Chapter 34: War
“I just got a call from my brother,” Jack announces. “He said him and Shining have entered the city and should be here in a minute or so. He also says they noticed a few other ponies from the farm are close behind.”
“Great, finally. I kinda want to get this overwith.” I grimace as I look back towards the portal. The closer we got towards going through, the more nervous I have been getting. We spent the last six hours or so trying to figure out a plan of attack. Soon all of us, plus a few dozen other ponies from the farm, would be going through the portal for the final battle. Twilight and I came up with a couple plans of attack for once we go through the portal, but, to be blunt, I think all our plans so far have sucked. How do you even plan for a fight with Discord anyway?
Fluttershy twirls a strand of her mane on a hoof. “Girls, um, are we sure we want to do this? I mean, can we just all look at Rainbow Dash for a moment?”
All the mares turn to look me up and down, and I feel a little self conscious being this human in front of them all. All I'm wearing is a towel, so I fold my arms on my chest to help cover my boobs. “Look, I told you girls already, if I had a shirt I’d put it on! I didn’t exactly plan on turning into a human you know. Besides, I thought half of you were originally girls. It’s not like I don’t have anything you haven’t seen before.”
Fluttershy bites her lip. “That’s kind of my point. A few of us started out as girls, and I thought we were only doing this whole thing in order to get our human lives back.” She turns to look at the portal. “I mean, don’t worry, I’m going to help you girls out whatever you decide to do... but I can’t help but wonder if we can take the easy way out.” She pauses and rubs a hoof into the ground. “You know, we all go through portal, and then just come back to Earth right away. We could just leave Discord alone. We don’t have to fight him, the portal can turn us all back into humans, like it already did to Rainbow. None of us would be ponies, and we can all go back to our normal lives without having to fight Discord. Isn’t that a much better, safer plan with no real downsides?”
The six of us exchange glances, but before we can answer we hear a knock on the building’s main door. I glance back and see Shining and Big Mac nervously standing outside the window. “I’ll get the door.” I stand up and start walking towards it, somewhat eager to escape from Fluttershy’s question.
A moment later I open the door and look down at the two stallions. Mac stammers as he takes in my curvy, human body. “Rainbow... Dash?”
I wave them inside. “Yeppers, good to know you still recognize me.”
“Yeah, I recognized the voice... but... how did you...” Shining exchanges looks with Big Mac.
I gesture back towards the portal statue with a thumb. “Portal magic and stuff. Don’t worry about it though, I shouldn’t be looking like this for much longer. By going to Equestria I’ll be turned back into my lovable little pony self.”
I see Mac’s eyes staring at the mounds on my chest. “That’s almost a pity, you’ve got an amazing set of... uh...”
Shining’s eyes soon join Mac’s, and they both just stare at my assets. Shining unconsciously licks his lips. “Yeah, I mean, I had those as a girl before, but I never realized how good they look from over here...”
I cross my arms, covering their view. “As I was saying, it won’t last much longer, we’re going back through the portal and I’ll be a pony again.”
Behind me, AJ clears her throat. “Well, actually, weren’t we just debating that, Dash?”
“Debating what?” Shining reluctantly looks away from my curves and trots towards the other mares. Big Mac and I are left alone for a moment, and I know he likes what he sees.
He leans closer to me and whispers, “Dash, I gotta ask, your hands look amazing. Before we go through the portal... can I get a belly rub?”
I smile, but Rarity yells over to us. “Hey, are you two joining this debate or not? It’s kind of important!”
I try to hide my laughter and wave over at them. “Yeah, sorry about that, Rarity. Mac here was just telling me about their journey.” I pat Big Mac on the head, gently scratching his ears as I whisper softly, “Sorry, Mac, business before pleasure...”
He smiles, and we both move towards the others as we hear Applejack recapping our dilemma. “Look, we can all use the portal to change back into humans without having to fight Discord.”
Twilight nods. “And, I suppose even if we do want to fight him, maybe it would make sense to just wait a few years? Like, we could turn all ponies back into humans right now, then we spend the next five years living comfortably as humans as we prepare for battle. After half a decade of training and perfecting battle plans, we then reconvene here to go through the portal and deal with Discord.”
Shining grimaces. “Gah, I don’t know about that Twilight. You saw how much strife has been happening on Earth these past few weeks. Dozens of countries have been on the brink of war, and there have been disturbances and violence everywhere. There has to be a link between Discord’s curse unfolding and all of that happening. I think we need to just put an end to this. Go through, deal with Discord, put to stop to all of it. You know, for the greater good.”
Rarity bites her lip. “But, maybe we could end without fighting! Maybe if we change every pony back into a human, the world will settle back down?” Rarity sighs. “We could all get our lives back...”
Big Mac shakes his head. “Rarity, I’m sorry, but this is bigger than us, and it’s bigger than just Earth. And as much as I’ve said I’d like to turn back into a human and forget any of this ever happened, it’s just not the reality of our situation.” Mac pauses and takes a deep breath, then looks over at the portal. “We all know what we have to do.”
“I agree with Mac.” I nod somberly. “Even if we could turn every pony on Earth back into a human, and even if that did save the Earth from any conflict... it wouldn’t be enough. We still have to consider Equestria. Like it or not, we have a responsibility to protect that realm too. There could still be ponies living there in fear under Discord’s rule. We have to at least try to put a stop to what he’s done.”
The room gets quiet, and some of us turn to stare at the portal statue. I think, deep down, all of us knew our destiny was to go back through and face our fears on the other side. I guess we just wanted to talk about it one last time, and have that one last chance to turn back.
After a minute or so of reflection, Fluttershy breaks the silence. “Dash, what was it like?”
I scratch my head. “What, the feeling of going through the portal? It was fine, it felt like--.”
“No, not that.” Fluttershy looks down. “I meant what was it like on the other side. What was it like being back in Equestria?”
“Well, all I saw was the inside of a dusty basement. But, well...” All the ponies in the room turn to stare at me, even the CMC. I feel myself smile softly. “It felt good to be back there I guess. It was strange, for those few seconds, it felt really welcoming. You know, to finally be a pony in a place where they belong.”
Pinkie chuckles softly, “Well then, what are we waiting for?!”
