• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Verdestone

Verdestone—the spire, not the city, Rainbow Dash could hardly tell which was which anymore—was easily as large as the tallest building in Canterlot. In its favor, it didn't have an entire hulking mountain beneath it to allow the structure to reach such insane heights. It was simply its own spectacle, a gigantic spike of polished granite emerging from the otherwise flat surface of Emeraldine. Upon a closer fly-by, Rainbow Dash could easily tell that the dense buildings gathered around the cylindrical base of the structure had been constructed over several eons following the discovery of this gigantic structure. She looked up and saw three cocentric rings of platforms built around the neck of the spire. They were like cities all of their own, propped up by hundreds upon hundreds of wooden scaffolds that clung to the stretching body of Verdestone. Tilting her head up as high as she could, Rainbow Dash squinted to see what may have been lying on the very summit of Verdestone. Without flying all the way up to investigate, she could only assume her eyes made out the conspicuous sight of a temple of sorts.

Whistling, Rainbow Dash circled Verdestone higher and higher. Even at her swift speeds, it took nearly ten minutes to fully navigate the circumference of the structure, and this was at halfway up its body. Smoke rose from the chimneys of buildings packed tightly together on each ring. She saw apartments, meeting halls, market centers, and warehouses densely populating the hanging platforms. No single building was shorter than two stories. It occurred to Rainbow Dash that the occupants of Verdestone were determine to take advantage of every square inch of real estate available to them on those lofty rings. As a result, each circle of urbanity resembled a piece of downtown Manehattan, and the sparse roads and courtyards afforded to the high altitude cityscapes came across as deep trenches and gorges between buildings.

As tight and slapped-together as the platforms were, they were not done so with laziness or carelessness. As a matter of fact, there was a uniquely beautiful quality to the architecture of the place. The framework of each building had a curved shape to it, with the reinforcments embellished with organic imagery and artistic flare. The closer the buildings were to the central stalk of Verdestone, the more ornate and polished they look, as if the Emeraldine builders were displaying a deeply-seeded reverence to the holy rock upon which each ring hung.

It went without saying that Rainbow Dash had no clear idea where she was to start. She had slept in many a barn in her life; she quite easily understood the concept of a “needle in a haystack.” When Mayor Evergreen sent her to find Steelteeth, she could have at least given her a clue where in the immense heights of Verdestone to go. There was more sense in tossing a stone across the surf of a beach and expecting it to reach a continent on the other side of the ocean.

“If I was to build the 'Chamber of Representatives,' in all this mess, where the hay would I put it?!” Rainbow Dash murmured to herself. She gazed up at the highest ring on the stalk of Verdestone. The summit stretched more than a naked five hundred feet on its own beyond the last platform. “Seems legit. Ya gotta be lame if you put politicians anywhere else on this thing.”

She flapped her wings, lifted herself up to the top most ring, skimmed several rooftops, and came briskly down. When her hooves slapped to a landing in the center of a street, she was surrounded by ponies. She blinked, nervously glancing around to see if she startled anyone. The place was packed, with several ponies in affluent dress befitting the likes of Canterlot trotting to and fro. However, to her pleasant shock, not a single one of them had so much as gasped at her winged presence. They were far too occupied with their daily lives, rushing from one appointment to another, engaged in various chattering conversations about upcoming elections, local trade offers, and money exchanges.

Rainbow Dash smiled to herself. The blood returned to her limbs after a long day of flying. She relaxed in the meantime, slowly trotting through the town and gazing at the sights and sounds around her. The districts of the upmost ring of Verdestone were beautiful. The buildingfaces had the look of polished ivory, with balconies decked out in flowers and potted plants from all across the landscape. There were courtyards of ancient masonry, with bricklaid foundations that housed grassy lawns and clusters of trees that preserved the beauty of the landscape far below the spire. While the architecture had a muted color scheme to it, there were several storefronts with bright flags and colorful decorations that brought an excitement to the visual spectrum. Through the windows into taverns and inns, Rainbow Dash could spot torches sprinkled with dust to give them ethereal quality, so that the entire place felt enchanted.

The closer Rainbow Dash mingled with the ponies in the crowded streets, the more comfortable she felt. She realized that these weren't the same rich snobs that occupied the roads and alleyways of Canterlot. Though they were busy and distracted, there was still that Emeraldine quality infecting the whole lot of them. Many ponies smiled at each other and paused to engage in cheerful discussions. There wasn't a single frown to be had.

Regardless, Rainbow wasn't ready to ask for directions. She had made a major impression on Ridgeside, but that was only a tiny village at the feet of a mountain. Here—in a city as spectacular and immense as any in Equestria, if not more so—she didn't have the time to woo an entire metropolis. She merely trotted forward, her eyes scanning the signs to various buildings, in hope that she might discover the city's Chamber of Representatives.

As she emerged into a nearby courtyard, something in the mood of the Verdestone residents was changing. There was a hushed commotion flying through the crowd. Rainbow Dash craned her neck, curious if she may have stumbled upon a tense discussion of one thing or another. She tried to make out the words of the urban ponies, but all she could hear—in increasingly gasping tones—was the word “princess” over and over again. The tone in the ponies' utterances was shocked, amazed, and even frightened. Rainbow Dash's brow furrowed as her eyes lifted up towards the summit of the spire, wondering if some message was being delivered somehow from up high.

