• Published 7th Sep 2013
  • 16,608 Views, 1,249 Comments

Courage - scion



Evil has come to the Everfree and Ponyville. The Elements must stand against it... but they will not be alone. The mysterious blue-eyed wolf will aid-or hamper- their efforts to bring harmony back to Equestria.

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Eternal Night

It was dark when Link broke from the trees at the edge of the town of ponies. It was slightly concerning to him; the day and night cycles of this land seemed to mirror those of his home, and as such, it should be day by now. Then again, the night did not seem unnatural to his senses, with the bright stars and the clear moonlight, nothing at all like the spirit world of twilight he had forced back earlier. Unable to come to a satisfactory answer on his own, Link decided to head to town, where the townsponies may be able to let him know what was going on.

A familiar slap on his shoulders signaled that Midna was ready to go. Link set off at a moderate walk towards the light of the town in the dead of the night.

---

Mayor Mare had been dreading this moment ever since it had become clear that the sun was not going to rise this morning. She had spent the time frantically requesting information from Canterlot using every method she could think of, but the response had been far worse than she could have imagined.

The situation is under control; please remain calm. Please send the Element Bearers to Canterlot as soon as possible by Friendship Express, an urgent matter has arisen.

Her Royal Highness,
Princess Mi Amore Cadenza

Having spent a life in politics, she knew the language. They had no idea what was going on any more than she did.

Even worse, after she had sent for the Bearers, she was forced to write back with terrible, terrible news. The Bearers were gone. The runner she had sent out for the six heroic mares had returned with word that there were signs of a struggle at Fluttershy's house. Spike, who had been found in the Library, was able to tell even more. He remembered, right before he fell asleep, seeing Nightmare Moon.

Mayor Mare gulped at the mere thought. Nightmare Moon. The boogeymare of foals everywhere, once thought to be a myth, once redeemed, now returned. It became clear as to why Celestia's Sun had not risen this morning.

Mayor Mare swallowed through her suddenly dry throat and nervously straightened her glasses before leaving her office and heading to the podium outside the town hall. As mayor of the town, she had to try to keep the populace calm.

How she was going to do that she did not know.

"There's Mayor Mare! She can tell us what's going on!"

She hadn't even realized she had reached the podium in the dim light of the torches. Then she found herself being stared at by the majority of the population of the small town, each clamoring for an answer.

"Quiet! Please, everypony, settle down, settle down!" she shouted above the din. It took a few seconds, but then she had their undivided attention. She almost wished she didn't. More out of habit than anything, she made a show of organizing the papers she had brought with her, even though they had nothing on them. With nothing else to tell them, she brought the letter to the forefront and began making it up as she went along.

"Citizens of Ponyville, please, remain calm–"

"Why hasn't the Sun come up!" demanded a hysterical pony from the back. The uncertain and panicked chatter came back in full force.

"Please, everypony, remain calm!" she shouted across the din.

"But what if it never rises again?! What if Nightmare Moon has returned and Celestia has been defeated and the night will last forever and she demands our candy as tribute and–"

Mayor Mare grimaced as Roseluck, through sheer paranoia, managed to hit the nail on the head. Well, mostly. She was pretty sure that Nightmare Moon would not be demanding candy as tribute to her reign, nor was it likely that Moon Pies be the only food that could be eaten forever more. She was also suddenly aware of just how silent the crowd was after the random accusation. They were all waiting for her to deny it.

"Ah-hem." She adjusted her glasses nervously. "Please remain calm, Canterlot is doing everything they can in this crisis–"

Mayor Mare got no further as the crowd of ponies dissolved into a panicked stampede in every direction. Unnoticed in the confusion, Link slipped away down a darkened alley, having heard everything.

---

Link had been all over the town, looking for some pony that knew what was going on. His first move had been to find Fluttershy, considering she was the only one who even partially understood him. It appeared that she had been taken, however. From the signs of struggle and the unfamiliar smell, she had not been taken without a fight, but she was nonetheless gone.

He had then run back to town to find it still in the throes of panic. By this point, it looked like the majority of them were stocking up and fortifying– windows had planks over them, doors were locked tight, and every pony out on the streets was galloping at full speed with saddlebags stuffed full of supplies of every sort.

Which, to be honest, was nice because he wasn’t getting any particularly strange looks. Then again, he nearly got trampled several times.

