• Published 2nd Aug 2013
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Rise of the Dragonking - Scarheart

The era for peace is over. Despite the best efforts of the Alicorns, an ancient enemy has returned to resume a war forgotten by even Princess Celestia. A world is plunged into darkness. Old foes must become allies if they are to survive.

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RotDK Chapter 14: Against the Grain

"He did what?" Celestia asked as she made a poor attempt at concealing her smile behind a hoof. She was not sure if she had heard her sister correctly when she returned from her search for Silent Wing.

Luna was outraged. "He kissed me, Tia! Was I not clear enough the first time I exclaimed it? That knave!"

"Oh my." Celestia started laughing. It was a helpless little titter at first before it grew and grew until she was in tears.

"It is not humorous!" protested her younger sister.

Celestia only laughed harder. "Surely that was not the only thing you discovered, my dear sister," she said as the laughter had subsided to a wide grin coupled with the occasional giggle.

Luna gave her a flinty stare, then sighed in resignation, "No, it is not. We have bigger problems. Flamespyre is still alive."

The white Alicorn's mood lost all joy. "Tell me what you found out."

The Princess of the Moon retold her encounter in Silent Wing's dream, leaving out no detail. She spoke of how she first encountered the colt watching himself as a baby get rejected by Flamespyre. Celestia grew more somber when Luna suspected the prince to be the son of the evil dragon, though unaware of it. From the colt's standpoint, he was being taunted by a monster. The princess also related how Flamespyre would erase the memory of the dream from Silent Wing, leaving him only remembering the terror.

"He feeds on terror and negative emotions, Tia." Luna shivered as she remembered her own in facing him. She knew he had made an error tempting her, providing the Alicorn with the means to resist him through her anger and complete denial of ever wanting to return to her days as Nightmare Moon. She had grown past that and was no longer bitter nor afraid of what those years had cost her.

Celestia listened carefully, allowing her sister to speak. She did not interrupt Luna, giving her younger sister her undivided attention. When she was finished relating her experience, the white Alicorn grew silent as she considered her words.

"He's blundered," she said when she did speak.

"He revealed himself to me," said Luna as she nodded in agreement.

"Not only that," Celestia added as she shifted uncomfortably, "he's given us a clue he's going to make a move soon. Very soon. Perhaps within days."

Luna sighed unhappily. "We're right where we were fifteen years ago."

"So it would seem," admitted the elder princess. "Doe Chrysalis know who Silent Wing is?" Her gaze held her sister steadily.

"I do not know. Perhaps we should ask her when she arrives in the morning." Luna flinched, thinking of the mood the Queen of the Changelings would mostly likely be in when she did arrive a few hours from now.

"I'll handle her," Celestia said. "Let's also assume Silent is not a threat. Instead rather more a pony of interest we need to protect."

"I'll leave to find him immediately," offered Luna with a certain tone in her voice. "He and I need to have a talk as it is."

"Be gentle with him, dear sister," Celestia reminded her with a chuckle. "He strikes me as the impulsive sort and more than likely thought you were but a part of his dream. Being a colt, I should like to think he acted accordingly."

Luna gave her sister a wink as she spread her wings, turning towards the balcony as she did so. "I will not kill him," she promised. "I may devour his flank, but I most certainly will not kill him." With that, she lifted off into the night, her magic carrying her distances no mortal pony could dream of in the wink of an eye.

Celestia felt a little sorry for Silent Wing. He was going to get a very convincing lesson about the Princess of the Moon's penchant for proper etiquette. One simply does not kiss a princess without an invitation.

Grazeland was as quiet as it was small. Silent Wing woke up before dawn feeling oddly refreshed, having had a rare good dream. It was stupid to reflect on his dream, but as usual most of it was unremembered, but he did recall a warm place with his mother and sister.

Then there was the beautiful mare who showed up. He had thanked her for some reason and on impulse kissed her. It was a dream, after all. Strange things happened in dreams. Never in his wildest dreams could he ever get the courage to talk to a mare, much less kiss one. Still, he felt she had done something for him, something good. If only he could remember what it had been.

