part.

 

After another day of walking, we finally got some rest and slept for like, three hours.

Apparently, Rasputin’s music was a little like mine in the way that he could affect the world around him with it, but his seemed to be localized in a way. Before we got going again, I asked, “Hey Rasputin, are all Minstrels and Bards like… Well, like us?”

 

He raised a brow and followed Sootina’s lead, staying next to me. “Not necessarily. Every instrument serves a purpose in its own way.”

 

“... What?”

 

“Wind instruments, even brass, all carry the same Terru. They invigorate and lighten moods.” He answered drolly. I’d done that with my undlegar.

 

“And percussion?”

 

“Attacks and combat.” I’d also done that with my undlegar

 

“Strings?”

 

Cyka, they’re useless for the most part. Many people hate them and most people aren’t affected by them.”

 

I caught Stella glancing at me and kept my eyes on Rasputin. “Are there any other kinds of instruments that Terru actually affect?”

 

“Winds, percussion, and metals that do not include strings are all quite potent. The practice of playing them was forbidden long ago and only came back into… Err… Modern, culture after the Decimative Wars. Even then, any musician with talent was drafted to the battlefield if they didn’t get into the Weavers.”

 

“Oh. So-”

 

“There are many types of Terru. Were you not taught this?” He raised a brow at me.

 

“My mentor focused on guns since Arca were largely demonized in a few provinces. I learned some, but we never delved too deep.”

 

“... Son of a sow, your mentor was-” When he finished rolling his eyes he saw a gun in his face.

 

“My mentor was a brother in arms who died so that I could live. Finish that. I dare you.

 

“Your mentor was inefficient. Did you even know that your affinity has nothing to do with the elements?”

 

Sootina snorted. “We all technically use Air Terru, Ras. Give the guy a break.”

 

“You… How did the Amanese one with the stupid beard put it? Ah yes, you gun-grata fool.”

 

She snorted again. “Okay then, O’ Mighty Eunuch, what’s his real alignment?”

 

Ras pointed. I followed his finger. Sootina looked too and Stellara shook her head.

 

“How in the blazes did you three utter kits not know the Moon River was aligned with Astra:Alva? Stellara, you call him Alvage!” Bast yowled. “Fools! You utter, complete, stupid kits! Why do I have to tell you everything about this world!?” I saw her claws pop as she gnashed her fangs.

 

“Well, how was I-” I started.

 

You’re good with ice. You are the Moon. River. Water is blue. Astra is blue.” She snapped.

 

“Bast, God, will you-”

 

“Oh hush.” She trotted to the front of the group before pausing for a second. “... Don’t tell me you don’t know why Stellara came back, Moon River.”

 

I looked at Stellara as we walked and she looked stricken. “I… I told you the truth…”

 

Bast stopped and covered her head with her paws. “I’m not hearing this. They’re not this dumb. I am not old, they are dumb.

 

“Did you not have all the time in the fuckin’ world to fill us in!? Shut the fuck up or exposit already you salty. Blue. Pussy-cat.

 

The lion sized cat rose and blushed. “Flattery will get you nowhere, though I supposed I could enlighten you.”

 

There wasn’t a word for it, but rarted comes to mind. “... Yeah, thanks.” I said as blankly as I could.

 

“... Are you-”

 

“Bast, are you eating well? You’re looking a little slim, you know? I don’t know much about faulains, but I might start getting worried if you get much smaller.”

 

“Oh, really? I haven’t noticed… I suppose I’ve been exercising more recently.” She licked her paw and rubbed her ear.

 

Sootina and Ras could’ve traded places with statues as long as the rocks had dumbstruck expressions. “It really shows. Maybe it’s just me, but you’re looking powerful.

 

That practically had her purring. “Why thank you! It’s not easy to crush prey beneath ones paws with such a lithe form.”

 

“I could imagine you practically bouncing off of something more than a few hundred pounds.” I chuckled.

 

“Oh? Why, I wouldn’t say that.” She fucking cat-giggled. It was weird. Stroking Bast’s ego was always a fuckin’ trip.

