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The Invasion of Florence by Badpacing

By SlavePonyGeneral
Created: 19th December 2020 12:02:29 AM

  1. [Copied from pastebin.com/2b1khP8z]
  2.  
  3. >Day The Invasion of Florence.
  4. >The first thing you hear are trumpets.
  5. >Distant at first, but with every passing minute they grow closer.
  6. >Then the drums.
  7. >Oh, the drums.
  8. >Pounding rhythmically, incessantly.
  9. >You feel your heart racing.
  10. >They told you that the Venetians were coming, but you didn’t believe them.
  11. >Twice before you were warned.
  12. >Each time, the Florentines were able to beat them back.
  13. >That’s why you didn’t try to hide your few bits of silver and copper.
  14. >You notice you have been scrubbing the same place this whole time.
  15. >One spot on the wooden table gleams much brighter than the rest.
  16. >”That’s enough. There’s no one here.”
  17. >You look up at the familiar voice.
  18. >Marco is beside you, brushing his beard.
  19. “What am I supposed to do?” you ask.
  20. >You’re surprised by the fear in your voice.
  21. >If the Venetians arrive, they will probably kill everyone.
  22. >Who knows what they will do to a pony.
  23. >Your pink coat will probably hide a few slaps.
  24. >Hopefully they won't pull your golden mane.
  25. >Marco doesn’t answer your question as he looks out the window.
  26. >He probably doesn’t know either.
  27. >You place the rag on the table, as Marco walks to the door.
  28. >He stops at the threshold, but doesn’t leave.
  29. >In the opposite direction, you hear a single horn.
  30. >Then more.
  31. >Deeper, louder than the trumpets.
  32. >A few footmen run past the inn.
  33. >Their armor is rough, and poorly fitted.
  34. >Their helmets cast a shadow over their faces, but you already know what they are feeling.
  35. >Dread.
  36. >You rush outside, and Marco doesn’t stop you.
  37. >Instantly you stop, and turn.
  38. >Wordlessly, you ask him if you can see.
  39. >He offers only the slightest nod, before closing the door to follow.
  40. >Together you walk up the street toward the sounds.
  41. >You’re surprised at how many people are outside.
  42. >Their outfits are bright and cheery, though their faces betray their thoughts.
  43. >A few ponies jostle for position.
  44. >Those that can fly are sitting on rooftops to watch.
  45. 1/15
  46. >Marco sees an opening and pushes through the crowd.
  47. >You follow close behind before the others can fill the void.
  48. >Just as you pass the last person, the music stops.
  49. >On opposite hills, stand the two armies.
  50. >There are thousands of people.
  51. >Maybe, tens of thousands.
  52. >The flags are just as countless.
  53. >Behind you, another pony talks with his friend.
  54. >”Most of them are mercenaries,” the pony says in Equestrian.
  55. >It’s easier to talk freely with Equestrian, because so few people understand it.
  56. >”How can you tell?”
  57. >”Look at their flags.” It takes a moment before he continues. “Swiss, German, Milanese.”
  58. >Again he pauses.
  59. >”What is it?”
  60. >”Those are ponies.”
  61. >You turn around before you can stop yourself.
  62. ”What?”
  63. >He gives you a scowl, but quickly shakes it away.
  64. >With a hoof, he points at the far side of the army.
  65. >”Those are ponies,” he repeats.
  66. >You have to squint, but finally you make them out.
  67. >Sure enough, there are armored ponies on the flank.
  68. >Most carry spears.
  69. >A few men break away from the army and ride their horses toward the Florentines.
  70. >One carries a large flag with a winged lion over a red field.
  71. >On the opposite side, you see the Florentines responding in kind.
  72. >The Fluer-de-lis isn’t quite as impressive as the angry lion.
  73. >You’ve seen it every day.
  74. >All the shops display the flag proudly.
  75. >But today it doesn’t look proud.
  76. >The men stop when they reach the center.
  77. >”This is it. They are delivering their terms.”
  78. >”Our men will never accept them.”
  79. >”Ours now?” The pony bitterly laughs. “We will never be one of them.”
