• 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 45: Under the Rose

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 45: Under the Rose

Derpy grit her teeth as she pushed her wings to keep going, clenching her eyes and mentally reminding her she was almost there. With a few final beats through a breeze and heavy pants she managed to crest the last hill to Ponyville, but her body gave out. An exhausted breath escaped her lips before she hit grass and rolled, spinning faster and faster as she barreled down the side. The clattering of her armor rang with her as she hit the bottom with a painful thud and slowed to a halt on flatter grass. Her chest heaved up and down as she placed herself upon her back and stared up to an overcast sky, the sun setting in the horizon and casting a shade over the land.

It was a few more minutes before Luna appeared, panting much like the grey paladin, and she fell to the ground and lay with her wings draped out beside her. She cast a weary, sweaty face to Derpy before allowing her head to rest on the grass. Even down below the paladin could faintly hear her labored gasps.

Minutes passed in silence while Derpy rested, and she stated to doze off in relaxation. She could hear hollering from the top of the hill as her sister breached her vision. Leo fell from her grasp and she missed the top of the hill, crashing into the opposing side and grinding to the bottom. Groans and curses were muttered before she rolled over, her chest rising and falling. Derpy sat up to see grass and dirt in her sister’s fur, and her dirty, sweaty face meeting her gaze with half-lidded eyes.

“We… made… it,” she announced before closing her eyes. “Never… a-gain…”

You’re the one that wanted to try as fast as possible,” replied Derpy. She stood up, wobbling terribly, and brushed herself off. The tumble to the bottom of the hill still spun her world, but she managed to straighten herself. “I can’t believe you carried Leo all the way here by yourself.”

“I can’t… be…lieve… you wore… armor… the entire… way.”

Derpy prepared to speak, but she could hear Luna and Leo descending the hill, albeit mostly by sliding down the grass. The princess had pulled down her cowl, using the edges of her cloak to wipe the copious amounts of perspiration from her face. Leo, however, merely stretched and yawned.

“You’re a tad out of shape for the long flights, aren’t you, Paladin Do?” he said as he inspected the sandy pegasus.

She rolled her eyes. “You’re a couple hundred hay burgers too fat, aren’t you, Leo?”

The chancellor chuckled before helping her to her hooves. “We’re just on the outskirts to Ponyville, but perhaps we should rest up before we go into town.”

“Luna and I can get in at night undetected, but I don’t know about you two,” said Derpy. She exchanged tired looks with the princess. I don’t know if I can go on right now, she thought. Her wings could barely furl up, let alone push herself if she needed to escape the town. “Maybe we should rest tonight.”

Daring panned her head all around. “I don’t know. We could stay in Ponyville. Our contact could put us up at their place.”

“Who is your contact?” Derpy asked.

“In due time, Paladin Hooves,” replied Leo.

Luna coughed to clear her throat and sat down once more. “While a bed is preferable to the earth, we may not have a choice but to risk entering town and seeking out shelter.” She pointed to a cluster of dark clouds reaching the town. “I can feel the moisture in the breeze. This will be far more than a drizzle.”

Derpy flinched as a water droplet hit her snout, more quickly following. “Let’s go. Save your strength in case we have to fight.”

Daring groaned. “I’m so tired.”

“We could have split the trip into two days, but you insisted,” Derpy reminded.

“Hey!” Daring made an exaggerated frown. “This is for your sword. Not mine. I treat my sword with the love and respect it deserves.” Derpy gave a quick smack to the side of her head. “What was that for!?”

The grey paladin smiled. “I save the love and respect for my sister.”

Daring’s frown became genuine, but it quickly shifted into a grin. “Aww, you called me your sister.”

Derpy rolled her eyes. “Let’s go. Hopefully whatever dragons are assigned here are asleep.” She glanced over her shoulder as her companions lowered their cowls, and Daring adjusted her saddlebags. Pulling her own down, she led the way towards Ponyville in the waning light.

Nightfall came as they marched to town, and the hike in the darkness was hampered by a heavy downpour. Thunder boomed overhead, sometimes cracking several times as lightning struck something close by. When they reached the road light came from the edge of town with a large gathering.

