• Published 13th Dec 2011
  • 6,908 Views, 539 Comments

Far From the Tree - Rust



A mysterious pony turned to stone 1000 years ago is revived by the denizens of Ponyville.

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The Elder's Wrath

Author: This chapter gets weird. Mainly because I change viewpoints to Rust for a while. He's kinda... no, scratch that, hes completely crazy.

CHAPTER TWENTY


THE ELDER'S WRATH

Otherwise Known as the Third of Uncle Buck's Bedtime Stories

"...Tarnation! You saved the princess? That's amazin'!" Apple Bloom sat at the kitchen counter, a half empty glass of warm apple juice in front of her hooves. It was very late at night, almost into the morning. Applejack and Big Macintosh had long since gone to bed, but Buckshot and Apple Bloom had decided to grab a midnight snack, seeing as they still were up.

Buck took an enormous bite out of a biscuit, more or less swallowing the thing whole. "I didn't save her, I just... Helped her up." A few crumbs flew out of his mouth as he spoke.

"Don't be denyin' it; ya saved her life! Her magic was broke and she couldn't get out." She swigged out of her glass, gulping noisily. Proper table etiquette had never been a strong suit of the Apple family, regardless of the time difference. "Say, why was it on th' fritz 'n stuff?"

The knight poured himself a towering glass of Applejack's special cider to warm him up. During his time, the Apples had not yet gotten into brewing yet, and so he found himself particularly enjoying the one-of-a-kind concoction Applejack fondly referred to as the "Zap-Apple Shimmer." It left a pleasant burning sensation in his throat and yet still maintained that unique tangy flavor the orchard's fruit was famous for.

"I can't say for sure why her magic went bonkers when it did. She told me she began investigating it afterward, but seein' as how we've both been... ah, absent, for a long while, I dunno whether or not she made any headway."

Apple Bloom reached over the counter and lifted up his bandanna. She poked him right on the crescent moon covering his chest. "Maybe it's got somethin' tah do with this thing, here?"

He considered it for a moment, then shook his head doubtfully. "Probably not. I didn't have this back during the eruption. Hay, I didn't even have my cutie mark 'till then!" He patted Apple Bloom on the head reassuringly as she considered whether or not the extremely long waiting time would be genetic or not. "Don't worry, Bloomie. Ya get yer mark when ya find what yer meant ta be in life." Buck's eyes misted over for a moment. "That kinda thing can never be rushed."

"Ever?"

"Ever."

She sighed and slumped onto the counter, blowing an errant strand of red mane out from her golden eyes. "That just ain't fair."

Buck shrugged. "Life ain't fair, Bloomie. Ya gotta make the best of it, regardless. One day you might wake up a thousand years in the future and you'll ask yerself if ya did or not."

The pair downed the rest of their drinks in one go, slamming them down simultaneously. Apple Bloom wiped her mouth off with her foreleg. "Didja?"

"Did I what?"

"Didja make th' best of it?"

Her uncle looked like he was about to answer immediately, then held his tongue. After a few minutes, he spoke up. "I'd like to believe I did, but I can't say for sure. I've kinda lived two different lives, I guess. One back hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and one now." He took their finished glasses and moved off to put them in the sink. They clinked together as he set them down. "For my old life, I can sure as hay tell you that I made the best of it."

"But not this one?" She frowned, her brow creasing in a way that can only be described as so adorable it hurts.

"Well, I'm not done with it yet, am I?" Buck smiled at her. "Ask me that when I've used it enough to judge."

She got up and jumped at him, hugging the stallion around his neck. "Ah hope ya never get done with it."

Buck felt tears coming to his eyes from this gesture of love. He remembered when, long ago, another small filly with red hair had embraced him like this.

"...Eeyup."

Apple Bloom giggled and looked up at him from where she dangled around his neck. "So, ya gonna tell me how ya got the moon thing?"

He easily peeled her off and set her on his back. The pair headed back upstairs to Apple Bloom's room, where Buck promptly sent her flying into bed. She dug back in under the blankets and watched him intently, waiting for him to begin. The stallion resumed his post on the side of her bed and began to speak.

