• Published 11th Jul 2011
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Pony Age: Origins - OmegaPony11



The Ponyspawn have invaded Equestria, and it is up to the newest addition to the Grey Wardens, Twilight Sparkle, to find the means to drive them back! With her friends and allies at her side, can Twilight win before Equestria is devoured?

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Escape from Fort Drakon

Chapter 39 – Escape from Fort Drakon

Flying several leagues away from Trotterim with only the dark silhouette of the city behind them, Fluttershy and Rainbow continued their journey to find the Filesian forces. As wind whipped through her mane and feathers. Rainbow muttered under her breath as she controlled her speed to match with the much slower Fluttershy. She would have been near the Red Apple region much faster if she flew alone.

They were still far from Red Apple, and needed another half a day’s flight to even begin scouring the area. Rainbow looked for any sign of the Filesians, a campfire or disturbed ground, anything at all. All she could see was the darkness of night as clouds drifted over the moon and shrouded the land in darkness.

“Rainbow!” Fluttershy called. Her wings beat against the air slower and slower. “Please wait! I’m getting tired!”

Rainbow let a sigh escape her and drifted back beside Fluttershy until they could both land. She spotted a small grove near a pond and dove downward while her hooves skidded along the surface. The force from her speed spread the water until she reached the shore. Fluttershy landed next to her and panted with heavy breaths.

“I’m so sorry,” Fluttershy said in short gasps. “I’m just not used to such endurance flying. Twister never taught me how to fly like she did.”

“We can’t spend all night resting, though,” Rainbow replied. She started to gather some loose branches that she could ignite a small fire; something to bring warmth in the cold night. As she rubbed her hooves together, Rainbow shivered in brisk night. They had spent their recent leg of their adventure in the warm magma heated underground and under the canopies of the Everfree forest. To be out in the open plains like this in the dead of night just showed how exposed they were.

Rainbow had to be brave in the face of such darkness though. Fluttershy turned this way and that, fright in her eyes as every shadow and each dark crevice seemed to hold a lurking fear within, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. Her pounding heart did not help either and proved a dangerous distraction.

Laying all of the branches in a pile, Rainbow looked to Fluttershy. With a long, thin stick in her hooves, Rainbow planted it into the ground then drew her dagger. She chipped away at the wood until it made a point.

“What are you doing?” Fluttershy’s eyes were wide and interested.

Rainbow grunted through her dagger’s bit, then replaced the blade back into its scabbard. Once she judged that the point was acceptable, Rainbow planted the stick point-down in a large piece of wood before replying.

“Just trying to make us a fire to keep warm, Fluttershy.” With her hooves planted on the stick, she began to spin it furiously, her teeth gritted tight. She stopped for a moment, laid down her dagger, and explained to Fluttershy, “You have to put enough friction on the bottom so that heat will build up. I take it you were not much into camping?”

Fluttershy leaned in close to Rainbow’s ignition attempt, and watched in awe as smoke rose from the burning wood. Soon, a flame was lit as the heat caused the sawdust kicked up by the grinding drill to ignite. The other branches and kindling caught on fire, and Rainbow leaned back to enjoy the warmth.

They stayed silent for a long while, with Rainbow tossing in a few fair sized branches once a while to keep the blaze alive. Rainbow took a deep breath breath and took in the smell of the burning wood. She did feel a sort of peace in the middle of the night with a makeshift hearth. When she looked up from the campfire, she saw that Fluttershy had curled up close to the flames, now sound asleep. Her chest rose softly as she slumbered, and Rainbow couldn’t help but smile at the sight. Somehow, through all the troubles, trials, and tribulations they encountered, Fluttershy still held on to the one thing that made her unique. She was still the kindest pony Rainbow had ever met, and though she was not made for action, a part of Rainbow wished there were more ponies like her.

With Fluttershy asleep, Rainbow took it upon herself to keep watch through the night. She gazed into the fire and stared deep into the heart. For a moment, she thought she could see a burning building. She inched closer and closer to the fire to make sense of the imagery within. The logs seemed to shift from raw wood to crafted lumber set ablaze by the fires of battle.

Rainbow was back in the city of Trotterim as it burned to ashes around her. Her dagger clenched tight in her teeth and the stench of blood all around her, Rainbow swung every which way. She sunk her blade into the flesh of any ponyspawn that drew near. She could vaguely see her friends fighting by her side as the smoke and ash around her created a near impenetrable haze.

Ahead of her was a house with a young mare and her foal caught in the inferno. Twilight galloped towards them. She lifted some burning debris with her magic and tossed it away. Rainbow smiled before slashing the face of a donlock. Even in the worst part of battle, Twilight always tried to do the right thing.

Everything went still though when the roar of a dragon shook the battlefield. The deafening cry of the Archdemon rushed over Rainbow, and stark terror paralyzed her at seeing the master of the Blight. Her body would not respond to her commands. Her hooves became trapped on the ground, and her voice was suddenly gone.

Though she could not move her head, Rainbow could still move her eyes. Time stilled by the cry of the Archdemon; even the fire had become immobile by the command of the black dragon. Rainbow saw Twilight frozen in place as she tried to escape the burning house.

The Archdemon roared again and landed on top of a ridge near them. The Archdemon’s unholy shadowflame filled the air with noxious fumes and ash that made her choke. She rubbed her eyes as they stung from the storm of dust and embers Rainbow’s terror felt like it came full circle. The battle was lost. Despite being unable to move, she could hear the screams of ponies around her perfectly. She could hear the screams of her friends, her own screams as they resounded around her.

Rearing its head, the Archdemon opened its massive maw and unleashed a torrent of shadowfire. The unholy black flames struck the house Twilight was in, engulfing it utterly. Rainbow wanted to shout at Twilight to run, to fly over and get her out of the way, but the paralysis she was under was too strong. She was too weak to fight against the very presence of the Archdemon, and as she watched, she saw Twilight slowly become immolated in shadowfire. Her flesh seared away, and all that remained were her blackened bones until they too became ash in the wind.

“Rainbow!”

Rainbow’s mouth slowly opened as the horror of what she saw unfolded in front of her. From the ebony flames that had consumed Twilight came the visage of the archdemon. It roared at Rainbow before rushing towards her, her body soon to be consumed by the shadowfire.

“Rainbow!”

Rainbow Dash snapped awake as Fluttershy pushed against her body. Twisting herself on her hooves, Rainbow shook violently while her heart continued to thud in rapid beats against her chest. Everything she just saw, every horrible image was just a dream. Yet it had felt so real, as if she was really there at her final battle. She had seen Twilight die. The very notion frightened her.

