• Published 4th Apr 2017
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Their Very Own Suns - Blank Page



Desperate to overthrow Nightmare Moon, Twilight Sparkle searches through the ruins of Canterlot in hopes of finding a spell to bring the rightful princess back to power. Although this fabled "Warrior of Sunlight" is not what she expected.

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Chapter 03 - Jolly Cooperation

The Mare in the Moon watched curiously as the two interlopers left her ruined city. The wind howled against them, begging them to return to the relative safety of Canterlot, but Twilight knew better. There was nothing left for them there, and the longer they staved off leaving, the longer Nightmare Moon’s curse plagued the land.

Equestrian Myths and Mysteries hinted towards some magic called the Elements of Harmony. Whether it was a spell or artifact though, Twilight couldn’t tell. No other passages mentioned them, but the index pointed towards another book; apparently the author had written volumes of Equestrian history and legends. Nothing would come from digging through the Canterlot Archives anymore. It was a miracle she had found Myths and Mysteries in a readable condition. There was only one place left in all of Equestria that could help them now: the Baltimare Library.

When Nightmare Moon seized control of the throne, Equestria’s historians knew it was only a matter of time before history was erased and rewritten. Twilight’s father, along with a hoofful of other librarians across the country, agreed it would be best to preserve the truth and gathered as many books as they could. She was never sure why Baltimare was chosen, but now it secretly boasted the largest collection of Solar Age books to those who listened to whispers. If ever there was a place to search for their missing book, Twilight was determined it would be there; she prayed it would be there. Otherwise, the nightmare truly would be eternal.

Twilight’s map showed a few villages along the way to Baltimare, and while they chose to avoid the main roads for fear of patrols of the Royal Guard, she wanted to be sure they visited as many towns as they could along the way. Equestria didn’t need another sudden and violent usurpation, she explained. If they were truly going to overthrow the Tyrant, then Equestria needed to be prepared. They needed to prove to everypony that they could stand up against their Tyrant, and that nopony needed to fear her any more. Only with the support of her fellow citizens did Twilight believe they could truly be victorious.

Their journey was going to be long and difficult, Solaire knew that. It would quite possibly be the most challenging quest he had accepted, but he was determined to see it through the end. After all, how often would he have the chance to help another soul find their sun? And who knew? Perhaps he would finally find his own as well.

Welcome to
Meadow Grove

Jewel of the Twinwood Forests

Twilight’s eyes lingered on the sign as she and Solaire approached the first stop on their journey. It had taken two moons to get this far, and all the while Twilight was mentally preparing herself to reveal Solaire to the rest of Equestria. This first impression was vital; it would define how the rest of their journey would play out.

Which only made Twilight all the more nervous. What would happen if everypony shunned the Warrior? Would they be alone in their cause? Would the rest of Equestria be against them as well? Fears raced through her mind faster than she could keep up with, and Solaire noticed that she had stopped before they even passed the town’s sign.

Some of the townsfolk near the outskirts of Meadow Grove had already noticed them, pausing for a moment before rushing back into town. Twilight could feel their eyes boring into her, judging her. Panic rooted her into the earth. A cold sweat raced down her spine. She couldn’t do this.

A large, purple egg resurfaced in her mind. Her eyes shrank with fear. She could feel the Mare in the Moon’s scrutinizing glare looking down upon her. How disappointing.

“Twilight, are you well?” Solaire asked gently, snapping the mare out of her trance. He stood a few paces ahead of her, watching her with a slight worry. Twilight had been acting more and more nervous as they drew closer to the town, and he was at a loss trying to help. “You have been quiet these last few hours,” he continued. “There is no need to hide your concern. Should it help, perhaps we can move around this town.”

Her eyes fell on the shield resting on his back, its sun shining brightly in the Mare in the Moon’s light. It was symbolic, almost, and it reminded Twilight what they were here for.

She took in a deep breath and shook her head. “N-No. We need to do this,” Twilight explained, more to convince herself. She took a step closer to Solaire, and then another. He watched warmly as her determination grew with each step and followed closely behind as she passed.

Twilight did her best to keep up the uneasy smile plastered on her face as they passed the first house, but it did little to hide the sweat pouring off her brows. Curious eyes tracked them as they walked by and only grew in numbers the deeper they went into town. She could already hear the whispers.

The villagers had never seen anything like this Giant, nor the stranger it so closely followed. They were quick to notice the sword sheathed by the Giant’s side. Why was it armed? Why did this mare lead it here? Murmurs spread through the crowd like wildfire, and when the moonlight exposed the image across its chest, painted across the shield draped against its back, they only grew. Why did they come here? What trouble did they want with their peaceful town?

