• Published 16th Apr 2012
  • 3,694 Views, 114 Comments

Long Way Gone - DiscordsAdvocate



A story loosely based on Outland, crossovered with MLP: FIM.

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Chapter 7

"No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place." –Isaac Babel
Thanks to frieD195 for your diligent editing.

This time the two refrained from drinking too much. That and they felt a little out of place here. The food was exotic by Equestrian standards. Though it seemed half of it Darius can get back home anytime. Darius chuckled as he and Dash talked about food. He found it funny that these ponies thought rice was an exotic ingredient, as well as mushrooms and potatoes. They were common ballast for an empty belly back home, he described. As they waited for their meal, Dash brought up a relevant topic.

“Okay, those teeth of yours. That means you eat meat, right?” She asked.

Darius nodded. “Well I can eat meat. Back home I did, if that is what you’re wondering.”

Dash grimaced a bit at the thought of eating another living creature, but she remembered this time to inquire more instead of judging. “So…your people would have to kill the animal, and do something else with it. I mean, Gilda ate fish and all, but…” She was trying to get her question down.

“How about I describe our culture on meat?” Darius offered. Seeing she nodded, he began. “We value life as you do, but we do have dietary needs. I can subsist on Equestrian cuisine; you have a larger variety of fruits and vegetables than we do. Back home, however, we don’t and thus we do murder animals for our survival. We aren’t ravenous about it, nor do we take enjoyment in such. Our hunters are humble and respective to what they kill. Spiritual even. We apologize to the creature, even when preparing and eating it; we honor the fallen beast for keeping us alive.” He took a sip of the wine. “Just as there are larger predators that will hunt us, we hunt as well. Thus, we Newman are part of a cycle of life that we must respect and understand.”

Dash listened very intently as the rolls were brought to their table. “Huh, that’s pretty deep. I just learned it was horrible and we can’t live off meat, anyways.” She grabbed a roll in her mouth and ate it merrily.

“And yet your kin also regards animals as equals as another reason to not eat them, much more to be benignant to them.” Darius observed.

Dash blinked. “Benig-what? Oh, you mean benign? Yeah, I guess. Fluttershy could relate to that.” She then saw their waiter bringing the main course of a shared hot pot with a side of rice. “Let’s dig in.”

Dash tried eating as how Rarity instructed her for more expensive places. It made Darius snicker seeing her trying to act classy in front of the other patrons. In time, she just gave up seeing as how Darius wasn’t putting that much effort to mimic the patrons in terms of mannerisms. The Newman glanced and caught some ponies staring at them. Well, he shouldn’t be surprised. A pony very much not known for fancy interests and a foreign creature having a candlelight dinner. Let them stare, he thought. Then he saw one particular stallion eyeing at Dash’s saddle as his eyes traveled downward towards her…time to put that stallion in his place!

He leaned forward and caught the wealthy pegasus’s attention with his glare. “Something I can do for you?” He said in a tone that chilled the gawker’s blood as he tore his gaze away and went back to minding his own business.

Dash noticed and giggled. “Can you blame him? It’s hard not to want a piece of Dash.”

Darius was about to protest before he slightly jumped in his seat feeling a hoof softly brush against his leg. Well played, Dash. He regained his composure but couldn’t hide the flushing of his cheeks, much to the cyan Pony’s amusement. “Sneaky.” He mock-scolded her.

Dash snickered. “You’re more fun than Gilda.” She ate.

“Who is Gilda?” Darius asked.

She sighed. “My best friend since I was a filly. I told you I hated professional flight school. She was the only friend I had to make it bearable. After she left I just couldn’t take it anymore. We tried being friends when she visited, then she started treating my friends here like the others back in school. It’s sad she didn’t outgrow that but I can understand it. I was constantly getting teased by ponies for being too competitive, but she always had my back.” She looked into his dark eyes.

He caught on the ‘being teased’ bit. “Let me guess, you were better than everypony in your class and they were trying to hold you back.” He added.

She snorted. “My class? Try the whole school! That school was too much about being fair, instead of letting the best be the best. So instead of being admired for it, I was the outsider.”

“That was their loss, then. They missed an opportunity to follow your example.” That cheered her up. “But what about the Wonderbolts? Don’t’ they require schooling?” Darius asked.

