• Published 11th Dec 2014
  • 2,725 Views, 33 Comments

Trust - Viking ZX

Not too long ago, Dawn Triage broke a rule. No one noticed. It wasn't a major rule. A minor curiosity. What harm could it do if nothing ever came of it? Except now something has come of it, and she needs to make a choice.

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An Evening of Occurrences Most Unusual

“Is your meal to your liking, ma’am?”

Dawn looked up from her dish and nodded at the mauve unicorn. “Yes, it is. Tell the chef he has my compliments.”

“Of course, madam,” the waiter said with a small, almost imperceptible nod. “And will you be ordering any dessert today?”

“Dessert?” Dawn shook her head. “No, thank you. The lunch was quite enough.”

“Very well, ma’am,” the waiter said, nodding again. “I will return with your bill shortly.”

Dawn let out a sigh as the waiter turned and walked away, her eyes turning back down at the meal. Hopefully her morose mood hadn’t shown enough on her face that the restaurant staff had thought her dissatisfied with her meal. In truth, it had been excellent, from the soup that had been served before the main course to the salad she was now digging into. The tomatoes were crisp and fresh—even this far into autumn—and the greens were delightfully firm and tasty. Even the dressing, a light mixture of imported oils, was just heavy enough to season the greens while light enough that it didn’t overwhelm the taste and texture of the leaves. A dash of finely ground salt and pepper on top was the perfect counterpoint to the meals flavor.

And yet the charm of the taste wasn’t there. The delightful crunch of flavor as the greens came apart across her tongue, the pleasant mixture of soft flavors and subtle bits of tartness was subdued, almost … bland.

Dawn took another bite, feeling a slight tinge of guilt that she wasn’t truly entertaining the chef’s creation the way it had been intended. But—and she knew this for a fact—her mind wasn’t in it. She was aware of all the various senses and sensations, aware of the way the meal tasted and felt on her tongue. She was even aware of the light strings of the live performers over in one corner of the restaurant, playing a soft tune that ordinarily would have pleased her greatly.

But her mind just wasn’t in it. It was too worried about the weight hanging over it, a weight that had been on her thoughts from the moment she’d received the missive from the hospital that morning. It had pursued her all through her examination of her home, from her inspection of the sitting room to the habitual swapping out and organization of the new medical texts that were still being delivered there. It had followed her as she’d left her home and attended the medical presentation at Canterlot General. It had even shadowed her happiness as she’d heard the announcement that Mint and Blossom were engaged to be married, a fact that should have brought more joy to her than it did.

Admit it, Dawn, you’ve made a terrible mistake. She levitated another forkful of salad into her mouth and bit down, her attention once again split between the meal she’d meant to enjoy and the weight on her conscience. You violated a patient’s trust, and now you’ll have to answer for it. Sun above, why did you do something so stupid!?

At the time it had been easy enough to rationalize. She’d been taking blood from each member of the team, what would it hurt to get a little bit more blood from one team member and have a few checks done for them? She’d expected that if there had been any response, it would have come in the negative.

And now it hasn’t. She set the fork down on the side of her plate, eyeing the last little bit of salad that was left and contemplating whether or not it would be worth eating. She felt satisfied with her meal as it was. Eating more would only be an exercise in self-indulgence. Which was part of the point of eating at such an establishment, but the presence of her mistake hanging over her was making the event less than enjoyable.

Should I just tell him? she thought, lifting her fork once more and crossing it with the knife across her plate, a sign that she had finished her meal. She took a final sip of her water—faintly cranberry flavored—and then sat back in her seat as one of the waiters began to move towards her table. The waiter slipped away her plate and glass without a word, carrying them towards the kitchen and leaving an elegantly written bill behind.

Perhaps she should just tell him. Let him decide on whether or not to act. But that would require admitting that she’d violated his trust and performed the procedure completely without his permission. Perhaps she should just save it until he asked. What she’d found wasn’t life-threatening after all.

But it could be life altering, she told herself as she stood, collecting her bags and her bill. The maitre d’ looked up as she approached the front desk, her bit bag already at the ready.

“Ah, evening madam,” the maitre d said, his horn lighting with a glow as he took her bill. “I trust everything was to your satisfaction this evening?”

“It was,” she said, giving him a small smile as she levitated five ten-bit coins from her bag and placed them on the counter. “The food was excellent, and the atmosphere was perfect. Thank you for the meal.”