Twilight tried to shrug off their eyes, to ignore the whispers. Her vision was tunneling around the fountain near the center of the town. She desperately dug through her memories for the mental notes she created to help her with her speech, but she was drawing blanks. Panic was beginning to settle in again. Her deep, shaking breaths did little to ease her stress.

The crowd watched as the unicorn climbed on top of the fountain wall and turned to face them. The Giant stood next to her, its fleshy hands resting on the belt across its waist; one was rather close to the hilt of its sword, the crowd noticed. The mare’s eyes darted to her follower, who in turn nodded reassuringly. She gulped down a lump in her throat, wiped the sweat off her brow, and turned to her audience with a forced smile.

“Good moon, ponies of Mellow Grove!” The mare blinked in realization and coughed. “Um, Meadow Grove,” she corrected herself with a sheepish chuckle. “My name is Twilight Sparkle, and this is Solaire of Astora. And… I’m from Canterlot! I…”

The words were getting caught in Twilight’s throat. She shuffled on her hooves, trying to look anywhere other than the sea of judgmental eyes before her. She was forgetting to breathe. With another gulp to swallow her fear, she forcibly sucked in a breath and slowly let it back out.

The eyes were still staring at her. How long had she paused? What did she just say? Her jaw was locked open, moving ever so slightly like a gasping fish trying to form words, any words.

“W-We’re here to tell you you don’t have to be afraid!” she exclaimed. “Of… Of Nightmare Moon, I mean. I-We’re going to defeat her, and bring back the Sun!”

The cautious whispers grew to uncomfortable murmurs. What did she just say? Did they hear her correctly? Overthrow the Princess… Was this mare mad? No, this had to be a trick, a trick to find any traitors to the throne.

Twilight shrank as a panicked roar took over the crowd. Many of them were unsure of what they had just heard, and even more tried to slink away, wanting nothing more than to be far away from this crazy mare. Some were shouting at each other, shouting at her. What right did she have searching for trouble in their peaceful town?

Solaire brought his hand to the hilt of his sword. The crowd was restless. He looked to Twilight, only to find her petrified. The only sign that she wasn’t a part of the stone wall she stood on was her pinprick eyes darting over the sea of ponies as they shouted at her to leave. This wasn’t what she expected at all.

Solaire brought up his shield in time to deflect a rock flying towards Twilight, and the resulting ring broke her out of her trance. A silence fell over the crowd as the painted sun glared at them. Most of them had run away by now; what few were left shrank under the glare of the shield as they retreated a few steps. There was a sense of guilt in the air, and one of longing. It had been so long… They couldn’t remember what the sun looked like, and now here it was, scorning them like a disappointed father.

“I think I’m ready to leave now,” Twilight said, her voice barely breaking a whisper. Solaire stole a look behind him and felt his heart deflate. The crestfallen mare had her eyes downcast. She sat on the wall, her tail curled closely to herself. She looked as if she wanted to shrink out of existence, leaning slightly towards the Warrior to hide herself from the world.

Solaire scanned over the crowd, or what was left of it. Whoever had thrown the rock appeared to have vanished, or simply lost the courage to throw another. The ponies had scattered from the fountain, all looking broken. His grip slackened over his hilt.

“Very well,” he sighed. With his shield hung over his back, he turned and knelt before his summoner. He brushed a few stray hairs back behind her ears, and she looked up with wet eyes. “Come,” he said warmly, holding out a hand. “Let us leave this foul place.”

Archer glared across the table to Snake Eyes, who returned with a comfortable smug. He wasn’t sure how she managed to keep sucking him into these games. She had to be cheating. She had to be. “Special talent” or not, there was no way anypony could possibly be this lucky at poker.

The corners of Snake’s lips curled ever so slightly as she raised the call. Archer had to resist the nervous twitch in his face. She was messing with him. She had to be. But what did it matter if she was? He would be going all-in one way or another if he wanted to match it. She had nothing to lose with this bluff.

Archer looked back down at his hoof and resisted the urge to frown. She had to be cheating.

“Guards!”

The Royal Guards blinked and snapped out of their game, turning to the call. Archer was careful to keep his hoof close to his chest. A pegasus was barreling towards them from down the street, his wings flapping frantically.

Snake Eyes groaned and leaned back in her seat. “Ugh, I thought this outpost was supposed to be easy,” she muttered under her breath. That was what everypony had told her, at least. Volunteer for six months to be posted at this backwater town. The work was supposed to be easy, and the pay was great. What everypony failed to tell her though was just how dull Meadow Grove was, but that didn’t mean she preferred the occasional call to settle some dispute over “whose ball is it” whenever a foal kicks it into some old geezer’s lawn. “What is it now?” she pressed as the pegasus came to a sliding halt, eager to score more bits off her too-proud-to-quit partner.

