• Published 30th Apr 2018
  • 523 Views, 38 Comments

Fallout Equestria: The Great Hoard - RuinQueenofOblivion



A few years after the end of the Enclave War, a group of friends sets out into the Dragon Lands after a legendary treasure. But they're not the only ones, and they have to brave the dangers of this wild, unexplored land to survive.

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Chapter 2: Markers

“You may be deceived if you trust too much,
But you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.”
-Frank Crane.

“You’re kidding right?” The Zebra Bartender asked as she looked at me confused. “You’re trying to get to the Spine?”

“Yeah, what’s so weird about that?” I asked, me and Pure Heart were in the Sea Serpent's Scale, it was the local bar in Water Dragon Bay. “It’s just a mountain range, right?”

“You must be new to the Dragon Lands,” she said with a shake of her head. “The Spine isn’t a safe place to visit even for Dragons. There’s a lot of stories about that place, ranging from creatures that jump you from underground to ponies that’ll suck your blood. They say the mountains are cursed.”

“Cursed?” Pure Heart asked.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of horror stories about the lands out that way and beyond,” the bartender said with a shake of her head. “Lot of beings have gone missing out there looking for some fabled treasure that probably doesn’t even exist.”

“You mean the Great Hoard?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” the bartender said as she set out a drink for another customer. “You two wouldn’t happen to be after it too would you?”

“Umm, maybe,” I said and played with my mane a little. “We’re looking for it to…”

“We’re interested in it for strictly academic reasons,” Pure Heart said quickly. “The New Canterlot Republic has been looking into the records from the war in hopes of maybe establishing relations with the Dragon Lands and if we can find anything on the Last Dragon Lord, it might help.”

The Zebra looked at us curiously for a moment. “You look awfully young to be representatives of the NCR.”

“Yeah, well, tell that to the NCR I guess,” I said and tried to smile. “You know how bureaucrats are, they’ve got their heads so far up their flanks they don’t think about this kind of thing.”

“Alright, well if you want any information on the last Dragon Lord you want to talk to Soriac,” the bartender said with a shrug. “He’s our local historian and comes from a family that’s lived here since before the Dragons joined the Great War.”

“Where can we find him?” I asked expectantly, this was a good start.

“You’re going to want to…” the Bartender said and then paused a moment when the door to the bar opened.

I glanced behind us briefly and my eyes went wide. Standing in the doorway was one of the ponies we saw earlier, she was rough looking with her red mane ragged, her blue coat was covered with scars and she had several cybernetics around her body including replacing her right foreleg and left hind leg along with her eye and part of her neck.

“Cyria, my usual,” she said in a gruff, almost mechanical voice as she sat down at the bar and the bartender gulped and set a glass down before pouring an amber colored liquid into it. She walked back over to me and Pure and whispered to us.

“Go to the northern end of town, he’s usually there,” she whispered and jerked her head back towards the cyberpony. “Be careful out there, you’re not the only one interested in this, information.”

“Got it,” I said with a nod and we got up and headed out of the bar.

I took one last look towards the nasty looking Earth Pony but she didn’t make any move to get up. I just hoped that we were on the right track.

00000

We reached the house and I knocked on the door while Pure Heart kept an eye out for any of the ponies from before. The door opened to reveal the largest Zebra I had ever seen in my life, he was taller than pictures I had seen of Big Macintosh and a lot bulkier too.

“Uh, can I help you two ponies?” He asked in the distinct Zebra accent I had come to know.

“Are, you Soriac?” I asked and he nodded. “We’re here looking for information on the Last Dragon Lord Ember, Cyria said you might be able to provide information on her.”

“Ah, of course!” Soriac said with a smile as he moved out of the doorway to let the two of us in. “Its not often that I get visitors from as far as Equestria. Do you mind if I ask from where you hail?”

“Nomad City actually,” I said as he ushered us in and I blinked in surprise at what I saw.

Lining the walls were shelves of books and scrolls that looked like they were hundreds if not thousands of years old. I hadn’t seen anything like this except in the Nomad City Library and a few other places.

“Ah yes, the fabled flying city, I’ve heard stories from my cousin, she’s seen it at least,” Soriac said with a smile. “I see you noticed my collection, its the finest collection of records in the entirety of the Dragon Lands.”

“Really?” Pure asked curiously.

“Well, I’m not exactly able to ask around so as far as I know yes!” The large Zebra said with a laugh. He started going through the papers for a moment before he looked back at us curiously. “So, you’re looking for information on Ember huh? Any particular reason?”

“We’re interested in any information on her hoard,” I said with a nod. “The one that went missing around the time of her assassination. The NCR hopes that it might give us some insight into how to…”

Soriac just tsked and laughed a little. “You’re a poor liar little pony,” he said with a shake of his head. “The NCR has sent ponies before and have never expressed interest in the Great Horde as a means to open relations with the Dragons.”

Crap, he saw right through that ruse, this was not off to a good start.

“Okay, you caught us, we’re hunting for the treasure,” Pure said with a shake of her head. “I know that probably sounds crazy, we’ve heard all the stories about it.”

“And I’ve probably transcribed part of them,” Soriac said with a chuckle. “I’m a Zencori, it’s my job to preserve history and tell stories. If you really want this information however, I am more than willing to tell you everything you want to know.”

“Really?” I asked as my ears perked up a little. “How much do you know?”

“My ancestor, Oria was an emissary sent by the Caesar to try and negotiate with Ember to get Dragons to join the war on our side,” Soriac said with a shake of his head. “She didn’t have much luck in her job, but she and Ember became friends. She knew things that she didn’t even pass back to Roam.”

