• Published 18th May 2015
  • 8,061 Views, 682 Comments

Inner Strength - Krickis

When Twilight overhears a private conversation, she has to come to terms with how she feels about herself, love, and a certain somepony. All while weighing her public image against her personal desires.

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19 - Oubliettes and Ogres

Chapter Nineteen

Oubliettes and Ogres

While it was objectively meant to be a day of sightseeing, most of the sights they saw were in the Canterlot History Museum. Fluttershy had expected as much, though, and she did find it more interesting than she thought she would. And even if she didn’t share Twilight’s enthusiasm, she certainly enjoyed it. Her marefriend seemed to find everything on display fascinating, and she never hesitated to explain why.

Fluttershy found she often enjoyed Twilight’s explanations more than the displays, and she would smile to herself as she imagined Twilight as a teacher. Maybe to her own student, as Princess Celestia had been to her, or maybe someday to a little foal of their own. She didn’t say anything out loud, and really, she knew it was far too soon to even think about things like that anyway.

While she was content with the museum, she felt bad for Shining Armor. The closest he came to enjoying himself seemed to be when he eventually realized that Cadance and Fluttershy were having fun and gave up on trying to hurry the day along. Still, once lunchtime rolled around, Cadance took the chance to recommend a restaurant far enough from the museum that they wouldn’t be making a return trip, and the rest of the day was spent going around town, seeing local sites and visiting a few shops.

As the day went on, Fluttershy found herself wondering more and more what it would be like if they didn’t have to hide their relationship. She watched Cadance and Shining, and as much as she enjoyed seeing them happily engage in little displays of affection, she found she was also a little jealous.

At first, hiding things had been easier to her than it would have been to be open. Whenever they were alone she had actually been more worried; how was she was supposed to act as Twilight’s marefriend? Especially since, at the time, she really couldn’t see Twilight as being more than a friend.

But things slowly changed, and eventually, she got more comfortable being affectionate. She wasn’t sure how or when, but at some point when she said ‘I love you’, it wasn’t just because she felt like she was supposed to say it. She really meant it, or at least, she was pretty sure she did.

She had to keep reminding herself that keeping things secret was something they had agreed to. Besides, Twilight had said they would talk about it once they were back home.

Still, she couldn’t deny that it stung a little bit whenever she noticed Twilight put a little extra space between them, or how they’d only touch if Cadance was pulling them together for a group picture in front of a city landmark. As much as she enjoyed the day out, she was happy to return to Twilight’s parents, where her marefriend could once again be hers.

As soon as they walked in, they could smell cinnamon. That, along with the warmth, dispelled all of Fluttershy's concerns from earlier. “Welcome back. Have fun out in town?” Twilight Velvet asked. She was sitting by the fireplace with a book in front of her.

“Yeah, even if we did have to drag Twily out of the museum,” Shining said.

“Oh come on, we didn’t even go through the whole thing!” Twilight said

“Well there’s always next time, dear,” Twilight Velvet said, returning to her book. “Spike’s in the kitchen, he’s been waiting for you all to come back. He said he had an idea for something all of you could do together.”

They left Twilight Velvet to her book and made their way to the kitchen. The closer they got, the stronger and more delightful the aroma became. Fluttershy already suspected what they’d find inside. And sure enough, Night Light was mixing batter in a large bowl while Spike added ingredients into it.

“Is that your special cinnamon oatmeal raisin cookies?” Cadance asked, savoring the aroma.

“Sure is,” Night Light said. “We have some sugar cookies in the oven, too.”

“It smells amazing,” Fluttershy said. “Would you like help with anything?”

“Hmm…” Night Light tapped on his chin, getting flour on his face in the process. “Well, we’re almost done with these, and I think we made enough for everypony. We could definitely use your help tomorrow though, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“I’d love to,” Fluttershy said. “You’ve all been so welcoming, I feel a little guilty. I’d like to do something to repay you.”

“Nonsense. We’re happy to have you here, you don’t have to do a thing,” Night Light said. “If you want to help cook you’re more than welcome to, but Spike, Cadance, and I can handle everything if you’d rather just take it easy.”

“You might want to be careful what you get yourself into,” Shining Armor warned. “Dad likes to go overboard for Hearth’s Warming Eve.”

“I never hear you complaining once everything’s done,” Night Light said with a grin.

Shining rubbed at his neck. “Well, that is true.”

“I really would like to help,” Fluttershy said. “I do love cooking, and I think it’ll be fun cooking together.”

