Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part I: Party Favours
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
One of the more lamentable things about Equestrian history is how little most ponies actually know about it. Talk to any school-age colt or filly, for example, and they’ll be able to tell you all about such major events as the great Exodus to Equestria in the year AE1, the Nightmare Moon crisis of 1010, the first official Summer Sun Celebration in 1272, and the resulting Burning of Manehatten by revellers in the same year. What they will be sorely unable to tell you, however, is the vast historical importance of parties.
Concerned parents and prudish sociophobes alike will likely tell you that parties never accomplish anything, but statistically speaking, that is complete bunk. In over two-thousand years of Equestrian history, parties have produced countless priceless works of art, several major inventions, three pieces of important legislation, at least one major war and subsequent peace-treaty, and (depending on the type of party in question) a considerable chunk of the Equestrian population. Parties are the lifeblood of Equestrian society, and any pony worth their salt will always be sure to attend as many parties as they can, because the next one might just be a revolutionary experience.
This was not one of those parties.
It could barely even be called a party in any conventional sense of the word. It was one of those dull, insipid social affairs that serve little purpose but to provide the rich and wealthy with a thinly veiled excuse to lord it over one-another while their middle-class counterparts sit on the sidelines and wonder what the hell it’s all about. In the latter category in particular stood a sky-blue pegasus mare with a rainbow mane and a khaki jacket.
Rainbow Dash was in way over her head, and she knew it. As much as she liked to boast of her unwavering courage and boundless skill, even she had her limits. Sonic rainbooms? No problem. Swarms of changelings? Easy as pie. Fancy parties? Ah, now that’s where things got difficult. Of course, Rainbow rarely attended such social gatherings, and was invited even less, but there are exceptions to every rule, and so it was that Rainbow Dash now found herself standing awkwardly in the midst of the Annual Royal Canterlot Archaeological Society Ball.
When Twilight Sparkle had first approached her with the invitation, Rainbow had been naturally elated, as would any fan of the fictional exploits of the famous Daring Do. The paperback heroine’s tales of treacherous villains, ancient ruins and priceless artifacts had ensnared Dash through many a sleepless night, and before long, the young pegasus had found herself enraptured with the idea of archaeology. Her fantasies about joining and subsequently leading the Wonderbolts still dominated the bulk of her frequent daydreams, but now every so often the blue and gold bodysuit would be replaced by a khaki jacket and bull-whip, and her sonic rainbooms would give way to lost temples and golden idols. So when Twilight had offered Dash the opportunity to mingle with actual archaeologists, the vibrant pegasus had accepted without hesitation.
Now, Dash was beginning to regret her enthusiasm. As she stood amidst the small crowds of chattering party-goers, she began to feel especially self-conscious about her choice of attire. After receiving her invitation, Rainbow had hurried to Rarity’s boutique and asked her friend to outfit her with the jacket and pith helmet combo that she was sure all archaeologists habitually wore. Rarity had, of course, refused on the grounds that khaki was currently on her list of colours that she would sooner gnaw her own leg off at the knee rather than use, and so Rainbow had to obtain her outfit from a costume store instead.
She was now starting to regret that decision as well. Most of the guests weren’t even archaeologists at all, but rather nobles and socialites who seemed more interested in affecting a scholarly image than listening about thousand year-old pottery. They, of course were dressed in all their finery, and even those who were actual archaeologists had apparently eschewed their khakis for more formal attire. At first, Dash hadn’t really paid much heed to this fact, that is until one particularly petulant stallion had walked up to her and remarked; “Nice hat.”
The pith helmet was now leading its own solitary existence in a nearby punchbowl.
“Aaargh, how did I let Twilight talk me into this?” groaned Rainbow to herself.
“Oh, right. So much for archaeology.”
Having finally accepted that she might not meet any whip-wielding adventurers at this particular party, Dash decided that she might as well try and make the most of things. To this end she headed over to a nearby punchbowl (the one without a pith helmet in it), where a small group of noblemares were conversing in tasteful tones.
“S’cuse me,” said Dash, as she slipped past one of the mares to the punchbowl.
“Oh pardon me, I did not- Hey! Who let you in here?!” demanded the mare, noting Rainbow’s less than formal khaki jacket.
“I came with a friend,” said Dash bluntly. “You might have heard of her? She’s real close to the Princess...”
That put the mare in her place.
“Oh, sorry, I... your outfit, it’s just...”
“What about my outfit?” asked Dash with a raised eyebrow.
“N-nothing,” said the mare finally. “It’s quite... charming in its simplicity.”
“So in other words, you think it looks trashy,” accused Rainbow, recalling a number of similar conversations with Rarity.
The mare did not answer. An awkward silence descended around the punchbowl. With a look of smug satisfaction, Dash helped herself to a glass of punch, but the other guests continued to stare at her with palpable unease. And the more they stared, the more Dash began to feel a knot growing in her stomach. Having an audience was one thing; being stared at was another matter entirely.
“So, uh, archaeology, eh?” said Rainbow with a nervous chuckle. “You a fan?”
“Hardly,” sniffed one of the other noblemares. “Honestly, digging in the dirt for some thousand year-old piece of rubbish. Hardly seems like a scholarly profession to me.”
“It’s not ‘rubbish’,” said Dash sharply. “Those are important artifacts they’re digging up!”
“If they’re so important, then why were they thrown away to buried in the first place?”
Dash facehooved. This was not an argument she cared to have. With a sigh, she took her leave of the other guests and headed straight for a particularly uncomfortable-looking chair by the far wall. She sat in it and found that while looks can often be deceiving, such was not the case in this particular situation. After attempting several varying sitting positions, Dash finally gave up and decided that she would just have to take it like a mare.
“Stupid party,” she grumbled to herself. “Where’s Pinkie Pie when you need her?”
Rainbow cast a dire eye around the room, in the desperate hope that her energetic friend would suddenly leap out from some inexplicable hiding place and promptly fill the room with a flurry of confetti, streamers and various other airborne choking hazards. Alas, the pink party-pony of Ponyville was nowhere to be seen. Even Twilight seemed to have disappeared on her. Grumbling, Rainbow slumped in her seat and cast a scornful eye at the gathered party-goers.
Off to her right, a scholarly-looking pony in a dark professorial gown had been cornered by a band of socialites, who were now talking the poor stallion’s ear off about some vapid subject or another. The scholar’s eyes darted desperately about for any hint of an escape, and in his moment of need they alighted on Dash, who merely responded with an inferior shrug and left the stallion to his fate. She was in the middle of a perfectly good mope, and simply had no desire to play heroine at the moment.
“Having a good time, Miss Dash?”
Rainbow roused from her jaded stupor and sat bolt upright in her chair, bringing herself face-to-face with the stallion who had addressed her. He was a fairly handsome pony, though several years her senior at least, with a pure white coat and a fine blue moustache adorning his face. Blue eyes glinted behind a gold-rimmed monocle, and he wore a smile on his face that simply radiated calm, collected confidence in no small measure. Rainbow recognised the older stallion almost immediately.
“Hey, I know you,” she said. “You’re that Fancy Pants guy everypony’s always going on about.”
“Indeed,” said Fancy Pants with a chuckle. “I was afraid I had you at a disadvantage, Miss Rainbow Dash, but I see you are quick on the take as always.”
“Heh, thanks,” said Rainbow, always appreciative of a compliment. “So what brings you to this party?”
“A more astute question would be ‘what brings this party to me?’” answered Fancy Pants. “This is my home, you see. I myself am an esteemed member of the Royal Canterlot Archaeological Society, and this year I kindly offered to host the society’s annual ball, free of charge.”
“Really? That was cool of you,” said Rainbow, and she meant it.
“Thank-you, but you haven’t yet answered my question,” smiled Fancy Pants. “I asked if you were having a good time?”
“Oh. Well, yeah, of course I am,” Rainbow lied. “I mean, you got a big room full of big-shots like you, what’s not to like?”
“Is that so?” chuckled Fancy Pants. “Forgive me, I was under the impression that you were hoping for something a bit more... ‘daring’...”
That did it. It wasn’t an easy task to make Rainbow feel childish, but Fancy Pants had gone and managed it with a single word. Her face flush, Dash turned her head away and slumped even lower into the chair in what she hoped to hay was an undignified manner. The white unicorn merely chortled to himself.
“Now, now, no need to be such a poor sport about it. To tell the truth, I too am finding this gathering a bit dull.”
Rainbow cocked her head at the grinning aristocrat.
“Oh yes,” nodded Fancy Pants. “Tell you what, why don’t you come with me, hmm? I know of something that might interest you...”
With a resigned shrug, Rainbow pulled herself out of the chair and followed Fancy Pants to a doorway at the other end of the room. With a courteous bow, Fancy Pants held the door for the prismatic pegasus, who entered the room without a second thought and stopped in amazement at what she saw.
It was a small room, plainly decorated with white walls and a polished hardwood floor. The furnishings however, made Dash feel like she had just stepped into a museum. And not just any old museum, the awesome kind! All around the room, an impressive array of sleek glass cabinets and display cases lined the walls, each one filled with all manner of unique artifacts. Rainbow’s eyes widened in captivation.
“Now this is what I came to see!”
Like a foal in a, well, a museum, Rainbow bounded along from exhibit to exhibit, while Fancy Pants followed indulgently behind, explaining each artifact in turn as they passed. There were beaded talismans and stone spear-heads from the Paleopony Period, vividly decorated pots and jars, lifelike marble busts with flaking paint, bronze coins from far-off lands, and even an amethyst pendant that had once belonged to Princess Platinum herself.
“Is all this yours?” asked Rainbow, her eyes glazed with wonder.
“Certainly not!” laughed Fancy Pants. “This is the society’s collection; my own private collection is rather more... modest, I’m afraid. You see, Miss Dash, I have a rare passion for antiquities. Ever since I was a colt. I find they instill a certain... humility that is sorely lacking in this day and age. You and I are merely passing through history, Miss Dash, but this...” he gestured all around the room, “this is history. And to hold a piece of it in one’s hooves...”
Fancy Pants suddenly grew very quiet. For a minute, Dash wondered if perhaps she ought to leave the older stallion and his reminiscences alone for a while, but almost immediately he perked back up again and turned to Rainbow with excitement in his eyes.
“But come now, I haven’t shown you the best part! Come over here to the table.”
Fancy Pants guided Dash to a broad lectern in the centre of the room that had been neatly covered in a white linen sheet. Dash cocked her head in curiosity, intrigued at the possibility of what lay underneath.
“Shall we take a look?” asked Fancy Pants in a conspiratorial manner.
“Are we allowed?” responded Dash.
“I doubt anypony will complain. Come now, let’s see.”
With a flourish of his horn, the sheet was quickly engulfed in the glow of magic and lifted gracefully from the lectern, revealing underneath it a large, flat slab of carven black stone, covered in intricate writing. Intrigued, Rainbow leaned forward for a better look. The letters, carved into the stone with impeccable skill, were of some ancient runic script, and were completely unfamiliar to her.
“What is this?” she asked. “What’s it say?”
“I’m afraid I do not know,” answered Fancy Pants. “The servants tell me it was discovered in a storage room in the royal palace. Evidently Princess Celestia intended to have it examined by somepony here at the party.”
“Which is where we come in,” said a serene voice from behind.
Fancy Pants jumped at the voice like a foal with his hooves in the cookie jar, but Dash barely even stirred, having rather grown accustomed to the sound of that voice, and its owner’s tendency to appear as if from nowhere at opportune times. Instead, she merely turned and bowed as the regal form of Princess Celestia stepped gracefully into the room, followed eagerly by her purple protege.
“There you are,” said Twilight, fixing Rainbow with playful glare. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Heh, sorry, Fancy Pants here was just showing me around.”
“I thought your friend might like to see a bit of real archaeology,” said Fancy Pants.
“Oh, she’ll have no shortage of that,” said Celestia with a coy grin. “In any event you’ve saved us a bit of trouble Mr. Pants. I was hoping Miss Rainbow Dash would be present for this unveiling. I just wish Twilight and I had been present as well.”
“Ah, well, uh...”
Fortunately for Fancy Pants, salvation arrived in the form of a gentle knock on the door. A moment later, a slender unicorn mare with a pink mane poked her head into the room.
“Fancy, dear, everypony’s waiting for you,” she said in a softly accented voice.
“Ah, of course, I’ll be right out, my dear,” he said hurriedly, leaning in to kiss his mistress on the cheek. “I suppose I’ll take my leave then; have to give my little speech and what-not. Do enjoy the rest of the party, Miss Dash.”
With Fancy Pants gone, Princess Celestia calmly directed Twilight’s attention to the carved stone slab before them. Twilight’s eyes widened at the sight of the artifact, her hooves quivered with academic excitement as she ran them over the smooth black stone.
“Amazing...” she breathed. “And you say you found it in a storage room?”
“It happens far more often than you’d think, my good pupil,” explained Celestia. “Something important gets put away for whatever reason and everypony just forgets about it for a hundred years or so. The same thing happened to a portrait of mine once.”
“So what is it?” asked Rainbow.
“I was actually hoping Twilight could tell us,” replied Celestia with an indulgent grin. “Well, Twilight?”
“Well let’s see....” began Twilight. “It’s granite... carved by hoof.... the runes are Eohippine, but the language is plain Equestrian. That’s interesting.”
“So you can read it then?” asked Celestia with a growing smile.
“Of course I can read it, you taught me!” laughed Twilight.
“What’s it say then?” asked Rainbow impatiently.
Twilight paused, perusing the runes carefully. Then she read aloud:
“You who desire elder wisdom, take heed... seek the city of the boundless garden... past the unblinking sentries... beneath the seventh column... to the sepulchre of silent stone, where the last-”
Twilight suddenly stopped. Her eyes widened as she realised what she was reading.
“... where the last dying image of those before awaits in darkness.”
Celestia was simply beaming with suppressed excitement.
“The White Crest, Twilight Sparkle. Discovered in the long ages of myth before the founding of Equestria. Prized by kings, treasured by scholars, and once thought to be lost forever... until now.”
“Oh my gosh...” breathed Twilight as she raised a trembling hoof to her chest. “Oh my gosh... This is just.. wow.”
Rainbow was rather less impressed.
“Hold on,” she said. “Back up. Am I missing something here?”
“The White Crest!” exclaimed Twilight, eliminating the distance between herself and Dash in the blink of an eye. “The White Crest!”
“Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time. Just what is the White Crest?”
“Only the single most important artifact in history!”
“Sorry. Never heard of it,” said Dash bluntly.
“Oh. well, would you like to hear about it now?”
“How about you get out of my personal bubble first?” suggested Dash.
“Perhaps you’d best start from the beginning, Twilight,” soothed Celestia. “It is not an easy story to tell.”
“Right,” nodded Twilight breathlessly, her heart-rate gradually returning to some semblance of normalcy. “Well, the White Crest is an artifact, you see, probably the most important artifact in history.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that,” said Rainbow flatly. “What is it though, a treasure or something?”
“Kind of. The written descriptions are pretty vague, but the Crest is said to be a statuette, made of silver or white gold, hence the name.”
“What about the inscription?” asked Dash. “What does ‘last dying image of those before’ mean?”
“Well, I don’t know about the last part, but generally the Crest is believed to depict some sort of figure in a death pose,” continued Twilight.
“So, it’s a silver statue of a dead pony?” stated Rainbow incredulously.
“Pretty much... Actually no. Silver statue, yes. But it’s not a pony.”
“It’s like I said to Twilight,” explained Celestia. “The Crest was once the prize of many a great pony. However, it is not a pony artifact. It was discovered, not made.”
Dash’s eyes widened at this revelation.
“So... something else made it? But... who?”
“Nopony knows,” answered Twilight. “Ponies aren’t the only civilized race in the world, after all. There are a lot of pretty wild theories though; some even go so far as to say the Crest has mystical powers, and is even older than ponykind itself, but obviously that’s all just a load of horseapples.”
“Twilight!” gasped Celestia in surprise.
“Sorry,” mumbled Twilight with a blush.
“Okay, so it’s made of silver, it’s a statue of something... dead, and it wasn’t made by ponies,” recounted Dash. “So where did it come from?”
