• Published 21st Jan 2014
  • 11,484 Views, 588 Comments

Dread - bossfight1

Equestria becomes host to a being who can plunge people into their darkest nightmares with but a touch. He claims to have no ill intentions, yet the ponies are skeptical; how does one do good through fear?

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Chapter 5: Arrogance

Twilight watched out of the corner of her eye as Dread and Luna continued to roam the gardens, idly chatting as they went. While she couldn’t tell with Dread, she could certainly see a hint of good cheer and enjoyment from Luna.

As she continued to take notes on the lingering residue from the tear, she found herself considering what would happen if they couldn’t send Dread home; would the news make him angry, bring back the monster she had seen when he’d initially awoken? Would they fill him with despair, make him lock himself away from others and mourn what he’d lost? What of afterwards? If what he said was true, if he truly sought to start over, perhaps he’d work to live peacefully with them… She certainly hoped so. If their efforts to stop him upon his awakening were indication, they may not be able to take him down, barring the possibility of the Elements...

All the more reason to search for a way to send him home, she thought, returning to her work with added determination.

- - - - -

Luna and I continued our tour of the gardens, swapping stories as we went; I told her of some of my more interesting exploits as an MHA, while she discussed some of the things she’d seen as Princess. I wasn’t so surprised at hearing that she and Celestia had lived for over a thousand years; magic and all that. What did interest me was that all her stories either happened within the last four years, or a thousand years ago—nothing in between. Once again I fought a desire to ask her. All I knew was there was something that caused great sadness in her past, and that involved those Elements of Harmony.

Leave it be… I urged myself. I glanced over at a nearby statue, depicting a thickly-built minotaur; he was bearing an ornately-carved halberd, his chest thrust out in pride. The plaque at the base of his statue read, ‘Labyrinth the Guide; Dwelling in the Everfree Forest, Labyrinth worked to protect and guide those who had lost their way or simply sought passage in the depths of its untamed wilds. His bravery and heroism ended up saving the lives of hundreds.’

I nodded, impressed; then I got an idea, for just a bit of fun. I slithered over, next to the statue, and reshaped my mass. I formed myself into my closest imitation of the Labyrinth statue, right down to the spear in his hand. Luna giggled and stamped on the ground, in what appeared to be their equivalent of clapping. “Impressive!”

“To be honest, part of me feared you’d think I was disrespecting the guy,” I confessed, returning to my normal form.

Luna waved a hoof dismissively. “Every time there’s a group of children here, there will always be at least one who climbs on the statues, without fail; even then, it’s not disrespectful, they’re simply having fun in the environment. You want disrespect? You should see some of the ‘additions’ Discord has made to some of these pieces.”

I leaned to the side to see another statue, this one depicting a zebra, hind legs crossed in a meditative pose; she was wearing a pair of those novelty disguise glasses, clearly not part of the piece when it had initially been completed. “Mmm…” I nodded. “Well, it’s not ‘Jebediah Springfield’ levels of vandalism.”

“Who?” Luna asked.

I shook my head. “Never mind.”

“Princess!” A pegasus guard approached in midair; he was much more professional, in that he didn’t so much as glance my way. “The Scribes require your aid regarding the tear from the other night.”

Luna nodded. “Very well.” She turned to me. “Sorry, I must see to this. I’ll be back soon.”

“I’ll amuse myself for a bit, then,” I said. Luna smiled before taking to the skies, the guard right behind her. It was only when she vanished into the castle that I wondered if my being alone would cause concern with my more skittish hosts. I glanced up at where the portal had been; Twilight, Celestia and the Scribes had left twenty minutes ago, so I wouldn’t be under their gaze. Still, not wanting to arouse suspicion, I simply sat on a nearby bench and began fiddling with my transmitter; the onboard PDA had a few books I’d downloaded to it.

A brief, depressing thought crossed my mind. Odds are I’ll get tired of them after a while…

I shook it off. Hope. Keep up hope.

I began flipping through On the Sidelines; a fiction centered around a man whose wife was an MHA, struggling to watch while she put her life on the line and spent a deal of time away from home. It was rather depressing, but it didn’t sell her as a ‘workaholic’; the man very much understood what she had to do, and she clearly hated having to leave as often as she did. Made me think about just how difficult having a normal life would be with powers, even if one hadn’t submitted themselves to the DMHA.

“You, there!”

I jerked back to reality and glanced up the path; strolling towards me were a trio of ponies—two pegasi, wearing white-plated, sapphire-embedded armor instead of the normal pure gold I’d become accustomed to, and one purely white unicorn, who had a hairstyle usually held either by rich jerks or the dude in some chick’s romance novel. All three of them were giving me looks of hostility that trumped anything Rainbow had given me earlier.

