• Published 25th May 2018
  • 2,295 Views, 989 Comments

Little Consequences - Skijarama

Princess Rainbow Dash and her friends have found themselves in the newly restored Crystal Empire, and now struggle against the forces of Queen Chrysalis and the enigmatic King Sombra in an effort to reclaim Canterlot and save Equestria.

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A Promise To Keep

The caves were, surprisingly, completely devoid of guards when Thorax and Pharynx passed through them. A good thing, too, as their progress was slowed significantly by Thorax’s condition. More than once they had to stop when his shattered shoulder would flare up in pain, causing him to collapse. Every time this happened, Pharynx would ask Thorax if he was sure they had to do this now, and the answer was always the same. “Yes. I have to keep my promise.”

Despite Pharynx’s protests, they eventually made it to the enormous chamber where all of the ponies that had been captured before the invasion were kept. Thorax cringed at the sight of the back wall as they flew in from the same platform Chrysalis had first arrived on, seeing the countless cocoons stuffed with innocent ponies glowing in the darkness. One of those pods would hold the stallion he was here to save.

He planned for all of them to be saved, of course, but right now, at this moment, he was here for only one of them. Groaning in pain, he gave his wings a quick buzz to put on a bit more speed towards the cocoons. Pharynx stayed close at his side, ready to catch him and help him if he needed it. Luckily, though, the trip went without any interruptions, and the two drones came in for a landing in the slowly pulsating green glow of the wall.

Studying the cocoons for a moment, Pharynx winced as he saw just how many there were. He turned and gave Thorax a questioning look. “Do you remember where you put him?” he asked carefully, allowing Thorax to take the weight off of his wounded leg by leaning against him.

Thorax scanned the wall for several seconds, trying to locate the cocoon he needed in the crowd. “Ah… I know he was at the ground level. We’ll just have to search- ACK!” his words were cut off when another flare of pain danced over his shoulder, forcing him to crumple to the floor in a gasping heap. Pharynx did what he could to ease the descent to the floor, his face twisting with concern.

“Thorax, come on, hang in there…” He whispered, taking Thorax’s good hoof in his own and holding it tight. “You’ll be okay, little brother. You’re strong enough to fight through this. You’re gonna be fine…” He gave the hoof a firm squeeze, and after a few moments, Thorax finally managed to get his breathing under control. Still, this latest surge of pain had drained him of much of his strength, and only with some help from Pharynx did he rise back to his hooves. The two continued to slowly inch their way across the bottom row of pods, eyeing each cocoon critically for any signs of their quarry.

Finally, after what felt like forever, Thorax perked up with recognition. He shifted closer to one of the cocoons, squinting at it, before letting out an exclamation of delight. “Here he is!” he announced, indicating the pod right next to him with his horn.

Sure enough, Pharynx recognized the bat pony right away from when Thorax had first brought him in. A gray coat and a short, ocean blue mane and tail. Large leather wings could be seen drifting limply in the fluids of the pod by his sides. The two stared at him for a moment before Pharynx lifted into the air with his wings. He gave Thorax a stern look. “I’m gonna let him out. Step back,” he ordered sharply, and Thorax did not hesitate to comply, shuffling back about twenty feet. Then, Pharynx looked on at the pony inside the cocoon, his lips peeled back into a distasteful snarl. “You had best be worth all of the pain Thorax is going through, pony…” he growled before his jaws opened wide, and his sharp fangs plunged into the hard surface of the cocoon. They pierced the shell without any effort at all, and with a mighty tug, he tore it open with a loud, sickening crunch and squelch.

A cascade of putrid-smelling green slime spilled out to splatter all over the floor, bringing Squall along for the ride. He hit the ground with a heavy thud, crumpling into a loosely formed heap. Pharynx then flew over and landed behind Thorax, looking on with a neutral expression as the scene unfolded. “Alright… now it’s your go,” he explained softly, giving Thorax an encouraging nod.

Thorax nodded and, with some assistance from his big brother, limped over towards Squall, who was already starting to shift and stir. Once they were within fifteen feet, Pharynx backed off from Thorax to give the two some room. Though he did keep himself ready to leap to his brother’s aid at any moment from the side.

