• Published 7th Apr 2012
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Scion of Chaos - SilentBelle



Sweetie Belle plans on learning the basics of magic, but what she discovers is so much more.

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Chapter 15 - Echoing Whispers

Scion of Chaos – Chapter 15: Echoing Whispers

By: SilentBelle

She felt her legs betrayed her, buckling as a chill seeped into her body and the scent of charred hair made her slightly queasy. She could see Ruben standing stunned just before her. No, Sweetie Belle told herself, as she felt lethargy and dizziness creeping into the entirety of her body. I'm not done yet! She grit her teeth tightly and caught herself, managing to sidestep against the cave wall for support. If I fall now, I won't be able to get back up. Focus!

She blinked, trying to clear her mind. However, her heavy eyelids only drew her attention to how tired she felt. And with the second blink, it became easier to just leave them closed. In a move to rebuke her own fatigue, she reached within once again, drawing out another tendril of her magic. She lashed out with it as quickly as she could, toward her new target. The one bit of magic that stood out in this cave.

With her eyes closed tight, she felt her emerald energy make contact with the ruby around Ruben's neck. It felt a little different from the last time she had pulled at a crystal's energy. The one she had used before had held an energy seemed to naturally change into a pattern similar to her own magic, but this ruby was quite different. It felt sturdy, lasting, and rigid. It took her sluggish mind a moment to figure out exactly where these sensations were coming from.

It's Ruben... his magic. This crystal is his, just like how Twilight's magic feels like her and belongs to her. Sweetie Belle swallowed with a suddenly-dry throat. It's not right taking someone's magic, but if I don't, then I'll just be locked up to those stones again, and I know I won't be able to get out another time. I don't want to take his magic, it's not right. Conflicted, the unicorn hesitated while her magic aura encompassed the ruby. Then she remembered Ruben picking her up in the darkness and chaining her to the wall. She snorted in anger. Any sympathy she had held for Ruben dissipated as if it never existed. What did I ever do to deserve that? He may have said that he was ordered to do it, but he should have been able to see right from wrong!

With her hesitation defeated, she grabbed hold of the ruby and pulled upon the glowing magic within. In a matter of seconds, and with an accompanying cracking sound, the crimson energy flowed back to Sweetie Belle, and it took on a greenish hue as she channeled it through her horn. Without even guiding it, she could feel her energy being replenished as it made its way into her heart. She felt the weight behind her eyes disappear, her legs ceased their quivering and her shivering ceased.

She opened her eyes to see a still-stunned Ruben gazing down at a small pile of red sand that had once been his ruby. Pushing herself off the wall, she got back into a standing position, pleased that she didn't feel wobbly in the slightest. Although she did feel a slight pain in her forehead.

“Pony,” the diamond dog said in disbelief. “What did pony do?”

“I don't have to explain that to you, I am no longer bound by chains, Ruben. You made a promise, now take me out of the underground! Unless your promises mean nothing to you.”

The gray dog emitted a low growl and stared at the young unicorn with a look of contempt before nodding slightly. “As promised, I will take pony to the surface. Follow me.”

“Good,” Sweetie Belle responded, and sparked her horn alight so she wouldn't lose sight of Ruben. She walked slowly, trailing after the dog. Though she kept herself prepared, ready to use her magic should the diamond dog decide to trick her again. I won't be caught off-guard again, she thought with determination. I won't be locked up like that ever again!

“Well done girl, you are quite cunning indeed. Using the dog's own sense of honour against him.”

“It's just not fair,” she responded in a quiet whisper. “I didn't want to destroy his crystal or threaten him, by using his own promise against him. But I had to.”

“Indeed? But he used that very same honour to bind you up in chains only hours ago. Surely if ever there was justice for one's actions, then this is it.”

“He might have deserved it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I just wish he could have been a friend,” she said with a sad smile on her lips, “like you.”

“Comparing me with a mere dog? Where have your standards gone girl?” the voice asked with a laugh. “I am far more than this dog could ever be.”

“Well, at least Ruben isn't arrogant,” she shot back, not really in the mood to jest with the joking voice.

“I think you are confusing arrogance and pride my dear. My view of self-worth is entirely earned and proven. Not fabricated through self-delusion.”

The pony simply rolled her eyes, but kept her tongue still as she continued following Ruben through the twisting tunnel. Keeping pace with the creature soon became a monotonous task of repetitive hoof-falls. The sound of the beats seemed to slowly crescendo until every step brought a slight throb to her forehead.

She winced as her face tightened in a feeble attempt to accommodate the rising headache. Maybe I just need some fresh air, she decided. It's just a bit longer and I'll be out of this hole in the ground.

“Is the light spell too much effort girl?” the voice called out to her, thick with doubt. “Or perhaps it's something else.”