“Um, there’s-there’s a pony talking about overthrowing the princess… near the fountain,” the pegasus sputtered out.

“‘Overthrowing the princess’?” Archer echoed in exaggerated surprise. He turned to his partner with a knowing smile on his face.

Snake’s eyes narrowed. Oh, he wouldn’t.

“Well, that certainly sounds serious,” he said smugly. The bits around the cafe table began levitating and floated towards the wooden box off to the side with the rest of the town’s tax money. Snake shouted in objection and tried to grab a hoofful of her fleeting winnings. Archer watched amusedly as he made the bits flitter around her hooves. “We simply cannot have anypony planning high treason against Her Majesty, now can we?” he continued, shuffling his hoof back into the deck.

Snake Eyes planted her front hooves on the table and stood up, her leathery wings flared open. “Don’t you think this is the end of this,” she glared at him. “After we deal with these ‘traitors’, we’re finishing this game.”

Archer rose from his seat and called the taxes into the pocket of his armor. “We’ll talk about it,” he simply said, summoning his helmet, although Snake Eyes knew exactly what that meant. “Now, where did you say these scoundrels were?” he asked, turning to the pegasus.

The pegasus’ head cocked to the side, unsure of how to handle what he just saw. “Um, over by the town square, next to the fountain,” he said, pointing with a hoof.

He ducked as the thestral shot over him. “Well, come on, fancypants,” Snake leered. “The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I can earn my winnings back.”

Archer rolled his eyes and leapt over the small gate of the outdoor cafe. “Pardon my partner. She can be a bit… brash,” he explained to the pegasus. He summoned a hoofful of bits out of the box and tossed them to the pegasus. “For your troubles,” he nodded. “Have a good moon.”

He broke into a gallop after his partner, his helmet flying alongside him. With a sigh, he allowed it to nestle itself back over his mane. He much rather preferred his older helmet, though he knew it was not up for debate. He would be tried for treason the moment he even attempted to find the old thing. Still, the old, golden armor did look much better than this drab purple and blue in his opinion.

It didn’t take the guards long to find the outsiders, but they couldn’t help but hesitate the moment they found them. They had picked up from passersby that they were looking for a lavender unicorn and a giant, but it did little to prepare them for the lumbering behemoth across the road. Snake Eyes noticed it was armed with sword and shield, and when she saw the image painted across the latter, she groaned.

Great; more ‘sunshine-soldiers’,” she sighed, turning to Archer. “Didn’t the princess deal with those nutjobs a few years ago?”

Archer could only shrug, having a hard time seeing the apparently sun-covered figures in the night. “There’s always stragglers here and there,” he offered.

Snake let out another groan, massaging her face into her hooves. “Ugh, that’s just going to be that much more paperwork.” Her wings pushed her further ahead. “Let’s just get this over with. You there, halt!

Twilight froze in mid-stride, ice filling her veins. Solaire followed her gaze as she cautiously looked back. Two Royal Guards were following them; a thestral and a unicorn. Everything inside her was telling Twilight to run, but her legs were locked in place. Something about these newcomers did not settle well with Solaire. In a world filled with stable-minded ponies, it was difficult to tell who was a threat. But the hawk-like helmets they wore, the dark armor that shined in the starlight, the crescent moon that adorned their helmets… Solaire drew his shield, just in case.

Archer was relieved when they actually halted. Perhaps these “traitors” would be compliant; it would mean less paperwork for him if they didn’t put up a fight. His eyes lingered on the Giant, and in the moonlight, he could finally see the sun on its tunic and shield. He sighed, “You know, wearing the image of the sun is considered high treason against Her Royal Highness.”

“And why is that?” the Giant asked. The guards were surprised at how gently he spoke. “The sun is a wondrous body, like a magnificent father!” it continued. He opened his arms to them, as if to invite them. “Do you not grow tired of this long and cold night? Why not help us find the sun so we can all bask in its gross incandescence?”

Oh, no. It’s one of those fanatics, Snake thought to herself. “Alright,” she interjected before the Giant could continue. “I think we’ve all heard enough. You’re coming with us. The princess would love to meet you.”

“We can’t let them take us,” Twilight squeaked behind Solaire. “Not now. We’re not ready to face her.”

Solaire nodded, and with his free hand he drew his straight sword out of its sheath.

Archer deflated. This wasn’t going to be as easy as he hoped after all.

