• Published 31st Mar 2018
  • 1,791 Views, 62 Comments

Waiting For You - Rainb0w Dashie

Rainbow Dash is plagued with visions and nightmares that beckon her back to a place long-forgotten by Equestrian History

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Chapter Six: Darkness and Doors

Against the ember-glow of the setting sun the lone structure stood, and Rainbow Dash could see that the building before her was none other than the one from her nightmares.

Vividly, Rainbow Dash could remember a tall, formidable structure whose stone-grey walls loomed over her head in the luminescence of the midnight sky. But the building that stood before her now didn’t seem so grey, nor did it seem as tall. It seemed almost skeletal as it stood quietly against the treeline at the far side of the clearing.

Moss and lichen covered half of the right side of the building whilst vines and ivy from the forest gnarled their way up the faded stone and into the many broken windows.

There were several smaller wings that stretched away from the main building, but none of them stood taller than the two-story structure they were attached to. The whole building itself didn’t even reach the tops of the trees. The canopy stretched overhead, casting its ebon shades across the building; effectively hiding it from view.

“Gilda… This is it.” Rainbow Dash said without looking away from the structure. “This is the building from my dreams.”

“I told you we’d find it.” Gilda flicked a silkworm off one of her talons. “We just had to go north.”

“Just had to go... “ Rainbow Dash wheeled around. “We’ve been going north for two hours now!” The gryphon shot a sly smile at Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash looked back at the building and slowly began to approach it. Making careful movements as she got closer as if it were some sleeping giant that could be awoken at any moment. She took slow, careful breaths as she crossed over the cobblestones and could feel her heartbeat in her stomach. When she finally got close enough, when she had crossed under the building’s cimmerian shadow, Rainbow Dash rested her hoof against the aging concrete; looking up and studying the architecture as if it’s broken windows and hairline cracks held any meaning.

Gilda, however, was unconcerned with the building entirely, and instead focused her attention on the ensuing sunset. The daylight still lingered even though the sun had already begun to sink below the treeline. Though the sky was still awash with a brilliant blue, the crepuscular rays coming down through the canopy had already started to shift their hues; and as the trees bent and swayed in the gentle wind the forest was filled with a kaleidoscope of orange and yellows and reds.

“Yo dude, if we’re gonna do something we better do it fast.” Gilda called. “We probably only have like twenty minutes until it gets too dark to see.”

“You’re probably right.” Rainbow Dash turned her attention to the heavy oak doors that marked the entrance.

Though the doors hung ajar, the hinges had completely rusted shut from years of rain and weather, and opening them took a considerable effort. The blue pegasus put a hoof to door and pushed, but it did not budge. She then put up both her hooves, standing bipedal, and pushed as hard as she could with her hind hooves. Still the thick oak did not move, and despite putting her entire body against the door, no amount of force the pegasus could muster was enough to move the heavy wooden slabs.

“Ugh, just let me do it.” Gilda grew annoyed and crossed the cobblestone path herself.

She pressed her body against the door as well, pushing as hard as her mighty lion legs would allow. Her paws sank into the dirt from the sheer force being exerted. With a few grunts and growls from the gryphon, the door began to inch away ever so slightly.

"I think we almost got it." Gilda said through gritted teeth. With another push the pair heaved against the door, and the oaken slabs began to budge even more. "Just a little bit more..."

But before Gilda could finish her sentence, the hinges squeaked and the their combined weight caused the door to suddenly fly open, throwing them both off balance. The door swung fast, slamming into the adjoining wall and whipped up a massive cloud of dust.

“Celestia damn it, that hurt!” Gilda picked herself off the ground. “And I think I just lost a bunch of feathers too!” The gryphon angrily flapped her wings, dislodging several small fluffy feathers that gently floated to the ground.

“They’re only down feathers.” Rainbow Dash said, doing the same. “Don’t be such a queen. ”

“ I didn’t preen for hours just to lose all my feathers.” Gilda fired back. “Unlike you ponies I at least try to make my fur and feathers look nice.”