Twilight taps away at her phone with a magically held stylus. “Pinkie is right, we’ve delayed this long enough. Everyone make your final preparations. I just set a five minute timer, when it rings, we move through the portal.”
We all stand to get ready, and Scootaloo trots over to me. “So, you mean it then? You’re letting all of us go through with you? You actually want our help?”
“Yeah, that’s the plan.” I nod as I double check the supplies in my bag. “Scoots, we’re going to up against a pretty big enemy, so yeah, having the CMC around might be helpful.”
“Err...” Scootaloo points over my shoulder. “I knew the CMC were going, I meant what about them?”
“Hmm?” I turn around to see what she is pointing at, and my mouth drops open as I look out the front window. On the lawn outside are ponies. Hundreds of ponies, all gathering in front of our building. As I step closer to the window I realize more and more ponies are arriving every second, and from every direction. The streets are literally full of them as they converge on the school grounds.
Scootaloo rubs the back of her neck. “We sorta told everyone on the farm, and then I think some of them reached out to others... who then told others about it online...”
I stare out the window, admiring the sight of ponies of all shapes and sizes all answering the call. I thought I saw a lot of ponies on the Farm, but there are several times as many outside our building right now. I had no idea that many were here on Earth, but I guess they all want revenge just as much as we do...
“Scootaloo,” I look down at the eager filly. “Go out and tell them that we are about to enter the portal, and the mane six would be honored to have all of them follow us.”
“Aye aye, captain.” She gives me a cute little salute and trots out the door.
A moment later Shining comes up next to me and joins me in looking out the window at the literal army of ponies forming outside. “I’m amazed the cops haven’t shown up yet, that’s a lot of cute little aliens.”
I nod slowly. “The locals are either scared out of their mind, or maybe they understand more than we thought they do.”
Shining raises his eyebrows. “Maybe the government finally figured it out? Maybe they realize this is something that we have to do, and something that will benefit both of our worlds?”
“Three minutes everyone!” Twilight yells from behind us.
I sigh and look off into the horizon. “Well, three minutes until everything we know ends.”
Shining nods somberly. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
A moment later there’s a mechanical bang as the CMC open the main doors to the building. I look over to see all the ponies outside start moving to form a massive line. Shining stares out into the crowd. “There’s gotta be nearly a thousand ponies here, Dash...”
“Hopefully they know what they’re in for. Equestria isn’t all sunshines and rainbows right now. There’s probably going to be a lot of blood spilled on both sides, I just hope they are all up for it.”
“They all look up to you, Dash.” Shining leans into my side. “They would follow you to hell and back.”
“Well, what a coincidence, that’s pretty much where we’re going! Not sure how many will be alive to ‘come back’ though...”
“Dash! I’m being serious here.” He glares at me.
“So am I.”
Shining sighs and gets quiet for a moment. “Every war has casualties. All we can do is hope our losses won’t be in vain.” He looks up at my eyes. “But I mean what I said. They all look up to you. I know we had our differences earlier about who was in charge, but I think you are the one who should lead--.”
“No.” I cut him off. “Sorry, Shining, I’m a fighter, not a leader. When we get out there I’m going to be the tip of the spear, the one in front of the front lines. But these ponies need more than that, they need a tactician, a real leader to call the shots and be in charge.” I kneel down to Shining’s level and look him in the eyes. “I’ll be off in the front lines, and your sister will have her hands full with the magic side of things. That leaves you, Shining. You’re the closest thing we have to a general. When we go through that portal you’re going to be the one in charge.” I lean back and point over at the army of ponies. “You’ll be in charge of everyone of us. Don’t let us down.”
He nods somberly and looks me in the eye. “I won’t.”
“One minute left!” Twilight calls out.
I look down at Shining and give him a sharp salute. “My wings will be at your command.”
He chuckles softly. “Thanks, Dash, we’ll need them.”
We grab our bags and head to the front of the line to meet up with our friends. Twilight is standing on a box and talking to the growing crowd. “I know you’re all eager, but we can’t all go through at once. We’re going to start off by sending twenty or so ponies through. Once the other side is clear, we will send word back through for more to follow us. Please, get in line and wait for your turn.”
Twilight’s timer dings, and Shining and I exchange glances. “Showtime.”
Twilight also hears the timer ring, and clears her throat to address the crowd one last time. “The hour has come. So, um, according to most books and movies I’ve seen, at this time I should give you all a rousing speech before the big battle before us.”
The assembled groups quiet down and all ears turn towards Princess Twilight. She raises her hoof and begins her epic speech: “Make sure you all are brave. Historically, that is the trait that is usually beneficial at a time like this.”
Twilight lowers her hoof, and the room falls deathly quiet as we wait for the rest of her speech. Behind us, a lone pony coughs in the distance. The seconds tick by and Twilight just stands there for a moment, then hops off her platform. Pinkie slowly leans towards me and whispers, “Was... was that it?”
“Uh, I guess?” I reply, shrugging.
Twilight’s picks up her saddlebag and gives us a wave. “Well, it’s time to go. First group, single file please.”
I turn to Shining Armor and see him facehoofing. I whisper to him, “Oh, that’s the other reason I didn’t think it would be a good idea to put her in charge of the battle...”
We laugh softly and move forward with the rest of the our friends, the CMC, and a half dozen other ponies that were pulled into our initial portal group. One by one I watch my friends move into through the portal, the stone surface rippling as they disappears into the unknown. Soon it’s my turn, and I take one last glance over my shoulder at Earth. The planet had its flaws, but damn, I’m going to miss it. Wondering if I’ll ever see it again, I hold my breath and walk forward through the statue.
Going through the portal is just as uncomfortable as it was the previous times I did it. At least this time I can wake up to the pleasant feeling of having my pony body back. I land on all fours with an oomph, then take a moment to stretch my wings and whip my beloved tail back and forth. “Mmmm, feels good to be a cute little quadruped again.”
Jack ushers me along, “Move forward, Dash, make room for new arrivals.”
I nod and move forward slowly, flexing my muscles and making sure everything in my body works the way I remembered it. Eventually, I give my mane a shake and trot over to join the rest of the mane six. They are all sitting quietly at the base of the stairs that lead up to the surface.