“Speaking of doing something fun together…” Spike grinned excitedly. “I was thinking, and we should all play Oubliettes and Ogres!”

Shining Armor instantly matched his grin. “That’s a great idea!”

Fluttershy had heard Twilight mention the game she used to play with her brothers, but she didn’t really know anything about it. She looked to Twilight to see what her thoughts on playing were and saw her and Cadance exchange worried looks. “I dunno, Spike,” Twilight said. “It’s a little complicated, and we’re only here for a week. You know how long a full campaign can take.”

“Hey, we went to your museum, you can deal with an O&O game,” Shining said. “If we play with expedited rules, we can probably get through a campaign before everypony leaves.”

He did have a point, it was only fair that they do something the boys wanted to do, too. “I’ve never played before. Is it fun?”

“It’s, like, the nerdiest game ever,” Twilight said.

“Said the biggest nerd ever,” Spike pointed out. “It’s a great game, Fluttershy. It’s all about making up a character and doing all sorts of things you can’t normally do. I’m Guillaume, a griffon fighter.”

“You fight griffons?” Fluttershy asked. That seemed like an odd thing to want to do.

Spike laughed. “No, my character is a griffon. Fighter is my class, it’s like what type of character you play. Like a sorcerer or a rogue. You can be anything you want to be in O&O!”

Fluttershy thought about Sunset Shimmer and the journal. She almost felt like somepony else when she wrote in it, somepony brave who could talk to ponies she didn’t know. She loved that feeling, and the idea of being somepony like that did have a certain appeal. Besides, if she had any doubts, seeing Spike so excited to play erased them. “It can’t be that bad, Twi. What’s your character?”

“I used to play as unicorn wizard named Crystal Gaze,” Twilight said.

Fluttershy tilted her head to the side. “But you pretty much are a wizard.”

“Twily and I have been playing since we were kids,” Shining said. “Back then, we only dreamed of the kind of lives we’d have. Which is why I play a unicorn paladin, Brilliant Knight.”

“Besides, not everypony plays characters they wish they could be,” Cadance said. “Some of us prefer to stay closer to what we’re already familiar with.”

“You play, too?” Fluttershy was surprised. Twilight really was the biggest nerd ever – which Fluttershy always found adorable – and she knew her brothers weren’t far off, but Cadance didn’t seem like the type of pony who would play something like this.

“Once in a while. Shiny plays every week with some of the guards, so I figured why not give it a shot? I’m Hopeful Heart, a pegasus cleric. And if you’re playing, I’ll play too.”

Spike turned to Twilight. “Please, Twi?”

“Fine. But don’t blame me if you wind up bored. Or worse, addicted.” Twilight grimaced.

“Well, I think it sounds like a great idea,” Night Light said. “I’ll get these cookies in the oven and bring some down to you once they’re done.” He looked at Spike as the excited dragon jumped off his chair and smiled. “Well, after somedragon washes up first. I don’t think being covered in flour is part of the game.”

As Spike ran to the bathroom to wash up, the others went down into the basement. It must have been where Shining Armor and his friends used to play, judging by the posters still on the wall; they were all of terrifying monsters and rugged heroes. There was a table near a bookshelf, which Shining dusted off and set several of the books down on.

Fluttershy walked over to the bookshelf to read the titles when a framed picture caught her eye. Just when she went to examine it a purple glow surrounded it and it flew behind Twilight’s back.

“What was that?” Fluttershy asked.

“Nothing,” Twilight said, but her smile was a little too broad.

“It looked like a drawing.” Fluttershy tried to look around Twilight but the picture was turned away from her.

“So, let’s get to designing your character!” Twilight said

“Twily.” Fluttershy gave her a look that made it clear she’d see the picture one way or another.

“Fine.” Twilight frowned and levitated the picture to where Fluttershy could see it.

It was a crayon picture of a purple unicorn in a Star Swirl hat, next to a larger white unicorn in gold armor.

“Twily drew that,” Shining said. “Back then, it was impossible to pull her away from an O&O game.”

Twilight kept the scowl but the blush ruined the effect. “It’s adorable,” Fluttershy said, nuzzling against Twilight.

“Why do we still have that thing?” Twilight demanded.

“Because,” Shining Armor said, “it’s adorable.”

Twilight haphazardly dropped it on the shelf before sitting at the table and grabbing the nearest book to bury her face in. The cover read ‘Oubliettes and Ogres Players Manual, 3rd edition.’

