Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 186

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Chapter 186

An hour later, and I’m idly running a whetstone over the Sword, not sure if it actually needs sharpening, but... I don’t have anything else I can contribute and I need to do something or I’m going to break down.

Twilight’s been going around, putting up wards on everyone’s houses and getting them to stay inside. In the worst-case scenario, the wards will keep out Fluttershy and also alert us. They’re set to set off an alarm here in the library, where Twilight is waiting with me, and tell her where to send me.

It’s been silent for the last twenty minutes, and I’m on edge, like the tail end of the world’s longest adrenaline rush but still not ending.

I don’t even know what to do with myself. At least we have a few hours before dusk comes. Then Fluttershy will probably be out ‘hunting’. I’ve let go of the notion of being able to easily find the one who turned her. The conversation rolls through my mind again.

“Are there any tracking spells that could help?”

“Well, normally with a place as isolated as her cottage, finding something like that wouldn’t be hard, but with all of her animals she cares for, pinpointing an exact trail would take me a week at the shortest, and if anything else comes through in that time, I’d have to start over.”

“You’re sure? There’s no other way to find this vampire?”

“Well I’ve certainly never wanted to have to use anything like a ‘detect undead’ spell, so no. And if I did have a way to learn it, I’d have to practice on something undead, and I’m not good at reanimation either.”

I sigh as the idea fades again, going back to the whetstone, I just can’t imagine how this could get much worse.

The door opens, and I look up. None of the wards had gone off, and the only place we hadn’t warded was Fluttershy’s...

Clark steps in, his demon arm tightly bound with white bandages, though they don’t seem to be stained at all. “Hey, Anthony.” He looks dead tired. “I got her to sleep, but it wasn’t easy. She’ll be out for maybe an hour, but I needed to take a break. Her new teeth go through wood and leather like it isn’t there, and biting metal just hurt her, so...” he waves his arm with a pained wince. “Thankfully, my armor here is thicker than her fangs are long. Barely.”

“So you got her to sleep... What did that involve? You didn’t... hit her over the head or anything, did you?”

“Nah, just my usual methods. Goddess dammit, I’m tired.”

“Well you get some sleep. If we do reach the point of no return, I won’t need any help...”

“Alright. Wake me in twenty, I need to be there to make sure she’s occupied when she gets up. If we’re lucky, she’ll still be out then, too.”

“Life’s a bitch here too, huh?”

“I guess. I’m gonna rest.” He trudges past, looking older with every step. Finally, he simply collapses onto a chair, and is out almost instantly.

My paranoia informs me it’s possible that Fluttershy may have bitten Clark and he’s turning- no! One catastrophe at a time. If it comes to that... it’s not going to come to that. I won’t, because I won’t have to. Oh Pinkie I hope your cure works. Where is she?

Another forty nerve-wracking minutes later, I wake Clark. After going over the book six more times, I’m reassured he isn’t turning. It takes three consecutive nights of feeding followed by giving blood to the victim on the third. And Clark has been out the last three nights, according to Twilight, helping with some data she needed.

Pinkie still isn’t back yet though. Where could that mare be? If this cure doesn’t work once the subject has been fully turned... she may be too late already. I think I’m going to have to do it. No, give her one more day. If there’s no chance in that time, in twenty-four hours... I k-

I kill Fluttershy.

Gah, I can’t just sit here! But if I go out, and an alarm goes off, Twilight can’t get me there! damnit, damnit, damnit!

Another thirty minutes of me pacing, something I know I don’t do this much normally, and my ‘patience’ is finally rewarded by Pinkie and AJ showing up at the door.

“Where’s the cure- Do you have it- How much time do we have-” I barely breathe between questions, not feeling like I have the time to waste.

“Anthony, slow down!” Pinkie says, and the incongruity of the statement actually does stop me. “Okay, so my Grandma said that her own Grandma was a vampony hunter, and wrote this big book about it! Anyways, she pulled it out of her super-secret box, and showed us all the notes on the disease itself!” Pinkie says, smiling broadly. The flame of hope rekindles itself in my heart.

AJ steps in. “Now, before y’all get carried away, there was a cure listed in there. But... there’s some problems.”

“We don’t need, like, the heart of Molag Bal or anything, do we?”

“Er, no... but the biggies are...” Applejack gulps. “Well, one of ‘em is ground Gallow’s Bark, an’ another is some grave-dirt of a relative of the victim. An’... an’ if Fluttershy drinks even a single drop of blood from somepony -or someone- directly before then, she’s gone, ‘cuz the cure don’t work anymore.”

I don’t bother wasting time after hearing that news. “So who knows any of Fluttershy’s relatives who are dead?”

Pinkie and AJ look at each other. “Uhm... most pegasi don’ exactly bury their dead, Anthony.” AJ tells me.

Twilight comes down the stairs, and looks around. “I heard what was said. Uhm, Applejack’s right. Pegasi usually leave their bodies on mountains to be picked clean by carrion-feeders. And unicorns usually burn their dead. Comes from a  few issues with necromancers about forty-six centuries ago.”

“So we’d have to, what, find some relative of hers that’s an Earth pony? Okay, I have a feeling we’ll have to split up for this. Twilight, do ponies keep a census of some kind that contains info on family trees?”

“Uhm, sort of, but it’s in Canterlot! Even if we could teleport that far, we wouldn’t have enough time to get the information. We... we need to ask Fluttershy herself, and hope she has some. Quick, Applejack, what are the other ingredients?”