“Oh for Celestia's sake it’s not like they won’t grow back.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “And you haven’t even gotten your summer coat in yet so it’s not even going to be noticeable in a few days.”

“It still pisses me off...” Gilda moped.

As the dust finally settled inside the pair could see the heavy oak doors had opened up to a large hallway. A pair of old bookcases lined the walls, one on each side, and they could even see an old tapestry that hung over a staircase at the far end of the hall.

“How long do you think it’s been since this place has seen any sunlight?” Gilda pondered.

“Days? Months? Years?” Rainbow Dash said, looking through the open door. “It’s hard to tell.”

“I don’t think it matters much either way.” Gilda said callously. “Anyway… What’s the plan?”

“I...don’t know.” Rainbow Dash blinked. “I didn’t think we’d even get this far.”

“Well don’t you think we should maybe start by going inside?”

“No, I thought we’d just turn hoof and go home after coming all this way. Of course we should start by going inside!”

Gilda gestured towards the open door. “After you then.”

Rainbow Dash hesitated, gazing fearfully into the dim blackness inside. She tried to will herself to move but her hooves disobeyed her. They felt static and numb. For the first time in a long time, as long as she could remember, Rainbow Dash was terrified; and she didn't know why.

Rainbow Dash was one of the bravest ponies in Equestria. She was the element of Loyalty for Celestia's sake. She had defeated dragons and changeling queens, wicked mares of darkness and gods of chaos; even shadows of the arctic north. She had had flown on the pinions of fear more times than she could count. She was a hero. Yet, she was helpless by the edifice.

She was stuck between a rock and a hard place, or rather, stuck between a cocky griffon and the physical embodiment of her own nightmares.

For a moment Rainbow Dash actually considered going home. She weighed her options, debating whether the ridicule she would face would be worth backing down when a familiar voice began to echo through her mind.

"This is a safe place." It said. "Far away from the horrors of war and the cruelty of the world."

And for some reason this calmed her, and Rainbow Dash was able to feel her hooves begin to move. Slowly at first, as if she were walking through a mire, but eventually she regained her confident gait and easily crossed into the darkness as if passing through a dark curtain.

The hallway was in a state of decay.

Piles of old books, tomes, and ledgers littered the floor, and most of the bookshelves themselves had collapsed on themselves from years of termite damage and dry rot. Lines of old paintings adorned the walls, but with nopony around to care for them, the canvases had ripped and faded with time, so all that remained were empty frames on the wall. The air was stale and thick, and dense motes of dust floated listlessly through the sunlight that shone from the doorway.

Even the floor, which at one point could’ve been polished marble, was scuffed and cracked, and no longer held a reflection of any sorts.

Perhaps the thing that struck Rainbow Dash the most as they navigated their way around the piles of debris was how each one of her hoofsteps seemed to echo endlessly ahead of her.

Clip, clop, clip, clop.

A steady rhythm that bounced off the walls, bounced off the ceilings, until it sounded like there were at least four ponies walking in lockstep down the hall.

Rainbow Dash wondered just how long it had been since a hoofstep had echoed through the hall. Obviously whoever had occupied the building had long since departed, but it was almost ghostly, like somepony was walking right beside her. The way her hoofsteps echoed in her ear.

Clip, clop, clip clop.

"Dash, did you have to wear the loudest horseshoes you could find?" Gilda said as they reached a juncture of hallways at the base of the stairs, forming a T. “...Things are giving me a damn headache.”

“Oh, like that tickety-tack of your talons is any better?” Rainbow Dash retorted.

“Hey I don’t have any control over that.“ Gilda snapped. “They don’t exactly make shoes for gryphons where I come from.”

“Well I don’t have any control over it either.” Rainbow Dash said matter-of-factly. “I’m sorry my hooves make noise.”

“Well you could choose to not wear horseshoes.” Gilda said.

“Like I’m going to walk bare-hoof on this dirty floor.”

“Hey if I can do it you can too!” Gilda playfully shoved one of her dirty talons in Dash’s face, inches from her muzzle.

