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81w, 2dEquestrian Historical Society
75w, 6dEquestria's Past
35w, 3dProtect Celestia
49w, 3dLong Fics
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62w, 2dMy Little Over Analysis
34w, 2dPonies aren't Monsters
34w, 6dVallett's Private Library
29w, 3dEQD Story Compedium
26w, 1dSuper Best Friends
1w, 1dDon't touch that dial 5 comments · 76 views
3w, 3dVersion update 4 comments · 87 views
5w, 6dThe type of pony everypony should know 4 comments · 114 views
6w, 5dI'm back 20 comments · 147 views
7w, 1hChapter Update 6 comments · 137 views
7w, 15hTomorrow 7 comments · 106 views
7w, 4dIn five days 9 comments · 131 views
35w, 6dDeeeeaaaaaaad 4 comments · 303 views
44w, 4dFanart's a good reason... 8 comments · 210 views
45w, 6dHijack by Cheesedork 8 comments · 198 views
The dream seemed to last forever.
And why shouldn't it?
In between the path leading from oblivion to reality was a halfway point. Everypony had to traverse it. Some chose to skirt around the edges, and some chose to wade right through it. She never had a choice. It was always there, all the time, drawing her in, willingly and otherwise.
The dream was the same. It was always the same. The same chaotic blends of light and unintelligible sounds, almost like whispers. Once again, she saw ponies she knew, but were simultaneously foreign to her. It was a strange contradiction, one she could never quite understand. She tried calling out to them, but they never had anything to say in response, only answering with pitied gazes. It was frightening, but not more than it was frustrating.
She felt herself being drawn away from the dream, as the colors quickly faded before her mind’s eye. She became aware of her body, feeling at once uncomfortably cool and wet. She was lying on her side, and she felt a gentle but firm hoof on her shoulder, shaking her from her troubled sleep. She took a deep breath, slowly filling her lungs with chilled springtime air.
“Thank the gods…” the voice beside her murmured. She received another steady nudge to her side. “Come on now, you've still got some life in you yet.”
Her eyes fluttered wide open, and then immediately closed to a squint as she realized she was looking into the rising sun. She struggled with the sudden light, until a shadow moved to block the source. She glanced up at the figure, but could not properly see it through her bleary eyes.
“Good morning, stranger,” the specter spoke. Its voice was that of a stallion, that much was certain. She opened her mouth to speak, but her voice caught on a lump in her throat. She scowled and swallowed, and tried again.
“W-who…?” was all she was able to speak. The stallion seemed to understand.
“Its okay. I'm a friend.” She tried to summon more questions, but he spoke first.
“If you can hold your tongue for but a moment, I must ask a favor. Can you stand?” he said. She had a thousand questions, but this was perhaps the most important. Now thinking about it, she came to an awareness of the complete soreness in her body. She was not in pain, but it was rather a dull ache, the same kind that came after rigorous exercise. As long as she was taking mental inventory of herself, she realized she also felt an unpleasant, rhythmic pounding in her head, starting just behind her eyes and pulsing to the top of her skull.
“Come on now, on your hooves, stranger. There’s no success without endeavor,” the voice encouraged. She looked up at the shadow, and timidly gave an almost imperceptible nod of agreement. Rolling her legs underneath her, she pushed as much as her unsteady muscles would allow. She felt the stallion’s head and neck steady her on one side. She leaned into it.
“Easy now. That’s it,” he said, as she rose from the wet ground. After some effort, she was up. Once the unfamiliar stallion was sure she was steady, he withdrew his support, only to quickly steady her again as she began to fall. It seemed she had a minor sprain on one of her forelegs.
After another moment, the stranger found her voice. “I am… I am steady,” she said weakly. The stallion again withdrew, this time with greater care. She took a moment to gather her bearings, before daring to raise her head and look around. With the sun still on the eastern horizon, she had to shield her eyes to its glare.