  80. >The Florentine general suddenly pulls on his horse’s reigns, and his men retreat back to their army.
  81. >”So you think Venice will free us?”
  82. >The leader of the Venetians waves his arm, and the music returns.
  83. >Just drums this time.
  84. >His men straighten up and hold their weapons ready.
  85. >”Never.”
  86. >The leaders split up among the army, and a trumpet sounds.
  87. 2/15
  88. >The Florentine horns respond with their own low tones.
  89. >”We should go,” Marco says.
  90. “Why? They haven’t done anything yet.”
  91. >As if on command, lightly armored men rush forward.
  92. >They aim into the sky, and you see a wave of bolts fly.
  93. >The Florentine archers aren’t as fast, and many of them are hit by the crossbows.
  94. >A few men scream in pain.
  95. >You flinch at the sound.
  96. >Arrows fly toward the Venetians, and soon their men are screaming as well.
  97. >The trumpet lets out several notes.
  98. >It plays three times, and pikemen start marching forward.
  99. >They walk through the crossbows, just in time to meet a volley of arrows.
  100. >Many fall.
  101. >Their screams and shrieks are almost unbearable.
  102. >Florentine pikemen move to meet them.
  103. >Now you can see other soldiers.
  104. >They carry swords, spears, halberds and other things that you don’t recognize.
  105. >They wait for the pikemen to advance and the crossbows to fire before moving.
  106. >All the while, the boom of the drums urge them on.
  107. >Behind them, you see men with massive swords resting on their shoulders.
  108. >They don’t move.
  109. >Men on horseback change positions, and you can see the ponies more clearly now.
  110. >They wait at the rear.
  111. >”We should go,” Marco repeats.
  112. >You watch as the pikemen approach each other.
  113. >The Florentine men hesitate, but the Venetians keep marching forward.
  114. >”Those Swiss are something. I heard they were fearless.”
  115. >In a few moments, the pikes are nearly touching each other.
  116. >The Florentines stop, but the Venetian men continue.
  117. >More screams, as the pikes finally make contact.
  118. >You feel your lip quivering.
  119. >That sound.
  120. >The screaming.
  121. >Your breathing quickens.
  122. >They aren’t going to stop?
  123. >More screams.
  124. >More shouts.
  125. >The drums continue beating.
  126. >Marco grabs your withers and urges you to follow.
  127. >You resist for a second, before doing as he wishes.
  128. >It takes a few minutes to return to the inn.
  129. >All the while you can hear the crash of men charging into each other.
  130. 3/15
  131. >High pitched noises fill the air.
  132. >It almost sounds like when you throw all the silverware together.
  133. >Except you know this is the sound of weapons clashing.
  134. >Marco pours himself a drink, and sits at the bar.
  135. >You move beside him, but he doesn’t budge.
  136. “Can I?” You ask.
  137. >You need something to calm your nerves.
  138. >He nods, and you pour yourself a drink from the cask.
  139. >The sweet taste of cider makes you feel a little better.
  140. >You sit beside him.
  141. >Marco breaks the silence.
  142. >”You should run, Lily.”
  143. >You swirl your drink once.
  144. “Where would I go?”
  145. >”Somewhere. Anywhere. If the Venetians win they will take all the women and rape them.”
  146. >You take a long drink.
  147. ”What about the ponies?”
  148. >He turns to you with a frown.
  149. >”Probably the same thing.”
  150. >You examine your cider, before taking another drink.
  151. >He clears his throat.
  152. >”It wouldn’t be for long. Maybe a day or two before you can come back.” He lets out a single laugh. “Well, if there is anything left.”
  153. >You shake your head.
  154. ”What about Lemon Drop?”
  155. >”I’m sure she’s gone by now. I don’t blame her.”
  156. >Marco’s sister owns Lemon Drop.
  157. >She helps out when it gets busy, or when you’re sick.
  158. ”You’re the only person who has ever been nice to me.”
  159. >Marco pours himself another drink.
  160. >”That’s why I’m telling you to leave.”
  161. “But what will they do to you?”
  162. >He brushes his beard.
