Let me iteriate a few things before we begin. No, I will absolutely not stop this madness. I'm doing this bro. I'm making this happen. I'm writing a god-dang My Little Pony fanfiction and you can't stop me.
I saw the show and took it as a challenge- I was dared to make it more awesomer (by a factor of around 20% I might add). And so I shall, here. First off, everyone's a more human than anything else- much easier to work with, I don't need any clunky horse puns, and I can make them use weapons. Secondly, because there was a severe lack of male protagonists, I was forced to make a few. By changing genders of several existing characters. Rainbow Dash is the only one you'll see for a while that I changed.
This will all happen from his point of view much of the time, and when it goes to a different point, it will be in the 3rd person, while his is in 1st. I took a lot of inspiration from the Bartimaeus Trilogy that way.
Lastly, as it happens, this is actually a crossover of two other bits- Fire Emblem, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, and Phantom Brave. I realize most of you have failed to play at least one of these, so here are links to the plot of them. Fire Emblem #1; Fire Emblem #2; Phantom Brave. But you don't really need to read them, I explain what you need to know in-story.
EDIT: There's a lot of characters here, so when you're all caught up, you can use this for easy reference. I wouldn't use it before you are, though, there may be spoilers.
Whew. So, with all that said, let's get started!
Year 498, Equestria Callander
Half the day has already passed. The festival is tonight, and I should probably be seeing if anyone else needs help with preparations, but... the sun is in just the right position in the sky, and to be fair, I’m half asleep anyway... Someone’s bound to wake me up when I’m needed. Yeah, they’ll be fine, with so many people on the job to begin with...
Hm? New voice, haven’t met this person yet...Oh, wait, it’s probably someone from the capital, coming to check on stuff. Maybe she’ll just ignore me... Nah, too much wishful thinking; with my luck she’s probably looking for me anyway. Maybe I can at least intimidate her, make her just check up on things and move on before I say something I’ll regret...
I could hear her footsteps approaching, and prepared my small plan of action. They stopped directly before me and she repeated herself. In one move, I grabbed the broadsword from beside me, spun to my feet, and landed with the blade an inch from her face. She started in surprise and nearly tripped.
Yes! That was so boss. I thought, just as the sword was kicked out of my hand from my right, and a knife pointed at my own face. The weapon skidded across the street, coming to rest near a tree. I turned, seeing a, green-eyed man with violet hair in a single long braid and violet facial markings, holding the tiny blade. His clothes were average-enough looking, aside from a white bandana tied around the top of his head. He showed scarce emotion, except maybe slight annoyance.
“... Well played.” I stated simply, turning back to the girl. She, on the other hand, had much more fancy clothes and hair, and could only have come from the capital city. “You need something?” I asked with record calmness for speaking with a capital person.
“Wha- are... Are you really going to be so casual right after pointing a sword at my face?”
I held back a grin, realizing my original goal had been achieved anyway. “It was to try and unnerve you. This guy topped it.” I pointed to her companion with my thumb.
“Honestly, it’s a bit hard to be intimidated by the guy with rainbow hair.”
“Four things I’ve got to say to that.” I added immediately. “One, I was born with it. Two, girls love it. Three, no one expects the rainbow-hair guy to stab them in the face. And fourth, screw you. Did you need anything else?”
The girl seemed a heck of a lot less emotionally stable than the man, who hadn’t budged an inch yet. “Oh... I was told you were in charge of the weather for tonight? I wanted to make sure everything is in order.”
“Ah. Yeah, I got it under control, stuff’ll be ready by then.”
She looked skyward. “Still pretty cloudy.”
“It takes, like, a minute at max for me to clear a sky like this. I was going to make a little appetizer-type show out of it, to build up excitement for the main event, you know.”
She took a moment before responding. “You’re sure you can do it that quickly?”
“My personal best is twenty seconds, actually. A minute to make it flashy. Yeah, I got it. That all?”
I could tell she wanted to say more, but held her tongue, shook her head and began walking away. Her companion lowered his weapon, gave me an apologetic shrug, and followed. I watched them leave for the upper part of town, retrieved my own weapon, and returned to my nap.
I can only imagine the rest of the day passed by uneventfully. Hard to tell when you sleep through it. At any rate, I was awoken an hour before I was needed, and flew over to the makeshift, open-roofed building on the outskirts of town, built specifically for the festival. I perched myself atop the wall, to the side of the door, watching the proceedings. While many others wore dress clothes of some kind, I had just donned my trademark grey jacket, and other basic clothes. Slightly below me, the girl’s companion had struck up a conversation with Rarity’s companion, Opal, but for the most part I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it.
Opal was a mystery to most- her ears were like those of a cat, tall and pointed, atop her head, and covered in white fur, the same as her hair- and catlike tail. I'd never seen her fight, but she always seemed ready to protect Rarity. She usually wasn't comfortable talking about her past, but for some reason seemed to have opened up to this newcomer.
“Really didn’t expect to find anyone else from back home all the way out here.” She said.
“I could say the same. My shipmates and I washed up here, oh, sixteen years ago now. There were fifteen of us to begin with, but a few died on the way, and one went missing after we crashed, and the remaining eleven of us got picked up by the Queen. There’s only nine of us left now. I got assigned to be the guardian of her new apprentice, Twilight, and that’s the main reason I’m at this festival today- with Twilight.”
“Kinda the same deal with me. I was pretty little at the time, and I had wanted to explore... I stowed aboard a ship headed out for an expedition, and it crashed... I was the only one to make it to shore, and a noble house from near this town brought me in. Rarity- she’s that one over there- She was pretty young at the time too. We basically grew up together, and I know I’ll stick with her ‘till the end. A lot different from back home, huh?
“Something’s been bugging me, though... Weren’t all the other continents supposed to have been flooded a long time ago? How is it that no-one else has ever found this place before?”
“I’d been thinking about that myself lately. The old Dragon King was alive during the Goddess War, and he always said the Goddess confirmed our old home was the only one left. That was only, what, eight hundred years or so ago? A continent couldn’t get here all by itself in that short a time...”
I separated myself from the nonsensical conversation to check around the rest of the crowd, making my own rounds to see that all was in order. Seeing that everything was good to go, I made my way up to the stage, and hovered above the floor for a moment. Soon everyone’s attention was upon me. Excellent.
I drew my sword and carefully pivoted to where I was on my back- in my normal fighting stance, but facing skyward. This was easily the hardest part of the technique to master. I dashed straight upward, generating a vortex of wind around me as I went. Clouds crashed into it and evaporated on impact.
Reaching the point where everyone would just be able to still see me, then raised my blade to the sky, creating a huge vortex of wind focused around the sword. All the clouds in sight, save for any directly above me, were drawn in and sliced to ribbons immediately. Lastly, I flew up and around the final cloud that had been above me, and dropped straight downwards with the blade pointed downward.
The cloud was destroyed, and I landed with the sword embedded firmly in the stage. Applause. I retrieved the weapon and fell back into the crowd, finding a place to stand near Apple Jack. The main event was about to begin.
“You gonna stick around this time?” She whispered to me.
“Mhm... I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine. I wouldn’t risk it when the queen herself is here, if I didn’t think I could make it. Yeah, I’ll be okay.”
“Huh... Well, you know that if you need to leave, I’ll cover for you.”
“Yeah, I know...” We dropped the conversation at that, waiting for something to happen up on stage. Time passed, and nothing did. “Uh... Shouldn’t something have happened by now...?”
She looked up at the sky, doing what I’m guessing was telling time. “Yeah... They sure are taking their time this year...” Others had also begun murmuring amongst themselves, hardly anyone paying attention to the stage. I glanced up, and had to squint to see exactly what was going on.
“Hey, that’s not supposed to be happening, is it?” I asked hesitantly.
Apple Jack glanced up at the stage, seeing what I was referring to. Thin, dark clouds were gathering around the stage, not drawing much attention. With perfect silence, they shot into the air, dashed back down, and from the space between them, a black-armored figure appeared.
Lastly, as it happens, this is actually a crossover of two other bits- Fire Emblem, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, and Phantom Brave. I realize most of you have failed to play at least one of these, so here are links to the plot of them. Fire Emblem #1; Fire Emblem #2; Phantom Brave. But you don't really need to read them, I explain what you need to know in-story.
Really? Another Fire Emblem crossover?
“My personal best is twenty seconds, actually. A minute to make it flashy. Yeah, I got it. That all?”
Ten seconds flat! TEN SECONDS FLAT!!!
Mreh, there's really nothing wrong with what you're doing I guess. Nothing wrong I can point out... I'm just tired of all (especially Fire Emblem) crossovers. I can't take crossovers seriously. Makes me feel I'm reading a parody. Sorry.
I just had to post because I voted on the poll, so I felt obligated to. Anyways, uh, good luck with this?
Really? Another Fire Emblem crossover?
I'm just tired of all (especially Fire Emblem) crossovers. I can't take crossovers seriously. Makes me feel I'm reading a parody. Sorry.
I should clarify that a bit. This is a solid eight hundred years after the last chronological Fire Emblem- all but one of the characters is long since dead, and he doesn't make an appearance, save for one reference. It's really rather a crossover of Fire Emblem's mythology and locations. But I can see where you're coming from with being tired of it, and I apologize.
Ten seconds flat! TEN SECONDS FLAT!!!
I just had to post because I voted on the poll, so I felt obligated to. Anyways, uh, good luck with this?
Thank you. I'll keep in mind which vote is yours. No hard feelings taken. Now, here's your next helping.
Both of us tensed, gripping our weapons. Apple Jack was equipped with a heavy battle axe. Looking around, I could see a few others equipping themselves. Chief among them was the girls companion, who was using dual knives. I saw a few other swords and some lances as well.
Soon everyone’s attention had been turned to the black-clad figure, who stepped forward and spoke. “Freedom at last...” The voice was recognizable as feminine, shrouded as it was by the dark armor. She surveyed the town placidly. “How long has it been...? Five hundred years, perhaps? Six hundred?”
“Four ninety-eight.” A voice from across the row of seats chimed in. Turning, I saw it was the girl from before- Twilight, her guardian had said. She must have a death wish. Probably would have gotten it a while ago if not for that guardian of hers, no doubt.
The dark figure snapped to attention immediately, staring at the point where the voice had come from. “My. You’ve done well for such a short time, haven’t you? Not even five hundred years since I’ve been awake last, and you’ve made some advances, I see. So, I take it you haven’t forgotten me already, then?”
My mind was racing, trying to catch up to the conversation. The beginning of recorded time, asleep since then, black armor...
Several years previously, back when he was still around... A story he read out of an old, dusty book, telling of the princess Luna... Of her attempted overthrow of the Ruler Princess, to turn the kingdom into a land of darkness... It seemed plausible at the time, but now...
“Luna.” I whispered to Apple Jack. “Or, Nightmare Moon, whatever works. It’s her.” Her eyes widened slightly, but we otherwise stood silent. Twilight, however, didn’t get that message, but seemed to have made the same connection as me.
“Nightmare Moon.” She said, undaunted. Shouldn’t her guardian be trying to make her shut up? “You may have broken free early, but don’t think this means we’re not prepared to stop you.” Oh lord, someone please just kill her now.
Nightmare Moon simply stared at her, possibly dumbfounded. When she spoke again, she said this: “Tell me, young one, have you ever heard of something called the ‘Real World?’ I wouldn’t imagine so with the rate at which you’re going. If all your precious Princess could do was seal me away, and not even do a decent job of it, what can you possibly hope to accomplish?”
It was just then that I noticed a shape moving in the background behind her. Ah, that explains it. Let’s see what he can do then. The guardian had somehow made his way to the back of the stage, had both knives drawn, and was preparing to strike.
“Truly...?” The fallen royal sighed. In one move, she spun around, grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him across the stadium. He crashed into the ground, coming to rest near the opposite wall. The rest of the crowd chose now to run. “What lies have been spun, to avert trust from me so soon? Can a purpose so powerful truly be so quickly forgotten?”
Nearly everyone else had already fled, and only a few people still remained. Among them were Apple Jack and myself, as well as, regrettably, Twilight, Rarity, and a few others I couldn’t name off the top of my head.
“And such a cowardly bunch, too. You must live a rather cushy life these days, don’t you? One look at someone who can fight, and... Ah, pardon me, I’m rambling again, aren’t I? Well, who’s left? A few decent looking fighters, at least. Well then, why not show me what battle ability has survived in a world overseen by my sister?”
She spat out the word with extreme contempt, then cast her hand in the air, drawing more wisps of darkness from nowhere. She herself vanished, while the clouds materialized into beings somewhat resembling large dogs, but completely black with glowing yellow eyes. More appeared by the second.
I looked around, and- somewhat unsurprisingly- saw no royal soldiers whatsoever. “Looks like we’ll have to clean up the Princess’s mess once again, eh?” I said, bringing my sword to bear over my shoulder.
“Shame she don’t pay us for it, we’d be rich by now...” Apple Jack mumbled, bringing hers to the ground. We stood back to back, faced each with a horde of the beasts. I slashed one in half as it jumped at me, and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. They aren’t real beings, then. This is only a test...
I caught a glimpse of the guardian rushing outside, and heard sounds of battle from there, too. Opal, it seemed, had also left to fight outside, as well as some others. Twilight and Rarity had joined in with the two others who still remained in the stadium.
Rarity fought weakly with a rapier (exactly what I’d expect from a noble) Twilight shot down enemies with thunder spell (with surprising skill) and the third (one with messy magenta hair who generally just seemed a bit... off) fought wildly but effectively with a spear. The fourth (I might have seen her somewhere before, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember. She had long, pink hair, white wings and sad eyes) didn’t fight at all, instead staying behind the group and trying to remain unseen. I suppose she just didn’t get out in time. I thought.
I sliced down several more, sent a disc of wind across the ground and killed several more. I nudged Apple Jack, motioning to the other group. She nodded in understanding, and we fought our way over to them. “Need a hand?” She yelled cheerfully over the growling of the dark beings.
The others stared for a moment, but when they were brought back into the battle and finished their next opponents they nodded. We fell in behind the group, forming a complete circle around the non-fighter. After a while the crowd of demonic shadows finally started to thin out, and the others were mostly starting to slow down.
At last, when only a few remained, they just glanced around and disappeared. While the other four let out their held breath, some coming close to collapsing, I took the time to survey what damage had been done. The inside of the room was a mess, and hardly any of the decorations were left standing, but the building itself was intact. I could also see no signifigant injuries on anyone. There’s nothing broken we can’t repair, yet they could have wrecked the place if they wanted. They really were just testing us this time around.
“Well.” I said, turning to face the group. “What now?”
Twilight, as was to be expected at this point, was the first to respond. “We have to do something to stop her!”
Typical. “Well, I would like to speak with her at the very least...” She seemed to think she was misunderstood somewhere along the line. Still, it’s clear overthrowing Celestia wasn’t misconstrued. I do wonder... “Right then, we’ll go off and find her. First thing’s first, let’s find some backup- Two dependable fighters out of six just isn’t good enough.”
“Wait, who went and made you leader?”
I went as far as to face-palm myself. “Maybe because out of all of us, I’ve actually got some experience? You and Rarity are both nobles- and by that logic, have likely never been in a real fight before now, and these two-” I motioned to the other two who hadn’t been introduced- “Well, they don’t exactly look like they could lead either. That leaves me and Apple Jack, and I pretty much do all the talking for both of us already. Any questions?”
“Being able to fight doesn’t mean you can lead. I’m the Princess’s apprentice, for goodness sake, I think I have a bit more experience in that department.”
Princess’s apprentice, that’s right. I could feel my hate for this girl growing, but I saw an opportunity here. “Fine then. You think you can lead better, fine. Lead us. Just so long as I can get to this Nightmare Moon, it doesn’t matter. You in, Apple Jack?”
“‘Course.” She said simply, hefting her axe over her shoulder.
“Oh, what’s your name, anyway? I’ve been introduced to everyone else but you already.”
“Ah, yes, forgot you’re not from around here. To you all, it’s Rainbow Dash.”
Feel free to show your support of this by way of liking the latest chapter. I think that would work best, at least.
The six of us trudged through the dense forest, me staying near the back of the pack, but completely alert. This area was totally deserted and had been for decades- what structures were left were in ruin, and the forest itself had obstructed most paths with fallen trees and landslides. Often we had to double back and find another smaller road to take until it met back with the original.
Someone remind me why we only brought the equivalent of maybe four professional fighters into this mess? I asked, not for the first time. I had already gotten multiple answers: We (as in Twilight) didn’t want to endanger more people in case something happened, she was confident that who we had would be enough (I couldn’t really complain about this answer), things along that line. I still couldn’t help but think that we would be overrun if they threw too many troops at us with these few numbers, though.