As I get near them, I smile and point my hoof upwards, “Think there are any hay fries up in the kitchen? I could sure go for a snack right about now.” It’s a joke, but none of them laugh, not even Pinkie. They aren’t in the mood for jokes, and as I look at their faces I realize why. All of us just started thinking the same thing: This will probably be our last moment together.
Everyone is a little emotional. Jack and Big Mac are holding each other close, Pinkie is hugging Fluttershy, and Rarity and Shining are nuzzling softly. I trot into the center of the group and decide to just start hugging everyone, it may be my last chance to do so.
As we hug, Twilight moves off to the side and tries to remain professional. “It looks like all of Group One arrived. We need to clear this room before the next batch of ponies come through.”
My friends and I ignore her request and pull her into our group hug, taking one last moment to enjoy the company of our beloved group of eight. Twilight wipes a tear from her eyes, and we all feel the seconds pass by too fast. Reluctantly, our shared hug slowly comes to an end and I let out a sad sigh. “Come on, we should check the ground floor. We’ll need to report back to the portal with what we find.”
We all nod and move up the old stairs in single file. A moment later, Twilight pushes open the rusty door, and we emerge in what we can only assume is the charred remains of Carousel Boutique. The building is, surprisingly, still standing. It’s hardly a pleasant site though; the floor is full of debris, the air smells of brimstone, and there are ominous gashes in most of the walls. Through the broken windows we catch tiny glimpses of the outside, and it’s just as dark as the inside of these ruins. Applejack comments, her voice a mix of excitement and fear, “I can’t believe it. We’re actually here. Ponyville still stands.”
“Meh, it looked better in the cartoon.” I laugh half heartedly, trying to calm my own fearful heart.
Rarity gives a worried sigh, “So much for that glimmer of hope that everything would be fine here...”
Twilight exchanges glances with Shining and myself, no doubt wondering what to do now that we’re actually here. I take a few steps back and bow slightly as I put my fate in the hooves of another. “Shining, you’re in charge.”
Shining takes a deep breath and gives us all a salute as he stands up tall. I’ve never seen him so serious before; I guess we are now beyond the point of screwing around. He loudly clears his throat and wastes no time in giving orders. “Alright, ponies, listen up.” I feel the hair on my neck stand up from the deep authority in his voice. “We need to clear the landing area downstairs and secure the immediate perimeter to ensure we don’t lose control of the portal. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, see what’s outside. Pinkie, Flutters, start organizing ponies into teams upstairs. Twilight, see if you can confirm our current location in the region. Big Mac, Rarity, start boarding up all windows. CMC, head back to the cellar and make sure the area in front of the portal remains clear for arriving ponies. And speaking of that, Cherry Blossom and Gum Drops, go back through the portal and give the word that we have secured a foothold in Equestria. Tell the ponies of Earth that a great battle is about to happen. Tell them that Equestria will need the hooves and spirit of every single pony they can muster. Equestria needs all of them, now!” Shining looks around the room at everyone listening to his every word. He hits the floor with his hoof. “Let’s move!”
The room is a flurry of activity and ponies rushing to do exactly as they were told. Jack and I quickly find each other in the hustle and move to try find a way outside. We soon realize that Carousel Boutique is a rather large building capable of holding well over a hundred ponies in its large, abandoned show rooms. Seeing the capacity of these ruins is good news, but we still need to get out and secure the perimeter.
Finally, we enter what I can only assume is the store’s front hall. There are more large windows here, but they are too dirty to really see outside. I wonder if it’s night or day outside, then realize there’s one easy way to find out. I gulp softly as I reach the front door and place a hoof on it. Jack soon joins me and together we push the heavy door open to see what has become of our beloved town.
“What... the....” Jack’s mouth drops open as she stares out at the apocalyptic landscape.
“....Buck.” I finish her sentence and take in the surreal scene. I expected it to be bad, but not this bad. The town’s utter destruction brings up memories of what I had seen playing the Fallout video games back in college. Before us stands a apocalyptic wasteland with most of the buildings little more than piles of ash with a few rusted structures still standing. There is no vegetation to speak of. Instead of plants, the ground is littered with boulders, deep chasms, and scattered bones. The only real color comes from the irregular, highly random splotches of bright neon paint garishly decorating the town’s ruins. It looks almost as if a huge giant went on a finger painting spree in a graveyard.
I nudge Jack. “Well, at least we know Discord likes his wastelands to be full of color.”
Her eyes shift up to look at the sky. “You don’t say?”
I bite my tongue as I take in the sky. Well, if you could even call that a sky. It’s neither day or night in this realm right now, the sky simply shows a kaleidoscope of random, shifting patterns of color. It’s almost as if the sky itself has turned into a lava lamp. I am about to make a witty remark to Jack about how Discord must have grown up in the 60s, but then spot something moving against the colored sky. I squint and try to identify the outline of something large flying in the air. It’s definitely not a pony, and whatever it is, it’s huge. A few seconds later I spot another one, then another. The beasts are flying in a formation, circling the town and slowly getting closer to us. It’s almost as if they are some sort of... “Jack! Get down!”
Realizing it’s an aerial patrol, I dive to the side, taking Jack to the ground with me. She cries out as I pull her under cover,“Wha--? The hell are you doing, Dash?”
“Shhh, hide for a second.” I hold a hoof to my lips, then a moment later we look up to see the massive creatures fly right overhead us. They continue their flight and start looping far back around the town. It’s a patrol group alright.
I remain silent for a moment, and Jack turns to me. “Are... are you fucking kidding me right now? DRAGONS!? Fucking DRAGONS!”
“They are probably working with Discord,” I mutter. “Makes sense, dragons and ponies never got along, right? He probably made a deal with them back during the take over.”
“Dragons can eat ponies!” Jack waves a hoof at the sky. “How the buck are we supposed to fight bucking dragons? Wait, scratch that, how are we supposed to fight Discord AND dragons at the same time?! As if just one enemy wasn’t enough...”
“Well...” I raise both my eyebrows and try to think of an answer. I really haven’t the slightest idea how to kill a dragon. Damnit, I knew I should have read the Hobbit before coming here. “Right, well, let’s just finish the perimeter sweep and get back inside.”