“What’s going on?” asked Luna as she stepped up beside the grey paladin. She tugged back her sopping cowl. “This is unusual for Ponyville during this time, and especially this weather.”

Derpy eyed the gathering suspiciously, gleaning it to have unicorn light and a few torches. “Hold on. I’m going to scout ahead. You three wait here.” Before she could move her sister dashed to her side.

“Whoa, you look way too strange with the cloak and dagger look. Let me go with you.” She passed her saddlebags to Leo. “Hang back and I’ll ask questions. I look innocent enough.”

Derpy gave her a sharp look, and studied her. After she noticed that the sandy pegasus had cleaned herself up she nodded. “Alright, but be careful. We’re trying to avoid drawing attention to ourselves.”

Daring led the way forward with a casual gait, but she occasionally wobbled seamlessly from hoof to hoof, murmuring to herself. As they reached the gathering, she stiffened and stopped. The earth rumbled gently as the steps of a dragon could be heard ahead, a slosh of his steps impacting saturated grass.

“Who…” the dragon uttered, his head sweeping overhead of the crowd and examining something. “Who dares to usurp King Aurelius?”

Daring shuffled into the edge of the crowd quickly, and Derpy slinked around at the edge of the light. When she could finally glimpse what the dragon was talking about, she gasped. This… isn’t good. The light reflected off of a pool of blood as it illuminated the corpse of another dragon. Its head lay atop bloodied grass several meters away, and pieces of flesh sliced to ribbons were scattered by the main body. All of the severed flesh boasted clean cuts, but a large gash across the dragon’s chest was torn, with a snapped rib protruding gruesomely through, and another pried outward just below it. Did Twilight do this? she wondered.

“There will be an investigation into this death and the disappearance of the other, and there will be justice for this,” the dragon growled as his head snaked lower to the ground. The crowd of ponies whispered among themselves before moving back. “Mark my words. Any found guilty of this crime will die.” As he watched the fear grow within them he stood tall. “Run home, little ponies. The curfew will be violently enforced tonight.” With that, the crowd dispersed, with some ponies galloping as fast as they could to get home.

“What about me?” Daring asked as she peered up to him with innocent eyes, the light from the crowd quickly leaving her in shadows. “I’m just a weary traveler looking for a place to rest.” The townsponies paid her no heed and continued their rush.

Damn it, Daring! What are you doing!? Derpy slid a hoof under her cloak and firmly grasped her sister’s sword. Her heartbeat picked up as the dragon lowered itself to inspect her.

“Ponyville is closed to outsiders. Sleep in the woods. Sleep in the road. You will not stay here tonight. Turn back and leave now, or I will kill you.”

“Oh, golly, Mr. Dragon. That would be an awful thing. I’d hate to see another dragon get killed tonight.” A grin spread wider the more she spoke.

Daring, for the love of Celestia, STOP! Derpy’s mind reeled. She pulled the sword halfway from its sheath, and coiled her achy limbs down.

The light from the crowd was gone and Daring walked backwards, disappearing into the darkness around. There was no hesitation as the dragon unleashed a large flame right where she was, engulfing and lighting up the ground.

“Daring!” the grey paladin screeched as she bolted forward with the sword drawn, but it was too late. She stood at the edge of the flames with her mouth agape. She fell to the muddy ground and clutched her breastplate as her heart thundered within. Why did you have to be such an idiot! Tears welled within her eyes as she hung her head.

“That’s a pretty toasty breath you’ve got there,” Daring said as the flames dispersed. She appeared unscathed, but strands of her mane were glowing. “But I’ve eaten peppers hotter than you.” She ruffled her mane to loosen embers ending the glow. Her eyes swayed around before falling back on the dragon, sullen. “It looks like there’s no one around to hear you die now.” Thunder bellowed over and over as lightning struck multiple times in the distance.

Derpy took an extra second to collect herself before surging at the dragon. He never glanced her way as she plunged the sword into his throat, driving it deep and gyrating herself to wrap the deathblow around his neck. Blood spilled free as he made a choking gurgle, but it was lost to the thunder. The grey paladin flapped her wings hard to set his body down gently. She pulled the sword free and stepped closer to her sister. Her fur was drenched in the spill of blood, and she panted as she tried to remain still, the booms of thunder ceasing. She trembled, the last of her strength expended to silence the dragon.

