• Published 23rd Jun 2017
  • 1,317 Views, 39 Comments

The Ones Who Returned From Stone - Skijarama

Equestria has fallen. The Crystal Empire is all that remains of organized pony society, and the survivors want their home back.

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Chapter 3 - Crimson Rivers

The red ring that was the sun was now thoroughly obscured by thick cloud cover, smothering any and all of the little light that was emitted heavy winds buffeting the landscape and slowing the group as they went. Drifter had taken the lead, seeing as she had better night vision than the rest of them. She followed Blackberry’s directions, keeping the lantern on a dim setting, letting it hang from her lower jaw.

“Shouldn’t be much farther, now!” Blackberry had to shout to be heard over the winds. “They’ve been holding the princesses in a secluded area underneath an overhang. Pretty good shelter from prying eyes.”

“How did you find them?” Palmwood asked, wincing slightly when lightning flashed overhead. Thunder boomed almost instantly afterword, rattling everything in the area and forcing a startled whimper out of Wonderboom.

“Sheer blind luck, really,” Blackberry replied, shaking his head a bit. “I was picking plants and herbs for medicine and tea. Strayed a bit too far from where I was supposed to be and found a vantage point where I saw the fiends dragging the princesses along like luggage.”

Drifter growled around the lantern’s handle, but otherwise didn’t reply in any way.

“So what’s the plan?” Palmwood asked Drifter, trotting up to be beside her.

“We get in close without alerting them,” Drifter began, speaking through the handle of the lantern. “They’ll spot us when we get close enough. When they do, we can’t give them any chance to react. We storm in and slaughter the lot of them. After that we can work on bringing the princesses somewhere safe to thaw.”

“How are you even going to do that?” Blackberry asked with a grunt as another gust of wind rushed by.

“The spell that Horizon used to petrify them used a somewhat similar principle as the glare of a cockatrice,” Wonderboom answered, still sounding and looking uncomfortable. “Cockatrice eyes are what hold the ability to turn things into stone. They also have the ability to undo such a petrification.”

“Yeah, but Horizon’s spell could easily dwarf dozens of cockatrices.” Palmwood added with a grimace.

“I killed a hundred of the damn things,” Drifter finished off before glancing back at the rest of them. “Took their eyes and delivered them to Wonderboom here. She’s good with alchemy and chemicals and such. A real potion brewer.”

Wonder nodded along before looking back to Blackberry. “I extracted the ‘remedy’ from their eyes. I have at least six vials of nothing but their cure for petrification. I imagine three of those vials should be enough to undo Horizon’s spell, or at least weaken it enough for the princesses’ natural defenses to break the spell.”

Blackberry nodded with a frown. “A hundred of them, eh? How long have you been at this?”

“How long have the princesses been gone?” Drifter countered coolly, her eyes tilting up to look at where the sun was supposed to be behind the clouds.

“About twenty years, right? They were petrified when I was ten, so-”

“There’s your answer.” Drifter grunted bluntly before pushing forward, her wings ruffling in agitation. Blackberry blinked and recoiled a bit at the sudden harshness in Drifter’s tone.

Palmwood cleared his throat, getting Blackberry’s attention. He wore a look that cautioned and warned Blackberry to be careful. “Drifter… doesn’t like being asked about ‘how long,’ especially if it’s coming from somepony she doesn’t really know. She’s been fighting the fiends for over a thousand years, but in these last twenty years…” he sighed and looked ahead at his mother-figure with sad eyes. “Horizon and his fiends destroyed Equestria’s chances of victory in the frozen north… Drifter’s been blaming herself for a lot of our losses. We’ve been trying to help her move on from that, but…”

“She’s ancient compared to us,” Wonder cut in with a small sigh. “She perceives time differently as a result. Add on to that the fact that she had been routinely successful in thwarting Horizon’s plans up until the first battle in Canterlot… it made her feel inadequate when the sun was stolen from us, when we lost the princesses…” Wonder closed her eyes and shook her head. “When she lost her aunt.”

Blackberry looked forwards to the back of Drifter’s head, which was still covered by her hood, with a slowly growing look of sympathy on his face. “Wow… she’s been through it, huh?”

“Like you can’t even imagine.” Palmwood confirmed.

“Hold up!” Drifter suddenly called from up ahead, lifting a forehoof up and coming to a complete stop. She set the lantern down on the ground and quickly set about turning up it’s light to max. The area lit up with a bright yellow glow, revealing that the area was peppered with small clusters of trees and bushes. With the new light on everything, they became plainly visibly.


There were several of them, perched on the branches and trunks of the trees like birds. Some had hooves, some had talons, others only had extra large wings. As per usual, the fiends sported a wide variety of shapes and sizes, each one resembling a horribly malformed pony, transformed into a salivating and blood-thirsty monster. One of them, which was all but covered in it’s massive leathery wings, uncurled from it’s branch. Under the wings was a long, writhing body, like a snake or worm. Hundreds of long, thin legs came out of it’s sides along the whole length, moving almost hypnotically as it creeped down it’s tree. It's face was elongated and lopsided, the teeth on its left side larger and sharper than on the left. A long tongue slipped out to lick its lips.

“Sneaky ponies… sneaking where they do not belong.” it uttered in a low rasp, it’s voice like sandpaper scraping on cobblestone. A few throaty clicks sounded, it’s adam’s apple jumping with each one. It inhaled deeply through it’s nose, it’s smirk widening. “Heh, heh, heh… oh, i smell fear… this will be delicious. I haven’t eaten in awhile…”

Drifter glanced around, taking in the number of fiends and their chances. Eight fiends in total… Against Drifter, Palmwood and Wonderboom, those were almost fair odds.


