• 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 35: The Colossus

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 35: The Colossus

Twilight wiped her brow of sweat, wishing the burst of air from her teleport would flow her way. Her eyes blinked away the suddenness of her new location, slowly scanning over the road, the orange tint of the setting sun offering a quick morose in the absence of its princess. Casting it away, she found herself eager to find the dragon lord just ahead, eager to see if it was Vibe. Too eager. Glancing around, there was little to offer beside the hard packed dirt road laying out before her, and the trees and fields spread on either side for miles and miles. She raised a foreleg to shade her eyes and peered down the road behind her. There wasn't a single pony in sight.

Pivoting back, she looked ahead to a heavy wooden gate, a lone guard leaning against one of its riveted doors. She moved towards it, but veered off of the path and along the wall. She stopped and scanned the area for any significant magical presence, but little more than the traces of magic from an average unicorn could be sensed. Is Vibe not here? she wondered. She placed her forehooves to the wall and concentrated harder, attempting to visualize everything around, tapping into nature itself. The odd sensations filled her body as she pushed herself to track the presence. As she began to feel and catalogue the ponies beyond the wall, she raced through as many of them as she could, cycling through their signatures at an accelerating rate.

Where are you!? Where—

A familiar presence stuck out to her briefly, but she lost sight of it before she could analyze it any further. Tapping into the natural side of her magic proved a lot more draining than she remembered, and she quickly crumbled to the ground, panting while she tugged at the collar of her cloak. She slowed down her sensing to catch her breath, but ultimately ended the process altogether. Her legs jittered as she pushed herself back up to standing. As her stamina returned, she started walking and calculating the distance she traveled versus the speed of an average pony; however, the gate guard found her skulking along the wall.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

The voice cut through her concentration, immediately erasing all of her efforts. Twilight gnashed her teeth as she tried to put on an innocent expression before she faced the guard. Doing the best she could to suppress her fatigue, she whirled around and scratched at the back of her head, looking to the ground. "N-nothing. Just catching my breath is all," she replied innocently.

When she looked up the guard shot her an incredulous look. "You better not cause any trouble unless you want to be hanging from the gallows in Canterlot. There's a dragon lord here."

Twilight blinked a couple times before the information was fully absorbed. "Oh, me? I would never do such a thing!" She continued to maintain her innocence beneath the guard's scrutinizing gaze. He cocked his head and squinted, crows feet in his eyes giving him an air of intimidation, then huffed before turning around.

"Don't you forget what I said, kid."

That was... easy enough. Wait... kid?

Twilight quickly stepped by him and through the gate, a wary glance thrown over her shoulder. 'Hanging from the gallows in Canterlot'? Executions haven't been sanctioned since... She shuddered to think of Celestia or Luna presenting a pony's death on public display, their limp body dangling in the wind for all to see. Shaking her head, she forced the idea to the back of her mind.

The town was certainly more maintained than the one she had awoken in, and it appeared more populated. As she walked through the streets, her eyes drifted between the ponies and the buildings, grimy windows to occupied doorways, worn signs to peeling trim. Whatever dragon lord was there wouldn't be too hard to spot, even among the calamity of the late day. They always seemed to draw attention without trying. She wandered aimlessly through the streets and plazas, straining her ears to catch a whisper or word of the dragon lord's whereabouts, or of whom it might be. Most of the conversations she caught were merely gossip and the woes of life, rather than anything of relevance to the mission.

After a while of searching, she sighed and looked up to the sky, eventide a purple glow, slowly fading to blue. A part of her wanted to keep searching, a voice in her mind, inaudible, pushing her to continue on. However, logic won, and she knew fighting Vibe while exhausted wouldn't work. Might as well rest up for the night, she thought, rubbing her eyes and yawning.

She found the nearest inn and spent the last of her pilfered bits on a room. Casting a ward on the door, she placed Moonlight under her pillow again and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Her thoughts wandered to the dialogue with the creature from her sleep. What was with that dream? The doppelganger claiming to be her was bothersome, but she couldn't place why. Am I... going insane? The notion caused her to snort and laugh out loud. Yeah, right.

She sighed and rolled onto her side. Where are Nightmare Moon and Trixie? Celestia? My friends? It wasn't until now that she put her losses in front of her. Four years had passed in the blink of an eye for her, but for others the world had slowly become something else entirely. Equestria had fallen beneath the shadow of her enemy, and now she abandoned the only ponies she knew for her own mission. What about my... home? My family? A tear rolled down her cheek and she wrapped herself in her cloak and blanket. I'm... alone again.

