• 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 42: The Forgotten Road

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 42: The Forgotten Road

Derpy flinched as Daring writhed in her sleep, and the grey paladin quickly set to stilling her elder sister’s body. As she braced her sister to the bed, Derpy watched in solemn worry as blood splotched her bandages and parts of the blanket covering her belly and hind legs. She had done her best to wipe away the grey grime clinging to her fur and wings, but blood still easily found its way out of obscured wounds and into the blankets. When Daring calmed down she relaxed and sighed, spreading her wings and falling to her back. Her thoughts wandered while her eyes ran along cracks in the ceiling wrought by the cataclysmic battle her sister fought alone.

What were you thinking, Daring? You could have been killed! I should have been there. I’m a paladin, too. She mulled over striking the dragon’s plate-like scales with Daring’s blessed sword, the dull ring concerning her. Mature dragons were known for their tremendously durable hides, even against bladed weapons, but it was still easy enough for a celestial knight to exert themselves to cut through it. Nonetheless, her sister’s power remained unknown, but so did the mysterious new breed of dragons.

Daring whimpered in her sleep prompting Derpy to snap to attention again. She watched as the sandy pegasus gently pawed at the air before murmuring something. The grey paladin leaned in close to listen.

“I’m… sorry.” Sweat beaded on the elder sister’s forehead, the blanket rumpling while she twisted in her dream. “I’m sorry,” she repeated faster. “It’s… my fault… My fault… I’m sorry… Please don’t… hate me…”

Derpy raised an eyebrow. “I’m here, Daring,” she whispered, squeezing one of her hooves in her own. “I don’t… hate… you,” she added gently.

She twisted again, uttering one last phrase. “I failed… Celest…”

Celestia? “What did you fail, Daring?” Her effort to press for an answer ultimately failed when her sister fell silent.

The door to the room creaked and Derpy jumped as Leo stepped inside, a jug of water and small stack of cups in his hooves. “How is she?”

“She’s the same. She opened some her wounds again, but they don’t seem to be that bad.”

“She’ll be fine.” Leo poured two cups of water. “You must be thirsty. The desert can dry the life out of you if you’re not careful.”

Derpy took a few small sips before observing Leo sit down opposite her and attempting to wake Daring.

“Why… If she’s alive after all this time and a former paladin…” Derpy trailed off as she stared sadly at her sister.

Leo cleared his throat. “For a paladin, I am honestly surprised you were unaware of your sister’s status.”

Derpy’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

Leo gave her a confused look. “I realize you’ve been kept in the dark regarding her, and I suppose that reason rests with her will, but you never knew your sister was a warrior at all?”

Derpy crossed her legs over her chest. “I just assumed… when she left with the royal guard and I never saw her again that she had eventually died. I tried to find her, but I never got any answers. When I look at her now, I feel relieved…”


She met his eyes, but quickly looked away. “Betrayed.

“Do you not trust her?”

“Absolutely not!” Derpy blurted. “How can I? I have too many questions and she won’t give me any answers.”

Leo smiled warmly and poured her another cup of water. “In time, Paladin Hooves. I’m sure she has good reason for this.”

“I just… don’t understand, Chancellor. Why would I not be allowed to see my own sister again?”

“Because she is a coward,” Luna said sternly.

Derpy whirled around and saluted in the same motion before quickly sitting back down. “Y-Your Majesty, please don’t say that. A coward could never be a paladin.”

Luna stepped closer and gazed down at the sleeping pegasus. “Not of the battlefield. Of her own guilt. If we are to move forward she must accept the past.”

“What are you talking about, Luna?”

The princess’s eyes fell to Leo. The chancellor stared into his water for a moment before taking a sip. “Shall I tell her, Leo?”

He set his cup down and smiled. “No. I think… it would be better coming from Paladin Do. You are not wrong, Princess Luna.”

Derpy tensed and cocked her head to one side. “Please… I need to know… If it’s something that would make her untrustworthy—“

Luna raised a hoof. “Nay, Derpy. Her trust in you I do not doubt. It is her in trust in me that is problematic.” She shook her head and Derpy grit her teeth. “Enough of this. We must move on from this place. If these so-called Contractors have left the badlands then things have grown dire.” She moved to a dresser and looked over the framed pictures spread across it, studying them carefully. “An army will be needed to besiege Canterlot. If we may overthrow Aurelius quickly in a single day, then we can avoid much bloodshed. However, two paladins and a princess do not make that army.”

