• 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 6 - Rekindling Hope

Ever since Twilight had her emotional meltdown from learning about her absence she had been silent, wide eyed and mostly unresponsive. She presently was resting by the campfire, eyes unfocused and mouth occasionally opening, like she wanted to speak, but no sound came out. Drifter had kept an eye on her the entire time, eventually allowing Palmwood, Wonderboom and Blackberry to re-enter the cave.

Not far away, the last pieces of stone were steadily crumbling away from Princess Luna, only a few pieces remaining on the back of her neck, making turning her head virtually impossible for the time being. Otherwise, she was resting on the cave floor, her body twitching occasionally as motor functions gradually switched back on in her mind. Drifter’s eyes kept leaving Twilight to check on Luna, more and more frequently.

“There’s only a tiny bit left,” Wonder finally pointed out, moving some of Luna’s unmoving mane back to expose her neck and examine the stone covering it. “I imagine she’ll wake up any moment now.”

“Let’s just hope she doesn’t wake up in a panic like Twilight did…” Palmwood added with a grimace before looking to Twilight sympathetically. The young alicorn didn’t respond at all to the mention of her name, remaining still.

“She’ll still be in shock, though I imagine she’ll have better control. Luna’s been around significantly longer than Twilight. She’s had time to gain some self control,” Drifter nodded before turning her eyes away from them all to look at Luna specifically. “Heck, her time as Nightmare Moon may actually have done her some tangible good in that regard; she knows better now how to channel her anger, fear and rage.”

“If she loses control, though… that could bring Nightmare Moon back, right?” Wonder questioned, her brow furrowing as she looked at the silently resting lunar princess.

“It almost happened when she and I were after Skeintooth. ...In a way, it DID happen to me.” Drifter replied with a solemn nod.

“Yeah, you told us,” Palm said simply before glancing over at Blackberry with a raised eyebrow. “You’re being real quiet over there, bud. You wanna add anything?”

Blackberry jumped as if startled, then shook his head. “Nah… I don’t. I barely know any of you and frankly, I just want to get to the crystal empire as soon as possible. I want be with my family, you know?”

“I understand,” Drifter nodded before trotting over to Luna and sitting down in front of her. “But we still need my aunt to wake up.”

“Can’t you do anything to speed it up?” Blackberry pressed, trotting forward with an impatient look creeping onto his face. Drifter shot him a glare.

“If we try to wake her up prematurely it could cause very serious damage to her mind and body. Everything is still switching back on. Her motor functions are working again, sure. But making her twitch when you poke her ribs isn’t going to be of much use. Her mind has been off for twenty years and if we wake her up before she’s ready we could cause serious and crippling damage. Memories may no longer be there, she may forget how to use magic, her brain could obliterate a critical part of itself from the sudden rush of information when it isn’t ready.”

“In short, we need to wait for her to wake up on her own.” Wonder confirmed before glancing at Blackberry. “And like I said, it should only take a few more minutes for the rest of the stone to peel off. She should come to any moment after that.”

“A-actually…” a new voice murmured in a rugged rasp from the floor. Everyone turned to look, excitement and surprise on all of their faces. Luna shifted slightly, her eyes cracking open just a small amount. “...I’m awake now.

Drifter suddenly lunged forward, drawing a startled yip from Wonderboom at the sudden movement. Drifter reached out and wrapped her forelegs around Luna in a hug, squeezing her tightly, as if she would disappear the moment she let go. For a moment, everypony was silent. By the campfire, Twilight’s eyes finally moved to observe, looking just a bit less empty now. “...Luna… don’t you dare ever make me look for you like that again, you hear me?”

Luna returned the hug weakly before shifting slightly and hissing in pain. Quickly, Drifter backed off and looked into Luna’s eyes. “N-neck! Hurts! C-can’t move my neck!” Luna hissed again befor Drifter nodded.

“Your neck is still somewhat petrified. Lay down and please, don’t move. Just hold still and wait. Wonderboom!” Drifter looked over at the mare in question. “Get something to help her with the pain, please.”

“Right!” Wonder nodded before turning and galloping a short ways away to start searching through her saddlebags, which rested against one of the cave walls.

“Okay, easy… easy…” Drifter said quietly while helping Luna set herself down. In a comfortable position. “There we go…”

“Thank you,” Luna rasped out before coughing. “Ugh… how long were we out? Is Equestria still standing?”

Before anypony could try to explain it gently, Twilight stood up and slowly trotted over, her expression blank. “We lost.”

Luna blinked and locked gazes with the younger alicorn. She looked… tired. Resigned. Her eyes showed no hope and her posture was sluggish and exhausted. That was the posture of somepony who had given up. “What do you mean, ‘lost’?” Luna finally asked.