***

"Ah, right where we left off," a familiar voice rang into the air. Twilight blinked and she was face to face with the creature from her dreams, the sickly mocking in its voice eliciting a frown from her. "This time, there's no one to cut us short."

"Who are you?" Twilight hissed.

"I already told you. I am you. You are me. One. And. The same."

Twilight's fur bristled. "Then what are you?"

The creature cocked its head to one side and grinned. "Now that's an answer you would have more fun figuring out for yourself."

Grimacing, she scratched her head violently, ruffling her mane. "What do you want from me?"

"Want?" The creature put a hoof to its chin and glanced up. "Nothing. I only want to watch you. To see all that you do. To see... you. It was not so long ago that you would do everything in your power to avoid taking a life. Now... you scarcely give it a second thought. Now, that is interesting."

A chill ran up her spine, her eyes fluttering open. "Th-that—! I don't have to explain myself!"

The creature took a step closer, its grin pulling the corners of its mouth wide. "You're right. You don't! I already know!" The creature snickered, and Twilight's stomach twisted.

"How do I make you disappear?"

"Oh? Do you want to kill me, too?"

"N-no. That's not what—"

The creature began to circle her, like a predator observing its prey. "Oh, I'm only teasing, but you don't want me gone. I can help you, you know. Honest."

"And how can a figment of my imagination help me?" Twilight sat down and crossed her forelegs over her chest. "You're as bad as Astra."

The creature stopped and frowned. "Do you spit on everyone that helps you?" When Twilight opened her mouth, the creature spoke again. "I will not give you power. I will not teach you spells. I will not give you direction when you are lost." The creature licked its lips. "You are missing only one thing."

"And what could I—we be missing, then?"

The creature stood up, leaned back, and swayed its forelegs apart, staring around to the nothingness. "Perspective. Everything around you has changed. It's time you looked at it as it should be looked at."

Twilight rolled her eyes. Stop grinning. She flinched when the creature did as she thought. "And what should I look at differently?"

"You are guilty of terrible crimes. You have slain ponies and dragons alike, in the name of your kingdom. In the name of yourself. I'm sure the Brood feels no different from how you've slaughtered their king and kin alike."

"You're not exactly helping," Twilight seethed.

"But you don't see it," the creature cooed. "That badge of amnesty that you wear like a shield to your consciousness."

"What are you talking about?"

The creature took two more steps closer to her. "You whispered in her ear, didn't you?"

The air froze as Twilight stood up, her eyes widening. Her breath misted as she connected the dots. "H-how...?"

The creature grinned once more. "I'm you. Remember? Have you never thought that you may forget yourself before you are done? Or maybe it's before you begin? All of the pain, all of the regret. Do you care? Does it matter? Or are you going for absolution? You live as if you already know where you will end... or is it begin? I forget... But what of Nightmare Moon? Can you live with what you will have done to her?"

Twilight's eyes were as wide as they could be, tears welling in them, but not from surprise. She bared her teeth and stamped a hoof. "Enough!" she bellowed. "You know... nothing! You... are nothing! I will do whatever I have to, and I will bring Equestria back from all of this!"

The dream world was ripped away in an instant and Twilight awoke to the haze of sunlight filling her room. She sat up while her chest rose and fell to rapid, sharp pants, her pillow damp with sweat. As her breathing slowed, she gazed at the floor where rays of light brightened the wood, illuminating the dirt-stained, gnarled planks. Her mind fought to maintain memories of the dream just a moment ago, but she found it difficult to concentrate on the dream itself. I can't do that... Her thoughts drifted away from the dream and to the creature's words. After a moment, she climbed out of bed and moved to the window where the light poured through, staring down at the ponies shuffling about in the morning. She regarded each of them carefully in a dull, half-awake gaze. It's not right. She turned and glimpsed Moonlight's hilt poking out from under the pillow. She moved to it and pulled the blade from its sheath. Its green glow had returned, and the black siphoned away the sunlight surrounding it, allowing the green to shine freely.

But why shouldn't I? I've already been doing it. She replaced the blade and fastened the baldric underneath her cloak, wrapping her mouth with a cloth strip again. She headed towards the door, but stopped and cast one last glance to the sunlit window. To kill in the name of the real Equestria—my Equestria... Her eyes followed the light rays until they reached the shade, the darker tint of the wood floor just as unsightly as the rest. What would she think? she wondered as she departed out of the inn. Stepping out into the streets, she squinted as the brunt of the late morning sunlight hit her eyes. What does it matter? In the end, you aren't the one who can change anything. I made sure it was my decision alone. She purged her mind of troubled thoughts and focused on the surroundings.