“You’re welcome, madam,” the maitre d said, collecting the bits and passing her a few coins in change. If he saw any sign of her own mood, he was apparently declining to say anything.

She stepped out the doors onto the street, tightening her scarf around her shoulders as the cold air seemed to bite into her skin. She allowed herself one little shiver, just enough to get her body used to the temperature, and then she moved off down the street, headed in the direction of the Grand Hall.

There was still a fair amount of traffic on the streets of Canterlot considering the current hour. Ponies walked down the sidewalks or the streets, the latter only occasionally moving out of the way to let a carriage or other conveyance pass. Canterlot was in the in-between state at the moment, the brief period of low activity between the lunch hour and the time when the earliest of employees and businessmares would get off from work. In another hour or two the streets would be packed with ponies heading in all directions, but for now it was mostly clear.

Dawn took a deep breath of air, the change in scenery a welcome distraction from the thoughts that had been plaguing her. Now that she had adjusted the change in air temperature, the cool crispness of it almost felt welcome, like it was sharpening her mind against the world at large. She took in a deep breath, watching as it almost steamed on its way back out.

Winter is almost here, she thought as she eyed some of the ponies around her, many of whom were wearing light scarves as she was. And after such a short, sudden fall. Sometimes the weather was like that, however. A short spring could lead way into a long, hot summer, or a long winter that overstayed its welcome for several weeks before becoming a fast, wet spring.

In truth, she was glad winter had almost arrived. While it was cold, there was a hidden beauty to the way the season worked, the drifts of snow that covered the landscape in pure, pristine white. Even though it had made her work all the more difficult when she’d been a Ranger, she’d always loved the feel of moving through a quiet, snow-clad forest, wrapped in her own thoughts, admiring the delicate swirls of frost and snow. Fall was wonderful in its own colorful way, but it was a little … well, loud for her tastes.

Up ahead she could see the spires of the Grand Hall peeking over the tops of the city, and her pace picked up slightly as the building came into view. If anything could help her lose the faint cloud of gloom that had been following her all day—or at least help her forget it, however temporarily—it would be music.

The Grand Hall wasn’t actually quite as big as most other music halls around Equestria, a fact that seemed surprising when one considered its size relative to the buildings around it. In truth, the hall itself had been massive at the time of its construction, dwarfed only by a few civic buildings and the royal palace itself, but as time had marched on and new buildings had been constructed to keep up with the growing city, the Grand Hall had slowly moved lower on the list. While it still looked large where it was, Dawn knew that was mostly because the buildings around it were smaller, not because the Grand Hall was still of any great size. Still, for its relative size, the acoustics were still some of the greatest in all of Equestria, and for that the Grand Hall still stood and was still home to many performances like the one she was heading to.

Dawn could feel her own step pick up as the front of the building drew closer. Yes, that was what she needed. Music. Something to help her sort the jumble of thoughts in her head, help everything arrange itself in nice, neat rows that could be analysed and sorted over in a reasonable manner.

The front of the building still looked much like the rest of Canterlot, white and gleaming, but the inside, once she’d stepped through the front door, was a completely different world. Dark, hoof-carved wood dominated the aesthetic here, smoothed underhoof by centuries of ponies passing over it. The wood was rich and heavy, some of it almost sucking up the light beneath its heavy gloss. Thick, red tapestries hung on the walls or covered the sitting areas, dark, calm colors designed to bring about a sense of power. She’d once read that the original sponsor of the Grand Hall, an earth pony named Smart Trade, had nearly bankrupted himself in procuring the large amounts of heavy wood the construction had required all the way from the Plainslands, declaring that the money was better spent on the generations that were to come than on himself. The result was a splendidly ornate look unrivaled by any in Equestria, and that was just for the entrance. The hall itself was even more grand.

Though the performance was the first of two for the evening and wasn’t scheduled to begin for another twenty minutes, there were already a number of ponies milling around the front area. The admissions desk seemed to be doing brisk business, the pegasus and earth pony sitting behind it collecting a steady stream of bits from various patrons like herself. Past the desk, the entryway opened up into a carpeted foyer, the hoofsteps of the various ponies muffled by the thick covering. Several doors, each with an attendant usher, marked entrances to the hall itself, while two more grand staircases, one on either side of the room, led to an upper level, from which both the raised seats and the private boxes could be accessed.

