• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Whitemane

Her ruby eyes flew open. She sat up in a silent jerk.

Rainbow Dash was lying in the center of a large velvety bed full of plush pillows. A lacy, milky-white canopy dangled around her, dancing from the distant breezes of the Emeraldine night sky. She exhaled, slumping down once more onto the folds of the bed. She stared down at the cushions, attempting to remember how she arrived there in the first place. Just then, two wet spots formed on the velvet immediately beneath her. At first, she was confused, until she felt a warm trickle down her cheeks. She brought a hoof to her face, then examined it. At the sight of the tears, she merely groaned.

“Mnngh...”

Slowly, she stood up, alarmed at how much her limbs ached. She realized that she had to have been sleeping for a very long time. Regardless, she parted the bed canopy and stepped out. Rainbow Dash made a slow, shuffling bee-line towards the edge of the distant balcony, her hooves scraping against the polished marble floor of the grand hall.

She passed the pillars and came onto the platform overlooking the edge of the spire's summit. The world of Emeraldine stretched far beneath her, a hazy sheet of rolling plains and quiet trees stirring under sleepy night. The stars formed a glittering spectacle of violet hues above, and the platforms and urban sprawl below mimicked the cosmos with hundreds upon hundreds of distant torches and candles of its own.

Rainbow Dash knew enough about the stars to realize that her balcony was facing east. Rather than question the dark irony of it, she sat her haunches down on the very edge, closed her eyes, and inhaled the breeze gently flowing from her elusive destination. The wind tugged at her robe and fresh braids, making her feel like a stranger dressed in a far more important mare's skin. It was hard to imagine that just weeks ago she was bashing minotaur skulls and outflying horrible winged legions of chaos.

A shudder ran through her, and she tried to lose herself in the lofty scent of Verdestone night. To think too much was to fall back. To turn around was to regress. She was too scared to open her eyes, to return to the chamber, to put her back to the east. Her eyes were moist enough as they were.

“What danger is there in something that has known so much love”

Rainbow Dash's eyes finally blinked open. Her ears twitched, and she pivoted to her left to see a large equine figure seated beside her.

Her coat shimmered like polished porcelain. Milky-white layers of fur fluttered in the breeze. Atop her neck, a gorgeous mane of alabaster hair billowed like a comet's tail. She turned to look peacefully at Rainbow Dash, and as she did so, the shadow of an immense horn brushed past her nose.

“Perhaps... merely a danger to herself?”

Rainbow Dash gulped. “I... I-I happen to like danger.”

“Hmmm... Of that, I have no doubt, child,” the massive unicorn said, only to flex a pair of wings so that she was no longer a unicorn at all. “But for how long, I wonder?”

Rainbow's eyes jerked towards the sight of the ivory-white figures. “You're... You're...”

“Not the first of my kind that you have met?” The alicorn replied. “There are very, very few mortals on earth who can make such a claim. I am very blessed to be in the presence of one, more than you could ever be honored to be in the presence of me.”

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. “Queen Whitemane, I presume.”

She slowly bowed her head in a graceful manner. “A pleasure to meet you. I do hope your accomodations have been more than adquate.”

“Er... Yeah. I guess you could say that.” Rainbow Dash glanced back towards the hall beyond the pillars. Her face scrunched up. “But... I can't remember ever falling asleep. I mean, I've been conked out quite a few times in my life. But if I crawled to a bed as frickin' crazy as that—heh—I'm pretty sure I'd remember it.”

“Do not worry. I've made sure that you've been in the best of care.”

“Well, you're getting no argument from me. But I just don't get it.” Rainbow Dash turned to look at her. “Why did you wish to see me? Why was I summoned up here? Did Evergreen somehow put you—the Queen of Verdestone—up to this?”

“The Mayor of Ridgeside undoubtedly sent you to the capital city for noble reasons,” Whitemane said. Her voice was like the crashing of waves, and yet as soft as raindrops. “But she couldn't sense in you what I did. It was my choice and my choice alone that you be invited up here.”

