• Published 31st Aug 2020
  • 405 Views, 22 Comments

The Pony Loa - Leila Drake

A troll couple accidentally summons ponies to Azeroth. And a flustered human. But for the trip back they need the help of a mage as powerful as Twilight Sparkle...

  • ...

Chapter 10: Clash of Blades

The sailors were not at all happy about the chaos the friends had made. They insisted that the creators of the mess were to remove it, too. After four hours of scrubbing the deck and throwing dead birds into the water, save for a few they wanted to cook, Darren and Nylene had just about enough. The sun had already set when they returned to the hold to eat and sleep. Even Levinia, though not exhausted, looked thoroughly annoyed. She turned into a wisp again and flew away, probably to circle the ship again.

Tarik had not said a single word since Darren's comment about Northrend. As soon as the work was done he quickly excused himself and went to his room.

Darren leaned back in his hammock, chewing on an orange Vol'Shalai had offered him while the albatross stew was in the oven. Eclipse, sitting on the floor, looked up from the game of Twelve Huts he and Vol'Shalai were playing.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Ya think someting?" Vol'Shalai asked in broken Common.

"Hm," Darren hummed. "Tarik's watching us," he said quietly.

"Really? Why?" Eclipse perked up, curiously looking around. He could not spot him, though. Since it was late many passengers were already in the hold, getting ready for the night. As usual, an obvious distance was being kept to Eclipse's group. It was dark, the dim light of a few candles and some mage's magic being the only sources of light.

"Not right now, kid, and you shouldn't look around so obviously."

"Sorry." Eclipse's ears folded back.

"No harm done." Darren swallowed the last bit of orange and pressed the peel into a ball. He threw the ball into the trash jar and sat up. "I slipped up," he admitted.

"When?" Vol'Shalai asked, alarmed.

"When we killed the birds. I mentioned I was in Northrend twice. Suppose he wants to find out more now."

Eclipse shrugged. "So what? If he wants to know more, why is that a bad thing?"

"He might want to come home with us," Darren said. "I did when I asked Twilight. It would not be a surprise if he wanted that, too."

"So what?" Eclipse repeated.

"Are you absolutely sure we should tell everybody who asks how to get rid of the curse of Undeath?" Darren whispered. "Before long, you'd have people lining up for a portal to Equestria. We don't even know how to get home ourselves, we can't promise anybody anything. And I'm not willing to dump the Undead of Azeroth on the Princess. I don't have the right."

"But next time we dream of Princess Luna..." Eclipse began.

Darren raised his brows. "Yes, I know. Still, it's a risk to tell him."

Nylene, who had been quiet up to now, snorted. "You're overestimating the number of Undead we're going to meet, my friend. Did you not say you wanted to go to Stormwind?"

"Yes," Darren replied hesitantly.

"Then you need not worry. Most of the death knights have been recruited to Acherus," Nylene said dismissively.

"Really? De flying castle?" Vol'Shalai rubbed his chin. "Why?"

"I don't know much," Nylene admitted. She turned around to face them. "They were drafted just before we left Ratchet. Apparently, they want to travel to Northrend for some quest. I heard so from one of the bankers. It cost me five Gold, and that for just a few rumours. Greedy sonofabitch."

Darren's frown deepened. "That sounds ominous."

"Anyway, they are gone. And don't expect any Forsaken to show up in Stormwind." Nylene smiled darkly.

"What's a Forsaken again?" Eclipse asked.

"Jonathan used to be one," Darren explained. "The Undead who broke free from the Lich King's control joined together as a new nation. Well, most of them, anyway. The death knights are a different matter though Forsaken death knights do exist."

Eclipse ran a hoof through his mane. "But why aren't they in Stormwind? I thought they were humans, too."

Darren sighed. "You're absolutely correct. They are."

"Da humans hate undead," Vol'Shalai said, scratching a spot behind his long ear. "Dey..." he broke off, then continued in Orcish, "How do I say, "despise'?"