“Princess?” Rainbow Dash muttered aloud. “What princess? I don't get it...” She turned to her side and froze.

She saw a pair of ponies staring at her, wide-eyed.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. She turned around, then saw a cluster of ponies staring at her, no less mesmerized.

“Hrmmm...” Rainbow Dash slowly backed away from them, her coat forming goosebumps. She bumped into a group of well-dressed stallions. “Oh! My bad—”

They merely gawked at her, their eyes wide. An entire ring of ponies in affluent gear had stopped whatever it was they were doing, having finally caught sight of the pegasus in full, and their lips murmured the same word over and over again among themselves: “Princess...”

“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash looked at them, at her body, and at them again. She pivoted to the side and slowly flexed her wings, watching their faces.

The shock and awe that lit their expressions only doubled. They gasped and chattered excitedly among themselves.

“Yeah, I thought so,” Rainbow Dash muttered. With all eyes on her, she marched icily into a nearby marketplace, biting her lip. “Yeah, this isn't awkward or anything...” She looked left and right, seeing the clusters of ponies doubling, tripling. Unlike the souls of Ridgeside, they were too flabbergasted to dare breaching communication with the pegasus. “I gotta do something about this. I'm about as royal as a friggin' half-eaten cupcake.” Right as she said that, she nearly ran into the entrance to a clothes shop. “Heh. That'll do...”

She walked inside, leaving the gawking crowd inside. A bell rang as her hooves clopped onto antique wooden floorboards. Two young mares in simple gowns and ridiculously adorable manestyles walked up and curtsied in unison.

“Welcome to the Emerald Emporium. How can we be of service to you?”

Rainbow Dash could instantly tell that this was the sort of place she had to be filthy rich to afford shopping at. She could smell it off the sheer perfume of the sales clerks. “Aw snap, I really wish I had worked in Ridgeside for more than food,” she grumbled to herself. She cleared her throat and spoke loud enough for the clerks to hear. “Uhm, I don't really have much on me in the way of bits.”

“Oh... Uhm...” One of the clerks struggled to maintain her smile. “Perhaps you would wish to sample some of our fine fabrics for a later occasion?”

“I know! Like... do you guys do bartering?”

“B-bartering?”

“I gotta have something in here that's of worth to somepony.” Rainbow Dash turned and reached into her saddlebag. She opened the thing and fished around, stretching her wings up to give her more room. “Let's see. The blanket. Flint and steel. Compass. Ugh... I really, really don't wanna have to give up the hatchet—”

But as she rambled thusly, she became aware of the two mares gasping. She looked to see them gawking at her wings like those in the streets outside.

“I can't believe it!”

“A pr-princess!”

“Whitemane's?!”

“This is amazing!”

The two mares clasped their hooves and squealed like schoolfillies. Clearing their throats, they regained their composure, albeit with rosy smiles. “Please. No need to barter. It would be our honor to fit you, your highness.”

Rainbow Dash's face paled. She froze in place, fiddling with her saddlebag. “Uhhh... I think you got the wrong picture.”

“Oh, heaven forbid!” One clerk grasped her left hoof.

“Please! Let us show you our finest wares!” The other grasped her right hoof.

“Uhm, yeah. Okay. But so you know, I'm not a—Whoah!” Rainbow Dash squeaked as she was yanked to the furthest corner of the store. The clothes racks grew increasingly, increasingly pink as she was practically dragged into the center of several ornate, richly woven, silken gowns.

“This is the finest sewing from the alabaster shores of South Crest.”

“And this was made by the famous Emeraldine designer Pastel Pastures herself!”

“And here we have a lovely ensemble that was once worn by the ambassador from Darkstine!”

“This would pass the test for unicorns far and wide!”

“Or perhaps you would enjoy this gown made of northern Emeraldine embroidery—”

“Yeah... uh...” Rainbow Dash was trying her best not to throw up. She flinched away from the flouncing lengths of lavender skirts being stretched before her. “It's all very... uh... dainty and all. But, look. Lemme level with you.” She leaned forward, her eyes thin. “I'm not one to turn down generosity. So, if you two are gonna be so nice to me, it's best I take something that's actually of use.” She took one glance out the front windows of the place and the many ponies trying to look into the shop. “I just need something to hide my wings while I try to find this one pony I was sent here for...”

“Hide... Hide your gorgeous, beautiful wings?” one clerk exclaimed with sad eyes.

“Why would you feel compelled to conceal them, your highness?”

“Stop frickin' calling me that!” Rainbow Dash hissed. “I don't know who or what you think I am! But I need to avoid ponies seeing my wings! I need—”

She paused, staring into the dresses. The windows of her mind opened, and she remembered days when she sat in a cloud over Ponyville, staring endlessly at page after page of Wonderbolt magazines, and admiring the simple clothes they wore when attending functions out of uniform. She smirked and looked at the two mares.

“Got any suits?”

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