Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is owned by Hasbro
There was the near silent sound of wings in the air as the group of ponies landed on the forest floor. Throughout the area, various near glowing eyes that held slitted pupils opened as the sound of hooves drifted through the air. Above, the clouds were swept away from the moon and revealed a group of bat ponies Each one of them were in a near fur-tight flight suit that resembled those of the famous (or, some would say, infamous) Wonderbolts, but in dark purples and black instead of the blue and gold. Another difference was what looked like areas of padding in their more vulnerable areas which were actually armor. The one in front stopped as she looked them over with a keen eye. "Hello there girls, got a mission for you."
She held out a folder full of papers and passed out one to each of the gathered bat pony mares. With a hum, one of them looked up. "So, Aphrodite, how's the kids doing?"
A chuckle escaped the mare who had passed out the papers. "They're each doing good actually. Venus, even though she's still young, is getting into trouble of course."
With a snicker, another one called out. "Like mother, like daughter, eh?"
Chuckles and snickers sounded throughout the clearing before Aphrodite sighed and became serious. "Now that's out of the way, it's time for your briefing." That caught all of their attention and they straightened a bit. "As you know, there's a diamond dog army that is just on the northern boarders of Equestria. It's low intensity fighting between the Equestrian Guard and them, but they're slowly inching south."
Her second in command nodded with narrowed eyes. "Hence why they have asked for the us, huh? Wonderbolts can't get close during the day?"
Slowly, Aphrodite nodded with a frown. "That is indeed what is going on, not that the Equestrian Guard actually knows that we, and by that I mean the Night Guard, are getting involved in the fight."
While she snorted, another of the bat ponies shook her head. "Not that the big scary day guard will believe in the ponies out of the fairy tales."
Aphrodite gave her a slight glare. "And you know why that is, Thunderstuck. We are to protect the Equestrians from the shadows."
Thunderstruck only scowled and waved her off with a hoof. "Yeah, yeah, we are not to step out into the light until our Lady of the Moon returns, I know all that." She then sighed explosively as she rubbed her mane. "It just really sucks is all."
The mare beside her gave her a good natured shove. "Hey, lighten up. It's only a few more decades before we can reveal ourselves to the world. Then they'll realize that we're big damn heroes."
With a suffering sigh, Thunderstruck looked at her. "Really, Zoisite? Really?"
As she shook her head, Aphrodite cleared her throat. "Ladies?" Having gotten the attention back onto her, Aphrodite nodded at a shadow that resolved into a night unicorn. If not for the bat ears and slit pupil eyes, you could mistake him for a diurnal unicorn with mane bleached by spending too much time in the sun. As he smiled, the fangs showed that the vampiric traits did not end there. "Now then, we have determined that the diamond dogs have camped out in this valley here and have been for the past two days as they lick their wounds. Thankfully for us, the ground is too rocky for them to dig through."
Slowly, her second in command frowned. "Wait, if we know exactly where they are, then what's the issue? The other forces should be able to get in and take them out."
There was a grimace on Aphrodite's face as she rubbed the back of her neck with one hoof through her tight flight suit. "Normally, you would be right. Issue though are these spots." She gestured at various circled spots on the map which they could all see, even through the near darkness. "Each of those are sentry points from which they send out patrols. They also happen to be in areas where they get the best sights of the surrounding area. They also have anti-pegasus cannons set up there that they captured from one of griffin groups they fought on the east coast close to the Crystal Mountains."
One of the mares hissed under her breath. "Roadapples."
All Aphrodite did was grunt. "Pretty much. They know that Equestrian forces know exactly where they are and are more then prepared to fight any forces that come in and can take them out. They also got magic detectors that can sense large amounts of magic, such as a flight of pegasi or a group of unicorns."
Slowly, the group of mares raised their heads as Thunderstruck grinned. "So that's why we're heading in, hmm? Why they're sending in the Night Phantoms."
While she chuckled, Aphrodite nodded. "Our job is to fly in fast and hard without them knowing and cause as much damage as we can. If we can take out those sentry posts and possibly the magic detector? All the sweeter." As she took in the nods, Aphrodite gave a bloodthirsty grin as she kept a lid on her before battle jitters. "Now then, we might have to do more then one sortie during the night. And this is only the first night that we might be flying."