  163. >”I imagine they will come in here, look for anything valuable, and then let me go.”
  164. >You press your lips together.
  165. >Why does he think he would be spared?
  166. >As if sensing your unasked question, he answers.
  167. >”I’m an old man. What would they want with me? Besides, I have always lived here.”
  168. >Where would you go?
  169. >Blossom lives only a town away.
  170. >You could go there if you ran right now.
  171. >She could hide you for a few days.
  172. >You would be very quiet.
  173. >Maybe her human wouldn’t even notice.
  174. >But then what will happen to Marco?
  175. 4/15
  176. >When he bought you all those years ago, you were scared of him.
  177. >His rough hands and thick beard seemed like a warning sign.
  178. >Now.
  179. >Now… you know better.
  180. “I want to stay.”
  181. >Even as you say it, you wish you hadn’t.
  182. >He shakes his head, but doesn’t respond.
  183. >Instead you both sit quietly and enjoy the drinks.
  184. >This continues for an hour or so.
  185. >Each of you take a drink, and wait.
  186. >All the while, you hear screams and the clash of weapons.
  187. >Finally, a there’s a loud cheer.
  188. >We won.
  189. >You count three cheers.
  190. >Marco looks up from the bar and smiles.
  191. >The weight on your shoulders lifts.
  192. >You knew those dirty Venetians wouldn’t win.
  193. >We won.
  194. >Then you hear shouting.
  195. >Your heart sinks.
  196. >You were wrong.
  197. >We lost.
  198. >People run through the streets.
  199. >You hear glass breaking.
  200. >The sound of an axe hitting wood makes you wince.
  201. >That only lasts for a few minutes before there is silence.
  202. >It was probably people running, and taking what they could save.
  203. >The silence has you confused, and you walk outside.
  204. >When you arrive at the main road, you see an army setting up camp.
  205. >The banners are hard to make out, but they aren’t red and white.
  206. >They’re red and yellow.
  207. >The winged lion.
  208. >You slowly go back to the inn.
  209. >What will happen to you now?
  210. >You hope Marco was wrong.
  211. >That you won’t be treated like a plaything.
  212. >When you arrive, the door is wide open.
  213. >Marco pulls down the Florentine flags decorating the room.
  214. >You can tell he doesn’t want to, but he has no choice.
  215. >When he finishes with the last one, he sits behind the bar as if ready to take an order.
  216. >The trumpets come back to life.
  217. >This time other instruments join in.
  218. >It sounds like a victory song.
  219. >Soldiers arrogantly march though the town.
  220. >A few men ride horses slowly, and look at the buildings.
  221. >They point and don’t move aside as others march past them.
  222. >You aren’t sure what will happen next.
  223. >Men walk up and down the streets, but they don’t destroy anything.
  224. 5/15
  225. >It takes two hours before the first person walks in.
  226. >His face is dirty and you don’t know the flag on his tabard.
  227. >A few others follow behind him.
  228. >”Drink. Three,” he says in very poor Tuscan.
  229. >He lifts three fingers so you will understand.
  230. >Marco pours and you carry over their order.
  231. >The men greedily take their drinks and chug them.
  232. >You crinkle your snout as you catch their smell.
  233. >Copper.
  234. >Blood and sweat.
  235. >This time the man doesn’t bother trying to speak Tuscan, and simply spins a finger around.
  236. >You nod and bow slightly so he can see that you understand him.
  237. >Marco takes the drinks to them.
  238. >It looks like he is congratulating them, but you don’t understand the words.
  239. >Still, the men are smiling and laughing.
  240. >Then something strange happens.
  241. >A pony trots in.
  242. >No.
  243. >Not one.
  244. >Several.
  245. >Then many.
  246. >They cheer and congratulate each other.
  247. >You greet them in Equestrian, and they all order the same thing.
  248. >Cider.
  249. >Lots of cider.
  250. >One of them tries to grab your flank, but you move away the instant he touches you.
  251. >His friends hoot and holler.
  252. >It’s probably best to just ignore that.
  253. >”Need some help?”
  254. >You look toward the voice.
  255. “Lemon Drop? You’re still here?”
