Sands of Gold and Red: Shadow Long Gone
It's difficult to believe that Chokey could have been so stupid. I mean I understand that thestrals had it difficult before princess Luna's return and fruit eaters were just a little bit more accepted. By the few ponies who were able to tell the difference or bothered to ask, that was.
However, I think Cromach's idea worked. Chokey cheered up and embraced the vacation wholeheartedly. I think she's playing beach volleyball or something at the moment with Cromach and few other guests. As for me, I'm enjoying the sound of the sea and thinking. I know I should stop but when your head is your only company it gets rather difficult.
Choking Darkness... the dark, wannabe scary names have been in the old vampony families forever although I still believe the story about Chokey's mother choosing the name considering how pervy her daughter is.
Honestly, with how much magic I've been a victim of and with how many forms I've been changed into she should have told me. It's not like I would have felt any different about her for it. She couldn't trust herself to deal with it though so how could she have trusted anypony else?
...yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of ME saying that.
You can't just get rid of things that have been with you for as long as you can remember. Heck, no matter what happens, no matter what I do I'll be ashamed of myself probably forever so I can understand her.
We're halfway through our vacation and feel like a new griffon. All the remnants of worries from Manehattan are gone, the evil voice has been silent since the incident with Darky, and the batpony herself isn't just throwing out innuendos but seems genuinely happy.
Speaking of Darky, she changed her look for the vacation but after yesterday's shopping spree she's finally done. I must admit I feel bad for Blaze not seeing that because, I swear on Emperor's wings, she looks hotter than ever before. To explain things, she looks like a cheap crack whorse with the porn charm but without the abuse. Ehm, that doesn't say much, does it?
As she punts the ball over a net on the beach to the group playing against the two of us, I can't help noticing her bloodthirsty smile. It's two against five and we're smashing them. My gaze travels up to her mane which she almost completely shaved on one side, creating a long strand on the other side of her face. The second big change was her sudden interest in glasses. I'm not sure whether she's been hiding eyesight problems or she just likes the look but the thin, red-rimmed spectacles fit her colors perfectly. She completed the look with a white Saddle Arabian see-through skirt covering her flank from one side and leaving it open on the other. Black, white, and red - a somber colour scheme which she somehow managed to turn into sexy, yet casual, decoration. The sweat glistening all over her fur and matting her mane is just the frosting on the cake.
The ball drops on the sand and I shake my head.
"Oops, sorry, Darky. Got lost in thought for a moment there," I apologize, tearing my eyes away from the wet fur of her plot.
"Better hide that baseball bat, Crom!" she looks at my crotch, grinning. While I'm not showing anything she knows where I was looking.
Few whistles from the stallions on the other team tell me I wasn't the only one. Few more withering looks from the other mares aimed at them show they knew.
"How are you not spontaneously combusting with that black coat?" I ask, noticing Darky isn't even breathing heavily.
"Heh, as one of few batponies who like flying outside during the day I used to join the pegasi a lot. This is a cinch compared to flying above the clouds in summer. Ya tired?"
"A little. I didn't get too much sleep last night," I smile smugly.
Darky laughs and slaps my back. When griffons do it it's fine but the hooves kinda hurt.
"Good for ya!" she turns to the other group, "How about we take a short break? Two against five is hardly fair."
"Yeah, you have too big of an advantage!" a middle-aged pegasus yells, grinning, "Let's take a breather, friends."
"Not jealous? I'm honestly impressed," I look at Darky.
"I'm over it, Blaze is yours."
"I thought we talked this through with you."
"Ya did, then I thought about it a lot, then I decided. It's not about him forgiving me, it's about me forgiving myself. I can't really look at him without remembering I cheated on him, drugged him for my own benefit, left him to die out of fear, and a lot of other things."
"Does he know?"
"Of course I told him. I owed him at least that. I told him I'd be by his side as a friend and if one day I get over how I feel I might try again. He said he was fine with it."
I look at her again, hard.