Once more, there were nods before her second in command, a mare by the name of Starshine spoke up. "What do we know of aerial opponents?"
If anything, Aphrodite's eyes glowed more as her grin widened. "They got some mercenary griffins, speedy little bucks to say the least, but they have issues with overshooting slower targets, especially at night. They also rely heavily on sound when they're fighting at night."
Chuckles echoed around before one of the mares piped up. "Ain't going to help them any with us Phantoms!"
Thunderstruck made a motion with her hooves. "They're not going to know that we're there before we blow them apart, whoosh!"
As she watched them all snicker, Aphrodite shook her head. "Careful with being too overconfident." She then took a breath and looked up at the moon above. "Now, can we please continue?" At their nods, the bat pony sighed. "Now, if you'll look at the papers that have been given to you, you'll find a list of targets. Each one is also here on the map. Target Alpha, if we can get to it, is right here..."
Now all attention was focused on their commanding officer as she smacked a stick onto one of the dots on the map. Several minutes later, Zoisite raised a hoof. "Ma'am? From where is our intelligence coming from?"
While the others nodded, Aphrodite decided to lay their fears to rest. "We had an overflight done by Dragon Lady and she got this to us. None of them probably even guessed she was there as she was so high in the atmosphere as she passed over them with her cameras."
Mention of the famous high flying pegasus, whom held the record for the highest flights with help of her experimental air tanks, caused excited chatter. With a grin, Thunderstruck leaned forward. "Awesome..."
Having let them have a moment, Aphrodite cleared her throat before she gestured at the amulets on their necks. "Now then... as you all know, this will be a dangerous mission even without the griffins and the anti-pegasus cannons." They all winced at the thought of the cannons which fired a cluster of ball-like projectiles called "Grapeshot", strong enough to cripple if not kill a pegasus. "That means we go in full stealth and with disguise spells up to make us appear like a normal pegasus, even if you're killed. If the worst comes to pass..."
She trailed off before Starshine slowly nodded. "Make sure that we're not captured and fight our way out like true nightmares. With luck, one of the supporting squads waiting nearby will help you escape."
Aphrodite gave her a thankful nod before she cleared her throat. "Besides that, we have stockpiles of grenades and small bombs set up here, here, here, and here." The bat pony punctuated her words by hitting the spots with a stick. "Any questions, ladies?"
There was none as she expected. With their briefing concluded, each of the bat pony mares activated their amulets and were replaced by nondescript pegasi. Thunderstruck brought her cowl over her head which did not hide her grin. "Let's show these guys what we think of those who decide to attack Equestria by kicking their flanks and sending them back the way they came with their tails tucked between their legs. What say you girls?"
With identical grins, the others all nodded and shouted as they were loaded up with grenades and bombs, the smallest amount of lightening magic meaning that they carry more then usual. As well, next to their heads were set up what looked like a bridle and bit that had two prongs that pointed forward.
To a normal pony, it would just look like a fancy set, but any Guard would recognize them for what they were. The bridle would gather a pegasus' magic as it flew through the air and build up a charge. Said charge could them be released as small bolts of lightning that could stun a flying opponent. The high end gear this ponies were using, was however capable of unleashing something as close to the true rage of a storm as it come. Needles to say, anything hit stayed hit.
Having examined each of those mares under her, Aphrodite glanced over at Starshine who had completed her own inspection of Aphrodite. "Okay mares, let's head on out. Remember your targets and hit them hard and silent. Once you're offloaded, head out to one of the stockpiles and reload. And avoid any aerial fights that you can as we show them what the Night Phantoms can do!"
Nearly as one, they flapped their disguised wings and rose into the dark and starry night as clouds gathered.
An hour later found them getting close to the valley where the diamond dogs were grouped. They were cloaked in the darkness of the cloudy night as they flew, the specially prepared fabric on their bodies and wings muting the sound they produced. Finally, they looked at each other before they extended their wings to their maximum and began to glide, cutting down on the sound even more. To make it even worse for anyone watching, they also cut their natural flying magic as they began to rely on their large wingspans (wingspans which had lead to them being chosen for the Night Phantoms) to keep them in the air. Each and every one of them felt the strain, but ignored it as they focused on their targets as they passed the griffin patrols, silent and deadly.
