• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 3,690 Views, 95 Comments

Darkness' Embrace - Tricondon

Twilight has to save Equestria before time runs out.

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Chapter 3


The smell of smoke filled the mare’s nostrils. She snorted in a vain effort to clear her nose, but more smoke flowed in as quickly as it was expelled. With a humorless chuckle, she cast a spell; a bubble formed around her, protecting her from the smoke and ash floating amid the air. A yell to her left caught her attention, and the Unicorn turned to look. A pony – and a rather strapping specimen, she thought – had found a pick-axe and was running at her, the axe clenched between his teeth. His eyes were quite feral; there was no doubt he intended to kill. The Unicorn’s horn glowed again, and the protective bubble around her shimmered a moment. The axe-wielding pony swung his head, but the axe bounced off the bubble harmlessly. Momentarily stunned, the pony took a tentative step backwards; the mare seized her chance, grabbing the axe away from him with her magic and swung it once. She turned away, the axe having found new lodging in the stallion’s skull.

“Pity,” she murmured, “he would have made an excellent guard, so willing to fight.” A scream pierced the air, and the Unicorn scanned the surrounding area, no easy task considering the amount of smoke. Through the haze, she could see a number of other ponies running around, blinded by the constant smog. A flash of light penetrated the smoke, and with it, a gust of wind blew the smoke clear. As the mare looked up, she glared at the pony walking towards her…

Twilight awoke with a start, her mind swimming. With antagonizing slowness, Twilight felt her mind waking up, the memories of her impromptu fight returning to her. Her jaw ached where she’d been kicked, along with her side. Twilight glanced down over her body, noting the bruising around her middle. She wiggled a little, testing her strength and her side. A stab of pain shot through her system, and the Unicorn opted to not move unless she had to.

The ground suddenly jostled beneath her, and she gave a groan of agony as her side became agitated. Looking up, Twilight noticed the bars surrounding her, and the two ponies – one Pegasus, one Earth Pony – pulling her along. “A cage…then I’m trapped?” she thought to herself. The grim memory of the final stages of the fight came back to her. Twilight recalled the Unicorn’s horn come flying off, and she immediately reached up to feel her own head. Or at least she tried to; besides the brief movement irritating her side again, all four feet had been tied together. The bound pony looked down, struggling with her binds for a moment before giving up.

Movement from outside the cage caught her attention, and the trussed up Unicorn craned her neck over to see. A number of ponies were walking alongside her cage, most garbed in armour of some sort. They clanked when they moved, the ones who were limping even more so. Nearly every pony carried a weapon of some sort. Some carried swords, some opted for smaller knives, and still others decided on spears. They spoke to each other in hushed voices, barely audible. Every pony seemed worn out and fatigued; their faces devoid of any joy or pleasure. A few glanced at Twilight warily as they noticed her shuffling around in her cage.

Suddenly stricken with fear, Twilight’s mind raced as she tried to think of an escape. She closed her eyes, felt the familiar build-up of magic. “A quick teleport out of here, a little unbinding and I can try to find my friends.” A smile formed on her face as she felt it move to her horn – still there, thank Celestia – and planned to release it. There was a flash of magical light, and then pain wracked Twilight’s body. The spell fizzled out into nothing as she let out a guttural scream.

The cart stopped moving, and a few ponies escorting her turned to look. The pain receded as quickly as it had come, and Twilight lay back, panting. A neon green pony walked up to the cage, a devilish smirk on his snout.

“I wouldn’t try that again, dear Unicorn.” He spat. “We’ve taken the necessary precautions to ensure you won’t escape us.” He motioned to his neck, and Twilight looked down to her own. Bouncing against her chest was a bizarre red gemstone set into a rather plain chain. The gem was rather crude and jagged, yet it glowed with a strange inner light. As she examined it, the neon green pony drew closer to her. “Do try to save your strength, darling. You’re certainly going to need it.” With a mirthless chuckle, the stallion stepped back from the cage and, giving a nod to Twilight’s escorts, the entire group of ponies began walking once more. A tear run down Twilight’s cheek as she laid her head on the floor of the cage.

“Alright, we’re here. Bring her around.” The gruff voice – that of the green pony she’d spoken to earlier – brought Twilight out of her thoughts. She glanced around, noting that far fewer of the ponies she’d seen earlier were missing, or perhaps they were simply hiding behind the trees.

“Wait, trees? When did we enter the forest?” Twilight mused to herself. A sound behind her caused her to jump, and Twilight swung her head around. The rear of the cage had opened up, and three ponies were pointing very sharp-looking swords at her, staring at Twilight expectantly. The neon green pony came up beside the cage and smacked the bars with his hoof.

