A/N: Sooooooo sorry this chapter is so late. It took a lot longer to write than I thought it would. But it’s here now and that’s all that matters. Don’t lynch me!
The group was silent as they walked through the halls of Canterlot Castle, the only sound being the occasional gasp that came from any servant that happened to spot them. Said servants immediately gave them a wide girth and stared at the strange group in awe as they walked by. After all, it wasn’t everyday that you saw the Elements of Harmony, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and…whatever that thing was that was walking with them.
The group noticed the looks they were receiving but weren’t too bothered by them; their minds were preoccupied with more important matters. They were going to meet the Princess after all and they knew she was expecting a detailed report of everything that had happened in the forest. Shining Armor in particular was the most nervous of them all; his mission had been to capture and subdue the creature before it hurt anypony and now he was going to have to explain why he was instead escorting it through her castle without even bothering to chain it up. He had politely asked Heller if he could at least handcuff him to create the illusion that he had been captured. Heller responded with a not so polite “Fuck you.” Which is why he was now going over in his head what he was going to say when they finally met the Princess.
Speaking of Heller, he was the only one out of the entire group that didn’t look worried or afraid. In fact he had a calm, almost bored look on his face. Considering the circumstances, he knew he should have been the most nervous out of all of them but he just couldn’t conjure up the effort to feel even remotely excited right now. Considering how uneventful the last 20 minutes had been, this was understandable.
After the two Pegasus had left towards Canterlot to deliver Shining Armor’s message, the other Royal Guards proceeded to accomplish their task’s in record time. The Earth ponies had managed to set up a small perimeter around the area while the Pegasus were able to extinguish the forest fire before it was able to spread too far. All of this was accomplished in less than two minutes and even Heller had to admit he was impressed with the speed at which they worked.
Still, none of that had managed to stem the boredom he was feeling at that moment. He had been leaning against a tree, impatiently waiting for the Pegasus to return with the promised carriage, with the most exciting thing being when the Unicorn’s woke up Fluttershy and Rarity. Fluttershy, as expected, screamed and fainted yet again the moment she saw him, with Rarity nearly joining her had she not been caught by a nearby guard.
After waking up Fluttershy again, Twilight quickly grabbed her before she fainted and began to rub her back slowly while whispering calming words into her ear. Whatever Twilight was saying seemed to be working as Fluttershy slowly stopped trembling and she was released when it appeared she wasn’t going to faint again. Instead, she settled for looking at him nervously out of the corner of her eye while getting as much distance between them as possible. Of course, this was the reaction of all the ponies after they had been properly healed.
Even Rainbow Dash kept her distance, instead choosing to scowl at him angrily while she sat with her friends. This was due more to the fact that she didn’t want to upset her wing than her actual fear of him; the guards had informed her that they weren’t able to completely heal her wing and that she would have to get it set in a cast when she got to Canterlot. Even with her injured wing Heller suspected that she still would have tried to fight him if the situation called for it.
Thankfully, Twilight was there to make sure nobody did anything foolish. Once everybody had been healed she quickly recounted the events of the last few minutes to them, specifically to Fluttershy and Rarity. Their shock at hearing that even 60 members of the Royal Guard were unable to capture him was apparent on their faces and that shock only increased when she informed them that they were taking him back to Canterlot to meet the Princess.
All at once, five voices yelled out in anger at such a plan with Rainbow Dash even asking her if she had finally lost it. Twilight calmly informed them that if they had any issues with the decision they should take it up with Shining Armor since it was his call. They immediately began to search for the captain, intending to do just that. They eventually spotted him and whatever words they were going to yell at him died in their throats when they saw where he was.
He was standing next to a tree, one of the few trees that hadn’t been caught on fire…the very same tree that Heller was leaning against.
He was standing there calmly, almost as if he was oblivious to the fact that the creature he and his men had just been fighting was standing right next to him. The five mares stared at the strange sight for just a few more seconds before looking away and nervously informing Twilight that they trusted Shining Armor’s decision and wouldn’t argue.
Everything after that was nothing but pure hell for James Heller. The guards were avoiding him like the plague and the six mares were doing whatever they could to pass the time. Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie were talking amongst themselves, occasionally giving him nervous glances out of the corner of their eyes when they thought he wasn’t looking. Rainbow Dash was lying down, glaring at him while rubbing her still injured wing. The only ones who weren’t paying him any attention were Rarity and Twilight; Rarity was desperately trying to brush off the dirt that had gotten in her coat and mane when she fainted and Twilight was too engaged in a conversation with her brother to pay any attention to him.
After almost ten minutes of this he swore he was going to snap. He turned towards Shining Armor and was about to angrily demand where the hell their transport was when Pinkie Pie’s voice yelled out “There they are!” Looking up, he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw two carriages flying towards them, both of them being pulled by two pair of Pegasus. He knew one of those carriages was meant for him; even though the carriages were big enough that they could fit both him and the ponies in one, he knew no one was going to want to ride with him. That was fine with him; he needed some peace and quiet for once.
As soon as the carriages landed he was the first one there, completely ignoring the nervous looks the Pegasus were giving him as he walked towards them. Swinging the door open, he stepped inside the decorated carriage and sat down, impatiently waiting for the others to do the same. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the other ponies finally entered their carriage and sat down - all of them except two.
Now he wasn’t surprised when Shining Armor entered his carriage. Out of all the ponies there he was the only one he felt comfortable around. Despite the obvious differences between them, the two were somehow able to connect with each other. The fact that they were both soldiers probably attributed to that.
Of course, none of that explained why Twilight of all ponies hopped in the carriage with them, much to the confusion of her friends. They immediately questioned her over this, asking why she was riding with that “thing” instead of with them. She calmly reminded them that she hadn’t seen her brother since his wedding, and that maybe she was choosing to ride with him and catch up. Closing the door on their embarrassed faces, she said something that shocked not only them, but him as well.
“By the way, he isn’t a “thing.” He has a name and it’s James Heller.”
With that said she slammed the door shut and sat down across from him, a satisfied smirk on her face.
It was at that moment that James Heller knew Twilight Sparkle was fucking awesome.
