Dumb, thickheaded fool of a stallion! Kitty resisted the urge to buck a wall. She could see the decrepit chapel’s towers peeking through the smoky skyline. Even the Nightmare’s stars couldn’t penetrate the smog that enveloped the Brass Lantern District. Only the dull glow of the lanterns held back the darkness. Kitty trotted along, her face covered in a grim scowl behind the muzzle mask she wore. Her silver eyes gleamed out the crooked, cracked road as her mind rambled on over Talon’s apparent desire to swing skinless from some high place for all to see.
Screw it! Her urges won out as she whirled and bucked a wall, sending a group of orphans scattering. She rolled her eyes at them; so skittish nowadays the orphans. She couldn’t blame them though, even they weren’t safe; in the last week alone dozens of scruffy colts and fillies have up and vanished. More than a few of them were her own spotters.
Saint Corona’s, once the only beacon of light in the Undercity, was now just another cesspool. Before the Nightmare came to Canterlot, the old chapel was stubbornly taken care of by this old Pegasus mare everyone just called Sticks managed the place. She’d offer anyone in need a warm bed, or hot meal, sometimes a patient ear. Broke her rules however: like threaten her flock, pass out drunk on the steps, or take Celestia’s name in vain. She’d crack your skull with a thin wooden rod she was fond of. When the Nightmare started ruling however, the Temples dedicated to Celestia were the first thing to go, Sticks disappeared and the place became a haunt for dust addicts and squatters. Until M got a hold of the place that is.
Two bouncers, rugged and scarred brutes with enough cheap brass jewelry between them to choke a dragon waited outside the large double doors at the top of the stairs. She greeted them, with a nod and a quick blur of signals the Right sort were fond of. They glared at her then nodded in tandem before their horns glowed and opened the doors for her. She walked into the chapel as the sound of cheers and groans alike greeted her. Gone were the pews, altar, and candelabras of old, a bar sat at the back, decked out in crap whiskey, watered down wine, and- surprisingly- quality bourbon. Various tables and chairs were scattered across the floor and a large dueling pit had been carved into the floor, and a small crowd of ponies were gathered barrel to barrel around it. In the pit Kitty could make out two unicorns with bare coats. One was piss yellow, the other a red devil of a stallion. Yellow was all kinds of sliced up, his forelegs and barrel a maze of cuts and scratches, blood dripped liberally mixing with the ruddy mud under his hooves. Red, however, favored one of his hindlegs and his horn was sparking.
Kitty headed to the bar and sat beside an enigma of a stallion known as the Madame, a slim, powdered earth pony clad in the fancy frocks and skirts of the nobility, albeit a little mussed and worn. His periwinkle coat sported a myriad of perfumes and oils and his mane was a black puff atop his head. She smiled at the pretty young mare behind the bar,” Hey gorgeous. Whiskey,” she said before turning to the Madame. “Twenty bits says Yellow wins.”
“And I’d be a fool to take that bet deary,” he said in a thick- not to mention very fake- Canterlot accent. “You didn’t come for the drink or to watch.” A glimmer of hope shine in his eyes. “Perhaps you’re here to take me up my offer?”
“Sorry but nah,” Kitty waved a hoof. “Leech here?”
The Madame wrinkled his muzzle. “Oh. Him.” He looked back at his small stack of bank notes and papers. “The back.”
“Cheers.” She raised her glass and promptly downed it.
She made her way to the back, what was once Prather rooms was now a meet and greet for the Right sort of people. A small group of thugs glanced her way as she passed them into the hall. Leech had stepped up security. She found Leech in one of these rooms behind a thick oak door, sitting at a small table with a bottle eating beside him. Leech was a scrawny unicorn stallion who looked barely out of colthood. His coat was puke green and his mane was a black mop atop his narrow head. He looked up and a crooked smile crawled its way across his muzzle.
“Kitty! Wonderful timing was just about to give up hope and cut my losses.” He slammed his book shut. “Good news by chance?”
Kitty rolled her eyes and pulled from her layers of coats and vests, a slender cylindrical container. Leech was almost drooling as he snatched it out of her grasp. He carefully pulled the painting from its home. Leech gazed upon the artistry with open, larcenous lust. “Did anyone see you carrying this in?” He asked with a sudden seriousness.
“You think I’m new to this.” Kitty flopped into one of the chairs at his table. “No, it was under my clothes the whole way here. No one saw a damn thing.” She pulled her bag up and spilled its contents on the table. “And I’d like to pawn these.”
Leech’s eyes took in the loot. He snatched up one of the apples and bit into it without a moment’s hesitation. He moaned loudly, juices dribbling down his chin. “I’ve missed fresh fruit! Raided his pantry huh?”
Kitty picked up one of the bottles of blueberry wine and uncorked the bottle. She took a deep drink from it. “Mmm, damn good vintage.” She glanced at Leech. “So about my fee.”