“So which way should we go?” Rainbow Dash pushed Gilda’s talon away. “Down these hallways or up the stairs?”

“Well downstairs it’s too dark to see anything.” Gilda observed. To the left and right of the stairs stretched separate hallways but each one was shrouded in blackness. “There’s sunlight upstairs so I say we go up there.”

“Are you sure it’s not because you’re afraid of the dark?” Rainbow Dash nudged the gryphon.

“It’s because we didn’t bring any flashlights.” Gilda said flatly.

“Right.” Dash said, her taunting ineffective. “Stairs it is.”

Rainbow Dash and Gilda ascended the stairway. About half-a-story up they reached a landing which then split into another set of stairs, parallel to each other, that led up in the opposite direction and connected with a railing at the very top.

On the wall directly behind the landing hung the old tapestry, and as the pair ascended the next flight of stairs they finally beheld it in all of it’s faded glory.

It was almost twenty feet tall and hung from the ceiling to the base of the landing, appearing almost as if the staircase was built around it to showcase its magnitude as opposed to being hung up as an afterthought.

The fabric was torn and it’s dyes had faded away in large portions, but the design of a crescent moon rising out of a dark starry field was still brazenly displayed across the entire length of the tapestry.

“Did somepony live here or something?” Gilda remarked. “That thing doesn’t look cheap.”

Or something is right.” Rainbow Dash replied. “I’ve only ever seen tapestries like that in the royal castles.”

“It would have to take a team of at least three pegasi to lift something like that.” Gilda flouted. “This looks like one of those things you see one of those rich ponies put in their house. Right next to to their objets de'art.” The gryphon made a derisive gesture with her one of her claws. “I mean honestly, what’s the point of having something this extravagant just hanging around?”

“What are you getting so hot about?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I live in a shack, dude!” Gilda growled. “All of us gryphons live in shacks. Griffonstone is a rat-hole, but in some random house in the woods hangs this huge fancy tapestry. You know how expensive this thing probably is? I just might come back later and take it.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t respond, she knew better. Seeing the gryphon’s homeland first-hoof and the destitute living conditions that many of the gryphons were subjected to, Rainbow Dash learned pretty fast that gryphons have a very sour perception to the idea of affluence.

So instead of engaging the Gryphon any further, Rainbow Dash simply looked at the tapestry and tried to imagine just what kind of pony would display such a thing. She tried to imagine a king or a monarch, hanging the tapestry with pride, but she couldn’t think of a reason why a king of all ponies would be in a building that’s hidden so deeply within the Everefree Forest; it wasn’t very much of a castle after all.

“Alright, Let’s get on with it.” Gilda said, turning her back on the tapestry once she had a moment to compose herself.

The pair quickly came to a similar junction of hallways similar to the first floor. However there was hardly any light coming from anywhere inside the building, so the two were limited only to whatever parts of the building were facing the sunset at that particular time; and in this instance it was only the the long narrow hallway that mirrored the one they entered on the first floor. Although instead of leading to egress the hallway dead-ended at a closed wooden door, and the destroyed bookshelves of the first floor were replaced by a series of rooms on each side where sunlight was steadily shining in from the doors that had been left open.

Even the marble floor of the downstairs was replaced by a ruddy wooden floor that didn’t seem like it could bear the weight of a small foal, let alone an adult mare and a fully grown gryphon.

“It’s nothing but darkness and doors.” Gilda bawked. “Is this what you were so afraid of?”

“Yes,” Rainbow Dash said acrimoniously. “I’m afraid of doors and you’re afraid of the dark.” The pegasus slipped inside an open door and began checking rooms before the gryphon even had a chance to respond.

The first room Rainbow Dash had walked into was completely barren. No tables, no chairs, no bookcases. Nothing except for a large picture window letting in the afternoon sunlight. A great many of the rooms had busted locks so the doors couldn't even be opened without brute-forcing one’s way inside. Several of them were furnished with bookcases, nightstands, dressers, and other dilapidated antique furniture that had been carved from the local trees outside.

