I'm an amateur fanfiction writer with a love of many fandoms.
Expect most of my works to be crossovers.
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The quartet gathered in the castle's inn. Several of the rooms had been turned into makeshift infirmaries, but there was one room that was set aside for them. The innkeeper had waved off their money, insisting that in the wake of the attack, nopony needed to pay. Twilight, at least, was grateful. With the adrenaline from the events in the crystal's chamber wearing off, she was more than a little tired. Still, she needed to discuss plans with the other three.
"So, how exactly are we goin' about rescuin' Rarity?" asked Applejack, stifling a yawn.
"Well, the first thing we need is an airship," Twilight replied. "The Red Wings are just too mobile. We need to get on even ground with them."
Lyra frowned. "But Colton's the only nation that has airships."
Forcing down her own yawn, Twilight nodded. "Exactly. Which is why we're going to steal one from them."
Fluttershy blinked. "Um, isn't that wrong?" she asked innocently.
"Normally, yes, but we're doing it to help ponies," Twilight explained.
"Oh… okay," the young pegasus replied.
"Now the only question is how we're supposed ta get all the way back to Colton," Applejack said, looking up at the ceiling. "Like Lyra said, we don't have an airship of our own, so we can't fly there. And takin' the land route'll just take way too much time."
Twilight thought about it, then smiled. "Well, since the Red Wings became the predominant military power in Colton, they've slacked off in the naval department."
Applejack nodded. "Ah getcha. Ah'll ask Big Mac to get a boat ready in the mornin'."
"Thanks…" Twilight yawned, stripping off her armor and lying down in one of the beds. She was exhausted, and basic white magic wouldn't fix something like that.
Before the unicorn could nod off, Fluttershy asked a question. "What happened before Rarity and I showed up? That wound in your shoulder was rather deep, Twilight."
It was something Twilight didn't want to think about. Still, before she could say anything, Applejack spoke up, heat in her voice. "Ah'll tell ya what happened! That rainbow-maned feather duster went and stabbed Twilight!"
Lyra rolled her eyes, and clarified. "What she means is that Rainbow Dash, Twilight's old friend, ended up joining Nightmare Moon's side after all."
Fluttershy's eyes widened. "But why? I remember back in Mist that she said she wouldn't disgrace her mother's memory or the honor of the Dragoons, or something like that."
Applejack snorted. "She's a first-class actor, then. Ah mean, Twilight looked geniunely happy ta see her, and got stabbed in the shoulder fer her trouble. And that twig-for-bones filly went and bucked me! When ah get mah hooves on her, I'mma make her beg fer – "
"No!" Twilight snapped, springing to her hooves and whirling around. The others all looked startled at this. "Nopony is laying a hoof on Rainbow Dash. She's not herself."
"Twi, ah understand ya want to protect yer friend, but – "
The unicorn cut Applejack off. "No, I mean she's literally not herself. I noticed it right after she stabbed me. Rainbow's eyes are normally rose-colored. But when I saw them right then, they were turquoise. The same shade as Nightmare Moon's eyes."
Lyra's eyes widened at the implications. "You think she's being controlled?"
"It's the only theory that makes any sense," Twilight said with a nod. "Rainbow would never willingly betray me. She has a little philosophy: 'What good is following the rules when doing so costs me my friends?' She said that after she turned down King Colton's request that she become a Dark Knight like me. She didn't want to cut her heart off from emotion and friendship."
Fluttershy tilted her head. "But, you haven't done that, have you? I mean, if you had, you wouldn't have spared me back at Mist."
Twilight chuckled bitterly. "Oh, I'm far from the ideal Dark Knight. I let my emotions rule me sometimes. King Colton used to get on my case about it, until he realized that it made me a lot more effective than other Dark Knights."
Applejack smiled. "Well, ah'm glad yer not an 'ideal Dark Knight'," she said with a hearty giggle. Then she sobered. "Ah'm sorry fer thinkin' ill of yer friend. Ah thought she'd actually turned on ya."
Twilight shook her head. "It's okay, you'd never met her so you wouldn't know." She laid back down. "C'mon, girls, lets get some sleep. We'll need to talk to the king in the morning."
"I hope King Macintosh is okay," Fluttershy murmured as she settled down herself.
"Don't ya'll worry none," Applejack assured them. "Mah big brother is one o' the toughest ponies on the planet. Ain't nothin' gonna keep him down fer long."
"What the buckin' hay happened to ya?!" Applejack bellowed the next morning.
To be fair, she had her reasons. The four had gotten out of bed to meet with Big Macintosh, only to be told he'd been injured during the fight against Colton. They'd gone up to his private room, Applejack assuring the others that he probably had a cut or two, and the nurses were over-reacting. That wasn't the case.
