The Knights of Harmony
By: Silent Magi
On a dark and stormy night, as bolts of lightning illuminated the cityscape, a single purple unicorn mage held vigil over the Town she called home. Lightly resting her forehead against the heavily reinforced window, she turned slightly so her horn wasn’t pressing up against the glass. There was something different about tonight’s storm, it didn’t seem as focused as the usual attacks the Pegasus airborne threw at the besieged city of Canterlot.
Could this be one of those natural storms that they tell of in the ancient tomes, before the citizens of Equestria were led by their sister goddesses? Had the descent into chaos gotten this far? After nearly nine-hundred years of war, she shouldn’t be overly surprised. However, deep in her heart sadness loomed at the thought that they had become savage creatures set to destroy the world.
It hadn’t always been like this, no once the three races of Equestria lived in harmony. The Pegasus ponies would maintain the weather and skies, while the Earth ponies would tend to the matters of earth and toil, and the Unicorn ponies would use their magic to aid anypony in need. But then the princesses had the fall out, and completely vanished from the face of Equestria. The only clue where they might be rested in the face of the moon where the Mare in the Moon suddenly appeared overnight.
At first the ponies were able to function with an adjunct council of three, one from each of the main types of ponies, but then came the suggestion that they needed to have a single pony ruling all of Equestria, to serve as the Princesses’ temporary replacement. Sadly the attempts at developing a national election broke down into turmoil.
No one was quite sure what had caused the first battle, just one day there was an announcement that a group of Pegasus ponies had attacked a group of Unicorns and Earth ponies. Somewhere in the middle of the fight, the Earth Ponies had turned on the Unicorns. Each group blamed the other for the war, and refused to even consider peace.
Pushing away from the window, the unicorn turned away moving silently across the room despite the armor the guards had insisted she wear during these late night study sessions. The leather armor normally would have squeaked horrendously, if she hadn’t spent several minutes casting an oiling spell over it. It might have been time better spent researching, but for what she intended to read up on, it was a vital application of her magic.
If there was even a hint to the Unicorn council about her research she would have been tried as a traitor, stripped of her magic, and banished to the Griffin territories. For you see, she was sick of fighting, sick of armor, sick of everything that had to deal with this be-damned war. It had taken her parents from when she had barely gained her cutie mark. The mark of magic was a rare trait, one that the council saw as a tool to be used in the war.
Little did they know that she had never been loyal to them, the entire time she had her own designs for the future, and all of those research books she had access to. She was going to usurp the Unicorn council, do away with the Earth pony chiefs, and ground the Pegasus Flock leaders. Tonight, on this night that marked just how far the once peaceful and orderly nation of Equestria had fallen, Twilight Sparkle had found quite possibly the last, best chance for peace.
The Elements of Harmony, a fabled and mythical set of magical items that could possibly have the power to release the Princesses from their long imprisonment. If she could gather them together, and plead her case to the Princesses, perhaps no other foal would have to grow up without their parents again.
The only problem was that this tome’s only mention of them claimed their last known whereabouts was at the the ancient castle of the royal pony sisters, deep in the Everfree Forest. On pretty much the opposite end of the bitterly embroiled Equestria from her. Looking at the map, she paled considerably as she realized she would have to pass by Cloudsdale and Ponyville to even get close to the Forest. The strongholds of the Pegasus and the Earth ponies respectively.
Biting her lower lip out of nervousness, she attempted to plot out the route that she would least likely be caught by a patrol, of any of the nations. Sighing heavily she found that there weren’t many ways that she could do that without going several weeks worth of travel out of her way. Several weeks of ponies becoming orphans, of little fillies and colts being turned into tools of the leaders to continue their populations and then march off to battle to die.
As a flash of lightning lit up the interior of her study, her eyes fell on the only picture she allowed herself to keep. It was a tiny picture of her parents and a tiny baby dragon that had been with her since before they died. Spike.
She was going to have to abandon him at the castle in order to protect him from the fate that she was condemning herself to. But he always seemed to have a knack for knowing exactly when she was up to something. It wouldn’t surprise her if his senses haven’t been going wild for the past few months with this side project.
The other one she needed to shield was her personal attendant, and quite possibly the closest she could ask for a pony friend. She and her little sister Sweetie Belle had been by her side since she was assigned the title of Grand High Mage. Though it sounds impressive, it only meant that she could do more spells than any other Unicorn, and was the council’s pack mule.
Already they had suffered so much, she had to try and save Sweetie Belle from losing the last family she had, or Rarity from outliving her younger sister. The filly was coming up to drafting age, and if she didn’t have a cutie mark of some useful side skill, she would be put into the front line.
Finally figuring out a path to take while searching for the Elements she allowed herself to relax enough to sit down and watch the storm play outside her windows. After a short pause she sighed heavily and looked to where she thought the moon might be and whispered, “Please just hold out a little longer... I will free you, and you might just save us...”
“Twilight darling? Who are you talking to in the dark?” a refined voice asked, causing the poor pony to nearly jump out of her skin. Turning around, she found the white and purple unicorn sitting in a corner of the room with Spike at her side, and a lump of blankets that she could only guess was Sweetie Belle.
“H...how long have you been there?” Twilight asked in terror as she realized they could have quite possibly been there the entire evening.
“About two hours now Twi,” Spike answered with a frown. “You were going to leave without us, weren’t you?”
Twilight paled as she felt herself being cornered by the pair of figures staring at her. Deciding against outright lying she tried to divert their attention. “L...Leave? Why would you think that?”
Her answer came with a rustle of paper, showing her that Spike had her list of things to take on her expedition. She knew she should have hidden it in a better location than the fiftieth book from the left side of the thirteenth shelf of the thirty-sixth shelving unit going counter-clockwise from the wall opposite the door. Even if it was hidden in the binding of the book, he was far to obvious a place to look apparently. “Spike... it’s not that... I...”
“Then what is it darling? You’ve been distracted for the past several months... We’re here to help,” Rarity explained as she stepped out of the corner’s shadows.