 

“Speaking of those heavier creatures, they must keep your fangs some kind of sharp! I mean, I’d like to compare them to one of my knives sometime.”

 

Oh stars above.” Sootina whispered to Ras.

 

Is he serious?” Rasputin asked.

 

Stella hit both of them. “Indeed, Bast. Even in the abandoned town, you still kept yourself looking quite presentable.”

 

Megalomani-cat preened. “Of course! A Guardian and Matriarch must be presentable at all times! As should both of you, in fact.”

 

Finally. “Oh? Why’s that? I know the Moon River must be some kind of important, but what could be more important than guarding nature itself?”

 

“You haven’t heard the full prophecy?” She asked, gossiping like the old cougar she was. “Well, I’ve heard bits and pieces, but the gist is that the Moon River and Astra’s Daughter would unite. The prophecy said you two would be together, and what a pair you usually make!” She waved her paw at me.

 

I chuckled. “Oh, you’re just saying that, Bast. You’re really too sweet for your own good, but if you don’t mind my asking, is there something Stellara and I are supposed to be doing?”

 

“Hmm?” She tilted her head. “Why, when Rojol Empere shines his brightest in the millenium, the Moon River and the Daughter of Astra shall join forces and battle for the balance. So it was spoken.”

 

I heard a clap from Sootina and saw her smiling. “The River and The Moon! I love those songs!”

 

“I thought this was behind us.” Stella grumbled bitterly.

 

“You haven’t even gotten started!” Sootina blurted. “There are dozens of songs in The River and The Moon, Gatian. It’s one of the most confusing, least accurate prophecies to ever come through the Minnerettes, but if I’m the one that gets to bring the Moon River and the Daughter of Astra…?” She held a hand to her bosom. “Oh, I can just imagine it! I’ll be allowed to make music again!”

 

Stella and I stared at her. “... Okay.”

 

Sooty smiled shyly. “Gatian, did you know… Well, it’s not so much past as present, but do you know how old I am?”

 

“... Come to think of it, I knew Max and Gloss were younger than me, but I never knew your age.”

 

“I’m sixty-seven.”

 

“Bish, I beg yo pardon?” I asked, forgetting that I had been raised Jewish as fuck. Like Lil’ Dicky, I guess.

 

She grimaced. “I wasn’t trying to hide it from you, but we Ponies are a long-lived people.”

 

“... So… Do you just age slowly, or…?”

 

“Well, an average Pony my age would still look older than me, but… Well… You know I could never truly hurt you, right? Broken bones and bruises heal, but scars and blood never fade.” She looked me in the eye imploringly.

 

It was hard to say no to her because I felt like she was telling the truth. “I believe you, but I have my doubts.”

 

She grimaced again. “... Okay, I deserve that, but I do hold you dear, Gatian. You make music that reminds me very much of what my fiancé used to make. He passed away as a result of a song I made, giving me his life force while… Well, draining it from him. My lover fell and the Songweavers took me in to help me control my Terru, but that was just the thing. I’d performed a Deathly Deed.”

 

“... I’m guessing I have one of those under my belt too.”

 

“Song Terru were forbidden for a reason.” Sootina sighed. “Your Sever Song or whatever you named it was a Deathly Deed. Draining the life from Luna…” She took a deep breath and gave me a sad smile. “You killed someone in a way that was wrong, but you could have done the same thing with skill and a sword. I bucked the entire breed, let alone just the pooch.”

 

“So they took your instrument and forbid you from making more songs?”

 

She held up her hands and waved them peculiarly that seemed to make trails of images appear as she moved. Vague impressions of fingers on frets and keys passed before my eyes and I saw for myself what Sootina meant to show. “It doesn’t hurt anymore, but I can’t really use a weapon that doesn’t have a trigger. The impact of a sword against another is simply awful.”