“Ah, now there’s a question,” murmured Celestia.
“The earliest mention of the White Crest in pony history comes from the Secret History of the Pegasi, written over two-hundred years before the Equestrian Exodus,” lectured Twilight. Apparently, the Crest was given to the Pegasi by one of the caribou tribes of northern Cervada as a ‘peace offering’. By their own account, the deer discovered it beneath a ‘great mound of stones’, though they didn’t say when or where.”
“How do we know they didn’t make it?” asked Dash.
“An astute question,” said Celestia. “The caribou are nomadic; they have many skills, but silversmithing is not one of them. And if the descriptions are to be believed, the Crest was something far beyond the skill of most pony smiths at the time.”
“After that, the Crest changed hooves a number of times until it finally ended up in the possession of Princess Platinum of the Unicorns,” continued Twilight. “The last mention of the Crest says that Platinum brought it with her to Equestria. After that, the trail goes cold.”
“Until now...” said Celestia with a smile.
A strange feeling suddenly came over Rainbow. Almost like... anticipation.
“So this stone... tells us where the Crest is...” she realized with swelling enthusiasm.
“Precisely,” replied Celestia. “With the information provided, the Crest can finally be recovered. And I can think of no better ponies to do so than the two who are standing right in front of me. My faithful student and her most daring friend, both devoted archaeologists...”
Rainbow suddenly felt very awkward beneath her jacket. Twilight on the other hand stared intensely at the Princess with wide eyes and an unflattering grin plastered across her face. Beaming, Celestia bent down closer to the two mares.
“So what do you say, girls?” she asked in an excited whisper. “Ready to make history?”
“YES!!!” cried Twilight, punctuating her answer with a tremendous vertical leap. “Yes, yes, yes, yes!”
Celestia giggled warmly to herself.
“And you thought archaeology was boring,” she said to Rainbow.
“No, I thought fancy parties were boring,” laughed Rainbow. “So when do we start?”
“Right now!” exclaimed Twilight. “Oh there’s so much to do; I’ve got to look over the inscription again, research potential locations, organise supplies, I-”
She suddenly paused. A manic glint appeared in her eye as an intense grin spread across her face.
“I’m going to need a list...”
Celestia shook her head in an amused fashion.
“Why don’t you go ahead and enjoy the rest of the party, Rainbow. I’ll deal with Twilight.”
Seeing the wisdom in the Princess’ words, Rainbow sank to her knees in a reverent bow, then departed for the main room. Almost immediately she was approached by a unicorn waiter levitating a silver tray, upon which Dash was surprised to see her discarded pith helmet.
“Excuse me, Miss Dash?” said the waiter politely. “Mister Fancy Pants asked that this be restored to you.”
“Oh... thanks, I guess,” said Dash, taking the helmet by her hoof. “Hey, wasn’t this in the punchbowl earlier?”
“We have very talented dry-cleaners, Miss Dash,” replied the waiter curtly.
“Oh, well, thanks again.”
The waiter nodded politely.
“Enjoy your evening, Miss Dash.”
Rainbow eyed her helmet idly for a moment. A smug grin spread slowly across her face. Chuckling to herself, she placed the redeemed headgear firmly upon her head and set out for the nearest tray of hors ‘d'oeuvres. It was time these snobs learned what a real archaeologist looked like.
To be continued...
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part II: Past and Present
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
It was yet another beautiful morning in Ponyville, as was yesterday morning, and the morning before that. But to Rainbow Dash, this particular morning was the most beautiful at all, primarily because she hadn’t been in charge of making it. For once there were no clouds to be moved, no weather to be managed, and for Dash this meant only one glorious thing; sleeping in.
The sky-blue pegasus dreamily snuggled deeper into her cumulous pillow. Three days had passed since the Royal Canterlot Archaeological Society Ball, and were Dash awake, she might have been reflecting on the events of that night, on the mysterious inscription on the black stone, and on the nagging fact that she had canceled a day out with Pinkie Pie to attend. But as it was, Dash was sound asleep, and so none of that mattered. All that mattered was her bed, her pillow, her sheets, and the very loud and annoying ringing noise that suddenly reverberated in her ears.
Dash’s eyes shot open. The ringing continued. Her tail twitched in agitation. What vile device could produce such a fiendish sound? What damnable contraption had so viciously interrupted her perfect morning? The answer, she realised, was rather obvious. With a groan, Dash reached over and groped for her alarm clock, only to find empty space in its stead. She then remembered that she had, in a similar state, tossed her alarm clock out the window some two weeks previous, resulting in several hundred bits worth of property damage. Rainbow had naturally attempted to deny responsibility, but was thwarted in this regard by the ‘Property of Rainbow Dash’ label she had stuck across the back of the clock for no adequately developed reason. She had made no effort to replace the clock since.
The ringing sounded yet again.
Dash briefly suspected her telephone, but that was also out of the question for the simple reason that she did not own one. Telephones were still a rarity in Equestria, especially among pegasi, largely due to the fact that nopony had yet conceived of a practical way to install the necessary wiring in a cloud home without the attendant risk of turning the whole structure into one big exposed socket (in which the residing pegasus would be the proverbial fork).
This left only her doorbell as the last possible culprit, which meant that Rainbow had no course of action but to get up and answer it. She briefly considered merely ignoring it, and waiting for whoever it was to give up and move on, but given that fact that the bell was still ringing even now, that probably wasn’t going to work out. Grumbling, Dash roused from her bed and trudged the length of the hall to her front door.
“Who’s there?” she demanded groggily through the door.
“Pony Express!” sang a cheery voice from outside.
“Pony Express?” repeated Dash to herself. “I didn’t order anything...”
With a resigned sigh, Dash flung open the door and found herself staring into two bright yellow eyes, both of which had clearly had a falling out at some point and now wished to have as little to do with one-another as possible. What little they did agree on was focused directly at Rainbow’s grumpy face. The owner of the eyes was a grey pegasus mare wearing a bright smile on her face, and a plain brown knapsack on her back with the words ‘Pony Express’ stenciled on the side.
“Good morning, Rainbow Dash!” beamed the smiling courier.
“‘Morning Derpy,” responded Dash flatly. “How’s life?”
“Pretty good,” answered Derpy Hooves. “I’m going to Las Pegasus today!”
“Yeah, that’s great,” deadpanned Rainbow. “So, is there a reason you’re bothering me this morning or what?”
Derpy responded to this rude query by staring blankly and scrunching her snout up in an expression of adorable bewilderment. It was a demeaning tactic to be sure, but she found it tended to yield results when dealing with difficult customers.
Dash, however, was quite immune to its effects.
Realising that her mind tricks were availing her nothing, Derpy shrugged and produced an envelope from beneath her wing.
“Twilight Sparkle asked me to give you this on my way out of town,” explained Derpy.
“You could’ve left it in the mailbox, y’know.”
Derpy shook her head.
“Nope, ‘your hooves only’.”
“Whatever. Thanks, I guess. Enjoy your trip to Hoofington or wherever.”
“Las Pegasus,” corrected Derpy.
“Whatever. See you later, Derpy.”
With that, Dash turned back into the house and politely slammed the door behind her.
“And I thought Mr. Brown was a grouch,” muttered Derpy.
* * *
Meet me at the library as soon as you’re free. Come alone.
The note had been short and swift, just as Dash preferred it. Unable to return to the wonders of sleep, and at a loss for anything better to do, Dash now found herself flying in the direction of the Ponyville library. The rest of the world was just a colourful blur beneath her as she soared through the air, free of all boundaries and responsibilities and couriers with wonky eyes.
Her arrival at the library was distinctly uneventful. One can only make so many crash landings before the art is gone, and more mundane consequences take its place. So it was that Rainbow Dash made a perfectly civil landing right before the front door, and was promptly greeted by the adorably motor-like buzz of tiny, rapidly-beating wings.
“Rainbow Dash!” called the voice of a very excited filly.
With an amused sigh, Dash turned to greet her number-one fan.
“Hey, Scootaloo, how’s it going?”
“Totally awesome!” shouted the orange filly as she drew her scooter to a grinding halt. “I just invented this amazing new trick on my scooter! You wanna see it? Huh, huh, please, please?”
“Sorry, kid, I got stuff to do,” said Dash. “Maybe later, okay?”
“What kind of stuff?” asked Scootaloo.
“Oh you know, boring grown-up stuff. You wouldn’t like it.”
“Yeah right, it’s never boring with you around, Rainbow Dash! You’re like the least boring pony in history!”
“Heh, you got that right,” said Dash with a grin.
“So now can we hang out?”
“Drat. So close.”
“Look, why don’t go run around with Applebloom and Sweetie Belle?” she suggested. “Go fly a kite or blow stuff up or something.”
“Nah, we did all that yesterday,” said Scootaloo glumly. “And now Applebloom and Sweetie Belle say they’re both grounded for a month.”
“What about you?” asked Dash. “Aren’t you grounded?”
“Oh. Cool. Anyway, I gotta go in and see Twilight, so I’ll see you later... maybe.”
“But what am I supposed to do?” demanded Scootaloo. “It’s boring being out by myself.”
“I dunno, read a book or something,” laughed Rainbow. “Actually...”
With a thoughtful grin, Dash turned and cantered on into the library. Scootaloo instinctively followed close behind, and was duly horrified to see her idol actually selecting a book off the shelf.
“Wait, are you seriously going to suggest I actually read a book?!” asked Scootaloo in alarm.
“Only because the book is... ‘Daring Do and the Sapphire Stone!” announced Dash, holding her favourite novel aloft with an inexplicably prehensile hoof.
Scootaloo raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“Hey, I enjoyed it,” said Dash with a shrug. “Therefore, it must be awesome.”
Unable to argue with her mentor’s impeccable logic, Scootaloo leapt forward and snatched up the hardcover tale of high adventure with an excited squeal. The little filly then proceeded to deposit herself in the nearest chair, and delved hungrily into her prize.
With Scootaloo thus occupied, Dash quietly headed for the back room of the library, where she was not at all surprised to see Twilight Sparkle sitting in the midst of a nigh impenetrable ring of books. Several open volumes hovered daintily around the unicorn’s head, and every so often she would levitate one out of the ring, only to replace it with another. After patiently waiting for about five seconds for the unicorn’s attention, Dash cleared her throat.
“Hey, Twilight, eyes up.”
Twilight’s head popped up out of her literary redoubt and broke into a smile.
“Ah, there you are, Rainbow. Derpy gave you my note then?”
“Yes, she did,” said Rainbow grimly. “So what’ve you been up to?”
“Research!” declared Twilight.
“Yeah, I figured. Have you been looking into the... uh...”
“You don’t need to be sneaky about it Rainbow, it’s perfectly safe to talk here.”
“Oh cool, so you’ve been looking into where the White Crest is-”
“Shhh!!!” hissed Twilight. “You want everypony in town to hear you?”
“But you just said-”
“Never mind what I just said. I told you never to mention the White Crest to anypony!”
“And I haven’t, I swear!” protested Rainbow.
“Good. Because as of now, we can’t trust anypony!”
“Twilight, you’re starting to scare me.”
“Tell that to Princess Celestia!” snapped Twilight. “I just received a letter from her this morning. She’s worried that somepony might try to steal the Crest if we’re not careful, so she’s ordered complete confidentiality! She’s even arranged a secure rendezvous point where we can safely give her the Crest after we recover it.”
Dash let out a low whistle.
“Wow, she’s taking this pretty seriously,” she said. “Anyway, have you figured out where to start looking?”
“Oh yeah,” scoffed Twilight, suddenly casual again. “I figured it out on the train ride home, actually.”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Well, I had to confirm my hypothesis.”
“Meh, whatever. So where’re we headed then?” asked Rainbow.
“Old Canterlot!” declared Twilight.
“What?! We were just there!” shouted Rainbow. “Why couldn’t you have figured that out while we were still at the party?!”
“No, no, I said Old Canterlot,” clarified Twilight. “You’re thinking of New Canterlot.”
“There’s two Canterlots?!”
“Well there were. Or rather, first there was one, then the other... Didn’t you learn any of this in history class?”
Dash shrunk back a bit. Thinking back to her school days, her history teacher had very likely covered the topic, but Dash herself had generally spent most of her history classes passing notes to the filly sitting next to her. This in itself might have proved a worthwhile endeavor, were it not for the fact that the girl had finally admitted at the end of the term that she was not a fillyfooler after all, and had simply been playing along because she had enjoyed the attention. That Dash was able to pass the class at all was due only to the last-minute intervention of Fluttershy, who agreed to help Rainbow study if she promised to stop passing notes in class. Dash agreed, and took up sneaking comics into her textbooks instead.
“I might need a refresher...” Dash said finally.
Twilight sighed, but deep down she relished in the chance to lecture her friend. And so she began:
“Old Canterlot was the first city in Equestria, founded mere days after the arrival of the first pony refugees. Some ponies were skeptical about trying to build a whole new city from scratch, but the leaders of the three pony races were determined that a new city would provide a beacon of hope after all the hardships the ponies had faced. They also hoped that it would give everypony a common goal to work towards, so they wouldn’t fall back into their old prejudices again.”
“So building the city was like a giant team-building exercise,” suggested Dash.
“Exactly. The city was founded on the edge of what is now the Everfree Forest, where there were ample supplies of lumber and forage for the construction effort. Building the city was a tremendous task. Stones were quarried from all over the surrounding mountains. Huge fields were tilled to feed the workers and the city’s future inhabitants. Roads were laid all over Equestria to keep everything running smoothly. Finally, after five years of construction, Canterlot was declared the official capital of Equestria, and the first Pony Parliament was held amidst a massive celebration.
“For hundreds of years afterwards, Canterlot was the shining jewel of Equestria. The population reached into the hundreds of thousands. Traders came from all over to sell their wares, and the city grew immensely wealthy. Art and science flourished, and it was said that on a moonlit night, the castle gardens were the most beautiful sight in Equestria.”
“So if this place is so great, how come I never heard of it?” asked Rainbow.
“Oh, but you have,” answered Twilight. “You’ve been there, in fact.”
“The night after we first met, actually.”
“... Wait, you mean-?”
“That’s right,” nodded Twilight. “The Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters; once the proud centre of Old Canterlot.”
“What happened to it?” asked Rainbow in disbelief.
Twilight shrugged morosely.
“A bunch of things, really. A big part of it was the Everfree; the forest started growing out around the city almost as soon as it was completed, and by the end of the sixth century, Canterlot was surrounded on three sides by the forest. With most of the roads cut off, the city ceased to be a major trading centre, and so it began a period of steep economic decline. On top of that, other large cities were now sprouting up, such as Cloudsdale and Manehatten, so Canterlot was no longer the major population hub it once was. And while he’s not mentioned in any history books, it’s a pretty safe bet that Discord was a major factor as well. By the time the Royal Sisters came to power in 673, Canterlot was only a shadow of its former glory.
“The final blow was the Nightmare Moon incident in 1010,” continued Twilight.
“Nightmare Moon?” repeated Rainbow, now vividly imagining the great black mare of darkness leveling homes and terrorizing innocents. “What did she do, exactly?”
“Nothing, really, but you’d hardly expect anypony to stick around through something like that, would you?” answered Twilight. “Now, the stories make it sound like Nightmare Moon was defeated overnight, but in fact Celestia battled her for several days, or nights rather, before she resorted to using the Elements of Harmony. By that time, Canterlot had been completely abandoned. Even the Princess didn’t want to stay. Too many bad memories, I guess. She rounded up all the refugees she could find, and went on to found New Canterlot that same year.”
“And they just forgot about the old one?” asked Dash.
“Not all at once,” explained Twilight. “Celestia ordered a number of salvage operations to recover important reserves and documents, and treasure-hunters continued to comb the ruins long after that. The city was finally leveled by the earthquake of 1289, and the Everfree just grew over the rubble. The castle is pretty much the only major structure still standing.”
“Woah...” said Dash solemnly.
There was a pensive pause.
“And that’s where we’ll find the White Crest?” she asked finally.