Twilight looked at the closest people to her nervously, her eyes never quite meeting theirs. She wanted so desperately to tell them everything, to let them in on her plans, but she couldn’t risk them being caught up in these treasonous schemes and acts. She forced herself to resist that feeling, knowing that she had to protect them as much as possible. “I can’t te-” she started, only to be cut off by Spike’s glare.
“Come on Twi, we’re not going to let you do this on your own,” the little dragon stated firmly while Rarity nodded. “If you haven’t noticed, there are no guards here, and we’re not about to turn you in.”
“. . . Fine,” Twilight answered at length, her head drooping in defeat. “I’m going to hunt down the Elements of Harmony to free the Princesses and bring back peace to the lands.”
“When do we leave?”
“Didn’t you hear me? I’m about to commit high treason, I can’t ask you to possibly...” the purple unicorn stated only to be cut off by Rarity putting a delicate hoof to her lips, and Spike leaping up to hug her around the neck.
“That’s why you’re not asking. We’re telling you. We’re not going to let you do this alone,” Spike explained quietly while indicating the still sleeping Sweetie Belle. “This is for her future as well as ours, it’s more than our business.”
“Come now Twilight, it will be easier with friends to watch your back. Besides... I have to get Sweetie Belle out of here... the draft ponies told me they’d be by next week for Sweetie Belle,” Rarity admitted quietly as she looked back at the small, bundled form of her younger sister. “Please...”
Twilight’s eyes widened as she heard the normally haughty and vain unicorn pleading with her. She knew that the draft had been lowering the recruitment age, but to even consider taking Sweetie Belle now was appalling to say the least, monstrous seemed to be more accurate to her. “Fine, but we have to move quickly, quietly, and covertly. We’re not going to be able to take it easy. If I have picked the path correctly, we should be able to make it within a week...”
“And where are we going darling?” Rarity asked, levitating Spike off Twilight’s back and onto her own. As the dragon attempted to protest, she gave him a cherubic smile and nuzzled against him gently. This seemed to silence him effectively, as he turned into a puddle of goo on her back.
“The ancient castle of the royal pony sisters, on the far side of the Everfree forest,” Twilight answered, just in time for a clap of lightning to rent the sky with its light and noise. “The storm will be quitting in a little over three hours from now, according to the weather ponies. Between that and the arrival of the next attack by the Pegasus Airborne I believe there will be a thirty minute gap. We’ll be leaving into as close to the arrival of the next storm as possible to try and throw off pursuit.”
“We’ll be there,” Rarity assured her, as she started walking out with Spike on her back. “Be a dear and while we go pack up, watch Sweetie Belle for me. She’s always seemed to like sleeping in your study best.”
“Right, sure...” Twilight answered as she walked over to the tired young filly and settled in next to her, watching her sleep peacefully despite the storm raging outside. “Don’t worry Sweetie Belle, everything will be better soon.”
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Chapter 2: One Hoof in Front of the Other
The Knights of Harmony
By: Silent Magi
High in the spires of Cloudsdale, a blue Pegasus with a rainbow striped mane and tail rounded on her squad’s medic curiously as they waited for the rookie that she’d been assigned. “Hey Fluttershy, you don’t normally stick around for lessons... what’s up?
“Oh... well... I just thought it would be nice to go flying again...” the pink maned filly stated quietly as she furled her wings against her body and avoided looking at the closest thing she had as a partner in this squad.
Oh, how she wished she could just quit the stupid military, but they had her over a barrel. She had to keep patching up the others when they got hurt, or her father Flock Leader Scarwing would break her wings and send her into the hydra nest north of Froggy Bottom Bog.
Not that he would be broken up about doing it, as she’d always been a great disappointment to him, from the very day she was born. He wanted a powerful colt to be a warrior and take over as the Flock Leader. Instead she was born a quiet and meek filly.
“If you don’t want me to join you, I understand,” she ended while looking down at the clouds under their feet. “I...”
“The Flock Leader’s in town this week, maybe I should take Scootaloo on a camping trip, teach her how to rough it...” the blue Pegasus began, looking out a window to see the Scarwing’s banner hanging outside the main landing strip for his arrival. “I’d need to take another squad-mate along just in case. Maybe one that can teach her stuff I can’t like first aid and such...”
“Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy asked curiously as she picked up on the hidden message of what her friend was suggesting.
“Got it cleared with the squad leader just a few minutes ago, said you needed some time away from the war,” the boyish filly answered with a smirk as she flashed a trio of passes in her flight vest. “We leave as soon as Scootaloo gets here. We’ll have to pick up the packs from supply, and orders are no personal gear.”
“Oh... that sounds... wonderful...” Fluttershy answered weakly as she rubbed her hoof against her leg. She would have loved to be able to take along at least some of her things in her room, but orders were orders. Besides, this meant she would be able to get out of town that much sooner, possibly missing her father entirely.
“Hey, I’d never leave my wingmate hangin’,” Rainbow answered with a gentle brush against the shy medic. “Come on Fluttershy, cheer up. Remember your plans for after the war. You want to start an animal sanctuary.”
“Y... yeah... with bunnies and birds...” the pink maned pony answered back while giving a weak little grin in agreement. “A...and you want to start an aerial stunt show.”
“You know it! The Dashers! I can see it now,” Rainbow crowed proudly as her wings popped up, showing off her plumage. “We’ll be the best fliers in all of Equestria, and we’ll put on shows for little kids to come and see. Then I can wow them all with my high speed trot, the blazing buckaroo, and to top it off my patented Sonic Rainboom!”
“It sounds wonderful”, Fluttershy agreed, happy that her friend could at least dream in these dark times. If it wasn’t for those dreams they had told each other about, she was quite sure that one, or both of them would have dove from the highest clouds and left a crater and a smear on the ground. At least she knew she’d felt like that a large number of times before Rainbow had befriended her. She doubted her friend knew how close she had been to ending it back then, and she prayed that the blue Pegasus would never find out.