It took a lot to admit, but Twilight was pretty awesome in her own right. Not like Rainbow’s unique style of awesome, but as somepony who she could trust to lead them all. Twilight’s special talent may be magic, but Rainbow knew that leadership was something Twilight had clearly developed during the course of their journey.

Which was why it scared Rainbow; the realness of the scene, to see the Archdemon kill Twilight so quickly. There was no final stand; there were no tearful goodbyes like in the old stories. Just one breath of black fire and she was gone. The Archdemon would have gone after her… then Applejack… then… Pinkie…

Rainbow squeezed her eyes shut and shook such thoughts from her mind, though she still felt tears trying to escape her eyes. Choking back sobs proved difficult as the memories of her nightmare repeated themselves incessantly. She could still smell the smoke of the smoldering city and the heat of the shadowfire. The fear gripped at her heart like a vice while the roar of the Archdemon resounded around her.

“I… I’m scared.” Rainbow could not believe herself. Could not believe her fear. “What if three Wardens aren’t enough? Four? You heard Twilight talk about the Battle of Ostequus. They had a whole army and still lost. What if everything we’ve done doesn’t matter? What if we… lose?”

Fluttershy made no immediate reply, save for reaching into her saddlebag for a small embroidered cloth. She held it against her hoof and proceeded to gently dab the cloth onto Rainbow’s face, wiping away the tear. If she were anypony else, Rainbow would have protested and made a scene. She hated appearing vulnerable and helpless to anypony simply because any show of weakness was not her. Yet for Fluttershy, she would sit still and be... mothered.

“Thanks Fluttershy,” Rainbow croaked. She gave a slight smile as she rubbed her eyes with a hoof. “What time is it? We should get going to find the Filesians.”

“Um… it’s almost dawn,” Fluttershy said, “You were sleeping so soundly until you started to scream.”

Fluttershy pointed over her head, and Rainbow looked up to see the sun peeking over Fort Drakon in the distance. The first morning light cascaded over the horizon and gave a sense of calm throughout the land despite the encroaching threat of the ponyspawn. In the distance Rainbow could see figures moving, distinctively pony in shape and size with the light of dawn reflecting off their armour.

“Come on, Rainbow.” Fluttershy smiled at her. “There’s somepony I would like you to meet.”

They took wing despite Rainbow’s confusion, and flew over towards the large group of armoured earth ponies. They all wielded large steel lances attached to their saddles, along with swords as of a sidearm. Each lance ended in a sharp point. The chosen weapons of Filesian chevaliers made them some of the best practitioners of flanking maneuvers in the world.

There were about fifty chevaliers in this group as per Rainbow’s best guess, and all of them maneuvered in well synchronized patterns and formations. With a stomp of their right hooves, their lances unlatched from the hooks and soon fell into place, now level with the chevaliers chests. Rainbow watched the Filesian’s as they ran drills with their lances. They were an impressive bunch.

A very large earth pony adorned with battle-scars and wielding a massive beard approached the two pegasi. There was a cunning Rainbow recognized in his blue eyes, yet his harsh battle-born features softened at the sight of Fluttershy.

She does have that effect, doesn’t she?

“Rainbow Dash, this is General Puissant, Lord General of the Filesian Chevalier Corps.” As Fluttershy made her introduction, Puissant bowed to Rainbow. “He was the general I spied on for Artistic Finish, but showed me more kindness than any Filesian has ever shown a pegasus. He’s also been fighting for my pardon with the Empress herself, because of the charges of treason against me.”

“I see your friend has escaped from her night terrors, non?” Puissant spoke with a thick accent and a voice of command, and Rainbow felt she should stand at attention like a good soldier would. “Bon jour, Mademoiselle Dash.”

“Yeah, bone juice to you too.” Rainbow couldn’t help but chuckle. Filesian always did sound silly to her.

“So, this is it?” Rainbow’s disappointment entered her voice as she regarded the lack soldiery. “I was kind of hoping for more soldiers. Like, say... one-hundred and twenty thousand?”

“There used to be hundreds of us before the Empress recalled her chevaliers,” the general said. He waved his hoof towards his minuscule war host. “This is all I have left: volunteers who wish to fight the greatest and most terrible threat to all ponies. Yet only the word of a king will allow us to fight alongside the Equestrians.”

“Well then, we better gallop all the way to Trotterim, and quick!” Flying up high above the chevaliers, Rainbow raised her voice. “Loghoof is a phony regent! Today a new queen of Equestria is being crowned, but if we are going to help her, we have to move out now! The ponyspawn are coming for us, and we need as much fight as we can get from anypony! Chevyleers of Filais! Who’s with me?!”

***

Sleep did not come easy for Applejack, her body constantly shifting under the covers as thoughts of the Landsmeet loomed over her. She was committed now to this course, to stand against Loghoof and become queen of the realm, but that did not mean she had warmed up to the idea.

Then there was the matter of Twilight and the others, who had not returned from Arl Maim’s estate, and that Spike was captured by Ser Sunsword. Things went into a downhill spiral fast, and Applejack’s sleep seemed secondary to all those issues. Once she roused herself from her bed, Applejack moved towards her closet and found a simple brown tunic to wear as she took a walk through the Red Apple estate.

Her thoughts broke as the door slammed opened as Oghren stormed in along with a dirty unkempt pegasus who bore a familiar grey shield for a cutie mark, and a lot of wounded foals. Applejack gasped as she approached the yearlings. She shook her head in disbelief at their battered, bruised bodies. Applejack felt her anger boil within her at the sight of wounded foals; just what had Arl Maim did to them? What could drive him to hurt children?

Oghren took a few deep breaths once the estate doors closed behind him. “Get me some of that cider and quick,” Oghren said. One of the servants brought him a mug of cold cider and Oghren downed the contents in one swig. He looked back at the foals and shook his head.

“They were taken from their families, mostly your Arls and Bannorn so that Loghoof would have their extorted support. Twilight told me to bring them and the Warden here while she went to rejoin Pinkie and Trixie.”

“This is low, even for Loghoof.” Macintosh stood by Applejack and tried to make the foals comfortable. “Ah’m glad miss Twilight was able to rescue you all. Don’t worry; we’ll get you to your families soon. Let’s get them all proper beds and some decent food.”

Applejack watched as the foals were led away by Red Apple soldiers towards the dining hall. She slammed a hoof into a wall. That damn dirty coward Loghoof, she though, if I get the chance, I’m gonna buck his face right off his head! To do this to children to win the Landsmeet! How the hay was he ever a hero?!

Her short lived rage settled into calm when she turned to the Filesian Warden, who bowed his head towards her. “Greetings, sister of the Grey. I am Riordan of Filais.”