Unfortunately, not even Twilight’s awesomeness could stop the 10 minutes of unmerciful boredom that followed.
Fun fact: Riding in a flying chariot pulled by Pegasus isn’t as “majestic” or “amazing” as you’d like to believe. It’s slow; very slow. Old lady in a wheelchair slow. Hell, he could run faster than these things were flying which is why the whole experience was pretty underwhelming to him.
He spent the entire ride staring blankly out the window, wishing that the damn Pegasus could somehow grow rockets out of their asses and speed the trip up. Shining Armor had tried to start a conversation, mostly by asking questions about how his powers worked, but his prolonged silence told him that he wasn’t in the mood to talk. Twilight Sparkle on the other hand (hoof?) was not so quick to surrender.
She talked nonstop throughout the entire ride, asking him all kinds of questions: What was he, where did he come from, were there others like him, what was the exact nature of his abilities, and so on. The more she talked the more his belief that “Twilight Sparkle was fucking awesome” changed to “Twilight Sparkle was fucking annoying as all hell and was soon going to find herself without a head.”
Thankfully she stopped with the questions when she realized that he wasn’t going to start talking about himself… so she started talking about her life instead. Fortunately, he had learned how to drown out her voice by this point, which was good because he was five seconds away from playing a game of ‘See How Far You Can Throw the Living Object Before it Goes Splat.’
The only part he paid any attention too was when she revealed the names of her friends: The annoying blue one was called Rainbow Dash, the orange one who tried to buck him was Applejack, the prissy white one was Rarity, the weird pink one was Pinkie Pie, and the yellow one who tried to mindrape him was named Fluttershy.
“What the fuck” didn’t even begin to describe how he felt about those names.
While Twilight continued to ramble on about her life, he focused his mind on more important things, one of them being why any parent would ever name their child after a book about gay vampires. Hell, did Equestria even have a gay community. If not, then how the hell do you explain Rainbow Dash?
He was so engrossed in his own thoughts that Shining Armor had to shake him back to reality and inform him that they had arrived at the castle. Stepping out of the carriage, he saw several castle guards had come out to greet them and wasn’t surprised when they all gasped in shock upon seeing him. He was so accustomed to that reaction that he completely ignored them and focused his attention on the massive structure before him.
The castle was tall, its size easily rivaling the tallest skyscrapers in New York. It was composed of beautiful ivory stone with solid gold spires that gleamed in the sunlight. This place was definitely built to house royalty that much he could tell.
But to tell the truth, despite how amazing the place looked he still found the whole thing to be…underwhelming to say the least.
Yeah it was nice and all and he was more than a little impressed that a race without opposable thumbs had been able to build something so magnificent, but compared to what humans had been able to build, it was nothing special. The Louvre, the Vatican, the Empire State Building, Buckingham Palace - all of them represented the pinnacle of human achievement and all of them easily matched Canterlot Castle in terms of beauty and splendor. He and his family had visited all those places and seen their beauty for themselves, which is probably why the castle wasn’t doing anything for him.
That or his impatience to get home was preventing him from seeing the true beauty of the castle. Either way, he wasn’t impressed.
Even as he stepped into the castle and saw that it was just as beautifully decorated on the inside as it was on the outside, he still didn't feel impressed. After a while he stopped with his examination of the castle and focused his attention on looking ahead, ignoring everything around him.
That was how he found himself here, silently walking down the castle halls and completely oblivious to the nervousness of the ponies walking with him. He was more preoccupied with his own thoughts, all of them about Celestia.
What did she look like? How powerful was she? Was she even real? These questions and more plagued his mind and to his annoyance, he had answers to none of them. Even the dragon didn’t have any useful information on her. He had only heard of Celestia through tall tales that were passed from dragon clan to dragon clan. The stories differed from clan to clan, with some believing that Celestia wasn’t a single pony, but was actually a name given to a group of Unicorn mages who dictated all life in Equestria. Others thought that Celestia was actually just a normal Unicorn that had tricked the Equestrians into worshipping her as a god, and many believed that Celestia wasn’t real in the physical sense and was actually an omnipotent force that controlled the land.
However much they differed, one thing remained constant through each story: That she held immense magical power, power that allowed her to control the sun as if it were a toy.
While he scoffed at the whole controlling the sun thing, the immense magical power part caught his attention. If that part of the story was true, then he might have found a way to get home. That’s assuming she was even real of course.
‘Guess I’m about to find out.’ He thought, noticing that they were getting closer and closer to the end of the hall. Just ahead of them was a large set of double re-enforced doors, both of them furnished with solid gold. If that didn’t tip him off that this was Celestia’s throne room, the two Unicorn guards standing on either side of the doors wielding spears certainly did. Unlike the others, these guards didn’t gasp in shock when they saw him approaching. Instead, they pointed both spears directly at him and glared, daring him to step closer.
“Stand down men, this one’s with me.” Shining Armor ordered as he stepped forward. The guards looked at each other unsure for a moment, before reluctantly lowering their spears and backing away. Walking past the guards, Shining Armor approached the large door before stopping and turning to face Heller.
Looking him directly in the eyes, he spoke “Look Heller, I may have only know you for half an hour, but I think I have a pretty good idea about what kind of guy you are. You’re the type of guy who doesn’t show respect to anypony. The type of guy who thinks he’s too cool to listen to anypony’s orders but your own. But I’m begging you; when you meet the Princess please show her the respect she deserves. Trust me, it’ll save you a lot of trouble.”
“Let’s see what this princess of yours is made of first. Then we’ll see if she even deserves my respect.” He fired back, narrowing his eyes at the captain.
Sighing, Shining Armor shook his head at his stubbornness before turning around to face the door. His horn glowing, he used magic to slowly push the doors open. Heller just watched him with his arms folded, preparing himself for whatever was on the other side.
He didn’t know what to expect.
Celestia didn’t know what to expect.
Currently she was sitting on her throne, her usual pair of Unicorn guards standing diligently to her side. At first glance she seemed as calm and as regal as ever, her face betraying no emotions. But anyone that knew her well enough could see the barely visible worry lines that marked her face.