  256. >Her purple mane bobs as she nods.
  257. >Her coat is yellow, almost the same color as your mane.
  258. >”I saw the chimney smoke. I figured you and Marco decided to stay, so here I am.”
  259. >”Music! We need music,” one of the ponies shout in Equestrian.
  260. >Before long a couple of the ponies are setting up in a corner.
  261. >The ponies cheer as the band starts off with a traditional Equestrian song.
  262. >After a few songs they hit their stride and the entire bar is singing along.
  263. >Even the people in the back are trying to mouth the words.
  264. >You open more windows as the smell of sweat and blood seems to grow stronger.
  265. >It’s not enough and you go outside for fresh air.
  266. >You take three deep breaths before opening your eyes.
  267. >A man wearing a bright outfit rides up on a horse.
  268. 6/15
  269. >He is flanked by two ponies riding smaller horses.
  270. >Somehow you never thought you would see that.
  271. >He isn’t wearing armor, unlike his friends, or the ponies inside.
  272. >He probably washed up before coming out.
  273. >In a practiced motion he slides off the horse and walks to you.
  274. >The ponies do the same, but it’s much more awkward.
  275. >He speaks, but you don’t understand his words as he ties the reigns down.
  276. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand you.”
  277. >”You don’t understand Venetian?” He asks in Tuscan with a soft accent.
  278. >You shake your head.
  279. “I never learned that.”
  280. >This makes him smile.
  281. >”You should learn. Soon the Doge will conquer all the city states.”
  282. >The ponies by his side are listening, but they clearly can’t understand your conversation.
  283. “That’s what you think,” you say in Equestrian.
  284. >”You’re right. That’s what I think,” the man responds with a heavy accent.
  285. >Your ears perk up.
  286. >You’ve never heard a person say more than one or two words in your language.
  287. “Who taught you Equestrian?”
  288. >He adjusts his sword.
  289. >”It would be hard to lead a company of ponies if I didn’t.”
  290. >He offers you a smile.
  291. “Well, I wish you didn’t. Then all those people would still be alive.”
  292. >One of the ponies pushes you.
  293. >His cutie mark is hidden under his armor.
  294. >”That’s enough out of you.”
  295. >The man laughs as you stumble back.
  296. >”I didn’t realize Florence was so kind to ponies. You actually think you could be one of them.”
  297. >You don’t answer him.
  298. >You just glare.
  299. >After a moment he turns away from you and prepares to enter the inn.
  300. >The two ponies enter first.
  301. >”Now presenting, Captain Anon Ymous.”
  302. >He waits a second before entering to cheers.
  303. >Both arms extend and the patrons become silent.
  304. >”You all fought well today. For that, we will stay here for a few days while we deliver terms to Florence.”
  305. >Again the crowd cheers.
  306. >Anon waves his hand several times before they quiet down.
  307. 7/15
  308. >”The Doge has seen fit to raise me to Baron for our service. This town, and all around it are now my holdings.” He takes a drink from Lemon Drop. “And for that, tonight is on me.”
  309. >The sounds of laughs and cheers fill the room.
  310. >The men in the back are confused, but a pony tries to explain.
  311. >They gesture to each other several times before the humans understand.
  312. >The ragged men raise their cups.
  313. >A traditional Venetian song plays, and all the ponies sing along.
  314. >Anon settles down near the fireplace and continues drinking.
  315. >It’s probably a cider.
  316. >That’s all ponies ever drink.
  317. >Marco makes his way over, and begins talking with the Baron.
  318. >Anon points at you.
  319. >What does he want?
  320. >Anon squeezes his hand before making it flat.
  321. >Marco responds in confusion.
  322. >He presses the tips of his fingers together.
  323. >You don’t know what they are saying, but with the hand motions it’s clear that Anon is angry.
  324. >Finally Marco waves you over as he walks back to the bar.
  325. >”What did you say to him?”
  326. “Nothing!”
  327. >Marco pulls a cask out, and pushes it in front of the bar.
  328. >The rollers below the barrel make it easy to move.
  329. >”He says that I should get rid of you for being insolent.”
