• Published 11th Dec 2019
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The Legend of Daring Do - The Red Parade

As Hearth’s Warming approaches, Rainbow Dash seeks Twilight Sparkle’s assistance in retelling an adventure story in an effort to bring back the sister she never knew.

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Daring Do and the Pictures on the Wall

For a city that’s never in the same place twice, Cloudsdale really doesn’t change all that much. The roads I’m trotting down today are exactly the same as the ones I went down as a filly. The buildings and houses still shine in the sun, and foals still laugh and play in the streets. You can still see the weather factory in the distance, and if you’re lucky you might just see a Wonderbolt flying through the air.

I glance to my right to see Daring following behind me, taking it all in. “You were right, it really hasn’t changed,” she says.

“You said that about Ponyville too,” I answer. “You probably just don’t notice what’s different.”

My sister shrugs and falls silent, glancing up and down the street. The houses might all look the same, but the families that live in them are way different. That was something we learned by living here all those years ago.

I come to a stop in front of a familiar two story house, one that both of us spent our early years in. I glance at my sister and chuckle at the nervous look on her face. “Why are you scared?”

“I don’t know,” she admits. “I guess it’s just been a while.”

I scoff. “Please, it’s Mom and Dad. How could you ever be scared of them?” I turn around and knock on the door.

After a few seconds it opens, and I’m basically tackled to the ground. “Hey, look at you! You haven’t changed one bit! How are you?”

“Dad!” I pat my hoof against his back as he ropes me into a bear hug. “Can’t breathe!”

He releases me from the hug, and I swear I can hear my sister laughing at me. “Sorry, Dashie. Windy, she’s here!”

My mom trots up to the doorway and gasps, rushing over to pull me into a hug. “Rainbow, it’s been so long! How have you been? Have you been eating well?”

I break out of the hug, sighing at their endless questions. “I’m fine, Mom! And we just saw each other like a month ago!”

“Has it really been that long?” she gasps.

“How are things going with the Wonderbolts?” Dad asks. “Did you make it in yet?”

My mom gestures for me to come in. “Bow, let her come in! She’ll freeze to death out there!”

As they lead the way into the house, I shoot a wary glance at Daring. “See? They haven’t changed a bit.”

Daring shakes her head and chuckles. I enter the house, trotting down the hallway and into the living room. My parents sit themselves down on the couch and motion for me to take a seat across from them.

The living room looks almost the same as I left it. Photographs take up every available space on the wall, along with some of my old medals and recognitions. A bookshelf’s tucked up against the far well, holding mom’s prized Princess Celestia collectible plates.

“So, dearie, how is life in the weather service?” mom asks.

I roll my eyes. “The same it’s always been, Mom.”

“That’s good to hear,” dad says. “You save Equestria again lately?”

“If I had, I think you would have heard about it,” I reply.

That gets a smile out of them. My dad wraps a wing around mom and pulls her close, both of them beaming with pride. I swear, it’s like this every single time I visit. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like when I finally become a Wonderbolt.

I notice Daring out of the corner of my eye, her back turned to me as she looks at some picture on the wall. I clear my throat. “Hey, Dad, I got your package.”

A grim look passes over his face for a second. “Oh! That’s good. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but I’m sure it’s better off with you than sitting here with us.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” My eyes drift to the wall of pictures, and I notice that Daring’s strangely absent from most of them. Has it always been like this since her death? For some reason I can’t remember.

Mom sighs, her eyes falling to the table. “We never knew that Daring was so interested in writing. I wish she told us. How is her book? Is it good?”

I nod. “It’s pretty cool, yeah. Did you guys find any other books?”

Mom and dad share a glance with each other and their ears droop. Dad rubs his foreleg awkwardly before talking. “It’s… kind of funny, actually. We haven’t really been in her room since the accident.”

Mom nods. “We go in occasionally, to clean out the dust and whatnot, but we try not to touch anything.”

“It’s stupid, I know, but it just feels… wrong to go in there,” dad says. His voice drops low and he blinks a few times, fighting back tears. “It’s all we have left of her. I don’t want it to change, because…. Because then we’ll lose her.” He spreads a wing across mom’s back and hugs her tight.

The room falls silent before mom starts talking again. “That book was the first thing we ever took out of her room. It was tucked away in a little box underneath her bed. I found it while cleaning some of the dust bunnies out.”

I’m… not really sure how to react. All my life I’ve known my parents to be strong. That didn’t change at the funeral, even with us all hugging and crying together. Back then, I kept looking up to them. Thinking that if they could be strong, then I could be strong too.

But looking at them now, they’re nothing like the strong guardians I knew them to be. They sulk over, fighting back tears as they hug each other tightly. I can’t bear to see them like this.