Her thoughts were cut off as the standard arrival of Scootaloo was announced by a loud clatter of noise, followed by the the cloud door blowing open in an explosion of condensed moisture. A small bundle of orange rolled across the floor and came to a stop at Rainbow’s feet. “Right on time kid... gotta work on your breaking, though...”
“I will ma’am...” Scootaloo answered back, pulling her head out from between her hind legs, dislodging the scooter that she rode whenever she got the chance. She wasn’t ready for much flying yet, but she could move around pretty nicely with that device so the higher ups allowed her to use it to build up her wing muscles.
If any asked, they would have been told that they hoped that they would have another speed queen like Rainbow Dash. Only more reliable on making proper reports.
“Let’s go grab our gear and get going,” the colorful elder pony muttered as she was reminded once again that she was supposed to be the responsible one here. She might have been a wing-pair lead, but normally she passed things off to Fluttershy in lieu of being the boss. If it wasn’t for the war, she’d have never joined the military, as they were too big on rules and regulations for her.
Scootaloo however didn’t seem to pick up on this discomfort and instead answered with a salute and a crisp and innocent “Ma’am, yes ma’am!”
First order Dash was giving as soon as their hooves were on the ground was that the ranks were going out the window. They could kiss her lightning bolt graced flank for all she cared, she was sick of being called ma’am. It made her feel old and slow. She was the fastest thing with two wings in all of Equestria thank you very much.
“Scootaloo dear, you don’t have to salute us when we’re alone like this....” Fluttershy whispered as she flanked the younger girl down the halls. “We’re relaxed about regulations inside the squadron...”
“I know that Fluttershy, ma’am... but I don’t know where the drill instructor is, and he scares me...” the young one answered while looking around nervously. This drew a smile from the Pegasus in the lead, she remembered the drill instructor from her time in training.
It wouldn’t surprise her in the least if old Whinny Sarge was still barking orders at the little recruits and making them wet themselves in terror. She couldn’t figure out how the aged warhorse was still around. He had to be at least five hundred years old by now, and could probably stare down a cockatrice without breaking a sweat.
Her personal favorite rumor about him was that the aged hard ass ate the burnt food from the cafeteria on a daily basis and left only diamonds in his manure. That was one of her better pranks to play on the other recruits.
Getting to the quartermaster’s office, the Palomino passed over a trio of saddlebags loaded with camping gear and with a wink to Scootaloo a couple of rare red delicious apples. A special treat for the aerial Pegasus ponies, since most of the land they could grow on had to be given over entirely to hay and other staples.
Seemed like ol’ Salt Lick still enjoyed treating the recruits like the foals they still were. The elder two shot him a thankful smile each, which he returned with a bow of his head. It was a simple, unwritten, unspoken system that the quartermaster had developed over the years. Slip the recruits a few apples with their packs, then when they’re older and mentoring recruits of their own, a small pile of extra bits would always find their way into the bottom of the saddlebags wrapped in a piece of paper. Usually there was always a foal’s scrawl of thanks lining the inside with their mentor’s coins.
They just couldn’t leave any official records about the system, or else they’d all be drummed out of the service and sent to feed the hydras. Even if the Flock Leaders knew about it, they turned a blind eye to it, since it increased the morale of the troops, and he bought the apples at a premium that the service couldn’t afford.
“Alright Scoots, we’re gonna have you take the glider down, Fluttershy and I will pace you to make sure you get down alright,” Rainbow stated as they went to one of the smaller hangers, flashing the passes towards the guard stationed there. “Treat it like your scooter... only slower.”
Walking into the expansive building, they made their way to a wall lined with triangular cloth and metal contraptions. Apparently the officer in charge of the glider pool remembered Dash’s first and only trip with the aviation aids. As they made a particular point of explaining to Scootaloo that the teeth marks on one particular length of piping was from Rainbow Dash after she’d plowed into a tree.
A mention of her dreaded nickname from that time, and a court martial level glare from the rainbow patterned pony later, Scootaloo was strapped in to the contraption with her hooves off the ground. “Alright, from here on how kiddo, use your wings. The glider will react to what you do with them, got it? We’ll be roughing it a few minutes’ flight north-west of a lake I saw on patrol.”
“Yes ma’am!” Scootaloo answered as she took a few test flaps to ensure her wings wouldn’t hit the glider or anything. This was going to be sooooo awesome! She had never gone to the ground, and now she was going with the best flier in the entire Aerial Assault Forces, and the kindest, most understanding medic ever! The week long camping trip just seemed like icing on top of an apple cupcake.
Dash smiled at the eager, young recruit, knowing she’d been like that once, and probably seemed that way when she was in the air. Letting her eyes slide to Fluttershy giving the orange and purple filly some pointers, she sighed and wondered how to approach her about what she’d heard the yellow one saying earlier.
There were ponies in that bush, and the medic had fed them. That was treason, as was the act of not reporting her like Dash had been doing since then. This wasn’t the first time Fluttershy had done something like this, but it was about to be the last. She’d picked the location because anyone approaching would have to land and approach on hoof, which meant that a certain Flock Leader would have to weigh the time it’d take to root out his wayward daughter against just leaving her and ‘banishing’ her from Cloudsdale.
She would probably be the first pony in history to celebrate being banished.
As they lined up heading West, Dash spotted the Flock Leader’s flight incoming from the North and allowed herself a small victory smile. That manure brained falcon excrement wouldn’t be bothering her friend this time. If he did somehow manage to do it while they were on their little camping trip, she would buck him all the way to Timbuckmoo or maybe Edingbaa...
She’d probably have to run to Moo Delhi to get away from his revenge though. Maybe it was for the best that they just don’t cross paths for the foreseeable future. After all, having her friend on the lam because of her would probably crush Fluttershy. None of that mattered right now, they were in the air and free of the politics and annoying families.
Feeling the wind rushing over her wings, Rainbow savored the sense of freedom and rush she always got when soaring through the air. Cutting around a cloud, she pulled ahead in order to guide the others towards the campsite, casting the occasional look back to ensure that her rookie wasn’t about to plunge herself head first into the ground. Not that it was experience talking or anything, nope, she didn’t deserve the accursed nickname ‘Rainbow Crash’ or anything.