"It was the final day of the tournament..."

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

"... AND ANYPONY WHO'S ANYPONY IS HERE TO WITNESS THE FINAL EVENTS!" The announcer's magically-amplified voice boomed out over the Royal Palace. "SIX COMPETITORS HAVE MADE IT THIS FAR, FROM THE PONIES FROM ALL OVER EQUESTRIA THAT HAVE FOUGHT TOOTH AND HOOF FOR THE RIGHT TO REPRESENT THEIR HOME AS A CHAMPION!"

The Tournament of Champions was in full swing. It was a dirty, loud, rambunctious, oftentimes violent, but all-the-times entertaining spectacle of culture. Banners baring the symbols of various cities and towns hung from the Royal Castle walls. The effect served to turn the normally blindingly white stone surface into a colorful kaleidoscope of sensory input. The castle's training fields functioned as the fairground for the tournament, now covered in a veritable sea of tents and temporary pavilions. Ponies from every single corner of Equestria, not to mention griffons, zebras, buffalo, and one adult dragon had gathered here to observe the climactic grand finale. The tent-city had sprung up overnight, and now it pulsed, no, thrummed with activity. The area where the competitions took place was located in a freshly built colosseum standing smack dab in the middle of the madness.

The Proving Ground, it had been dubbed. Shaped like a large circle, the building rose up several stories into the sky, built in the style of ancient Romane architecture. The arena could house a staggering seventy-five thousand ponies, a feat of engineering that as of yet had been unreachable anywhere else in Equestria. A dirt pit, packed down by the hooves of competitors and other things, made up the majority of the space. Roughly the circumference of a football field, it contained several large stone pillars scattered haphazardly around the pit. They served as obstructions as well as cover for those challenges that required them.

The stone seats were now overflowing with spectators, cheering madly for their favorites in an almost unbearable din of screaming and noise. Flags bearing the emblems of three of the four cities were flapping crazily in the breeze. The single adult dragon who had come to watch was circling above the area, for his bulk would not fit inside. Occasionally he would dive straight down and buzz the place, similar to how a group of jets flies over a football game, his mighty wings blotting out the sun and his red fire tinging the atmosphere a softly glowing purple.

On the Proving Ground itself, six figures stood grouped together in the center. These six were the only ones left representing their respective cities. They had, through skill, luck, or a combination of the two, advanced to the very pinnacle of the esteemed competition. Each settlement had been asked to send a chosen three, the best that they could offer, to participate, and hopefully be christened a champion. The teams sometimes competed with their fellow members, sometimes alone, sometimes agaisnt other cities, and sometimes individual members were even teamed up with the other cities in the series of challenges that had been concocted by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna themselves.

The rules were simple. Win the challenge, and proceed to the next round. Lose, and you leave. The last member remaining from any given settlement's chosen three was automatically knighted and dubbed champion.

The six remaining were of a curious combination of representation. One full team of three had made it to the finals, something considered impossible due to the hereto-before unknown origins of their town, Ponyville. The Canterlot team, made up of a trio of Royal guards, had lost a member in the fifth challenge, and so were down to two ponies. The single remaining pony from Stalliongrad was a mystery; nopony knew how exactly she had managed to progress.

"AS THE CLOCK WINDS DOWN FOR THE FINAL CHALLENGE, THESE LAST CHOSEN FEW STAND PROUDLY BEFORE US, READY TO PROVE THEIR WORTH AND EARN THEIR TITLES! LET'S TELL EVERYPONY A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THEM TO RECAP BEFORE THE CHALLENGE BEGINS!"

A roar of approval told the announcer to commence. She obliged.

"HAILING FROM THE COLD NORTHERN CITY OF STALLIONGRAD, OUR FIRST CONTENDER HAS DEFIED THE ODDS COUNTLESS TIMES AND ALWAYS EMERGED OUT ON TOP WITH A SMILE ON HER FACE! I'VE GOT NO IDEA HOW SHE DOES IT, BUT SHE MAKES ME GIGGLE LIKE A FILLY SO I COULDN'T CARE LESS! STALLIONGRADITES, GIVE IT UP FOR YOUR CHAMPION, THE LAAAAAAAAAAUGHING MAAAAAAAAAARE!"