“What kind of things?” I asked.

Soriac sighed a little and gestured for us to take a seat which we did. He looked thoughtful for a long moment before he started to talk again. “Ember was afraid that the Caesar would do something rash in order to get the Dragons to side with them in the Great War. There was already a growing movement lead by a Dragon named Garble that was pushing for war with the ponies.”

Garble, I knew that name. He was a Dragon who had been one of the first to attack Equestria during the war. Spike had mentioned him a few times when he visited Crusader Town or we met him on Nomad City and he didn’t seem to like the dragon very much.

I was starting to see why if he had really been pushing that hard to get involved in the war.

“But Ember was pro-pony wasn’t she?” Pure Heart asked.

“Well, as pro-pony as a Dragon can get yes,” Soriac said with a shrug. “She confided in Oria that she was afraid that she may not be Dragon Lord much longer. So she did the only thing she could do, she hid away both the Bloodstone Scepter, the symbol of the Dragon Lord’s power, and her vast hoard somewhere deep in the Dragon Lands.”

Well, this was not new information, but I was surprised to know that there was something of a first hoof account. Soriac paused a moment and sighed as he looked back at us.

“There’s a lot of Dragons who blame Ponies for what happened to Ember,” he said with a shake of his head. “There was a lot of good being done during her tenure and there was a chance at real peace if it wasn’t for what happened. I’m sure you know what happened next, an assassin shot her with a Dragonbane enchanted bullet and took her life.”

“Yeah…” I said softly.

“But, there is something that only Oria was told about the Hoard, and it has been passed down through the generations,” Soriac said grimly. “But there is something I must ask of you two first, what would you do with the treasure if you find it?”

“What?” I asked and blinked a little, I hadn’t expected him to ask that.

“We’re talking about enough treasure to rival the treasury of Equestria back in the day,” Soriac said. “Most seekers are interested in it for greedy reasons, they want the treasure and don’t care about what it represents. It’s not a treasure, it’s a legacy, it’s what Ember left behind.”

“I see,” I said and looked at Pure and gently placed my hoof on her’s. “We’re doing this because we want to. Yes, the treasure would be nice but we’re out here because we want to do this with our friends.”

“All that matters to us is each other,” Pure Heart said with a smile as she gently nuzzled me. “We’ll gladly use give the staff to whichever dragon would deserve it, isn’t that what Ember would want?”

“Yes, yes it is,” Soriac said with a smile and a nod. “Very well, you answer well. See, the thing is that it’s not as simple as just walking to one place or even two. Ember set up markers that you have to follow in order to get to the treasure. The challenge is going to be finding them, and getting past whatever is waiting for you. The first one at least should be somewhere in the Spine, I’m guessing you’re heading there next.”

“Great,” I said with a sigh.

“Thank you Soriac,” Pure said with a smile as we got to our hooves. “It means a lot that you could help us out.”

“Of course, I’m glad to help,” Soriac said with a smile. “But I should warn you, you’re not the only ones after this treasure. There’s a group lead by a pony from Saddle Arabia after it as well, or so I’ve heard.”

“That would be those ponies we saw earlier I’ll bet,” I said with a sigh.

“Yes, well be careful,” Soriac said. “I would love for you to make it back here and tell me your story.”

“We will,” I said with a smile as he got to his hooves and showed us out.

I looked back at the large Zebra and thought about what he said for a moment. There were markers, things that would lead us to the treasure. Of course it wasn’t going to be as easy as just going to Stable 110.

So, what else was waiting for us out there?

00000

“So, did you find out anything interesting?” Calypso asked as we met up with them in the center of town.

“A few things,” I said with a shrug. “It seems a Zencori here in town’s ancestor knew Ember and learned some of the details of how to get to the treasure. So, we have a few clues at least, but nothing really to go on beyond that.”

“Well, except that the mountains we’re going to may be cursed,” Pure said with a shrug.

“Oh wonderful… I feel so happy now.” Fishy said groaning.

“Oh come on it’s not that bad...at least to a changeling.” Crow chuckled.

“Really, one of the stories sound more like Bat Ponies to me,” I said thoughtfully. “I remember there was a member of the Thunderbolts during the war that was a Bat Pony from a tribe somewhere out East from Equestria proper.”

“I remember stories of Bat ponies. Of course the hive’s history didn’t go into full details about them.”

“Yeah, I remember mom said she was one of the best members of the Thunderbolts, I think she went back home a few years ago,” Calypso said with a nod. “She was part of the team that went to Coltlumbia with Scootaloo and the others I think.”

I noticed the zebra we saw earlier walking beside us. Not even staring at us but I suddenly feel a strange sensation after she past. Crow lost his ability to stay in his zebra form and turned back into a changeling. He looked extremely sick I heard hard sobbing from an alleyway a filly screaming for her mother.

“I….I…” Crow fell on his side groaning in pain. Go Fish went to Crow’s side nudging him with her hoof looking up to me.

“Do you hear that? You go check on it I will stay with Crow.”

“Okay, we’re on it,” I said and nodded to Pure Heart and Calypso and they nodded as we headed over towards where the alley was. “Hello?”

A little zebra filly lay in filth and mud blood draining from a wound on her leg and side. She looked up to us those eyes those soft blue eyes crying for help. She tried to speak but all I could hear was laughter. Something was laughing in my head.

