Twilight and Rainbow find vengence.
“Rainbow, you’re not going alone!” Twilight exclaimed.
“Yes, I am.”
The two ponies were already outside, Twilight following closely behind her friend, trying to convince her to stop.
“It’s foolish and reckless!”
Rainbow turned around and approached her friend. “I don’t want to see you get hurt,” she responded quietly, head hung low.
“And I don’t want to see you get hurt either.”
The pegasus sighed deeply, and smiled. “Fine,” she said.
Twilight smiled in kind.
“Hey, wait up!” a voice screamed.
The two turned to see a small purple figure running down the path, followed closely by their much more recognisable friend, Fluttershy.
Spike was nearly out of breath by the time he approached them, and declared, “I’m coming with you.”
They quickly shared a glance before Rainbow said, “Uh… I don’t think so, Spike.”
“But, I need to show you where the cave is.”
“I think we can find it on our own.”
“I don’t know,” the librarian explained. “Whitetail Wood is pretty big.”
“Twilight…” the weathermare responded through gritted teeth.
“Rainbow, he can help.”
Still unsure, she looked at her other friend. “You too, Fluttershy?” she asked.
The pegasus nodded.
She slid a hoof through her mane in frustration. “Alright,” she said. “Let’s go.”
The quartet began their journey, all while being watched by a single cyan iris, peeking around a burnt-out husk.
Pinkie Pie trotted away from the scene, her head hung low.
A blackened and broken plank was thrown into a large wooden cart. Just another on the slowly growing pile.
There wasn’t much to do in the aftermath of the attack, and there wasn’t much anypony wanted to do. But doing nothing had always annoyed Apple Bloom. She hated doing nothing; especially today, on the day she lost everything.
All she wanted to do was distract her mind. So she cleaned. She cleaned up the remains of the clubhouse she spent many days fixing, and decorating, and cleaning. It felt like losing somepony she knew, somepony close to her.
It felt like losing a child.
She tried to clear the thoughts from her head, but they kept returning. They kept coming back in full force. Partly because some of the debris looked familiar, triggering memories of days gone past.
A husk of an album, the pages burnt to a crisp.
A collection of blackened heart-shaped paper, falling apart as she touched them.
The blackened fragments of a ceramic vase, shattered from the heat.
As Apple Bloom lifted a charred rainbow wig, she knew this couldn’t go on. She needed something new, something to distract her from her distraction.
As she looked over the remnants, a figure entered her field of vision.
Rumble’s brother, Thunderlane, approached at a moderate pace.
Another piece of timber landed on the pile.
“This is gonna take all day,” the young colt commented.
Apple Bloom remained silent.
His elder brother looked over the wreckage.
“Thunderlane!” Rumble exclaimed, finally noticing the stallion. “What are you doing here?”
“I was gonna ask you the same thing,” he responded.
“I’m comforting my girlfriend!” the colt declared.
“Who?” his brother asked with genuine confusion.
He pointed to the centre of the rubble, where Apple Bloom stood.
The weathercolt raised an eyebrow. “You’ve only been on two dates.”
“I know right?” Rumble said with a proud smile.
He put a hoof to his nose. “We need to have a talk.”
Scootaloo threw some more debris on the pile. “What are you doing out here anyway?” she asked.
“Don’t have to sound so suspicious. Actually, Fluttershy told me to come over to keep an eye on you kids. Somepony has to.”
“Why not her?”
“Oh, she took off with Spike, Twilight, and Rainbow Dash. I think they’re gonna track down that dragon.”
“What?” Scootaloo asked.
Apple Bloom zoomed over. “What!? Where!?”
“Whitetail Wood; and no, you can’t go with ’em.”
The filly pouted.
“Why aren’t you with them?” Rumble asked pointedly.
“Well, I wasn’t really in the mood to get killed by a dragon this week.”
“But you’re fine with the four of them getting killed?”
Thunderlane scrunched up his face. “What kinda question is that!? Of course I’m not, but it’s not like I can stop them, I’m not married to any of them!”
“Oh, you mean that wedding with Spike was annulled?”
He leaned in close. “You’re really irritating, you know that?”
