One of a Kind

by Retired5262020


Chapter 5


As the sun slowly begins to dip into the horizon, you drop onto an outcropping on the side of the mountain you are climbing. You take in deep breaths of thin air in an effort to still your shaking limbs. It’s just then that you notice a taste so foul coating your tongue that it raises goosebumps all over your body.

A tingle of your comlink later and it’s gone.

You would have grunted in frustration if you weren’t busy trying to regulate your breathing. It seems like you’ve been having hallucinations on all of your senses all day, and your comlink is the only thing that can fight off the unwanted sensations. It’s incredibly tempting to blame your steadily worsening infection. It’s progressed to the point that you are beginning to feel clammy and your forehead is a bit hotter than you would have liked it. But any disease you have shouldn’t be so far along that you are experiencing symptoms so radical.

Even more mind-boggling is that all it takes is the introduction of a standard jamming frequency to push the symptoms away from you.

It raises the question, is someone watching you and deliberately doing this to you? It doesn’t seem so far-fetched as time goes on.

By now, you have gotten your breathing under control and your aching limbs comfortably settled as you shift into a position more agreeable with your wounded back. You’re sure to take extra care to not let your fingertips brush against anything. The unfortunate digits have been worn almost raw against the unforgiving rock that you are scaling.

Naturally, it’s far from pleasant to use them, but they should be okay by morning.

Holding your hands out, you watch as the scraped, abused skin of your palms and fingers very slowly knits itself back together. You slowly flex them. These hands of yours, they’ve done so many things. Created, destroyed, abused, been abused, and too many other things to count. In a way, it’s saddening to see your clone healing factor repair damage done to them.

You had seen military personnel, small-town heroes, rescue workers, peacekeepers, all of them laden with marks and weals they came across in their hazardous lives. It’s mystifying, you think. To carry the marks that came with such danger. Each little deformity could be counted as a badge, a story of some heroic act, a brush with death, or even a simple but memorable accident. Just the placement and angles of those marks could tell volumes about their owners.

You possess none.

”Hazardous” is your job description summed up into a single word. For everything you’ve done, don’t you deserve to carry tales of your own exploits? The healing ability the clones have always does away with wounds, and eventually scars. For it wouldn’t do if the illusion of total conformity was broken, now would it?

You feel a scowl tugging at your face. It’s all a reminder that you are just a number at the end of the day. “Fucking Frontier...” you idly curse under your breath.

Carefully dipping your still healing fingers into your pocket, you pull out the odd tracking beacon you were given. As you flip the plastic case between your fingers, you entertain the idea of smashing it and destroying Frontier Laboratories’ chances of finding you...Then you remember there is probably a back-up tracking device implanted in your body anyway.

With a sigh, you replace the beacon and settle yourself. You’re usually not the type to mope, but all the free time you’ve had has let your mind wander. Pulling your knees up to your chest and resting your chin on them, you continue to ponder over your life.

Frontier is everything you know, yet you hate all of its employees bar Emma and despise the establishment itself. Situations like the one you’re in are a prime example of why.

Thinking back as a far as you dare, you find only a handful of fond memories. Gaining total sentience, your first real conversation with Emma, Frontier’s verdict not to label you defective, and by proxy, saving you from being put on their ‘to be euthanatized’ list.

You blink as the images and sensations of each one flash before you in sharp and life-like detail, aided by your comlinks Augmented Memory Recall, or AMR function.

It’s a paltry amount to hold precious compared to a normal human,

But you’re not a normal human, now are you? a faint voice in the back of your head chimes nastily.
 
…but it’s all you have.

As the sun's last rays slowly begin to fade from the sky, you back up against the side of the mountain outcropping, hoping to avoid any chilled wind, and watch the steadily darkening sky give way to unfamiliar stars.
 


 


It’s a tense, uncomfortable silence as the six girls slowly trudge down the wide castle halls to their guest rooms after dinner.

The meal, while delectable as expected, had been a mostly silent affair. The few times the quiet had been broken was filled with the hushed chatter of the various noble cliques at the long, communal table.

The fact that they were told to wear the Elements at all times, like at dinner, didn’t help either.

The whispers were never said lightly and there always was a terrible paranoia that seemed to ensnare all who heard with its head-turning, wide-eyed symptoms. Even if everything was said with secrecy as its main directive, it didn’t take a genius to figure out just what the hot topic sweeping through the ranks of the castle was.

