• 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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Saved by the Hoof

Chapter 4

Saved by the Hoof

The crowd was ecstatic, most crying out for joy as the pink pony nodded to the pony 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. Through it all, however, the terrified purple unicorn kept her gaze on the pink pony. After she had nodded, the pony had turned back towards Twilight, and the two shared a long gaze. Twilight inhaled and shut her eyes, blinking away a final tear, resigning herself to the blade that was screaming towards her neck.


The sound of metal on metal reverberated throughout the forest clearing, the crowd suddenly silent. The seconds ticked by in dead silence as Twilight simply lay there, too petrified to move. She kept her eyes tightly shut, listening to her own breathing, feeling the steady pounding of her heart in her chest. Finally, curiousity won out over her fear and she cracked an eye open.

The crowd simply stood around the sacrificial rock, mumbling to themselves in hushed voices. A glint of light from Twilight’s right caught her gaze, and she glanced upwards. A Pegasus, the same grey one from earlier, hovered above Twilight. Her armoured hooves were splayed out, two of them holding up the guillotine blade, mere millimeters from Twilight’s neck. Flapping her wings, the Pegasus raised the blade slightly, and gave a nod. Twilight gave a sharp cry of alarm as she was whisked backwards, out from under the absurdly sharp edge.

With a sigh, the Pegasus pulled her hooves free, and the blade dropped down, chopping nothing. Twilight simply stood back, staring at the blade stupidly, casting her gaze between it and her Pegasus savior. The quiet was broken moments later by the pink pony.

“Commander! What are you doing?! You would spare this filthy unicorn’s life?!” as she spoke, the pink pony drew closer to the Pegasus, who had landed and simply stood where she was.

“Yes, I would.” The Pegasus’ voice was calm and unwavering, as if the pink pony didn’t intimidate her. She also seemed to stare at Twilight, not looking at the pink pony; of course, the helmet covering her face made it difficult to tell exactly which way she was looking. The enraged mare pointed a hoof at Twilight.

“Need I remind you who this unicorn is? The scourge of Equestria, second in command after our precious Queen?” the pink pony’s voice rose a couple octaves, nearly shrieking by the end. The Pegasus shook her head.

“Do you truly believe that, Captain Pie?” she turned to look at the Captain. “I won’t deny there are similar physical features, but I hardly doubt we could have captured our Princess so easily. From what I hear, she put up a rather pathetic fight back in the ruins.”

“SO?! We just got lucky enough to catch her when she’s weakened! I can’t believe you’d put a unicorn’s life above your own! Even if you would, I can’t believe you’d choose to save THIS unicorn out of all of them!” Captain Pie stepped closer to the commander, nearly yelling into her face.

“I won’t have you kill an innocent pony, Captain. I don’t think this particular unicorn is the one we’re after.” The Pegasus’ voice rose, filling every corner of the clearing. The soft mumbles of the crowd escalated to a loud commotion. Twilight could only hear snippets of conversation, most of which disagreed with the Pegasus’ opinion.

“Then you are a softhearted fool, my dear. Unicorns all over have given us much to fear.” One voice, all too familiar, floated over the others. The din died down and the crowd parted, allowing a cloaked pony to climb upon the rock. Twilight stared at her as she flicked her head, letting the cloak fall back. The all-too-familiar pattern of black and white stripes broke though Twilight’s stupor, and she smiled at a friendly face.

“Zecora! Am I ever glad to see you!” with a relieved sigh, Twilight took a step towards the zebra. Zecora snorted, backing up an equal distance from Twilight. Confused, the unicorn stopped where she was. Another snort, and Zecora turned her attention back to the grey Pegasus.

“You defend this witch, knowing what she has done? How she has turned unicorn against all, and banished the sun?” dramatically, Zecora pointed at Twilight with a hoof. “A dark purple unicorn with two-toned hair. It’s none other than Twilight Sparkle; she stands right there!” the crowd began shouting words of affirmation as Zecora continued, motioning to the guillotine. “We can end this war right here and now! Off with her head! Need I tell you how?” the zebra’s eyes flashed dangerously, anger and spite clearly audible in her voice. Twilight shrank back from Zecora, tears welling up in her eyes again. The three ponies began to argue amongst themselves, quibbling over Twilight’s fate. Inhaling deeply, Twilight managed to speak up, interrupting the group.

“What are you all talking about? What’s going on here?” the ponies on the rock with her all turned to look at Twilight. There was a long silence as every pony in the clearing stopped talking, instead choosing to stare at Twilight. The purple unicorn suddenly felt very self-conscious. Captain Pie was the first to speak.