She put a hoof to her head to try to soothe the raging headache that had been plaguing her all day. In all her thousands of years of living, today was easily the worst, most stressful day she’d ever had. The moment she woke up with not only the aforementioned headache, but also with a feeling of exhaustion that made it painful to even get out of the bed, she knew it was going to be a bad day.
She knew that the side effects of using the viewing spell all night would be brutal, but she still wasn’t prepared for the unbearable fatigue she felt. It made raising the sun, normally an effortless task for her, almost impossible to accomplish. Although she managed to succeed in doing so, she immediately collapsed to the floor afterwards and it took all her willpower not to black out then and there. Despite how much she just wanted to lie there and sleep, she reluctantly got to her hooves knowing her day was just beginning.
For the rest of the morning she attended to her royal duties: Attending meetings, giving speeches, signing paperwork, the usual. On any other day these tasks would have simply been tedious, but with how tired she was now, they were an absolute torture that she had to fight to stay awake through. She had tried drinking coffee (seven cups to be exact) but even that was barely keeping her eyes open. She didn’t want to fall asleep, especially not in front of her advisors, but she feared that’s what would happen unless something happened that could snap her awake.
She was in her chamber room signing the last bit of paperwork when that “something” appeared in front of her in a flash of green flames. The color of the flames alone were enough to tell her who had sent the letter and although she was happy to have something other than royal documents to read, she was also worried. It was still morning and Twilight didn’t usually send her friendship reports till around evening. That meant one of two things: Either Twilight had learned a new lesson about friendship overnight or something had happened in Ponyville.
She only had to read the first few lines of the letter to know that it wasn’t the former.
Cursing her bad luck (seriously, why did stuff like this always happen during her shift) she sat there going over the contents of Twilights letter and thinking up a solution. With an unknown creature running around she was almost tempted to send the Royal Guards but she decided against it. According to Twilights letter, aside from incapacitating Rainbow Dash, the creature hadn’t attacked anypony and in fact, seemed to have been in a hurry to leave the town. She didn’t want to send the guards to harm a creature that was more than likely just terrified, so she decided to go with Twilights suggestion to send them.
Levitating a new scroll in front of her, she quickly wrote down a response and with a small spark from her horn, the letter was sent. While she wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of sending her student and her friends to capture an unknown creature, she knew she didn’t have a choice. From what she knew of Rainbow Dash, the cyan Pegasus would never take her defeat lying down. She would follow the creature into the forest regardless of what she said and the other Element Bearers would undoubtedly follow her. Might as well give them her blessings to go rather than have them disobey her orders not to. Still, that didn’t stop her from worrying.
She tried to reassure herself that she was worrying over nothing. They could handle themselves; they were the Elements of Harmony after all. Nightmare Moon, Discord, and even an army of Changelings hadn’t been able to stop them, so surely they could handle some terrified animal.
Walking out of her chamber room, she tried to ignore the worry that plagued her mind. She had another meeting to attend to and she couldn’t afford to be distracted. Unfortunately for her, that soon proved to be easier said than done.
As much as she tried to pay attention to what was being said, she found her thoughts always traveling back to Twilight and her friends. Something was wrong about this whole situation. First she’s woken up in the middle of the night by an ominous feeling and then that very morning this strange, never-before-seen creature shows up? There was no way it was a coincidence.
If her hunch was right and the creature was the cause of that ominous feeling… then Twilight and the others may be in more danger than she thought.
She was the first one out the door when the meeting finally adjourned.
She didn’t care if the creature was just scared - she was sending the guards. Half an hour later, she had sixty of the best trained guards assembled before her - the Captain himself among them.
Normally she tried to avoid sending members of the guards on missions involving family – made things too emotional. But she knew Shining Armor. The minute he found out this mission involved Twilight, he would barge into her throne room and literally beg her to include him on this mission. The increasingly frantic look on his face as she explained the mission was enough to tell her that he was going to go regardless of what she said, so she might as well allow him to go to avoid punishing him when he went anyway.
Wishing them luck, she reminded them that their primary mission was to locate Twilight and the others. Once they were safe and secured, they were to locate the creature, capture it, and escort it back to the castle for study.
Bowing their heads, the assembled guards charged out of the throne room, Shining Armor leading them. That was 45 minutes ago. It was 20 minutes ago when two Pegasus guards barged into the castle demanding a large carriage transport. When questioned on why they would need such a thing, all they could tell her was that Shining Armor was returning with the Element Bearers… and the creature was coming with them. When asked if they had captured it, all they could do was look at each other uneasily before nervously replying that that wasn’t exactly the case.
She would have questioned them further but she took note of their disheveled appearance. It was obvious by the sweat on their face and their heavy panting that they had pushed themselves to their limits in order to get here. Deciding that they had done enough, she ordered them to go home and rest.
As the two Pegasus bowed and walked off she ordered the guard nearest her to relay their message and to inform her when the carriages returned. It was 3 minutes ago when said guard returned and informed her that Shining Armor, the Elements, and the creature had arrived and that they were heading towards her throne room. She had tried to coax a description of the creature out of the guard, but he simply informed her that it would be much easier if she just saw the creature for herself.
So here she was, impatiently for Shining Armor to arrive and explain himself. She had many questions to ask him, the main one being why he was bringing a potentially dangerous creature to her throne room instead of to the dungeon. Either he had completely lost his mind or he had managed to reason with the creature and reach some kind of understanding.
Either way, her headache was going to get exponentially worse by the time this was over.
The sound of two male voices conversing just outside her door broke her from her thoughts. She strained her ears to hear what they were saying but she couldn’t make anything out. One of the voices definitely belonged to Shining Armor; the other one sounded much deeper and was one she couldn’t recognize.
Straightening herself up, she tried to put on as neutral a face as she could.
This was it.
The doors were slowly pushed open.
The first thing he noticed was the hair.
Yeah, he probably should have been paying more attention to the fact that she was easily the largest pony he had seen so far, her size nearly matching his, or the fact that she had both wings and a horn, or the fact that she was literally radiating with power that he could feel even from this distance, but he couldn’t. The only thing he could pay attention to was the hair.
Seriously, what the fuck?
