• Published 4th Jun 2012
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Rainbooms and Royalty - Trinary



Alternate Universe: Filly Rainbow Dash has just performed her Sonic Rainboom when she gets a visitor

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Everfree Rumble

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It wasn’t long before Rainbow Dash realized the tiniest of holes in her otherwise brilliantly thought out plan: she had no idea where in the considerably vast expanses of the Everfree Forest this ‘Zecora’ lived. She considered going back to ask for directions but she just couldn’t bring herself to, not after her dramatic exit and her pointed reminder that she had to stop Nightmare Moon herself. After a moment of additional thought she realized that given how scared everypony was of her, they probably wouldn’t know where Zecora lived anyway. Probably someplace relatively close to Ponyville, if she can just stroll in, Dash figured.

Unfortunately that wasn’t her only problem. She groaned as she did a flyby over the edge of the forest. The trees were way too dense to spot anything from the air. At the least, she’d have to fly below the treetop level. At night no less. This is gonna reduce me to a crawl. Rainbow grumbled internally. She veered off and headed back to Ponyville in order to enter the forest from the edge and work her way inward.

Rainbow Dash was just about to swing by to enter the forest when three fast moving gray blurs caught her attention. She narrowed her eyes. They didn’t slow down or alter course the closer they got to her. That never boded well.

It wasn’t until they got close that she could see the purple and black of their uniforms to know for sure that they were hostile. The Shadowbolts.

At the last moment Rainbow dove right beneath them, the wind of their passing nearly knocking her head over hooves. She straightened herself out and whirled, waving her hooves at them. “Ditzy! Guys! Stop it’s me, Rainbow Dash!”

There was no answer. The Shadowbolts veered around for another pass. Growing, Rainbow Dash flapped once and put herself on an intercept course. The Shadowbolts neither slowed nor changed course. “Oh you wanna play chicken, huh? Bring it!” Rainbow smirked as she streamlined herself, straightening her body and letting her forelegs stretch out in front of her, keeping in line with her body. She did the same with her hind legs. The Shadowbolts weren’t slowing either.

“Do they really think I’m gonna pull away and let them jump me when I do?” She snorted. Amateurs. They were about a hundred feet away. A gleam of moonlight reflected off their goggles, giving them a fierce image. But there was something else…there! A reflection off the outer part of their new bat-like wings, the second finger it was called.

Rainbow felt her eyes widen as she realized what they were. “Wing blades!” Dangerous weapons that had been illegal for centuries, if not longer, wing blades were fitted over the edge of pony wings for aerial combat. From the deadly sheen of the Shadowbolts’ blades, those could cut her to ribbons if she wasn’t careful.

Dash snorted. Well, if they thought they were going to intimidate her with an overgrown scissor they had another thing coming! She poured on speed, going even faster as she aimed to collide with the Shadowbolt formation head-on.

Fifty feet. She could see the widening eyes of the Shadowbolts as they realized that she wasn’t going to pull up. And at the speed at which she was going…if she collided she’d easily manage to cripple one or two of them. And at these heights…

Twenty-five feet. Now Rainbow Dash was close enough to see the sudden tension in their wings, even as they flew on. Both sides coming ever close to each other.

Ten feet. The lead Shadowbolt and Rainbow Dash met each other’s gaze. Neither one of them had an inch of give within them. They weren’t going to be the one to pull away first.

Five feet.

Four…

Three…

Two…

One…At the last possible moment, the Shadowbolts started to widen their formation as they began to veer away. Instead of doing the same, Rainbow Dash plowed ahead through without breaking stride or decreasing speed. She nimbly tucked and darted between the Shadowbolts, even managing to fly her way between two parallel outstretched wings—augmented with wing blades—between the former Ditzy Doo and the leftward high Shadowbolt. If she had gone half a foot higher or lower she would’ve flown right into their waiting blades.

As the dumbfounded Shadowbolts turned to look at their escaping quarry, they were suddenly hit by Rainbow’s wake, knocking them for a loop. They flapped frantically trying to right themselves. Meanwhile, Rainbow had tucked her own wings inwards and was going into a power dive, straight below the tree line and into the Everfree.

Rainbow Dash laughed. “Woo hoo! Aw yeah!” She performed a little mid-air spin through the trees out of sheer pleasure. “Mess with the best and go down like the rest!” The adrenaline was pumping through her veins, the wind was in her face and if she wasn’t careful she could go careening into a tree at any moment. Danger was all around her and the stakes were high. She was *born* for moments like these.