We trot around the rest of the large boutique, both of us getting more than a little nervous about our current situation. Hell, I could practically feel Jack’s courage fading more and more by the second, not that I blame her. Her voice wavers as she asks me a question, “Dash, how many dragons do you think there are? What if Discord has a whole army of them...?”
I gulp and try to ignore her worrisome question. I try to think about something else, but then I just start worrying about other things. Like, if Discord allied himself with the dragons, who knows what other monsters were working for him. Would we get attacked by manticores? Hydras? Armies of giant spiders? I shake my head to clear the nightmares from forming. “J-Jack, let’s get back in the house. The perimeter is mostly secure.”
I trot back to the front door, but AJ doesn’t follow me all the way. She just points back up at the unsettling, kaleidoscope sky of shifting colors. “Uh, Dash? What about the patrols?”
I hold open the front door and wait for her to follow me. “Look, they won’t see us indoors. We’ll deal with the dragons when we have to, I guess.”
She nervously follows me inside, and we both freeze in awe as we direct our attention to the main floor of the house. What was deserted and full of burnt debris just minutes ago is now bustling with ponies and activity. Hundreds of ponies have arrived, and they were all clearly being put to work. The windows and holes in the walls are all barricaded, and ponies of all shapes and sizes are carrying off all the furniture and debris, stacking it in front of the doors and windows. We trot down the hallway, passing room after room of busy ponies as we look for Shining.
We pass by the cellar entrance, taking a moment to watch the seemingly unending stream of new ponies, fresh from the portal, marching out of it. Eventually we work our way through the crowd and find the building’s main showroom, which apparently has been turned into a makeshift war room. In the center of the room stands Shining and Twilight, and they appear to be discussing something intently.
Jack and I trot over to them, just in time to hear Twilight finish explaining something. “--these are the Ponyville ruins, but the geography around us is really twisted. I mean, looking from the second floor windows I can see another set of ruins just a mile or so north of here. It’s Canterlot Castle! I don’t know how it got here, but look, it matches this painting of Canterlot that we found on one of the walls.
Shining inspects the castle painting, then looks at some old map that also looks like it was torn from a wall. “Hmm... maybe Discord wanted to keep all the pony ruins in one valley? But, why keep them around at all?”
“Ahem...” I clear my throat.
Shining looks over and notices Jack and I waiting patiently. He smiles. “Ah, there you two are. Back from your perimeter check I see. Status? How we looking?”
I try to smile back. “It’s... ah... not the best, Shining. As I’m sure Twilight told you, the town’s mostly destroyed and littered with bones of all sizes.”
“And happy colors,” Jack adds. “Discord is clearly still in charge.”
“Yeah we figured that much...” Shining looks down at his map and frowns.
I nod. “Oh, and uh, yeah... there are aerial patrols flying around the ruins. If Discord doesn’t already know that we are here, well, he’s going to find out really soon.”
Jack steps forward. “It’s dragons, Shining. Discord has massive dragons circling the town.”
A touch of blood drains from Shining’s face. “How many?”
I shake my head, “Several, but it’s just a scouting party. Who knows how many will be showing up once the shit hits the fan. I’m also worried about what other monsters Discord may have allied himself with.”
Shining sighs and looks at his sister. “Well, we came expecting a fight...”
Twilight bites her lip and looks out at newly arriving ponies. “Brother, we all knew this would end in a fight, but I don’t think any of these ponies are actually ready for one. Look at these ponies, Shining. They have cutie marks of flowers, cookies, harps, and rainbows. None of them have basic combat experience, and that’s to say nothing of their ability to fight against massive dragons and mythical monsters.” Twilight breaks eye contact with Shining. “And look at their faces. Every single pony here is terrified. They came to help us, but I don’t think anyone here believes we can actually win this...”
Shining looks out at the sea of ponies flooding the great hall, and looks into their eyes. He grits his teeth, then addresses me. “What about you, Dash? Do you think we can win this battle?”
“I-I don’t know, Shining. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll fight alongside you without question, and I won’t give up until I lose my last feather. But...” I rub my neck and look down in shame. “I just, I don’t know about our odds here, Shining. Discord has an army of dragons, hell spawns, and god knows what other monstrosities on his side. Not to mention his twisted powers are beyond our wildest dreams. I mean, we have the numbers, but look at us, we’re not exactly the Roman Legion here. Things aren’t really looking in our favor.”
It gets dead quiet, and I look around the room. Nearly all the ponies have stopped what they were doing and are listening to our conversation. Many of them are wide eyed, and a good number are visibly shaking in fear now. A few whispers float through the crowd.
‘Did she just say dragons?’
‘Why did we come here if we can’t win?’
‘I don’t wanna die.’
‘Maybe we should just go home while we still can.’
“EVERYONE! LISTEN UP!” A commanding voice cracks across the room, startling me. I turn around to see Shining jump up on a small display stage, then turn to face all of us. “As many of you know, I am Shining Armor, brother of Princess Twilight and former Captain of Royal Guard.” Shining waves a hoof over the vast crowd. “Ponies... I welcome you to Equestria.”
Twilight gives me a sideways glance and whispers, “What’s he doing?”
I glance at her, then up at Shining. He is standing tall and proud, his eyes burning with passion. “He’s leading.”
Shining loudly clears his throat. “I know some of you have looked outside and are beginning to doubt why we are here. You are asking yourselves why have we come to this wasteland? Why are we risking our life? Why should we fight? But the answer to that question is clear as day to me: This is our home!”
His voice echoes down the hallways, reaching the ears of everypony here. “We all knew what would be waiting for us here, and on behalf of all ponies in our kingdom, I thank you for your courage. I know most of you are not fighters, and I know we lack any real experience fighting the sort of things that lay before us. We are students, secretaries, office workers, gamers, and just brothers and sisters. None of us have been trained to deal with the threat we will face here, but we will face it.”
He paces the stage, “I know you are scared right now, but you shouldn’t be! Look around you, look at the hundreds, nay, thousands of ponies who were brave enough to come here and face the peril! You are among them! You are just as strong as they are! Think of what we can do, together!”
