• 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 40: Fuel to the Fire

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 40: Fuel to the Fire

Derpy raced across the desert, the dry air flowing through her mane, but the crippling heat no longer present. It was still hot, but nothing compared to the miserable trudge through the sand dunes. Her heart ached as she pressed herself to go faster, her wings whipping with a painful frenzy while the sand smeared past her. After a while, she had crossed the entirety of the desert back to greener lands, and she allowed herself to glide to the ground stumbling upon landing. She sat down and put her back against a tree, furling up her burning wings. For a while, she wept in silence only drawing her broken sword to gaze at her reflection in the dulled metal. Sighing, she glanced up and wiped her eyes gazing at the tree leaves as they gently swayed to a breeze. Her thoughts drifted to the past and she choked up for a moment as she sheathed the weapon.

Derpy wandered the halls of the castle as she awaited further orders. It had been eight months since Aurelius had besieged Canterlot and laid waste to the city. The images and worries from that night plagued the paladin even then, and she tried to purge her mind with aimless wandering. Guard and patrol duties in Canterlot were always boring and uneventful, and she longed to be out racing the skies or conducting missions. It wasn’t long before Luna found her, and she automatically gave a salute as she snapped out of her daze.

“Any new orders, Your Majesty?” she asked.

The moon princess sighed and shook her head. “I know that remaining here, as with the other Celestial Knights, is not what you had expected, but your primary functions will resume soon.”

Derpy scratched the back of her head. “Is Rainbow Dash…”

Luna nodded. “Enjoy the down time, Paladin Hooves.” She started to walk away, but another question stopped her.

“What is going on with Nightmare Moon? Should I be worried?”

“That is… out of my hooves.” Luna turned to face Derpy with an unreadable expression. “With the loss of Twilight, she has chosen to find her on her own. Though Celestia and I appealed to her to stay until things have settled, so that we may conduct a full scale search united, she has refused our offer.”

“Are you okay with letting her go? She was instrumental in stopping Aurelius and she shouldn’t go alone.”

Luna coughed into a hoof. “In honor of Twilight, we have decided to allow Nightmare Moon to go.” She glanced away briefly before adding, “I do not agree with her, but I do not enjoy her presence on the castle grounds, either. The matter is over for now. Should she return, she is free to come and go and has been given her own chambers here.” She pivoted sharply and walked away without another word.

Derpy sighed and decided to head for the throne room. Guards greeted her and saluted, offering respects to her service to Canterlot, but she only returned absentminded replies and half-smiles. She stopped when she noticed Trixie walking her way, her expression full of scorn.

“Archmage Lulamoon,” she said, saluting. “Is everythi—“ Immediately, Derpy regretted engaging her.

“Couldn’t be better,” she replied swiftly, haughtily. “That little spider is leaving… to find Twilight. But I’m stuck here!” She gnashed her teeth. “I will find Twilight before her. I don’t care if she loves her. She is mine! I won’t let that harlot come between us!” She stormed off, grumbling under her breath.

“S-sorry I asked,” Derpy muttered before continuing on.

The throne room was open, and Derpy found every major staff and military figure in all of Equestria there. Circles were formed where several ponies at once were discussing things from threat assessments to damage control to reconstruction, with Princess Celestia in the center struggling to juggle many inquiries and tasks. Her face brightened as she caught sight of the paladin.

“Ah, Paladin Hooves,” she said loudly, interrupting the ponies attempting to speak to her. “Have you seen Princess Luna? I could use her help.”

“She went for a walk. Should I go get her?”

“Please,” Celestia insisted, offering a wincing smile.

Derpy spun around and dashed out of the room, tapping into her heightened speed to maneuver through the halls. When she found the moon princess in front of the castle, she stopped and hid behind a column, catching Nightmare Moon walking down the steps.

“Cease this pointlessness at once, Nightmare Moon,” Luna called out.

The Id’s mane stilled and she turned around, facing the princess above her. “It’s not pointless. Staying here and waiting for all of you is pointless. Twilight is out there, somewhere, and I’ll do whatever it takes to find her and bring her back.”