“Are all those books just for this game?” Fluttershy asked. There were four different books stacked on the table, all tall hardcover books, at least a couple hundred pages a piece.

“Actually, that’s a pretty basic set. You should see what he has at home,” Cadance said.

Shining began explaining the basics of the game, how everypony made a character that they would play as, and one pony would be the gamemaster, in charge of everything else in the world. They usually had a quest that they would all band together to try and overcome, and some campaigns would last for years, with new quests being added as time went on. Spike joined them while he was explaining.

“Have you made a character yet?” Spike asked.

Cadance smiled. “We’re getting there. It’s only been ten minutes.”

“Alright, so the first thing you should do is decide what class you want to be, followed by your race and alignment,” Shining Armor said.

Twilight, who got over her embarrassment once there was something to explain, flipped to a page with a burly minotaur, which she explained was a barbarian. They flipped through the book and everypony gave their input on which classes were the best. Twilight and Shining mostly focused on stats and who was best in what situations, which more or less went over her head. Spike explained things in a way Fluttershy could actually understand, but his enthusiasm made it impossible for Fluttershy to make a decision. In the end it was Cadance whom Fluttershy decided to listen to, winding up as a druid.

“Alright, now which race do you want to be?” Shining Armor asked. “Certain ones are better at different things, but you can be whichever you want.”

“I don’t know. Should I just be a pegasus?” Fluttershy asked.

Twilight flipped to a page with a picture of a pegasus with two swords drawn and a bow strung to his back. “You can be if you want to, but pegasi excel at classes requiring agility,” Twilight said. “They’re usually rangers or rogues, although they don’t make bad druids. Diamond dogs and minotaurs are probably the worst druids, but you could make that work too, if you wanted to. Earth ponies and zebras have the strongest connection with nature, so they’d probably be your best bet.”

“I think I’d like to be an earth pony then,” Fluttershy said. In a lot of ways, she felt like she was always meant to be an earth pony.

“Alright, now we need your alignment.” Twilight flipped to a chart with nine boxes, ranging from lawful good to chaotic evil. “Shining, Spike, and I are all lawful good. Some classes have restrictions. For example, as a wizard my magic works best when my character has an organized mind, which means being lawful, although I could have been lawful neutral or lawful evil if I wanted. Shining is a paladin so he didn’t have a choice at all, all paladins are lawful good. Spike could have been anything he wanted, but he chose to be lawful good.”

“I guess I want to be lawful good also,” Fluttershy said. She certainly didn’t want to play as a bad pony.

“Actually, druids are impassive like nature, which means you have to be some sort of neutral,” Twilight said. “You could be lawful neutral or neutral good, though.”

“Oh. Is that bad?” Fluttershy asked.

“No, my character is neutral good,” Cadance said. “It means she prefers to do good even when it goes against the established order.”

“Okay. That sounds good,” Fluttershy said.

“Right. That’s the big stuff out of the way. Now for the fun part: the details.” Shining Armor grinned.

As they went over stats, starting equipment, age, and so many more things, Fluttershy couldn’t help but question if this was such a good idea after all. Twilight and Shining debated everything back and forth, while Cadance and Spike helped her fill out her character sheet while they were distracted. Fluttershy was happy to hear that she got to have an animal companion. Her first thought was to pick a rabbit, but Spike convinced her to choose a hawk since her character wouldn’t have wings to fly herself.

As the whole process droned on, Fluttershy found herself absentmindedly flipping through the monster guide. Mostly she was just looking at the pictures while thinking that some of the monsters were probably just misunderstood. She was beginning to wonder if they’d ever move on when Spike finally said, “Alright, all that’s left is your name.”

“Sky Shimmer,” Fluttershy said automatically. She had decided it immediately when they first started to talk about playing.

“You want a pegasus name as an earth pony?” Spike asked.

“Is that bad? I could change it.” Fluttershy tried to think of an earth pony name. Maybe she could be named Posey?

“It’s fine,” Twilight said. “Any race can have any name. Maybe it could even be part of your character’s backstory if you want. She could have pegasus parents or something.”

“Fine,” Spike said as he filled in the last blank space on her character's page. “So who’s GM?”

“I am,” Twilight and Shining said at the same time.

“Twily, if you’re the gamemaster she’ll never want to play again,” Shining said.

“What? I’m a great gamemaster!” Twilight said. “Besides, you’re the one who wanted to play this game, you should be happy we even agreed in the first place.”

“Yeah, you’re great at pounding players into the ground,” Shining said.

