• Published 26th Feb 2012
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Upheaval: Reckoning - Visiden Visidane

Sequel to Breaking Point. The barrier is no more and the Legion is on the move. What happens next?

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Dragons and Ponies

Upheaval: Reckoning

Chapter 1: Dragons and Ponies

My beloved subjects,

I, Princess Celestia of Equestria, am well aware of the apprehension I have put the realm through in these recent times. It is time I told everypony the truth behind the banishment of my faithful student and her loyal friends.

Equestria is under attack, my little ponies. It has been under attack throughout the centuries. At the borders of our realm, my brother, Terrato, continues to lead the Equestrian Legion in defense our home. In my desperation to protect all of you from the horrors of this conflict, I have kept this a secret. Twilight Sparkle wanted to share this secret with all of Equestria, for which I banished her. The only “unspeakable crime” committed was mine.

I humbly ask for forgiveness from each and every one of you for this secrecy. I was blinded by prejudice towards those who I have been counting on. I have failed as your princess to adhere to the same honesty that I have asked all of you to live your lives. All I can offer is that I face my own punishment for this and that, henceforth, there will be no secrets like this ever again.

Now that the truth has been revealed, it is time to act upon it. The war continues to rage. My brother and the Equestrian Legion have been pushed to their limits and they need our help. So dire is the situation across our borders that it has become necessary to call upon everypony in Equestria do its share. Soon, you will meet your defenders for the first time. They will ask that each family to have at least one member to join them. My heart goes out to those who must serve in this new duty. Know that if there was any other way to keep our home safe, I would not ask this of any of you.

I ask that you see the ponies of the Equestrian Legion as your long lost fellow ponies, not as foreign invaders. If Equestria is to survive in this difficult time, all of us must work together in harmony. I shall return to Canterlot soon. For now, my siblings must see to the royal duties that must be tended to. Please treat them with both respect and understanding.

Within his quarters, Terrato frowned at the end of the decree he was reading. Celestia’s royal seal marked the document as genuine. Copies were already circulating the Heartland. Behind him, Luna was also reading a copy.

“I know that this is necessary, but it does seem quite sad," Luna said with a sigh. "Don’t you think so, big brother?”

Terrato crumpled the decree and tossed it into the nearest garbage can. “What it seems is a little too sensitive,” he said. “It can stand to be more authoritative.”

“Big sister has never been one to impose authority on the Heartland’s ponies.” Luna folded the decree and set it aside.

“Is that why her capital is full of fops?”

Luna let out another sigh. “Of all the cities in the Heartland, you had to visit Canterlot. There are plenty of places that could have been more to your approval. You should have visited an earth pony settlement since you have such a fondness for them.”

“I assumed that a realm’s capital would be a good representation of its ponies in general,” Terrato replied. “I want you to go to the Heartland ahead of me, Luna. Settle their nerves a little before I show up.”

Luna tapped the floor with a front hoof. “And by 'settle their nerves', you really mean 'settle the barrage of questions this decree will set off by myself', don’t you?” she asked.

“That’s true too,” Terrato said with a shrug. His tone grew serious. “But that doesn't mean that my point doesn't stand. I have a few more details to take care of here. One of them should be responding soon.” As if on cue, his horn began to glow. “About time,” he muttered. He pointed his horn at the center of the room and an image began to materialize.

Luna gasped as the massive image of a dragon, a mere dragon’s head, nearly filled the room. Its individual scales were bigger than her hoof and as black as night itself. The four gigantic, sweeping horns were what commanded her attention. They curled around each other in an elaborate fashion until they resembled a crown. Despite the long time she spent away from this world, she had no problem identifying the sort of being with such an arrogant feature: Pride Dragon.

“The annoying frequency of your attempts at contact tells me that this is urgent, Prince Terrato,” the dragon said. Its rumbling voice echoed in the cave it was likely in. “What business do you have with me?”

“Celestia’s barrier has come down, Afralhadar, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed,” Terrato replied.

“The affairs of ponies are beneath my notice." Afralhadar sneered, revealing a row of enormous, dagger-like fangs. "What concern is it of mine that your sister has come out of hiding?”

“I’m not talking about ponies," Terrato said. "I’m talking about the dragons that have been living inside the barrier. The enchantments on them will have disappeared and it’s only a matter of time before they start feeling the effects. I can imagine that they've developed a different set of traditions than the ones you approve of. I can also imagine what they’ll do once they start acting on their revived wilder instincts.”