The crowd could easily pick out the neon-pink chain-mail armor of the Laughing Mare, who was practically bouncing around in anticipation. Already having been knighted, the mare was the last remaining contender left from her city. She was the favorite of her home turf, Stalliongrad, one of the most powerful cities in Equestria, and in all her appearances, her adoring fans made certain to roar out their praises of her until their throats bled. Today was no exception.

"TWO PROFESSIONAL SOLDIERS, EACH WITH AN IRON WILL EVEN EVEN HARDER HOOVES, ARE OUR NEXT CONTENDERS. STRAIGHT FROM THE CANTERLOT CITY GAURD, THESE BRAVE STALLIONS HAVE TRULY CHANGED THE VERY DEFINITION OF THE WORD 'DETERMINATION'! DESPITE THEIR NEVER CHANGING FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, THEY ARE SMILING ON THE INSIDE! CANTERLOT! SOUND OFF FOR BOOOOOOOOUUUUUUULDER AND SCRAPPY DOOOOOOOO!"

The Canterlot group pounded away on solid war drums somepony had thought to bring. Their reverberations shook the very air in a deafening cacophony of pulsing rhythm so loud that even the ponies in the arena had to grit their teeth to stop their jaws from shaking. Many had laughed at this; the usually uptight Canterlot unicorns were acting rather uncouth by their standards, hurling insults and cheering just as loud as anypony else. Their remaining chosen representatives, an earth pony named Boulder and a pegasus known as Scrappy Doo of the Canterlot Gaurd, stood strong and stoic in their customary golden plate armor, the blue feathery crests topping their helmet streaked with a red stripe in honor of their missing member.

"FINALLY, WE COME TO THE REMAINING THREE, ALL FROM THE SAME PLACE, ALL EQUALLY QUALIFIED FOR THE TITLE OF CHAMPION! THEY CAN PROUDLY SAY THAT THEIR ACTIONS HERE HAVE PUT PONYVILLE NOT ONLY ON THE MAP, BUT IN THE HISTORY BOOKS AS WELL! MAKE THE EARTH SHAKE AND THE HEAVENS TREMBLE FOR RAGDOLL, RUST, AND BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKSHOOOOOT!"

While few from Ponyville had actually come to the tournament, many had found reason for cheering for the only whole team remaining. They were the underdogs, the wild card, the group which everypony secretly wished to be. Those who had not sided with Canterlot or Stalliongrad were yelling wildly for them, stamping their hooves, blowing horns, anything to show their support. The Ponyville group was a strange mix of unique characters.

Ragdoll; strapped into a sparse leather chest guard with her shaggy white coat, bushy chocolate-brown tail and mane, exotic eyes, and ice-cool personality, had become something of an icon for the crowd.

Rust; his namesake rusty orange-red coat bare to the elements. He alone among all the contenders had chosen to wear no armor for any of the events. This peculiarity had caused much speculation, as none of the crowd had ever seen him fight, and nopony could even remotley understand the foreign profanity he constantly spouted. Hopefully, today would provide the crowd some answers about the mysterious stallion.

Towering over every other pony in the area, the final member of the team drew a thunderous standing ovation. Buck Apple; the giant among giants. Freakishly strong, unbelievably tough. His dark teal coat was covered in solid steel plate slabs of torn and dented metal; his suit of armor crafted especially for him by his teammates, once pristine, now tarnished by battle. Fans would often spread rumors as to how his protective hide had become so jagged and beat up. A scrap of faded cloth was worn around his neck, some memento of days long past. Heavy-lidded ocean eyes peered solemnly out from under a helm that had been recently replaced.