Dash shook her head. “Trust me, if that were true I would never have left. Did you know Spitfire dropped out too? The Wonderbolts are awesome. They’re not looking for pegasi who let themselves be grounded. They’re looking for the coolest, the determined, like me!” She said looking up to the stars with her trademark confident grin; like she was envisioning herself as one right now.

Darius applauded her tenacity. “Heh, so you school yourself the way you see fit. That is different than how it went for me.” He enjoyed his meal.

“Didn’t you have mentors?” She asked. “The physical stuff sounds fun, but the magic stuff? I can’t imagine you as an egghead.” She grinned to him.

Darius explained. “Well, the best part about being an Avatar is you learn intuitively. You don’t spend hours reading scrolls and listening to sages; just hours listening to sages with occasional conk,” he tapped his head with his fist, “for falling asleep.” He laughed.

She laughed with him. “That is so our professors back at school.” She mimicked the voice of an old pony. “Pay attention you youngin.” They laughed so more.

He sat back. “Well the sages used their magic around me and I had to let it be part of my Light. So it was trial and error. Trust me, the errors in magic weren’t exactly fun to deal with.” He humorously grimaced remembering the time he air-blasted himself into a wall or accidentally set his hair on fire. “I like to think these markings are badges of honor for hard work.”

“Mind showing them to me again?” She asked warmly.

Darius gladly invoked both Light and Dark. Other patrons couldn’t help but stare at spectacle. Some even approached and looked closer.

Dash gazed admirably at him then noticed the growing audience. She scowled and propped herself by her forehooves on the table, standing on her chair. “Back off. He’s mine.” She warned, spreading her wings in a gesture of dominance. The other patrons, not wanting to incur the wrath of a pegasus who can create a tornado, all returned to their tables and tried not to gawk at the Newman.

Darius toned down the power so it barely shone on his body to stop drawing attention as he looked surprised at the mare. He leaned forward when Dash seated herself again. “You know, it’s different seeing a lady do that.” He grinned.

Dash blushed and giggled. “You like seeing me assert myself?”

“Indeed. So have you already decided I’m the one you want?” He cracked that grin, which Dash remembered was his ‘flirting face.’

Dash blushed more. “You mean like a special somepony?”

Darius figured that must be important in pony relationships. “Is that like a mate or something?”

Now she was purple. “N-no, well, sometimes, I mean it just means you’re special and loved by…” She was nearly stuttering at this point. Celestia! He really knew how to get her flustered.

Darius chuckled and put a gentle hand on her hoof, noticing she warmed up to his touch. “I think I get it. We called that 'nelina'; or 'cherished' in your language.” He withdrew smiling and finished his share of the food. “Mr. Cake told me about Hearts and Hooves Day. I heard ‘special somepony’ had something to do with that. Is that the holiday for ponies to seek such?”

Dash nodded and frowned. She spent many of those days sometimes being alone, sometimes with a stallion that didn’t interest her, or turned out to be a jerk. Would this one be different? Her thoughts were interrupted when the dessert tray was presented to them.

Darius looked impressed at the display. “I see why the food is so expensive. They put it all together like an art piece.”

Dash smiled and they each chose their desert. The two switched to conversation to talk about other adventures and exploits. Dash could tell Darius was holding back on some of the details of his journey before he faced the Wyrm. What he felt comfortable sharing sounded harsh. She almost pitied his race having to deal with such a violent monster. Ponies have had moments of danger and violence in history, but the Newmen’s situation was worse. It’s no wonder his people have less taboos on death and killing. They are fighting to survive. She understood that now.

The desert was finished. The bill was paid. Upon leaving the restaurant they took the longest path back to his home, continuing to talk about their adventures. Dash noticed a slight grimness in his tone that indicating his being homesick. Dash figured it was some lingering sorrow being away from his family. She finished the story of how she and Fluttershy rescued Rarity and Spike when the little dragon became a huge monster, and that reminded her of an important point to inquire about.

“This…Wyrm you told us about. You think it would try to come here?” She asked.

Darius dreaded Dash would ask this question. “It’s…unlikely.” He hoped that would settle the topic. Please, he begged in his mind, don’t ask anymore, Dash.

“But you’re not sure?” She asked concerned.