A foreleg was raised to shield her eyes until they adjusted. Lets just get this over with. Scanning the ponies around, she spotted a guard slowly walking along the side of the street, a frown painting him unfriendly. Worth a try.

"Excuse me," she said as she approached him. The guard whirled around and gave her an annoyed look, but she ignored it. "I heard there's a dragon lord here. Can you tell me where I can find them?"

"That's none of your business. Get lost, kid," the guard retorted, turning away.

Kid? What a grouch. Twilight frowned behind her wrapping and tensed for a moment. "I really need to talk to them," she urged, trying to maintain a sincere tone.

"Don't make me repeat myself."

Gritting her teeth again, Twilight took a deep breath. "Look, I have information about a rebel force nearby. They're planning an attack!" The guard's expression lit up as his jaw flapped for a moment.

"W-Well, why didn't you say so? Come on, I'll take you to her."

Her? Damn, it's not Vibe.

The guard motioned for her to follow and they weaved by any other ponies as they headed towards what appeared to be a town hall of sorts. The large building had two guards stationed at the front steps on either side of the door, and more waiting in the main hallway. Twilight gulped as she was led through the main hall and to a small auditorium, a red carpet guiding the way. Many ponies of importance greeted her with curious or concerned glances, most looking much her senior with greying hair or wrinkles on their faces, and wore some form of finer clothing than anyone else she'd seen in town.

Leaning against the right wall from the entrance, Twilight spotted the dragon lord with her eyes closed. It wasn't Vibe in all of his elegant red and white attire, but Berry Punch clad in worn armor. Its red paint appeared dull and faded, scratched and marred all over the minimalist breastplate design, foregoing full sleeves. A two-piece of heavily plated greaves covered her stomach down, and armored forelegs were crossed over her chest, with smaller cestuses covering her forehooves than Twilight last remembered.

"Who is this?" one pony asked, breaking away from a conversation with two others. Studying him, Twilight noted the crows feet of his eyes and a gnarling of his muzzle. As he turned, a red sash encircling his torso at an angle was made visible.

"This one wants to talk to the dragon lord, mayor," the guard replied as he bowed. "She claims to have information about a local rebel force."

Twilight's eyes darted to Berry, gauging her reaction, but the dragon lord cast her a sidelong glance. I have to get her alone.

"Oh? Many ponies claim to have information on the rebels, each of them trying to collect a quick bounty. What makes your claim more genuine than any of the others we hear?" the mayor asked. "We do hope you're not trying to fool us," he said, his tone becoming heavy and serious. "Why don't you take off that mask, hm?"

Twilight looked around, her eyes shifting between all of the ponies present. "I can't," she whispered. "There's spies in your town's guard, and possibly your cabinet, mayor," she added. The other ponies in the room exchanged startled looks as the mayor catalogued their faces. "I will only speak to the dragon lord. Alone."

The mayor raised a suspicious brow to her, and Twilight tensed as he scrutinized her very carefully. "Matters with the rebels are handled by Canterlot or any present Dragon Lords," he glanced to Berry, "correct?"

She met his gaze and she loosed a long, drawn out yawn as she stood up and stretched, the cracks of her joints eliciting a clink from her armor. "Yeah, yeah. Come on, missy. We can go somewhere private." The mayor gave a dismissive wave and turned away to speak to the others in the room. Twilight lingered for a moment hoping to catch valuable information.

"Yes, the dragons being disemboweled and sliced up is most bothersome," the mayor said. "But that is the king's problem. Cel—Equestria knows the outer cloisters have problems of their own, and half of them the king's very own dragons. Good riddance."

Berry headed out into the main hall, Twilight trotting just behind her. The dragon lord turned and pushed a door open, motioning to go in, but Twilight put a hoof on her shoulder and shook her head.

"No. Not here. I don't trust anypony in this town," she whispered, feigning a concerned glimpse to a guard in the hallway.

Berry peered around and rolled her eyes. "Fine. We'll talk outside town. I could use some fresh air anyway. All the politics make it stuffy in here."