Afralhadar paused. An enormous claw appeared in the image to scratch the scales under his chin. “Dracodar behaving like animals," he growled. "You are right in bringing this matter to me after all. The Draco’dim will see to this affair.” The image shimmered, then slowly dissipated.

“I know that the Heartland’s dragons will start regaining their more violent sides, big brother," Luna said once she was sure that the last traces of the communication spell was gone, "but what did you just ask that pride dragon to do?”

“Afralhadar is a prominent member of the Draco’dim,” Terrato replied. “They’re a loose coalition of some of the oldest dragons around and the closest we’ll get to any form of organized dragon government. I just asked them to keep the Heartland dragons in line with Celestia’s enchantments fading.

“Can you trust them to just go into the Heartland without harming the ponies within?” Luna asked.

“They might eat a pony or two, but I doubt it. The Draco’dim consider ponies low-class fare. Unless one of them somehow starves while they’re there, the Heartland should be safe. A few eaten ponies will also a better alternative to a bunch of dragons rampaging about.”

Luna wrinkled her nose at the thought of some dragon casually tossing a pony into its massive jaws. “Just what exactly are they going to do there?” she asked.

“The high dragons are not interested in ruling, but they do follow a strict ideal of what it means to be a dragon; that is to carry one’s self with a degree of dignity and principle.”

“I can imagine that there are a lot of pride dragons in this coalition,” Luna said. “I've never heard of this group before.”

“Most of them are. They’re also relatively new. They started around eight hundred years ago. I don’t care much for their ideals, but it has been convenient in dealing with dragon attacks. They’ll make sure that the Heartland dragons don’t give them a bad reputation.” Terrato frowned. “The most likely scenario is that they will cull most of the Heartland dragons. The greed, lust, and gluttony ones that are too far gone will certainly be shown no mercy. The rest won’t fare better if they insist on resisting the Draco’dim ideal.”

Luna shook her head sadly. She was the one who told her brother that the dragons were slowly getting violent, but most of her concern was for the ponies of Equestria. That war and death would also take their toll on the dragons had not really crossed her mind before.

“One more thing,” Terrato said. Luna looked up. “Advise me, little sister. It’s about that young dragon with the Elements of Harmony.”

“His name is Spike,” Luna said.

Terrato raised an eyebrow. “Not exactly a dragon’s name.”

“He’s been raised by ponies and has spent his entire life assisting Twilight. Spike has the body of a dragon, but is essentially a pony in everything else.”

“At first, I was thinking of sending him to one of the Draco’dim.”

Luna gasped. “What? Why? Why let a bunch of pride dragons influence him?”

“Because he’s looking a little stunted. He’s not the first hatchling I've seen living with ponies. Spending a few months in the Western Barrier Land with the right dragon should give him a bit of growth and the proper skills to use his natural weapons. The Legion knows little in training his kind.”

“Are you doing this simply because you want a better soldier?” Luna asked.

“His friends are getting stronger and the front lines aren't exactly a place for him," Terrato said. "I need the Elements of Harmony nearby, but they don’t include him, do they?”

“He is still a very important friend to them,” Luna insisted.

Terrato snorted. “Then they should be glad that he’s being transferred to a safer place. It’s true that the Legion stands to benefit from a stronger Spike, but that doesn't mean I haven’t considered how this would help him.”

“I know that you mean well, big brother. From what you've told me, however, I don’t think the Draco’dim will be a good influence on him.”

“That’s why I said 'at first',” Terrato said with a sigh. “If the Draco’dim find out that he’s been working as Twilight’s 'assistant', they will kill him, then demand that we give them her head on a platter.”

It was Luna’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Then, where are you planning on sending him?”

Terrato smiled and stared off wistfully for a moment. “I know of a safer more reliable companion for him for the next six months or so,” he said. “A servant of mine who won’t kill him for being 'undignified'.”

“You have a dragon legionnaire?” Luna asked.

The smile lessened. “Not quite. She’ll do though.”

“I think that you should talk to Spike about this, big brother," Luna said. "Given his need to make up for his part in Black Rose’s plans, he's likely to agree, but you shouldn't use that to manipulate him into going along with your plans.”

Terrato's horn flashed gray and the image of his chamberlain materialized. “Rough Cut, send for Spike the dragon. Have him meet me here in my quarters.” His eyes narrowed. “He is not to be accompanied by any of his friends, especially Twilight Sparkle.”

“Yes, your Highness.” The image of Rough Cut disappeared.

“Did you really have to put that emphasis on Twilight?” Luna asked.

“I want his decision, not his friends’," Terrato muttered. "Especially not the pony who’s been giving him orders all his life.”