There are a few cheers, and Shining starts raising his voice. “My fellow ponies, today you will stand among thousands of the bravest individuals any of us have ever seen. Think of our combined strength! Think of our combined rage! The fury that we have been waiting to unleash on this day, on this day twenty five years in the making!”
More of the audience starts to cheer, and hooves start to pound the floor in applause. “My fellow ponies, if you think you are scared of the enemy, you must imagine how scared he is of us! Imagine the sheer terror gripping their black hearts as they realize we have arrived on their doorstep! Imagine the terror they must feel as they realize that before them is an army of the bravest, strangest, most furious individuals this world has ever seen! An army that has been waiting twenty five years for revenge! An army here to take back what is rightfully theirs! My fellow ponies, we are that army! Imagine the terror in our enemies when they realize today is the day they will have to face us!”
The room begins to shake with applauding hooves, and I watch with awe as Shining works up his furor. “Today is the day we reclaim all that we lost! My ponies, today we take back that which was stolen from us, that which we lost over five score divided by four years ago! We will get revenge on that great traitor, that great coward who backstabbed our beloved Princess and our kingdom!”
“Now, I don’t know what Discord will throw at us, but I do know that we will not run away any longer! We will hold this ground!” The crowd begins to whoop and holler in support. “This land! Right here!” Shining stomps a hoof on the dusty floor. “This land, right in the ruins of our beloved town! Not only does this land connect back to our friends back on Earth, but this land is the most important land in Equestria! You know why? Because this is land that Discord no longer controls! WE HAVE TAKEN IT FROM HIM! And from this spot, we will take back everything else he has stolen from us!”
The crowd’s energy begins to swell, and Jack and I join them in screaming a battle cry. Shining bares his teeth and yells above our rage. “He won’t take a single inch of this land back from us! He has taken enough! Your old friends, your family, your past TWENTY FIVE YEARS!” The crowd howls in anger, and Shining paces the stage. “Ponies! If today in battle you or your friends start to feel fear... If you want to just run away and let Discord’s forces to take this land from you... you must think back to everything Discord has already taken from you! Think what he has taken from all of us! Are you willing to let Discord take even more!?”
The room screams a resounding NO, and Shining screams at the top of his lungs. “WE WILL NOT GIVE HIM A SINGLE INCH! NO MORE WILL HE JUST TAKE WHAT HE WANTS! NO MORE WILL HE TAKE WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY OURS! HIS TYRANNY ENDS TODAY!” Shining snarls, slamming his hoof down with enough force to crack the stage. “TODAY WILL BE A DAY REMEMBERED BY ALL PONYKIND AS THE THE DAY WE STRUCK BACK.” I howl at top of my lungs, tears streaming down my face and feeling the ground shake with our combined rage. “TODAY WILL BE THE DAY WE GET REVENGE FOR EVERYTHING WE LOST. FOR OUR FRIENDS. FOR OUR FAMILIES. FOR THOSE TWENTY FIVE YEARS. FOR EQUESTRIA.”
A deafening, spontaneous chant of “FOR EQUESTRIA” rises up from the crowd and the ground shakes rhythmically with the beating of thousands of hooves. I look around to see every single unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony in a bloodlust and ready to die before they would surrender. I don’t know if we can defeat Discord... but I know we will give him a fight the likes of which he has never seen.
The sound of marching hoofbeats has only grown louder since Shining’s speech ended about ten minutes ago. I look down from the roof, my eyes surveying the area. The dragon patrols are missing, and we can only assume they heard us and flew off to alert their nests. Well, they’ll be in for a surprise when they come back. Ponies work fast, especially after a speech like that. The fact that the portal is continuing to send us reinforcements is helping as well.
Several hundred ponies have moved to occupy a defensive ring of buildings around Carousel Boutique. Unicorns and our best engineers are inside many of them, rapidly constructing makeshift catapults and ballistae from scrap. Outside the buildings, nearly five hundred earth ponies are working together with blazing speed to dig a trench around our outer perimeter, and meanwhile, an equal number of pegasi are distributing makeshift weapons that have been gathered from surrounding ruins. Lastly, unicorns of all ages were amassed to listen to Twilight and Sweetie Belle give a crash course in basic defensive spells. In the center of it all stands Carousel Boutique, and its doors are still being held open as pony after pony continues to arrive from the mirror down below.
I spot Shining in the center of it all, and I glide over to him, giving a sharp salute as I land. “We still haven’t spotted the dragons’ return yet, but this calm won’t last forever. We’re going to get hit pretty soon.”
“I know, I can feel it in my horn, trouble is coming. Their first wave is on the way...” He nods slowly. “...and that’s why you and rest of the Mane Six have to leave as soon as possible.”
Before I can object, we are interrupted by a young pegasus landing in front of us. She drops a rusty sword and a short spear at Shining’s hooves. “Which weapon would you prefer, sir?”
Shining raises his eyebrows and hesitates for a moment, then lifts the spear with his magic. “I’ll take this one. Excellent find, recruit.”
“J-Just doing my part, sir.” She blushes, then takes the rusty sword and moves to hand it off to a nearby earth pony.
Shining looks the spear up and down, then smirks at me, “Back in highschool I threw javelin for the track team.”
I glare at him. “You were saying you want us to leave? No way! You just gave us the speech and everything, I’m not running away, I’m staying here to fight!”
Shining continues to look straight ahead at his spear. “This weapon is pretty good, I always liked spears...” He turns to look at me. “Too bad it’s completely useless against a demi-god that could make us all vanish with a snap of his claw.”
I open my mouth to reply, but then bite my tongue. Shining has a point, this is worse than bringing a knife to a gunfight. This is like bringing a rusty knife to a, uh, whatever the hell Discord is. I hang my head and sigh, “So what do we do, how do we fight him? Do you want to try and find the Elements of Harmony?”
Shining shakes his head. “We discussed that, I don’t think it’s viable. We have no idea where they went over the past 25 years. And even if we knew where they were, Discord probably booby trapped the location by now. No, I don’t think we can rely on the Elements here.”
I rub my head with a hoof. “So... what then? How do we fight someone who can beat us with a snap of his claw.”
Shining puts his spear down. “Remember when I told you about my recurring dream of my last hours on Equestria?”