"It ain't as bad as it looks, sis," Big Mac said. He had a multitude of cuts all across his back, which was why he was lying belly-down on the bed. "Jus' a few o' them Colton ponies got lucky hits, that's all."
"Your Majesty, some of those are pretty deep," Twilight objected. "I mean, look! There's one cut there, I can nearly see bone!"
"Consarnit, Big Mac! Ah told ya not ta go playin' the hero! Ah bet ya got those takin' hits for the rookies that were with ya, right?" Applejack glowered at her brother.
He gave her a cool look in return. "Every pony ah saved last night is one more what can help us rebuild. Ah can take those kinda hits. Some o' those colts and fillies couldn't."
Applejack opened her mouth, but then closed it. "Ah hate it when yer right," she grumbled. Fluttershy, meanwhile, hopped up onto the bed next to the king, and began healing him.
Lyra coughed, cutting in before anything else could be said. "Your Majesty, we have a… I won't say plan, but a course of action we think we should take. Would it be too much trouble to ask for a ship?"
Big Mac looked at her, a small smile of relief coming to his face as Fluttershy continued her work. "Ah think ah can arrange that. But, why d'you need it?"
"We're planning on sneaking into Colton to steal an airship," Twilight answered matter-of-factly.
Had Big Mac been drinking, odds were that he would have done a spit-take into his bed. He stared at Twilight. "Have y'all spit yer bit?! That's suicide if ah've ever heard it! How're ya'll even plannin' on gettin' an airship in the first place?!"
"That'll be the easy part," Twilight said smoothly. "It's getting to Colton that's the issue. Hence, the ship. Like I told Applejack last night, Colton's naval force has been pretty weak since the Red Wings came about."
Big Mac chewed on that for a bit, as Fluttershy finished healing him. Sitting up in the bed, he gave each of the mares a thoughtful look. Finally, he sighed. "Alright. Ah think this is foolish as all get-out, but it's yer decision. Ah'll have a ship ready for ya in a couple hours or so."
Lyra and Twilight bowed in thanks, while Applejack simply smiled. "Thanks, big brother. Means a lot to me that ya trust me."
"Don't mention it," Big Mac replied, giving her a hug. "Jus' don't get yerself killed out there. Applebloom wouldn't forgive ya, fer one thing."
Applejack smirked, returning the hug. "Don't you worry 'bout me none. Ah'll be fine."
"Ah mean it, AJ," the king warned in a serious voice. "Don't do anythin' reckless. You gotta stay alive, 'cause Applebloom ain't old enough ta take over if somethin' happens to me."
The smirk slid from the mare's face, and she nodded. "Ah promise, ah won't die out there."
Satisfied, Big Mac pulled away from his sister. "It'll be a bit 'till the ship's ready. Meantime, Miss Sparkle, ah'd like ya to come with me fer a bit."
Blinking, Twilight followed the king as he made his way down the tower, walking a bit gingerly. The others followed after them, curious as to what Big Mac wanted with Twilight. They eventually came to a storage room, and the stallion began sifting through the boxes and such, looking for something. After a few minutes, Twilight coughed. "Um, do you need any help, your Majesty?"
"Nnnope," he replied. A minute later, he laughed. "Aha! Here's the li'l stinker!" Pulling something out of the corner of the room, he tossed it at Twilight. "There's a fancy blade for ya!"
Twilight caught the object reflexively, and everypony else gasped. The blade was dyed crimson, and it was a fair bit longer than the Shadowblade Twilight was currently using. What was more, the blade had a dark aura around it… and a stench of death.
"That there was left here by another Dark Knight years ago, accordin' ta mah pappy," Big Mac said. "Said ta be nigh-unrivaled in power. Ah reckon it's about time somepony put it to use again."
Uneasy about being given a weapon with such a smell about it, Twilight nevertheless secured it to her back. "Thank you, your Majesty."
"Yer welcome," he replied. "Still, ah can't help but wonder: can a dark sword really defeat somepony like Nightmare Moon? Ah don't rightly know."
Twilight blinked, not expecting the question. "Whether or not it can, I have to try, your Majesty."
Big Mac held up a hoof. "Miss Sparkle, after doin' yer best ta protect this castle, you've more 'n earned the right ta call me Big Mac. Ain't no need to be so formal wit' me all the time."
At that, Lyra and Applejack burst out laughing, while Fluttershy giggled. Twilight flushed at her friends' amusement. "Are you all quite finished?" she asked acidly when the laughter died down.
Applejack wiped a tear from her eye. "Ah'm sorry, sugarcube, that were downright mean of me. But, given yer reaction ta me when ya found out ah was related to Big Mac, ah can only imagine ya tryin' ta be informal wit' a king!" She began chuckling again.