Not even the most important of the meal’s attendants were immune to the unsettling atmosphere.

Both Celestia and Luna had seemed to be their usual, cordial selves. Smiling, being reassuring. But when nopony was looking, they would exchange looks with varying expressions.

Shining and many of the higher ranking guards wore looks ranging from grim to neutral the entire time. Many of them would slowly scan the room with their eyes while their ears would swivel about at the slightest unusual sound.  

Poor Cadence, who was perfectly able to pick up on her husband’s discomfort, fidgeted nervously in her seat the entire time. The pink alicorn had been away on business during the first council meeting and had yet to be informed on what was going on.

For once, Blueblood had been silent for almost the entire meal. Not even once did he make a snarky comment about anypony at the table. A look of pondering weariness bordering on fear and been present on him the entire time.

What is it about this thing approaching that has everypony on pins and needles?

Before any of them can answer the unspoken question, both the princesses briskly trot by while whispering lowly to each other. As if feeling the numerous sets of eyes on their backs, both light up their horns and teleport away in a pair of flashes.

It’s just too much for one of them.

“Aaahhhh!” cries Rainbow as she tugs at her mane, “What is with all the secrecy? Why can’t we just be told what in the world is going on!?”  the pegasus practically yells.

A blue glow surrounds her torso, preventing the athlete from spreading her wings and rocketing away in search of the tantalizing info.

The prismatic pony twists her head around to look at her wings, then to the group behind her.

Rarity lets the glow around her horn fade, freeing her grumbling friend. “Rainbow, dear, the rest of the girls and I are all just as bewildered as you about everypony’s suddenly tight lips. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we can go snooping. Meddling in affairs not your own is exceedingly rude.”

Rainbow grunts, not deterred in the slightest. “Yeah, it’s rude and all that, but I’m sure we all had important things to be doing before we got called away. I mean, I was busy balancing the weather team’s budget.” The prismatic pegasus growls and tugs at her mane with her hooves. “I HATE paperwork!” she almost screams, “it’s going to pile up while I’m gone too, and I don’t even know why I’m here!”

“Sug, Ah’m sure Thunderlane or another pony can balance your books while you’re gone,” Applejack flatly points out. “That ain’t why you’re upset, Ah know it.”

“Actually,” Rarity chimes in, “I was in the thick of a rather ambitious project before this whole debacle, so Rainbow’s concern is a valid one.” The alabaster unicorn looks around at her gathered friends. “At the same time though, I will hold to what I said earlier. It’s not our business.”

The colorful mare’s face is picture-perfect betrayal.

“Well, girls…” Fluttershy speaks up during the pause, “we shouldn’t be snooping, but at the same time…”

Fluttershy, Rainbow, Rarity, and Applejack continue to debate quietly as the group slowly heads back to their respective rooms. Pinkie surprisingly abstained from the chatter, favoring a look of thoughtfulness as tiny, almost unnoticeable twitches and tics ran rampant with her body.

None of them noticed Twilight steadfastly ignoring them all.

After all, who has time for talking when there is a situation as puzzling as this to think about?


“Princess. Princess. Princess, wake up! Urgent news!”

Celestia’s eyes shoot open in her darkened bedroom as she teleports from her bed to the center of the room, already standing with her horn charged enough to instantly light up the room. The glow of her magic fades fades when she finds no aggressor, only a petrified pegasus guard standing in her doorway.  

Oops…

The alicorn gives the paralyzed guard a small, sheepish smile. “My utmost apologies. I did not expect to be awakened so abruptly.” Celestia straightens up and schools her face into her usual visage of aloofness. “May I ask what is you have to report?” she kindly requests.

The gold-clad guard takes a shaky breath and composes himself.

“Of course, your Majesty.” The stallion pauses until he finds the right words, then continues, “The teams keeping track of the subject’s ascent of the mountain have reported a rather disturbing trend.”

Celestia’s eyes widen by a fraction and a look of faint worry crosses her features.

The guardspony sighs and ruffles his wings nervously. “The subject apparently continued through the night during its climb and is expected to reach Canterlot... shortly after dawn…”

The princess blinks and looks over to the grandfather clock sitting innocently in the corner of her still darkened room.

Even in the low light, the time on the large timepiece, 5:30, is painfully clear. Less than an hour until she is to raise the sun...

The alicorn tries to swallow, but the huge lump in her throat completely stops her.

The bedroom descends into suffocating quiet, broken only by the even ticking of the clock.