Getting a little distance between the cloud-based city, she pulled off a perfect loop back to settle in next to Scootaloo, with Fluttershy on her other side. “Hey Fluttershy! This is going to be so awesome, a whole week with just the three of us,” Dash called out over the wind, getting the shy one’s attention, as well as that of their little charge for the duration. “There’s a river, so I’ll bet there’s loads of animals to talk to...”
“Oh... I do hope so... It being summer and all, the babies will be growing sooooo cute,” Fluttershy practically gushed as the images of all the different baby animals she might be able to find washed away the darkness that loomed at the edges of her thoughts. A small grateful smile spread across her face before it was overtaken by a dreamy expression.
“Just like those baby bunnies you stopped to feed earlier...” Dash continued, her eyes watching as Fluttershy’s face drifted from fond remembrance to near panic, back to somewhere in between which she liked to call Fluttershy Standard. This was one reason she never played poker against the filly, it would have been like kicking a newborn off the clouds with a rock tied to their back. Cruel, sadistic, and not in the least bit enjoyable.
“Oh... well yes, I suppose so...” Fluttershy answered as she tried to hide behind her bangs, the wind not aiding in her efforts in the least.
Rainbow decided to let her off easy this time, and bring it up with her once they were on the ground and Fluttershy could hide away from her eyes. “I just hope all that food you left isn’t going to overfeed them. After all, you were the one to lecture me on not doing that, and those rabbits didn’t seem like they’d eat that much...”
“Oh... umm... they had some company visiting, so I left a little extra...” Fluttershy answered in what might have been her first example of a lie that Rainbow could recall. It was almost cute the way she was trying to protect whoever it was that she’d been talking to in those bushes. Pulling ahead slightly she lead the other two on a banking maneuver to bring them in for a landing near the lake she’d spotted. “We’ll take a break here and then head in on foot. The winds around the campsite looked a little unpredictable, and with Scoots being in a glider, I think it’ll be safer to hoof it.”
“N...not to sound critical Rainbow Dash, but isn’t Ponyville just a few minutes flight to the south?” Fluttershy asked as she helped Scootaloo disembark from the harness of the glider. “A...are you sure this is safe?”
“Sure I’m sure!” Dash proclaimed as she started the hefty project of collapsing the glider into a portable form. She wasn’t sure, but she was fairly certain that the engineers that designed this thing were sadists who hated young fillies going into the field. “We’re far away enough that their outriders aren’t likely to spot us, and on a little plot of land that doesn’t seem to be used for their farming. If I’m wrong, I’ll cover you two while you run.”
“But...” Fluttershy started, only to be cut off by Rainbow Dash’s smirk and hoof to her mouth.
“None of that now, let’s just trust that they’re as friendly as those bunnies you were talking to earlier... I’d love to know what they said...” Dash stated, while eying up the young filly in their care. After a second she leaned in and finished softly, “Later, after she’s asleep.”
Chapter 2: One Hoof in Front of the Other
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Chapter 4: Riding with the Shadows of the Night
The Knights of Harmony
By: Silent Magi
Twilight opened her eyes, looking around curiously as she tried to remember where she was. It certainly didn’t look like her library room. There was grass, bushes, and was that a bunny staring at her? Blinking slowly, she looked at the member of the lapin family sitting in front with a rather curiously cross expression on its face. It seemed to be waiting for her to do something, but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what. “Hello?”
The rabbit nodded firmly before pulling a bowl of grass and leaves from behind a rock and sliding it towards her. It continued staring at her sternly until she finally relented and began eating the breakfast it had provided. It was rather nice, the grass was sweet and the leaves turned out to be crisp lettuce. “There you go Darling, Spike was all in a tizzy that you wouldn’t eat before insisting we move out.” Rarity’s voice called out from the side, where the three of them were watching her eat, “Go on my dear, we’re just packing up the last of our provisions. Are you sure you don’t want to sleep more?”
“I’m fine, and if we take more time, the guards will catch us,” the purple unicorn answered as she finished off the breakfast salad and rose to her tired hooves. She knew she was pushing herself, but it was more important that they find the Elements of Harmony and end this damnable war than any comfort she might seek. “My stuff’s still packed, let’s go.”
Slipping on her pack without magic was a bit of work, but she knew it needed to be done. The light of their horns could be seen for a larger distance on this level plane than up in the mountains. Looking down at the bowl from the Pegasus she frowned and tried to figure out what to do with it. It was far too nice to leave here for the wind and weather to destroy, and besides it would mark their resting location far worse than the crushed grasses. Kneeling down she clenched the bowl in her teeth before lifting and sticking it into her pack. “We’ll use it for water, there’s a creek a mile west of here where we can get some. Sweetie Belle, do you want to ride on my back or Rarity’s? We’re going to be running really fast.”
“I can keep up!” the young one protested before shrinking before her sister’s stern gaze. “I mean I want to run too... I don’t like being carried all the time. Please Twilight?”
Twilight hesitated a moment before smiling warmly at the little pony and nuzzled her lightly. “Alright, but if you start to get tired, let one of us know. Promise?”
“I promise,” Sweetie Belle answered with a proud grin on her face. She wasn’t going to be a baby, not with how important this trip was. Rarity had explained that they were going to make sure that she and all her little friends didn’t have to fight in the war. She liked that idea, since her friends were all nice and none of them really understood why they were fighting to begin with.
And they let her come along on this ultra-super-important mission! She was the only one in her class to not have a cutie mark, but she was allowed to go with the council’s Grand High Mage, on a mission of utmost importance. This was so cool! Sure Twilight had knocked her out after she fell asleep with that spell, but that was so they could sneak her out of the castle easier.
She only wished that Twilight had let her see her cast magic, that would have been so much better than sleeping through it.
Twilight smiled at the young pony once again, before turning towards the west, where the sun was continuing on its slow journey to meet with the horizon. They had to get moving and swiftly. There was some part of her that swore that the guards from the castle were going to be upon them any minute now. Perhaps she should have torched her library before leaving.