Leo chuckled once more. “I have not been sitting on my hooves all this time, Princess Luna. The resistance has many numbers. I can mobilize many ponies into a militia given enough time to prepare. However, if we wait too much longer our numbers may dwindle for whatever is going on north.”

Luna turned. “North?”

The chancellor frowned and set his cup down. “Aurelius has been conscripting various ponies from all across Equestria and sending them north. Somewhere just beyond the Crystal Empire. We do not know for what purpose and all we could learn is that he is using them for labor. It is not a single type of pony. Our spies have tried and tried to obtain more information, but Canterlot remains under lock and key since he has taken control.”

Luna’s eyes went wide. “What of my sister’s fate? Please, if you know anything.”

Leo gave her a grim look and shook his head. “Princess Celestia’s fate remains unknown, I’m afraid. As are the fates of the others that vanished defending Canterlot and have not reappeared since.” The princess went silent, her pensiveness expressed through a hoof tapping at the floor.

Daring coughed several times and Leo readied a cup for her as he sat her up. “Drink, Daring. You’ve gone and dehydrated yourself again.”

Derpy watched her as her thoughts wandered for a moment. “We need Twilight Sparkle if we’re going to attack Canterlot directly. We need as many powerful ponies as we can get, and she is definitely strong.”

Luna took on a glum tone. “I… do not know if I can convince her to join us directly, but I know that she is making her way there. I feel as though she will be there when the time is right. However,” she levitated Leo’s cup before her face, “I would much rather find Archmage Lulamoon and… Nightmare Moon.”

“Why them and not Archmage Sparkle?” asked the paladin.

Daring groaned as she was laid back down, but she peeked open an eye. “H-hey,” she greeted in a raspy voice. “You just couldn’t wait for an autograph, eh Luna?” The princess harrumphed and turned her nose up to the sandy paladin. “Aw, don’t be like that.”

Derpy sighed and relaxed. “Thank Celestia you’re alright.”

Daring grinned. “You can thank her yourself whenever we run into her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Luna asked quickly.

The sandy paladin opened her mouth to reply, but when she saw the confusion in her sister’s eyes she snorted. “Ah, forget it.” She sat up on her own and Leo passed her the jug of water. Derpy and Luna stared in disbelief as she consumed the entirety of what water remained before smacking her lips and handing it back. “Can I get some more?” Leo nodded and departed the room. When she found her sister and Luna staring, she cocked her head. “What?”

Luna gave her a hard look. “Can I… trust you, Paladin Do?”

Daring crossed her forelegs across her chest. “And what if you can’t, huh? It’s not like we need you to retake Canterlot. Last I checked, you can barely cross a desert, let alone fight like a unicorn.” Luna growled. “But!” Daring held up a hoof, glancing to Derpy. “For the good of Equestria, and for Celestia’s sake, we can put our little issue behind us. For now.”

Luna relaxed enough that she could maintain an even tone, but her contempt reflected in her eyes. “Very well. I would like to understand your reverence for my sister, though.”

Daring smirked. “What’s wrong? Feeling a little eclipsed by big sis?”

The princess lost her composure and began to step towards her, but Derpy placed herself between them in the blink of an eye. “Will you two idiots knock it off for one second!?” The two bickering ponies stared in disbelief as Derpy glowered between them. “I don’t know what’s going on between you two, since no one will tell me, but this has got to stop if we’re going to work together and take back Equestria. We don’t know what happened to Rainbow Dash, Princess Celestia, Nightmare Moon, or Trixie Lulamoon, and Twilight Sparkle is off who-knows-where. The last thing we need is two of the most powerful ponies in our ranks fighting with each other. We’ve got bigger problems to deal with than this… this pissing contest between you two!” Silence fell between the three of them as Derpy slowly stepped back and frowned. “Now… Before we can even attack Canterlot, I need my sword repaired.” She turned to her sister. “How can I do that?”

Daring had been left dumbfounded by her speech, but she collected herself and stood up. The grey slime that clung to her fur had dried and encrusted, but parts of it flaked and dispersed from her form in puffs of smoke. “I don’t know how maintenance of our weapons was specifically handled for the Celestial Knights, but repairing our swords requires orichalcum and a spellsmith.”

“Neither of those things is openly beyond the royal army,” Luna interjected.

Daring smiled and held up a hoof, taking a deep breath before replying, “Yes.” She coughed and cleared her throat. “But, you know, there hasn’t been a lot of exploration down in the Badlands in recent years.” She moved past Luna and to the dresser, rummaging through various drawers while muttering to herself. After tossing garments out of several drawers, she exclaimed. “Ah-ha!” She produced a soccer ball-sized chunk of gleaming metal. Derpy squinted at it until her eyes adjusted.

