A small, bespectacled Thestral with pale fur buzzes herself into the office of a particular high ranking member of government. The office walls are richly paneled wood, with various painted depictions of great battles of old, set in semi-ornate gilded frames, hanging in various places around the walls. Sconce lamps cast a warm glow in the room and books line the shelves set into the far wall of the office with a fireplace set opposite of curtain drawn windows. In front of the shelves and directly opposite the door, is a large and commanding desk of mahogany, the top an inlaid slab of obsidian glass so smooth it could have only been cut by magic. Master Plan, the head of the Obsidian Shard, sits in the high backed chair behind the desk, pouring over documents and writing various notes.
He looks up to the secretary as she closes the padded door behind her. “Sir? We’ve just received a Sending Report from Shard-340. Think’s he’s found something.” She passes him a folded note held in her wing. He takes it with his magic, opens it, and reads.
“Hmm. 340 thinks he might have found our art thief at the former St. Corona’s in the Brass Lantern District. He reports he saw a small, female pegasus coming of the back with a bottle of fine blackberry wine and a full coinpurse when he entered the premises. He’s tagged her with a tracking spell and is now on the move, shadowing her.” he looks up to the secretary with a cruel smile.”Assemble what Shards we have on duty: Full armor and masks. I think it’s high time for an.. Excursion.”
The energy is high in the former Saint Corona’s. There’s a vibrating tension in the air that’s hard to place, and the current fight in the pit is intense: A pair of large Earth ponies, one caramel colored and the other candy apple red scraping it out in the sand. Red had just gotten caramel in a headlock and is squeezing off his air, as caramel struggles trying to body blow Red off him with an elbow. The shouts of dismay and encouragement are loud and frantic, but not loud enough for the crash at the door to not be heard. All heads inside swinging toward the entrance to the old church practically in unison as one of the brass encrusted bouncers slams open the door with a bellow. “IT’S A RAI-” his warning cut off by a swift and deadly crossbow bolt through his throat as he collapses in a lifeless heap in the double doorway. The stunned crowd silent and still for a pregnant moment of shock, before panic and screams set in: But, it’s already too late.
Tall and intimidating ponies in unadorned, magically enhanced, black armor storm in through the door. Their helms covering their entire faces and the crystal lenses where their eyes are, glowing a sickly yellow. The Obsidian Shard had come to call, seeming to boil out of the shadows at every turn and fly in through boarded up windows of the old chapel.
The terrifying ponies quickly grab and restrain all those in sight: the Shards who are pegasus utilizing wingblades to cow and herd ponies up against the wall, the sharp steel edges at their necks. Unicorns in the taskforce use stunner bolts to great effect, and those in the crowd foolish enough to try to fighting back are quickly introduced to powerful magics, of lightning and fire, air and force. Some Pegasus try to take to the air to escape, only to be brought down by accurate crossbow fire, one poor soul being literally tackled out of the air by a high jumping Earthpony that snaps his wing with a painful scream when he lands under the heavily armored Shard.
The Shard’s sweep the entire building, quickly clearing every room and even catching some pairs (and more) in the back rooms by surprise and in very immodest state. The entire thing was over in less than a single minute in eerie professional silence from the Shards: the shouts and yells of the crowd now muted to whimpers and quiet sobs, though a few subtlely sign to each other across the chapel. Anypony who wasn’t restrained or surrendered promptly had been killed swiftly, and the highly trained and disciplined Shards without a single casualty for it.
Now; by some unknowable signal with the building secured and a cordon outside: Master Plan enters the church, with all the air of the old Unicorn royalty, and the crunch of glass under his metal shod hooves.
Flanked by a pair of faceless Shard Unicorns, he steps casually over the deceased bouncer. The air seeming to chill a few degrees with just his calm presence in a full set of fitted ebony armor, the only pony among the Shards without an identity concealing helmet. Fearful whispers from the prisoners follow him like a wake as he walks without hurry up the former central aisle. A ripple of nervousness and fidgeting of quickly exchanged signs flowing from the restrained ponies lining the walls and those pressed into tables by Earthpony armored juggernauts as he enters. He steps around the pit, studying the pair of exhausted fighters at spearpoint at the bottom, giving them each a faintly disingenuous nod of greeting.