I get off the couch. “Do you guys mind if I see her room?”

Dad blinks and shakes his head. “No, not at all. This is still your house, you don’t need our permission.”

I nod and leave the room. I trot up the stairs and pause in the hallway. My old room’s on the right, and through the open door I can see some old posters and toys scattered around. On the left is my sister’s room. The door’s closed.

I go up to the door, laughing at the old signs Daring hung on it. Things like ‘Keep out!’ and ‘Knock first, I’m busy!’ Those signs never stopped me or my parents from just barging in, much to her dismay. With a deep breath I push the door open and walk in.

It’s dark. I flick on the lightswitch and the room is bathed in light. After my eyes adjust, I look around. I see her bed’s still sitting in the center of the room, the sheets made and ready. Even if nopony’s slept in them for years. Her bookshelf is still crammed with books and journals. The desk on the other side of the room’s still full of neatly stacked papers and journals, along with a lamp and a cup full of pens.

Mom and dad were right when they said they hadn’t changed it. The only thing I notice that’s different is a cardboard box sitting on top of her desk. I go over and open it to find that it’s full of photographs. Photographs of her.

“What’d I do wrong?” I glance behind me to see Daring lying on her bed, staring up at the ceiling, with her pith helmet on her chest. “I mean, did I disappoint them so badly that they couldn’t bear to look at me anymore?”

I raise an eyebrow. “Are we talking about the same ponies? You saw how they were. They miss you more than anything.”

“Then why did they take down all of my pictures? Why close the door to my room and lock it?”

I sigh, sitting down in the chair at her desk. “Because they’re hurting, Sis. I think I was the same way years ago.” She doesn’t reply, so I continue, “For a while it was painful just to think of you. I couldn’t look at a picture of you without missing you and hating myself for it. It took me a long time to get over it, but… I don’t know if mom and dad ever did get over it.”

Looking into the box, I spot a photograph that looks surprisingly familiar. The glass is cracked down the side, like it fell off the wall, but other than that it’s pretty intact. Turning it over in my hooves, I realize it’s the same photo that I saw in the North Zone.

My ears twitch as I hear a shuffling at the doorway. “Rainbow?” my mom’s soft voice calls.

I turn around and smile at her. “Hey.”

She bites her lip, glancing at dad. “How are you holding up?”

I shrug. “Fine, I guess.”

Dad nods at the box. “We never meant to lock her away like this,” he says quietly. “It was just too much to handle. I couldn’t look around the house without being reminded of her and thinking that I failed.”

“You didn’t fail,” I tell him. “You did everything you could.”

He shakes his head in anger. “No, because a parent’s job is to keep their kid safe! If I can’t even do that--” His voice breaks, and mom drapes a wing over his side.

“We tried,” she says. “We tried to move on. We took down her photos, telling ourselves that we would look at them when we had healed. When we could handle the pain.”

“But we never could,” dad sobs. “Not even after all these years.”

I get off the chair and join them. Mom pulls us all into a group hug. I feel my own resolve crumbling as tears well up in my eyes. “Mom, Dad, you were the best parents she could have asked for,” I tell them. “She loved you.”

We hold the hug for a long time.

“You know,” I say eventually, “I heard something the other day. Somepony told me that you have to hurt before you can heal.”

Mom and dad glance at each other and sigh. “Maybe they’re right,” dad says. “We’ve been putting this off for far too long.” They both step forward, through the doorway and into her room.

They go over to the box on the desk and start taking out the photographs, smiling at the memories that go with them.

Something occurs to me. “Hey, Mom? Dad? Are you… okay with me being an Element and everything?”

Dad pauses before replying. “Well… I can’t say I’m completely thrilled with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve done, but…”

“But we’re worried about you,” mom finishes. She takes my hoof and looks me in the eye. “Rainbow, honey, we’ll support you no matter what you do, but please… promise us you’ll be safe.”

I give a confident smile and a nod. “I will, Mom. I will.”

Twilight’s practically bouncing off the wall when I enter the library. She’s prattling one about some new machine or something the princess gave her.

“Think of the possibilities!” she gushes. “These are top of the line, weather and waterproof, and even come with extended warranty!”

“That’s cool, I guess. I still don’t know what it does,” I reply.

“Well, the anemometer measures a pegasus’s raw slipstream and can be configured to calculate things like raw wing power—”

“So it measures how fast you go,” I cut off.

“Well, exactly, it’s actually more similar to a log wins profiler in that—”

With a groan I shove the book into Twilight’s hooves. “Can we please, please, please just get on with this?”

