Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Hooves, Scales, and Wings

Twilight leapt off the moonlit balcony and out of the illusion into the day. She quickly picked up speed as her eyes scanned for an overhead cloud. Finding one instantly, she teleported onto it and felt her hooves sink into the wet vapor.

“Now to find the Princess.” She opened her eyes wide as she peered over the edge, seeing the chaos below. Multiple skirmishes were unfolding between the guard and the unknown attackers, all ponies. She cursed her luck, wishing that it had been something other than her fellow ponies doing this as she noticed more and more dead on the ground. Most were attackers, but some wore guard uniforms.

Smoke in the distance was a telltale indicator of what had exploded earlier: her tower. It was completely destroyed, crumbled into dust, flame, and smoke. This hadn’t just been an attack on the castle; they had intended to eliminate her in the first shot.

All those lives lost to protect her and the Princesses, who were the last ponies who should need protection. The emotions running through her mind were reasonable to her, but foreign and hugely intense at the same time. There was anger at insolence, fear that more could be hurt, and an overwhelming urge to see this end by any means necessary.

Thunderbolts and shockwaves erupted in the distance, with two sources being much more destructive than the others. One was more powerful than all the others combined. She prayed that one was Luna, averting her eyes to continue the search as wind moved her cloud along. After a moment, another cloud below her moved away and she saw a pinkish-purple dot surrounded by gray dots, with a wall behind it and a giant stairway to its left. Cadence. Celestia would have to wait.

“I sure as Tartarus hope I know what I’m doing.” Twilight stood up straight on the cloud, waiting for the perfect time to drop straight down as she summoned the bounding spell through her hooves again. The flames burned brightly and depleted her cloud as the horseshoes formed on her hooves. The cloud evaporated at just the right time as the spell completed and she arrived directly over her target. She let gravity take hold as her body twisted and turned in the incredible rushing wind. Faster and faster the dots grew, until she could see the hairs on the manes of the attackers immediately below her, right as she teleported again.

She recovered her senses in the middle of another fresh crater, with gray-armored ponies scattered all about on the ground and more slowly appearing as the dust cleared.

“Well, I’m going down to help. You comin’?”

Applejack stood up straight to look the dragon in the eyes, then broke into a grin. “I thought you’d never ask!” She turned around to go out the door, and promptly realized there wasn’t one. “Aw, shoot. We can’t get down.”

Ahem!” Now it was Spike’s turn to stand up straight with a smile. He took in a deep breath and exhaled white-green fire on the cloud below him. In less than a second under the stream of fire, a series of blue symbols illuminated in the clouds and promptly evaporated, followed shortly thereafter by the cloud itself.

“A dragon’s fire can break enchantments and evaporate clouds. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Well I’ll be. Where’d ya learn ta do that?”

“You really think Twilight didn’t use me as a magic guinea pig from time to time?” Considering what he just admitted to, there was a strangely large amount of pride in Spike’s voice and demeanor.

“Heh. Good point.” She didn’t need any further explanation and promptly jumped down, landing evenly on all four hooves. Spike quickly followed in a tumble.

Nothing further needed to be said as they raced out of the door and down the stairs towards the castle entrance.

Six hostiles. Four. One. Zero.

Most ponies assumed that barriers were only good for defense. Once you mastered them, however, they could be powerful offensive weapons. They could crush or bludgeon, or even bat large swaths of attackers away as toys; just like six unfortunate soldiers had recently found out as they were sent dozens of meters back into a few of their friends.

The attack on the castle was a complete surprise to Prince Armor and his forces. Worse, it was hardly a masterpiece of cunning and subtlety. In hindsight, the indications of the attack were obvious. They simply hadn’t seen them in time.