“It's nothing,” she muttered. “Anyway, Scoddri, I was wondering about something. What was that spell that Twilight was using? I mean, she wasn't anywhere close by, so how could she have cast that spell from so far away?””

“Indeed, most spells require a close range, usually line of sight as well for most ponies to be able to see what it is that they are doing. This, however, was not a typical spell that ponies cast. It's what most would call a 'scrying' spell or an 'augury'. It's a very complex spell used to detect an area from afar and relay certain information to its caster. Usually visual information, as it was in this case. It is a very advanced spell, however Twilight is a unicorn who is quite advanced when compared to most. She has studied magic for her whole life, so casting a spell at that distance is no doubt something she does on a regular basis. Though, to pinpoint your location underground speaks very much to her level of skill and finesse. Quite the unicorn indeed.”

“So then, she was spying on me?” Sweetie Belle asked nervously. “And then I went and took her magic," she said, then paused for a moment as she considered the outcome of her actions. "Say Scoddri, will Twilight be okay? 'Cause last time, I accidentally took her magic and she collapsed.”

“Undoubtedly, she, as well as the others are fine and still searching for you,” he said gently. “Due to the distance, Twilight Sparkle was unable to stop you from taking her spell. It can be quite hard to react quickly when one's spell is over a mile away. That distance, however, also prevented you from taking any more magic from her. Besides, I'm sure that Twilight Sparkle has plans in place to prevent her magic from being channeled out of her once again.” Scoddri paused to hum a bit as he mused. “And now they know where you are, or at least where you were.”

“I see,” she said with a light sigh. “I'm glad she's okay though.”

Ruben's ears picked up at the sound of her soft voice. “Is pony still talking to herself? Why speak aloud when there is no one around. Does pony love the sound of her voice so much?"

“I'm thinking out loud, thank you very much. 'Speaking to my mind', now lead on, you have a promise to keep.”

The diamond dog just growled in response, but led the way, his disdain evident in every step. Soon they re-entered the enormous cavern that housed the Graypaw Clan.

Letting go of her light spell, Sweetie Belle paused at the maw of the tunnel that looked upon the diamond dog's settlement. She couldn't see any other dogs, nor hear the sound of any them nearby. She could only make out the distant echoes of digging, which could be miles away for all she knew about how the sound bounced around in these caves. Once they got about halfway through the eerily empty cavern, Ruben turned, in a seemingly random manner, and headed for one of the dozens of tunnels that intersected with the cavern.

“Why are we going up this tunnel?” she asked while nervously looking around. The filly didn't enjoy the prospect of running into more diamond dogs.

“Pony does not know which tunnel is which. I do. This tunnel leads to the surface, many tunnels do, so I chose this one.”

“It's not the quickest route?”

“No, but it has no other dogs down it. I know because I can smell them. They are all working at the cave-in and new passages,” he said curtly in his harsh voice.

At the maw of the new tunnel, Sweetie Belle lit up her horn once again. It only drew her attention to the fact that her headache had steadily been growing as time went on. She had secretly been hoping that if she had distracted herself with conversation then the ache would go away. Now she winced audibly, and ran a fore-hoof along her forehead, as her horn sparked alive with a soft glow. Her wince turned into a gasp as her white leg came away covered in a bit of soot.

“Oh, so now you realized what condition your hair is in,” Scoddri chimed in on cue. “It's sure to be the talk of any town you visit.”

Sweetie Belle's eyes lit up in horror. “My sister's gonna kill me,” she blurted out as she realized just how much the magic had ruined her mane.

“Heh, I rather like it. Good or bad, it's a mater of opinion, but it certainly speaks volumes for your character.”

“Great, now I'm really worried.”

“Why would pony's sister kill her? Hair is hair, it will just grow back,” the diamond dog stated casually.

“What do you know about hair? You don't even have any.”

“Oh, but I do girl,” Scoddri responded. “Though it's seen better days.”

Ruben shrugged. “Fur is hair. Short hair, but still hair."

“That's not the same thing at all!” she complained as she rubbed at her hair a bit more, her fore-hoof coming away darker each time. “Now everypony is going to laugh at me.”

“Don't worry girl, I'd laugh at you even if you had no hair.”

Ruben scoffed. “Ponies are silly if they laugh at pony's hair. Hair is not important.”

“Not important?!” she asked indignantly. “But what about you Ruben, won't the other diamond dogs laugh at you for not having your ruby anymore?”

“Hmm,” the dog considered for a moment before answering. “The others make fun of me already, losing the ruby won't change anything. Ruby is different from hair.”

Sweetie Belle scowled at the diamond dog. “Oh, how so? Gems are just a fashion choice when you wear them.”

“Fashion? Choice? No. Diamond dogs need gems, pony doesn't need hair,” he countered with certainty.

“But,” Sweetie Belle protested, “then what about now? Don't you need a new ruby to replace the old one?”