There was just so much damning evidence laying there, but she had stayed her hoof because of her attachment to the dusty repository of knowledge. It was the only home she had ever truly known growing up, and it held a special place in her heart.
They made good time to the creek that the medic Pegasus, Fluttershy, had mentioned. It was very cool and refreshing to drink from the moving water, and seemed to bring back the energy they had started to lose with the waning sun. Despite their plans, they were still ponies of the daylight, and moving in the night just felt off to them.
Twilight Sparkle smiled warmly as she watched Sweetie Belle and Spike splashing at each other. It was agreed to take a short break to fill up the water skins as well as drink what they could run on. It seemed that nothing could crush the innocence and playfulness of youth, the war hovering on the edges of the thoughts of the older ponies were nothing to those two right now. “Twilight darling, are you alright?” Rarity asked as she capped her little sister’s water-skin and tucked it away in her pack. “Should we have let you sleep longer?”
“I’m fine Rarity, I...” Twilight started, before pausing to consider her next words carefully. “Rarity, if things get bad, I want you to take Sweetie Belle and Spike. Take them as far and as fast from here as you can. Please promise me.”
Rarity looked at her in horror as she registered what exactly she was being asked. “Twilight! I could never-”
“Yes you can,” Twilight cut her off quietly as she cast a worried look over at the two children of the group. After assuring herself that they were still distracted, the purple unicorn turned back to her friend with a stern look to her face. “Look Rarity, this is most likely going to be dangerous. Those two are the future I am working to save. If they get hurt or... worse... I don’t know what will happen to me. Please, promise me you’re going to protect them.”
“I...” Rarity started before looking at her sister for a moment, her eyes misting over sadly as she lowered her head. “I promise, but you promise that you’ll be right on my hoofs.”
“If I can do it without putting them, or you at risk, I promise,” Twilight stated firmly before taking a final gulp of the cool, refreshing water. “We should get moving, the guards are likely on their way... We’ll move as fast as we can west by southwest.”
“Of course dearie,” Rarity answered as she stepped over to the playing younglings. “Spike, it’s time to go... Sweetie Belle? Do you want to ride on our backs?”
“No, I’ll run with you,” the little pony answered proudly as she shook herself off on the creek bed. “Lemme run with you, please?”
“Stay with us Sweetie Belle, and let us know if you start to get tired,” Twilight ordered as she pulled up alongside her retainer, her eyes fixed on the hope for the future. A small nod from her drew out a smile and she took the lead going slowly at first, letting the others build up speed gradually instead of breaking right into a canter.
The group made good time, with the moon lighting their path once the sun had set. The trees were a minor obstacle, which they avoided for a time by following an old dried up riverbed. However, about after a few hours they had to slow down and go through the forest itself again when the creek took a sudden turn to the north. A couple miles into the woods, the pace was broken by the youngest member’s quiet voice calling out. “I’m hungry...”
The five pulled up to a stop in a small clearing, allowing the rabbit to hop off of Twilight’s back and scamper around the area as though searching for something. Meanwhile the two elder ponies looked at the barren patch of ground they found themselves in. “Rations?” Twilight offered having found no vegetation to eat. The dried up creek bed gave her a clue as to what had happened to this patch of forest.
With the rainclouds being diverted to attack Canterlot, this once lush forest was now dying slowly. Just as Rarity was about to respond, a faint smell wafted into the clearing. It was a very mouth watering aroma that nearly any pony past her first year could recognize, but there was no possible way for it to really be out here so far from civilization.
“Oatmeal!” Sweetie shouted happily as she bolted from the clearing, dragging Spike along by his talon which she’d managed to snag her tail on. The elders of the group stared helplessly at the retreating form of their youngest two members before realizing what was going on and trying to catch up with them.
A few short meters away, Sweetie Belle skidded to a halt causing poor Spike to slam into the ground and roll under a bush. The older ponies slowed down now that their quarry had stopped, they were about to ask her why she jerked to a standstill so suddenly, when their eyes fell upon a sight that was far less expected than the smell ever had been.
A sea foam green unicorn with sky blue mane and tail streaked with white was cornered in an unnatural sitting position on a chair, by a cream colored earth pony smiling as she stirred a massive cauldron of what seemed to be oatmeal. Brushing her blue and pink mane out of her way she smiled down at her captive. “Soon my sweet, you’ll be nice and filled up. And then I’ll let you get back to bed.”
“For the love of Celestia Bon-bon! I just wanted a snack!” the trapped pony snapped as she tried to get out of the situation, only to be blocked by a wooden spoon smacking her fore-hooves.
“Oh no-no-no, we can’t have you going hungry Lyra sweetie, now you just sit there and let your bonniekins make you a nice little snack to chase away those empty stomach blues,” Bon-bon answered sweetly as she licked the wooden spoon she somehow was stirring with her tail. “Hmm... needs more honey...”
“Come on Bon-bon, lay off the sweet stuff, you know I don’t like it that much,” the trapped unicorn pleaded while clasping her hooves in front of herself imploringly. “I just wanted a few turnips, or maybe some cabbage...”
“But... I worked so hard on this...” Bon-bon offered with a pout as she turned away. “It’s because it’s not from the royal banquet halls of Canterlot isn’t it? I just can’t make it good enough for you...”
“Aww Bon-bon, don’t be like that... You know I love your cooking,” Lyra answered while wrapping her forehooves around the other mare comfortingly. Nuzzling her head in next to the Earth pony’s she stole a kiss before continuing. “I’m just not that hungry right now, so how about I have a small bowl of oatmeal now, and we can have a big breakfast? I’ll even make some of that maple syrup that you like so much...”
“And... and I can make those pancakes to go with it...” Bon-bon added after she sniffled and wiped away the tears from her cheeks. Slowly she nudged into the green unicorn and placed a small kiss on her cheek. “I’m sorry dear, it’s just...”
