• 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 46: Visions

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 46: Visions

Daring moved through the rain in silence, her dark cloak muddling her shape as she appeared only in the flashes of the lightning. Whenever a sound unnatural to the storm made itself known a hoof flew to the hilt of her sword, her eyes fixated on the sound’s location with extreme focus. Her heartbeat elevated, but she maintained composure. Nothing, she thought as she started to move again. The downpour had increased and she had been soaked to the bone, but felt no chill. Why am I so on edge here? The dragons are dead and our plan is going well. She stopped at a corner of a house, her body lining up against it as she peered around the corner beneath her sopping cowl. Too well, maybe?

She dropped down low and dashed from shadow to shadow, the only indication she existed being the splashes of her scarce steps. The buildings started to smear past her in a mess of darkness, but she froze in the shadows as something caught her eyes. What the—? Her gaze snapped to where it was going, and she remained still, only blinking. I knew it. Someone or something is here with me, and it’s not Princess Luna. Her heart thundered in her chest, and her hoof was already to her hilt before she realized it. Lightning cracked several times as a bolt struck nearby, bathing everything in light, but the puddles of water reflected it and obscured Daring’s vision. Something moved again in that brief moment, but she could not get more than a hazy glimpse.

“Hey!” Daring called as she raced into the shadows at her target. Blasting forward, she landed with her sword drawn, but froze as she took her stance. It was a trap.

“So, you managed to detect me, but you still can’t see me,” an unfamiliar voice came.

Daring could not move, and a flash of lightning illuminated a long, dark blade reaching around her neck. “Who are you?” The voice seemed to move around out of the sandy pegasus’s view, but the blade at her throat remained still.

“I should ask you the same.” The voice grew silent for a moment. “However, I have more pressing matters. Now that I know someone like you is here you won’t find me again, whoever you are.”

“Why are you here?” Daring blurted. “Are you with Aurelius?”

Silence passed, and the seconds ticked away like an eternity under the drone of the rain. “I serve no one but myself. Follow me again, and I’ll kill you.” After a pause the voice snickered. “Or maybe you might kill me. You’re incredibly powerful, and skilled at hiding that power. Still… There are only a few ponies that could detect me in a storm like this, so take pride in that.”

Lightning crashed nearby and in the instant the light bloomed Daring whirled around and attempted to glimpse her captor, her blade swinging to knock away the one at her neck. However, when the flash died down there was nothing there. Not even the blade at her neck seemed to have ever existed and she was left in the shadows with the rain pouring down, her eyes adjusting to the dark again.

Who the heck was that? They could have struck me down right then and I’m not sure I could have survived a fight. She sheathed her sword and looked around slowly. A hoof pressed against her chest, listening to her heartbeat. My heart won’t quit. That was scary. Am I… hallucinating? Shaking her head, she continued onward to the entrance of town where the two dragons had been slain.

She arrived at the spot they had been, their bodies still fresh. It looks like no one is around. I hope no one is paying attention. Drawing her sword, she took a deep breath as she gazed down to the dragon that Derpy killed. “Hey, I’m only returning the favor.”

***

Leo coughed as Luna lifted him out of a puddle that could only be described as a lake. He’d taken a step, but it was too late to pull back once he’d shifted. As water dripped from him, the princess chuckled. Chrysalis followed right on her heels, mimicking her steps to avoid the chancellor’s fate.

“Perhaps you should wait at Rarity’s. It’s not too late to go back,” she offered while wringing out his cloak.

Leo gave an annoyed glance as they continued on, his steps avoiding the centers of puddles now. “I’ll have you know I’ve worked in worse conditions than this.”

Luna chewed her lower lip. “I’m sorry, Leo. I sometimes forget—“

The chancellor held a hoof up. “There is no need to apologize. I often need to remind Paladin Do of how far we have fallen. She tries to stay upbeat, but everything she has done… it weighs upon her soul.”

“Leo,” the princess started slowly, “her service is before my time. Why do you still refer to her as a paladin when that title has since passed down to her sister?” Bellows of thunder interrupted them for a moment, and Luna nearly stumbled into a lake-sized puddle of her own. Chrysalis caught her and they exchanged nods.