I scrunch my forehead and think back to that. “Yeah, you were with a guard platoon, and you were marching out to find Celestia. When you realized Twilight was in trouble, you left them all behind. You teleported yourself back to Canterlot and got ambushed by Discord.”
“Mmhmm.” Shining scratches his nose. “And what did I say about the guard I was with? Why did they beg me to stay with them?”
“Because, um, they wanted to protect you?” I raise an eyebrow, curious where he is going with this.
He nods. “The unicorn guard told me to stay because they had the power to protect me. They were trained how to negate Discord’s magic at close range, they knew how to block his spells. Granted, it didn’t do them much good after I fell and they had no command structure or orders on what to do.” Shining sighs, “They were probably picked off one by one in the ensuing day of chaos.” He pauses, then glances over at me. “But...”
I nod, catching his idea. “But they had spells to counter Discord! So there must be a way to negate his type of magic, we can stop him from just cursing us all over again.”
“Exactly. If we had magic like that, Discord would be forced to fight us on the ground.” Shining picks up his spear and grits his teeth. “That’s the fight I want to have. None of his chaos magic bullshit, just my hooves around his scrawny little neck.”
I grimace. “Whoa, easy there, Jason Bourne, we sorta need the spells first. No one here, not even Sweetie Belle, knows magic like that. It sounds like a pretty selective spell only really taught to some of Celestia’s guard. Where would we ever find a spellbook with those spells?”
Shining jabs his spear at the horizon. “I’d wager there would be a good spot to look.”
I follow his gaze to the massive castle jutting out of the ground a mile or so away. It’s the largest building in this valley, and it's the one that clearly isn't supposed to be here. I grimace, “You want us to go there? Canterlot Castle? We don't even know why Discord put its ruins in Ponyville!”
Shining shrugs. “I wager over the years he wanted to remake the world in his image, but he probably wanted to keep around some trophies from his earlier conquest.” Shining twirls his spear around and points at various buildings on horizon. “He probably threw all the old pony structures in here as a sort of graveyard, sort of like someone putting their old toys in the attic.”
I facehoof, “And you really think that the spellbooks that could defeat him are still in there? Why wouldn't Discord just destroyed them the second he took over?”
Shining shrugs again. “Hell if I know, but I don’t think it’s his style to get rid of them. I mean, look at us. He could have killed us or sent us to Earth for millions of years, but he didn’t. He only cursed us for twenty five years, it’s in his nature to leave a little chance. There’s a good possibility that the royal library is still in the castle. It's worth a shot, don't you think? I mean, he left the castle still standing because he wanted the memento. Maybe he left all the books inside too?”
“Whoa, what’s this about libraries and books?” Twilight appears seemingly out of nowhere and looks excited.
I raise my eyebrow at her. “Shining thinks we should sneak off to those Canterlot ruins and look for spellbooks inside that can help us negate Discord’s magic attacks. It's not the worst idea I've ever heard.”
Twilight looks over at the building, then back at her brother. “I think that’s a great idea, but it would take us a good half hour to run there and back, and that's assuming we don't get ambushed on the way. Are you sure you can hold out here by yourself?”
“I have a thousand ponies reinforcing the area, we’ll be fine.” Shining laughs, then gets serious. “To tell you the truth, I’m more worried about you six. You’ll be out there by yourself, maybe I should send a small battalion to back you up.”
I immediately shake my head. “No, we’d get spotted immediately. This has to go under the radar, we want a small group that can get there without being seen. You guys stay here and defend the portal, it will draw the attention of Discord’s armies and give us the time we need to slip over to the ruins.”
Twilight’s eyes go wide and she claps her hooves. “This will just be like the Battle of the Morannon at the Black Gate at the end of the War of the Ring! You will distract the enemy and let us slip through the side to accomplish the real goal!”
Shining and I exchange confused glances, and a happy voice calls out from behind us. “I understood that reference.” I turn around to see Pinkie, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity walking towards us. Pinkie waves at Twilight, “I loved those movies!”
Shining sighs. “Mmm, good, you’re all here. Are you all ready to go on a little trip? As I was just telling Dash and Twilight, we have a mission for you six...”
“Hold!” I dive under a rock and my friends do the same as we watch something fly overhead. It’s not a dragon, but that doesn’t make it any better to be honest. It’s some sort of flying, Lovecraftian, faceless snake with hundreds of barbs and tentacles coming off of it. It gives me the shivers just looking at it.
“What the hell are those things?” Applejack muses.
Rarity shakes her head. “Not friendly, that’s what they are.”
Twilight nods. “Discord probably summoned all sorts of beasts and dark monsters from wherever he could. A terrified population is a population that won’t revolt against him.”
I grit my teeth, that thing was probably headed for the ponies at the portal. We need to hurry up and get back there to help them out. “Alright, he’s gone, let’s keep moving, we’re almost there.”
We quickly move between the rocks and ruins and get closer and closer to the looming castle. Applejack gives me a sideways glance. “That castle is a lot bigger than I remember it.”
I roll my eyes. “You don’t remember it.”
She scoffs, “Whatever, it still looks bigger.”
We canter closer to it and the six of us stop as we enter its shadow. Twilight chews on her lip for a moment as we all study the crumbling structure. “So, does anyone remember anything from the cartoon about where the royal library was inside this place?”
Pinkie, Applejack, and myself all exchange glances. “Well, girls, we are the three resident bronies, you two remember anything about libraries in the castle?”
AJ licks her lips. “The time travel episode showed them going into one.”
Pinkie nods. “Yeah, yeah, the Starswirl the Bearded wing of the archives. I guess that would be over, uh, there?” She points a hoof at a crumbling tower on the side of the castle.
Twilight looks over at it, then back at me. “You agree, Dash?”
I rub the back of my head with a hoof. “Yeah, I suppose. I’m a bit rusty on that episode, but it rings a bell. Let’s go with Pinkie on this one.”
We all trot right past the front door of the castle. “Alright, let’s go, I think I see a side entrance over—.”
A few yards in front of us, the front doors of the castle burst open and a large red unicorn steps through the doorway. The six of us freeze in place and look over at him. His mane is long and disheveled, but it carries a small crown with an engraving of Discord’s face on the top of it. “Who dares come upon the grounds of I, the Governor of these ruins!”