“Do you invite all pegasi to your castle in the sky with a bunch of armed guards?”

“Given the circumstances, it was the utmost, wisest precaution.”

“Uhhh... what circumstances?”

“But I know the truth now,” Whitemane said with a soft smile. “And you cannot understand the degree to which I am relieved. I am sorry that I ever doubted you, Rainbow Dash.”

“Well, glad to be of service, I guess—” Rainbow Dash's eyes twitched. She squinted up at her. “How in the hay did you know my—?” She gasped.

Whitemane's eyes came into focus for the first time. They were like twin pearls of aqua blue, piercing in their gaze.

“You!” Rainbow Dash stood up on all fours, gnashing her teeth. “It was you in my dream!”

“You must understand,” Whitemane said in a calm voice. “I needed to ascertain the truth—”

“I do not like ponies messing with my head!” Rainbow Dash barked, to the point of snarling. “It's not right! I don't care who you think you are or how many tiaras you have in your closet! I am totally not down with that!”

“Such anger. Such defiance.” Whitemane merely pivoted her head to the side. “Is this the first time you've yelled at an alicorn?”

Rainbow Dash heaved and heaved. Slowly, her frown left under a weak grimace. Sighing, she slumped to the floor of the balcony and hung her head. “I really, really don't like what you did.”

“It is hardly something I hold pride in myself,” Whitemane said. She flexed her limbs and trotted slowly closer to the smaller pony. “And as a pony first and foremost, I apologize to you, my child. But, as a Queen, I have the safety of my royal subjects to be concerned with. I needed to know if the power that you carried was something that could threaten the populace of Verdestone.”

“And is it?” Rainbow Dash mumbled.

“You mean you don't know?” Whitemane stood before her and pointed towards the golden pendant around her neck. “You are not aware of the sheer precipice upon which that object fastens you?”

Rainbow Dash bit her lip. She brought a hoof up and lightly stroked circles around the ruby lightning bolt. She exhaled long and hard. “How...” She gazed up at Whitemane with soft eyes. “H-how much did you find out about me?”

“Enough to know that—no, Rainbow Dash,” Whitemane slowly shook her head. “You are not a danger to my subjects. You are not a danger to me. You are not a danger to anypony.” She sat down close beside Rainbow Dash, gazing at her deeply. “So, I left your mind as swiftly as I could. And now, because of that, I am terribly curious of one thing.” She breathed sympathetically. “Are you simply a danger to yourself?”

Rainbow Dash merely stared at her.

Whitemane smiled, her face framed by the stars beyond. “You are a most fascinating, remarkable pony, Rainbow Dash. You exercise unfathomable courage. But your bravery is not so much measured in the things you put yourself through, as it is in the things you hold onto.”

Rainbow's lips parted at that. “I...” She gulped. “I-I don't understand...”

“And you wield total mastery over yourself,” Whitemane continued. “From your mind to your soul, you are completely your own masterpiece. What, then, does such an example of perfection have to prove? Is it enough that it's worth risking such a work of art in the end?”

Rainbow Dash briefly sneered, “If you had decided to trespass a little longer in my brain, your highness, you would have figured out that you're asking all these stupid questions for nothing.” She grumbled and rested her chin atop a pair of limp forelimbs. “There's really... really nothing deep about me.”

“It is most challenging to sense depth in oneself, especially when the foundations have been torn out from under one's hooves.” Whitemane reached down and gently urged Rainbow Dash to look up at her. “No pony can stay in the sky forever, child. Even you must touch down from time to time. And, eventually, you must touch down permanently. It is the way of all things. It is even the way of me.”

“Pffft... Yeah right.” Rainbow Dash brushed Whitemane's hoof away and frowned. “You're—like—a frickin' goddess or something. You're just gonna live forever like the other alicorns.”

