• Published 27th Feb 2014
  • 807 Views, 18 Comments

A Night Too Long - Tumbleweed

Princess Luna recruits Fluttershy to save all of Equestria (whether she likes it or not).

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Chapter 2

“Let me tell you a tale, my little pony.” Princess Luna said between wingbeats. The Night Monarch had since released Fluttershy, allowing her to fly under her own power. Thankfully, the winds were strong enough that Fluttershy could glide most of the way, allowing her to keep pace with Princess Luna- if barely. The majestic alicorn showed no sign of discomfort, even after hours of flight- nor did she show any sign of noticing Fluttershy's increasing harried-ness.

“'twas many a year ago, perhaps only a decade or two after my sister and I had defeated Discord. Yet, even with the trickster-god encased in stone, there were many other threats to the land.” Luna sighed, wistfully. “I miss those days. 'twas a time of tumult. Blood was spilled, tales were told, and anypony with enough audacity could win themselves fame, fortune, and glory. And none were more famous, more glorious, or richer than I.”

“I see.” Fluttershy said, cringing at the thought. “It's probably best that I wasn't around back then. I'm honestly not all that audacious or glorious.”

“Precious few are, in these days! Pah!” Luna shook her head ruefully. “I've yet to meet anypony quite like my two boon companions of those heady days. Heartseeker and Catsclaw, their names were. The three of us ranged far and wide across the realm, and the bards sang loudly of our bold deeds!”

“That sounds nice,” said Fluttershy, “but, um, I don't think I'm going to be anything like your friends.”

“You are right there, meek one!” Luna laughed again. “To begin, neither of my companions had wings, but that matters little. I know what you're thinking, however. And I assure you, all shall become clear soon enough. You see, in our travels and travails, the three of us came across a great mountain beast- Taresk, his name was. Mountains shook with his passing, as the land itself was terrified of such a hellish creature. After an arduous battle, we vanquished the Taresk...but not permanently. Even now, it slumbers, dreaming of the day when it shall bring its terrible vengeance onto the land once more. It has come to my attention that there are those who seek to wake Taresk early, and once again wreak untold destruction on the land. I've only now learned their twisted schemes have been set in motion. You'll now understand why haste is of the utmost essence.”

“Oh my,” said Fluttershy, “I, um, hate to tell you this, but I really don't think I'm the best pony to bring along to fight the thing, if that's what we're doing.”

“Ha!” Princess Luna's laugh echoed for leagues around. “You? Fight? And here my sister said the pink one was the one with the jokes!”

“Thanks, I think?”

“I say thee neigh, Fluttershy. If there's any fighting to be done, it shall fall upon my capable shoulders. For you see, Taresk may be enormous and immesurably ancient, but he is still an animal. Thusly, I am turning to you, for perhaps your talents shall allow us to put Taresk back to his slumber.”

Fluttershy felt just a little of the dread in her belly fade away. “Oh, okay. That doesn't sound too hard.”

“You are a funny one, Fluttershy.”

“Thanks again?” Fluttershy murmured. “

So, um, where are we going, exactly?”

Dear Princess Twilight,

I have taken your friend Fluttershy. If you have the mettle, you shall find us at the Tower of the Screaming Skull. Do not dally.

Your Servant,

Princess Luna

Twilight Sparkle stared at the letter. The seal was unbroken, the the calligraphy was appropriately royal (if a bit rushed, she noted), and a basic authentication cantrip had verified that this was a letter from Princess Luna. Not that Twilight knew of any other ponies besides Princess Celestia (and possibly Princess Cadance) who knew how to make Spike belch out a scroll.

This didn't mean things made any more sense.

“Twilight!” Rainbow Dash burst in through the library's upper window, slamming the pane against the wall as she pushed through (Twilight had since learned to leave her windows unlocked in case certain pegasai came to visit). “Fluttershy's been kidnapped!”

Twilight's eyes went wide. “What?”

“I swung by to visit after wrapping up that thunderstorm, only her door was broken, her house was all wrecked up, and she was gone! But check this out, I found a clue!” Rainbow reached under her left wing and pulled out a single navy blue feather. “Now, I'm not a forensic plumologist, but I think this feather came from-”

“Princess Luna.” Twilight said.

“Whoa, I was just gonna say 'somepony taller than me,' You're really good at this detective thing, Twilight! Must be all those books you read.”

“No, it's not that. Here, take a look at this.” Twilight showed the scroll to Rainbow Dash.

“Oh gosh. This...this is pretty bad, isn't it?”

“That's a polite way to put it.” Twilight said. “I was hoping this was some kind of prank, but you've confirmed my worst suspicions, Rainbow.”

“So now what?”