“’Whatever it takes’” Luna echoed warily. “Is that what your weapon and armor are for? And just what do you feel is necessary, hm?”

“I will kill for her, as she has for me. My life for hers, if it comes to that.” The slits of her eyes bowed and expanded briefly. “Nothing will stand in my way.”

“I implore you to wait a while longer, Nightma—“

“Stop calling me that, Luna. I’m not your nightmare any longer, nor was I ever hers. I’ve taken my new name, so start using it,” Nightmare bitterly interjected.

Luna’s eyes narrowed as her voice grew low. “I will never forget the nightmare you caused me. Twilight may have a purer heart for you, but you are condemned in my eyes. You are forever the nightmare of the moon, the shadow that shall always loom over me—my nightmare.”

“From where I stand, it is the moon that casts and lords over the shadow,” Nightmare retorted. “Do as you wish, Luna, but I’m leaving again. I hope one day that you forgive me. If it wasn’t for Twilight, I would have never forgiven… myself.”

“Stay yourself… Mi—Nightmare.”

Nightmare stopped. “There is no one that will stop me. I’m heading far south. If anyone knows anything about Aurelius and his sister, they will be there.”

Luna trotted down the steps quickly and barred Nightmare’s path. They exchanged heavy stares for a while. “We will find you if she returns, but do not die.”

Nightmare pulled a hood over her head, and hid her entire mane inside of it. “It’s not like you to worry for me,” she muttered as she walked on, the low clanging of her armor to the pavement filling the air.

Derpy peeked around the corner to watch Nightmare walking away, a dark weapon getting swallowed into her mane. Billowing over the Id’s dark armor was a black cloak, and she recognized Twilight’s cutie mark embroidered into it, fluttering proudly as she disappeared outside of the walls.

“Reveal yourself, Paladin,” Luna shouted. Derpy stepped out from behind the column, guilt evident on her face. “I am not angry that you eavesdropped, but this exchange remains private. Do you understand?”

Derpy nodded and cleared her throat. “Princess Celestia needs your help.”

Luna glanced to the exit of the castle grounds for a moment. “At least someone knows that they do.” She turned and trotted up the steps motioning for the paladin to follow. “Nightmare’s presence here is never to be known.”

In the throne room, the other celestial knights and Trixie had gathered at tables setup near the entrance. Luna moved to help Celestia direct the crowd of ponies about. The others sat down, but the archmage shouted over everyone.

Hey! Why am I still here? I should be out there looking for Twilight!”

Luna frowned, and Celestia answered. “Soon, Archmage Lulamoon. Things are nearly set here and we will have tasks for all of you. Please be patient a bit longer,” she replied delicately.

“Screw that. Nightmare Moon gets to go look for Twilight, but I have to stay? What good is having us holed up here if we could be out there doing something?”

“Silence!” Luna roared. “Do you not think that we all feel as you do? That one of our dear friends and comrade deserves to be brought home? You will not speak another word out of turn if you value your tongue, Archmage Lulamoon. Make no mistake, I wish to be out there ripping apart any loyalty Aurelius had with my bare hooves to find her, but for now our nation must be put first.”

Trixie traded heated glares with her for a moment before sitting down and looking elsewhere, her forelegs folded across her chest.

Derpy scratched the back of her head and exhaled slowly. She found Rainbow Dash staring out a window by herself, tuning out the shouting and conversations going on.

“H-Hey, Dashie,” she greeted.

Instantly, the other knight turned and smiled. “There you are. Where’ve you been? All this stuff is boring. We should be out there tearing it up,” she said.

Derpy glanced to her comrades, their faces drawn with restlessness and annoyance, and then to the bustling and antsy staff. “I know, I know. I feel the same, but this is important going forward with rebuilding. It’s always good to have a plan.” She wrapped her forelegs around the cyan pegasus and pulled her close, nuzzling into the nape of her neck. “I always have a plan,” she whispered into her ear before kissing her on the forehead. “But, then again, you’re just plan B.”

Rainbow flushed as she returned the hug. “Ouch. I’m too good to be anything less than A,” she replied as a sly grin tugged her lips up.