“I know Bon-bon, it’s how you show your love. I understand your worry, but we live in the forest now, not the wastes,” Lyra whispered softly as she continued to nuzzle into the Earth Pony.
Anything further they might have said at that point was lost as the sound of a branch snapping echoed throughout the clearing. In an instant, all heads whipped around towards a sheepishly grinning spike, who was currently tangled up in the brambles. Slowly Twilight lifted her head and gave her best smile to the two terrified ponies. “Hello, I’m Twilight Spar-”
“So the council finally sent someone after me? And their pet mage at that...” Lyra cut her off, while stepping in front of the multi-colored Earth pony. “Your entourage seems a bit incomplete, no soldiers?”
“No, I’m not here for you. We’re on... a quest and smelled your oatmeal...” Twilight offered, trying to keep her real purpose a secret. “Sweetie Belle was getting hungry and took off when she smelled the food. We’ll just be going then...”
“Wait...” a quiet voice spoke up from behind Lyra. “W...why don’t you have some oatmeal? There’s plenty to spare, and I can make a little bit more...”
“There’s no need for that Miss... Bon-bon was it? We don’t want to intrude, and we have some rations,” Twilight explained trying hard to ignore the strange slashing motions that Lyra was giving her. Thus it probably could hardly be a stretch of logic that placed the blame squarely on her shoulders as she found herself being glared down at by the Earth pony.
“You. Will. Stay. For. Dinner. Won’t. You.” Bon-bon asked, though the tone and glare really didn’t help anyone delude themselves in thinking they had a choice in the matter. The leader of their little adventure party worked her jaw a couple times under the heated glare before finally squeaking out an agreement.
Just as suddenly as she had appeared, Bon-bon was walking away to stir the cauldron once again, leaving a very confused and intimidated Twilight Sparkle in her wake. After a moment, Lyra wandered over and slung a hoof over her shoulder, carefully guiding the frazzled unicorn to the porch. “Don’t worry, Bon-bon means well... but after her family was banished to the wastes she’s been obsessed with feeding people. Please don’t hold it against her.”
“I... won’t...” Twilight answered at length, something tickling the back of her mind. “How did you know who I was?”
Lyra looked over at Bon-bon quietly for a couple minutes before sighing heavily and lowering her head slightly. “I used to be the council’s Court Musician, before I was recruited to put on a show for some of our troops. There was an attack and I fell into the river we were performing by. Next thing I know is she’s giving me mouth to mouth, and I’m coughing out a lot of water.”
“You’re that Lyra? The council had me searching for you for weeks!” Twilight exclaimed with her eyes wide in shock. How had this pony managed to avoid her scrying spells? After spending nearly a full two months looking for her, she wanted some explanations.
Lyra for her part blushed sheepishly and tapped the ground quietly. “Well... Umm... you see, this entire area is thick with magic. It would be hard for anypony to locate a single pony with magic. I tried to do a simple levitation spell a week after being rescued from the river and nearly sent the bowl into orbit.”
“But the council...” Twilight started before more pieces fell into place. The council had said only that unicorn magic wouldn’t work right on the ground, they didn’t say how. If there were large pockets of excess magic then the average unicorn could easily take out the council in a single fell swoop and take control. After realizing her quest to stop the council once and for all was not just about her saving foals from the pain she had growing up, another random thought began to brew in the back of her mind.
Unicorns were a part of the natural balance, like all things in Equestria. They drew in the excess latent magic and used it to perform their feats of magic. If these pockets were forming, then that meant the unicorns were meant to have been in the area, but weren’t because of the stupid war. Were they really tearing apart the very world they need to live just trying to rule it?
Her thoughts were torn away as a rather large bowl filled to the brim was set into her hoofs and Bon-bon glared at her until she took a swallow. Maybe it would be best to save the thinking until after their midnight lunch.
Chapter 3: On a Wing and a Prayer
Comments/suggestions: [email protected]
Chapter 5: The Oatmeal of Destiny
The Knights of Harmony
By: Silent Magi
The following dawn found them in a secluded cave, hidden from the main trail by several ledges and cliffs, enough so that they could risk a small fire to cook a warm meal. When Bon-bon volunteered to cook it was hardly any surprise to anypony, however Rarity promised to make sure that the portions weren’t going to bankrupt their supplies.
They had made good time, despite the heavy meal slowing them down. Apparently the two new members of their group knew many shortcuts and mountain trails that cut down on some of the twists and turns that Twilight had planned on taking, enough so that she had to admit that even if she had found them herself she would have gotten lost.
Speaking of the guides sent from the Blissful Fields, Lyra seemed to be doing something odd. She kept slowly turning her head this way and that as though trying to find something, and in the dim shadows of the cave Twilight could make out a faint glimmer around the unicorn’s horn. After a few minutes, the sea-foam green unicorn let the light fade from her horn and sighed heavily, allowing Twilight to let slip her curiosity, “Lyra?”
“Hmm? Oh sorry, was trying to tune-in on a signal broadcast... I think we’re too high up, or there’s something interfering with my reception,” Lyra explained with a shrug before settling in next to Twilight. “Remember those old tales of unicorns being telepathically linked?”
It took Twilight a moment to remember the tales in question, but she eventually remembered that the tales were more than just that. They were an ancient magic that most unicorns had been unwilling to touch during the time of war because of the limitations placed on it. One had to have a special talent, or cutie mark related closely to the unicorn doing the broadcasting. It worked even better if they were blood related. However, it couldn’t send anything that the unicorn was thinking, only repeat what they were seeing or hearing.
While this may have sounded like an ideal spy tool, the limits to range, control, and receptors made the council consider it worthless. There were just too many flaws for them to compensate for, especially if it meant they had to send in one of their family members, or worse yet themselves, into a dangerous situation. Nothing hits home quite like being told that the only way to use a spell would be to sacrifice yourself or your family.
“I’ve heard about them,” Twilight answered after a moment, “Why?”
Lyra gave her a playful smile as she pointed off towards the west, encompassing a wide arc in that direction. “Somewhere that way is a unicorn named Vinyl Scratch. She sends out a signal to all musically inclined unicorns, I guess I’m just outside of the range of the nearest re-broadcaster.”