She was in a small meadow of short grass. A small distance away was a wall of trees, surrounding them on all sides. To the north of them, she spied a small wooden cabin with no roof. Beads of morning dew still clung to blades of grass, half explaining why her coat was wet on one side.
“Well, stranger? How do you feel?” It was a simple enough question with a much more complicated answer.
Her gaze swung to meet the nameless stallion at her side. His long, green traveling cloak obscured most of his body, but she could see his grey coat, dark orange mane, and pitying expression well enough. She hated that expression.
“I feel fine,” she snapped, a little harsher than she meant to. The truth was she did not know how she felt. Confused, mostly. She lacked proper motor control, and she felt unfamiliar with herself, as if there were two strangers in the meadow, rather than one. After he did not respond, she amended her statement, “Perhaps a bit… strange.” She looked back at her wings, which hung limply at her sides, and clumsily tucked them in.
He recognized the deliberately vague answer. “Let's start slowly, then. Can you walk?” he asked.
“Of course I can,” she huffed, not actually certain of that either. The stallion raised an eyebrow, and motioned with one hoof. Well show me, then.
She took one clumsy step, and another, and another, lightly hopping when she wanted to avoid pressing her sprained hoof to the ground. She walked a small circle in the ground. Five steps in, she stumbled and nearly fell before awkwardly recovering. Unfortunately, in doing so, she stomped her injured leg onto the ground full force, prompting a short squeal of pain. Another few steps and she returned to face the stallion, a strange mix of embarrassment and frustration on her face.
“A decent effort, stranger, but it seems your pride isn't the only thing that's wounded,” he said, motioning to her leg. She looked down and shifted her hoof around. Examining it, she realized there was a small but steady stream of crimson blood trickling down the side. She looked back at her path and saw a tiny trail of blood leading straight to her.
The stallion rummaged through a hidden pocket underneath his cloak, and procured a roll of cloth bandages. “May I?” he said. She cautiously raised her injured hoof towards him, and he began to work.
The morning was pleasant enough. A symphony of nature played all about them. A calm, cool wind would infrequently roll through the meadow, gently rustling leaves of the nearby trees. Some sort of insect buzzed in the distance. A flock of birds flew overhead and landed in the forest below. The scene around them contained a natural peace that, were it not for herself and the stallion, would have remained completely unbroken. She almost felt bad for intruding upon it.
It could have been the very picture of serenity, and yet, she knew something was wrong. Her mind seemed to work as slowly and sluggishly as the rest of her body, but eventually, something clicked.
She remembered the day previous. She let out a quick, flinching gasp of realization.
“My apologies,” the stallion said, mistaking her sudden recoil for pain. “I am no physician.” She did not answer. Another silent minute rolled by.
“And that’s that,” the stallion said, wiping his hooves on the grass to clean them of blood. “Whatever happened, we earned more bruises than cuts, but it would still do you well to exercise a measure of caution.”
“What are you?” she said. The stallion stared at her, curious and confused.
“Pardon?” the stallion said. “What am I…?”
“You aren't a doctor. You said as much yourself,” she said. “Tell me then, if you are no a physician, then... what are you?"
The stallion sighed, and turned away, pocketing the bandages. “The memories of last night’s events return to you.”
“No,” she replied forcefully, “they does not. I remember fire, smoke, and death. I remember a horrible creature. I remember others. I remember you. But true memory implies coherence. What I recall was nothing more than a crazed vision. What I want,” she said, “is context.”
“Context,” he repeated. He turned back to her. “Well, you have eyes. What do you say about my profession?”
She looked him over. His cutie mark was hidden by his clothing, so there was no help there. The green traveling cloak itself was long and sturdy, bearing resemblance to the clothing of a woodland ranger, but it had no identifying marks to see. His face was square and set; perhaps even handsome, were it not for the scowl he regarded her with. Matted lines in his coat were drawn infrequently across his neck and face. Scars, she realized. The tip of his left ear was missing.