“One, please,” Dawn said, pulling a hundred-bit bar from her bag and placing them on the desk. The stallion behind the counter looked at her in pleased surprised and uttered a grateful thank you, which she returned with a nod as he passed her his ticket. She shook her head as he began to ask if she would have liked anything in return for her sizable donation. The donation was for its own sake and for the Hall’s continued expense, nothing more. She would consider it fifty-five extra bits well spent.

“Thank you,” she said as the grateful pegasus slid her ticket across the desk. She lifted it in her magic and slipped it into her saddlebags, cutting the orange glow from her horn as quickly as possible. It clashed with the interior decor, and she wasn’t about to wander around looking at some of the works on display while displaying such a garish combination of colors. Her coat and mane would clash well enough with the buildings’ more muted style.

There was still time before the performance itself began, though she could hear the faint sounds of the various instruments warming up through the still open doors, and so she turned her attention to some of the historical pieces that had been collected by the Hall over the years on display. Some of them were of quite exemplary history, though of questionable relevance—she still couldn’t quite see a use for displaying Largo’s prized megaphone alongside his conductor’s baton, for example. Though legend had it he had used the megaphone to shout instructions at his orchestra, the small plaque beneath the two items dutifully noted that the legend was—in fact—not true at all, and the megaphone was merely a memorial of his time serving as a lifeguard as a young stallion.

A rare surviving page of Trotaikovsky’s original sheets, however, was much more relevant. As was the baton used by Archos Windfall, the famed griffon immigrant who had shown the musical elite the use of pegasi controlled thunderclouds as a musical instrument, cementing their place in the Equestrian classical music era. She was examining a set of instruments that had once belonged to the infamous Rag Pie—a mare who’d rocked the classical world by performing on three separate instruments simultaneously before going on to help found a new genre of music entirely— when a polite cough from behind her caught her attention, and she turned before widening her eyes and dropping into a quick bow.

“Princess Celestia,” she said, controlling her surprise. The solar diarch gave her a friendly nod, and Dawn rose.

“Hello, Sergeant Major,” Celestia said, giving her a smile. “This is a pleasant surprise. Are you here to see the performance?”

“Of course, your highness,” Dawn said, dropping her head ever so slightly as she responded. “I look forward to hearing it.”

“As do I,” the Princess replied. “The percussion, I’ve been told, is wonderful. It’s sometimes hard to find the time to get away from my duties, but this was one I was simply insistent that I wouldn’t miss.” Celestia turned and began to move towards the stairs, the two pegasus guards behind her falling into step. Dawn followed, moving alongside the princess as she began to speak again. “To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this all week. Care to join me in my private box?”

Dawn nodded, although she had to fight to keep her tail from letting out an errant twitch of surprise. “Of course, your highness,” she said, only to worry that she’d made a mistake as Celestia let out a soft laugh.

“No need for such formalities, Sergeant,” the diarch said, reseating her wings as she began to climb one of the large staircases. “Consider this an invitation from one friend to another, without the trappings of your or my position for the night.”

“That … may prove difficult, your—uh, Princess Celestia,” Dawn said. “After all, I am a Dusk Guard, even when off duty, and—”

“Very well then,” the Princess said, coming to a stop and turning to look back at her as she reached the top of the stairs. Dawn could almost feel a physical weight descend upon her as the Princess’ eyes locked with hers. “I shall make it a royal suggestion. For tonight only.” The co-ruler of Equestria grinned—grinned—and Dawn felt her eyes widen. “Feel free to carry on a conversation with me as if I were not one of the rulers of Equestria, and instead as if I were nothing more than a fellow admirer of music. Does that help?”

Dawn paused, weighed her options, and then laughed. “Why not?” she said, nodding as she climbed the last few steps to the top of the staircase. “I suppose occasionally one must learn to relax.”

“Now you sound like my sister,” the Princess—no, Celestia, Dawn reminded herself—said. “Very well then, Dawn. My box is this way.” She nodded, pointing down the balcony with her horn. “I look forward to speaking with you before the event.”

“Really?” Dawn asked as she began to walk alongside the princess. “Why?”