“Pure, get the medical supplies,” I said ignoring the laughter in my head and Pure Heart nodded as we knelt by the filly. She took out some bandages and a healing potion and started to work on the filly while I looked back, on edge because whoever did this might still be nearby.

The filly stared at me. She had a weak smile on her face. But something happen that made it feel even more wrong. She suddenly got on her hooves and jumped right into my face vanishing but I heard voices.

“The stars speak….the stars sing they see you.. They dance for you.. They never will end that path.. Don’t follow them they die for you.. Maybe they will end you.. Become their toy become their minion. Seek it seek the blood of the future...The stars shall win this day!” My vision suddenly went from seeing the town to seeing stars falling from the sky. “They shall win..”

“Serenity, snap out of it!” And with that, I felt something being poured down my throat and gagged as I coughed. My vision returned to normal as I looked into the shining green eyes of Pure Heart. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah… what happened?” I asked with a groan as I rubbed my head. “What happened there? I feel like I got kicked in the head after being on a bad chem trip…”

“It worked a little too well sorry to say.” I looked to see the zebra that walked past us earlier.” I mean no harm to you. I just follow what the stars tell me they say test you. But your changeling friend took it hardest so did you.”

Pure Heart growled and her horn glowed green as she pushed the Zebra hard against the wall with it. “You could’ve gotten her killed! What were you thinking?”

“I know what you seek...” The zebra groaned. “I seek the same...there will be many test along the way. Do you wish to be not ready for what the stars have you for you? I regret for what I did. But I can’t stop myself when the stars ask for something.”

“Pure, let her go, I’m okay,” I said as I placed my hoof gently on my marefriend’s wither before I looked back at the Zebra mare. “We know we’ve got a long journey ahead of us with its own trials already. It’s why we’re out here, but poisoning us isn’t going to help.”

The zebra laughed. “Miss if I wanted to poison you I would have. It was a mere seer’s dust but to some I would say. It was a drug that doesn't do well on you ponies. I never thought It would make the changeling sick though.”

“If he’s hurt, I swear I will kill you myself,” I said and glared at her. “I’ve heard more than a few stories about your tribe.”

“Yes and I would agree all the stories are true. Don’t worry about your changeling friend though. I gave your two friends the same cure I gave you. If I really wished to harm you miss warrior. I would have done it with my knife in your back. But I am not like others you have met. I have more honor in my heart.”

“Just go,” I said with a shake of my head.

The zebra simply walked away she looked back to me and with a weak smile. I could tell she didn’t wish to do what she did. She walked to the group I saw earlier.

We headed back to where Crow and Go Fish was though I was still a little weirded out by the whole ordeal. “Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to welcome us to the Dragon Lands,” I said with a groan.

“Serenity he won’t wake up. I gave him the drink and he went into a sleep.”

“Here, let me take a look at him, I learned a lot about Changelings during the Invasion,” I said as we trotted over to where they were. I checked Crow over, trying to figure out what had happened to him. “It looks like he’s weakened, probably starved too… great, I don’t know how to give love to a Changeling…”

“We could try meat. If we can find any.”

“That’s no problem,” I said and rummaged through my bags and came out with some fish that I had gotten from the Atori. “How’s this?”

Go fish looked at the Fish nodding. “That could work wave it in front of his nose maybe it will wake him.”

I nodded and did so, hoping that it would get something from him.

“The stars...the stars they speak…” Crow softly said opening his eyes groaning. “The stars can screw off. What happen my head...Ow..” He grabbed the fish with his mouth eating it down quickly as he looked like the fish helped.

“Oh thank Celestia you’re okay,” I said and hugged Crow tightly.

“What happened Serenity?” Crow sounded extremely angry.

“We got hit with some sort of powder used by that Starkatteri Zebra,” I said with a shake of my head. “You and me got hit with the worst of it.”

“I promised Scootaloo nothing would happen to either of you. Did I already fail?” Crow asked in a sad voice.

“No, we’re fine,” I said with a smile. “Don’t worry about it.”

Crow finally stood on his hooves and still looked a bit sick. He changed into his Raven form landed on my back and curled up to fall asleep.

“That’s oddly cute.” Go Fish laughed.

“Yeah, very cute,” Calypso said with a grin as I just rolled my eyes a little. “So, did you get the supplies we need? We should probably head for the spine.”

“I am ready as I ever will be.” Go fish nodded.

“Me too,” Calypso said and Pure Heart nodded before nuzzling me lightly.

“Okay then, let’s go,” I said as I looked down the road towards the desert that stretched out. I took out the map again and held it up to see if I could figure out the road we should take.

“Hmmm my mother always said take the hard road.”

“I’m pretty sure your mom said that about other hard things too,” Pure Heart said with a chuckle and I just rolled my eyes a bit.

Go Fish blushed deep red. “Uh.. maybe?”

Calypso just giggled a little. “So what’s the word Serenity?”

“We should head northeast,” I said as I looked up from the map and nodded as I pointed in the direction. “The Spine is a few days walk from here, but it looks like we’ll have to climb the mountains a bit.”

“I have a bad feeling though Serenity are we to expect more from that zebra?” Go fish asked.

“I’m sure we will,” I said with a sigh. “We’re after a treasure after all, I’m sure we have competition. Something about her and those other ponies give me the creeps.”

“Well of course Serenity. Nothing is ever going to be easy. If it was going to be easy we would have brought Silver with us.”

“Agreed,” I said with a nod. “So, shall we get going?”