“What the heck were you thinking?” she loosed in a hushed shout. “What did I say about drawing attention to ourselves?”

Daring didn’t even look her way as she fished the last ember out of her mane. “Look, Ditz. You and I both know the only way to be safe is to kill the dragons parked here. Besides, Ol’ Flamey here gave us the perfect opportunity to eliminate him by scaring all of the ponies away.”

Derpy wiped blood and rain from her eyes. “And what now? There’s more than one dragon in Ponyville!”

Daring stepped over to her and placed a hoof on her sister’s shoulder. She made a disgusted face at the blood on her hoof and quickly wiped it on the ground. “Relax. I overheard that guy was the last one. There were three here. One went missing, the other one fell into a giant paper shredder, and…” She glanced at the third dragon’s gushing throat. “Well, I’m sure you don’t need an instant replay.”

Derpy prepared to scold her once more, but she could see Luna and Leo emerging from the shadows down the road. The princess was shocked, but Leo seemed unfazed by the scene.

“Now look at the mess you’ve made,” he said softly.

Luna’s expression was torn between anger and worry. “H-Have you gone mad? Why did you go and kill a dragon here of all places?”

Daring sighed and straightened herself as she spoke, but her eyes continued to survey the town. “He was the last of the dragons staying here. It sounded like he was going to alert Canterlot about the other two dragons’ fates. One went missing and the other was already dead. That would have put a shorter time limit on our being safe here. I don’t know how often they reported to their master, but we may have bought ourselves more time before they investigate the deaths.” Luna and Derpy blinked while Leo nodded. Daring turned and faced them beaming. “Besides. I wanted to see how strong these dragons are.”

Leo cocked his head to one side and raised a brow. “And?”

Daring began to slink to the shadows as she replied. “They’re nothing to write home about. Now, come on.”

Sneaking through Ponyville was uncomfortable, but not difficult. Derpy hanged back to watch the rear while Daring led the way. The grey paladin cast uneasy glances to the other shadows in the vicinity despite knowing that all the ponies were indoors and not paying attention to the storm outside. Her sister was right that the dragon had to die, but it seemed far too coincidental to put her at ease. Nonetheless, her eyes tossed to windows and fixated on any that spilled light out. Shadows frightened her, with the flashes of lightning illuminating them briefly. For a moment, it reminded her of trying to kill Rainbow while having her will overridden by Aurelius. She shuddered at the memories. Seeing Ponyville as a ghost town, even at night, already put her on edge. The party rounded a corner as Daring froze and they crashed into one another. Before anyone could speak Luna stepped ahead of them.

“What is it?” Derpy asked as she tried to move closer.

The princess turned her head enough to reply, but not take her eyes away from what she was looking at. “A pony is still out at night, but I can’t see them very well.”

Derpy peered around them. “Can we go around?”

“No,” chimed in Daring. “Our contact’s house is just ahead. Let’s just wait until they leave.”

The party lined up and went prone in the shadows as they watched the lone pony. They appeared to be staring at a streetlamp, babbling to themselves. As Derpy watched, she began to move closer, breaking away from the party and moving through the night. There was no sound as she maneuvered, and her grey fur and blonde mane seemed to sink into the night. She could hear the whispers for her to return to safety, but she had to be sure it wasn’t a threat. She stopped once she reached earshot of the pony. The unknown pony chuckled as she fully stepped into the light, and Derpy’s heart skipped a beat.

Archmage Twilight Sparkle has a nice ring to it,” they said, their violet fur sliding into the light.

Derpy’s eyes did not have time to fully process the sight before Luna burst from the shadows.

“T-Twilight!” she called, unable to fully suppress her joy and relief. “I’m so glad you’re here, that you’re alright!” Twilight reeled back as her eyes widened and her lips fluttered. She was unable to move as Luna pulled her into an embrace and nuzzled. “I had been fearing the worst for you, ever since we parted ways in the outer lands. I wish… I wish that I had fought more for you to stay, but here you are! I am so glad that you are well.” Twilight blushed as Luna released her, and she continued to struggle to articulate anything more.