He paces up and down the chapel, seeming to inspect each the captured ponies in turn, most fearfully looking away, some eyeing him in return with ill concealed contempt. He studies them as they fidget with Damocles' sword hanging over them all, mostly out of the corner of his eye, but he occasionally steps back to observe the entire room as he inspects each of the detained. Watching their eyes and their expressions, seeing them watch each other, capturing every flick of the hoof or twitch of the wing.
Plan allows himself a smile at the realization that they’re communicating! Now it’s simply a matter of a cypher.
He returns to his inspection, occasionally spotting a secreted blade and reaching in to pluck it from the prisoners with a polite smile while he lets them buzz and pass messages all around him before moving on to tour the back rooms with shamefaced mares and johns. Passing a table on his way back out to the main chapel, though he stops short and pauses, something nagging him. Backtracking, he looks into a small refuse bin next to the table and smiles at what he sees inside.
Picking up the bin he passes it to one of his escorts “See what you can find out about these from the ponies who were in the room or outside the door.” he says and makes his way out toward the bar at the end of the main chapel. Watching ponies communicate incommunicado.
Sitting at the bar is the Madam, adjusting a shawl and seemingly unflappable, despite the armored Earthpony with a spear at the back of ‘her’ neck. Behind the bar is still the young barmare from before, though with a knife wielding Pegasus in black armor holding a blade to her throat.
“You must be ‘Madam’” Master says conversationally in his calm Bittish accent, having a seat; Turning to look at him and keep an eye on the room at the same time. “Im Master Plan.”
“Yes, I know.” The crossdressing stallion replies, drawing the shawl closer, his fake accent slipping a bit now, some Germane accent perhaps slipping into the cracks?
Plan looks to the Shard behind the Barmare and makes a dismissive motion, the Shard lowers the knife and steps back, but keeps the mare in easy reach. “I seem to recall from my files, the bourbon here is actually decent, I’ll take mine neat.” he tells the terrified barmare. She looks at Madam a moment who gives the mare a small encouraging nod. The Mare behind the counter screws up her courage and shakillily takes down a bottle and pours Master a glass, trembling hooves spilling half of what she pours, but the tan Unicorn pretends not to notice, turning his attention back to Madam.
“I must admit I’m quite pleased with what you’ve done with the place,” he says conversationally. “The level of desecration on display here is, if you’ll pardon my pun, simply divine. You’ve turned what was once a bastion of the Sun's light into something so innately dark and corrupt, it’s tainted the entire concept of what this place one stood for in the minds of ponies by association.” Taking the drink from the barmare in his magic with a polite nod, he takes a little sip.”Mmm, actually quite passable.” he critiques, swirling the amber liquid in his glass before he looks up to the approach of booted hooves from the back rooms.
In the dim glow of the approaching Shard’s magic field is a pair of apple cores from the trash, and an empty bottle of Blackberry wine, forgotten and left in the haste of one’s departure. The wine of course, is of a particular brand, and far higher quality than any of these wretches likely could otherwise afford. “One of the brace of dim bulbs outside the door gave us name.” says the Shard in a distorted voice like gravel with a cigar habit. “Said he ‘dunno where Leach got to.’ when questioned about the items.”
Master nods to the Shard, smiling inwardly as the name sets of a small flurry of activity in the crowd. “Ah, his name’s come up before.” he says “He’s a popular one. Full sweep of the room. See if they’ve perhaps left anything else to indicate where they’ve gone..” he commands and takes a sip of his drink as the pony turns and heads back towards the rooms again. He turns to level his cool, blue gaze Madam again “But, I would much prefer to save time. And I would hate to see such an upstanding pillar of this.. community,” he smirks “Such as yourself, to be troubled by a; thorough investigation.” Another sip, more quick signs flying between ponies. “I’ll ask once. Give me your fence.” he requests in a calm but imperial tone. “I know he was here and indications are he left in a hurry. Just tell me where he went, and I’ll withdraw to go knock on his door.”
