• Published 31st May 2018
  • 1,868 Views, 61 Comments

A Dragon's Hoard - Amethyst_Dawn

A forbidden child is raised in the outskirts of Equestria.

  • ...

A Most Peculiar Find

Her hooves clattered firmly on the sleek marble floor, the determination in her gait echoing a testament to the urgency of the information she carried. Seven scrolls and a stack of worn tomes were held in her pink aura, and the reflection of her horn’s glow shimmered off of the spectacles balanced precisely on the edge of her snout. Her eggplant mane was pulled back into a proper glide down the back of her neck, the exception being a lone lock of magenta and violet hanging freely beside her eye. She approached a pair of gilded iron doors, the emblem of the sun wrought in gold and silver across them. Two figures completely concealed inside golden armor quickly raised their spears to let her pass through, whether they were standing in salutation or bowing in reverence was a detail she paid no mind to. Her mind was focused, and her appearance calm even as she felt sweat bead up underneath her coat.

The light around her horn grew brighter, encasing the doors entirely and pushing them outward with almost no visible strain on the Unicorn. She stepped out onto the platform, facing a small and sleek airship resembling a skiff. She smiled, approaching the dock and nodding to the pilot whom she towered over. Something was about to happen in the Eastern Territories, she’d seen it, and she’d be damned if she wasn’t there to catalogue it.

Rarity kept a careful watch on the trees surrounding her while she levitated her latest kills into the back of a large orthros-drawn wagon, and hung her bow and quiver on a pair of hooks on the back of her seat. She winced as a small trickle of a large jackalope’s blood dripped onto her coat, and allowed herself a quick count of the game. A family of hares from a few traps, hardly a meal fit to last a single family for a full day. But it would have to do; she felt the unmistakable gaze of looming eyes on the back of her head, and she knew she needed to leave as soon as she could.

With a click of her tongue, Rarity sat on the front of the wagon as the two-headed beast obediently pulled the cart down the path ahead. This was a road she had traversed many times since she first became a hunter, and she trusted its bends with her eyes closed. In a way it made her feel safe, as it served as a dividing line for the forest; to the south of it was her hunting grounds, to the north a depth of the wood that even she rarely dared to set hoof in. Today, even though it looked the same as it always did, Rarity felt something amiss. The unprecedented silence. From birds to rodents, no creature was willing to make a noise. Even the orthros seemed unnerved, pacing carefully as if it sensed something close. Every being of the forest was on edge, and the possibility that she was being hunted never left Rarity’s mind.

So it was, until a heavy gust of wind from the north upset the wagon, and threw Rarity to the dirt. The trees on either end of the path crackeded and moaned as some heavy unseen thing fled into the clouds above the woods, and the orthros’ heads whined as it tried to duck into the brush. Rarity didn’t need to look to know what the massive thing was, the sound of its wings and the pressure of its flight was enough to send her into a panic. She ducked back into the wagon, prepared to feel a blast of heat render the forest to ash.

But no fire came, nor did the heavy wingbeats return. The beast had fled completely, leaving Rarity utterly baffled. Once she was able to calm her heart to a steady pace, she huffed the stray locks of her mane away from her eyes, and lifted her head to look into the forest.

“Wonderful, now I’m curious…” she muttered bitterly, lifting the snared hares back into the cart and dragging the panicked dog out of a thicket. She took its heads in her hooves, and shushed them comfortingly. “Shh, it’s okay, it’s gone. I’m going to take a look, okay? You take the wagon home.” She held the dominant head, staring into its eyes with a gentle firmness in hopes it got the message.

“Home,” she repeated, “do you understand? Home, go!” The orthros didn’t seem like it was too eager to stick around, quickly following Rarity’s command and briskly pulling the wagon down the road. She watched to make sure it was well on its way before she turned to stare into the mass of tangled black trees that was the deep north of the Darkwood.