Right. Ponies are gonna start bowing to me, Applejack thought, I’ll have to get used to that.

“Right nice to make yer acquaintance. Sorry about the rough handling.” Applejack offered her hoof to Riordan, who gladly shook it. “Any help is worth it at this point.”

“Indeed,” Riordan replied, “We will have to wait for your fellow Wardens to return. I hope they are still well.”
Shale thundered into the main hall as her red augmentation crystals seethed with flames. “What is the meaning of this?!” Shale bellowed as she stood over the foals all as they hungrily devoured any and every apple or baked treat presented to them. Though she could not tell because of Shale’s stony features, Applejack somehow felt the fury almost pulse from Shale’s rocky hide.

“They are but mere, small, squishy children,” Shale said, “They cannot defend themselves. There is no glory to be had in causing them harm. I will find who did this and pound them into fine paste. From that paste I shall paint a mural of their suffering. I think everyone involved shall be greatly relieved by such artistry.”

The doors of the estate burst open once again, now with Pinkie and Trixie galloping towards Applejack. Her heart sank as she saw Twilight was not with them. Panic set in as she rushed towards the pair, only for Pinkie to deftly dodge around Applejack and head straight for the rooms the party lodged in. While Pinkie’s face held an unusual determination, her silence was not appreciated right now. Though she knew it was unfair of her, Applejack rushed over to Trixie.

“What happened to her?” Applejack almost roared her questions. “Where’s Twilight? What happened?”

“Sunsword took her.” Spike slowly walked into the main hall of the estate. He spoke in a hoarse voice as he approached Applejack, with terrible bags under his eyes, though otherwise unharmed. “She captured me to get to Twilight. They took her to Fort Drakon. It’s all my fault…”

Applejack swallowed a curse as she looked down at Spike. Slowly, she wrapped a hoof around the tiny dragon as he began to sob. “There there, Spike,” she said as she tried to put on a brave face. “It’s not your fault. Things just got out of hoof. We’ll get her back. Somehow.”

“Damn right we will!” Oghren roared and tossed his empty mug away. Applejack looked at the discarded mug and noticed it was dry. “By the Stone, little brother, we’ll get the good Warden back! Even if I have to tear down that fort with my bare hooves!”

Except the question was how they were going to get inside a nigh impenetrable fortress prison and still have time to stop Loghoof at the Landsmeet. Damn the Landsmeet and damn the crown and damn Loghoof! Applejack swore to herself, we need to save Twilight even if I have to tear down Fort Drakon brick by buckin’ brick!

“You’re right Applejack!” Pinkie Pie said atop the staircase. “We will save Twilight!” Ignoring that somehow Pinkie read her mind, Applejack turned to see her dressed in the raiment of a Chantry Sister while Rarity stood next to her, levitating Fluttershy’s chantry robes. “Trixie, Shale, Oghren? Get a cart ready. We’re only going to have shot at this. Don’t worry Applejack. Just focus on the Landsmeet and getting that mean Loghoof off the throne.”

The next few words gave Applejack hope and new-found fear.

“Pinkie Pie has a plan!”

***

Twilight awoke to a pounding headache, a sore horn, and a tender, blackened eye. She struggled to get to her hooves, as her joints rebelled against her as she tried to stand. As she rubbed her head, Twilight felt the cold metal of the null ring still wrapped around her horn. Magic is gone. Wonderful. She then touched her eye and felt only a slight jolt of pain. I can still see with both eyes. That’s good.

She looked around to get a good view of her new abode and approached the bars of her cell. It was a large room, with a pile of hay for a bed, yet the stench of the prison within Fort Drakon made her nose twitch. The rank smell of rotten fruit and damp hay permeated the air, and Twilight recalled the foulness of the Broodmare; it made her cough in disgust. A single guard stood beside her door. He stared off into the distance and muttered curses under his breath.

As the gravity of the situation fell onto her, Twilight slumped against the wall and pressed her face into her hooves. Everything had spiraled out of control so quickly. All she could remember was Sunsword humiliating her in front of all those soldiers. She remembered the strike to the back of her head. Worse, she remembered that Spike was used against her as a hostage. The young dragon she cared for and keep safe used as a weapon. That alone was the greatest burden to bear.

Her sobs echoed in the lonely cell, yet what was she to do? With no magic to call upon, her weapons and possessions taken, escape appeared impossible. A chill air blew in from the single barred window high above her, and left her to realize just how naked and vulnerable she was. The cold got to her, something she thought she had surpassed when she challenged the mountains.

I’ve failed, Twilight thought as tears streamed down her face. It’s up to Applejack now, and Riordan, and all my friends. Will they come to save me? I hope not. There are just too many soldiers. If they come here they’ll be in danger!

A small door opened up at the bottom of the cell door, with a tray of mushy gruel and a cup of dirty water sliding in. They spilled into a mess on the floor in front of her. The guard, a green coated earth pony with several teeth missing, snickered from behind the bars.

“Eat up, oh great and noble Warden!” The guard mocked her. “Enjoy the bounty given to you by the one true regent of Equestria, Teryn Loghoof Mac Tir! Because guess what? Guess what? In the morning? You’ll be dead! They’ll put that pretty neck of yours on the chopping block for sure!”

He seemed to have found this impossibly funny, as his laughter echoed in the halls of the prison and continued to accelerate Twilight’s already merciless headache. They would execute her before the Landsmeet. She wouldn’t be there in the palace to see Loghoof fall from grace. She wouldn’t be there to see Applejack take the crown she deserved. She wouldn’t be there to fight against the ponyspawn anymore.

Give in to despair, Twilight heard herself say, you don’t have to fight anymore. Find peace in death.

The Elements of Harmony. They needed six users, and Twilight bore the tiara on her head in their battle against Flemeth. She had felt the overwhelming power of the artifact course through her veins. If she was executed, who else could wield the power of that Element? Perhaps Trixie could. She was a skilled mage now. Maybe they could find a way to stick the tiara on Shale’s head. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?

Twilight quietly snickered to herself at the thought of a proud golem warrior wearing a teeny tiny crown on her head, only to realize she now laughed. Why? She wondered, Why am I laughing? I’m going to be executed in the morning. I’ll never see my friends again. I’ll never see Spike again. Why am I laughing?

“Because you need to laugh! You need to smile! If you don’t, you’ll give in to despair and you will die!” Twilight shook her head. Had she just heard Pinkie Pie talk to her? She must be mad if she started to think like Pinkie.

“You need to tell yourself the truth, sugarcube,” said Applejack’s voice, You’re scared. You’re alone. You don’t have any magic, and you’re hurtin’ real bad. But you need to stay strong, Twilight. You need to escape from Fort Drakon. We know you can do it.”

