The Convoy

by BookeCypher

Chapter 1: Through the mountains

“You okay, colt?” Spark Gap looked up from his third check of the magical equipment sitting in the back of his wagon to look at the Earth pony captain that had just addressed him.

“I’m fine sir,” the unicorn fidgeted, running a hoof through the short mess of dark hair he called a mane. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you haven’t stopped fidgeting with the gear since we left Appaloosa.” The captain replied flatly. “You nervous?”

“Why would I be nervous?” Spark quickly defended – perhaps too quickly. “This is just a aid convoy to the other side of the Appoloosan’s. That just means it’s going straight through Diamond Dog territory.” Spark was steadily starting to talk faster. “But why worry? We’ve got all these well-equipped gentlecolts around….” He gestured widely to the surrounding convoy. His wagon was roughly in the middle of the group, several more wagons ahead of him and another set following behind. In between and around the wagons were armored and equipped Earth ponies and Unicorns. Some walked with spears held in their fore hooves, others had crossbows strapped to a forelimb – hard to fire, since you had to balance on your hind legs to do it, but effective. A few of the larger Stallions had heavy crossbows mounted on their backs, the bridle’s hanging around their necks ready to send bolts flying with a pull. The only weapons in the convoy that were larger were the ballista’s mounted on the roof of a couple of wagons. Overhead were a handful of pegasai, flying in pairs as they patrolled above the convoy. “We’ll be fine!” Spark ended with a somewhat forced smile before taking a deep breath and trying to relax. “Sorry sir – first time doing something like this.”

“Well, you’re right to be nervous.” The captain replied gruffly.

Spark blinked. That was not something he had expected to hear. “uh….why?”

The captain pointed overhead. “Most of our air wing got called to help with the clean-up to the east. Without air support, we wouldn’t see those dogs coming if they sent a letter.”

“Still, they would have to be pretty dumb to attack a convoy like this.”

“These are diamond dogs, colt. Never gave them much credit for brains.” The captain replied.

“that’s not very reassuring, sir.” Spark commented.

“I’m not paid to be reassuring,” the Captain replied, “I’m paid to…”

“Captain Grid Iron!” whatever the captain was going to say as one of the pegasi swept down to hover next to him. “Second patrol reporting in, sir.” The pegasi saluted.

The captain returned the salute. “Anything to report?”

“Nothing sir,” the Pegasus replied. “Third patrol went off to investigate a rock slide, but they didn’t find anything.”

“Very well,” the captain thought for a moment before replying. “Move the patrols out another furlong, and report any sign of subterranean activity.”

“Yes sir!” with another salute, the Pegasus took back off.

“Will they actually be able to see them coming from up there?” Spark asked as he watched the pegasi spread out.

“Nice thing about this area,” the Captain explained, “Is the rock - Solid layer of it not far below the surface. Means those dogs can’t come at us from deep. Any tunneling should cause enough displacement to be obvious.”

“But what about….” Spark started.

“What about what?” the Captain inquired. “Spit it out, colt.”

“Well, what about the road?” Spark asked, gesturing behind himself with a hoof. “A road like this is just layer after layer of sand, dirt, and gravel - Easy stuff for a diamond dog. The bottom layer would be deep enough too.”

“An interesting conjecture,” The captain allowed. “Assumin’ they’re smart enough to think of it.”

“Unicorns cast, Pegasai fly, and Diamond Dogs dig. They don’t need to be smart, Sir.” Spark explained. “It’s what they DO.”

The captain paused as he considered this. “son of a….” Any further statement was cut off as there was a shout from the front of the convoy. The Captain looked around the wagon in front of him just in time to see a long, blueish-grey limb pull the lead wagon puller underground. “DOGS!”

There was another crash as the rear wagon suddenly keeled over, landing on its side with a thundering crash. “What was th-” Whatever Spark was going to say was cut off as his own wagon copied the rear one and suddenly keeled over. Spark landed hard on his back, the force of its sending the air rushing out of his lungs. His hooves groped around sporadically as they tried to regain purchase. His head was still spinning as he looked up to see half a diamond dog poking out of the ground where one of his wagon’s wheels had once been. Actually, there were three, but he assumed that was from the fall.
The diamond dog grinned at him, and a shiver went down Spark’s spine. The dog however, didn’t move - which only worried Spark more. Suddenly, a blue-grey arm burst out of the ground next to him. A burst of adrenaline sent his limbs scrambling, but his still swimming head meant he didn’t get anywhere.

No sooner had the arm burst out, however, that a pair of hooves crashed down on the arm, bending it oddly with a sickening crack and a muffled shriek from somewhere below. Spark gathered his senses enough to stare up at the captain. The captain, for his part, just grinned at him. “You okay, colt?” Spark didn’t trust his tongue, so he just nodded. “Good,” The captain gestured toward the rear wagons. “go check on the wagons back there. Get anypony you can back here.” He turned to the stallion that had been pulling Sparks wagon and had just freed himself. “You, come with me.”

Spark watched the two of them head off before realized he had a job to do. He quickly scrambled to his still shaky hooves and, after taking a moment to steady his self, headed off to the back of the convoy.

All around him, ponies and diamond dogs were duking it out, the whistle of crossbow bolts and the crackle of spells echoed in his ear as they flew past. The road was narrow, hemmed in on both sides by steep stone cliffs. Adding to the congestion was the quickly growing collection of wreckage from the attack. These, however, where not Spark’s biggest problem, as he quickly realized when another of those blueish arms burst out a single pace to his left. He quickly side-stepped, only to have another diamond dog limb burst forth a scant few inches from his hind legs. “Sweet Celestia!” Spark jumped away, only to run into yet another limb. It was like some sort of demented carnival game, part of his brain mused, as he franticly dodged the paws that wanted to desperately drag him under. So far, he’d been lucky.