As we headed out I saw the same group of ponies from before. I flinched a little when I got a better look at them. In addition to the Zebra and Cyberpony, there was a blood red Alicorn stallion with several scars on his body and an eyepatch over one eye and a pink Earth Pony mare that for some reason was dressed in what looked like a maid outfit.

I sighed and shook my head a little before we started moving out into the desert. I just hoped we were going the right way.

00000

As we walked through the desert I curiously looked over the data on my PipBuck. There wasn’t a lot out here, not even any radio broadcasts, though I wasn’t sure what I had expected. We still had a few hours to go before sundown and the plan was to keep walking until then.

“So, what do you think the markers are?” Pure Heart wondered out loud as she took a sip of water. “I mean, there’s a lot of territory out there right? They could be anywhere at this point.”

“Yeah,” I said with a sigh as I looked at the map again and then back out at the desert. “I’m guessing there will be some sort of clue that leads us towards the next one when we get to Stable 110.”

“I hope you’re right,” Pure said with a shake of her head. “Are we going to have enough water to make it there?”

“Just gotta make sure we ration it,” Calypso said. “I did some reading up on the Dragon Lands before we left. There are underground rivers and plants that we can get water from in the desert. Water shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as we’re careful.”

“Yeah, hopefully,” I said with a nod as I looked up again. “Do you think there’s any truth to the stories about these mountains being cursed?”

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as curses,” Pure said with a shake of her head. “But still, we should probably be careful.”

“I feel the other problem we have to worry about is that other group.” Go Fish cocked her mothers guns that she brought and had strapped to a saddle.

“Oh most definitely,” Calypso said with a shake of her head. “That Starkatteri mare gives me the creeps.”

“After what happened to Crow I don’t know what to think. He offered to come with us and that mare focused on him and you Serenity.”

“She called me a warrior,” I said and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe since I was a foal soldier and Crow is… well, a Changeling, that might be why they went after us specifically. Still, I can’t help but be a bit worried about it.”

Crow snored in his sleep and his breathing sounded weak and sickly.

“Maybe we should have taken him to a doctor back in town,” Pure Heart commented.

“Normally I’d say yes, but I don’t think they’d know how to heal a Changeling…” I said with a sigh as I shook my head a little. “What do you think we should do?”

“We could do what my mother did to me when. I got sick.” Go Fish smirked

“Do I want to know what that is?” Pure Heart asked as she looked back at Go Fish.

“Calie has seen this once. She forced scotch down my nose and lungs. It burned and it worked also It hurt.”

“Yeah, definitely not,” Calypso said with a shake of her head. “Besides we only packed the essentials, no scotch even if we wanted to do that.”

Go Fish whistled “Ahem yeah I did pack the essentials.” She whistled again.

Calypso rolled her eyes a little at that and looked like she was making a mental note of something. I just chuckled and checked the stone around my neck as I looked back out at the desert.

“Let’s keep moving,” I finally said with a shake of my head. “We’ll see if we can find any sort of medicinal herbs or something. Hopefully we can find something to help Crow out.”

“Well I am sure we will. Still I am sure she would have gone after me...If she knew I was the daughter of the maiden of the stars.”

Crow laughed in his sleep. “Yes Blackjack, look like the Jester you are.”

We tried not to laugh at that at that as we walked along the desert route. I took a drink of water and looked up at the sun, it was starting to get lower in the sky but based on my PipBuck’s clock we still had a couple of hours to go before it got dark.

“Can one of you hold onto Crow?” I asked as I looked back at the others. “I want to scout ahead a bit and I don’t want to risk him falling off.”

“Pure Heart, it might be best for you to do it. Since you’re the only unicorn here.” Go Fish commented

“Yeah, sure I can do that,” Pure said as she gently levitated Crow off my head and put him safely on her back. “We’ll be right here waiting for you.”

“You better,” I said with a chuckle and leaned in and gave her a quick kiss on the lips before I took off and flew up into the sky.

00000

After spending the first decade of my life being unable to fly, every chance I got to take to the skies felt amazing. I flapped my wings as I flew up higher and away from where my friends were waiting for me.

I dove down a little and did a spin in mid-air. I could feel the warm desert air against my body and smiled, it was the most wonderful feeling that I ever had, I was happy to be out here, I almost wished I could stay up here forever but I had to get back to my friends.

I sighed a little and straightened myself out as I looked out at the desert ahead of us. There wasn’t much to see, a few dunes here and there that rose up higher than anything I had seen back in Equestria.

And then as I looked out I saw it. It was barely visible in the distance, but from this height I could make it out. At first I thought it was a massive dragon lying on the ground but it took me a moment to realize why.

It rose from the desert and looked almost like a massive petrified dragon. It was just the right amount of distance away to be our destination, the Spine.

“Okay, good,” I said to myself as I turned back around and flew towards where my friends were waiting. As I came down towards the ground again, I was surprised to see my friends were with a group of Zebras, all of them were dressed up in concealing clothing with one of them checking on Crow.

“Hey, did you see anything?” Pure Heart asked as I came in for a landing.

“Yeah, what’s going on here?” I asked as I looked at the concealed Zebras curiously.

“I am Ivara of the Eschatik Tribe,” the leader said as he offered me a hoof. “Your Changeling friend is lucky to be alive. The usual cure for the Mind Poison doesn’t typically react well with his species.”

“Is he going to be okay?” I asked the Zebra and looked behind him at the Zebra that was helping Crow.

“Yes, he’ll be fine,” Ivara said with a nod. “It’s rare that we see Changelings in the desert here. Or ponies for that matter, what brings you out here?”

