• Published 3rd Jun 2019
  • 1,629 Views, 215 Comments

Where We Belong - BlazzingInferno



Eternal night shrouds Equestria, and an even worse fate awaits Rarity. Or so she’s been led to believe.

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Falling

“Did Queen Nightmare say why she wanted to see me?”

Rarity stole nervous glances at the silent, brutish guards escorting her through the empty throne room; they hadn’t said a word since loudly announcing their presence outside her private chambers. These were the gruff military ponies that carried Queen Nightmare’s flag across lands savage and disobedient, not the regular palace guards that bowed politely and wore silver armor polished to a mirror shine. She hadn’t seen a palace guard since the latest purge started.

Perhaps they were all gone. Perhaps whomever had been sleeping on the job when that terrible purple pony and her dragon slave strolled through the front gate without facing so much as a “who goes there” had doomed the entire palace regiment.

A loyal servant such as Rarity was above such accusations of treason and sedition, of course. Questioning and detaining intruders was a job for the guards, not for the mare who kept the palace running smoothly and cared for its artwork. Every staff pony was her servant, every hallway was her office, and every decoration was her charge. Nopony save the queen herself commanded as much respect inside these stone walls.

Still, she merely commanded respect. The queen commanded the world.

Rarity noted the vacant throne and cleared her throat. “And where might we be meeting Her Highness this evening? I’m hardly dressed for the… Not that I’d dream of keeping her waiting, of course, but—”

The double doors at the far end of the throne room burst open, the bang of wood striking stone heralding the queen’s arrival with the suddenness and authority of a trumpet blast. The guards and Rarity came to a stop as Nightmare Moon, queen of all Equestria, strolled towards them with her jaw set and her eyes ablaze.

“Rarity.”

Rarity dropped into a bow, quivering at the sound of her own name rendered by the queen’s deep, booming voice. “Y-yes, my—”

“Rarity: palace steward, aspiring aristocracy, and royal servant.”

She dared glance up as the queen drew closer, willing that awful smile to leave her lips and for this all too familiar game to be called off. How many times had she stood beside the throne or in an entryway while some other pony professed their innocence while Nightmare Moon calmly read off their name, rank, crime, and punishment. Sometimes the crime wasn’t even mentioned, and the hapless pony wound up in the dungeon or worse for no discernible reason besides the broad grin that inevitably crossed the Queen’s visage.

And now Rarity was on the cusp of begging for mercy just as every other pony did, the act that she’d considered pointless and uncouth while watching from the sidelines. “M-my Queen, I swear I never intended to aid that—”

“Silence!” Nightmare Moon bellowed. “You dared talk to the pony that tricked me! You dared consort with her dragon! I’d sooner blast the castle into a thousand pieces than relive such humiliation every time I enter and see your vapid, traitorous face!”

Rarity flattened herself against the floor, mouthing the apologies and pleas that she didn’t dare voice aloud. What would her fate be? Would she be exiled to a distant outpost, condemned to a life of drudgery, or simply thrown into a cell and forgotten? The shame of leaving her lofty position in the palace was horrific enough.

“Have you ever heard of The Pit, my former servant?”

Rarity’s blood ran cold, and Nightmare Moon’s sneer turned into wide, wicked smile. A tapestry depicting the legendary defeat of Celestia hung behind her, the first of many great feats that remade Equestria in her image. Everypony knew of Celestia’s banishment to the moon, just as everypony knew of the one fate worse, the punishment rarely threatened and never carried out. “The Pit? But I… Please, your majesty! Please reconsider! Throw me in the dungeon! Throw me off the tallest tower! Not The Pit!”

Nightmare Moon trotted away. “Bind her as I instructed, and then bring her to the chariot.”

One of the guards knocked Rarity down, and untold minutes passed in a mixture of sobs and protesting limbs. Chains of jewel-encrusted gold snaked around her legs and tore through her satin uniform. A sapphire brooch the size of an apple found its way around her neck, and ruby bangles were tied to her tail. She was wearing the royal treasury. Priceless valuables that could’ve elevated whole villages out of poverty were instead going to be her funeral garb.

---

The wind howled in Rarity’s ears as she fell. Her tears rocketed upwards as she did the opposite, plunging tail-first towards oblivion. Queen Nightmare’s chariot was already a distant spec in the cloudy skies above, and yet her fall had only just begun.

The wind whipped her around in the air, and suddenly she was diving headfirst towards the swirling vortex of white clouds waiting at the bottom of the canyon. Ponies lined the ridges, most of them clutching their loved ones as she sped by. They knew the fate that awaited her. Everypony knew. Mothers whispered it to their bickering children, schoolteachers repeated it to wayward foals, and the condemned shivered at the mere thought of it. No retelling of the legend could measure up to the Queen herself repeating the tale as they rode through the sky.

“Dragons once roamed these lands,” Nightmare Moon had said, “and they had only one punishment for those that defied their king. One punishment so terrible that only the worst of their kind dared disobey.”

The whirling mists burned Rarity’s wet eyes, but the wind no longer bothered her. Instead she simply heard the Queen whispering in her ear: “the worst dragons of all time were thrown in The Pit, a prison with no escape, no comfort, and no food. Let’s hope they’re still hungry. Let’s hope they don’t mind eating a little pony with their gems.”

The world vanished, but not into darkness. Snowflakes peppered her face, and the tops of leafless trees broke through the clouds of blinding white waiting below.

At the last moment, as her screams of terror mixed freely with the memory of the Queen’s laugher, her eyes snapped shut. This was the end. All her years among the nobility and her faithful service to crown and castle boiled down this: a grave with ravenous, fire-breathing dragons.