"ONE MINUTE REMAINS BEFORE THE FINAL CHALLENGE IS UNLEASHED! AS DECIDED BY THE PRINCESS THEMSELVES, IT WILL BE TRIAL OF COMBAT! FOR, TO UPHOLD THE PEACE OF THE LAND YOU PROTECT, YOU MUST FIGHT AGAINST ALL ODDS, NO MATTER THE COST!"


The sky looks so pretty today. Awww, look at that cloud! It looks like a puppy! Look at those widdle pawsy-wawsies! I shall name you Little Cinnamon, and you shall be my greatest ally.

Rust looked up at the sky, taking his gaze off the sea of the crowd. "Ahh... Beautiful fucking day out, huh?" Despite his nonchalant appearance, he felt full to bursting with nerves and energy.

Buck's voice sounded out from under his hastily supplied helmet, slightly muffled, due to its ill fit. "Too right, mate. Can't wait ta get this over with." Rust couldn't help but chuckle inwardly at this. The poor guy had had his ass handed to him the most out of everypony here. It was a miracle he was still standing. Rust fondly remembered how often Buck complained about violent challenges. The chivalrous stallion tried to avoid confrontation when he could, but his sheer size and imposing appearance often resulted in him being targeted first.

"Me too, dude. I'm getting tired of all this bullshit."

The big lug is a gentle giant. But he's damn good when his blood's up.

The last round had been another combat challenge, against an Ursa Minor, of all things. Thanks to an astonishing display of speed from Ragdoll, the team had managed to fell the great beast. Originally, there had been protest against using actual creatures in the area, so an alternative had to be found that allowed the contestants to "slay" mighty foes. The Princesses had solved the problem of actually killing living creatures by the clever usage of the Mirror Image spell. The forces opposing them in the area were actually magical clones of the original subject that would evaporate in a cliched poof when dealt enough lethal damage to kill them.

The danger to the ponies, however, was very real. Scores of medic teams stood at the ready in case serious harm inflicted one of the contenders. This had gotten some of them on edge.

Boulder, one of the contenders from Canterlot, was standing nearby. He chuckled darkly at their discomfort. "What's the matter, hayseeds, afraid you'll spill some blood?"

Rust didn't even bother acknowledging the guard, maintaining his sight on the sky.

Boulder snorted at the smaller unicorn's pluck. "You think you're pretty tough, little colt?"

"I know I'm tough," Rust shot back in his usual soft voice. "But like my fat-ass friend standing next to me, I'm tired of having to prove it."

The guard gave him a queer look. "You don't look like you could lift a bale of hay, let alone compete here of all places." He swept his hoof toward the stands. "So tell me, hayseed. How have you made it this far? The crowd wants to know, as well as myself."

Rust gave him a questioning glance before returning to gaze at his beloved Little Cinnnamon.

Boulder continued, "It's not everyday that some strange little unicorn competes at the same level as a Canterlot Guard." He puffed his chest out at the mentioning of his occupation.

The unicorn pointed to his flank with one hoof. "See my mark?"

"...Yeah. What is it? I looks like one of those monkeys from the Palace zoo decided to get friendly with your rear end." Boulder smirked. "Is that your special talent, then? Rutting with apes?"

"This isn't the hand print of a monkey, dumbass."

"Then what, hayseed?"

Rust finally turned to the guard and looked him in the eyes. The Canterlot Guard's rock solid facial expression he wore flinched involuntarily as Rust's gold rimmed pupils bored into his own.

"A monster."

Boulder was taken aback. "So what, then, you're some kind of terrifying demon bent on destruction and death?"

Rust returned back to his beloved cloud. "When the mood takes me." He pondered whether or not to continue.

Why the hell not? I can have some fun here.

"Are you familiar with the ending of the last Equine-Gryphonic War? Or is it true that a guardspony takes arrows to the brain as well as the knee?"

Boulder, slightly confused by this odd statement, bit back a retort to think. "The Gryphonic capital was sacked. Mercilessly. That was three hundred and thirty-two years ago. Since then, the peace has held."

Rust took an exaggerated bow. "You're welcome for that, bitch."