“That is because this is the first time in the history of the celestial knights that a preceding paladin has not retired or died. Daring is one of the strongest, and Derpy trails her power considerably. The thought of referring to her as anything less is… odd.” Luna stared at him for a long while but he did not return her look. “I know what you are about to ask, so ask it.”

“She is considerably stronger than Derpy? What is Paladin Do’s power? I should be privy to that information.”

Leo exchanged a heavy look with her. “Why must you know?”

“I have trained the celestial knights since my return, but she is an anomaly. Her power was not bestowed by me, and she comes from the time before my return.” Luna grew pensive and she returned her eyes to the terrain. “I don’t fully trust her, and I do not know her power. Should she breach my trust I need to know what I will be dealing with.”

Leo stopped abruptly. “That is her advantage, Your Majesty. As Paladin Hooves is bound to you, she is your loyal guard and the lunar blessing you have given her enables such strength. I know Daring’s powers… intimately. They are not so different from her sister’s. Since there is only one Paladin Do could be bound to I’m sure you can deduce some idea of her power as there is no else like her anymore.” Luna’s eyes widened. “She will never betray you. Do you now understand why? She can be petty, but you are forgetting her place. She did not become the paladin without being able to overcome her own feelings when it matters. Rest assured, Your Majesty. Whatever power she holds will never be used against you.”

“Then why withhold that information from me, Leo?”

The chancellor sighed. “The truth of the matter is no doubt more surreal than you think.”

They arrived at the Ponyville tree library, and Luna studied it through the flashes of light as best she could. The lush tree had lost some of its leaves, with several of its limbs appearing gnarled and creepy. It invoked a mournful feeling inside of her.

“I know Twilight built her own laboratory here, and Trixie ran experiments of her own as an apprentice, but what is to say that any materials have remained?”

Leo stepped up to the door. “There isn’t, but have faith. I believe Twilight Sparkle to be the type to have some kind of stock here.” He placed a hoof on the door handle and slowly pressed it open. “Luckily, this is considered a public domain again after Archmage Lulamoon’s departure.” He stepped inside and Luna cast one final glance around. Lightning cracked and peeled back the night, but she remained. The chancellor poked his head back out of the door. “Are you coming?”

Something is… off, thought Luna as her gaze scanned around. Lightning split the sky once more as the thunder resounded through the air.

“What is it?” Chrysalis asked as she huddled beside her.

“I’m… not sure.” Something whisked at the edge of the shadows. What was that? She turned to Leo. “You two get inside and gather what you need if you can find it. I’m going to investigate something. I’ll meet you at Rarity’s if I’m not back sooner.”

“Your Maj—“

Luna threw a hoof up and shot him a sharp glance. Chrysalis darted into the library and Leo shut the door.

I know there’s something out here. I don’t like the way this feels. Thunder rumbled and roared while the lightning streaked down. Several booms and bolts appeared consecutively in the distance, but the storm was centralized to the town. The downpour increased again and Luna began to struggle to see. However, the off feeling only grew stronger, and she moved about the shadows in focus. This feels so… familiar.

The hunt began as she could feel the presence moving from shadow to shadow, Luna attempting to stay in proximity. She could not see, but she could feel. Doubt slipped into her and she began to weigh the usage of magic against being detected, but the odds did not favor her. The presence forced them to circle each other on opposite sides before drawing the princess deeper into the town.

More shadows, more places to hide. Do they really think they can lose the Princess of the Night where she is most comfortable? Luna inwardly scoffed at the notion while she kept up the pace. As they neared the center, the presence began to move wildly before surging back towards the library. No! It was leading me away! Is it an assassin!? Her heart beat accelerated as she gave chase after, attempting to gain on it. Why is this so familiar?

As they cleared the town and reached the library, Luna used her magic and pulled back the night, finally catching a cloaked figure in front of her. She surged forward and tackled the target before they could shroud themselves in the darkness once more. Both of them hit the mud with a grunt and rolled, but the princess scrambled to her hooves and barred the figure’s path.

“You will not make it past me. I will die before I allow you to harm my friends. Who are you and what are you doing here?” the princess called out.