The Newman cursed in mind, heart, and soul. May Celestia forgive him. “Dash, I wounded the Wyrm greatly. I’m sure it just sent the golems in an act of desperation. Even if it could muster the strength to travel all the way to the Northern Ley Line, it wouldn’t last the trip.” It hurt to withhold information from her. The princess obviously knew the Wyrm is alive, and is coming here. In his heart, Dash was now becoming a more important part of his life, he realized. He just needed to learn the elements of harmony to do this himself, so nopony would be at risk. Especially her.

Dash accepted his explanation…mostly. She couldn’t help but to think that wasn’t all of it, but she wouldn’t push him for more. “Well, even if it does, you have all of us to back you up, especially me.” She displayed her confident grin.

Darius hesitated as he pushed that subject to the back of his mind as they reached his house. He turned to her and decided to try something different tonight. He put his arms around her and brought her into a hug.

Dash blushed and put her forehooves around his neck. She softly nuzzled his cheek. This felt wonderful, she agreed. She draped her soft wings onto his arms in appreciation. “Definitely an awesome night.” She whispered.

“Two questions; how about joining me, Applejack, and Twilight tomorrow? Got to two more elements to learn.” He smiled.

Dash nodded. “Okay, just don’t conk me if I sleep during Twi’s stuff.” They chuckled. “And your second?”

Darius smiled. “Do you still want to see all my markings?”

Dash warmed up in his arms. “But, you’d have to…” She looked at him blushing.

“I don’t mind for this moment. Besides nopony else is around. I think can tolerate it for your curiosity.” He smiled gently.

“O-only if you’re really sure.” Her wings extended to the thought as she landed and Darius stepped back into a shaded area out of the moonlight. Now he was a shadow figure in her vision. He promptly undressed in front of her. It was too dark to see anything personal. Then it happened. He let those markings glow in all their glory. The bluish and reddish cutie-markings glowed like they were painted over a dark silhouette from head to toe. It was breathtaking. Even better, she could see four out of six elements of harmony glowing with them on his hands and feet. Then she watched him look up at the sky and they glowed golden now. Was this the 'joining' he was talking about? She stared in awe at him before he broke the silence.

“Well, what do you think?” He asked.

Dash had no words for this. Not only did he put his trust in her to put aside his nudity taboo, but gave her a glimpse of all his markings. She hovered up to be face to face with him, avoiding looking down past his waist for fear she’d ruin this and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. “Awesome.” She smiled. “I know it feels awkward, but you really do look cool like this.”

Darius chuckled. “Then I am not ashamed.”

She giggled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, handsome.” She fluttered back and began to turn around but paused and looked back at him with one eye as he redressed his trousers, waiting for him to look up.

Darius looked up finally fastening his belt to catch a glance at the smiling mare showing off a little flank, flicking her tail and giving that sultry smile she made in the hospital before, only it seemed sincere this time. With a wink, she turned and flew off. He was dumbfounded at first, but the realization hit him. He chuckled thinking how strange he could now recognize what ponies considered physically appealing in a potential ‘cherished.’ The funny part was it was starting to work on him…well for Dash anyways.

****

“Captain? How many of those golems are left?” Princess Celestia asked as she walked with him down a corridor in Canterlot Castle.

“We demolished two, your majesty. Darius told Princess Luna he dispatched one as well after it corrupted a Stellar Bear. These things are proving to have thinking minds, it seems.” The guard pegasus said. “But the fewer there are, the harder they will be to find.”

“I’m sure your soldiers are doing their best. Has the Northern Line watch-post been evacuated?” Celestia asked her subordinate.

“Yes, and we established a perimeter forbidding anypony from coming within ten miles of the Northern Ley Line.” The Captain replied.

Princess Celestia thought for a moment. “Darius has learned four elements…" She spoke. "Captain, have all information about the last sightings of those golems sent to me immediately.”

****

Early rise, early finish. Darius sung a working tune in his native tongue as he completed his orders before lunch with a motivated energy he had not had since he left home for his quest. His mind was on last night, what else? He felt a burst of enthusiasm today. After cleaning up the workshop and forge, he cleaned up just in time to hear a knock at his door. “Nomda dior!” (Come on in!).

His door opened with Applejack and Rainbow Dash entering. “Howdy Darius! Heard yuh gave Dash ah bit of a show last night.” She grinned teasingly.

Darius froze. If that meant what he thought it meant. “Dash?” He scowled.

Dash looked at him innocently. “I didn’t say a thing, big guy, I swear!”