Dash jerked and dove around trees and branches. Sometimes she would pass so close that the moisture on the leaves would splatter gently across her cheek. Given the density of the forest, Rainbow had to alter her path and make innumerable tiny course corrections while still keeping an eye out for anyplace that might be home to the reclusive Zecora AND watching out for any unexpected guests—Shadowbolts or otherwise.

As much as she hated herself for doing so, she had to slow down slightly. Not because navigating through the trees was difficult, she would be the first to tell anypony who asked, but because she had no idea if this Zecora lived in a house, a cave, a bungalow or what. Slowing down might be the most hated words she knew, but since finding Zecora WAS the whole purpose of this trip that had to take priority.

Rainbow darted up and down, past trees and through vines. Patience never was her strong suit so it wasn’t long before she was frustrated and annoyed. “Grr, this is like looking for a dry cloud in a thunderstorm!”

She started to zip from place to place, but found nothing that resembled a pony dwelling or any trace of one. After spending a moment seething at the futility of it all she came up with a plan that so brilliant it’s a wonder it didn’t physically light up the woods. “WHERE ARE YOU?!” Rainbow Dash shouted at the top of her lungs.

No answer. “Shoot.” Groaning, she started flying again through the darkness and denseness that was the Everfree Forest. It wasn’t five minutes before she heard a whooshing, rustling noise in the forest. Looking around she saw the leaves and treetops quiver and shake for a moment, then fall still.

From behind came the beating of wings. Rainbow turned around just in time to see three familiar pains in her hindquarters. “Aww c‘mon! Can’t you take a hint?” She flapped, pouring on speed as the Shadowbolts approached.

More annoyed than worried, she banked and zoomed as she slalomed through the trees. Chancing a look behind her she saw that they were actually gaining on her! Her eyes widened. “What? How can they be--?”

She got her answer when she witnessed the wing blades slicing through branches and vines like they were nothing. Impossibly, they didn’t even slow down as they cut through them, and the bits of wood and leaves just seemed to deflect off their flight suits. Some sort of magic, Rainbow Dash figured. “Cheats!” She spat at them before she turned to focus on ducking and weaving through the trees. But these maneuvers and course changes took a few seconds off her lead every time she performed them, and the Shadowbolts continued to gain.

Rainbow Dash realized that she couldn’t use her top speeds trapped in the forest and if she continued on like this they’d eventually overtake her. “Forget this!” Tilting upwards, Rainbow shot through the forest canopy, raining broken bits of branches down after her. Clear open skies….her best terrain.

“That’s more like it!” She shot a quick look behind her and, sure enough, the Shadowbolts emerged from the forest after her. “Come on you Wonderbolt wannabes! Let’s see what you’ve got!” Shooting off ahead, she was content to continued baiting them. “If you want me you’re gonna have to earn me!”

Flying at a swift pace—but nowhere NEAR her top speeds—she took a quick look back. What she saw made her grin smugly. The pursuing Shadowbolts’ faces were twisted into furious, frustrated snarls as they furiously poured their all into chasing her—without a chance in Tartarus of succeeding unaided. But something made Dash frown. There were only two of them chasing her…what happened to the third?

Still…. “Nice outfits lameos! What did your mommies dress you?” the cocky pegasus razzed them. “I thought you were trying to catch me! Come on, don’t you want this?” She waggled her backside at them, smacking her rump tauntingly.

Enraged, the two Shadowbolts flapped their wings harder, intent on catching and making the cyan pegasus PAY. Satisfied, Rainbow Dash continued flying…but decreasing her speed bit by bit. Too eager at the prospect of catching their quarry, the Shadowbolts didn’t question how they were suddenly able to catch up with her.

Silently Rainbow Dash started a countdown from ten. The Shadowbolts reached out with their hooves, so close they could almost taste it. They gave it every last bit of energy they had left to close the gap.

When her countdown reached zero Rainbow Dash stopped and let herself fall backwards in midair. Throwing her forelegs out wide, she successfully caught the two surprised Shadowbolts in the throat, effectively clothes-lining them. With a startled gurk the two stunned ponies fell back down into the forest below, accompanied by the sound of snapping branches and two loud thuds as they hit the ground.

Rainbow Dash smiled…before remembering that these ponies were still her friends, even if under Nightmare Moon’s control. “Sorry guys!” She called down. “I’ll make this up to you later!” Turning around she found herself face to face with the third Shadowbolt. “Oh…”

Her face made had a sudden encounter with the Shadowbolt’s hoof. Now it was Dash who found herself careening down into the Everfree Forest.

Wincing and yelping as she was scraped and battered on the way down, Rainbow Dash had a only a moment to close her eyes before the ground rushed up to meet her, while ruing on just how frequently this seemed to be happening tonight...