“Perhaps that would be true,” Whitemane said. “If I was of pure blood.”

Rainbow Dash blinked crookedly. “Wha-huh?”

“Hmmm...” She chuckled breathily. “Do you find it hard to believe that I am not immortal? I have been alive for a long time, yes, but I am hardly like the cosmic entities you have had the grace to know.” She flexed her wings. “As for these, well, I'm afraid they're strictly ornamental.”

“Huh...” Rainbow Dash gazed at the feathery apendages, noticing for the first time how loosely framed they were. “Y'know, I think I've heard of that before. There was a royal pony like you in the Crystal Kingdom north of where I born.” She sighed before tossing a bitter chuckle to the air. “Heh, guess it explains why all the Verdestoners were going ga-ga over me.”

“Or perhaps they were simply drawn to your charm.”

“That's the thing I don't get about royalty,” Rainbow Dash said in a low tone as she stood up. “They're always so lousy at humor. Well, at least they get their manners right.” She clenched her jaw and muttered, “Half of the time.” With a toss of her tail, she marched off. “I'm sorry, your Highness. But whatever you meant to do here, you could have just gotten over with in a snap. Next time you wanna horn-meld with a random stranger, do it a little more quickly, will ya?”

“At least answer me this question, child—”

“Nnngh!” Rainbow Dash spun around and snarled. “Stop friggin' calling me child!”

“Why are you in such a hurry to get to something that is impossible to reach?”

“How could you possibly know a dang thing about what I'm reaching for?”

“Because the Midnight Armory was built specifically to never be accessed by anypony, ever.”

Rainbow Dash froze in place, her lips quivering. She gulped before stammering, “I-I thought you said you pulled out of my head before you could—”

“Deduce the eventual goal of your epic flight? Whitemane slowly stood up. “I may not share the pure blood that flows through my cosmic cousins' veins, but I am no less in touch with the fabric of magic that covers this world like an effluent sheet. Something has been lost on this plane, something that is completely and utterly irrecoverable, save for the acquisition of one precious artifact, the only item of its kind in the entire world. And it was placed inside the Midnight Armory, hundreds of thousands of years ago, with the sole point of never being retrieved.” Whitemane softly trotted towards her. “Since then, nopony has dared scale the heights of the Midnight Armory's twilight spires to grasp it. Nopony has dared touched the surface of dark world to so much as find it. Nopony has dared approach the ends of the earth in the suicidal attempt to contemplate it.”

Whitemane stood boldly above Rainbow Dash, her gaze as sharp as her eyes for a brief moment.

“For while it is there, while it is locked away, the rest of the world exists in perfect peace, in perfect ignorance, and in perfect harmony. It has been this way for eons, in accordance with an unwritten contract, something that the founding alicorns established ages ago to keep the forces of chaos at bay so that this physical plane—a tenuous miracle at best—could remain in one piece. There is no reason for a soul to go above and beyond the limits of both mortals and immortals alike, so long as a single fragment of what remains in the armory touches the surface of the light world. So I ask you, Rainbow Dash...”

Whitemane knelt down and stared evenly at her, once again bearing a soft expression.

“Now that I realize that you aren't a threat, now that I realize that you aren't a danger to my subjects, I humbly ask that you tell me what indeed you are. And why would such a pony so wonderfully brave, so beautifully enigmatic, be the one soul in all the world so desperate to flirt with destruction?”

Rainbow Dash was silent for a while. She coolly gazed up at Whitemane. In a low tone, she asked, “Do you want to know what I am?”

The Queen merely stared at her.

Rainbow gave a brazen smile. “I'm a pony who dares.”

The Queen blinked. Slowly, her lips curved. “Hmm... Indeed. And I am an alicorn who knows.”

Rainbow's eyes squinted. “Knows what?”

“What indeed.” Whitemane stood up straight and trotted briskly into the temple. “Come. Walk with me...”

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