“Seek the city of the boundless garden...” recited Twilight. “I knew it couldn’t be anyplace other than Old Canterlot. As for the other clues, it took me a while, but I found us a pretty promising lead...”
Twilight magically selected a lone book from the vast pile that surrounded her, opened it to a previously marked page, and floated it over to Rainbow.
“This is a book of sketches made by an adventuring artist who explored the ruins over two-hundred years ago,” explained Twilight. “Notice anything?”
Most of the sketches were fairly rough, but impressively detailed. In one corner, Dash quickly recognised the gutted husk of the old castle, but the artist had explored other areas of the lost city as well, and the bulk of the page was dominated by sketches of what appeared to have once been some sort of garden or promenade. Of particular significance was a pair of large statues that flanked the path, each depicting an armoured pegasus. The two stone guardians stared ahead with their ceaseless gaze, and their wings were spread out to form a makeshift arch over the path beneath them.
“Past the unblinking sentries...” remembered Rainbow.
“Beneath the seventh column, to the sepulchre of silent stone...” continued Twilight. “Now, I couldn’t find any mention of a column, I’m afraid, but according to the artist’s notes, those statues mark the entrance to the royal guard cemetery outside the castle, so if that’s the case, the sepulchre shouldn’t be far off.”
“Sounds like we’ve pretty much found the Crest already,” remarked Rainbow.
“Let’s hope so,” nodded Twilight. “Right now, all that matters is that we get moving as soon as possible. If Princess Celestia is correct, there could be other ponies looking for the Crest as we- what was that?”
“What was what?”
“That sound,” hissed Twilight.
“I don’t hear any-”
Twilight turned quietly to the door, approaching it with slow, measured steps, before she suddenly let out a wild yell and flung the door open in a burst of magic.
Rainbow had a fleeting vision of something orange and purple fleeing with a yelp, but Twilight was the quicker and a second later the poor filly had been magically dragged back before the two mares.
“Scootaloo!” yelled Twilight. “What were you doing by the door?”
“N-nothing,” said the quivering filly. “I was just, uh, reading, that’s all.”
“Oh really?” sneered Twilight. “Then where’s your book?”
“Don’t lie to me, Scootaloo, you were eavesdropping on us the whole time, weren’t you?”
“No, I wasn’t!” cried Scootaloo. “It was an accident, I swear!”
“An accident?” repeated Rainbow flatly. “How do you accidentally eavesdrop?”
“You’re not fooling anypony, Scootaloo,” said Twilight crossly. “What. Did. You. Hear?”
“Nothing!” pleaded Scootaloo. “Absolutely nothing!”
Dash and Twilight glared witheringly at the young filly.
“Uh, well I might have heard some things...”
“Well, I heard you guys going on a lot about a lost city, and a white crest, and something about how you’re going on a treasure hunt or something, and hey, can I come with you?”
“Can I come with you guys?” repeated Scootaloo. “On your treasure hunt? ‘Cause that would really be awesome! I might even get my treasure-hunting cutie-mark!”
“No, you can’t come with us,” exclaimed Twilight.
‘Aw, why not?”
“One, this is an important archaeological mission; two, we’ll be going into the Everfree forest, so it’ll be way too dangerous; and three, there is no way that your parents would approve.”
“Pah, I’ve been in the forest tons of times,” said Scootaloo dismissively. “And trust me, my parents wouldn’t mind. C’mon, I could be like your sidekick! How about it, Rainbow Dash?”
“My sidekick, eh?” mused Rainbow playfully. “That does sound pretty cool...”
“Oh no!” protested Twilight. “You are not taking her along! This isn’t Daring Do, Dash!”
“Daring Do doesn’t have a sidekick,” said Rainbow.
“Exactly!” declared Twlight, to her friend’s confusion. “She’ll only get in the way, we are not taking her!”
“I dunno, Twilight,” said Rainbow with a casual shrug. “We can’t just let her go now, can we? She knows too much... Wouldn’t want her running around telling everypony what we’re up to, would we?”
Twilight fell dead silent. For once in her life she didn’t have a good answer. Rainbow only smiled.
“You can’t be serious,” pleaded Twilight.
“I’ll be real good, I promise,” piped Scootaloo. “And I won’t get in the way either. Plus, you never know when you could use an extra hoof, right?”
Twilight was still having none of it.
“Please?” asked Scootaloo, adopting her most adorable little filly face.
Twilight gave a loud sigh.
“Fine, whatever, you can come. But you can’t tell anypony, got it!”
“You got it, Twilight!” shouted Scootaloo, springing to salute. “Your secret’s safe with me!”
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning,” continued Twilight. “Be here at 6:00, or we’re leaving without you.”
“I’ll be there!” declared Scootaloo. “This is gonna be so awesome! Thanks Twilight, thanks Rainbow Dash!”
“Heh, no problem, kid,” said Rainbow as the little orange filly clamped herself adoringly around her leg. “You just go and get ready, okay?”
With triumphant whoop, Scootaloo hurried out the front door, nearly bowling over Spike on the way. Amid the dragon’s protests about crazy ponies, the sound of a motor revving soon emanated from outside, before quickly fading into the presumed distance. With Scootaloo now gone, Twilight rounded on Rainbow in annoyance.
“You’d better know what you’re doing, Dash,” said Twilight. “We don’t have time to get stuck foalsitting.”
“Oh relax,” said Rainbow in a manner that did little to placate her friend. “She’ll be fine. Besides, you know what a careful sort of gal I am.”
Twilight shook her head in exasperation. For a moment, neither pony said anything, until Dash noticed the wide grin spreading across Twilight’s face.
“Now what’s got you so happy?”
Twilight grinned even wider.
“I just realised... We’re actually going to find it. The White Crest, the most legendary artifact in pony history, and I’ll be holding it in my hooves...”
Twilight reflected on this gleeful fantasy a little longer before finally giving in to her excitement and leaping into the air in a joyous display that would have done Pinkie Pie proud.
To be continued...
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part III: Into the Everfree
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Outside the Ponyville library lay a purple sleeping bag. It had first arrived the previous night, well after the library’s inhabitants had gone to bed, and continued to lay there into the early hours of the morning. It was a small thing, puffy and warm, with a handy flap over the zipper to keep out the cold. There was also an orange filly asleep inside it.
At around 5:45, the sleeping bag suddenly stirred, the filly inside having been roused by the a muffled ringing coming from within. There was a moment’s struggle, after which the alarming noise was graciously silenced, and a moment later, the filly emerged from the puffy purple tube with a tremendous yawn. After rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Scootaloo reached back into the sleeping bag, pulled out the alarm clock she had been using, and noted the time with a smile.
“Nice try, Twilight,” she scoffed. “But nopony gets rid of me that easily.”
Scootaloo quickly rolled up her sleeping bag, then hurried over to a nearby flower bed where she had stashed her school bag the previous night. After swapping one bag for the other, she then reached into her schoolbag and donned a blue baseball cap and a wrinkled grey jacket, both of which were really too big on her. Confident in her new ensemble, she then shouldered her schoolbag, and adopted a casual pose as she leaned against the frame of the library door to await her idol’s arrival.
By the time Rainbow Dash arrived a few minutes later, clad once again in her Daring Do outfit, the little filly had fallen asleep again.
“Ha, were you waiting out here all night or something?” laughed Dash as she shook Scootaloo back into the world of the living.
“What, no, shut up,” replied Scootaloo groggily. “I was just resting my eyes is all.”
“Heh, whatever. What are you wearing anyway?” asked Dash.
“It’s my sidekick costume,” declared Scootaloo, now fully awake. “I was going to get a cool jacket and hat like yours, but I couldn’t find one, so I took the next-coolest thing I could find instead.”
“Uh-huh. And does your big brother know you’re borrowing his clothes?” chuckled Dash.
“I don’t have a brother.”
“Whatever. You ready to go?”
“You bet, Rainbow Dash! I’m ready for anything! I got my canteen, and my compass, and my first-aid kit, and some duct tape, and a spare roll of toilet paper, and everything!”
“Cool,” nodded Dash. “Your parents give you any trouble, by the way?”
Scootaloo merely shrugged. A moment later, the library door swung open, and out stepped Twilight Sparkle, dressed rather smartly in a green safari tunic and, to Dash’s dismay, a pith helmet of her own.
“Oh no!” asserted Rainbow. “No, no, no, you are not wearing that!”
“What, the shirt?” asked Twilight in surprise.
“The hat!” barked Rainbow. “The shirt’s fine, but you are not wearing that hat. That’s my look!”
“Have you been hanging out with Rarity recently?” deadpanned Twilight.
“Just nix the hat,” said Rainbow.
With a loud sigh, Twilight’s set to her magic, and the pith helmet promptly vanished in a cloud of sparks.
“Better?” she asked.
“Much better,” nodded Rainbow.
“Glad I could be of help,” deadpanned Twilight. “You girls ready?”
“Oh yeah,” said Dash. “Scootaloo’s all packed up, and I got Pinkie Pie looking after Tank. So you know where we’re going?”
“As near as I can tell,” said Twilight with a shrug. “I never did get a good chance to explore the ruins while we were there. Let’s just hope the forest is in a good mood today...”
* * *
There is no place in Equestria quite like the Everfree forest. The residents of Ponyville had of course long grown accustomed to its foreboding presence, to the point where even the foals thought little of passing beneath its shaded boughs during the summer heat. But once one got beyond the treeline, and ventured past the point where the green fields were but a skip away, that’s when things got seriously weird. In the Everfree, plants thrived without plow or furrough, clouds slid freely across the sky, and all manner of strange and wonderful creatures ran wild, completely untended by pony hooves. It was, in a word, or two rather, simply unnatural.
Many hypotheses have been advanced by the scientific community to explain this phenomenon, none of which, despite an abundance of scientific jargon, have been sufficiently able to account for this anomalous spontaneity of nature. The most radical theory of all was posited by a biologist named Leafy Green, who suggested that the Everfree was not actually anomalous at all, and that nature was in fact quite capable of handling itself all across Equestria, as anypony would be sure to notice if they were to actually sit back and watch it happen. Green was promptly ridiculed out of every major university in Equestria, and was subsequently committed to an insane asylum in Ritterberg where she has reportedly taken up growing chili peppers as a hobby.
All of this mattered little to the three ponies who now trod the narrow pathway that wound its way deep into the forest. Twilight and Rainbow had been in the Everfree many times before, and they soldiered on steadily, if with caution. Scootaloo however, had never been so deep into the forest, and so reacted to every sight and sound with an eclectic combination of anxiety and wonderment. She would hear a twig snap some distance away and immediately hide herself between Rainbow’s legs, or she would spot a gnarled branch like something out of a horror story and bound right up to it, as if hoping it might come alive and try to eat her at any moment. This behavior continued for about an hour until the little filly finally got bored of snapping twigs and gnarly branches, and focused her interest instead on matters of relative geography.
“Are we there yet?” asked Scootaloo.
Twilight and Rainbow reacted to this development with utter horror.
Fortunately, they were spared an immediate repeat incident by the timely arrival of something interesting. The path they were treading had been taking them along the edge of a broad plateau overlooking the greater Everfree valley, but now they emerged into an open area where the path came to an abrupt stop. Here, a massive chunk had been torn from the cliff before them, leaving exposed earth and bare rock in its wake. Down below, the valley floor was littered with the aftermath of the devastation. Only a narrow ledge remained to allow passage around the break. To the two adult mares, the whole scene was quite familiar.
“Woah, what happened here?” asked Scootaloo, peering dangerously over the scrubby precipice.
“Oh nothing much,” said Rainbow with a reminiscent grin. “That’s just where Nightmare Moon went and dropped a cliff out from under us a couple years back. No biggie.”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened in awe.
“Oh yeah,” continued Rainbow. “First we were all like, ‘we gotta find the Elements, yadda, yadda’, and then next thing you know, ‘crack!’, and then it was all-”
Rainbow proceeded to perform a fairly accurate rendition of what a landslide would sound like if it were being heard over a poorly-tuned radio set during a sandstorm.
“Wow, awesome!” squealed Scootaloo when Dash had concluded her tale.
“Yeah, just don’t mention it to Princess Luna,” said Twilight idly. “I don’t think she’d share that opinion. Now let’s see about crossing this thing...”
Scootaloo eyed the narrow ledge ahead with growing unease, but Twilight and Rainbow merely exchanged glances and shrugged.
A second later, Rainbow ignored the ledge completely and merely flew across the divide.
A second after that, Twilight magically materialized right beside her with Scootaloo in tow.
And another second after that, Scootaloo collapsed to her knees and vomited all over a patch of moss.
“Yeah, I remember my first teleport...” said Dash nostalgically.
* * *
And so the journey continued. On and on they trod past endless trees and shrubs, with naught but the twittering of birds to dispel their sense of isolation. It was nearly midday when Twilight suddenly signalled for a stop. Up ahead, a large slab of stone lay strewn across the path, the carved image of a great horseshoe still visible beneath the layers of dirt and lichen. On either side of the path itself, great mounds of crumbling rock stretched far into the trees.
“The walls of Old Canterlot,” explained Twilight. “The castle should be up ahead.”
Past the shattered gates they went and into the forsaken grave of the lost city. A thousand years of neglect had clearly taken their toll, and signs of the old city were few. Trees and bushes had grown thick over the ruined houses and shops, and the cobblestone streets had long been buried beneath the mounting topsoil. Every so often, the ruined stump of some stone structure peeked out from the undergrowth, but beyond that, the forest had almost completely swallowed the city’s remains.
It just after noon when the intrepid trio finally came to the end of the buried road. Before them, the great stone shell of the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters loomed ominously over the surrounding treetops. Even in the broad daylight, the ruined castle had a dark and sinister air to it, and Dash and Twilight were both silently grateful that their destination lay elsewhere in this forsaken city.
“Right, where to next, Twilight?” asked Rainbow.
“I’m not sure,” admitted Twilight. “The artist’s notes said that the Royal Guard Cemetery was somewhere near the castle, but beyond that I really have nothing else to go on.”
“Why don’t I just fly up and scout the place out?” suggested Rainbow.
“Wouldn’t work; the forest canopy is too thick,” said Twilight. “Besides, I’d rather not have to split up if I can help it.”
“Maybe we could get directions?” suggested Scootaloo.
“From who? You see anypony else around?” asked Rainbow.
“Maybe there’s a street sign or something,” said Scootaloo hopefully.
“Scootaloo, this city has been abandoned for over a thousand years,” groaned Twilight. “It’s been leveled by earthquakes and grown over by the wildest forest in Equestria. The roads haven’t even survived, so I highly doubt there’ll be any sort of-”
Twilight wheeled around to see Dash standing further down the path next to a large upright stone with the word CEMETERY carved over a large arrow. Twilight’s jaw dropped in disbelief.
“Ha! Told you! Who’s Miss Smarty-Pants now, huh?” jeered Scootaloo smugly.
Twilight shook herself back to her senses.
“So what? That could be any cemetery,” she retorted, secretly hoping that it wasn’t.
Fortunately, it wasn’t; that is to say it wasn’t any cemetery, but was indeed the cemetery they sought. Just a short distance down the path, still in view of the castle, stood the two winged statues from Twilight’s book. The skillful illustrations had done them only partial justice. Their cold stone eyes stared endlessly forward, and their mouths were set in determined grimaces. Their raised hoofs seemed poised to strike for great justice with the utmost zeal, and their outstretched wings seemed to rival the treetops in their height. There could be no doubt that these were indeed the unblinking sentries of which the stone inscription had told.
Without a word, the three explorers passed beneath their sheltering wings and into the overgrown cemetery. The graves of the honoured dead had long disappeared beneath the undergrowth, with only the occasional shattered gravestone to mark their eternal resting place. The trees grew thicker here than in the rest of the ruins, their low hanging branches hung with creepers so that it was only possible to see a few metres ahead of them. Finding their next clue in this cemetery would be an onerous task to say the least. Stumbling upon it however, was as simple as rounding the next bend.
There in front of them, towering high into the forest canopy, was a single megalithic white column, once an exquisitely carved monument that had since been rendered almost barren by centuries of erosion. The ground around it was paved by great stone slabs that radiated from the column in a perfect spiral, which came to an end several metres from the column’s base. Spaced evenly around this border were six smaller monoliths.