Ah, yes, hello pain. How’ve you been? Rainbow groaned as she lifted herself out of the small crater she found herself in. She coughed, expelling some dust and a leaf that had worked their way into her mouth and rubbed at her eyes.

She had only just gotten back on her hooves when the Shadowbolt dropped out of the sky and landed a few feet in front of her. From the smaller frame and rounded snout, Rainbow realized that this Shadowbolt was a mare. Which meant that this one must’ve been…

“Ditzy?” She coughed. The Shadowbolt—Ditzy—tilted her head. “C’mon Ditz I know you’re in there!”

Slowly she held out a hoof to Rainbow Dash. Relieved and elated, Rainbow grasped it...only to be suddenly yanked forward until their snouts were almost touching. “Ditzy’s not in at the moment…care to leave a message?” The Shadowbolt leader sneered in a tone that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Ditzy’s. “I’ll make sure she gets it.” Putting her other front hoof to her face, she issued a sharp short whistle. In less than a minute, the two other Shadowbolts appeared.

Rainbow Dash saw to her dismay that aside from a few feathers out of place and the pissed off looking expressions on their faces, there wasn’t any sign of injury or damage done to them by her little stunt. “Must’ve been those lousy flight suits again,” she grunted. The other two took up positions on either side of the lead Shadowbolt. She struggled but they each grabbed one of her forelegs, forcing her up onto her rear hooves. Her wings were entangled with vines and bits of debris. Rainbow Dash couldn’t even stretch them out, much less fly.

She looked up at the Ditzy-Shadowbolt as she flexed her own wings…and the blades attached to them. “Ditzy…don’t do this!” Rainbow struggled feebly.

“I’m. Not. Ditzy!” She said coldly, pressing her blade against Dash’s neck as the cyan pegasus squirmed to get some extra space between her and the razor-sharp blade.

Suddenly there was a sharp whistling sound followed by exploding puffs of green smoke. Caught by surprise, the Shadowbolts started coughing, giving Rainbow a chance to kick the guard on her left in the shins to make him let go. This freed her up to punch the other one in the gut and break free.

The smoke soon cleared when the Shadowbolts started flapping their wings. The leader looked around. “Fan out! Find out what—umph!” Whatever she was looking for found her first. It came in the form of a wooden staff implanted firmly into her belly. The captain clutched herself and collapsed, wheezing.

The staff’s wielder, a pony garbed in a brown hooded cloak, did not stay still long enough for the other two to avenge themselves on her. The interloper jerked her (his?) head at Rainbow Dash, indicating that she should follow her. The two quickly fled as the shrouded stranger navigated them expertly through the forest. Where she was being led, Rainbow didn’t know. Behind them, the Shadowbolts had rallied and were in full pursuit.

Finally they stopped in a clearing. “Why are we stopping?” Rainbow asked.

There was no answer. Her would-be rescuer gently guided her to a tree and sat her down against its trunk. “Stay.” Came the curt response. I was a mare’s voice, oddly accented.

She made her way back to the clearing entrance and twirled her wooden staff around. The Shadowbolts emerged almost immediately, looking more annoyed than ever. “We are operating under the authority of the ruler of Equestria!” Not-Ditzy spat.

“Assaulting her agents is treason!” Hissed the second, who Rainbow tentatively identified as Steelwing.

“Punishable by death.” said the other, Silver Lining. “Leave now or pay the price.”

The mysterious stranger gave an idle snort, but did not budge.

“So be it!” Ditzy snarled. “Shadowbolts, attack!”

They rushed the stranger who made no effort to move until they were right on top of her. Then with lightning speed the staff lashed out, cracking one ‘bolt in the jaw, slamming over the head of the second and dispatching the leader with rapid twirl that caught her in the side of her head.

When the Shadowbolts rose almost instantly, the stranger was gone. “Where did—?”

“Look!” One of the guards pointed. She was now precarious perched atop the staff…upside down. And out on the limb of a tree.

Rainbow felt her jaw drop. “How?”

The lead Shadowbolt was incensed. “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care! No pony opposes her majesty’s Shadowbolts!”

“Can you not see the truth in front of your eye?” The stranger said calmly, leaping down from the tree. “For no pony am I!” She tossed back the hood of her cape, revealing a black and white striped face with blue almond-shaped eyes. Her mane was cut into a Mohawk of alternating colors, the same as her coat. At her neck a series of gold rings could be seen. “Leave now, go hit the shower! For this is my place of power!” She warned.

The Shadowbolts chuckled wickedly. “It doesn’t matter who you are.” The one on the left said.