The figure rose up, their long cloak drenched and hanging tight against the upper half of their body. They hung their head and Luna noticed something elongated hanging from the cowl. At first, she mistook it for a face, but it was something else entirely. Lightning flashed as they brought their head up, and it was a skull.

A dragon skull? Luna wondered as she braced herself for a fight. “Answer me.” The figure stood tall and reached out, prying the mouth of the skull open.

“Y-You!?” Luna’s legs threatened to buckle, her eyes widening as much as they could.

“I have to admit,” said Nightmare, “I never expected to find so many of you here all at once, but seeing you here, now…” She took a deep breath through her nose. “That explains the death of the last dragon here.”

“You’ve been missing for years. The last time I saw you was the night you were heading for the Badlands. You didn’t even show up to Twilight’s funeral! Where have you been, Nigh—“

Nightmare raised a hoof. “Watch your tone with me, Luna! I have my own name now. And I’m sure you can see my recent work all across Equestria, even here in Ponyville. My business is none of yours. All that you need to know is that I have been keeping busy. I’d love to stay and chat,”—she rolled her eyes—“but we’re not exactly friends.”

Luna cocked her head to one side. “What do you mean your work?”

The Id swayed a hoof out. “I’m sure even you’ve seen the dragons I’ve cut down all across Equestria. Aurelius had many that still served him, but I’ve reduced those numbers without killing those still loyal to the Brood and King Garr. But I don’t have time to explain myself. Why are you here? This is the last place you should be.”

The princess gazed into Nightmare’s sharp eyes, their turquoise irises standing out in the night. “We’re here to overthrow Aurelius. You should join us. We have a plan and we’re making the final preparations. We could use all of the help we can get.” Luna took a deep breath. “I am relieved that the deaths of the dragons were of your doing and not Twilight’s. I was begin—“

“What do you mean relieved they’re not Twilight’s kills?” Nightmare interrupted quickly. “What do you mean by that?”

“She may have returned, but she has changed, and I fear for her mind right now. Something is amiss with her, and I failed to keep her by my side and protect her.” Luna’s eyes widened as Nightmare closed the gap between them.

“Returned? Changed? How!?”

“You… didn’t know?” Nightmare’s lack of information only now sank into the princess. “She went to kill Vibe, towards a cathedral to the south. I wanted to go after her, but we decided to wait until day. We had no idea where you were, and she’s been searching for you all this time.”

Nightmare stamped a hoof in the mud and pressed it against Luna, sneering. “The Princess of the Night waiting until day to search? Are you serious?” She quickly snapped the dragon skull shut. “If she went to kill her…” The Id shook her head and glanced at the ground. “Damn it! This is too much all at once! I… I have to get back to her as fast as I can.”

“Wait, her? Ni—Midnight! What’s going on? Is Twilight with you?” Luna called.

The Id started to move, but she stopped and turned her head back. “I don’t have time to wait for you, and I’m faster on my own. I’ll be back with Twilight as soon as I can and I’ll explain, but you have some answering to do!” She surged into the darkness and vanished, the flutter of her wet cloak the only marker that anyone was there at all.

Luna stared in disbelief after her, still processing whom she just encountered. A pattering behind her caused her to whirl around and ready her magic, but it ended as she caught sight of Daring.

“Who was that?” the sandy pegasus asked as an armed hoof aimed in Nightmare’s direction.

“That was—“ Luna stopped and raised a brow as she could see the pegasus slowly being washed off of a slimy grey substance. “What happened to you?”

Daring blinked before looking down. “Oh. This?” She quickly scrubbed a hoof through her mane and splattered some of the grey matter onto the ground. “I slipped and fell in the mud. Those puddles can get deceptively deep,” she said, snorting. However, her voice abruptly became serious as she raised her sword into a combat stance. “Who was that? Someone caught me in a trap and let me go. I never even saw them. If there’s danger I need. To. Know.”

The princess swallowed. “There is no danger and that was…” she trailed off, her eyes drifting to Nightmare’s exit. “Just a shadow,” she muttered, motioning for Daring to follow. “I have been exposed for too long.” The pegasus sheathed her sword and trotted after her, her vision panning to the stormy night around.

Luna pushed open the door to the library, its creaking lost to the rain. As she viewed inside, she found Leo crouched down with a large candle lit beside him and Chrysalis lying on the floor before him. His eyes jumped to the ponies entering.