He would have been about the same age as her… She shook her head, realizing she did not actually know her own specific age. He looked to be in his early twenties, though etched on his face was the stress and subsequent wisdom of a pony twice that.
He was moderately built, but muscles on the few exposed areas of his body revealed the physique of more than just a common laborer. No, this stallion was one who trained. For what? She could think of only one thing.
“A knight,” she said confidently. The stallion paused, a distant look in his eye. It was only a fraction of a second before he recovered.
“Haha!” he laughed humorlessly. “You flatter me! A keen observation, stranger, but you err by the largest degree.”
She faltered at his response. “What are you then?” she asked, much less sure of herself.
“You're right about one thing. My dealings are in the most fickle kind of business, and in the ficklest places. The battlefield is my establishment, and killing my enterprise.” He paused. “But the title of knight lies beyond me. True knights are vanguards, harbingers of justice, champions of peace. True knights serve in the defense of ones they love. No matter the cost.” His words seemed to stumble on the last sentence.
“You mistake a simple soldier for one much greater. Would that I could, but I am no knight. The difference is dusk and daylight,” he quickly finished.
The soldier drew a deep breath, and continued, “And last night, the others. Can you guess at their profession? Or has that escaped your crazed vision?”
“T-they were magicians…” she began, almost intimidated by the soldier’s question. She could have been mistaken, but the way he asked it seemed to imply anger. “They bore the seal of the Royal Magi.”
“Correct. The Royal Magi.” He began to pace. “So, tell me. What were fourteen Magi plus one soldier doing in a burning village, full ready to receive the wrath of Discord?”
The name ‘Discord’ burned like an inferno in her mind and put a foul taste in her mouth. It was reflexive and understood, almost like a law of nature. An experience with Discord was an experience one ought not to have at all. The only solution to Discord was to end it. She could not guess why, only that it was so.
“I don't know! I told you as much, my memory fails me!” she exclaimed, frustrated.
“Hmph. A poor storyteller you would make,” he responded disdainfully. The soldier seemed to choose his next words carefully. “You… really do remember nothing?”
“Naught but visions,” she said.
“Naught but visions…” he repeated under his breath. Deep in thought, he slowly walked a few paces away, gazing at the crumbling cottage at the edge of the clearing. He spoke without turning to face her.
“I will divine the situation, stranger, if you will hazard a guess at but one last question.”
“Do not mock me!” she responded angrily. “My memory will fail at this, as it has all the rest!”
“I'm not mocking you,” he said sincerely. “Please.” His tone caught her off guard. She stared at him in puzzlement.
“Fine. One last question. After that, you shall either enlighten my memory, or depart from my company,” she said firmly. He nodded his head, and still facing away from her, he spoke in a voice without emotion.
“Do you know my name?”
“Of course n-“ she started, but paused when she saw him flinch. She determined to answer as quickly as possible, but the attitude of the soldier made her second guess herself. It took only a moment for her to realize that she had no idea what his name was, but what caught her was a feeling. An inescapable, pervading sense of guilt. Still she did not know how else to respond.
“No,” she said. “I do not. I… I am sorry.” She apologized without really knowing why. The stallion’s gaze dropped from the cottage to the forest floor as he hung his head. He did not respond for a full minute. He brought his hoof to his face and held it there. Finally, he turned back towards her, his expression a mask of stone.
“The truth is, I know naught of your origin.”
Her anger flared. “W-what? But you said-!”
“I said,” the soldier spoke, cutting her short, “that I would divine the situation. What can I tell you, save the truth?”
“You… you…!” she stuttered, summoning a barrage of insults to the forefront of her mind.
“I'm not done yet!” he exclaimed before she could start. “No, I know no more of your history than you do. However, I do know of you.”
“Of me? My patience is short, speak plainly!” she huffed.
“Like I said, I am only a soldier, but of no small rank,” he continued. She noticed he said this with a distinct lack of pride. “I was sent with a detachment of my guard to Canterbury to escort a ‘guest’ of the Magi back to Canterlot. I did not have the pleasure of making your acquaintance beforehand.”