“So now, we have to rescue Fluttershy. Look-” According to my maps-” Twilight levitated an atlas from the bookshelf and laid it out on the table, “-the Tower of the Screaming Skull is only accessible by air, and even then the wind currents aren't very forgiving. Since you and I are the only ones with wings, it looks like we're going to have to face Princess Luna on our own.”

“It's not like we can rainbow-friendship-laser her anyway, ever since you fed the Elements of Harmony to that tree.”

“I know, and that's got me worried.” Twilight said, “but we can't let that stop us. Spike!” Twilight said. The little dragon was at her side in an instant. “Spike, here's the plan- Rainbow Dash and I are going to fly ahead. I need you to gather up Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie. Fire up my hot air balloon and set a course for the Skull Mountain Tower. It'll be slow, but it's better than nothing.”

“Got it!” Spike saluted, and then scampered off to start the nesesscary preparations.

“Oh!” Twilight Sparkle added on, “Don't forget to write a letter to Princess Celestia, to let her know what's happened!”

“Will do!” Spike said.

“Now, there's no time to waste.” Princess Twilight Sparkle flared her wings, managing to keep her balance, if barely. “You ready to fly, Rainbow Dash?”

“Just try not to slow me down, Twilight. Fluttershy's in trouble, and we're the only ones who can save her!”

“Behold, the Tower of the Screaming Skull!” Luna pointed to a tall, dark shadow in the distance. The brutal, slablike construction of the tower helped it stand out amidst the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains. Dark clouds drifted past the granite tower, cloaking it in shadow.

“Um. I don't suppose that name is a little, um, metaphorical?”

“Of course not! That is the tower where the Screaming Skull is held. What else would it be called?”

“Oh, that makes sense.” Fluttershy shivered, and not just from the cold of the altitude. “...does that mean the skull really screams? That's...just a little bit scary, is all. I don't have to listen, do I?” She whimpered a little, and tried to ignore the ache in her wings. She'd been trailing in Luna's wake for hours, but even then, such an extended flight had taken its toll on her.

“Is that all you're concerned with?” Luna turned to glance at Fluttershy, “really, it's not even a skull at all.”

“Oh, that's good.”

“The Screaming Skull is, in fact, a bell- if one emblazoned with a skull on it. Forged in the firey forges of the deepest hells, the Screaming Skull is an artifact of immeasurable potency- the faintest echoes of its otherworldly tones have driven lesser ponies to frothing madness. It's said that the Screaming Skull is the only thing that can wake Taresk from his eternal slumber. This is why we have to get to it first. What ho!” Luna banked, circling down towards the Tower of the Screaming Skull. “We are too late, Fluttershy, look!” Luna pointed her horn, where, sure enough, a small but swift-lined airship was moored to the side of the Tower of the Screaming Skull. “We are too late! The doom-cultists have reached the tower before us. This complicates matters. Stay close, little one. We shall take them by surprise.”

Luna banked into a roll, and Fluttershy grabbed onto the Night Princess' tail to keep up. Unhindered by the extra weight, Luna pulled her wings in tighter and angled into a sharp dive. Her form shimmered, and she changed color, her navy blue coat shifting to an inky black. Rendered effectively invisible against the storm-wracked sky, Luna glided past the two sentry ponies standing on the Tower of the Screaming Skull's balcony. Their hoods didn't even ruffle as Luna towed Fluttershy into the tower, unnoticed. The antechamber was empty, merely an unadorned stone room with the enterance to the outside balcony at one end, and a doorway to a spiraling staircase on the other.

Once Luna's hooves touched the polished stone floor, she resumed her normal deep blue. She glanced back at Fluttershy, and held a hoof up to her lips. “Silence,” she murmured, and the single word lingered in Fluttershy's brain. Luna's eyes glinted in the darkness.

The little yellow pegasus nodded her terrified agreement- though some more practical part of her brain wondered how Luna would manage being quiet when she had been so loud and terrifying before. The night monarch managed it anyway, stalking across the room and down the stairway like a creeping shadow.

The stairs twisted down, down, down, lit only by occasional light-crystals. Even Fluttershy's untrained eye could see the magic of the crystals was fading after untold years of neglect as the reddish light sputtered and faltered, with some of the crystals already extinguished.

“Here.” Luna said, crouching low before a large arching doorway. “I can hear the knaves on the other side of this door. Stay out of the way, and I shall dispatch them. Shouldn't take long- I think there's only a dozen of them.”

No sooner had Fluttershy nodded agreement that Princess Luna sprung into action. She slammed herself into the heavy wooden door, reducing it to so many oaken splinters. Fluttershy peeked out around the doorjamb, getting sight of a good dozen ponies around the chamber, each of whom was wrapped in a dirty, ragged cloak. They stared at Princess Luna for a few long moments, and then threw themselves to the floor, groveling and bowing. As one, they chanted their reply to Luna's enterance.


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