Thorax sat down on his haunches and waited patiently. Gradually, and with more than a few groans and gasps of discomfort and confusion, Squall began to fully return to his senses. Eventually, the disoriented bat pony lifted his head from the floor to study his surroundings. His icy blue eyes were wide open an unfocused. With a quiet groan of frustration, he shook his head back and forth to dispel all of the guck that was still clinging to him, sending small scraps of slime and cocoon flying in every direction. “Ugh… what… where am I…?” he mumbled when he spotted Thorax, recognizing that there was a vaguely pony shaped creature in front of him. He didn’t seem to be properly realizing just what he was looking at, and that fact made Thorax wince.

“I don’t want you to panic, okay? Please, try to stay calm and just hear me out,” he tried in as gentle and placating a voice as he could manage, putting his hooves in front of him.

Squall shook his head. “What are you talking about? What’s…” his pupils finally seemed to focus, and he let out a sharp gasp when he saw Thorax clearly. Squalls’ eyes began to narrow with disgust, and his wings flared open aggressively. “Y-you! What are you?! What did you do to me!? Where am I?! Where’s my sister!?” he demanded in rapid succession, rising fully to his hooves and looking about ready to launch himself at Thorax.

“My name is Thorax,” Thorax began slowly, his ears slowly folding back against his head. “I… trapped you in that cocoon. You’re in the old caves beneath Canterlot, and your sister is safe with Princess Rainbow Dash.”

Squall’s eyes widened as he looked around, recalling the last thing he had seen and heard before falling into a dreamless sleep inside that cocoon.

“Wh… What’s happening? Let me… go… What… what are you?”

“Stop squirming, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“What have you done to my sister?!”

“I haven’t done anything to her, and I don’t plan to… it’s not my job.”

“You revolting creeps! What are you?! What do you want?!”

“...Not this.”

“...Then why?”

He remembered the creatures that had been watching as he was imprisoned. There had easily been hundreds of them, and two of them were in front of him. His eyes locked onto Thorax, and he growled bitterly. He didn’t say anything, though. Instead, he snapped his wings open and launched himself into the air over Thorax’s head, shooting for the first exit he could see.

“Wait!” Pharynx called after him, his wings already buzzing in preparation to give chase. A gesture to stop from Thorax made him hesitate, though.

Slowly, the younger drone forced himself back to a standing position. “Let him go, Pharynx. Like you said, it’s my go,” he reminded through grit teeth. “You get back. Head to the battlefield. The ponies need all the help they can get, and I’m not doing any more fighting like this. I’ll find Squall and talk to him…”

Pharynx swallowed heavily and shook his head. “No. I am not leaving you all on your own like this! I’m here to help you, not the ponies!” he said in a raised voice, stepping closer to Thorax. “I’ll stay out of your way, but I am not leaving you!”

“But, Pharynx-”

“NO BUTS!” Pharynx shouted, stepping forward until he was muzzle-to-muzzle with Thorax. “I came here to help you, Thorax. You. You’re asking me to abandon you in enemy territory when you can barely stand, much less defend yourself! If even one patrol comes through here, that will be it! You’ll be finished, and all I’ll be able to do is wonder if I could have saved you if I had been there! So don’t you dare ask me to put myself through that, because the answer will always be NO!”

Thorax fell silent, his ears falling flat against his head. He shivered under Pharynx for several moments but nodded. “Alright… fine… come on. Let’s go…” he managed before the two of them rose into the air with buzzing wings to follow Squall Dreamer down the tunnel he had fled through.

Squall was panicking. He had no idea where he was, what was going on, or what he was up against. All he knew for sure was he had been let out of his prison for some reason and was now trying to find a way out of these accursed tunnels. But no matter how far he went, he only ran into more paths that looked exactly the same. The crystals on the walls only very rarely gave off any kind of light, and his nocturnal eyes could only do so much in perfect darkness. After what felt like hours, but was in fact only a few minutes, he slid to a stop and slumped against the wall, trying to catch his breath and calm his panicking nerves.