“We, heard about one of the Stables being in this area,” I said as Ivara looked at me curiously for a moment. I could barely make out his eyes behind his mask. “Stable 110, we’re looking for it mostly out of curiosity.”

“So I see,” Ivara said with a nod and shrugged it off a little as I walked over to Crow as the other Zebra finished working on him.

Crow looked up to me. He looked stronger than he was. “Hello Serenity I am sorry for worrying you.”

“Its okay, I’m glad you’re okay,” I said with a smile as the Zebra gave me a nod and walked over to the others. “Lets try to avoid crazy Starkatteri mares as best we can from now on, huh?”

“I doubt we will be able to.” Crow said softly. “I have a feeling we will be dealing with her for awhile.”

Go Fish sighed. “Thank you I won’t be sleeping.”

“Actually I’ve been thinking about that,” Calypso said. “We should definitely be taking turns standing watch when we set up camp. We’re not always going to be able to stay in inns or whatever so we’re going to need to do that.”

“Yeah, that makes sense to me,” I said with a nod.

“Yeah we can watch our lovers sleep… No wait I mean we can watch for zebras that wish to harm us. Yes that’s it.” Go Fish said.

Crow facehooved.

“We have tents you know,” I said with a chuckle. “I don’t think that would allow us to watch each other sleep.”

“Go Fish sometimes you’re normal and then suddenly we looked away and you act odd.” Crow added

“Did you get into your scotch again?” Calypso said and shot her a look.

“No no No I didn’t.” She tried to smile but it was easy to tell she was a bit drunk.

“Be careful Fishy, Calypso might get rid of it,” I said with a chuckle as I moved next to Pure Heart and looked back at Ivara and the others. “Thank you for your help.”

“Of course,” Ivara said with a nod. “I hope you all find what you’re looking for out here.”

And with that the Zebras left. I wondered about that but at least they had helped Crow, I remembered hearing the Eschatik were a bit eccentric so that probably explained it at least.

“Are you okay Crow?” Calypso asked as she looked at the Changeling.

Crow nuzzled Calypso nodding. “I am fine Calie don’t worry. I promised you when we met I would protect you even if I am well not that good at it at the moment.”

“That’s good,” Calypso said with a smile as she hugged Crow a little. “I’m glad you’re here Crow.”

Crow smiled “We should get going. I am sure that mare’s friends are ahead of us. So I have a feeling she will be leaving gifts for us.”

“Yeah, lets get going,” I said with a nod as I secured my bags and gave Crow a chuckle. “Do you need another ride or can you walk on your own?”

“Oh come on Serenity you make me sound like I am lazy. But for now it might be best if I do hitch a ride till I feel I am strong enough to walk.” He turned into a small sparrow landing on my head and going into my mane to sleep.

“I don’t know if that is odd or cute.” Go Fish smiled.

“Eh, let’s just go with it, we should try and get as much distance between here and the Spine as we can,” I said as we started walking again.

I heard heated whispers between Calypso and Go Fish. Something about her drinking.

I smiled and looked back at Pure Heart and gave her a smile. While we had a long way to go, I couldn’t think of any ponies I’d rather be on this trip with than my friends.

00000

As the sun began to set we gathered up some materials and lit a fire. I was tending to the fire as Go Fish and Calypso were working on getting the tents set up and Pure Heart was getting dinner together.

“Crow, you know you’re not going to be able to stay up there all night,” I said as I picked the Changeling up out of my mane.

“Well I can do the first watch. Just set me down.”

“Okay, sounds like a plan,” I said and set him down gently. “Are you sure you’re up for that though? I mean you just got over, well, that.”

“Well will any of you let me feed of you a little? It will heal me a bit but I don’t want to over step again.”

“If Calie doesn't mind I would let you feed off me.” Go Fish drunkenly said.

“I’m definitely getting rid of your scotch, but go ahead,” Calypso said with a shake of her head. “Just don’t take too much okay Crow? Leave some for us.”

“Of course can’t take it all. You two got to have your fun somehow. “He smirked at Calypso.

Go Fish hid her face with her wings blushing.

“You’d probably explode if you tried to take all the love from me,” I said with a giggle as I winked at Pure Heart. “I’ve got too much love for this mare.”

Crow smiled. “I wish I could understand this feeling. I can feel the deep love from all four of you. Callie is angry because of well the scotch and well Go Fish you don’t need that in my honest opinion. Just have her be close to you and be what you need.” He started to feed from the love of the two he didn’t take much but the color in his body grew darker as he grew stronger.

“Uh, I can stop anytime.” Go Fish tried to say with a hic.

“Okay, stop right now,” Calypso said as she snatched away the scotch.

Go Fish tried to get it back but she fell flat on her face. Crow stopped the feeding and blinked staring down at the snoring mare.

“What, we don’t exactly have an AA out here or something,” Calypso said as she checked Go Fish for any more and poured out what she took and pushed sand over it. “There we go, now we just have to keep an eye on her.”

“Well I have never seen someone love someone so much that they poured all what they drank. I am going to ask what took you so long to do that?” Crow asked

“Oh trust me, its been very tempting,” Calypso said with a shake of her head. “I should’ve checked

“Well Callie why not take her to your tent. I guess I won’t be hearing anything.” He chuckled changing into a large brown bear.

“Aww, but I haven’t eaten…” she started to say just as Pure Heart started passing out the food. “Oh, thanks Pure.”

“You’re welcome,” Pure said with a smile.

“I got a question though since. I don’t normally go into the Stable 99 bar. Do you see her drinking when she is in there?”