There wasn’t a single open window in the room so it couldn’t have been a breeze so how the hell was it moving like that? Was it Celestia? Was she using her magic to make it flow like that? While he didn’t doubt that such a thing was within her power, he just couldn’t understand what the point of it was. All that power and she uses it to make her fucking hair flow?
Taking his eyes away from her gravity-defying hair, he noticed for the first time that the other ponies in the room weren’t standing. They were on the ground, their heads bowed in respect. He focused on the one who had been trying to get his attention, a certain purple pain in his ass who was currently glaring at him from her position on the ground.
“What?” He asked harshly.
“You’re supposed to bow.” She hissed at him.
“Because you’re in the presence of the Princess!” She said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Your Princess not mine. I’m not a citizen of your country and I hold no allegiance to her, meaning I’m not bowing to any damn body.” He angrily told her. He may have wanted to go home, but he had to draw a line somewhere and bowing to some bitch he just met was that line.
Twilight looked like she had just been slapped. Never before had somepony spoken so... rudely of the Princess.
She wasn’t the only one who was shocked. Heller made no attempt to even lower his voice so everypony in the room had heard his bold declaration and they were all staring at him stunned. Shining Armor facehoofed before giving a loud groan. This was not going to end well.
The guards next to Celestia growled in anger as the grip on their spears tightened. It was taking all their willpower not to charge the creature and run him through for his disrespect but they would wait for the Princesses’ orders.
Contrary to what everypony else in the room was feeling, Celestia did not look angry or even shocked at Heller’s words. In fact, she almost looked amused at his lack of respect. This creature was certainly interesting she’d give him that. As strange as it sounded, she was actually relieved to have finally met somepony who wasn’t constantly kissing up to her. Flattery was nice and all, but some of the ponies who she met went to insane levels just to please her. The disrespect she was receiving right now was a bit refreshing to tell the truth. Still, as interesting as this all was she knew she needed to ease the tension before it escalated into an all-out brawl.
“He’s right.” Upon hearing those words come from the Princess, the Elements and Shining Armor took the stunned look they were giving Heller and focused them on her, the guards joining them.
“W-what?” A stunned Twilight Sparkle stuttered out, not sure if she heard correctly.
“I said he’s right. He isn’t a citizen of my country. He has no obligation to bow to me and I have no right to force him to bow.” She explained to her student’s still stunned expression.
“Told you.” A smirking Heller said to a now glaring Twilight.
“In any case, that’s not what we’re here to discuss, right Shining Armor?” She said as she turned her gaze to the now pale Captain. Coughing into his hoof, Shining Armor tried to keep his voice steady as he spoke “Um, Princess, maybe Twilight should speak first. She was the one who first encountered him and could probably tell you more than I could. My men and I didn’t show up till later on I’m afraid.” He could practically feel Twilight’s glare boring into the back of his head as he spoke.
“You didn’t bother to question Twilight on the events yourself? It’s not like you to make such a rookie mistake Shining Armor.” She said with mock disappointment, silently enjoying the look of embarrassment that crossed his face.
“But I suppose it can’t be helped. Twilight, please step forward.” Twilight paled when her name was called and slowly trotted towards the Princess, stopping just a few feet away from her throne. She gulped when she realized that all eyes were now on her.
Giving a motherly smile, Celestia calmly asked “Now I want you to describe everything that happened after you received my letter. Take your time and be as detailed as possible. You’re not on trial Twilight, so you can stop trembling.”
Her motherly tone having relaxed her somewhat, Twilight took a deep breath before calmly describing the events of the last hour. She went over everything; how they had found Heller surrounded by the shattered corpses of countless timber wolves, how they had tried to capture him only for him to defeat all of them and escape, and how Rainbow Dash had chased after him on her own.
Stopping Twilight at that point, she sent a disapproving gaze towards Rainbow Dash who looked down in shame. “Twilight, why don’t you take a breather. Rainbow Dash. I would like you to describe what happened next." She said, her voice a bit more firm than before.
If possible, Rainbow Dash looked even more nervous than Twilight as she slowly approached the Princess, Twilight even giving her a look of sympathy as she passed her. Taking a deep breath, she continued where Twilight had left off. She had done surprisingly well at first, calmly describing how she had followed Heller and the events leading up to her finding the cave. It was only when she began to talk about her fight with the dragon that she began to stumble, the Princesses’ hardened gaze making her trip over her words. It had only gotten worse when she got to the part where her friends had to save her and nearly died as a result.
Thankfully, the Princesses’ angry glare turned to one of surprise when she described how Heller had saved them from the dragon and killed it. Celestia stopped her at that point and called Shining Armor forward instead. Any anger she held at Rainbow Dash was momentarily forgotten, her mind more preoccupied with what the Pegasus had just told her.
As Rainbow Dash walked back to join her friends she flinched when she saw the looks they were giving her, specifically the angry glares of Rarity and Applejack. They had assumed she had gotten injured trying to run away from the dragon; instead, she had gotten her injuries from foolishly trying to fight it and they weren’t too happy to learn that they had nearly died because of Rainbow Dash’s brashness. Dash wisely chose to stand a far distance away from them.
As for Shining Armor, his description of events had gone off without a hitch. He had gotten a few disapproving glares (mostly around the “Thunder Hoof Formation” part) and Celestia’s eyes had widened momentarily when he described how Heller breathed fire, but other than that, it had gone smoothly.
Celestia was silent as Shining Armor finished up his story, looking deep in thought. Her gaze passed over each of the ponies in front of her, lingering over Rainbow Dash the longest, before settling on the strange creature that was tapping its foot impatiently as it waited for them to finish.
“Well it seems you’ve all been through a lot this past hour.” She said after a long silence. “You’re all no doubt very tired and I will allow you to stay for the night in one of our guest rooms. But before I do that, Rainbow Dash will you please step forward?”
Trotting towards the Princess, she once again found herself facing Celestia's harsh glare. She didn’t even try to hide the nervousness in her voice as she spoke. “Y-yes Princess?”
“Tell me Rainbow Dash, what Element do you represent?” She asked calmly.
“Um, l-loyalty Princess.” She shakily answered.
“Loyalty.” Celestia repeated. “Tell me then: Do you believe that any of the actions you performed were at all loyal?”
