Determination
IC date: Spring 7, 1008
OOC date: March 28, 2013
Location: Snowfield's Cottage
PCs: Blackbird, Snowfield
NPCs: N/A
GM: N/A

It's a week into the new year and spring is in full blossom in Horseshoe Harbor, but one would never guess that by venturing into the Wintersong Forest. As a stray cloud from the town drifts over the magical woods the sudden drop in temperature and humidity causes it to begin shedding snow, lightly dusting the trees and the few patches of ground it can pierce to with a fresh layer of white.

The best indicator that someone's making a trip through the snowfall is probably the lime green mane, snow-dusted though it is. It's certainly not his white coat. Blackbird looks to the left and to the right, scanning for someone in particular, an uncertain grimace on his face.

Who in Equestria would Blackbird be hoping to find in Wintersong at this time of year? Maybe in the summer ponies might venture into the edge of the woods in attempts to cool off and also to issue challenges of courage, but early spring? Everypony is too busy enjoying the warmth of the sun!

Though… there IS something in the woods to find if he remembers his way. A cottage in a small clearing a little deeper and off the beaten path. A set of hoofprints, slowly filling with the new falling snow, leads up to the door.

It takes a bit of wandering; a bit of confused circling, backtracking, and finally nervous pacing before Blackbird arrives at the cottage. He takes a deep breath, holds it for a few beats, and then knocks. Thud thud thud.

"There's no one home!" a chill voice calls from inside the cottage. It is undoubtedly Snowfield's judging from the general grumpiness. "Go back to town, Jellybean!"

"It's not Jellybean," Blackbird calls back, shifting his weight from hoof to hoof in a weak effort to keep warm. And also not go totally nutters, with the speed his thoughts are racing at.

There is silence from the cottage for an uncomfortably long time. The seconds stretch on, puncurated only by the occasional slipping of snow from an overloaded branch to the ground below.

Eventually there is a dull clopping of hooves on hard wood. The door of the cottage opens just barely and revealing a glimmering chain keeping the entrance from widening further and a cerulean eye shining in the darkness. "What do you want?" Snowfield asks in deadpan.

Blackbird waits. And waits. And just when he's about to call again, the door opens, leaving him looking like an idiot with his mouth open. "Uh— hi, hey. I…I was wondering if you were available to talk. I really need someone to talk to, and I, uh… I don't have many friends. Sorry to bother you."

Snowfield continues to stare at Blackbird through the scant few inches of open door, judging his request and admissions. Many different potential replies race through her mind but she eventually settles on a very noncommital "…what about?"

"I'm supposed to make a decision," Blackbird replies, a note of worry in his voice. "And I don't know if I'm going to make the right one. I wanted your opinion on if… if people really can get away from their pasts. If one can ever truly be free of it."

Several more judgmental seconds pass before Snowfield closes the door. The subtle jingling of the chain being unhooked can be heard and it reopens to allow the stallion to enter. The unicorn doesn't say anything else to Blackbird— no verbal invitation, no gesture to beckon him in. She just leaves the door open and stares at him.

Blackbird watches the door close, hoping beyond hope that she's not just locking him out. But hooray! She opens it instead. He steps in, pausing to shake off the snow outside before stepping in, shivering slightly. "Thanks. I'm really sorry to bother you. I know you prefer to be left alone, especially with Winter being wrapped up. I just…didn't know where else to go."

(OOC) Blackbird | Rusty: :| uh hello?

"I'm sure your marefriend would be happy to take you in," the unicorn says as she moves to a small woodburning stove in the corner of the cottage. Once his eyes adjust to the relative darkness of the cottage Blackbird will see that the building is very spartanly decorated, to the point that 'decoration' is probably the wrong word entirely to use. There is nothing hanging on the walls. There is nothing on the floor or in the corners, aside from the designated kitchen corner which sports the aforementioned stove and some plain cabinets. There is also a low table, a couple chairs and a nondescript sofa, all of which look like they haven't been sat upon in months if not years. There is a doorway that lacks a door which leads to a bedroom which, if he was the snooping sort, the houseguest would see is just as barren though not quite as unused.