Down below at one of the sentry posts, one of the diamond dogs grunted at an much older one who stayed away from the fire. "Brutus, what the fur are ya doing? Come here to the fire instead of freezing wha's left of your tail off."
Said diamond dog glared at him through his one eye. "Shuddup. You should be paying more attention to the sky and ground before somedog sneaks up on us." There was only more laughter that met him which caused him to grind his teeth. "Youse idiots! Being around that fire and all will just get yeh killed, mark my words!"
The diamond dog who had spoke just barked in laughter. "Brutus, you old paranoid dog. Ain't nothin' that is going to sneak up on us. Heh, especially with our cannons ready to kill them."
Another held up what looked like a crystal which sparkled in the firelight. "And look at these! There's not a pony that can get by them without us knowing!"
With his eye narrowed, Brutus grunted. "Except for them... They can get by."
More laughter met him before the first diamond dog shook his head and wiped a tear of mirth from his eyes. "Ah, yes... phantoms in the night wasn't? Bah! We have cannons and griffins so we have no worries about old bitch's tales!"
The second nodded as he followed the first and spread his arms wide. "There's nothing out there but the sound of the wind blowing!"
However, that caused Brutus to freeze as his ears perked up and he listened. Sure enough, he could hear the wind blowing which caused his eyes to widen as he was brought back to something decades earlier when he was just a young pup. He had been part of a large raiding party as he was now and could remember the death and destruction that followed the sound of the night wind... the very same night wind he could hear now as he rushed toward the alarm. "YOU FOOLS! DOG THE CANNONS AND SIGNAL THE ALARMS NOW!"
All he was met with was amused confusion as the first diamond dog rose up. "Hey now, calm down old timer..."
There was a whistling sound which caused him to turn as a oblong metallic thing came out of the darkness and sailed right into the middle of the group... and then exploded killing all of them except for Brutus who was flung out of sight. At the same time, throughout the camp, there were other explosions both within it and at the sentry points as the Night Phantoms did their work. As he held his side, Brutus looked out at the night in fear as a howl burst from him. "PHANTOMS!"
While she dodged a crossbow bolt, Aphrodite ducked down and was close to the ground as she swept between tents and panicking diamond dogs alike. Her eyes narrowed as she spotted one group in armor rushing toward where they could see her and smirked. Then the disguised bat pony bit down on the piece of metal in her mouth before a with a loud crack that split the air, a bolt of lightning shot from the prongs and hit the group dead on. Aphrodite ignored the smell of burnt fur and flesh as well as heated metal as she passed where they fell. Instead, with one hoof, she armed a grenade and threw it into a large tent. Moments later it exploded and set off the gunpowder inside in a much larger explosion.
However, she ignored all that in favor for the large oblong that was strapped to the bottom of her barrel as she came into sight of where they suspected that the magic sensor was. 'Gotcha...'
From where she was, Thunderstruck noticed the massive explosion where she knew their commanding officer was heading. With her eyes though, she could see her climbing and her ears twitched as she heard the high pitched sound that was code for said bat pony having used all her ammo. It was then that she heard a flap and performed a barrel roll nearly touching the ground with the tips of her wings as a griffin screamed down from above. "DAMN YOU!"
The griffin's eyes widened a moment later as he was blasted back into a fire due to a bolt of lightning. "Yeah, yeah..." Thunderstruck then reached her final target for this run and threw a small Dragonfire bomb into the group of wagons which set them ablaze before she climbed into the night sky as her fellow Night Phantoms dodged the griffins and the remaining anti-pegasus cannons...
In the light of the coming dawn, the Equestrian Guard Captain whistled as he looked over the devastated camp. "Looks like they had a Tartarus of a fight here last night..."
His companion only nodded, his own voice soft and full of awe. "Who in the name of Celestia did this to them..."
Another Guard walked up with a diamond dog in tow. "Sir? We found this one near what looked like an anti-pegasus cannon. Must have been left behind when the others fled back the way they came..." It seemed like he was unsure about something before he continued. "He was just laying there, sir... whimpering."
That caused the Captain to share a look with his aide before he turned back to the diamond dog with a frown. "Name?"
