• Published 2nd Jul 2013
  • 854 Views, 80 Comments

Beyond the Vale - Slip Kid

Canterlot Castle: a place of wonders and revelations, countless advances having been made within its sturdy walls. However, what should have been a great leap forward has instead flung a pony into the unknown...

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Of Castles & Forges

After walking alongside the earth pony for several minutes, Firebrand decided to strike up a conversation in hopes of gleaning more information about his current whereabouts. He slowly opened his mouth in preparation to speak, but his travelling companion beat him to it.

“So, I take it you’re not from around here, eh lad?” The larger pony looked at him calmly, with a curious glint in his light blue eyes.

“N-no, I’m not from around here at all. I was actually, um-” He searched his mind for an excuse for his ignorance. “-I was born in Griffonia and I only recently decided to visit Equestria; needless to say I didn't quite think it through." He gave a nervous chuckle at the end of his hastily made up lie, but he internally winced. Lying wasn't something he enjoyed.

“Hmm, never really knew many ponies lived there. I always heard that they don’t really like us ponies too much. Is that true?” The giant asked with one thick eyebrow raised.

“I suppose it’s like that most of the time, but I lived there my whole life so I guess they just accepted me after a while.” Fortunately, he’d visited Griffonia a few times so he had a fairly adequate base of knowledge to work from. Nonetheless, he feared that he’d slip up soon and thus he valiantly tried to change the subject as quickly as possible.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe I ever got your name? Mine’s Firebrand, by the way.” The enormous pony accompanying Firebrand briefly stopped his relentless march in order to introduce himself properly.

“Name’s Blazing Forge, finest blacksmith in all of Hoofens, heck, in all of Equestria! It’s nice ta meet ya,” he replied in a boisterous voice, with a proud smile curling at the corners of his wide mouth. Blazing Forge clasped his muscular hoof around Firebrand’s decidedly smaller one and gave it a rigorous, if a bit overenthusiastic, shake. At the end, Firebrand felt as if his leg was going to come off. Blazing Forge looked off to the horizon for a few seconds before turning back to Firebrand.

“Now that introductions are over, we’d best be off; there’s a lotta work to do ‘round the forge so it’d be best if I got back soon.” He then resumed his steady march towards ‘Hoofens’.

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s in the cart?” Firebrand asked after a few moments; his eyes still roving around the forest.

Blazing Forge's eyes momentarily flitted over to Firebrand. “Hmm? Oh, right, the cart. It’s just some some raw materials I need around the forge. Y’know, iron, mithril and the like.”

Firebrand's eyes widened and his jaw slightly slackened. ”But isn’t mithril, you know, really rare and exceedingly expensive?”

“Aye, but the Princesses only want the best for their Royal Guard. Huh, probably shoulda mentioned before that I take commissions from the Guard; I’m like... the part-time Royal Blacksmith.” His eyebrows were furrowed as he mulled over his situation.

“Why not full time? The pay must be good...” At this seemingly inane question, the brown pony’s face turned sour; as if he’d been told some particularly unpleasant news.

“Aye, but I’m not too fond of making weapons and armour; it makes me feel like we’re gonna need 'em. So, I only make things for the Guard when I’m the only pony who can do the job; too few ponies know how to forge mithril nowadays.”

Firebrand just sighed contemplatively after the the brief exchange, a sigh that said that the conversation had ended, for now at least.

Well, he said Princesses, so that’s a very good sign indeed. But there’s something about the word Hoofens that rings a bell, but I can’t quite put my hoof on it... No matter. I’ll likely find out soon enough. Though there’s still the obvious question of just what the heck is going on; I can't afford to be kept in the dark.

“How much longer until we get there?” Firebrand asked his impromptu guide. The aforementioned guide simply nodded his head towards the apex of a nearby hill; a dirt path planted almost exactly in the middle of the moderately sized mound, surrounded by thick emerald green grass on both sides. Firebrand sped up to a lively trot, suddenly eager to see what awaited him on the other side; the long anticipated city of Hoofens.

He came to a stop at the crest of the hill, with one hoof firmly on the path while the other straddled the long blades of grass waving in a slight breeze, only noticeable after leaving the shelter of the forest. Firebrand stared at the spectacle before him with wide eyes and a jaw that was slightly agape.

He saw a sprawling cityscape before him, brilliant marble towers reaching high into the heavens; their golden crests shining brightly in the afternoon sunlight. Below these magnificent towers lay an innumerable number of houses and shops spreading off into the horizon, with ponies of all colours and tribes wandering the network of streets below. Smoke bellowed from chimneys and ponies wandered merrily through the streets, nobles and common ponies alike. The sound of shop owners bartering with, and trying to attract, customers could be faintly heard over the constant din of city life.