Snake was back on the ground, crouched low and ready to pounce.

The town was still. The villagers were silent, not daring to break the tension in the air.

Archer took his stance and leaned into his partner. “Alright,” he whispered. “What’s our plan of attack?”

Snake Eyes didn’t look at him; her eyes were locked on the quivering unicorn. “Attack,” she sneered excitedly.

She launched forward, her wings snapping back to help propel her to the mare. The Giant rolled to intercept, kneeling low and bringing up his shield. Snake rolled in the air, her hooves landing on the face of the sun. The Giant pushed against her, and she used the force to climb higher into the night sky. The Giant took a step towards her, shield raised and sword at the ready. Snake Eyes couldn’t help but smile. She had its attention, and Archer was already firing his spell.

A streak of blue fire soared down the road. Solaire saw it in the corner of his eye and braced for the impact, but it never came. A sharp crack filled the air as it collided against a transparent, purple wall. Cracks were already forming across her ward, and Twilight allowed it to fall, panting from the exertion. The pair traded looks and nodded as a silent message was relayed. Solaire positioned himself between her and the thestral, and Twilight between him and the unicorn.

To say Archer was impressed would have been an understatement. There were few unicorns that were familiar with combat magic, and even fewer that knew counterspells to block them. This could make for an interesting duel, but he noticed the mare was still shaking on her hooves. Perhaps there was a way to salvage this, to end this foalish skirmish before things got out of hoof.

“Ma’am, I would advise you think about what you are committing to,” Archer warned. He moved, his eyes locked on his target as he attempted to encircle the pair. The mare stepped protectively around the Giant. “Fighting will not make this easier on anypony here,” he continued in a disarming voice. “You appear to be an upstanding mare. Convince your Giant to stand down, and we can try to show some leniency in your punishment.”

The mare hesitated. Her eyes darted over her shoulder to her companion before returning to Archer. For a second, he thought he was winning her over, but as the steely determination grew in her eyes, Archer realized she was not planning to back down anytime soon.

“He’s not a Giant, he’s a Warrior of Sunlight,” Twilight called, trying to control the quiver in her voice. “He won’t back down until the sun returns, and neither will I. The night has lasted long enough; it’s time for Equestria to see a new dawn!”

Archer sighed. The fight was inevitable. His horn sparked to life. “As you wish,” he whispered. He reared his head back and hurled another spell to the mare.

Snake Eyes snapped to the side as the Giant thrusted his sword and climbed back into the night sky. She had been toying with him, learning whatever she could before the duel truly began. The Giant’s armor was heavy, and she noted how it hindered his agility. He was quick with his straight sword, though, and she could see the power behind each missed blow. She craned her neck down and unsheathed the dagger strapped to her armor’s mantle. It was time to check how tough this Giant really was.

She tucked in her wings and dove down to the Giant. It was obvious he had little experience with aerial enemies, and Snake Eyes was more than happy to use that to her advantage. She overshot his head as he raised his shield and twirled to face him as she struck the earth. The Giant’s back was still to her, and with a spark of glee in her eyes she lunged forward.

She sailed between the Giant’s legs, nicking the chainmail guarding his left calf as she passed. She slid to a halt a few meters before him, turning just in time to watch him crumple.

Solaire fell to his knee, planting the cross guard of his sword into the dirt. This creature was fast. Although the wings added a new challenge, he was familiar with her style; it matched some of the more dexterous foes he encountered. She favored speed and agility in her advances over strength and weight. Solaire knew he couldn’t block all her attacks, but he also knew he didn’t have to.

She moved. Another lunge. Another feint. Another dodge. It was almost like a dance, but the guard added another step. Solaire left himself open after his faux strike, and she took the bait. The guard trailed up his arm, cutting into his shoulder as she passed.

Solaire recovered and recomposed himself into a defensive stance, peering over his round shield at the thestral. Confidence was growing in her eyes, and the corners of his mouth threatened to curl up. A part of him hated using another creature’s confidence against it; he would much rather fend off a legion of mindless Hollows. But knowing one's enemy was part of the duel, and if this guard was to underestimate him, that would be her mistake to learn.

Snake Eyes darted around the Giant, watching as he struggled to keep up with her. He stood his ground and scanned the streets for her, unaware that she was already above him. His back was wide open. Snake spun the dagger in her mouth and dove for the kill.

She was above him; Solaire heard her soar into the sky. He chose to feign ignorance, hoping to bait her into his trap. There was a faint flap of leather wings, and he spun around to greet her.