“Follow your instincts, darling.” Rarity’s voice echoed, almost as if she was there, pointing at the door. The guard still chuckled himself. “Give yourself more credit. Take the lessons we taught you and escape!”

“I may just be crazy…” Twilight approached the door, stepping over the discarded excuse for food. “What would Rarity do…”

Charm and persuasion. “Excuse me, sir?” Twilight said in her meekest voice. She had to sound beaten, pathetic, and also enticing to the guard. He turned to look at Twilight with a sneer. “You… you said this is my last day. That tomorrow I’ll be dead?”

“That’s right!” he replied, “I bet the teyrn will want to do the honours himself!”

Twilight allowed a small whimper to escape her, something to catch the guard’s attention. He turned at her desperate plea for mercy, only to find he now stared a young naked mare behind a thick metal door. Despite his lecherous stares, Twilight smirked. Too easy.

“If this is going to be my last night… I’d like to know what it means to be with a stallion… for the first time.” She kept her voice soft, sweet, and hopefully alluring. Her mind raced at the implications of her plan, how things could go very wrong at the worst time. This was her best shot to be free, even if it made her feel dirty.

The guard’s eyes widened. He did not think it over before he scrambled for the keys. The lock clicked opened and swung outward while the guard stepped inside. He looked around the dark corridors of the prison and checked to see if anypony would to interrupt him. Once the coast was clear, he closed the door before turning towards his prize.

Her eyes half-lidded in what Twilight could only guess was akin to a “sultry glance”, she stepped carefully and methodically towards her hay bed. Her tail swayed to and fro behind her. Piece by piece, the guard began to remove his armour. He first tossed his helmet to the floor before unlatching his belt and throwing it aside. Attached to the belt was his sword, the only thing Twilight was really concerned with.

His armour now gone, the guard loomed over Twilight’s rear end with a perverse chuckle before placing his hooves on her rump. A shudder of revulsion tingled down her spine. She felt utterly filthy at the touch of rough hooves.

Gross gross gross… What would Applejack do?

Ah’d say a buckin’ is in order.

Twilight suddenly reared up on her forelegs and coiled her legs. She struck the jaw of the guard with all her strength. The guard sailed towards the stone wall of the cell, smacking against it with a loud thud then fell into a heap. He groaned once before drifting into unconsciousness. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t killed him. As disgusting as he was, he didn’t deserve to die. A terrible headache and some time in the dungeon would be punishment enough.

However, he did leave her a gift of sorts. His discarded weapons and armour would make a fine disguise, as well as a string of keys for Fort Drakon. A moment later and Twilight was indistinguishable from the rest of Fort Drakon’s soldiery. The helmet even covered up her still nullified horn.

Lowering the visor on the helm, Twilight slammed the cell door shut as she made her exit from the cell block. She was not used to such equipment, and the heaviness of the helm caused her balance to be off kilter. Once she was able to steady herself, she took a few shaky steps until she could walk with confidence.

Closing the cell block door behind her, Twilight found herself in the dark stone corridors of Fort Drakon, with only the sounds of the patrols and screaming prisoners keeping her company. She wondered if this was what Fluttershy had to endure in the Filesian prison. She was grateful to the Sister that she escaped her captivity so quickly.

There was another problem. The soldiers had stripped Twilight of her gear, and while she could easily summon her Arcane Warrior armour and Sophia to her side once the nullifying circlet was off her horn, it was the other items she had to recover. First she needed to reclaim her Bracer of Friendship. She missed the warmth of Cairidan’s gift around her leg when her friends were near and far. She also needed to desperately find her Star Strand, for without that they would not be able to call upon the Elements of Harmony.

And that would mean doom, death, and despair, Twilight thought to herself. I just need to find my stuff and escape.

No problem. Taking the time to get used to the visor proved to be a problem. Twilight constantly lifted the metal plate so she could see properly. Ahead of her were two more soldiers of Trotterim, both utterly lost as they looked around for somepony, likely a superior officer. As she neared, she could hear their argument become clearer.

“I’m telling you, Hayseed, this isn’t the right way,” said the tall blue earth pony. “It smells dirty and foul. Why would the sergeant want us here?”

“Maybe he done wants to test us with smelly places, Blues,” replied a gangly grey earth pony with buck teeth. “And this place ain’t so bad. The compost heaps out by Red Apple smell a mite worse than this.”

Both young soldiers seemed lost and confused. Twilight saw opportunity. If she could get close to them, there was the chance she could use the pair for her cover. Wandering around alone would bring suspicion. If she was with a group of confused recruits, she could blend in.

Twilight cleared her throat and approached the two stallions. She kept the visor of her helmet lowered. “Uh… Excuse me, gents,” she said, trying to sound deep and masculine. “You two seem to be as lost as I am. These halls, huh? Stretching all over the place all crazy like. It’s just… crazy!”

Blues raised an eyebrow at Twilight as she approached, though his friend didn’t seem to mind her in the slightest. Galloping up to her, he one of her hooves in his own and began to shake with surprising strength. “Well howdy there!” he said, “Fancy meeting another recruit down here! Name’s Turnip Hayseed and this here is Blues!”

“Nice to meet you both,” Twilight replied, “My name is Tw- er… Dusk. Dusk Shine. Yes.” She laughed as she shook hooves with both Blues and Turnip, despite the former’s suspicious glances towards her. Turnip did not notice and kept to his jovial nature.

“Ya lookin’ fer the sergeant too?” Hayseed said, “We’re lookin’ fer him too! Looks like he ain’t that way though.”
“No, no sergeant that way!” Twilight replied, “Just the prison. Very smelly in there. We should probably get going, make our way to the sergeant soon! He’s mad enough with us already!”

Ignoring Blue’s incredulous eyes, Twilight stepped to the familiar place of the lead all the while Turnip continued to talk. “Saw lots of pretty mares on the way to Fort Drakon.” He whistled loudly. “Kinda look like you, Dusk.”

“Yeah… yeah!” Twilight’s eyes darted left and right as her face scrunched up. “I was hoping my time in the armour would give me a buff, masculine figure. Just like Teryn Loghoof!”

“It was odd though.” Blues scratched his chin as he thought. “I’ve never seen Chantry sisters so diametrically opposed. The white unicorn Lunar Sister looked incredibly embarrassed while her pink Solar counterpart kept yammering on and on.”

Oh Celestia…

“Don’t ferget that there funny lookin’ donkey and that loud blue unicorn.” Turnip let loose another torrent of laughs. “They were takin’ their time climbin’ the hill to Fort Drakon. We helped them out. Felt like pushin’ a wagon full o’ rocks though. Still, they said they was gonna have a show here in the Fort. I sure hope we get to see that!”