By the time he reached the circular house where Rarity lived, the streets were emptying. He had scratched and whined at her door for several minutes, but no one answered. Link contemplated going directly to the farm where Epona was, but decided on one last stop before he left town. The hollow tree in the middle of town housed Twilight Sparkle, who seemed to be the leader of the little group of friends he had come to know. Perhaps she would be able to point him in the right direction, or tell him what was going on.

By the time he reached the tree library, the streets were devoid of life.

He scratched on the wooden door, then sat down, feeling Midna clamp into his sides as he did so. Hopefully someone was home and could tell him what was going on.

---

"Food, check. Water, check. Backpack, check."

Spike had lived for many years with Twilight Sparkle. Even more so, he had learned her obsessive compulsive habits, mainly so that he could help to prevent them, or so he knew when to hide. The checklist was her most powerful. It was almost mystical how a proper checklist, dictated by Twilight and written by yours truly, could make even the most complex or demanding task simple, so long as it was well planned and all the steps were meticulously followed. As such, Spike had written a checklist of his own.

Checklist to Save Twilight and All of Ponyville from Nightmare Moon

1. Food.
2. Water.
3. Backpack.
4. Go into Everfree Forest
5. Defeat Nightmare Moon

Unfortunately, Twilight was usually the one that came up with the checklist, not Spike. He usually just wrote it down.

As Spike looked over his supplies in his little backpack, he felt as though he was missing something. Something important. He paused. He had food, he had water, he had something to carry it in.... what else did he need to defeat the Nightmare?

Spike smacked his forehead.

A sword, of course! And a shield.

The brainwave caused him to frown. Link hadn’t returned that stuff to him yet! How was he going to find Link and get his stuff back so he could save the day and rescue Rarity again?

Scratching came from the door of the library.

Now, scratching was not the normal sound of something at the door, since ponies made more of a dull thud with their heavy hooves. Spike instantly made the connection and rushed over to open it.

“Link! Come on!” He had barely opened the door before rushing off to get his backpack and finish packing it. He had spread out all the items on the floor, to make certain they were there before ticking them off. As he did so, he rushed to tell Link everything he had found.

“Nightmare Moon is back! She put me to sleep and she must have taken Twilight and all the other Elements! She went into the Everfree, the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, you can’t see it normally but through Twi’s telescope I could see pegasi guards and turquoise lights coming from it! It’s gotta be where she took them!”

Spike struggled with the zipper on the pack for a moment. A ruby shard fell out of the top as it did so. Shrugging, Spike popped it into his mouth, savoring the juicy flavor of the gem, before getting his pack on and turning around.

“C’mon, we gotta–”

Spike stopped dead. On Link’s back was the little imp creature they had been telling him about. He hadn’t really seen it yet, so he was able to dismiss it in his mind, but now he saw her. Sitting on Link’s back, in HIS spot.

“So, uhh, yea, if you could scootch up a little bit I could fit behind you…” he said timidly.

Link chuffed. The imp on his back looked at Spike, then back at Link.

“C’mon,” he implored Link. “I helped you with the Diamond Dogs, if you give me my sword and shield back I can totally help you with– HEY!”

Feelings of deja vu abounded as Spike found himself picked up off the ground by his backpack. He thrashed, to no avail.

“OH COME ON!”

His protests rang throughout the town as Link set off for Sweet Apple Acres at a steady sprint.

---

“What are we gonna do ‘bout this, girls?” Applebloom asked.

“We can’t just let Nightmare Moon take them!” Scootaloo shouted angrily at nothing.

“We have to do something,” Sweetie Bell agreed.

“Nnnnope!” came a rather distinctive bass voice. All three looked up to find that Big Macintosh had invaded their clubhouse.

“But Big Mac…”

“Nope. Ya’ll are comin’ with me to the house,” he told them on no uncertain terms.

“No way!” Scootaloo thrust her chest out and spread her wings defiantly. “We’re going to go defeat Nightmare Moon and get back Rainbow Dash!”

“Nope.”

Scootaloo was about to say something else, probably something along the lines of ‘You’re not the boss of me!’, but was cut off when Big Mac hoisted her into the air by her mane. The look he shot at the other two foals made it clear they would suffer the same fate if they argued. With Scootaloo kicking and complaining, Big Mac set off to the farmhouse with the other two foals trailing meekly behind.