As the two siblings argued, far outside their line of sight, a young unicorn slowly slunk away. Once she was sure she wouldn’t be spotted, she bolted as quickly as her little legs could carry her, straight in the direction of Whitetail Wood.
As the quartet hit the edge of Whitetail Wood, Twilight found her pace start to lag.
Her companions passed her, and stopped, out of concern.
“Twilight?” Rainbow asked. “Are you alright?”
The unicorn knocked herself out of a daze. “Huh? Yeah, I’m… I’m fine, it’s just… last time we saw this dragon, it didn’t end well.”
Unease washed over the group. “Come on,” Rainbow said.
Twilight quickened her pace and followed.
“So, Spike,” she said, looking down at the young dragon. “You know where we’re going?”
His eyes scanned the path, as he tried to retrace his steps. “Yeah, I think so.”
She laughed slightly. “You’d think you’ve been down here before.”
“I was, last night.”
“What?” Twilight asked. “You were?”
“Uh…” He stopped suddenly. “No, but it… it sorta feels like it.”
The group picked up their pace again.
Fluttershy’s unease went unnoticed.
Sweetie Belle had to cross through the town to reach her destination, which was an opportunity she decided to take advantage of.
Bursting through the doors of Carousel Boutique, she quickly decided to search for her special collection of books. Magic books she borrowed from the library. She was only beginning her studies on the mystic arts, but now she knew she would have to start on the accelerated program.
There was a spell she spotted earlier in the week. It was simple and efficient, and exactly what she needed. She just had to find it.
The pile was exactly where she left it, in the middle of the main showroom. Shoving books aside, she quickly found what she was looking for. Flipping through the pages, she found the entry even faster.
She studied the page, to refresh her memory, then galloped off to the backroom.
At her late sister’s designing desk, she pulled open a drawer, and quickly found a large rolled-up sheet of paper.
Unfurling it on the ground, she knew she found it: a map of the Ponyville area.
Her horn began to glow a bright green, and she ran it over the map, slowly and methodically; specifically, over Whitetail Wood. It wasn’t long before she stopped over a point in the southwest corner.
Satisfaction hit her face, and she galloped out once again, to the pile of books in the showroom.
She scanned the mess she made, and quickly grabbed one of the books she knocked aside.
Flipping through it, she eventually found her prize.
Sweetie Belle was not exactly sure if this would work. There was much risk, due to how little experience she had. But it was a risk she was willing to take.
With all the concentration she could muster, her horn began to shine once again, brighter and brighter. Until, in a flash of light, the store disappeared around her, suddenly replaced by the tall trees of Whitetail Wood.
A grin appeared on her face; she was bursting with excitement. It worked! Now, she just had to find her friend, Spike.
A shuffling noise suddenly came from behind her. In a panic, Sweetie Belle dashed behind a tree, hiding her from view.
The trees were bent, and bushes were crushed, as a large green dragon forced its way through the vegetation.
The unicorn suddenly realized, she found the wrong dragon.
As Spike led the team through the forest, he realized that every tree, every bush, was exactly as he remembered it. Which was something he found quite bizarre.
The dragon was certain he’d never been down this path before… at least, in this world. To see it look exactly as it was in the world with Rarity, that was strange.
Confirmation that this was the dream? Or his mind playing tricks, correcting his memories of the dream to conform to reality?
How could he know? He couldn’t.
“Spike?” a soft voice echoed in his ear.
His head turned to see Fluttershy trotting alongside him. Their friends trailed several feet behind, chatting, discussing.
“Oh, hey,” he replied. “What’s up?”
“I just wanted to know, how do you know where we’re going?”
Spike was slightly at ease. Would Fluttershy chastise him for using the dream in such a way? Doubtful, but it still worried him.
“It was the dream,” he explained. “A qilin attacked Carousel Boutique; we traced him to the same cave.”
As they walked along the path, the dragon’s nervousness increased.
“It may be completely unconnected, but I thought-”
“It’s smart,” the mare responded.
“If the dragon’s hiding in a cave, and there’s a cave in the area, your subconscious probably knew that, and made the connection,” she explained.
“But I didn’t know there was a cave in the area-”
“Maybe you did, but you forgot.”