Madam hesitates and looks back to the ponies lining the walls, some are scared, but a few are defiant and look at her, shaking their heads in the slightest. Several fidget under steel as they sign their opinions. Damocles sword hangs heavy, and the entire chapel silent as it seems the world hangs on a knife’s edge..
“Im sorry Commander, Im afraid I don’t know wher-”
There’s no warning and nothing in Plans demeanor that changes, just a flash of blue and blur of motion as the glass tumbler of bourbon arcs like a fastball and embeds into Madam’s left orbit of his eye with a crunch of shattering glass and a howling scream of pain from the stallion. There’s an explosion of noise from the detained ponies of shock and outrage but a few stunner bolts and one slit throat as an example from the Shards contain the outburst quickly as Plan stands from his seat over the keening Madam. The proprietor with one hoof held gingerly over the ruined eye, the other clutching at the bartop. Master’s horn glows for an instant as, with a shimmering flash of blue, a knife materializes in hoof and the commander brings the conjured blade down through Madam’s hoof on the bar, pinning it there with another yelp of pain from the injured pony. The mare behind the bar starts to scream “No-!” only to be silenced to a whimper as the Shard behind her steps forward and places his knife to her throat again.
Master sighs and shakes his head. “Pity.” He looks back to the Shard’s in the chapel, speaking up. “Process everypony in here! Im sure someone will talk to save their hide.” he says calm, clear and matter of factly, even as the sound of the crowd rises in fear and protest as they start to be marehandled out of the building by the armored forces in black.
Looking to the young mare and her handler behind the bar he assess her objectively, like she were a piece of art, then points to the Shard behind her and nods. “The Magister has been looking for a new plaything too; Take her to the consort's chambers, she should fit in nicely.”
The mare and Madam both pale as the barmare trembles, trying, and failing, not to break down as she’s escorted away, calling to Madam in increasingly hysterical voice until she’s hauled from the building.
“You Bastard.” Hisses Madam though the pain and Master turns to look down to stallion with a cruel sneer.”I gave you your chance Gustav Jäger: You failed to take it.” Madam’s remaining eye widens in horrified shock and looks up to Plan at hearing his real name. At his reaction Master just smirks knowingly. “All I wanted was the purse behind this theft of government property, but, I’ll settle for burning this place down with you in it while I hunt down your fence in ultimately what will turn out to simply be a slightly slower method.”
“After all...” he says leaning down and imperfectly but legibly signs in the guttercode: ..These ponies are all of the ‘right sort.’ He grins wickedly, standing back up to his full height with a laugh at the look of pure dread and pain on the doomed stallion's face as he wincingly wrenches his knife from Madam’s hoof, turns and heads towards his investigation in the back rooms.
St. Corona’s burns. It’s pyre light illuminates the buildings around it and briefly pushes back the night, like its namesake once did in the civil war a millennium prior, but that light too will fade into the long night like its namesake's as well.
Master looks from the blaze of the burning building to one of his lieutenants as they approach “Nothing Sir,” purrs the helmet distorted female voice of his other escort. “There’s no solid indication where this ‘Leach’ has gone, at least so far. And divination is so trace, most this brass in the district has to have high lead impurities.”
“That’s alright, withdraw our forces from the area once all our new guests have been ‘accommodated.’ Any news from 340?” he asks and the Shard shakes her head.
“Still pursuing. But Sir, if I may?” he nods to the pony. “Sir, leaving that stallion alive inside to burn seems highly irresponsible of you, You know a place like this is bound to have several secret passages out of there.”
Plan nods “I had considered that fact, but, it serves to let him think he has slipped the noose if he can get out..” He pulls the knife from earlier seemingly out of thin air again “Give this to our Auguries.” he says hoofing over the still bloody knife carefully to the Shard hilt first.
His blood! Of course!
“Let me know where he goes if he makes it out.” he says turning and striding away as the mare can only marvel at her Commander's foresight.
“Circles within circles” she mutters trotting off with her new orders as the cordon of black armored ponies slip back into the shadows from whence the seemingly spawned, and the old church is consumed by the kiss of the sun.
A Nightmare Takeover AU
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