"They despise them," Darren helped out. "They are disgusted and scared by the idea of former relatives walking around as corpses. And many aren't aware that the Forsaken hate the Scourge just as much as the Alliance does, maybe even more. The Stormwind citizens would have hung the death knights right away if not for a decree from the King himself."

"Oh. I'm sorry," Eclipse muttered. "That must be hard."

"I think I'm beginning to see the problem," Nylene said. "Apparently, thw two of us are in a similar situation, death knight Darren." She grinned humourlessly. "I hope to find family in Stormwind, too, but I don't even know if they want to cast eyes on me, demonic aberration that I am." She muttered the last words. He left wing twitched, making her hammock shake.

"Whew." Eclipse bit his lip, his eyes watering with sympathy. "I thought I was an outsider because I'm adopted. Guess there's always worse."

"C'mere," Darren invited him.

Eclipse jumped up to Darren's hammock and sat down next to him. Darren put his arm around him.

"Don't worry about us," Darren said. "We're used to what we are. Or were. We'll figure something out."

"Okay," Eclipse sniffled.

Unseen by the colt, Darren exchanged a worried look with Vol'Shalai.

The next day was gloriously uneventful. The sun shone down on them most of the time and a steady wind came from the west. Darren asked the helmsman how long it would take until they reached Stranglethorn Vale. The answer was as short as it was satisfying. If the wind stayed like this they would see the coast of the eastern continent in less than a week.

Under these circumstances, Vol'Shalai and Levinia decided to postpone teaching each other Equestrian and Orcish and stuck to Common instead. To Darren's relief, they were both fast learners. Vol'Shalai had trouble with the consonants, though, claiming that 'da human speech be too soft' for the tongue of a Darkspear troll.

It was past midday when Tarik joined them on deck. Nylene, her legs dangling off the ship's side through the railing, cleared her throat and pointed behind herself with her thumb. When Darren turned his head he saw that the Undead had taken off his armour and donned some light clothing instead. Only the boots were the same as before. He had brought his sword along. Darren quickly stood up and walked over to him, giving a goblin sailor a berth who crossed his path.

"You're ready to keep your promise," he said, jerking his head towards the blade.

"Naturally." Tarik narrowed his glowing eyes. "Where is your weapon?"

"In the hold. I'll get it right away."

"Don't hurry, I literally have all day," Tarik said.

"I know; so do I. We should make good use of it." Darren turned around and called, "Eclipse!"

"Yeah?" The pony sprang to his feet and cantered over to him.

"In the mood for some action?" Darren asked with a friendly smile.

"Sure!" Eclipse said, giddily jumping and buzzing his small wings. "Uh, what do I do?"

"I need to get my sword first," Darren said in Equestrian so Tarik would not understand him. "I'm afraid you can't join us in the fight but if you want you can watch us. Once you have a shield I can teach you how to defend yourself against somebody armed with a sword. And against magic. We need to polish your Void magic skills a bit. Sound good?"

"Okay!" Eclipse grinned. "Cool!"

Darren patted his shoulder and left for the hold.

Tarik frowned at Eclipse. The colt gave him a brave smile.

"Hello," said Eclipse. "Are you feeling better now? Did the bird hunt help?"

"Yes." Tarik eyed him, pursing his lips. "You weren't there."

"No, I wasn't allowed to watch. Darren says you can't unsee the stuff you've seen. I mean, after watching - well, I saw some bad things before and had a lot of nightmares... I really don't need any more of those." He dug at the ground. "Guess you know what that's like." He smiled awkwardly. "Being a death knight and all."

"I don't sleep," Tarik countered flatly. "What kind of creature are you?"

"A pony. A pegasus Shadow Pony." Eclipse proudly puffed out his chest.

"Never heard of those." Tarik looked down on Eclipse, frowning deeply.

"Yeah... I'm not from around here. But hey, we can still be friends if you like!"