“Can I help you?” I asked, not standing up.

“Your presence in our city is not welcomed, creature!” The unicorn said, in the tone of voice a stuffy aristocrat would have when his server put too much seasoning on his helping of baby seal. “I’ve heard tales regarding your arrival—open defiance of our Princesses, even going so far as to threaten them!”

I sighed. “Look, I made a mistake, buddy. Several mistakes, in fact, not the least of which being what I did to Applejack.”

“Your actions against the commoners matter little,” the unicorn said; I failed to hide the grinding of my teeth. “Your arrogance in the face of royalty is the true crime, here!”

“And I suppose you’re royalty?” I asked.

He raised his nose skyward in pride. “I... am Prince Blueblood, nephew to her highness, Princess Celestia.” He resumed his glare. “And the disrespect you held for our fair Princesses was obviously understated; I hear it with every word out of your hideous mouth!”

Civility gave out to my desire to get under this jackass’s skin; I opened my mouth wide, reached up with a claw and began to pick between my molars. “Yeah, I figured I shoulda brushed this morning… I might offend someone important.”

Blueblood recoiled like he’d been struck; his cronies scowled at me, seething with hatred. “You… you arrogant…” Blueblood stammered, aghast.

I lowered my claw and glowered at him. “You’re calling me ‘arrogant’? See, that implies I think myself better than others, that I think I’m superior to everyone in every way. I think that title would fit better with you.”

Blueblood smirked, though the fury hadn’t left his eyes. “I don’t think the opinion of a worthless wretch carries much weight.”

I stood up and folded my arms. “Is that why I hadn’t heard of you until now?”

I saw the spark in the Prince’s eyes that usually preludes a temper tantrum. “Seize him!! Put the beast in chains!!” He screeched at his guards. The pair immediately took to the air and flung themselves at me.

Looking forward to explaining THIS, I thought. I quickly dropped into a puddle, letting the guards sail right over me; I heard the pair grunt as they collided with a nearby bush. I reformed and turned as they detangled themselves from the shrub; the pair galloped at me, snorting in agitation. When they got close they reared on their hind legs and wound their forelegs back for a punch. Putting my claws behind my back I casually curved and shaped my mass to evade their blows. They were well trained, attacking with equal parts speed and strength, but there wasn’t any military focus in their eyes; they clearly shared some of Blueblood’s arrogance, and probably would have wanted to punish me for my hubris even if he hadn’t ordered them to. They were probably just paid goons instead of the royal guards I’d seen, which explained their willingness to actually attack me rather than try to arrest me.

After about half a minute of evading their attacks, I decided to let them each get a freebie. I stopped dodging, and the pair simultaneously landed a punch in my mass. They stared at their hooves, each embedded roughly half a foot within me. They glanced up at me; I tilted my head. “Would it make you feel better if I said ‘ouch’?”

The pair yanked their hooves out of me, eyes wide in confusion and fear. “What are you?” one of them breathed.

I shrugged. “Better question; do you think it’s smart to keep this up? Or should I actually take a swing of my own?”

The guards exchanged panicked glances before turning and legging it, running straight past a flabbergasted Blueblood. He glanced after them, stammering. “G-g-get back here!!” He barked. “I ORDER YOU!!” I slithered up behind him and cleared my throat. He turned and yelped, his voice shooting up several octaves. Blueblood backed away, his legs shaking violently. I leaned in towards him, claws behind my back. “Y-y-you can’t do anything to me!!” He squeaked. “Auntie Tia will hear of it!!”

I scoffed. “From what I’ve seen of you, ‘Auntie Tia’ will probably be glad someone told you exactly where you can shove your privilege.” I leaned in closer, causing Blueblood to cower even further. “But… I’m willing to let you off with a warning. You may have been the aggressor here, but I wouldn’t benefit from knocking you flat on your ass. Next time, though? The beatdown you’ll get will be of higher royalty than you will ever be. Get me?”

Blueblood nodded slightly. I backed off, gesturing towards the way he’d came. “Off you go, then.” He immediately bolted down the path; I noticed a small puddle of liquid gathered in the spot he’d been cowering.

It wasn’t sweat.