“I think she usually just sneaks it,” Calypso said as she started to eat. “I mean, Blackjack gave up drinking during the war, but I think I’ve seen Fishy sneaking it a few times.”

“Well I am just amazed it took you two so long to admit your feelings for each other.”

“Hey, we can’t all be like Serenity and Pure Heart,” Calypso said with a chuckle as she shook her head a little. “Though, sometimes I wish I did have what you two have.”

“You never know, you probably will someday,” I said as I put my wing around Pure Heart gently and pulled her in close. “You and Go Fish do make a cute couple, what do you think Pure?”

“Definitely,” Pure Heart said with a smile as she took a bite of her food and nuzzled me gently.

“Thanks,” Calypso said with a smile as she looked back at Go Fish.

Go Fish opened her eyes groaning and looked at her scotch. Reaching for it and sighed. “Why is the rum gone?”

“Because you never had any rum?” Calypso asked with a giggle as she offered Go Fish a plate of food. “Come on, let’s have some dinner.”

Go Fish got on her hooves and sat beside Calypso and started eating. “I’m sorry Callie I don’t mean to be well a bother.”

“Fishy, you’re not a bother,” Calypso said with a smile as she placed her hoof on Go Fish’s. “Don’t worry about it, it won’t change how I feel about you.”

“I do want to be the mare that you want. A mare that is there for you to love you to...Not give you poems and stuff like that. But one that will live with you to old age.”

“Oh geez...the love from you two is so strong at the moment it’s hard for me to not want to feed. Also it’s cute?” Crow laughed.

Calypso smiled and rested her head on Go Fish’s shoulder a little as she wrapped a light blue wing around her gently. “I love you Go Fish.”

Go Fish leaning into Callie. “I love you Calypso.”

“Well Serenity I guess I owe you ten caps.” He tossed them to me.

“Yep,” I said with a laugh as I put them away in my bags.

Go Fish seemed upset. “How dare you bet on us.”

Calypso kissed Go Fish to quiet her and we just chuckled a little at that.

“Besides, it’s payback for you two betting on us 5 years ago,” I said with a laugh.

Go Fish’s face was so bright red that it looked like she was a pure tomato.

“Anyway besides that…” Crow looked over to watch what was going on he chuckled. “It’s good that we are together I doubt any of us could do this alone.”

“Yeah, I’m glad we’re together too,” I said as I put a wing over Pure Heart gently and closed my eyes. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have with me out here than all of you.”

“Me neither,” Calypso said with a nod. “So, how big do you think this Great Hoard is anyway?”

“Big enough to bring us here?” Crow added. “Maybe it’s too big? And there is a reason it’s hidden.”
Go Fish stared at Crow. “Ooooooo it’s haunted.”

I laughed a little at that and shrugged. “Hey, you never know, maybe Ember put a curse on it or something to keep those who aren’t worthy from taking it.”

“I doubt I would be worthy. I don’t know what she thought of my kind.” Crow softly added.

“I’m sure everything will be okay, we don’t have to be so overdramatic,” Pure Heart said with a shake of her head. “We just have to get there, wherever there is.”

“Yeah, it’s a big territory, it could be anywhere,” I said with a sigh as I looked at the map for a long moment. “We’re only in one small part of it and this map isn’t even everything.”

“Well who knows we might find something..” Before Go fish could finish something smacked her right in the face causing her to fly back and lay on the ground on her back she looked knocked right out.

Crow quickly changed into a bear looking around ready to attack whatever hit Go Fish.

We all got up and were on edge as we readied our weapons. In retrospect a fire in the middle of the desert was probably easy to see.

In the middle of the fire a blue dragon with heavy armored scales showed itself to us. It’s glowing blue eyes looked at all of us. It’s claws were stained with Go fishes blood from her face. Lifting it’s very claw it licked the blood.

“Grrr ponies…”

Pure carefully moved over to where Go Fish was to help her as I aimed my battle saddle at the dragon. “What do you want?”

Crow growled getting ready to attack. Suddenly though the dragon looked at him and he froze in place like a strange spell was placed on him. The dragon looked right at me going right into a mind scape with just me.

The very mindscape was of my life. My memories in the middle of it all the dragon formed staring down at me.

I looked at the dragon and narrowed my eyes a little. “What’s going on?”
“Dragon lord Ember made many test and challenges to find what you seek little one. I am the first thing you must past. Forgive me for hurting your friend. I didn’t know how to speak ponish. So I learned from licking the blood of your friend.”

“I see,” I said with a frown as I sat down. “Have you appeared like this to all of the seekers of the Great Hoard?”

“Most of them don’t even make it this far. Most destroy each other before they even get to the sacred fire.” He frowned looking at my memories. Then back to me. “But you your friends.. You have a bond that… I haven’t ever seen.”

“I see,” I said with a slight tilt of my head. “They’ve been my friends for awhile now, I would do anything for them.”

The dragons eyes glowed and we end up in a room with all my friends on stretchers. All of my friends close to death. But one last thing in the corner is a bale fire bomb.

“Your friends mean much to you.. Yes.. But would you let them die for the lives of thousands or even more?”

“That’s not fair!” I protested as I looked back at them and then at the bomb. “I can’t pick something that easily… they’re my friends…”

“I had to choose when I was alive Miss Serenity. I could have gone to war with you ponies.. Or do the last write of my dragon lord.. I did what she asked. I let those close to me die to fight the zebras war.” He sighed he shifted on his large claws tears falling from his eyes “Of course it’s not going to be fair battle blood. Death is not fair. Of course you know this.”