Tarik snorted, refraining from a comment. He tilted his head, hearing heavy footsteps.

Darren had returned with his sword belt slung over his shoulder. He raised his brows at Eclipse who understood and retreated to the railing, next to Nylene. Vol'Shalai and Levinia interrupted their conversation, curious about what was going on.

"This is going to be fun," Nylene commented, turning around. She leaned against the railing, both arms outstretched and resting on the polished wood, like a noble getting ready to watch her subjects put on a show.

"Ya sure?" Vol'Shalai asked but he, too, sat back and eyed the two knights curiously. Eclipse hesitantly planted his rump on the planks next to him. It was weird not to stand by Darren's side.

Darren rotated his right shoulder as he and Tarik circled each other like two lions ready to pounce. Both could not help but smirk at each other. Vol'Shalai had not noticed before how similar they both looked. Not in build and appearance; Tarik was slightly taller than Darren and less muscular, his hair was cut very short and Darren's was bound in his neck. Also, Darren's leather armour looked new and Tarik's clothes were worn and apparently had not made any acquaintace with water in quite some time. It was the bleached-out colour of their hair, the pale skin, the way they moved, that greedy look in their eyes. Even though Darren's were not aglow, the vicious tattoo on his left cheek and the dark expression on his face simply screamed, 'death knight'. Vol'Shalai realized that even though Darren might not suffer from bloodlust he still needed to let off some steam.

Tarik leapt forward, swinging his sword around in a fairly predictable manner. He probably wanted to test how skilled Darren really was. Darren easily parried the strike and rotated his own weapon to redirect the blow away from him. Again, they circled each other. Darren made a step forward, trying to get into Tarik's flank. The blades collided, sparks flew off the ragged edges. Another hit and miss. Tarik seemed a little surprised; Darren's smirk turned into a dark grin.

"We're attracting a crowd," Nylene commented, amused. And really, a few goblin sailors had stopped their work, talking and pointing at the two sparring men. Two orcs passed by and halted their conversation. They grinned, looked at each other and decided to watch as well. Vol'Shalai recognized Miindra: the Draenei woman also stood there, her arms crossed and a slightly sour expression on her face.

"Dat alright? Dey fight to kill, I tink," Vol'Shalai said. He was annoyed by how blocky his words sounded but at least Nylene comprehended the meaning.

"Ah, they shall be fine. It wouldn't be half as good a fight if they held back."

"Fighting to kill? But Darren always fights like that," Eclipse said, doubt creeping into his voice. "Except when we're training."

"Exactly," Nylene said. "You're just a child, after all."

"Can you even see them? I - I thought you were blind..." Eclipse asked hesitantly, a blush creeping up his cheeks.

Nylene chuckled. "I am blind but I can still sense them magically, see their shape and their auras. It's entertaining enough."

Tarik was good, Darren had to admit. As he parried another strike, he considered using his powers. Maybe it was time to test out the limits some more. He could tell that Tarik was very skilled, maybe even a tad better than Darren who had not had much practice in the past few months.

Darren attacked more fiercely now, getting faster as his muscle memory kicked in. Cold mist rose from his blade as he drew first blood, scratching Tarik's left upper arm. A streak of dark brown, almost blackened red soaked through the faded shirt. Tarik was quick to repay; he stabbed Darren's thigh. Darren winced, narrowing his eyes. He could feel somthing like happy anger welling up inside of him. He hardly felt the wound, the pain was somehow dulled. Probably the excitement. He brandished his runeblade and kept fighting, recalling all the steps and swings he had used so often that he did not need to consciously think about them.

They exchanged several more swings and parries, still not satisfied. Tarik shook Darren's blood from his sword and frowned as Darren did the same simultaneously. Red and black mingled on the floor.

"You fight like one of us," Tarik remarked and Darren nodded.

"I know," said Darren simply. "Ready for more?"