Snake was not prepared for the Giant to turn so quickly. Her eyes widened in surprise, and she realized in horror that she was in too deep to pull out of her strike.

The face of the sun rose to kiss her. It sent the dagger flying out of her mouth and her head spinning. She reeled back in a daze, snapping back only in time to find an ironclad boot kick her out of the sky. She landed on the cold earth, and her eyes shrank in fear as the Giant raised his straight sword in the night sky.

Twilight winced as another barrage struck her ward. She wasn’t sure how long she could keep this up. She wasn’t even sure she could fight back. This guard had been training for years; he hadn’t even broken a sweat. But the duel was taking its toll on Twilight. She was exhausted. Her only hope of this ending was if Solaire came to her aid.

She dared to look away from her duelist and searched for her companion, and she gasped as the moonlight glinted off his raised blade. The thestral was beneath him, paralyzed from shock.

“Wait, don’t kill her!”

Solaire staggered. His weight was already behind his blade.

Snake Eyes watched as the sword buried itself in the earth beside her head. Her reflection stared at her in silent horror behind the blade. Her heart was racing. That was too close. She curled her hindlegs in and bucked the Giant off her and scrambled back to the safety of the sky.

Twilight wasn’t sure why the words left her mouth, but now it was too late. Her concentration had officially broken, and her ward had fallen. She watched helplessly as the unicorn’s magic hurled toward her like a volley of arrows and prayed they wouldn’t be as painful as they looked.

She was wrong.

She tumbled back as the arrows struck her exposed side. Twilight struggled to find her hooves, but the world was still spinning out of control around her. She took in a pained breath and hissed it out.

“Come on, Twily. You need to get up.”

“It’s too much,” Twilight groaned. She found the ground beneath her and struggled to push herself back up. “I’m never going to learn at this rate.”

“You have to,” her brother pressed. She looked up to see him slowly advancing, his golden armor glinting in the starlight. He looked up to the night sky, and the Mare in the Moon stared back. “Look, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around to protect you. If something happens to me…” He paused, turning to her with an uncomfortable mixture of concern and agitation. “I need to make sure you know how to defend yourself, how to defend Mom and Dad.”

The world tilted beneath Twilight’s hooves as she fully stood up, and she stumbled to keep from falling. Her brother stopped, and a blue fire ignited around his horn. “It’s no use, though,” Twilight cried, trying to convince the memory of her brother. “I’ve read all the books, but I just can’t do it.”

“Magic is more than just books and brains,” her brother reminded her. “You need to put your heart into it. When you pick up a shield, you become more than a warrior, more than a guard. You’re a protector, defending everypony you care about.”

Twilight blinked as the mirage melted away. The guard replaced her brother, preparing to launch another unforgiving spell. Her brother’s words echoed in her mind as the last of the memory faded.

“Who are you trying to protect?”

She looked past the guard onto the crowd of bystanders watching with worry. Like her, they had to live in this cursed land of eternal night. Like her, they were too scared to stand and fight. Unlike them, she had a quest, one she couldn’t fail, lest this waking Nightmare continue for everypony in Equestria.

Archer unleashed another volley from his horn, determined it would be enough to subdue the traitor to the throne. But as a fire sparked behind her eyes and her horn ignited, he found himself leaping out of the way as parts of his spell rebounded towards him. He looked up from the dirt and found a translucent, purple kite shield floating closely around the mare. His eyes narrowed. That counterspell looked eerily familiar.

Snake Eyes studied the Giant with renewed curiosity. He was faster than she had given him credit for; stronger, too. She rubbed her muzzle tenderly with a hoof. It was still sore from the shield. Her dagger was still at his feet, but she wasn’t unarmed. The standard issue horseshoes were still viable weapons for anypony in the guard who knew how to fight with their hooves.

The Giant hung his shield across his back, opting to wield his straight sword with both of his hands. He took a defensive stance, angling the tip of his blade towards her as he slowly marched forward. If he was trying to play mind games with her, it was working.

Snake Eyes shot forward, hoping to catch him off guard. He rose his sword in anticipation, and she dove low, landing next to his side. She spun on her front hooves, angling her hind legs for a powerful buck. The Giant angled his sword to block, but the force broke his defense and caused him to stagger back. With a swift beat of her wings, Snake followed up with a blow to the Giant’s head. There was a satisfying ring as her horseshoe connected to his helmet.

He staggered back a few more steps, shaking the dizziness out of his head and recovering his poise. He held his sword low and began circling the mare, waiting for the next strike. Snake galloped forward, feigning to the left before rolling to the right to deliver another blow. The Giant slid his hand down his blade and used it to guide her hoof harmlessly to the side, driving the cross guard into her muzzle at the end.