“Please, come with us, out of the light. There is much we need to talk—“

Luna cut herself off as her eyes took in the violet mare’s form. She slowly stepped back as her horn lit up and a barrier constructed around her. Her gaze darkened and her voice grew low and heavy. “Who are you?”

“Wh-what do you mean, Princess Luna?” she replied. “It’s me, Twilight.”

Luna bared her teeth. “Twilight has wings, dark fur, and does not refer to me as princess. I’ll ask you one more time, imposter. Who are you?” Twilight gulped as Daring and Derpy stepped out of the shadows beside her.

Twilight took a shaky step backwards as her eyes danced between them. “A-Alright! Please, don’t hurt me!” she blurted quickly. “I didn’t m-mean to…” Luna quickly moved forward and aimed a hoof at the mare’s neck, a ring forming and beginning to constrict. A green flame rippled across Twilight’s body and she was released, dropping to the ground in a coughing heap.

Luna staggered backwards. Her lips flapped several times before she uttered a name. “Chrysalis… I don’t believe it.” She took a moment to collect herself. “Why are you here?” she ground out.

The changeling queen’s ragged form could be seen in the light. What remained of a tattered cloak draped over her body, but as she sat up her tall, lanky form partially came into view. The holes of starvation and damage in her legs and horn were visible, and though she was skinny before, her emaciated body seemed as if it would collapse under its own weight at any moment. The small crown she had always donned was strangely absent.

“Where else is the Queen of the Damned supposed to go?” she muttered softly. She did not look up, casting her gaze aside as her scraggly hair covered her face. “There’s nowhere left in the world for me. If you’re going to kill me,” she sighed and faced Luna with dejection, “just get it over with.”

Luna petrified, her magic fading instantly. Her resolve against the foe faltered as she took in the miserable sight of a once formidable enemy, now reduced to a shell. “What… has become of the Swarm?”

Chrysalis blinked. “You… don’t know?”

Luna shook her head. “I have been on the run from Aurelius for years. Safely acquiring information has been difficult, let alone learning of other races. What of the fate of your kind, Chrysalis? It is not like you to be alone.”

The changeling opened her mouth and paused, but ultimately hung her head again as she spoke. “I… failed them. We had begun to reintegrate into your society, to survive once more. However, King Aurelius stopped that. His magic is unbelievable, and he was able to find some of us. Most were cast out, some were killed. I…” she glanced over to the lamp post. “Well, I was exiled.” She slowly brought her eyes back to the princess’s. “From the Swarm.”

Luna balked. “How could the swarm oust its own queen? You are the sole leader presiding over your drones.”

Chrysalis offered her a grim smile. “When you fail to feed your people they don’t want you to lead them anymore.” Silence fell between them for a while, but she spoke again. “My last hope was to find Twilight Sparkle, and offer her in exchange for salvation for the changelings.” She motioned to the lamp post.

Derpy moved to it and snatched a piece of paper attached to it. “It’s a Wanted poster for Twilight.” She squinted at it. “She doesn’t look like this anymore, though.” She flipped it around and it showed her as an Archmage, complete with attire. Her cloak was shuffled back to show her side and cutie mark. It was one of her lesser used official portraits.

Chrysalis snorted and laughed. “I guess turning into her and letting some drones turn me in wouldn’t have worked, either.”

“What should we do, Princess?” Derpy asked, unsure of herself. “We can’t stay out here like this.”

Leo stepped out from the shadows. “We can’t leave her here like this, either.”

“We can’t keep her around,” added Daring, earning looks from everyone. “She’s the queen of the changelings. Disgraced and exiled or not, she is still a dangerous enemy.”

“You should listen to that one,” said Chrysalis as she pointed at Daring. “She knows pity is wasted on me.”

Luna closed her eyes as the others discussed among themselves ideas, with the sandy paladin remaining adamant that the changeling queen was still a threat. They all fell silent as the princess opened her eyes and stepped forward, crouching down before Chrysalis.

“Be at ease, Queen Chrysalis. You will not be harmed. I do not wish to see you perish here, like this, with so much more that can be done. True, we may have been enemies in the past, and perhaps we shall be enemies once more in the future, but for now I see a potential ally against a common foe.” She extended a hoof. “Help us. If you aid us in retaking Equestria I will do whatever I can to find salvation for your people. Fight for me, and I shall fight for you. But I will not kill you here so long as hope remains. Can I trust you?”