 

I was thunderstruck for a moment, but Stella and I still approached. Carefully, I took Sootina hands in mine and examined the marking and scarring on her fingers and palms. It looked as it every tendon had been cut and that most of the bones had been broken at some point, and even beyond that there were markings that appeared to be burnt into the fine fur of her hands. That or they were stained there, but in any case they looked like razor-wire that had blades in the form of picks and circles. There was little I could do to imagine the pain that must have been wrung from her maimed appendages, but I had a funny feeling that there was something I could do about it.

 

“... Hey, Sooty,” I murmured, inspecting the marks.

 

“Like I said, it’s nowhere near as bad as it was. You ought to know that from our time together.” She shot me an innocuous wink, smiling lightly.

 

“... How did the Weavers get a hold of you?”

 

“I turned myself in out of grief.” Sootina didn’t cease her little wistful smile, though the memory obviously pained her. “No one believed that I could take someone’s Anima with a song, nor did they believe I wasn’t a Lorrack.”

 

“A Vampire in this world.” Rasputin clarified. “Very intelligent, very deviant. Not unlike Sootina herself.”

 

She passed him a dirty look. “I suck seed, not blood. If you’re going to call me a whore, at least do it right.”

 

“I said you were a deviant, not a whore. Continue with your tale.”

 

Sootina rolled her eyes. “Anyway, the Songweavers came once Prince Lumo heard of the tale, he himself being the apprentice of the Grandmaster of Ponydale at that time. Having studied under Archmage Nyx and the Lone Star Noir themselves, Lumo collected me and gave me a choice: Leave my music behind or waste two lives instead of one. If I died, then Luna lost everything for nothing at all… It was worth it from the beginning.” She pulled a face, still regretful. “Luna lives on through me and I’ve yet to touch an instrument in years, but… Luna was the one who started me on the path, Gatian.” She smiled at me, tears in her eyes. “If I’m rewarded for bringing you to the Weavers, I… I could make a song for her like I’ve wanted to for thirty years.”

 

I’d yet to let go of her hands, instead thinking of a melody to go with some lyrics I’d just thought up. “... What if you didn’t have to ask the Weavers?”

 

“It’s their Arca. Frolick’s ‘spell’. It’s Earthly Magic, not Terru.”

 

I raised a brow. “Ras?”

 

He snorted. “Make your own enemies. I owe Sootina little enough.”

 

“And I wouldn’t ask you to risk it.” Sootina continued, trying to pull her hands away.

 

I looked that woman dead in the eye. “There’s so much you don’t tell me, so why did you tell me this, Sootina?”

 

Her eyes widened. “What do you-”

 

“Sootina, I shouldn’t be able to use Song Terru. I never should have been able to in the first place.”

 

“Hmm?” Rasputin asked. “Granted I have yet to see you use a powered instrument, but you possess the skill nonetheless. Our session earlier was typically syncopated because of my own errors.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “If I would have analyzed your style more, neither of us should’ve missed a beat and I could’ve added my own strength to yours, if you call it strength at all.”

 

“Gatian, you play strings,” Sootina iterated.

 

I swung my plublass around and fingered some frets. “You’ve got an assumption. I’ve got a fact. What are you willing to bet?”

 

Stella smiled. “Oh! Oh! Are you going to play one of the Nova songs? I do so enjoy them!”

 

Sootina gave her a strange look as I shook my head. “Nah, this one’s called Ashes of Atrocity. Just made it up.”

 

“When?” Rasputin asked.

 

“After I saw Sooty’s hands.”

 

He rolled his eyes and Sootina chuckled. “Gatian, the first draft of any song never does anything. If you’re willing to wager something, then I suppose I’ll have to match you.”

 

“Your hands for your fealty,” I stated coldly.

 

Ras seemed a lot less annoyed and Sootina seemed much more unsettled than I’d seen her before. “... You’re suggesting that you can break Terru and Magic with a song you made for a plublass in under ten minutes. Gatian, shut up before I-”

 

“I gave my terms. Match them.” I challenged.

 

She leveled a stern look at me. “I don’t know why I should even humor this, Gatian. The worst thing that can possibly happen is that your song does something. The best result is that I’m right.”