Drifter sighed and cut in. “It means Equestria lost the war that Horizon launched against it… as a nation, Equestria doesn’t exist anymore. The Crystal empire is still around, though.”

“For how long, though?” Twilight asked bluntly, her ears twitching back. “All of Equestria fell in the first year, you said. How much longer can the Crystal Empire even hope to survive?”

Drifter looked at Twilight critically. “Let me tell you this, Twilight; the empire’s hopes just grew exponentially when we found you and Luna. Recovering you two has been my personal mission ever since Eclipse because ponies need you! Both of you. Getting you two back will boost morale and the hopes of everypony tremendously!” Drifter paused, having not realized until now how loud her voice was getting. She took a deep breath to calm herself before she continued. “And besides… As long as the fiends still exist and attack, The Empire can hold out indefinitely. Ironically, it’s the fiends efforts to attack the city that have made it completely impregnable to them.”

Twilight blinked in surprise. “Wha… how does that even work?”

Drifter winced and looked anywhere but into Twilight’s eyes. “...I’m not at liberty to discuss it. Shining Armor should be the one to tell you.”

“Ahem,” Luna cleared her throat, drawing attention back to her. “I am getting the impression that Twilight and I have been out for a long time. How long?”

“...Twenty years.” Drifter finally said with a sigh. “Aunt Luna, you remember Palmwood and Wonderboom, right?”

Luna nodded and turned her gaze to Wonder as she came trotting back with a jaw full of some kind of paste dangling from her lower jaw by a wire handle. “You’ve grown…” she muttered with wide eyes.

“We’ve grown up,” Palm corrected before smiling softly. “It’s good to see you again, by the way.”


“Now then,” Drifter said in a somewhat raised voice. “I think now is the time to go over what we need to do next. The Crystal Empire is still to the north and west of us, but to get there safely we’re going to have to pass through Lapiz Checkpoint, which isn't very far off. The guards there can send advance word to the empire to grant us passage through the barrier. Until we reach the checkpoint, though, we’re going to be vulnerable. IU say we rest here for eight hours and then move out. That way you two can rest and I can get you up to speed on all that’s happened in more detail.”

“Uh, hold on a second,” Twilight interjected with a somewhat hopeful look lingering behind her eyes. :Did you say Lapiz Checkpoint?”

Drifter grinned at Twilight. “Yes, I did. Little Lapiz is still around and going strong. It’s been heavily fortified, like a lot of border settlements, and there are a lot of soldiers and security ponies keeping things running smoothly, but it’s still one of the nicest places you’ll find. Especially with how the world is these days.” she explained, noting how Twilight seemed to visibly relax somewhat. She could understand why. That town made a strong impression on Drifter even now.

“Does… does Lumberjack still work there? Is he still-”

“Alive?” Palmwood interrupted with a knowing smirk. “Yeah he is. He’s still alive and kicking. Well, he isn’t kicking anywhere near as hard as he used to, considering how old he’s getting.”

“Heh. Yeah, Palm’s right. Lumberjack is still around and still prepares the best bowl of soup I have ever tasted. We can probably rest at his inn before we cross the rest of the way to the Empire.” Drifter finished with a small chuckle.

Twilight visibly relaxed, her expression warming somewhat. “...That’s good. I kinda like that town.”

“Kinda?” Drifter asked with a raised eyebrow. “Twilight, if I recall correctly; and I do, you absolutely came to adore that little town. Trust me; I did, too. Still do, really.”

Twilight scuffed the cave floor with a hoof. “Yeah, you’re right… but… I didn’t want to insult Ponyville at all…” she said quietly, her voice falling and losing some of it’s happy edge. There were a few moments of silence all around. “...I still can’t believe it’s been destroyed…”

“We’ll rebuild,” Luna said abruptly, drawing all eyes to her. “Anything Horizon has destroyed we shall rebuild. Any city he flattened will be restored. We’ll come back from this.”

“We’ll need to get rid of Horizon first,” Drifter pointed out with a small frown. “And he destroyed us last time we went after him. Hay, he took both of you down on his own!”

Luna met Drifter’s gaze intensely. “We shall not underestimate him again. The next time we face him, we shall make sure we are ready.”

There was a general murmur of agreement in the room from everypony present. Twilight’s face took on a sharp smile. “Sounds good to me.”

Drifter chuckled. “I see that fire hasn’t died down any. Still, you two need to recuperate from your petrification. We can worry about dealing with Horizon as soon as we return to the Empire.”

“Then do not keep me waiting any longer, Drifter,” Luna said, shifting slightly as some of the stone on her neck crumbled away. “Fill us in. What have we missed?”

Author's Note:

Somewhat shorter than I was hoping for it to be but hey, what can ya do?