• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 3,692 Views, 95 Comments

Darkness' Embrace - Tricondon

Twilight has to save Equestria before time runs out.

  • ...

Home Revisited

Chapter 2

Home Revisited

Twilight groaned as she opened her eyes, looking at her surroundings. The ground was soft and wet, most likely the result of a recent rain. A peculiar smell hung in the air, but she couldn’t recognize it. Wearily, she rose to her feet, her head pounding and her muscles screaming in protest. Mud stuck to her stomach and legs, but she ignored it for the moment. Twilight swung her head left and right, but could not spot any trace of her friends.

“Spike?” Twilight croaked. She cleared her throat and licked her lips. Dimly, Twilight took note of her overbearing thirst and hunger. Clearing her throat again, Twilight tried calling out once more. “Fluttershy? Where are you?” Twilight waited, silently counting to ten. There was no response; the street was as deserted as it had been before she woke.

Images of the black thing from before raced through her mind: the green Unicorn being swallowed, Twilight’s strange spell, Fluttershy and Spike being swallowed as well regardless of the protection. She paused, furrowing her brow. The spell had been cast around all three of us. Why weren’t they protected? she thought to herself. Shaking her head, Twilight looked around again, trying to find some hint of life.

Twilight gaped as she took in her surroundings. Everywhere she looked, there was destruction. Nearly half of the houses in Ponyville were gone, stripped down to their foundation, and what was remaining was being held together by prayer. Whole trees were uprooted; gardens once filled with flowers were now little more than dirt. Unusually, however, Twilight noticed that all the roads seemed to be cleared of any debris. She shook her head in confusion, though a sharp pain in her neck told her she probably shouldn’t do that too often.

“What the hay happened here?” Twilight glanced around slowly, being careful not to strain her neck again. Most of Ponyville was still recognizable; the light coming from the full moon above made it rather easy to see – Wait a minute. Full moon? Twilight abruptly halted her scan of the town and looked up. The full moon hung above the town, perched directly overhead.

“But, but that can’t be right! It was only a crescent moon last night!” Panic began rising in her voice once again. Twilight closed her eyes, breathing in deeply and slowly. “Ok, ok, calm down. I have to find my friends, and then we can go look for Princess Celestia, and find a way to fix this.” With that, Twilight set out for the center of town, or at least what remained of it.

Ponyville was eerily quiet at Twilight passed through silently. There was no sound, save that of the cool wind blowing constantly and the soft clop clop clop of Twilight’s hooves. She looked around as she walked, noting how the entirety of town seemed to be falling apart. There wasn’t a single building she could see without some damage done to it. Many houses were missing doors or windows, some roofs had collapsed in on themselves, gaping holes dotted other houses, the insides clearly visible, although many homes were barren of any furniture.

Twilight poked her nose into one of the houses that still had a few tables and chairs in it. They were covered in a thick layer of dust, as was the floor. She looked up and could see the moon through a giant hole in the ceiling. Curiousity got the better of her and Twilight walked inside the house, if it could even be called such a thing.

The air inside the house was stale and just as dusty as the sparse furnishings that had been left behind, for some reason. Paintings and framed pictures still hung the wall, though some had fallen over, and Twilight stepped over the glass carefully. The kitchen was in a state of turmoil, some old rotted thing still sitting on the table. At some point in time it was probably a carrot or maybe even an apple, but now it was just a stinky brown mush.

Snorting, Twilight left the kitchen and resumed exploring the run-down house. A few more chairs, a discoloured couch, a few decomposing books – magazines and gossip tabloids, if the faded covers were any hint to go by. Twilight came across an old staircase heading up, but she was uncertain if she trusted the rotten stairs in front of her to hold her weight. Hesitantly she began to climb up; despite loud groans and a sickening crunch about halfway up, the stairs miraculously didn’t collapse.

Twilight let out her breath as she reached the top, unaware she had been holding it the entire time. A gentle breeze caught her attention, and she wandered down the hall. A door was hanging half open, broken off one of its hinges, and couldn’t close quite properly. Twilight nudged the door open, wincing as this tiny movement was all it took for the door to break off entirely, crashing onto the floor loudly.