“Well, of all the ponies in the Dusk Guard, you, I believe, I have conversed with the least,” Celestia said, giving her warm smile that reminded Dawn of summer days she’d spent at her parents. “I’m curious: do you enjoy your new position?”

“Compared to what, your highness?”

“Just Celestia,” Celestia replied with another smile as they stopped before an usher. Her horn lit with a yellow glow as she levitated a ticket out from somewhere beneath her wing, waiting dutifully on the usher as he slowly tore it in half, his eyes continually flicking from the Princess to the ticket.

Probably out of disbelief that the Princess even uses a ticket, Dawn thought. The colt had to be new, there was no possibility that the older of the Hall’s ushers would be surprised by the Princess’ insistence that in many ways, she was as normal as them. The nervous stallion finally managed to tear the ticket in half, only to give a nervous yelp and drop both halves when Dawn floated her own ticket up in front of herself, waiting for him to take it.

Celestia let out a warm laugh and placed a hoof on the young unicorn’s shoulder. “Relax, my little pony,” she said, smiling at him as she picked up both halves of her ticket, sweeping her half back under her wing and settling the other half on the stallion’s hoof. “The first few weeks on the job are always nerve-wracking.”

The stallion gave a little cough. “They are?”

“Of course,” Celestia said. “Why you should have seen me or my sister the first time we attempted to hold court. It was … a spectacle.”

“It was?”

“Of course,” Celestia replied. “But don’t you worry, my little pony. You’ll be nervous for a day or two more, but soon it’ll seem so simple you’ll wonder how you ever feared it in the first place.” She tilted her head towards Dawn’s ticket. “In fact, you might even stop wondering with that one.” The usher looked up at her with a dumbfounded look on his face, a look that only grew more pronounced when the Princess winked.

“I—of course,” he said, his words picking up pace as he plucked Dawn’s ticket out of the air, parting it with a quick burst of magic and passing the proper half back to her. Dawn gave him a polite nod, followed by a “Thank you,” as she plucked it from the air and slid it into her saddle bags.

“I thank you as well,” Celestia said, removing her hoof and nodding at the young usher. “And don’t forget to ticket the two behind me.” The usher’s face darted to the Guard and he visibly swallowed. “They bought tickets as well.”

“Did they?” Dawn asked, glancing back at the usher as he held the two members of the Guard up, requesting their tickets in a voice that grew more firm by the second.

“Well,” Celestia said with a smile, her wings shifting and resettling. “Perhaps I gave them the bits and instructed them to purchase their own tickets with a sizeable donation on top. But only because that way I could keep the Grand Hall from panicking and explaining to me that, as Princess, they couldn’t possibly let me make such a donation. Just perhaps.”

“Perhaps?” Dawn asked, raising one eyebrow even as Celestia began to turn towards one of the boxes. Dawn lit her horn, lifting the curtains that covered the door to the box and giving the Princess a friendly nod when she glanced back at her.

“Well,” Celestia admitted, grinning as she opened the door and waved Dawn through. “Maybe a bit more certainly than perhaps, but …” she said, glancing behind her before shutting the door to the box. “You didn’t hear it from me.”

Dawn smiled as she took a quick look around the box, her ears flicking back and forth on her head as they picked up the melange of sounds coming from the warming orchestra. She’d been in the private boxes at the Grand Hall once or twice before, but the cost of the box and her salary as a Ranger had meant that the normal seating had been a more economical choice for her. But since this was apparently a box that Celestia had reserved for whomever she wished to invite … she’d certainly take it.

The chairs were plush, although seemingly oddly designed, with a darker coloration that matched the the overall style of the theater. The chest-high barrier that surrounded the box was made of a dark wood she didn’t recognize, and almost seemed to be slightly angled, a technique she had been informed before was in attempt to improve the acoustical quality of the building.

“You may choose any seat you wish,” Celestia said, walking past the back row of chairs to take a seat in the front row, right in front of the barrier. “I myself always choose the front row. I suspect that when the architect designed these boxes, he never quite expected somepony of my own height to frequent them. The sound level in the back of these boxes never quite felt as rich to my ears as it did in the front.”

“Did you know him?” Dawn asked as she chose her own seat in the box, not next to Celestia, but a single seat away, so that they would both have ample space to enjoy the sounds of the symphony.

“The architect?” Celestia asked, turning towards her, her pastel mane shimmering at the movement. “Only in passing. He was a little strange, even for that era. Very eccentric. But he loved his work.”