“Did you get spotted on the way here?” He asked suddenly. Leech wasn’t one for a serious tone unless his neck was in the line. Kitty raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” she admitted, frowning. “Rookie patrol chased me for a block or two. Cleaned their clocks though. Mules forgot they had wingblades.” She held up a hoof stopping Leech from protesting. “I even laid low in a pawn shop not far from the Azora until curfew was lifted then walked here.” He wasn’t normally this jumpy over a simple second-story job, even if it was the Nightmare’s portrait they’d lifted. “What’s the deal Leech? You know something I don’t know?”
His eyes flashed to the tabletop for a brief moment. It was quick but Kitty caught it nonetheless. “No. Nothing. Business as usual.”
“You’re a shit liar Leech. Tell me the mark wasn’t in on the job.”
“He wasn’t?” Kitty scowled, nonplussed and more than a little irked. Leech gulped, no pony in Canterlot could pinch bits quite like Leech but damn if he wasn’t so spineless…
“Alright! Yeah he was! He and the client worked out a deal. Wanted me to find a likely thief so….”
“Leech you idiot.” Kitty groaned and slumped in her chair.
“Hey just lay low and the guard will give up eventually,” Leech said. “ That’s what I plan on doing.”
“I could have shaken him down for a couple hundred bits at least!” Kitty wailed into her hooves, mourning an opportunity lost.
“Big surprise that’s what you’re upset about.” Leech mumbles and rolled his eyes before pulling a large bag of clinking coins on the table in front of her. “Quit crying like you spilled you ale and take your fee.” He pulled two more smaller pouches from his tattered vest and set them down too. “For the loot too.” He picked up the fertility statue.”Celestia, Matte Pallette is an odd one. High quality though. Bet he was pissed.”
Kitty momentarily forgot her woes and began counting coin. The big satchel held well over five hundred silver Lunes, while the smaller ones held golden bits, one hundred each. One hell of a score and triple what the average working pony made in a year. Once again however her lost chance to add to her bulging funds earned from the job came to the forefront of her mind and she snatched away the bottle of wine she’d opened off the table.
“My fee for you withholding information,” grumbled Kitty before suckling at the bottles neck like an infant foal would from its mother’s teat.
“Yeah, yeah,” Leech grumbled.
“Oh yeah,” Kitty said as she came up for air. “Got some stuff a forger would be interested in. Know anyone looking to restock? Got quills, parchment, and something else of significant value.”
“Hmm, I'll have to get back to you. Most have gone to ground. I doubt there's one in the city at all.”
“Let me know next time you stop by the Call.” Kitty then glowered and rapped the tabletop, catching Leech’s attention as she shot off a few signals. Talon’s hiding rebels. Keep an eye out. Leech nodded slowly before going back to his ledger. Kitty walked out of the room and back to the bar for a stiff drink and maybe the barkeeps tail.
The next few hours were spent with Kitty trying her best to out drink the Madame in between viewing at the latest fighters that braved the pit. Even went to the pit’s edge to root for one of the fighters she’d bet on. Kitty was walking on air when she won, even let it pass when someone groped her flank as she waded it of the crowd to get her winnings. Fifty bits richer Kitty resigned herself to a bottle of cheap whiskey, and half watched the next fight- Pegasi this time. Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw some unicorn stallion at a table in the far corner staring at her. When her eyes landed on him, he was gazing at the crowd surrounding the pit. Cheers rose up, followed by angry shouts.
Kitty shook her head, it was just her imagination. Another few minutes passed however and she felt that nagging sensation that she was being watched. She flicked her eyes to the corner, and this time she caught the stallion look away. Kitty turned back to her drink and downed the shot. She had to be sure. With a stretch, she gave a decent fake yawn, flipping her wings. Cautiously she glanced at the stallion. He was yawning. She also noticed he didn’t look as dirty as the rest of the patrons, as most were usually covered in the ash that fell from the many smokestacks and chimneys that dotted the Undercity’s skyline. His clothes looked of decent quality, garbed in a thick dark cloak and brimmed hat. By Celestia, she was being watched! Kitty stared down at her drink, willing her now racing heart to kindly shut the fuck up and let her think. She needed to get out of there. Her mind went to Leech, she knew he was still in the back. Her better instincts told her to wait an hour or two, as to not give away the fact she knew she was being watched. They passed with all the speed of a glacier but Kitty remained level headed and didn’t give away what she knew. She took advantage of a fight that broke out outside the pit and put her nimble wings to good use snagging a quill and parchment from the Madame. She scribbled a note onto it.
Pull a vanish. Being watched.
With a deep breath Kitty put on her best bullshitter’s smile and downed the last of her whiskey. Standing up, wobbling slightly for effect she said her goodbyes to the Madame and pulled her in for what would appear to be a drunken hug. She slid the note and quill back into his coat pocket, making sure he felt it. Pulling back she signed: Pass to Leech. The Madame gave the barest hint of a muzzle twitch. He’d understood.
With that, Kitty trotted out of the bar and into the cool night air. She walked on, perusing the cluttered streets, all the while glancing in the direction she came from. Low and behold her instincts were right on the money. The unicorn from the dueling pit was following after her. Kitty smirked as she fell into a comfortable gait and turned into an alleyway. The chase was on.
A Nightmare Takeover AU
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