Blackbird looks around as he steps in, not entirely surprised, honestly. But he grimaces as Rusty is mentioned. "I know… but I don't feel…comfortable about this. I don't think she'll take kindly to the fact that I'm considering this, and I've got… I've got to do something." He sighs despondently and takes a seat on the sofa, sending up a cloud of dust.

"So you feel comfortable making your major life decisions with me but not with her," Snowfield observes as she puts a kettle of water on top of the stove. "This is of course a rational decision, seeing as I have demonstrated nothing but sound judgement over the last few seasons." Again with the deadpan that makes it difficult to tell if she is being honest or sarcastic. She opens a cabinet and begins looking through the contents. There is not much in it; what is there is mostly dried and canned goods. A few of the cans have tiny hoofprints on them, as if an inconsiderate foal decided that cans of food were toy and kicked them around.

Blackbird is silent for a long moment. "You…understand," he says slowly. "I mean, Rusty does, too, but… You were there when I was going to kill Mad. You've been around for a lot of those…moments." The corner of his mouth twitches uncomfortably. "…I used to be a mercenary. A long time ago. For an organization that took me off the streets and told me we were killing the bad guys. But we weren't. When I quit, I had killed foals and families. I tried to run away from that life, but obviously…I haven't run far enough. It's still in my blood, my actions. My thoughts. Bad guys die. That's the way of justice. Is there any possible way I'm going to be able to live a peaceful life free of bloodshed? Is it coded onto my genome? Am I trapped?"

Snowfield keeps her back turned to Blackbird as he begins to unload his life story onto the mare, her attention focused upon the kettle on the stove. It seems almost as if she isn't paying attention, so unfazed by the revelation is she. When his story ends she remains silent for several more long seconds before speaking quietly. "How is it in your genome if you were taken in off the street?" she asks. "Unless your parents were trained killers as well I would hardly say that death is in your blood."

Blackbird smiles a grim, humorless smile. "Actually, you can change the content of your genome through your lifestyle. Technically." But he falls silent again and looks down at his hooves. "I can't even say it's all I know. I've been away for years now, and I still sleep with one eye open. I still listen for attackers in the supermarket. I still react to sudden movements, I plan my exits, I scope for weaknesses. Even when I try not to. So… when I have an opportunity to use it for /good/… do I take it? I'm a failure at pretty much everything else. Killing's what I do. There's even a part of me…a small part of me that…" He trails off, and just shakes his head.

"A small part of you that what, exactly?" Snowfield says as she begins looking through the cabinets again. She retrieves some mismatched cups. One is a small porcelain teacup with a dainty blue flower motif. The other is a larger coffee mug. "If you're going to ask for my opinion I expect you to finish your thoughts, not trail off into awkward silence like a coward."

Blackbird winces. Yep. Snowfield doesn't pull punches. "…likes it," he finishes quietly. "It felt worthwhile. Like I was doing something concrete. A real, physical measure to something I had done. It was great when the targets were villains; it was only bad when they…weren't."

Snowfield places the two cups on the table and returns to the stove to fetch the water. The kettle is not a teakettle per se and does not whistle but there's more than enough steam leaking from it to let on that it's hot enough for the mare's purposes. "And your point is… what, exactly? You got your rocks off killing ponies. How does that in any way affect your situation now? When last I checked you were a talented educator who enjoyed spending time engineering marginally dangerous devices."

Blackbird snorts, leaning forward to take the mug from the table. "Talented. Right." He brings it up to cradle in his hooves, muttering, "Thank you for the tea, by the way," as he blows on it in thought for a few moments. "I am flailing. Nothing feels concrete. Nothing I do seems to turn out right, and I feel that I am running out of options for ways to help without feeling like a bumbling idiot. And…that's about the time my old partner showed up." He takes a tiny sip, ears laying back. "She said she's starting a new group. One that's actually dedicated to killing bad guys. And she offered me a chance to be a part. And it's…" He trails off again, before remembering himself. "…It's tempting."