"Darky, you could cut his heart out, deep-fry it, and he would be fine with it. I think you should-"
"And I think ya should shut up, Crom. Trust me, I know I hurt him deep down but I think he can deal with it now thanks to ya. I'll still be around, I'm still open to a threesome, I just won't come between ya when ya want to be together. One day I'll come to terms with all of that and then ya'll have to be scared I'll steal him."
"So... yet another selfish move on your part?"
"If ya see it that way," she shrugs, "I don't, Blaze doesn't."
I guess she's not budging no matter what so I just sigh. Maybe Blaze sighs so much not because of himself but because of her and now she's making me do the same.
"Let's just take a break. Where's the victim?"
Darky points towards a parasol stabbed into the beach and a unicorn lying with his head in the shade but the rest of his body in the direct sun. His dark grey coat must be extremely uncomfortable but he doesn't seem to be troubled in any way. Ponies are weird.
"Aren't you hot, Blaze?" I ask as I sit down in the shade, "I mean any griffon unfortunate enough to be born with black fur would be melting right now."
"Part-zombie. Crappy blood flow when I'm not moving. Besides, I hated cold even while alive."
Hmm... that DOES make me a necrophile, technically. Considering how many forms Blaze went through according to his journal I'd be a-lot-of-phile so I don't really mind.
"So you're fine with just lying here the entire day?"
"Nah, few hours at most. Aren't you playing water polo or something?"
"Beach volleyball, buddy. We're having a break because Darky was beating them too much."
"A bunch of forty-something nobles against two young royal guards... that can't be legal."
"Well, it's more that the guys stare at Darky, the mares stare at me, I stare at Darky, the mares stare daggers at their partners so sharp the baloon pops when it gets close. Everyone gets something, noone really loses. Too bad you can't see it."
"Chokey, come over here, will you?" Blaze chuckles when she sits down next to him, wraps his hooves around her, and plants his face right into her almost invisible cutie mark.
"Hey, that's cheating!" I object at the blind pony touching another pony in order to... I can't win this one, can I?
"Aw, don't be sad!" Darky unwraps Blaze from herself and wiggles her plot in my face, "Kiss it and magically ya'll feel better."
Who am I to argue with magic, right?
"OW!" Darky scowls as my sharp beak nibbles her rump.
"What do you know," I mumble, "It really works."
Blaze yawns again, his mouth open so wide the three blackfrost tendrils taste the air.
"Sorry, guys. I'm afraid I won't be much fun today, too tired. How about we stroll through the town in the evening?"
"Sounds cool," I nod, "We could pile something more on the royal bill. Especially something other than food and drinks. Got anything in mind?"
"Not really. I just want to wander around. I like walking through places... once... then I get bored."
"Darky, you coming as well?"
"Not going for a romantic date?" she sticks her tongue out.
"We COULD end it with an adult group hug," I sweeten the deal, "I'm pretty sure that this resort of rest, pleasure, and decadence can offer us something."
"I'd hate to be the royal treasurer when he reads the bill," Blaze snorts, "Enough wine to drink a minotaur camp under the table, at least one of literally every food available here, some minor expenses for the actual services, and, to top it off, few crates of bondage equipment."
"All expenses paid they said," Darky shrugs.
"Well, when we're on our next vacation on the moon we'll have enough time to rest."
"Better enjoy this while it lasts then," I join Darky, all morals forgotten.
"Okay," Blaze rolls his eyes, "Wake me up when you're done with the water polo."
"Beach volleyball, also called beachball-"
"Don't know, don't care!" the tentacles from his mouth escape again and wave us goodbye.
The day passes way too fast but that's just a proof I'm enjoying myself way too much. First of all, I'm home. Not that I don't like Equestria but the sands of the Empire with their dry air rustling through my wings are where I was born and raised. The second biggest thing is that for the first time in weeks noone is going after me and I'm surrounded by ponies who aren't just colleagues, acquaintances, or casual friends but more, so much more.