“Sounds like somepony I know,” Luna said. Terrato merely frowned at the jibe and waited. It took less than half an hour to have a very nervous Spike standing before them. Luna put a hoof on her brother’s shoulder when she noticed his frown deepen. She knew the signs. Courage and the ability to remain calm before his intimidating presence impressed Terrato. Unless it was Twilight. On the other hoof, groveling and nervousness irked him.

“Am…am I here because you want to punish me for helping Black Rose?” Spike asked. “Am I going to be whipped?”

“Why would I send you to my quarters to have you whipped?” Terrato asked. “Are you accusing me of something, Spike?”

“Big brother…” Luna said.

Terrato let out a long exhale, then spoke of his plan. By the time he was finished, Spike was still staring in confusion. His irritation grew again when it seemed that Spike hadn't understood a word he had just said. “Well?” he asked.

Spike eventually found his voice and the courage to use it. “This…this legionnaire you mentioned, what’s she like? Is she a dragon?”

“Her name is Seethe Scale," Terrato replied. "She gets a little broody at times, but I think you can work with her. She’s a kirin, not a dragon. Don't worry, she’ll know enough to help you.”

“Kirin?” Spike’s eyes widened further. “What’s that?”

“The unfortunate result of a meeting between a unicorn and a lust dragon. Enough about that. You can take your time in getting to know Seethe Scale once you meet her. So what’s your decision, Spike?”

“I want to go.”

Both Terrato and Luna’s eyes widened at the quick response. “Are you sure you don’t want to think it through at least?” Terrato asked. “I’m not going to punish you for taking your time on this.”

“Don’t think you’re being ordered to do this, Spike,” Luna added. “You were called here because it’s a choice you can make.”

“I’ve made my decision,” Spike said. “I’m not making it rashly either. I've been thinking about my part in all of this fighting these past three days. I can’t just stand around worrying while my friends are fighting so hard. I promised myself that if there was anything I could do to be of better use, I’d take it.”

Luna smiled. “That is very noble of you, Spike."

“It’s decided then,” Terrato said. “Settle your affairs here. Afterwards, I’ll have you transported to the Western Barrier Land.”

Spike saluted. All the nervous shaking had gone from his body. “Yes, sir,” he said.

Spike left the room. For all his determination, Luna noted the lack of hurry in his steps. As sure as Spike may be, breaking the news to his friends wasn't something to look forward to. “You should be going too, Luna,” Terrato said. “Put in a good word for me, will you?”

“I will, big brother. I’ll see you in the Heartland. One more thing…”


“Try to have a talk with big sister before going.”

Terrato snorted just before the teleportation spell took Luna away.

“Six months?” Twilight asked aghast. “Why? Why do you need to be sent away? You’re already plenty of help as it is!”

It was nighttime when Spike finally brought the topic up. Everypony was in already in their shared quarters. He had his reasons for delaying so much. For one thing, he was afraid of this sort of reaction from Twilight. For another, he knew that he’d be disturbing their duties if he brought it up during the day. It had been three days since the wolven were driven from Bastion City. Soon, they were going to be sent out to the front to help take back Fangbreaker Fortress. News had already trickled back to the city that some of the wolven were stubbornly holding on to it and they were proving difficult to root out.

“I’m not being sent away, Twilight,” Spike said. “His Highness gave me a chance and I took it. I know it sounds like a long time, but I’ll be back by spring.”

“We’re going to miss you, Spike,” Fluttershy said with a sad smile.

“Don’t say that!” Twilight glared at Fluttershy. She looked towards the rest of her friends. “Help me talk him out of it!”

“I dunno, sugarcube,” Applejack said. “He sounds like he’s made up his mind. You can’t argue with anypony who sounds like that. Or any dragon.”

In the background, Rainbow simply nodded.

“Let’s have a sending off party!” Pinkie said. “It will be fun! We can mix it in with our victory celebration!”

“I’ll bring the booze!” Scarlet said. He was gone before anypony could even react.

“Take care of yourself, Spike,” Vanguard said. “The next time we meet, we’ll be fighting side by side.”

Rarity embraced Spike. The feel of her forelegs around him nearly made him faint. “Working with Hammer Chain won’t be the same without you, Spikey-wikey. You’ll bring back a souvenir or two, won’t you?”

The sight of her friends going along with Spike’s departure all but deflated Twilight. Spike walked over to her with a sad smile of his own and a hug. “You’re really going to go through with this?” she asked.

“Cheer up, Twilight,” Spike said. “I’m more worried about you. I’ll be somewhere safer while all of you stay in the front lines. I’ll write to you too. It’ll be spring before you know it.