“He just didn’t expect you to use it, did he?” Dawn commented. To her surprise, Celestia laughed, throwing her head back and sending the multi-colored hues of her mane rippling across her back.

“More than most realize,” the immortal said as her laughter came to an end. “You are familiar with the half-circle seats?” She raised a hoof and pointed over the balcony edge. Dawn followed with her eyes, though she was aware of the so called “half-circle,” a small arc of seats that sat below and in front of the first row, almost directly in front of the platform occupied by the orchestra itself. It was commonly known as the “student pit” on behalf of the fact that it was reserved, low-price seating for musically inclined students from the nearby schools. Dawn nodded as she looked at the mix of ponies that was filling the seats that night, a cluster of young musicians all eagerly awaiting the show.

“Originally, there were only three seats there,” Celestia said. “Brise had them declared ‘the Royal Row’ and set aside only for myself and honored guests.” She rolled her eyes. “I appreciated the gesture, but it was a terrible seat for anything other than listening to the music. I honored his wishes until he’d been gone for a year before moving to the boxes and having the seats you see now installed. I much prefer sitting in the audience itself, or, when my height and stature make that a trifle undesirable, in a box like these.” She pulled her hoof back, still smiling. “Brise was a brilliant architect, but his understanding of social tact and strategy only extended as far as what he could glean from a textbook.”

Dawn wasn’t sure how she was supposed to respond, so she gave the Princess a simple nod. Although she had to agree that she found the diarch’s ruling and reasoning sound. Who wanted to sit so close to the performance itself and be singled out as a showpiece? The proper place to put that spot would have been near the back or middle of the hall. Not at the front.

“So tell me, Dawn,” Celestia said as the orchestra continued to warm up below them, the tuned strings mixing with faint, brassy sounds of the trumpets and the soft, even flow of the woodwinds. “How have you enjoyed your time in the Dusk Guard?”

“That depends, your—ah, Princess,” she said, catching herself at the last moment as she saw Celestia’s raised eyebrow. “Are you asking me as a Guard or simply as myself?”

“As Dawn Triage, of course,” Celestia said, bowing her head slightly. “From one mare to another.”

“Well, I imagine the answer would be quite similar,” Dawn said. “I must say I enjoy the work quite a bit, though not as much as I did my time in the Rangers. There …” she said as she caught the diarch’s questioning look, “There, I was always kept busy, kept busy by both assignments and my duties as a medical practitioner. With this new assignment, I am still not as busy as I was then; though the dangers are no less real. Even so, I would be loathe to part with my position, as it allows me to once again practice the medical career I loved so fully without entanglements.”

“Yes, I would imagine,” Celestia said, nodding. “You’ll be please to hear that the Night Court has begun to put pressure on the Ranger’s leadership to change that little bit of archaic law. They’ve proven surprisingly stubborn so far, but they’re giving. In time, they’ll fold and make the law a bit more amiable to those who follow your line of work.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Dawn said, her ears folding back slightly as a particularly robust note went bad. “Will they be retroactively extending a hoof back at any of us who’ve already been forced out?”

Celestia shook her head. “Sadly, I doubt it,” she said, looking back out over the Hall once more. “Those who are forced to admit that they themselves enforced or supported an action that was in the wrong—even if they were not those with whom the action originated—can often be loathe to admit any more than such once the nature of such an action becomes true. In truth, many of them will only do such grudgingly, as their foolish pride holds them to never admit otherwise.” She let out a sigh, her head drooping somewhat. “I and my sister do our best, but there are still some vices that run deep.”

“It’s fine,” Dawn said with a shake of her head. “In all honesty, I wouldn’t go back even if it were an option.”

“Oh?” Celestia cocked an eyebrow at her. “Why not?”

“Because while I feel I did more while I was with the Rangers, here, serving as a Guard, I find that—despite my expectations to the contrary—I find that I, myself, am more valued. Do you understand?” Celestia nodded slowly as she continued.

“Initially I took the position because I was desperate for any chance to be able to use my medical talents and abilities en masse once more. I was sick and tired of being an aide at local hospitals, of being told that I’d had my time in the sun. When Captain Song offered to hire and circumvent the retirement I had been forced into, I accepted primarily because it would once again grant me an acting medical license, and he allowed me the privilege of working at the local hospitals in order to keep my skills sharp, something I was very invested into doing. However, now …” She shook her head, her orange mane whipping back and forth in front of her eyes.