“I know it…” I said as I looked between them again. I had lost so many ponies in my lifetime, but could I really let thousands die just for them?

What was I supposed to do, this wasn’t an easy choice to make. I couldn’t lose them, not right now, I had to think hard. Then something occurred to me, there was a third choice, one that he wasn’t offering.

“You’re clever aren’t you?” I said with a shake of my head and then ran over to where Pure Heart was lying. “I guess you don’t know as much about us as you pretend to.”

The dragon chuckled. “Oh Miss Serenity did I forget to mention the bomb is already counting down?”

“Yeah, I figured,” I said as I took out a healing potion and poured it down Pure Heart’s throat as well as applying it to her wounds. “You forgot one thing though, I’m not the medic. I pick option three, how do you like that Mr. No-Win Scenario?”

I gave Pure Heart a nod and told her what was going on. While she went to heal the others I ran over to the bomb and looked it over.

The dragon just chuckled. “Oh Miss Serenity just like a pony to find another path.” He clicked his claws and we end up back into my head. “First one done. But I knew from when I saw you. You would have the mind and the heart.”

I glared at the dragon for a moment and shook my head. “You almost had me, but I’ve learned a lot over the years. There’s always going to be an extra option if you look hard enough. So, what’s your next challenge?”

“The second challenge is something most never got to. The next challenge is a simple question. Why do you want the treasure for personal gain? There is a reason why do you want this treasure?”

“I won’t lie and say I don’t want to use the treasure to buy things back home in Equestria,” I said with a shake of my head. “But it’s not just that, we’re here because we want to be. Its our chance to do something together as friends. And, well…”

I paused a moment and looked around before I sighed a little.

“I love Pure Heart, more than anything,” I said and looked down at my hooves. “I want to provide for her, but I’m not good for a lot of things other than shooting ponies. I want the treasure to be able to give us a good life back home.”

“Ah young love…” The dragon chuckled. “One of the core values of friendship or so I was told.” He looked away sighing. “I never learned friendship like some did. I never learned anything of the good hearted ponies. But their racist hearts.” He placed a claw on my shoulder. “If I didn’t have a job to do. I would tell you that this is the ending of the test.. But you have one more.”

“We’ve changed, for the most part,” I said with a nod and looked at him. “I’m ready for your last test.”

“Your last test.. The last test that will give you the first clue. Kill me.”

“What? Why?” I asked as my ears perked up.

“Serenity I told you I am not living.. I am trapped in this spell of the sacred fire. I have been in this spell ever since...Ever since.. The end of the war. A curse a zebra placed on me.. To be alive forever in fire.” He looked away as his body glowed of the same fire he is made of. “Do you want to live like this yourself? Never able to touch see those you love.. Hold a little one in your arms?

“Well… no…” I said softly as I looked down at my hooves. “I killed a lot of beings when I was young, probably too many. Its, hard for me to willingly do it again.”

The dragon chuckled. “Think of it as a mercy.. But before you do it.. I shall give you my name.. I at least remember it.. I’m Speckled the first clue... Will come from my death little one.” He placed his claw on me. “Please.”

I closed my eyes and turned my head away, I couldn’t look at him in the face as I did it. I pointed my battle saddle at him. “I’m sorry…” I said as I gripped the trigger and pulled it, firing at him.

The mindscape ended going to the real world. I could see the dragon forming from the fire for real this time. He fell to the ground his body slowly turning old right in front of us. He reached up to me.

“Let me touch you...just once.” The dragon said ever so weakly.

“Go ahead,” I said softly as I let the dragon touch me. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”

He touched his hand on my cheek. “Don’t worry for I’m no longer here as a curse to others.. I’m going to finally see the others that died during and after the war. Don’t worry though I will be watching you all and guiding you along the path.” He slowly turned to dust in the dust is a scroll protector of pure gold I could feel a protective presence in my heart.

“Okay….That was odd.” Crow said looking around.

“Yeah, I know…” I said with a sigh and a shake of my head. “Good bye Speckled, I hope you make it to where you’re going.”

I reached down and picked up the tube. I felt like I should be the one to open it after everything that had happened. I unraveled the scroll and flattened it out, it was a map of the mountains we were heading for, but this one had more accurate landmarks.

I narrowed my eyes a little at the map. There was a trail leading from the side of the mountains and up towards a cave with the gear symbol on it. This was a clue to where we had to go alright.

“Thank you Speckled,” I said with a soft smile as I nodded to my friends. “We have our first clue, now we just have to make it to the mountains.”

Go Fish groaned. “What hit me?” She sat on her haunches she had a deep gash in her cheek and her eye was bruised.

“Would you believe a spirit of a dragon made of flames or something?” Pure Heart asked as she checked her out more. “Hold still, you’re going to be fine other than having a scar right there.”

“The first clue..” Crow softly said. “But something is bothering me...How many of these creatures will we find do you think? I am sure there are more.”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said as I looked back at the map as well as the map I had brought with me. “But we’re going to find out. We have to unless you all want to go back.”

“Why should we go back? I was given a cool scar to show off to my mother’s when I get back. I say we keep going.” Go Fish chuckled getting on her hooves.

“I agree let’s keep going.” Crow added turning into a Raven.

“We’re all in it, if you are,” Pure Heart said with a smile as she sat down next to me and nuzzled me gently. “What do you say Serenity?”

I looked between them and finally nodded. “Let’s keep going. We’ve come this far, we might as well keep going.”