“My loyal guard,” Celestia starts after some time, her voice just above a whisper, “find Shining Armor, I care not what he’s doing right now, and tell him that the first contact team needs to be assembled immediately. Tell him that this is a priority one order and absolutely everything else comes second.”

The guard’s now stoic face twitches at the mention of a “priority one” order.

“It pains me to do this,” Celestia continues, not daring to slump her shoulders even if she wants to. “The last time I was forced to give such an order was during Discord’s release. I hope that puts this into perspective for you, my loyal guard,” she finishes grimly. “Now go.”

The guard rockets back out the door and towards Shining Armor’s quarters with no hesitation.

A flash of magic later, and the door closes behind him. Another bit of magic lights the candles in the dim bedroom.

With the new light, Celestia inspects herself in her vanity mirror, frowning at her haggard appearance.

The multitude of beauty products neatly organized on the vanity rise up, encased in a golden aura as they circle their owner, each one doing their job quickly and efficiently. As a trio of brushes work their way through her long and mussed mane, the ivory alicorn’s apprehension begins to mount.

“Why can’t situations like this arise somewhere else?” she questions to the open air. “I’m sure that the Griffin Dominion would jump at a chance like this.”

That in itself is another problem. Just how is she going to explain this to all the neighboring nations?

The unexpected return of Discord and the calamities he brought with him are likely still fresh in the mind of Equestria’s neighbors. To the eldest dragons still among the living, Discord’s first and considerably longer reign of tribulation is the base for many a horror story. News of the approaching traveler’s origins will find its way to the public ear eventually, and anypony with an education will be able to connect its and Discord’s origins.

Celestia’s legs begin to shake.

“But of course, everything ‘interesting’ must go on in Equestria…At least it’s never boring,” she jokes lightly to herself. It does nothing to soothe her fraying nerves.

A crackling blanket of blue magic coats her disheveled wings as she thinks, simultaneously straightening her large feathers as it burns away the previous day’s dirt and grime with loud, electrical pops.

The princess tosses a forlorn look at the door to her bathroom, where her luxurious shower sat, practically begging to be used. Oh how a hot shower would do wonders for her stress. For a moment, she considers taking the time to properly clean herself.

Another glance at the clock, which is moving far too fast for the princess’s taste, stops her.

“Of course…”

The blue magic moves from her wings to all around her body, scorching away the few imperfections on her ivory fur and reviving the luster it’s known for.

Again, she looks at herself in the mirror.

Staring back is the same motherly ruler that goes out and faces the world with a smile each day. She looks the part on the outside. Now if only she felt the same way inside. But where has her earlier optimism fled to? Everything seemed so clear-cut and predictable before. Now, it’s like expecting to strike solid gold while digging in the sand.

Of course, ‘there is no such thing as a foolproof plan’ as the old phrase goes...

With a sigh, Celestia lights up her horn and vanishes with a loud crack, intent to not be late for her own plan


You made a severe miscalculation.

Climbing upward still, you ignore the fact that the inside of your hands are raw and beginning to bleed.

The assumption that you would find water during your ascent was a foolish one, as you’ve found nothing. Obviously it was too much to hope for something to go right. The feeling of dry cotton in your throat is a thorough reminder. Faced with the choice of dehydration or exhaustion, you chose the latter and continued climbing through the night.

Now you’re just wondering if it was the correct choice.

The now closed wound on your back burns with every movement as the aches and shivers of infection relentlessly pound you. Once you stopped in an attempt to clean your wound. The lack of a first aid kit on your part swiftly derailed that plan and only proved to be more time for the infection to sap away at you.

It goes without saying that your palms have been thoroughly abused by the rough rock of the mountain. What little skin still on them is ragged and loosely held on. Luckily they had gone numb some time ago, meaning that you were free to continue climbing.

Lastly, hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion gnawed away at your will in equal parts. Sorely were you tempted to stop and rest, only to be reminded that procrastinating would make your situation worse.

“If these people don’t want to help me…” you look up at the now significantly closer castle, “then this could turn into some serious trouble…”

The sun is beginning to peek over the horizon now, meaning you had spent a solid twelve hours climbing, a feat that would have killed a normal human. You scowl at the unintentional reminder that you AREN’T a normal human.

Another look up at the castle shows the superstructure appearing even closer now, and is the sun the higher up than it was a second ago? And you surely weren’t seeing double either...

You stop climbing as a shiver overtakes you. You blacked out while climbing for some time...