“Why would you trust me? Why would you waste your time on me? Don’t you get it!?” The changeling had tears in her eyes. “My own people have forsaken me. I’m worthless to them, and what makes you think I wouldn’t sell you out for them the first chance I got, huh?”

Luna gazed at her while the rain continued to patter down all around. She smiled softly and extended a hoof. “Someone once showed me mercy and kindness when I deserved nothing less than their hatred and wrath. Nearly all others had forsaken me in much the same way. That someone went on to offer those gifts again… for someone that deserved it even less than I. Now, I offer you a second chance, as they had done for me. I will not force you to come with me, but I will not leave without giving you that chance. Show me, Chrysalis. Show me that you are worth that chance.”

Chrysalis stared into her eyes, stunned. Her mouth twitched, but no words came out. Tears came again and poured down her cheeks as she stood up and wrapped both forelegs around the princess’s. She nodded profusely as she squeaked and sobbed, and Luna pulled her into an embrace, bringing her mouth to her ear. “Do not make me replace my mercy with wrath, queen of the Changelings,” she whispered. “I have not forgotten what you had done to Equestria, Canterlot, or my family.”

“I-I’ll do anything to save the Swarm,” blubbered the changeling. “Even if I have to sacrifice my own life. W-Whatever it takes!”

Luna released her and smiled. “I pray it does not come to that. Come with me, Chrysalis. We have been out of the shadows for too long.” The changeling nodded and followed closely behind the princess. Daring took the lead while Derpy took the rear, her eyes glued to the changeling queen.

I don’t know about this, but I trust Princess Luna. Her eyes drifted to her sister ahead. You’d better not try anything.

The party arrived at a dark and gloomy building, its circular design and faded white paint casting an eerie tint around itself. No lights shone nearby, and nothing could be seen inside the dirty windows in the night.

“Isn’t this—” Derpy started, but Luna interrupted.

“Your spellsmith is… Rarity?” Luna turned to Leo and Daring with as much incredulity in her eyes as she could muster. “A low-level unicorn with a penchant for designing dresses is supposed to be the one to manipulate and forge orcichalcum into a magical weapon capable of holding great and varying power.” The princess’s sarcasm rolled off her tongue with displeasure and she narrowed her eyes on Leo.

“She is reliable and trustworthy, Your Majesty. The Element of Generosity is far more trustworthy than a stranger with no history, regardless of their magical talent. She can learn, and I would rather have taken the safe route than risk inviting an enemy into our fold.” Leo crinkled his nose as his eyes rolled over to the changeling. “Do you have a better candidate?”

Luna frowned and shook her head slowly. “Have you met face to face?”

“No,” Daring replied, “but she should know us.”

“I, uh, don’t think it’s a good idea if you go first,” chimed in Derpy. “Luna and I can sneak in without startling her, and we’ll let you in afterwards.”

“Alright, fine,” muttered the sandy pegasus. She eyed Chrysalis before slinking into the shadows beside the boutique, the others following suit.

“I’ll unlock the door,” whispered Luna.

Derpy watched as she nearly vanished into the darkness only a few meters before her. As she reached the door, she dispersed into a deep blue mist that flowed beneath the door. The grey paladin’s eyes quickly jumped around the vicinity. Good. There’s no one out here. She could hear a click and a muffled creak as Luna opened the door manually, a hoof beckoning her in.

Moving quickly, Derpy entered with a silent dash, stopping inside and peering around. Her eyes adjusted to the lower level of light and she could make out the shapes of mannequins inside, but they still made her skin crawl. She tried not to stare at any of them for too long. The others quickly filed in, careful not to make too much noise. Leo and Daring sat at the doorway, but Chrysalis meandered around the room inspecting everything.

“Wait here,” whispered Luna.

Derpy followed on her heels as they moved into a back room and found a set of stairs. Nodding, Luna ascended the steps, her legs seemingly drifting from step to step in silence. The paladin ambled from step to step shifting her weight with focused precision, and avoided any creaking. When she reached the top she loosed a quiet breath of relief. Walking down the hallway they found Rarity’s room. As Luna prepared to become immaterial bright light exploded into the hallway. Derpy clamped her eyes and turned away, groaning as Luna fell backwards to the floor in surprise.