While we trudged through, I went over the mission objectives before us. Luna was a powerful being, to be sure, and we'd need to find much more powerful weapons to fight her. A set of ancient relics, called the Elements of Harmony, lay deep within these abandoned woods, and their power would likely give us a leg up in the fight. However, Luna was well aware of their presence here, and likely sent troops to hinder our progress. Once we found the objects, we'd focus on locating and bringing her down.
We had cleared one of the thicker sections of forest, and were now approaching a more narrow strip of road built onto the side of a cliff. “Careful, everyone!” Twilight called back, but not overly loudly. We all set off down the path slowly, and I began hovering above the path, ready to act.
We were about halfway through to the next even ground (and clump of forest) when a distant noise sounded. Everyone stopped. It almost sounded like...
“Get to the wall, quick!” I yelled, drawing my sword, just as an explosion rocked the foundation of the mountain. Huge chucks of rock fell from the steep cliffs below, and a few loose pebbles from above. Everyone dove to the side, trying to find a solid spot to stand. Another blast, and the path was nearly obliterated.
I looked out in the distance, from where the charges must have come from, and saw a group of figures, completely black, readying a steel tube with something, probably another explosive. I landed on a patch of steady ground and shot a large disc of wind in their direction, followed by several more.
They got off a third shot, then were blown off their feet by the missiles. The remaining explosives were triggered, and the whole setup and crew were consumed by the blast. “One more, guys! Hang on!”
The last shot connected, and the path crumbled altogether. Fluttershy (the one I thought I had seen before- maybe I knew her in school or something) began hovering herself, but everyone else began to fall. I surveyed the situation, and, in a spurt of adrenaline, threw my blade with all my strength, using wind to make it fly even faster. It stuck fast in the rock nearer the edge, and Twilight grabbed hold of it by the hilt, her only lifeline.
I dashed down, grabbed Pinkie (The crazy looking one. As it turns out, I actually underestimated the extent of her craziness. Still, best spear user I’d seen in a while) and brought her down to the ground level below. I could see Fluttershy following my lead and doing the same with Rarity. I could also see Apple Jack working her way down to Twilight, who was still clinging to the weapon.
I was about to rush up and help them, but saw several more beings- the same as in the stadium- approaching fast. “Ah...” I started, trying to piece together a plan. “Fluttershy, can you go help the other two get down?”
“Ah, I- I can try...” She nodded and flew off.
“Pinkie, Rarity-” I looked to each of my allies left fighting, then to my own lack of a weapon. “... Oh, boy. This’ll be fun... Well, let’s just hold out until the others get down here, huh?”
“No- problemo!” Pinkie said, preforming a fancy spinning move with her spear, ending with her brandishing it toward the enemy.
“I’ll do my best...” Said Rarity, bringing her smaller sword to bear.
I myself attempted to summon another wind attack, only to realize I had already overused it lately, and was out of energy for it. Not even that? Man, how the heck am I going to do this...?
The three of us stayed in a centered group, allowing the enemy to come to us. I readied myself as best I could, and soon the enemy was upon us. I did a backflip (much less impressive when you have wings) and kicked one clear over our heads and behind me, then punched another to the ground with enough force to make it disappear. I kicked another back, then flew up and slammed both fists into a fourth.
“Heads up!” I heard Apple Jack call from behind me. I turned, and jumped to catch my sword, which she had tossed my way. She had managed to descend the cliff with Twilight, and both were already fighting. Fluttershy was hovering higher above, trying to stay out of the range of the beasts.
I gripped my weapon once again, and tore into the creatures on my own, dashing just above the ground and preforming all sorts of deadly techniques. I finished by grabbing it with two hands and cross-slashing three, ending with my feet on the ground. I looked around, and since the rest seemed to have been taken care of, began to make my way back to the others.
A ferocious roar from behind stopped me short. Sword still in hand, I whipped around, and some distance away, a huge creature stood. ‘Creature’ was about as descriptive as I could get- it mostly looked like a lion, but had horns of some sort and bat wings.
“Seriously?” I said, already beginning to wear out after two fights and no rest. Still, I hefted my weapon again and jumped back, joining the others. “She’s not gonna make this easy for us, is she? AJ, let’s move!”
“Right!” She said, once again keeping things short and sweet (also seeming to be too preoccupied to tell me not to call her ‘AJ’). She hefted her weapon, brandishing it in the direction of the beast, followed shortly by the other two melee fighters. Twilight was last to ready herself, clearly not used to such a large foe or this much combat.
“Go!” I charged forward, diving to the side practically next to the thing and rolling around the side, slicing it in the back. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Apple Jack doing the same, but no-one else had moved yet.
I was about to yell back, but the creature turned, and after a bit of dodging, slammed me to the ground. I hit the earth hard and rolled back to the rest of the group, my head spinning.
I pulled myself to my feet with effort, facing the others. “Don’t just stand there! Get moving!” I jumped back in, this time followed by Pinkie and, more reluctantly, Rarity and Twilight. I brought my sword down over my head as I was running, and it collided with the beast’s claw, again with enough force to send me reeling. I landed on my feet, shaking my head. This is not going to be easy... Wait a minute...
I looked around frantically. Where’d Fluttershy go? I turned my attention to directly above the creature. At some point it, seemed she had flown up there, and looked like she was preparing something, possibly a spell. What’s she doing?! Agh, I gotta keep that beast busy until she can escape...
I charged again, joining Rarity somewhere along the way. We caught it off guard while it was fighting Apple Jack around the other side, but it was able to counter us barely after our first hit. It was simply too fast- and showed no signs of wearing down. At this rate...
All of a sudden, everything stopped. From above, a blissful song melody wafted, though in a completely indefinable language. It didn’t take much effort to realize it was Fluttershy singing (Though from what I’d seen, it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting- she seemed much too timid to draw attention to herself like that. And when I looked back to the beast, I was again surprised.
It had become placid upon hearing the song, even though it had attacked viciously and without provocation just before. And as the music ended, it seemed to loose interest in our group and simply wandered off, back into the deep forest. I thought I could see a slight wisp of smoke waft from it just as it left view, much like what the smaller beings were made of.
We all (save for Fluttershy) let out a bated breath. I loosened my iron grip on my weapon, and surveyed the damages the team had taken. A few scratches here and there, but nothing major it seemed. However, Twilight seemed to be overreacting to one of her own wounds.
“Ah, that thing was tough...” She said, nursing a claw mark on her arm. “Shouldn’t be too hard to heal though...” She dug around in her pockets until she came up with a bandage, then wrapped the wound simply.
“Hey, Leader.” I called over sarcastically. “While you were busy with your near-fatal wound, I made sure the rest of the team was okay. You’re welcome.” I could tell she understood what I was getting at, but she didn’t respond immediately.
I turned to Fluttershy. “What was that?” I asked curiously.
She had been zoned out for a bit- watching the beast trudge back into the forest and out of sight. “Oh, uh... Well, I learned it from someone a few years ago... someone from another place, far away. I’m not sure how it works, but... It just, makes people calmer. Or creatures. I... I try to use it whenever I can. He was being influenced by Luna’s power, it looked like, plus, it just doesn’t seem right to kill when it’s just hurt feelings on the line.”
“Good point.” I said. Then, as more of an after point: “I doubt we could have killed him if we wanted to, anyway...”
After the rest of the party was prepared, we plotted a new course along what looked like it may have been a road at one point in its life, but was vastly disused even by the forest’s standards, at the bottom of the gorge. Though Twilight was loathe to let me take the helm of the group, everyone else realized we needed someone more skilled to take point- so I ended up leading the group through the mess of a path, while Apple Jack brought up the rear.
I sliced yet another stray branch out of the way, silently growing impatient with the amount of effort it was taking to travel so short a distance. Luna isn’t making this easy on us... I can’t expect she’d expect someone with my mindset seeking her out, though... I kept my thoughts to myself, hoping to preserve whatever morale the group had at this point.
It’s been fight after fight so far... Still, I think Fluttershy’s performance back there may have had some positive effect on them. Then again, I don’t think that’ll be enough to push us all the way through...
All of a sudden, the brush ended, giving way to a wide river. The water was extremely choppy. I grabbed a stick, hovered over to the deepest point, but it wouldn’t reach the bottom even with my arm fully submerged. We could always fly them over, I suppose... Might take longer than it needs to, but what other options do we have to choose from...?
I was about to fly back to the shore to confer with the others, but was suddenly slammed into from behind, connecting with the opposite bank a moment later. With effort, I pulled my stiffening frame off the ground, turning quickly to face the river, sword drawn and ready for combat.
If my spirits had any room to drop after the previous battle, they certainly did now. No less than a huge river-dragon, teeth barred, eyes blackest of pitch, stared me down, towering a good story above me. I’m beginning to wonder if this is even remotely worth it. Ah... Alright, his eyes are totally black. I thought, avoiding a pot-shot fireball with less than maximum effort. They usually aren’t, if those old stories he used to tell me are true, which goes without saying. Could he be blinded into rage, by Luna’s magic, perhaps?
The dragon abruptly turned about- Twilight had thrown several low-power fireballs at him, mainly to distract him. I used the opportunity to yell to them- “He’s been blinded! He’s not truly against us- he can’t tell the difference this way!”
They nodded, and after a moment, Rarity sent a shot of light magic straight over his head, which, curiously, his eyes followed before it vanished. He then picked up where he left off- trying to crush the others with his tail. She may be on to something. Perhaps his affliction isn’t total...
I found enough spare magic energy to launch a large but un-concentrated mass of wind his way, enough to draw his attention my way. He swept his tail over the ground, I jumped powerfully over the attack, using a balance of weak attacks to keep him busy. Between attacks, I glimpsed what was going on across the stream- mainly, I kept my eye on Rarity, because I had a feeling she had a plan. Or at the very least, I hoped she did. Her grabbing a large stone- powering up another light spell- It looked like she was trying for something, but it was hard to tell what.
I continued to dodge his hits and supply my own, until his attention once again was brought to the other group, in the form of Apple Jack tossing a rock at him. It appeared to have been under the direction of Rarity, who drew his attention once again with a sphere of light. She brought it slowly down towards herself, then dispersed it. In it’s place was an even brighter one- an incredible luminescence focused in the stone.
She stepped forward apprehensively, setting the rock near the water, the dragon keeping his snout pointed towards her curiously. “For you.” She said, trying to keep her voice clear and level. He sniffed at it for a moment, then used his tail to scoop it up, holding it close, testing its distance, and generally just experimenting with it.
He turned his attention to her once again, and in a low, slightly disused sounding voice, asked simply: “Why?”
So it’s true. I’d heard dragons were highly intelligent beings, and were capable of speech. Still, it’s a bit odd, seeing a being so different speaking so clearly.
“Did Nightmare Moon do this to you?” She inquired politely. He confirmed. “We’re on our way to the old castle in the center of the woods, to acquire the Elements of Harmony and defeat her. Keep that stone with you- that light will guide you through until we restore light to the world.”
Personally, I thought this was just a tiny bit much, but the dragon seemed pleased by it. He spoke again. “This is quite a symbolic gift, to be sure. In return, I must warn you- Nightmare Moon is not your only enemy here, nor is she necessarily your prime target. Things may seem black and white enough now- but keep alert.”
He set the stone down on the bank, lifted a large fallen tree, and laid it across the river as a bridge. He then retrieved the stone. “Go now, to the ruin. Find your fate, young ones.”
We crossed the bridge, the others complimenting Rarity on her solution, but I stayed behind for a moment. “Sir... Was it really Luna who did this?”
He waited a moment before answering. “Or someone who claimed to be.” He replied, working his way down the river.
The forest only got stronger past that- Soon it got to the point where I could hardly see the ground directly in front of me. Rarity and Twilight both used low-powered light and fire spells to try and cast some light, but it only lit a small area around it. Branches grew rampant along the path, and for the most part I stayed at the head, slicing them apart as I went.
The branches began to recede, but the darkness refused to abate. Soon the path widened into a wide circle, free of rubble- but still blacker than night. The path continued on the other side. We were preparing to cross, but we suddenly became aware of something standing in the center of the clearing.
A lone figure, glowing with dull illumination, like the dying embers of a great fire. A battered yet otherwise unremarkable sword sat in its hand, and its blank eyes stared us down with half-interest. Before we could make a move against it, the sword flew into the air, landing in its hand in a battle stance.
I was prepared to fight, but before Apple Jack or I could react, another stepped forward, lance over her shoulder. “My turn.” Pinky stated simply, spinning the weapon and bringing it to bear.
The being charged, and when Pinky blocked, it dashed to the side and hit again. Her reflexes kept up with ease, blocking each attack, quicker and quicker. The luminescent figure hardly seemed to be moving anymore- appearing now to simply teleport from attack to attack. Sword flew to slash, Lance spun to counter. Pinky stood her ground, parrying every hit.
A change occurred suddenly. Pinky’s very demeanor seemed to shift- she dropped her stance, smirking darkly, blocking much more aggressively. For every two hits the being dealt, she gave a counter-attack, and the being was hit each time. It’s speed was its defense, and it could not defend without abandoning the offense. Soon it dropped its strategy altogether, blocking each lightning-fast shot at it, the two locked in a vicious dance to the death invisible to the naked eye.
And just like that, it was over. Pinky stood in the center of the clearing, the figure limp, impaled on her weapon. Its illumination began to fade, and the forest became visible once again. When normal light had returned, the being vanished altogether.
I turned to Apple Jack, who seemed just as stunned. She somehow just knew to fight that thing. She knew how it would fight, and knew she could kill it. And my god, where did that fighting skill come from?
We decided to rest in the clearing for a few minutes, gathering our thoughts, recovering our strength. Twilight had started us a small campfire. “Hey.” I said, thoughtfully. “I was thinking about what Pinky said a bit ago- about it being her turn... I think she might be on to something. Each of these fights- the more major ones- seem to be almost tailor-made for one of us. Like, almost to test us. The one with Pinky, the dragon and Rarity, the beast from before and Fluttershy-”
“And I had to fight a bunch of fliers on the way down the mountainside with Twilight.” Apple Jack added.
“Oh, really?” I asked, curious. “Huh, I didn’t notice, fighting all those evil-dog things. Sorry.” She brushed the apology aside. “So, I’d be willing to bet, all of us are going to have to do something like somewhere along the line on this journey. Which means...” I looked to Twilight. “It’s either you or me next.”
We gathered what few supplies we had spread out, and ventured further into the woods. On the other side of the thick forest, a large canyon stretched out before us. A large building- the castle we had been working towards- loomed on the other side.
“Finally.” Twilight said, relieved. “All we need to do is get over there and we can head back to town.”
“Yeah, that would be nice, but I’m just going to stop you there for a minute. Do you happen to see something wrong with this picture?” I retorted.
She looked around, and quickly found what I was referring to. “There’s no bridge? Well, we made one before, didn’t we?”
I scanned the edge of the drop, searching for a narrow place to put that plan into action. I found instead a dock where a bridge used to be, and I could see that there was still something tied to it this end. I flew over and peered over the edge, and saw that the majority of the bridge was still there, a rope bridge that was likely sliced at some point.
“There’s the remains of a bridge over here. Anybody got a rope on them?” Apple Jack retrieved a length from her pack. (I didn’t bother asking why she had it in the first place- in all the time I’d known her, I’d learned she was nothing if not prepared.) “Sit tight, I’ll get over there and fix it.”
I jumped down the cliff and let myself free fall for a moment, then banked up and grabbed the end bridge, checking the old rope quickly for durability. Doesn’t seem too rotten. This was cut, it would be fine otherwise. We’ll be fine if I just tie it off again.
I kicked off the wall and flew over to the other edge, tied the rope around the bridge in an unnecessarily complicated and aimless, but solid knot, then affixed it to the first stake in the ground. I used my sword to slice off the other half of the rope, and was preparing to tie off the other side, when I heard something indistinct from behind me.
I turned, and saw three figures, all in unmarked armor, all battle-ready. One wielded a sword, one brandished a spear, and the third hefted an axe- though all three weapons were very basic.
“Well.” I said, resting my had on my weapon. “I guess it’s my turn then.”
I waited for the three before me to make a move, but they simply stood their ground- they didn’t even seem hostile. The one with the lance stepped forward.
“Oh, thank god, we weren’t the only ones to come out here.” He said, seeming relieved to see me. “Me and my guys charged in here right after the mess back at town- there’s some crazy powerful stuff out here, and we figured we might be able to turn it against Nightmare Moon.”
I didn’t realize we were trying to get here before others... I was a bit skeptical, but not any more than I usually was. “Ah. Hey, I don’t think I’ve met any of you before. You from out of town?”