“Pony or not it won’t spare you from our wrath.” Agree the one on the right.

“Much less your ridiculous rhyming!” Spat the lead Shadowbolt.

The stranger’s face was impassive, unimpressed. “ ‘Spare you from our wrath’ ” she mimicked. “What a laugh! My rhyming may be passé, but at least I don’t sound like a ridiculous cliché.”

The Shadowbolts darted forward. Tucking her hoof into the folds of her cloak, the stranger drew out a hooffull of green powder and gently blew it in front of her. Dash didn’t see what good that would do since they had goggles on. But the powder started…changing. Instead of remaining a cloud of dust or smoke, shapes started to emerge. Dragons, manticores, Ursa Majors…and leading them was the very image of Princess Celestia.

Panicked, Nightmare Moon’s minions came up short, stumbling over themselves before they realized that it was mere illusions. Taking advantage of their confusion, Rainbow Dash tossed herself back into the fray, lashing out with her hooves. But when she looked for her companion, she saw that she wasn’t fighting. Instead, she was darting back and forth, dragging her wooden staff on the ground in intricate if bizarre patterns. She softly started chanting under her breath. “Dai Lai Lufti de Santra Megido…Dai Lai Lufti de Santra Megido…” A green light traveled from her staff down to the ground. It filled up the shallow patterned grooves she’d made like water spilling down a dry riverbed. The light traveled around the entire clearing, lighting up ancient symbols in the ground. Soon the green light was everywhere.

“Wards!” A Shadowbolt called out in horror and warning. But it was too late. A veritable wave washed over everypony present.

Rainbow Dash flinched as the shockwave passed her by…but it left her untouched. The Shadowbolts were not as fortunate. The oncoming wave swept them up and propelled them far beyond the clearing. Dash watched with wide-eyed amazement as the Shadowbolts were flung into the distance. “Whoa….”

“Do not be so quick to cheer. They will be back I fear.” Rainbow looked to her rescuer.

“Yeah well…it was still awesome. So…uh, Zecora I presume?” She held out a hoof as she thought back to her lessons with Princess Celestia. “Didn’t expect you to be a zebra—not that there’s anything wrong with that!” She blurted, realizing how that could be taken. “I just, um, didn’t expect to see one out in these parts…” Dash cleared her throat. “So uh, I greet you in the traditional zebra…something or other…um, ba-weep-gra-na-weep-ninny-bong?”

She was answered with a chuckle. “Such formality is the mark of being well taught. I am Zecora, the one you sought.” She took Rainbow’s hoof and shook. “Coming to find me alone was a decision most rash. Still, I am pleased to meet you, Rainbow Dash.”

The pegasus nodded. “You have no idea how glad I am that I found you.” She looked at where the Shadowbolts had stood before their unceremonious exit. “Just what WAS that anyway?”

“A protective ward drawn from the sun’s light, it rejects those tainted by the Nightmare’s might.”

“But the sun's gone!” Rainbow protested. Zecora nodded vaguely.

“Yes yes, that is so. But the magic of the sun endures in the plants that use it to grow. With great care this can still be harnessed, to make my wards most brightest.”

Rainbow Dash blinked. “That last rhyme was a stretch.”

Zecora facehooved. “Perhaps instead of a literary critique, you should tell me why you came looking for me—an act most unique?”

“Huh? Oh yeah! If you know about Nightmare Moon and magic and stuff, then I bet you can help me stop her, right?” She was taken aback when Zecora tossed back her head and laughed merrily. “What’s so funny?”

“Ah my dear, the answer is you! To stop Nightmare Moon is something nopony can do!”

Snorting, Rainbow pawed at the ground angrily. “Yeah, well I don’t believe it! I’m not about to let it be night forever. And those Shadowbolts used to be my friends and I’m going to save them! And like it or not, you’re going to help me.”

Zecora shook her head enigmatically. “Ah, you misunderstand. To stop Nightmare Moon is indeed the plan. But to do it alone…that is where my skepticism shone.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Look, are you going to help or not? I’ve got some friends back in town who are trying to find out more about Nightmare Goon, but it sounds like you know more than they do. So how about you come back and tell us what you know…or do I have to drag you?”

“How can I refuse?” Zecora offered bemusedly. “When so politely you gave me the option to choose? Coming back with you was always my intent. So come, let us go, so Nightmare Moon’s eternal reign we can prevent.” Picking up her staff, she tucked it underneath the straps of her saddle bags and started back to Ponyville.

Rainbow Dash, after clearing the detritus from her wings, took to the air above her. She then frowned as she realized something. “Wait a minute…how did you know my name? Zecora?”

The zebra trudged on in silence.

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