As they continued on the path, Spike’s mind rolled back, and he asked himself a simple question: have I been here before?
“But… I have one question,” the young mare asked.
Spike opened his mouth to respond.
A crash sounded in the distance.
The quartet stopped.
A loud roar.
Sweetie Belle ran. Ran as fast as her legs could carry her. It was only a matter of seconds ago that she messed up. A single sneeze, so simple, so innocent, blew her cover.
She ran, dodging trees, leaping over debris, as her pursuer strode through them, destroying everything he touched.
A flash of light ahead. Four familiar faces skidding to a stop.
“Sweetie Belle!?” Twilight cried.
“RUUUUUUN!!!” the filly screamed, zooming past them.
She skidded to a stop and spun around, when she noticed they weren’t complying.
The four of them looked up at the dragon, who began to slow his approach.
“ERAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” he roared, the wind nearly blowing the ponies back.
“You leave my friend’s sister alone!” Rainbow Dash screamed as she flew straight toward the dragon’s head, missing by a foot, but managing to catch the beast’s attention.
The other three ran toward the rescuee.
“Sweetie Belle,” Spike began. “What are you doing here!?”
She quickly and frantically explained. “I was looking for you, but I found him, then he saw me and he got angry.”
The familiar sound of a burning fire roared from behind them. Their heads snapped to look.
Rainbow Dash expertly dodged a bright orange flame.
“Fluttershy, get her out of here,” Twilight ordered.
“Not a problem!” the pegasus responded, slightly panicked.
“Now, as for him…” Twilight suddenly released a bright purple blast of magic, in the direction of the dragon’s head.
It missed him by metres, but managed to catch his attention.
“Hey, ugly!” the unicorn screamed. “Why don’t you pick on somepony at your level, you flightless bastard!”
“That’s your best trash talk?” Spike whispered.
“It sounded better in my head,” she responded through gritted teeth.
The dragon roared again, and incinerated the spot the two were standing on.
A burst of light flashed behind the dragon.
“That the best you got?” Twilight asked.
He growled, as his frustration grew.
A sudden impact hit the dragon’s head from behind, and a multi-coloured blur flew through his field of vision.
He screamed once again, in anger and disdain.
Rainbow dodged another burst of flame. She had to keep flying. She had to distract and anger the creature, just long enough… just long enough…
Twilight’s horn started to glow. Her plan was not simple. Dragons had a very high magical resistance. It only weakened if…
“Hey! Dragon! Your mother’s an iguana!!!” she screamed.
He swung at the unicorn with his tail, and she quickly dodged the attack, as her assistant dove behind a tree.
Twilight knew, she could feel it. Now she just needed a clean shot.
Rainbow flew up to the beast, and bonked him on the top of his head, before flying away.
He looked up.
A point of bright, radiant energy shot from the tip of her horn, hitting the creature at the bottom of his jaw.
The dragon was suddenly taken aback. He suddenly started choking, as if a noose was around his throat. He collapsed on the ground, convulsing as he tried to cough up the obstruction.
He wrapped his claws around his throat, almost out of instinct.
Twilight trotted up to his face. Anger boiled inside her.
A sudden flash of magic, and he found himself able to breathe again, but otherwise paralyzed.
“Tell me what you were doing at Sweet Apple Acres last night,” she said.
The fear and anger in the beast’s eyes was slowly replaced by arrogance. And the scowl on his face was replaced by a smile.
“Sweet Apple Who?”
“Don’t play dumb with us!” Rainbow screamed. “We know you were there! Why’d you destroy Applejack’s farm!?”
“It does not matter. You cannot stop us.”
Twilight responded, “for a dragon who’s been successfully incapacitated, you seem pretty cocky.”
He chuckled in a laugh Spike found very familiar. The stereotypical laugh of some evil mastermind, often seen in films. To see it in real life, the young dragon found very bizarre.
“My life does not matter, only the order. And nopony can stop us. Not even her.”
“Who’s ‘her’?” Twilight asked.
“And what order?” Rainbow interjected. Then, whatever patience the pegasus had quickly died. “What fucking order!?” She screamed, grabbing the dragon around his snout.