Twilight resisted the urge to prance around in joy. Her friends did come to rescue her! She knew she could rely on them. Still, new worries arose. Pinkie and Trixie were not exactly the most subtle of ponies, and they were walking right into the waiting hooves of Loghoof’s soldiery. She needed to find her Star Strand and quickly.

“Come on,” Twilight said, “Let’s go find the sergeant quickly, so we can go see the show!” Turnip smiled in response while Blues muttered a complaint under his breath. Taking charge, Twilight opened the door and entered the fort proper. She kept calm and made sure not to make eye contact with any of the patrols that walked by.

First, she had to find the relic of Luna. Twilight approached a nearby door and opened it at random. Opening it revealed naught but a simple armoury. Another door led into a broom closet. Twilight grumbled as each door brought them to where the Star Strand was not. If only she had her magic…

That’s it! The lyrium circlet was made to block magic from the Fade. She had been given the knowledge of the Arcane Warriors, to bring out her natural magic from within her. If her hypothesis was correct, then the lyrium band would not affect her natural abilities.

“Uh… guys?” Twilight said, “Give me a second. Let me think about which way to go.”

Turnip nodded enthusiastically while Blues gave another huff. Closing her eyes, Twilight called upon everything she knew of magic from the Tower and quickly banished it. Those lessons, while not false, would not serve her now. She needed to concentrate on the magic surrounding the Star Strand with the power within.

Unlike channeling the power of the Fade to find the ley lines in the world, Twilight felt everything brighten as she focused her magic outward. Instead of pathways, she could see echoes in the ethereal plane. The images of soldiers on their routine patrols walked by her, their memories still drifting in this place as she watched them march by. Channeling the Fade was risky each time she did it, with the fear of demons above her head. This felt different. She felt serene, and each breath caused the magically lit halls of Fort Drakon to ripple.

Hayseed and Blues froze in place, as they did not partake in the process Twilight cast over the fort. She was alone in this, her mind completely out of phase compared to the real world. She blinked, and with that the world around her seemed to shudder in response. There, in the distance of the hallway, was a shadow of a pony staring back at her.

Twilight did not so much walk through the corridors of Fort Drakon as she did glide through them, projecting her soul-self through the halls in chase of the shadow. She moved with speed that would make Rainbow green with envy, until she finally caught up with the shade. The dark pony, who appeared much taller with radiant turquoise eyes, almost seemed to smile before slipping into door. Taking a deep breath for confidence, Twilight followed and passed through the door until she was on the other side.

The shadow waited for Twilight as she stood over a large wooden box. Twilight approached as the mare waved a hoof at the container and waited for her to open it. Twilight’s thoughts extended to the box, lifting the lid and looking on at the contents within. The brass hinges creaked as the box opened, and revealed a store of confiscated items from other prisoners.

The items Twilight sought levitated before her eyes. The bracer shone in the white light that emanated from the walls of this astral plane. She felt a warm relief as she brought the bracer down to her right foreleg, feeling the metal clasp around her fur.

The moment it clicked shut, she could feel a rush of emotions over her. She guessed that the inner magics infused by Cairidan were strongly amplified in this place; she could feel exactly what emotions her friends experienced. Applejack stepped inside the palace for the Landsmeet, her thoughts painfully divided between her worry for Twilight and her worry that Loghoof would defeat her. Spike was beside her, allowing Twilight to breathe a sigh of relief. He held the banner that bore Applejack’s coat-of-arms, though what it was she could not see from the astral plane. Nervousness was felt from Spike, yet also intense guilt. Twilight sucked back a sob. She had to contain herself for now, though she vowed to pick Spike up and squeeze him in the tightest hug she could once she escaped Fort Drakon.

Her senses drifted closer now, and she could feel the emotions from the other bracers. She felt Pinkie and Rarity together, with Pinkie’s emotions almost too bright to watch. For some reason, Twilight could almost smell sweets wafting from Pinkie’s inner self. From Pinkie came a sense of impressive determination as she moved ever closer to Fort Drakon, with Rarity’s doubt at her companion’s plan. Both were chiefly concerned with Twilight, neither wanting to think if they were too late.

Nearby she could feel the smugness from Trixie almost clogging the air around her, all the while Oghren’s emotions created a mire of indignation which flowed towards Trixie. With them, yet somehow unmoving was Shale, who simply stood still while bored stiff. The only common emotion between the three as they entered the fort was a sense of purpose to find Twilight and get her out of there. A flash from Shale gave Twilight the image of a massive stone hoof crushing a pigeon. Wonderful.

Twilight stretched her senses further still in an effort to find Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. Though she strained and the images she found were faint whispers, Twilight found them all the same. Both pegasi flew as quickly as they could towards Trotterim. They exuded a feeling of relief as they travelled. Twilight’s heart swelled at what must have been good news. They found the Filesians.

With her friends safe, Twilight turned her attention back on the shadow mare and the Star Strand. The artifact was still safe within its crystal phial, and it shone with even brighter moonlight in this astral place. She held the phial in her hoof for a moment and muttered a quick prayer of thanks that it was still whole and unused. Without it, they would not be able to defeat the Archdemon.

Twilight looked up at the dark one and almost swore that she could see a smile on her face. The shadow then turned to leave, stepping into the wall, then vanished.

Thou hast done well. Twilight could only blink as the voice spoke to her. She suddenly felt a force yank her by the tail back into the halls of the fort. The magic pulled her through the door and guards frozen in place before finally returning to where she had left off with Hayseed and Blues.

“Fine, but don’t spend too much time thinking,” Blues said, “If we are late, we’ll be spending our first week on armour polish duty. Or worse. The latrines. Ugh.”

Twilight looked at both pony guards with confusion. Had she just imagined everything? It seemed no time had passed since she channeled her spell. Her heart sank as she stood there dumbfounded. She would have to infiltrate the room and get back her gear, but at least she knew where to look.

She took one step forward only to feel a familiar weight on her foreleg. Twilight’s eyes widened as she shook her hoof about. The bracer was around her leg as snugly as it was before, as if it had always been there. Pressing a hoof to small pouch within her armour where a poultice would be, she felt the familiar firm case of the Star Strand.

I did this… Twilight thought as happiness and relief ran rampant over her face, the magic within helped me. I’ll have to investigate all the spells I know later. Right now, I need to get out of here.

“Aha!” Twilight announced, “I know where we have to go! Come on, I bet the sergeant went to see the show! If we hurry, we can see the show and meet up with him at the same time.”