The sound spooked a number of birds that had been resting inside, and they caw’d in indignation as they took flight. Stepping into the room beyond, Twilight gawked in shock. The room wasn’t there. The wall where the doorway was was the only one still standing; Twilight had a perfect view of the rest of the broken town, courtesy of whatever had destroyed the house. A strange smell wafted around her, and Twilight wrinkled her nose in disgust.

The fluttering of a bird landing in front of her caught her attention, and Twilight finally looked at the floor. She felt her stomach lurch and bile rise to her throat; there, not two feet from her lay a dead pony. What little flesh remained bore the unmistakable signs of severe burns, and Twilight could see a few bones through particularly burned skin. It had been left to rot for Celestia knows how long, and the birds Twilight had spooked earlier had returned and were relishing in their meal.

Twilight felt a wave of nausea overcome her, and she tried in vain to hold back, but the smell continued stinging her nose and she retched, emptying her stomach of its contents right beside the dead pony.

Gasping for air, Twilight inhaled sharply and nearly hurled again, taking in big gulps of air tainted by rotting flesh. Holding back her revulsion she bolted from the house, running down the stairs and out the door, tears stinging her eyes the entire time.

She ran for some time, dashing through the decaying streets, turning left and right at random, unsure where she was heading. She just wanted to get away. She eventually found herself in front of Town Hall, or at least what remained. Only a few pieces of the frame were left standing; the rest of the building was in shambles around the central support. It was here that Twilight finally stopped running, trying hard not to sob and throw up again. She leaned against one of the support beams that had been left standing, catching her breath and keeping her eyes squeezed tightly shut.

I’m going to open my eyes and everything will be back to normal. This is all just a horrible, horrible nightmare. Fearing what she might see, Twilight cracked one eye open and wailed. The same devastated town stood before her. With a heavy heart, Twilight stood up straight, glancing around the broken city, searching for some sign of life.

A flash of colour and movement amidst the fallen wreckage caught her eye. Twilight stepped over the broken wood gingerly, only to come across a piece of fabric fluttering in the breeze. It was trapped beneath a supporting beam. It seemed to have been there quite some time, as the lettering was faded and difficult to make out. Twilight stared at the fabric for a moment, glancing between it and the timbers of Town Hall.

“This isn’t right,” Twilight mused. “Why’s everything look so old?” Inhaling sharply, Twilight’s mind raced as she started piecing together what was so wrong with the town. The unicorn surveyed the remains of Town Hall, noting how faded the colouring was. The magazines in the house she explored were the same, and the decay of the pony, from what she could recall without vomiting again, lent credence to the theory. The sections of wood were in various stages of decay and rot, and paint was beginning to peel. Looking out over the ruins of Ponyville, Twilight only found more of the same. It was as if Ponyville had simply been abandoned and left to weather the elements on its own. Twilight shook her head, refusing to believe her eyes.

“No, no, no. This can’t be right. I couldn’t have jumped through time…could I? But…” she surveyed the town once more. “But it looks like Ponyville’s been a ghost town for at least a couple of years.” She raised a hoof to her head, rubbing it slightly, feeling the start of a headache. “What is going on here?!”

A sudden dizziness made Twilight’s knees weak, and she unsteadily began climbing down, getting off the unsafe pile of broken wood. Once at the ground the unicorn slumped over, the lightheadedness and headache only intensifying. Twilight wobbled around unevenly, groaning slightly as she collapsed to the ground, clutching her stomach in pain as her head throbbed.

Twilight blinked as she rose to her feet slowly, yawning and stretching broadly. She smacked her lips and gave another yawn. “Mm, I don’t even remember falling asleep.” Twilight looked around sleepily, the surrounding area still covered in darkness. The purple unicorn glanced up and gave a small gasp. She blinked and rubbed her eyes and opened them again, but the scene remained unchanged. The full moon still hung in the sky, as if it had never moved.