 

Your terms.

 

“Aren’t you Ponies notorious gamblers?” Stella asked loftily, inspecting her nails. She shined them on her tunic and continued with. “I mean, isn’t that why Minotaur Gambit-Grottos are allowed in the country?”

 

My kinky dom and my sexy Partner exchanged a heated look that Stellara evidently won. “... We’re not as bad as Dragons themselves.”

 

“That would be a fair point, but even a Choret would take this chance~” Inova sang. “After all, if you’re right then nothing happens and you get something out of it. If you’re wrong, you get your music back. What do you have to lose?”

 

“Literally my hands.”

 

“But strings do nothing, Sootina. This is established fact.” Rasputin grunted irritably. “Let the fool play his song and we shall judge when he is finished. There are plenty of things you could name as your prize, after all.”

 

Sootina pursed her lips and looked at me again. “... Why do you want my fealty?”

 

“Because I trusted you more in Hooversdum than I do now.”

 

Hurt crossed her face for a moment before acceptance covered it up. “... If you want my fealty, then I want you to make me a song.”

 

“I already have.”

 

“... Oh.” She blushed.

 

“What else?”

 

“... Um… Well, if I don’t have the Teruni lifted-”

 

“The curse on her hands.” Ras informed.

 

She gave him a look. “He knew that. Anyway, if the Teruni isn’t lifted, then I want you to speak on my behalf to the Songweavers.”

 

“Then let’s get started.” I plucked the opening strings to Ashes of Atrocity and got started in earnest after a few more test notes.

 

Ashes of Atrocity by Gatian Gauner

 

Ice cold anger burns in my heart

I wish I’d seen through the light to the dark

I made a promise I intend to keep

Don’t you dare sit alone, I’ll not let you weep.

 

There are pains in life you don’t need to bear

I say this to you without flattered flair

I seek to heal your greatest pain

Isn’t it such a terrible day for rain

 

I see your ache and I must go

Byh your side but you’ll never truly know

If I could help you, then I surely must

But my trust in you has bitten dust

 

I’d seen great towers built once by man

No such gift as a helping hand

Won’t you see the man in me?

Or am I here just to make it three?

 

This dread I feel is so misplaced

I hang my head and hide my face

A simple word I needed then

Forgiveness is my only friend.

 

The sun will set I’ll die this day

And rise with the moon as my hands fold to pray

Can you see my love for you?

Or can I even truly break through?

 

It was an easy song to find chords for and... Um… It happened, I guess. I mean, that was the song, but I… I didn’t know it was going to be straight easy to play. I’ve ever really been one much to write a dirge myself, but it didn’t turn out half bad, I guess. Sootina looked at her hands as I tried to understand why I’d just gone sadboi like never before and raised her brows, seeming pleased. She showed her fingers off to Rasputin and he shook his head in wide-eyed disbelief, then he glared at me.

 

“So, how do your hands feel?” I asked pleasantly.

 

Sootina rubbed her fingers. “They feel… Better. A lot better… The Earthly Magic is gone…” The smile on her face warmed my heart. “... Gatian, I… I don’t know how to thank you, but I can’t give you my fealty.”

 

“Then how about the loyalty of a friend?”

 

She gave me a sad smile. “I always knew you were smarter than you looked.”

 

Ras raised a brow and Stella looked confused. “I do not understand.”

 

“Sootina’s walking me into a trap,” I answered.

 

Stella stared at me and Sooty placed a hand on my shoulder. “W-Well, it’s not a trap per se-”

 

“Yes, but what else is new? She hasn’t said a truthful word since she opened her mouth.” Inova said, looking more confused. “I thought you were just going along with it.”

 

I glanced at Sootina. “Sooty, is that-”

 

“Did you really need an Arca to ask that, Gatian?” Sootina asked, sounding betrayed. “Why don’t you trust me?”

 

“You’ve lied about nearly everything you’ve been asked, and if Gatian isn’t okay with it then neither am I. Why am I not killing her right now?” Stella asked, folding her arms, looking at me.