“The seventh column,” whispered Twilight excitedly. “Everything’s coming up Twilight!”
Without hesitation, the purple unicorn bounded up to the column and began a cursory examination. The bas-relief carvings were now little more than vague ridges, but at the base of the column, something dark and solid stood out from the white stone. With a flash of magic, Twilight swept aside a swath of ivy, revealing a bronze plaque etched with two lines of runic text.
“More Eohippine,” murmured Twilight.
“What’s it say?” asked Rainbow.
Twilight read the lines over a few times, then spoke aloud:
“The guardians neglect their vigil; return them to their rightful duty.”
“What does that mean?” asked Scootaloo.
“Well obviously it’s a riddle or a puzzle of some sort,” answered Twilight.
“No, I mean ‘neglect’, what does that mean?” asked Scootaloo again.
“It’s like when your mom says you have to clean your room once a week, but you never do it,” explained Dash, speaking from prior experience.
“Oh Okay, now I get it.”
Twilight, meanwhile, now cast her eye around the cemetery in search of some clue to the riddle. Her gaze fell on one of the six surrounding columns.
“Maybe it’s got to do with these,” she suggested. “This is the ‘seventh’ column after all, so these six must be important somehow.”
The three ponies approached one of the columns. It was a solid thing, evenly cut, but largely unadorned save for a curious pattern at the top; a long series of chevrons that pointed downwards from the peak of the stone.
“Curious... it almost looks like an arrow,” Twilight thought aloud.
The tree ponies simultaneously flipped their gaze downward to the base of the column, where they were surprised to notice absolutely nothing in particular.
“Or not,” muttered Twilight.
She regarded the megalith with a thoughtful frown, then turned her gaze to the other columns. They too bore the same chevron pattern. On a whim, she trotted over to investigate the next one over. She had not been gone long when Scootaloo suddenly started dancing daintily on the spot.
“What’s your problem?” asked Dash, fighting back a giggle at the filly’s adorable display.
“Need to use... the little fillies’ room,” grunted Scootaloo.
The aforementioned fight increased exponentially in its intensity.
“Number-one or number-two?” Dash managed to ask.
“Well, just go on the other side of the stone, I won’t look.”
A moment later, Twilight returned to find Rainbow standing idly by herself in front of the column.
“Where’s Scootaloo?” she asked warily.
“Around back,” said Dash, casually gesturing at the column.
“What’s she doing back there?”
“Number-one? What’s number- Aw, seriously?! In the cemetery?!”
“Sorry,” called Scootaloo weakly.
“Why didn’t you take her back outside?!” Twilight yelled at Dash.
“Why, what’d be the point? She had to go, so...”
“But we’re in a cemetery!” cried Twilight.
“So, it’s not like there’s anypony around to complain anymore, is there?”
With a sigh, Twilight buried her face in her hooves and began counting to twenty. Meanwhile, Scootaloo quickly concluded her unfortunate business behind the column. On impulse she cast an upward glance at the top of the column, and let out a sudden shriek of alarm.
Forgetting all precautions of decency, Twilight and Rainbow swept around the column to the aid of the cringing filly.
“I’m sorry,” quavered Scootaloo. “I didn’t mean to make him mad, I swear!”
“Make who mad?” asked Twilight.
Scootaloo gestured to the top of the column, where instead of the chevron pattern from the other side, the carved face of a hideously imposing stallion leered dangerously out at the three ponies below. Twilight recoiled slightly, but Dash stood her ground and exchanged a good hard stare with the petrous visage before turning to the others with a firm appraisal.
“Wow. That guy is ugly.”
Twilight took a cautious step forward, her initial fears drowned out by the churning of cogs in her head. Though flat against the side of the column, the face was remarkably expressive, and it truly seemed as though the cold stone eyes were actively regarding their every move.
Deep in Twilight’s mind, a gear suddenly slid into alignment, a circuit was connected, a tiny bell tolled in its belfry, and various other mental metaphors came to hyperbolic fruition.
“Of course, those markings on the other side aren’t an arrow, they’re a mane!” she exclaimed. “They’ve got their backs to the main column!”
Dash and Scootaloo were quick to share in Twilight’s realisation, but having figured out the meaning of the riddle, the issue now arose of how to execute it.
“Return them to their rightful duty...” muttered Twilight. “But how...”
“Maybe we can turn them around?” suggested Scootaloo.
“Don’t be silly, Scootaloo, this isn’t an arcade game,” dismissed Twilight as she absent-mindedly placed a hoof upon the side of the column. “Besides, these things haven’t moved in over a thousand years, so I seriously doubt we’d be able to just-”
The column budged.
Twilight was permitted only the briefest moment of incredulous reaction before Dash quickly shoved her aside and threw her weight against the stone. Scootaloo was next to join her, followed finally by Twilight, having concluded that if she were resigned to a hopelessly cliched paperback adventure, she might as well give it her all. Little by little, the column slowly ground on its unseen axis until at last the unsightly face was directed at the central monolith.
Almost immediately, there was a loud resounding *clunk* that echoed across the trees as some buried mechanism slid freely into place, like a massive tumbler in a great stone lock.
A smug grin spread across Scootaloo’s face.
“Sheesh, Twilight, this filly’s really showing you up!” snickered Dash.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” grumbled Twilight. “Let’s just get this over with.”
The obvious next step would have been to move on to each of the other columns in turn, but that would have been dull and boring, and a general waste of narrative. So Twilight used her magic instead. After a few seconds of visually spectacular spellwork, each of the extant columns had been repositioned to face the centre, and the effects were immediate. The ground trembled as if violently alive, and the echoing crash of falling stone reverberated from deep below as unseen cogs and buried tumblers slid reluctantly into place after centuries of inactivity. Finally, at the apex of this cacophony, a great crack rent the air, and the mighty seventh column quivered in its place.
And then it fell.
It did not collapse nor topple; it merely fell, sliding straight down into its socket until all that remained was the singular black hole where once it stood. For a long moment, the three ponies looked on in mixed awe and alarm until a loud crash signalled the end of the column’s descent.
Silence ensued. Nopony moved.
“I think we broke it,” whispered Dash.
As if on cue, one of the spiraling flagstones dropped suddenly into the ground to join its master, followed swiftly by another, and then another. One by one, the stones fell, each stopping sooner than the last, until finally the three ponies found themselves standing at the crest of a great spiral stairway that plunged into the maw of the earth below.
Rainbow Dash took one hard look down the stairs into the abyss. This was it, she thought, they had come this far, there would be no turning back now. With a determined nod, she shook her shoulders, adjusted her helmet, and politely stepped aside.
“After you,” she said to Twilight.
To be continued...
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part IV: The White Crest
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Daring Do stood before the great stone archway at the bottom of the pit, gazing intently into the gloom within. Somewhere, deep within, lay the legendary treasure she had journeyed so far to seek.
Only one question remained unanswered; what dangers still lay between Daring and her elusive goal? There was only one way to find out...
“Hey! Rainbow! You still with us?”
Dash blinked as the vision of her favoured heroine dissipated into nothing. In its place, both Twilight and Scootaloo stood staring at her with bemused looks.
“You okay, Rainbow Dash?” asked Scootaloo.
“Uh, yeah, just... just thinking,” said Dash.
“Thinking about what?”
“Oh, you know... stuff.”
“Hmmm, stuff,” murmured Twilight with a knowing look in her eye. “Well that’s always important. Now if you’re done daydreaming...” Dash frowned in a slightly embarrassed sort of way. “...we need to figure out how to open this thing.”
The three ponies stood at the bottom of the spiraling stairway. Before them stood a great stone arch, plain and unadorned as would befit an edifice that had been designed for the express purpose of being hidden underground for a thousand years. Unlike in Dash’s daydream however, the entrance was sealed by a large slab of smooth white stone. As far as doors went, this was a particularly resolute and imposing specimen, bereft of any apparent latch or keyhole. There were no inscription, no markings, or any sort of hint at all as to how it could be opened. As far as this door was concerned, the way was shut, and anypony who took issue with that fact could just bugger off.
“Can’t you just magic it open?” Dash asked Twilight.
“It doesn’t really work that way, Rainbow,” replied Twilight. “It’s not like I can just go ‘abracadabra, open door’, I have to actually know which way to push or pull it.”
“Maybe we could blast it open!” suggested Scootaloo with unbridled enthusiasm.
“Yeah, sure thing, kid,” laughed Dash with a shake of her head. “And just how are we going to do that? You bring any TNT with you?”
Scootaloo responded by rummaging around in her schoolbag for a bit, then proudly presenting Dash with a large bundle of bottle rockets held together with a liberal amount of duct tape. The older pegasus merely shook her head with a smile.
“I don’t think that’s going to make much of an impact, Scoots.”
With a frown, Scootaloo returned the rockets to her schoolbag, then pulled out instead a slightly rusted tin can, upon which an “explosive” symbol had been crudely drawn in red crayon. The two adult ponies each raised an inquisitive brow.
“Uh, what is that, exactly?” asked Twilight.
“Red Buck, paint thinner, and powdered creamer,” answered Scootaloo brightly. “Me and Applebloom figured out how to make it.”
“Does it work?” asked Dash.
“What do you think she got grounded for?” asked Scootaloo with a wicked grin.
Both Dash and Twilight exchanged concerned looks.
“Right, moving on,” said Twilight rather quickly. “Any other ideas? Preferably one that does not involve irreparably damaging a national heritage site?”
Alas, there were none. While Twilight pondered how best to open the door, and Scootaloo pondered alternative uses for her newfound knowledge of improvised explosives, Dash sauntered up to the smooth white slab and, at a loss for a more practical course of action, stared at it.
The door stared back.
She then tried making silly faces at it.
The door remained resolute.
Her momentary lapse in rationality concluded, Rainbow leaned forward and, at a loss for anything better to do, pressed her hoof against the stone.
The door began to shift.
It was not Twilight Sparkle’s brightest moment.
With a sigh, Dash threw her weight against the door and nearly fell inwards as it swung open with minimal resistance. After fixing the purple unicorn with a humiliating smirk, Dash smugly adjusted her pith helmet and strode on inside.
“No need to worry yourself, Twilight,” she said with mock reassurance. “We all have ‘off’ days. You just keep behind me and Scootaloo here, and we’ll all get through this easy as pie.”
“That’s very noble of you, Rainbow,” answered Twilight sweetly, as the pegasus trotted smugly ahead. “By the way, did either of you happen to bring a flashlight?”
Dash stopped dead in her tracks. Ahead of her, the darkness of the sepulchre loomed large and absolute. With a sigh, the pegasus turned to see Twilight smiling smugly back at her, her horn enveloped in a brilliant aura of white light.
Grumbling, Dash stepped aside to allow the unicorn past.
“Lead the way.”
* * *
Generally, being underground is not an ideal situation for a pegasus pony. It simply does not work for them. At best, they get irritable; at worst, they tend to panic and cause rather a lot of problems. Fortunately for Twilight, the passage that stretched out before them did not lack for headroom. The way was only just narrow enough for two to walk abreast, and yet the vaulted ceiling was so high that the light from her horn made only the faintest impression upon it. No pony had built this tunnel; it had been carved entirely from the living rock with masterful precision. Gently downward it sloped, and gently downward they plodded, Twilight illuminating the way, Scootaloo following close behind with wide eyes, and Dash resolutely taking up the rear.
After a short while the passage finally came to an end, and our motley heroines stared in wonderment at what lay beyond. The walls of the passage had given way to the seemingly endless expanse of a great chamber. The ceiling hung high above, supported by titanic stone columns that rose above the smooth floor like majestic trees. In the centre of the place, a single narrow beam of daylight streamed through a shaft in the ceiling, alighting on a faded mosaic on the floor below. And yet, for all its majesty, the chamber nonetheless bore the scars of time. The earthquakes that had felled the city above had left great cracks in the columns and vaults, and all around them the dry tinkle of crumbling rock echoed throughout the hall.
“Woah,” gasped Scootaloo.
“Awesome,” said Dash.
“It looks like it’s falling apart,” noted Twilight.
“You just have to take the fun out of everything, don’t you?” chided Dash.
“Not everything,” argued Twilight. “But seriously, this place has seen better days.”
“Well it’s not falling down yet, so let’s get going!” urged Scootaloo.
And so the intrepid trio continued across the chamber, their hooves echoing on the cold stone floor. Nopony said a word until they reached the mosaic in the centre of the chamber. It was a fairly simple design; a large violet diamond bordered by an intricate pattern in white.
“The personal seal of Princess Platinum,” explained Twilight. “The White Crest must be here!”
“I don’t get it, though,” frowned Rainbow. “Why would she go through all this trouble to hide it like this? Heck why hide it at all? It’s just a fancy chunk of silver, isn’t it?”
“Didn’t you say the Crest has powers or something, Twilight?” suggested Scootaloo.
“That is what some ponies used to think back then, yes,” answered Twilight. “But those are only rumours; there’s no evidence whatsoever that-”
“What kind of powers?” asked Scootaloo.
“Uh, a bunch of things,” said Twilight. “Controlling the Sun, turning clay into gold, reviving the dead, that sort of thing.”
“Cooooool,” cooed Scootaloo.
“It’s all complete nonsense of course,” added Twilight.
“Apparently Platinum thought it was real, though,” noted Rainbow.
“Huh, I guess that would explain it,” conceded Twilight. “Anyway, let’s keep moving.”
To the other end of the chamber they crossed, leaving behind the towering columns as they entered another passage. This one was wider than the one they had entered through, and Twilight was pleased to notice small sconces set into the walls at regular intervals.
“Hold on a moment...”
Twilight knelt forward and began focusing her magic. After a moment’s concentration, a flurry of white sparks erupted from her horn and bounced daintily down the passage, each one ending its journey in one of the empty sconces. All at once, a faint light began to fill the tunnel as each of the sparks flared up like a miniature star. With the passage now lit, Twilight was finally able to relax the light from her horn, and direct her attention to their surroundings.
The passage stretched on for about twenty metres before suddenly ending in darkness. It was the walls that really got her attention however. Both sides of the passage had been adorned in several sheets of carven black stone, fitted seamlessly together into a continuous whole, and completely covered with line after line of Eohippine text, not unlike the tablet they had examined at the ball.
“Incredible...” mused Twilight. “It’s like a whole library carved in stone. I just wish I could actually read it.”
“What do you mean?” asked Dash. “You could read the other stuff just fine.”
“That was different,” answered Twilight “The other stuff was just using the runes; it was still written in Plain Equestrian. But this here is full-on Eohippine, and I just don’t know enough to read it.”
“And here, I thought you knew everything, Twilight,” joked Dash. “Some egghead you turned out to be.”
“Hey, dead languages aren’t exactly my top priority,” retorted Twilight. “And I’ll have you know that I’m still twice the egghead you’ll ever be!”
“Twilight, you have no idea how much that means to me,” laughed Dash.
Continuing onwards, the three ponies came to the end of the passage where a long flight of stairs descended steeply into the abyss below. Lighting up her horn once more, Twilight wasted no time in leading her companions downwards. Dash walked alongside her, driven on by the thrill of anticipated discovery, her excitement growing with each descending step. The only pony who did not share in her enthusiasm was Scootaloo, who had yet to develop a sense of literary tension, and was instead growing quite bored with the endless plodding through stone corridors.
“Hey, think we’ll see a mummy?” she asked hopefully.
“I doubt it,” said Twilight. “Ponies haven’t practised mummification for nearly three-thousand years.”
“What about booby-traps, or hot lava, or maybe a snake pit?” continued Scootaloo.
Twilight shuddered at the thought of that last one.
“I... sincerely doubt it,” she said tersely.
“Hmph,” snorted Scootaloo.
“Having fun, kid?” teased Dash.
“No! This treasure hunt sucks!” whined Scootaloo. “It’s been nothing but stupid puzzles and historical landmarks and boring stuff like that! Where are all the skulls and snakes and scorpions and spikey walls and stuff?”
