• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine



Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 34: Rust Storm

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 34: Rust Storm

The walk down the road was, for the most part, uneventful for Twilight. She had no bits to her name, and had to resort to stealing food from any towns she passed through, even stealing a few apples from a fellow traveler. She didn't like thieving, and yet it filled her with a sense of exhilaration. Avoiding the guards was a tedious effort at times, and she would rather take what she needed and dispatch any that stood in her way. She resisted her urges and tried to avoid contact with them and drawing attention to herself.

The quiet of lying low and traveling alone left her to ponder everything that had transpired, taking in the way the world had changed in her absence. She was in the middle cloister of land surrounding Canterlot, and the amount of guards was neither heavy nor light. Though she heard of dragons frequently patrolling the middle cloister, she had not encountered any, wondering if they perhaps met the same fate as those outside Luna and Derpy's hideout town.

The sun started to dip in the horizon before Twilight, bathing the world in an orange glow soon to die down into purple. She stopped and shifted Moonlight, its weight making the shoulder it rested on sore after the day of traveling. She would need to find somewhere to stay the night, and she didn't want to camp out in the open. As she walked on, looking for a comfortable place to sleep, three ponies walked her way. When they neared, she veered out of their way, but they moved to block her path again. Twilight stopped and frowned.

"What do you want?"

One of the ponies produced a sword, while the other two produced a knife. "Well, if it ain't a young mare walking around this area all by herself. Don't you know the roads can be dangerous?"

The sun was nearly behind the horizon, and everything was darkened to a purple tint. Twilight reached under her cloak and brandished Moonlight, the sword dull and dark in the night. "I should ask you the same thing."

The pony with the sword laughed as the other two moved to flank her. "This one's got a mouth on her. Tell you what, cough up your valuables and we might not carve you up."

Twilight lowered the cloth covering her face, her anger distorting her features. "Drop your weapons and I might not show you what your intestines look like."

"That's it, bitch. I don't like your attitude."

The bandit with the sword lunged at her, and she struck his sword away with such force that he was knocked off balance. The two with knives came at her from behind and she whirled around, her cloak rising up and obscuring Moonlight. The dark blade cut the knife-hoof off the first pony, eliciting a howl of pain as his weapon dropped to the ground, while slashing the second across the stomach. The first fell while groaning, the second staggering back as he clutched his fresh wound.

Twilight watched as they writhed in pain before turning to their leader. He tightened the grip on his sword and jumped back in, poised to attack. When he swung for Twilight's neck, the blade stopped, engulfed in a dark purple glow.

"What the—! You're a unicorn?" He flailed and strained his foreleg, trying to pull himself away or finish the attack, but the sword did not move. "Help me, you idiots!" he cried to the others as the sword was torn from his grasp

Turning, Twilight grasped them in her magic and brought them to their leader, positioning them kneeling before him in front of her. "Do you have any valuables?" she asked quietly. Without a word, the two kneeling produced a small pouch each. "Good. You just bought yourself a front row seat," she cooed. She placed Moonlight in the bandit leader's hoof.

"Wh-what are you doing?" His foreleg took on violet aura and slowly turned the blade on himself, the tip reaching his stomach. "N-no, s-stop! Please don't!"

"No one will hear you scream," Twilight whispered as a dark light covered his mouth and those of his companions.

Moonlight carved across his stomach, splattering blood on the faces of his companions and spilling the rest to the ground at his feet. They shuddered in wide-eyed terror, muffled cries their only sound, as they watched him thrash and convulse, before his eyes finally rolled into the back of his head. Twilight released him from her magic and he fell into a pool of his own blood. The whimpers of the other two bandits doubled as a blood covered Moonlight landed before them.

"I was an archmage once," she said as she bent down and grabbed the sword, the glow of her horn illuminating the blood to them. "I would say that I still am. It was part of my duties to deal with criminals, bandits like yourselves included. Typically, you would be arrested. However, it seems that times have changed." She lifted the corpse of the bandit leader up with her magic and inspected her work, his guts peeking from the stomach wound. "I'm kind of liking capital punishment. It sends a message."