  330. ”So? They will be gone in a day or two.”
  331. >Marco shakes his head.
  332. >”No. This entire town is his now. He won’t leave, even if the rest of the army moves on.”
  333. >That’s why the army didn’t pillage everything.
  334. ”He’ll forget about this tomorrow.”
  335. >”Take this cask over to him as an apology.”
  336. ”But I didn’t do anything.”
  337. >”Then it won’t matter. Why are you arguing with me, Lily?”
  338. “Anon’s a murderer. He killed all those people.”
  339. >Marco stands up straighter.
  340. >He pauses before responding.
  341. >”I’ll bet most of these people killed someone today. You don’t want to be next, do you?”
  342. >You press your lips together.
  343. >This is for Marco’s sake.
  344. >Anon watches you as you slowly move the cask toward him.
  345. >You bow as low as you dare.
  346. 8/15
  347. >Everything in your body knows he’s going to kick you, but it doesn’t come.
  348. “I’m sorry for what I said earlier.”
  349. >It takes a moment before you feel you should rise.
  350. >”You know I could have you killed right now. If I wanted it…”
  351. >You clench your teeth together.
  352. >He could.
  353. “I know.”
  354. >This makes him smile.
  355. >”Put that over there, and then come back.”
  356. >He points toward his ponies.
  357. >You see Lemon Drop pushing another cask near the people in the back.
  358. >It’s probably wine.
  359. >When you return Anon taps his hand on the seat next to him.
  360. >Reluctantly, you sit on his bench.
  361. >It takes every fiber in your body to keep from jumping when he puts his arm around you.
  362. >He hands you a glass with his free hand.
  363. >”What was your name again?”
  364. >You take a sip of the drink.
  365. >It’s cider.
  366. “Lily.”
  367. >”That’s a nice name,” he says pleasantly.
  368. >You turn to him.
  369. “Are you going to kill me?”
  370. >He laughs.
  371. >Maybe he thought you were joking?
  372. >You let out a few weak chuckles.
  373. >He looks back at you.
  374. >”I suppose we should talk about that.”
  375. >He shifts to stretch out his back.
  376. “I was being silly back there. I shouldn’t have talked out of turn,” you lie.
  377. >You didn’t know any of those men, but they were fighting to defend their homeland.
  378. >”They killed many Venetians as well. We didn’t start this war.”
  379. >His hand wanders and starts rubbing your shoulder.
  380. >You shake your body so he won’t touch you.
  381. >He lets go, but keeps his arm resting on the booth.
  382. >Immediately you regret that.
  383. >It was just a harmless touch.
  384. >Besides, he could do anything with you if he wanted.
  385. >”About what you asked earlier.”
  386. >He means about killing you.
  387. >You look up at him.
  388. “Yes?”
  389. >”I haven’t decided yet.”
  390. >He sticks out his thumb and index finger and waves it in front of you.
  391. >That means you should leave.
  392. >You slowly slink off the chair and walk toward the bar.
  393. >So are you safe or not?
  394. >Marco is pouring wine for ponies who have grown tired of cider.
  395. 9/15
  396. >”What did he say?”
  397. “He says he hasn’t decided yet.”
  398. >Marco gives you a confused look.
  399. >”Did you talk back to him again?”
  400. “No. I was being polite.”
  401. >Marco frowns but returns to his work.
  402. >”What was he like?” Lemon Drop asks.
  403. “Who?”
  404. >”You know who. Anon.”
  405. >You look over at him.
  406. “He was fine.”
  407. >”Just fine? You have to tell me more. Was he scary?”
  408. >You look at your friend.
  409. >You can feel your cheeks burning.
  410. “A little, but he wasn’t mean.”
  411. >Lemon nods.
  412. >The band takes a break and they join the others.
  413. >You shouldn’t have moved away from him.
  414. >Now he will hate you.
  415. >”What did you talk about?”
  416. “The war mostly. He speaks Equestrian.”
  417. >Lemon perks up at this.
  418. >”I know. I couldn’t believe it earlier. I didn’t think any people learned it. I mean, we’re basically nothing compared to them.”