“I take it you’ve introduced her to Daring Do?” Twilight murmured to Rainbow.
“I might have mentioned it to her on the side...”
“Way to get the poor filly’s hopes up,” chuckled Twilight.
“Hey, I’m holding out for a spikey wall too,” said Dash. “Though I think I’ll pass on the scorpions,” she added with a shudder. “You ever have those nightmares, where you wake up and you’re just covered in those things?”
Twilight grimly declined to comment. A short while later, they came upon a brief landing where the stairway leveled out somewhat. Still further down they could just make out a curious faint light at the bottom. Not a word was exchanged as the three ponies descended down this final flight of steps, each unsure as to the source of this strange luminescence. After what felt like hours, the intrepid explorers finally reached the bottom.
Before them lay a wide hallway, arched in a graceful curve from wall to wall. The floor was segmented into a series of elaborately patterned tiles, and the walls were lined with sheets of marble. The entire hall was bathed in a soft bluish light, the source of which was now revealed to be a large glowing crystal suspended from the centre of the ceiling in an iron ring.
“Ooooh...” fawned Scootaloo. “Pretty light.”
“Meh, I’ve seen bigger,” said Twilight dismissively.
“Can I keep it?” asked Scootaloo.
“Aw, why not?”
“This is an important historical site, Scootaloo,” admonished Twilight. “You can’t just go around taking things just because they’re pretty.”
“But isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?” asked Scootaloo.
“Just let her have the big glowy rock, Twilight,” said Dash impatiently. “We got fatter hay to fry.”
The khaki-clad pegasus gestured to the end of the hall, several dozen metres ahead, where two unicorn statues stood on either side of a white stone altar draped with a faded purple cloth. Twilight’s eyes widened in anticipation.
“Oh my gosh... is that it?”
“I dunno, why don’t we go look?” said Dash, barely suppressing her own excitement.
“Race you there!” shouted Scootaloo.
Without hesitation, the little orange filly bounded merrily off into the hall, whereupon she tripped on a crack, and plowed gracelessly into a large black floor tile. Her situation was further degraded by the resulting emergence of several long iron spikes that fired out from the span of arch overhead to converge upon the hapless filly.
“SCOOTALOO!!!” cried Dash in horror.
Fortunately, this nefarious trap had been designed with intruders of a more mature stature in mind, and so the spikes came to a sudden stop just short of Scootaloo’s orange fur, then slowly retracted into their previously unseen sockets. Trembling, the little filly scurried back from the pressure plate and hurried trembling back to a very relieved Dash and Twilight.
“That... was so... awesome!” she squealed.
“Well, I guess you got your spike trap,” she said flatly. “Happy now?”
“Yeah, I guess,” chuckled Rainbow. “Now let’s see here...”
Chuckling boldly to herself, Dash stepped up to the trap and noted now the row of sockets that lined the curvature of the arch above. Further down, she could see similar spike traps set at regular intervals along the length of the hall. Glancing back at her feet, Dash reached out and gently pushed against the black tile with predictable results. Dash gave an appraising nod at the iron skewers, then stepped a bit to the side.
“Right, so don’t step on the black tiles, and we’ll all beAAAHHH!!!”
Dash leapt back into the air as the ring of spikes fired out again to meet her lateral advance. Her heart pounding, the pegasus hovered in place for a moment before turning to her companions.
“Okay, white tiles are also bad.”
Twilight received this knowledge with a pensive nod. After a moment’s deliberation on how best to proceed, she locked eyes with her still airborne friend and declared:
“To heck with it, we’ll take the coward’s way out.”
“Roger that,” nodded Dash, and she flew off down the hall.
The altar, fortunately enough, was set upon a larger stage of solid stone, free of any apparent triggers. After a cursory landing, Rainbow turned back down the hall and called for her friends to join her. A second later, Twilight and Scootaloo materialised beside her in a flash of light, the younger pegasus swaying dangerously on the spot.
“You okay there, Scootaloo?” asked Twilight.
“Oh yeah, I’m okay, I’m okay,” gasped Scootaloo. “Or maybe not.”
While Scootaloo emptied her stomach into a convenient crack in the wall, Twilight approached the altar with trembling steps. The royal violet cloth shrouded most of the altar, but in the centre was the clear impression of something underneath. Something flat and irregular in shape, about the size of a large book.
Dash prayed to fate that it was not an irregularly-shaped book.
Taking a deep breath, Twilight ignited her horn, and the cloth was enveloped in the glow of her magic.
“Ready?” she said quietly with a sideways glance at her two companions.
Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo nodded breathlessly.
With a clumsy flourish, the cloth was removed, and the White Crest lay bare before them.
It certainly lived up to its name. Its immaculate white gold surface glinted in the soft light, its edges masterfully wrought into beautiful floral designs. For two-thousand years this artifact had lay unseen and forgotten, and now three pairs of eyes gazed upon it in abject captivation.
“Wow,” said Rainbow.
“It’s beautiful!” gasped Twilight.
“What’s it supposed to be?” asked Scootaloo.
And so the moment came to a crashing end. The White Crest was indeed an impressive piece, of that there could be no doubt. However, to call it a statuette as it had so often been described would be to use the term in a ludicrously broad sense.
“I thought you said this was supposed to be a statue of something?” asked Dash with a frown.
“Yes, well... obviously it’s highly stylised,” said Twilight.
“But what is it?” asked Scootaloo again.
Twilight narrowed her eyes at the Crest. For all its intricate metalwork, its basic shape was underwhelmingly plain; four narrow arms, set at right angles, with one arm longer than the other three.
“Maybe it’s... a... whale!” suggested Twilight. “See, there’re his fins, and that long bit is the tail-”
“So a whale made this?” interrupted Dash.
“Ah, well, maybe not, but-”
“Maybe it’s some freaky bird,” piped Scootaloo. “With like, really stubby wings!”
“Oh, like you?” teased Dash.
“Okay, so maybe it’s not actually anything in particular,” admitted Twilight reluctantly.
“Who cares? It’s still really pretty,” said Scootaloo.
On this point there was consensus.
“Right, so we just found a legendary artifact that nopony’s seen in two-thousand years,” recounted Twilight with a smile. “So now what?”
“How ‘bout we bag it?” chimed Scootaloo, offering up her open schoolbag.
“Works for me,” nodded Twilight. “Only, I think I’ll be the one carrying it. Now, if you’d be so kind as to give me some space...”
In her usual magical fashion, Twilight carefully opened her saddlebag and held it to the edge of the altar. However, as soon as her purple glow enveloped the Crest, she suddenly felt a restraining hoof on her shoulder.
“Wait, don’t move it just yet,” said Dash urgently.
“Uh, why not?” asked Twilight impatiently.
“It could be booby-trapped.”
“Yeah, like in Sapphire Stone, remember? Pressure plate underneath, whole place comes crashing down...”
“That was just a story,” said Twilight.
“That’s what you’ve been saying about everything else on this trip,” retorted Dash.
“And I’m bound to be right eventually,” declared Twilight. “Besides, this altar’s solid stone. So unless the whole thing is one giant pressure plate, I think we’re in the clear.”
With Rainbow’s fears placated, Twilight again engulfed the White Crest in her magical grasp. Slowly, gently, she lifted the artifact from the altar, floating it carefully towards her waiting saddlebag.
“Why are you taking so long?” inquired Scootaloo.
“I... don’t know,” said Twilight with some embarrassment. “Guess I was just trying to be dramatic.”
“Well hurry it up, Twilight. I’d like to get out of here,” said Dash. “This place is starting to stink.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Twilight annoyedly as she finally deposited the Crest into her bag. “Right, let’s get moving. If we hustle, we can make the evening train for Canterlot and-”
Twilight was rather rudely interrupted by the sound of grating stone behind her. In horror, the three ponies watched as the stone altar slowly rose up, freed of its hallowed burden, and then suddenly stopped with an ominous *click*.
“Oh you have got to be k-”
The frustrated unicorn was interrupted again by the sound of breaking stone, followed by a loud, low rumbling noise. A second later, a tiny crack suddenly formed in the wall above the altar, followed by another.
“That can’t be good,” said Dash.
A spray of water suddenly forced its way through one of the cracks. The rumbling grew even louder.
“Definitely not good!”
“Run!” cried Scootaloo.
And they did. Without delay, Twilight disappeared in a flash and reappeared back at the end of the hall, while Rainbow hastily swept Scootaloo onto her back and tore off down the passage. No sooner had they reunited when the wall above the altar finally burst open, and a frothing torrent of water surged out with a roar.
Up the darkened stairs they fled, the water rising steadily behind them. The ground shook beneath their hooves, and the walls trembled as sharp cracks bloomed across the ceiling above. Into the great chamber they ran, past the towering columns as showers of rubble sprinkled around them.
“Hurry!” cried Twilight. “We’re almost there!”
The rising water had just begun to seep into the chamber by the time they reached the opposite side. Without looking back, the three ponies hurried up the passage, the glow of daylight growing ever stronger as they neared the exit. At last they rounded the final corner and hurled themselves out into the open air, landing splayed out on the warm stone. For a long moment, the only sound Dash heard was the pounding of her own beating heart, as the adrenaline of their flight slowly died away.
“Wow,” she said finally. “That was pretty intense. And you thought this would be just a boring old treasure hunt, huh Twilight?”
There was no response from the unicorn. Instead, Dash was answered by the sudden sensation of a spade colliding with the back of her head.
* * *
With a groan, Dash’s eyes fluttered open, and her pounding head did everything in its power to force them back shut. She had only been out a few seconds, but to her it seemed like hours had passed. Dash tried to get up, but found herself strangely unable to do so. She tried again, and failed. Odd, she thought. It wasn’t like she felt overly tired or hurt. In fact it was almost as though somepony were simply holding her down.
It was about this time that Dash suddenly realised that there was a steel-shod hoof pressed against her neck.
From her rather unnegotiable position, Dash could just barely see the back of Twilight’s head. She too was lying on the ground, groaning groggily. Again, Dash tried to move herself to aid her friend, and again her unseen captor restrained her. She was about to cry out in defiance when a familiar voice suddenly struck her ears.
“Well, well, well... Twilight Sparkle...” said the haughty female voice as two haughty pairs of powder-blue legs stepped haughtily into view beside the unconscious unicorn. “Fancy meeting you here.”
The blue pony knelt down next to Twilight, giving Dash a partial view of a sleek silver mane as Twilight’s saddlebag was engulfed in a soft blue glow.
“Today you learn something...” said the blue pony. “There is nothing you can possess that The Great and Powerful Trixie cannot take away...”
To be continued...
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part V: Changing Hooves
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Rainbow Dash was no stranger to being tied up. It was just one of those peculiar nuances that came with being a close friend of Applejack. The rope-wielding farmer was always keen to practise her rodeo skills whenever the opportunity arose, and many an afternoon nap in Sweet Apple Acres had ended with Dash waking up hogtied on the ground with her friend standing over her with a smug grin on her face. As a result of these experiences, Dash had become something of an expert on rope-work herself, and as such she was able to make an informed appraisal of the stallion who was currently tying her hooves behind her back.
The guy was clearly a rank amateur.
“What is taking you so long?” demanded Trixie. “The Great and Powerful Trixie could have tied a hundred knots by now!”
“So why am I the one doing this?” retorted the green stallion through a mouthful of rope.
“Because, Trixie is the beloved leader of this expedition, and you are merely the hired help. Beloved leaders do not tie knots,” explained Trixie.
There was a snort of derision from Dash’s right, where another stallion, a lanky maroon earth-pony, had just finished tying up Twilight and Scootaloo, and was now wrapping Twilight’s horn in aluminum kitchen foil.
“You have something to add?” asked Trixie, her eyes narrowed.
“No, not really,” said the maroon minion with a cheeky smirk.
“Good, now stand aside!” commanded Trixie. “Trixie wishes to speak with this one face-to-face!”
With a shrug, the stallion finished his work, then trotted off to join his companion, who was still struggling with Dash’s bonds. With her minions occupied, Trixie knelt down in front of Twilight and restored the purple unicorn to consciousness with a gentle slap across the face.
“Ugh... wha- what happened?” groaned Twilight.
And then everything came flooding back to her.
“The Crest!” she shouted, as she tried to shoot to her feet, found herself quite unable to do so, and instead fell over onto her side.
“Ha ha ha! Not so hot now, are you, Twilight Sparkle?” cackled Trixie.
“Trixie!” snarled Twilight.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie, if you’d be so kind,” smiled Trixie as she produced the White Crest from her saddlebag. “Very good work, by the way; you saved Trixie an awful lot of trouble by finding this for her. Almost makes up for humiliating Trixie back in that mudhole town of yours... almost.”
Twilight ground her teeth together as she tried to summon her magic, only to discover the foil cone wrapped around her horn.
“As you can see, Trixie came prepared,” gloated Trixie. “It’s amazing how things get done when you’ve got a couple of hired grunts to do your bidding.” she added, gesturing to the two stallions.
“We prefer the term ‘mercenaries’, thank-you,” muttered the maroon pony.
“And just how are you paying these ‘mercenaries’?” asked Twilight. “Last time we met, you weren’t exactly rolling in bits. Heck, I don’t think you actually made any money at all when you were in Ponyville.”
“Yeah, what’s with that?” added Dash. “All you did was show up and act like a total jerk. You didn’t even try to sell us any tickets or anything.”
Do not question The Great and Powerful Trixie’s business practises!” snapped Trixie. “Besides, that little road show was peanuts compared to what this job will pay!”
At that moment, a fresh interruption arrived in the form of a grizzled grey earth-stallion in a weathered green boonie-cap. Trailing behind him by a stout rope was a very annoyed-looking orange filly, who was making a vain but spirited effort to curse around the wadded gag that had been stuffed into her mouth.
“Mmmph! Mmmhh-mmph, hmmm-hmph!” swore Scootaloo, ravaging the virgin ears of all those present.
“Sorry I took so long, Ma’am,” grunted the old stallion as he heaved the struggling filly in between Dash and Twilight. “She’s a lot faster than she looks. Lucky for us, she still can’t fly yet.”
“You better not have hurt her,” warned Dash. “‘Cause nopony but nopony messes with my number-one fan and gets away with it!”
“Mmph!” affirmed Scootaloo.
“What do you want with us anyway, Trixie?” asked Twilight.
“Why, Trixie thought that rather obvious,” sneered Trixie. “Trixie is here to steal your sacred artifact thingy and sell it to the highe-”
“Yeah, yeah, I got that part just fine,” interrupted Twilight. “But what do you want with us? You’ve got the Crest, so why are you still hanging around?”
“Yeah, I’m with the geek on this one,” said the green stallion. “What are we still doing here?”
“Are you questioning Trixie’s master plan?” leered Trixie.
“What plan? All we did was wait outside and then hit ‘em over the heads with shovels.”
“And it worked, did it not?”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“But nothing!” barked Trixie. “As for you three, Trixie was planning on gloating some more about how she stole your mystical ancient... lowercase-T-thingy, but since you insisted on taking the fun out of that as well, Trixie will just have to do without.”
“So can we go now?” asked Dash.
“Ha, you wish,” snorted Trixie. “Trixie has better things in mind for you three losers. Now then,” she said, turning to the leader of the three thugs, “You, sir, shall now escort Trixie back to the Ponyville train station.”
“What about us?” asked the green goon.
“You two will remain here and take care of the prisoners,” replied Trixie. “Meet us back at the station when you are finished. And try to be quick about it, or Trixie will be leaving for Canterlot without you.”
“Roger that,” nodded the maroon mercenary.
With a self-assured huff, Trixie turned to leave, suddenly thought better of it, and turned instead to Rainbow Dash. Grinning broadly, Trixie knelt down to the pegasus’ eye-level, stared deeply into her eyes, and promptly swiped the pith helmet from her head with a flash of magic.
“Trixie will be taking this as well.”
* * *
“How you holding up over there, Twi?” asked Rainbow cheekily.
“Peachy, Rainbow, just peachy,” answered Twilight dryly. “How about you Scootaloo?”