“H-How!” Luna blurted.

Daring set it on the dresser and presented it with both hooves like a magician, a toothy grin on her face. “Very carefully!”

“Did you steal this from Canterlot?” the princess quickly accused.

“Whoa, hey. Of course not. This one was picked up from the badlands. Those contractors have some of it out there, but this is all we’ve really found. Leo and I decided it would be good to hang onto if I broke my sword.” She snorted and rolled her eyes. “As if that could ever happen.”

Derpy frowned. “Glance Reviver broke.”

“They don’t make ‘em like they used,” the sandy paladin responded. When she received a glare she quickly continued. “It just so happens that we have a spellsmith in training for, almost, precisely a time like this.”

Almost?” Luna said, suspicious.

Daring chewed her lower lip and glanced away for a moment. “Wellllllll, it wasn’t meant for a broken sword, rather forging a new one.”

“That is absolutely forbidden!” Luna moved over to the chunk of orichalcum, but Daring snatched it away.

“In case you haven’t noticed, princess, Equestria could really use another Celestial Knight, but now that doesn’t matter. We can reforge Ditzy’s sword instead. We have the pieces, and we can save any extras for maintenance, or if we’re lucky still making another sword.”

Luna frowned. “That is highly unnecessary.”

Daring set the chunk back on the dresser when she was sure Luna wouldn’t take it. “And why is that?”

“If we hit the royal weapons vault, we’ll have access to more material.”

Daring blinked. “Well, why didn’t I think of that?” She smacked her own head as she glanced up at the ceiling, exaggerating her facial expressions. “Oh, that’s right… The royal vault just so happens to be in the royal capitol of Canterlot! How the heck do you expect us to get in there? I’m good, but come on, I’m not a ghost.”

Luna scowled. “We can retrieve Derpy’s shield and my old war hammer.”

“Well, that doesn’t fix Glance Reviver, so we’re still going with my plan on that.”

Derpy shifted uncomfortably. “But we don’t have a spellsmith.”

Daring grinned. “We’ve got the next best thing. A unicorn training to be a spellsmith.”

“And just whom might’ve taught this unicorn how to be a spellsmith?” Luna asked.

“Hey, Leo knows all about that stuff. He left her with a lot of study material and some resources to practice with. The unicorn is a contact of ours in Ponyville. Hopefully, they’re still there.”

Derpy and Luna exchanged glances. “Ponyville?” the princess spoke. “Could it be… Archmage Lulamoon?”

The sandy paladin went on. “So we’re not going to be sticking around the oasis much longer. It’s not safe.” Daring began moving about the room collecting garments and her sword.

Derpy marveled at the orichalcum but managed to pry her eyes away from it. “What about those contractor dragons?”

Daring stopped and sighed. “I don’t know what brought them all the way out here. I’m sure Leo doesn’t, either. That’s what’s so strange. We might not know much about them, but I can’t think of a single thing that would draw them out here. I’ve been out here for a while, but there’s no way they were coming after me. There aren’t a lot of ponies that can kill them on their own, and I can’t imagine a whole lot of the Brood’s strongest could, either.” She offered a solemn shrug. “My only guess is that they followed you two.”

Luna and Derpy exchanged glances again before the princess spoke. “What would they want with us? We don’t know any more about them than you do, maybe even less so.”

Daring took a deep breath and shook her head, the same solemnness in her face. “I… don’t know. It scares me to think that this place could be wiped out by them. From what I know, it should be a long time before any more leave the badlands, but this is still extremely far out of the way for contractors. Hopefully I’m right and they are after you two. If not, let’s hope we’re fast enough to take back Canterlot and deal with them afterwards.”

Leo pushed open the door and returned with another jug of water. He handed it to Daring and spoke as she began to rapidly consume it. “It seems that Daring has filled you in on most of the details. We really must be going.”

“What of your army, Leo?” asked Luna.

“They will know when to come together. I have already put out word that the time to fight is coming, but that there are still some final preparations we must take care of.” Leo took the empty pitcher from Daring as she loosed a sigh of contention. “We shall travel to Ponyville. Reforging Paladin Hooves’s sword is of utmost priority. Come, Princess Luna. There is something I wish to discuss with you.” He motioned for her to follow.

Luna followed him to the door, but she stopped and cast a wary glance to the two paladins. “Don’t let me down again, Paladin Do.”