“Do you really think I’m going to go out of my way to make things miserable?” Twilight asked.

“I have an idea.” Cadance leaned in close to Shining and whispered conspiratorially. As she talked, he began to smile.

“Okay, you can be GM, but there’s a condition. We’ll play the Nachtmahr campaign.”

“Fine,” Twilight said.

“And Crystal Gaze will be the hostage,” Shining said.

“That’s ridiculous!” Twilight said.

Fluttershy looked to Spike for an explanation but he just shrugged. Shining elaborated. “In Nachtmahr, the evil spirit Mara is trying to rule Equestria. She takes a pure-hearted pony hostage to sacrifice on the full moon, and the adventurers try to stop her before then. Since she’ll be the gamemaster, Twilight doesn’t have to be one of the adventurers to be part of the game, so instead her character will be the one we’re trying to save. That way if she kills us, then she losses too.”

“Not happening,” Twilight said. “That idea’s dumb.”

“What do you think, Fluttershy?” Cadance asked. “Do you want to try and be Twilight’s hero?”

Fluttershy mirrored the puppy dog eyes Twilight had used to get her to go to the museum. The alicorn’s expression went from exasperation to resignation. “Alright, fine. But what makes you so sure I won’t make it super easy?”

“Because you’re still you, and nopony’s ever survived one of your campaigns,” Shining Armor said. “Maybe this will tone it down, but I get the feeling rescuing you won’t be all that easy.”

Twilight grinned. “You know, I can still kill you and let the others finish the campaign.”

Shining’s grin was identical to his sister’s. “You can try.”

“Just remember, you’re not Fluttershy in the game,” Cadance said. “You’re Sky Shimmer, and you don’t know any of us.” Fluttershy nodded.

Twilight pulled up the gamemaster’s guidebook and propped it open in front of her. “Alright,” she said, “let’s begin.”

Sky Shimmer could feel corruption in the wind. Something sinister was coming to the forest. She stood on a precipice overlooking her burrow, and hoped she’d have the fortitude to stop it once it came.

A shift in the wind caused her to swivel her ears back. Somepony approached.

“Greetings! My name’s Hopeful Heart, and I believe I’m looking for you.” Turning to look at the pony speaking, Sky Shimmer saw she was a pink pegasus, clad in chainmail. A large wooden shield painted with a braided tree sat on her back.

Sky Shimmer said nothing, prompting Hopeful Heart to continue. “I serve the spirit of the forest Ehlonna. She tasked me with entering these woods and seeking out help, and I believe she meant for me to find you.”

“For what purpose?”

“Something dark is coming. I believe she means for me to stop it. I do not know what role she plans for you, but I think my journey starts here.”

“I do not serve Ehlonna,” Sky Shimmer said. “I feel the corruption you mentioned, and I will do what I can to stop it, but I will not leave the forest.”

“Be that as it may, I’d still like to ask for your help. Maybe you are not meant to accompany me, but rather just have some information that might help.”

Sky Shimmer had little time for the games of spirits, even Ehlonna. “If your spirit knows so much, why seek me out at all? Leave me be.”

Though she doubted the cleric would give up so easily, Sky Shimmer turned to go. She was interrupted by a hawk swooping in. She offered her foreleg and the hawk landed on it.

“What is it, Amitola?” Sky Shimmer asked her companion. The hawk cawed and Sky Shimmer ran off at a gallop.

“What’s going on?” Hopeful Heart asked, flying after her.

“Ghouls have appeared in the forest.” Sky Shimmer feared they were connected to the corruption she had felt earlier. Ghouls should not be anywhere near these woods. The forest was sacred, and had a way of warding off unnatural creatures like the undead.

The ponies followed the hawk into a glade, which was already filled with half a dozen of the abominations. They were surrounding a unicorn and a griffon, who were standing back to back with swords drawn. Without stopping to think, Sky Shimmer called a wolf to fight with them and ran to the warriors.

“Thanks,” the griffon said. He was rushed by a ghoul, which he ran through with an enormous sword far too big for a pony to wield; even the griffon required both talons to swing it properly. He swung the sword at a second ghoul, which dislodged the first, although he missed his target.

The unicorn slashed at another one, cutting it across the chest, but the ghoul kept coming. It bit into his shoulder just above where his armor stopped. The wolf latched onto the ghoul’s neck and pulled it off the unicorn, killing the creature. A light teal glow surrounded the wound as it sealed itself up.