Rainbow Dash said nothing, too scared to respond.
“Understand Rainbow Dash, I’m not angry at you for freezing up during the fight. Considering your earlier encounter with the creature, it’s understandable that you would be frightened the second time you faced him.” She reassured her.
While Celestia may have meant well with her words, they only served to make the guilt Rainbow Dash was feeling for that particular incident even worse.
“What I am angry about are your actions following that. You abandoned your friends Rainbow Dash; you left them, knowing they were injured and exhausted, just so you could chase after the creature on your own. You do realize that in the state they were in, that they were easy pickings for any predator looking for a meal?” Rainbow Dash had to fight back tears as Celestia’s harsh tone reprimanded her. The worst thing about it was that she was right; she had abandoned her friends in the most dangerous forest in Equestria. They could have been killed and all she could think about was getting revenge. She felt terrible, and what Celestia said next made her feel even worse.
“As foolish as that was, it’s nothing compared to what you did next. Fighting a dragon Rainbow Dash? As confident as you are even you had to know that you couldn’t possibly win. I don’t know if it was pride or just plain arrogance that clouded your judgment but either way, you not only endangered your life, but the life of your friends as well. If it weren’t for the creature, the very same creature you were hunting so viciously, none of you would be here right now.” Rainbow Dash was sobbing at this point, Celestia’s harsh words cutting her like a knife. Only now did she realize how foolish she had been. Her friends had nearly died because of her, because of her pride, because she was too stupid to know when to quit.
Celestia’s heart clenched at the sight of the sobbing Pegasus. She didn’t want to be so harsh to the girl but she knew that was the only way she would learn. Swallowing the sorrow she felt, she looked directly at Rainbow Dash as she asked one last question.
“Now I’ll ask you again Rainbow Dash: Do believe that any of those actions were at all loyal?”
“N-no.” The sobbing Pegasus managed to choke out.
Nodding her head in satisfaction, Celestia trotted towards the Pegasus before lowering her head and softly nuzzling her.
“I’m not angry at you Rainbow Dash, just disappointed. I know you care deeply about your friends and would never let any harm come to them. It’s that loyalty that probably caused you to act that way in the first place. But remember, there’s a difference between fighting for loyalty and fighting for pride, I hope you realize that now.” Rainbow Dash nodded, the tears having stopped somewhat. Despite how terrible she was feeling before, the Princesses’ kind words had managed to calm her just as quickly.
“I’m sorry Princess” She said softly.
“It’s alright Rainbow Dash, though I don’t believe I’m the one you should be apologizing to.” She said as she gestured to the ponies behind her.
Turning to face her friends, she saw that the anger in Rarity and Applejack’s eyes had softened somewhat upon seeing her guilt ridden face. Seeing that she had their attention, Rainbow Dash choked back another sob as she spoke.
“I-I’m sorry guys. You all mean the world to me and look how I show it; by abandoning you and nearly getting you all killed because of my screw up. I understand if you guys never want to talk to me again after this, but I just want you to know that… that I really am sorry for what I did and I hope you can forgive me.”
The room was silent as Rainbow Dash finished her apology. Rainbow Dash herself was facing the ground, too scared to see her friend’s reactions. The sound of somepony trotting towards her forced her to look up however. Pinkie Pie, who had remained surprisingly silent up until now, was trotting towards her, an unreadable expression on her face. Rainbow Dash gulped nervously as Pinkie stopped directly in front of her, the silence coming from the normally talkative party pony almost as nerve-wracking as the blank stare she was giving her. She held her breath in anticipation, anxious to see what her friend would do. Then, without warning, the pink pony leapt at Rainbow Dash, the Pegasus closing her eyes in fear at the anticipated hit.
Only the hit never came.
Instead, she felt Pinkie’s hooves wrap around her neck and pull her in close, nearly crushing her in a massive hug. Rainbow Dash’s confusion at such an act lasted only a moment, quickly turning to shock at what Pinkie began to whisper into her ear.
“Oh Dashie, of course we forgive you. What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t?” Rainbow Dash said nothing, too shocked by Pinkie Pie’s words.
The shock only increased when she saw who the next pony that began to step forward was.
The shy Pegasus smiled softly as she trotted towards her two friends. “Don’t you remember what I said before Rainbow Dash? We’re friends; we’ll always be there to help you when you’re in trouble because we know you’d do the same for us.” With that said, she joined Pinkie Pie in her hug.
Twilight was next “Fluttershy’s right Rainbow Dash. If it had been any of us in your situation you would have saved us without a second thought and would have forgiven us just as quickly. What kind of friends would we be if we couldn’t do the same for you?” Joining Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, she enveloped Rainbow Dash in her own hug.
Rarity fidgeted uncontrollably as she watched the scene unfold before her. She was visibly struggling not to say anything, an almost impossible feat considering it was Rarity and all. Whatever defenses she was using to keep quiet instantly crumbled the moment she looked into Rainbow Dash’s pleading eyes.
“Oooooh fine! I suppose I can forgive you as well. It’s just so hard to stay mad at you Rainbow Dash, even if you act like a pigheaded brute at times.” Running up to her, she joined their little group hug.
That left only one pony…
The farmpony glared at her from across the room, seemingly unfazed by her pleading eyes. The fact that the others had forgiven Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to matter to her. Her apology had done nothing to stem her anger. She just couldn’t get over how mind numbingly stupid and selfish Dash had been. Abandoning them, endangering her life, and nearly getting them killed… she was sorely tempted to take up Rainbow Dash’s offer of never talking to her again.
But she knew she couldn’t do it.
As mad as she was, she could never break her friendship with Dash. They had been through too much together for that to ever happen. As stupid and as arrogant and as brash as Rainbow Dash could be at times… she was her friend and that was something that could never change.
Sighing deeply, she trotted over to the group.
“Ah’m probably gonna regret this later on but… ah forgive ya Rainbow Dash. You’re mah friend and… ah guess you wouldn’t be Rainbow Dash if you didn’t do somethin’ stupid every now and then.” Wrapping her hooves around her, she could feel Rainbow Dash trembling.
“You guys,” She choked out, holding back another set of tears. “You’re… you’re the best friends I could ever ask for. Thank you.”