Seeing the first rays of morning begin to warm the skies through the window from his bed, Silent painfully crawled out of bed. He was stitched up and sore. Very sore. The colt groaned when the first hoof touched the floor. A moan trickled into a whimper as another joined the first. Two hooves down. Too bad they were both his right legs. Half on the bed now and half off, it should have been easy to get the other two hooves off the bed and on the floor. Stiff muscles and a tangling blanket made it difficult to do so and he ended up hopping like a lunatic to work them off the bed. Every hop up brought an "Ouch!" from the colt.

Finally he was free of the blanket and the bed. Silent Wing limped out of his room, thinking he could catch the rising sun. With a groan and a foolish smile, the colt had nearly forgotten his griffon claw. Turning around, he went to the foot locker and fished it out. Deciding to put it on for the sake of not having to carry it in his mouth, he did so for several minutes, taking his time as it was like he could feel every stitch in his body. His left flank felt like someone had been beating it with a red hot piece of steel.

Slowly he made his way out the door and down the hall, his hoofsteps clicking lightly on the tiled floor. As it was a small hospital he was at the reception desk also doubling as the nurse's station. There was a bored bespectacled pony sitting behind it and reading what appeared to be the morning paper. Her gray mane was up in a bun.

"Excuse me," Silent Wing spoke as he lightly tapped his right hoof on the desk top. When the nurse looked up he asked, "Would it be all right if I sit outside and enjoy the sunrise?"

She looked over her glasses at him. "So long as I can keep an eye on you, there should not be a problem." The nurse smiled and came around the corner. "How are those stitches? I'd like to check them first before we go outside."

She did so and found nothing wrong, giving the colt a smile as she guided him to a side door. The nurse assured him there was a bench in a small hospital flower garden where he could see his sunrise from. Though he did not think he needed to be escorted, Silent tried to keep his full weight on his hooves as she guided him. Oddly enough she thought he needed her strength and kept on trying to get him to lean on her.

"I'm not an invalid," he finally told her as he laughed. It was either that or scream at her.

She snorted and eased off with an apologetic expression. "Sorry, dear. You looked like you needed help with those holed legs of yours."

That again. Silent Wing bit his tongue on the retort he wanted to spit out. Instead, he simply told her his legs had always been that way. She nodded at him placatingly and opened the side door, pointing at the bench.

He spied a tuft of comfortable looking grass and decided to forgo the hard bench. The sun was nearly up. The first rays began to chase away the fading remnants of night, Luna's time seemingly slipping away with sad reluctance. The irresistible warmth of the sun bathed the colt just as he lay in the grass, facing the east. Silent Wing basked in Celestia's glory, his wounds aching less.

"Hey boss!" cried out a voice from above. A dark form slightly smaller than Silent landed right in front of him. Eleven other dark forms also found the earth, blocking his sunrise.

"Feidole," Silent uttered with false menace, "You're in my sunrise." He never cracked an eye, but did offer a toothy grin to his best friend. "Get in disguise, boys. You'll frighten the locals."

"What happened to you?" Feidole asked as he assumed the form of a nondescript Earth pony. He could have blended in anywhere. The changeling was reminded he was blocking Silent's sunlight when his prince growled at him in a less than friendly manner.

"A wolf fell on me," came the sarcastic reply. One golden eye opened, sweeping over the changelings. They had all taken the same generic Earth pony form, only with different colored coats. "What took you guys so long to get here, anyways?"

Feidole made a sour face. "Your mother the Queen is on the warpath concerning you," he reported as he flopped in the grass next to him. "She nearly turned that beast of a captain she's got on us."

"No she didn't," objected one of the other changelings. His name was Frakas, Feidole's twin brother. They argued over anything just for the sake of argument. "She nearly tore into you after she tore into you."