He looked at the battleground that was his home as smoke and the sounds of battle filled the air. He had snuck out a back exit and fought through to the main entrance to try to circle around the enemy, but that left the castle itself still infested. Worse, he still had no idea where Cadence was or if she was safe, and he still had to warn the pier. He greatly regretted Twilight never finishing her long-distance teleportation spell; it would’ve been perfect for this had she taught it to him. Hesitating for a moment on where to search, he turned to the entrance and ran up to the giant double doors.

It was as if the doors were waiting for this, because they then exploded outwards on cue. However, it was not a sense of dramatic timing but a large group of attackers that poured out, completely ignoring him in their mad rush to get out of the castle.

“And don’t come back, ya hear!”

Standing just inside the castle was an orange mare apparently armed with a purple dragon with small green flames coming out of his nostrils.

“Applejack? Spike?” he stated in an oddly flat, surprised tone.

The orange mare and the dragon turned to him, their faces brightening. “Whew! Thank Celestia yer here, Yer Majesty. These guys barely know when to quit.”

“I dunno about that, AJ. They sure seemed to know to run when a dragon breathes fire. Heh,” Spike said, rubbing his chest a little.

“Yeah, ‘spose they do.” Applejack had to give him that one.

Shining shook his head to regain control of his thoughts. This could be the bit of luck he needed to turn things around. “Applejack, Spike, listen to me. I need you to do something for me; it’s critically important.”

Applejack and Spike looked at each other with a quick grin. “Sure ‘nuff sugarcube. Watcha need?”

Focusing his power on the emblem affixed to his chest, he broke off the miniature shield piece from the straps and floated it to Spike. “Take this, and run to the pier as quick as you can. There’s a ship coming in trying to dock, a huge ship. It’s got a false flag! If that ship docks they’ll get reinforcements, and we can’t let that happen. Tell the dockmaster to open fire on that ship and get every pegasus they have to take it down! Understand?”

Spike rubbed his fist. “One barbequed blimp, coming up! Come on AJ!”

“Right behind ya. Let’s go!”

The two ran off like a shot. Shining turned away from the castle as flashes of magic blasted all around. The real fights were happening on the grounds, and he finally decided that’s where he was needed.

“Cadence,” he said. “Please be ok, and forgive me if you aren’t.”

“Cadence! Are you ok?” Twilight rushed over as soon as she got her bearings back and saw the pink winged unicorn next to the wall.

Cadence clumsily forced herself back up on her hooves and rubbed her head. “Twilight? Oh, thank Celestia it’s you. I thought an artillery piece hit me.”

Twilight backed up a bit and averted her eyes, giving a nervous chuckle. “Yeah, that was kinda my fault. Sorry if I hurt you.”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. They nearly had me captured. Here.” A bright blue light emanated from her horn and a blast of energy shot behind and to the side of Twilight. The Grand Mage turned her head just in time to see the blast hit the horn of a hostile unicorn sneaking up on them, blowing out his horn and sending him to the ground twitching. He’d be completely disabled for several hours with that kind of impact.

Turning back, Twilight saw Cadence nearly collapse again and rushed to support her, bracing her sister-in-law’s shoulder. “How much have you been fighting?” she asked.

Winged unicorns were extremely rare, and most were nobility of some level. Every single one of them was capable of using a terrifying amount of magic at once; far more than most unicorns ever dreamt of. In turn, however, most didn’t have much more magic total than a regular unicorn. Cadence was much stronger than most, but if she exhausted her supply of magic, she’d wind up just like the unfortunate soul she blasted.

“Too much,” came the reply. “I’m not going to be much use anymore. Find Celestia. She’s trying to fight some old guy near the mountain. I didn’t get a look at his face, but I’m pretty sure he’s important.”

“Celestia’s fighting!?” she yelled. Images of the Glass Desert flashed in her mind. It was large enough to easily stretch from Canterlot to Ponyville and back again. If she used Sol Invictus...

“I need to get there. Get out of here, hide, or… something! Just don’t fight anymore!”

“I can handle it from here, Twilight. Thanks.”