Eclipse had never seen anybody sparring like this before. Yes, he had watched the City Guard's training session once. His Mom had agreed to take him to the Station, a favour she had called in from a colleague. Eclipse had been deeply impressed by the speed and precision with which the guards moved. Captain Coral Spark had overseen the training. Eclipse remembered him because of the Captain's fiery red mane that had stood out like a bright flame. But this was different. The ponies had mostly trained without spears, using their bandaged forelegs both as blunt weapons and a shield. Darren and Tarik, however, used sharp weapons. It was a very different fighting style, reminding Eclipse faintly of Abrasive Paper, the guard with the polearm...

He noticed that the movements were getting faster. Darren and Tarik had already wounded each other several times. Eclipse felt cold. Darren seemed to have fun in a way but he also looked angry. Which of the two was it? Eclipse shuffled closer to Nylene, seeking her hand. The Night Elf twitched, surprised. She put an arm around Eclipse, holding his hoof.

"You alright, little one?" she asked, worried.

"Think so," he said.

"It's exciting, isn't it?" She grinned.

"That's one way to put it," Eclipse muttered nervously.

"They'll know when to stop," Nylene assured him.

"Who did you take it from?" Tarik asked, pointing at Darren's runeblade.

Darren grunted, panting a little. "It's mine."

Tarik groaned angrily, swinging at Darren once again. He almost hit him; Darren ducked, sliding past his right arm, he rotated back to back with Tarik and grazed his lower spine with the sword tip.

"It's been mine - for a long time."

"Liar," Tarik hissed, stepping a few feet away, putting enough distance between them to relax a little. The echo in his voice grew more distinct. "You're growing weaker. Wearing you out, huh? I can keep this up all day. You can't, you're just human."

Darren rolled his eyes. "Spare me the dramatics. We've been fighting - for twenty minutes - give or take. You're taking this a little too seriously."

"Am I?" Tarik jumped at Darren again, now with genuine fury in his eyes. He slashed Darren's lower arm open. Darren hissed, almost letting go of his weapon. He quickly cast a spell to freeze the wound. He would have to deal with that later. Apparently, it was time to end this.

"You talk as if you're like me," Tarik seethed, so quietly only Darren could hear it over their heavy footsteps and the noise of blades colliding. "I'm growing tired..." - clang! - "...of your mockery, frost mage!"

"I'm not - a mage!" said Darren angrily. He raised his sword and pointed it straight at Tarik. The air grew cold and the wind picked up. Mist condensed into snow, enveloping Darren. Tarik's sword hand grew stiff; his movements became slower. Darren used the opening to use the death grip on him. Purple lightning discharged between them as he pulled the surprised knight closer and swung his blade at his leg.

But Tarik did not hesitate to use his own powers; he managed to parry and hit Darren's arm in the same spot as before. Red sprayed across the floor; Tarik straightened up and grinned, suddenly looking refreshed.

Darren grunted, now thoroughly annoyed, and copied Tarik's attack. He managed to actually hit his leg this time, and this time it was Darren who seemed to regain strength by hurting his opponent.

Eclipse watched fearfully as Tarik hurt Darren once again. His grip around Nylene's hand tightened. "What are they doing?" He shivered. Was it the cold from Darren's frost spells or was it something else? The corners of his vision darkened. His breath accelerated as the fear for his friend grew. This did not feel like a fun sparring exercise anymore, not by a long shot. "Somepony stop them," he whispered, shaking so hard that Nylene perked up.

"Very well, I believe that's enough," Nylene said, genuine worry creeping into her voice. "This is indeed getting too serious." She huffed. "I can't tell well how they're doing physically but they are both losing control over their emotions. Their auras are going off like mad. Vol'Shalai, would you mind putting an end to this?" she asked politely.