“I wouldn’t go back to the Rangers after serving alongside the Dusk Guard,” she said firmly. “It seems almost alien to me, but my place is with them. For lack of a better word, they value me. My input, my capabilities. With the Rangers I felt a bit of that, but it was always something a little less personal. I was of value to the Rangers, to the organization. Now, I’m not just valued by the Dusk Guard as a whole, but by each member. Even Hunter, who spends most of his time avoiding check-ups as efficiently as possible, I can tell values my contribution to the team.” She shook her head again.

“Perhaps I am wrong to say that I still enjoyed the Rangers more than this,” she said with a quick shrug. “Or perhaps my definition of enjoyment is subject to numerous interpretations. Perhaps it’s merely to early to tell. Or …” She let her voice trail off as the proverbial minotaur of the day reared its head. “Or,” she admitted, “perhaps I am reluctant to say I enjoy it as fully because I may have inadvertently damaged my own relation-in-standing with one member of the team.”

Celestia’s brow rose at that, her face taking on a somewhat solemn look. “Oh?” she asked. “If I might inquire, why?”

“Well,” Dawn began, trying not to shrink back as the diarch leaned forward. “I did something that, as a doctor, I should not—”

She stopped speaking as Celestia’s mane began to whip violently around the diarch’s head, twisting this way and that as if some mighty, unseen gale was spiraling through the room. The immortal’s tail was caught in the same mighty, invisible wind, twisting and in all directions just as her mane was. Dawn rose from her seat, stepping back as she tried to wrap her mind around what she was seeing. Was the Princess under attack? Was it some sort of danger? She didn’t hear anything but the warming orchestra, and Celestia hadn’t said anything. Also, the look on her face seemed to be more one of surprise than pain or fear. The whipping grew even more violent, the multi-hued mane splitting into clumps of ethereal hair that twisted around one another, wrapping around her horn and face. Celestia’s wings snapped out to their full length, the Princess snapping back as she rose to her hooves.

“Princess! Stay calm!” Dawn lit her horn and stepped forward, running through her mental list of spells. The Princess’ mane was ethereal as well as physical, which meant it reacted directly to magic in a way beyond most materials. Maybe if I

“Hold, Dawn!” Celestia said, her own horn lighting with a brilliant glow. There was a vibrant, yellow flash, and then her mane dropped back into its usual state, softly flowing over her shoulders.

Well, Dawn admitted as she stepped back, her own horn still lit as she mentally ran through a list of spells, holding them at the ready in case she needed them. Her mane is flowing normally … But it wasn’t in the right places, and the colors were twisted around.

Celestia didn’t seem to notice either. She simply glanced back at her mane and then shook her head. “That will have to do,” she said, folding her wings back at her sides. Then she turned back towards Dawn, and Dawn’s eyes widened as she saw the stern look on Celestia’s face.

“I apologize, Sergeant,” she said, turning for the door. “But I’m afraid I will be missing this performance. As well you. You should return to your barracks immediately. Something of great import has occurred, and I fear your commanding officer will be seeking you shortly.”

Then she opened the door and was gone, a bright flash marking a teleport as she and her attendant Guard vanished.

It spoke highly of her own training, Dawn knew, that she was running before the afterimage of the flash was gone.

* * *

The barracks was already showing signs of activity as she ran up. The front doors were closed, but the magilights above them were beaming despite the fact that the sun had barely begun to set. Dawn whipped both doors wide-open with her magic as she approached them, her hooves skidding on the wooden floor as she turned to head for Captain Song’s office.

She didn’t get far. The captain was standing in the common room, speaking with a Royal Guard courier, a hastily unfolded map thrown across the common room table. A pile of magazines on the floor showed how hastily the map had been unfolded. The olive-green earth pony captain looked up at her as she entered the room before turning his attention back to the paper in front of him.

“Sergeant Major Dawn Triage, reporting for duty,” Dawn said, coming to a halt and snapping a quick salute.

“You’re back early, Sergeant,” the captain said, giving her a quick glance and then checking something on the map. “I was expecting to have to send somepony to look for you.”

“I got an early warning that something was up,” Dawn said, nodding. “So I came back as quickly as I could. What do we have?”