“Yeah. We’re traveling mercenaries- happened to be in the area, decided to stay for a while and catch the show. Plus, we figured there’d be some reward in it for finding this stuff, maybe helping defeat her ourselves. Only problem is... Nightmare Moon had the same idea. She knew this was here, and she knew someone would try to go for it.”
“I know. My group ran into a bunch of her minions, plus some natives she turned against us.”
“It’s not just that- we made it to the castle, and she had come here herself- we didn’t stand a chance.” This actually came as a surprise. “Two more of my men are holding her off, but she’ll be through them and out here before long. We need help.”
I thought for a moment. “Well, if we can get by while she’s distracted, we could get to the weapons before she notices, and turn the tables against her.” They nodded. “But we’re going to need more backup than that. I’m in a mercenary group myself, and I got my partner, plus a few extras here with me. Let me just get the bridge here, bring the rest of my team over-”
“There’s no time!” He exclaimed. “If we wait much longer, my troops will get slaughtered. We have to move now!”
Ah... I see it. “Let me just tie this off, I’ll let them catch up. At the very least, I’m not going in without my partner watching my back.” Let’s see how set they are. I’ll bet anything they’re just trying to remove me from the rest of the group.
They appeared to want to argue further, but stopped in their tracks. Their heads dropped, then rose again a moment later, eyes glowing red. Wait, are they being possessed? Were they... not her minions to begin with?
They charged. The axeman swung wildly my way, and I blocked his weapon, rolled behind him, and hit him with the blunt edge of my sword. He collapsed, unconscious, but alive. Maybe I can get Fluttershy to do what she did with the other thing. If these guys aren’t illusions, we could use them for backup.
I parried the swordsman next, blocking each hit with my own blade. I ducked under one and kicked his feet out from under him, sending him to the ground. He hit his head hard, and stayed down.
I turned to the leader again, who had readied his lance and was charging me. I dodged one hit, then deflected another with my weapon. With my left arm, I rammed him with my elbow, sending him reeling. He charged again, and I jumped, hitting him square on the top of his head with the hilt of the sword.
All three lay on the ground for a moment, then vanished in the same smoke we’d seen before. So they were illusions? But they were clearly being overpowered, and they completely dropped their old strategy in favor of just killing me. Could they have been possessed by another...? I guess they could have just realized I wasn’t falling for it, and wanted to finish me before I got any further, but... They would have just done it then. The eye- thing wasn’t necessary at all.
“Hey, if you’re done fighting them, would you mind finishing the bridge?” Twilight interrupted my thoughts impatiently. I shook it off, grabbed the rest of the rope, and repaired the walkway fully. The others came over swiftly, and Applejack walked over to me.
“What was that? We saw you talking with them before- they haven’t tried that yet with any of us.”
“I know. I... I think, whoever is doing this, is trying to mess with my head, make me uncertain.”
“Whoever...?” She questioned. “You’re saying it’s not Nightmare Moon?”
“I can’t be sure. I know those dog- things are hers, but those guys- they were taken over somehow- their orders were changed, possibly by an outside source. Yet they disappeared just the same as the dogs. It seems like someone decided what they were doing wasn’t going to work, and took over. At the very least... Perhaps Luna isn’t at the top of all this."
“It’s a thought.” She answered. “It all could be just to get you turned around though- don’t forget that.”
The others were gathered near a ruined stone wall. The two of us walked over to it, gazing out upon the castle.
“The Castle of Dawn...” Twilight said in awe. “One of the three great castles of Equestria. This, the Eclipse Castle, and Castle Dusk once stood proud as centers of civilization- the only inhabited places on the continent. Eclipse now exists as the center of all life in Equestria, and Celestia’s own ruling throne, while Dawn and Dusk lie quietly in ruin...”
“What happened?” Fluttershy asked quietly.
“War.” She answered simply. “The three hadn’t been on good terms for a long time, and they opened fire on each other five hundred years ago. The two ruling sisters of Eclipse had victory before them, but Luna, taking advantage of the distraction, whipped up a rebellion, and quite nearly took the kingdom out herself. Celestia harnessed the power of the Elements, and sealed her away, unable to do more.
That war went on for several years, and at the end, there was very little left to live on. The remnants flocked to Eclipse- the ultimate victor of the war by a hair- and formed what would become modern Equestria.”
I had to admit, it was an interesting story. To see such a pitiful remain as this, and imagining it as it once was- a grand structure surrounded by people, instead of vegetation- such things stood to remind us of our own mortality, and of the world in whole. And Twilight’s recounting of Luna’s imprisonment was as I had heard it before, but my doubt still remained. Celestia was the one to remain, so the story was told as she wrote it. But is it really the whole truth...?
“Let’s go.” I said, breaking the silence. “Our enemy won’t wait for us to wrap up with this. So let’s not keep them waiting, eh?” I drew my weapon and turned to face the castle. Those three... They said Luna herself is here, but they were her summons. Yet they were stopped on their current path. Could... Could they honestly have meant to warn us? Could Luna... have wanted us to know?
The others stepped forward and joined me in a line, all with weapons unsheathed. A little extra caution either way never hurt anyway. Applejack stood to my right, and to hers was Fluttershy. Whatever happens, I know I can count on AJ not to botch things up. I’ve known her my whole life, and I know out of anyone, I can count on her to be there.
Fluttershy... There’s something different in her. She’s got no fighting skill to speak of, but I still feel some degree of respect for her. Perhaps it’s her ability to get through conflicts without violence...
To my left was Twilight, who actually stood a bit further ahead, ready to lead the charge. To hers was Rarity, then Pinky. I can’t say I like Twilight in the slightest, but I have to give her credit- she’s one heck of a mage. Plus, she’s the apprentice to the Queen, right? Might not be a bad idea to stay on her good side- and anyway, having someone that close to her could pay in dividends.
Rarity- Everyone knows of her around town, but I don’t think many people actually know her. I always thought of her as just another noble, but... I can see potential in her sword, and... something else in her eyes.
And Pinky... I can’t even judge how far her skill goes, but what I’ve seen is impressive, to say the least. She’s a bit off, yes, but I guess a lot of what I thought I saw was just cheerfulness, much more than I’ve ever known myself. I wouldn’t mind spending some time with her after this.
But then... Where do I fit in here? I can fight, yes, I serve as a leader, but maybe just for lack of someone better. And I can fly better than anyone in town, I won’t down-talk myself there. But as a person... I’m just an outcast with a burning grudge.
But I pushed these thoughts aside. There’s no time for that. I need to get to the bottom of this mess, and see who’s really pulling the strings. And I have to do it quick- whoever it is, our little town is still threatened regardless.
We silently confirmed we were all ready to go, and took off at a brisk pace. Along the way I could see more of the grand city that used to be- ancient stone walls, covered in moss- rusty weapons stuck in the ground. Very little else remained here to be swallowed by time.
We approached the castle, which- even in ruin- was a sight to behold. The spires that remained still pierced the sky, and the battlements, though rusted and choked with vines, still faced their enemy and guarded their castle loyally. The grand ceilings that once soared overhead inside, though, now lay in pieces on the ground. Rain had weathered the halls, and only the skeleton of what was once no doubt a beautiful place remained.
We continued on, to the center of the inner courtyard, where a fountain- like structure still stood, surrounded by tall grass and weeds. Five arms, equally spaced around the statue, held five spheres aloft in the air. While all around the structure- even right up to it’s base, was ruined- the stone figure itself remained smooth and unweathered.
The spheres themselves seemed to radiate this property- each had a unique design carved into it’s surface- a suit of armor, an arrow bathed in light, a sword engraved in an ancient language, a yin-yang symbol, and a blade in the shape of a bolt of lightning.
“These are them. The Elements of Harmony.” Twilight breathed, approaching the fountain.
I could feel the power behind the artifacts, but... How were we supposed to use them as weapons? “Weren’t there supposed to be six, anyway?” I could see a place for a final sphere, a sixth arm reaching skyward- but it was empty-handed.
“The sixth is said to be revealed when the other five are harnessed- the sixth arm of the statue is more of a formality, I’d imagine. An acknowledgement that it exists at all.”
“Well, let’s get these out of here, figure out how to use them. No need to stay here longer than we need to.” I glided over to one of them, snapped it from its place, and brought it to the ground. I repeated this for two others, while Fluttershy joined me and removed the last two. Each of us, save for Twilight, grabbed one, and we set off for the courtyard once again.
However, near the doorway, black smoke wafted in from beneath the cobble, and soon the black- armored figure stood before us once again.
Luna, Nightmare Moon, The Fallen Ruler, now stood before us, weapon in hand. It was a sword of darkness- with smaller blades jutting out from the sides, and unnecessarily large. It was a formidable weapon, but hung passively at her side. She didn’t come off as angry or displeased, but she blocked the doorway clearly enough.
“So, you made it this far...” She said, sounding almost tired. “I’m impressed. However, I’m afraid I still can’t let you stand in my way. The Queen must fall.”
I was almost able to speak before Twilight burst in with a response. “We won’t be deterred. We’ll stop you here, and protect the Princess!”
She sighed. “Is that how you all feel?” Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinky nodded after some hesitation. Applejack waited, seeming a bit conflicted.
“Ah, if I could ask something...” I said, stepping forward. “What exactly is it you plan to do? After removing the queen, of course.”
“I have no such plans. I only know she must not be allowed to continue this madness.” She responded. Now if I can just...
“I don’t care! I will not allow you to even attempt an overthrow again!” Twilight exclaimed, once again ruining what I had going. “You will be stopped.”
Luna seemed almost disappointed at this. “Fine. If you’d rather die here than see a better world, I’ll be happy to oblige you.” She brought her sword to bear before her, then dashed forward towards the group. Dammit, Twilight! I thought, dropping the stone sphere and dodging away from the enemy, who flew past and landed near the other exit. She dashed over to the group, swinging in wide and wicked fast arcs, making dodging difficult.
I could see that I had lost my chance for diplomacy, and acted accordingly. I launched myself towards her, swinging my sword from behind. She blocked effortlessly, and we became locked in and endless series of swings-and-blocks, neither ever able to land a single hit. The others tried to attack at the same time, but she was able to block them in between. Her next attack came quicker than I could track it, and I was only able to provide a mediocre block, launched backward in the process.
I collided with a wall, and my vision swam for some time before I was able to pull myself to my feet again. Pinky had attacked as well, using the same strange technique as before, matching each of Luna’s attacks and even managing to land a hit or two. However, so was Luna. She jumped back, flew forward, and delivered a strike so powerful Pinky flew to the opposite wall, ramming it at full speed and falling unconscious.
Across the hall, I could see Fluttershy, trying to make an escape, possibly to find backup, possibly simply to avoid getting killed. I wasn’t about to stop her- she couldn’t fight anyway, and she’d be safer elsewhere. Unfortunately, Luna spun around, seeming to have known the whole time, and launched a ball of darkness her way. It hit her square in the chest, and she fell to the ground, out cold.
We have to get out of this. Our team is falling to pieces, and there’s no way we can beat her like this... Applejack jumped into the air while Luna’s back was turned, reaving through her armor with her axe. Luna turned and made short work of her, hitting her with the blunt edge of her weapon and launching her as well.
I blasted forward, flailing my weapon wildly at her. She continued to block, but I was gaining ground. She began to back up, having to act more quickly to parry my strikes. Soon I nearly had her against the wall. She jumped back, kicked off against the wall, and corkscrewed towards me. I attempted to block, but she changed direction when she was nearly upon me, hit me full force without barrier, and I fell.
She moved on to deal with Twilight, and while I tried to move, my wounds had accumulated for too long, and I found I could scarcely drag myself along at this point. Darkness swam at the edges of my vision, and the last thing I could make out clearly before I passed out from the pain was a large fireball, and Luna’s sword holding it back.
Twilight’s most trusted spell, ArcFire, collected into a huge sphere, and as she brought her arms down, it flew towards Nightmare Moon full force. She brought up her blade to catch it, but even she had difficulty containing it. Wisps of fire licked at her sword, and flares illuminated her ashen armor. It brightened and exploded satisfyingly, sending the Fallen Royal reeling to the other side of the room.
She’s not experienced with magic, it seems. If we can get her weakened this way... Twilight thought. She looked around, looking for others who were still conscious. Rarity stood off to the side, gripping her rapier, panting and weakened. Their eyes met, and they nodded.
The two jumped together, and both began casting a spell, focusing the two in one point. ElThunder and Shine- an overpowering light, crackling with energy, began forming between them. It began to take shape, flattening and sharpening, and soon it resembled a giant, heavenly shuriken.
With a grunt from both, the spell shot forward, blindingly bright and ready to explode with pent-up power. Nightmare Moon couldn’t help but see it barreling towards her, and dodged out of the way just enough to avoid the brunt of the blast. It hit the corner of the castle, blasting the wall to pieces and sending a parapet crashing down in the center of the hall. Shrapnel from the castle and shockwaves from the spell buffeted the ebon armor, but when it rose, it blasted from its places among the rubble and simply swatted Rarity aside, causing her to collapse off to the side. Unconscious, or too battered to move, she now left Twilight to face Luna alone.
Neither slowed, neither backed down. Twilight launched spell after spell her way, alternating between thunder and fire with no discernible pattern, while they were all blocked or dodged. None possessed the power behind the last two, and they no longer fazed Nightmare Moon, who had grown impatient with the resilience of the party.
She cast a powerful dark spell on her own weapon, which now seemed to not only dwarf, but absorb the very light around it. She brought it down with both hands, and Twilight could do naught but fall back and raise her arms to soften the blow. She closed her eyes...
The sword collided with metal, and the darkness within darted away to various corners of the ruin. She opened her eyes, and saw, standing over her with spear dug into the earth, Pinky. Blood from above covered her face, darkening her hair with its stain, but still she stood strong, teeth barred viciously. It transformed into a sarcastic grin, and she backflipped, grabbing Twilight’s arm and dashing for the exit.
As Luna attempted to stop them, a darkened figure dashed forward between them. It had the exact shape of Pinky, and brandished a spear equally black, though made no noise, remained expressionless, and remained between Luna and the exit.
Pinky continued to run, moving past all the remains of the city, and when they reached the bridge, she moved to the side and jumped. Twilight, who’s wounds had caught up with her, could find no energy to scream, and merely closed her eyes again and waited for the end. The two free-fell for a time, then abruptly collided with water.
They surfaced, and Pinky dragged Twilight to shore. She looked around, taking stock of the new situation from the ground. At the bottom of the canyon, it seemed, was a river, and to the side there was a small gravelly shore. Pinky returned to the waterfront from a bit further away, dragging behind her a shabby raft of driftwood.
She set it down and looked out thoughtfully. From above, a wispy shadow fell, disappearing as it reached Pinky. “She’ll be forced to keep the others alive for the time being, but she won’t be able to follow us yet. We’ll need to take the river back to town if we’re to have any chance.”
Twilight sat up, shaking her head. “Pinky, what are you talking about? What even happened back there, and how do you know this will lead back? And how did you know this was here to begin with?”
“I used to escape here when I was little, and the raft was kind of a way for me to pass the time hanging out here. I didn’t realize it was the same place when we passed it, but when I passed out, I saw it in a vision- the two locations lined up, and I knew we’d be alright if we jumped. As for what happened... I can’t say. I’ve always been almost a different person when things heat up, like that battle in the clearing, and... I don’t know, maybe there’s more to it. It was almost like that second and I separated for a minute, and it covered us while we escaped.”
Twilight looked a bit skeptical at this. “I won’t even pretend I understand it myself. I always just trust my gut on things like that, and it always gets me through. Anyway, Luna’ll no doubt want to destroy the elements, but she won’t be able to unless they’re all present. And as it stands...” She reached into her pack, pulling forth one of the spheres, the one engraved with the yin-yang. “They aren’t. And unless she keeps the others as a bargaining chip, she knows she’ll never get this one back. Now we need to head for home, and get backup. No offense, but Dash was right- we were way undermanned.”
The two dragged the raft into the water, climbed aboard, and floated down the stream in silence.
Castle of Dawn Ruins
Eastern Prison Block
Awareness didn’t immediately come back to me- the first thing I could tell wasn’t a dream, was myself being walked down a narrow hall. I couldn’t make out many details, save for what I assumed were the others being brought forward with me, and the dull lights of the torches on the walls.
The next thing I could recognize was lying on the floor, in a small-ish stone room without much decoration. My vision was still hazy, but I could see out into the hallway, though only in a square the size of the wall. Could be bars, too thin to make out like this. Makes sense. So, we’re in a cell...?