“She uses others as a means to beat the range problem,” Twilight mused quietly as she began drawing out a diagram in the dirt with her hoof. “That makes so much sense when one thinks about it. It would only marginally increase the drain on the caster, and then spreads the drain out among the re-broadcasters...”
“Err... yeah, something like that...” Lyra answered, already in over head with magic theory of the process, and completely lost to the diagram that looked to be nothing more than several dozens worth of intersecting lines, circles, and dots. “Basically I was seeing if I could pick up her broadcast, and I guess we’re too far from the nearest unicorn, or these rocks are blocking it.”
“That makes sense,” Twilight agreed as she pushed herself up and started sweeping away her schematics. “Keep trying, if we’re lucky they’ll be talking about our pursuit and we can listen in.”
Unbeknown to the two adults, Sweetie Belle had been listening in. Now usually this wasn’t such a big deal, however the little filly had been a bit bored with being along for the ride, and so she thought of trying to listen in to the broadcast and see if she can hear anything. Maybe then she’ll get her Cutie Mark and Twilight will see that she’s not just a foal.
Maybe then her sister wouldn't constantly treat her like a nuisance and keep sending her to her room whenever her friends showed up. She could hear the thumping and the loud voices and knew that they were up to fun, fun that she wasn’t allowed to have since she was ‘too little’. Probably an awesome party with loud thumping music and screams of joy, and she was stuck in her room all night long.
She wasn’t nearly as dumb as everypony thought she was, she was just occasionally spacey, that’s all. She was a unicorn, and all unicorns were smart, intelligent, and... alright so maybe Snips and Snails walking out into the storm carrying those long metal poles put a bit of a lie to that. But she was Rarity’s sister and Twilight’s littlest assistant. That must mean she was smart, graceful, intelligent, and beautiful.
‘Maybe if I can “tune-in” like Miss Lyra said, I can be a real big help to everyone. And if I surprise the others with it, I’ll prove to them all that I’m not dumb!’ Sweetie Belle thought as she munched on the bowl of vegetable stew that Bon-bon had insisted she eat before laying down. ‘And then, if I prove that I’m a big filly... maybe Rarity will let me go to her parties, or even let me throw my own!’
She’d have to keep listening to Miss Lyra and see when they were in range, until then she’d just practice her levi- levi- floating powers!
She was already ahead of a few of her classmates in that she could actually lift the practice paper off the ground. While it wasn’t more than a couple inches, and she had to concentrate really hard, she could still do it. Her instructor Drill Sargent Cuddles said that she would be an excellent trooper if she kept persevering. Then she would yell at the others that they were lazy, slacking, good-for-nothing, scum-sucking, mouth-breathers that weren’t fit to clean the waste pits. Sgt. Cuddles was always said the weirdest things after she had her lunch from that little silver lunch box of hers. It had to be something like the hay shakes Splints had to drink out of after he broke his jaw, since it had such a small opening, and smelled really strange.
Focusing on a leaf that she had plucked off a tree earlier, she tried to use her horn to lift it up off the ground, remembering that Sgt. Cuddles had always said that if a unicorn never learned the floaty trick, then they could never hope to amount to anything. In fact, if they couldn’t learn it, they had to repeat the grade until they got it, or until they were drafted into the army.
What happened next was a bit of a surprise for her, well at least it was only her for the first five seconds, for as soon as she saw her aura of magic surround the leaf, it shot off the ground like one of those fireworks that the guards shot at any Pegasi they saw flying close to the castle. It surprised the others when it embedded itself into the ceiling of the cave with a resounding noise. Looking up she could see a clear outline of the leaf up there, before a bit of leaf matter hit her in the eye.
While she tried to swipe it out with her hoof, she heard her sister rushing over screaming her name. Here it was, she was going to be praised for being so awesome at magic, and Rarity was finally going to acknowledge her as a big filly now. “Sweetie Belle! What do you think you’re doing?! You could have gotten hurt or worse!”
Or maybe she would continue to see her as a little baby.
“I was just practicing my levi-lebi-ledi... floating spell magic, and the leaf just shot up like that! I don’t know why it did...” the little filly answered having gotten the leaf bits out of her eye and looking up at her sister with still teary eyes. “Did you see it? It floated! But I didn’t mean to make it float that high... Hey! Maybe my cutie mark appeared!”
The others all just shook their heads, telling her that no, no it hadn’t. Settling down next to her empty bowl of stew she pouted. “I’m sorry Rarity... I just want to try and be a helper...”
Rarity paused and counted to ten before responding, which seemed to be far less time than Twilight needed to step in. “That was amazing Sweetie Belle, but there’s just too much magic for us Unicorns to control away from Canterlot. So, while you can do the magic, including levitation, you won’t be able to keep it at a level you can handle. Alright?”
“I think so Twilight... That means I gotta focus on controlling it, not on using it!” Sweetie Belle answered after a few minutes of thinking. “Do you know any spells that practice that?”
“You mean you ‘have to’ focus on control,” Rarity answered with a slight grimace at the grammatical slip.
Getting an apology from her sister, she turned her head slightly to look at Twilight. The unicorn seemed to be studying the leaf matter thoughtfully as a small smile began to play over her face. “Sweetie Belle, let me think on this for a while, but until I get back to you please don’t try and do any more magic. Alright?”
“Alright...” the youngling answered with a petulant pout as she realized she wasn’t good for anything right now. She was the slowest of the group, and needed to be carried most of the time. She couldn’t even try that cool magic broadcast thingie that they were talking about earlier.
“Hold up Twilight, I have an idea,” Lyra cut in with a smile as she leaned in to whisper to the former Court Magician. After several minutes of whispering, strange facial reactions, and more than one snicker, Twilight nodded her agreement to the plan. Stepping back from the powerful unicorn, Lyra gave Sweetie a huge grin.