A short smile was exchanged between the two before Twilight ran off.

Canterlot’s airship pier was a massive open-air structure. Situated on the opposite side of the mountain with a convenient tunnel for easy access, it had been under constant construction over the last few years to accommodate more and ever larger airships. Though mainly the means of transport of those without wings, the military had become more and more interested in them with the advent of new weapons and engine technologies. Most of the port had effectively come under its control, with more funds being pledged but not delivered to expand the civilian side.

It was through this that Commander Lofty Breeze was given charge of the pier. It was the perfect place to wind down towards retirement. A busy pier, lots of friendly faces... he could find himself settling in easily here among the start of a whole new industry.

Now, the castle was under attack, a ship was coming into dock despite orders to stay back, and an orange mare with an actual bucking dragon were telling him to open fire on it. Today had proven to be most interesting.

“And how do I know you two are telling the truth?”

The dragon grabbed the mare’s head and pulled it over to him. “See this? Element of Honesty. And you have Prince Armor’s little shield thingy. What more do you need?”

His teeth began to grind from nerves. “Proof this isn’t all some huge trick!”

He wasn’t being entirely unreasonable, really. There was a coup going on, and deception was a part of warfare. The problem was, if the ship was hostile, they were dead if it docked. If it was friendly, they would be halting reinforcements.

“Commander! We have incoming!” a voice from high in the watchtower screamed out as the whole bay turned to see the ship’s side open up and a few dozen pegasi fly out of it at speed.

“Are you happy now?”

“There’s still no proof! Those could be—” All doubt in the Commander’s mind got erased as the military pegasi launched their assault on the dock. Bolts of lightning began firing from their wings, tearing up the facility and sending his own pegasi scrambling.

The four cannons mounted on the pier began firing on the ship without his orders, blasts of energy from the unicorns manning them striking harmlessly on a purple barrier around the dirigible.

He’d been wrong. He should’ve listened. Turning around to apologize was a futile move as the orange mare and her friend had already run off towards the observation tower, a little platform much like a crow’s nest. Lightning struck behind him and knocked him forward, making him tumble over a few times on the wood desk below him. Two more impacts right in front of him sounded; impacts he recognized as pegasi in a flawlessly executed hard landing with all four hooves of each pony landing at the exact same time.

This was it. They’d finish him here, and Canterlot would fall thanks to his hesitation. He braced for the end, but it didn’t come. Instead, the sounds of fighting retreated from the docks to skies again, and he opened his eyes to look up.

His vision saw two leather flyer’s jackets, but no faces. He didn’t need to see the faces. He only needed to see the name tags with their golden lettering burning into his retinas.


The sound of a voice forced his head to move up enough to see their faces.

“Well, looks like you were right, Soarin. Those guys that attacked us were a part of something larger. I owe you a drink.” The bit of gray in her mane and the dry steeliness of her eyes showed her experience.

“Yeah, you can pay up when these guys finish buying me rounds. This one looks like he’s going to owe me a lot.” Soarin even had some tiny hints of gray, but his relatively soft features kept him looking young. Young-looking or no, his voice took on a hidden depth while in a fight.

Spitfire’s wings flapped open in an instant and launched twin lightning bolts behind the dockmaster. He turned his face just in time to witness a fireball engulfing several hostile pegasi where the two bolts met. Spitfire’s signature move.

“You crack that monster’s shield, I’ll thin their numbers.” Spitfire might’ve been retired, but she still gave orders like a captain.

“On it.” Soarin’s voice somehow got even deeper as he spread his own wings, and a golden, crackling field surrounded them and extended out from his feathers. Their takeoff speed was nearly incomprehensible, and just as fast as they had arrived they were off to join the fight. It was only then that Lofty Breeze realized that he’d sat there dumbfounded the entire time. He hadn’t just almost caused Canterlot to fall, he’d stared at two of the greatest Wonderbolts the world had ever known like some newborn foal while his dock got destroyed. His career was going to be over a lot faster than he’d ever thought.