I saw a pair of legs walking up from behind, and I heard my name. AJ? With effort, I pushed myself up from the ground, and after the blood got flowing again and my vision stopped swimming, I was able to see more clearly. We were in a cell, and Applejack was talking to me, though I had to focus more than usual to get anything out of it. “... woke up! We were starting to get worried. Boy, you seem like you took a lot of beating- Let’s get you off the ground.”
I took her outstretched hand and let her pull me to my feet, and I could feel my senses returning. My ears stopped ringing, though there was nothing else to hear, and I was able to discern more details of the room. Along with the two of us, Rarity and Fluttershy were also in the cell, both still out cold. Rarity’s expensive armor and weapon- and indeed all of ours- had been taken unsurprisingly.
“Wait... We’re missing two.” I pointed out.
“Yeah. Can’t say what happened to ‘em. Twilight, I could see her being pulled off to the side, but I can’t think of a reason they’d do the same for Pinky... Maybe they escaped?”
“Maybe.” I became aware that, while still paining me, all our wounds had been bandaged and the blood staunched. “Hey, they patched us up... Why’d they do that?”
“Gosh, gimmie a question I can answer, why don’t you... Only thing I can think of is she might want us alive for something.”
I thought about that for a while. It’s not like we have completely unique skills here. If she really needed them, she could get someone else easily enough. Sure, Fluttershy’s singing is new, but I can’t see Luna having a need for that. The only thing left is... We’re collateral. The town has something she wants, and she’ll try to trade us for it. But... what?
As the rough bundle of driftwood made its way down the river, the moss began to recede from the towering rock walls- which began to become shorter themselves. Soon the stone was clear, then it was behind them, with only green fields on the sides. Night still hung heavy on the land, though the sun would begin its ascent within the hour.
While Pinky kept herself alert, the blood flow stopped with a bit of cloth and washed off in the river, Twilight began to tire, and was soon asleep on the shabby craft. Her companion didn’t make a move to keep her awake, instead maneuvering the raft homeward in solitude.
Time passed uneventfully. No-one pursued the duo, and they made their way quietly, though far from peacefully, forward. As the sun began to rise, the irregular outlines of town became visible on the horizon. Pinky stabbed her spear into the earth, holding fast and bringing the raft to a halt.
“Halfway there.” She muttered. She looked to Twilight, who was still fast asleep. Sympathetically, she pulled her over her back, docked the raft, gripped her spear in her right hand, and set off.
The walk back to town went by uneventfully as well, and before long they had reached the outer edges. A watch seemed to have been established, as various armed townspeople were visible patrolling around the borders. Two caught sight of the pair, and they made no attempt to run as the guards caught up to them and escorted them back.
After conferring with a few others, Pinky gathered Twilight had been staying in a back room of the town library, and brought her there. As she entered the room, she was spun around from behind, thrown to the ground, and relieved of her companion. When she jumped to her feet, she saw that it had been Twilight’s guardian.
He had brought her over to her bed, and was scanning her for wounds. Sheepishly, Pinky explained the situation- that the six of them had travelled into the forest to retrieve the Elements, the trials they had passed, and their final battle. “I patched up her bigger wounds as best I could, but it couldn’t hurt to get someone who knows what their doing to take a look.”
He sat at the edge of the bed, rubbing his chin. “The others, then. They’re still there?”
“Yeah. Way I see it, she’ll keep them alive. She’ll need something to trade for this.” She showed him the Element, which she had kept in her pack and out of sight before. “She can’t destroy any of them without having them all first, and I’d guess she wants to destroy them.”
“Then we’ve got time. I think it goes without saying we’re not trading anything. We’re breaking them out and dealing with Luna ourselves.”
She nodded. “I know a few people around here. We’ll get reinforcements, and she won’t stand a chance.”
“Right. I’d better stay here, make sure Twilight doesn’t do anything else shortsighted like that. But when we march, you’ve got my support. The name’s Spike, by the way.”
Pinky made her way through the halls of the library, but as she opened the door to leave, she was stopped by a large figure, though he was unarmed. He wore simple clothes- just jeans and a white shirt- and had long blond hair tied in a ponytail behind him.
“What happened?” He asked simply.
“Oh, Mac. I was just about to try and find you.” She said. She proceeded to explain things to him as well. “We’re trying to get reinforcements to storm the ruins, and take the others back. And I figured this was the kind of thing you’d be interested in doing.”
He thought before answering. “I swore years ago that I wouldn’t lift a weapon again unless it was to protect the ones I care about. And my sister is still in there. Yeah, this counts. I’ll go nab my weapon, and whichever of my cousins can fight. Meet here?”
“Sure.” He took off for the ranch near the edge of town, and Pinky in the opposite direction.
Over the course of the day, Rarity and Fluttershy both came to, and we began discussing in hushed tones what could be done in our current situation. Our options were pretty abysmal- most consisted of waiting until Luna made the first move.
Now that Twilight’s out of the picture for a while, maybe I can try talking to her again. She didn’t seem to even have interest in taking over afterwards. She just wants Celestia to fall. If that’s really it...
“There is another option, but...” Applejack started, looking out the window, blocked off by three vertical bars.
“What is it? If it could get us out of here quicker, it’s worth a try.” Rarity said.
“How deep into the wall d’you suppose the iron goes? How far from the window would we have to get to get solid stone?” She stepped up to the window, testing the bars.
“Actually, I might have a spell for that. Let me see...” Rarity stepped up as well, muttered a few words, then held her hand, which now emitted a dull radiance, up to the wall below the window. She thought for a moment, then tested the top and sides.
“It’s not very deep.” She said at last. “No more than half a foot, if that.”
“We can work with that. Dash, I’ll need you to get in on this too.”
I nodded, then she dug under one of the bunks and retrieved two hand-sized stones, and tossed me one. Seeing the coast was clear, she set to work, using the stone to chip away below where the bars ended. Carving our way out? The brickwork is pretty old, so I guess it won’t be impossible... I went over and, hovering to stay out of Applejack’s way, set to work on the top.
It was slow work, but soon the wall began to chip.
Back at town, a new team had begun to take shape. In addition to Spike and Mac, Rarity’s companion Opal had joined in, as well as Angel- a creature going specifically to break out Fluttershy. It was bipedal and could speak decently, but otherwise was rabbit-like. He brought with him a scythe twice his size, but seemed able to use it skillfully.
Within the hour Mac had returned to the square adjoining the library with two relatives, one with a sword and one an axe. Mac himself had brought what could only be called his weapon. It was gigantic- easily two stories in length, blood red, and had three different blades total. It was a cursed weapon- it gave him the ability to use it effortlessly, but drove him to near total insanity while he used it, and for a time afterwards. Rare was the occasion he used it.
Pinky had also managed to round up a few town soldiers not wrapped up in guarding the town, and convinced the mayor to pay off a few local mercenaries to join. All in all, when Twilight awoke, their numbers were up to fifteen. However, Twilight had remained asleep since they had returned to town.
Pinky re-entered the library, and saw Spike leaning outside the door, eyes closed. He stirred when she approached. “Hey, when you went in, were there any odd spells cast? One’s that might not have done anything at first?”
She racked her brain for something of the sort, but came up blank. “Twilight’s been getting worse. It seems like she’s sick, but she was fine right up until she went asleep, right?”
“Yeah, she was up and running just before.”
“Then I think something got her, a curse or something. But you’re just fine. I can’t help but wonder if any of the others are like this...”
Castle of Dawn Ruins
Eastern Prison Block
Hours passed, and the wall began to weaken more and more. Rarity had elected to sit nearer the door, alerting us if someone was on their way down the hall, while Applejack and I worked full time on the window. Fluttershy, however, had fallen back asleep shortly after we began, and still slept fitfully.
I could see Applejack looking over to her every once in a while. “You can take a break for a bit and check on her.” I said between hits. She nodded, put her stone on the ground and moved over to the bunk. I continued to work for a bit, then she stood again.
“Seems like she’s sick. She’s conscious, but isn’t waking up any time soon. Got a bit of a fever, too.” She moved back over to me. “Hope she shapes up soon...”
How’d she get sick so quickly? She was fine when she was awake earlier today. I can’t remember any spells being cast, but I guess someone could’ve done it from elsewhere, but why just her, then? Unless it only goes into effect when we sleep...
“Someone’s coming.” Rarity said barely above a whisper. “It’s... It’s her.”
I nearly jumped. This might have been my only chance to fix things. We moved away from the window, and I moved to the gate. I looked back, AJ gave me a look asking ‘What are you doing?’, and I returned one that I hope she could interpret as ‘Trust me’.
She nodded, and I turned back. Luna, unaccompanied, had made her way down the hall, and turned to face us. “Are you all well?”
I waited for half a second, and no-one said anything. Oh yeah, Twilight isn’t here with a lightning-fast comeback that would make the situation worse. Forgot. “Well, I think one of us might be getting sick.” I offered.
“Oh... I could find a medic somewhere, if you’re willing to accept it.”
“Why would you do that?” Rarity asked.
“I have no desire to kill any of you. If I felt it safe, I’d release you here and now. But I can’t, not yet.”
“Luna...” I started. She seemed almost surprised to hear her proper name. “You said before that you had no plans after overthrowing our Queen. So you’re just trying to get her off the throne, and don’t mind who takes over afterwards?”
“All true. Why, did you have an eye on the throne?”
“God no. I can lead a few people okay, but not a country. No, what I wanted to know was... Why?”
“Celestia isn’t what she paints herself as.” She explained. “She may have been once, but... I tried to overthrow her all those years ago, because I could see her being corrupted. The people of old Eclipse were under so much terror- not only from the enemy, but from their own head of state. I... I did what I thought I could to stop her, but it just wasn’t enough. She killed the rest of the resistance and sealed me away.”
My mind was racing with possibilities, and a shiver ran down my legs. “So then, your intent is simply to save the people from her, and has always been?”
Rarity was silent. Applejack put her hand on my shoulder. “Careful, partner. You don’t know what you’re getting into...”
I brushed her hand aside and stepped forward, leaning on the bars. “Luna. I have an offer, then.” I threw my arms out wide. “Release these three, and I’ll cast my lot in with you. You’ll have my sword to do with what you will.”
“What?!” “Dash, what are you doing?!”
I turned. “Celestia’s been hovering over us for too long. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for. Our home and families will be safe if I join Luna, and we’ll have a chance to do the same for the whole country. I can’t pass this up, not after all this.”
“Dash, I know what happened.” AJ said, stepping carefully. “I know you have every reason to want the Queen gone, and I do too, but... This just isn’t the way to do it, Dash. You’re just going to get killed!”
“Are you going to stop me, Applejack?” I asked, not venomously, but softly. “I can handle myself, alright? This may be my only option.”
She averted her gaze from me, watching the ground. “If you’re really set on it... I’m not going to stop watching your back now. I’m coming with you.”
As much as I did want her with me, I had to object. “AJ, I can’t let you-”
“See? You’re taking the same risk, and I’m not letting you take it alone. It’s both, or neither.”
I sighed. There was never any point in me arguing with her- she always got her way with me. I turned back to Luna, who had been watching the whole affair in slight awe. “Two for two, then.”
“I... I can’t do that. I can’t put you in danger like that. Any of you.”
“She’s hurt us as much as you. We’re not going to pass a chance to take her down.” She seemed conflicted, but didn’t seem to like the idea. “Why don’t you think about it for a bit?”
She didn’t answer, but disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Applejack and I looked to each other. We were walking a thin line. “...Thanks.” I told her quietly, then went back to work on the window. Best to have a backup, after all.
Pinky and Spike both stood over Twilight, who’s condition only seemed to have worsened. She had come down with a fever, and had begun turning in her sleep. The town doctor had come to check on her, but he wasn’t able to identify what was wrong, causing the two to continue assuming it a curse of some sort.
“I’ll stay with her.” Spike said. “You should keep looking for more troops, check on the others. Fifteen’s good, but we could use more. We’ll assault the castle tonight, but we’ll need more than fifteen and surprise to take Luna.”
Pinky nodded and left once again. Many of the others, after deciding on when to attack, had gone back home to prepare or continue with their business. However, the soldiers remained in the square to practice, as had Angel. She went over to him.
“So, I know you’re going to save Fluttershy, but... I don’t think I ever actually met you properly.”
While he could speak, it seemed he hadn’t learned the whole language yet. “I used to live in another place, an island with others around. It was called Ivoire, and is South-east... I think. My parents, used to go all over the world. They took me and my brother and sisters with them a few times, like when they came here. But we got lost in the woods, and...”
Pinky nodded sadly. “I was the only one left after that. But I was lucky, and Fluttershy found me. She’s very kind- she took care of me all this time, taught me a lot. I have to take my turn, to save her.”
Pinky was touched by his story, though not too surprised. It seemed something Fluttershy would do. “I see. We’ll be glad to have you with us. And, I think I’ve heard of Ivoire before, actually. I think Equestria does some trading with them. It wouldn’t be too hard if you wanted to go back after all this.”
“Right, but... I don’t think I would want to. I would go back, remind everyone who I was, and... Then what? I would still be alone. I’ll stay here- this is my home now.”
“I understand, and know how you feel. I’ve lived alone in this town for a long time, and I could have left for my cousin’s town any time. But I couldn’t just leave my home behind, and there was always someone to take care of me. I think of the whole town as a big family now, and I’ll protect them whenever I can. And I bet you’ll do the same.”
He nodded, smiling. “Thank you.”
Pinky grabbed her spear from where she had left it, leaning across the wall outside the library, sheathed it, and once again began wandering around town, seeking out fighters to join their task force.
“Ready?” AJ asked, gripping the bar with all her strength, bracing herself against the wall.
“Let’s go.” I answered, doing the same on the top of the window, hanging upside-down. We both kicked out, pulling on the bar with all our power. At first nothing appeared to happen, but after a few moments the stone we had cut out began to scratch against the wall, and dust began to waft from the cracks.
We let up, resting for a moment. “We’re getting there.” She said.
“Right. Let’s try again.” She nodded, and we resumed our positions. Now that it had been uprooted once, it was easier to pull out, but not by much. We managed to pull it about halfway out this time. After another brief respite, we gave it one final haul, and with one final bout of resistance, the iron bar, along with the sections of rock it had been imbedded with, snapped from the wall and lay in my hand.
“Whew. That’s that taken care of.” I peered out the window, and to the ground far below. Our plan had originally been to send me out, and lower the others down. However, I was just unable to fit through the gap as it was, and neither could Applejack. Rarity could have, but there would be no way to get her down. That left...
I turned to Fluttershy, who was still out on the bunk. If she can wake, she could fit through okay, and get out of here. But she doesn’t seem to want to wake up. Unbidden, another thought entered my head. It didn’t make any sense at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it might just work.
As loathe as I was to do it here, I decided it was worth it. I turned to Applejack. “I have an idea. Can you give me some kind of drum beat?”
She was confused for a minute, as was Rarity, but soon she made up her mind. “I guess it’s worth a try. Yeah, I’ll get something going for you.” She moved over to the other bunk, cracked her fingers, and began a simple rhythm.
I cleared my throat, cleared my head of all thoughts regarding how stupid an idea this was, and began.
“The fields where nothing grew but weeds,
I found a flower at my feet,
Bending there in my direction.
I wrapped a hand around its stem,
I pulled until the roots gave in,
Finding out what I’ve been missing...
And I know...
And I tell myself, I tell myself it’s wrong...
There’s a point we pass from which we can’t return...
I felt the cold rain of the coming storm,”
It was an old song he used to sing to me, and I was able to belt the whole thing out without batting an eye. As I came to the end of the song, I could feel that it had- beyond all logic- worked. The lyrics had reached her in whatever dream-state she was in, and her eyes fluttered open at last.
“What... What happened?”
She asked. I quickly explained everything that had transpired since we were thrown in here, and shared with her the plan for our next move. “You’re the only one who can escape through this now, and I don’t think we have enough time to knock out another one. If I ease you out, do you think you can get down, and back to town?”
“Ah... I think so.” She said, standing up, unsteadily at first, and testing her wings. It took her a moment to stretch out again, and she was still just a bit unsteady when she turned to me. “I... I think I should be alright, yeah.”
“Are you sure? We can wait for a little while.”
“No, I’ll be okay. We need to get back to the others.” I nodded, helped her out the gap in the window, and when she was upright and hovering, I let go. She was still a bit shaky, but was able to set off in the direction of town, provided cover by the setting sun. How much time do we have? I guess all we can do now is wait...
“Alright, troops. I don’t need to waste time telling you what you already know- we’ve got friends, we’ve got Luna. We separate the two groups. The Castle of Dawn is a wreck already, and it’s only going to get worse tonight. We need to get the four prisoners out of there, and immobilize Luna. We leave in fifteen minutes.”