Currently, our three heroines were experiencing a low ebb in their collective camaraderie, but this was perfectly understandable given their circumstances. After Trixie and her bodyguard had departed, with both the White Crest and Dash’s pith helmet in her possession, the task had then fallen to the two remaining mercenaries to interpret Trixie’s parting order. In their experience, “taking care of prisoners” was usually a fairly straightforward, if unsavoury, euphemism, but in this case they found themselves rather conflicted. On one hoof, murder was usually a swift and effective means of removing troublesome individuals, but on the other, there was also a foal present, and frankly, that just made things awkward. The third hoof opined further that there was more than one way to skin a cat, while the fourth hoof wondered why the hell anypony would want to do that in the first place. In the end, the two stallions had decided to forgo the fuss and bother of murdering them in the woods, and instead resorted to the time-honoured technique of dangling them precariously over the edge of the ravine that surrounded the ruined castle.
Overall, it was not a particularly desirable situation.
Escape attempts were being made, of course. Rainbow Dash tried climbing the troublesome cliff wall with her free hindlegs, Scootaloo tried chewing through her troublesome gag, and Twilight tried to find some way to force her magic past the troublesome foil wrapped around her horn, all without any degree of measurable success.
“Aargh, this isn’t working,” seethed Twilight. “I need to get this thing off somehow. Rainbow, I need your help.”
“What do you need me to do?” asked Dash.
Twilight thought for a moment, then explained her idea.
“Okay, here’s what we do: you and I will both try and swing towards each other at the same time. Then, once we’re close enough together, I’ll need you to to reach out and pull the foil off my horn.”
“And how am I supposed to do that, Twilight?” asked Dash. “I’m kinda tied up, if you didn’t notice.”
“Just use your teeth,” suggested Twilight.
“On your horn.”
“So you want me to start swinging myself at you, and try to catch a pointy object in my mouth?” recounted Dash.
“Ah, well, when you put it that way...”
“Besides, are you seriously telling me you can’t handle one little piece of tinfoil?” asked Dash with a cynical smirk.
“Pretty much,” said Twilight irritably. “My magic is fine, the problem is that none of my spells can get through. Don’t ask me why, because it’s very complicated and I really don’t feel like lecturing you right now.”
“That’s a first,” snorted Dash. “Hold on, what about that time we had baked potatoes at Applejack’s? You never had any problem with the tinfoil on those.”
“Well yeah, it’s not like the foil itself is immune; it just blocks my magic from getting past it,” answered Twilight.
“So wait, you’re saying that you can’t cast anything past the tinfoil, but you can still work with the tinfoil itself?!” asked Dash.
“Uh, yeah, that’s what I just said,” said Twilight.
Dash stared at the unicorn before her in disbelief.
“What?” asked Twilight.
“You can still work with the tinfoil,” repeated Dash.
“Well, yeah, of course I ca- ... oh.”
Scootaloo rolled her eyes.
“You feeling okay, Twilight?” joked Dash as Twilight magically ejected the foil cone from her horn with a comical popping sound.
“Come off it, Rainbow, I just got hit over the head with a shovel,” retorted Twilight. “Now close your eyes and think happy thoughts.”
A second later, the three ponies magically materialised atop the cliff, unbound, ungagged, and conveniently close to their abandoned saddlebags.
“How’re you holding up, Scootaloo?” asked Dash. “Third time's the charm?”
“I feel like my stomach’s trying to escape,” moaned Scootaloo.
“Meh, you’ll get used it,” said Dash with a good-humoured shrug. “So what now, Twilight?”
“We have to catch up to them!” declared Twilight. “I didn’t come this far just to lose the most important artifact in history to some two-bit magic act!”
“But they’re probably miles away by now,” groaned Scootaloo. “Who knows where they went?”
“Actually, I overheard Trixie saying that they’re taking the evening train to Canterlot from Ponyville,” recounted Twilight.
“Wow, that was convenient,” murmured Dash. “Good thing, Trixie’s such a loudmouth.”
“I’ll say,” nodded Twilight. “But we’d better hurry if we want to catch them.”
“Why don’t we just teleport back to Ponyville?” suggested Dash, provoking a fresh gag from Scootaloo.
“Sorry, no-go,” said Twilight. “It’s too far, and there are too many variables in between.”
“What do you mean?!” demanded Dash. “What about that time we saved Spike from those dragon punks? That was like, a hundred miles away, and you had no problem there!”
“That was different,” answered Twilight. “That was a DeM anomaly brought on by time-constraints.”
“Fine, whatever. Then how about I go?” suggested Dash. “You’ll never catch up to them on foot, but I can get there faster than you can say ‘sonic rainboom’.”
“I guess it’s the only choice we have,” conceded Twilight. “Scootaloo and I will head on up to Canterlot, then. We’ll meet you there outside the train station. Be careful, okay? Trixie may be just a big show-off, but those goons of hers look like they mean business.”
“Don’t worry, Twilight,” said Dash, rising heroically into the air. “They’ll never know what hit ‘em!”
“Rainbow Dash, wait!” shouted Scootaloo, rushing forward with her schoolbag. “You’ll need this.”
The orange filly quickly pulled out her powdered-cream bomb and passed it to Dash, who placed it gingerly within her own saddlebag.
“Thanks, kid,” said Dash warmly. “You really are awesome, you know that?”
The resulting expression of joy that spread across the young filly’s face would have killed a lesser pony. With a final parting nod, and generic boastful remark, Rainbow Dash shouldered her saddlebag, fired herself high above the forest canopy, and took off in the direction of Ponyville.
* * *
The evening train for Canterlot was already pulling out of the station by the time Rainbow arrived. Resisting the urge to descend upon it immediately and make a potential scene, Dash followed patiently behind a while as the train drove further and further from Ponyville. Confident now that she would not be seen, Rainbow swooped down and landed daintily upon the back of the caboose, all the while wondering how she was going to recover both the White Crest and her pith helmet from Trixie and still make it out in one piece.
Fortunately, a solution presented itself inside the caboose. The conductor, having finished his round of ticket checks, was dozing heavily off in the corner, his foreleg clamped around a half-empty bottle of Berry-Shine. His navy-blue jacket and kepi were hung upon a set of pegs on the wall behind him. Rainbow took one look at the abandoned uniform, then one look at the sleeping conductor, then one more look at the uniform just to be sure, then broke into a devious grin as an idea was formed.
A few minutes later, Rainbow strode casually into the lounge car, dressed rather smartly in the borrowed conductor’s uniform. Her distinctive mane had been securely tucked into the kepi, and her khaki jacket was hidden beneath the larger blue one. All in all, it was one of her more successful disguises, and it was with self-assured confidence that Rainbow scanned the lounge car in search of her quarry.
Fortunately, the evening train to Canterlot was never a particularly crowded affair, so it did not take long to locate Trixie or her goons in the sparsely populated car. The three thugs were huddled around a table in the far corner, discussing in eager whispers what they might do with the proceeds of this endeavor. Suggestions ranged from private airships, to gold teeth, to wild debauchery, to a logical combination of all three. Dash was sure to give the treacherous trio a wide berth. Trixie, in the meantime, was seated at the bar, and was doing her level best to make life difficult for the elderly barkeep. Her own saddlebag lay just beneath her barstool, and the stolen pith helmet was still perched atop her head, albeit in a rather less stable fashion then when she had departed.
Dash briefly considered tossing the magician out the window on the pretense of not having a ticket, but quickly realised that this might cause more problems than it would solve. Fortunately, Trixie herself was quick to provide a suitable alternative.
“Trixie demands another strawberry daiquiri!” shouted Trixie as she added another fine specimen to her growing collection of empty glasses.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” questioned the barkeep.
“Do you doubt the Great and Powerful Trixie’s ability to drink?” scoffed Trixie.
“No, merely your ability to get up again afterwards,” muttered the barkeep.
Smiling devilishly, Dash silently sauntered up behind the drunken mare. The barkeep cast an inquisitive eye at the young pegasus, noted the conductor’s uniform, and beheld salvation. After receiving an approving nod from the barkeep, Dash reared up behind Trixie and wrapped her hooves around her barrel.
“Hey, what do you think you’re *hic* doing?” demanded Trixie.
“Sorry, miss, but you’re over the limit,” said Dash in a lowered voice.
“What limit? The Great and Powerful Trixie knows no limits!”
Across the room, the three thugs watched detached amusement as their employer was unceremoniously dragged out of the car by the pegasus conductor. The door was quickly slid shut behind them, and a moment later the muffled sounds of a half-drunken struggle reached their ears. This lasted for only a minute or two before the car was relatively silent once again.
“Shouldn’t we be helping her?” asked the maroon stallion.
“Not part of the deal,” answered their leader gruffly. “Besides, she knew what she was getting into. Now where we we...?”
As the three stallions returned to their fanciful discussion, Rainbow reentered the lounge car, proudly sporting a respectable black eye on her face, and her newly reclaimed pith helmet beneath her wing. Relieved that she had not aroused the suspicion of Trixie’s goons, Rainbow trotted casually over to where Trixie’s saddlebag still lay beneath the barstool. A quick check inside revealed the White Crest still nestled snugly in the bottom. Grinning broadly, Dash shouldered the bag and strode triumphantly to the far door, there to make a discreet exit.
Or at least, so she would have done, had the door to the lounge car not suddenly burst open, revealing an enraged blue unicorn with her mane askew and a black eye of her own to complement Dash’s. Trixie spotted Dash in an instant and immediately hurled herself at the pegasus, screaming at the top of her lungs.
“After her, you fools!!!”
The three goons leapt from their table and charged towards Dash, who reacted by casually stepping through the door and quickly sliding it shut just as they reached it, with predictably comical results. Cackling madly to herself, Dash turned on her hoof and sped down the corridor, doffing her disguise as she went and replacing it with her explorer’s garb. All she needed was to get outside the train, and she would be home-free.
After a short run, Rainbow came upon a service ladder to the roof of the train. With Trixe and her goons likely seconds behind her, Dash launched herself up the ladder, fired through the hatch, landed neatly on the roof of the train, and ducked down with a surprised yelp as the train entered into a low-arching tunnel.
“Gah! Stupid train,” she swore to herself. “Why’s there always got to be a tunnel?”
Having recovered from the initial shock of nearly having her head taken off, which modern physicians now tell us is an important part of a balanced healthy lifestyle, Dash flattened herself against the roof of the car and began crawling toward the engine in a paltry effort to put some added distance between herself and her pursuers. Eventually the tunnel came to an end, and the train emerged into the daylight, whereupon, on a completely unrelated note, a murder victim was discovered in the car below. Up on the roof however, Dash drew herself up and beheld the ivory city of Canterlot, stained gold by the now setting sun.
Grinning triumphantly, Dash adjusted her pith helmet in a cinematic manner, spread her wings, leapt into the air, and was promptly greeted by a curious sensation not unlike flying headlong into a brick wall.
“Ha! Did you really think you could escape The Great and Powerful Trixie so easily?”
Dash quickly picked herself up off the roof of the car and shook herself back to her senses as Trixie and the two young thugs advanced on her position. The third thug was nowhere in sight, and as Dash began to instinctively back away from her encroaching foes, she discovered the most compelling reason for this...
“End of the line, kid,” said the older stallion. “We’ll be taking our silver trinket back now.”
“No way!” shouted Dash defiantly. “This is an important artifact; it belongs in a museum!”
“Trixie has no time for this cheesiness,” snarled Trixie. “Get her!”
One of the two stallions (it doesn’t matter which at this point) immediately responded to Trixie’s command by lunging at Rainbow with outstretched hooves. Dash responded in turn with an amateurish, but otherwise successful, roundhouse kick, before hurling herself from the train and spreading her wings wide to catch the wind. Being able to fly has that effect on action scenes; it’s simply unavoidable.
“Out of my way!” shrieked Trixie as she shoved past her minions. “Trixie needs a clear shot!”
But Rainbow Dash was already well out of range. For a moment, Trixie stared after the departing pegasus, her left eye narrowed in agitation and her right eye twitching for much the same reasons. Finally, she rounded on her minions with a determined grimace.
“Hurry, you fools; to the engine! We may still have a shot at this!”
* * *
Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, was enjoying a well-deserved breather atop a nearby cloud. The White Crest was secure, her hat had been reclaimed, and Trixie had been served yet another bitter helping of humble pie a la mode (Pinkie Pie would have wanted it no other way). Confident in her victory, Dash rolled over to peer over the side of the cloud, and saw the train to Canterlot rolling freely down the mountain track... back towards Ponyville, sans engine.
Scanning frantically up the track, Dash soon spotted the wayward engine, chugging up the mountain at an alarming speed as thick, caustic purple smoke billowed from its funnel.
“Trixie...” muttered Dash.
Without hesitation, Dash dove off the cloud towards the charging engine. Trixie had no chance of beating her to Canterlot by train, of course, but if she reached the station before Twilight and Scootaloo... Dash knew what she must now do.
“Alright, Scoots, let’s see what this little chemistry project of yours can do...”
* * *
“Out of the way, you fools!” shouted Trixie as she pushed her minions aside to direct another bolt of magic into the engine’s furnace. “Trixie has no time for your incompetence!”
“You know, you could try to be nice to us for a change,” muttered the green goon.
“Trixie could... but she won’t,” snapped Trixie. “Now keep shovelling coal on!”
The leader of the gang, meanwhile, was staring intently out the window when he saw a distinctive shadow pass overhead.
“She’s back!” he yelled out in alarm as the clang of landing hooves reached their ears. “She’s trying to sabotage us!”
“Well don’t just stand there!” shrieked Trixie. “Get up there and stop her!”
Atop the engine, Rainbow was hurriedly digging through her saddlebag in search of the rusted tin can Scootaloo had given her. No sooner had she finally put her hoof to it when she heard the clanging hoofbeats of somepony behind her.
“Alright, punk!” shouted the maroon minion as he balanced himself upon the top of the engine. “You may have given us the slip twice already, but there is no way that I’m going to let you- hey, put that down!”
Dash calmly ignored the stallion’s pleas as she quickly shook the can between her hooves then dropped it neatly into the funnel. The maroon minion’s eyes widened in horror as Dash kicked off into the air and turned to him with a smug grin.
“You might want to get down,” she said casually.
For a second, the word seemed to come to a standstill, notwithstanding the fact that the train engine was still chuggin furiously up the hill. Then all of a sudden, a great bang like thunder rent the air, and red flames belched out from the funnel. Rivets popped violently from their holes like bullets, and great jets of steam erupted from the seams. Seconds later, the wounded engine ground to a screeching halt, the loud groaning of the much abused brakes matched only by the enraged shrieks of a certain villainous magician. Grinning victoriously to herself, Dash banked around, climbed high into the air, and soared off towards Canterlot as the last rays of the sun cast their ruby glow upon the city’s ivory towers.
“Who says kids these days never accomplish anything?” chuckled Dash.
To be continued...
 Deus ex Machina
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part VI: Double Crossers
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
There is no other city in Equestria quite like the shining capital of Canterlot. In fact, there is no other city that even comes close. Perched triumphantly upon the mountainside, Canterlot (or New Canterlot as has been previously explained) has long served as a proud symbol of the splendour and prosperity of the Equestrian nation, and has been the silent envy of her neighbors for many a year. The city’s architectural tradition of gleaming marble allied to burnished bronze was the proud design of none other than Princess Celestia herself, and it is said that the Solar Princess even deigned to openly participate in the city’s construction effort, so determined was she to provide a brilliant new capital for her subjects as their old one was swallowed up by the encroaching Everfree forest. The end result was truly a city of which to be proud, and the ponies of Canterlot were a very proud bunch indeed.
With all this pride floating around, hardly anypony took notice of the three rather ragged ponies who wove through the midday crowds, and those that did were quick to dismiss them as not worth their effort to disdain. Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, and Scootaloo were perfectly content with this arrangement of course, for the purple unicorn in particular had only grown more paranoid after the events of the previous day.
Twilight and Scootaloo had finally limped into Canterlot well after dusk (Twilight having abstained from teleporting to avoid inflicting Scootaloo with the dry heaves). By then it was too late to rendezvous with Princess Celestia at her appointed place, so after reuniting with Rainbow, the three had rented a discreet room in a small inn, and spent the night in the dreamless sleep of pure exhaustion. They were late to rise the next morning, and after a hurried breakfast, Twilight led the motley party out into the gleaming streets to finally deliver the White Crest to the Princess.