Abruptly, the ponies speaking with the princesses began to disperse and file out of the throne room. The two mares relinquished their embrace as the princesses turned to the knights and Trixie.

“I’m sorry for the wait,” Celestia started, “but Luna and I worried that further attacks could occur. Keeping you here was in the best interest of Canterlot, and I’m glad that you were all here just in case. Enough time has passed that I feel you can return to field operations.”

Luna’s eyes narrowed on Trixie. “I know that some of you have been eager to resume your external duties. To that end, we have not been sitting on our hooves. Reconnaissance has been keeping an ear open for any leads regarding Aurelius, Twilight Sparkle, or any being potentially affiliated with him. Thus far, Mi—Nightmare Moon has suggested that he may have some connection to the Badlands dragons.” The knights and Derpy exchanged wary glances.

“Hey, what’s up with the Badlands?” Rainbow whispered.

“You know the Brood, right?” replied Derpy. When she received a nod, she continued. “The Brood is the main faction of dragons. They’re organized and led by a king and usually some kind of council, but… Far to the south, far beyond Equestria’s lands, there’s a place we call the Badlands. There are dragons that come from there once in a great while. They’re extremely hostile and deadly, stronger than any the Brood has to offer. No one knows where they come from, who leads them, or if they have any goals. Most of the time a small cell of celestial knights and, or archmagi are sent to cull the ones bold enough to reach our borderlands. Only the strongest go.”

“Whoa,” Rainbow muttered. “Have you been there before?”

Derpy slowly nodded. “It’s… a terrible place. I’ll never forget it,” she replied before focusing back on the princesses.

Celestia cleared her throat as she offered a sympathetic look. “Yes, we know what this means. For the first time in the history of the Order of Celestial Knights, we will be carrying out a reconnaissance mission deep into the Badlands. This time, all of you will be going together. I wish to minimize the risks by having as many of you there at once.”

Colgate stood up and shook her head. “This is insane. You’re sending all of us out there, deep into unknown territory, with the deadliest enemies we know, to chase a lead?”

Berry stood up beside her and nodded. “It sounds like a suicide mission, Your Majesty. I know we're strong, but this is seriously pushing our limits. Knight Dash is still green, and the archmage roster is pretty cleaned out. We would need more time and forces to carry this out.”

“They’re right, Princess Celestia,” Derpy chimed in. “We would need at least another high level Celestial Knight in the ranks, and that’s including Archmage Lulamoon joining us and Knight Dash after she has received her sword. Maybe we can bring a former knight or paladin out of retirement to help us.”

Luna shook her head. “I am afraid that is not an option at this time.”

Celestia gave her sister a peculiar look, and then glanced to Derpy. “She is… correct. There are no knights or paladins that can be restored to active duty at this time.” She offered a solemn expression to the ponies before her.

Derpy blinked. “That was it,” she muttered to herself. She jumped to her hooves as she replayed the moment in her mind. “She knew Daring was alive all this time!” For a moment she paused. “But… how?”

“Do all of you truly lack the confidence of completing such a mission?” Luna asked.

The knights exchanged their regrets in silence before Derpy spoke. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty. It’s just too risky with such a small team. We try to push further and further into the Badlands when we can, but being so far away from Equestria—resources and backup—it’s simply too dangerous to go with a small team if we’re going to push through. The Badlands dragons are nothing like the Brood’s vagrants and we never encounter more than a few, if any, in each trip.”

“Very well,” said Celestia. “We will shelf this mission for now while we gather our forces. The Badlands have always been an enigmatic and dangerous place, and I would like to have it thoroughly investigated in this great push, but I will not send you to your deaths from lack of preparation. Paladin Hooves, I leave the organization and preparation for such a task in the future to you. Report to Luna and myself what you require, and when you and your team feel confident you have what you need, only then will we commence such an extraordinary mission. In the meantime, you will be given new orders shortly. Perhaps it is time to expand the roster of the Celestial Knights, but the screening will not be loosened, no matter how dire the need for additional forces is. All of you are dismissed.”