“Who are you!?” a voice roared from down the hallway.

Derpy cracked an eye open and could barely see something coming her way. She threw her body forward and latched onto the princess, rolling until her back was facing the voice. Something sharp struck her in the back and she yelped, but her hold on Luna remained steadfast. Thumps reverberated from the steps as the rest of the party raced up the stairs.

“Whoa, take it easy!” Daring called. “We’re not here to hurt you! I promise!”

“Rarity, there is no need for violence.” Luna stood up and blinked several times, casting a sympathetic glance to her loyal paladin. Derpy rolled her head over to see the unicorn’s devastation, her hooves clasped over her mouth.

“P-Princess Luna!” she cried as several metal objects fell from her magic. Derpy guessed they were spears or swords, but her eyes adjusted slowly as the pain slinked into her back. “It’s really you…” Her eyes fell to the languishing paladin. “I’m so sorry, Derpy. Please, let me help you.” She rushed to her side and began inspecting the wounds.

Leo stepped closer. “Lady Rarity. I am Chancellor Leo. I believe you and I have been in contact for some time. We are the rebels that have been hoping you could become our spellsmith.” Rarity glanced up in surprise, her eyes dancing between the three ponies standing before her. “This is my associate, Paladin Daring Do.”

Daring winced and rubbed the back of her head. “Hey, uh, look. I’m sorry we startled you. We were really hoping to avoid that, but, uh…” She looked down. “You kinda stabbed my sister.”

“Sister?” The fashionista looked down at Derpy. The grey paladin slowly sat up. “I thought you were an only child.”

“Aw, c’mon, Derpy!” spat Daring, throwing a hoof out. “Now I don’t even exist!”

The grey paladin stiffened. “It’s a long story. Can you pull these out?” She threw an angled nod to her sister. “I’ve already got this brat as a giant thorn in my side.”

“Sure, sure.” She removed them quickly, and the paladin was helped along by Luna. “Come downstairs. Oh, you haven’t introduced me to your other friend,” she said, pointing past Daring. “Who are you?”

Confused, everyone turned back. A skinny unicorn with dark green fur and a faded blue mane blinked, her eyes darting back and forth. “Uh, I’m…” She began to sweat as she looked to Luna.

“This is Nympha. She’s my friend and a member of the resistance,” the princess introduced quickly.

Rarity moved to her and took a hoof into her own. “It’s nice to meet you, Nympha. You have a lovely shade for your mane.”

“Um, thanks,” she replied, rubbing the back of her head.

“Everyone, come with me.” Rarity led the way down the creaky stairs, and further into the heart of the boutique. Her workshop in the back was messy, with cloth, unfinished dresses, mannequins, and designer supplies and tools strewn about the tables, benches, and floor. She quickly bandaged Derpy’s back, and then shoved a large pile of unused items out of a corner to reveal a rug. It slowly peeled away to reveal a hinged door on the floor. “Aurelius frequently has his loyal goons, those wretched dragon lords, force their way into my home to keep an eye on me and what I’m doing. The others probably have nothing to hide, but it’s a real pain trying to work in secret. It’s not easy feigning art block and depression every single time, but my determination drives me to help overthrow him.” Opening the door, she descended the steps with the others following.

“You put all of this together yourself?” Derpy asked, marveling at the rough tunnels. It soon opened into a larger set of rooms with a furnace on the end of one. Everything was bare, save for the tools to forge metal weapons and the bright overhead lights.

Rarity stopped in the room with the furnace and nodded. “I take my work very seriously. I meant it when I told Leo that I would help, even if I wasn’t suited. There aren’t many who would try, and I have to keep my ties small. The others can’t be involved in my risks.” A cupboard opened and first aid materials levitated to her. She quickly bandaged Derpy’s wounds.

“Thank you, Rarity.” Luna bowed her head. “I will not forget this.”

“We are all in this together.” The fashionista levitated a pair of goggles to her and set them upon her forehead. “If you’re here now, then it must mean we are prepared to move forward.”