As a ghoul approached Sky Shimmer, Amitola dived in front of it. With its attention shifted to the hawk, Sky Shimmer swung her staff as hard as she could into its face. There was a sickening crunch as its face sunk into itself, but the creature kept coming. She swung again, fully collapsing its skull and killing the ghoul right as a second lunged at her.

Prepared for the worst, Sky Shimmer braced for the attack, but Hopeful Heart swung a mace at it, catching it in the leg. Most of its skin was torn off, but the ghoul crawled forward still. Before either mare could react, the wolf jumped on top of it, ripping the decaying creature to pieces.

The unicorn took inspiration from the cleric and aimed his next swing at another ghoul’s leg. Once it was down he drove the blade through its eye. The ghoul was killed, but his sword was stuck.

As the last ghoul made for the helpless unicorn, the griffon stood in its way, swinging his sword in an arch over his head, and cleaving the creature in two.

Everypony looked around while trying to catch their breaths. There was no sign of any other ghouls. “Is anypony hurt?” Hopeful Heart asked.

The unicorn inspected his shoulder. “I think we’re all okay. You must be very talented. I thought I was done for back there.”

“You’d have been fine,” the griffon said.

Sky Shimmer got a proper look at the two warriors. The griffon’s feathers were brown, except his head, which was black. He was wearing dull armor that looked heavy even for him, and had the royal insignia on his chest plate. The griffon’s size dwarfed the unicorn’s, although Sky Shimmer couldn’t remember ever seeing a stallion so large. He was white with a blue mane, and his armor seemed to be steel, but it shone as brightly as silver.

“But why were those things attacking you?” Hopeful Heart asked.

“Well, actually…” the unicorn rubbed his neck.

“We saw them from a distance, but he didn’t want to wait for a plan. He just runs in screaming ‘for justice!’ like an idiot.”

The unicorn blushed. “Well, what would you have done, leave them be!?” he snapped at his companion.

The griffon just shrugged. “No, but we could have at least known what we were doing first.”

“In any event, I’m glad we came when we did. My name’s Hopeful Heart. I’m a cleric serving Ehlonna.”

“My name’s Brilliant Knight,” the unicorn said. “My gruff companion here is Guillaume.”

Everypony turned toward Sky Shimmer. She sighed. “My name is Sky Shimmer. I think it would be best if you left the forest.”

“Please, Sky Shimmer,” Hopeful Heart said. “You know ghouls shouldn’t be here. This must be a sign of the coming darkness. Help me, please.”

“My ladies,” Brilliant Armor said, kneeling. “I believe we are seeking the same thing. My companion and I are on a quest to rescue Crystal Gaze, a court mage who was taken by a malevolent force. Surely, this is the same evil you face. We would be honored if you two would accompany us.”

Hopeful Heart looked like she might swoon. Sky Shimmer rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, that wolf was awesome,” Guillaume said. “Got more ghouls than Sir Cheesy over here. And having a real cleric would be great. Brilliant Knight is okay, but he’s no healer.”

“I would be honored to join your quest,” Hopeful Heart said.

“I would prefer you left the forest,” Sky Shimmer said.

Brilliant Knight frowned. “Then we’ll respect your wishes.” Guillaume looked shocked and Hopeful Heart disappointed, but neither said anything against it.

“Thank you,” Sky Shimmer said. But as she turned to go, she felt a presence. “Everypony get down!” she shouted. Everypony obeyed, and a moment later a dark force came crashing through the trees overhead.

“What have we here?” a mare’s voice spoke. “You four killed some of my ghouls. No matter, there’s always plenty more corpses to play with.” The darkness took shape, becoming an alicorn seemingly made from shadows.

Guillaume raised his blade, which only caused the mare to laugh. “Insolent foals,” she said.

“Are you the one hurting the forest?” Sky Shimmer asked.

“I’ve done no such thing,” she answered. “However, If the forests are dying because of my magic, well, that's really not my problem.”

Amitola flew at her while Sky Shimmer barred her teeth. “What gives you the right!?”

The mare didn’t even flinch as Amitola flew right through her. “What gives me the right? Do you know who I am? I am the rightful queen of this land, Mara! All should bow before me!” Her eyes glowed and everypony found themselves kneeling except for Brilliant Knight, who remained standing through obvious effort.

“What have you done with her? Where is Crystal Gaze!?” Brilliant Knight demanded through gritted teeth.

“Hmm? Oh, you mean her.” A young mare appeared, bound in chains.

“Help me!” she screamed.