Perfect, Twilight thought as she followed Berry out of the town, her legs threatening to hop between steps. She observed as the townsponies immediately made way for them on the streets, clusters of them splitting apart in seconds when they spotted the two of them coming. Are they really all so afraid of them? she wondered, her eyes flowing to the back of Berry's head. They were Celestial Knights. There's no way...

As they left the town, Berry stopped as soon as they were out of ear shot of anyone else. "So, about that information... Tell me about this rebel force."

Twilight brought a hoof up to her mouth, earning a disgruntled look from her enemy. "Shh. Let's go further this way. I can show you where they're setting up camp."

The dragon lord rolled her eyes again. "Whatever. Just as long as you're not wasting my time. I could be taking a nap right now."

This is perfect, Twilight thought. She's letting me lure her away. As she walked into a forest, heading away from town, she thought over her tactics. This is going a little too perfect. I'd better be careful. Maybe I should wait for nightfall. She looked over her shoulder to Berry absentmindedly watching the areas beside. No, I don't need to waste time on that. This will be quick and easy, then it's back to finding Vibe.

This should be far enough. No one to save you out here, she thought as she could no longer see the town while squinting.

She stopped walking after Berry stomped a hoof. "This is far enough. Now tell me what you know, and I want to know where it is we're going."

Twilight turned around and looked up to the sky. The trees offered reprieve from the shining sun, but it was impossible to wait for the magic-enhancing night. Show time. She loosed a gleeful snicker. "We're already here," she replied.

Berry looked around at the trees and grass, a breeze gently rustling the leaves. "There's nothing here. Where is the rebel force?"

"You're looking at her."

The dragon lord stared at her for a moment and burst out laughing. "Is this some kind of joke? If you know who I am, you shouldn't be wasting my time screwing around."

"Oh, I know exactly who you are. You're the one that's going to tell me where Vibe is," Twilight sneered.

Berry adjusted her armor and cestuses. "Oh, really? And what makes you so sure you can even go hoof-to-hoof with me?"

"I know what the celestial knights can do. You're nothing but a brawny brat with some armor to me."

Berry took on a cautious stance. "How did you know I was a celestial knight?"

"It doesn't matter. Tell me where Vibe is and I'll be on my way." Twilight adjusted the wrapping on her face.

"Cocky, aren't ya? I'll tell you over my dead body," rebuked the former knight. "I've been itching for a fight." She clanged her cestuses together and grinned. "So bring it on!"

The dragon lord charged at her, the heavy steps from her armor forming a rhythm. She planted a leg and grunted, driving an armored hoof towards the archmage's stomach. Twilight lowered the wrapping on her face and conjured a barrier, a smirk plastered on her face.

"A direct attack won't work on—"


Twilight's confidence melted away as the barrier shattered, the armored hoof impacting her stomach. Her eyes widened as she could feel her organs compress and her hind legs leaving the ground. Blood spilled from her mouth as Berry sent her sailing backwards, and she hit the ground and rolled, Moonlight clattering with her. Cries of pain erupted from her briefly, and she coughed up blood as she struggled to fill her lungs with air. The pain in her gut ravaged her nerves; it hurt to breathe, and it took all of her willpower just to stop herself from whimpering.

"What kind of a weak spell was that?" the dragon lord chided.

H-how? What in the name of Astra did she use? Shakily, she rose back to her hooves and turned around. "Im...possible. That.... that was a fluke," she said breathlessly, clutching her stomach and losing groan. She wiped excess blood from her mouth. "Let's see you handle... this!" Her horn ignited into a bright purple glow, and she called down a thick bolt of lightning. It hit the ground, consuming the dragon lord in a tremendous explosion of light and dirt.

When the flash faded, Berry remained standing, head hung low, and her mocking expression had been replaced with a dark and serious one. "That... hurt," she growled, gnashing her teeth. In a shrill cry, she tore a damaged piece of plating from her back, burnt skin and hair clinging to the underside, and exposed bloody flesh. Her greaves had fused together and she appeared immobile.

Twilight was impressed that she had resisted much of the magic, but her eyes shot open when Berry roared and broke the fused plating apart with raw strength, resuming her attack again. The dragon lord swung higher this time, aiming for her head. Twilight conjured a more powerful barrier this time to account for the earth pony's monstrous strength. The ground trembled as the cestus connected, and the alicorn leaned back in fright as the barrier cracked. Several more punches followed and the shield shattered from the attack. The armored hooves struck her several times in the chest before a haymaker to the face sent her spinning backwards. Her sense of balance was erased, and she hit the ground once more, the world continuing to spin in a whirlwind of pain as she lay motionless.