Snake reared back and hissed, covering her scrunched face with her hooves. There were more stars in the sky than there should have been. The Giant charged forward, running his shoulder into her exposed barrel. She tumbled further away, trying to put more distance between them. The Giant may have been holding back in his attacks, but he was beginning to make up for it in aggression. Her eyes flickered to Archer, hoping he was handling that jittery mare better than her.

Archer hoped Snake Eyes was handling that lumbering giant better than him. This mare was relentless, the fire in her eyes refused to waver. Her ward hadn’t failed since she summoned it, and it reflected nearly every spell he had cast. He rolled to the side as another magic arrow ricocheted towards him. He couldn’t recall the last time a duel became this physical for him.

He had barely put a scratch in it, and if it really was the counterspell from the stallion he knew, it would take more power than he had to break it. Fortunately, it also appeared to be the only counterspell the mare was willing to use.

For every spell there was a counter, and for every counter a spell. Versatility was key to winning a duel, something this mare seemed to lack. Archer gathered his nerves and summoned one more spell; one he was sure would end this duel, one way or another.

A nervous sweat raced down Twilight’s neck, but she tried her best to ignore it. This duel wasn’t going anywhere. Without any offensive spell, her only hope was that her opponent would tire himself out, but as the guard began charging another spell, she knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. She adjusted the ward before her, preparing herself for whatever magic was about to be unleashed upon her.

Three heavy bolts launched from the guard, revolving around each other as they flew down the street. Twilight pushed her ward up and watched in shock as they branched apart and dove for her. She was exposed. She couldn’t recall the ward in time or summon another to block them. As the barrage came barreling down upon her, she did the only thing she could think to do.

Solaire stopped as a shriek pierced the air. He turned and watched in horror as his host disappeared behind a blaze of blue. Her ward dissolved as the scream cut off, and her opponent stood triumphantly.

He screamed, as if through sheer will he could turn back time. “Twilight!”

There was a flap of leather wings behind him. While he was distracted by the fall of his companion, his opponent hadn’t forgotten him. He turned to find her flying towards him, hoof reared back to deliver another blow.

Solaire grabbed the thestral’s hoof with his hand and threw it to the side. His swiftness and strength caught the guard by surprise and left her wide open. He clubbed the pommel of his hilt over her head, and she dropped to the ground like a stone.

Solaire sheathed his sword and turned to the sorcerer, reaching for the talisman pinned to his belt.

The town gasped as light peeked beneath the Giant’s fist. It crackled and hissed in its grip as if it was alive and stretched itself into a spear. It bathed the small road with its light. The Giant held his fist over his head for all to see the impossible: this creature could clutch lightning in his very hand.

By the Lord of Sunlight, let my aim be true, Solaire prayed. He reared the spear behind his head and hurled it with all his might.

The bolt tore down the road, and a small thunder rolled as it struck its mark. Archer was knocked off his hooves and tumbled down the road before lying still, the last few sparks trying to escape his body. The town fell silent.

Snake’s eye twitched as she stared at the Giant, bewildered. He pulled lightning from the sky when there were no storm clouds in sight. He hurled it as if it was a spear and struck down her partner in a single blow from down the street. He could have finished her… twice, and he held off the coup de grâce only because that purple unicorn told him to; the same purple unicorn Archer just downed. With the mare holding his leash gone, what would this “Warrior of Sunlight” do now?

The odds were stacked against her, and Snake Eyes gambled enough to know when her luck was running dry. It was time to fold and pull out. She lunged for the Giant, who raised his shield in turn. The burning glare of the painted sun challenged her to try again, but she knew better.

Her wings snapped out before she struck the Giant, and her momentum helped her glide to her new target. Snake Eyes came to a sliding halt next to Archer and scrambled on top of him. His snow-white coat was scorched where the bolt struck him, and his blue mane was frazzled from the charge. The steady rise and fall of his chest confirmed he was still alive.

For now, at least, Snake Eyes thought frantically. When Her Majesty finds out what happened…

The Warrior drew his shield and straight sword and was already charging them. Her eyes shrank into tiny slits. Suddenly, Snake Eyes didn’t care what the Princess would do to them; as long as she could escape this nightmare, she was certain her luck would come back to deal with the other awaiting them in Everfree.

She wrapped her forelegs around her unconscious partner’s barrel and hoisted him up. Her wings screamed in rebellion to the added weight, but she managed to get them over the village rooftops. Despite the workout, she sighed in relief. They were out of his reach. They were safe.

