• Published 23rd Jun 2017
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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 7 - A New One

Nine Hours Later…

“Starting to wish we’d brought coats or something!” Palmwood shouted to be heard over the intense winds of the wild blizzard that had swept in out of nowhere. The group had been traveling for about an hour now and had been making good time. They were, until the blizzard barged in. The cloaks around each member of the group were supremely limited in what they could do against such a ferocious and unrelenting storm.

“You’re cold?” Drifter called back in a bid to lighten the mood with some playful banter. “Come on, get with the program. I’ve been to tropical beaches colder than this.”

“Bullshit, first off,” Palmwood snorted in mild annoyance while shooting an irked glare into the back of Drifter’s head. “Secondly, you’re the cold-blooded half monster of the group, remember? Your input on temperature doesn’t count for much.”

Drifter rolled her eyes. “Hey, I can’t help it if I’m worth a damn in the cold.” she jabbed.

“I see you all haven’t lost your banter.” Luna commented with a small smile, though said smile was quickly washed away by a fresh gust and flurry of snow.

“How do you think those two have stayed sane?” Wonder asked with a smile of her own. “I mean, we had to find some way of keeping our spirits up. For them, it’s giving each other shit.”

“Sister! Language!” Palmwood shot back with a frown.

Wonder chuckled in amusement. “And for me, it’s watching them act like idiots, always one upping each other.”

Drifter pouted and reached a hoof up to her chest in mock shock. “Stupid? Me?”

Palmwood got an almost predatory look on his face. “You did drop out of school, you know…”

Wonderboom bust into a fit of giggles at that before pointing at Drifter. ‘Okay, you gotta admit, he’s got you there.”

Drifter snorted before smirking back at them over her shoulder. “Last I checked… so did you two.”

Twilight couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on her face despite the cold. The fact that they were able to joke around and be so friendly and in control of themselves, even with the world having fallen apart around them, with every day a battle for survival… it was rather uplifting. Even with their lives in shambles and death waiting around every corner, they managed to find things to laugh and smile about. As she watched them, she felt a small flicker of hope in her chest. If they can be so confident, maybe the Crystal Empire really is as well protected as they’re saying…

“What was that?” Blackberry suddenly said, his body tensing as he stared into the darkness past their field of view. Everypony turned to follow his gaze, the laughs and smiles instantly melting away to serious expressions and a heavy silence. For several long moments, nopony said a word, all of them looking around their environment and scanning the area for movement.

“I don’t smell anything…” Drifter noted, sounding unsure. Still, the claws on her good hooves slowly slid free, regardless.

“The fiends can evolve with time, right? Maybe Horizon found a way to eliminate the smell on some of them?” Twilight asked uneasily, her heart starting to hammer in her chest at the mere thought of facing a fiend so soon. She shivered and her legs wobbled slightly. She looked up and saw the world flickering before her. The deep silence was replaced with the echoing screams of hundreds of soldiers and the hungry howls of fiends. Her bones rattled when an explosion went off to her right. Her breaths began to come in sharper, harsher gasps and her vision swam. Her legs gave out and she fell into the snow.

“Twilight!” Drifter’s voice cut through the screams, silencing all of the sound in Twilight’s mind instantly and returning her to the here and now. Twilight gasped sharply before looking up at Drifter regretfully, the mare in question having grasped Twilight’s shoulder firmly in an effort to draw her back to her senses. Drifter grimaced. “...Flashback?”

“Y-yeah…” Twilight mumbled before shaking her head and standing back up. Drifter helped her before looking into the distance again.

“Alright, let’s keep moving! But keep your guard up, your eyes open and your ears turning. We don’t want any nasty surprises.” She called to the group before gently motioning for Twilight to get a move on.

Blackberry hung back a few paces, fear etched clearly into his face. After a few moments, he took a deep breath and took a step forward.

Then something grabbed him.

Blackberry opened his mouth to scream when he felt a sharp stab in the side of his barrel. However, something thick and strong coiled around his neck and constricted, cutting off his airflow entirely. He thrashed violently, his eyes going wide with terror when over a dozen meaty limbs circled around him, constricting his body and squeezing. He could already feel his bones breaking from the strength of this thing’s grip..

“What the hell is that?!” Palmwood shouted in shock, though Blackberry didn’t hear this. Blackberry went still when he felt something burn it’s way into his body. A poison, perhaps, working it’s way through his veins quickly. A small squirt of blood escaped his mouth when the creature tightened it’s grip.

A blur and flurry of movement assaulted his vision, along with the sound of sharp claws tearing through flesh and the splattering of fresh blood. He gasped in a lungful of air when he realized that his assailant had let him go, several of the limbs it had been holding him with having just been cut clean off. Drifter caught him as he toppled before swiftly turning and rolling him towards Wonder. “Take care of him!” she ordered before turning once more to the fiend.

It was bizarre looking. It’s main body was a loosely formed ball of ulcerous sores and scab-like tissue. On the front was a single large eye, partially covered by an odd growth of infected tissue that hung over it like a sad lump. The creature had no mouth to speak of on its main body. From this main body were several dozen long tentacle-like arms, each one whipping around and wriggling in twitchy and jerky motions, moving the monster along in very unpredictable ways. Two of these tentacles were significantly thicker, each one topped with a long proboscis, one of which was dripping with Blackberry’s fresh blood.

Drifter had never seen this one before.

And that fact frightened her.

It lunged for her, using it’s big arms like legs while the rest swirled at Drifter from several directions. As it drew closer, she could see sharp, hooked barbs on the ends of half of the tentacles. Cursing, she ducked back in a bid to avoid it’s assault. It crashed into the snow where she had been and then rolled after her, it’s tentacles whipping around in a wild frenzy. Twilight emitted a shrill scream as one of these tentacles smacked her across the face and sent her sprawling to the ground.