How is this possible!? her mind raced. She's not even a unicorn!

Twilight laid there for a moment, Berry's voice slurring into incoherency as the pain in her face and chest felt like magma had been splashed on her. She slowly picked herself up off of the ground as she approached again. As her vision sharpened, she charged up magic in horn, wiping away blood from her mouth. "You insolent bitch. You will tell me where Vibe is, even if I have to break every bone in your body!"

Berry moved in for another attack and Twilight unleashed a torrent of flames, the temperature wilting the tree leaves and grass around her. The dragon lord breached it with a leap and battle cry, the paint missing from what remained of her armor, and delivered a high kick. Conjuring another barrier, yet stronger than the last, Berry's kick shattered it with a small grunt and struck Twilight's left foreleg, smashing it against her side.

She yelped as a grim snap heralded the bone fracturing. She teleported back to gain some distance as the pain rippled across her leg, her wrist going numb. Her head, her foreleg, her stomach; all of the pain threatened to destroy the last of her focus. I can't... She's too strong...

"Come on, you're not even a real challenge," Berry shouted, smirking. "I was hoping you would put up more of a fight since you had the stones to challenge a dragon lord."

Twilight's body trembled, sweat running down the sides of face, mixing with blood by the time it dropped from her head. No... No. No! NO! I'm not losing to her. I am stronger! I am... I am...! "I am going to break you," Twilight snarled, her voice cracking from the pain. "You are nothing but an earth pony! You. Are. Nothing!" Roaring, Twilight gathered magic into her horn, a bright blue energy that siphoned the light around her. "Ether Laser!"

The concentrated magic exploded from her horn with a loud hum, bathing everything in a blue-white glow. Berry's face lit up and she crossed her forelegs in front of her as the beam collided, enveloping her body in its path. The beam continued past her, burning away the grass in its path and any trees standing in its way. When the light faded, Twilight panted and dropped to her haunches, clutching her stomach with her uninjured leg. Her left eye had already swollen shut and the ringing in her head intensified. Keep it together, Twilight.

"I'd love to see you... get up... from that," she said, loosing a pained snort.

"That... really... hurt."

Twilight's blood turned to ice, her eye shooting open. She stood up and slowly peered towards her foe. Berry slowly rose out of the ditch caused by the attack, patches of her mane and tail burned away. More pieces of her armor were missing, and blood ran down her face and neck all the way to her exposed chest, where new open wounds appeared.

"H-How did you...?" Twilight muttered in disbelief. "What in the world are you?"

Berry began charging her one last time, roaring as Twilight poured as much magic into another barrier as she could. "No mage has ever hit me like that. You've got some real scary power. I'll. Give. You. That!"

With horn shining and a hoof towards her attacker, Twilight shrieked out as the dragon lord punched it dead on. The barrier held for the initial impact, but it quickly cracked.

She has this much strength left after that!? What in the name of Astra is she!?

With a battle cry, Berry shattered the barrier and drove her hoof into Twilight's jaw. In an instant, Twilight was sent careening backwards, her body no longer responsive. She could feel blood draining from her head, but she wasn't even sure where the wounds were. She toppled to the ground and rolled, Moonlight clattering with her again. She couldn't muster the strength for more than a quiet, agonized whimper, and she lay on the ground as her body offered her signs of shock.

I... lost, she managed in thought, tears welling in her eyes from the pain. Her head pounded from what was no doubt a concussion. This isn't how it was supposed to be. Her uninjured eye closed as the pain grew stronger, the throbs feeling like explosions in her nerve endings. Berry's steps were lost in the ringing in her ears, but she knew she was nearing. Am I going to die? The dragon lord stopped as she reached her. No... I'm already dead...

"Well, missy. You've got yourself an audience with the king. He'll decide what to do with you."

If this is just one of his lieutenants, how am I supposed to kill Aurelius? I'm not... strong enough. I'm never... strong... enough...

As consciousness faded, Twilight heard Berry utter a shriek. She opened her eye, but all turned to black before she could glimpse the dragon lord.

Weak. Pathetic, a familiar voice taunted before Twilight fell unconscious.

Author's Note:

4/1/2015 - Happy April Fool's Day! Told you I wasn't joking, and this isn't the first time I've updated on April 1st. xD

Dang, Twilight. Always a bit cocky, aren't we?

Peppy was sick, but he still helped proofread. :> And, I might also change the word cloister later.

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