• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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“The broodlings are becoming unpredictable,” Sam Rose spoke boldly before an auditorium full of elder ponies lined up on marble seats. Bright torches flickered behind him as he dutifully faced the council. Several armored ponies, guards, and royal subjects stood in the background. “They are going on more excursions into the wastelands beyond the capital. What's more, their trips are becoming more frequent and brief. If I was to guess, then I'd say that the dragons are narrowing their salvage of the landscape to an area located just outside the immediate radius of the sunken ruins.”

Rainbow Dash trotted in on this. She watched from the far side as the royal prince spoke to the remainder of the Silvadelian leadership.

“As a result, I cannot lead my expeditions out into the wastes without expecting an interruption at any given moment. The dragons can and will be anywhere at any given time. I've lost four of my subjects in the last month alone.” He took a deep breath and uttered, “Now Stu is added to that deplorable list.”

One of the many elders leaned forward, speaking solemnly before Sam and the others in attendance. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of your most loyal subject. We hear that he gave his life assuring that his closest companions made it away from a dragon's attack safely. He was a hero of great honor, and we shall respect his memory.”

“However, we cannot afford to give up reconnaissance of the upper surface,” another elder spoke. “We acknowledge the extreme difficulty and danger of the expeditions, but they are crucial at this juncture, especially with the Grand Project looming around the corner.”

“Word from the unicorn workshop is that Zetta is nearly complete with the weapon,” said another. “The last thing that the Matriarch will ever expect is a bold and direct attack to her nest from underneath. We need her offsprings distracted along the surface just as much as we need our faithful surveyors to keep us abreast of the Matriarch's whereabouts.”

Yet another council member remarked, “The goal of the Grand Project cannot be met if the Matriarch is not located within the nest at the precise time that the weapon is delivered.”

Sam Rose took a deep breath and bowed his head. “I understand the risks that are at hoof. It is not fear that makes me reluctant, but a severe lack of resources.” He looked up, his expression calm beneath a furrowed brow. “My elite guard is dwindling in numbers. There are fewer ponies qualified to assist me now than there were years ago. What's more, we are running out of materials for weapons and projectiles.”

“We are utilizing the minerals for constructing more farming equipment. The agricultural corridors are running low on nutrients, and the artificial light is dimmer with each passing decade.”

“With all due respect to the council,” Sam Rose said, “The Grand Project is far too important an endeavor for us to undersupply. If we put all of our resources into assuring the success of this strike against the Matriarch, then we will not have to worry about agriculture for we will not have to be holed up in these caverns anymore...”

Before he could finish his sentence, a rumbling murmur had passed through the crowd. Several Silvadelians—both elders and attendees—were looking over at the colorful stranger and whispering in shock to each other.

Rainbow Dash bit her lip. From the sidelines, Limey stared, adjusting the loose goggles on his tiny forehead.

One of the elders spoke in a loud voice, “The Council recognizes the pegasus, Rainbow Dash. Miss Dash, you have received our request to speak in our chamber, have you not?”

“Uhhhh... Sure?”

“Would you be so kind as to grace us with your presence?”

“Yeah, okay...” Rainbow Dash smiled nervously. She trotted over towards the center of the brightly-lit chamber. “It's not like I'm no sucker for attention, but this is a little intimidating...”

“You have nothing to fear from us, Miss Dash,” one the elders said with a gentle smile. “This is no inquisition. Very rarely does an outsider arrive in the ruins of our kingdom. We are merely curious about many things.”

“Right. I'm guessing you are.” Rainbow Dash glanced shiftily at Sam Rose.

Sam stared steadily at her like a statue, his limbs unmoving.

“Miss Dash, is it true that you came from the west?”

“You bet!” Rainbow Dash managed with a casual grin. “I flew all the way here because... well... you know...” She flexed her wings for emphasis. A few of the ponies in attendance chuckled.

“You are the first pegasus in recorded history to have arrived since the Matriarch's Labor,” an elder said. “It strikes us as a fantastic miracle that you flew over the landscape uninterrupted. Tell us, did you come across any draconian resistance?”

“Not until I arrived at your big palace place.”

“The Hall of Elders?” An old pony remarked. “You know of this?”

“Well, I didn't know the name of it. But I've seen what it looks like.”

“How so?”

“Like... on a medallion.”

“Do you have such an item with you?”

“Oh, totally.” Rainbow Dash reached into her saddlebag and raised the coin for Sam and the entire Council to see. “Take a look. I don't know what it all means, but it helped me figure some stuff out as I came upon your capital city... er... or what remained of it.”

“How did you come across such an item of great antiquity?” An old mare spoke. “The dragons have hoarded all precious metals they can get their claws on.”

“I found it on a pony way to the west of your kingdom.”

“A living pony?”

“Er...” Rainbow Dash winced. “No. He was dead. Long dead.”

“Do you have any further details of this pony?”

“Only that he made it as far as the eastern border of...” Rainbow Dash paused. She glanced around the chamber, but saw no sign of any unicorns. “Of Darkstine, the nearest province to your guys' home. The body of the pony had decayed a heck of a long time ago, and... uhm...”