“Aaargh!” Brilliant Knight charged, but his sword faded through the shadow. Finally unable to resist, he too fell to his knees.

“Foalish knight,” Mara said. “I must commend your bravery, though. Here, a token of my respect.” She kneeled down and kissed his forehead, a dark mark appearing where her lips had been.

“Now then, my toy and I are leaving. I could just kill you now, but I have a feeling you four will prove amusing, so I’ll let you live.” With a sinister cackle, Mara and her prisoner disappeared.

Freed from their bindings, Hopeful Heart and Guillaume ran to Brilliant Knight, who was still collapsed on the ground. Sky Shimmer sat back in reflection as Amitola landed on her shoulder.

She sighed. “What do you think, Amitola?”

“Can you stand?” Guillaume asked Brilliant Knight.

“Let me look at it,” Hopeful Heart said. “Oh dear Ehlonna, no.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should go with them,” Sky Shimmer said.

“What is it?” Guillaume asked.

“Blight,” Hopeful Heart said. “It’s dark energy infecting his blood.”

“Oh, that’s just silly,” Sky Shimmer said, blushing slightly. “You know I only care about saving the forest.”

“Will he be okay?” Guillaume asked.

“I can hold it at bay,” Hopeful Heart said, “and even heal him after a fashion. He won’t die, but the blight will forever rob him of his holy energy. He won’t be a paladin anymore.”

“Fine. You’re right, she was cute. But I’m not doing this for some mare just because she’s beautiful. We really do need to stop Mara before she corrupts the forest.” Sky Shimmer pouted slightly at Amitola being able to read her so well.

“I’ll fly him back to town,” Guillaume said. “We’ll fix it.”

“Wait!” Hopeful Heart said. “I need to stay with him to hold the blight at bay, and I can’t concentrate while flying.”

“Dammit!” Guillaume shouted. “Then what can we do?”

“Could he be moved near where we met?” Sky Shimmer asked, causing both of them to jump as they hadn’t noticed her approach.

“I suppose that would be okay, but the sooner the better,” Hopeful Heart said.

“Right,” Sky Shimmer said. “Amitola will lead you to my burrow. Bring him there, and do what you can for him. I’ll follow on hoof after I gather some supplies.”

Hopeful Heart looked doubtful, but didn’t have a chance to argue as Amitola and Guillaume took off, leaving her to either follow or be left behind. Once they were gone, Sky Shimmer walked over to examine the ghouls they had fought. She frowned at the sight before cantering into the forest.

The sun had already set by the time she finally entered her burrow. Brilliant Knight was lying on her bedding. The blight hadn’t expanded much, which was a testament to Hopeful Heart’s healing prowess.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Guillaume said. “I was beginning to be afraid you weren’t – oh sweet Pelor there’s a bear behind you!”

Sky Shimmer didn’t acknowledge his outburst. Instead, she turned to the bear. “Thank you very much, you’ve been a huge help. You can set them down here.” The bear dropped the herbs she had asked him to carry. Sky Shimmer reached into her stores and pulled out a honeycomb, which she gave to him. He left the burrow with Sky Shimmer waving cheerfully and the others gawking.

Without a word, Sky Shimmer gathered the herbs and began grinding them using a mortar and pestle. Despite constant questioning, she gave Guillaume only the most basic of answers, if she answered at all. Eventually Hopeful Heart asked him to let her finish her work in peace, to which he reluctantly complied.

“It’s done.” She rubbed the bright green poultice on Brilliant Knight. She circled the area around the black markings before covering them completely. He screamed as she worked.

“You’re hurting him!” Guillaume yelled.

Sky Shimmer didn’t look at him. “I never said I wouldn’t.”

“What? What is that? What are you doing to him?” Guillaume looked torn between trusting her and forcing her to stop.

“Look.” Hopeful Heart gestured at the goop, which was turning black. “You’re drawing the blight out, aren’t you?”

Sky Shimmer nodded.

“That’s good, right? Why are you so pale?” Guillaume asked Hopeful Heart.

“Yes, it’s good,” she answered. “But I can’t imagine the pain he’s in. It’s ripping the tainted blood out of his body.”

“He’ll live, and he won’t have any trace of corruption,” Sky Shimmer said. Guillaume just gulped. She walked outside.

“Where are you going?” Hopeful Heart asked.

“To sleep where it’s quiet. We’ll go after Mara in the morning.”

“I can’t believe you gave me blight!” Shining Armor said.

“Hey, you knew what you were doing when you attacked Mara,” Twilight said.