We wince and start taking a few steps away from him. “Governor of what?”
He trots closer and sneers down at us. “How dare you not know who I am! I am Discord’s appointed Governor for this sector, I serve as Avatar of Discord himself! I am overseer and ruling steward of these ruins for as long as Discord requires it!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Twilight slowly back away and moving behind a rock. She looks at me and I nod ever so subtly while mouthing the words. “Go inside.” The Governor is too busy with announcing his pompous title that he doesn’t seem to notice her moving behind more rocks and sneaking away.
Fluttershy steps forward. “You work for Discord? Why don’t you stand against him?”
The Governor laughs. “You might as well ask why doesn’t an ant stand up to a pony’s hoof.” He shakes his head and smiles. “There have been bands of ponies resisting Discord for decades, but it is a fruitless effort, I would rather be on the winning side.”
Applejack stomps her hoof down and steps forward with Fluttershy. “You’re wrong, Discord’s reign is ending! Today!”
The unicorn’s horn lights up, and an instant later Fluttershy and Applejack are hit by some force and sent flying backwards. They crash into Rarity and I, and we all tumble back painfully. Pinkie gasps and steps off to the side. “Hey, what was that for!”
He smirks. “You are trespassing on my castle, and you are clearly members of the ponies that have been appearing in the town. You are all to be destroyed.”
I get up and spread my wings. “Like hell we are. I don’t want to hurt a fellow pony, but if you don’t step aside we won’t have a choice.” Truth be told, this unicorn did seems pretty strong, I’m not entirely sure we can beat him. But still, there’s a chance we can and I’m sure as hell going to try.
The Governor looks us over for a second, a slow smile forming on his lips. “I’m not in the mood for fighting today...” He pauses and looks up at the sky. “But that’s okay, I have those who do that for me.”
Before we can move, his horn lights up and a bright red beam shoots into the sky, clearly some sort of beacon. Applejack glances at me. “Dash, I don’t like where this is going.”
I laugh nervously. “Oh come on, how bad could it be?”
We get our answer a second later as the heavy beating of wings announces the arrival of what I feared. A massive green and blue dragon descends from the clouds and lands at the Governor’s side, roaring as it does so.
Fluttershy shrieks and huddles behind Rarity, who huddles behind Pinkie, who huddles behind Applejack. AJ lowers her ears and cowers back a few inches. “Dragons, why did it have to be dragons...”
I gulp nervously as I look up at the monster, a single one of his razor sharp claws is larger than us. “H-heh, at least there’s only one of them, right?” I barely finish my sentence before there’s a sudden crash as a second dragon lands on the other side of the Governor. This one is crimson red, and nearly twice as large as the first one. A stare up at it for a few seconds, then realize I just wet myself.
The larger dragon looks down at the Governor. “What is the meaning of this, I told you my kin are busy right now! An army of ponies is somehow forming in the center of town, we must prepare for our assault.”
The Governor waves a hoof at the massive beast. “Arok, calm down, the ponies in town are nothing to fear.”
The larger dragon, whom I guess is called Arok, scoffs at the Governor. “They are building weapons and digging in their defenses. They somehow know exactly what they are doing and know how to fight. We will need to attack now, before they have further preparations built.” He lazily points a claw over at us. “Why call us over for this? You are wasting our valuable time with a few useless runaways?”
The Governor shakes his head. “These might not be useless runaways, there are six of them and they are traveling together. Discord has given me order to never underestimate a group of six ponies in case it ends up being the Infamous Six.”
Arok looks over at us, then back at the Governor. “I only count five.”
I smile slowly as I realize Twilight successfully got away. The Governor steps closer to us and looks us up and down “What! Where is the sixth!? There were six of you!”
I feel the hair on my neck stand up as I try to play innocent. “Hmm? What sixth?”
The Governor grits his teeth and glances between us. “I do not make mistakes! I saw six ponies when I first came out! Where is the last one? The purple one, where is she?”
AJ stands firm. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Rarity nods. “We don’t know of any purple one, darling.”
The smaller, blue dragon groans and starts flapping his wings “I’ll find her, she’s probably hiding around here.”
“No.” The Governor raises a hoof. “We will not lower ourselves to the same childish level of these useless ponies. We won’t play their silly games; they will tell us where she is.”
The blue dragon lowers himself back to the ground and grumbles. “Speaking of useless ponies...”
The Governor's ears swivel, “What was that? Know your place, beast.”
The blue dragon glares at the Governor and appears ready to start something, but Arok, clearly the superior dragon, shakes his head. “Take your arrogance elsewhere, let’s deal with these prisoners and get out of here. As I said, we’re wasting time here. The rest of my kind are waiting for me to organize the attack on the town.”
I gulp and share a glance with the other ponies. We had to distract these guys somehow! We need to buy time for both Twilight, and for the ponies back at the portal. I turn back to the dragon pair and the Governor and clear my throat, “Look, so clearly there’s been a big misunderstanding here. You are looking for a group of six ponies, there are only five of us here so—.”
The Governor stares into my eyes. “I’m done playing games, pegasus. Where is she?”
I laugh nervously, “I told you, we don’t—.”
“Kill the yellow one.”
I blink. “Wait, what?”
The Governor looks at the blue dragon and points at Fluttershy. “Kill the spare, maybe then her friends will talk.”
I turn around and see the blood drain from Fluttershy’s face. The blue dragon grunts at the one giving the orders. “Killing in cold blood ain’t really my style, it gets messy.”
The Governor snarls, “Just do it, you useless reptile!” Fluttershy squeaks in fear and takes a few steps backwards as the dragon grits his teeth and stands up to proceeds towards us.
“Fluttershy! Behind me!” I walk in front of her and splay my wings out to the side. Immediately AJ, Rarity, and Pinkie join me in shielding her. I look up at the lumbering blue dragon. “Stay back! You won’t harm her!”
The blue dragon just laughs and continues towards us, his claws slicing the ground as he walks closer. “Maybe this won’t be cold blood after all. I do love a fight.”
Before I can plan how to attack, I feel unfamiliar magic grab hold of me and lift me in the air. Beside me I see my other friends levitated as well, all of us being pulled away from Fluttershy. “H-hey, let me go!”