The evening walk should be boring but it isn't. Watching Darky try various dresses and accessories out is an interesting way to pass time, especially when she has the fashion sense of a rave girl and even less inhibitions. Blaze, so he wouldn't feel left out, models some stallion wear for us with an expression of mild disgust, when he realizes what the clothes accentuate, and utter horror, when the griffon girl selling the stuff says it looks made for him.
I must admit Blaze was right when he wondered about the griffon patrols everywhere. There certainly is an unhealthy amount of soldiers around but that still could just show that the Empire cares about their high profile guests. Funnily enough, it turns out he just likes walking around and mapping new places for himself, perhaps he should have been a cartographer instead of a guard. Also, he hates seafood and mushrooms, a little detail that made my dinner order of shiitake squid a bit awkward. Oh right, we're banned from that place now because he pretended his tentacles were the remains of his still alive dinner trying to choke him and some guests ran away.
To finish the evening off we give Darky a free reign, heh, in choosing the right things for tonight. We regret it as soon as each of us gets to carry a crate on our backs.
Before passing out in Darky's room after an evening of debauchery I have to admit that in terms of mare on stallion on griffon affairs I've just been thoroughly schooled. On the other paw, mine and Darky's combined efforts made Blaze collapse while being our plaything. No amount of effort made him wake up again so we had to resort to some mundane interracial playtime. Up until today I thought I was experienced but tonight I was just a mere student.
I grunt as I toss myself in sleep and my muscles complain after being too abused. My right arm flaps around and squeezes something soft.
"Mmmmmm... insatiable griffons," Darky mumbles in deep voice and snores.
...you are in danger...
To complete my collection of yielding flesh to grope, my left arm reaches out to touch something rock hard...
...and not in the good way.
What's going on? Enemies.
My eyes shoot wide open. I sit up, ready to rip any threat apart.
What lies in front of me, in the same bed as me and Darky, is a disgusting creature. I know that form, every griffon does. It's a poor impression of a pony with sharp, hard chitin surface where coat should be. The colours are what makes it even worse as the last time I saw that colour scheme I almost died. Blonde mane, something none of those abominations should have and a bronze plating instead of normal black one is what I can't get rid of ever since Manehattan.
To think I touched that thing last night. It's pure evil. I must kill it- get out.
"What's going- BLAZE?" Darky's voice is neither disgusted nor scared.
"Wzmlpf?" the changeling mumbles, opening its eyes.
Where are the pink eyes I love? What is this grey nonsense?
I growl ferociously. That bug has to disappear.
Darky rushes into the bathroom while I keep the monster at bay. She returns quickly after rummaging through a drawer for a mirror. The changeling looks at me, eyes wide, and carefully shuffles backwards. My wings flare and talons rip the blanket. The changeling then looks at Darky who is holding a mirror in her mouth.
"Oh wow! What the hay? How? Not that I'm complaining but..." it trails off, understanding dawning as it looks at me, "Oh no. Cro, I'll think of something."
"What. Are. You?" I stop myself from ripping the thing apart and the effort makes me tremble all over.
"Hey, it's me, Blaze. You knew I used to be a changeling temporarily, Chrysalis cursed me, and I thought you were fine with it."
"I need fresh air," I groan.
"It's still me!" the liar, traitor, monster wails, "I can wear a bag over my head or something if it's too bad!"
I rush out and slam the door shut.
"First Chokey and then... you?" is a whisper I shouldn't hear but I can feel it in my bones.
I stumble, shake, and run. My head goes completely blank.
Good job, griffon! I knew you'd be useful.
Gasping for breath, I collapse in a dark alley.
All that's left is to watch Hope die.
A griffon armed with a pistol and wearing traditional white nomad robes walked into a blind alley containing dumpsters and a white pile of feathers that on the second glance proved to be a griffon cowering in a corner with wings wrapped around his head, sobbing. Black smoke swirled around the armed nomad as he loaded something big into his gun, aimed into the air, and with a hiss released a charge that burst into bright flames above Golden Sands. After reloading he aimed at the wretch in the corner.
...not yet. He will live his own nightmare...
The smoke entered the nomad and a loud sound from the distance answered the flare.
...at least until we devour everything...