• 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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Rainbow Encounters

Chapter 6: Rainbow Encounters

Loghoof walked over to the balcony overlooking the palace hall. The floor was filled with the nobility, mostly the earth ponies who ruled the fertile mainland, the Bannorn. The teryn of Glenwall had spent weeks preparing for this day and his fellow conspirator, Arl Rendon Maim of Amareathine, stood beside him looking over the crowd. The sight of the tan earth pony made Loghoof’s gut wrench. Maim was a scheming, greedy stallion, but necessary for his plans to keep Equestria safe.

Equestria was divided into regions ruled by the nobility. The Bannorn were divided into nine regions, ruled by the local Banns. Of the Banns, all but Bann Meyer of Ponyring were present. The five Arlings were strategic areas that fielded a large battalion of soldiers. Including Arl Maim, Arl Greywolf of West Hills and Arlessa Cheerilee of South Reach were accounted for. The Arl of Trotterim was dead due to sickness, his son “missing,” and thanks to Maim, Arl Macintosh would not make it to this gathering.

A shame, but it had to be done. Macintosh was too loyal to the old bloodline to see Loghoof’s grand strategy. King Blueblood was going to open the gates of Equestria wide open for the Filesians, and he did not fight a bloody war for the majority of his life just to see the old king’s impudent son let the land he loved fall to the enemy. He would not let his children be under the hooves of a tyrant again.

Teryn Highlander of White Fortress would also not be appearing, once again thanks to Arl Maim. Of all the Equestrian nobles, Highlander would have been the one to stop Loghoof’s one opportunity to hold Equestria’s borders secure. It was regrettable that Maim had to massacre White Fortress itself, but Loghoof needed unity amongst all else.

“Nobles of Equestria,” he began, his voice booming throughout the hall. “Know that we face dark times, the likes of which we have not seen since the Filesian occupation. Our noble king Blueblood is dead and Ostequus is loss, but we must still stand united to face-”

“And why is Blueblood pushin’ daisies?” Bann Braeburn shouted towards Loghoof. “You still have your army, and not a single pony had a scratch on ‘em! If I were a bettin’ colt, I’d say you let King Blueblood bite it!”

Arl Maim stepped forward, about to let loose a verbal attack of his own but was held back by Loghoof. Of course Braeburn of Appleoosa would be a problem; the young noble was devoted to Macintosh and shared many of his ideals, though he did not share the same wisdom as the Arl of Red Apple. Still, many of the Bann would side with Braeburn, as long as Loghoof held power. There would be little chance to avoid civil war, though he had the strongest position with the largest share of the army, as well as the support of the Arlings.

“Understand this,” he said aiming his harsh eyes towards the assembled nobles. “As regent, I will brook no threat to Equestria. Not from Filais, not from the ponyspawn, not from you or anypony! Stand against me, and you stand against Equestria herself.”

The banns murmured dissent as they left, Braeburn last as he steeled his gaze on Loghoof. The teryn of Glenwell left the balcony and returned to the inner halls of the palace, followed closely by Arl Maim. Before he could retreat to his quarters, his daughter Armeria approached. Dressed in the regal robes of the queen, the widow to King Blueblood held anger and sorrow in her beautiful face draped in her golden mane.

“Father, is it true?” she asked standing in front of Loghoof. He sighed as she opened the door to his quarters.

“King Blueblood’s death is his own doing, my flower,” he said, “He relied too much on fanciful dreams rather than reality. Until the Filesian and ponyspawn threat are no more, I will protect your throne, you, as regent. When the time comes, you will be queen of Equestria again proper. Until that time, let your father handle the affairs of war.”

Loghoof leaned forward to kiss his daughter’s forehead, but she backed away. She had the same strong eyes as her father, but the soft features of her mother. She stormed off towards her bedroom, leaving only a pained father to fall back to his room.

“Have her watched, Maim,” the teryn ordered, “WATCHED.” Maim’s cutie mark, a bloodied dagger, spoke all too well of his tendencies. If Maim touched a single hair on Armeria’s head, Loghoof would show the Arl of Amaerethine true fury.