“What happened?” asked Luna.

The chancellor shook his head. “She mumbled something and fainted. I’m afraid I don’t know anything about changelings. This is beyond my expertise.”

“Isn’t she starving or something?” Daring chimed in as she moved closer. “Maybe she passed out from the hunger.”

Luna and Leo exchanged solemn glances, and the chancellor spoke. “Perhaps I should—“

The princess held up a hoof and closed her eyes. “It shall not be you. This is my gamble, and I will honor my word. She may not make it to the end, but neither may I. Besides,” her eyes drifted to Daring, “you do not need my strength when you have two paladins. Go, both of you. Find what we need to finish Paladin Hooves’s reforge. I trust you can handle yourselves if she betrays me.”

Luna watched as they headed downstairs to the basement. After she could no longer hear them she leaned down and tilted the changeling queen’s head to hers. “Wake up. I will not have you die like this.” She smacked her face several times until she stirred.

Chrysalis groaned and opened her eyes, struggling to focus on the princess. “Just… leave me. I can’t go on. I’m too hungry,” she muttered, raising one of her holey legs.

Luna leaned in close and spoke gently. “You need to feed.”

The changeling queen closed her eyes and laid her head back down. “It’s hard to eat… when you have no food.” Suddenly, Chrysalis found herself sitting up and staring at Luna.

“You will feed upon me.” Luna held out a hoof, but quickly retracted it and glanced away, rubbing the back of her head. “I, um… do not know how this works.”

Chrysalis gaped before snickering. “Hold still,” she commanded weakly, bringing her forelegs up. She placed them on the princess’s head.

“Will this hurrr—“ Luna’s eyes went wide as a stream of green energy flowed from her to the changeling queen. Is this… how they feed? The question was quickly answered when her strength waned. She could feel her body growing heavy and her limbs sag. Dizziness set in and, as she started to wobble, Chrysalis stopped. Luna fell to the floor panting. “Wha… I feel so… weak…” she murmured as the room continued to spin. Her eyes floated around before fixating on Chrysalis. The changeling queen took a deep breath and tilted her head back before snickering. Luna’s heart sank and she bit her lower lip.

“Ah, that feels much better.” She exhaled and extended a leg to Luna. “Sorry about that. The drain will pass. You have plenty of love to devour, but… I won’t take more than I need to keep going.”

The princess breathed a sigh of relief and took the help to stand. “I… did not expect it to be so sudden and intense.”

“Here, let me help you.” Chrysalis wrapped one of Luna’s forelegs around her neck and helped her down the stairs to the others. “I can’t have you dying on me,” she said, snickering again.

Luna offered a weak laugh. Neither can I…

They reached the bottom and took in the sight of Daring and Leo moving about collecting supplies and setting them upon a large worktable. The pegasus bumped into a large beaker and knocked it off, quickly managing to catch it with an extended wing.

“Look at how cluttered this place is. How are you supposed to find anything in here?” she complained. Leo frowned and placed a hoof on the door of a cabinet, pulling it open and revealing large shelves of ingredients and items organized alphabetically. “I knew you were more clever than you looked!”

“Better than looking more clever than you are, Daring,” he quipped with his eyes scanning the ingredients.

“How fares the search?” asked Luna, her half-lidded eyes taking in the room.

“What did you do?” growled Daring, a hoof already upon the hilt of her sword.

Luna raised a hoof. “Stay your blade, Daring Do. She did nothing but take what was offered to her.”

It took an extra moment before the pegasus relaxed and placed her focus elsewhere, but she continued to keep the changeling queen in the corner of her vision.

“I’m glad it went well. How are you feeling?” he asked as he set several things into the satchel.

“I’ve had better nights,” she replied before standing on her own. She nodded to Chrysalis and then unleashed a monstrous yawn. “It was more than expected.”

“We have everything we can use from here, but we’re going to be doing some severe improvising. I’m not sure the makeshift forge Rarity has will be enough.” His eyes glossed over several more things on the shelves before he closed them and hung his head. “I don’t want to have come this far only to come up short.”

Luna fidgeted. “What do we need to finish the reforge?”