Almost all of the rooms featured the same large picture window that let in huge swathes of sunlight. From some of the windows, Rainbow Dash could see new sections of the building that they hadn’t seen from outside. From one window she could see an entire wing stretching off deep into the forest and from another she could see the retaining walls of a small garden. But most of the windows, however, simply featured scenic views of the many trees of the Everfree Forest.

“Dash, let’s just admit this was a bust and go home.” Gilda said as she watched Rainbow Dash entered another room. “It’s nothing but junk and garbage up here.”

“There’s gotta be something in here.” Rainbow Dash said from inside the room, turning over a destroyed bookshelf in the center of the room. “Why else would all these rooms be here?”

Rainbow Dash poked her head into the hallway to address here friend only to see Gilda standing in a lone sunbeam shining into the hallway. It didn't register to her at first, but for the entire time she was exploring the second floor Rainbow Dash had only ever seen Gilda standing in that one spot.

Rainbow Dash noticed that the air had taken on a slightly cooler temperature as the sun set even further. She was about to write it off as Gilda merely trying to keep warm. However she then thought back to Gilda's earlier confession in the forest and, looking at her now as Gilda idly cast her gaze awry, the gryphon seemed almost demure; but only for a moment. Turning her attention back to see Rainbow Dash staring at her, the catbird's countenance quickly changed and was guarded once again.

“What are you staring at me for?”

“Are you cold?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I’m covered in two layers of fur, dude.” Gilda shrugged. “I’m warm all the time.”

The pegasus shrugged herself and stepped into another room. She was nearing the end of the hallway now, all that was left were a last coupling of rooms punctuated by the closed door in the middle of the hallway.

As rainbow dash looked through the remnants of an old bookshelf, flipping intently through thousand-year-old children’s books, she could hear the distinct sound of scuttling coming from the hallway. The floorboards squeaked as it sounded like several sets of hooves thunked against the wood as they ran from room to room.

“Gilda, what’s going on?” Rainbow Dash called. The scuttling stopped, and the pegasus listened, but received no response.

Rainbow Dash poked her head into the hallway only to see Gilda gone, no longer standing in the sunbeam that was now inching up the wall as the sun outside continued to set.

The pegasus quickly trotted up the hallway to find Gilda in one of the empty rooms, leaning against the wall and idly looking out the picture window.

“Why were you running?” The floor creaked as Rainbow Dash stepped into the room.

“I wasn’t?” Gilda stared out the window. “I walked over to this window, that’s all.”

“But it sounded like you were running though…”

“I’m telling you the truth dude.” Gilda glowered. “It’s probably just the building settling or something. You notice how the floors creak with every step you take?”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Rainbow Dash said, exiting the room again.

“Yeah, I’m always right.” Gilda called as Rainbow Dash went back to exploring the final room.

This room was just like all the others: Broken furniture, rotting wood floors, vines and detritus creeping in from the broken windows.

“I don’t believe it.” Rainbow Dash yelled. “There’s nothing here!”

“Does that mean it’s time to go?” Gilda said appearing in the doorway.

“No we can’t go!.” Rainbow Dash protested. “There’s gotta be something here. Something I was meant to find, I just know it.”

“Dash we’ve been out here for hours now.” Gilda said. “If you were meant to find something you would’ve found it by now. Let just cut our losses and go home.”

“I’m not leaving until I get to the bottom of all this.” Rainbow Dash began frantically turning over furniture and rifling through piles of debris. Searching for something, searching for anything.

“Well whatever dude, it’s your thing.” Gilda said, having her fill of the anticlimactic building. She turned and walked out of the room. “It’s getting dark and I’m getting hungry, so I’m getting out of here. You can come with me if you want, but If you want to spend all night digging through trash than you’re on your own... You’re not going to find anything.

There’s gotta be something here for me.” Rainbow dash stood in the middle of the room, defeated. “Why else would I have dreams of this place? Why else would we have come all the way out here?”