The color he had chosen was a roan coat and black mane and tail. Feidole had adopted the same appearance. "Shut up," grunted Feidole. He said to Silent, "You really did it this time. Look, we're all sworn to watch your flank, but it's kind of hard to do our jobs when you're taking off because you feel like it. You gotta give us some consideration, bro."

Silent sighed, opening the other eye. "Sorry guys. That's my fault."

"She'll have our hide now," said Frakas, noting the fresh stitches. "Why didn't you put on your armor? That was pretty stupid."

Silent waved him off with a hoof. "Don't get started with me. I had a bad day yesterday."

"Your fault," echoed Feidole, almost parroting Silent's voice perfectly. "By the Queen, we're tired. Flew all night looking for you."

"Found this," grunted Frakas as he held up a familiar pack. "Tracked you to your little battlefield. It was lying close to a big old tree. The blood we found had us worried. Then we just followed the path to this little slice of heaven." He followed his brother's example. After setting the bag down in front of the astonished and grateful prince, he lay down on the other side.

"Thanks. You're a life saver!" Silent grinned at his Frakas.

"The wing, too?" Feidole noted critically. "You just had all sorts of bad happen to you, didn't you? What did you fight? A dragon?"

"Tell him the other thing," Frakas reminded him rudely.

"Oh, yeah," the changeling glared at his brother. "Can't we just enjoy being with our prince after looking all bucking night for him? He's got time and we need to debrief him before we debrief him. You're such a killjoy, Frakas."

"Bite me. Tell him."

"Tell me what?" Silence put a hoof over Frakas' mouth as he focused on Feidole.

"There's what looks like an army trying to sneak its way through the forest. They're on their way here. At least we think it's an army. Not very organized." Feidole snorted.

"Army?" The colt arched an eyebrow. "Nopony's at war around here. This is Equestria. They're not at war with anyone. Tell me everything you guys saw."

"It's a raiding party, you moron," Frakas snapped irritably. "It looks like a pack of diamond dogs. A couple of hundred. Odd they're moving above ground instead of under it." His eyes were on his brother who narrowed his eyes and just shook his head.

Silent had put up with those two for years. They were not being serious. They were actually good brothers to each other, but for the sake of their reputations gave the appearance they were constantly at each other's throats. Every changeling in the group knew about it already, though nopony had thought to let them know this false animosity was not really that necessary. It was too entertaining.

"All right, two of you guys go back and keep an eye on them," Silent tapped at the grass thoughtfully, enjoying the sunrise gone now. "We'll need to find a way to let the village know."

Both brothers looked at him with surprise. "You want us to protect ponies?" objected Feidole with revulsion.

"Keep your voice down, dummy!" Silent hissed. "We're not at war here. I'm in deep with Mother. You guys are technically invaders. I don't think the home team will take too kindly to unauthorized changeling activity on their turf. This could be an opportunity to make everypony go from being royally ticked off at us to regarding us as heroes."

Being a colt still brought on flights of fancy. As Silent Wing and the changelings were all within a year of each other in age, they were still young enough to harbor such imaginings.

"You're an invader, too," Frakas pointed out innocently.

"All right, all right," Silent said with a chuckle. "Feidole and Frakas, stay here. The rest of you, go get me intel on whatever's coming. I want hourly updates. Don't be seen."

Without a word the changelings nodded and went to work, glad to have their prince safe and sound. They were also anticipating battle. Adolescent changelings were naturally aggressive.

"So," Feidole asked casually. "How's the love here?"

Frakas perked up. "Yeah, how is it here? You get a chance to taste any?"

"Guys," Silent Wing said harshly. "No. Absolutely not. Stick to regular food."

Both changelings became crestfallen, their ears drooping. Silent Wing knew they were good colts. Hailing from one of the lesser noble families, they understood what it was like to be under the thumb of the powerful noble families. Fewer and fewer of the minor families could be counted as allies to the Queen as they went where the supposed easy path took them. For them, it was a matter of survival. The changeling brothers had seen their oldest brother murdered in front of them for defending the queen's honor. To the prince, these two could be counted on to watch his back as he would watch theirs.

