• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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The dragons were circling, filling the air with thick shrieks and flapping of leather. They formed a living cyclone above the location of Sanctuary, breathing into the smog and heating the upper atmosphere. The gray clouds collected, coalesced, and boiled with thunder and lightning. The ceiling of Silvadel darkened as the eve of Sanctuary's reckoning loomed.

Rainbow Dash had her back to all of this. She climbed up the easternmost edge of the ginormous crater, surrounded by crumbled buildings and dismantled aqueducts. Panting for breath, her saddlebag suddenly weighing tons, she stood in place, gazing due east. Her mane was slick with sweat, and blood and bruises blotched various spots on her sapphire coat. Gulping, she squinted her eyes and held her breath.

Distant on the horizon, like a tiny candle, was a hint of lavender light. It tugged at her, pulling at her spirit, siphoning her essence straight through the pendant around her neck.

Rainbow Dash inhaled deeply. There were more shrieks emanating behind her. Somewhere, the high pitched howl of Axan rumbled across the landscape. Slowly, she trudged over the even rubble that formed the plateau beyond the Silvadelian crater. She trotted across the desolation, forming a brisk canter.

But soon that brisk canter ended.

Rainbow Dash stood dead still, her nostrils flaring.

Off in the distance, the lavender glow pulsated, but somehow it seemed fainter.

Rainbow frowned. Shaking her head, she reached a hoof deep into her saddlebag. Immediately, she pulled out a pair of goggles. Just as her wings flexed to gather wind, she froze in place. She stared down at the goggles, at the two letters forming foalish initials in the canvas surface. A wave of shivers overcame her, but her eyes remained their ruby color. Biting her lip, she clenched her optics shut and hugged the goggles to her chest. Try as she might to pierce distant memories, a smiling unicorn face flashed across her mind. Her eyes flashed open wide, and she was panting.

For the first time since she scaled the east passageway of Sanctuary, Rainbow Dash turned around and faced west.

The dragons circled the deathscape, clustering tighter and tighter as if prepared to form a living drill to pierce the landscape below. Their shrieks quadrupled in ferocity, and Axan's distant wails thunderously echoed their murderous sentiment.

Rainbow Dash shuddered. Slowly, her gaze tilted upwards. Her eyes caught a faint glow from beyond the smog. The cloudy ceiling to Silvadel was parting ways from the heavy beat of dragon wings, and for once she saw a hint of stars, as crisp and as clear as the mountains east of Wintergait. A chill was already surging through her, and she hardly noticed through her numbness when she began rubbing the ruby lightning bolt of her pendant.

Soon, her gem was glowing, and a frantic voice broke through the gray miasma to speak her name.

“Rainbow Dash! Alas, is it thou?”

Rainbow Dash took a deep breath and produced forth, “Yeah, Princess. I'm still around...”

“We art indescribably enraptured to hear of thy well-being! Didst Axan, the Queen of Flame, harm thee in any fashion?”

“I... I got out of her lair in one piece,” Rainbow Dash said in a numb voice, her eyes absorbed in the rubble around her. “It wasn't easy, but I made it.”

“Not once did we doubt thy tenacity. Albeit, our sister and I have spent the last day worrying over thy health.”

“I'm good as I'll ever be,” Rainbow Dash muttered.

“And what of Silvadel? What of the kingdom that Axan hath threatened so mercilessly?”

“They...” Rainbow Dash grimaced, her heart beating heavily. She eyed the flock of dragons growing larger and larger. “They're not in a good place, your Majesty. I think...” She gulped and ran a hoof through her prismatic mane. “I think there was nothing that could have been done for them from the beginning. Axan knew about their hiding place all along...”

The voice on the other end was gravely silent for a few seconds. “We see...” Luna's voice could be heard breathing heavily. “And the state of thy close allies there?”

Rainbow Dash shook her head and sighed. She felt the weight of her saddlebag shifting. With a dull glance, she reached back and unstrapped the container and freed it from her spine. “I can't pretend to account for all of them. I tried to get them to leave the place, to flee to another part of the continent that's safer from Axan, but they refuse.”

“Would any of our subjects, loyal to Equestria from birth unto death, do any differently under similarly dire circumstances?”

“I... I guess not...”

“Then we entreat thee not to feel guilt, Rainbow Dash. Long ago, you decided upon this journey, and we were in no place to contend with thee.”

“I know, your Highness,” Rainbow Dash muttered, her hooves resting over the clasps of the saddlebag. She began to shiver. “It's just... just...”


Rainbow Dash frowned as a brief wave of anger coalesced in her gnashing teeth. “Why does Axan have to be so cruel?! So what if the world's gonna end? Everything dies eventually! Is that any excuse to sit on your butt and gloat about a bunch of gold trinkets?”

“A dragon's hoard is her lifeline, Rainbow Dash. It means more to them than blood. Amassing gold and silver means the safety of one's hatchlings from rival dragons who can sense the precious metals from afar. It's a code of honor that has existed since the dawn of—”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. I get it. But still...” Rainbow Dash took a deep breath. “How could someone be so selfish?” She bit her lip and gazed at the gray lengths of Silvadel below. “How could someone be so stupidly self-centered... to think of herself above an entire civilization of innocent ponies?”