“Still waiting on specifics,” Captain Song said, turning back to the courier and passing him a note. The pegasus made a quick salute before turning and darting out of the room. “But the generals are this. Two to three week deployment. Cold weather operation in the Crystal Mountains. Well away from civilization. There’ll be a full briefing once we’re underway, but for now plan for an active engagement.”

“Has the Ocean spilled over?” Dawn asked, her forelegs turning icy. Surely they wouldn’t dare

“No,” the captain said, quelling her fear. “And I would venture that under no circumstances are we to cross past the mountains unless our mission absolutely requires it. The last thing Equestria needs is to be picking sides or introducing a new one to that schoolyard fight.” Captain Song shook his head. “Hope that it doesn’t come to that. What little I’ve heard from the Ocean is …” He let out a disgruntled sigh.

“Anyway, that’s all I can give you now. Two to three weeks. Active engagement. We’re expected to face an unknown, extremely capable foe.” Captain Steel Song looked up from the map again, his face set so firmly that Dawn could easily see his namesake reflected in it. “If you need to finalize any equipment transfers or move any supplies to The Hummingbird, get to it. We’re leaving in two hours. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir.” Dawn knew an order when she heard one. She snapped a sharp salute and turned for the medical bay, moving at a brisk trot. All right, she thought as she began to mentally catalogue the supplies and equipment she’d already stowed aboard The Hummingbird’s smaller medical bay. Some of those instruments arrived but are still in the barracks bay … The door to the medical swung open under the orange glow of her magic, her telekinetic field extending to turn on the lights even as she began to open cupboards and pull out bins.

I’ll need to grab as much as I can, she thought as skidded to a stop by her desk. And I’ll need to move the blood supplies in the freezer to The Hummingbird so we’re stocked. She began to spread her equipment out on her desk, frowning as she was forced to move a heavy envelope aside. I’ll need to get my saddlebags for my armor and doublecheck that I have everything. She shoved the envelope aside once again before sighing and lifting it out of the way. And what is this doing sitting out on myoh.

She opened the envelope with her magic, closing her eyes and shaking her head as she saw the text along the top. I can’t deal with this now, unfortunately. If I tell him, it will only be a distraction. She shook her head. No. I have to tell him eventually. But now, before our mission … it wouldn’t be fair to him.

She trotted over to one of her many file cabinets, sliding a drawer open and flipping through dividers until she found the right place for the envelope. It slid down between the dividers with a rasping sound, its dark brown surface standing out against the clear, blemishless parchment on either side. The dissonance would be her reminder, her inspiration for when they returned.

She took one last look at the sheet she’d left on top of the stack and then slid it back into the envelope, shutting the drawer and turning away as the opening lines gave one final echo across her mind.

“Seaddle Medical General - Ethereal Blood Test - Living Blood Relation Search - Patient: Nova Beam.” And below that, in simple, block text…

“One Match Found.”

Comments ( 22 )

dun dun dun!!!:pinkiecrazy: you didnt do it so I had too.

A match for a possible parent, or a lost child?

Edit: ah, parent. Or sibling. But not Nova Beam himself.

Why do I not know what this Ocean is? Can anyone tell me where to look it up?

Huh, so this is going to be an interesting season 3 opener leading up.

I'm glad you finished these two in time, both were quite good. That just sets the bar for the sequel higher, though. I await it eagerly.

I think we don't know for a reason. I do hope it's a good one, though.

Oh, is that it? I guess it's just the references in this and Remembrance that have me feeling each time I read "the Ocean" that I should recognize it... :trixieshiftright:

Merry Christmas everyone!!

“You’re welcome, madam,” the maitre d said, collecting the bits and passing her a few coins in change.

So what I'm getting is that Equestria doesn't do tips.

I wanna move there! :rainbowdetermined2:

Eh, can't say I really liked this one as much as any of the other side stories. It seems very much the odd one out; all the others ended with some kind of character growth or movement past some kind of personal obstacle, whereas this one felt more like a prologue or teaser than a full, self-contained story.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but thos works. Hoping to see this resolved soon in the sequel!

Is the relation anyone we know? :duck:

:pinkiesmile: Dawn's not going to do it either. :rainbowlaugh:

Okay, you got me. It's [TRANSMISSION JAMMED]!
But don't tell anyone, okay?