Spike left the place he had addressed the team of seventeen from, and stepped back into the library one last time before departure. Pinky remained outside the building, watching over the troops. She had managed to find a few more townspeople who could fight and were willing to join them, but their skill was questionable.
“I hope the others can hold out a bit longer.” She said under her breath. “I wonder if any of them got sick...” Pinky had been awake for two straight days now and, yawning, decided to get what sleep she could. She sat against the wall of the building, and closed her eyes.
She was about to drift off, when the troops began to make a commotion about something. She opened her eyes again, and saw a small flying figure headed for the square from above, barely visible in the dusk surrounding them.
As it landed and collapsed, she jumped up and ran to it. Fluttershy?! She must have escaped, but where are the others?
She reached the tired form, and pulled her up. Angel had already reached her, and had no plans to leave. “Fluttershy, thank goodness! What happened? How’d you escape?”
“She...” She was speaking between breaths. “She imprisoned us all... Dash and the others... they made a way out, but it was too high up and too small. I was the only one who could use it. They... they told me to come back here and get help. Where’s Twilight?” She noticed Twilight wasn’t with them.
“She’s in the back room of the library, sick. We don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
Her eyes widened slightly. “So was I! Can you take me there? I think I might know how to fix her.” Pinky nodded, and helped her over to the building and into the back room, Angel following. Spike was just preparing to leave, but stopped when the three came inside.
“Fluttershy! You got away?” He seemed a bit more relieved than Pinky had, but it might have just been her. She explained what had happened, and what Fluttershy had said. “Well, by all means, give it a try.”
The four entered the room, and saw Twilight, still sleeping fitfully in the bed off to the side. Fluttershy broke off, went over to her, and cleared her throat. Pinky had a feeling about what was coming, but Spike was clueless. She turned and nodded to him. Just watch.
She began her song once again, the same she had used to pacify the Manticore (Pinky had of course known what the creature was the whole time, but no-one had asked). Spike was at first confused, but as the song progressed, his eyes widened in recognition. Angel seemed to have heard it before, but still listened intently. As it finished, Twilight stirred, and he stepped forward.
“What... What was that? Where did you learn that song?”
“Ah, a friend who came here a long time ago taught me. She passed away, though.”
“Did she have white wings and blonde hair?” She nodded curiously. He began murmuring to himself. “The missing Heron... This is where she came. But she’s dead now anyway. But that doesn’t explain why Fluttershy singing the song does anything. Teaching it’s one thing, but why does it have the effect still on it?”
Twilight sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Ugh... How long was I asleep? What happened?”
Pinky was quick with a response. “All day. We got plenty of reinforcements, and were just about to set off for the castle when Fluttershy escaped and sang to wake you up.”
“I did hear a song in my dream. But why did that wake me up?”
“I might have an idea why.” Spike chimed in. “For whatever reason, it seems Fluttershy is like an honorary Heron. And Heron’s do tend to get really bad sick when kept in a place like that, so far from nature’s voice. That’s probably why she got sick. And Twilight... Is it possible the Elements already took their effect? They may have bonded with the others, and left them all connected to you, the one who would wield the final Element bonded by the others. Now, this is all speculation, there’s no guarantee I’m right, but if that is true, Fluttershy’s sickness might have been reflected onto you.
“Fluttershy, how did you get awoken?” She told him it was Dash, who had sung to her. “It could be you just needed to hear the voice of someone from the other side, and his song was what reached you in your dream state. It makes sense that your song, the Galdr of... Bliss, I think it was, was enough to reach Twilight.”
“Wait, wait.” Twilight said, stopping him in his tracks. “What are you talking about? Herons, Galdr... I don’t think anyone else knows what you’re talking about. I suppose the theory on the Elements isn’t impossible, but I can’t figure out what you mean by the rest.”
“I’ll have to explain on the way.” He said, looking out at the night sky. “We’re marching.”
Central Road/Alternate Backroad
“So.” Twilight started as the group made their way around the collapsed path. “We’ll have some time before we reach the castle. Can you clarify now, Spike?”
“I suppose it’s only fair. Hey, Opal, can you come walk with us? I’m going to be telling them some things from home, I might need someone to help me fill in some blanks.”
Opal, the cat-girl companion to Rarity, nodded and fell back slightly, matching pace with those who had been in the library at the time- even Angel, stoic as he was, lingered at the edge of their circle to catch the conversation. “I suppose.” She said. “What did they want to know?”
“I had a theory about why Twilight and Fluttershy were awoken by music- and, it seems Fluttershy here can sing Galdrar.”
Opal seemed surprised, and turned to look at Fluttershy more closely. “Really? That’s strange... She’s got the right wing color, but her hair is pink, not golden.”
“Anyway, I think it would be easiest for understandings sake if we start the explanation now. So, back on our home continent, there were several different races- the Beorc, which are basically undistinguishable from the People of Earth and of Fire here. There were those among them who could use magic, and those who couldn’t, but they didn’t tend to separate themselves too much.
“Then there were the Goldoans- my people. We’ve got the longest lifespan of any creature, and superior strength, though we traditionally don’t make a habit of fighting.”
“My people are called the Gallians.” Opal took over. “We live a lot like cats, unsurprisingly- we have houses, sure, but hunt and gather most of our food. Our strength is second only to the Goldoans, but our lifespan isn’t as long- around twice as long as a Beorc’s. Oh, did I mention we can all transform into our animals? I can be a cat, obviously, and he can turn into-”
“A dragon. I’ve only needed to transform once since I got here, but I’m afraid I might have to once more tonight.” Twilight nodded. She remembered the sight of him, huge, terrifying, making short work of the bandits invading the town they had visited years before. And yet... I wasn’t as afraid as I thought I would be. Deep down, I could still feel him. I knew it was still Spike.
“Anyway,” Spike continued. “Lastly, there’s the bird tribes- The Hawks, Ravens, and Herons. They all have equal lifespans- better than the Gallians, but still far below the Goldoans. The Hawks have the best strength among them, the Ravens are decent fighters, but tend to be more about agility and stealth. Then the Herons have never been known to fight, instead opting for peaceful solutions to their conflicts. All the birds, Herons especially, live in harmony with the nature and other creatures.”
Fluttershy was listening intently to this. From what I’ve seen, Twilight thought. It must be like he’s describing her firsthand.
“About ten years ago, one of the Heron royals went missing suddenly. And Fluttershy, you said you were taught your song by someone with white wings and blonde hair? Only the royals have pure white wings- the others are lighter gray or silver, even light brown. I believe the princess and the teacher are the same person.
“See, the Herons have the ability to sing special songs- Galdrar- that do all sorts of passive- aggressive things. Cleanse corruption of body and mind, restore energy, even heal wounds. Your song, Fluttershy, I believe is the Galdr of Blessing, which clears the minds of all who hear it.” She nodded again. “Did she somehow give you the power to sing them yourself, since you were so close to Heron already?”
“Well...” She started, but took some time before continuing. This must be a hard memory to bring up. Twilight assumed. “A few months after she arrived, she... She was really sick. She called me to her bedside and sang a song to me off a piece of scroll, one that I never heard before. A... A light, an energy of some kind, just... went from her, to me. I felt amazing physically, but... It was too much for her.
"... She passed away that day. She left me two scrolls- the one she had read off of, which I never touched- I couldn’t bring myself to it- and another, one with the song you heard me sing on it. I think that light she gave me let me use the songs.”
“She must have crafted a new song, one that passes on the Heron power. But it must require a great deal of strength, so it’s no wonder she couldn’t live through it. But I wonder, if someone does survive, would they retain their own powers as well...?”
“Spike, you’re talking to yourself again.” Twilight pointed out kindly.
“Oh, sorry.” He said, running his hand over the back of his head sheepishly. “What else was there?”
“Why songs woke us up.” She said.
“Yeah, because... When I was sung to, it wasn’t a Galdr or special song or anything. Rainbow Dash just sang a song.”
“Well, I’m just guessing here, but I think it’s just because Herons are musically attuned. You were suffering, and when, in your dream, you heard his voice, it was enough to rouse your spirits and wake you up.
“And why Twilight was sick too, again, it might have been a link going between her and the others because of the Elements- if one suffers to that extent, she feels it as well. Possibly the whole team would feel it in time, but I think Twilight will usually be the first.”
Twilight took a moment to let that thought sink in. Anything bad that happens to them will happen to me, too? Spike turned to her, seeing her growing distress. “It’s quite a burden to bear, I’ll admit, but... Twilight, I don’t think anyone else would be better for the job. I believe you can do it- it seems like it’s a matter of keeping your team together, making sure nothing happens to them, and being responsible and fixing it when it does. But I know you’ll find a way.”
Castle of Dawn Ruins
The tension in the air was palpable. Fluttershy would have made it back to town by now, and reinforcements were bound to be on the way. The three of us sat around the cell, Rarity on one bunk, AJ and I on the other. We weren’t sure exactly what we were waiting for, but we all knew something was coming. Applejack had taken the bar- rock thing from the window- it could serve as a weapon if we needed one. Rarity and I could both muster up some kind of magic in the event of a fight.
The sun had set, and once again the only light came from the worn torches in the hall. Fluttershy had escaped two hours previously, and I knew there would at least be a few people coming to break out the other two- I’d make sure to slip out with them. Luna... I wasn’t bluffing when I made my offer. Please, don’t wait until it’s too late...
Rarity moved over to the window, and gave a start. “There are torches, coming this way!” Both of us jumped up to see as well. “Around twenty troops it looks like, and... What is that?!”
She could only have been speaking of the Demon Sword, as I called it. The weapon belonging to brother of Applejack (and basically me as well), Mac. It towered over the rest of the troop, blood red metal visible even from here.
“Mac came?” AJ said in awe. “Sure hope Luna surrenders, for her sake.”
“Now’s our chance. Luna is not the enemy here- if I can talk them out of attacking her, we can earn her favor, and we might stand a chance in the long run. Come on, we have to get out of here!”
We looked over to the cell door, and began scanning it for weakness. Rarity grabbed my shoulder, motioning to a lock on the door. “It looks like that’s all that’s keeping it locked. If we get a powerful enough spell going, we could break it.”
“Right.” I stepped back slightly. “Ready?” She nodded. We both focused a decent spell on the lock, forming a sort of flowing-light attack. It filled the lock easily, and was too much for it to contain. It burst, and the spell dispersed. “Let’s go! We can’t have much time left!”
We ran from the cell, making our way down blindly. None of us had any idea where we were going, but we knew we were higher up in one of the back corners, so we tried to go down in general. We passed a large room from which something shined, and I backtracked slightly to see its contents.
“Guys! Armory!” I ran into the room quickly, and retrieved our weapons, as they had recently been thrown atop the pile of blades. Once we were all properly equipped with weapons, we set off again. Rarity was at first hesitant to leave without finding her armor, but knew the urgency of their trip, and was soon talked into leaving it.
We didn’t get far, however. From the shadows of the hallway before us, I could clearly see the now familiar black armor gleaming in the darkness, sword in hand. “And so you choose to run, and leave me to my fate?”
I interrupted her self loathing ramblings myself this time. “I meant what I said, Luna. The deal has changed, but my offer is the same. Let me convince them of what’s going on, and stop their march. I know many of them, and I know that many of them already harbor a grudge towards Celestia. I can get them to back out of the conflict, even lend us more troops.”
Luna, once again, was all but speechless. “Young boy... Why would you ally yourself with me so easily?”
“Celestia’s facade has been weak for years. If she didn’t want enemies, she shouldn’t be so good at pissing them off. I want her dead, plenty of others want her dead. You’re not alone anymore, Luna. Now let me fix this mess, please.”
“Ah... Alright. I’ll call off my own troops. I have no desire to hurt them, but I won’t let them stop me either. Please, teach them the truth.”
Emboldened, I led the other two past her and through the castle, which was becoming more and more familiar, with Luna following at a distance. At last we burst through to the central courtyard once again, and saw the Elements laying exactly where we all dropped them. However, they had mysteriously darkened since then, and were completely black now.
“What happened to them?” Rarity asked, lifting one curiously.
“They became little more than rocks after you all left them. I believe they have chosen you as their bearers, and have imparted their essence to you. Which means the one who didn’t receive one already... Is likely the bearer of the final Element.”
For some reason, I’m thinking it’s Twilight. “So, how do we use them, then?” I asked.
“That’s just it. The sixth is only brought into this world when the others are fulfilled, and they can’t be used until all six have found a place. It all must happen at once.”
So when Twilight gets hers, we’ll all get our power from them. Somehow, I don’t think that can happen until we’re staring death in the face- ancient artifacts usually work like that, if I’m not mistaken. I have a bad feeling about this...
The party crossed the bridge carefully, stopping as they reached the edge of the ruined town. They would go as one, and strike at Nightmare Moon all at once.
“You should all know...” Spike started. “I’m going to try and do all my fighting with my knives, but if I end up going full force- you’ll know it if you see it- I’ll need a few of you to hold me down for a while. Fluttershy, you could probably speed it up with your song, if you wouldn’t mind.”
She shook her head. “I’d be happy to. I wouldn’t just let you sit there and suffer.”
Mac turned slightly when he heard Spike’s words. “You too? I go absolutely crazy when I use this thing, so I’ll have to ask the same.”
The group assembled themselves in a line, all facing the castle, and as one started forward at a run. They had gotten halfway to the ruin when they were stopped by a voice.
“Wait! Everyone stop, listen to me!” Rainbow Dash, followed by Applejack and Rarity, were running full speed from the castle towards the group. Twilight couldn’t quite tell from where she stood, but she thought she saw a glint of armor near the castle for a moment, before it disappeared. The others reached the war party, panting.
“Everyone, listen.” Dash spoke, addressing the crowd. “We’ve had a bit of a change of plans.”
I took another breath before continuing. “Like I said, there’s been a change of plans. I’m glad you all came to rescue us, plus it makes it that much easier to tell you all this. I’ve made a deal with Luna- one that works well for everyone. She wasn’t sure what side anyone was on now- and I’ve explained to her what the world has become. She’ll leave our town be, and likely the rest of Equestria, provided I help explain to everyone she isn’t the enemy.”
“What do you mean, she isn’t the enemy?” Twilight asked. “She even said she was going to overthrow the Princess right to our faces!”
“Yes, that’s true. But she was able to explain further without you interrupting. All she wants is to get her off the throne- she has no intention of touching any of the citizenry or taking the throne afterward.”
“And that makes it okay in your eyes?!” She shouted. “Why would you think we would allow her to stage a rebellion like that, do you think we can just let that slide?!” Several among the crowd chose not to move with her, but a few did cast in their voices. “Nightmare Moon must be stopped! We’ll protect the throne with our lives!”
She gave more emphasis to Luna’s title, I suppose because she noticed I hadn’t used it once, and once again several of the people standing in the crowd. One of the mercenaries raised their voice: “I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s a profitable world as it is. Far as I’m concerned, Celestia can keep her precious throne, us soldiers of fortune can pick up the slack for her troops, and everyone’s happy.” The rest of the mercenaries agreed.
“You know why you have so much work in this world?” I argued. “Have you ever seen the royal soldiers addressing an actual problem? All they end up doing is buffing up the queens own defenses! She’s taken people straight from our villages to train involuntarily, even children! How can you abide by that?!”
“That’s not true!” Twilight countered. “You know there’s more monsters in this world than we can handle already, and the royal soldiers are kept hard at work with them! Of course some of them are stationed at the castle- there has to be someone to protect the Queen! And plenty of troops are volunteers- we only draft soldiers when there aren’t enough to hold us afloat.”
“Are you going to stand against us, Twilight? You can deny the truth to yourself all you like, but dissent will grow. Plenty of people already oppose the Queen, and more will follow. Celestia will fall.”
Just as I finished speaking, a blast of darkness collided with the ground between us from behind. I spun, and saw Luna clutching her head in pain. “I’m... I’m sorry... She’s... Agh!” She threw her arms and head back, then brought her gaze to bear a moment later, eyes glowing red.
“Rgh, coward!” I shouted. I don’t know how, but I think I get it. This whole mess was Celestia’s plan all along. “Why don’t you get out here and fight us yourself!”
Twilight, Pinky, and Fluttershy all jumped forward to join us, and the five of us that fought all drew our weapons. Either to fight her and protect Celestia, or to prevent the Queen from destroying her from a distance and protect Luna, we all knew one goal- take her alive.
A golden light enveloped the team as we all readied for battle, and when it cleared, it was obvious the Elements had finally kicked in. I now wore a gold sheath criss-crossing my original leather one across my back, and in my left hand was a gold broadsword identical to my normal steel one. I spun both experimentally- The weight was the same as well, but the power behind the new weapon was obvious.