Twilight ran around the outside gardens of the castle, trying to follow the flashes and pulses of magic in the distance to find Celestia. As she ran, the magical blasts of energy became all the more vague, going from a series of powerful concussive blasts to a simmer with an occasional muffled sound wave.

She slowed her speed to a trot and started looking around. What was behind her was the same as what was in front, and where the mountain should be to her right she only found more garden. Each direction she turned, it looked much the same.

“Okay, Twilight, get a grip,” she told herself. “This is obviously an illusion spell, you just have to find a way to break it.”

“Hahahahahaha.... oh, if only it were so simple a spell, Twilight Sparkle. But an illusion spell can’t keep you where I need you.”

That voice. She recognized that voice echoing around her. A voice that would be so friendly-sounding if she didn’t know exactly the horror it came from.

“Ah, you remember me. How touching. And you should be thanking me, really. I’m using all the power I can push out of this stone just to protect you! After all, it’d be a shame if you were to be in the conflagration, too. Dear Celestia always did go overboard.”

She turned and turned but the draconequus was nowhere to be seen. “Stone? So you’re still sealed,” she answered back. “Which means I can still get out. Where are you!?” Her yell was accompanied with a lighting of her horn and a grinding of teeth. She really didn’t have time for this. “Maybe I can put another seal on you.”

“You? Oh, I doubt that. Still, I’m surprised! You don’t want my hospitality? Alright, I’ll let you burn, but I think I should have you stay and chat a while anyway. It’ll be fun! We’ll share stories! What have you been up to, Little Miss Alicorn?”

“Oh crap.” She thought, spinning around again. “You know? How could you possibly know?”

“How could I not? When you feel the magic of three types of ponies in one body, there can only be one answer. I’m happy for you, really. After all, that means we’ll get to see so much more of each other! And who wouldn’t want to see more of little old me?”

“Try all of Equestria.”

“Yes, well, I’ll be sure to change that name once I’m out again. But you must be so excited! I mean, this is a big deal for you! What do your friends think?”

Oh no, he wasn’t going to get into her head that easily. “The ones that know are happy for me. I’d imagine the others will be too.”

“I’m sure they will be.” A lion’s paw rubbed her head and she leapt back. “Jumpy today, aren’t we?” the abomination asked.

Twilight looked at the demon carefully, and then slightly to her right where a familiar statue stood. “How did—”

“I’ll save you the trouble. This is a projection, one that takes quite a lot of power, so appreciate it and my… stunning visage. I’m still in the stone, at least for now.”

The way he squiggled through the air churned Twilight’s stomach. Sealed or not, this was going to be a major problem.

“Now then, let’s you and I talk.”

No deals, Discord!” Her voice cracked a little with the yell.

“Deals? I’m not here to make a deal. You don’t have anything I want, and that’s obviously a goat behind door number three! I’m just here to help you.”

A couch that looked and felt strangely like one of Rarity’s appeared below her, knocking her over and laying her down on it.

The chaos spirit adjusted the thick glasses he was suddenly wearing and flipped through his notepad. “I mean, let’s face it, what’s happened to you recently is more worthy of one of these than anything Rarity’s ever used them for. But you’re never going to accept things if you keep lying to yourself about what your problems are.”

Twilight jumped off the couch and leveled an accusatory hoof at the draconequus. “Accept things? How the buck do you know anything about what I’ve been going through? And for that matter, why do you even care?”

Discord’s laugh was as sinister as ever. “Hehhehheh... Little pony, do you know how many alicorns I’ve killed? How many of their minds I’ve waltzed my way into and twisted beyond recognition? I know you all too well, even without trying. You are an open book to me, Twilight Sparkle. Don’t ever pretend otherwise. As for helping, well, I’m just a generous soul is all.”