Breaking into full gallop, Twilight raced down the corridor with the hope she could reach the others in time. They had to get out of Fort Drakon and to Applejack’s side quickly. They needed to be together to make a stand against Loghoof. She just hoped she would not get the others thrown behind bars as well.

***

“Why do I have to pull the cart?” Oghren asked as he trudged along the path towards Fort Drakon. The wheels of the rickety coach wagon squealed with each turn, joined by Ogren’s constant yet muffled curses. Trixie sat in the driver’s seat of the coach with smug grin on her face, with her hat covering her eyes as she lay on her side.

“Because you are the big burly beast of burden who pulls the coach. Trixie is the dainty little unicorn who drives it.” She lifted a canteen of apple juice to her lips and took a long draught while Oghren watched.

Growling, Oghren pushed forward and jerked the wagon to lurch on the uneven road to the fort. The bump broke Trixie’s concentration, dropping the canteen and its contents all over her.

Oghren snickered and ignored Trixie’s baleful glare before as he continued to pull the wagon up towards the gates of the fort. The coach stopped in front of the tall iron gates, where two Trotterim soldiers stood on duty. Oghren shifted on his hooves as he looked up at the massive structure and its imposing gate.

He turned to face Trixie, who leaped off the coach towards the guards. As she approached, Oghren shrugged off the yoke, grunting as he shuffled in his pantaloons. Pinkie Pie insisted that he not go into the fort with his armour as per her plan. Instead, he dressed up like some sort of jester. If it weren’t for Twilight and Spike… Oghren held his tongue while Trixie bowed her head and lifted her hat to the guards with flourish.

“Greetings, oh kind gentlecolts! We are the Great and Powerful Siblings, Trixie and Oghren, and we are here at the behest of the Teryn himself to provide some of the greatest feats of strength and a complete extravaganza of magical wonders!”

Oghren’s jaw slackened as he watched Trixie rattle on with complete gusto. The guards turned their attention completely on Trixie, though they did not move with a threatening demeanor. They ate up her words like oats in a feedpouch, and Oghren couldn’t help but enjoy the show.

Trixie’s nice legs being an added bonus.

One of the guards looked at Trixie with a raised eyebrow. “We didn’t receive word that there was going to be a show at Fort Drakon,” he said, “There must be some kind of mistake?”

“M-m-mistake?!” Trixie shrieked, “This is preposterous! Do you know who we are? We are the Great and Powerful Siblings! Can you not see the family resemblance?”

“I’m the pretty one,” Oghren said. He ignored Trixie’s baleful glare.

“I can’t believe that imbecile!” Trixie continued her diatribe. “We have travelled the world, entertaining the likes of nobility of Filais! The Archons of the Imperium! We have brought joy and laughter across the ocean to Pura Raza! When the Teryn asked us to bring some happiness to war-weary soldiers of Equestria, my brother and I felt so humbled! But now, who shall enjoy our wondrous performance before marching into battle against the ponyspawn? Surely without some levity in their very souls, these brave ponies will surely perish!”

Trixie’s eyes brimmed with crocodile tears. She dabbed them away with a levitated cloth. The guards looked at each other with worried expression before one of them held up his hooves in an attempt to calm Trixie’s hysterics.

“Listen, we’ll go find the sergeant-at-arms, and he’ll decide whether to let you in or not. Just wait here.” Once he was gone, Oghren leaned against the coach wagon. This proved to be more trouble than anticipated, but if Pinkie’s plan was to work, they needed to follow the steps to the letter. He didn’t like how Pinkie’s plan required skulduggery, but no one else had a better idea. His strategy would be to simply charge into the fort.

The guard returned soon after with one of the bulkiest warrior Oghren had ever seen. Both his and Trixie’s mouth went agape as the massive white pony stepped towards them. His armour seemed much too small for him, and his helmet sat on his cropped cut mane. He looked down on both Trixie and Oghren with bulging red eyes, yet Oghren couldn’t help but stare back as if in challenge. Big as he was, he was no berserker.

“Yeah?” said the giant sergeant, his boisterous voice resonating in the air. Trixie coughed before speaking.
“We are the Great and Powerful Siblings!” Trixie said to restart her spiel. “We’ve come a long way to entertain Fort Drakon on the behest of the regent!”

“What’s your act?” asked one of the guards.

“I perform only the most amazing, stupendous feats of magic! The likes of which will leave you in awe and wonder! As for Oghren he uh… he performs the traditional donkey deadly dance of doom and death! Lots of swords and other sharp pointy weapons you soldier-types, right? Right Oghren? I am right, right?”

The sergeant did not appear impressed, his face flat and showed no hint of emotion. “Yeah?”

We’re losing her. Sighing, Oghren stepped forward and tapped the cart with a hoof. “I’ve got barrels of booze in the back. Once the show is over, cider for everypony!”

This news caused the sergeant’s eyes to bulge even more than Oghren ever thought possible. “Yeah?”

Oghren smirked. Drinks always work. “Yeah.”

“Yeah!”

The sergeant’s shout shook everypony around him as he headed back into the Fort. The large iron gates slowly rose to allow the coach entry. Oghren raised an eyebrow, and wondered if this plan would actually work. Trixie looked at Oghren before turning back to the yoke of the coach. With a sigh, Oghren replaced the implement on his shoulders before shooting Trixie a nasty glare.

“I’m giving that rump a smack one of these days,” he muttered, “I won’t tell you when, but I will.”

“Oh good brother, please. That’s silly talk. Now just keep the coach moving, will you? We don’t want to keep these brave soldiers of Trotterim waiting for the greatest display of magic ever, do you?”



Oghren grumbled as he put the yoke back around his neck before pulling the cart into the fort proper. As the wagon was brought into the inner walls, two blue eyes peeked through the curtain past Trixie’s starry hat.

“I still can’t believe this is working, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity said, “By all rights, the soldiers should have searched the wagon for contraband.”

“I too am disappointed that they did not search,” Shale replied. She stood stuck between Pinkie and Rarity. “I still don’t understand why I cannot just leap out and bash everything until we find magical Twilight.”

Pinkie’s face was marred by a downcast frown as she peeped through the cloth. “Look at the eyes of the soldiers, you two. Fort Drakon must be the most depressing place in Equestria, and the threat of the ponyspawn along with the uncertainty of the throne isn’t helping. You offer them a show and some cider; they probably will eat it up to the fullest. I wish we could give them a proper party. They all look like they need it.”

They travelled a ways in silence before the wagon finally came to a complete halt. It stood in the middle of Fort Drakon’s courtyard, where they soon had a gathering of soldiers. Murmurs of cider echoed towards the cart as Oghren set down the yoke once again. He turned to Trixie and gave her a quick nod as a signal to begin.