I looked at the others, and saw they had been similarly re-equipped- none of the others dual-wielded their weapons like I did, but switched to the upgrades entirely. They all had each acquired a piece of gold armor- AJ now wore a shoulder-guard across her left arm, Rarity a chest plate, Pinky a pair of bucklers, and Twilight (She had obtained a gold tome for a weapon, though I’d never seen her need one to cast spells) and a gold tiara. Fluttershy received no weapon, but now wore a light helmet.
“The rest of you- let us handle this!” Twilight called back to the crowd.
“Only until you start loosing.” Mac responded. “Then she’s mine.” Mac could clearly see what was truly happening- and I wouldn’t get in his way for the world. If anyone deserved a shot at Celestia more than me, it would be him.
I led the charge, flying at her at full speed, a blur of flailing silver and gold. Her dark sword rose to block each slice with lightning-fast reflexes. While she was occupied with me, AJ ran up and delivered a devastating slash with her new axe across her legs. She buckled for half a second, then threw herself backward and righted herself with a backflip- handstand type move.
Twilight and Rarity both charged a large spell- a huge fireball and a blinding sphere of light, and sent them both spiraling towards her at once. She was able to spin away from the brunt of the blast, but they exploded as they contacted each other, and she was sent reeling into the air in the aftershock.
Pinky called my name, and in one glance I could tell what she planned. I nodded, she ran forward, and as she reached me, I caught her foot in my hands and launched her into the air. She pulled her lance behind her head, and she drifted towards the Princess, almost as though in slow-motion. As she brought down her spear, she seemed to vanish for a moment, then appeared behind her and delivered several lightning fast hits. Then another series, and another.
Soon it seemed as though there were two of her flying about, one glowing with light and one barely visible against the night sky. The two collided where she had started, and her powerful strike at last connected with Luna, sending her crashing to the ground.
Twilight ran forward, standing directly between everyone and the Royal. She threw out her arms dramatically, and shouted back: “One last attack, everyone! Give me your strength!” Rarity was first to comply, sending a burst of light her way, which she caught in her left hand. Pinky sent over a swirling mass of of light and dark, and as Twilight caught it, both her arms glowed, one white, one black. AJ simply threw her axe, though it glowed with an orange radiance, and Twilight reached and grabbed it with her right hand.
From Fluttershy’s direction, a ball of light glowing not so much with radiance, but sound- like a small bell giving off a mighty chime. Twilight caught this in her right hand, matching up with Rarity’s offering. I was last, and decided to power up my gold sword with a wind spell and toss it her way. She caught it in her left hand, and now, glowing with energy, ran full speed towards Luna. She jumped and, focusing the whole attack on one crushing attack, brought down both weapons.
Luna was once again launched into the air, sword dropped, armor falling off in chunks. I was quick to cast a weak wind spell, easing her to the ground. Her unarmored form was a great deal less intimidating- She wore normal clothes, had long, unkempt dark violet hair, and appeared to actually be a few years younger than any of us. She was severely weakened, but alive- breaths came to her in ragged gasps for a minute after she was lowered to the ground.
Weapons retrieved and sheathed, magics dispelled, and threat ended, the six of us walked over to the small form that had been our ‘enemy.’ This is what we were truly meant to be afraid of? This poor little girl? You’re pathetic, Celestia. Truly pathetic. I didn’t voice these thoughts- Twilight had likely let our previous argument slip her mind in the heat of battle, and the last thing I needed was her informing Celestia of my hatred, which would inevitably lead to her keeping a much tighter grip on our town.
“What’re we gonna do now?” Applejack asked quietly.
Twilight let out a small gasp. “Look!” She pointed skyward, where a small white form could be seen arcing down towards us. In my head, I swore appropriately. As if on que.
“Sorry, kid.” I murmured, stepping back from Luna. It’s out of my hands now. Damn, and we were so close to finally gaining some ground. Well... I guess not. It all makes sense now- those soldiers from before, Luna being possessed... This was a farce to begin with.
I did my best to remain inconspicuous as the figure landed. Clad in unmistakable white armor, white sword identical in shape to Luna’s, she approached the group, who bowed in varying amounts of honor and common sense. Swallowing my pride, I followed suite.
Celestia bid us to rise.
We all stood, and she moved over to her rejected sister. “Well, it would seem you broke your seal a bit earlier than expected, Luna.”
She coughed and pulled herself to her feet. She also knew that to argue now would be fatal and pointless, I could tell. She remained silent.
“One thousand years may have been a bit of a stretch to begin with, however. Perhaps this was enough. You were young then, and have had much time to consider both of our actions. I can only hope that you’ve seen the light- that the things you accused me of were well intended, and what I did I did for the survival of our country.”
She shook slightly, halfway between a cough and a noise of disgust. “Yes.” She lied. “I’ve realized the folly of my actions. Please, I beg that you forgive me. I was under the power of darkness, I had little strength of my own to resist.”
“Of course.” Celestia responded. To the eyes of those like Twilight, it must have seemed a heartwarming reunion, but I could see past that. Both parties were putting on their best game face and acting their parts, putting on a nice play for the people. She helped Luna off her feet and, sheathing her weapon and lifting Luna’s with one hand, turned to us.
“I must thank you, heroes. Without you, the whole kingdom would have been engulfed in war once again.” It was getting increasingly difficult to remain silent, but I managed. “I feel it would be best to continue to entrust the Elements to you, in the case something else should occur.”
She looked to each of us in turn, smiling at her little weapon Twilight admirably, and nodding friendlily to each of us. When her eyes settled on me, she stopped for a moment, seeming to recognize something about me. Playing along, I gave my best impression of his smile, sincere, but with a hint of crazy.
And as I looked at her, I knew she saw it. She did her best to hide it, but I could see recognition in her eyes. For a moment, she saw him in my face, and I knew she knew exactly who I was. She squinted slightly, brought back up her smile, and nodded to me, accepting my silent gambit.
Not even AJ could have seen it. It was between me and her.
“I’ll take my sister back to Eclipse, and return to her crown. Our kingdom can be whole once again. Thank you again, heroes.” She took her sisters hand, who looked back to me one final time. I nodded to her knowingly. We’d have another chance someday- And I wouldn’t let Celestia win again. She smiled and nodded to me, the only one she’d met who had been with her full force.
The two took off for home, and sighing silently, I joined the others in doing the same. This isn’t over, dearest Queen. This has only just begun.
Yeah I knew about the group the whole time and told no-one about it. Me and bro are mean like that. Anyway, I'm just gonna just steal my bro's fan art for this and put it here later. YOU NEVER SAW THIS BRO.
Sig by Solsetur I'm fabulous and I know it.
"Give it a nice, manly twist when you screw it in."
Alright, I need to say something before we begin. Two characters will be described in detail in this prologue. When you reach the second one that is very detailed, it is imperative that you imagine his voice being like that of Captain Jack Sparrow. Very crucial.
Part Two Prologue
Eclipse Castle; Four Hours Earlier
East Wing Chamber
The spires and turrets of the mountainside castle shined in the waning light, brightening the surrounding city before night fell. With the mountain surrounding the castle, light would only be reflected upon the town at this time of day, a symbolic of a final mighty effort before the fall of darkness.
Within the castle’s grand halls, the light reflected from the west into the stained glass windows, sending lights of all shades and hues dancing around the castle. Royal guards, clad in silver-blue armor, made their rounds across the gardens and castle.
To the east of the central towers, through the older sections of the palace, the eastern chambers lay silent. Several quarters for esteemed guests and the queens own closest allies were located in these halls, all furnished expensively. Only one was currently occupied.
Within the furthest room, a boy gazed out his window, admiring the last lights of the sun. His hair and wings were both a dusty orange, and on first glance appeared to be sickly and frail. While apparently content and unawares, his mind was working on the clock, and his heart raced with anticipation.
She’s been gone for a good hour now already, preparing to put her master plan of self- glamorization into action. Time’s as prime as it’s going to be. He thought, giving the view one last look before turning and diving to the ground, reaching under his bed frame for a small locked wooden box.
He reached under his shirt, a plain white one covered with a light leather jacket, and retrieved a small bronze key from around his neck. Opening the chest, he removed a small collection of silver knives. The biggest of these he clutched backhanded with his right hand, the rest he shoved in his belt and jacket pockets.
Seven knives in total. You really thought of everything didn’t you, Celestia? Waiting until I was at my weakest to leave me here alone. But you jumped the line just a tiny bit. He held his left hand out, and was able to generate a small fire between his fingers. I’ve still got a few minutes of flame left in me.
He kicked the box back into its dusty resting place, and looked around the room. Odds are good I’m not going to see this place again. Is there anything else I need? A thought occurred to him, and he went over to his bookshelf hurriedly. From it he retrieved a small tome, utterly unremarkable in appearance.
In this he had scribbled various bits of ancient language he had come across, and while he had no knowledge of the meaning behind them himself, he had written them down as he located them, in the hopes of one day finding a scholar who could satisfy his curiosity. A few he were convinced were spells of some kind, though the only magic he could use, little more than the most basic of fire spells, were inherent to him and required no incantation.
He slipped the book into the inside of his jacket and moved to the door. Keeping his hand in his pocket to hide the weapon, he left the room, and entered the ancient and grand hallways. Much of the castle had been reconstructed after the war five hundred years prior, though this section of the castle had remained solid and cared for.
He set off down the hall at a brisk pace. His legs had been gradually weakening over the last few weeks, as had the rest of him, but he knew they weren’t quite at their weakest yet. This was all just one huge gambit- would he have enough energy remaining to succeed without collapsing somewhere along the way?
Not many guards patrolled in this part of the castle, but to leave he would have to pass through the central entryway, and both it and the path to it were heavily guarded. While he did have free roam of the castle, his normal privilege granting him the same of the surrounding city had been restricted with Celestia away, so stealth would be necessary. The knives were simply his insurance.
He had long been studying the layout of the castle for this day, and had mapped out hidden passages not even the queen was liable to be aware of in his mind. He elected to use one now, slipping into a long unoccupied room and removing several loose floor tiles. A small tunnel down led into an unused shelter, connected to several others around the castle. One of these led to another shelter beneath the kitchens, which at this time of day would likely be empty. It was this that the boy planned to use.
He slipped down ungracefully, picked himself up off the dusty stone floor, and stared down the darkened passageway. He looked around for a light source, saw a torch, and lit it with a spark from his fingertip. The ancient cloth and wax slowly came to life, casting a dull but adequate light around him. He held it aloft in his left hand, and set off down the forgotten path.
As he approached the central gathering room, much bigger than any of the other shelters, he stopped. There were four other pathways from here, but he had travelled these before. He took the one second to the right, and entered another blank stone pass. He soon came to a shelter nearly identical to the first- it could have fit a good twenty people if it had to, but was sparsely furnished.
He climbed the small ladder that led down to it, and did his best to press his ear up to the hatch above. Silence. He doused the torch, tossed it below, and pushed up on the ceiling. He emerged in the empty kitchen as he thought he would. Tables, furnaces and cauldrons made up the majority of the room.
He rose from the shelter tunnel and sealed it as it had been before. His next task would be the more dangerous leg of the journey- the grand hall was the only room adjoining this one, and it was doubtful that it would be completely empty.
I can still be anywhere in the castle, but can’t leave and be seen. Still, I’m already this far, and I’d have to come up with a good story for why I was in the kitchen in the first place. I’ll need to stay stealthy.
He decided to come up with a simple one anyway, and made his way out of the kitchen. The grand hall was far from busy, as supper had been a two hours ago. However, a few people still lingered. When asked, he claimed to have been looking for one of the chefs, who he had been told had gone back to the kitchen for something. One of them told him they had seen the chef in question elsewhere, and he pretended to take the information and go look for him.
When he left the grand hall, he went the exact opposite direction, towards the entrance hall and his ticket to freedom. He slid against the wall, allowing the patrolling guard to pass around the next corner, then ran for it. One more turn, and the hall would be upon him.
“What are you doing?” A taciturn voice asked from behind him. He turned slowly, and was faced with a royal soldier, who didn’t appear to want any part of whatever was going on.
“Uh...” He came up blank. He could have sworn he had the guards patterns mapped out. Perhaps this was one who was on break, or had a more specific assignment. He silently cursed himself for overlooking such an obvious variable. I’ll have to improvise...
He dug around in his pockets, coming up with a decent amount of currency. “Don’t suppose you’d like to take this and pretend this never happened?”
“You underestimate us, kid. We’re a bit more devoted to the Queen than that. I ought to knock you out and present you to her myself, make her realize what a bad idea it was keeping you around in the first place.”
“You ought to... But you won’t?” He was going out on a limb, but was willing to stretch his plans a bit here.
“You seem to have several weapons with you.” He pointed out. “I’ll bet that one could fetch a coin or two with the right buyer.”
The boy looked to the knife the guard had referred to, and pulled it out of his belt. “Throw that in with the money, and I’ll go about my business.” He handed the guard the coins and knife, who then put away all of it and walked away. That was all the money I had on me. I won’t be able to do that again.
He waited until both ways were clear, then slipped through the next hall, into the entrance chamber, and dropped off the railing and behind a great statue. Once again, his landing was clumsy, as his wings were all but useless in his current state. The room was much more lively, and he knew making it through would be much more difficult. And considering he hadn’t even gotten past the easier part cleanly...
No. He corrected his own thoughts. I can’t doubt myself now. I won’t get another chance, and I will take this one.
He dashed across to a side room, which would interlock with another. Through this room, the exit was only a few yards away. The second smaller room he knew to be full of coatracks for the most part. He ducked in after checking it and confirming it empty, and slipped on a black overcoat he had seen on the way in. This might look a bit odd for the middle of summer, but at least it’ll be less conspicuous than my wings. Sorry for whoever’s this is, but it’s for the good of the country. Just get yourself a new one, prick.
He flipped the hood up and left the room through the other door, leaving the castle entryway without being stopped. The outer gates of the palace were still patrolled heavily, but as he made his way through he only attracted confused glances from the guards. However, as he approached the grand doorway leading in and out of the courtyard, he noticed out of the corner of his eye the guards walking up from behind.
There’s five of them allocated to me, it seems. On a good day I could take them all down without breaking a sweat, but I’d be lucky to get one of them today. I can only run. He reached the door and tried to get it open, but couldn’t budge the lock. Really?! I didn’t take into account the heavy bolt lock I’ve seen a thousand times?! Stupid!
He turned his head slightly, and could see the guards were almost upon him. He began running through his remaining options, but none were very good. In a few seconds he had settled on the option he felt was most likely to succeed, but even then it wasn’t a great plan...
He shrugged the coat off, and, turning to face the guards, who had drawn their weapons upon seeing his hair and wings, he lit it aflame. “Catch!” He said, throwing the burning cloth their way and tripping them up. He jumped as hight as he could into the air, and used another burst of flame to rocket up over the gate and above the city. I’ve barely got any power left... This is going to either get me out of here or get me killed... It’ll be close.
Falling to the ground, he expended what was just shy of the rest of his energy, and a large, sad looking bird took of shakily in his place, skimming the rooftops and rapidly clearing the city, which while a large and proud city in itself, paled in comparison to the castle. It’s not a matter of avoiding the guards anymore. He thought. It’s whether or not I can get far enough away and hide somewhere they won’t find me. And I can only hold up like this for a few minutes more...
He shot past the last of the buildings and began coasting over the green hills surrounding them, avoiding the largest roads. His flight was wobbly to begin with, but soon he was barely able to stay on one clear path. They’ll find me if I just collapse here. I need to get further away, and somewhere where the wind won’t get me. If I can find a cave to stay in for a few days... Agh!
With a final grunt, the bird rammed into the ground and skidded to a halt atop a small hill, turning up the loose dirt. Using the very last of his magic energy, he returned to his original form with a flash of light, and pushed himself off the ground painfully. I’ll have to go on foot, then. Hup... ah...
He began running, but he wasn’t able to make much progress with any speed. His legs were tiring fast, and the moon watched as he stumbled forward, in the direction of the vast forest to the southwest. The forest was about the last place he wanted to hide out, but when it was compared to his only other option, it seemed preferable.
His eyes were set on the inky black form looming before him, but when he had nearly reached the tree line, he collapsed. His strength was gone, and his legs had given way as he descended a small slope.
My plan failed... Celestia, you knew even if I escaped, I couldn’t get far enough away. Curse you, queen...
The boy had accepted defeat, and was content to lie and let fate do with him what it would, but as he lay motionless, another figure looked out from the forest, his boundless curiosity piqued. This man was of above average height, though not inhumanly so. His spiky hair, a longsword hanging across his back, and a knife at his belt were all the very blackest of pitch. A short jacket and tattered brown cape flowed behind him.