"What are we going to do?" Feidole asked Silent Wing.

"Win hearts and minds, of course," replied the prince as it was the only possible answer. "Then convince them there's a threat if it does materialize. We don't know what the intentions of those dogs are yet."

"I'd rather be sucking on some love right now," complained Frakas with a sigh.

"Stop talking about that sort of thing." Silent reproached him. "There's a nurse who's probably going to be bringing me my breakfast soon."

"Must be good to be the prince," said Feidole with a grin.

"I'm a patient. They don't know who I am," Silent murmured. "They just think I'm a malformed Pegasus."

"Are we playing the roles of concerned cousins searching for their lost family member?" Frakas asked, shifting focus. "We need to make sure we have our stories straight, after all."

"Let's do that," Silent agreed.

Just then, the side door of the hospital opened and out came Trixie. She had her as baby on her back as was usual. A basket drifted in front of her. The scent of freshly baked bread wafted from it. Her violet eyes were wide with surprise when she noticed the two strange Earth ponies with Silent.

"Trixie did not know you had visitors," she said as her eyes flickered between the two.

Silent Wing came to his hooves and introduced his 'cousins'. Feidole and Frakas were polite and cordial to Trixie, though they did raise eyebrows at Silent at the odd way the Unicorn referred to herself in the third person. He did nothing but offer a brief shrug.

"Trixie is glad your family found you," she said after introductions were made. "She brought you some breakfast, but was not expecting more." The mare regarded her basket with a worried frown.

"We already ate," said Feidole helpfully. "You two go ahead. We'll just wait until you're finished."

"Yes!" spoke up Frakas quickly. "He's absolutely right. We've eaten and couldn't possibly stuff any more food down our gullets."

Trixie studied the two almost with as much scrutiny as she had given Silent Wing yesterday at the river. Her suspicious eye bore into them, making the two changeling very uncomfortable. "Well then," she said, shifting her attention to Silent and smiling. "Trixie guesses this means you'll be leaving for home soon."

"Actually," the prince said, "there may be a problem. My cousins came across a very large group of diamond dogs heading towards this town. I have other cousins watching them now to see if they are coming here."

"More cousins?" she set her basket down, tilted her eyes up in thought before shaking her head. "Nevermind that. You said diamond dogs? Coming here?" Trixie assumed a mask of worry.

"What?" Feidole asked curiously.

"Diamond dogs. They're not the most friendly of neighbors this close to the border." Trixie faced a nearby hill and pointed with a hoof. "Grazeland is a mining town. It's not a very rich mine, but it does produce a steady supply of gems for the town's income."

"I take it the diamond dogs want the gems?" Frakas asked on an assumption.

"Who can I talk to about this?" Silent asked her.

"Trixie will get the mayor. You have your breakfast. Would you mind watching Merlin so Trixie can run faster?(1) She will not be gone long!" The Unicorn was already removing the basket with her infant still sleeping soundly in it. Silent Wing noted the foal did sleep an awful lot.

Trixie set her son down, thanked the colt and his two doppelgänger friends and was gone, her tail flicking in her dust. This left three changelings with a foal who decided right then and there to wake up.

"Do we encase it?" asked Frakas nervously as Merlin stared up at the three.

"No cocoons, dummy," Feidole responded with a growl. "So you and that mare friendly? I noticed you weren't stuttering like you were taking selective shock therapy," he spoke to Silent Wing with a sidelong glance.

"No, I am not. Pursue the matter and I will kill you."

His friend tapped his brother with a hoof. "I'd take the threat seriously if the Queen had just said that."

"I know, right?"

"I hate you guys sometimes. I really, really do," Silent Wing complained.

Frakas and Feidole said in unison, "We know." They smiled like Siamese twins.