And then she landed in the snow, sinking for over a minute through the seemingly bottomless drifts before finally coming to a stop somewhere cold and dark. The suddenness of being still, of not tumbling over and over in the wind, bordered on otherworldly. Time had stopped, and yet somehow she was still breathing.

“I’m… alive? Dear moons I’m—” sweet elation turned to deepest horror in a heartbeat “—I’m in The Pit, waiting to get torn apart by… by…”

The ground shook.

Her back, pressed down against the snow, shivered in response.

She strained against her bonds as the next impact came, a dull thud that felt decidedly closer than the last one. Perhaps it was just her own thundering heart, and all the dragons had either escaped or starved centuries ago. Surely a quiet, respectful end awaited her here at the bottom of this snow drift.

“Oh please, please don’t let it be—”

Light burned her eyes as something brushed the snow away. Fresh snow rained down from the calm, cloudy heavens above, quite unlike the roiling storm of The Pit’s outer surface. A dark shape hovered over her, cast into sharp relief by the bright sunlight. She hadn’t felt the sun’s warmth since the eternal night began, a small comfort for her last moments of life.

She couldn’t scream anymore. She couldn’t think. Her palpable fear dissolved into a single simple thought: what a waste, eating precious gems. No wonder the Queen exiled all dragons from her realm. No wonder they were all but extinct.

A claw that looked the size of a cart wheel blotted out the sunlight, and suddenly her fear was back. “Please don’t come near me! Please don’t!”

Her words were barely intelligible in her panic, but still the claw paused.

A deep, male voice broke the silence. “But then you’ll freeze.”

Rarity blinked. She didn’t hear mindless hunger in that voice. Still, dragons were glutinous monsters that breathed fire and ate gems. “B-better to f-freeze than to be eaten b-by…”

Her teeth were chattering. The golden chains were now ice cold, and melting water was soaking through her torn clothing and unkempt mane. If she could distract the beast long enough, she’d lose consciousness before he thought better of taking advice from his dinner.

The clawed hand blotting out the light touched her protruding leg and slid along its length, snapping chains, sending gems flying, and yet feeling no sharper than knitting needles against her skin.

Her latest scream died in her throat once her legs could move. As soon as she felt the comparatively warm air embrace her, as soon as her newfound freedom of movement registered, she was on her hooves and running. She ducked behind a tree, each panting breath a cry of relief mixed with horror. The beast had touched her. The dragon had freed her, but why? Did he expect her to run so he could hunt her down like an animal? Was she going to be the consolation prize for the other, less punctual dragons lurking in the woods?

Steadying her nerves as best she could, she leaned around the tree trunk to get a better look at the monster that dared toy with her dignity.

A purple, scaled body the twice the size of Nightmare Moon was hunched over the snow drift, calmly sweeping the gems and gold into the crook of its arm. “Are you hungry?”

Rarity ducked behind the tree again. Surely the beast was talking to himself, or to another dragon waiting to pounce.

“I’ve got plenty of flowers and leaves to share in my home.”

She nodded, despite being completely hidden by the tree. She hadn’t eaten in well over a day, thanks to the long chariot ride parading her across Equestria. Just thinking about the royal kitchens made her stomach rumble. Were there any cooks left, or had this latest purge of ‘traitors’ cleared out the entire palace?

The snow crunched under the dragon’s enormous feet as he drew closer. Her heart pounded, but she didn’t bolt. Surely she had enough self control left to stand her ground in the face of this curious yet completely unwelcome advance. She set her jaw and turned up her nose. “Is this a game, dragon? Am I to be your plaything before you or one of your kind eats me?”

The dragon’s laugh echoed through the woods, loud and yet devoid of menace. “Look, pony, I don’t know why you’re down here. Maybe you fell, maybe some jerk pushed you in, but let’s get things straight: dragons eat gems when we can, and plants when we can’t. The worst thing that can happen to you down here is freezing to death, and that’d be a shame. I haven’t had anybody to talk to in… How many moons has it been? Is Torch still the dragon lord?”

Rarity relaxed by the slightest of degrees, her hind legs losing some of their bowstring tension. “Queen Nightmare Moon rules the Dragon Lands.”

“Who?” The dragon’s warm breath blew across her ear.

She screamed and fell sideways into the snow. Seconds later she glared up at the sleek, scale-covered head peeking around the tree. “Don’t touch me, you… you beastly, disgusting monster!”

Her tone was venomous, an outpouring of every slight and outrage she’d been made to silently bear for fear of upsetting Her Majesty. She needn’t keep quiet now; better to force the dragon to end her ruined life now than to continue this pointless game.

The dragon frowned. He paced around the tree until he was in full view, offering his two clawed hands, palm up, in what almost looked like contrition. “Sorry. I don’t want to upset you, and I only eat plants and gems, remember?”

Her glare was colder than the snow.

The dragon shrugged and turned away. “You can come with me if you want. I’ve got a cave and some food to share. If not… well that’s up to you. Follow me for shelter and a warm meal, or wander the woods and freeze.”

Her shivering redoubled, now that the adrenaline boost from his latest insult to her person was abating. She picked herself up and tried to adopt a dignified pose, or at least as much of one as a pony who’s been ceremoniously dumped into the snow in the most compromising of positions can. “Very well. I am indeed cold and hungry. I suppose I could impose upon your… hospitality.”

The dragon turned back with a smile, exuding kindness rather than deceit or malice. “I’m Spike. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss…?”

She watched him bow until his snout touched the snow. This couldn't be a dragon, or at least not the kind of fearsome legend. “Rarity.”

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