I struggle and look down to see the Governor’s horn glowing bright as he magically pulls us all off to the side, leaving Fluttershy alone and exposed. “I said I was done playing games.” He nods back at the blue dragon. “Proceed, kill the yellow one.”
“Wait, stop!” I struggle with all my might but can’t budge from his magic grip. “Don’t hurt her! We’ll tell you where Twilight is! She’s inside the castle!”
The blue dragon pauses and looks back at the Governor, who in turn looks over at me. “Unlikely, no pony would willingly run into my castle.” The Governor waves back at the dragon. “Proceed.”
Fluttershy starts hyperventilating as the dragon closes the distance and towers over her. The rest of us start to scream. “STOP! DON’T HURT HER!”
The Governor ignores us. “Do it. Kill her already!”
My heart starts beating a million miles an hour as my eyes remain fixed at the blue dragon and Fluttershy. She was crying now, alone and huddled up on the ground underneath the dragon’s shadow. I have to save her, but... how? I can’t fucking move! It can’t end like this for Fluttershy though! Not now! Not like this!
The Governor tilts his head. “Well...? Dragon, what are you waiting for?”
“Huh?” I blink away a few tears as I realize the same thing the Governor just did. Why hasn’t it happened yet? The dragon is standing there looking at the crying pegasus on the ground.
The dragon bends down and brings his head closer to hers before speaking a single, soft word. “Flutter...shy?”
My heart skips a beat and I see Fluttershy sniffle and look up at the dragon. “Y-yes?”
Arok stands up straight all of a sudden. “What did she just say?”
The blue dragon spins around. “Arok, it’s Fluttershy. It’s her.”
The Governor glances at the two dragons, confused. “The hell are you two going on about? Kill her already!”
Arok wastes no time and moves past the Governor and towards Fluttershy. Once at her side he lowers his head and starts whispering something to her. She wipes her eyes with a fetlock and nods back. A moment later both dragons turn to face the Governor. “We have heard stories of this pony.”
The Governor walks forward. “I don’t care if you heard nursery rhymes about her. KILL HER.”
“No,” Arok growls. “We will do no such thing, not to her. Tales of her kindness towards my kind are legend, she is the most revered pony my race has ever known.”
The Governor raises an eyebrow, then laughs. “You’re kidding right? She’s a useless pegasus. Well, fine, if you won’t kill her I will.”
He barely makes it a step before the larger dragon leaps forward and lands in front of him, growling. “No, you won’t. You won’t harm a hair on her head.”
The Governor takes a step back. “What, what are you doing, don’t you know who I am! I speak for Discord, how dare you threaten me!”
The other dragon lands behind him, and the larger one starts puffing up his chest. “You are nothing but a servant, a flame ready to be snuffed out if you dare harm these ponies right now.”
The Governor tries to back up, but bumps into the dragon behind him. He stammers “B-But we’re on the same team! You work for Discord! We both work for Discord!”
The massive dragon snorts a puff of smoke and raises a claw. “Wrong on both accounts. I don’t think I work for him anymore... and neither do you.”
The Governor balks at the notion. “What? What wouldn’t I—.”
“Because Discord wouldn’t hire a corpse.” The dragon moves so fast I don’t even have time to blink, and his claws slice clean through the Governor’s body before I can look away.
I feel my body hit the ground about the same time the Governor’s does, his magic hold over me and my friends clearly extinguished. I share a glance with AJ and Rarity and we all mouth the same two words, “Holy shit.”
Arok spits down at the corpse and turns back to see the four us running over to hug Fluttershy who was still cowering on the ground. The dragon nods at us. “I’m sorry you had to see that, but I’m afraid it’s just the start of the bloodshed. If Fluttershy is with you, then surely you are the Six he was scared of, the fabled Elements of Harmony?”
“Yeah, you could say that.” I rub the back on my neck and look up at the massive monster. “Hey, listen... thanks for the help. We were really in trouble back there.”
He turns to look at the sky. “I should be thanking you. For far too long Discord has had his way with this land. We’ve been unhappy with him for many years, but as strong as the dragons are, we knew we couldn’t beat him ever since he consolidated his power.” He looks back down to us. “But if the ponies have returned and are ready to fight, and if the Elements are here to challenge him... we will stand at your side.”
I exchange glances with my friends, and surprisingly Fluttershy speaks up quietly. “Thank you for your help, Mr. Arok, sir. I’ll never forget your kindness.”
For the first time in my life, I see a dragon smile. “And we have never forgotten yours, Fluttershy. Take care, I would be honored to stay and protect you, but alas, I must spread word to my clans.” He looks over at the blue dragon. “Go to the Everfree at once, tell them Fluttershy has returned, and the hour of rebellion has come.”
Before any of us can comment, both dragons take flight, their massive wings shaking the very air as they take off. A few seconds pass and my friends and I all turn to stare at Fluttershy. She just waves at the departing dragons and smiles at us, “Well, they seemed... nice.”
I toss a foreleg around her neck and give her a hug. “And people say kindness never wins wars.”
Jack chuckles. “Well, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. We haven’t won the war yet, it hasn’t even really started.”
“Girls, I think it just did.” Pinkie says, her voice wavering a little.
“Hmm?” I look over at her, then follow her hoof that is pointed at the horizon. My ears drop as realize the sky is no longer a happy lava lamp swirl of color. The sky just turned blood red. What’s more, I can see hundreds of those hellspawn snake monsters flying right towards Carousel Boutique. My throat goes dry. “Shining and the others...”
Applejack stands at my side. “We have to get back there. The dragons will help, but we will need more than them to win this.”
I nod and look around for Twilight. “Let’s go inside the castle and help Twilight find those spellbooks. We need to get out of here as soon as possible.”
Rarity starts heading towards the castle, “I agree, we must find the books and leave posthaste. Discord will be here soon.”
Pinkie looks back at me, her tail and knees twitching on their own accord. “My Pinkie Sense! I think it’s something about Discord, he must be on his way here right now!”
“Wrong.” A bone chilling voice slices across the air behind us. “I’m already here.”
The five of us turn around and find ourselves staring face to face with a smirking Discord. He raises his hands in the air and smiles. “Surprise.”