 

Rasputin raised his hand. “Because I could kill you before you got close enough to do so.”

 

Stella rolled his eyes at him. “You brag of your power and make no effort to prove your boasts. Be silent.”

 

Sootina smirked. “You know you’re not supposed to-”

 

Stella spit at her feet. “Gatian freed me. You yourself said that the ways of the Partners were foolish before Gatian woke, so if you think they are foolish and unworthy of your time, why would you cite them? At all?” Sootina raised her brows and opened her mouth. “Oh, you have something to say? You entrap your friend and lead him to… What, exactly? For your own benefit, at that. You are no friend Sootina, regardless of your word. And furthermore, how exactly did you drain your lover’s Anima before their youth? Hmm?”

 

Rasputin paled and turned to Sootina. “Christos… I didn’t-

 

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I got the gist while Sootian coloured and said, “I would never! I loved Luna-”

 

“Except Ponies have unique names~” Stella said in a singsong voice. “I happen to know a Luna, and would you like to know what she told me?”

 

“That she was-”

 

“That she was one-hundred-and-five years old. I met Luna in Fareerer, Sootina. I spent a long time looking for Gatian, and I’ll be damned if I let him truly trust someone I don’t find worthy.”

 

I looked at her. “Uh-”

 

“You’re too trusting.” Stellara said with a little smile. “I’ll protect you if you don’t always do it yourself, Gatian. Don’t worry.”

 

Sootina already had her rifle pointed at my Partner and Rasputin didn’t seem to know what to do. “Just had to open your mouth, huh?”

 

“So are Max and Gloss in on it too?” I asked, trying to keep up.

 

“Tsk, they’re Guildies through and through, and they also weren’t alive sixty years ago, so no. Thesuvian’s might be famous for being smarter than average, but they’ve got nothing on Unicorns.” Sootina said, her voice flat and her tone unforgiving. “I suggest you stop with your little story there, however. Aunty Sooty’s fingers are itchy.”

 

Stella shrugged. “You had better kill me in one shot, and even then you can’t.”

 

Try me.” Sootina growled.

 

Stella smiled, “Why, would you really assault the Daughter of Astra? Gatian’s Partner? The man who was to speak on your behalf to cure the curse?”

 

Sootina stood stock still for a few seconds, then put her rifle down. Grata-non-Aquix prepared my hand, my heart throbbing in my chest as my friend spoke. “What do you want?”

 

Stellara shook her head. “What really happened to your lover? I have a guess, but why don’t you tell us the truth for once?”

 

Sootina dropped her rifle and folded her arms. “It wasn’t my lover, first of all. Lunk Nut was just some dumb Pegasus who annoyed me all the time. I made a song to push him away, but it made him fall in love. I tried another to sap the love he felt for me and it didn’t work.”

 

“You told me it was an accident…” Rasputin said softly, his accent muddling his words.

 

“The result was, not the action itself.” Sootina barked out a laugh. “So what? Now you know the truth. I suppose-”

 

I blew her head off.

 

Rasputin’s jaw dropped. “... She was a sinner, but-”

 

She was lying.” I said through tears. “... I can’t believe I trusted her for so long…”

 

“That may have been the case, but she was affiliated with the Songweavers.” He grunted. “This is going to make you enemies.”

 

“I’ve got fuckin’ plenty, tell ‘em to line up,” I snapped.

 

Stellara put a hand on my shoulder. “... What should we do now, Gatian?”

 

“If the Songweavers didn’t know about Sootina being rotten to the core, then I don’t see a reason to ally myself with them. If they did, then they’re some kinda fuckin’ awful.” I said through grit teeth, glaring daggers at Rasputin.

 

He shrugged. “I have my orders. None of them were to actually retrieve you.”

 

I furrowed my brow. “That was a lie too?”

 

“No, Sootina came to collect you. I came to observe for Yuria. Your pen-pal, if you would.” His expression didn’t change from one of irritation and disappointment as he came over to nudge the lifeless Dullahan formerly known as Sootina. “A shame. There were few rifle-women with her command of the form. That I knew of, at least.”