“Gee, I don’t see any reason to distrust such a generous soul. By all means, tear my mind to pieces, you hideous freak of nature.”

Discord swooped down and pinched her cheek a little. “Oh, she can be flatly sarcastic! So cute! But we’re getting off topic, and much as I normally might like that, I need you to focus here. What actually scares you about becoming an alicorn? I mean, other than me of course. Is it being forced to be a princess? Hardly.”

Twilight blasted his hand off her face with some magic and shot a few more blasts at him that he unfortunately dodged. “And what would you know about being a princess? All you do is destroy. I’ve been at her side for years, I’ve seen what she has to do. It’s…” a stunning revelation cracked through her mind. “… awful.”

“Isn’t it though? On a pedestal, all alone, only a sister and a sycophantic brat to open up to.”

The mare sat back down. “Why didn’t she…”

“Tell you? She did, in her own way. Still, that’s neither what you are nor what you should be afraid of. Alicorns don’t have to answer to anything. Again, other than me, eventually. If you don’t want her life, you can tell her to shove it and go find a nice tropical beach to lay back on. Maybe make the locals wait on you knee and hoof. I think that’d be fun, at least for a while. Then when it got boring, you could turn them into lemurs.”

A few more blasts zipped past his head.

“Okay, okay! No dominating inferior species, I get it. Party pooper. Still, that’s not the issue here. The physical changes bother you a little, but I honestly can’t understand why. So you’re tall instead of short, and you get wings. You can give yourself wings these days. You don’t need some mystical metamorphosis to do it for you, though granted the butterfly ones aren’t as… majestic.

“Your friends dying is a scary thought, too, but as sad you already are about that you and I both know that you’ll deal with it. It’s not like other ponies don’t deal with loss of elders and friends over time, after all. So what’s really bothering you?”

“The fact that breaking your statue would probably just let you out instead of hurt you,” she responded through grinding teeth.

The God of Chaos gave her a horseapple-eating grin. “I know, delicious irony isn’t it? Frozen but untouchable? Anyway, that’s not quite it either. There are two things in the back of your mind eating at you, one a trifle, one that’s already swallowing your soul without you even knowing it yet. I bet it’s tasty, too. Such a shame that I never got a sample when I had the chance.”

Twilight got up and ran off, her horn alight and a draconequus floating behind her.

“And just where do you think you’re going young lady?”

She fired a few more blasts at him. “I’m going to find a weakness in this spell and get out of here before you drive me crazy!”

“Fine, go on, see if I care. I’ll just be here. Alone. By myself. Oh, boo-hoo.”

Twilight wasn’t about to argue, even if Discord’s response was ominously sarcastic. She just felt the need to run. Turn after turn she ran, probing everywhere with her magic to find some semblance of a weakness to exploit. After making far too many turns to make sense, she saw something that made her stop in her tracks: that same statue.

The voice started up again behind her. “I told you, I’m not letting you leave. Right now, nothing can enter or leave this place without my say so. No such path exists. Do we understand now?”

Twilight nodded, lying. She didn’t really understand, but she didn’t feel the need to. She was far too busy being terrified. Then, just as she was about to scream, that fear that so quickly welled in her mind vanished. She realized all she had to do was trick Discord into letting her out. It wasn’t one of her normal plans, and she couldn’t quite believe she had the stomach to try it, but there it was: a plan.

“Okay, Discord. You win. What am I afraid of, if you think you know me so well?” The confidence in her voice was unexpected, she had tried to sound scared. She simply couldn’t bring herself to.

“Yourself. Oh sure, there’s a little part of you that’s afraid your friends and others will treat you differently, but the truth is you’ve already settled that. You said it yourself, they’re happy for you, and the way you said it tells me things are alright there. As for others, well, you’ve already been a princess within Canterlot. Just because no one called you that directly doesn’t mean that disobeying you wouldn’t have been like disrespecting Celestia. In all but title, in Canterlot you already are Princess Twilight. You’re used to it, you know how to deal with it.