  419. “Well he did. Maybe you should talk to him, Lem.”
  420. >You shouldn’t have said that.
  421. >She will probably get herself into trouble, like you did.
  422. >Several hours pass.
  423. >A few of the clearly drunk ponies leave, but others take their place.
  424. >You see a few mares enter, and the soldiers are quick to offer them a drink.
  425. >With the casks out, you and Lemon Drop have very little to do.
  426. >The ponies pour themselves drinks, and only occasionally ask for a new glass.
  427. >You watch as Anon talks with one of his soldiers.
  428. >The pony gives him a slight bow before returning to the others.
  429. >This repeats over and over.
  430. >No doubt they are congratulating him and asking for his favor.
  431. >You see a lull as most of the ponies have already spoken to him.
  432. >”Now’s my chance.”
  433. “Lemon Drop,” you call as loudly as you dare, but she continues anyway.
  434. >With the band no longer playing, the room is only filled with the low roar of talking.
  435. >You watch Anon and your friend.
  436. >She sways over like a filly.
  437. >It takes a moment for her to catch his attention.
  438. >Anon listens as Lemon introduces herself.
  439. >You wish you could hear what they are saying.
  440. 10/15
  441. >Lemon gestures wildly with her hoof in a poor imitation of people.
  442. >They both erupt in laughter.
  443. >Without an invitation she sits next to him.
  444. >He moves his arm over the booth, but doesn’t touch her.
  445. >Against your better judgement, you decide to pick up some glasses and clean near Anon.
  446. >”You can speak really well. I don’t have any trouble understanding you.”
  447. >”It was tough at first. But, I get a lot of practice.”
  448. >You stack a few glasses together, and wipe down a table.
  449. >”So you must travel a lot.”
  450. >”I do, but only during the summer. No one wants to fight in winter.”
  451. >”I’ve only been to the ocean once.”
  452. >”You should see Venice.”
  453. >”I heard it was an island.”
  454. >”It’s a bunch of islands. Over a hundred.”
  455. >”So they have bridges between them?”
  456. >Anon laughs.
  457. >”Maybe one day. For now only a few are connected. We have to travel by,” he frowns. He holds up a hand to try to explain. Finally he just says, “small ships.”
  458. >Maybe he doesn’t know the word for boat.
  459. >You carry the glasses back to the bar.
  460. >Marco isn’t there so you wait for someone to place an order.
  461. >Instead, a drunk pony makes his way over.
  462. >His clothes are black with blood.
  463. >”Hey, Cutie.”
  464. “That’s not my name.”
  465. >”Well, what is it then?”
  466. “Lily.”
  467. >He thinks it over.
  468. “I like Cutie better.”
  469. >He laughs loudly at his joke.
  470. “Did you want something?”
  471. >He looks you up and down.
  472. >”Yeah. You.”
  473. >He takes a step closer.
  474. “Well I’m not on offer.”
  475. >”Don’t be mean to me, Cutie. We just finished fighting. Who knows the next time I’ll see another mare.”
  476. >He nuzzles your neck and you take a step back.
  477. “You probably say that to everypony.”
  478. >”No, just the ones I like.”
  479. >Again he tries to nuzzle you.
  480. “I said get off!”
  481. >Without thinking you turn and buck him.
  482. >He falls backwards and lands on his haunches.
  483. >A few of his friends laugh.
  484. >”Stupid bitch,” he says as he gets up.
  485. 11/15
  486. >One pony waves him back and he gives you another look.
  487. >Thinking better of it, he rejoins the others.
  488. >You look to your friend.
  489. >She is leaning against Anon, and his hand is covering her cutie mark.
  490. >Both of them are watching.
  491. >Lemon gives you an angry look.
  492. >You know she would tell you to play along.
  493. >That these ponies will be gone soon enough and then you can go back to being antisocial.
  494. >Anon just has a smile on his face.
  495. >He points at you and Lemon shakes her head.
  496. >She crosses her hooves, but Anon gently pushes her forward.
  497. >Soon enough she gets up and walks toward you.
  498. >”What are you doing?”
  499. “I’m not doing anything.”