“Alright Purple Pain, on your feet. C’mon, c’mon, we don’t want to be late, do we?” He sneered, almost as if laughing at some personal joke. Twilight glanced down, noting that the ropes around her feet were gone. She hadn’t even noticed anyone cut them loose. Her face must have given away her thoughts, for the green stallion spoke up again. “I cut them off while you were snoozing. Thought you’d enjoy walking on your own.”

With a curt nod, Twilight stepped out of the cage. The three guards moved quickly, two of them flanking her with the third a few feet behind. The green pony walked ahead of her. Twilight dragged her feet, only to give a yelp when the pony behind her poked his sword against her rump.

“No slowing down, Princess Pain. We have a schedule to keep.” Twilight glared at the green pony ahead of her as she matched his pace. Inhaling deeply, Twilight’s mind raced as she glanced all around. They were in the middle of a forest, but beyond that, she knew nothing else about where they were. Besides the four guards immediately around her, several other ponies also kept speed with her, all as armoured as her own personal entourage. “Too many to fight one-by-one. Perhaps I can just try defending myself.”

Her mind made up, Twilight concentrated as best she could while still moving. She drew in another breath as she felt the ever-familiar tingle of magic work its way through her body, concentrating on her horn. “Shield” swam though Twilight’s mind and she released the spell, only for the same light to flash everywhere, then the pain returned. Twilight fell to the ground, crying out in agony as her spell once again dissipated into nothing. The pain dwindled, and Twilight weakly looked up at the green pony, standing over her triumphantly.

“I had hoped you’d learned from your earlier attempt. Seems our little Princess is a tad thick-headed.” He sneered again, and the Unicorn felt anger well up inside her. Before she could get back to her feet, the pony turned around again and resumed his march. Another sword in the rear startled Twilight to her feet, and she reluctantly followed in silence.

The group walked for roughly fifteen minutes – or was it twenty? Thirty, perhaps? The moon, visible through breaks in the trees, never seemed to move from its position in the sky, and as such Twilight had a hard time divining what time it was. The sounds of hushed voices and whispers met her ears, and she glanced around. Make-shift buildings had been constructed amidst the trees; some were made of clay, others of tightly packed sticks and mud. A few unlucky ponies had to be content with little more than a blanket draped over a low-hanging branch, lying in the mud. All around, Twilight could feel wary eyes looking at her from cracks in walls and around trees.

The five of them stopped walking, and Twilight looked ahead. The green pony was talking with another pony, a grey Pegasus with a yellow mane, but his head was obscured by the rather ornate helmet he wore. The two of them spoke in hushed tones, though Twilight strained desperately to hear what they were saying. Eventually they stopped, and the grey Pegasus looked over at Twilight, peering at her from behind his helmet’s eye slits. There was a long silence as the Pegasus slowly walked back and forth, eying Twilight suspiciously.

“Bring her to the stockade. Let’s see if this will help our cause any.” The Pegasus spoke - a mare, not a stallion as Twilight first suspected – yet there was something strangely familiar about her voice. She didn’t have long to think about it, however, since her guards started leading Twilight through the make-shift town to an area that appeared to be the center.

A large flat rock, roughly five meters across Twilight ventured, was sitting in a clearing. The surface seemed to be covered in water of some kind, yet it neither flowed nor reflected the moonlight above. And sitting in the middle of the rock was a…

A guillotine. Twilight recognized it from her history texts. The blade glimmered, bouncing the moon’s light off it, and there was the same strange water on it. “No, not water. Blood.” Some rational part of Twilight’s mind managed to put the pieces together. Twilight felt her jaw drop open and she began struggling against the guards.

“No! No! Don’t kill me! I haven’t done anything wrong!” tears streamed down Twilight’s face as the guards overpowered her and forced her into the guillotine. A crowd had formed; most of the ponies wore expressions of concern or smugness. Twilight grunted as she felt ropes being tied around her hooves, forcing her to lay still, the blade hanging ominously above her neck.

“Off with her head!”

“Don’t show that pony any mercy!”

“She never showed any others mercy! Don’t give her any credit!”

The voices rose from the crowd, all of them crying out for Twilight’s blood. The din died down as a pink pony climbed atop the rock, wearing the same armour as every other pony here, standing off to the side of Twilight.

“Ponies! It has finally happened! We’ve captured the dreaded Purple Princess! And now, we’ll end her reign of terror over us all!” A cheer went up from the crowd, yet Twilight only stared at the exuberant announcer as best she could.

“Pinkie?” at the sound of her voice, the pink pony turned to look at Twilight. The two stared for a while, and then the pink pony glanced up and nodded to someone behind Twilight. Time seemed to slow down; Twilight heard the snap as the rope holding the blade up was released, heard the sound of the blade rubbing against the wooden frame as it fell, and braced herself, clenching her eyes shut.