The best I can do is point you towards the other side stories. There definitely are references to the Ocean of Endless Ice elsewhere. Along with little bits of information that might clue you guys in on the what. Fun stuff for those who like digging and extrapolating.

Surprisingly, the TV Tropes page does not have an entry for the Ocean yet.

As the writer of the Dusk Guard Saga, never have I been more worried about a season opener and ender than I was with season 3, since I didn't want anything that could potentially wreck the saga story. Thankfully, the opener fit right in. Really, really well.

Thanks! I'm glad you liked them. And so far, what is written of "Beyond the Borderlands" has been all kinds of awesome. It's coming, people. It's coming!

Unless she just needed change on the tip. To be honest, I can't remember if that was the intent or not though. I assume that since it's Equestria he is getting a decent paycheck though.

No disagreement's there from me, actually. Dawn's place as a character has always been a bit more ... pre-developed than others. She's the kind of mare that doesn't grow quickly—at least, not since she was a lot younger. Combine that with her very polite, high-class personality and it's hard to get character development out of her. I'm not disagreeing with your post. I kind of agree. Dawn's story isn't nearly as compelling to read as any of the others. The best I can hope for is that reading this and getting insights into her mindset, personality, and behavior will make her portions in future bits of the saga more meaningful. But if nothing else, hopefully you had some fun with the worldbuilding I threw in all over the place.

It's Dawn. I'm just going to say you probably shouldn't expect a quick resolution to her little mistake.

Well, I said it above, but I suppose I can mention it once again here. It's [DATA CORRUPTED]. There. That's the last time I say it, though. If something goes wrong, you'll just have to wait to see how it pans out.

5442648 Here's to hoping that the next installment really shines as these have.

Trust me. It's already way better. Prepare to have the bar raised.

5442737 Just dont set it too high, or else, no one will be taking hold the gold on that jump.

Thanks, Viking! The Ocean of Endless Ice, huh... That sounds familiar. I guess I'll have to reread all the side stories again. It's just too bad we have to give you actual time to write the next story! Someone needs to invent a pocket dimension where time passes at a much faster rate than the real world, so we can shove authors into it and they can spend a year writing a story and come out to fans who have only waited a couple days...

took me way too long to get around to this one, seeing as it was buried in my read later list. but it didnt disappoint. the teasing, all the way thru the story till i thot i wasnt going to find out at all, then chucking it back at me at the very last. the chekovs gun that appeared somewhere way back when with novas blood sample, i had completely forgotten about it.

announcement that Mint and Blossom were engaged to be married,

mint and blossom! from the start of Rise! nice of u to give us an update on what happened with them.:twilightsmile:

:yay::rainbowkiss::rainbowkiss::twilightsmile: 7.5/10 very good job

5469666 also, what was up with celestias mane?:rainbowhuh:

Awesomeness. Can;t wait to find out what the next installment of the Dusk Guard series brings. I want to know what the Ocean is very badly right now. Also you love throwing little spoilers and hints into your side stories to see if we notice them or not don't you. I guess it;s time to re-read those side stories. As the naruto anime states we must look underneath the underneath and see through deception.

I gotta say these Shorts were all fantastic. The first story focused Mostly on steel and Nova, and it was really nice to have these Down time fics to kinda flesh out the background and story of the other characters. I mean each of them had a Well developed personality and a story, we just didn't get to see as much of them as we did Steel and nova. It's really gotta me a lot more excited to start on the second book

Reckon I've now read all your DG related stuff, worth it.

The tomatoes were crisp and fresh—even this far into autumn—and the greens were delightfully firm and tasty. Even the dressing, a light mixture of imported oils, was just heavy enough to season the greens while light enough that it didn’t overwhelm the taste and texture of the leaves. A dash of finely ground salt and pepper on top was the perfect counterpoint to the meals flavor.

I most certainly won’t tell anyone if I had to wipe the drool off my keyboard after reading this.

Should I just tell him?

That got me wondering. Could that blood test be related to some unusual powers of a (male) team member? Say, an unusually powerful magic? Something with his lineage (as, I believe, was already suggested in the comments to “Rise”), perhaps? Wait a minute, isn’t he an orphan?!

I didn’t see the other major plot points coming, though.

Calling it right now. Dawn is Nova's mother.

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