All that paled in comparison, however, to what he saw when his eyes roamed across the horizon. A sight that made his breath hitch in his throat. The Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, fully intact, standing magnificently at the centre of the great town. Its soaring grey spires looked resplendent; even when compared to all the other towers scattered throughout the city.

He realised now where he had heard of Hoofens; it was the former capital of Equestria before the Lunar Uprising when most of it was reduced to ash, with only the Castle itself left standing. A brutal reminder of what had once been.

Firebrand was still standing slack-jawed when Blazing Forge caught up to him and gazed at his home alongside the utterly bowled over unicorn. After a few moments, the earth pony broke the silence that had overcome them.

“Quite a sight, isn’t it? It has the best of everything Equestria has to offer, you’ll find what you're looking for no matter what.”

Firebrand stood still for several more moments before he spoke up in a barely audible voice, heavily tinged with awe. “I-it’s amazing... Absolutely amazing...”

The only thing he could liken it to was Canterlot, which was itself the pinnacle of pony achievement.

“Aye, you’ll never forget your first look at Hoofens; but we haven’t got all day to take in the sights, I’ve got a schedule to keep,” stated Blazing Forge before lumbering off, with Firebrand reluctantly following in his wake, though he was still panning his gaze around the expansive city. Soon, though, they had descended too far down the hill to be able to make out any of the sights in the distance and they were soon swept up in the hustle and bustle of the streets.

It was some time later that the duo arrived at a modest grey stone building, a hammer and anvil displayed proudly on a sign on the front. The same hammer and anvil that made up its owners cutie mark. Blazing Forge had arrived there looking no worse for wear as he’d had experience navigating the busy cobblestone roads. Firebrand, however, wasn’t so privileged. He arrived battered and bruised with various bits of fabric sticking to his coat and mane at odd angles.

Ugh, why did that pony wait until her cart fell on somepony to repair it?

His eyes were downcast and his eyebrows lowered. Blazing Forge pointedly cleared his throat Firebrand raised his line of sight to see the door to the blacksmith’s being held open for him. A slight red tinged his cheeks as he sheepishly entered the establishment, thanking Blazing Forge on the way through.

He admired the the room he had just entered, freshly forged swords, spearheads and armour covered the walls and workbenches throughout the room, each piece reflecting the dull orange glow emanating from the massive forge which took up a large portion of the available floor space. Some of the sets of armour were a glittering gold while the others were a muted purple in colour. They, however, paled in comparison to the few shining silver sets of armour interspersed throughout the rows, armour quite clearly made from mithril. He was tempted to run his hoof along the armour, but only for a second.

“Wow, you weren’t exaggerating when you said that you’re easily the best blacksmith in town,” he muttered under his breath, though the blacksmith didn’t hear him because he was currently unloading the wagon which he had laboriously dragged from places unknown.

“Lad, would ya mind helping me unload my cart?” Instead of replying verbally to the behemoth of a pony’s request, he simply started levitating the ores and ingots out of the cart, which was creaking under the massive weight of its considerable cargo.

A few moments later, while still unloading his supplies, the blacksmith decided to ask an important question. “So, Firebrand, have ya got enough bits ta find a place ta stay?”

It was at that moment that Firebrand realised something horrifying, something horrific; he’d left his saddlebags in his office.


"Tsk, thought as much. Didn't think this trip through very well, did ya? Alright, I suppose you can stay 'ere for a bit..." the giant rumbled.

"Oh, thank you so mu-"

"But. You'll have to do your fair share around the forge if you want to stay. Your mark looks to be somethin' ta do with fire, right? Should be useful." Firebrand was left gaping at the interruption, but recovered soon enough.

"Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less. I'd rather pay for my stay anyway, if helping around the forge is the way to do that, then so be it." Firebrand offered Blazing Forge a tentative smile, one that was enthusiastically met.

"Well, I'm glad that's been sorted. Now, yer lookin' dead on yer hooves, so I won't ask any more. There's a spare hammock one room over, can't miss it." Firebrand simply nodded and limply wandered off in search of the fabled hammock.

He wandered into a small, plain room stacked with ingots of many different hues. A small white cloth hammock was strung up at one end. Upon entering the room, Firebrand immediately noticed how much colder it was, he hadn't really noted the heat inside the forge until just then.

He dragged himself over to the hammock and collapsed inside it. Though the gentle swaying of the hammock kept him awake for longer than he would have liked, he eventually slipped into a cosy slumber.

Author's Note:

Well, I worked tirelessly to get this out for you lovely people, and I'd do it again! As always, leave comments, reviews, nitpicks, etc...

Just as a side note, updates are gonna be sporadic and infrequent for a while.

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