"Can do." Vol'Shalai stood up. He pressed his lips together in concentration, waving his arms as if he wanted to throw something heavy aside. A gust of wind rushed across the deck, startling the spectators and billowing the sails. Darren and Tarik were both thrown off their feet. An elbow on the planks, Tarik spun around to see where the wind had come from. Vol'Shalai gave him an apologetic shrug. Somebody in the crowd laughed. There was scattered applause.

Darren reached for the blade he had dropped and huffed. He shakily got to his feet and offered his free hand to Tarik. Begrudgingly, the death knight grabbed his lower arm and let Darren help him up.

Eclipse sprang up and galloped over to Darren.

"Are you okay? Oh stars, you're totally hurt," Eclipse cried as he approached to see Darren's wounds up close. He immediately jerked back. They were not that shallow!

"I'll be fine," Darren rasped, sheathing his sword. He eyed Tarik who was inspecting his own injuries with a frown, mainly the one on his thigh.

"I thought you just wanted to train!" Eclipse said, both scared and angry.

"Sorry. Got carried away." Darren gave Eclipse a stiff smile, then waved at Vol'Shalai. The troll shook his head, grinning. He stalked over to Darren.

"Let me have a look," he said, pointing at Darren's arm.

"Alright." Darren let Vol'Shalai proceed as the shaman called for the Spirit of Water to heal Darren's injuries.

Nylene joined them, casting a look at the dissipating crowd. She raised her eyebrows and put her hands on her hips like a disappointed mother.

Darren sighed.

"Sorry," he said again. "Guess our new friend here struck a nerve."

As soon as Darren was healed, Eclipse sprang up into Darren's arms to hug him. "I'm glad you're okay," he said sadly. "I thought you just wanted to have some fun but it didn't look like much fun in the end."

"No, it wasn't really," Darren admitted. "I think that, in a way, you made your point." He turned to Tarik. "I'll explain everything if you wish. But not here. In private."

Tarik, still upset, nodded. He twitched when Vol'Shalai nudged him to spread his arms.

"Now you," he said and inspected Tarik's biggest wound.

Eclipse was confused. He thought that Darren and Tarik were angry at each other. But now they sat there, Tarik on his bed and Darren on a chair, and behaved like the best of friends. What had he missed?

"Men," Nylene muttered to herself, shaking her head. She smirked at the bewildered Eclipse. "Let them beat each other to a pulp and before you know it they are, as the humans say, pals." She raised her voice a little. "So you're done comparing the length of your blades?"

Vol'Shalai snorted. He poked Eclipse's shoulder.

"Want to play a game?" the troll asked.

Eclipse shook his head. He pointed his hoof at the knights. He wanted to figure out their strange behaviour.

Darren, leaning back in his chair, said nothing. Tarik rubbed his chin, thinking. Eventually, he broke the silence.

"So you're saying you went to Northrend along with the other paladins," he said. As Darren nodded, he continued, "and then you were killed in the Dragonblight?"

Darren nodded again. "Correct," he said. "Guess we weren't in the same platoon. Where were you afterwards?"

"I was with Falric," Tarik said slowly.

"Damn. So right in the middle of it. I was probably a block away."

Tarik frowned. "Which direction?" he asked.

"West," Darren replied, smirking knowingly. "Right above the War Quarter. Next to that fountain behind the arcades."

"Why is he asking that?" Eclipse whispered.

"He's testing him," Nylene explained. "Tarik wants to see if Darren says anything that is contradicting his claim that he's a death knight. Only somebody who was at that battle would know such details."

"Anyway. After that... and after the Battle at Lights Hope I stayed in the Plaguelands," Darren went on. "Mostly. Then there was that one job offer from a Forsaken priest in Undercity..."

Eclipse noticed himself tuning out Darren's voice. He was suddenly immensely tired; his head bobbed forward. As Darren continued, he felt himself drifting away into sleep.

Darren gave Tarik a rough summary of how he met Jonathan, Arcus and Twilight Sparkle. At first, the death knight seemed amused by the tale but the longer Darren went on the more solemn he became. He knit his eyebrows together, his hands folded tightly over his knee. When Darren got to the part when he exited the portal to Equestria, Tarik raised a hand.