His luck didn’t last forever though. In his frantic leaping, he hadn’t paid attention to where he was going and now found himself pinned between the cliff face and a sizable chunk of what might have been one of the wagons. The dogs seemed to sense his predicament, since a trio burst out of the ground a few paces from him. Spark backed up as they slowly approached, but soon found himself unable to go further.

Well, then, if he was going down, he wasn’t going easy. He lowered his head, pawing at the ground as he gave the trio a glare. “You should have sent more dogs.”

The trio charged, and Spark braced himself for the attack. However, before he could do anything, he suddenly found himself hoisted into the air. “While that was very impressive, I doubt it would have ended well.” Spark looked up at his sudden savior, a White coated Pegasus carrying him above the fighting. A light blue mane hung down to his rescuers shoulders, and it took a moment to realize this was the same Pegasus that had reported to the captain earlier. He also realized said Pegasus was a mare.

“Well, it seemed like a good idea 30 seconds ago.” Spark replied with a shrug, noting idly that her cutie mark was a strange twisting ribbon of light blues. “Thanks for the save, miss…”

“Aurora, Mr. Gap” She replied. “So, where are we going?”

“How do you know my….?” Spark dismissed the question as unimportant for now. “Rear of the convoy. Captain want’s everypony to regroup.”

“Got it!” She replied. “Regrouping everyone so we can get pulled under together!” The pair flew over the battlefield, but most ponies were already moving forward or long gone. “Looks like they already got the message.”

“Seems that way…” Spark trailed off. “Wait, what’s that?” Down below and just ahead, he could just make out a pair of figures. One was an earth pony, pinned under a wagon. The other was another diamond dog, slowly stalking toward the pinned pony. It seems the dogs enjoy playing with their food.

He needed to get down their – fast. “Drop me!”

“What!?” Aurora stared at him. “Are you insane?”

“Probably.” Spark agreed. “I’ll handle this – you go back and make sure everypony knows where to go. Drop me.”

“This is the type of plan that gets ponies killed!” Aurora shouted as she released Spark Gap. Between gravity and his forward speed, he flew through the air WAY faster than he was expecting. “incoming!”

The diamond dog turned around just in time to take the silver-coated unicorn to his face as both of them careened into the ground in a tangle of limbs. “….ow.”

“Nice landing.” The pinned earth pony joked with a grin. His coat was the color of sand, and his dark brown mane was a mess. Surprisingly, his saddlebags were still strapped on.

“You seem happy, all things considered,” Spark commented as he disentangled himself from the now comatose dog.
“Well, I find panicking rarely helps,” the pinned pony shrugged. “Who in Tartarus dropped you?”

“Some Pegasus named Aurora.” Spark dusted himself off as he trotted over to the earth pony. “Let see if we can get you out of there….”

“Wait,” The earth pony didn’t even notice as the wagon was wrapped in an aura of magic. “as in Aurora Light? White coat? Blue mane? Kinda snarky?”

“Sounds like her,” Spark huffed as he put more magic behind the telekinesis spell until it finally shifted off of the pinned pony. “there, can you move?”

The earth pony stood up slowly. “Surprisingly, yes.” He replied. “anyway, thanks for the help. I’m…”

“Booke Cypher!” Aurora yelled from above suddenly, making both stallions jump.

“…What she said,” Booke ended lamely before turning to Aurora. “What!?”

“You were doing something stupid again, weren’t you?” Aurora glared at Booke, already knowing the answer.

“Only by your definition,” Booke defended, trying to walk off smugly only to half one of his legs decided it really didn’t want to support his weight. “alright, maybe I’m not alright…”

“Wait, Booke Cypher?” Spark raised an eyebrow. “You were the one at the briefing who….”

“Is now really the time!?!” Booke cut him off.

“I guess not.” Spark sighed. “Aurora, can you fly him out?”

“Sure,” she replied. “But I’ll have to come back for you.”

“I don’t intend to hang around,” Spark answered. “You clear out everybody else?”

“Yep – all the other injuries have been flown out already.” Aurora explained. “You two are the only ponies left back here.”

“good,” Spark helped Booke up. “I’ll start trying to get back to the meet-up point. See if you can meet up with me.”

“You mean with us.” Booke corrected. “No way I’m leaving you in the middle of this mess alone.”

“No offense, but you aren’t in much of a position to help me.” Spark replied.

Booke replied by reaching into his saddlebag and, after a minute of wrangling, pulled out his hoof, now with a compact crossbow strapped to it. “You keep me upright, and I’ll make sure neither of us get grabbed.”

“I still think it would be better….”

“I’m not leaving you back here,” Booke cut him off “And that final.” He turned to Aurora. “You make sure we don’t walk into a dead-end or a pack of dogs.”

Aurora sighed. “We’re all going to die….”

“Hey,” Booke grinned. “I might make it!”

“Says the guy with a busted leg,” Spark shook his head. “Let move, ponies.”

Aurora took off and began to circle overhead as the two ground-born ponies started to make their way forward.

It took them two hours and three dead-ends, but eventually they managed to make their way back to where Spark had started. Sure enough, the captain was waiting for them, talking to another pegasus as the trio approached. “well,” he dismissed the pegasus as he addressed Spark. “I tell you to deliver a message and this happens.”

“Had a few problems, sir.” Spark replied with a grin.

The captain chuckled. “I imagine. Let’s get you over to medical.” A pair of medical unicorns wheeled over a gurney which Booke gratefully collapsed onto before they wheeled him away.

“So,” the captain turned to Spark. “How was your first convoy?”

Spark Gap considered it for a moment before replying. “Interesting, sir.”

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