“What you fear more than anything is yourself. You fear you’ll change. You fear what you could become. You fear that you’ll fail. You fear that it will alter your mind and destroy who you are or worse, become a true Nightmare. Am I right?”

He was. She hadn’t quite realized it until it was explained so clearly, not that she’d had much time to think about it at all, but he was right, or at the very least, she was certainly worried about it now. The fact that she was sitting down again should be signal enough for a response, but she nodded anyway.

“Then look. All you need to do is keep calm. If you let your emotions get the better of you, then I get to see a great show! If you don’t, then you’ll treat it just like any other challenge, and it’ll lead to personal growth and… I don’t know, muffins or something. It’s that simple.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Wait, why am I listening to you?” It was a valid question. Listening to Discord was generally considered fairly high on her “list of things to never do under any circumstances ever.”

“Because I’m making sense? Not that it matters. The point is that you know I’m right. Or you could not listen to me and go nuts! It would certainly be more entertaining than what I normally see around here.”

Now she was just getting frustrated. “Whatever. You’ve said what you wanted to say. Just, let me out!”

Discord stood up straight and took an uncharacteristic and clearly mocking bow. “But of course, Your Highness! Just turn around and go straight, left, right, and left to find your beloved Princess, and do tell her I said hello when you get there, won’t you?”

Twilight took a few more shots at him with her magic. He was strangely good at dodging those. “Oh, I’ll tell her,” she said, using a tone that could be easily construed as threatening. “I’ll tell her everything.”

“Please do! I’d love for her to come by and have a nice chat!” The joy in his words wasn’t even sarcastic, which was just worrying. No time for that, though. The spell was obviously lifted as sounds of battle around the castle resumed for her again, and Celestia’s heat could be felt in the distance.

“Since when does Discord help ponies?” she said to herself.

“Hmph. The answer to that should be obvious, my dear,” the voice responded, stopping Twilight in her tracks. “When it’s in my best interest! Heh. Heh heh. Hehehehehehahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!”

Applejack just barely managed to lose to Spike in their race up the dock’s watchtower. “Told ya the elevator was faster,” he said.

“And I told ya I wouldn’t even be winded! So there!”

Thunder cracked overhead to remind them of what was going on. Military pegasi of all colors fought each other with lightning and cutting wings. The ship stayed clear of the docks, its own cannons silent. It was clear they were going for a capture instead of bombardment.

A lightning attack hit the rocks above them and debris narrowly avoided crushing their watchtower. Applejack and Spike looked at each other with a clear thought shared between them: they had no idea what they were doing.

“I really hope I live through this so Granny Smith can kill me somethin’ proper when I get back. Spike!”


“Lure one o’ them pegasi in. I’ve got an idea.” Applejack tumbled to the edge of the crow’s-nest-style watchtower and ducked next to the concealing railing.

“Is it a good idea?” Spike asked, scratching his head.

“Not in the least. Got any better plans?”

“Nope. Hey, you!” An enemy pegasus in flight turned to see the dragon. “Come get me, you fat feathered freak!”

The tensed look on Spike’s face communicated that the pegasus took the bait. Applejack figured that she wouldn’t have been able to pull that off as a mere earth pony; they wouldn’t think her a threat. A dragon on the other hand, even a small one, could be trouble with fire breath, as she had already seen.

She waited patiently for a figure to zoom above her, and she didn’t have to wait long. The instant the front hooves came into view, she leapt up with all her might and grabbed on. A mere fraction of an instant later she felt Spike do the same as the pegasus dipped again. Wind rushed past them as the pegasus shook and rolled and climbed and dove trying to get her to loosen her grip. He obviously didn’t know what kind of rodeo pony had just latched on, and it looked as if dragons had fairly good grip with their claws as well.

“Let go!” the pegasus yelled through his furiously flapping wings.