“Oh man…” you mutter to yourself as comprehension fills you.

That was unacceptable. Next time, you might lose your grip and fall. You don’t even dare to look back and see how high up you are. How long were you out? The back of your head itches as your comlink chip stops assaulting the nano bots for a moment to answer the question. A message pops up within your mind hardly ten seconds later.

[Unusual pattern of neural activity logged. Unusual pattern persisted for approximately 14.6 minutes. Most likely cause is illness and/or cranial damage. Unit is advised to find nearest clone technician for details.]

Almost fifteen minutes. That’s not good at all.  

Without a second’s delay, you push away the protests of your body and continue onward with a doubled pace as the effort makes you painfully pant.

Four more days until your rescue. You can do it.


The southern gatehouse of Canterlot has seen much action over its many years.

As the largest gatehouse, it’s a favorite of many a pegasus whom enjoy the challenge of flying all the way to the mountain city. It also faces the quaint, but forever active hamlet of Ponyville, making the gate the preferred path of flying quick-response teams. Usually the gate is a hub of activity for flight gifted citizens.

Today, it, along with the entire south side of Canterlot, is lonely and barren, save the collection of officials standing in front of it with bated breath.

Guards stand in a semicircle around the open gate with unreadable expressions. This is their honor, their duty to the crown. To stand as a living, stalwart barrier to any and all that may seek to harm the good citizens of their nation. It’s the creed they live by, all bound by oath.

Among them is their grim faced and fully armored captain, Shining Armor, one of the prodigal children of the Sparkle family and the greatest defensive magic user of the era.

Yet nothing stops the faint shivers running over them all.

Farther out behind the guards are a collection of thirty cloaked unicorns. Their postures and faces are hidden by the robes they wear, but it’s still plain to the untrained eye just how tense and antsy they are. Each one has their horn lit up in a corona of color unique to each of them, ready to activate the gargantuan paralysis rune around the gatehouse and subdue the subject should he turn violent.

Standing in the center of the semicircle are none other than Celestia and Luna, both as still and silent as stone.

Celestia’s face is the epitome of calm, a silent reassurance to those around her that soothes nerves and quells doom-ridden thoughts. The sort of face that a foal would expect to see on their kindly mother. Only Luna could see Celestia’s inner turmoil as well as her pinprick of fear. The optimism from the day prior is quickly beginning to drain.

Luna, on the other hoof, didn’t bother to hide her emotions, preferring to wear her face of object hope as she stares at the gate for all to see. Surely this traveler must be intelligent and perfectly capable of rational thought, no? If so, then they could very well be the start of Equestria’s newest age. Aetherals always brought-

“-Great change?”

Both the the sisters nearly jump at the unexpected voice.

Standing next to them, taking care to be in the shade of a building along the street, is a single white-cloaked Sensor.

Both Luna’s and Celestia’s eyes meet before they tighten the barriers around their minds, forcing out the almost unnoticeable sensation of a psychic eavesdropper.

The sound of armored hooves on stone echo in the empty streets as the nearby guards all growl menacingly at the sudden intruder. A quickly raised hoof from Celestia forces each of them to reluctantly back down.

Lowering the hoof, Celestia regards the pony shaped figure with veiled distaste. “Pray tell, what exactly could have coaxed you from your chambers?” she says in a subdued voice.

A small, perfectly white grin appears upon the unnatural pony’s face. “Oh? Do I have no right to be present for such an occasion? After all it’s not everyday that I am graced with the honor of the emergence of another. You could almost call our esteemed guest…”

More perversely white teeth are bared as the sensor’s grin grows. ”...Kin of mine…”

A tingling, almost painful cold sensation runs down the backs of the celestial sisters at the declaration.

Luna’s thin eyebrows knit together as she barely restrains a rude reply. “I believe that any sort of judgment such as that will have to wait.” Luna retorts with a scowl as her patience begins to quickly wane. “This traveler is already more approachable than you and your ilk, and we haven’t even met it yet!”

Well, she TRIED to to hold back a rude reply.

If the verbal barb offended the sensor, it did not show.

He raises his head to look at the rulers in front of him, the milky white eyes on his face standing out in stark contrast to his black coat.

“Hrmm… opinions and perceptions, my dear princess. Opinions and perceptions,” he responds airily. “Such things can change in the blink of an eye, even more so when the targets of such ire can be a boon when least expected,” the aetheral smirks knowingly.

