• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Hours later, Rainbow Dash sat on a plateau of rock beneath a high-stretching ceiling. The lengths of central Sanctuary stretched before her. With dull ruby eyes, she watched as families trotted in quiet groups, marching up to their rock enclosures within the grand walls of the place. Drawing canvas curtains behind them, they retired for the evening. Candles dimmed until only a few torches lit the lengths of the subterranean city. High above, clustered sheets of bio-luminescence provided the realm with an ivory glow, like an artificial moonlit overcast.

With a sigh, she slumped forward on folded hooves. Her mind briefly wandered to the subject of Cold Canter, of what he might be thinking at that present moment in time, if he was grieving for a death that never happened... or hadn't happened yet.

Rainbow Dash felt the hard body of the pendant beneath her neck. Raising a hoof, she traced the edge of it. It was strange how easily she had gotten used to the thing clinging to her coat. Only now, for some awkward reason, it felt strangely heavier.

“I don't know what you know of beauty...”

Rainbow Dash gasped, startled for one of the few rare moments of her life. She looked back at the pony who had snuck up on her.

Sam Rose stood on a sharp promontory of stone a few feet away. “I don't know what you've seen in your travels, in your flight, in your life above the smog.” His green eyes were trained softly on the rigid lengths of Sanctuary. For once, he wasn't wearing any armor, and his tan brown coat shone in the torchlight. Even with all of the gold metal gone, he didn't look any less grand. “But I hope you can see the beauty in this place too. It's more than just my kingdom. It's a monument to the will of ponies to survive against all odds.”

Rainbow Dash swallowed. “I've never been a huge expert on beauty, or a fan of it.”

He looked at her.

She gently smiled. “I prefer awesomeness.”

Sam's eyebrow rose.

“It's... It's kind of like beauty, only it makes the heart beat way faster.” She ran a hoof through her mane and gazed once more at the lengths of the torchlit civilization. “And it happens in quick bursts, like when you saved me and your pony friends and wielded a big sword.”

Sam Rose's nostrils flared as he muttered to the high ceiling above. “I don't see the beauty in my failure to save Stu's life.”

Rainbow bit her lip. “Yeah, well...” She fidgeted. “I didn't think it was all that awesome either.” She winced momentarily, then emphasized, “B-but it was hardly your fault!”

“I shouldn't have made the executive decision for us to split up. I have always been far more properly armed than my subjects. It doesn't matter if I'm more skilled in dragon-slaying, I should have known that they were too smart to entirely fall for my diversionary tactic.”

“You put your life on the line to save all of us!” Rainbow Dash said, standing up and frowning to get her point across. “Heck, we'd all be dead if it wasn't for what you did!”

“Regardless, Stu still died. I loved him like a brother...” Sam's eyes fell hard on her. “The only true victory would be if I had died instead.”

Rainbow Dash squinted at him. “I... I just don't get you. I can't figure out why a pony—any pony—would be proud to die.”

“Can't you?” Sam remarked.

Rainbow Dash did a double take.

He paced towards her, quietly. “If I come across as judgmental, I do apologize. There is a certain aloofness to my position that I'll never shirk, no matter how many tragedies I surpass. I've learned long ago that I must take responsibilities first and rely on emotions second.”

“Yeah. I kind of figured that.”

He paused and stood before her. “I never thought I'd stumble upon a pony who was so similar, and yet so different to me.”

She blinked at him. “Buh?”

“How long have you been shouldering everything and everyone you ever care for on your shoulders, Miss Dash?”

Rainbow Dash squirmed a bit where she stood. “Not... uh... not as long as you, I bet.”

“Does it matter?” His eyes were thin and analytical. “I always wondered that I might become a soul like you, detached from his homeland, fleeing forever to escape a past that is too painful to bear...”

“Wait, huh?” Rainbow Dash's eyes twitched. She tried to frown, but her voice was cracking, “I am not fleeing!”

“No, I suppose you're not,” Sam replied calmly. “But, then again, does a pony who has nothing to go back to have the grace to 'flee?'”

Rainbow Dash was silent.

“My kingdom is coming to an end,” Sam said solemnly. “The Matriarch is an ancient being, capable of living for centuries upon centuries. That is not a luxury that the ponies of Silvadel have. If we continue as my forbears have, the Dragon Queen will win; she will outlast us. If failure comes, it will come soon, be it with the Grand Project or another crumbling expenditure. I expect to fight to the bitter end, living as long as I can, if only to bring as much pain and anguish to my enemies as possible. So you see, Miss Dash, we all have our ways of fleeing. Some more poetic than others.”

“How can you expect failure so easily?” Rainbow Dash remarked. She pointed towards the dimly lit space of Sanctuary. “You're surrounded by ponies full of hope and spirit. Can't you at least think for their sake?”

“I think for a higher calling,” Sam Rose swiftly responded. “And it can't afford to be happy thoughts.” He gazed lethargically at the lengths of the place. “I can't save these ponies. Even if I have a complete victory, it won't clear the smog away. It won't eliminate all of the whelplings. It won't raise the destroyed heights of Silvadelian Temples from the rubble. I have, at best, a long life of desolation and reconstruction to tend to, and that's assuming we finally slay the Matriarch.”

“Wow...” Rainbow Dash's ears drooped. “That's... That's not very cheerful...”

“It's my legacy to live,” Sam Rose said, trotting past her. “But I'll gladly live it, especially if it means supporting the future of my subjects.”

“Your subjects could stand to receive more from you than the spilling of blood.” Rainbow Dash pivoted to face him. “Especially when you haven't failed anypony yet! Especially when they're still around to be your 'subjects!'”

Sam Rose lingered. He glanced over his shoulder. “You have my pity...”

Rainbow Dash grimaced. “Uhhh... what for?”

“I can't imagine what it's like to live a life alone, without having a legacy to give. I do not find it enviable.” He walked off. “Rest assured, one way or another, I will find you a way out of this place. Your loyalties lie elsewhere, even if you have yet to discover them.”

Rainbow Dash was silent in the absence of him. There was a sore lump in her throat. She scanned the walls with her ruby eyes, for suddenly they appeared to be closing around her. But for as long as she stared and as long as she looked, she couldn't see a single hint of a lavender glow.

It was as if it was gone.

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