“You let go!” she yelled back. Her mind really wasn’t into snappy quips at the moment as she was trying to wrestle him, only to realize there was no ground to wrestle him down towards. Well, there was, but it was a great distance below them. With a hard pull, she forced him to angle towards the ship. He fought her as best as he could, but it was useless for all but the most athletic of pegasi to resist the strength of an earth pony farmer and iron athlete.

Despite the fierce grip, she only knew how to control his direction. Speed was entirely another matter. The pegasus was drastically increasing his velocity as they dove towards the massive gray airship. A blue pegasus with what seemed to be giant, yellow-colored wings of pure electrical light dove past them, his wings impacting on the shimmering purple barrier around it and putting a crack in it.

The incredibly long ship had massive twin balloons, wrapped together in some kind of armor layer while carrying a huge crew area integrated right into the balloons themselves. The armor seemed to have big holes in it though, and there was not a speck of paint to be found anywhere on the surface. One of the huge engines jutting out from the side was belching smoke, and as she got closer she was relieved that the line of imposing guns along the hull were silent. Getting closer was one of the problems, though.

As an impact seemed inevitable, Applejack screamed and pulled hard on the pegasus to line up with the large doors on the side of the craft that were exposed by the pegasus strike, and prayed for a soft landing in the bay.

Her prayers were partially answered as they all soared into the large hangar, just barely managing to get in through the shield’s opening as it quickly closed after them. Her relief was short-lived, however, as they crashed onto the metal floor immediately thereafter with a resounding “crunch” coming from the pegasus she landed on. Spike and Applejack were both thrown clear after the first hit as they bounced down the bay and skidded towards an open lift. From Applejack’s perspective, said open lift was approaching both of them with no indication of quitting this dastardly behavior.

Tumbling over each other into the open maw of the lift, Applejack instinctively grabbed onto the large chain in the center of it, but couldn’t maintain a full grip as she slid down it, Spike following behind. A moment later, they hit the bottom of the ship with a nice, enemy-alerting “thum” sound. Six armored ponies quickly turned their heads to notice in confusion the strange orange earth pony that seemed to fall from the hangar deck. Their confusion only seemed to increase when a small purple dragon landed next to her with a similar sound. Applejack for her part was every bit as shocked, although not quite as confused.

One of the ponies hit a button and the floor beneath Applejack and Spike began to part to reveal an extremely large drop below them. Spike didn’t hesitate for a moment as he grabbed and tossed her into the pony that hit the button while breathing fire at the rest of them on the other side of the open floor. Seeing a chance to run, Applejack didn’t need further encouragement as the two jumped through doorway after doorway, strangely none with actual doors, towards the aft of the ship.

“Do we know where we’re going?” she yelled at her companion.

“Wherever we can cause the most damage!” he yelled back.

“Oh, that’s nice,” Applejack replied, her mind finding a potentially fatal flaw in this plan. “Where’s that?”

“I dunno, but it’s not where a bunch of ponies like that can get us!”

The dragon had a point.

The two rushed through one more doorway, this one with an actual door, and used some kind of lever that caused the door to close with the sound of a large, heavy lock clicking into place. The two leaned against the door to catch their breath, but froze as they looked behind them, finding a half dozen unicorns and pegasi looking at them in a very large, mostly metal room with two huge, humming cylindrical machines.

She looked around at the confused and somewhat irritated ponies staring at her, and saw that there were more up above her as metal stairs to her right lead up to a second level. Underneath the stairs was a large bin of white-glowing metal spike-like objects. Her powers of observation were good, but her ability to come up with a believable lie was as bad as ever.

“I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this,” Applejack bluffed, not that anypony would believe her. “Spike, would you be so kind as to do the honors?”

“I’d be glad to, m’lady.” Spike had a curiously good Canterlot accent when he wanted one. It was unlikely to help here, but grabbing one of the white metal spike thingamabobs and unleashing a draconic roar just might do the trick.