Unless he thinks to throw another bolt. Her eyes shrank, and she could see the Warrior sheathing his sword and retrieving that peculiar rag again. Without wasting another second, the Royal Guards darted across the night sky, leaving the villagers of Meadow Grove with whatever terrible creature had lumbered into their town.

Solaire eyed the thestral carefully as she flew across the stars. His enemies appeared to be retreating. What a strange world indeed, he thought to himself. A quiet moan broke his concentration and returned him to the task at hand.

His summoner was curled at his feet, trying to hold in her pain. He hung his shield across his back and knelt over Twilight, talisman clutched tightly in his hand. He couldn’t see where she was struck, but he had seen the damage powerful magic can do.

Twilight felt a warm hand touch her back. She unscrewed her eyes and found Solaire watching over her. Her heart fell, in more pain than any magic arrow could ever hope to deliver. He had handled himself so well without her; she even held him back. And now here she laid on the cold earth, for him and the Mare in the Moon and all of Meadow Grove to see.

She took in a shaky breath. “I-I’m sorry,” she croaked out before curling back up. Twilight couldn’t bear to see the disappointment in his eyes.

Solaire ran his hand comfortingly through his crestfallen mage’s coat. Her condition did not appear to be improving any time soon. He brought the talisman up to his helmet and thought of her words, how she spoke. So discouraged.

“Please, help this mare,” he whispered into his talisman. “Her journey is long, her burden harsh. Grant her comfort in this troubling time.”

The villagers stared in awe as white runes ignited across the earth, encircling the pair. Wisps of light trailed from the stars and washed over them. A pale flare erupted from the runes, bathing the streets of Meadow Grove in its luminescence.

Twilight’s breaths came in easier. Her eyes fluttered open to see a soothing light disperse into the night sky. The pain in her barrel was gone. There wasn’t even so much as an ache left. She looked up to Solaire in surprise, only to find his eyes smiling back at her.

“B-But…” she stuttered. “How?”

“First time in combat I take it?” he asked warmly, holding out a hand

Twilight felt a blush overcome her, and her eyes tried to look anywhere but at the Warrior. “I-I’m sorry. I never dealt with magic like that before,” she admitted sheepishly. “So… aggressive.” She fought against the weight in her chest and built the courage to meet Solaire’s eyes again. “I should have been better; I’m sorry for holding you back.”

“‘Should have been better’?” Solaire echoed. He gave a jolly laugh and grabbed her leg, hoisting her up to her hooves. “By the Lords, Twilight! For someone who has never dealt with combat, I would dare say you handled yourself spectacularly.”

“Oh…” Twilight blushed at the compliment. “I wouldn’t go that far,” she offered, but the jolly air around the Warrior was contagious, and she couldn’t help but smile, if only a little.

“Why, with a little more practice, I feel you may even be a match for Big Hat Logan himself!” he boomed. “Oh, but do refrain from telling him I said that. It isn’t wise to earn a mage’s scorn, especially not one as powerful as him,” he laughed, patting Twilight on the back. He met her eyes, and she could feel the sincerity behind his words. “You have potential, Twilight Sparkle. Do not let another soul tell you otherwise.”

Pride was beginning to swell in her chest. Oh, how long had it been since somepony had told her that? She couldn't contain herself. She jumped forward with a smile and wrapped her hooves around him, oblivious to the crowd that was quickly surrounding them.

They couldn’t believe their eyes. Somepony had stood up to Her Majesty’s Royal Guard… and won. An excited buzz filled the air, and it soon erupted into cheering. Hooves pounded into the earth, voiced howled in excitement. For the first time in years, somepony had the courage to step up to those wretched guards!

An earth pony pushed through the crowd, her mood in stark contrast to the air surrounding her. As more of the townsfolk saw her, the cheering slowly died, and they opened a path for the mare to behold these strangers.

Twilight and Solaire noticed the shift in the air, and turned to face the new arrival.

“You need to leave,” the mare deadpanned. She stomped her hoof for emphasis. “Now.”

The crowd murmured to itself again, unsure of what they just heard. These strangers were their heroes. Why did she want to banish them?

Solaire rose and rested his hand against the hilt of his sword. “And who are you?” he asked cautiously. The fear of the crowd was suffocating. He prepared for the worst from this mare.

“I’m… Morning Glory,” she introduced herself, wincing at her own name. “I’m the mayor of Meadow Grove, and you two need to leave, now.” She tried to sound strong, but the slight quiver in her voice betrayed her.

“I… I don’t understand,” Twilight stammered. “Why?”

“You think that was the end of this, that little show of yours?” the mayor scoffed. Her eyes darted fearfully to the sky where the guards vanished. "When those guards report to the princess, she's just going to send more and make our lives all the more miserable."