Celestia and Shining Armor smiled at the touching scene. The bond these six shared truly went beyond just being Element Bearers. These girls shared something special, something that could never be broken.
While Celestia and Shining Armor were touched by this display, their “guest” was currently trying not to vomit. Seriously, how did he go from fighting a fucking dragon to listening to this Care Bear bullshit? Honestly, he couldn’t figure it out.
“Well now that that’s settled, I believe it’s time to focus on the more serous matters at hoof.” Celestia said. Much to Heller’s eternal gratitude, the six ponies ended their group hug and focused their attention on the Princess.
“First things first: Rainbow Dash, I believe you said something about your wing being injured.”
“My wing? Oh yeah, my wing!” Turning her head to look at the appendage in question, she wondered how it had completely slipped her mind that she had been hurt. “Yeah, one of the guards said that he wasn’t able to heal my wing all the way and that I should probably get it put in a cast. But I don’t think I need it now. It doesn’t even hurt anymore, look.” Attempting to flap her wing, she winced in pain the moment she lifted it in the air.
“Well, better safe than sorry I always say.” Celestia replied, chuckling at Dash’s failed attempt.
Turning towards Shining Armor, she asked “Shining Armor, if you would be so kind as to escort Rainbow Dash and the others to the infirmary, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Shining Armor looked slightly worried upon hearing the Princess’ request. Casting a nervous glance at Heller, he warily replied “But Princess, if I do that would mean leaving you alone with-“
“-Our guest, I know.” She finished for him.”Judging by the fact that he’s been patiently waiting while we’ve had our conversion, I think it’s safe to assume that he isn’t here to start a fight. You even said that he personally requested to see me and considering that he hasn’t said a word to me since entering, it’s obvious that whatever he wants to talk to me about is meant for my ears and mine alone. While you escort the others to the infirmary, I’ll see what I can do for him.” She explained.
Seeing that Shining Armor still looked unsure, she decided to play her trump card.
“Unless of course, you’re implying that I am unable to take care of myself Captain Shining Armor.” She said with a sly grin.
Shining Armor blanched and shook his head feverishly at the accusation “N-no, of course not Princess. Come girls, let me escort you to the infirmary while the Princess and Heller speak.” Turning around, he began to swiftly trot towards the door.
The girls, also looking unsure about leaving the Princess alone, reluctantly followed him. As they passed Heller, they each glanced at him nervously, save Rainbow Dash and Applejack who instead sent him a look of pure venom. A look that he promptly ignored much to their irritation.
As Shining Armor opened the door and began to walk out, Celestia’s voice called out “By the way Shining Armor, I’d like to see you before this day is over. We need to have a discussion about your use of excessive force during missions.”
His eyes nearly bulging out of their sockets, Shining Armor trotted out of the throne room at a much quicker pace than before, loudly slamming the door shut once the others had walked through.
Celestia had a good laugh at Shining Armor’s reaction before suddenly becoming serious again. Now that they were alone, it was time to get down to business. Turning to face her silent guest, she was surprised to see that he wasn’t even looking at her. Instead, he was entirely focused on the two guards that remained in the room.
Sensing what the problem was, she quickly reassured him “Do not worry about my personal guards. I promise, whatever you have to say will remain between the four us, only to be revealed at your discretion.” The guards nodded their heads in affirmation at the Princess’ words.
He still looked unsure, but he took his eyes off the guards regardless and focused them on her.
Celestia sighed in relief. Now they could finally get down to business.
Deciding to break the ice a little, she asked him “Forgive me if this question seems a little a little foolish, but what is your name exactly? Twilight called you James, while Shining Armor called you Heller, so I’m unsure which is which.”
“It’s James Heller.” He answered.
‘Well that probably should have been obvious.’ She thought.
“Well James Heller, seeing as how I never got a chance to properly introduce myself, allow me to do so. My name is-“
“Your name is Princess Celestia, you rule over this kingdom, and you welcome me to your castle. Let’s cut the bullshit shall we.” He quickly interrupted her.
‘Well, so much for breaking the ice.' She thought, taking note that her guards were bristling with anger at his interruption. ‘Seems he’s the type that like’s to get straight to the point.’
“Very well James Heller. What is it that you wish to ask me?”
This was it. Whether or not he went home depended entirely on her cooperation. If she said yes, he could finally leave fucked up ponyland, find Mercer, and bash his fucking head in for sending him here. If she refused to help him…
Well, he’d rather not think about it.
Swallowing his pride, he knew he was going to have to handle this as delicately as possible. He was going to try to be polite, but the last thing he was going to do was beg.
“I…I need your help.” He said.
“Oh really?” She responded with a raised eyebrow. “With what, I may ask.”
“Well, you can probably tell but I’m not really from around here.”
“Obviously. I may not look it James Heller, but I’ve been alive for a very long time, and in all my years I’ve never seen a being like you in my land before.” She said while eyeing him carefully.
“Well that’s because I’m not from your land or any other land in this world.” He admitted.
“This world? What do you mean by that?” She asked puzzled.
Taking a deep breath, he knew what he was about to say was going to sound absolutely insane to her. Hell, it sounded insane to him and he was a living virus.
“I’m… not from this world. I come from a different world, a different dimension to be exact.” He confessed with a straight face.
The reactions were pretty much what he expected: The guards obviously didn’t believe him if the incredulous look on their face was any indication. They edged even closer to the Princess, aiming to defend her in case this obviously insane creature made some kind of mad dash towards her. He wasn’t focused on them however. His eyes were on Celestia, carefully watching her reaction.
Unlike the guards, she did not immediately dismiss his claims. She seemed to be considering his words and was observing him carefully, monitoring for any signs that he was lying or that this was some kind of trick. Heller remained glued to the spot, trying not to make any outward signs of aggression or nervousness. He didn’t have anything to hide and he needed to look like it.
After nearly a minute of standing still, he briefly wondered how long she was going to keep observing him, when she suddenly closed her eyes and began to think deeply about something. He stood there wordlessly as she pondered over something in her mind. After another minute of nothing but silence, Celestia opened her eyes, having apparently reached a decision.