Suddenly, as if in call-and response, came what sounded like something heavy being dropped from a high place. Something like a shuffling of hooves and a resounding wham that echoed through the hallway.

Rainbow Dash wheeled around.

“What was that?” She called. When she didn’t hear a response she called out again “Gilda! are you alright?”

Still no answer. Rainbow Dash galloped into the hallway, fearing Gilda had fallen through the floor or tumbled down the stairs, but as she crossed over the threshold of the doorway she received a face-full of feathers as he ran headlong into Gilda; who had been standing in the middle of the hallway the whole time.

“Damn it, Gilda.” Rainbow Dash spat out some feathers. “Why didn’t you answer me? What was…. Hey, Gilda! What’s wrong with you?”

Rainbow Dash went to shake the gryphon but finally looked up to see Gilda steadily staring at the last room of the hallway.

“Did you open that door?” Rainbow Dash said, taking an impulsive step backwards. The door at the dead-end of the hallway was wide open.

“No.” Gilda said bewilderedly “ I was going down the hallway when I heard this loud noise, as if somepony kicked open a door. I turned around and that door was wide open.”

“Are you sure you didn’t open it?” Rainbow Dash was cynical. “Because that door was closed the entire time we were up here.”

“I didn’t open it dude!” Gilda squawked. “Why would I lie to you about opening a door?”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s just a real freaky coincidence.” Rainbow Dash said. “Do you think we should go inside?”

“You can if you want but I’m staying out here,” Gilda said. “I’ve seen enough of this building to know that there isn’t anything in there...”

Rainbow Dash pantomimed the actions of a chicken as she walked past Gilda. The gryphon rolled her eyes as her friend entered the room but she herself never went further than the doorway.

Inside there were two rows of bunk beds spanning the entire length of the room. A brown woolen rug sat in the middle of the floor and a large wooden toy chest stood against the back wall. The twilight was filtering in through the broken windows in the corner of the room, casting sinister shadows all over the walls.

The room was considerably colder than the others. The air held the same crispness as a sunny winter morning, despite the early summer heat outside; and it made Rainbow Dash shiver.

“Now I know why you asked if I was cold earlier.” Gilda remarked from the doorway. “It’s freezing in here!”

Rainbow walked past each bed, slowly, but still found nothing significant in the room. Just empty feather beds with scratchy green blankets. Except, however, at the end of the room on the bottom bunk of one of the beds Rainbow Dash could see a bundled mass underneath one of the blankets. She walked to the foot of the bed and felt a rush of cold air, as if somepony had just walked past her. She looked up to see Gilda casually scratching at the wooden door frame with one of her talons; cleaning her claws.

Rainbow Dash looked back at the bed. Thinking somepony might have been sleeping. She inched closer, watching for signs of breathing. When she didn’t see any motion to indicate the rise and fall of somepony’s chest, she crept up to the edge of the bed and slowly, apprehensively, pulled the blanket back; revealing a flash of whiteness that rainbow Dash didn’t recognize at first. As she pulled more of the blanket away she realized she was uncovering a hoary tangle of bones.

The pegasus threw the blanket back, revealing a pair of skeletons, no bigger than foals, arranged in such a way as if they were huddled into each other for warmth.

Rainbow Dash screamed and impulsively reeled back, stumbling over her own hooves as she tried to rush for the door.

“Alright, we’re getting out of here.” She said as she galloped past gilda, racing down the stairs and through the entrance door before taking off into the night of the freshly set sun.

Gilda caught up to her a few moments later.

“Dude, what gives?” The gryphon said still trying to get her flight goggles on. “You’re so bent on finding this place and you just suddenly leave? What’s the deal? What happened back there?”

“Nothing.” Dash said, pulling on her own flight goggles. “I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go home and get some sleep.”

“But don’t you want to-”

“NO!” Rainbow Dash yelled. “I told you no.”

“Whatever dude,” Gilda said as the clearing disappeared into the night. “Don’t think this gets you out of buying me dinner though.”