Trixie took her cue with expert precision, jumping from the wagon and landing on the ground in stylish fashion. Her cape fluttered behind her, aided by her magic, as she took a few confident steps towards the crowd.

“Kind and welcoming soldiers of Trotterim! Brave warriors in Equestria’s defense! I, the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
“And her stalwart brother Oghren!”

Trixie shot him a glare. “Yes… the Great and Powerful Siblings! We have come to ease your worries with the most amazing feats of magic ever seen before by pony eyes! Watch as I show you all the limits of the Fade, from transfiguration to even making a pony vanish in front of you!”

The soldiers smiled as they formed a semi-circle in front of the wagon. They watched as Trixie cast several illusions of shimmering blue light towards them; images of ponies battling ponyspawn and dragons in epic adventures. Pinkie felt her lips curl upward in a grin as she recognized the illusions of the ponies portrayed. They were her friends, though slightly altered, and each of their adventures played out for the soldiers to enjoy in dramatic fashion. Their victories and struggles became tales of heroism, an example for them all to follow. Pinkie approved.

Oghren rolled out several barrels of cider and set them down before distributing the drink to the soldiery. When he went back for another barrel, he stuck his head into the wagon. “Trixie’s gonna cast a smokescreen in twenty seconds,” he said, “She’s also gonna cast a dragon into appearance. You ponies fought a dragon? Wish I was there for that. Anyways, that should give you two enough time to get into the fort and find Twilight.”

“Have no worry, Oghren, we shall get her back.” Rarity spoke with confidence, looking through the curtains as Trixie’s horn blazed with arcane energies. The sky darkened as storm clouds gathered overhead. The crack of thunder brought all attention to Trixie’s masterful display of spellwork. This was Pinkie’s cue. Flashing one last smile at the disgruntled Shale, she and Rarity jumped out of the rear of the wagon, all the while the soldiers of Fort Drakon kept their eyes to the sky.

Trixie’s chant grew louder as she raised her hooves to the sky, a single bolt of blue lightning slashed through the sky. A thunderous roar echoed over the fort as the outline of a high dragon bursting from the skies towards the soldiers. The highly stylized illusion landed behind the wagon, and all the soldiers stood in awe. Trixie’s eyes were wide at the feat she accomplished as a smirk slowly formed on her lips.

“Thank you, thank you!” Trixie called, “I’ll be here all day.”

Pinkie and Rarity took the opportunity Trixie gave them to dash over to one of the many doors into the fortress proper, their disguises as Chantry Sisters of the Sun and Moon rippling in the wind. Once inside, Rarity let out a breath as Pinkie scanned the halls for any indication of the prison. Now for the hard part, Pinkie thought.

“How are going to find Twilight in this castle?” Rarity said, “We don’t have a map or directions or anything!”

“We have to try!” Pinkie said, “We just need to find a guard to ask. We have these disguises, let’s use them! We also have the bracers Cairidan gave us. As long as we can feel Twilight is ok, we keep looking no matter what.”

The sparse halls held no patrolling soldiers for them to question, though, as their plan had worked too well. All of the guards seemed to be outside watching Trixie’s show, all the while leaving Pinkie and Rarity to explore Fort Drakon alone and unaided. They could have used a guide of sorts to bring them to the dungeon.

Pinkie looked around the halls. A part of her regretted not taking part in the fun, but she knew that finding Twilight was top priority. Not only did her future party needed Twilight as the guest of honour, but Twilight was her friend and she would do anything to save her from the least fun place in all of Trotterim.

“This way!” Pinkie dashed off down the corridor with Rarity only just behind her, their priestess robes flapping in the wind. She only gave the bracer of Nakuum a brief glance every few steps, and she knew deep down in her heart that it guided her in the right direction.

Rarity huffed behind her, but otherwise said nothing. Everypony trusted Pinkie and her plan to save Twilight, despite the rather haphazard and very risky nature in it all. She put all her trust in Trixie, Oghren, and Shale to make a convincing distraction, just as they did for her to find Twilight and escape the Fort safely.

Pinkie came to a sliding halt as her ears twitched. The sound of hooves came closer. She stuck close to the wall and listened for guards to approach then looked over to Rarity.

“Quick!” she said as she raised the hood of her robes. “Into character!”

The guards bounded around the corner and skidded into a halt in front of two praying Sisters of the Chantry. Pinkie suppressed a giggle beneath her hood. She did enjoy playing dress up.

“Oh, Celestia! Almighty and omniscient Celestia!” Pinkie raised her hooves in mock prayer. “Bless this day with your morning light, and your noon light, and even your dusk light, which is not nearly as bright but still pretty good!” For the first time, Pinkie wished she did not skip morning sermons in Ponyring’s Chantry just to sneak a few mid-morning snacks.
Rarity hesitated for a moment and looked towards Pinkie for support. Pinkie blinked then mouthed her silent realization. Having lived in a swamp with that meanie Flemeth, Rarity knew even less of the Chant than Pinkie did.

She needed to improvise. “Oh great Celestia, keeper of the dawn and other shiner of lights! Shed that same light I just mentioned on this young acolyte to your glorious sister Luna, just as your light reflects off the moon! It is like sharing which is caring, which is super nice and very religious and stuff and more of your children and followers should listen to those particular words much more carefully and—“

“Ahem,” Rarity interrupted, her voice having grown more somber. “The moon acts like a mirror, and seeks out the true nature of things… and of ponies. Who among these noble guards will reveal themselves as pious followers of light? Who will sit and pray with us in silence and contemplation?”

Pinkie’s lips turned up into a grin. Rarity did have a knack for acting. Of the three guards, only the one with the helmet approached the pair. Pinkie looked at the stallion’s purple coat with a level of familiarity, only to look down on his foreleg to see a very familiar bracer on his leg. Her eyes widened just the same as her lips at the realization.

“Twi—mmf!” Pinkie suddenly felt Rarity shove a hoof into her mouth. Right, Pinkie thought as she cleared her throat, we’re incognito.

“Greetings, Priestesses of the Chantry!” said Twilight. She tried her best impression of a stallion. “What are you doing here so deep in the Fort? Everypony seems to be enjoying themselves in the courtyard. We should go there.”

“This fine, dashing soldier is right, dear sister,” Rarity said, “We should get back to the courtyard and join the festivities. If we could just head this way…”

They walked together, with Twilight still in disguise but keeping in step with Pinkie and Rarity. As they returned to the crowded courtyard, Pinkie could see the guards getting restless. The barrels of ale lay empty around a forlorn Oghren, and the soldiers wanted to see something truly spectacular. Pinkie saw a glint in Trixie’s eyes. The same kind of glint Pinkie held in her own gaze when the time for fireworks drew nigh.