The bandits exchanged fearful glances. Twilight stepped between them, sliding the flat of Moonlight against their necks, the chill of the blood eliciting a shudder from each as it smeared. "I'm going to allow you to speak. If you scream, you die... slowly. You have twenty seconds to tell me why you shouldn't share the same fate as your friend." In an instant, they were able to use their voices again. A flurry of words escaped their mouths each trying to speak over the other as quickly as they could. "Stop," she said, immediately causing both to go silent. "You first," she said, pointing at the one missing a hoof.

"P-please! I'll never hurt anypony again! I'll never steal again! Just let me go, please!" Twilight stepped behind him and regarded his plea for a moment.

"Pardon denied." She spun around and cut his head clean from the center of his neck. The other bandit watched in frozen horror as it rolled by. "Convince me to spare your life," she said as she turned to the last bandit. "Twenty seconds."

"P-please! I'm innocent," he said.

"You're guilty as far as I'm concerned."

"They threatened my family. Bandits plague the area, and they force ponies like me into their gangs. I-I only did it to survive. It's not easy so close to the outer cloister. The dragons refuse to patrol enough out here, and sometimes they don't even care enough to do anything!"

"Oh? And just how many innocents have you robbed? Killed?"

"Wh-what?"

Twilight leaned in close to his face, her violet eyes shining with contempt. "How. Many?"

"P-please, I only did what I had to! Nothing more, I swear!"

"That's not an excuse!" she seethed. Taking Moonlight in both hooves, she cleaved for his neck.

"I'm innoce—!"

Twilight watched as his head rolled away, the glow of her horn vanishing as there was nothing left to bind with her magic. She wiped the blade off on his fur and shivered, covering her face once more. "No one is innocent anymore," she whispered as she grabbed the pouches of bits and continued down the road. Not even me.

***

Night had fully taken hold of the world, and Twilight decided to call her travel for the day and retire at a small outpost. She observed the quaint inn from a distance for a while, watching who entered and left, carefully eyeing the accompanying buildings around it. After spending some time ensuring it would be safe to stay there, she moved to the entrance. She pushed open a large wooden door, the whining creak of a worn hinge welcoming her. Ponies inside in the lobby glanced her way, but most paid her no mind. She kept the ones whose stares lingered in the corner of her vision until they looked away. Are any of them loyalists? Bandits? she wondered.

A voice at the front desk prompted her to refocus on why she was there. "Are you from the outer cloister, traveler?" an older stallion asked, scratching at a bushy, grey beard.

"Yes," Twilight lied. "It's been a long walk." She placed one of the satchels of bits on the desk.

The stallion eyed her incredulously until he caught the hilt of her sword protruding out from beneath her cloak. "Them roads out there be dangerous. You travelin' with anypony else?"

Twilight gave him a blank look. "Not anymore. We... parted ways," she explained, picturing the head of the last bandit. "I only need to stay one night." She poured the satchel on the counter, and the stallion cocked his head in confusion.

"It ain't even half that for a night," he said, gleaning the value of the bits before him.

"I need information," Twilight said, shooting a sidelong glance to the ponies in the lobby. "And I require discretion."

"Well, I'm not sure a codger like me knows anythin' useful."

Twilight returned her attention to him and lowered her voice. "The Dragon Lords. Do you know where any of them are heading? I have... information for them."

The stallion's eyes widened. "No-no. I'm afraid I can't help you," he said quickly, his eyes darting to the ponies in the lobby. Twilight followed his nervous gaze briefly. The ponies in the lobby cast them a regarding glance. Twilight picked up the extra bits.

"If you suddenly... remember something, you'll know where to find me." He scooped up his payment and gave her a key. Nervously scratching at his beard, he watched the lobby as Twilight followed a set of stairs up to the rooms.