“But of course, your Grace,” Maim said with a bow. “I also found a solution to the Grey Warden problem.”

Loghoof turned at the mention of the Grey Wardens. He turned his ears upward to show that he had the Arl’s full attention. Maim opened the door to the chamber as a servant poured a goblet of wine for the teryn. A rainbow mane pegasus in leather armour carrying multiple daggers walked in behind Maim. She had a proud smirk on her face as she bowed to Loghoof.

“The Pura Razan Wonderbolts send their regards,” she said, though she spoke like an Equestrian rather than one from Pura Raza. Loghoof’s snorted as he drank a good helping of wine, but not even that could get the distaste from Maim’s choice out of his mouth.

“Assassins.” He looked at both the pegasus and Maim with contempt. How many lows would he sink in order to protect Equestria? May Celestia protect his soul, his hooves were thick in the mud now.

The cyan mare rolled her eyes. “Not just any assassins, but the best of the best!” she boasted, “Once we find those Wardens, they won’t last ten seconds.”

Again, Loghoof stared at the assassin with harsh eyes. “See to it that they do not.” The pegasus bowed and left, followed by a bow from Maim. With another drink of wine, Loghoof looked out the window of the palace towards Trotterim.

Celestia protect his soul indeed.

* * *

The Unicorn Tower could be seen in the horizon, but Twilight judged the distance between the Tower and their party was still many furlongs of travel at a good pace. They also noted that as long as Loghoof’s soldiers and other bounty hunters were travelling the roads, they would have to take detours to avoid the constant harassment.

They walked during the day and rested at night, both Twilight and Applejack sharing the evening watch and keeping their senses ready for any ponyspawn. The party set camp in a small clearing, with Twilight taking first watch alongside Fluttershy and Rarity. With Spike safe asleep in his basket, Twilight took the opportunity to go around the camp and talk with those in her party.

Of the group, Twilight wanted to get the perspective from Rarity the most. Not just about their task to fight the ponyspawn, but also how she learned magic from Flemeth. Twilight was very curious about the differences in teaching and wanted to contrast how she grew up in the Tower and how Rarity was raised by the Mare of the Mire.

Rarity was sitting away from the fire, mending Pinkie’s leather armour while the pink earth pony was cooking something over the camp fire. Twilight laid herself on a blanket next to Rarity as she fixed the right foreleg. It came to a surprise that Rarity was doing the repairs by hoof, rather than with magic.

“Mother always says to remember the little details,” she explained, looking up to Twilight’s quizzical expression. “Yes I have magic, but if I do not know the fundamentals behind the magic, then my knowledge is flawed. Then I will not understand the intricacies. Is there anything I can help you with, dear?”

“You were raised outside of the influence of the Unicorn Circle,” Twilight began, “And I'm just curious how you learned magic from, well, a living legend like Flemeth.”

Rarity laughed, something akin to a noblemare rather than a pony who grew up in the Wilds.

“While it is true that my mother raised me, the Wilds were just as much a teacher as she was.” She looked over Pinkie’s armour, satisfied with her work before continuing. “First, know that Flemeth is not my real mother. She made that very clear when I was a little filly and that she found me in Wilds cold and alone. Then the education started.”

“As I mentioned before, I had to learn the fundamentals of living in the Wilds before I could learn Flemeth’s spells. Before I could spark a fire, I had to make one with sticks. Before I could mend my clothes with magic, I had to use needle and thread. After a while, I began learning to use magic in ways that would serve me. My spell that prevents dirt to cling to me was one such discovery and let me tell you, any unicorn can fling a fireball, but it takes a pony with a careful eye to make sure she is never dirty again.”

Much of Rarity’s words made sense to Twilight and she was impressed that such knowledge was not known to the Unicorn Circle. They always relied on the teachings of the elder unicorns, or what could be gleamed from books. It made Ser Magni’s comments about her own lack of outdoor experience. Add to how often Rarity cast her “dirt spell” and how clean she always appeared, Twilight wondered if Rarity was growing in power with every piece of dirt vanquished by her magic, if very slowly.