Seriously? He stood here for two minutes and all she could say was “that’s interesting”? No “that’s amazing”, or “that’s unbelievable” or hell, he even would have took a “you’re fucking insane, get the hell out of my castle before I call the cops on your ass.” But no, all he got was “that’s interesting.”
“So… you believe me?” He asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
“I’m… not sure.” She admitted. “True, it’s not the most insane story I’ve ever heard, but it’s still pretty hard to swallow.”
“I swear it’s the truth.” He said, hoping to convince her.
“I can see no reason why you would ever lie about something like this, but still…” She looked unsure. “Tell me, if you’re from a different dimension, how did you get here?"
He really wished she hadn’t asked him that. Not that he didn’t want to explain how he got here, it was just that the explanation was going to sound so insane, she was probably going join with the guards in thinking he was a lunatic. But if he didn’t give her some kind of explanation, she was going to think that anyway. So basically, he was fucked no matter what he chose to do.
Deciding to go with the lesser of two evils, he looked Celestia directly in the eyes as he spoke, praying that she believed him one more time.
“It’s a long story, so I’ll give you the quick version. I was sent here by a man named Alex Mercer. All you need to know about him is this: He’s a monster, plain and simple. That man,” He spat the word out in disgust “is responsible for the deaths of millions of people and is currently trying kill billions more.”
Celestia and her guards looked horrified as he continued to rant about Alex Mercer. They almost didn’t want to believe him; there was no way one being was able to cause so much death. But the rage and disgust that was prevalent in his voice was all they needed to know that he was telling the truth. You couldn’t fake that kind of anger.
“I was fighting him.” He continued. “Trying to kill him. Trying to put an end to that madman once and for all. But he did something to me. He injected me with something he called a “miniature black hole.” According to him it would keep growing and growing until it eventually consumed me, which it did. I though it had killed me but instead, it dropped me off in the middle of the Everfree Forest and well, you know the rest.”
The room was silent as Heller finished, the three ponies in front of him simply too shocked to respond. He had a feeling they were more shocked by the "millions dead" part rather than the "black hole" part. He could understand why; this world rarely saw death, let alone large-scale deaths like the one he described, so the idea of millions of lives being extinguished must be absolutely mind reeling to them. As much as he wanted to feel for them, he simply didn’t have the time. He needed to get home now; they could grieve once he was gone.
“Celestia.” He called out.
Jumping slightly at hearing her name being called (and without the usual “Princess” attached to it), Celestia turned towards Heller with a detached look on her face, her mind still reeling from what Heller had told her.
“Look, I know that this is a lot to take in one day but I need you to focus understand.” He ordered firmly.
Now that was a first. She was the one who gave orders to ponies, not the other way around. But he wasn’t a pony now was he. He was… a creature from another world that was sent here by a black hole that was injected into him by a homicidal mass killer. It sounded like the plot of a bad story, but something in her gut was telling her to believe it. As crazy and as illogical as it sounded, a part of her knew it had to be true. The things he had told her… nopony could have made it up.
“I-I’m sorry James Heller. It’s just… that’s quite the story is all. But you’re right; I need to focus on the task at hoof. What is it that you need me to do?” She asked, silently hoping that he wasn’t going to ask her what she thought he was going to ask her.
“I’ve only been in this world a day Celestia, but even I know you’re the strongest pony that Equestria has. You said yourself that you’ve been alive for a long time, so you must have learned some pretty powerful spells over the years. So I’m asking you: Can you send me back home?” He had something else he wanted to say, but he just couldn’t spit it out. It was a word; a word he hadn’t used in a long time, but it needed to be said. Swallowing his pride, the next word that came out his mouth was in a barely audible whisper, but Celestia heard it as clear as day.
That was what she feared. Celestia’s heart shattered upon seeing the look of hope that was in his eyes as he made his request. He travelled all this way, fought timber wolves, dragons, and her own subjects just to make it here, putting all his faith, all his hope, into her, praying that she would be able to get him home. It was no wonder he was acting so polite right now; she was his last hope.
Which is why he was going to be devastated by what she was going to tell him.
Forcing herself to look him in the eyes, she felt her resolve waiver at the pleading look he was giving her. It wasn’t so different from the one Rainbow Dash was giving her friends really. As much as she didn’t want to do this, it needed to be said.
“I believe your story James and I want to help you.”
She saw the hope rise in his eyes.
“But I’m afraid I can’t.”
Said hope was replaced by rage.
“WHAT!” He roared.
The guards immediately jumped in front of the Princess, their spears pointed directly at him.
“You fucking BITCH!” He yelled stomping towards her. “I spared your fucking subjects. I saved your fucking subjects. I held back when your goddamn guards attacked me. I try not to kill anyone in this fucked up world, and you repay me by refusing to send me home!? I’m sick of this bullshit!!”
He was nearly on the guards when Celestia, her voice full of sorrow, yelled out “it’s not that I won’t send you back James, it’s that I can't!”
He stopped, inches away from the guards, his mouth open with shock. He looked at Celestia and felt a pit form in his stomach when he saw her regret filled face.
Celestia swallowed the lump in her throat when she heard his broken voice. She almost didn’t want to tell him, fearful of what he would do, but knew she had no choice. She already started it, now she needed to finish it.
“What you’re asking of me James… it’s impossible.”
“I-impossible?” He repeated breathlessly. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to help him. She was supposed to send him home!
“But… you have teleportation! You guy’s can teleport anywhere in the world! Can’t you use the same concept to teleport me back home?!” He yelled, desperation clear in his voice as his entire plan fell apart.
“It doesn’t work that way James.” She said shaking her head. “While it’s true that those with exceptional magical prowess can teleport anywhere they want, what you’re asking of me is an entirely different matter. Even I cannot simply tear apart dimensional barriers whenever I choose and teleport something there. Sure, there have been theories on transdimensional teleportation but nothing concrete. What you’re asking me to do James… I don’t think any pony can do.”
He was silent, her words repeatedly echoing in his head. He wanted to scream, to yell, to curse, but he just couldn’t summon up the strength do so. The anger he felt was overshadowed by more powerful emotions; despair, sorrow, hopelessness. As the gravity of his situation began to sink in, only one thought was prevalent in his mind.