He regarded the boy, aligning his thoughts. This young man clearly just got done running for his life. He concluded in less than half a second. But he seems to have given up, perhaps too worn by the chase to continue? Let’s see, here... Oh, he was running from Eclipse? Well, the least I can do is speak to him and uncover his motives.
He stepped out of the shade of the forest, which would have made him seem to materialize from nowhere, had the boy been looking his way. As it was, his eyes were closed and turned to his side anyway. However, he did hear the newcomer approaching, and his ears pricked slightly.
“Why were you scurrying from the castle, boy?” He said in an unusual, almost whimsical accent. “Usual reasons?”
“Ugh... How do you know I was?” He replied quietly, though the man was able to understand him without overt effort.
“You’re sprawled across the ground, too tired to continue, and facing away from the Shining City.” He answered. “Quite simple if one cares to line up the pieces like such. So, I can guess you were her prisoner or something, and made a break for it while she’s out for tea or whatnot?”
“Heh. Something like that. She’s out making herself look good-”
“At the expense of others, I presume?”
“‘Course. I was something of a curiosity to her, and she thought it wise to keep me under her wing, so to speak. I wanted no part of it.”
“Ah, her little pet then. Well, this is fortuitous. You’d doubtless know things that an average captive wouldn't, and I am known to be a merchant of information. Tell you what, kid.” The man crouched beside the disheveled figure. “If you can tell me some things of note, rare, unusual, possibly naughty things... I’ll hide you.”
The boys eyes opened at last, taking in the stranger for the first time. He seemed a bit skeptical. “I’m not sure I can give you much... Wait, wait. Can... can you read ancient text?”
The man scoffed. “What do you take me for, kid? Of course I can. Wouldn’t be much of an information trader without understanding such a prevalent language. Why, you got some?”
“I’ve been around. I wrote down any I found, and I can recall exactly where each entry was, but I can’t decipher it. I have the notes here.” Wearily, he reached into his jacket and retrieved the old tome. The man took it and flipped through the pages idly.
“Interesting... Some of these might even take a while to read. This is old stuff... Awright kid, you got yourself a deal. I’ll lug you back to my forest shack and find a bunk for you.”
He pulled the boy up and supported him over his shoulder. “What can I call you, anyway? ‘Kid’ and ‘boy’ seem a bit impersonal.”
“It’s... it’s Phil.” He said. “And you...?”
“For the time being, you can call me Link. Good to meet you, Phil. When we get home, I’ll dig up my finest aged Chateu Romani for the occasion!”
A week had passed since we had returned from the Castle of Dawn. After being healed properly, we had all broken off and had for the most gone straight home. I had put my old sword back where it always was- near the door for quick access. The golden sword, however, I brought to a little used back room, where another sword sat. It was another broadsword, though slightly shorter and curved near the tip. Here this sword would wait until it had its chance to finish it’s mission. I placed the golden sword to the side of it and closed the door.
Celestia had made a show of accepting Luna back to her second-in-command seat of power, but once again I could see it was all a lie. Luna would be kept alive, I could only assume, but I doubted if she would be treated as anything more than a prisoner there. I’ll find a way somehow, kid. I’ll get us all out of this, somehow. With thoughts like this buzzing around my head, I fell asleep, and awoke in a dream.
All around me was white- the ground was indiscernible from the sky around, but I was able to find my footing easily enough. I had been here before. I stared out into the fog, watching for movement. I could never tell from what direction he would come, or when, but he always showed up eventually. Unpredictability was one thing he had never let go.
However, this time he seemed to have decided on going as simply as possible, which I suppose was exactly what I wasn’t expecting. From in front of me, he stalked slowly up to me, stopping just short of my ability to see his face. I could see his dark pants and trademark leather jacket just fine, and his hair hung far past his shoulders, much more so than my own. His hands were in his pockets, and his head was tilted slightly to the side.
“You’ve really got yourself deep into this mess, haven’t you?” He stated, phrasing it as a question.
“What choice do I have? If I don’t try, who will?”
“You underestimate the amount of crazy idiots at your disposal, kid. Though, it’s probably a good idea to have a few people who know what they’re talking about mixed in, just in case you win.”
“‘In case’? That’s an unusual thing for you to say. Somehow or another, I will fix this, and you know it.”
“Hah! Caught me there, didn’t you? However, I’ll have to call you out on that as well- You will help to fix it. You of all people should understand by now you can’t do jack alone. Take my word for it.”
“So, I presume I won’t need to tell you what happened before?”
“What, do you think I have nothing better to do than watch you all day?”
“That was true up until today, apparently.”
“I was able to catch some of it, and since I can read your mind here, I can piece it together. Let’s see, Luna dropped in for a visit, stupid capital broad, got the Elements (now that could be useful...), ooh, nice use of my song. I approve. What else... awesome combo technique... it was a trap all along, nice catch. Well, I think that about covers it.”
His dialogue was a bit hard to follow at times, I’ll admit, but I’d had experience. “So, why are you here?”
“I’m going to go ahead and assume you mean ‘here’, right now, before you talking- as opposed to existing at all. That’s what you usually mean. Mostly just to confirm to you I’m still here. But I do have a bit of advice for you- don’t rush things. I know you want to march in there and beat the queen senseless, but you’re going to want to wait. You don’t stand a chance as you are. Bide your time, kid, and you’ll get more strength. Fate may seem to throw everything at you when you aren’t ready for it, but trust me- you’ll know what to do when it does.”
“You know, I remember you being a lot less cryptic in your advice.” I pointed out.
“Come’s with the territory, kid. I wouldn’t want to give you any spoilers, anyway. And besides, I have to remain cryptic, that way it looks like I actually know what I’m talking about.”
“I remember you being more helpful too, now that I think about it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I’ve never been at all helpful. You’ve just convinced yourself otherwise. Well, I’ll be seeing you, kid!”
He stepped back, and a large pair of dark blue wings erupted from behind him. With a final wave, he jumped back and flew away, quickly disappearing in the mist.
The rest of the week passed by uneventfully- save for Twilight being stationed in town indefinitely. The story behind it was something along the lines of ‘to learn friendship’ or some crap like that. I knew the real reason behind it was for Celestia to have eyes and ears here. I hadn’t seen much of her since then, but it was mostly from me not wanting to. I knew she was still around.
The day marking exactly one week after the event, I pulled myself out of bed rather late, stretching. Work had been slow lately- Applejack and I both worked as mercenaries, and we’d only been able to find one job this week, and it was a small one. I guess everyone’s still calming down from what happened. AJ of course also worked on the family farm when not on a mission, and when work was slow like this, I would go over and help where I could as well. Since most of the work we did in general we did together, we split the profits evenly from both jobs.
I was preparing to drop by the bulletin board in the town square to check for any new work, then go over to the ranch if there wasn’t. But as I opened the door to leave, I interrupted someone who had been about to knock. She pulled her hand back quickly.
“Oh, hey Fluttershy. You need something?” I asked.
“Um, yeah... I, ah, wanted to talk to you about something...”
“Sure, come on in. Help yourself to whatever you can find to sit on.” I moved aside and let her inside. My house wasn’t the fanciest by far- It was pretty small, but I spent little time there anyway. Furnishings were sparse, but I had a few chairs around, and brought out a couple to sit on. She sat quietly, and I perched myself across from her. “So, what did you need?”
“Well... It’s about the siege last week.” She said. I nodded. “When you all were fighting, especially with Nightmare Moon... I felt so... Useless. Weak. I couldn’t do anything to help you.”
I stopped her for a moment. “Hang on a sec. You’re far from useless, Fluttershy. Did you forget about the lion-head thing already? There’s no way we would have been able to kill that thing.”
“It was a Manticore, actually. And, that was just one thing. I couldn’t help with any of the other fights, and my song only works when something was turned against us- it would almost never work against another human. I want to help as much as I can, but... I’m just a liability to you now. I... I want you to teach me how to fight.”
I had to stop at that. First off, Fluttershy fighting was a hard enough picture to imagine. Plus, why would she think I would be the way to go? I’d never taught anyone anything.
“I... I came to you first, because I thought you’d understand.” She said. “You were the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and I thought... I thought that if anyone could help me, it would be you.”
I thought for a minute. “Fluttershy... I’m not sure there’s much I can do. I can’t see you holding up very long in close combat, and I don’t think you’d have a whole lot of luck with magic, either.”
“Please!” She begged. “Dash, I... I don’t want to hide at the back of the group anymore, waiting for someone else to make things safe. I... I want to be able to protect people too.”
That was what I was looking for. I realized. A memory of something once told to me surfaced. “It’s not enough to be able to fight, to even be great at it- it’s no different than wanting a toy just to have it. You have to want to fight for the right reasons- to safeguard the ones you love, or to be there for others.”
“Well... There is one other option I can think of, but if you choose to take that path, you’ll need to find someone more experienced with it than me. However... If you truly want to learn, I’ll find a way to make it happen.”
She was about ready to jump up and hug me or something, but I stopped her again. “I have to warn you, though. You’re not going to be able to turn back once you start learning to fight. Once you learn these things, they’ll start to become instinct, and you’ll carry them with you for the rest of your life. You’ll always be a fighter. Are you sure you really want that?”
She thought for a moment, then replied. “It will be a good thing to know... If I only use it to help people.”
I couldn’t help but let a small grin cross my face. Something about her determination reminded me of myself. “Alright, sit tight, I’ll go grab the stuff.” I went to a back room, and returned with an old set of archery equipment. “Archery, I think, would be the best way to go for you. You’ll be able to fight just fine, but stay a good distance from the enemy at the same time. What do you think, you wanna give it a try?”
She thought about it. “I think that would work, yes. I’ll give it a try.”
EverFree Forest- One week earlier
House of the Hylian
Phil had passed out soon after their trip began, and when he awoke, he was in a spacious but cluttered room, sprawled across an old sofa. He propped himself up, having regained a bit of energy in his sleep, and took in all the various objects in the room.
Most prominent was a large sword against the wall, with a blue handle and gleaming steel blade. Upon a shelf fixed on the wall sat a collection of masks, most notable of which were two- one rather human looking, with face paint and white eyes, and one violet with red and blue markings, whose round yellow eyes stared at him from the shelf. Beneath that were several odd devices, with a handle and trigger, connected to another piece by a chain. The last piece varied- one or two were equipped with hooks, some with blades like those of a spearhead, and a few with three-or-four pronged claws.
Other pieces of interest were present as well- several instruments of strings and wind were neatly organized in one area, while uncounted books were piled in another. Several of the books looked quite old, but cared for, while others seemed to be new blank tomes, filled out with time. Phil could see a door leading outside across from him, while another doorway to his left led into a back room or possibly a basement.
As he was looking around, the man called Link came inside from the front door, wiping his knife clean with an old cloth. “Ah, you’ve awakened. Excellent.”
“Where’d you go to?” Phil asked. “And how long have I been out?”
“I’d say about four hours, if you only just woke up. Upon arrival here, I set you up on the couch, slipped you a bit of red potion, and set off for a prior engagement down at the Castle of Dawn. I wanted to study our dear queenie’s techniques of bull crap, and do a bit of research on the ruins themselves. I think I came off quite well from the trip.” He flashed a small book he had in his other hand.
He came inside and dropped off his weapons, dropping the book onto the pile and lifting another, of comparable size. He flipped through the pages idly. “You’re an odd one, you know that?” He said.
“I’ve been told.” Phil said.
“No, I mean... You don’t match up with anything I’ve ever seen, this world or otherwise. You can formshift much like a Laguz of Tellius, yet use magic like a Child of Air. And yet you use fire magic as opposed to wind, contradicting yourself yet more. Tell me, lad- what are you?”
“I’m actually prepared with something of an answer.” Phil stated. “See, what I think happened was a one in a million chance- a Child of Fire of this land- one who specialized in heavy fire magic- was my mother, while a Hawk from Tellius was my father. Since it was’t a Beorc and a Laguz, strictly speaking, a Branded wasn’t definite. But as far as I can tell, I’m the only one of my kind. I’m a Phoenix.”
Link drew a quill from a nearby desk and began jotting down notes onto a blank page of his book. “Interesting...”
“I’ve got most of the qualities to call me such. I’m at the low point now- which is why I’m so sickly and weak- in another few days I’m bound to burst into flames and come back stronger than ever. But I age normally, for some reason- I won’t be reborn as a baby, but just as old as I am now.”
“Hm... How did you come to be Celestia’s captive, then?”
He took a while before responding. “Same way she got most of her people, I suppose. She became aware of my presence, and sought me out when I was very young. My parents weren’t stupid, and tried to hide me, but... She killed them and brought me in, tried to train me to be her weapon, just like her current apprentice, Twilight. I trained alongside her for years, but while she was willing to give herself over fully to the queen, I just didn’t see it. I took my chance and escaped, but... If I got the chance to take Twilight from her, I know I’d take it.”
“Home-grown soldiers of power... How many others do you suppose she has taken, you two aside?”
“I don’t know... A good number of the higher- ranking soldiers in her army most likely, but I don’t think she has any other real ‘weapons’ like us right now. She’s had others in the past though.”
He finished his notes in the one book and retrieved the first again, jotting town some other notes. “What... What are you writing, there?” Phil asked slowly.
“Oh, pay it no great mind. As I said, I’m a bit of a merchant for information- I’m interested in seeing how the world grows and changes, and I’ve done my upmost to record all that has happened to this world as accurately as possible. Celestia is obviously a big part of history, so I’ve been studying the things she’s done and how she operates carefully. And I’ve tried to give a good biography to all varieties of people I encounter, to predict what the people of the future might resemble, which is why I wanted to learn more about your terms of existence. I’m certainly not regretting bringing you in now.”
Phil felt he had given plenty of information already, and was ready to dig for some himself. “You said something about a ‘red potion’ earlier, what is that exactly?”
“Ah, forget you don’t have chu jelly in this world. It’s sort of a heal-all medicine from where I come from. It’ll pretty much patch up most wound’s you can get, short of fatal ones. No good for sickness though. See, everything you see around this room, save for about half the books over on that pile, are from my home, relics I was able to salvage and bring with me here. I wanted to preserve some of it. Most of these are just that though- relics who’s power has been lost over the ages...”
“And... You referred to this world before, almost as though it weren’t the only one in the equation. What’s all that about?”
“Ah, lad. Surely it’s evident this world isn’t the only one we’re dealing with- I would have thought this civilization was advanced enough to realize it’s a very small part of the grand scheme of things. Of course there’re other worlds out there, but I’m afraid that’s a story for another day. When I tell it, I’ll want it to be to some more people. I’d rather continue focusing on this one.
“What would you say the state of being is in this place, regarding Celestia and the common folk?”
“What, you mean the popular opinion of her? Well... I’d say it’s kind of divided right now. There are plenty of people who aren’t fond of her, and would love to see her fall, some would even go as far as to take up arms against her. Then there’s just as many who she’s captivated over the years, who would give their lives to defend her rule.
But the majority, on the surface, would rather not get involved- just to live out their lives and not concern themselves with the throne, because it would only endanger them, without much improvement on the table in the first place. That’s the main problem the tiny pockets of haters encounter- not enough people are encouraged enough to take a side.”
“I see...” Link said, once again back to taking careful notes. “I’ve seen things like this before... The world isn’t quite ready for revolution yet, but in a few years time, maybe...”
“Wait, revolution?” He asked. “You’re saying there’s a way to bring her down? And we might see her fall soon?!”
“Course there is, kid. No entity is perfect, and I think I’ve got an idea what Celestia’s personal defense system is. Soon as I can prove it, I’ll know how to get her. And if you play your cards right, you might just be able to do it within the next few years here. I’ve seen stranger.
“No empire or kingdom can last forever, lad. This one has been standing under the same ruler for five-hundred years- it’s already begun to soften, kid, and Celestia knows she’s on thin ice. Why’d you think she went through all that trouble with her dear sister? She wants to extend her stay as long as she can. But I have a feeling something new is on the horizon, mark my words.”
“A few more years... Can you help us?”
Link looked genuinely surprised. “I beg your pardon?”
“I can tell just by looking at you that you’re a great fighter- if you were to help us, we’d be unstoppable!”
“Now hang on there, lad. I haven’t fought in ages, and even if I could, I’ve chosen to be an observer here, not to get involved in matters that don’t concern me. On top of that, there isn’t even anything for me to join yet. From your description, contempt is far spread right now- if you’re to have any chance, you’ll need to get together a proper resistance going. Now, did you know anyone else from Eclipse that could potentially help you from the inside?”