“Don’t worry so much, Shiny,” Cadance said. “Everything worked out, thanks to Fluttershy.”

“I hope I’m doing okay,” Fluttershy said.

“You’re doing great!” Spike said.

“But my character’s kind of… a bitch,” Fluttershy said.

Twilight shrugged. “That’s how druids are.”

“I’m sure there are nice druids,” Fluttershy said. She had tried to be nicer after the encounter with Mara, but her limited knowledge of the world meant she had to give Spike the cold shoulder when she couldn’t explain what her character was doing.

“Dinner’s ready,” Twilight Velvet called from the top of the stairs. It had been some time since they’d finished the cookies, and Fluttershy was pretty hungry. Still, she couldn’t help but be a little disappointed at the interruption.

“So should we call it a night?” Twilight asked.

“No way! We can keep playing after dinner,” Spike insisted.

“Uhm… I’d like to play more too. If nopony minds, that is,” Fluttershy said.

Shining Armor grinned. “So I guess you’ll need your own set of O&O books and dice.”

Twilight facehoofed. “What have we done?”

“It’s too quiet here,” Guillaume said.

“You’ve said that at least three times a day since we left the forest,” Brilliant Knight said. It had been a fortnight since they had left Sky Shimmer’s burrow. She had agreed to go with them to everypony’s surprise. “What do you expect? Look at where we are.”

They were walking through the ruins of an ancient city. Once it may have been a great civilization, but now everything was in shambles. The tallest buildings left were towers scarcely higher than a house, and even those they gave a wide berth, as the wrong wind could send them down at any moment.

“He’s right though,” Sky Shimmer said. She also felt something wrong this time.

Everypony stopped. They had reached a much better understanding over the past weeks, but still the reclusive pony only spoke when what she had to say was important, and they had all come to revere her ability to detect unnatural beings.

“Show yourselves!” Hopeful Heart said as her eyes glowed. A light radiated outwards from her. It passed over the travellers and the rubble, but it stuck to the shadows, revealing forms within them.

“It’s an ambush!” Brilliant Knight shouted drawing his sword. The blade gave off a warm glow, as it was enchanted with a holy aura.

The shadows moved towards them. They were similar to Mara – darkness in equine form. The four travellers took combative stances, raising their weapons.

Brilliant Knight’s horn glowed and Guillaume’s sword began to glow with a holy energy of its own. It was only a temporary spell, unlike the permanent enchantment on the paladin’s own blade, but it would do well for this fight.

Guillaume was the first to move, charging into the fray as soon as his sword was enchanted. He used his flight to stay just above the enemies, using the impressive reach of his sword to slash at them from above. It worked well until several of the shadows grew wings and chased him into the air.

Brilliant Knight kept an eye on his partner, but Guillaume was an accomplished fighter by now. Trusting him to take care of himself, Brilliant Knight took a defensive position in front of Hopeful Heart, keeping the shades away from her. Sky Shimmer prefered to keep a wall at her back and choose targets, staying on the sidelines. She conjured flames and tossed them at any shadows foolish enough to approach her.

As the shades advanced and forced Brilliant Knight into combat, Hopeful Heart was separated from him. Thankfully, she had long since taken measures to make herself less vulnerable in a fight. Since the undead made up most of Mara’s minions, she had practiced a spell to make herself invisible to them. Casting it now, she disappeared from their perception and weaved through their ranks, supporting her friends where possible.

Guillaume had ascended well above the battle. Glancing behind him, he saw there were three shadows following him. He quickly pulled into a dive and put some distance between them. Rolling onto his back, he switched to a free fall with his weapon drawn.

He smiled as the first shadow approached, swinging his sword and catching it in the wing. While it had been able to grow them, it seemed it couldn’t regenerate them as easily and fell, leaving Guillaume with two pursuers.

Rolling back around, he turned at a right angle and moved along with the ground. A flame caught his eye and he saw a flash of yellow and pink, giving him a burst of inspiration.

Sky Shimmer was becoming overrun, slowly losing ground to the never-ending waves of shadows. They largely ignored Amitola, which meant she couldn’t distract them like she had with the ghouls, but she could still serve as Sky Shimmer’s eye in the sky. The hawk swooped down and cawed a message, leaving Sky Shimmer smiling.

She raised a hoof and felt Guillaume’s tallon wrap around it, lifting her into the air. Finally able to see the amount of shadows surrounding them left her gasping, but she shook her head. She couldn’t worry about that now; she had to do her part to help her friends.