For the next hour, they trotted down the great boulevards and avenues of Canterlot, until their route took them to lesser streets and pathways than only Twilight knew from her own intrepid fillyhood explorations. Eventually, they passed beyond the inner walls of the city to a narrow plateau beneath the main city-level. Here was the oldest and most venerable part of the city: Canterlot Cemetery. Not a word was exchanged as the three ponies stepped quietly down the path, flanked by sprawling rows of gravestones on their left, and grandiose mausoleums cut into the cliffside on their right. At length, they turned a bend in the path and came upon a large stone structure of austere decoration, partially set into the cliff wall at the end of the plateau.
“This is Canterlot Chapel,” explained Twilight. “Where the clerics train... and where most of the funerals in Canterlot are held.”
“Have you ever been here before?” asked Scootaloo.
“Once,” she said finally. “But that was years ago. What matters now is that Princess Celestia is waiting inside, for us and the White Crest.”
On Twilight’s command, the great oaken doors of the chapel swung slowly inward, groaning on their iron hinges in a dramatic manner that only came with centuries of dedicated practise. Past the doors lay the chapel’s narthex, where numerous stone columns with carven capitals rose up and merged into the vaulted ceiling. Opposite them stood another pair of doors, set in an elaborately carved archway. As they approached, Dash noted upon the keystone a curious symbol; what appeared to be a sword thrust into a rock or mound. There was something oddly familiar about it, but this was soon cast from her mind as the three were approached by an old cleric in a black habit.
“Ah, Miss Sparkle, am I correct?” he asked, demonstrating an extraordinary ability to recognise national heroines. “Somepony’s been expecting your arrival.”
“Is she here now?” asked Twilight eagerly.
“Oh yes, she’s waiting for you in the sanctuary,” nodded the cleric. “I’ll just leave you to it.”
The cleric departed with curt bow, which Twilight returned with a smile before leading her friends through the sanctuary doors. The room within was not overly large, but what it lacked in volume it made up for in beauty. Vivid stained-glass windows cast their myriad hues upon the white stone floor and the polished mahogany pews. The floor, the altar, even the chandeliers were completely spotless, and it was clear that the clerics who worked here had sunk no small amount of time into maintaining the sanctuary’s visual requirements as a place of spiritual serenity. There was also a very distinct absence of Princess Celestia.
“Hello?” called Twilight as the three ponies stepped into the sanctuary. “Princess? Are you in here?”
At that moment, the sanctuary doors slammed suddenly, but not unexpectedly, shut. Twilight whipped around and narrowed her eyes at the door before rolling them in annoyance.
“Alright, I can see where this is going,” she sighed loudly. “Whatever’s going on, let’s just get it done and over with so we can move on with our lives, okay?”
In response to Twilight’s statement, several glowing lengths of rope sprang, seemingly autonomous, from beneath the pews and coiled themselves tightly around the three ponies; around their bodies and their legs, around Dash’s wings and Twilight’s horn. The ropes then drew taught, pulling their prisoners roughly to the ground as a haughty cackling filled the sanctuary. A second later, a powder-blue unicorn emerged triumphant from her hiding place behind the altar.
“Trixie!” seethed Rainbow.
“Surprised to see Trixie?” laughed the villainous magician.
“No, not really,” answered Twilight dryly. “In fact, I probably should have seen all this coming a mile away. By the way, what happened to your thugs?”
“Oh, them. Trixie fired them,” said Trixie idly. “Their constant failures were simply too much for Trixie to bear. Of course, they didn’t know Trixie had a backup plan.”
“Shut it, Trixie!” snapped Rainbow. “Where’s the Princess? How did you know we would be here?”
“Ah, perhaps I could answer that,” said a fresh male voice as its owner emerged from behind a nearby pillar. Dash and Twilight gazed in shock at the stallion, at his pure white coat, his dapper blue mane, at his elegant gilded monocle...
“Fancy Pants!” cried Twilight in alarm. “You’re behind all this?!”
“Indeed I am,” said Fancy Pants. “I must say, you three have certainly led my... associate here a merry chase. Very impressive.”
“Cut the crap, Pants, where’s the Princess?” demanded Dash. “What have you done with her?!”
“Don’t you get it, Rainbow,” groaned Twilight. “She’s not here. She was never here. That letter I got was a fake; you had this planned from the start, didn’t you?” she asked Fancy Pants.
“Ah, well in all honesty, no,” replied Fancy Pants. “That letter you received was very real, in fact. Fortunately for myself, I happen to have a number of devoted contacts within the royal court. It was they who informed me of your little rendezvous with Princess Celestia, and it is they who are currently keeping her sufficiently distracted back at the palace for me.”
“Why are you telling us all this?” asked Scootaloo.
“Common courtesy,” shrugged Fancy Pants. “Given all that I’ve put you through, I feel the least I can offer in return is a little explanation. Now then, for the main event...”
Taking her employer’s gesture, Trixie stepped forward, seized Dash’s saddlebag with her magic, and drew out the gleaming silver form of the White Crest. Fancy Pants’ eyes widened in awe as she passed the stolen artifact to him, and it was with unmistakable humility that he accepted it into his own magical grasp.
“My word...” he breathed. “It is more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
He was suddenly jarred from his admirations by a soft polite cough from behind.
“Yes, if you’re quite finished, I believe you owe Trixie something for her troubles?” prodded the blue unicorn.
With an annoyed huff, Fancy Pants focused his horn and produced a large bag of bits from hammerspace. Grinning broadly, Trixie snatched up the money then swept over to a far pew to silently gloat over her prize.
“And now that just leaves us four,” said Fancy Pants. “What to do about you...”
Dash glared at the dapper unicorn with open hostility as he contemplated his next course of action. Twilight however, merely regarded Fancy Pants with genuine curiosity as his brow furrowed in an expression of strenuous thought.
“You honestly have no idea what to do with us, do you?” laughed Twilight.
“Ah, well, I... I suppose not,” admitted Fancy Pants. “I confess, I’d rather not see anypony get hurt, but then again, I suppose I can’t really let you go free now either.”
“So I guess we’re at an impasse,” noted Twilight.
“Indeed... suppose I offer a bribe?” suggested Fancy Pants. “In exchange for your silence?”
“Oh puh-lease,” snorted Twilight. “We’re Elements of Harmony, remember? Champions of virtue? Bearers of holy magic? We’re kind of above that level of bribery.”
“I’m not,” offered Scootaloo.
“Shhh!” hissed Twilight.
“What do you want with the Crest anyway?” asked Dash angrily. “It’s not like you can just go and hang it on your wall.”
“No, you’re quite right,” nodded Fancy Pants. “My motivations are far loftier than the rest of those so-called ‘collectors’. All they care for is value and aesthetics, but I seek something more, Miss Dash: perspective. As I said to you before, you and I are merely passing through history, but this...” he held the Crest aloft before him. “This is history. The legendary White Crest, and now I hold it in my hooves... Surely you appreciate what a privilege this is?”
“You went through all this just so you could say you were holding history?” asked Dash incredulously.
“Well, there’s rather more to it than that,” answered Fancy Pants. “The way you say it makes it sound so petty.”
“It is petty!” declared Dash. “The White Crest is an important artifact, Fancy Pants, it belongs in a museum!”
“A museum? Don’t make me laugh,” scoffed Fancy Pants. “What good would that do, hmm? To put this work of art under glass so it can be ogled at by pretentious tourists and disinterested children?”
“Oh, so you’d rather lock it up in a box somewhere in your basement instead?” countered Dash. “That’d make a great story; the White Crest, the greatest artifact in Pony history, lost forever in the basement of some selfish old stallion. And here I thought you were cool, Fancy Pants!”
That was the deciding blow. Flustered, Fancy Pants struggled to form a counter-argument, but Dash’s words had found their mark. With his head bowed, Fancy Pants finally spoke again.
“I... you... you are right,” he said, gazing solemnly at the White Crest. “Who am I to keep this treasure all to myself, to deny Ponykind such an important relic of its heritage? I thought I truly had an appreciation for antiquities such as this... but I suppose I’m no better than the rest of those phoney collectors.”
“It’s not too late,” coaxed Twilight.
Fancy Pants humbly nodded, but before he could act on his change of heart, another series of ropes suddenly ensnared him, pulling him to the ground and sending the White Crest clattering to the floor as the sound of slow, sarcastic clapping echoed throughout the sanctuary.
“Very touching,” sneered Trixie. “Honestly, Trixie figured you might try to back out at the last moment. Fortunately, Trixie had the smarts to cultivate a few other buyers, just in case.”
“Trixie!” snarled Fancy Pants. “Release me at once! I order you!”
“Sorry, ‘Boss’,” snickered Trixie. “But you already payed Trixie, remember? Trixie no longer has to take orders from you.”
With a swagger in her step, Trixie swept past the four imprisoned ponies and lifted the White Crest into her saddlebags.
“You won’t get away with this!” growled Rainbow as Trixie sauntered for the door.
“Oh please, that’s what they all say,” sighed Trixie. “Still, just in case...”
Trixie idly clapped her hoof, and the ropes holding Scootaloo suddenly came to life again, pulling the struggling orange filly to their master before wrapping themselves tightly around her body so she appeared to be little more than a bundle of rope with a head. With a smirk, Trixie floated her new hostage onto her back.
“Let me go!” yelled Scootaloo.
“Oh, Trixie will,” sneered Trixie. “Later, after Trixie has made her-”
Without warning, Twilight’s horn suddenly flared up, and the ropes that were binding her burned away to nothing. Faced now with the righteous fury of the most powerful unicorn in living memory, Trixie let out a terrified yelp and bolted from the room with Scootaloo still in tow.
“How did you do that?” asked Fancy Pants as Twilight quickly freed him and Rainbow.
“Oh it was easy,” shrugged Twilight. “It’s not like she was holding my magic down or anything.”
“So wait, you could have done that at anytime?!” cried Dash.
“Yes, well, I was kinda waiting for the right moment so...”
“So how about right now!” shouted Dash. “Let’s get after her! She’s got Scootaloo!”
Without another wasted moment, the three ponies burst back out into the narthex, where a pair of bewildered clerics were standing just inside the front door. Fortunately, one of them quickly surmised the situation unfolding around them, and immediately gestured to a smaller passage off to the left.
“They went that-a-way!” he said. “There’s a passage that leads back up to the city!”
With Dash in the lead, they tore up the passage, emerging soon after into an open gallery lined with memorial niches. Just up ahead, Trixie was forcing open a wooden door at the far end of the hall. Atop her back, Scootaloo let out a triumphant shout at the sight of her would-be rescuers, causing Trixie to whip around in a frenzy.
“Give it up Trixie!” yelled Twilight as they charged towards her.
“Fat chance!” retorted Trixie. “Nopony stops The Great and Powerful Trixie!”
The door finally gave in to Trixie’s assault, but before rushing through, Tixie turned and fired a parting bolt of magic at the ceiling above her pursuers. The sight of orange sparks caught Dash’s eye, and in horror she noticed several narrow red objects bundled around the tops of the columns.
“Take cover!” she shouted. “This place’s rigged to-”
Dash’s warning was rudely interrupted by the sound of several bundles of dynamite exploding above their heads. The three ponies were thrown to the floor as clouds of smoke and dust filled the room. Acting quickly, Dash spread her wings and spun on her hoof, clearing away the smoke just in time for her to see a broken column falling towards her. Before she could react, a sudden impact forced Dash out of harm’s way, and she landed safely on the floor as the column came crashing down upon her savior.
“Fancy Pants!” cried Twilight as she rushed to lift the fallen column off the stallion’s body.
Fancy Pants responded with a pained groan. His foreleg was stuck at an odd angle, and ugly purple bruises were flowering all across his withers. Dash felt an unpleasant knot form in her stomach. The stallion had very likely saved her life. Granted, she was also pretty sure that she could have made the dodge herself in the nick of time, but she quickly suppressed that particular train of thought for the time being.
“M-miss Dash?” coughed Fancy Pants through laboured breaths.
“I’m right here,” choked Dash. “I’m okay.”
“That’s good to know,” said Fancy Pants with a grim smile. “You’d best get a move on... save your friend...”
“But what about you?”
“Go, Rainbow, I’ll stay and take care of him,” said Twilight. “Hurry, we can’t let Trixie get away!”
With a determined nod, Dash pulled herself away from the unfortunate scene and continued the chase anew.
* * *
Meanwhile, in a small park off of a busy street, the door to an oft-overlooked monument burst wide open, and a frantic powder-blue unicorn hurried out, her young hostage still bound atop her back. Without hesitation, Trixie plunged into the crowd, shoving aside any and all who stood in her way, while Scootaloo mumbled half-hearted apologies from atop her captor. A moment later, Trixie reached the opposite side of the street, where lay a wide canal in which various ponies were blissfully paddling around in punts. One such boat, luxuriously equipped with an outboard motor, was docked mere metres away. Technically there was already a starry-eyed young couple on board, but that was only a minor detail for the frenzied magician. With an almighty yell, Trixie leapt into the boat, dumped the poor couple overboard into the canal, and hurled Scootaloo into the bow of the craft. As she turned her attention to the rather stubborn outboard however, Scootaloo suddenly perked up and let out a triumphant cheer.
Trixie whipped around in horror. The sky-blue pegasus had just appeared across the street, and was now charging towards them, her prismatic mane flying wild in the wind. Abandoning the stubborn pull-cord, Trixie stepped back and fired a bolt of magic into the engine. The motor roared to life, and the little boat sped down the canal, with Rainbow Dash in hot pursuit.
“Eyes front!” yelled Trixie to Scootaloo. “If we hit anything, you’ll be first to feel it!”
Seeing the wisdom in her captor’s words, Scootaloo proceeded to glue her eyes firmly to the canal ahead, allowing Trixie to direct her full attention back at the pursuing pegasus. With narrowed eyes she tracked Rainbow’s movements as the pegasus gained closer and closer with every passing second.
“Close enough!” spat Trixie finally.
Trixie whipped open her saddlebag with a flourish and floated out a stick of dynamite. With a manic grin, she lit the fuse with a spark from her horn and lobbed it at Rainbow. The stick fell low however, and exploded harmlessly in the canal, sending up a great fountain of water. Cursing, Trixie hurled another stick, but what she gained in accuracy was soon negated as Dash rolled skillfully aside at the last second. Trixie was just about to light a third stick, when Scootaloo suddenly let out a yelp of alarm.
“Trixie, up ahead!”
Both Trixie and Rainbow followed the filly’s gaze to where a series of locks divided the canal between the upper and lower tiers of the city. At that very moment, the heavy iron bound gates were closing to allow a barge to pass from the lower level, effectively cutting off Trixie’s escape.
“Ha! End of the line Trixie!” shouted Rainbow. “Give it up while you still can!”
“Fool!” retorted Trixie as she quickly gathered up her remaining dynamite. “The Great and Powerful Trixie always has a backup plan!”
With only seconds to spare, Trixie quickly bundled all her dynamite together, lit the fuse, and fired it straight at the locks. On instinct, Dash took off after it, caught up in the nick of time, suddenly realised that she was chasing after a lit bomb, and quickly pulled up out of harm’s way as a massive explosion rocked the locks. The great gate groaned against itself for a moment, then burst inward, sending a torrent of water pouring into the canal below. Crying out in the thrill of the moment, Trixie and Scootaloo rode the wave through the locks and into the lower city. Casting a scornful eye backwards, Trixie could see no sign of Rainbow Dash.
“Excellent,” she gloated. “Nopony bests the Great and Powerful- oof!”
The unicorn let out a pained grunt as something large and colourful descended on her from above.
“Rainbow Dash!” cheered Scootaloo.
“Hope you don’t mind me dropping in!” said Dash.
“Yeah, that sounded a lot more original before I said it,” conceded Dash.
“I’ll bet,” muttered Scootaloo. “Now let’s get out of here!”