Phil, slightly discouraged by Links rejection of his offer, picked himself up and thought. “Well... There was Spike, Twilight’s guardian. He’d never admit it, but I doubt if he’s completely allied with the queen. But I don’t think I’ll be able to budge him from her side- he’s like a father to her, and more of an obscure uncle to me. He’d join in if Twilight did, but I can’t see that happening any time soon.
“...Wait...There was one other, a brigadier commander in Celestia’s army, Octavia. She enlisted when she was my age, and climbed the ranks in a few years with shows of loyalty to the queen. However... I hear she’s surrounded herself with a few friends who aren’t so fond of the throne, and I wager she’s been faking loyalty the whole time. But her leadership is real- and the archer unit under her would follow her orders over Celestia’s own if it came to it. She and I knew each other decently, and I know she’s a potent sniper herself.”
“Now there’s someone you need to stay in contact with, kid. When time rolls around to get the pockets together, you’ll want someone like that, who can lead and take some heads herself, plus get inside information. Now, I’ll house you for a while so you can recover strength, but once you’re good to go, and I’ve given you all the information I can, I’ll set you loose on the world again. I don’t want to get tied in myself, but... I want to see the world recover from Celestia’s scars. I’ll give you the tools you need to make it happen.”
Alright, kind of a lame plot twist in this chapter, but I feel it works decently here.
It had been some time since the last chance I’d had to practice archery, so it took me a few shots to land one good enough for Fluttershy to try and beat. I hadn’t been kidding when I told her she’d need a better tutor before too long.
She picked up the bow in her left hand, notched an arrow, and fired weakly. The first few shots barely cleared the bow itself, but as I corrected her as best I could, they slowly began to become stronger and more accurate. It was slow progress, but I could see her improving. By noon she had managed to land a few shots into the target we’d set up.
“Not bad!” I said, clasping her on the shoulder. “You’re definitely getting better. But what say you we take a break- I don’t know about you, but I need a bite to eat.” She nodded, we set the equipment against a tree, facing away from town, and headed for home. On the way, Applejack caught up to me.
“I’ve been looking for you, Dash. Where were you?”
“Oh, sorry. I got caught up in something. I didn’t get to check the bulletin board today, any job offers?”
“Nah, I checked earlier. What were you busy with?”
“Well, Fluttershy came to me this morning wanting me to train her to fight. She wanted to be able to protect her friends, you know. I couldn’t just tell her no after that. I’ve been humoring her by teaching her a bit of archery.”
“Since when have you known the first thing about that?” She asked incredulously.
“Like I said, it’s mostly to humor her. If she turns out good, which it looks like she might, I’ll find her someone who knows what they’re doing. We’re on lunch break right now, you wanna go grab something?”
“Sure.” She said, and we headed into town. We bought a couple of sandwiches sat down and began to eat, when something from the entrance of town caught my eye.
A lone figure was entering, with a worn, wide brimmed, almost wizardly-looking hat covering her face. Snow white hair flowed from under it behind her, and she wore a long blue jacket and black pants. A plain metal rod, unremarkable in every way, was slung across her back. While her features were hidden from view, she walked with an air of professionalism.
I looked across, and saw that Applejack had taken note as well. We were both confused. New people came in and out of town all the time, and plenty were of the strange variety, but this person... Something was different here. “Should we talk to her?” I asked.
“After lunch. This issue ain’t that pressing right now.” I agreed, and we finished our meal quickly. The newcomer had passed down another street a few minutes ago, and so I stood and followed. Applejack had a busy day lined up on the farm, so she bade me good luck and headed for home. Once I entered the street, I had no clue which way she went, so I picked a direction at random and stuck with it.
The streets weren’t terribly busy right then, so when I saw a glimpse of the old hat, I knew there wasn’t much chance of error. Now, wait. How do I even begin striking up a conversation with her? I can’t think of a good way that wouldn’t seem weird, now that I think about it.
“What.” A voice said from behind me. When I turned to look, I saw that the girl had somehow gotten behind me, and her unadorned weapon was in hand. Her features were still shielded from sight. “You’re clearly following me. What do you want?”
She’s good. Might pay to be a bit careful. “I was curious. I like to know most of the people in town, and I hadn’t seen you before. Plus, you look like a pretty good mage, if your outfit is anything to go by.”
She chuckled slightly. “Well, I think I have some right to show off. I’ve yet to see anyone who could parallel my own magic.” Her voice dropped again. “But save your breath otherwise. I’m not in the market for friends. I’m a wanderer at heart, and I’m only in town a few days to see if anything’s happening. Then I’m gone.” She began walking away.
“Celestia?” I ventured sympathetically. She stopped short, though not turning around.
“What about her?” She asked. Despite her forced monotone voice, I could tell I’d got her interested, if only for a moment.
“Does anything you’re doing have to do with her? Are you... looking for a weakness? Or more strength?”
She turned around now. “That’s dangerous talk, you know. Especially in the middle of the street.”
I understood what she was saying. Royal influence was pretty light around here, but there were still soldiers. I nodded and set off in the opposite direction, towards the same field Fluttershy and I had been using. I didn’t need to look to see that the newcomer was following at a slight distance.
I turned and leaned against a tree, facing her. “What do you know?” She asked.
“You’re looking for something here, that much I can tell. I’ll ask again- does it have to do with the queen?”
She nodded after a moment. “I travel, seeing the state of things. I want to know how close this country is to a revolution, and the best way to do that is to see the citizenry in action.”
My interest was piqued. “And? What have you found?”
She tipped her hat slightly, allowing me to see her face in shade. She smiled darkly, and her violet eyes glinted with determination. “Five hundred years have taken their toll, let’s say. The people are loath to act just yet, but they’re getting sick of this. We might not be far off...” She chuckled again.
“And you? I can see you’re not opposed to this, but are you fully with them?”
“I have to ask you the same first. It wouldn’t be wise for me to hand out any more information to someone I can’t trust.”
“Fine.” I stood. “I am against her. She’s crossed my path and has taken from me something that I’ll never get back. I aim to make her pay for it, and for everything else she’s done.”
She seemed puzzled by this. “I could claim the same. It’s odd... You’re the only one who’s been so willing to admit that. What did she do to you?”
That was it. I stopped short, unprepared, if unwilling, to answer. I’d only just met this girl, and didn’t even know her name, let alone if I could tell her something like that. “Suffice to say it was bad.” I said, recovering from the stagger in conversation. “I’d rather not discuss it, with all respect.”
“I understand.” She responded. “What can I call you, anyway? I’ll need to be able to contact you if anything comes up.”
“Rainbow Dash, at your service. Local mercenary of absolutely no note, part time farm hand, and one of the six bearers of the Elements of Harmony. How’s that?”
She chuckled once again. “I think I’ll remember that. I’m just... Trixie. Greatest mage you’ll ever meet, and when something starts up against the queen, I’ll be there. Can I count on you to do the same?”
“Of course.” I said. “But I’m not sure you’re the absolute best out there. I’ve met the queen’s apprentice, and she’s not half bad herself. When it comes to magic at least- otherwise she’s clueless...”
“Wait a minute, you know her apprentice? Twilight, right?”
“Sure, she was one of the others who got the Elements. Why, you actually want to meet her?”
“Well, I suppose I’m not surprised she’d be good with magic, too. After all... it’s in her blood. She was once... my sister.”
Well. I did not see that coming. Twilight never mentioned any sort of family... But then, I think I heard Celestia hand picks her closest students at a young age. So these two were separated years ago, and Twilight might not even remember. But...
“You don’t look a day older than her, though. Don’t tell me-”
“Yeah.” She said, averting her eyes sheepishly. “We’re twins on top of all that.” Now that she said it, I could see the resemblance in what I could see of her- her eyes were more inclined to darkness than of justice, but burned with the same fierce determination of Twilight’s. And I could see some facial resemblance as well.
“Okay, this is just getting bizarre... You’re telling me you and Twilight were separated at birth by Celestia- one becoming her closest ally, and one becoming what could well be one of her worst enemies?”
“Well, it wasn’t quite at birth. It was two years afterward. She had to be able to tell Twilight had potential, but she can see it pretty early.”
“This whole thing is just a little cliched, and yet... I can completely see the queen doing something like that. But wasn’t there anyone who tried to stop her?”
“You’d think...” She sighed. “But our parents were heavy supporters of her, and... They just let her have Twilight. When I learned that myself, I could never forgive them, or her. I left home with all the knowledge I needed and never looked back.”
Her parents just... gave up their daughter?! The people who follow Celestia are fanatical... A truly dangerous enemy. “So that’s why you’re opposed to her.”
“It’s definitely a big part of it. When my eyes were opened to her evil, I could see all kinds of other things she’s done to the world, and it only made the flames burn brighter. I’m waiting now for others to join in opposing her, and I’ll try to bring them together. And we might just be getting close to starting this.
“But... I think if I got to know her at last, I might be able to change Twilight’s mind. Please- if you know her like you said, I need you to arrange a meeting.”
I took a moment before answering. She truly was an interesting character- a sibling stolen and a burning desire for vengeance. Something about that seemed just a little familiar. “Well, I can get you and her talking, sure. But... I’d hold off on revealing your true motives for a while. She’s pretty much convinced Celestia’s lies are true, and won’t hear anything otherwise. Get to know her first if you’re to have any chance, if you ask me.”
Twilight looked over the note once more. She had received it yesterday, but still found herself hoping it wasn’t true. But everything that had been in all of Celestia’s other notes were present, and she had no choice but to accept it. But what could be done about it now?
One week prior to this message, your fellow student, the phoenix Phillip, had been reported missing, having fled the city from royal soldiers even in his weakest state. Since then, extensive searches of Eclipse have been conducted, to no avail. The few reports we have to go on estimate that he fled in the direction of the EverFree forest, but no scouts thus far have found a single trace of his presence.
I write to you with this, Twilight, not as my apprentice, but as his closest and possibly only true friend. I’m not asking you to charge into the forest yourself and try to find him, but it’s likely he might come to you. If and when he does, I need you to discover why he has done this, and do your upmost to convince him to return.
She put the note back down on the table and began pacing again. Phil ran away? I just can’t think of why he would do that... And why didn’t he tell me beforehand? Something must have happened back there, but... Celestia didn’t mention anything bad happening at Eclipse, save for him running. What happened to him...? Oh, Phil, please be okay...
“Hey Twilight, you busy?” A voice asked from behind her, in the direction of the window. For a moment, she entertained the thought that it was her old companion, dropping in through the window when she least expected it.
She turned around, but was met instead with Rainbow Dash, casually hanging from the top of the frame by his hands with his feet planted on the bottom. She felt slightly cheated by this- where she had expected Phil- her longtime friend and confidant, who would do anything to help her if it was necessary- she instead got Dash- begrudged ally, cocky and self concerned, who had and would clash with her at every opportunity.
“What do you want.” She said unenthusiastically.
He turned his head slightly. “Something happen?”
“It’s none of your concern. I have other things to get to, so what did you need?”
“Right. Kind of a hypothetical question- if I were to tell you that you had a twin sister from whom you’ve been separated your whole life, who had since then trained her butt off to become a super-powered mage in order to find a way to get back in contact with you- what would you have to say to that?”
“I’d call you crazy, but then that’s basically my default reaction to anything you say.”
“Alright then- what if she was standing right outside your door, and it was someone other than me telling you this?”
What on earth is he trying to accomplish with this nonsense? “It would still be pretty crazy, even then. Is this going somewhere?”
“Sure is. Turns out everything I said was true, for once. Ask her yourself.” He used a wind spell to open the door leading to the rest of the library, where a girl with snow white hair, looking to be about Twilight’s age, stood. She wore a variation of a classical anima mage outfit- with a long coat tailed blue jacket and worn pointed hat- and held a long iron pole as a staff. On closer inspection, there was a place on the top to screw on an attachment of some sort, leading her to believe it had once been a broomstick, only adding to the classic magic look.
“Trixie- Twilight. Twilight- Trixie. Now, talk to each other or something, I don’t know. I have to get back to teaching archery.” He kicked off the window and flew off to who-knows-where. The two remained where they stood, sizing each other up.
“So, I’m meant to believe we’re twins?” Twilight asked incredulously.
“If you are indeed Twilight, apprentice to the queen, then yes.” She answered.
“Well, I’ll admit you do look something like me... But not so much that I’ll be convinced on that alone. I don’t suppose you have half a locket or old time piece that I forgot I had the other half of?”
“Hah! If only it were that simple. No, I never thought to set us up with something like that. All I have for you is my word.”
“Well, it’s true I don’t remember anything of my life before becoming Celestia’s student, so I suppose it’s not impossible that I had a twin... But that’s not anything like proof by itself. Why haven’t I been told about it before?”
“I assume it’s because Celestia didn’t want to distract you from your training with finding me. See, she took you in when you were two years old, more or less, leaving me with our parents. When I was old enough to learn the truth, I was more than a little upset, and... maybe a little jealous, too. She had chosen you over me in terms of magical prowess. But mostly it was because of what we missed out on- I would have enjoyed growing up with you.
“I did what I could to have the chance to meet you at all- I left home and sought out the most skilled mages I could find, and learned all I could from them. I hoped that by becoming more powerful myself, I would be able to track you down again and help somehow, and convince you of the truth.”
As much as everything she said added up in Twilight’s mind, she still couldn’t be convinced what she said was true. As much as she may have wanted it to be- she still lacked any concrete evidence. “I’ll be honest... I kind of want to believe you. And I can’t really think of a reason for you to lie, I don’t see how it would benefit you in any way. I suppose... I’ll give it a chance.”
“Really? You mean it?” Her eyes opened slightly wider.
“I mean... Even if that is true, we’re still no better than strangers. Twins or not, it’s still as though we’ve never met. But I’m willing to get to know you if you want.”
“Of course! So... You wanna start by testing each others magic skills?”
“A magic duel? Huh... Sounds fun! I know a good open field we can use. Do you want to go now?” She nodded, and the two left the room, headed for the town square.
On the way out, the door opened before they could get to it, and Spike stepped in. “Hey, I was just coming to find you- wait, who’s this?”
“Apparently my twin sister.” Twilight said with a chuckle.
Spike turned his head slightly, examining Trixie fully. “Yep, I think it’s safe to say it’s her.”
“Wait, you knew this whole time?” Twilight asked, confused. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Yeah, right after Celestia assigned me to watch over you, I took leave for a while to check out what kind of family you had come from, what to expect. Sure enough, there was another little girl with them, looked pretty much like this one here, but lots younger. Trixie, wasn’t it? Anyway, I only didn’t tell you because Celestia asked me not to. Probably didn’t want you galavanting off trying to find her. But I guess you found each other anyway, huh?”
“Told you.” Trixie said. “So, you said you were Twilight’s guardian? I guess that kind of makes you like my kindly human uncle figure, then?”
“Um... I suppose. Odd way to phrase it, but yeah, I guess so.”
“Oh, that’s just something an old friend of mine used to say. Pay it no mind. Anyway, we were going off to have a magic-duel. Would you like to tag along?”
“Well, with you two, injury will surely follow, and if you’re anything like your sister there won’t be any talking you out of it... I’ll come along if only to clean up afterwards.” He said, though Twilight could detect he was mostly just playing. The three left the library for the fields near town.
I didn’t quite trust Trixie at first, her being a complete stranger, but if Spike confirmed it... I know he would never lead me to believe something like that if it weren’t true. So... I actually have a twin sister. I... I have no idea what to make of that, in all honesty.
The small party made their way around to the back of town, but when they reached the field, it was already occupied. Fluttershy lifted an arrow from where it sat stuck in the ground, notched it in an old wooden bow, and fired. It stuck fast in a target on the other end of the field, an inch or so from the center. Rainbow Dash leaned against a tree, watching her intently. He noticed the three approaching and stood.
“Any of you know anything about archery? She’s getting better by the minute and I’m running out of skills to teach her.”
“Wait, what’s going on here? Why are you teaching Fluttershy how to use a bow?”
“She wanted to learn to fight to protect her friends, you know. Couldn’t bring myself to say no. I figure this was the best way to go, at any rate. But she’s already better than I am, and I need to find someone who can teach her better. So... you convince Twilight you’re her sister?”
“Sure did.” Trixie responded. “We were getting ready to have a magic- duel, but it looks like the arena’s being used.”
Fluttershy put down her training weapon. “I was going to ask about taking a break anyway. But what were you saying about Twilight having a sister?”
“Yeah, apparently she and Trixie here are twins. Go figure.” Dash said, putting the complex situation into extremely simple perspective. “Anyway, I guess we’re done for now, so yeah, go nuts and shoot magic at each other. I kinda want to see how that turns out. C’mon Fluttershy, let’s get this stuff picked up and watch.”