“Ready?” Guillaume asked.


The griffon threw the earth pony into the heart of the masses, where she changed shape into a phoenix, scorching the shadows as she flew through them. She saw Brilliant Knight going blow for blow with two shadows at once and made for him. She crashed into them and turned toward the rest of the horde, flapping her wings and sending a wave a fire in front of her.

Guillaume flew directly through the flames holding a talon over his face. He looked back to see he had lost or killed both his pursuers in the process, but while his attention was behind him, he crashed into a pillar, which came tumbling to the ground next to him. Against any other enemies, he may have taken some out, but the incorporeal shadows simply moved through the rubble undeterred. Guillaume began swinging wildly, bringing the huge blade from shoulder to shoulder in a blind attempt to hit something.

As one leaped to land on his back, a protective shield formed around him. The bubble of light kept the creatures at bay while easing the pain of his wounds. A pink pegasus landed in front of him, completely ignored by the shadows all around them.

“Have you seen the others?” Hopeful Heart asked.

“Sky Shimmer will be fine as long as her magic holds,” Guillaume said. “She’s taken the form of a phoenix. I don’t know where Brilliant Knight is.”

Hopeful Heart launched herself into the air and scanned the battlefield. Sky Shimmer’s phoenix form was a beacon, so she made her way towards the druid in hopes that Brilliant Knight would be nearby.

As she flew to her comrade, a flaming shadow burst into the air. It flew off towards a different direction, but not before catching her wing afire. She was able to put out the flames before hitting the ground, but the wing was rendered useless.

She fell into three shadows, which instantly became aware of her presence. She swung her maul, which hit one shadow's head with enough force to remove it. She momentarily celebrated her decision to replace her old mace with a bigger weapon, but was cut short when the other two shadows approached.

Guillaume had flown after the cleric, and was driving his sword into the flaming shadow’s heart as she went down. He landed and began clearing a path to her. The shadows could not stand before him, but the ones behind him jumped onto his back, burning him with their infernal touch. As they climbed on him, Brilliant Knight galloped up and cut them off.

“You damn foal, you can’t fight straight through them!” Brilliant Knight shouted as they fought back to back.

“Hopeful Heart went down!” Guillaume shouted back.

“Go! I’ll cover you!” Brilliant Knight ran backwards fending them off as best he could, trusting Guillaume to get the ones in front.

They forced their way through the endless shades in time to see Hopeful Heart fell one with her maul. Although two more approached her, fire rained down upon them as Sky Shimmer dive-bombed the shadows.

The four stood in a circle while Sky Shimmer returned to pony form. Already panting she yelled, “Hold tight!” and slammed her staff into the ground. A circle of spikes rose around them before igniting, taking out swaths of the dark beings.

“There’s just too many!” Guillaume yelled as Sky Shimmer fell to her knees.

“I don’t think I can shield us all!” Hopeful Heart shouted.

“Get close to me!” Sky Shimmer shouted. As she was surrounded by her friends she did her best to calm her mind and call upon whatever magic she had left within her. She reached out for something, anything that might save them.

At first there was nothing. But as the shadows drew closer and they looked to be done for, the wind began. It threatened to throw them into the shadows, but they held fast to each other. A deafening caw filled the air as a giant eagle swooped down, the gusts from its wings knocking shadows back as it grabbed the adventurers and returned into the air.

“Ah?” Fluttershy was suddenly aware that she was being placed onto Twilight’s bed. “Twily?”

Twilight smiled. “You and Spike fell asleep on each other. I had to carry you all the way here.” She climbed into bed next to Fluttershy and kissed her. “It was pretty adorable, though. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Fluttershy smiled before shivering. “It’s so cold.”

Twilight laughed. “I think I can take care of that.” She snuggled into bed and pulled the covers over them, tucking them in with her magic. She curled around Fluttershy.

“Good night, Shy,” Twilight said, kissing her on the forehead, but Fluttershy was already asleep.

Author's Note:

This chapter wasn't even supposed to happen. I planned out the rest of this story and what happens in every chapter, then added this one last minute when I got the idea to have them all play Oubliettes and Ogres. Special thanks to my editor ArchAngelsWings for being such a nerd and helping me with her D&D knowledge :raritywink:

And for the record, this story predates Dungeons and Discord considerably. The name 'Oubliettes and Ogres' was in the comics ages ago, and I am not swapping the name to 'Ogres and Oubliettes' :trixieshiftleft:

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