• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Sanctuary

The tunnel stretched for hundreds of meters, but Rainbow Dash could hardly register the lengthy walk it took to descend through it. She was focused on helping the survivors carry Swirls' bleeding body down into the depths of hiding. Every moment she had to spare a thought to the passage of time, it was spent remembering Stu's screams.

Her heart skipped each time she thought of the image of the burning stallion. She had seen such horror before, up high upon the mesa in the center of Silvadel. But this most recent tragedy impacted her all the more. Stu had been a living, breathing soul in her presence for the better part of thirty-six hours. Now, he was just as dead as the ashen lengths above her. Rainbow Dash had thought her soul had hardened to the concept of death at that point, but she realized she was wrong. She wasn't quite sure yet if that sensitivity was something to be thankful for or not.

At last, the tunnel opened up, and a large cavern stretched wide like a granite arena. The place was bright, illuminated by hundreds if not thousands of candles. Rainbow Dash lingered briefly while carrying her half of Swirls. She had to look up to catch sight of the place's ceiling. The interior of Sanctuary was easily over a hundred meters from the interior's base. Rainbow Dash saw no stalactites, or else if there were any she imagined that they had somehow been removed by Silvadelian engineers over time, an insane feat in and of itself. Lining the grand walls of the place, several pocket enclosures stretched. They served as households and were connected to one another with wooden stairs. Canvas curtains parted as hundreds of ponies—young and old—peered out to see the return of Sam Rose and his party, or at least what remained of them.

As Rainbow Dash and the group leveled out, they saw a thick cluster of ponies arriving in droves from torchlit marketplaces and meeting centers. Various equines in thick canvas armor showed the soot-stained signs of mining and rock carving. Elders in ritualistic, velvet robes stood in the distance.

A few shouting voices rang across the large chamber. Ponies in white with red leg bands rushed up in time to examine Swirls as she was layed down. Sam Rose spoke to them, explaining the nature of her wounds. As he did so, two clusters of ponies shuffled swiftly through the mass crowd. One of them immediately knelt around Swirls, worriedly inquiring about her condition and holding her hooves as the medics did their job. Rainbow Dash determined that they must have been Swirls' family. As the medics started bandaging her wounds, they gave smiles of reassurance to the old and young ponies nuzzling Swirls. The members of Swirls' family held her close as she cried quietly in their embrace.

Another family lingered, craning their neck to look over the treatment of Swirls. Their faces hung in pale grimaces of distress. Sam Rose saw them. With a deep breath, he strolled through the crowd and removed his dragon skull helmet. He gazed solemnly at the oldest mare and stallion of the group. In a low voice, he spoke to them.

Rainbow Dash watched as the color was drained completely from their eyes. The mare's face caved in, and she collapsed into her husband's weight, sobbing in agony. The stallion shed tears and nuzzled her closely as the younger ponies mourned in quiet little shudders.

The sounds of their wailing voices was almost worse than what Rainbow Dash remembered hearing up above. She looked to her side and caught a sight of Ember Speak's copper form, retreating into a nearby alcove. Blinking, Rainbow Dash gazed around and realized that no ponies were gathered around her. Nervous, overwhelmed by the solemn sights and sounds of Sanctuary already, she trotted briskly after the mare.

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