Merlin watched the exchange with about as much interest as any infant wondering where mommy was and who in Celestia's name were these three complete strangers. Naturally, he scrunched up his little face and started to cry.

"Try feeding him," suggested Frakas as he started rummaging through the basket.

"What did she bring?" asked Feidole as he joined in the rummaging.

Silent grabbed them both by the scruff of the neck and hauled them back, his wounds giving him a very friendly reminder they were still there. Wincing in pain, he said to them both, "Will you two stop? The kid's not hungry, he wants his mother."

"We're hungry," said Feidole. He began munching on some fresh bread. "It ain't love, but it'll do in a pinch." He tossed his brother an apple.

Sitting on his haunches, Silent fished up little Merlin and tried his best to get the foal to stop wailing. Some of the things he remembered Chrysalis doing to get him to stop crying as a foal usually meant handing him over to wet nurse and letting her handle it. There was no wet nurse here. Just a couple of changelings eating his breakfast and giving him devilish grins. Holding Merlin before him, baby facing him with those sad crying eyes, Silent tried making a funny face. Merlin cried harder. He was, after all, looking into the face of a snarling pale changeling with a mouth full of fangs and golden eyes that looked simply scary.

"You're doing a great job, highness," noted Feidole with a chunk of bread crammed in his mouth. His ears caught a sound and turned behind him.

Behind them there was the sound of hooves touching the ground. Dark wings beat softly upon the air as a graceful dark blue pony with a horn on her head landed. All three (four, including the bawling Merlin), turned an noticed mane and tail of the night sky. It was an Alicorn and only one such beauty existed in all the world.

"Princess Luna!" breathed Frakas as he dropped the apple he had just bitten into.

She ignored the two changelings, having watched for some time everything transpiring since noticing the arrival of the dozen. Luna had heard everything, taking note of the loose command and control Silent exerted over his bodyguards. He had their absolute confidence. This spoke volumes in itself.

Now that she saw him in the flesh and face to face, she remembered a certain kiss. She wanted to yell at him, chastise him. Two things prevented this; first of all was his bandaged body. Second was the crying foal in his hooves making the colt look absolutely miserable in his failure to calm him down. Taking pity, Luna still maintained a serious expression.

"I think we're in trouble," Feidole said quietly.

Luna said nothing, settling her wings before using her magic to pluck Merlin from Silent Wing's grasp. Settling him in his basket, she rocked him gently with a hoof, her blue eyes continually shifting from the two changelings to the prince.

"What am I going to do with you, Prince Silent Wing?" she asked at last. "Later you and I are going to discuss a certain dream, but pressing matters require my attention."

"Certain dream?" the prince stammered.

"I said later!" she snapped, her eyes flashing.

"Feidole," Frakas called out. "Did he just get us killed?"

"I don't know, brother," replied Feidole. "We signed up for this, so we really have no room to complain."

"I want my childhood back."

Silent Wing glared at the two of them. "Guys! Please! You're embarrassing me in front of the princess!"

The stars in Luna's mane and tail faded, the night within it assuming a more natural appearance of hair. Merlin was no longer crying, but staring up at her with his little hooves grasping at the hoof she was using to rock him to sleep.

"I have noticed your little group," she said distastefully. "I do not approve of changelings running loose in Equestria. If I had not overheard your little conversation, I would have thought this to be a prelude to war."

Silent Wing stood quickly, wincing. "I swear that was not the intention, Princess Luna!" He had a bit more panic in his voice as he responded. "Ah, how much did you overhear, exactly?"

She gave him a cool look. "I heard enough."

It was about then Trixie returned with a bespectacled Earth pony stallion. He huffed behind the Unicorn, not at all pleased at having been roused this early and not even having his breakfast yet. Trixie saw the princess and smiled. Once she pulled up, she gave Luna a curtsy. The mayor bowed awkwardly, stunned at seeing on of the Princesses of Equestria standing in the flesh before him.

"Your Highness!" he squeaked in a high pitched voice. "Mayor Dexter Poin at your service!"