“Soon, but I have a promise to fulfill.”

“Ah, honour, what an incredibly powerful, yet silly concept,” Scoddri muttered to himself. “I can never figure out why anyone would put themselves through such ordeals. Unless, of course, it were for the amusement of it all.”

Sweetie Belle only raised an eyebrow at this, unsure if Scoddri was aware that he was musing aloud. And then she pounced at another question that came to her mind. “So, what do your gems do for you anyway?”

“We wear them because we have to, otherwise we become weak and cold.”

“Hmm, I assumed as much.”

“So, it's like food then?” she hazarded a guess.

“No, we don't eat gems, we don't eat anything, not while we have gems. Gems are gems. Nothing is the same as gems," Ruben stated simply. "Anyway, pony should hurry up if she wants to get out of cave soon.”

Sweetie Belle took that as a signal for silence and complied.

* * *

The two forged onward through the tunnels for well over an hour, and Sweetie Belle's attention had drifted away once more to focus on the simmering, persistent headache that plagued her. Her coat was now splotched with sweat and dust, and her breath was coming up short. “Ah, I can't take it anymore,” she whispered, as her light flickered out and she pulled her hoof to her forehead. “It hurts.”

“What is wrong, pony?” Ruben asked, as he stopped to look at the panting unicorn.

“Yes, girl, what is wrong?” Scoddri repeated in a voice of genuine concern.

“It's my head, it hurts. I don't know why.”

“Shoot, you foolish girl! You should have said something sooner. That's what happens when a unicorn uses too much magic; they burn themselves out. Don't use any more magic for now. You've used too much in the past day.”

“Can you keep walking, pony?”

“I'll try,” she said shakily and took a few steps. “When will it go away? It hurts.”

“I don't know pony.”

“After some rest girl, but you can't just rest in the middle of a tunnel.”

“Alright, then I'll try my best to keep walking,” she said as she picked out the low glow of the diamond dog against the surrounding stone, gray against gray.

Perhaps it was the slight ringing sound in her ears, or being lost in the rhythm of walking, but she jumped at a sudden, approaching sound. It came in the echoes of heavy foot falls upon the stone, fast and sporadic, and coming in close. Before the filly could ask what the sound was, a voice boomed through the tunnel.

“Ruben! What do you think you are doing? You know you aren't supposed to bring the pony to the surface until I tell you to!” Sweetie Belle recognized the voice. It was Garner, and it was a far cry from the pleasant and calm tone from when they had last met. The unicorn could barely make out the boss' form against the stone, but at the center of the gray silhouette, a band of twelve gems all sparkled brilliantly. And of them, the garnet glowed most prominently, as the moon amongst a backdrop of stars. “Bring her back now, and we'll still be able to make the trade.”

“I'm sorry, Boss, but I made a promise. I said I would take pony to the surface when pony was removed from chains. Pony was removed from chains, so I am taking pony to the surface. I have to.”

“Ruben,” she said with a sigh. “You see, this is why all the other dogs make fun of you, and why I'm always so careful in what jobs I give you. I knew I shouldn't have trusted you with such a task, but I can't do anything about that now. Give her over now, or I'll take her from you!”

So fiercely were the final words Garner barked, that Sweetie Belle was actually glad her light spell was off and she couldn't see the smaller diamond dog's expression. It was certain to be mask of pure fury.

“Boss, you know I don't break promises, and I intend to keep this one along with all the others I've made.”

“It must have been quite the chore having to deal with Ruben on a regular basis. I'm sure she's had to deal with a string of incidents because of him. Though he must be too big of a resource to actually be rid of.”

“Well then, I'm sorry that it's come to this,” Garner growled her reply.

Sweetie Belle jumped back in surprise at the sudden speed with which the gems darted across the tunnel. Landing on her flank, the unicorn could only watch in awe as the two silhouettes collided and began to struggle, darting back and fourth along the tunnel. She listened to the deep and angry growls of Garner and the heavy grunts of Ruben, and had no idea what was happening. She was glad she couldn't see the details, she just wanted it to end.

Then, as suddenly as the whole affair had started, the filly heard a yelp and saw the gray figure with the band of gems collapse to the ground. Before she could even utter a word, she heard Ruben lope over to her side and felt him lift her up from the ground.

“What are you doing, Ruben?” she exclaimed in her surprise. “Put me down, I can walk.”

“No time, pony. I will bring pony to the surface. Boss won't stay down for long.”

And with a rhythmic and uncomfortable amount of jostling, Sweetie Belle was slung over the dog's shoulder as he bounded down the tunnel. Any rebukes that she came up with had to be saved, unless she wanted to risk accidentally chomping down on her own tongue. So she closed her eyes, grit her teeth, and hoped that the rest of the tunnel wasn't too bumpy.

End of Chapter 15