• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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Rainbow Dash and Ember Speak left the northwest exit of Sanctuary and passed over the gray ruins of Silvadel like shadows. Night loomed over the high smog that blanketed the sky, and even still—exposed once more to the surface—Rainbow Dash felt her eyes twitching from each stabbing hint of light. For a brief moment, she truly pitied the Silvadelians and their innocent, uneducated perspective of the sky. Quietly, as her hooves shuffled over crumbled concrete and mortar, she promised herself never to take the clouds for granted again.

Though it was a brisk trip the two mares took, it was hardly a tranquil one. Echoes of draconian shrieks billowed across the inky black sky. The scent of sulfur waxed and waned, tickling Rainbow Dash's nose and almost inducing her to vomit several times. All the while, Ember was a constant presence, a supporting shoulder, and an impetus to gallop faster. Each time Rainbow Dash looked at her, the lone Silvadelian brandished a courageous smile, navigating the indecipherably torn landscape like it was any plain backyard. For heartstopping hour when Rainbow expected to play the part of the hero, she was certainly learning new shades of humility.

The two crept closer towards the northmost face of the Silvadelian crater. An hour passed, then two hours. The shrieks dissipated in the air; there was no sign of movement from above. Rainbow realized that it had been nearly two whole days since she had last seen a dragon, and yet they were more real than the vaporous breaths before her muzzle. She wondered if every pony in Sanctuary lived in such constant, undying fear.

Finally, the two arrived at a shattered dome of rock. Its south end faced a steep trench that formed—almost perfectly—straight towards the centermost portion of the ruined capital. Bending her head and squinting her eyes, Rainbow almost had a clear shot through which to spot the twin mesas that formed the heart of the dead landscape.

“His majesty Sam and the rest of us typically navigate that chasm,” Ember Speak exclaimed in a hushed breath. “We start here and gallop along the lengths of it. There are many deep corridors of crushed stone that interconnect with the trench. In a way, it acts as a central vein that branches off towards various hiding places of the city.”

“I'm guessing none of you guys have ever flown down the ravine,” Rainbow Dash said.

Ember bit her lip and shook her head. “No. But if we could, I imagine we'd remain unseened for a good length of time before any eye in the sky caught us.”

“Well, I guess there's a way to test that theory.”

“First thing's first,” Ember remarked. “We need to regain our strength.”

“What do you suggest?”

“What else?”

With that, Ember started a fire. The protective covering of the collapsed dome hid the tiny blaze from the air. Ember dined swiftly on mole meat. For Rainbow Dash, she had set aside some bread and Sanctuary-grown potatoes.

Rainbow Dash barely nibbled on her morsels. Her eyes were glued on a crack of exposed smog beyond the rocky ceiling above them.

“Do you see it yet?” Ember eventually asked.

“See what?”

“The light of your Princess?”

“Almost. I'm guessing it's gotta be high up for the moon's glow to break through the clouds and catch my pendant.”

“When do you think that will happen?”

“I'm guessing in the next hour and a half. At least, it'd better.”

Ember swallowed the last piece of her meal and began stamping the fire out. “Considering the speed of your wings, we should have reached the Nest by that point.”

“Boy, if that isn't bringing things down to the wire.”

“Are you used to doing everything at the last second?”

“Hey, I didn't get my perfect timing from doing Broadwhinny at Manehattan.”


Rainbow Dash sighed and smiled tiredly Ember's way. “Hey. Assuming this all works out as planned and the dragons actually clear out of here, I think you should travel west and give Equestria a visit. It'll be worth it just to hang around for one Winter Wrap Up.”

“Hmmmm...” Ember took a sip from her canteen and smiled. “I still can't imagine a land where frost lies on the ground for you to march through.”

“Just make sure you get the shock clear out of your system before you go out for a sled ride,” Rainbow Dash muttered. “There's no sense in making that 'wondrous world of discovery' turn yellow.”

“Are we ready to go?”

“I don't know, are we?”

“This is where you come in,” Ember said, standing up and pointing down the chasm. “If you fly straight towards the end of the ravine and bank a right, you'll find a giant hole in the center of the westmost mesa. Through there—the Council suspects—is the Matriarch's nest.”

“The council 'suspects?'”

“You'll be the first to go in there alive,” Ember said, then fidgeted. “And, presumably, the first to come out.”

“I can't tell which side of the mesa the hole is at. How will I find it in time before the moonlight comes and goes?”