Daring took the saddlebag from Leo and opened it up, pulling out the chunk of orichalcum and holding it before her. “We’re grateful you’ve dedicated yourself all this time, Rarity, but we need this done now. Derpy’s sword was broken and we need it reforged.”

The fashionista marveled as she gazed into the reflective, almost white chunk of metal. “I… I honestly don’t know if my skill is advanced enough. You once gave me a small piece to work on, and I held out for as long as possible before using it. However, forging this material is drastically more difficult than working with more conventional metals. Besides,” she met Daring’s eyes, “I thought commissioning your second sword was more important.” Derpy and Luna shot her wondering looks.

Daring chewed her lower lip. “That’s not important. A second paladin in our forces will probably be just as good as me at my best. Please, Rarity. You have to try. Whatever you need we’ll get it for you.”

Rarity glanced at the hunk of metal again and placed a hoof to her chin. “Okay, but I’ll need some magic materials from Twilight’s library. Oh, I wish she would have stayed a little longer. Her expertise in this stuff is worlds apart from mine.”

“Twilight was here?” blurted Luna.

“Why, yes. You just missed her. She left only yesterday evening when it started to rain. She was only here for a little while. She’s… not the mare she used to be. I’m frankly worried about her.”

The princess moved before the fashionista and towered over her. “Where!? Where did she go?”

“She went after that dragon lord, or whatever they call themselves,” she squeaked. “Vibe, was it? I told her she likes to rest at a cathedral south of Ponyville in some abandoned little place. I don’t know the name.” Rarity fidgeted out from under her gaze and took took the orichalcum, levitating it to one of her workbenches.

Luna spun around to Derpy. “If she is so near we must go after her! She will stop at nothing to advance to Canterlot once Vibe is dead.”

The grey paladin placed a hoof to her shoulder. “You and I both know that’s not a good idea right now. If we wait until morning I can look for her.”

“Nay, we must go together. I stand the best chance at convincing her to stay with us.” Luna grew pensive. “I worry that it might take some force, but she would not respond to that kindly.”

“Twilight, as in Twilight Sparkle?” asked Nympha. “I don’t think I should be around if that happens.”

Luna took one of her hooves. “I promise she will not harm you. I will make her understand.”

Rarity stepped between them. “Princess, just what is going on with Twilight? She looks nothing like she used to, and acts even less so. Her physical changes and her accusations were most unsettling to behold.”

“I’m sorry, Rarity, but the Twilight you knew is barely there. Celestia and I had witnessed her changes, but we never decided on how to handle them. We failed her, and now I fear losing her forever. I asked her to stay with us after we found her, but she refused. I should have tried harder.” The princess sighed. “She plans to assault Canterlot alone, and I hope we can catch up to her and synchronize our attacks.”

“I… see.” Rarity pivoted and sparked a flame in the furnace. “I’ll provide you with a list of everything I’ll need to try and imbue the sword. I’ll also need whatever you have left of the original.” She quickly prepared a list on a small sheet of paper and gave it to Luna.

The princess scanned the list and nodded. “It will be done within the hour, Rarity. Leo, come with me.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” he said.

“W-Wait, I’m coming, too,” added Nympha.

Derpy shuffled. “I should be there, too, Princess.”

“No, Derpy. Stay here with Rarity and help her with anything she needs done around here.” The grey paladin nodded, reluctantly.

“I’ve gotta take of a couple things,” said Daring.

Luna raised a brow. “What things?”

The sandy pegasus moved to Derpy and took back her sword and baldric. “I need to get rid of the dragons’ bodies. If there’re any loyalists in town I’d rather they think the last one already went to alert Canterlot.”

“Very well. Let’s go.” Luna headed for the exit, but Rarity galloped up beside her.

“Wait,” she said. Leaning up to the princess’s ear, she whispered, “I heard a rumor that Princess Celestia is still in Canterlot, but not as a prisoner.”

Luna froze. “Where did you hear that?”

Rarity shook her head, keeping her voice quiet. “It was only a rumor passed around from a pony that left Canterlot. I dare not ask and draw attention to myself. I’m sorry I don’t know more. I told Twilight the same information.”