She glares at me, probably because of the abuse of a book, but clears her throat. Twilight flips through the pages, her eyes skimming the pages as she tries to find where we left off. “Outlaws, sand crawlers, giant cactus… ah, here we go. After a brief rest, your group continues through the Empty Desert. Eventually you come across a massive sandstone temple…”

The temple starts to form as she speaks. Massive doesn’t even come close to describing it, as this thing is twice the size of the Canterlot castle. It’s shaped sort of like the Temple of Vines, but the top is so far away that I can barely see it.

“Alright everypony,” Daring says. “This is it. The third key should be inside the temple itself, but I have no idea what to expect. And remember, the Amulet is said to be guarded by Pentagony.”

“What is Pentagony?” Minute questions.

“Nopony knows,” Daring replies. “Are we all ready?”

After nods from the group, we enter the temple. Daring lights a torch and leads the way through a long dark tunnel. Cobwebs line the ceiling and sand shifts underneath our hooves. Eventually the sand gives way to cold stone, but the hallway just gets darker and darker.

Suddenly we end up in a huge empty room. The ceiling spans high, far beyond the light of Daring’s torch. At the end of the room is a heavy iron gate with three locks on it. In the center of the room lies an old wooden chest that’s strangely unlocked.

“This looks like it,” Redblood says.

Daring raises a hoof in caution, passing the torch to Slow Burn so she can speak. “Be careful, it might be booby-trapped.” She circles the chest cautiously, looking at it from every angle. Finally, she goes up to it and noses it open. Inside is a blue metal key. Daring takes a deep breath. “Everyone get ready, Celestia knows what might happen when I take it out.”

We all nod. Redblood readies her laser, Minute lights up her horn, and Slow draws his gun. Free Fall and I hover above the group, ready for anything. Daring takes the key out of the chest.

For a second nothing happens. Then, there’s a deep rumbling, followed by a deafening roar that makes everyone flinch. Light suddenly fills the room as several mounted torches catch fire. Hundreds of hidden doors open in the walls, and monsters and ponies surge out.

My eyes widen as I realize what’s happening. Coming out of the walls is everything we’ve been fighting. Divines slither from the ground while giant stone statues lumber behind them. Changelings hiss and buzz as they fly down from the ceiling, mixed in with a few Valkyries. Desert Crawlers move up and down the walls, snapping their jaws at us. Outlaws join the mix, weapons raised. Everything has glowing red eyes and a look that radiates anger.

They surge forwards and we’re almost immediately on the defensive. I roll to the right as a Divine’s tendril lashes out at me. I have to dodge again as a Valkyrie attacks. I take the knife Daring gave me ages ago and slash the vine before stabbing the Valkyrie. Instead of blood, a weird black ooze drips out of the wound. It falls to the ground, lost in the crowd of monsters.

Scanning the horde, I curse to myself. My friends below are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies. Minute’s thrown up a protective shield around them, but it’s starting to crack from the pressure. Explosive spells and laser shots clear out large groups of enemies, but they’re replaced almost immediately by another wave.

I regroup with Free Fall and Daring. “What do we do?!”

“I don’t know,” Daring shouts as she stabs a Valkyrie that gets too close.

“We need to do something,” Free Fall hisses. She kicks a changeling away and bucks it to the ground, knocking out a Divine as she does so.

“I need a minute to think,” she grunts. I glance downward to see Minute’s shield break from all the blows.

Slow Burn opens up with a volley of shotgun blasts, taking down a score of Outlaws and crawlers. Redblood fires her laser cannon into the crowds while wielding her pole to knock out some changelings that get too close. But Minute’s on the ground, panting in exhaustion. Her horn flickers, and I realize how much energy that shield must have taken out of her.

Suddenly a changeling breaks through and knocks her to the ground. “Crap!” I dive out of the sky, driving my front hooves into the changeling’s face and sending it flying. Before it can get up, Slow puts it down with a shot to the face. I grab Minute’s hoof and pull her to her hooves. “You alright?”

“I think so,” she grunts. “But my reserves are depleted, I can’t--”

Before she can finish, a vine shoots out and wraps around my rear leg. The Divine tries to pull me into a crowd of crawlers, but Redblood takes it out with a well-aimed laser shot. “My cannon’s almost out!” she warns.

“Ah’m on my last shots too!” Slow replies.

I look up at Daring to see if she’s got a plan. All of a sudden, something catches my eye. In the far corner of the room there’s an Outlaw with a sniper rifle in his hooves. And he’s aiming up, at Free Fall.

Free Fall doesn’t see him. She’s got her legs and wings tangled up in vines and is struggling to get out. My eyes widen and I shoot up to the sky. But I’ll never make it in time.

Someone else gets there first. A green blur shoves her aside, slashing enough of the vines away so Free Fall can maneuver. Then, above the chaos of the battle, there’s a lone gunshot.

My world stops. “NO!”