Despite being just past noon, it was as dark as midnight out, and it was not likely to end soon. Big Macintosh had woken up to find the dreaded Nightmare Moon levitating the unconscious body of his sister out of the house, the Element she had been keeping in her chest in her room clutched in the wicked mare’s magic. He’d charged out to try to rescue his younger sister, something, anything to stop Nightmare Moon from taking not just a member of his family but possibly the only hope they had of defeating her, but before he had taken a single pace out the door he just… went to sleep. By the time he had woken up to the taste of dirt and grass and failure in his mouth, Nightmare Moon was long gone. The clock told him six hours had passed; well into mid-morning now, yet the world was as black as the night before.

With AJ gone, it was down to him to take care of the rest of the family. Granny was just too old to put up with a pony as young as Applebloom for any more than a few hours, and Bloom was just too young to know how to stay out of trouble. Now, with the eternal night closing in, Mac found himself without any chores to do but sit at home and watch the house. It was good he suddenly didn’t have any chores outside; making sure ‘Bloom, and by extension her friends, didn’t do anything stupid, may well be the only thing he had time for.

He stomped up the dark porch and dropped Scootaloo just inside the threshold of the door, before holding the door for the other two. He had just stepped inside himself when Granny let out a holler that echoed around the house.

“Soups’ up!” came her voice from the kitchen. Mac wordlessly ushered them to the dining room, where the right number of places had already been set out. Granny came in a second later, a pot with piping hot soup jittering and rattling on her back, yet somehow none spilled. She set the steaming bowl down in the middle of the table, next to the mashed potatoes, bread, and hay fries. Sweetie Bell reached for a roll, but a sharp rap from Granny’s wooden cooking spoon stopped her short.

“Ain’t no food ‘till we say graces, young’n,” Granny reprimanded. “Bloom?”

Applebloom put her hooves together and bowed her head, as did Granny. Scootaloo tried to use the opportunity to grab a roll, but a firm look from Mac and she thought better of it. Then he bowed his head too.

“For food, for raiment, for life, for opportunity, for friendship and family, we thank thee Celestia Morningstar and Luna Nightbringer. A-men.”

The prayer still sounded strange to Mac’s ears. He’d grown up praising ‘Celestia of the Heavens’. Still, only made sense what with Princess Luna returning. Though with the Nightmare having returned he doubted many ponies were saying that last part on this dark day.

The others dug in, grabbing rolls and soup and fries and veggies, but Mac stood up and went into the kitchen. Lunch had been served here, but there was still one last pony who needed lunch to be served.

Mac grabbed a bowl of oatmeal from the kitchen and headed out the door to the barn. It was unlocked, and she was free to roam about wherever she desired, but she had been sticking close to the barn all day, nopony knew why. In the dark of the eternal night, it was just one more mystery that nopony worried about because there was too much else going on. Epona was resting on the hay in the barn in the flickering candlelight when Mac opened the doors; he trotted over, careful not to spill her lunch, and set it down before her.

"Thank you," she told him.

Mac smiled a bit and tilted his head in acknowledgement. It was a real shame she couldn't fit in the house. In times like these, everypony needed to stick close together. Strength in numbers; many ponies, one herd.

Mac started as the barn door creaked open behind him.

"C'mon, please, I just want to help, just a little bit..." Spike complained from his hanging position. The wolf, Link, made eye contact with Mac.

They'd seen each other before, what with Epona making her home on the farm. He visited her often and in him, Big Mac saw something of a kindred spirit. A creature who let his actions, not his words, do the talking. Someone who wasn't afraid to do the dirty or hard jobs, if that was what it took. Between the simple farmer and the heroic predator, there was understanding that went far beyond words.

Mac slid the hay sprig over in his mouth as Link dropped Spike to the ground, then headed over to Epona. He headed for the young dragon as Link set about rousing his companion.

"C'mon, young'n. Plenty a' room in the house for ya," he told the dragon with a slow drawl.

"But–"

Mac lay a hoof on the dragon's shoulders. "Nope."

They stood like that as Link loped out of the barn, followed by the quick, heavy clops of Epona. He could feel Spike wilting as the two disappeared into the unnatural night. With the last sight of Epona's tail, the young dragon collapsed to his knees.