For a moment, the diamond dog looked up at him with a far off stare as he favored one leg, the other burned. "Bru-Brutus... my name is Brutus..." He then looked out at the camp and shook his head. "I told them... I told them to keep an eye out for them... But they didn't want to listen to an old dog like me..."
Both the Captain and his aide shared a look before the Captain leaned in. "Do you know what happened here?"
To his surprise, the diamond dog's head whipped up as he stared into the Captain's eyes. "It was them, you know... the Night Phantoms... They did all this..." He shook some and whined. "We didn't even know that they were there until the night wind whispered! I knew what that meant and I tried to tell them! I... tried to tell them..."
He slumped a bit and all the Captain did was nod at the unnerved Guard who had brought the diamond dog to him. "Take him to the wagons and make sure that he's comfortable. We'll take him back to Equestria and deal with him there."
Slowly, the Guard guided Brutus back the way they had come as the old diamond dog muttered to himself. With a frown, the Captain's aid glanced at him. "The Night Phantoms? That old story about a group of elite pegasi who came upon the night wind? That's an old mare's tale."
The Captain stood there silently for several moments before he shook his head. "Perhaps... but all such stories have a grain of truth in them." A chuckle then escaped from the Captain. "Though the truth of the matter is above your paygrade." He ignored the suspicious look from his aide as this was not the first time he hinted at things kept secret from anypony else except him and the Princess. Still, the Captain then blew out a sigh. "Anyways, we've still got to catch up with the rest of those diamond dogs and the griffin mercs." With a sigh, the stallion's eyes narrowed. "I want this done and over with in a month."
His aide blinked for a moment before he remembered. "Oh, right, your nephew's birthday is next month, isn't it?" At the nod, the old grizzled Guard smiled. "How he is doing?"
With a smile, the Captain shook his head. "Shining Armor is growing up quite well, my sister has raised that colt right." Grinning, he looked at his aide and old friend. "He wants to be in the Guard just like his uncle you know."
A laugh burst from his aide before he shook his head. "Well, let's not disappoint him then, Gladius!"
While she groaned, Aphrodite reached up and turned the dial on the shower and the blissfully hot water stopped. There was a sigh before she reached for the towel and began to dry herself as she looked over at Starshine who had a bandage around her barrel. "How was it?"
Starshine chuckled a bit. "Not too bad, I got the worst when that AP cannon clipped my side, thank Luna for the usage of spider silk in them or it could have been much worse." She then wince a bit as she shifted. "Other then that, there's just some sprained wings and minor injuries."
For a moment, Aphrodite frowned in thought before she shook her head. "Can we be good for another run tonight?" Just as Starshine opened her mouth, Aphrodite cut her off. "Not you, obviously. Not with those injuries."
Grimacing, this time not from the pain, Starshine shook her head. "With the lotions and creams being used for the strained muscles and wings? Most of those mares can do it again tonight. I would rather give them a night to recover, but they can manage it easily enough." Suddenly, she chuckled. "Thunderstruck will be biting at the bit for a second chance, I can tell you that much."
As she grinned, Aphrodite chortled. "I can imagine, and I am sure that you would be as well if I let you go." When her old friend and aide grumbled, Aphrodite laughed. "Anyways, that's only if the Day Guard don't manage to catch up with them. Hopefully, they'll manage it and we'll get some rest until the next time they call for the Night Phantoms to ride the night winds once more."
With a grin, Starshine nodded. "If that happens... The Smiling Goat?"
Having heard the name of the tavern in the Night Caves, Aphrodite laughed as she threw her towel onto the other bat pony's face. "Going to try and beat me at a drinking contest again, are we? Haven't learned your lesson yet then?"
Snorting, Starshine pulled the towel from her face and threw it into the hamper. "One of these days, Aphrodite, I'll manage to outdrink you."
All Aphrodite did was shake her head as she slung one foreleg over Starshine's withers. "While that day may come, I doubt that it will come any time soon." She then waved a hoof. "Besides, it just means more free drinks for me at the end of the night."
The head of the Night Phantoms ignored how her friend rolled her eyes before said bat pony was pushed off. "Getoff me, you all ball of fluff..."
With that, the two continued to joke and playfully jostle each other as they left the outpost's makeshift shower room. Both of them knowing that if need be, the Night Phantoms would fly in search of their prey as they came down on them with night time flight perfected, flawless vision and undetected...