 

I shook my head. “This just leaves another mystery at my door, guys. What do the Weavers really want from me? Why hasn’t Khroma come back to fuck us up? How did Sootina get that lucky? In fact, was she really even working for the Weavers or was she a double-agent?”

 

“Questions indeed.” Rasputin murmured. “I cannot tell you what Yuria wants from you, but I do know that she is fond of you. She thinks of you as…” He trailed off. “Well, perhaps it is not my place to state such assumptions. Yuria will vouch for you against punishment. Sootina was telling the truth when she said that your sin could be forgiven.”

 

I raised my chin. “Yuria’s favor, a forgivable sin, and maybe Ashes of Atrocity? It did lift Earthly Magic.”

 

“I’ve also erased the melody from your mind.” Which he did. I tried then and again just now; the notes won’t form in my head and wouldn’t when he told me so. “A song dedicated to a… Bad radish, would bear no sweet fruit.”

 

“Are radishes even-” Bast started.

 

“Shut up, that’s not important.” Ras rolled his eyes and started twisting his beard as the cat huffed. “What is important is that you learn to control your Terru better. Whether you find an apt tutor outside of Avalesce or study with the Sweavers, the choice is yours.”

 

“Your word carries weight with Yuria, right?” I asked.

 

“... If it did not-”

 

“Don’t need the sass, just a straight answer. You saw me come up with a song for a specific purpose on the spot, right?”

 

Rasputin smiled. “Indeed, you are more intelligent than you would seem. I like where you are taking this.”

 

I gestured by spreading my arms. “Talent like that is useful. Earthly Magic is dope. Wanna make a deal?”

 

“Not on the terms you have in mind. You wish to circumvent the Minstrels without paying your dues.”

 

“Can you blame me?” I asked, my voice sounding a little lighter, like it had before I started chain-chain smoking. I didn’t know if it was my Gift of Gab-thing or me getting more comfortable with haggling over the course of the conversation, but something felt off about my voice.

 

Bast purred and Stella nodded a few times as Rasputin tilted his head from side to side. “Possibly, but you spoke as though you knew of me, so I cannot pretend to do so. Lay your Queen, Gatian, but do so after your studies.”

 

“Studies? So you’re-”

 

He smirked. “No, if you want to learn, the Songweavers have an Academy in Lahgo. Yuria was eager to have you enroll, but knowing your age…”

 

“Yeah, I can’t really blend in with a bunch of college kids these days.” I said flatly, my voice smoothing further even as I spoke. It didn’t take a genius. “You fucking prick.

 

“Mistress Yuria is a very wise woman. Perhaps the structure and guidance of higher education will cull your murderous habits as it did my own?”

 

I folded my arms, only then noticing that my sleeves were a little loose. “How old am I, Rasputin?” The power of my glare was probably less than what it should have been, but there was always hope.

 

He shrugged. “Now that you’re finished, I would say nineteen or so. Maybe nineteen and a day.”

 

“I’m nineteen and a- Nigga imma splitcha wig.” I popped my knuckles, not really all that mad.

 

“No you won’t. You have no desire to.”

 

Stop messing with my head, fuckface.” I sneered, meaning to snarl.

 

He started walking away and I followed reluctantly, tightening the string belt I had to keep my pants up. “Perhaps you should pray to overcome me someday? You might be talented, but nature has never defeated mankind entirely, boy. Study. Learn. Prepare. If you defeat me, I swear to you I shall pass down every fraction of my knowledge to you should you still want it.”

 

“And the other catch?” I sassed mercilessly. I was already annoying myself with my tone.

 

“Try, try, try again. You will fail. You will move on. I will have defeated the Moon River.” He looked over his shoulder. “The catch is that you will not be able to fight me until you are strong enough. Even then you will not replace experience and labor with natural talent, even if nurtured.”

 

Hoarime.” I pointed at his ass.