- - - - -

Blueblood sprinted by the statue of the unicorn Aurora Heart, his breathing rushed and panicked. As he fled through the gate, Aurora’s eyes suddenly moved, gazing after him. Once Blueblood was gone, her mouth opened, and Discord slithered out, camera held in his eagle talon. Landing on the ground, he replayed the footage he’d gotten and fell on his back, guffawing with reckless abandon. “That was better than I could’ve hoped!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

He finally calmed himself, steadying his breathing as he stood. “Oh, oh... one more time…” he said, almost on the verge of hysterical tears. He rewound his camera a fair bit and hit play. The footage shown indicated that the camera was hidden from sight, getting a view of Blueblood staring down from a balcony. Discord was standing beside him, whispering in his ear.

“Did you hear about that alien that arrived the other night?” He asked. “I heard he was NOT very polite to the Princesses…”

- - - - -

Luna returned about ten minutes later, finding me where she’d left me. “Sorry about that, they just needed both me and Celestia to properly identify the form of energy used by the portal.”

“Oh, no trouble,” I said, standing up. “It’s pretty tranquil out here.”

“No trouble at all, then?” Luna asked, raising an eyebrow; there was a hint of amusement in her voice, but a greater hint of disapproval.

I debated feigning ignorance, but decided to simply shrug. “...Hey, he started it.”

Luna sighed. “I don’t doubt it… Blueblood means well—” She paused, pursing her lips in thought. “Well, he… He’s not so bad—I mean... ...He’s…”

“...a total tool?” I said helpfully; Luna didn’t deny anything.

“Let’s head back inside and get some lunch, shall we?” She asked, turning around.

I nodded and made to follow before I noticed something. “Watch where you step--!!”

Too late. Luna paused, shutting her eyes and taking a breath. “...Please tell me somepony spilled something.”

- - - - -

King Sombra watched as the pair departed, never lifting his gaze from the one called ‘Dread’. He was grateful for the stupidity of the noble, for giving him the chance to observe the creature. Its body held a form of agility and speed matched only by him in his shadow form…

Yet it was capable of far more. It held a power that nearly made him water at the mouth, made him dearly wish he could take it now… It could spread fear at a whim, either by applying a touch that plunged its victims into their worst nightmares, or through simple intimidation… Both were quite potent.

This would be it. This… Dread, would be the key, Sombra knew this… But he needed to know more—know more about the creature, what manner of soul guided it, how he may acquire it for himself… But he’d stretched himself too far; he could feel his soul tearing like stretched fabric, threatening to break off from his last remaining anchor to this world. If his horn was here, he could afford to better examine the creature…

Thus does dear Bulwark come into play, he thought, a cruel grin lining his face. He turned north and began pulling himself back towards his anchor, eager to plan…

What? Sombra sensed something… It wasn’t the same feeling that had first drawn his eye to the creature, but it was definitely… connected. Curious, he floated down into the castle, through one of its many ornate stained-glass windows. He followed the scent through the halls, keeping to the darkened corners and dimly lit ceilings until he finally located its source, in the lower levels of the castle.

He peered into the room and ground his teeth in fury; them… She, who overthrew him, and she, whose wretched pet dragon had delivered the Crystal Heart, and, ultimately, his defeat, to those who had forgotten their place as his slaves… She had changed; her pair of wings appeared to be a reward for her loyalty. They were bent over several scrolls and tomes, brows furrowed in concentration. He spotted a thin, black haze rising from their heads, invisible to anyone but him; the fear... it was coming from them. He peered over the elder Princess, finding it to be stronger with her.

What has you so frightened, my dear Princess? He thought with a cruel grin, though he felt he could hazard a guess. Sombra peered into the black haze, and fought back a harsh laugh; he saw only the one called Dread, standing over the ponies who were either cowering in terror, both of him and of visions forced upon them, or dying, lying in pools of their sweet, sweet blood…

Yet the best part was Dread's shadow, lit from behind by a blazing building; Dread’s shadow was in the shape of Sombra himself...

She fears who he is… He realized. She fears he would follow my own path… He chuckled quietly. He would be wise to do so.

Yet this information gave him an idea… Fear is joined by distrust. If he could force her to take action against Dread…

Yes… He leaned in close to Celestia; he could see her mane quiver, as though sensing his presence.

“Your fear may be justified, or it may not...” he hissed softly. “Either way, it shall doom the peace you so adore. You think you’re afraid now?” He chuckled. “Not even your sister knows of the nightmares I shall soon bring…” He withdrew from her and slipped from the room, his laugh barely audible.

- - - - -

Celestia perked up. “...Did you hear something?”

Twilight glanced up at her, then around the room. “...No?”

Celestia shrugged it off, yet could not shake a chill that ran down her spine...