Twilight’s jaw dropped as she tried to process this. “But, but that isn’t right!” A feeling of queasiness swept over the unicorn, and she clenched her eyes shut, muttering “No, no. Don’t pass out again.” Twilight took a couple of deep breaths, steadying her nerves until the nausea faded. Opening her eyes slowly, she looked around, mumbling to herself. “Moon hanging above us. Strange lights from Canterlot. That bizarre black thing that swallowed everypony else.” Twilight shook her head. “None of it makes sense!”

Looking around the destroyed Ponyville, however, doubt continued to creep into Twilight’s mind, a slew of unanswered questions forming with each passing second. Tears welled up in her eyes once more, dropping to the ground below as she simply stood where she was. The sounds of hoofbeats getting louder made Twilight’s ears perk up, and she looked around for the source, blinking away the last of her tears.

Rounding a corner, Twilight could now make out the sounds of metal scraping against metal along with the steady pulse of hooves. Peering through the darkness, Twilight could just make out a small group of ponies; the moonlight glinted off their armour, and Twilight sighed in relief as she recognized the colours of the royal guard.

“Guards! Guards!” Twilight called out as she ran towards them, her heart and her thoughts racing. If the guards are here, then maybe Princess Celestia knows what’s going on. Maybe she can help me. Maybe she’s been looking for me. As Twilight neared the guards, a few of them noticed her, and began backing up, their faces contorted in fear and confusion.

Twilight skidded to a stop, panting for breath as she eyed the guards. There were five of them, and all but one had all manner of dents and scrapes in his armour. Of what little skin was showing Twilight could just make out a few old scars and bruises. One guard was missing an ear, lobbed off some time ago from the looks of it. The one guard whose armour contained no defects was visibly younger than the others, which Twilight took to assume he hadn’t yet been in any serious fights. She also noted that they wore more armour than she could recall; very little was left unguarded, save for their hooves, the Pegasi’s wings, and for the unicorns, their horns poking out the top of their helmets. Each one clanked noisily with every move.

The youngest guard was the first to speak. “Ah, my Lady, please, we are just beginning our rounds.” He was rudely cut off by the guard missing an ear.

“Silence, cadet. Speak only when spoken to.” Bowing his head, the young cadet backed up a few paces. Missing Ear turned back to Twilight. “Forgive him, my Lady. He has yet to learn proper deference.” Twilight nodded uncertainly, eying the group of guards. With a deep inhale, Twilight broke the silence that had fallen.

“Guards. What’s happened here? What happened to Ponyville?” her voice died out, the question unanswered. The unusual glances the guards were exchanging with each other made Twilight uneasy. A flash of colour to her left caught Twilight’s eye, but, glancing that way, she could see nothing. Finally one of the unicorns spoke hesitantly.

“Uh, you destroyed it, my Lady, several years ago. Can’t you remem…” a blur of movement passed between Twilight and the guards. The unicorn stopped midsentence, his mouth hanging open. For a moment time seemed to stand still, until Twilight could just make out a few drops of blood dripping from the unicorn’s mouth. The guard’s body twitched slightly and he pitched to the side, falling over. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Without another word the other guards snapped to action. They formed a tight circle around Twilight, facing away. Twilight only noted the guard’s actions dimly, her gaze still focused on the dead unicorn, his eyes still horrifically open, facing upwards at her. A pool of blood was slowly growing from the unicorn’s body.

A sharp yell to her right forced Twilight’s gaze from the dead guard. Looking over, she gasped in terror. One of the Pegasus guards was missing a wing, a still-bleeding stump sticking from his side. Glancing down, Twilight spotted the missing wing, severed from its body. Beside it lay a very large knife, the blade sticking down into the ground. Bile began to rise in her throat; the horror of the scene was beginning to make her knees weak. Another cry came from behind her. Dreading what she might find, yet unable to not look, the purple unicorn turned around. The cadet had pulled a large sword from its scabbard, clenching the hilt between his teeth, and was viciously fighting another pony.