The mug in Blackbird's hooves begins to glow an icy blue and is plucked from his grasp. "That one is mine," Snowfield says firmly. The tea kettle floats over and pours its near-boiling contents into the mug, then moves to the table to pour a significantly smaller amount into the significantly smaller dainty teacup. A few tea balls join in the procession from the kitchen corner and drop into the cups with a small splash. "So you'll abandon your life here to go kill villains for a living? The siren song of silencing sinners is so seductive?"

"Not abandon, no. She'd only borrow me from time to time. Assignment." Blackbird blushes as he finds he's mistaken the mug for himself, and takes the teacup instead. Fair enough. All he really wants is the warmth at the moment anyway. "Sensational sibilance, Snowfield," he adds with a small wry smirk. "But yes. It /is/ seductive. And I hate that it is."

Snowfield remains standing as her tea steeps. "So you're going to go sate your bloodlust on commission? Keep it on the down low so Rusty doesn't suspect anything while you galavant across the countryside wherever your partner points you? 'That one is a villain, have at him!'" She swirls the mug to agitate the tea leaves. The brew begins to give off a spicy, citrusy scent.

"…I guess," Blackbird says, staring into his tea as the color seeps out much more slowly, unagitated. "I wouldn't do it behind Rusty's back. I just… I've been so… depressed lately. I can't make anything go right, so why not just do what I'm actually good at? It's like those ponies who are prevented from their natural talent. They go stir crazy, get pent up or depressed, eventually."

Snowfield stares at Blackbird, mug of tea steeping and steaming as she quietly watches the stallion. Her expression is impassive as if waiting for him to continue.

Blackbird stares back, all of his emotions right there in his eyes (as usual). Melancholy. Fear. Loneliness. And worst of all: resolution. Even just a hint of it. He's made up his mind, even a little.

The mare removes the tea ball and floats it back to the kitchen. She takes a sip of her tea, savoring the flavor with her eyes closed. "If you take so much pleasure from hurting ponies, why don't you just hurt me?"

Blink. Blackbird stares. "You? You're not a bad pony, Snowfield. Why in the world would I want to hurt you?"

"Of course I'm a bad pony," she says as she places the mug down on the table. "Don't you recall what I did to Maddie? I froze her legs to the bone and did so much damage they needed to be amputated, then set her powder stores on fire and left her to die." Snowfield begins to move around the table, getting it out of the way so there's nothing in the way between her and the Blackbird. "When Siyana and Lavender made those terrible wishes of theirs I stood by and berated them instead of helping. Laughing in their faces at their misfortune, at how the one had lost her parents and the other was trapped."

"Maddie, the one you stopped me outright murdering? With my own hooves?" Blackbird looks skeptical. "Or the fact that you gave your life to save Salty, despite the fact she seventeen-shades-of didn't deserve it?" His brow hikes. "Those kids needed to learn their lessons; sugar-coating it wouldn't have helped. So no, I'm not going to hurt you, Snowfield."

"You're a tough nut to crack, Blackbird, I'll give you that," Snowfield says as she walks behind the couch. "How about this… I knew you were in a relationship with Rusty and still tried to steal you away," the unicorn continues. She's still not entirely sure why she did that and she's not particularly proud of it, but the fact is that she did and it makes great fuel for this fire. "And last Autumn when we got pulled into that other world… why do you think it is that Nightmare Moon's forces found Horseshoe Base after they had been so careful about hiding their location for so long?"

The mare leans close to Blackbird over the back of the sofa, close enough that he can feel her breath on his neck and withers as she whispers, "It's because I let the assassin go. I let him go back and tell them where the survivors were hiding. And I let Sadaka wander off into the storms to follow him without telling anypony about it, let your precious foal march off into certain death after a remorseless killer." She takes a step back. "So tell me again I'm not a bad pony," she says in what might be a sultry voice if she had any idea how to pull one of those off. Instead it's just incredibly creepy.