 

Stella giggled while a snow tail grew out of his ass, which was not what I’d originally intended the Arca to do when I’d first come up with it. Unfortunate effect, but it was still a cold tail. Rasputin grabbed it and pulled, the snowy appendage melting as he did so. “I despise pranksters.”

 

“Guess I’ll just take my time in getting strong enough to undo that. I just don’t think I have the capacity to do more than that at the moment!” I sighed theatrically.

 

Rimeinol-lahl;.” He replied boredly, the snow falling from his ass. He made a few unfamiliar hand-signs and cast his Arca at the ground. “You can walk. If the… Motherly one wants a ride, it is permitted.”

 

Motherly!?” Stella gasped. “I am not motherly!

 

Seeing as how I was around her height and she was probably my senior by five years, I disagreed as well. “More like a big sister or older cousin.”

 

Stop your incestuous jokery!” She squealed. “Gatian! I might like the new you, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a Mommy!”

 

I gave her a fucked up look that she deserved, looked at Ras, and stopped cold. “I’m fuckin’ campin’. Stella, I’m snuggling with you. Bast, you’re welcome too. Ras? Don’t touch me, creepman.”

 

“... Three hours and I can have us there.” A horse’s hoof came out of the ground.

 

I looked at it. “Fuck your couch.”

 

“... Vat?

 

“Gatian wants to adjust to his new form and hormones, I assume.” Bast said with far too much enthusiasm, which got her fucking stared at. “What? He reeks of musk.”

 

“... I could strangle you right now, but I prefer pounding pussy.”

 

“Shut up.” Rasputin dropped his own pack and stepped on the hoof. “We will take a break.”

 

And so we took a break and I wrote this out, but now’s the time when I reflect on everything that’s happened and try to make sense of it all. Speaking of which, I feel fine and that really, really fucking worries me. I’ve weaned myself off of alcohol with Stellara’s help since Partners are trained to treat addiction, but I’m just as numb now as I was then. I still love Stella and I appreciate Bast for everything she is, but there’s so much on my mind that it’s hard to give a fuck about my own problems right now. Sootina was a traitor, which reminded me far too much of what Yuria had said the last time we’d spoken. I’d felt that Sootina was off from the very beginning and had assumed that she was bluffing when she was threatening me. It had been in her eyes that she was fully faithful that she was speaking the truth, despite leaving lies on the table. I…

 

I didn’t need to kill her and Rasputin said as much. We both knew that he was right, but I couldn't’ let someone like her get the same kind of power that I have, especially if she’d already used it to kill someone for her own benefit in the past. There was no telling how old she’d actually been, but it was obvious from the skull fragments that had flown above her shoulders that she wasn’t immortal or anything of the sort. What really concerned me was that, even though justified, I’d killed Sootina without a second thought as soon as my Arca had gone off, letting me know that she’d been lying. I didn’t and still don’t know why exactly she’d forgotten that I’d cast it, but I’m beginning to think Rasputin and the drama had something to do with it. There’s so much I should feel for everything that went on there, however…

 

It’s hard to regret killing Sootina because she’d… She’d probably hurt Max and Gloss at some point. I didn’t doubt that her loyalties were only to herself once the die was cast and that wasn’t the kind of person I liked. She was all too happy to force her way and manipulate things to her advantage and only her advantage, then pretend like she had everyone’s best interests at heart. She was a living tick, a piece of shit, and a spider of epic proportions, but she was Also Aunty Sooty, and she was one of the few people I’d ever trusted to restrain me on the promise of being let go later. She abided by my boundaries, helped me get paid and laid, and had laid the way to Lucine’s death… Actually, that kinda sucked. Fuck that bitch.

 

Damn that’s cold, but… Boosky, Do you know what I’m saying? My heart should hurt and I want it to, but I can’t muster up the fuck to give about a woman I’d truly cared about before I’d started killing people… Even if she hurt me, I should feel something…

 

Right?

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Ringo Farr

Bio: Rewrites in progress; Pm for specifics, otherwise enjoy!

Ringtail is the Panda, I'm just the guy that translates for him. Call me Ringo.

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