  500. >”So when you kicked that pony it was nothing?
  501. “He got too friendly.”
  502. >”This is why you’re alone, Lily. You have to at least pretend to be nice.”
  503. >You glare at her.
  504. “Is that what you’re doing? Being nice?”
  505. >”This is a great opportunity for us. If Florence surrenders, this guy will get a giant mansion. He’ll probably build a castle.”
  506. “So?”
  507. >”Then we won’t have to work anymore.”
  508. “You’re being dumb, Lem. Anon doesn’t care about us. We’re just ponies to him.”
  509. >”Yeah. He’s the kind of guy that learns our language and leads ponies. He must be a monster.”
  510. “Oh, don’t be sarcastic, Lemon.”
  511. >”It’s the only thing you understand.”
  512. “I don’t know if you realize this, but these are invaders. They are taking our land.”
  513. >”This never was our land, Lily. Equestria was supposed to be ours. Now it’s gone.”
  514. >She does have a point.
  515. >Besides Marco, most Florentines don’t care for ponies.
  516. >What was Equestria like?
  517. >You hardly remember anymore.
  518. >”Fine. You do what you want, but I’m going to live in a mansion.”
  519. >She turns to walk away.
  520. ”Lem!”
  521. >She ignores you and goes to Anon.
  522. >Lemon Drop quickly hops on the bench and leans into him.
  523. >You watch as his hand rubs her side.
  524. >In the corner a person waves you over.
  525. 12/15
  526. >It takes a while to understand what he means, but he is asking for a new cask.
  527. >Dutifully, you push another to take its place.
  528. >When you return to the bar Marco is back with clean glasses.
  529. >The next hour passes quickly.
  530. >People and ponies enter and leave.
  531. >Some leave with a mare.
  532. >The ones who are too drunk leave with their friends.
  533. >You look back at Lemon Drop.
  534. >Lem pretends to find Anon’s hand very interesting.
  535. >He pulls her in close, and she doesn’t resist.
  536. >You don’t want to see their kiss, so you look away.
  537. >When you look back, she is on his lap and swooning like a filly.
  538. >Her rear hooves playfully touch his sword hilt.
  539. >He holds her, and waves over Marco.
  540. >You can’t help yourself, and follow.
  541. >If anyone asks you’ll just say you thought he wanted to signal you.
  542. >”How much are ponies here? Five, six florins?”
  543. >”Usually around six,” Marco responds.
  544. >Lemon’s eyes open wide.
  545. >She mouths to you, “He’s going to buy me.”
  546. >You can’t believe how happy she looks.
  547. >It’s disgusting.
  548. >”Then I’ll give you twelve for the pair.”
  549. >Both of you?
  550. >Marco lets out a single laugh.
  551. >”I don’t own Lemon Drop. She belongs to my sister.”
  552. >”She won’t mind,” Lemon says quickly.
  553. >She bats her eyelashes at Anon.
  554. >Marco shakes his head.
  555. >”I can’t accept. She’s not mine.”
  556. >Anon taps a foot and Lemon bounces slightly.
  557. >”And the other one? Lily?”
  558. >”She’s a sickly pony,” he lies. “Also she is very headstrong. She’ll argue a lot.”
  559. >Anon shrugs.
  560. >”She won’t have to last long. Besides, she makes me laugh.”
  561. >So he does want to kill you.
  562. >You were stupid.
  563. >You shouldn’t have said anything.
  564. >Marco looks to you, and you shake your head.
  565. >He presses his lips together.
  566. >You know he wants to accept.
  567. >To ingratiate himself to Anon.
  568. >Part of you wants him to say yes.
  569. >That way he won’t get into trouble.
  570. >The other part hates Anon, and wants nothing to do with him.
  571. 13/15
  572. >”I’m sorry, my lord, but I can’t accept. Lily isn’t for sale.”
  573. >Anon looks toward his ponies.
  574. >Probably to hide his anger.
  575. >He only has a few soldiers left.
  576. >Most have already gone back to the camp, or rented a room for the night.
  577. >Anon moves his hand from Lemon's leg.