"You're still serious?" he asked. "This makes an entertaining story, I have to admit, but you don't expect me to believe any of it, do you?"

"I didn't even get to to best part yet," Darren said. Sighing, he gestured towards Eclipse who was dozing off on Nylene's lap. "Besides, Eclipse can confirm everything I just told you. He saw my memories when his Void powers awakened."

Tarik's eyes widened. "Alright, go on."

Eclipse walks through a sea of clouds. The fluffy white, cotton-wool, humid substance moves slowly, riding on a steady wind. He jumps a little as he accelerates to a canter, then a gallop. Flapping his wings in fast succession, Eclipse runs as fast as he can, his hooves bouncing off the clouds like on springs. There, the edge of the cloud cover is close. He jumps off the clouds and stretches his wings.

The air current hits the underside of his wings hard; Eclipse strains his muscles to keep his limbs outstretched. Laughing, he soars up into the sky. He flaps his wings again, enjoying the feeling of freedom. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knows that he cannot really fly this well but he does not care.

He risks a look down and sees a snowy landscape far away, dotted by black rocks. The Frozen North. Eclipse leans to the side, flying an arc around a small cloud. He can feel his wings growing tired. Without hesitation, he calls for his shadow powers. Dark smoke pours from his coat, trailing behind him like a flag flapping in the wind. He can feel the surge of power supporting his flight. Eclipse laughs again and does a barrel roll.

There, something tiny in the distance. Somepony is flying towards him. It's Princess Luna. Eclipse flies towards her, waving at her.

"Hi, Princess!" he calls over the wind.

Strange, Princess Luna looks worried. Eclipse slows down to a halt and lands on a nearby rain cloud. A bit of rain falls out in a sudden shower as his hooves touch it. He sits down on his haunches, waiting for her.

The princess flaps her large blue wings gracefully and lands next to him. Sitting down next to him, she gives Eclipse a little hug.

"Eclipse," she says. "We meet again. Sadly, I cannot stay long. Where goes your journey?"

"Stormwind City," Eclipse says quickly. "But first, we land in Booty Bay. I heard there's pirates! And a jungle!"

"Oh dear. I see. When do you think you will arrive?"

"In Booty Bay? Four days or so. But I've got no idea how long it takes us to get to that other city. Darren said it's safer there. I think he wants to meet somepony from his family there, too."

Princess Luna sighs. "I understand. Please tell him that I shall get a day's rest. I was eager to know more but now I must regain my strength."

"Okay. Thanks for looking out for us."

"Always." Luna gives Eclipse another hug. "Be careful with your shadow," she adds. "Do not underestimate it."

"Er... okay," Eclipse says, confused.

"Farewell. Until next time." Before Eclipse can reply, his left hind leg twitches.

Eclipse jerked awake. He opened his blue eyes, blinking rapidly.

"What? Er - huh?" he muttered, disoriented. Where was he?

"Hello." Nylene smiled down at him. "Had a little rest?"

Eclipse nodded. He yawned, stretching his forelegs. Looking around, he recognized the place they were at. Tarik's room. Tarik was gone and so were Darren and Vol'Shalai. Nylene had stayed behind to watch over him, it seemed. Eclipse shivered, relaxing.

"Whu-what time is it?" he asked, holding a hoof in front of his muzzle as he yawned again.

"Late. Or early. Depending on your perspective. You can sleep more if you wish, I shall not leave you."

"Where's Darren?"

"Asleep in the hold. So is Vol'Shalai. I believe Tarik went on deck to think about their conversation. He agreed to let you rest in his room." Nylene talked with a low voice, almost a whisper. "I suppose he's growing fond of you. What do you think?"

"I think I'm gonna sleep some more," Eclipse muttered, almost immediately gone again.