“Yes, Miss Dash?”

“He wasn't exactly in one piece. I'm thinking a dragon tore him to bits. He must have been really brave to have made it as far as he did, despite his injuries.”

“Did he have any personal effects on him?” A stallion asked. “A chronicle of Silvadelian Culture, perhaps?”

Rainbow Dash winced. “That's just it. A smart pony or two that I was with at the time determined that the poor guy had died nearly a decade ago. Whatever he had on him, it had been destroyed by either fire or wind or both.”

The elders hung their heads solemnly. Sam Rose's nostrils flared. A sad murmur fell over the crowd.

“We sent messengers to the far corners of Silvadel,” an elder explained. “Years go, as we knew that our tunnels were being depleted of mineral nodes, several ponies gave their lives by galloping into every cardinal direction. It was our desperate hope that they might reach the lands beyond the Matriarch's burning reach and spread news of our plight.”

“However, it would appear that such noble efforts were for naught,” Sam Rose uttered strongly. “If all that they summoned was a single pegasus.”

“Well, to be honest...” Rainbow Dash ran a hoof through her mane. “I was kind of heaving east anyways.”

The elders merely squinted at her.

She winced. “I'm... uhm... I'm doing some sort of round-the-world flight. You guys ever heard of the Midnight Armory?”

She was answered with total silence.

“Right. D-didn't think so...”

“You are not on some errand of royal importance?” An old pony asked.

“Uhhh... Not really. No. Why?”

A few of the elders pointed at the golden pendant beneath Rainbow's neck. “You bear a most striking emblem. It was the assumption of the Council that you were a representative of a distant kingdom.”

“Oh, you mean this?” Rainbow Dash's hoof traced the jagged ruby symbol beneath her chin. A crimson blow emanated, causing the Council members to stir in surprise, along with Sam Rose. “Hey! Don't be scared! It's totally harmless. It's a little piece of home... and then some.” She cleared her throat. “And though I may not really be some crusader or something, I guess you could say I've been buddy-buddy with royalty before. In fact, I wouldn't be wearing this if it wasn't for two alicorn princesses with whom I used to—”

“I beg your pardon...” A stallion stood up halfway. “Did you say... alicorns, Miss Dash?”

“Uhhh... Yeah.”

The old ponies exchanged curious glances. One of them leaned forward and remarked, “The alicorns are the oldest sentient beings on this earth. Even older than dragons.”

“Tell us. Do these princesses of yours have names?”

“Princess Celestia and Princess Luna,” Rainbow Dash said. “They're uh... eheh... they're responsible for the Sun and Moon.”

“Our history books speak of such names,” an elder said in a raspy voice. “But they have passed into the realm of legend.”

“If these alicorns were real, their power must be great, even greater than that of the Dragon Matriarch who has brought a blight upon this land.”

Rainbow stared at the council. She glanced over at Sam Rose, but the prince was already hanging his head. With a sigh, Rainbow muttered, “I'm so sorry. But... But I'm not here on behalf of my kingdom. There's... uh... There's a terrible rift of chaos energy erupting in the middle of the kingdom where I'm from. It's taking all of the power and energy of Princess Celestia to keep it from consuming the land around it. In the meantime, her lil' sis, Luna, is taking care of the cosmos. It's not just for my kingdom's sake that they're doing this awesome stuff, but for the whole world. I guess I can't honestly expect you all to believe that. But, trust me. If they could divide their time and energy to save a place like Silvadel, they would. But, as things are, they kind of got their hooves full with keeping the world together.”

The Council responded much more swiftly than Rainbow Dash expected. “We may not understand you, Miss Dash. But we certainly believe you. We are sorry that you got caught up in our plight. As you may well know by now, we are upon the brink of changing the battlefield with the dragons forever. Hinging upon the success of this upcoming mission, we shall see what we can do about getting you out of this land safely so that you may continue your journey.”

“Oh... uhm...” Rainbow Dash blinked at that. “Wow. I... uh... Thanks. Super thanks, really. But... But how can you guys even bother about what I'm planning on doing? Don't you have enough junk that you're dealing with here?”

“Silvadelian problems are Silvadelian problems,” Sam Rose muttered.

Before Rainbow Dash could flash him a look, another elder spoke up, “His Majesty is right. Sixty years ago, an army of earth ponies to the south wandered into our landscape. They did not expect the ruins of Silvadel to be here. We opened communication with them, and they offered to lend their most gracious and courageous assistance to our cause.”

Rainbow Dash stared at the elders. “What...” She gulped. “What happened to them?”

“The Matriarch,” an old stallion said coldly. “She met their charge upon the fringes of the smoldering Capital, and she single-handedly decimated them. Thousands of ponies lost their lives, thousands of souls who would never get to return to their families.”

“So you see, Miss Dash...” Sam Rose placed his skull helmet back on and glared at her. “There's a reason for why we do not expect much help from the outside world.” His eyes narrowed like emerald daggers. “As well as for why we treat the dragons as they've treated all pony kind, with the spilling of blood.”

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