“Then why did you ask me to remember your name?” She stomped. “It was impossible, had we not already met!”
“I simply assumed they told you the name of your future escort? I am merely trying to discover the bounds of your memory, that is all.” When she did not respond, he continued. “The day we were to meet you, the madness fell upon us. Discord and his hordes attacked the city. It was most unfortunate, and most unlikely, as Canterbury is far behind friendly lines. Was far behind friendly lines, I should say.”
“So that city, the one I awoke to, is…?”
“Gone. Destroyed. Consumed in the fires of madness.”
She frowned. “And the Magi? The ones who helped us?”
He shook his head. “I cannot say, only that we are here, and they are not.”
She was distraught, but not more than she was curious. “So how did we escape?”
“We?” the soldier said. “We did not do anything. I daresay you did the brunt of the work!” She gave him a questioning look. “The city was thought to be ‘safe’, and so when it was attacked, it was defenseless. Nearly all the guard had been deployed to the frontlines. I set my soldiers about defending the city whilst I looked for the Magi, and for their... guest. The siege lasted for only an hour before the whole place was an inferno.
“I finally found you in the town square, thrashing about as though you were possessed. By then, however, it was too late. The hordes approached, led by Discord himself.
“When his soldiers advanced, you… embraced, me.” He paused awkwardly. “And then, we were gone.” He finished lamely.
She waited for him to continue. When he did not, she said, “And then what?”
“Nothing. I awoke here, with you beside me. I scouted around, made sure we were safe, and tried to wake you as well. Which brings us to now.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “That’s it?”
He met her gaze unconcerned, eyebrow raised. “That’s it.”
“So…what happened?” she asked, still unsure.
“I don't know. Whatever happened, you did it, not I. I don't deal with magic, nor do I trust it in the least,” he said with contempt. "And obviously, I'm not a unicorn."
There was a silence, punctuated only by the occasional breeze of wind. “What now?” she asked uneasily.
“Now,” the soldier said, “we travel to Canterlot. Its still my mission to bring you there, guard or no.”
“But we don't even know the reason for going!” she protested weakly.
“Do you have a better idea?” he said. When she did not speak, he said, “Besides, our arrival at Canterlot may yet reveal your past. That is what you want, yes?”
Another cold breeze rolled through, making her shiver. “You’re freezing, and wet. Here, take this.” He removed his traveling cloak and slung it over her, hinging the clasp at her neck.
Underneath his now removed cloak, she saw a covering of thick chainmail over his body that clinked and rattled as he moved. His cutie mark was still obscured.
“Let's go, stranger. The sun will be high before long. Best move while the air is still cool.” He started to move towards one edge of the forest, motioning her to follow. She limped behind him.
“Why do you call me that?” she abruptly asked.
“Call you what?” he asked.
“Stranger,” she said sullenly.
“Is that not what you are? You don't know my name, and I don't know yours?” he said.
“A situation easily fixed, I think,” she responded. “Pray tell, what is your name?”
He paused for a moment, still walking on. They hit the forest wall, and continued beyond it, trudging through brush and dodging fallen trees.
“Lucky Break,” he finally said. “Lieutenant-Commander of the Maiden’s Battalion. Soldier and patriot of Equestria.” He paused for another moment, and followed with, “Excuse my manners if I don't return the question, but I know your memory is in short supply.”
“Wait!” she said, stopping suddenly. “N-no…”
Lucky Break looked at her cautiously.
“I do remember. My name, I do remember,” she said, wide-eyed.
“You do?” he said, a hint of skepticism in his voice.
“I’m… my name is… Celestia,” she said. It sounded foreign, the way it rolled off her tongue, but she was sure, without a doubt, that this was her name. “Celestia,” she experimentally repeated.
“Celestia,” Lucky murmured darkly. He continued walking. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance.” He did not seem pleased at all.