This other pony engaged in battle with the young cadet wore all black, with only his – hers? – eyes showing. Twilight could see neither horn nor wings, yet he moved effortlessly, going hoof-to-hoof with the surprisingly adept cadet. The pony was using a knife not unlike the one laying in the ground behind her, yet was deflecting each of the cadet’s blows with ease, despite the incredible size difference between the two weapons.

All around her, Twilight became aware of other ponies joining the fight. Some were garbed like the first pony she saw fighting the cadet, others wore armour similar to the guards,’ though it didn’t seem to fit them that well.

Twilight felt her feet leave the ground. Looking up, she spotted two Pegasi attempting to carry her away. She gave a shriek and flailed her limbs uselessly. Below her, the other Pegasus guard took to the wing. He flew up, pulling his sword from his scabbard, and sliced it through the air. Twilight and her would-be kidnappers fell to the ground in a heap, both Pegasi now wingless. They cried out in equal parts pain and alarm, but not for long; the Pegasus guard swooped down low, his sword swinging, and Twilight’s kidnappers fell silent.

Climbing to her feet and stepping away, Twilight surveyed the scene. The Pegasus guard with two functioning wings was flying above, attacking any other Pegasi that got too close. The one missing a wing was leaping around, using his one good wing for a little extra lift, though Twilight could see it hurt him with every flap. The other unicorn guard was swinging a number of swords and knives around, all supported by his magic. He didn’t seem to be hitting anything, though; the other ponies fighting him were wisely keeping their distance and merely deflecting his attacks. The cadet was backed up against a wall, three other ponies closing in on him. At some point in the battle, he had lost his weapon and was cowering in fear. A few trickles of blood were running down his face and armour. Twilight felt her features harden in anger.

“NO!” her voice pierced the air as a blast of magic erupted from her horn. The three ponies ganging up on the cadet were brushed aside harmlessly. The cadet looked up, relief clearly showing. A flash of movement to her left forced Twilight to whirl on her hooves, ready to fight. Yet there was nothing there ready to face her. Twilight let her guard down a moment, looking around in confusion.

The attack came from her right, a solid kick to her side. Twilight cried out as she heard something snap – a rib, perhaps? – and she fell to the ground. The sounds of fighting were beginning to subside. Twilight quickly climbed back to her feet, despite her pain, and looked around. The cadet was at her side, sword in mouth, blood dripping from the blade. Another blaze of movement and Twilight glanced towards it, ready for another sneak attack.

She froze in horror as she looked over in time to see the unicorn guard fall to the ground, a sword sticking out of his back, the armour having been forcibly removed at some point. The Earth Pony lording over him gave a flick of his neck, and the unicorn’s horn went flying off, landing at Twilight’s feet. The unicorn gave a shriek of panic; another flick of the Earth Pony’s neck and the unicorn dropped, blood spurting from his neck.

Twilight stared at the detached horn lying before her, shock and revulsion freezing her in place. Time seemed to slow down as she looked around blankly. One-Winged Pegasus gave a moan of pain and fell to the ground, blood spurting from several wounds; above, the other Pegasus gave a cry as both of his wings were cut off mid-flight. He plummeted to the ground and was quickly surrounded.

Her attention diverted, Twilight never noticed the Earth Pony, the same one that had killed the unicorn guard, come up in front of her and deliver a firm kick to her face. Twilight dropped like a stone, her head swimming. She looked up in time to see the pony do the same to the cadet still standing beside her; he, too, fell to the ground. Above, a Pegasus wearing all black descended on herself and the cadet. Twilight wearily tried climbing to her feet, but only managed to put her weight on her front hooves before another kick to her side rolled her onto her back.

Battered and beaten, Twilight could only lay there in pain, awaiting her fate. Out the corner of her eye, she could see the cadet, his chest rising as he breathed. Twilight raised her head, making a final attempt at a spell. A Pegasus quickly dashed over and gave Twilight a gentle kick to the head. Twilight gave a final groan and collapsed, blacking out.