The chancellor sighed. “Heat, far more than we could produce down there, but that we have. It’s what comes after that worries me.” He slowly looked around the room before shaking his head. “Princess. The amount of heat we need would cook us down there. To finish the reforge we must add the final imbuement of magic and tempering outside, and that will no doubt attract unwanted attention.”

The princess straightened. “What did you have planned for this?”

Leo ran a hoof through his mane and stared at the floor. “We had hoped our spellsmith would have managed a larger forge at this point, but it seems that producing the blade’s base down there is all we can do. It must be finished where we can vent larger amounts of heat. The storm is certainly not working in our favor here.”

Silence overtook the room for a moment, interrupted only by the rumble of the thunder outside. “Very well,” said Luna. “We’ll take on whatever comes. We still have Derpy and Daring. I’m sure Rarity has produced some kind of standard weapons.”

“Are you sure?” Leo asked. “Derpy is injured, and you are weakened. I would rather we not risk—“

Luna shook her head. “I have confidence.” Her eyes drifted away as she recalled Nightmare’s sneer. “Things have changed and we must bring this plan to bear. This shall be a long night.”

The princess procured water for the party before resting on a large pillow she brought from upstairs. Leo moved about mixing and preparing ingredients for the final part of the spellsmithing. Luna tried to remain alert, but the drain from Chrysalis’s feeding continued to affect her. It felt much like magic exhaustion in that her physical stamina was drained without any exertion. Dizziness had been intermittent for a while, but she managed to keep her thoughts focused.

“Are you okay?” the changeling queen asked as she sat beside her.

Luna’s eyes slowly drifted to her and she loosed a yawn. “I’ll be fine. I am more worried about you. I cannot sustain you in these conditions forever. Will you be alright? Once we complete the reforging I will be unable to sustain you any longer. Though I was weak only a short time ago, my magic has since returned and I will need all of my strength for the battle ahead. If you had a source of food that could bring your strength up we could use your power.”

Chrysalis nodded slowly. “I need only something with the capacity for love to feed on. Whether it’s you or another doesn’t matter, but I have to ask.” The princess eyed her carefully. “When we enter Canterlot, should I feed on any of the ponies there just to keep going, or should I drain some more thoroughly to restore my strength?”

Luna curled her bottom lip and chewed on it. “I… do not think I should condone that.” Her eyes slid over to Leo and Daring as they finished up. “However, this is a war and I have long since abandoned my regal pride to survive. Do what you must, Chrysalis, but you do not have my permission to kill any ponies in the process. If you can drain a dragon instead that would be much more welcome.”

The changeling queen snorted aloud. “Dragons are…” She paused as her eyes twisted up to the ceiling. “Inedible.

“Alright, we’re done, Your Majesty,” Leo announced as he placed the materials in a saddlebag. “Now comes the hard part.”

Luna rose to stand and wobbled briefly, but Chrysalis was quick to stand beside her and offer support. “Let’s go. I’m sure those two are ready for the next step.”

After exiting the tree library Luna appointed Daring to lead with her in the rear. She couldn’t help herself from allowing her eyes to wander. Are you still out there? she thought when her eyes stopped on a shadow in an alley. Did you make it to the Badlands? Nothing would have stopped you from getting there. Rumbles of thunder muffled Chrysalis calling her name, and it wasn’t until she nearly shouted that Luna snapped out of her thoughts.

“Luna,” the changeling queen barked, a hoof pressed against the princess’s shoulder shaking her. “Are you okay?”

“Huh?” she blurted. Luna had stopped walking altogether and was staring into the abyss between two houses. “S-sorry,” she muttered as she continued walking with the party again. She felt as if Chrysalis’s drain had been wearing off, but she still worried. Will I make it? I have to make it. I cannot falter now. We are so close. Her eyes drifted between Daring and Derpy. They seem so… familiar together. I only wish they were both bound to me. She eyed Daring’s sword as best she could in the night. I loathe admitting it, but I need her more than anyone else.

Author's Note:

8/24/2016 - Sorry it took a while. Personal stuff + job, as previously indicated. Even after doing a final edit and proofing, I decided to read it aloud on another pass.

I should probably start using more specific scene descriptors for orientation of characters and the settings they're in.

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