Blackbird stares. At first, it's embarrassment. And then incredulity. And then it slides into a hard stare. "I'm not going to hurt you, Snowfield," he says flatly, in a voice to match his look. "But if that's true, then I have nothing more to say to you." He sets his teacup down and stands, fairly towering over the foal-like witch. "Tell me that's not true, Snowfield."

The unicorn walks back around the couch so she's on the same side of it as Blackbird— and standing between him and the door. "Would you believe me if I said it was a lie? I'm a bad pony, I might lie… but what about your partner? What if she says it's true? Are you still going to walk away from me?" Her horn glows and she slams the door behind her shut. "Is it suddenly not alright to hurt somepony because you know them? Because I'm your friend?"

Blackbird follows her with his gaze, and then with his body as he turns in place. And when the door slams, he jumps. "If it's true? If you betrayed hundreds of ponies, if you intentionally put my little girl in danger… If you ever did that, then yes. I would kill you, Snowfield. Quickly and cleanly. But I'm not convinced you did."

"No you wouldn't," Snowfield sneers. "You're a coward. You couldn't bear to hurt the ponies you love by being honest with them, so you came to /my/ door. Came to the mare who's already broken-hearted over you. You don't have to worry about hurting /her/, /she's/ already damaged goods. What did you expect me to do, Blackbird? Did you want me to tell you that killing is bad? Or to follow your heart? That you should run home to Rusty? That double lives are okay?"

She marches up to the stallion, eyes shimmering with barely contained… something. Tears, frustration, magic, rage, any number of things. "You already know your answer! You didn't come here for help deciding, you just came to have it validated."

Blackbird listens, ears flicking back and eyes hardening in reactive anger. "I came to get advice. I didn't have my answer until we talked. I apologize for hurting you, Snowfield. I won't approach you again." He moves to step around her, ears flat and intent on leaving.

Snowfield moves into Blackbird's path when he tries to sidestep her. "You're a coward and a liar!" she screams. "You don't care at all! So just hit me already!" Her horn bursts into brilliant light as she levitates a nearby chair and hurls it at the schoolteacher. "Do it!"

» Blackbird rolls 1d10 (Crazy dodge?!?!) — Result: 4 | Sum: 4

Blackbird turns, getting a face full of chair. He staggers back, a small trickle of blood starting to seep from his nose. When he faces her, now he's really angry, that big ball of emotions starting to roll down the hill and pick up speed. "You want me to hit you?" he snarls. "You want me to give you what you want? You put my little girl in danger, you betray the Harbor, you insult me and throw a chair at me— You're freaking right I'm going to hit you!" And he launches into a gallop toward her, swerving around to slam his rear hooves into her in a buck.

Snowfield… takes it. She doesn't attempt to dodge or even brace herself. Positioned as she is between Blackbird and the door there's really only once place for her to go: straight through the wood which splinters from the force of the impact and out into the clearing, tumbling to a stop in the snowdrifts outside. She does not get up.

And Blackbird, eyes hard, steps through the doorway and over her. "You are an emotionally repressed, sociopathic, angry little foal, Snowfield," he says in a low voice over his shoulder, "and I don't want you anywhere near me, or my family, again."

And with that, he steps fully out into the snow, decisions made. Ties cut.

The forest witch pulls herself to her front hooves, flank still firmly on the ground and unlikely to move any time soon from the pain of the strike. She glowers at Blackbird with unrepentant eyes. "Get out of my forest," she snarls.

Wordlessly, Blackbird complies, taking steady, measured steps away from the cottage, away from the crumpled mare. Time to go find Tarnish.

Once the stallion has left the clearing the mare in the snowdrift begins to quiver. She finds she can't hold herself up much longer than it takes for the green-maned monster to disappear into the trees and slips back to the ground. Quiet hiccups and coughs are muted by the trees around her. Her body shudders as she sobs into the snow.