Trixie glared at Silent Wing. "You did not tell Trixie you were the prince of the changelings," she said with some disappointment. "Princess Luna sought to educate her otherwise in regards to your origins."

The prince was utterly thrown off. "Wait - what?"

"We're dead," Feidole said to Frakas with a simple shrug.

His brother sighed. "Looks like it."

"We fight to the pain!"

"No, it's supposed to be to the death."

"I don't know. Sounds kinda permanent, Frakas. I can handle pain, just not the death part."

Silent bristled again. "Will you two idiots please keep your traps shut?" He was starting to lose his cool. There was simply too much going on and none of it in his control. It was a dismally helpless feeling.

"Sounds more and more like his mother every day." Frakas noted proudly.

"Moving, isn't it?" Feidole sniffled.

"Enough!" Luna called out firmly. "I met with Trixie before she brought you your breakfast, Prince Silent Wing. She knew who your little friends were. I told her about them." She gave Merlin over to his mother and went over to the mayor. "Your town is in danger, mayor. I would strongly suggest preparing everypony for evacuation."

"Danger?" stammered Mayor Dexter Poin.

"Yes, please prepare every pony for evacuation."

"I-I-I- Yes, of course, your Highness." They mayor went to do just that, too frightened to question Luna further. If she said all ponies need to leave, then there must be a good reason for it.

Silent Wing was affixing his bag over his shoulders, grunting with the effort. His right wing was not bothering him, but it did throb. At least there was no pain when he strapped his pack over it. Everything else was doing enough to make sure the lack of soreness was compensated.

"What do you think you're doing?" Luna asked him skeptically.

Frakas cleared his throat. "Begging your pardon, miss," he said, "but we're going to go play fetch with the dogs while you get your ponies out of here."

"Prince Silent Wing, you are in no condition to do battle!" she reminded the prince. "Why aren't you answering me?"

Feidole peered at the pale colt, then informed the princess, "He's blushing, Highness!"

"That's our old Silent!" cried out Frakas merrily.

"I don't understand," Luna stated, caught off guard.

"Never mind," Silent Wing rasped out, shoving his two friends towards the direction of the forest. "We'll buy you guys time to get the civilians to safety. We're best trained for this, your Highness. We can't fight them directly, but we can delay them just long enough." He never lifted his head to look at her, his eyes hidden behind his thick red mane.

Luna could not allow this. Silent had to be brought back to Canterlot. Intending to put a holding spell on him and drag him back so she could keep an eye on him, her horn began to glow. Silent's body began to shimmer as her magic took hold.

It fizzled to nothing.

"What is this?" she demanded.

Silent paused, half turning towards her. "Magic doesn't work on me. Why do you think I haven't tried to hide my true form?" There was a note of sadness in his tone before he headed off to battle.

"I will not stand for this," declared the dark Alicorn angrily.

"You can try to stop me, Princess Luna," the colt forced out, his voice shaking. "But this is the best option available. It's the only option."

Luna reared in frustration at the colt's stubbornness. "That foal! Does he seek a death wish? Must I foalsit him?"

Trixie offered a solution. "You should go with him, Princess Luna," she suggested. "I will make sure everpony in Grazeland gets out safely. You have my promise." The smile on her features suggested she hoped Luna would not be upset with her for making such a bold idea. She had also dropped speaking in the third person. One simply did not speak in the third person to a princess. Besides, Luna had spoken to her at length at how irritating she found it several years ago.

"It would appear this is the only way I can ensure he does not get himself hurt worse than he already has." She paused, looking at him as he was already breaking into a canter and fading into the first line of trees. "How did he come by those injuries?"

"Timerwolves," Trixie supplied helpfully. "Five timberwolves at once. He saved both the lives of my son and myself."

Author's Note:

(1) - Trixie already knew Silent Wing was a changeling after hearing from Luna before bringing him his breakfast, but she had seen him put his life on the line to save her and her son. That was good enough to earn her trust.