AJ chuckled. “Nope, twasn’t her. Mah sneaky sister an’ her friends got interested in yer cutie-markings and stalked you home after you flared them up at the restaurant.”

Darius couldn’t believe this. That was for Dash, and Dash only. If it hadn’t been for the fact ponies had no concept of nudity taboos, he’d be upset now. “Tuath. Did anyone else peep that late at night?” He asked annoyed.

“Naw. Cherilee confirmed from them nopony else saw you.” She said casually.

“They told…their teacher? Did news spread to anyone else?” His right eye twitched.

“Most the town.” AJ smiled sympathetically.

Dash progressed from a giggle to full on laughter rolling on the couch.

“Not funny.” The Newman scolded her tossing his sweat rag on her, she kept laughing despite it landed on her head.

AJ chuckled. “Awe come on Darius. Dun be embarrassed. Nopony’s teasing you because someone saw you unclothed, jus’tat yuh finally stopped bein’ so modest for uh bit.”

He groaned. “You mean the fact I cover myself down there is humorous?” He walked with them out of the door.

Dash threw off the rag and fluttered up, hugging him. “Hey, nobody is making fun of you.”

He sighed and smirked, then put his arms around her and returned her hug. “I believe you. Anyways, good morning.” He smiled.

“I like this one, Dash. Don’t let him go astray.” AJ approved.

Dash just grinned and stayed close to her coltfriend.

They made their way to Twilight’s home. After a knock, they were welcomed in by Spike.

“Hey guys, come on in.” Spike gingerly greeted them. All of the sudden he belched his signature green flame to reveal a letter they received from Princess Celestia herself. “Just in time.” He said and read the letter. “Is she serious?”

Twilight turned from her piles of books she had been reading about magic and teaching it when she approached Spike. “What is it, Spike?” She magically brought the letter front and center. “Dear Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student. It has come to our attention that the remaining golems have likely taken refuge in some old ruins located at the northeastern mountain range that accompanies Everfree Forest. I am requesting you, Darius, and anypony you can take with you to investigate. Do not take any unnecessary risks and have Spike to send for help here if you encounter trouble you can’t handle. Signed, Princess Celestia.” The purple pony looked up from the letter and squealed excited. “Finally! I have been wanting to go there for months!”

“Ruins? RUINS! OMIGOSH OMIGOSH OMIGOSH!” She fluttered around excited. “Just like Daring Do! This is gonna be awesome!

To see both Twilight and Dash get excited about the same thing seemed rare, as AJ chuckled at the sight. But something occurred to Darius. “If not for the fact you ponies handled yourselves against the bigger ones earlier, I’d have insisted you stay put. Although, maybe you should…” He then looked into Dash’s eyes, which displayed fiery determination (and warning) that told him he’d better not dare try to keep her from coming with. “…should take extra supplies with us just in case.” Wow, he thought. He only remembered seeing his mother give his dad that glare once.

Dash flashed her confident grin in victory. “Don’t worry, I won’t let the same thing happen to me twice. I told you, I’ll protect you this time.” She softly hoofed him on the chest.

AJ, the voice of common sense, spoke up. “Now hang on there sugarcubes. We ain’t goin’ on ah vacation here. It’s right in the letter. Them ruins have got them statues waitin' for us. And need ah remind you wut else lives near the mountains?” She pointed a hoof at the two.

Twilight was the first to remember. “Diamond Dogs.” She sighed.

Darius remembered hearing of them. “Can I get a better description of these…dogs?”

Dash clarified. “Well, they’re kinda like you, but doglike. They tried kidnapping Rarity so she would find gems for them. But Rarity totally messed with their heads and they begged us to take her back.” She chuckled.

“But they do carry weapons. Though I think, they’re just fer show. Ah never heard of a Diamond Dog hurting ah pony.” AJ added her two bits.

Darius shrugged. “If they get violent, then they’ll get hurt.” He pointed to the sword-marking at the palm of his hand. The other ponies looked at him a bit scared. “Oh, right.” He kept in mind how violence of that nature was rare and horrifying to ponies. “Save my sword for the golems, go easy on the Diamond Dogs.” He cracked his fists.

Dash grinned. “Awe yeah, they won’t know what hit them.” She crossed her front hooves as she hovered beside him.

***

AJ thankfully could carry enough supplies for journey and back, but Darius advised her to pack more veggies and fruits that can keep longer. He had been through Everfree Forest twice and could easily show them what to forage for to save on provisions. Twilight kept the list of things needed in check and brought with her research material on the ruins. The other three of the mane six regretted not coming but they had work to catch up on.