Oghren stood in the middle of Trixie’s makeshift stage and looked around both confused and worried. He gave quick glances in Trixie’s direction as she twirled her staff around in a fanciful manner. Pinkie squeezed her way through the crowd to get as close to the stage as possible. Not hard to do, considering how many of soldiers made way for two Chantry Sisters and their escorts.

“Fine, brave soldiers of Trotterim!” Trixie shouted. “Now it is time for the grand finale! I am going to use my mastery of magic to turn my brother Oghren into a statue so mighty and terrible to behold!”
Oghren spun his head toward her. “Wait, what?”

“Now brother, everything will be fine!” Trixie’s horn began to glow and engulfed Oghren in a blue aura. Swirls of glittering magic surrounded Oghren while a hum shook everypony’s ears. Many of the guards watched in amazement as Oghren began to turn bright blue, only for his body to shine with radiant arcane might.

A loud pop erupted from the shimmering light, and an impenetrable mist shrouded the stage. The cloud washed over the crowd, and Pinkie coughed with the rest as the dust filled her lungs. Despite the noise of the soldiers, Pinkie could hear the scrambling of hooves followed quickly by the solid thud of a very heavy pony.

Pinkie’s smile widened. Not the thud of a pony, but that of a golem.

Once the magical dust cleared, Shale stood where Oghren had been, standing perfectly still with her body appearing essentially inert. A chorus of cheers came from the soldiers, with many of them staring in disbelief at the sight before them. Trixie walked around Shale with a look of pride on her face, and waved a hoof in the golem’s direction.

“Is Trixie not the most great and powerful unicorn you have ever seen?” Another roar of applause came from the crowd, while Pinkie saw Twilight watch the show with a look of horror behind her helmet.

Trixie smiled at the assembled mass as she took another look at Shale, her horn glowing again. “Now watch as the Great and Powerful Trixie commands this statue to come alive! Come, servant of a master beyond compare, Trixie commands you to move!”

Shale’s eyes flashed open and the lyrium lines began to glow as she “awoke.” Unlike the trick transformation, seeing a golem come to life did not please many of the soldiers as many took a careful step away from the stage. Shale complied with Trixie’s command and began to move with slow, deliberate steps towards the edge of the stage. Pinkie looked up at Shale and gave her a wink.

However, Trixie’s bravado-filled grin did not fall. “Now, golem! Show them your moves! Dance for the soldiers.”
Shale turned to face Trixie. “Do not push your luck, prat…”

“The Great and Powerful Trixie commands you to dance!” Trixie bellowed and pointed her staff at Shale in some sort of display of power.

Pinkie pressed a hoof to her face. This was what everypony was worried about; Trixie’s need for attention got the better of her.

Shale responded in kind, and reared up on her legs. She then began to buck like a bronco on stage, slamming her strong hind hooves into whatever upstanding structures existed. Namely, Trixie’s stage buckled from the blows and before it collapsed into a storm of splinters and shattered wood.

A hundred and more swords slid free from their sheathes as the soldiers of Fort Drakon responded to the threat of Shale in the only way they knew how. Despite this show of force, confusion still reigned among them, as officers shouted contradictory orders over each other, and no one commander seemed to agree with how best to deal with the mayhem wrought by Shale.

“This is getting ridiculous.” Twilight mutter under her breath, and in a flash of light her disguise left her back in the armour of the Arcane Warriors. Several of the soldiers stepped away in surprise that their prisoner now stood among them. The blue earth pony soldier that accompanied Twilight looked at her with eyes filled with anger.

“You... you tricked us!” He looked to the others. “Get her! Don’t let her escape!”

Twilight grimaced. “Blues, Hayseed, you were really great, so it’s with great regret that I have to do this.” Twilight’s horn pulsed once with her violet aura, enveloping the stage and her friends in a protective shield. She gave a cry, and the shield pressed outward, throwing every soldier not under her protection off their hooves and into one another.

Rarity stepped forward and drew a glyph in the air with her horn. Once her art was complete, the same glyph formed around the soldiery and made them move with a magical sluggishness. Pinkie let her robe fall, and pulled a flash grenade from the belt of bombs.

“Everypony, look away!” She twisted the timing mechanism to only a short allowance and tossed the grenade into the slowed crowd of soldiers. The bomb burst into a single flash of light, and the chorus of moans made Pinkie’s ears droop, if only a little. The time would come where she used her alchemy to make ponies smile, not hurt, but today was not that day.

“Let’s get out of here!” Twilight lead the way in a mad sprint for the main gate. Rarity followed behind while Pinkie bounced next to her. Trixie gave a quick bow for her makeshift show, and then joined the small herd. Shale followed suit while Oghren, now dressed in his armour, stumbled up besides Twilight.

“Heh, we came to save you, Warden!” Oghren said, “I think you owe us all a drink after this!”

“I’ll buy every barrel of cider from Red Apple if I have to,” Twilight replied. She turned back to yell at Shale. “We need to stop all pursuit! Shale! Get the gate!”

Shale approached the mechanism that controlled Fort Drakon’s gate while the rest of the group dashed through it. Several guards galloped towards her with swords gripped in their mouths. The glyph and the flash grenade would not keep them away for long.

“Annoying prats,” Shale muttered as the guards struck. Their swords bounced in harmless strokes off her rocky hide, and Pinkie could hear the strain of boredom in Shale’s deep sigh. She batted her hoof at the soldiers, knocking them away with ease before raising her hooves in a strong kick that not only crunched the gate chains, but destroyed the entire mechanism.

The loud groan from the gears gave Shale plenty of time to escape Fort Drakon. The gate crashed down and kicked up a storm of dust, blinding the soldiers while Twilight and company made their mad dash for freedom. Trotterim’s army stood on the other side, now trapped while many galloped to the other exits.

Twilight took a deep breath and fell to the ground. As she rolled onto her back she began to laugh. Pinkie thought Twilight remembered a funny joke, but instead Twilight just sat there for a while.

“Shortest stay in Fort Drakon, I think,” Twilight giggled. “Thank you all so much. For the rescue. For everything.”

“We weren’t about to leave you at the whims of Loghoof, darling.” Rarity helped Twilight to her hooves. “I must say, though, we need to get out of here. The soldiers will come back soon and we can’t battle them all.”

“You’re right.” Twilight looked down the hill towards the city, and pointed to the palace. “Applejack needs our help. The time to topple Loghoof is now. Let’s go!”

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