“Feigning ignorance won’t save your flank. I’m appalled you would even try such a transparent trick.” As she spoke, Captain Pie took off her helmet. Twilight gave a small gasp as the pink pony’s face was revealed. It was Pinkie, but there was something off about her. Her mane, ever messy and poofy, was instead cut incredibly short, and what little was there was straight and tidy. Her face was set in a grim line, as if she didn’t even remember how to smile. Half of her left ear was missing, seemingly ripped off, and she bore a distinctive scar just under her right eye, meeting the side of her mouth. She looked at Twilight coolly, staring at the unicorn pointedly; her eyes, which had always seemed full of life, were dull and distant. She didn’t so much stare at Twilight as she did stare through her. Twilight’s shock only lasted a moment before she opened her mouth to speak.

“Pinkie, what happened to you? Last I saw, you…”

“The name is Captain Pinkamina Diane Pie, unicorn, and don’t you forget it!” the pink pony cut Twilight off with a hoof, loudly interjecting. “And another thing! Where do you get off talking like you know me? I don’t consort with unicorns these days. None of us do.” As she spoke, Pinkamina motioned to the crowd, and Twilight turned to look at the mass of ponies.

Nearly every pony in attendance wore some sort of armour, ranging from full body armour to opting instead to wearing merely a helmet or leg coverings. Their fur colourings were as varied as always, but the colours weren’t as vibrant; muted, almost. Some of the Pegasus were hovering above, with the rest of the Pegasi and the Earth Ponies all confined to the ground. Those closest to the rock were muttering to themselves regarding the argument between the Commander and the Captain; everypony behind them was glaring at Twilight.

“Wait a minute…” a thought flashed through Twilight’s mind, and she quickly scanned the crowd again. “Where are all the unicorns?” she mused aloud. A strange grunt from Captain Pie caught her attention, and Twilight turned to look. The pink pony’s forehead was scrunched up, and she eyed Twilight suspiciously.

“You really don’t know, do you?” the Captain asked slowly, her voice gentler and softer than it had been. Clearing her throat, Captain Pie moved a step closer to the lavender unicorn in front of her. “What’s your name, unicorn?”

“Twilight Sparkle.” A murmur ebbed through the crowd as Twilight’s voice died out.

“It is Twilight!”

“Kill her now, while you can!”

“She doesn’t seem all that bad…”

The voices wafted over, the threats and confusion mingling into an incomprehensive din. The crowd continued bickering among themselves for a few minutes, with Twilight’s embarrassment only growing. The Pegasus Commander stepped forward and spoke up, her voice ringing out and silencing everyone present.

“I think it would be most beneficial for everyone involved if this unicorn were to undergo a series of tests.” The Pegasus’ voice was calm, unreadable, though Twilight noted she was not as warm or accepting as she was earlier. The Pegasus turned back and nodded to Twilight. “If you’ll follow me, Miss Sparkle.” The Pegasus trotted off, and, with a not-so-gentle nudge from the guard beside her, Twilight followed. The crowd parted as the trio of ponies walked through, a number of whom were sneering at Twilight. The purple unicorn bowed her head, too ashamed to look at anyone as she walked past.

Captain Pie snorted as the lavender unicorn scampered after the Commander, and she muttered to herself in frustration. “How dare that mare overstep my authority to save that witch. She even admitted to being Twilight Sparkle! What more do you want?!” A few ponies near her turned to look, and Pinkamina quickly turned away, uncomfortable with the fact that she let her emotions get out of hoof. “General Star, front and center!”

A neon green pony scrambled onto the rock, standing in front of Captain Pie. “Ma’am?”

“I want you to take a small compliment and keep an eye on our…guest. Be sure that she does not begin any trouble or escape us, understood?” General Star nodded, and quickly ran off. Captain Pie turned and addressed the crowd. “All right, everypony! Back to business as usual! C’mon, don’t make me say it twice!” The crowd grumbled as they began to disperse, and soon the clearing was empty, save the few patrolling guards. Captain Pie shot a forlorn look at the guillotine before donning her helmet again and heading to her sleeping quarters. There were plans to lay, and she needed to start working on them immediately.

“Do quit fussing, dear. My job is hard enough without naughty ponies making it worse.” The voice was chiding, yet also gentle and motherly. Twilight winced as the nurse scrubbed harder, partly from the abrasive cloth digging into her skin, but mostly from being treated as a young filly again. The grey Pegasus stood off to the side, keeping her gaze on Twilight the entire time, though staying silent. Finally, the abuse to Twilight’s side ended, and the nurse moved around, inspecting the rest of Twilight’s body. “Hmm, we don’t typically allow jewelry on our patients.” The nurse fumbled with the necklace hung around Twilight’s neck, and the Pegasus made a warning grunt. Startled, the white Earth Pony jumped back from Twilight, the necklace falling back against her chest.