“What about your mother’s ability to change shape?” Twilight asked, “You said she turned into a giant eagle. No book in the Tower ever mentioned magic that can do that. Can you do the same?”

“Nothing as grand as what my mother can do, I assure you,” Rarity answered, “And what few forms I do take, I prefer to be at least pleasing to my own eye: a beautiful bird, a stunning white cat. Creatures that allow the average person to look on in awe for a moment then just as quickly forget about them.”

“I used that magic to watch the residents of Ponyring every now and again. It was there that I saw the Filesian merchant family and their wonderfully tailored dresses. It was love at first sight. The silks, the velvets, I simply had to shed the old leather and cloth clothing that likely belonged to my mother and make my own works of art. My mother resisted, of course, but she saw that I was learning how to make clothes the same way I learned her magic.”

Rarity’s smile soon turned as a sad expression shadowed her face. “When I was confident enough, I brought my designs to Ponyring and began to sell them. Ponies where surprised at what the marsh mare was bringing to them, but loved them all the same. I made a few gold coins here and there from the dresses and robes, which I brought to the Filesian merchant. They were selling the most exquisite golden mirror, with the frame etched in Filesian poetry. I loved that mirror more than anything in the world, because I could clearly see myself rather than just in murky waters of the Wild.”

“Mother found the mirror, and was furious,” Rarity continued, her eyes now filled with both sadness and anger. “She took all my dresses, my materials, the money and the mirror, dumped it outside our hut and burnt it all in front of me. ‘Watch!’ she had shouted as they burned, ‘Watch as your vanities and luxuries become ash. Only power is permanent.’ Given time, she only allowed me to recreate my efforts if I used magic, but even then she had a look of disgust with the beauty I created.”

Flemeth was not raising a daughter, but instead raising a sorceress who did not want to be one. Twilight wondered how Flemeth could be so callous to the filly she called her daughter. She also wondered what purpose Flemeth had in mind for Rarity once she had become very powerful.

“Do you hate Flemeth for what she did?” Twilight asked. Rarity shook her head, before adding the finishing touches to Pinkie’s armour.

“While we have our disagreements, I cannot hate her for what she did,” Rarity answered. “I learned how to become more powerful with my magic. I learned how to survive in the Wilds. But most of all I learned who I was from that mirror, from my work. I have to say, I was shocked when Mother asked me to accompany you, but now I’m glad. I can see the world outside of the hut in the Wilds, really get to see the beauty of everything around me, even if the land does smell like wet dog.”

Twilight laughed at the joke towards Equestria. Before she returned to her tent, Rarity stopped her with a raised hoof.

“Twilight,” she said, “Thank you for listening. I’ve not met many other ponies, and Mother was not always the best conversationalist. It feels good to have someone to confide in. Now if only we can confide in Applejack some decent aesthetic taste.”

They shared a laugh before both retired for the night. Twilight was right, that she and Rarity had a much different education when it came to learning magic, and that there was much they could learn from each other. Gazing up at the night sky, Twilight gave thanks to Luna. Maybe they could beat the Blight after all.

Night turned to day and the party continued their trek north to Unicorn Tower. On the way there Twilight was explaining about life in the Tower, about its collection of books, about Wise Eyes and the rest of the senior enchanters. She avoided topics like the Harrowing and the templar, due to the former being a secret and the latter being a possibly sensitive to the former templar Applejack.

As they travelled, Rarity was showing Twilight her spell for mending simple cloth. Her practical knowledge of needlework made the magic seem much simpler than it would appear, but Twilight was having difficulty with all the different names for stitches. The spell seemed to involve much more than simply moving the needle, instead making the frayed cloth repair itself with the assistance of magic.

Pinkie Pie was bounding up the road until she tripped on a piece of debris. While Applejack helped her up, Twilight took a look at the wooden rubble. Around them sat what appeared to be a cart, marked with slash marks of swords. Or claws.

A shrill scream rang out from a hill. The ponies turned to see a red pegasus flying down towards them, breathing heavily. “Help!” she called as she landed in front of them. “Please, you must help me! Bandits attacked our wagons, and they are chasing my family! I managed to get away, but we are unarmed!”