"I seem to recall Starswirl telling you not to call him 'Sir', Twilight," Fluttershy said between giggles.
The lavender unicorn sighed. "Yes, yes, I have a problem. It's called showing respect to authority. Why does everypony in authority I meet these days not like it?!"
Big Mac chuckled a little. "What can ah say, here in Stabul we're like one big family. And ya don't call family 'sir' or 'your majesty'."
Twilight thought about that, then nodded. "Just one thing, your – ahem, Big Mac." When he arched an eyebrow, she smiled. "Just call me Twilight. 'Miss Sparkle' makes me feel older than I am."
He chuckled again, and Fluttershy's giggles renewed as she remembered Twilight telling Starswirl something similar. Lyra and Applejack renewed their laughter as well, and this time Twilight joined in. Everypony was laughing away the stress of the previous day, in preparation for the stress to come.
A couple of hours later, Twilight, Applejack, Lyra, and Fluttershy stood on the docks near Stabul Castle. A ship sat in the harbor before them, looking tall and proud. Applejack was currently bidding Applebloom a fond farewell.
"Ah already promised Big Mac ah'd be fine, okay?" the older earth pony said, hugging her sister.
"It ain't fair that ya gotta go to Colton. Why can't ya stay?" Applebloom complained.
"Because Rarity got foalnapped, and we're fixin' to get her back. Ta do that, we need an airship, and to get one, we need ta get to Colton," Applejack explained. "Twilight helped us out, so it's only fair that we help her, right?"
The filly pouted. "Ah guess so…" She perked up, and bounced over to Twilight. "Ah got somethin' to give ya!" She began rummaging in a saddlebag, coming out with a frying pan.
Twilight blinked. "Um, thanks for the offer, Applebloom, but I'm not exactly the best cook around."
Applebloom rolled her eyes, before hopping onto Twilight's back and stuffing the frying pan into the unicorn's saddlebags. "Ah ain't givin' it to ya fer cookin', though it can be used fer that. Ah'm givin' it to ya so you can keep mah big sister from slackin' off. Give 'er a solid whack on the head if she starts lazin' about."
Applejack grimaced. "Applebloom, ya run yer rear back ta the castle this instant, or ah swear by the Sun, ah'm gonna tell Big Mac to put ya through mah personal obstacle course!"
The filly's eyes nearly bugged out of her head, and before anypony could blink, all that was left of her was a rapidly-retreating cloud of dust. For a moment, nopony spoke. Then Lyra turned to Applejack with a raised eyebrow.
"Exactly what does your 'personal obstacle course' entail that it would cause that kind of reaction?" the mint unicorn asked.
The monk smirked. "Now that'd be tellin', wouldn't it? But ah'll say this much: nopony aside from mahself has ever run the course fully. There's a reason some o' the other monks call it 'The Widowmaker' course."
Twilight was slightly disturbed. "So… you wouldn't actually…?"
Applejack laughed. "Hay no! Ah wouldn't put mah li'l sister through that! Ah jus' wanted ta get her back ta the castle, that's all." She walked up the ramp leading onto the ship. "C'mon now, we're wastin' time!"
After a moment, the other three followed her on board. The captain, an energetic yellow earth pony, greeted them. "Howdy, ya'll! Ah'm Braeburn, captain o' this here vessel. Ah hear yer lookin' fer passage to Colton?"
"Sure are, cousin," Applejack said. "Hope yer ship's up to snuff."
Braeburn laughed. "Don't ya'll worry none, cuz. Ah ain't never failed a mission yet, an' ah don't plan ta start now!" He turned around, addressing the other sailors. "Alright, prepare to sail, ya sea dogs! We're on a mission ta Colton, and we're gonna get there ASAP!"
"AYE, CAP'N!" came the chorus from the sailors. They went about their preparations quickly, raising the ramp and weighing the anchor with surprising swiftness. They set the sails, releasing the great sheets to catch the wind. And with that, they were underway.
About an hour into their voyage, Applejack looked at Twilight. "So, what's the plan when we get to Colton?"
"We need to find Zecora, Colton's lead airship engineer," Twilight answered. "If I know her, she'll have a trick or two to help us out. I just hope she's alright."
"Don't worry, I'm sure she'll be fine," Lyra said.
"Zecora?" asked Fluttershy. "That doesn't sound like a typical pony name…"
Twilight smiled. "That's because she's not a pony. She's a zebra."
"A zebra?" Applejack asked with a blink. "Ain't seen one o' those in a long time. They're from the village of Stalthril, out in the middle o' the ocean, right?"