“It hast been our sincere desire to ascertain the fruits of friendship and not the vices of greed. Though we have been through dark times, Rainbow Dash, we believeth that we hath reached a certain degree of benevolence.”

Rainbow Dash gazed deeply at the rubble as it grew foggy in her eyesight. “Do you ever get over it, Princess?”

“Get over what, Rainbow Dash?”

“Having been Nightmare Moon?”

The voice on the other end was silent for a while, until it gravely uttered, “Nay, Rainbow Dash. Though, we dream of the day when we finally die, and I am born...”

Rainbow Dash smiled bitterly, facing west. “It must be really, really easy being an alicorn.”

“How amusing. We were about to say the same of mortals.”

Rainbow Dash lowered her eyelids. Her trembles increased, and she was taking deeper and deeper breaths.

“Rainbow Dash?”

She was silent.

“Rainbow Dash? What is your next endeavor?”

Finally, Rainbow Dash's lips parted. “Luna?”

“Yes, Rainbow?”

“I... I was wondering if you could do something for me...”

“Ask and it shalt be done.”

“Could you... erm...” She bit her lip, quivering, as if about to stab herself. “Would it be any trouble if you might... might l-let me talk to Celestia? Just for a bit?”

“Our sister?” The voice was positively breathless.

Rainbow Dash answered just as swiftly, “Yes. Please. Before... B-before I change my mind.”

More silence, and then: “But of course, dearest Rainbow. It will only be a swift moment.”

The pendant shimmered with tiny pulses. Rainbow Dash took several more steady breaths. Her hooves kneaded the top of the saddlebag, fiddling with the flap. Slowly, at the risk of collapsing, she opened the container.

This transpired over the course of three sluggish minutes. Then, like a burning candle, Celestia's voice flickered to life.

“Rainbow Dash. My beloved sister told me that you wished to speak.”

Rainbow gulped and stammered, “Yeah. Uhm... Hiya, Celestia...”

“And greetings to you, Rainbow Dash. I was so terribly worried for you. Luna says that an ill fate has befallen the unfortunate ponies of Silvadel.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that's true...”

“I am so terribly sorry for that, Rainbow Dash. I wish I could intercede—”

“You've... uh... You've done a lot, Celest—your Highness,” Rainbow Dash said, clearing her throat. “Seriously. I would have been toast inside Axan's den if it wasn't for you. So, like, don't feel bad for any of that. You did exactly what I needed to have done.”

“Though it hardly seems like a true intercession. Axan is beyond reason. If I had known ahead of time that she was dying—”

“Look, Celestia I...” Rainbow winced. “Wait, I'm not distracting you from warding off the chaos rift, am I?”

“Hardly, my little pony. Though I cannot do this and maintain the sun at the same time, I can certainly talk to a pegasus who's so dear to me.”

“Yeah... Okay...” Rainbow gazed up at the dismal ceiling, at the flimsy stars peeking through the grayness. “Is... Is Spike doing okay?”

“More than. He's become my assistant as of late, and has been key in helping me form the sanctum around the rift. Many Ponyvilleans are coming to him, asking for assistance in spells and magic. I do believe he will grow up to be an exceptional practitioner of Equestrian sorcery.”

“Heh, well thank Goddess for that,” Rainbow Dash remarked with a crooked smile, sniffling. “A good dragon. I'm all for that.”

“Indeed. Rainbow—”

“And what of Apple Bloom and her family?” Rainbow Dash asked in a sincere breath. “Are they all doing well?”

“Most assuredly. They had a fantastic harvest this year.”

“Did they make a good profit?”


“No worm outbreak? No parasprites?”

“Rainbow Dash, why are you asking me such questions now of all times?” Celestia's voice asked. “Why are you talking to me for the first time in months?”

Rainbow opened her mouth... but lingered. She gulped and closed her eyes as the distant dragon shrieks echoed in her twitching ears. After several seconds, she muttered, “You've been nothing but helpful to me since I got infected, your Highness. You've given so much... not just to me, but to Spike, and to Shining Armor, and to the Apple Family and.. and...”

She bit her lip and weathered a heaving breath.

“I just... I just wanted to say that... that I'm sorry, you know?” She swallowed hard and blurted, “For everything. For the attitude. For the silence. For what I did in Canterlot. For the things I said—”

“Rainbow Dash, everything was understandable. I never held any ill-feelings towards you. Not once. I had hoped for months on end that you would come to realize this.”

“That's not what matters,” Rainbow Dash muttered. She was hugging the saddlebag to her chest now and trying not to collapse. “I just needed you to know that I feel bad for all the things I did. I was mad. I was angry. I was... was...” Her face grimaced and her eyes moistened. She took a deep breath and her voice cracked, “And I want to say that I f-forgive you, Celestia.” Her lips quivered. Before a tear could form, she ran a hoof over her face and clenched her eyes shut. “I forgive y-you for everything...”

“Rainbow Dash?”

She was heaving, quaking.

“Rainbow Dash, are you—?”

Seething, Rainbow Dash slapped her hoof over the pendant, silencing the transmission. All was once more silence and desolation, save for the bitter punctuation of her dry hyperventilation. With quivering forelimbs, she reached deep into her saddlebag...

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