Before anypony could respond, Pinkie leaped forward towards the frightened flying filly. “Never fear!” she announced, “The Grey Wardens and friends are here! We’ll save your family from those bad bandits!”

“This way! Quickly!” The red pegasus flew off towards the hills, with Pinkie following close behind her. The rest joined their pink companion, with Twilight noting the wreckage of more wagon parts along the way. Two broken wagon wheels lay against some rocks, and another was spotted beneath the shadow of the hill.

The presence of a fifth wheel raised concerns to Twilight. She knew that anypony with a wagon would have a spare wheel, but then came the sight of a sixth wheel that caused the unicorn to stop. “Wait!” she yelled out, “We’re galloping into a trap!”

It was too late. They were already in a rocky crescent with no way easy way out except for the way they came. The red pegasus smirked as she back away, while from the shadows of the rocks came eight other pegasi, each armed with blades and bows, arrows trained on the ponies.

The last to appear was their leader, Twilight guessed. A blue pegasus with a bright rainbow mane, clad in well kept leather armour adorned with daggers. She looked down on the party with her fuchsia eyes, a devious smile growing on her lips. Twilight began channelling a defensive barrier, just like the one she used against the ornlock in the observatory. It would give them valuable seconds to either reason with these ponies, or counterattack.

“I told Loghoof that I’d take the Wardens down in ten seconds flat!” the leader of the assassins called out, “And when I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it! Get them!”

That was the moment Twilight needed. Her horn glowed bright as she raised the barrier, her friends readying themselves as the pegasi arrows bounced harmlessly off the shield. With each hit against the magic barrier though, Twilight felt her energy being sapped trying to hold up the shield.

The rainbow pegasus glowered as the other assassins looked to their leader. “You ponies took longer than ten seconds!” she complained, “Get in close and finish them! Do I have show you all how it’s done?”

With a long, thin dagger clenched in her teeth, the cyan mare leapt into the air and charged towards the shield, the blade slashing against the arcane protection. The other assassins joined in with their own weapons, following the lead of the rainbow pegasus. Each attack was drawing more energy out of Twilight. The barrier’s strength held, but the blue shimmer was fading quickly.

“Sugarcube,” Applejack said as she drew her sword. “Drop the shield. We’ll take care of these varmints.”

“Applejack is right, darling,” Rarity said as her eyes crackled with electricity. “You don’t have to defend us all by yourself. They picked the wrong ponies today.”

Twilight looked up and saw each of her allies armed and ready to face the assailants the moment the shield was down. Pinkie had her mace in her mouth and a lyrium explosive ready, while Fluttershy had prepared an arrow. Twilight did not want to fight other ponies; her mission was to fight against the ponyspawn after all. The steel in Applejack’s eyes made her realize that this battle could not be avoided, and these opponents could not be reasoned with.

Her horn stopped glowing, allowing Twilight to take a breath as her friends launched a counter-attack. The pegasi were not prepared for the barrier to suddenly cease, flying through the air and missing their targets completely. A lightning bolt from Rarity caused the pegasi to disperse as one received the bolt square in the chest. Twilight looked at Rarity with new eyes before turning to see the rest of the fight.

Everything slowed down around Twilight. Rarity was channelling another bolt of lightning from her horn and staff. Applejack was about to slash one of the assassins’s throat. An arrow from Fluttershy was going to sail through the air and pierce an enemy archer. Pinkie was bringing her mace in a downward arc, about to crush a fallen pegasi’s chest. Her mane was no longer curly but straight as she fought off the attacking party.

She turned slowly to see the rainbow assassin diving right towards her. Twilight ducked, but still felt the sharp dagger slice her skin. Her staff fired a few blasts of energy at her attacker while she looked her cut over. Not lethal and not burning. There was no poison on the pegasus’ blade. Twilight then turned to see the red pegasus that led them into the ambush gallop towards her with her own dagger ready.

Concern for Spike overruled everything. Twilight’s horn glowed bright as she channelled the spell to let loose a cone of magical cold point blank into the attacking pegasus. The effects were the same here as they were in the observatory at Ostequus; the pegasus froze in place, a fearful expression iced over her face.