She was frozen, but she couldn’t tell if it was in irrational fear or pure mystification. Dragons of that size have never arrived to civilization unannounced, nor have they attempted to avoid unaccompanied ponies. Hell, if her memory served as well as she knew it to, they wouldn’t even try to avoid an entire town’s worth. But this one was alone with her in the woods, and it flew? Even as skilled as she was, her weapons held as much threat against it as a feather. Surely, it should have known how vulnerable she was, and by her best guess at the distance there was no chance in Hell it wasn’t completely aware of her presence.

These questions and more brought on a curiosity that she could have fought off, but there was something else keeping her from leaving. She couldn’t place exactly why, but she felt herself drawn towards the deep of the Darkwood, as if her mind and heart heard a call that her ears were deaf to. Where the more superstitious of ponies would suspect this to be some sort of black enchantment and force themselves to ignore it with all their willpower, she hesitated. Something about it felt far too familiar to ignore, as if she’d felt it before but couldn’t place where.

With resolve and caution, Rarity stepped into the silent tangle of roots and brush. She glided through the forest almost without a sound; stepping over logs and thorns, evading leaves and branches with practiced ease. To any observer, the Unicorn would have appeared as a ghost. White, swift, and silent. She navigated carefully through the unfamiliar shrubbery for what must have been hours, the strange pull causing her to venture where the woods were so dark that she almost didn’t see the clearing ahead until she fell into it.

And fall she did, as her hoof caught a rogue stone, earning her a face full of soil and a mouth full of shrub. She wiped the dirt and grass from her face with a disgusted miff, spitting out the torn leaves while she stood to her hooves. It took her a number of seconds to realize where she was, and actively take notice of her surroundings. The longer she investigated, the more the peculiarity of it all sank in for her,

The appearance of the clearing wasn’t entirely natural, the level ground and charred flora were obvious indications of a sapient species’ tampering. But the work didn’t seem forebodingly intricate in its design either, rather brutish and savage in its execution. The canopy over the level clearing was open, letting the midday sunlight through to bathe the healthy green grass that coated the forest floor in sunlight. The only significant structure was a set of large stones placed in the center of the flattened grass, a sort of monument Rarity had never seen before, though she recognized the crude architecture as that of a Dragon’s doing.

At the sight of it, a part of her chest tightened with stress and screamed that she should flee before the monster came back. But the call in her core demanded that she look closer. And with no small amount of wariness, Rarity gingerly approached the obelisk. Each stone with which the thing was built towered over her, promising to crush her if they ever lost balance as she circled it. Her eyes scanned the base of the structure, looking for an opening.

It was hardly a minute before she located the entrance; a crude, misshapen hole that could be mistaken for the gap left by a missing boulder. And just inside the space, lying in a bed of dried grass, was a sight that made Rarity’s heart stop.

An egg, light violet and speckled with darker shades. It wasn’t as large as she expected it to be, standing upright it looked to be about the size of her head. Rarity felt a thick lump form in her throat as her heart dropped into her stomach, the evident implications of what she had strolled head-first into brought even more questions to the front of her mind. Questions that she didn’t have time for, as a very bold and very stupid idea began to formulate in the back of her mind.

Rarity looked around, vigilantly double-checking her surroundings as well as she could to make certain she wasn’t being watched or hunted. The near blackness that stretched beyond the sun-bathed clearing made it difficult, until the twitter of birds calling to one another stirred Rarity from her fearful surveyance. Once she realized what the sound was, her muscles relaxed. And she carefully, cautiously stepped inside the structure.

“You brought back a Dragan egg?!” Applejack’s voice thundered through Rarity’s home, accompanied nicely by the sound of her door being shoved open with a fury.Rarity kept her focus on gently placing her trophy atop her mantelpiece, situating it softly on an improvised stand made of an aged fabric scarf. Only once the egg was secure in place did she turn to face the fuming farmer with an impassive stare, her brow arching slightly with surprise as Pinkamena carefully walked in behind Applejack.

“Yes, I have.” Rarity snorted, standing up in front of the fireplace. “Is there something you wish to discuss about it?”

“You should know how damned stupid that is!” Applejack’s face wrinkled with fury the instant her eyes landed on the egg. She stomped towards it with green fire in her eyes, and raised a hoof to bash the cursed thing. But her strike never landed, and she stumbled back with a reflexive jerk of her head when a stinging pain swept across her cheek.