Finding hers, she entered and closed the door behind her, pausing for a moment to listen. Quiet, she observed. Something is off here¸ she thought. Turning, she cast a warding spell on the door before moving to the bed. She lay Moonlight in its sheathe under her pillow, the hilt exposed for quick brandishing if need be. With a sigh, she relaxed and allowed herself to fall asleep.

***

Dark fog flowed around Twilight, the roar of its movement the only sound. She watched as it moved around her, cutting her off from the void of nothingness beyond. It invoked a familiar feeling within her as it stopped and floated.

"N-Nightmare Moon?" she blurted, watching it intensely.

Snickering played in response, reverberating from the fog all around, and the silhouette of a creature appeared in it before her. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I am not Nightmare Moon."

"Then who are you?" Twilight called back, cautiously watching it.

The creature emerged from the fog, sporting a dark purple coat, but no mane or tail hair.

"I am... you," it replied, a mischievous grin spread along its mouth.

Twilight's eyes fluttered open, and she lurched a few steps backwards. She stared at the creature in fear, unblinking. "This... isn't real," she muttered. You cannot run from me, rippled through her mind. "You're not real."

The creature stepped closer to her, its grin unfading. Right eye of blue, left of red, Twilight's spine bristled as it gazed back to her. "Is that what you believe, or only what you're trying to convince yourself to believe?" The creature slowly paced around her in a wide circle.

"This is only a dream. Only a—"

"Nightmare?" the creature finished coyly. "Oh, but the only nightmare on this night is the grisly murder of three ponies on the main road that didn't have to die."

Twilight recoiled from the information, but calmed herself down. It's just my mind playing tricks on me. It's just a dream.

"I'm impressed by your penchant for violence. Well, I am you, after all." The creature stopped pacing and took a single step closer. "You've been growing fond of it ever since Draconis. Little by little, you've become more aggressive, more spiteful. Now, why is that?"

"I don't have to listen to this," spat Twilight. She huffed, her breath misting in the air briefly.

"You're right," the creature said, sitting down. "At least, for now." Three loud thumps quaked the dreamscape, and Twilight threw her head in every direction. "We will see each other again soon."

She glanced at the creature as three more thumps permeated through the air. The creature smiled, blinking twice. The first time, its eyes were violet, then again they were blue and red. A final three thumps and Twilight opened her eyes.

"Wake up, you traitorous scum!" a pony shouted through her door. Twilight sat up as it was kicked in, several ponies with weapons pouring into the room. "You rebels fetch a nice bounty from King Aurelius," said one holding a mace.

Twilight blinked away the blur of her grogginess as he lunged at her. Ducking, her heartbeat accelerated as she ripped Moonlight from its sheathe and slashed him in the stomach as he passed her. He yelped before slumping across the bed.

Damn, I should use my magic, she thought as she backed into the corner of her room near a window. But if I attract the attention of a dragon patrol...

Another pony came at her, and she recognized him from the lobby. He came at her with a short sword, swinging frantically. Twilight dodged past him in a blur of her cloak. I can be subtle, she thought over the drumming of her heart, glancing at the pony bleeding out on the bed. Subtle enough. Grunting, she lifted the latest attacker off of the floor with her magic and threw him through the window, the crash of glass was proceeded by the thud of his body and a squeal of pain. There were two more ponies watching in shock from her door, unsure if they wanted to provoke her wrath.

No witnesses, she thought as she approached them. I can't have this fall back on Luna's plan.

They let out battle cries as they charged her, but she bat a hoof at them blasting one against the wall and the other into the hallway. Rushing to the one at the wall, she quickly stabbed him in the chest before hunting the last one. She found him winded, crawling down the hallway. Another guest opened their door to glimpse Twilight as she stood over him, Moonlight in her hoof.

"Stay inside," she said quickly, causing them to slam their door shut. She pulled the pony on the floor up to her. "Who are you? Why did you attack me?"

The pony quivered in her grasp as frightened eyes locked with angry violet orbs. "Th-there's bounties on the heads of r-rebels," he stammered.