Twilight’s lips pressed together tightly. Spike wasn't bothered by her stubborn refusal. Twilight didn't always make the best decisions. She was easily flustered, prone to overreacting, and often got bogged down in details. But she always wanted what was best for those around her and she was more than smart enough to see the sense in this plan. “Just…stay safe, Spike,” she said. He beamed inside. As he expected of her. “Tell this Seethe Scale that if I see so much as a scratch on you when you return, she’ll have to deal with me!”

Spike chuckled, then nodded. “Take care of yourself, Twilight,” he said. He paused for a moment, then just stared at her. This was going to be the last time he would get a good look at Twilight for a while. For all his smiling reassurance, he was scared. Not just at the thought of spending several months away from his sister, but at the thought of meeting her again only to find a mare he didn't recognize. A lot of changes had happened in the short time they had spent here. How many more could he expect in six months? This could be the last time they were all together like this. The smile on his face threatened to crumble, but he fought to keep it, and turned around to look at Pinkie. “How about that party?”

Still grinning from ear to ear, Pinkie was already going for the door. “On it!” she sang out.

For the remainder of the night, Twilight and her friends celebrated. It didn't matter that it was late or that she was just one cook in the kitchens. Pinkie promised a party for them when the wolven siege was broken and she promised Spike a party before he left in the morning. True to her word, there was indeed a party ready in less than an hour.

“This much of a spread in such a short time, and in such an impromptu start…” Vanguard said. “I’m impressed.”

Pinkie had managed to scrounge up a turntable from somewhere. The others could only hope it wasn't stolen, even accidentally. The upbeat music encouraged dancing and most of the ponies in the party were already doing so. Vanguard and Twilight, however, stood by the sidelines.

“Don’t be impressed yet,” Twilight said as stood next to Vanguard. Two plates with slices of cake floated next to her, one of which she offered to him. “You should see her with her party cannon. This was at a snail’s pace compared to that.”

Vanguard took the plate with a nod of appreciation. Twilight noticed him look to one side. She followed his gaze, and spotted Scarlet guzzling a drink. At the other side of the room, she spotted Applejack chatting up Rainbow. As always, Vanguard seemed more concerned with how everypony else was doing instead of his own enjoyment. It was only when he suddenly looked at her did Twilight notice that she was staring. She quickly looked away before he noticed anything. “So...uh…that’s some interesting music that Pinkie found,” she said. “Is it the sort of music that’s popular in the Barrier Lands?”

“That's Runthrough's music,” Vanguard replied. “It looks like somepony in Bastion City still keeps up with music from the southerly cities. From what I heard around the fortress before, he’s a little too traditional for some of the younger legionnaires, but his music is still danceable.”

"Do you like that sort of music?" Twilight asked.

"Not really." Vanguard smiled. "Although, if you played some of my favorites here, passing ponies will think that there's a funeral going on."

“I see…” Twilight’s voice trailed off. She filled the silence by taking a large bite of the cake.

Vanguard chewed on a more modest bite of his slice. “Still sad?” he asked after swallowing.

“I can’t help it,” Twilight replied. “So many things can go wrong with this, and that’s not even considering that I will miss him.”

“There will be plenty of time to be sad and miss Spike in the next six months,” Vanguard said. He turned his gaze towards the middle of the room where Fluttershy, Spike, and Pinkie, were dancing. “But you won’t get to be happy for him until he comes back.”

Twilight was quiet for a moment. “That’s true,” she said. Before she could say anything else, Applejack trotted over to them.

“Don’t stand there like a stick in the mud, Vanguard, dance with us!” Applejack said with a grin. She grabbed hold of Vanguard’s unbarded forelegs, and pulled him to the center of the room.

“I don’t know any of your chosen dances,” Vanguard said.

“Oh horse apples! Stop thinking about chosen and barrier lands ponies for minute, and just move those legs!” Applejack turned her attention towards Twilight. “You too, Twi,” she said.

Twilight let out a long exhale. Vanguard was right of course. She set aside her own melancholy, even the strange twinge in her chest when Applejack started dancing next to Vanguard while giggling at his awkward steps. She was going to celebrate along with her friends no matter what lay past this night. The smile came less forced this time when she spotted Pinkie at the center of all the dancing. This was her element after all: Joy in the face of all the crushing uncertainties of the Barrier Lands, joy spurred by will not emotion. For tonight, Twilight was going to wield that joy against the fangs of Fenrir, and the machinations of Black Rose.

Tomorrow, the rest of the battle will go on.

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