“Okay, Squall, calm down!” he growled to himself between deep breaths. Gradually, his heart rate calmed down and he was able to formulate somewhat more rational thoughts. “Okay… alright… first thing's first… I gotta find out where I am, and how to get out of here…” he glanced at the wall of the cave he was leaning against, spying his reflection looking back at him. After another few moments, he shook himself and stepped into the center of the area he found himself in. It was an intersection, by the looks of it. He rolled his tongue around for a few moments, building up some saliva, before spitting on his hoof and holding it high into the air.

Much to his dismay, there was very little in the way of a draft that he could follow. These tunnels must have been gigantic and labyrinth-like. He let out a heavy sigh and set his hoof back down. “Maybe running away from those things was a mistake…” he mumbled before slowly starting to trot along. As he went, he began to go over what he knew of his situation in more detail.

He remembered being suddenly accosted by a unicorn with glowing green eyes while patrolling the streets one day. It had been a short fight, one which he could now surmise he had lost. He then found himself waking up and being pinned to the wall by one of those odd creatures with the glowing blue eyes. He remembered that there were hundreds of them in that cavern he had been imprisoned in, and they had all looked at him with disdain. If these were the caves beneath Canterlot, like that one creature had said, then that was cause for grave concern. And now, considering the fact that the creatures were seemingly all gone, he couldn’t help but feel fear welling up in his heart over what might have happened.

Had Canterlot been attacked? Were the princesses safe? What about Wind Whisper? Was she alright? Where was she? How could he get to her from here?

“I’m not here to hurt you,” A two-toned voice suddenly cut through the darkness around him, startling him out of his thoughts. He spun around to face the speaker, and saw that bug pony from before, Thorax, slowly approaching him with a very clear and noticeable limp. One of his front legs was severely wounded at the shoulder, the chitin looking to have been shattered. There was grey skin underneath, swollen and bleeding.

Squall still flared his wings out and assumed a defensive fighting stance. “Then why are you here!? What the hay is going on?!” he shouted through bared teeth, his pupils dilating.

Thorax slowly lowered himself onto his haunches, careful about his wounded leg, before speaking again. “To save you,” he said in a quiet voice, his eyes glued to the floor.

Squall blinked and tilted his head. “Save me?” he echoed in disbelief. “You’re the very creature that trapped me here. Why would you be trying to save me?”

Thorax shuddered, his ears folding back on his head. “B-Because… I had to make up for e-everything I d-did wrong. To y-you… to W-wind…” he answered in a shaking voice before slowly lifting his face so Squall could see his eyes. Squall’s eyes widened and his jaw fell open when he saw that those glowing blue orbs were letting off streams of fresh tears.

Still, the mention of his sister’s name made any shock he felt evaporate. “What did you do to my sister?” he asked in a cold growl, taking a threatening step forward.

Thorax didn’t flinch, instead choosing to close his eyes and look down again. “I… lied to her… I took your form,” he said before green flames swirled around his body, making Squall jump back with a shout of surprise. When the flames dissipated, Squall gasped in shock when he saw himself looking right back at him. His doppelganger than spoke with Thorax’s voice. “And I tried to make her think I was you. I took her away from Canterlot when the invasion started, and I wanted to take her as far away as possible until everything had blown over…”

More green flames swirled around his body, and he was back to his regular, chitinous form. He looked down and to one side with a quiet sigh and unspeakable shame in his eyes. “I… didn’t get to. We wound up traveling with Princess Rainbow Dash and her friends to a city in the Frozen North. I’ve done everything I can to keep her safe, even after she learned what I am…” as he said those words, he lifted his good hoof and stared at it, looking at Squall through one of the holes that ran all the way through. “...I made a promise that I would protect her until you two were reunited. I came here so I could keep my promise…”

Squall blinked, his wings very slowly folding up at his sides. He studied the creature in front of him for several seconds. “If you felt so bad about imprisoning me, then… why did you do it, to begin with?” he questioned in a gentle tone of voice that took Thorax by surprise.