Spike was excited this time to finally tag along instead of being left behind to run the library. He bragged how it impressed Rarity as he showed off the kiss of ‘good luck’ he got from her.

The journey southwest through the forest was uneventful. Both Dash and Darius were perceptive enough to keep their group on track and to avoid dangerous predators. Spike showed to be more apt at foraging than even the Newman. So they weren’t short on food or water as the little dragon fetched nature’s bounty and refilled their canteens at nearby rivers and springs. AJ kept the group’s enthusiasm with traveling tunes.

But things had to get quiet as they approached a winding mountain trail. The forest was behind them and the rocky path slow ascended left and right. Poor Spike was ever hindmost having trouble keeping up. He may be a dragon, but he was still a kid. It reminded Darius of his little brother back home. So like a big brother would, he took the little guy on his shoulders. At first Spike was completely shocked and had no idea how to react to this, but then equated it to Twilight letting him ride on her back. Besides, it would have seemed silly if Darius got on all fours and did the same. The dragon comically elected Darius better for it sense it made him feel taller (and chuckles were shared).

No sign of Diamond Dogs, serpents, or any other mountain creatures, Dash reported as she swooped back to the group after scouting ahead. She didn’t go too far up. Twilight insisted she stayed near. It was nearing the afternoon that they approached what appeared to be stone-steps. They were old but still usable.

“Yep, these are the steps to the ruins alright.” Twilight read in her book for clarification.

“Well, duh. What else would they be used for?” Dash remarked.

Twilight ignored that and led the way this time. “This is so exciting. Nopony has been to these ruins before. Did you know it was the Griffons that first saw them…” There was a faint rumbling, and it was getting louder.

Darius switched to Light and cursed looking up the stairs. “Dash! Twilight!” He hoped Dash understood as he yanked AJ by the tail and picked up spike to take cover behind the nearest rock face off the path. Much to his relief Dash grabbed Twilight by her tail towards the rock face on the other side, avoiding the falling rocks. The rumbling was like thunder as the boulders violently rolled down the steps. After the dust cleared, the five sighed in relief.

“What could have caused that?” Spike said shaken. “Should I contact Princess Celestia?”

Darius shook his head. “Shh.” He waved his hands to Dash and Twilight on the other side. He then pointed to himself and pointed upward. Then pointed to them including AJ and pointed to the ground. He hoped they got it he wanted them to stay put. Darius then kept Light going and concentrated hard as his skin began to change color and texture to match the very rock. The other ponies gaped at this feat of magic.

Darius crept up the edge of the stairs as quiet as can be until he got a view of what looked to be the entrance to the ruins. Above the arched entrance was a statue of a wolf’s head, claws draped over the top of the arch, warning against intruders with bared teeth. The boulders themselves seemed to have originated from inside the ruins, given the path debris they left behind. But not a soul was to be seen. He then ended the spell and waved to the Ponies, who caught up with him shortly.

“Where did them balders come from?” AJ asked nervously.

“From inside. They weren’t intended for us, I believe.” Darius said. “Whatever they came from was probably set off by someone else inside and just happened to be on this path.” He stood.

“What was that magic you did?” Spike asked. “That was neat!”

“It’s a hunters’ talent known as 'chameleon'. But I can’t do that too much, it’s exhausting.” He said wiping the sweat from his head. “Dash, I hate to say this but I think you should hover ahead of us, while Twilight shines a light your way. Your eyes are keen and most of the traps here are likely to be for ground-pounders like us. So you’ll detect them better without setting them off.”

Dash saluted. “You got it big guy. Just keep your eyes ahead and not on my flank.” She winked.

Darius smirked. Good one, you flirt.

AJ chuckled. “Very good idea…on both suggestions, Romeo.” She tapped Darius on the shin jeeringly.

“That means AJ should be behind me in case I step on one so she can pull me back. I'm not as fast as Dash. Darius, you stay behind us. And Spike.” Twilight got out a big stick of chalk. “You’re picking up the rear because you have to mark an arrow where we have gone so we can backtrack.”

Spike nodded.

They had a plan and a formation, and so they journeyed by magic light into the dark ruins, with Dash silently giggling like a giddy schoolfilly, feeling like her favorite heroine.