“I was concerned about that,” Ember said with a shuddering breath. “Are your legs strong?”

“Why shouldn't they be?”

“I suspect that you will have to carry me if I'm to be a helpful guide the rest of the way.”

Rainbow blinked at her, then took a forlorn look at the incredible length they had left to go. “Ember...” She glanced back at the mare, her eyebrow raising. “It's a really, really long trot to Sanctuary, if anything should go wrong.”

Ember nodded. “I know that. I also know it would be very nice if nothing went wrong.”

Rainbow glanced at her hooves. She took a breath and said, “Well, that makes the two of us—” She suddenly jolted, gasping for breath.

Ember did a double-take. “Rainbow!”

“No...” Rainbow hissed and clutched her forehead as a terrible dizziness overcame her. “No! Goddess, no! Not now! Please, not now!”

Ember reached over and held Rainbow before the pegasus could collapse onto the stone floor. “Is it really bad this time? Are you blacking out?”

“I... I...” Rainbow hissed painfully, clenching her eyes shut as the whites flashed to yellow and back. “I... I don't know. I-I hope not...”

“We're too far to get stranded now!”

“Nnngh... I know that!” Rainbow exclaimed, starting to hyperventilate. She thrashed as with labor pains and fought hard to keep conscious. “Must stay awake... Must focus...”

“Tell me how I can help you!” Ember remarked, grasping the sides of Rainbow's face. “Talk to me!”

“Don't... kn-know what to say...”

“Then... uhhh... uhhh...” Ember sweated and stammered, “Tell me about Swirls! Tell me what got her and the foals so interested in listening to you earlier when I showed up! You made them smile so much, filled them with so much hope...”

“Ember... I was... I was just w-winging it...” Rainbow seethed, her eyes rolling back. “Nnngh... I'm always winging it. Th-that's how I do things. Until n-now...”

“Tell me what you were talking about!”

“I... I...”

“Tell me!” Ember shouted, her authoritative voice echoing beyond the range of the dome before the smog swallowed up the brave sound.

Rainbow Dash panted, panted, gulped, and wheezed, “The Sonic Rainboom. It's... It's a move I did twice in my life. Once when I was a little filly. A second time j-just a few years ago. All my life, ponies refused to believe that I did it. They thought it was a myth. They thought I had m-made it up when I told everypony I did it as a little foal...”

Ember nodded. “Uh huh. Yes. And?”

“And... and so I did it again...” Rainbow Dash shivered in Ember's grasp. Her ruby eyes were pried open as she stared at the mare through a sheen of sweat. “I pr-proved them all wrong, and I was even witnessed before thousands upon th-thousands of Cloudsdalians.”

“Well good for you,” Ember said with a hopeful smile. “You did it to memorialize yourself.”

“No... No, that's just it...” Rainbow Dash sputtered and murmured, “I always knew I was capable of it. I just needed to prove to myself that I could d-do it a second time. I... I didn't really cared if other ponies saw it or not...”

“Then why did you do it in front of so many witnesses?”

Rainbow bit her lip and finally spat forth, “B-because I wanted to move on. I wanted to g-go beyond myself.” She gulped as her breaths returned slowly to normal and her eyes relaxed. “Because if th-there's anything worse than being forgotten, it's being forever bored.”

Ember smiled at her softly. “Are all pegasi so difficult to understand, much less share the truth about themselves?”

Rainbow Dash relaxed, slumping in her grasp as the dizziness finally cleared. “Hmmm? Nah...” She smiled weakly as she patted Ember's hoof on her shoulder. “Just the ones who stand to blow your mind.”

Ember stood up and helped Rainbow to her hooves. “You can save that for when you woo the Matriarch.”

“How many times do I have to say it?” Rainbow briefly grumbled, smoothing her mane back. “It's Luna who's gonna negotiate with the dragon Queen.” She looked at Ember. “Let me choose who I do or don't woo.”

“I think I just might.”

Rainbow Dash gave Ember a double-take. She squinted at her for a few seconds and then shrugged. “Whatever. Ready to get this over with?”

“I was born ready.”

“That's the spirit.” Rainbow hovered up, gripped Ember by the shoulders, and made for the gray sky. “Now, try your best to keep that spirit in your stomach.”

“Huh—Gaaah!” Ember shrieked as her legs dangled in Rainbow's grip. Swiftly, she silenced herself as the pegasus sped the two of them down the sundered ravine, and towards the heart of the billowing smog.

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