“No. Standing orders are for the Unicorn to wear her dampener at all times. No exceptions.” The Pegasus seemed to sigh at Twilight, though any facial movements she made were obscured by the all-encompassing helmet she wore. A knock at the slab of wood meant to stand in for a door caught everyone’s attention, and the Commander walked over briskly and peered around it. From her viewpoint, Twilight could not see who was standing on the other side. The Commander turned to the nurse, muttered “Leave the necklace on,” and trotted out, speaking in hushed whispers.

The nurse turned back to Twilight, a little less nervous now that the overbearing Pegasus was gone, and resumed her vicious scrubbing. Twilight stared at the necklace, watching the light glint off the bright red gemstone imbedded in it.

“A magical dampener. No wonder I can’t use any spells. But I thought they were hard to make.” Twilight murmured to herself, not expecting an answer.

“Oh, yeah. They’re very difficult. Our resident Unicorn is quite skilled, though. She makes all of our charms for us. And hexes, as it appears. Didn’t know she could make anything so ghastly.” The nurse hummed to herself as she pulled out a roll of gauze and began wrapping it around Twilight’s hoof and stomach. “My, you’re quite lucky nothing was seriously broken. I heard about the fight you put up against our colts. Getting away with just a fractured rib and a few bruises, you must be quite the skilled fighter.”

Twilight hung her head, avoiding looking at the nurse. Flashes of the fight raced through her mind, and she felt bile rising to her throat again as the image of the broken horn came back to her. The Unicorn blinked away a tear and gagged, managing to quell her queasy stomach. Something the nurse had said suddenly caught Twilight’s attention, and she cleared her throat.

“Wait, you have a Unicorn living here? I thought Pinki…er, I mean, Captain Pie said there were no Unicorns here.” The nurse, satisfied with her work on Twilight, took a few steps back and sat on her haunches, looking right at the bright purple Unicorn.

“Mmhmm, just the one. She’s rather distrusted around here, considering what every other Unicorn is doing. Quite sad, really. I recall when Unicorns, Pegasi and Earth Ponies lived together peacefully. Of course, that was before…” the nurse’s voice trailed off. She turned her head, staring at the wall wistfully before sighing and looking back at Twilight. “Well, you know. No sense dwelling on the past, I suppose.”

“What happened? Why is everypony fighting? What happened to Ponyville?” the questions fell from Twilight’s mouth as fast as she could form the words, and the nurse eyed Twilight questionably.

“Do you seriously not know? It happened about two years ago, now. That’s when…”

The door-slab crashed to the ground, startling both mares, and the commander walked in, standing on the slat of wood. Behind him stood a nervous-looking red Pegasus colt, quite young too, as his armour was ill-fitting. The colt would adjust his helmet every so often, only to have it fall forward, blocking his view. The commander pointed at Twilight and motioned for her to follow. Twilight glanced from the nurse to the commander before meekly falling into step behind the grey Pegasus. The red colt took up position behind Twilight and the three walked in silence.

As they walked, exiting the hospital, Twilight’s mind was awash with questions. Where am I? What happened two years ago? Where is Princess Celestia? Why doesn’t Pinkie remember me? The necklace bouncing against her chest caused her to look down, and for a brief moment, the bright red jewel reminded her of Rarity; the fashionista would never have made such a tacky necklace, and a smile crept onto Twilight’s face. She could almost hear the mare’s horrified screams.

“Oh, Twilight! Who dared put that horrid thing around your neck? No no no no no, it clashes with your fur, your mane, even your eyes. I wouldn’t wish this on anypony! Nopony is deserving of such a crime against fabulousity!”

A wistful sigh escaped Twilight’s mouth, and the grey Pegasus glanced backwards.

“You ok, Unicorn? Not gonna fall over on me, are you?” her gruffness was gone, replaced with genuine concern about Twilight. Twilight shook her head, and the Pegasus nodded. “Alright, we’re almost there anyway. Do try to stay on your own four feet, ok?”

The three came to stop outside a peculiar shack; it was set apart from the other make-shift houses, and various jewels hung in the singular window set in the front wall. Inside, Twilight could just make out soft voices. The colt behind her made a few estranged noises, but a sharp look from the commander and he was silent again. The commander knocked on the door – an actual door this time – and someone responded from inside.

“Yes? Who is it? Announce yourselves!” the voice was feminine, and there was something oddly familiar about it. Try as she might, Twilight couldn’t put a name to the speaker, though she was absolutely certain she’d heard it before; perhaps from overhearing someone in Ponyville.

“Commander Doo, Private Bolt, and the prisoner, Twilight Sparkle. Or so she claims.” Commander Doo muttered under her breath.

“The prisoner? Another Unicorn? Come in, come in, please!” the door swung open, a soft glow surrounding it; the mysterious unicorn was probably using her magic, Twilight reasoned. The grey Pegasus walked in, and a nudge from Bolt urged Twilight in as well, the tiny Pegasus right behind her.