Twilight’s breathing grew heavy and rapid as she realized what she had done. She had learned offensive spells in the Tower due to her teacher’s insistence. They had said that in the event of a demon possessing another unicorn through the Fade, she would be grateful that she knew such spells to save her. Indeed, she was grateful as the spells did save her against such monsters as demons and the ponyspawn. But now she had just taken the life of pegasus pony with her magic. The violet unicorn grew numb as she slowly backed away from the frozen carcass.

Her magic did that. The same magic Rarity used to cast lightning bolts. This was the same magic that the Chantry and the templar and everypony feared and hated. Now Twilight realized that they had every reason to fear magic when it could do more than create. It could kill as quickly as a thought.

Before she knew it, two hooves where on her shoulders, keeping her steady as she heaved. To her left was Rarity and to her right was Pinkie Pie, holding her steady as she looked around the battlefield. Her friends had scratches and bruises, but were no worse for wear. The assassins on the other hand, were all dead except for the rainbow pegasus who had Fluttershy and Applejack standing over her, weapons drawn.

“I…” Twilight could not find the words. Instead she fell against the embrace of the two ponies as Spike held on to her neck. She began to sob into the forelegs of her friends, the iced corpse still haunting her.

Rarity tried to calm Twilight down, stroking her mane gingerly with a hoof. “It was the first time you took another pony’s life,” she said, not as a question but a statement. Though her face was covered in tears, Twilight was able to nod. Pinkie tried to help, but her hair was still straight and not in bouncy curls, offering the same confident words. It was a strain to try to hear them.
“It’s bad,” Pinkie said to Twilight. “It’s a bad feeling, but if you feel like you do, it means you aren't turning into the monsters you fight.”

“But they weren’t monsters!” Twilight almost yelled back, but her throat felt strained, and instead her protest was a silenced scream, “They were ponies, like the rest of us.”

“They were ponies who didn’t give us much of a choice.” Rarity did her best to console her, but Twilight couldn’t stop trembling. “And sometimes, a pony can be a worse monster than any ponyspawn. But this is what the world is: dangerous and cruel. You have to be hardened to survive.”

Twilight looked up at the two ponies. Rarity had likely killed before, living in the wilds as an apostate under Flemeth. Pinkie would be no stranger to violence, serving as a guard in Ponyring. Applejack had displayed great skill in battle many times over. Fluttershy’s knowledge of the bow was odd for a Chantry sister, but now Twilight was grateful she was on their side.

There was one question she had to ask. Twilight looked up to Rarity and Pinkie, her eyes red and puffy from crying. “Does it get easier?”

They looked at each other for a moment before nodding sadly. “Yes,” they said in unison. Their answer sparked a new wave of sobs. Twilight was a Grey Warden, which meant she would fight and kill ponyspawn. But this also meant she had to fight and eventually kill any pony that stood against her again.

We do what we must. She heard Duncan speak to her in her memories, of what it meant to be a Grey Warden. But right now all she wanted was to return to Unicorn Tower, to be somewhere familiar and have a sense of safety once again.

After a few minutes had passed, Twilight picked herself up and levitated a cloth from her bag to her eyes. The assailants had set them back, and they needed to get back precious time. Before the party could move, there was still the matter of the rainbow pegasus prisoner.

As Twilight walked over to Applejack and Fluttershy, she noticed that Applejack had tied the assassin’s wings together with rope, keeping her sword ready for any quick movements. However, the pegasus did not struggle or even make any attempt to escape. Defeat was laced on her fuchsia eyes.

“Well, I’m knackered,” the pegasus said flatly as Twilight looked down on her. “Make it quick Warden, I’m already dead.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Who are you and why are you already dead?”

“Name’s Rainbow Dash,” the pegasus answered. “And I’m dead ‘cause I failed the job. You were the job, and you’re not dead. The Wonderbolts never fail. Do the math.”

“I would do the math if I knew who the Wonderbolts were.” Twilight was not in the mood for guessing games. Her staff floated closer to the Rainbow’s head, but she didn’t flinch.

“What about all your friends?”