Mercer had won.
He was stuck here. He would never get home. Nothing could stop Mercer now. Humanity was doomed.
He didn’t know what was keeping him standing. As much as he wanted to sink to his knees and break down into a sobbing wreck, he found that he just couldn’t do it.
All he could do was turn around and walk towards the door, his destination unknown…
“James, where are you going?” He heard Celestia call out.
He didn’t even bother to face her as he answered “If you’re worried about me hurting one of your little ponies, don’t worry I’m not gonna touch’em. As for where I’m going… I don’t even know anymore.” The lack of emotion in that last sentence had made even the guard’s feel depressed.
Celestia couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t stand to see somepony else in so much pain and misery. They may not have been the same species, but he was still a living being. A living being that was breaking down right in front of her.
She had to do something.
“James wait!” She called out.
He should have kept going. He had no reason to stop. But something about the urgency in her voice caught his attention. Just as he put his hand on the massive doors, he paused. He still hadn’t turned to look at her, but she knew she had his attention.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she knew that the next part was going to be the trickiest. She had to approach this delicately; one misstep and she would lose him.
“James… there may be a way to help you.”
He was still facing away from her, and she feared that he either hadn’t heard her or didn’t believe her. But then, slowly, he removed his hand from the door. It wasn’t much, but it was still a clear sign that he was at least willing to listen.
‘Alright, so far, so good.’
“I have a plan. It’s a long shot, but it just might work. Remember when I said there were theories on transdimensional teleportation? Some of those theories might have been written down and placed in the Royal Archives. If I search through them, I might be able to find something we can use. Something that could possibly send you back home."
Heller didn’t react at first. He just stood there motionlessly, his back still facing her. Celestia fidgeted nervously, waiting for him to say or do anything that indicated that he had heard her. Slowly, he turned his head to look at her and out of the corner of his eye she could see the smallest glimmer of hope.
“Do you… do you really think you can find something?” He asked, his tone hopeful.
“Like I said, it’s a long shot. There’s only half a chance that I’ll be able to find anything… but if there’s something there, I swear to you I’ll find it.”
He turned to face her, a skeptic look on his face. Why was she doing this? He had just tried to attack her not one minute ago and here she was promising to send him home. As much as he wanted to trust her, his experience with traitors had taught him that there was always an angle to everything, even kindness.
“Why are you doing this?” He asked. “Why would you go so far for me? What do you get out of this?”
She looked surprised at hearing his accusing tone, as if she was shocked that he would accuse her of having ulterior motives. For a moment, he believe that his guess was right and that she was only using him, but what she said next banished all traces of doubt from his mind.
“Do I need a reason for wanting to help another living being James? As Princess, it’s my royal duty to look out for the wellbeing of all those that reside within my kingdom. That includes you. But I don’t do it simply out of royal duty. I do it because I truly do care about my kingdom and everypony in it. When they are sad, I am sad. When they are upset, I am upset. And when they are happy… it feels wonderful to be happy with them. That’s why I’m going so far for you; seeing you so broken and miserable… it made me feel broken and miserable. I want you to be happy so that we can both be happy. That’s what I get out of this James, nothing more nothing less.”
Now it was Heller’s turn to look surprised. The sincerity in her voice… there was no way that was fake. She was truly helping him out of the kindness of her own heart.
This girl was a fucking saint.
“I…” He couldn’t think of anything to say, unused to receiving such kindness.
No. There was one thing he could say.
Giving her a grateful smile, he said two words that he never thought would leave his mouth.
Matching his smile with one of her own, she responded “Don’t mention it James. Now then, I believe there’s one last thing we must attend to.” Clapping her hooves loudly, she sat on her throne waiting for something to happen.
Just as he was about to ask what she was waiting for, he heard the sound of two massive doors slowly opening. Looking behind him, he saw that the doors were covered with a faint glow, the same glow that was coming from the horns of two Unicorn guards that were standing in the doorway. They were the same guards that were guarding the door before, only this time their attention wasn’t focused on him.
Bowing down, they asked simultaneously “What can we do for you Princess?”
“Guards, I would like you to escort James here to one of our guest rooms. Do you have any preferences James?”
“Uh…” He muttered, a little taken off guard by such a question. “One with a view I guess.”
“One with a view, please.” She repeated to the guards who nodded their heads before turning around and motioning for him to follow them.
“Sure you want me to go? I could probably help you find what you’re looking for.” He offered.
“Thank you for the kind offer James, but I believe it’ll be much easier if I did it myself. The Royal Archives are massive and I’ll probably be sorting through them all night just to find the information we need. Rest James, let me worry about finding you a way home.”
He still looked unsure, but decided to respect her decision. Following the guards, he was nearly out the doorway when he heard Celestia call out his name.
Turning around, he saw Celestia had gotten up from her throne and was trotting towards him. He stood there, a curious look on his face as he watched her get closer and closer. She stopped just a few inches away from him and before he could ask what she wanted, she did something that made his breath hitch and his eyes widen.
She lowered her head and nuzzled him.
His brain momentarily shut down, he almost missed what Celestia began to whisper to him “I want to thank you for saving my student James. Even though she attacked you, even though you had no reason to do so, you still risked your life to save her. That’s another reason I want to help you.”
Lifting her head, she chuckled at the look of discomfort on his face. She could almost swear he was blushing.
Coughing nervously into his fist, he averted his eyes as he responded “Uh, don’t mention it Celestia. You take care alright.”
Following the guards, he almost resembled Shining Armor as he nearly ran out of the room.
“You take care as well James.” He heard her say, the doors slamming shut behind his retreating back.
A/N: Once again, I want to apologize for not releasing the chapter when I said I would. It was mostly the Rainbow Dash apology speech part that took so long. Like I said back in Chapter 7, I’m not so good at writing touching scenes. I had to re-write that whole part like 5 times because nothing sounded right. I still don’t think it was pretty good, but it was the best I could come up with. Unfortunately, later chapters won’t come out nearly as frequently as before. The chapters are gonna get pretty long from here on out, so it’s gonna take me a while to write and edit them. Promise to have the next chapter up ASAP.