Celestia’s single exposed eye narrows dangerously. Holding information from her is NOT part of their agreement… In fact, she shou-

“I would withhold any grievances for now, princess,” the sensor mockingly interrupts, likely reading her thoughts again, “for I believe the... guest of honor is here.”

Both Celestia and Luna whirl around towards the gate with incredible speed.

The sudden and unexpected movement makes all the other ponies around them tense and many of them to hold their breath. If it was silent before, it may as well be a graveyard now.

No one dares to move, as if shifting even the slightest bit would spell disaster.

For a long, almost unbearable minute, nothing comes from the gate. Not a sound, a sight, or even a smell. Then they hear it, a faint, almost inaudible shuffling on the paved road.

Shining Armor clamors as he and the guards straighten up and hold their formation for dear life.

The unicorns just behind them have sparks arcing along their bodies from the sheer amount of magic they have built up.

The shuffling slowly grows in volume, turning into distinct and heavy footsteps. A tall, two legged figure comes into focus just beyond the gate and only seems taller with each step it takes closer.

Celestia’s heart pounds in her ears. The closer the traveler comes, the more she realizes that there is no turning back.

A sidelong glance shows her that Luna is doing far better than her, as the younger alicorn stares at the figure with rabid curiosity in her eyes.

It stops some distance away and looks at the assembly before it, just far enough that none of its features can be made out. For frightening moment, it seems as if it might flee. As slow as can be, it continues forward and clears the gate. Its steps are like thunder on the empty road as it slows even further down to a lethargic trudge.

It shuffles into the boundaries of the paralysis rune, not even bothering to give it a cursory glance. It’s hardly a hundred hooves away now, making its flat, hairless face, its small eyes, and the alien clothing it wears is far more visible.

A few of the younger guards whimper and edge backwards while shaking like leaves, only to be stopped with a furious glare from Shining.

At forty hooves away, it stops. Its face contorts into an expression Celestia dare not label as a cranes its head around. Its eyes come back around and settle upon her and Luna

Both feel their fur stand on end as its disturbing visage becomes totally apparent.

It shouldn’t be frightening, but something about the biped, something so subtle they can’t pick it out simply screams ‘unnatural’. It’s an inherent feeling of wrongness that neither of the alicorns can shake.

Celestia pushes the spike of fear away faster than her sister does. With a deep breath to steady her nerves, the princess slowly walks forward despite her instincts roaring in protest.

All eyes are on her. Were it not for her years of experience, Celestia might have broken down.

She stops within a foreleg’s length of the black clad creature, who blinks in what she wants to call confusion.

Her eyes travel over it, as she feels herself inspected just the same.

It’s just as tall is she is, making for an odd experience since the alicorn doesn’t need to look down to meet its eyes. The physique of the creature is lean for its height, giving off a frail appearance. Considering that it climbed the entire mountain in almost record time, the frail appearance is rather deceptive.

Looking back up into its face, Celestia meets its eyes and finds herself startled.

The eyes looking back at her aren’t the eyes of some beast, nor are they the same of a member of some roughshod society like the diamond dogs, but of an intelligent, thinking, and very aware being. Right now, those eyes were filled with such weariness that the princess almost yawns looking into them.

Of course, it just climbed the mountain. The poor thing is probably exhausted.

By now, Luna had taken to her sister’s side, prompting the tall visitor to inspect her as well. She simply keeps her smile on full blast. That smile begins to wane when she looks over to her sister, whom she elbows shortly after.

“Tia,” Luna begins in a low whisper, “are you not going to introduce yourself?”

“Luna, I don’t believe that it will understand,” Celestia fires back in her own whisper.

“It’s still polite!”

“Didn’t I already say-”

Both are cut off by the sound of deep chuckling coming from none other than the biped, who eyes them both with dry amusement.

Then it raises a hand, making the guards all lower themselves in preparation to charge. It stops, looking around at the gold clad ponies warily before slowly pulling all but one of its digits into a fist. It pokes itself in the chest with the extended finger and rumbles out a single, foreign word in a masculine voice that sounds like a dragon chewing on cinderblocks.

Both of the sisters look at each other, neither one bothering to hide their surprise. It attempted to communicate first!

“Did it just..?

“I believe it’s a ‘he’ if the voice is any indicator, sister.”

Again he repeats the completely incomprehensible word, then points to the both of them before crossing his arms and waiting expectantly.