"Yes, they live there with griffons and a few dragons. An odd community, but it works," Twilight said. "I haven't been out that way in a few years…"
Lyra grinned. "Maybe when we get our airship we should pay that village a visit."
Another hour passed without much incident. The four travelers decided to occupy themselves with a game of Liar's Dice. Fluttershy proved to be rather adept at the game, while Applejack was… bad, to put it kindly.
"Sod this fer a game o' ponies," she grumbled after losing her last die five rounds in. "Ah ain't good at lyin'! Let alone bluffin'!"
"Well, this game does take a bit of practice," Twilight said. She looked under the cup she was using. "Hm… I bid two fours."
"Three fours," Lyra said, checking her own cup.
"Five fives," Fluttershy declared.
"Liar," Twilight said confidently. She herself didn't have a single five, and the odds of Lyra and Fluttershy having five fives between them were low, considering Lyra had bid three fours, and –
Her jaw fell open as Fluttershy revealed five fives under her cup. Grumbling, Twilight removed one of her dice, and set it aside. She tossed her remaining four dice into her cup, as did Lyra and Fluttershy. Before they could roll again, however, the ship suddenly rocked, sending everypony sprawling.
"What the hay was that?!" yelped Applejack, stumbling to the side of the ship. The others quickly followed.
Off the starboard bow, a whirlpool had formed in the ocean. Out of the whirlpool rose a serpentine tail, colored a bluish-grey. The sight of the tail terrified the sailor ponies. Even Braeburn looked rattled, his skin paling even under his yellow coat.
"By the Sun!" he breathed. "Is that what ah think it is?!"
Applejack looked at him, confused. "What're ya goin' on about, cuz?! What the bucking hay is that thing?!"
"Th' lord o' the sea," Braeburn intoned, "Leviathan!"
As he spoke, the tail dipped down into the whirlpool, replaced by a giant head. Unlike the rest of his body, Leviathan's head was colored red, with pupil-less yellow eyes. A high-pitched shriek reverbrated through everypony's body, sending the sailor ponies into a panic.
"EVERYPONY, CALM DOWN!!" bellowed Braeburn. "Don't lose yer heads because o' this!"
Before he could say anything else, a wave crashed into the ship, splashing onto the deck. For most of the ponies, this was little more than an annoyance. But for Fluttershy, the force of the wave knocked her into – and over – the railing. She let out a yelp before landing in the water below.
"Fluttershy!" Applejack yelled. "Hang on!" She leapt over the railing, diving into the water after the filly.
"Fluttershy! Applejack!" Twilight called, before another wave rocked the ship.
This wave had the effect of knocking Lyra's hooves out from under her. She yelped in pain as she landed hard on her side. Twilight ran over to her, trying to help her up. She looked up at Braeburn, who had a despairing look.
"Braeburn, what's going on?!" she cried out.
"We're bein' pulled in," he said tonelessly.
It was then that Twilight saw the ship begin to tilt. She heard the roar of the whirlpool, and then darkness descended upon her as she was thrown from the ship. She knew nothing more.
"Ugh… my head…" Twilight moaned as she came to a while later. "What happened…?" Suddenly the memories came flooding back, and she sprang to her hooves, eyes snapping open. "The ship!"
Glancing around, she saw that she was on the shores of a narrow peninsula. Further down the peninsula was a town, lit up for the night. Speaking of the night, the twin moons were high in the sky. Considering it had been mid-afternoon when the ship had been attacked, she realized she'd been unconscious for quite a while.
Twilight looked around the beach, finding it deserted. "Applejack!" she called out, trotting around. "Fluttershy! Lyra!" She waited a few moments, but she couldn't hear a single response. An uncomfortable silence was broken only by the sound of the waves on the beach. "I'm alone," she mumbled, her irises shrinking.
Twilight hadn't been truly alone in a long time. In fact, she hadn't been alone since the beginning of her adventures. She'd had Rainbow with her until Mist, Fluttershy ever since. Starswirl had aided her until reaching Clydecyan, where Lyra had taken his place. Rarity had joined her in Kaipony, and Applejack on Mt. Hoof not too long after. To be on her own… it frightened her.
Still, after a few moments of panic, Twilight shook her head to banish her fear. "Panicking won't help me here," she said to herself. She looked to the town down the peninsula. "Looks like that's the only place to go from here." She began trotting down the beach, heading for the town. As she approached, however, her heart sank into her hooves. She recognized this town. "Fate, do you enjoy tormenting me?" she moaned out. "I had to wash up here of all places?"
Sighing, she continued forward, not looking forward to her reception. She doubted she'd been forgotten here. After all, this was the scene of her great crime, the first time she had spilled another pony's blood. This was the place where she first began to have doubts about Colton.
With those thoughts, she continued toward Maresidia.