Derpy gave her a confused look before turning to see her sister packing the chunk of orichalcum. “What’s she talking about?”

The sandy paladin shot her a quick look before continuing. “I… don’t want to talk about it.”

Derpy placed a hoof over her saddlebag. “I want to talk about it.”

The air grew tense before Daring sighed and took her sword, equipping her baldric and moving to the dresser. She lifted up a facedown picture and gave it a bittersweet smile. “I’m… not ready, alright?” Facing Derpy, she slid the picture frame into one of her saddlebags. “I promise I’ll tell you soon. Maybe not until after we retake Canterlot, but it will definitely be then if not sooner.”

“I need to know something else.” When Daring turned around, Derpy was standing just in front of her. “Your wounds, and this… stuff on you. Are you going to be alright to travel?”

When the sandy paladin gave her a confused look, Derpy quickly rubbed her fur and produced a grey dust cloud. “Oh, right. Look, that’s nothing to worry about. Just a little something I picked up in the fight with the contractors. It’s nothing. And don’t worry about me traveling. I’ll be fine.”

Daring tried to move to her first saddlebag, but Derpy blocked her path. “Give me your sword. I’m in better fighting condition than you.”

The sandy paladin glanced between her bags and her sister’s determined face. “Alright, but only because we shouldn’t encounter any more contractors, and I want to… check something.”

“Check something?”

Daring smiled. “Don’t worry about it.” She passed her baldric to Daring. “Try not to scratch the paint.” She snatched up her other saddlebag and darted out of the room before Derpy could say anything more.

The grey paladin was left in silence as she gazed at the sheath. She placed a hoof on the hilt of the sword. Glance Reviver had always invoked a sense of power and pride, and she slowly pulled the hilt until the blade was revealed. Seeing the detail of the design in full, she raised an eyebrow. The engraving is a phoenix? That’s a strange personalization of hers. Maybe it was on there before it was given to her, or Celestia put it there because she has Philomena. Abruptly, she ripped the blade out of the sheath and held it straight before her face. Something filled her, but she couldn’t quite discern the feeling. It fell somewhere between exhilaration and remorse. The feeling magnified in intensity the longer she held it and she quickly slammed the blade back into its sheath, panting.

Daring poked her head into the room. “Hey, Ditz. Are you comin’ or what?”

The grey paladin whirled around and replied, “Yes!” She took a quick breath. “I’m just taking it all in.”

The sandy paladin glanced to her sword and then to Ditzy. “Okay.” She put up a wondering expression before leaving again.

Derpy trotted out of the room and up to the surface, squinting as sunlight hit her eyes. She found Leo and Luna waiting for her, with the chancellor in a grey robe and the princess having donned her sand-worn cloak again. Daring only carried her saddlebag, but she offered the grey paladin her armor back. “You know, I’m impressed you managed to wear this all the way across the desert.” When Derpy shot her a frown, she quickly added, “I mean, I wouldn’t have recommended it. This heat is brutal.”

Oddly, it was quite cool in the sun, but Derpy equipped her armor anyway and threw a cloak over it as they prepared to set out. “I made it,” she muttered as she shifted the pieces to make her comfortable for the long flights ahead. Going back to Ponyville to reforge my sword, huh? Why is it I have such a bad feeling about this… She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. I hope Rainbow is alright. She placed a hoof over the neck of her breastplate and paused for a moment. “Let’s go.”

Daring carried Leo as they took flight across the desert. Despite the additional weight of the orichalcum and the chancellor she did not show any signs of strain. Wisps smoke trailed her for a few minutes as the last of her loose, grey coating fell away to the wind.

“How long has it been for you?” the chancellor asked, breaking the silence.

“What?” Derpy replied.

Daring chuckled before replying. “I don’t know. It’s… been a while.”

Derpy glanced over to them and raised a brow. “Been a while since what?”

The sandy paladin’s smile faded into glumness. “You should know, Ditz. Since I’ve been back… home.”

Derpy stared at her for a while. When she finally focused on the skies ahead of her, she bit her lip. “Me, too…”

Author's Note:

2/29/2016 - I've been busy (and a tad drained), and next month is going to be even busier. I've also fallen into the Undertale fandom pretty damn hard, so if I ever write a fanfic for something else it is almost certainly going to be of that. lol

It's been a while since I had a chapter that I didn't have a name for it before I finished it. I usually don't care much for writing dialogue heavy stuff (since I'm not very good at it for a few reasons), but I think I made this engaging enough with Daring's "odd" personality and raised questions.

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