“If you were planning on eating us…” Drifter said slowly, a small smile forming on her face before her gloved hoof reached up to her hood. “Maybe you should have actually attacked instead of flapping your gums and monologuing about your hunger...” she pulled her hood back, exposing her glowing eyes, her fangs, and her unmistakable face. On all of her hooves, her claws snapped out with a wet, metallic scrape. “...Might have helped your chances a little, eh?”

“IT’S THE CANNIBAL!!” The fiend shrieked, scrambling back and away, it’s fangs bared and it’s wings flaring out. “KILL THEM ALL-!”

The fiend didn’t get to speak any further. Drifter launched herself forward, her blood swiftly filling with adrenaline and the rush of an inevitable fight. Her forehooves slashed out, raking the claws across the face of the fiend before her and sheering it’s head off it’s shoulders. Blood splattered across Drifter’s face and along the ground, the sound of rending flesh echoing all around her. She couldn't help but lick some of the blood off of her cheek with a smile before turning to the next fiend.

The rest of the fiends roared and hurled themselves upon the group. Blackberry emitted a panicked wail before turning to flee. Two of the fiends moved to intercept. The first one, a quadrupedal one with massive muscles making it look like a rhino, slammed into the ground in front of the panicking pony. It’s face split open into a four-jawed mouth, filled to the brim with razor sharp teeth and three wiggling tongues. The second fiend was the closest to an actual pony, a common example of the now uncommon ‘duck’ variety.

Blackberry flailed back and fell onto his backside, his eyes wide and his breaths coming in rampant gasps. “H-HELP!” he shouted.

“Get down!” Palmwood yelled, putting himself between Blackberry and the oncoming behemoth of a fiend. As the fiend approached, thundering along the ground, Palmwood lifted one of his forehooves, upon which Blackberry saw a thick leathery glove that he hadn’t noticed before. A metallic scrape filled the air as four long blades extended from the gauntlet before Palmwood thrust his hoof into the gaping mouth of the fiend. They pierced the flesh within easily, blood spurting free and painting crimson rivers down Palmwood’s strained face.

The fiend gurgled and warbled, it’s voice a distorted and throaty rumble, before falling still to the ground, blood still dribbling freely from the new holes in it’s head. As this was happening, the second fiend growled and pounced for Palmwood, who did not have enough time to turn and defend himself from his would-be assailant.

Luckily, he didn’t need to.

Wonder was there before the fiend, an intense glare etched onto her face. She turned a full one hundred eighty degrees and rocketed her back hooves into a powerful buck. A sickening crunch resonated through the area upon impact, the fiend squealing and roaring in agony while being hurled unceremoniously onto it’s hunched back. Wonder wasted no time. Similar to Palmwood, her right forehoof emerged from under her cloak, now clad in a thick gauntlet, which was, too, sprouting long claws. With a shout, she lunged and drove the blades into the fiend’s throat, ending it’s life before it could recover.

Palmwood nodded to his sister thankfully before shifting to look to Drifter. He couldn’t help the spark of amusement in his system when he saw just how much fun Drifter was having, tearing through another fiend with ease. That amusement quickly morphed into concern and worry for his surrogate mother. He refocused back on the battle at hoof and moved to intercept a fend that was trying to flank Drifter.

There were only four fiends left, now. Drifter ducked under the snapping jaws of her new foe. She seized the opening it presented and lurched up with her own mouth wide open. Her fangs sunk deep into the firm and muscled flesh of the fiend’s throat, drawing ample amounts of blood and filling with air with the dying gurgles of the monster. Using it’s own momentum against it, Drifter turned her body to hurl the now dead fiend into it’s oncoming, would-be savior. The collision sent both sprawling to the ground, the living one now pinned beneath its pack mate. Palmwood was on it in a second, sinking his own claws into it’s cranium and ending it’s miserable existence like that.

There were only two left. Wonder shifted and leapt in front of Blackberry again, thrusting her claws into the fiend that was leaping for the distraught survivor. A sharp cry of pain left her throat as the fiend managed to rake it’s own sharp claws along her shoulder and the side of her neck. Not enough to be fatal, but enough to cause her to crumple with the creature dying on her outstretched hoof.

The last fiend tried the wise option. It turned and unfurled it’s insect-like wings and leapt into the air, hoping to reach the relative safety of the rest of it’s pack. It was not expecting Drifter to reach out with her claws and grasp its tail, however. The fiend shrieked and hissed in panic as Drifter dragged it back down to the ground. She sunk her claws into its flank and pinned the monster to the ground, a fearsome glow coming to her eyes. “You scared?” she asked it in a low, murderous whisper. Her eyes were wide and dilated. The eyes of a predator toying with it’s prey.

The fiend squirmed in her grip, whimpering pitifully. Drifter reachout out the natural claws on her left hoof and used them like fingers to cup the fiend’s chin. She made eye contact.

“Let that fear soak in, would you?” Drifter continued in her low whisper, her fangs and teeth showing in a vicious snarl. “Because this feeling that you’re having right now… everypony and everybody in Equestria and the lands beyond it have felt it for two decades now… And it’s all. Because. Of you.” her claws constricted, shredding the chin, jaw and throat of the fiend. It gurgled and wined in agony for several moments before falling still and silent. A moment of silence passed before Drifter pulled her claws out of the creature and stared straight ahead. “...Because of all of you.

From the eight fresh corpses in the area came blood. Pools and rivers of crimson that stained the soil and grass beneath it. Drifter turned to look at the rest of the group, a confident and ready smile appearing on her face.

“Come on. They probably know we’re here. Let’s get the princesses back!”