His eyes began to roll, his mouth began to water.
He started to choke once again, but it was not a magical illusion Twilight created. It was the real deal.
“No… NO!!!” This was not what the unicorn wanted.
“What’s going on!?” Rainbow asked, releasing her grip on the beast.
“What’s happening!?” Sweetie Belle inquired from behind the group.
His eyes had already stopped moving. His convulsions had ceased.
Twilight knew what this meant. “He… he just killed himself,” she explained, her hooves collapsing underneath her.
“I… I don’t know.”
“Um… Twilight,” Rainbow interjected. “This isn’t a good thing, is it?”
She kept her eyes on the corpse, and responded, “No, no it’s not… It should have been, but it’s not.”
“Um…” Fluttershy said, creeping up behind them. “So, what do we do now?”
The unicorn stood up, and simply said, “We need to find that cave.”
Spike’s eyes snapped open. He sprang up in his bed, and a bright green flame shot from his mouth, materializing into a scroll, and landing on the floor.
Without another thought, he threw the covers aside and flew out of his bed, faster than he’d ever done before.
Running to the nearest bookshelf, Spike started grabbing books, flipping through them, and throwing them to the side.
It was so strange. None of it made any sense.
What was ‘the order’?
A vague and unusual question, but one he needed an answer to.
They had so little information, only what they found in the cave, which amounted to a few letters.
Not much to go on, since they were written in a different language. While Twilight determined it was Toranin, she didn’t know a word of Toranin. It was such an obscure language.
But Spike needed more information… here, in the other world. If only for confirmation.
The most identifiable reference point was still in his head. It was all he had to go on.
He searched his scales for quill and parchment, but found nothing. His eyes caught sight of a black marker.
He grabbed it and ran to the nearest stretch of blank wall.
He drew a giant circle, with a slash proceeding straight through, from upper left to bottom right. From the centre of the circle, he drew another line to the upper right. Finally, Spike drew a jagged line in the bottom left hemisphere, parallel to the first line.
In the damp cave, lying on the floor, Twilight saw three pieces of green wax. Their colour clearly matched the residue left on the envelopes.
Using her arcane skills, she magicked them together, and could clearly see a single symbol embossed within.
It was all he had to go on.
“Spike?” Comet slowly awoke, a hoof rubbing an eye. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, um…” Spike was conflicted. “I’m just-”
“Something happened in your dream didn’t it?”
“Uh… yeah,” he responded hesitantly.
“Can it wait till I had my coffee?”
He flopped down on the mattress. But then, Comet noticed something. He eased back up.
“What in the name of Tartarus did you draw on the wall?” he asked.
Spike turned to look at his masterpiece. “I… I saw it in my dream,” he explained.
The unicorn trotted up to his charge, and the drawing. “Could use a bit more colour,” he quipped.
A knock came at the bedroom door. The two of them turned around, and saw Shining Armor peeking in. “Hey, guys, I…” He froze in place. “What are you…?”
Without another word, the stallion trotted in, and made a beeline for the drawing.
“Why is that on your wall?” he asked, with tones of surprise and confusion.
“Uh… Spike just drew it.”
“Yeah, I had a strange dream.”
The soldier remained frozen.
“Is something wrong?” Comet asked.
“Yeah…” he replied.
The two civilians shared a look.
“Did any mail come in?” Shining asked, without looking away from the emblem.
“Oh, yeah,” Spike said, finally remembering the letter that woke him.
The dragon ran to the parchment that lay on the ground. Unfurling the first few inches, he confirmed the addressee, and held it out for Shining Armor.
Without a word, the soldier walked toward the bedroom door, only for Comet to stop him.
“Wait, Shining,” he said. “What is this thing?”
“No, it’s not.”
Shining Armor stopped at the door, and let his thoughts settle. Turning around, he spoke quickly. “It’s the emblem used by a cult known as the Order of the Flame.” He started to leave.
“And?” Comet said.
Shining Armor froze. “We think they were behind Twilight’s death,” he said before closing the door behind him.
The boys shared a look of shock and horror.
The author would like to personally thank Periphery for all his help in preparing this chapter for publication.