It took Boulder a moment to realize what the smaller unicorn was implying. "You... You were there?" He gawked, shaking his head in disbelief. "That isn't possible, hayseed."

"I wasn't just there, I was the commander who gave the order to attack. Best fucking battle I ever fought in." Rust gave the Canterlot representative a feral grin, revealing the four sharp canines he had nestled amid the usual pony dentistry.

"You're obviously insane, you know that?"

"What you call insanity, I call inspiration." Rust leaned over and spat a glob of saliva into the dirt. "Now, more importantly, does that cloud up there look like a puppy to you? His name is Little Cinnamon, and I shall rule the world with him at my side."

Buckshot's deep voice edged in. "Trust me, Boulder. You get used to him after a while."

...Well, fuck you too, Buck.

Boulder's teammate, Scrappy Doo, turned from his position to silence the three "Stow it, all of you. Something's coming out of that gate, and when it does, I wouldn't want to be hanging around shooting the breeze." The two guardsponies shifted and faced the wall, adopting the chiseled, blank features so commonly associated with their profession.

The object of their focus was a large, wrought-iron gate, three stories high, with bars as thick as tree trunks. Heavy chains crisscrossed the door, joining together in an enormous padlock, adorned with the emblems of the sun and the moon.

Looks like a god-damn boss door. I wonder what PC and PL cooked up? Maybe it's a giant cheeseburger or something.

Rust licked his lips in anticipation. He hadn't had a cheeseburger in a very, very long time.

Meanwhile, in the Royal Box seating area...

"Luna! One of them knows what it is!"

"How is that possible? Our calculations indicated that nopony would ever guess at such a monstrosity! Who is it, 'Tia?"

"It is Elder Rust."

"Of course... Sister, we are curious about the Elder's participation in this tournament. He does realize that neither he or Elder Ragdoll are legible to receive Champion-hood, on account of their origins?"

"They know, dear sister."

"Why do they compete then? Surely no sane being would put themselves through this kind of activity for no reason at all."

"He said he was 'doing it for the lulz', whatever that strange phrase means."

"What are these 'lulz' of which you speak?"

"I haven't the faintest idea, Luna."

"... His kind are very strange. Very strange indeed."

"Quite. Now, there are twenty seconds left before the gates open. We need an unexpected substitute."

"Hmmm... Let us think for a moment. Oh! How about him?"

"You can't be serious, dear sister."

"We are. Will he consent to be copied?"

"One moment... Yes. My, Luna, you certainly are devious. Are you ready?"

"The heavens themselves shall tremble with fire!"

"...I'll take that as a yes."

Back in the Proving Ground...

The noise of the crowd fell to an expectant hush as the seconds timed down. The six ponies gathered in the arena faced the gates with varying forms of attention. The Laughing Mare was slowly rocking back and forth on her hooves, giggling softly through the pink helm on her head. The two Canterlot guards were poised for action, tense with anticipation. Ragdoll had sunk into a hunting crouch, her eyes, narrowed to ice blue slits eyeing the gate expectantly, her tail lashing to and fro violently. Rust had simply leaned up against a nearby pillar, still gazing up at his beloved puppy-shaped cloud.

Buck quickly glanced at the eccentric unicorn and shook his head in disbelief. Resigning to confront his teammate about his odd competitive habits at a later time, Buck turned back towards the padlocked gate and braced himself. The enormous metal plates covering his frame screeched and groaned as he moved, but nonetheless submitted to his motions. Buck grimaced as some of the jagged edges in the damaged suit bit into his coat.

One more time, then I'll be done with this thing. Bloody piece of junk gives me a rash.

The armor had been through quite a bit, he mused. Burned (repeatedly), electrocuted, pelted with diamond spikes, slammed through the stone pillars dotting the area on multiple occasions... It was a miracle he was still alive, and this only seemed to further the spreading of the exaggerated tales his fans told of him. Buck snorted through his ill-fitting helm as he recalled how more often than not he was swarmed with ponies clamoring for his attentions almost as soon as he set hoof out of the arena. The fans smothered him for the most part, and so Buck had spent most of his free time away from the tournament, in the Royal Palace with Princess Luna, with whom he had enjoyed a deep friendship since their meeting nearly a decade ago on the day of the eruption.