“A little help, here!” Drifter shouted while rolling to the side to avoid another attack. The fiend pursued her with several of it’s tentacles wrapping themselves around her hind legs and dragging her back. “CRAP!”

At this moment, a blue beam of magic ripped through the tentacles holding her, snipping each of them in rapid succession like a masterfully used pair of scissors. Fresh blood sprayed out of the now severed joints. Drifter grunted with effort, as the parts still wrapped around her legs twisted and writhed as if they were still alive. Reflex, it looked like. The fiend turned and shot at Luna, the one that had attacked it, and lifted one of it’s feeding arms for a stab.

Luna lit her horn just in time to create a shield around herself, which the fiend bounced off of. It rolled back a few times, it’s tentacles lashing out at anything and everything that got too close. Palmwood yelped, just barely ducking one of the barbed limbs. The snipped tentacles flailed around as well, sending torrents of blood everywhere and distracting everyone that got too close.

Drifter watched it from a little ways away, watching for an opening she could exploit to get in a killing blow. None presented themselves, drawing a frustrated growl from the hybrid. “Damn it, we don’t have time to nickel and dime this thing to death!”

The fiend righted itself before turning and lunging at the still off-balance Palmwood. He let out a frightened shout as it came down on him, raising his clawed gauntlet in an effort to fend it off. Luna was on the case, thankfully. A concussive blast of magic shot from her horn and sent the fiend rocketing skyward for several yards. It’s feeding arms let out high-pitched whistles that sounded like they were made underwater, an indication of pain by the sound of it.

Then it stopped, hovering in mid-air as a lavender glow surrounded it. For a moment, the fiend struggled before one of it’s feeding arms began to twist against it’s will. It thrashed and howled in agony before, with a stomach-churning crunch, squelch and snap, the limb was torn away from it’s body. The proboscis was then pointed at the creature’s eye and shot in like a javelin. Instantly, the fiend's fell silent and still as it’s own limb destroyed it’s brain.

The creature was then brought down onto the ground, hard. Snow was kicked up from the force of the impact and it sounded like some of it’s ulcers erupted. The creature was lifted back and, and then slammed down again. This time, blood appeared on the snow of the impact point. Over and over was the dead fiend smashed into the snow, the blood stain growing every time.

All eyes turned to Twilight, whose horn was lit. Her eyes were screwed shut and she was shouting with every slam of the creature onto the snow. It was a scream of fear, of anger, of sorrow. Another slam, the fiend’s body starting to lose it’s shape, it’s insides probably getting very liquified. Drifter approached Twilight carefully, not wanting to startle the distraught alicorn. “Twilight, that’s enough,” She finally said. Twilight wasn’t listening, slamming the creature down again. “Twilight, stop!” Drifter tried again.

Now Twilight heard her and her eyes snapped open. The light around her horn fizzled out, the creature finally falling completely still. A gust tore by them, bringing another flurry of snow, but nopony even dared to move.

Finally, Twilight’s eyes turned to meet Drifter’s. They were wide and unfocused. “I… I’m sorry, I-”

“Shh,” Drifter said simply, putting a hoof to Twilight’s lips and silencing her. “It’s okay. We’re here.”

Twilight made a choking sound before screwing her eyes shut again, this time to try and hold back the flood of tears that were spilling out. She crumpled to the snow, crying quiety to herself. Drifter sighed and turned to Luna. No words were needed, the lunar princess coming forth to sit beside Twilight and offer her some comfort. While she did that, Drifter made her way up to the fiend’s corpse and examined it.

Palmwood soon joined her, cringing at the sight. “Us, please tell me you’ve seen this type of fiend before.” he said, queasy, before putting a hoof to his mouth.

Drifter shook her head. ‘No, I haven’t. This one was new.” she replied grimly before standing and looking to where Wonderboom was tending to Blackberry, the stallion having passed out by the looks of it. “How is he?” she called.

“He’ll live, but his life is probably gonna be pain for the next few days, at least. He suffered quite a few broken bones from that thing.” Wonder called back, applying a patch of gauze over the stab wounds in Blackberry’s side.

Drifter nodded and turned to Luna and Twilight. “Okay, take five. After that, though, we need to book it to the checkpoint. We can get Blackberry medical attention there.”

Luna nodded before glancing up at the sky. “...This snow will slow us down.”

“It already has.” Palmwood commented in frustration, glaring up at the clouds.

Slowly, Luna let go of Twilight and stood up, her horn sparking to life. All eyes turned to the Lunar Princess as she took a few steps forward. For a moment, Luna just stood there, letting her horn grow brighter before, with a grunt, an enormous beam of concentrated blue magic shot up from the tip and into the clouds above. For a few seconds this beam went uninterrupted, Before Luna let off. Above, the clouds began to part, dispersing for several miles in every direction. With this done, Luna wobbled slightly before reaching a hoof up to her head and wincing in pain.

“Luna… that was dangerous!” Twilight proclaimed, standing up and looking on with awe. “Barring the fact that any other fiends can find us now, that must have been an enormous strain on you!”

Luna shot Twilight a look. “Considering our dead friend over there, I think it’s safe to say Horizon knows where we are anyway,” She then looked up to she red ring in the sky and closed her eyes. “Besides…” her horn lit up again. For several long moments, nothing seemed to happen.

Then they saw it.

A crescent moon now hung in the sky right next to the faint crimson glow of the sun. Luna released her spell and took in the sight. A small smile touched her face.

It was a statement. An announcement. She had just sent a message for the entire world to see.

The Princesses were back. And now, everyone knew it.