Rainbow laughed. “Those weren’t my friends,” she said, “Just other Wonderbolt hopefuls like me. They sent us because Arl Maim was offering a meagre pay day for the Grey Wardens, so they thought they didn’t need their experienced assassins.”

Twilight turned away from Rainbow Dash as she mentioned Arl Maim. They now had another enemy other than Loghoof and the ponyspawn to contend with. Would they have to fight off the rest of the Equestrian nobility? She didn’t want to think about how many more ponies would have to be put to the sword. Those who perished today seemed too much already.

“What are we gonna do about her?” Applejack asked. Twilight looked at the bound pegasus before turning away, back to the direction of Unicorn Tower. She had taken her fill of death today.

“Let her go,” Twilight said, “We wasted enough time.”

Applejack looked concerned as she untied Rainbow, but said nothing as she returned the lasso over her shoulder. The rest of the party fell in line behind Twilight as they walked to the path. They only made it a furlong away until a shout echoed in the sky.


The group looked up to see Rainbow Dash flying above them, landing in front of Twilight. The unicorn felt tired as she watched Rainbow lower her head towards her. With fatigued eyes, she tilted her ears upwards to show that she was listening.

Rainbow had a feeble smile, as if appealing to Twilight’s better nature. A nature I feel like I have to struggle to keep, she thought to herself.

“I know you have no reason to trust me… wait that’s a bad start.” Rainbow appeared to be having difficulty finding the words for her case. “Argh! Just, let me come with you! I could be a real help against the ponyspawn! And Loghoof and Maim!”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed at the assassin. How dare she even suggest such a thing? Before she could say anything, Applejack interrupted. “Are you a few leaves short of an apple tree?” The Wardens seemed to have been sharing the same thought as Applejack stared down Rainbow with her green eyes. “You ambush us, and now you want to be all friendly like? What’s stopping you from stabbing us in the back the moment we turn away?”

Now Rainbow rose up meeting Applejack’s stare. “I took the job so I could get out of Pura Raza!” she shot back. “I was born in Equestria and lived here before my mother took me to Pura Raza because she felt it was a better life for pegasi. When Maim had the job posted for assassins, I begged the Wonderbolts to let me come here. I was hoping that this would be the last job to get into the Wonderbolts and stay in Equestria.”

“I never thought I’d actually lose. I never thought I’d be spared! Let me make it up to you. I can fight, you just saw that! I’m the fastest pegasus you’ll ever meet, I know my way around traps and poisons. I’ll even swear an oath to you, which I’ll never turn against you.”

Anger flushed Twilight’s features as she looked down on Rainbow. Yet she made very excellent points. She was skilled in battle and if her claims were true, her other skills would be useful. They could also use a pegasus pony as a scout and as part in hit-and-run tactics.

Then there was the fact that she would be reminded of this day every time she looked at Rainbow Dash. Twilight was not sure she was prepared to be reminded of her first kill in the eyes of another pony. Then she looked at her staff, a symbol of her magic and thought of her horn. There would be plenty of reminders of shedding first blood all around her.

With a heavy sigh, Twilight turned to the rest of the party, wanting to hear their thoughts on Rainbow Dash. “I don’t know Twilight,” Applejack said, “I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her, but we do need the numbers, and a pegasus would be handy.”

“Besides having a mane that appears never to have heard the words ‘brush’ or ‘comb’, I am not too inclined to trust Rainbow Dash as well.” Rarity kept her distance from Rainbow.

Pinkie Pie bounded up to Twilight, her main back to its bouncy curls. “You shouldn’t stay mad at Dashie,” she said, surprising Twilight by already having a nickname for the assassin. “It will make you unhappy. I know! If you bring her, we can almost complete a whole party! She’d be the snarky rogue, while I’m the comedic relief, and Applejack can tank! Now if only we could find heals…”

Before Twilight could make sense of Pinkie’s babbling, Fluttershy approached her. “Um…” she began as usual, not making eye contact with Twilight. “The Chantry doesn’t say much, but they do say forgiveness is part of Celestia’s light. And, um, it would be nice to have a pegasus in the group. If you want.”