The farm-pony pulls out a short sheet of paper. “Here, can y’ copy the list, Twilight?”

With a flick of her horn, the unicorn does exactly that, creating four identical copies of the list. “Common spell, had to get blocked from it at the academy, too many students copying my answers. Spike, you watch the Wards, and send me a message if any of them go off, okay?” she doesn’t stop to get his answer, immediately turning back to Pinkie, AJ, and I. “You three, take these lists, and go find as many of the ingredients as you can. I’ll go to Fluttershy and ask if she has any buried family members. Anthony, while you’re searching, keep a careful eye out. You’re better at fighting than us, and if... if she attacks anypony, you’re the fast-”

“Shut up, I know!  Just shut up!” I don’t want any more reminders of what my ‘appointed task’ is. I turn to the list. “Wait, we need a sample of Fluttershy’s blood, and some from the one who turned her...”

“I’ll get Fluttershy’s blood while I’m there... Somehow. We can find the monster who started this after that.”

“Twilight, summon us a pair of syringes for that. If you can’t, Pinkie, head to the hospital and get some and meet me and AJ at Zecora’s with one for us after giving one to Twilight. Zecora might have some of this stuff.” My instructions given, I pick up AJ and stumble a bit at the weight, but I figure with my speed, I wouldn’t want to just dash off alone. Also I don’t know how to get to Zecora’s hut.

A quick, lightspeed dash to the Everfree forest, I set AJ down to catch my breath. Her face, slightly stretched backwards, would be funny if I wasn’t so fucking high on adrenaline right now. “Where... hut...?”

“Uh... right this way, pardner. You lean on me while y’all catch yer breath.”

My faithful leaning-pony leads me to Zecora’s hut-home, and we knock on the door as I stand in some kind of brick-red powder that’s forming a circle around the door. Wait a sec... there’s more of it heaped on the windowsills as well. Maybe some kind of natural ward, but I’m not sure how Zecora could know about this.

The door swings open, and Zecora greets us, rhyming as usual.

“No time to explain. Big problem. We need some of this stuff. What do you have?” I hand her the list. “And hurry if you can.”

She looks it over for barely a moment before telling us she has the materials, as well as letting us know that whoever the vampire is, it’s been stalking her too. Likely because of the whole ‘not in the middle of town’ thing. The dust is, in fact, a warding material as I suspected, and heavy enough not to be blown away by the wind.

“So do you know when you last saw the vampire?”

She tells us that the last she saw it was last night, and that it was a he, judging by its voice when it taunted her about finishing something. We tell her that what he was talking about was probably turning Fluttershy.

“So Twilight’s working on her own bit of the list, asking Fluttershy about her dead relatives, and hopefully get her blood. I’m gonna be the one getting the blood from your stalker. Pinkie should be here soon enough with a needle for the job. Once I’ve got his blood I’ll kill him and make sure he’s not going to start this again.” A thought enters my mind. “I might take two doses from him in case he has anyone else he turned just recently.”

After we leave the forest, we head off to collect some more of the ingredients. We still need to find some ‘Gallow’s Bark’, which is apparently bark from a gallows-tree. Judging by ponykind’s general mannerisms, I’m guessing it’s not a very common commodity. To my shock, AJ says she can get some, but she refuses to elaborate. She heads off to Sweet Apple Acres.

Okay, so I’m going to be hunting that vampire myself. Gripping my sword in my slightly-sweaty hand, I realize how nervous I am. I walk down the now mostly dark streets, on the lookout for anything moving or pony-shaped. Jumping at a few shadows, I wipe my palms on my shirt and readjust my grip on the sword. Where’s Pinkie with that syringe? If I find him and I don’t have it, I’ll have to stall him...

I see a pony-shaped figure approaching me at a medium-fast pace and I bring my sword up in a block for defense when the figure gets close enough for me to see. “Pinkie, you almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Sorry, Anthony!” Pinkie says, then holds out a syringe on her hoof. Not... too sure how she’s holding it in place. I’ll worry about that later.

“Okay. So Zecora’s gave us what she could. AJ’s carrying it and she’s getting the Gallow’s bark. I’m... looking for the maker-vampire.” I pocket the syringe carefully, my immense fear of needles making the blood in my hands crawl as I touch it. I can’t wait for this to be all over... I return attention to Pinkie. “Any word from Twilight on her progress?”

“Nuh-uh. You have any idea where to find the mc-mean-pire? Do we know anything about it?”

“It’s a stallion.” I say, sighing to indicate my displeasure with the fact that it’s all we have to work with. “Any ideas? We don’t know if he’s local, but probably not since this hasn’t happened until now. Who was the last stallion to arrive in town?”

“Hmm? Uhm... Ooh! Alley Card! So maybe he knows?”

I give Pinkie a sorrowful look. “I know you’re trying to be optimistic, but... he’s the best bet we have of being the vampire. Where did you last see him?”

“Oh, uhm... he’s got a house. It’s... kinda near Fluttershy’s, actually.” Pinkie’s expression falls as she thinks over things. “But he seemed really nice...”

“Pinkie... stay here. If I don’t come back...” I sigh. “I’m probably going to come back. But don’t count on it.” I have no idea how ‘old’ this guy is. If he’s ancient, I’m probably digging my grave deeper with each step I take.

Next Chapter: Chapter 187 Estimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 28 Minutes

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