• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Steelteeth

“Evergreen and I met when she was still a diplomat on behalf of the Verdestone Council,” Constable Steelteeth said, his cold voice resonating off his shiny jaws. He and Rainbow Dash sat on a lofty balcony overlooking the Chamber of Representatives. “It wasn't until later that she settled down in Ridgeside and became the town's mayor. In our hayday, the two of us conducted several peace negotiations between the earth ponies of Emeraldine and the unicorns of Darkstine to the east. As a result, we saw a lot of the landscape together.”

“Pfftchyeaaaah, I bet.” Rainbow Dash smirked. “And... uhm... Ahem. It looks like the landscape got a second look at you.”

Steelteeth's brow furrowed, and a tiny grumble echoed from his heavy lungs.

Rainbow Dash gulped and adjusted the collar of her suit. “Erm... That is, if you don't mind my asking—”

“I was caught in a collapsing building during one of our trips to Darkstine's Capital of New Ring,” Steelteeth said in a dull tone. “The injuries I sustained put me in critical condition. Only by the grace of Darkstinian technology was my life extended. However, I couldn't afford to return home. So, Evergreen wished me good fortune and made a much-needed return to her family and kin in west Emeraldine. For half-a-decade, I remained in Darkstine, recuperating under their care, learning their ways. I settled there for a while, and then eventually came back here to Verdestone, where Queen Whitemane herself personally appointed me as new head of security for the uppermost platform of the spire.”

“Huh. Well, it looks like it all worked out okay in the end, right?” Rainbow Dash smiled sheepishly. “I mean, she wouldn't have chosen you unless your experience and... uhm... coolness was right for the job!”

“Mmmm... She said I carried a certain presence that deterred criminals on the spot.”

“Eh heh heh...” Rainbow Dash gulped and shuffled an inch or two away from him. “Imagine that...”

“I assume you were trying not to make a scene.”

“Huh?”

Steelteeth pointed at her. “The suit. It hides your wings.”

“How do you know I'm a pegasus?”

“How else did you fly out here?”

“Heh. Good point.” Rainbow Dash gazed down at the seats full of old ponies in open debate. “One thing's bugging me, though. As soon as the local Verdestonians... Verdestonites... Verdequines? Whatever—as soon as they saw my wings, they started freaking out and calling me 'Princess' and stuff. What's up with that?”

“Don't let the affluence of these ponies and the rich nature of their surroundings fool you,” Steelteeth said with a sideways glare. “They are still simple-minded and good-hearted Emeraldines to their very core. They've rarely ever heard of pegasi, much less seen any. I'd shudder to think what would happen if a wandering group of Darkstinian pilgrims wandered in on this metropolis. They would think that gods and goddesses trotted among us.”

“Heh.” Rainbow Dash smiled crookedly. “I guess the Verdestone Council was lucky to have the likes of you and Evergreen to clear up the confusion.”

“For what it was worth,” Steelteeth grumbled. “Diplomacy isn't quite so easy these days.”

“Why's that?”

“Do you hear them?” He gestured towards the crowd below.

“In all honesty, I've kind of been zoning out, dude.”

“They're discussing a new border patrol along the eastern edge of the province.” Steelteeth glanced her way again, adjusting the wide brim of his hat. “In the last three years, Darkstine has become closed off. Their actions have proven xenophobic, and furthermore they are breaking communication with the west, thereby cutting off all traffic for Emeraldine merchants wishing to navigate the lands beyond the eastern ravine.”

“Heh. Kind of makes you wish that you were back in action with Evergreen,” Rainbow Dash said. She blinked, then winced. “Erm... You know what I mean.”

“My place is here,” Steelteeth said. “After spending so many years in Darkstine, I know they way in which they think. I know all about their paranoia, their superstition, and their need for exactness and precision. If the closing of their borders is a sign of bad relations in the future for our two provinces, then my place is here—within range to closely protect Her Majesty, Queen Whitemane.”

“One would think that you would be the best representative to send out to Darkstine,” Rainbow Dash said. “Y'know, because you've been with them so long.”

“Mmm... Perhaps.”

“Besides, uhm...” Rainbow Dash stirred nervously. “A one-way ticket to Darkstine and beyond is kind of what I need right now. And now that I hear that their borders aren't exactly 'roam-friendly,' you could possibly be just the pony to help me.”

“And what impetus would I have for doing this?” he asked, his aquamarine eyes piercing.

“Well... uhm... Oh!” Rainbow Dash brightened. “Duh!” She reached back into her saddlebag. “Where's my head at lately? Forgetting when and where to turn in a quest. Ahem.” She pulled the scroll out, its Ridgeside Seal glinting in the nearby candlelight. “Ta daaaaa! Straight from Mayor Evergreen herself.”

“Is it, now...?” Steelteeth reached for the scroll and began to unroll it.

“Granted, I kind of expected a question mark instead of a wicked-scary hat over your head...”

“Whatever is in this, I hope Evergreen is a great deal more concise and sensible than the way in which you word yourself.”