"And what makes you think that I'm a rebel?" Twilight seethed.

"Y-you were asking about th-the Dragon Lords."

"Is it really so wrong to ask about them?"

The pony caught his breath and slowly stood up. "Only a rebel would ask about them out here." He produced a knife and lunged for her throat.

Diverting the attack with her magic, Twilight plunged Moonlight into his stomach. He dropped the knife and froze in pain, a guttural heave escaping his lips as she slowly drove the sword further into him. "Tell me where I can find one and I'll make it quick," she whispered into his ear.

"I... don't... know..." he croaked.

"Wrong answer," she said, twisting the blade.

What breath the pony had in his lungs was spent by a blood curdling cry as the sword was wrenched. When the last vestiges of his life faded, Moonlight was pulled free. Twilight stepped back into her room to see if any of the others had survived. She put a hoof to the throat of the one by the door. Dead. She kicked the one on the bed over, but it was clear by the frozen agony on his face that he had already expired. Moving to the shattered window, she looked to the ground below. The attacker on the ground still wriggled and moaned, one of his broken forelegs laying mangled at his side.

Several clops of hooves came from behind Twilight and she turned to see the exasperated face of the innkeeper. "By Aurelius's mane, what happened here?"

Twilight sheathed Moonlight and stepped closer to him, reaching under her cloak. The innkeeper's eyes shot open as he flinched when she produced an item. He relaxed as it was the other satchel of bits. "They attacked me," she said. "Or..." She brought one of his hooves out and set the satchel in it. "There was a dispute between random guests and it turned bloody. You don't know what happened and you didn't see anything." He glanced around at the bloodbath between the room and the hallway. "Which story is better for you?"

Sweat ran down the side of his head. He swallowed hard before relaxing. "Damn travelers got into it again. I'm gonna have to call the undertaker again. I'm gettin' too old for this crap."

"Good answer." Twilight took a step passed him, casting one last glance back to ensure they were dead. "Don't ever sell anyone else out again," she said. "I will find you."

She moved headed down the stairs, leaving the innkeeper to quiver. Outside, she found the final pony having moved several meters from his impact location. She looked around, the morning light greeting her. There were a few onlookers, but they kept their distance. Twilight crouched down to the pony and turned him to face her.

"I'll get you to a doctor if you tell me where I can find the Dragon Lords."

His eyes swam in his head in the haze of pain for a moment as he thought over his answer. "There's one a ways... up the road... They can't... be too far off." She nodded and stood up, but a tug at her hoof stopped her. "Please... you said you would get me to a doctor..."

"You're right, I did." Looking around, she found some pieces of wood from the window. With a few anguished groans, Twilight set his leg and fashioned a brace for it, tearing strips of cloth from her cloak to tie it in place.

"There," he said, motioning to a building. Twilight propped him up beside the door. "Thank you," he muttered.

She crouched down beside him, draping her cloak over him. She pulled Moonlight from its sheathe. "I never said I'd get you to one alive." A dark light covered his mouth as Twilight stabbed him in the side, thrusting the blade into his heart. His eyes fluttered open briefly, then closed. She undid his splint and thrust one of the pieces of wood into his fatal wound. Hopefully, no one looks too closely. She grabbed the other piece of wood and the strip of cloth, then maligned his foreleg once more before teleporting away.

My magic is starting to feel better, Twilight thought as she walked down the road alone once more. She stared at the ground as her steps flowed one after the other, her mind playing over the morning's chaotic events. I... killed more. Should I have spared them? she wondered. She nearly stumbled over a rock and stopped, straightening her posture. No! They would've alerted authorities. I can't have these 'Dragon Lords' expecting me. Making peace with her decision, she glanced up to see the shadow of a town far in the distance. I'll find you, yet, Vibe. I have to know... Who are you?

Author's Note:

3/13/15 - Edited and posted. Named in honor of an old Diablo 2 patch.

Twilight's integrity has begun a free fall, as well as, perhaps, her sanity.

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