Once again it was up to Twilight to make the decision for the party. She wondered how she got caught up in the leadership role when she would have been more comfortable following a capable pony like Applejack. She heard her friends’ opinions on the matter and had concluded what she would do.

“Alright Rainbow Dash,” she said to the cyan pegasus. “I’ll let you join us if you swear an oath of loyalty, as much as that is worth. Just remember that we are fighting against not just ponyspawn, but Loghoof and his supporters as well.”

Rainbow’s face lit up in a bright smile. She spoke with pride as she gave a salute to the Twilight. “I, Rainbow Dash, best flyer ever to come out of Equestria AND Pura Raza, so swear my loyalty to the Grey Wardens! Cross my heart and hope to die, stick hot lyrium in my eye!”

Pinkie nodded in agreement to the oath, while Rarity had a look of disapproval amusingly matched by Applejack. As Rainbow made her introductions to the rest of the party, Twilight returned her eyes towards Unicorn Tower in the distance. It would take until nightfall to reach the tower, but now more than ever she wanted the guidance of her teachers, especially Wise Eyes.

There was still one more task that needed to be done. The dead should not be left alone for the crows and the ponyspawn to find and desecrate. With her magic, Twilight levitated pieces of the broken cart and began to lay them out. She would use the debris from Rainbow’s trap to make funeral pyres for her attackers. Wordlessly, the others helped including the assassin pegasus.

One by one, each corpse was placed on a pile of wood, ready for the torch.

Twilight looked over to the pegasus that she had froze with her ice magic. She beckoned to Applejack to help her lift the frozen body up and onto her own pyre. Gently they laid out the pegasus as Twilight whispered for forgiveness. Her thoughts went to the pegasus and if she had family, to them as well.

What if she had foals? What if they sought Twilight out in the future, vengeance in their hearts? How could she tell them that she was forced to slay their mother in defense of herself as well as Equestria? So many questions. So many answers Twilight did not wish to know.

The ponies gathered around the pyres before Fluttershy stepped forward. As a Chantry sister, she would be the one who knew the right prayers to send off the dead on their way to be judged by the hooves of Celestia. Instead of speaking the words, Fluttershy began to sing, a soft hymn filled with sorrow of loss but still holding hope for mercy.

The ponies kept their heads low as Twilight’s staff ignited a spark towards the first pyre. As Fluttershy sang the hymn, the unicorn moved from pyre to pyre, setting the wood aflame. Twilight watched as the bodies burned, taking note that Rainbow Dash was standing by her side. She felt cold despite the flames, but said nothing as the assassin began to recite names.

“Skywind. Roof Hopper. Cloudburst. Redwing. White Streak. They were all like me, in this job. Just looking for a way to survive outside of Pura Raza. I’m sorry, Twilight. If it means anything to you.”

Twilight would remember those names. Especially Redwing. With one hoof in front of the other, the now larger party resumed their journey to the Circle of Unicorns. Hopefully they could enlist the aid of the unicorns there quickly and cross Blackwater Lake into Red Apple Acres in a short amount of time. Somehow, though, Twilight could feel that danger was lurking under every shadow.

Still, Twilight could put all thoughts of danger and death away for a moment as she saw the group of ponies she would be travelling the long road with. With Spike at her side, she allowed herself a small smile before returning to the path towards the Tower.

Never had Spike felt as horrible as he did now. He knew the dangers of magic all his life, seeing unicorns lift objects with their minds to creating violent storms of ice and fire, but had never seen it actually used against a pony. It was alright against the savage ponyspawn, but seeing it cast against a pony and knowing that it was Twilight who flung the spell made him uneasy.

It was his fault entirely. He was the one who pushed for Twilight to join the Grey Wardens. He was the one who suggested it in the first place and all for a life of adventure outside of the Tower. The look on Twilight’s eyes, the sheer terror at what she had done, made Spike consider what he had wrought. It killed him to see his best friend, the only pony he had ever felt love from in so much pain.

No matter what, Twilight, I’m going to make it up to you, Spike thought, No matter the cost, I’ll make sure you’re happy.

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