A deep rumbling echoed through the metal corridors beneath West New Ring as Rainbow Dash swiftly escorted the group of young foals up the stairwell.
“Wh-who was that metal stallion just now?” a young filly stammered.
“Somepony who's awesome,” Rainbow Dash said.
“And who are you?”
“A different brand of awesome,” she replied, then galloped ahead of the group as they reached the top of the vertical chamber. “Stick behind me, kids. There seems to be an awful lot of noise coming down from the streets—Whoah boy!” She hissed and skidded to a stop, holding her wings out to block the group of foals just as a flickering aura of red light fell on the emerging group.
There were flames across several rooftops of the western districts. Magical beams of light were flying from one half of the capital to the next. Cannon volley after cannon volley lit buildings on fire and sent several chunks of the wall flying in every direction. The Darkstinian city had become a veritable warzone.
“Does this sort of crap happen all the time when I'm not looking?!” Rainbow Dash shouted.
“It would appear as though the unicorns have engaged in full-on civil war,” Steelteeth said, quite suddenly there.
The foals jumped back with a gasp, as did Rainbow Dash. “Whoah! Yeesh, Steely! With all of those metal gizmos on you, don't you think you'd have room for a bell?”
“What happened to Mr. Mean Mask? I thought you were doing the epic battle of the ages with him.”
“The Duke is as much a coward as he is a sorceror supreme,” Steelteeth hummed. His metal limbs and torso had several dints and scorch marks. Regardless, he managed to stand upright as he calmly gazed into the burning madness beyond the mouth of the stairwell. “I would have throttled him severely had he not teleported away at the last second.”
“Where the hay do you think he went?”
“Any number of places that are far safter than here,” Steelteeth grumbled. “By the Goddesses, this is not at all what Whitemane intended.”
“Whitemane...” Rainbow Dash looked out as a chunk of burning wall fell into the courtyard, summoning a shriek from the beyond-frightened foals. “Riiiiight...”
“What I wish to know is what sparked the full-on conflict to begin with.”
“Yeah, well...” Rainbow Dash scratched the back of her head and smiled nervously. Her voice cracked, “I... maaaaaaaaybe kind of sort of sent one of the foals as a messenger to Mintelle, letting them know that Duke and the ponies of the western district were doing terrible things to children.”
“You mean to tell me that you are the provocation for this?!” Steelteeth's aquamarine eyes glinted.
“What, you didn't know?! I thought they sent you!”
“Nopony sent me but Her Majesty,” he said, grinding his teeth. “And that was just to protect you! Now I see that I was really supposed to be protecting everypony else from you!”
“Well, excuuuuuuuse me, robo-horse!” Rainbow Dash hissed back. “But if you had seen what I've seen—”
“I have seen what you've seen!” Steelteeth interjected. “I started trailing you forty minutes ago after you abandoned the suite in the governor's house! Personally, I had hoped to go about the revelation of Duke's nefarious actions with a great deal more subtlety.”
“Yeah...” Rainbow Dash gulped, looking once more over the burning rooftops. She wasn't focused on the missiles being hurled through the air. She wasn't focused on the chunks of debris flying skyward from the heavy impacts. She wasn't even looking at the armore stallions running back and forth in desperation to cool off the flames. The one thing that caught her eye was the lavender glow—the same beam of light that was forever coalescing into the heart of the pit just beyond the wall. “Still, Steely, there are some things that even you can't see.”
Rainbow Dash lifted up on flapping wings. “You're right, I started this mess. But I think that's the reason why Whitemane sent me here.”
“To sow chaos?”
“No, to fix it.” She turned and gave him a weathered smile. “But I do happen to know a thing or two about chaos.”
“I... don't understand.”
“That's fine. Just sit there, protect the kids, and try not to get any more rusty, ya walking refridgerator.”
“Wait—You're leaving?!” Steelteeth shouted above the noise of battle.
“More like I'm just arriving.” She beat her wings faster. “Don't fret your metal head off. I think I know just the thing to fix all this mess! Stay frosty!” She spun to the side, twirled, and flew through the burning battle.
“Rainbow Dash!” Steelteeth growled after her.
A filly shivered and clung to one of his steaming limbs. “Is she really going to help us all, Mister?”
Steelteeth's nostrils flared. “She had better. I can't buck this group's way through an entire civil war, no matter how strong my prosthetics are.”
Up ahead, Rainbow Dash was winging left and right, dodging ribbons of manablasts and surging over cannon volleys. The shouts and angry rabble of guard ponies lit the air beneath her, punctuated by explosions and crackles of thunderous magic. Floating spheres sparkled and zipped past Rainbow Dash, zooming towards an infernal destination. A large bulb of burning energy flew into a monorail track, sending chunks of metal and concrete sailing Rainbow's way.
She expertly dodged the flying debris, spinning and twirling swiftly towards the pit. The lavender light intensified, almost distracting her as two more beams of mana shot past her. She dodged the blasts, dipped through a smoldering cloud of ash, and dove swiftly down the gaping pit. Surrounded in blackness once again, she descended. The sounds of battle echoed above and behind her, reverberating in the abysmal hole's deathly acoustics.
Finally she landed on the black ring of metal bordering the pointed center of the obelisk. It took all the strength from her insides to avoid looking at the young corpses lining the bottom of the chamber around her. Instead, she searched the cylindrical walls of the place. Somewhere along the circumference, she found the source of the lavender glow once again.
“Ah.... Yeah, but of course,” she muttered with a brief smile.
There were two symbols on the wall, two very familiar symbols: that of a hoofprint eclipsing a solar crest. The lines were etched solidly into the metal surface, and they glowed with bright energy that only she could see.
“Maybe somepony should start paying me for this.” She raised a hoof towards the omega symbol. The coat hairs on her body stood on end. But before she could make contact—
A bright pulse of crimson light emanated from behind her, followed by four heavy sets of hooves landing on the metal floor. A bright hum filled the bottom of the pit: the unmistakable sound of a mana rifle being charged.
“Intimidating interjection: stay right where you are or I shall reduce your skull to ribbons, outtrotter.”
Rainbow Dash slowly, calmly spun around. All she saw was a gas mask, and she snickered. “Hah... Oh, now here we go...”