Rearing up, Dash scooped up Scootaloo in one foreleg, and Trixie’s saddlebag in the other before launching herself into the air, only to be stopped a second later when the saddlebag suddenly refused to be carried any further.
“Not so fast!” hissed Trixie. “You’re not getting away that easily!”
The situation soon devolved into a tug-of-war over the precious saddlebag, Dash’s wings versus Trixie’s magic. Not surprisingly, it was the bag itself that lost in the end. The strap by which Dash was holding finally gave way, tearing a great rent in the side of the bag. As Trixie stumbled backwards in surprise, various items spilled from within, including Trixie’s fattened coinpurse, which struck the lip of the boat and burst wide open, sending a shower glittering gold bits into the canal. The unicorn’s resulting cries of anguish filled the air, but Dash paid her no heed; all that mattered was getting Scootaloo to safety.
Abandoning the chase, Rainbow touched down beside the canal and quickly bit through Scootaloo’s bonds, allowing the young filly to seize Dash in a rib-crushing hug.
“I knew you’d save me, Rainbow Dash!” she squealed.
“Like there was ever any doubt,” grinned Rainbow. “Okay, listen Scoots, I need you to find help and get back to the chapel; Fancy’s hurt pretty bad.”
“Don’t worry, Rainbow Dash, you can count on me!”
“Tell Twilight I’ll be there as soon as I can,” added Dash. “I got a boat to catch...”
Meanwhile, Trixie was still speeding down the canal. Though her precious money was lost, the White Crest had miraculously stayed safely within her ruptured bag.
“Trixie can still make this,” she said frantically to herself. “Trixie can still come out on- oh for crying out-”
Rainbow Dash landed forcefully in the bow of the boat and launched herself at Trixie with a primal roar. The unicorn responded in kind, and within seconds the two ponies were brawling in the bottom of the boat. Hair was pulled, legs were bitten, punches were thrown, missed, then thrown again. For the most part, the two combatants were evenly matched. While it was true that Dash did technically have a black belt in karate, it was also technically true that she had largely slept through most of her classes, and had only received the belt at all by virtue of the fact that her instructor had no intention of putting the latter point of his “black belt or your money back” guarantee into practise. Their fight might have gone on for another hour or more, were it not for the fact that the canals of Canterlot only flow so far before taking a rather more downward turn.
A sudden jolt rocked the boat as the last remnants of the swell bore them over the safety lines that spanned the last level stretch of water. Untangling herself from Trixie’s grasp, Dash leapt to the bow and stared out in horror at the vast plains of Equestria stretched out far below. Panic descended upon the two ponies in an instant. As the boat crested the falls, Dash made a last desperate leap for land, only to find her wing in the panicked grip of the other mare. In horror, Dash felt the boat tip underfoot, and then they fell, tumbling helplessly over into the mists below...
To be concluded...
Rainbow Dash and the Treasure of Canterlot
Part VII: Last Dying Image
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Rainbow Dash woke up and was instantly struck by what could only be justifiably described as the god-king of all headaches. Her initial impression was that she must be hungover, but a quick survey of her surroundings soon dispelled this notion. For one thing, it was still late afternoon, not the morning after. For another, she was lying on the gravel shore of a river, which was inconsistent with her previous hangovers. Normally she would wake up somewhere much more comfortable, such as a tree, or a cloud, or in some other pony’s bed, usually Pinkie Pie’s or Fluttershy’s (though each for very different reasons). The most compelling piece of evidence, however, was the fact that she remembered quite clearly the events that had brought her to this situation.
“The Crest!” she gasped, sitting bolt upright.
There was no response to her outburst, merely the roar of water cascading down the mountainside. High above Dash could see the outcrop upon which the waterfall began, and the full implications of what had just occurred to her suddenly struck home.
“I just went over a waterfall,” murmured Dash incredulously. “Rainbow Dash, the best flyer in Equestria, went over a freakin’ waterfall! The Wonderbolts better not hear about this...”
Putting aside that particular scenario, Dash got to her feet and trudged further down the beach, where the overturned wreck of the boat lay broken in the gravel. Dash paid it no heed, for just beyond, a powder-blue unicorn was stumbling furiously across the beach, hoof outstretched, towards a bright and distinctive glint of silver beneath the tattered remains of a torn saddlebag...
“Almost there...” thought Trixie. “Trixie almost has you... just a little-”
Her inner monologue was suddenly cut short by the appearance of a blue hoof that was not her own. Rainbow had swiftly and cooly manoeuvred herself ahead of Trixie, and now brought her hoof down on the Crest just as the unicorn reached it. With trembling, pitiful eyes, Trixie gazed up into the determined face of a mare who would have done Daring Do proud.
“Give it up Trixie,” said Dash warningly. “It’s over.”
For a long moment, the two mares exchanged challenging glares, until Trixie finally backed down and broke the pegasus’ gaze. Then she spoke, her voice tired and strained.
“Alright... you win...” she said as she withdrew her hoof.
And then her horn suddenly lit up.
Dash let out a cry of pain as a magically propelled river rock slammed into the side of her head. Stunned, the pegasus crumpled to the ground, a trickle of blood running down the side of her face as Trixie knelt down and picked up the White Crest in her magic.
“Idiot. Did you really think The Great and Powerful Trixie would just give up without a fight?” snorted the haughty magician, her voice filled with malice. “And Trixie isn’t done yet; after everything you’ve put her through, well, let’s just say that Trixie is going to enjoy this...”
A sudden rage filled Dash, and with a roar she leapt at Trixie with hooves outstretched. The villainous unicorn dodged her clumsy attack with ease, and Dash plowed into the gravel beach behind her.
“Oh, did that hurt?” jeered Trixie. “You really want this trinket back, don’t you? Well by all means, go ahead and take it!”
Dash raised her head just in time to see Trixie charging towards her, the White Crest held high above her head, and her eyes filled with the glint of a mind that was no longer quite there. With a deranged yell, Trixie swung the Crest downwards, and Dash instinctively closed her eyes, bracing herself for the impact.
It never came.
Daring a look, Dash saw the blunt edge of the Crest hovering just over her head, still gripped in the glow of Trixie’s magic yet refusing to budge another inch. Unfazed, Trixie withdrew her “weapon” and swung again at Dash’s head, and again the Crest came to a sudden halt just before it struck. Another swing from the desperate unicorn, and again the same result.
“What the...?” gasped Trixie in between swings. “Why... won’t... this... thing... oof!”
Dash took advantage of Trixie’s distraction to land a solid punch directly on the magician’s face. Stunned Trixie dropped the Crest and fell on her rump, bringing a hoof up to gingerly nurse her bloody nose. With a triumphant huff, Dash knelt down and took the Crest between her teeth. She was briefly tempted to continue her assault upon the hapless unicorn, but the feeling soon passed as quickly as it had come. Instead, she merely spread her wings, shook them dry, and she was off.
Blinking, Trixie suddenly returned to her senses.
“W-what?! Get back here you! Trixie is not finished with you! Trixie will get hers back for this, you hear?! The Great and Powerful Trixie will, have, her, revaaah, who am I kidding?” she said bitterly to herself.
Pulling herself up, Trixie trudged over to where her bag still lay on the shore and pulled out a battered star-spangled cloak. Drawing the garment around her shoulders, Trixie began the long walk back to Fillydelphia. Once there, she would have to find a new and hopefully less painful method to get her caravan out of impound, but that is another story...
* * *
The sun was beginning to set by the time Rainbow finally returned to Canterlot Chapel. With the Crest still clenched between her teeth, she hurried through the empty chambers and passages until she reached the room where Fancy Pants had fallen. No sooner had she burst through the door when she was engulfed in a screaming blur of orange fur.
“Rainbow Dash! You’re back!”
Scootaloo was soon followed by Twilight, who pulled Rainbow into a light hug of her own.
“Did you get it?” she asked.
Dash, the Crest still gripped between her teeth, merely narrowed her eyes in response.
“Oh. Sorry,” said Twilight sheepishly as she took the Crest from Dash.
Relieved of her precious cargo, Dash pushed past Twilight into the room. Fancy Pants lay in the centre of the floor, labouring for breath as two nurses tended to him with dampened cloths and grave faces.
“Looks like Scootaloo got help alright,” remarked Dash.
“Oh she did far better than that,” said a serene voice from behind.
A regal white alicorn who had been standing patiently in the corner stepped forward into the light, but Dash was too tired to be surprised, let alone bow. The Princess’s face betrayed the same grim expression as the nurses’, and it was with a lump in her throat that Dash turned to the subject of Fancy Pants.
“How is he?” asked Rainbow.
“Not good,” said Celestia gravely. “I have done what I could to comfort him, but I’m afraid that there is little else we can do.”
“Can’t you use your Princess magic?” asked Scootaloo.
“It would do no good, my little pony,” answered Celestia. “At this point, the spell would be more than his body could take. I’m sorry.”
Celestia’s grave words provoked a fresh sob from the filly, who quickly buried herself in Twilight’s waiting shoulder. While the two ponies comforted one another, Dash stepped forward to where Fancy Pants lay. The wounded stallion was clearly in dire straits; the bruises along his body had only worsened and he struggled to lift his head to address the young pegasus.
“Miss Dash?” he croaked.
“Right here,” said Dash. “Uh, how’re you holding up?” she added awkwardly.
Fancy Pants gave a grim chuckle.
“I think we both know the answer to that,” he said finally. “Ironic, isn’t it? For so long I wanted to hold a piece of history... and now I am about to become history.”
The stallion broke into a coughing fit that sent chills down Dash’s spine. Fighting back tears, she turned to Twilight and pulled the White Crest from the unicorn’s grasp. Before Twilight could protest, Dash stepped forward and lay the Crest upon Fancy Pants’ chest.
“Here, it’s the least I can do,” said Dash quietly.
Fancy Pants said nothing, but merely clutched the Crest to his body as he struggled to breathe. Eventually he spoke again.
“I... I am sorry, Miss Dash... I’m sorry I let you down... You are a true archaeologist, you know that? You set out to discover the past, to bring it back for all to know... And all I wanted was to keep it for myself.”
The stallion wheezed for a bit, then turned to the sympathetic face of Celestia.
“Princess... I’ve been so foolish... so vain... so selfish...” he said sadly. “Can you forgive me, my Princess? Forgive an old fool his petty mistakes?”
Celestia gave a teary smile, then gently placed her gilded hoof over the Crest.
“I forgive you, Fancy Pants,” she said. “Rest easy, my friend.”
Fancy Pants smiled, then lay back as if to sleep, but suddenly broke again into another fit of wheezing coughs.
“Oh no,” sobbed Twilight. “Not like this.”
But Fancy Pants continued to cough, louder and more violently now. Suddenly he sat up, still coughing, as he let the Crest fall from his grasp and instead began pounding his free hoof upon his chest as if to dislodge something in his throat.
“Wait, what the...?”
“Look!” said Scootaloo.
The bruises that had marred Fancy Pants’ body only moments before were now retreating in on themselves. The stallion appeared to be gaining strength, though his coughing continued. Finally, with one last shuddering cough, Fancy Pants struggled to his feet and proceeded to violently hork a large glob of phlegm onto the floor beside him.
“Eeewww!” recoiled Scootaloo.
“He’s alive!” shouted Rainbow. “Oh my gosh, he’s alive!”
“What?! But how?!” cried Twilight. “You don’t think...?”
The unicorn’s gaze fell on the Crest. In a flurry of energy, Twilight seized the artifact and began running her magical touch over its surface. Meanwhile, as Fancy Pants regained his breath, Celestia approached the miraculously convalescent stallion with an intrigued expression.
“Fancy Pants?” asked Celestia softly. “How... how do you feel?”
“I feel... fine,” said Fancy Pants finally. “In fact, I feel better than fine, I feel alive. I don’t know what you did, but I haven’t felt this good in years. Why I even feel like... dancing... my word, when was the last time I took Fleur dancing? Well, I suppose I’ll just have to fix that little problem tonight, now won’t I?”
“Indeed,” smiled Celestia. “Well, I won’t stop you, Fancy, though I must remind you that you did technically try to steal a priceless artifact about an hour or two ago.”
“Ah, well, I suppose we’ll just have to settle that up sometime tomorrow then, eh?” chuckled Fancy Pants nervously.
“I wouldn’t laugh too hard,” said Celestia. “I have a number of public works projects lined up in need of funding.”
Fancy Pants gulped.
“But for now, enjoy your evening,” said Celestia, stepping aside to allow the stallion to pass. “You’ve been through a lot today. And give my best wishes to Fleur.”
“Thank-you Princess,” said Fancy Pants with a low bow. “I shan’t soon forget the mercy you have shown me today. And as for you three,” he added, turning to Rainbow and Co. “I offer my humblest and most sincere apologies. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to look back on this over drinks and laugh.”
“Heh, whatever you say, Fancy,” laughed Rainbow.
Fancy Pants exchange further apologies with Twilight and Scootaloo, though the former was rather too preoccupied to respond. Scootaloo however, offered her forgiveness as well, and so it was that Fancy Pants departed the chapel with a free conscience and a thoroughly unexpected second chance at life.
Meanwhile, Twilight had concluded her examination of the Crest, and if anything was even more flummoxed as a result.
“I don’t get it!” she wailed, as she held the White Crest out before her. “This couldn’t have been it. I just scanned it, twice! It’s just a piece of metal; no enchantments or residual magic or anything!”
Smiling, Celestia reached out and gently took the Crest from Twilight’s grasp. She gazed idly at it for a moment before turning back to her student.
“Perhaps you are right, Twilight,” said Celestia patiently. “But then what would you say is to credit for Mr. Pants’ speedy recovery?”
“I don’t know,” gasped Twilight. “But it had to be some kind of magic, right?”
“Perhaps,” began Celestia. “Though I will point out that there are forces in this world older and more powerful than mere magic. I believe that point was demonstrated very clearly at your brother’s wedding.”
“So wait, the power of love saved him?” asked Scootaloo.
“Yeah right, this isn’t fantasy, Scoots,” laughed Rainbow.
“I suppose it is a mystery we’ll have to solve at a later time,” continued Celestia. “For now, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, my faithful student.”
“I guess,” conceded Twilight.
“But take heart, you three,” said Celestia brightly. “Don’t you realise? This is the White Crest! The legendary treasure of Princess Platinum! Lost to history for over two-thousand years, and now finally returned to us thanks to you! Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo; your names will be set in history as the intrepid explorers who bravely recovered the Treasure of Canterlot!”
“Cool!” squeaked Scootaloo.
“Awesome!” added Dash.
“It was our pleasure, Princess,” said Twilight with a bow.
“I wish I could offer you three a more ‘official’ reward at this time,” said Celestia. “But in light of recent events, perhaps it is best if this artifact is kept secret a little while longer. Don’t worry,” she added, noting the concerned looks upon our heroines’ faces, “when it is a quieter time, the White Crest will be placed in a place of honour for all to see. And you three will be the ones to unveil it! Now then, I wish I could stay and talk more, but royal duty calls. Good night, my little ponies.”
* * *
Celestia’s sun was nearing the horizon when the three ponies stepped back out into the street. Streaks of red and gold adorned the sky, soon to be replaced by the glittering jewels of Luna’s night.
“So, where to now?” asked Dash with a yawn, her pith helmet held beneath her wing.
“Back home?” suggested Twilight. “Maybe Pinkie Pie will throw us a party.”
“Sounds good to me!” said Scootaloo. “C’mon, I know the way!”
Before either mares could react, Scootaloo was already zipping down the street. Twilight sighed with an indulgent smile.
“Come on, we better go after her before she gets lost,” she said, chasing after the excited filly.
Dash merely laughed after her a moment, then paused to regard her battered pith helmet. Grinning to herself, she placed it smoothly atop her head, then hurried forth to join her two friends as they galloped off into the sunset.
Obviously inspired by the adventures of Indiana Jones. The basic idea for the White Crest (White Christ) is borrowed from a (very poor) film adaptation of Farley Mowat’s Curse of the Viking Grave. My Little Pony is property of Hasbro and whoever else is involved as well. A big thank-you goes out to all my readers. You make it all worthwhile.