Little did Sweetie Belle know that the sinking feeling in her stomach at the grin being given to her was mirrored by another young filly several dozen miles away. Only this filly was a pegasus, and the pony giving her the grin had just told her that she was going to teach her how to fly.
“Rainbow... I think it might be best for me to give her a few pointers before you teach her,” Fluttershy interjected with obvious concern for their charge, knowing just how much the cyan and rainbow pony pushed herself.
“No no no! I wanna learn from Dash! She’s the coolest flier ever, please let me Fluttershy!” Scootaloo gushed, easily forgetting about her earlier feeling of terror from the grin that Rainbow Dash had flashed her. The butter-cream yellow pony looked down at the young pegasus kneeling before her with her hooves clasped in front of her head in a begging motion. Honestly, Fluttershy thought she was doing the young pony a favor by offering to ease her into the training, but if she really wanted to dive head first into Dash’s way, who was she to stand in her way. “Very well, but just remember, I didn’t pack much in the way of supplies to patch you up. So nothing too dangerous, right Dash?”
“Sure, sure Fluttershy, whatever you say...” Rainbow Dash answered as she waved a fore-hoof dismissively. “First, let’s see how high you can get Scoots.”
Scootaloo squeaked as her idol gave her a nickname, something that indicated she was awesome enough to be noticed by the amazing flier that had been assigned to be her mentor. She was going to wow her, even if she had to flap until her wings fell off!
Kicking off the ground, the small orange pegasus flapped as hard and steadily as she could, trying to clear the ground. “Scoop your wings Scoots,” Rainbow’s voice cut through her focus, unconsciously she tried to do what Dash had suggested and gasped as she cleared off the ground a couple inches. “There you go Scoots, see you can do it. Didn’t your parents show you how to do that?”
That question caused the purple maned filly to come crashing back to the ground as a familiar pain gripped her heart and squeezed until she could barely breath. Dash wasn’t making fun of her, was she? She just wanted to know. Barely aware that she was being lifted up by two muzzles, she felt tears stinging her eyes as the harsh words of her classmates began ringing in her ears again.
“They’re dead,” Scootaloo whispered, catching the two worried pegasi off-guard, drawing a gasp from Fluttershy. “They got hit by lightning shortly after my first birthday... I never really knew them. The mares at the orphanage would just see my small wings and say that they couldn’t take time to train me like they would the others. One of them gave me the scooter so I could strengthen and hopefully enlarge my wings.”
This was it, this is when Dash would start making fun of her, and say that she wasn’t worth her time either. Closing her eyes, she awaited the end of her hopes and dreams, while tears rolled down her cheeks shaming her further. “Well, I guess it’s up to me. And Fluttershy as well, if she agrees. Can’t let an awesome little flier like you go to waste just because somepony’s too lazy to do their duty. But it’s not going to be easy, ya hear?”
At this, her eyes snapped open in surprise as she realized that she wasn’t being rejected, but Rainbow Dash was going to help her. Looking up at the blue pony, she wondered if this is what having a mom would be like. That thought was squelched harshly when her brain decided that Dash was too cool to be a mom, instead she was like an awesome older sister.
“Y... yes, I’ll keep an eye on you two, but I’m afraid I’m not that good of a flier...” Fluttershy offered with a warm smile that caused a tingling to ripple through her body. If Dash was going to be the cool older sister, then Fluttershy would be the responsible one. Wait a minute, there was another pair of ponies that would fit those two categories. Rainbow Dash would be the daddy, and Fluttershy the mommy! Now if she could just convince them that they should get married and adopt her, they could be a wonderful, awesome, amazingly cool family.
“Y...you mean it? You’ll keep teaching me?” Scootaloo asked shakily as she scuffed a hoof against the ground. “I... I don’t know what to say...”
“Che, save the thanks until after you get airborne without that glider of yours. Us orphans have to stick together,” Dash answered while mussing up the little filly’s mane. “Let’s get some warm-ups done and I’ll show you the proper way to fly, alright?”
“Yes ma’am!” Scoots replied happily as she threw her hoof up in a sharp salute. This was going to be sooooo awesome!
In a darkened chamber, far removed from the surface world of light a single pony paced while looking over several items of evidence that had been presented to them over the past few hours. It would seem that their little pocket magician had realized too much. She would have to meet with an unfortunate accident, as soon as she could be found. Along with her retainer and that dragon that hung around them. The retainers little sister could still be used for the war effort and would have to be judged based off her attitude once retaken.
It would be such a shame should the entire bloodline be ended because of a folly performed by her older sister and the filly she was tasked to serve. On second thought, both of those two were of value as potential breeding stock. Perhaps instead of an ‘unfortunate accident’ they should be sent to the breeder pens, with the child’s continued well-being as their ransom for good behavior.
It was a pity that the disappearance couldn’t be kept under wraps, since Twilight had been responsible for so much of their defenses somepony would have to be chosen to replace her. Until then, alternative plans had to be made. “TRIXIE! COME HERE!”
A door opened in one of the walls, letting light spill in before it was closed and the room returned to the darkness that had filled it for so long. “I have a mission for you, you are to take a few of the best soldiers you can from my roster, and track down Twilight Sparkle and her party. Bring them back alive and secretly if possible, otherwise...”
“Trixie hears and obeys, my master,” the unicorn answered with a quiet clopping of her feet signalling her bow. Without another word, the subordinate left, leaving the original pony alone. A moment later a soft glow surrounded its horn, signifying that it was performing some type of magic.
A moment later, the glow faded, and the unicorn began trotting out of the darkened room to make its report on the findings. Getting to the doorway, a cruel and bitter laugh ripped itself from the scheming pony’s throat. Oh the irony of sending out Trixie after Twilight, if only she knew the truth, then she would understand the sadistic joy that was filling the heart of the council member.
But enough on such trivial matters, there was a meeting to attend. After all, it wouldn’t do for the council to learn the truth of the princesses. They’d want to end the war that had earned them their unquestionable powers, and that was something that had to be avoided at all cost.
Chapter 5: Oatmeal of Destiny
Comments/suggestions: [email protected]
Chapter 7: To be Titled