"Why? I could help," he whispered.

There was so much more behind those words. Helplessness. Hope. The desire to be meaningful in some small, insignificant way, even if for a moment. A feeling Mac sometimes struggled with himself, with his sister putting herself in harms way so often. He was silent for a few moments as he struggled with the right words.

"Ya already helped enough," he finally drawled. Spike looked up at the big stallion. "It's dangerous, what he's doin'. May not come back. He wants you safe." He shuffled his hooves. "S' not that he doesn't want yer help. He just doesn't want t' see you get hurt."

He looked down at the little dragon at his hooves.

"C'mon. Lunch's up in the house."

---

Epona followed Link without hesitation and without fear into the night. She followed him into the forest. She stood by his side even as they were attacked by red-eyed timberwolves, her hooves sending several to a splintery fate. Together, they passed twisted trees, swam a raging river, and with significant magical help from the little creature on his back, crossed a very deep and dark ravine.

Before them now stood the ruins of a castle. The stonework may have been rather dilapidated, but it was clear even to Epona that the place was not empty. It was lit with soft blue and purple light in places, and a tuquoise shield covered the door and all holes in the wall. It was clear that somepony did not want them to get in.

This did not seem to deter Link, even though to Epona it looked impasssible. She idly waited as he sniffed around, before heading off towards the left; Epona followed. Together, the two descended down, past closed ruins of the castle, on a trail that seemed more imaginary than real at times, the big horse trailing after her master. Until finally, he stopped.

It was dozens of feet below the nearest section of castle; nothing more than an indent in the cliff the castle was perched upon. But after a few moments of observation, Epona spotted what Link saw. At the back was a rockfall, partially blocking an old iron gate. Beyond it, a small, dark hole beckoned. A way in.

Link was already tugging at a chain when she made the connection. His feet scrabbled on the rock as he struggled in vain to pull the chain. A particularly vicious tug managed to lift the gate a hair off the rock, before the weight overcame his grip and it settled on the floor once more. Link growled in frustration.

Epona considered for a moment.

"I could do it," she offered. She hesitated for a moment. "Maybe. I don't think I can do it without a harness though."

Link looked up from the chain.

Epona heard the snap of fingers, then started backwards in alarm as something orange appeared from nothing. It took a moment for her to calm down, but it quickly became clear what had happened. A harness, made from orange magic, was attached to the chain. A harness that was open, and would fit her perfectly.

It took only a moment for her to back into it. The orange magic sealed itself around her, securing the chain to her as Link looked on.

Epona pawed at the ground, shod hoof clacking against the rocks. Then, she put her hooves to the ground, and pulled. Behind her, the iron portcullis gate creaked and groaned as it rose.

Link looked her in the eye as she held the gate. She gave him a nod. He nodded back.

Link padded over to the hole; it was not much larger than he was, and the creature on his back vanished into his shadow as he approached. After a moment, he also vanished into the yawning blackness.

The orange magic-harness disappeared, and with it the gate crashed back against the stone.

It was all up to him now.

Author's Note:

This chapter took me a while. I have to confess that someone gave me a very interesting idea in the comments, having Spike wield the Master Sword and assist him like he did in the previous dungeon. I even wrote part of it out. After all, it would have allowed me to 'show' you the dungeon through Spike's eyes, something I won't be doing a lot of now because this story isn't from Link or Midna's point of view. I decided against it for two reasons: One, Link wouldn't risk, say, Malo, without a very, very good reason for it. Two, this allows Link to complete the dungeon with all his powers- aka, being able to shift to a human. While we will never see it on screen (this is not a human in Equestria story), it can be inferred he will be using this to get around the dungeon some of the time, and I would prefer not to have Spike 'see' this.

It also avoids the debate about whether or not he can wield the Master Sword (which I was, when I wrote the section, of the opinion that YES, he could, or at least he could swing it around like any other sword. But that's not important now).

The prayer I have Applebloom say is a modified version of one which I say whenever I am asked to say grace. It comes from a particular place. First person to guess where it comes from gets... I dunno, a cookie? Nah- the prize is one question that will get a completely truthful answer in the comments. Bonus points if they have been there.

Don't expect the next chapter out fast. Work has picked up again, and I need to get a chapter for my other story out as well. Give it two to three weeks.