Derpy turned to Rainbow and could see the questions on her face. “It’s a terrible place,” she repeated.

Light exploded from towards the throne, and the princesses shielded their eyes as something appeared. A distorted, light blue ring with an opalescent portal appeared a roaring from within as magic stretched reality around it.

“What in the world is this?” Luna managed to ask as the knights drew their weapons and moved in front of the princesses.

“Could it be?” Celestia muttered, her mouth agape as she slowly turned her head to her sister. “Didn’t Midnight describe a similar portal when Twilight disappeared?” The moon princess remained silent.

Aurelius stumbled out of the portal as it closed behind him quickly. The prince appeared dazed for a moment as he focused on the welcoming party. As he regained his bearings, he smoothed out a rough, burgundy mane and rubbed his eyes. “Oh, ho ho ho. It seems navigating that was not as hard as I thought.” He grinned as his eyes shifted between the knights, the princesses, and the archmage. “Well, well, well… That little pawn and my former associate aren’t here to save you now, Princess Celestia.”

“Aurelius,” the sun princess hissed. “Where is Twilight Sparkle?”

The prince blinked in surprise before he grinned again, splitting his face as he slipped into a fit of chuckles. “This is perfect! She lays the trap for me, but I catch you instead!”

“Seize him!” ordered Luna.

“Not so fast!” Aurelius aimed his forelegs at Colgate and Berry, raising a barrier around himself as his eyes shined crimson. “These two are mine!” The two knights clasped their heads as they dropped their weapons and fell to the ground.

“Colgate, Berry!” Derpy cried as her aura erupted around her. She surged forward and struck at the prince’s barrier, her blade grinding against the magic. “Let them go!”

“It’s a shame you won’t be joining them this time. You did give me a lot of trouble up north, and I would’ve liked to keep you as a lieutenant.” He frowned. “Submit to me or I will have you languish in a dungeon.”

Derpy’s body blurred away and Aurelius’s eyes widened as a bolt of yellow light struck his barrier, shattering it. He staggered back and raised another, baring his teeth. “I see you have regained much of your strength, Celestia.”

“Tell me where Twilight Sparkle is and I promise I will leave you with a muted life,” she growled.

“The truth is… I don’t know. She is beyond my reach or care. I have what I need. A perfect opportunity to finish this.” Berry and Colgate rose up, their eyes turned scarlet. “Whether you die here is up to you. Submit to me and I will spare your lives. That deal won’t be on the table for long.” The princesses turned to find Berry charging Luna as Colgate turned and hit Rainbow Dash with a blue bolt.

“Rainbow!” Derpy cried as she appeared beside her lover in a flash. It was too late and she had been frozen solid, her mouth open in fright.

Berry brought down her greatsword upon the moon princess, but the paladin maneuvered between them, raising Glance Reviver with both hooves to block. Shockwaves rippled through her bones as the sword chipped, but it remained steadfast.

Two blue-white beams of magic blasted Berry and Colgate into the walls. Trixie cleared her throat as her anger boiled over. “I will rip out your spine while you’re still breathing if you don’t tell me where Twilight Sparkle is. Right. Now!”

Celestia turned and whispered something into Luna’s ear before facing Aurelius. “Paladin Hooves. You are bound, and so now I order you to retreat with Princess Luna.”

“No, Princess. I can’t abandon all of you.” She was met with a fierce gaze from the sun princess.

“Do as you are commanded, Paladin. It is our only contingency. Go. Now!”

Aurelius fixated on Derpy and Luna. “You won’t escape this time.” He unleashed a fiery blast at the moon princess, but Celestia formed a shield before them and blocked it, the flames spreading out into the air. As Derpy blurred away, he conjured a stronger blast. The ball of fiery energy exploded through the barrier, engulfing the room in a bright flash.

Derpy surged through the corridors of Canterlot at blinding speed, flames of the explosion chasing just behind her. Luna was silent in her forelegs as the crashed through a window and surged away in the skies. “Don’t worry, Princess Luna. I will protect you.” Droplets fell onto the princess and she looked to the skies, but there were no clouds.