Again the alicorns look to each other before Celestia starts off. “Celestia,” she says simply, poking herself just above her chest plate.

“Luna!” Luna almost shouts while mimicking her sister’s motions, making both Celestia and the creature wince at the volume.

The elder alicorn rubs one of her ears. “No need to deafen us, Luna. I’m sure our friend can hear fine,” she playfully ribs.

Luna just blushes and smiles sheepishly.

Both turn around and begin walking back towards the castle while beckoning the creature.  

Before either of them can react, the biped takes a shaky step forward, then roughly goes down to one knee with an unmistakably pained groan.

Celestia’s breath catches in her throat, all of thoughts about the creature being dangerous lost as Luna cries ”Medic!” without a moment’s hesitation. In an instant, two of the unicorns from behind the guards are by the moon deity’s side, silently awaiting their orders.

“Clear out a room in the castle infirmary immediately,” Luna hastily orders, “and have the best staff available on standby.”

“Any and all doctors you see fit to include are to be sworn to secrecy,” Celestia adds onto her sister’s orders. As an afterthought, she also says: “Have them set up several decontamination rooms as well. One for him, and the others for all the personnel involved here today. It would not do to have diseases start running rampant.”

One unicorn medic teleports away while the other rushes to the biped’s side.

Celestia turns to Shining standing near his guards. “Captain Armor!”

Said captain charges his horn in a split second and teleports in front of Celestia with a foreleg raised in a salute. “What may I do for you, princess?”

“Gather your stallions and have them take an escort formation. It’s imperative that we get him,” Celestia motions to the biped being helped up by the unicorn mage, “to proper medical care as quickly as possible without being seen. Teleportation is not an option as it may endanger him.”

Shining didn’t need to be told twice. One order and hardly a second later, all the guards scramble into a dense formation around the wobbling creature and the straining unicorn he has a hand braced against. With a flair of Shining’s magic, a light-refracting and sound absorbing barrier is put up around the entire first contact team, making them all the vanish from an observer's point of view.

Meanwhile, the unicorn in the center looks ready to collapse trying to support the gangly creature.

Biting her lip with indecision, Celestia walks up beside the unicorn and the traveler as she watches them both struggle to walk forward at the guard formation’s brisk pace.

A grimace finds its way to her face as the scene plays out. This is far better than the doomsday scenario she had envisioned, but why couldn’t there be anything more for her to do? Maybe there is something and she’s just not seeing it…? Ah. This would be a perfect moment to prove her pure intentions.

Walking closer, she waves away the struggling mage before taking her place just as the biped stumbled again, letting the surprisingly heavy creature lean on her as they walked. If it weren’t for her being one third earth pony, then the princess might have struggled under the weight as well. Instead, she held him upright with little difficulty.

Looking back at him, she finds him looking at her with surprise before he points to her tiara with what seems to be a questioning look.

Celestia just shrugs as best she can before turning her attention to the brown-coated unicorn mare walking beside her and watching disbelievingly.

“Mage Bright,” Celestia addresses the unicorn, “do you have any read on our friend’s condition here?”

The mare gulps and nods. “It’s not pretty in the least bit, your highness. From what I can tell, he is going to have a rough recovery if he even survives,” she says, making alarm run through the ruler.

Bright looks at him, or more specifically, the putrid, festered line across his back with a wince. “He has an infected wound, and although the wound itself seem to have healed, it healed OVER the infection. This implies that he isn’t properly equipped to fight off microbes native to Equis.”

Seeing the look of dread on the princess’s face and bleary, half-conscious worry on the biped’s as he looks between them, Bright hastily continues. “Not that this situation is hopeless! The infection is in its early stages. Some vaccinations and extreme diligence are going to be needed, but that can be handled easily. Besides that, the inside of his paws have been worn raw and he appears to be suffering from mild dehydration and exhaustion. Nothing we can’t fix.”

“I hope so…” Celestia sighs, hoping that after all this worry and stress, that she wouldn’t have a life she couldn’t save on her hooves. As she thinks that, the creature slumps for a moment in unconsciousness before rousing itself back to the waking world and weakly walking again. The action makes the situation seem that much more hopeless.

“He certainly seems to be a fighter, princess,” Bright lamely reassures. “We simply have to hope for the best.”

Celestia just responds with a disheartened nod as the group continues to trudge forward. Looking around over the shoulder of her burden for something she doesn’t find, Celestia can’t help but wonder one thing.

’Where did my sister go?’