The princess’s eyes widened briefly. “Thank you, Rarity. It is the first I have heard any information on her.” She headed for the exit, nearly walking into one of the walls on her way out.

Derpy watched as Leo, Daring, and the disguised Chrysalis followed after. She sighed and yawned. “What do you need help with, Rarity?” She produced her broken sword and laid both pieces down on the workbench beside the chunk of orichalcum.

The fashionista became pensive. “I hadn’t expected this. Your sword wasn’t destroyed, but merely broken. I can work with this.” She levitated tools from more drawers and took a sheet of paper out. Measurements and notes were rapidly scribbled onto it as she inspected both Glance Reviver and the magical metal. “Do you have any requests in your new sword? I can’t guarantee they’ll come out exactly to spec, though.”

Derpy shrugged. “Glance Reviver always felt natural to me. I had two swords for a while. I guess I’m one of the few celestial knights that can dual wield, but I normally fight with my tower shield. I had to leave it behind in Canterlot, though.” She grabbed the hilted half of her weapon and looked it over. “Before I became a celestial knight I used a partisan.” She scratched the back of her head. “Maybe extend the hilt, so using it with both hooves is better. Hmm, maybe a slightly longer blade. I will never be able to beat Colgate in a duel without a little more reach.”

Rarity nodded and changed notes and measurements on the sheet before holding it up. “I will do some test forges with what I have to try and produce these dimensions. Once the first one is finished we’ll go from there to narrow it down until you’re comfortable. This is more than enough material to repair and modify you sword, so I might be able to finish your sister’s second sword.”

Derpy smiled and set the hilt down. “That’s great. Do you have a design for Daring’s second sword?”

Rarity quickly snatched another sheet of steel from the other side of room and displayed it. “I’d have thought she would want it to match the first, but… it’s nearly identical to the one you brought me to repair.”

The paladin’s eyes narrowed on it. She was trying to make a copy of Glance Reviver? Why? She mulled the thought as she stared at it. That doesn’t make sense. There’s no way the power of my sword could be replicated in it. She pulled away and looked at Rarity. Could it? “Can you make the copy? What’s different?”

“Well.” Rarity propped the design up against a wall. “If all goes well with yours I should have no problem forging a second one of yours, but if there’s any complications in trying to modify yours beyond the repairs I might only have a copy of yours.” Her eyes shifted between the notes for Daring’s second sword and the pieces of Glance Reviver laid together. “Truth be told, the only difference in forging is that hers requires several magnitudes of more heat. I’m not sure I can even produce these levels here, let alone without cooking myself to death.”

Derpy chewed her lip for a moment. “Make the second Glance Reviver, then try to repair mine and make the modifications. I’d rather have another sword at our disposal. We could vet another celestial knight, or…” She trailed off and gazed at the floor.

“Or?” Rarity repeated. “What is it, dear?”

“Rainbow Dash never officially got her sword and she was given something of an initiate weapon on short notice for the mission to Draconis. The way the celestial knights gain their powers isn’t exactly normal, so she never had a true blade of her own. If we have a third one, we could give it to her. I don’t think Daring needs a second one. She can use a shield or a backup like she has.”

“Well, I’ll make your weapons, but you’ll have to do the rest. I can’t wait for this to be done and over with. My boutique has really fallen into shambles, and I’d like to get back to making what I prefer.” Rarity set aside the modification sheet for Derpy and took up Daring’s again. “I hope you’re ready to sweat because it’s going to get very hot in here. I’ve become a tad acclimatized to the heat necessary for spellsmithing, but sometimes I wish I was roasting in a dragon’s fire.” She lowered her goggles over her eyes.

Derpy blinked. “I can handle it.” As she set herself to helping her mind drifted to her sister. How did Daring survive that dragon’s breath? Only my tower shield could survive that unscathed, or an archmage’s barrier. As the temperature rose in the room she saw something within the forge flames. A winged animal roiled within in before briefly fading. She blinked and wiped her brow of the rapidly forming sweat. It’s just the heat…

Author's Note:

7/9/2016 - Sorry for such an abysmal release period between this and the last chapter.

Less than 8 hours ago I learned I'm about to have a death in the family due to cancer. I don't want to end this update on a bad note, but it could adversely affect my updating/writing.

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