She planted her hooves in the ground, trying to make herself more imposing. But as she met Twilight's eyes, the mask quickly fell, and she looked to them in sorrow. “I know you only meant to help, and I appreciate it," she said in a softer tone. "But Meadow Grove is a small town, and we’ve done nothing worthy of the princess’ attention. Nothing bad has happened here in years. Now that the guards have escaped…” A heavy sigh heaved itself out of her. “I fear things are only going to grow worse for us. You must understand, we can't let the princess believe we are harboring traitors to the throne." She struggled against her own words, inwardly hoping these wonderful strangers would understand. "So please, leave.”

Twilight couldn’t believe her ears. She looked to the crowd for support, but as realization dawned in their eyes, they couldn’t bring themselves to look at her. She didn’t understand. Everything worked out perfectly in the end. They defeated Nightmare Moon’s guards. They showed everypony that they didn’t have to be afraid anymore…

Yet here they were, too afraid to look at her, as if doing so would make them catch a disease.

She didn't understand. What did she do wrong? She thought she did everything right. Did she really only make things worse for these ponies by trying to help them? She turned to Solaire for support, but he stood silently, looking just as lost as her. And as the last shred of hope left the pit in her heart, Twilight hung her head in defeat and turned to leave the town.

Meadow Grove was slowly shrinking behind them as Twilight and Solaire trudged up the next hill. The Warrior was at a loss, wishing he could find some way to return that joyful smile in his host’s eye. The Mare in the Moon watched solemnly over them. The saviors of the town, rejected by those they came to save. Twilight wanted nothing more than to disappear.

Wait!

Twilight’s ears perked up, and she craned her neck back to the town. Solaire halted a pace ahead, turning with his hands resting on his belt to greet the newcomers. A mare and a filly were racing up the hill to meet them, each carrying full saddlebags.

The mare slowed to a stop, the filly with her hopping excitedly. “Calm down now, sweetie,” the sugar-brown mare tiredly smiled as she attempted to control her daughter. “Yes, I know it’s them, Butter. Let your mother talk to the nice ponies.” She looked up to Twilight with weary eyes and an apologetic smile.

“I’m so sorry to trouble you. My name is Sugarcube,” she introduced. She opened her mouth to continue, but her eyes fell. “You’ll… have to pardon our mayor. She’s just trying to look out for us; we’re such a small town.” she eventually explained. Her eyes met Twilight’s again and fluttered up to Solaire’s.

“I just wanted to let you know how thankful we are,” she said, pulling the filly closer. “How thankful we all are. Nopony has ever stood up to the Guard like that in a long time. The princess will probably send more, just in case, but it’s comforting to know somepony is standing up out there. You can ask the whole town; we haven’t been this hopeful in years.”

Through her quivering lips, Twilight managed a proud smile. She sniffed and covered her muzzle, trying to prevent the grin from growing too large. Solaire could feel the joy radiating from her, and it warmed his heart.

“Mom! Mom! Don’t forget the presents!” the filly reminded her mother.

The mare chuckled and patted the filly’s bouncy, caramel mane. “Don’t worry, Butterscotch, I was getting there,” Sugarcube smiled. She unfastened the strap to her saddlebags and helped the foal with hers.

“It’s not much,” she explained, “but it’s all we can offer. There’s enough firewood to last a few nights, and some sweets in case you get peckish.” She gave a sheepish smile. “Sorry; work at a candy shop.”

“It’s perfect,” Twilight sniffed, brushing back a tear. She tried to stop herself from choking on her own joy as Sugarcube laid her bags across her back. Butterscotch hopped to Solaire, tiny bags in mouth. “Thank you so much,” she smiled as Solaire graciously picked up his offering. “You have no idea what this means to us.”

“I think I could guess,” Sugarcube said warmly. “Good luck on your journey, and please be safe! We’ll be rooting for you.” She cut herself off with a giggle. “Oh, come along, Butter; leave the poor warrior alone. We need to go home before Dad starts getting worried.”

“Aww, but Mooom,” the filly whined as she swung from Solaire’s hand.

“Now, sweetie,” the mother repeated, a little more sternly.

Butterscotch pouted and let go of Solaire. She hugged his leg before turning to wrap her hooves around Twilight’s neck. Her mother called again, and she quickly released and began skipping alongside Sugarcube as they trekked back to Meadow Grove.

And as Twilight watched them leave, a warm glow radiating in her heart, she decided this first stop wasn’t so bad after all.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Skijarama for the awesome text divider! Praise on, Sunbros!