It almost did, as all the non-unicorns in the room dashed off in a frenzy, stumbling over each other. The two unicorns stood their ground and lit their horns. Spike’s reactions proved a bit faster, however, as a quick intake of breath and some fire later provided a very interesting result. His flame shot right through the metal spike, reacting with it and sending a dramatically larger than normal flame right into the two unicorns.

The two interlopers stood wide-eyed and frozen as the unicorns ran screaming up the stairs, sounds of fire extinguishers coming from the upstairs door.

“What in the hay was that?” Applejack asked.

Spike seemed less confused all of a sudden. “Huh! Solidified magic! I can’t believe I didn’t recognize it! Twilight got a small chunk home before to experiment on it, but this is a way bigger piece. Who knew dragon’s fire would do that? I wond—”

He didn’t get a chance to finish as the piece of magic popped and shook out of his hands. More and much louder pops and bright flashes came from the piece in a faster pace as it scattered around the floor, eventually starting to jump about. It was literally bouncing off the metal walls and denting them when a new, unknown voice from up the stairs shouted, “Containment breach! Abandon ship!” followed by a new siren sounding in their ears.

“Run like the dickens?” Applejack asked.

“Oh yeah,” Spike answered, pulling the lever next to him to unlock the door and scrambling through, Applejack just behind him.

The loud explosions behind them made running difficult as they stepped through doorway after doorway. The two desperately kept looking for a way off the ship as the moved towards the bay doors they had escaped earlier. The gaping hole in the floor technically offered a way off the ship, but little in the way of comfort. Between explosions and empty sky, they chose empty sky and jumped right through the opening.

It turned out to not be that huge an improvement.

Applejack and Spike flailed their limbs around in a screaming panic as the ground below them zoomed in for an eager meeting. Their mouths seemed to be as in sync as their legs.

Catch me Catch me Catch me—”

Two soft impacts knocked the breath out of both of them as they looked up to find a blue pegasus with darker blue hair and a brown fliers’ jacket lifting them back up towards the docks. A quick look back revealed two pegasus wings in a giant envelope of electric yellow light and a smoke and lightning trail behind them.

“Hey, that was a bit dangerous, don’t you think? Storming an enemy ship and then jumping out of it?” a familiar voice asked.

“Hey hey, Soarin! Long time no see, buddy! Thanks for the catch!”

How Spike could say anything right now was utterly beyond Applejack.

“Haha! Not a problem! Couldn’t let Rainbow’s buddies go splat now, could I?”

They landed on what was left of the docks just in time to get knocked on their flanks by a giant explosion from the inside of the ship that tore its rear half asunder. Listing and falling, several subsequent detonations ripped most of the rest of the ship apart and set it alight. Mere moments later, what was left crashed into the base of the extremely steep mountain with a thunderous kaboom.

Applejack, Spike, and Soarin walked up and looked down over the docks at the wreckage as smoke rose from the ship’s new gravesite.

"What in blazes did you two do in there?!” Soarin asked.

“Oh you know, boarded the ship, found their stash of solidified magic, set it on fire, ran like hell out a random door. Nothing too amazing.”

“Are you kiddin’ me!?” Applejack finally regained the ability to speak. “That was downright suicidal!”

“It was your idea!” Spike shot back.

Spitfire’s voice came from behind them as she fluttered down to land. “Damn, I oughta give you two medals or something. That was incredible!”

Her landing effectively signaled the battle’s end as a triumphant cheer came from the soldiers and dockworkers. The enemies were all either dead, captured, or retreating into the sky in a vast panic.

Sore, bruised, exhausted, and half-choked by smoke billowing up from the burning wreck at the bottom of the mountain, Applejack and Spike were both overwhelmed by a feeling of relief and elation as they started laughing and cheering with the dockworkers in spite of their condition. This battle, at least, had been won.