  578. >He touches her rear hooves with his fingers and she giggles.
  579. >You notice his palm is resting on his sword.
  580. >”What about fifteen just for Lily?”
  581. >”Fifteen?” Marco’s voice trails off. “That’s very generous, but I have to respectfully decline.”
  582. >Anon doesn’t try to hide his frown.
  583. >He looks at Marco as if he is weighing the man.
  584. >Trying to figure out his weakness.
  585. >Anon grips the handle of his sword.
  586. >The angle is awkward, clearly not meant to be drawn with his left hand.
  587. >You take a step back.
  588. >Marco must not have noticed, as he doesn't move.
  589. >Suddenly, Anon's mood passes.
  590. >He laughs before saying simply, “Fine.”
  591. >You let out a sigh of relief.
  592. >”Thank you for understanding, sir.”
  593. >Anon lets a smile creep across his face.
  594. >”Of course. Now, do you have any rooms left?”
  595. >”A room?”
  596. >”Yes. I’m tired of sleeping in a tent.”
  597. >”I only have a few small rooms left. Nothing that would be good enough for you.”
  598. >”I’m sure it will be fine.”
  599. >”Uh, yes. I’ll show you to an open one.”
  600. >Lemon Drop hops off Anon’s lap.
  601. >”Don’t worry, Marco. I’ll help Anon.”
  602. >She doesn’t wait for an answer and looks for the keys.
  603. “What about your horse?”
  604. >Anon gives you a confused look.
  605. >He hasn't gone to check on her all night.
  606. >You wonder if he even remembered.
  607. >”Dancer? I had one of my lieutenants take her back to the camp.”
  608. “Oh.”
  609. >”We have a stable for guests. Maybe next time,” Marco quickly offers.
  610. >”This way, Anon,” Lemon says with keys in her mouth.
  611. >He follows close behind.
  612. >Marco sits down at an open table as the last guest leaves.
  613. >The pony can barely stand and has to lean on another one.
  614. 14/15
  615. >”That wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Marco says.
  616. “Yeah. It could have been worse.”
  617. >You survey the damage.
  618. >There are half empty glasses everywhere.
  619. >The room still smells like blood, but it is slowly getting weaker.
  620. >You get up and grab a rag.
  621. >Marco stops you.
  622. >”We can clean in the morning.”
  623. >You nod and head to your room.
  624. >It’s almost over.
  625. >You didn’t get raped or killed, so that’s a good thing.
  626. >With any luck, these ponies will be pushed back to Venice.
  627. >The door closes with a click and you jump on your bed.
  628. >Would Anon really have killed you in cold blood?
  629. >Somehow you doubt it.
  630. >He wouldn't have tried to buy you just to end your life.
  631. >Anon did say that you made him laugh.
  632. >Maybe he isn't used to a mare not rolling over for him.
  633. >That doesn't matter now.
  634. >Soon they will all be gone.
  635. >You can hear giggling in the next room.
  636. >An ear instinctively perks up.
  637. >You furrow your brow.
  638. >Is that one of those dirty mares with a soldier?
  639. >They've probably been with dozens of ponies.
  640. >You lean in closer to listen.
  641. >Another laugh.
  642. >Instantly you recognize it.
  643. >It’s Lemon Drop.
  644. >You put a pillow over your head.
  645. >It does nothing to drown out the sound.
  646. >His joke probably wasn't even funny.
  647. >She always laid it on thick.
  648. >Probably wants to make sure Anon enjoys her.
  649. >She really doesn't want to work here anymore.
  650. >You can't blame her.
  651. >Who wouldn't want to live in luxury?
  652. >Anon is the first noble to ever come in here.
  653. >Lemon Drop is probably the smart one.
  654. >You turn to your side, and away from the laughing.
  655. >After a little bit, the laughter subsides.
  656. >Finally you can get some rest.
  657. >Deep breaths always calm you down.
  658. >You don't want to think about Anon right now.
  659. >He'll be gone soon enough.
  660. >You hear a moan.
  661. >You close your eyes tighter.
  662. >Why did she pick the room next to yours?
  663. fin
  664. 15/15
/spg/

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