Derpy gazed at the ground, feeling only apathy in that moment as she recounted the anguish she had to push away that moment. She reached for Glance Reviver, but stopped halfway and allowed her forelegs to fall limp at her side, and then sit down. It’s over, isn’t it? she thought. With Aurelius in control, Glance Reviver can’t be reforged.

“I’m a failure,” she said aloud.

“No,” another voice said, startling her. “I am.” Daring stepped out from behind the tree Derpy had been resting against. The elder sister was met with the younger having already drawn her broken sword, but she only offered a solemn gaze to it. “You were right.”

“About which part?” Derpy growled, sheathing what remained of her weapon.

“A lot of it. I was being selfish, but… I really didn’t mean to break your sword.” When Derpy gave her a confused look, she drew her own. “I know there was always suspicion about my death. No one would ever believe Leo failed to retrieve my sword,” she said as she held the blade in front of her. A golden hilt with black leather and a red weave grip appeared with little wear. The sword was identical in dimensions to Glance Reviver, but it held an orange tint in the sunlight, shimmering but not gleaming. “It’s not my place to step into your life after all this time and tell you that you’re not cut out for the one you’ve already chosen and lived.”

Derpy sat down and took a deep breath. “Was it true,” she asked, “that you joined the celestial knights after mom and dad died?” Daring nodded slowly as she put her weapon away. “Why… that? I’m the paladin, and I don’t understand. Was mom a paladin?”

The sandy pegasus shook her head. “Nah. Mom wasn’t a paladin, but she wasn’t bottom on the roster. She met dad through her work with the Order.”

“Oh.”

Silence fell between them for a moment, and Daring awkwardly rubbed the back of her head and shifted topics. “So, um. Sorry about Glance Reviver. But hey, it can be reforged.”

Derpy’s ears perked up. “You know a spellsmith with access to orichalcum?”

Daring leaned as she rolled her eyes slowly in the same direction. “Wellllll, no, but—”

“Then it can’t be reforged. I should’ve known it would break. I’ve fought so many battles since we’ve fled Canterlot. I haven’t had time to recover my strength, let alone repair it.” She grimaced. “I can’t use my power beyond a few moments anymore and I don’t have my shield with me.”

“That’s alright. Even with what you have, we will make a great team.” Daring grinned as her sister met her expression with wonder. “Oh, don’t give me that look. You’d really think I’d pass up a chance to fight with my little sis?”

Derpy chuckled as Daring lurched forward and wrapped a foreleg around her neck, giving her blonde mane a rough noogie. “H-hey! Cut it out!” Daring laughed as she fell onto her back.

“Man. How long’s it been? You look exactly the same, just… bigger.”

The grey paladin eyed her suspiciously. “Funny. I’d say the same things about you, except you’re still the same size.”

Daring smiled and coughed. Abruptly, she became serious and stood up. “Someone’s here,” she said, poising herself to fight. She glanced around, but remained still.

“What? Who?” Derpy placed a hoof on her hilt and froze. What can I do with half a sword?

Wind rattled the leaves of the trees, kicking up into swaying and creaks from the trunks themselves. A plume of smoke filled the area before rapidly washing away.

“Colgate?” Derpy blurted.

The unicorn knight tilted up her visor to reveal a toothy grin. “What a surprise. I don’t believe it… It was only a matter of time before we found you again, but now you’re right here.” As a hoof swiftly reached for her sword, she stopped.

“Who’s this clown?” asked Daring as she fixated on the comrade beside her.

“Who might this be, Colgate?” Vibe asked, his heavy voice suffocating the air.

The unicorn knight froze as her eyes fell to Daring, and she began to quiver inside her armor. For a moment, they gazed at each other in silence until Vibe spoke again.

“There was no mention of another pegasus. Who is this?”

“L-Lord Vibe. I don’t b-believe it, but that’s the… the former paladin. Paladin Daring Do.”

“Well then,” Vibe said as he adjusted his cloak and mask. “It’ll be nice to get a real fight before we drag them back to King Aurelius.”

Daring brandished her sword, but Derpy maintained her stance. If I show them Glance Reviver is broken we’ll be done for.”