The Canterlot war drums began pounding in time with the countdown. Buck rolled his shoulders in an attempt to calm himself, feeling the two inch thick steel epaulets putting up a reassuring resistance. He would never admit it, but he wasn't just nervous about combat challenges, he was downright terrified, and for good reason. Buck was glad his family was not present to see him compete in such events. Violence had never been something he enjoyed, and despite the fact that he often had to resort to it, the large stallion had never once in his life enjoyed doing so... until when he found himself caught up in the rush of battle. He reflected on how he had this strange parallel within himself; one side gentle and caring, the other, a true terror to behold. It somewhat disturbed him that soon after entering a fray, his fears and inhibitions would wash away, and he would unconsciously slip into the guise of a veritable force of nature, hell-bent on crushing the skull of anything standing in the way of his goal beneath his armored hooves.

Shrugging his inhibitions aside, Buck narrowed his eyes and held his breath as the drums reached a ground-shaking crescendo...

...A deathly silence filled the area as the door swung open...

...Followed by a startled gasp from both spectators and five of the six competitors as they realized the chamber behind the door was completely empty.

Buck gaped at the entrance in confusion, before turning sharply to his right after hearing a loud, foreign curse. Rust was leaning against the nearby pillar, his eyes trained on the sky, large with shock.

"Why did it have to be a dragon?" The unicorn rhetorically spat after muttering a few more incomprehensible profanities. "Scaly bastards have way too many health points for their own good."

Buck followed his gaze to see not one, but two fully grown adult dragons circling the arena. They were exactly alike in every respect. Buck gulped audibly. This had to be Luna's doing; the alicorn delighted in presenting difficult challenges to the contenders.

Abruptly, one of them peeled off from its flight pattern, rocketing downward like a bullet the size of a small skyscraper. It punched a hole through several of the overhead clouds before descending into the arena, its massive wings sending up gusts of wind that knocked over many of the spectators. The dragon settled onto the packed dirt of the Proving Ground with a cataclysmic crash, it's red scales sparkling faintly with the magic so recently used for its creation. It tilted its head back, and from its serrated maw a spewing inferno of crimson fire issued forth, jetting high into the sky. The crowd involuntarily covered their eyes from the bright blaze.

Buck nervously readied himself into a fighting stance, but was suddenly shunted aside as Rust stalked in front of him. The smaller unicorn stood on his hind legs, walking around as if it was something natural. Two rapidly spinning buzz-saws of green light held like shields in both of his forelegs, now hanging at his sides. The unicorn strode in this manner right up the massive dragon. He looked ridiculous standing in front of it, truly dwarfed in size.

Rust narrowed his eyes, which were now faintly glowing the same color as his horn and the shields. "You!" he cried to the dragon. Buck shook his head in disbelief. What was he thinking? He'd be annihilated!

Rust continued: "You overgrown newt!" He raised his dangling foreleg and pointed at the sky. The spinning wheel of light hovering just off the limb crackled with angry energy. "You killed Little Cinnamon!"

Sure enough, one of the many clouds the dragon had shot through during it's descent looked faintly like a puppy... now including a gaping hole in it's head.

The unicorn brought the whirling shields together with a crash; green sparks issued forth as the magical edges ground against each-other.

"The dragons have returned... But... there is one they fear.... In their tongue, he is Dovakiin; Dragonborn!"

He took a deep breath... Energy filled the very air... The crowd hushed in anticipation.

Rust suddenly let out his breath with a whoosh of air. "Fuck that shit. I'm just going to cut your head off."

The dragon let out a terrible, screeching roar, and Buck and the other contestants charged as one.

Author: Oh yes... yes he did... I totally just cut this Bedtime Story in half. You'll get your dosage of dragon fighting, Rust being insane, and mysterious moon-shaped blessings... in the next chapter.

I'm just the worst, aren't I?