Rarity lowered her own foreleg to her chest, shaking the ache of the back-hooved slap. She saw Pinkamena’s hindlegs tense out of the corner of her eye, likely in preparation to fetch the tanner in case of another brawl. Rarity turned to Pinkamena, and gave her a subtle nod to wait. She remained outwardly collected, and stepped between her trophy and Applejack. She spoke in a smooth, deceptively patient tone.

“Indeed, it would be beyond imbecilic of me to bring a fertile Dragan egg into town. Let alone for me to place such an item as a prize in my home.” She assured Applejack, watching the matriarch rub the red mark her slap left. “Now, I want you to put aside your compulsive wrath for one moment and use that reasoning I know you’re capable of. Please?”

Applejack’s eyes showed no intention of quenching the hateful fury behind them as they darted between Rarity and the accursed egg, but she wordlessly sat herself down to show that she was at least willing to listen.

“Applejack,” Rarity started again, keeping her tone neutral as she mirrored Applejack’s gesture. “Would it make sense for me, of all ponies, to deliberately provoke the wrath of a Dragan by sneaking into her nest and pilfering her spawn?”

Applejack’s stance relaxed slightly, but her eyes continued to dart between Rarity and her trophy. But progress was progress, and that was enough to bring a minute smile to Rarity’s face. Pinkamena visibly relaxed as well, and slowly disappeared from the doorway.

“Precisely, I wouldn’t ever endanger our ponies like that.” Rarity concluded, carefully choosing her words. “I’ll openly state that when I stumbled across the nest, I had no intention of doing anything other than collapsing it upon whatever it held. But, the reason I went to investigate that corner of the wood in the first place is because the mother had abandoned it.”

“And how in the blue hell did ya deduce that?” Applejack scoffed, stamping her hoof away from her face.

“Because her flight knocked me down.” Rarity deadpanned, “I never saw her, she was above the clouds before I could catch so much as a glance of the tip of her tail.”

“Hah! Ah--” Applejack started a biting remark, but snapped her mouth shut just as fast. The indignation written across her face shifted to a tone of comprehension, as if Rarity’s words had just snapped in place, and the tension left her muscles completely. Applejack seemed to chew on the revelation for a good few seconds, inevitably coming to the same conclusion Rarity arrived at.

“So, it’s a dud?” Applejack’s voice was tinged with wariness as she cast another glance towards the centerpiece. She clearly wasn’t completely satisfied, but bewildered enough to leave it alone for now. Rarity nodded, standing up as her mind drifted to an unused tea set sitting in the kitchen.

“Do you want to stay for tea, Applejack?” She offered, pacing away with a nostalgic tinge in her chest. “It’s been a long time since we sat together, as friends.”

“Yeah, that sounds…” Applejack’s tone was thoughtful as she kept her eyes on the egg, turning her head slightly towards Rarity. “... that would be nice.”

Pinkamena let out a startled squawk as the large crate she was hoisting crashed into its place on the covered wagon, clattering and creaking as if its contents were jeopardized. She quickly raised both forehooves to her muzzle, and glanced worriedly at her sister. The elder filly irritatedly rolled her eyes, and gave Pinkamena’s poll a firm but harmless swat. Rarity watched the interaction with a bittersweet chuckle before returning her attention to the older mare to her side.

“I’ll be sorry to see your wonderful family leaving so soon, Mrs. Quartz.” A saccharine melancholy stained Rarity’s voie as she hugged her friend. “You’ve been such a blessing to our community, and so considerate. Applesgate will be worse off without you.”

Mrs. Quartz silently blushed, and returned the hug, squeezing Rarity almost too tightly. It was a sorry scene to Rarity, knowing that the inns and homes of Applesgate would be empty of the Pie Family’s laughter. She felt a few tears drip onto her shoulder, and carefully nudged the weeping mare.

“There there, darling. I know,” Rarity cooed comfortingly. “I know it’s hard, but I promise you that we’ll keep her safe. You know Mrs. Cake will watch Pinkamena as if she was her own daughter. She’ll be the first to safety in any disaster.”