“H-hey! I know your demeanor doesn't scream 'sunshine and rainbows,' but would it hurt you to smile a little?”

“Yes,” Constable Steeltooth grumbled, his jaw twitching. “It would.”

“Oh.” Rainbow Dash's ears drooped. “That stinks. Remind me never to invite you to Gallopgher standup.”

“Hmmm...” His eyes thinly scanned the document. “Interesting. So you aren't a princess after all.”

“Huh?” Rainbow Dash blinked, then squeaked forth a slight chuckle. “So what, you're one of the 'simple-minded, good-hearted' Verdestonards now?”

“According to Evergreen, you're heading east in a hurry for some reason.” Steeltooth rolled the scroll back up and turned to her. “Surely, she knew that sending you here would have been only delayed your trip in the long run.”

“I... don't quite get it,” Rainbow Dash muttered. “She simply told me that you'd help me get to Darkstine.”

“There aren't any winged ponies in all of Emeraldine. An expert flier that can cross as much distance in as much speed as yourself could easily soar over the unicorns' airspace to the east. They wouldn't expect you.” Steeltooth paced towards the rear of the balcony. “However, sending you here puts you in the presence of Queen Whitemane. And, if my suspicion is correct...”

Just as he spoke, the hallway outside shook with several heavy hooves. The door opened, and no less than eight guard ponies in metal gear strode up, their long faces hanging serious beneath the frames of their helmets.

“Constable Steelteeth...”

“Gentlecolts...”

“Are you in the presence of an outsider?”

“Perhaps.” Steelteeth stood protectively between them and Rainbow Dash. “Am I to assume that you are here on behalf of Her Majesty?”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” the captain of the guard uttered. “Less than twenty minutes ago, we were dispatched to this very spot by Queen Whitemane herself. We would greatly desire your assistance in inspecting the stranger.”

“She is hardly a stranger,” Steelteeth said. “As a matter of fact, she is here on official business from Mayor Evergreen of Ridgeside.” He turned to look at Rainbow Dash, and briefly his glaring expression looked ten times more hospitable than the apathetic leer of the multiple guards. “Would you care to introduce yourself?”

“Erm...” Rainbow Dash took careful notice of how many guards there were and how few exits rested beyond her peripheral vision. Even if she wasn't wearing the suit, her wings would be coiled tightly to her sides. “I'm Rainbow Dash. And... uhm... I'm not here to upset any apple carts.”

“Her neck,” one of the guards said, pointing.

Steelteeth's eyes narrowed. “What about it?”

“Is she wearing a pendant?”

Steelteeth nodded. “And how, pray tell, would you know that?”

The guards were briefly silent. One murmured to another, and then the captain spoke to Steelteeth. “The Queen has requested that we usher the owner of that pendant to the Palace on the Summit.”

“Whoah... Hold on a second—!” Rainbow Dash started.

“Understood,” Steelteeth said.

Rainbow Dash flashed him a look. “Huh?”

“But...” Steelteeth raised a hoof. “I shall escort her. If you wish to supply some of your guards, so be it. But leave me in charge of her transport.”

The guard bowed. “Very well, Constable. As the Queen has granted you authority, I so abide by it.”

“As well as you should.” Steelteeth shuffled over to Rainbow Dash and placed a heavy hoof on her shoulder. “Miss Dash, I think it would do you good to follow me closely.”

“Erm... Yeah...” Rainbow Dash fidgeted as the tall stallion led her past the glaring gauntlet of security ponies. “That's a good idea.”

Soon, the two were exiting the Chamber of Respresentatives. Rainbow Dash gawked at the crowd that had suddenly formed outside. Several ponies were gazing at her and murmuring in wonderment as Steelteeth and his fellow guards did their best to escort her off towards a complex elevator system carved into the neck of the mountainous spire.

“Yeesh... What's their deal?” Rainbow Dash whispered. “Don't they ever creep you out at all?”

“I've spent years in Darkstine,” Steelteeth droned. “It takes a lot to frighten me.”

“Yeah. I have no doubt about that. But this is not what I signed up for,” Rainbow Dash said, shuddering. “You do know—right—that at any moment, I could tear this suit apart, spread my wings, and fly away in a blink?”

“Perhaps,” Steelteeth said, nodding his head. “But for your sake—and mine—I implore you to not do that.”

“But what's the point?” Rainbow Dash's voice cracked. “Why did Evergreen send me here? Why are they looking for a pony with a pendant? What's the Queen of this place want with me?”

“The Mayor wrote in the scroll that you're a traveller from a far-off land named 'Equestria,'” Steelteeth remarked. “I, for one, know a thing or two about the need to explore. What more does a soul like yourself desire than answers?”

Rainbow Dash gazed towards the passing cobblestones and muttered, “I can think of a thing or two.”

“I wouldn't act so sullen,” Steelteeth lethargically remarked. “If you're visiting the Queen, you're liable to have access to luxury, shelter...”

“Ehhh...”

“...food...”

“Oooh!” Rainbow Dash licked her lips as they trotted up to the elevator. “When do we get there?”

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