Still, he managed to answer, even though his words filled him with even more shame and self-loathing. “I was… afraid. Any drone that acts against the direct orders of the queen, intentionally or not, loses the right to live in the hive. Their lives are forfeit, and the execution process, when performed by the Queen herself if…” he shuddered and screwed his eyes shut. “It is the most horrifying thing I have ever seen… and I was afraid it might happen to me… but then,” he opened his eyes and looked into Squall’s again. “On the day of the invasion, when the changelings had won and Canterlot had fallen, I… heard a filly crying. I remembered Wind Whisper, and it clicked. I knew I would rather die trying to do the right thing then live with doing the wrong.”

“So you saved my sister and swore to protect her, huh?” Squall deduced with a furrowed brow. Thorax gave a slow, hesitant nod in response. For several seconds, they were both silent, allowing it all to sink in.

“I’ve done horrible things to you, I know,” Thorax stated quietly. “And I won’t blame you if you never forgive me. But right now, there is a battle going on in Canterlot. The ponies are trying to retake the city so they can free the princesses trapped inside. If the princesses are freed, they can get to the city in the north I mentioned, the Crystal Empire, and save everypony there, including Wind Whisper.”

The silence continued, with Squall just staring at Thorax with a cold, unreadable expression. After a while, convinced he had done all he could, Thorax went to stand. His shoulder flared in agony from the movement, causing him to shout in pain and crumple to the floor in a wailing heap. Squall watched him for a few more seconds before stepping forward and reaching down. “Here, let me help you,” he said gently while helping Thorax get back into a standing position.

The drone looked at Squall with wide, shocked eyes. “Wha… what are you doing?” he asked, sounding like he wasn’t sure this was actually happening.

Squall gave him a small smile. “It’s simple, really… I believe you,” he replied slowly in a quiet voice.

Thorax’s already wide eyes only got even wider. “Wha… you do?”

Squall nodded, his smile growing. “Yeah. Other ponies might have looked at your crying and called it a well-performed act or something, but me?” he shook his head and looked at the wall in front of him, his smile fading away. In its place was a somber frown. “...I know what real tears look like, and I know what real crying sounds like… especially the kind born out of guilt… I hear it way, way too often at home, whenever Wind Whisper starts to doubt herself… I hear it when on guard duty at night when Princess Luna has nightmares about her past...” he looked sideways at Thorax, his smile growing again. “And what I just heard from you? That was genuine. I can tell.”

Thorax, stunned, only managed to mouth like a fish for a moment before composing himself and letting out a weak, breathless laugh. “I’m… glad to hear it.”

Squall nodded before stepping back, careful to make sure Thorax could stay standing. “That doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you for what you’ve done yet,” he pointed out in a more serious tone of voice. “But I am willing to give you a chance to earn my forgiveness. And you can start by helping me find a way out of this tunnel network.”

Thorax nodded, then glanced over into the tunnel he had come from. “Pharynx, come on!” he called out, and in short order, the purple eyed drone came buzzing out of the darkness. Thorax glanced at Squall and gestured at the new arrival. “This is Pharynx, my elder brood mate. He helped me get to you.”

Pharynx touched down gently in front of Squall with a short, curt nod. He then turned to Thorax. “Time to get back into the city?”

Thorax nodded. “Yeah, it’s time.”

Pharynx then turned to one of the other tunnels and pointed at it. “Then we go this way. This tunnel will take us to an old entrance into the castle the infiltrators and spies used during the scouting stages. We can use it to slip in behind the Changeling perimeter and free the Princesses with minimal resistance,” he explained before starting down it at a brisk canter.

Thorax frowned. “Wait, hang on a second! I don’t remember that!”

Pharynx grinned back at him. “You were never told. Need to know basis, and with your reputation…” he left the sentence unfinished on purpose as he went down the hall.

Squall glanced at Thorax with a raised eyebrow. “‘Reputation?’” he questioned, making Thorax give a bashful laugh.

“Eheh, I was never really good at my job…” he replied before shaking himself, lifting into the air with his wings and following Pharynx down the hall. Squall watched them go for a second before following after them.

Author's Note:

Fun Fact: I actually struggled to come up with a good reason for Squall to believe Thorax, or even give him so much as a chance. But then I remembered the scene where he was introduced back in Little Choices, and how he helped Princess Luna. It occurred to me that that was as good a way as any to make him at least give Thorax a chance to prove himself.

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