“What’s wrong, Colgate?” Daring sneered, her eyes flowing up and down her armored form. “I can see you shaking from here. I’m just burning to take you on.”

Colgate looked to Vibe. “We need to retreat.”

“Why?” the masked unicorn asked. “They can’t possibly be stronger than us.”

The unicorn knight shook her head. “No. We can’t win against two paladins. This isn’t two on one anymore. We need Berry, and maybe…”

Vibe stared at her for a long while before turning to face Daring. “Another paladin, huh? I’ve never seen this knight so scared before. Very well, Colgate. We’ll retreat… for now.” Magic was emitted from his horn briefly, but it ceased for a moment. “Good call. Something else has come. I don’t recognize it, but being caught in a three way battle would not be good for us.” In another plume of smoke the pair of unicorns had vanished.

“What was that about?” Derpy asked. “And Vibe was right. I’ve never seen Colgate so afraid before. She’s certainly not afraid of me.” Daring maintained a silent gaze ahead, but focused on nothing in particular. “Just what is your power?”

“We have to get back to the oasis,” she said as she beat her wings. “Something’s wrong.”

“How can you tell?”

Daring turned to her sister with concern in her eyes. “I got complacent.” She took off towards the desert with Derpy following shortly after.

They raced across the desert in silence, the sand dunes stretching on and on as they flew. Derpy could have sworn the distance was shorter, but she chalked the disparity in her experiences up to the heat and her accelerated speeds while emotional. After a long while, the oasis appeared in the distance, blurred by the heat haze. It slowly grew sharper and sharper until they could make something odd out in the sky.

“N-no!” Daring cried as she picked up the pace.

Derpy struggled to keep up with her using her natural flight. “What’s wrong?”

“Ditzy. Find Princess Luna and Leo. Get them and everyone else underground as fast as possible!” They began a descent towards the entrance to the oasis.

“What? Why?”

Daring turned to her with a look of uncertainty. “Just do it! I’ll distract them until everyone is underground.”

Two black dragons came into view ahead, appearing to have just begun an assault on the desert sanctuary. The sisters dropped to the ground as Leo ran out of the gates to greet them.

“Leo. Get the—“

“We’ve already started. Hold them off just a while longer and everyone will be safe,” the chancellor said.

Daring nodded and turned to Derpy. “Give me your sword,” she said.

The grey paladin shook her head. “No. I’ll fight with you. We can take a couple dragons.”

Daring and Leo exchanged glances. “Has she fought them before?” the chancellor asked quickly.

The elder paladin shook her head. “No. Sorry, Ditz, but you’re sitting this one out. Get underground.”

“I can still fight!” she insisted.

Daring stepped to her and ripped the broken Glance Reviver from her baldric. “No! You can’t fight a Contractor with a broken sword. Now, go!”

“Contractor?” she asked, but Leo took hold of one her hooves.

“Listen to your sister and come with me,” he said as he dragged her into the gates.

Derpy watched as Daring sheathed her sword and drew her own, bursting into the sky with blade shimmering in the sunlight.

“Oh, if it isn’t the little executioner,” one cooed.

The other grinned as he spoke. “All alone, but never to be underestimated.”

Daring maneuvered between their swipes and tail lashes, flying through their wakes and slashing at them. Her blade grinded against their scales in trail of sparks, and Derpy watched helplessly from below, only glancing in front of her to ensure she did not trip over another pony as Leo continued to pull her. She stopped as they reached the underground entrance to the pub to see her sister fighting one last time without her. A breath of flame missed the elder paladin and struck the ground, becoming a blaze in mere seconds. One last tug drew Derpy down the steps.

The oasis ponies were led far below to several cellars with lights and stored goods. They spoke among each other, their worried words and prayers clashing with another to be heard clearly. Derpy gnashed her teeth and hung her head.

“I’m sorry, but this is a fight you aren’t prepared for,” Leo said softly, placing a hoof on her shoulder. “Your sister will be fine.”

Luna moved through the ponies and concurred. “Though we are all at odds right now, I have the utmost faith in Paladin Do.”