We all nodded and went back to eating and sitting around the fire. But at the same time, something about what had happened still bothered me.

00000

I stared up at the top of the tent as Pure Heart snuggled up to me under the blankets. I smiled a little as I looked down at the sleeping Unicorn and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. I was lucky to have her.

I sighed a little and looked back up as I stroked Pure Heart’s mane gently. I smiled a little and tried to close my eyes, but I just got a flash of the dragon from before and they snapped back open.

It wasn’t the first time I had killed something, but I hadn’t ever killed someone who was defenseless before. Even if he had asked me to do it and it had freed him from what had to be almost 220 years of torment, something about it still felt, wrong to me. I still felt guilty for taking a life, again.

How many beings had I killed over my life? I had lost count back during the Changeling invasion and then there was what happened in San Prancisco. I had promised to never go to war again to both my family and myself years ago, and maybe that was why I had decided to come on this adventure.

But still, would I ever be able to completely wash the blood off my hooves? Maybe not, maybe I had done too much to be able to make up for the lives I had taken in defense of my friends and Equestria.

But I was going to do everything I could to try.

“Serenity, are you okay?” Pure Heart’s soft voice asked as she looked up at me with her big green eyes.

“I, honestly don’t know,” I admitted as I brushed my mane back a little. “I’m just, thinking about what happened with the Dragon mostly.”

“What did happen in there? I mean, we all saw what happened at the end but…” Pure Heart asked as she let it trail off.

“He tested me, first he tested to see if I would sacrifice my friends or thousands of lives,” I said with a shake of my head.

“What did you do?”

“I picked option 3, I healed you so you could heal the others and then disarmed the bomb,” I said with a chuckle. “What can I say, I don’t believe in the no-win scenario. He then asked me why I want the treasure.”

“What did you say?” Pure asked.

“I was honest,” I said with a smile as I nuzzled her gently and then added jokingly. “I told him that I wanted to blow it all on Blackjack, Mares, and Chems in New Pegasus.”

“Not funny Serenity,” Pure Heart said but she couldn’t help letting out a small giggle as she slugged me lightly. “What did you really tell him?”

“That I have an amazing marefriend and I want to use it to make her happy,” I said as I stroked her mane gently. “That I love her and would do anything for that, even go to the ends of the earth and track down a treasure to give her a happy life.”

“Serenity, you know you don’t need to do that right?” Pure Heart asked as she looked up at me with a smile. “All I need to have a happy life is you. I love you and that’s really all I need to be happy.”

I sighed and closed my eyes as I gently wrapped my wings around her. She sighed happily as I held her close to my body. She was right of course, we already had everything we needed in each other.

“Yeah, I know, but still it’s going to be a great adventure,” I said with a smile as I nuzzled her gently. “I’m just glad I have you with me on this journey. I feel like the luckiest mare in the whole world to have you with me.”

“No, that’s not true,” Pure Heart said as she slid up my body and gave me a kiss on the lips.

“What, you don’t think I’m the luckiest mare in the world?” I asked with a smirk.

“Nope, because I am,” Pure Heart said with a chuckle as she rubbed her nose against mine. “I’ve got a beautiful and smart Pegasus mare who would do anything to protect me. I can’t imagine how my life could be better and no treasure is going to change that.”

I smiled and nodded a little and nuzzled her. “So, why come along then?”

“Because you wanted to go,” Pure said with a smile. “I wanted to go with you and the others because you’re all my friends. We don’t need a treasure to be happy, but we can at least go on a grand adventure together as friends.”

“Yeah, sounds good to me,” I said and sighed happily as I held her close.

“So, you never told me what happened with the Dragon, Speckled you called him?” Pure asked and I flinched a little.

“Oh, yeah…” I said with a shake of my head. “He, asked me to kill him because he had been cursed with that form. I really had no idea what to do, I couldn’t even look at him when I did it. It, was sort of a mercy killing I guess, but at the same time, I still feel guilty. I’ve killed so many ponies and Changelings, I just, feel so guilty about all of them. Am I a bad Pony for everything that I’ve done?”

“Serenity,” Pure Heart said as she nuzzled me gently. “You were put into a bad position when you were a foal and you did what you could to protect your home from the Changelings.You did it because you believed it was the right thing to do at the time, and that’s something I’ve always loved about you. You only ever did what you believed was right, I know you’re going to be okay, we’ll be with you every step of the way.”

“And what about Speckled?” I asked. “I killed him… he asked me to and I couldn’t refuse his request, what does that say about me?”

“What did he tell you?”

“He told me that he missed his loved ones,” I said with a sigh. “That this curse kept him from seeing them. I guess, he wasn’t really alive at all, I felt pity for him more than anything else.”

“Then, it sounds like you did him a favor,” Pure Heart said as she gently placed her hoof on my chest. “You let him rest so he could make it back to his loved ones. It wasn’t easy for you I’m sure, but, I think you made the right decision.”

I smiled a little and nuzzled her. “What did I ever do to deserve an amazing marefriend like you?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad you did it,” Pure Heart said with a chuckle as she nuzzled me gently. “So, what do you say, are you going to be able to sleep now?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said with a soft smile as I laid back as Pure Heart snuggled with me.

I closed my eyes, and for what almost felt like the first time in a long time, I slept soundly.

LEVEL UP!

Perk Received: Spirit Calmer.
Details: You’ve started to see the strange other world of spirits, whether or not you can understand it is another question entirely. You get a boost to perception when it comes to interacting with strange phenomena.