Quartz remained silent, but nodded her head as she pulled out of the hug. Rarity recognized the look in the mother’s reddened eyes; it was a sad sort of acceptance in the fact that one of her children was staying behind as she moved on. Rarity tilted her head, and reached up to lift Quartz’s chin.

“Tell you what,” she offered, the bite of tears tugging at the corners of her eyes. “I’m going to visit Phyllite before I go home. It’s been too long since I went his way, and I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Why don’t you come with me? You might even get to say goodbye to Applejack there as well, no need to take the girls.”

Quartz gave Rarity a long look, then sighed as she turned to the wagon. The fillies had finished loading everything they needed from the house, and Pinks was making the rounds of embracing each of her sisters at least ten times, and saying something about more hugs meaning more love for them to remember her by. Rarity knew what was on the quiet mare’s mind, and nodded her head.

“I understand, darling.” She mumbled, closing her eyes in a final effort to hold back her tears. “I’ll tell him you said hello, then. Let you go on your way.”

Pinkamena approached the pair with reverence, pausing for a moment before embracing her mother with a desperate grasp that squeezed the poor mare. Rarity turned and walked back to the town gates as she heard both mother and daughter start to cry, deciding to give them some space to say goodbye.

It wasn’t long after that Rarity and Pinkamena sat together, and watched the wagon roll further and further over the hills until it disappeared altogether. The Pie Family had made their exodus, and they were bound for a new home. The two ponies continued to stare into the horizon long after the wagon had disappeared, watching until the afternoon sun began its descent. Sooner than they realized, the chill south wind of the evening had wafted over them.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Pinkamena shivered, pulling her clothes tighter as she looked up to Rarity with concern.

“They’re Pies, like you,” Rarity’s expression remained sorrowfully pleasant as she stared out. She felt like she could see something beyond the hills that reminded her of memories long forgotten. “They’ll always be okay. No matter what happens to them, they’ll be fine.”

“I miss them already,” Pinkamena yawned wearily, her gait matching her tone as she drudged back to the gate. To that, Rarity turned, smiling gently.

“We all do, Pinkamena.” She wrapped a hoof around the filly’s shoulders, hugging her close as they walked into town.

Rarity’s hooves dragged as she stepped through the stone arch, her eyes glancing over the hundreds of small obelisks jutting coldly from the barren dirt of the somber site. Her blood chilled, and she allowed her heart to bite into her stomach as she approached one of the many mounds of dirt paired beside another, smaller patch. She sat down at the side of the first obelisk, and gently placed a hoof onto its smooth surface. It had been over a month since she visited them, and her tears had all been spent, but the pain was still there. The memories were still there. Good and bad, they lingered on, and there was no way for her to wash her hooves of them.

The field was as silent as it had ever been, the only sounds being either the wind or the occasional echo of commotion from Applesgate. It was as if the thought of speech itself was torn from the throats of anypony who entered, in reverence of the crushing reality this site stood for. Rarity hummed an old tune as her hoof slowly slid across the face of the stone, wiping away the dew and dust to allow her eyes the sight of a name she rarely heard anymore, but could never forget. The back of her eyes stung, but no tears came. Only a sad smile changed the shape of her face as she stood, and sat next to the smaller of the twin tablets, still humming the lullabic melody.

Tenderly, she embraced the small stone, choking on her voice as she slowly opened her mouth to sing in an old tongue. The lyrics were quick and harsh, in spite of the gentle tone in her words. The song itself was as old as the language, but the translation was only known to those who speak it. Though even to a child the meaning was clear. It was a song of deep mourning, the mere sound of it able to weaken the strongest hearts to the warm chills of sorrow.

Rarity jumped briefly when she felt a hoof wrap around her side, but felt her nerves cool as another voice joined in sync with her melody. She regained from her falter, and together they sang to the markers in the field.

Author's Note:

Hey! New chapter's out, a little later than I'd hoped, but here it is! :pinkiehappy:

As always, any criticisms and opinions are more than welcome. Please leave a thumbs up if you enjoyed this, thumbs down if you didn't. You all know the drill at this point. :twilightsmile:

EDIT: updated 8/21/20