Derpy glanced up to her. “It doesn’t feel right, hiding down here while she fights. I’m still a paladin and it’s my duty to defend everyone here.”

“I know,” replied Luna softly. “I feel the same when you fight in my stead.”

A thunderous quake rocked the cellar and elicited shrieks from the crowd. Leo turned and hollered out words of reassurance to calm them.

“What was that?” asked the paladin.

Luna stared at one of the lights as it flickered. “I… can only imagine,” she muttered.

Another quake shook the cellar followed by a series of rumbles. The lights rocked back and forth, dimming and going out sporadically as Leo continued speaking to keep the oasis ponies’ fear at bay.

“I need to know what’s going on,” Derpy said as she turned and moved towards the exit, but Luna barred her path.

“Even I wish to know, but I can feel something happening above. I cannot risk you injury. Have faith in your sister.”

Derpy slumped against a wall, planting her hooves over her eyes. “I can’t stand this!”

An otherworldly shriek drowned out the voices and the roars of the dragons before a shockwave ripped through the cellar, snapping a support beam and collapsing part of the room while the lights went out. A blue barrier held up the damaged beam and illuminated the room as Luna’s horn shone.

Derpy and Luna exchanged nervous glances as more roars and shrieks could be heard. More quakes occurred as something impacted the ground above. Thumping following as the paladin presumed one of the dragons was reduced to the ground. After a while, a second crash rattled the cellar and everyone remained in silence, listening and feeling the intensity of what was going on above. Finally, two titanic quakes hit back to back before all fell to silence.

“Is… is it over?” Derpy asked.

“I hope so,” added Luna.

Leo turned to them and nodded. “It is over.” He turned to the oasis ponies and began instructing them to depart in an orderly fashion while the princess and the paladin quickly moved to the surface first. When light hit Derpy’s eyes again, her jaw hung open as her eyes took in the cataclysm that just happened to the oasis.

The two massive dragons lay unmoving beside one another in blackened sand. One was missing both wings and an arm, a massive, charred gash running from the side of his head and wrapping down his neck to the opposite side. The second dragon had three parallel streaks running diagonally across its stomach, with burnt entrails lying on the ground. All of the wounds on the dragons were too deep to be made by a sword. A substantial section of the oasis town lay in cinders while another part of it was angrily burning away, filling the skies with ash and a smoky haze.

“Daring!” the grey paladin found herself calling out. She dashed out to find her sister, but did not need to go far.

The elder paladin stood on the ground between the dragons, drenched in blood and something else with her head tilted back. Her dark mane clung to her body while her forelegs hung limply at her side, a sword clutched in each. She took a deep breath and lowered herself to sit before collapsing to the ground.

“Daring! Are you okay?” Derpy cried as she moved to her side.

The elder paladin looked at her, eyes locked in a daze for a moment, and then gave a weak smile. “I must be a bit rusty if two contractors took this much out of me.” She snorted before exhaling and fainting.

Derpy lifted her body up and threw her onto her back. “What the?” she said as a dark grey slime rubbed off her sister’s coat and onto her hooves. What is this?

She shook her head and collected the swords. As she walked back to find Leo and Luna, she paused to inspect the triple strike marks on one of the dragons. She sat Daring down and took her sword. Holding the blade incited an odd feeling within her, but it was unfamiliar. Slashing at the dragon’s corpse, the blade clanged as it hit the scales. Are these things made of iron? She struck it again just to dispel her imagination, only for the blade to clang again when it was deflected. Retrieving her sister, she continued on, her eyes still drifting to the wounds on the dragons as she thought.

I thought every paladin would have the same power, but… She watched as Luna and Leo trotted over to her, the latter not looking surprised. What kind of paladin are you?

Author's Note:

11/25/15 - Another birthday done and gone, meanwhile I've put out yet another chapter. I suspect my issue with G.docs filling up the FiMFic upload with random bolding and italics is due to me writing in the older .doc format, rather than the newer .docx format that MS Word/Office wants me to use. I'll do a test upload to see if that's fixed whenever I get around to putting up the next chapter.

Enjoy, dear readers!

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