• Published 7th Aug 2020
  • 856 Views, 63 Comments

Scarlet: Broken Pedestal - Skijarama

Princess Twilight Sparkle has returned to a world that has gone without her for over four hundred years. With the aid of Scarlet Frost, she and her friends set out into the world, heedless of the changes, good and bad, their return has put in motion.

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Scarlet Frost grunted with effort as she, with the aid of Sharp Lens and a few changeling drones, set down a collection of large, broken stones to one side, adding them to an ever-growing pile. The drone overseeing the work nodded to himself from his place high in the air, his crimson eyes surveying their hard work. Then with a smile and a nod, he waved down at them.

“That should be sufficient!” he called out. “Go and get some rest—you especially, Scarlet!”

Scarlet heaved a sigh of relief, taking a few steps to one side to be out of the way of the repair crews and falling to her haunches. They had been at this for a few hours now, and the strenuous labor was beginning to take its toll on her. Her horn throbbed to remind her of this fact.

She turned to look at Lens. He didn’t appear to be in much better straits than her. If anything, he looked like he was doing worse. His coat was smeared in a thin layer of sweat that made him look surprisingly glossy in the dull green light of Sanctuary’s entrance. His chest was heaving as he took several deep breaths, and his eyes stared down at the floor, distant and unfocused from the exertion.

She felt a small bit of pity for the stallion. Ever since she had woken up from her near-death experience about a week ago, he had dedicated himself to her to an almost-worrying extent. He was running himself ragged trying to make sure she didn’t overwork herself or agitate her wounds, which, while mostly healed, were still proving a nuisance.

She snorted and shook her head. “Oh, please. Like I’m one to talk,” she grumbled internally. “I’m the one who can’t stand to sit still…”

She lifted her gaze from Lens to survey their surroundings. They were in the main entrance chamber of Sanctuary, and it was practically buzzing with life. Changelings of every color were flying this way and that, shouting to be heard over one another as they worked to clear away the last of the rubble from the homes that had been broken or damaged. Most of the rubble was already cleared away, leaving only a few smaller piles for follow-up crews to deal with, and the homes were already undergoing reconstruction.

Scarlet’s gaze fell on one such home and the circle of eight or so changelings who were surrounding it. They all stood in a loose circle, their horns glowing with a uniform emerald light and angled towards a spot on its floor in the middle. Slowly, but surely, Scarlet could see the stone floor shifting and rippling, almost like the water of a pond. The beginnings of the new walls for the building were already rising up from the surface, filling the air with a slow, spine-tingling scrape of rock on rock.

Most constructs in Sanctuary were made like this. Every building, corridor, hallway, and lamp post was created by shaping the very stone of the mountains these caves resided in. They were twisted and molded like clay into the desired shape and filled with whatever the inhabitants needed or wanted.

Scarlet had no idea how far this ability to mold the caves went, or how far that influence reached, or even how it worked. All she knew is that it had something to do with being ‘attuned to the Hive,’ a process she and Lens had yet to undergo. As a result, whenever they wanted to travel from one chamber to another, they needed to be accompanied by a changeling drone.

It made sense, even if it was somewhat degrading. Hraesvalgr—or Spike, rather—had not once made any secret of his distrust in Scarlet and Lens. He had allowed them to live in Sanctuary as a gesture of gratitude for bringing him and Flurry the lamp, however unintentional that favor may have been. That did not, however, mean he trusted them or liked them to be left to their own devices.

Really, she could not blame him. The night she, Lens, and Primrose had arrived in Sanctuary, it had been attacked by a small army of griffon mercenaries led by a psychotic renegade Nightblade. The proximity of those two events would be enough to make anyone leery of the foreigners that now lived here.

As if to prove her point, Scarlet took notice of a collection of changelings staring at her from a little ways away. She glanced over at them with a neutral expression and a simple nod of acknowledgment. Their immediate response was to look away sheepishly and carry on with whatever they had been doing before.

“You okay?”

Scarlet jumped at Lens’ voice, speaking up to her side. She looked over to find the stallion staring back at her with a frown of concern. She smiled back at him and nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. Just…” she gestured vaguely. “Tired. A little sore. Nothing serious.”

“You sure?” Lens pressed, shifting a little closer on his haunches to be closer to the red-maned mare.

Scarlet nodded, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “Yes, I’m sure.”

Lens eyed her for a few more moments. Inwardly, Scarlet squirmed under that scrutinous gaze, and she feared he may press the matter further. Then, to her relief, he smiled and nodded. “Okay, if you say so,” he relented, placing one of his hooves on hers on his shoulder and giving it a firm squeeze.

Scarlet nodded thankfully to him before looking ahead, trying to hide her inner relief. Lens had been fawning and fussing over her relentlessly since she decided to stay here with him and Primrose. It was pretty clear to her that he was still worried about her, be it physically or mentally.

“Not that I can really blame him,” she thought inwardly with a barely disguised frown. She had been on death’s door for a while there even after he and Primrose all but crippled their magic trying to save her, and not long before that, they had both been forced to watch her unraveling at the seams as more and more stress was placed on her mind. Her meltdown in the mountain valley just before they met Spike had been the most extreme example of that.

“But I’m better now,” she told herself with a slow, subtle nod. “Maybe not all the way, but I’m better than where I started. I’m not some helpless foal that needs to be doted on.”

No longer wanting to follow that line of thought, Scarlet returned her gaze to the cavernous entrance chamber of Sanctuary. It eventually settled on a group of nymphs running across the grounds, giggling merrily amongst themselves and kicking what looked to be a ball made of green changeling resin around.

She smiled. “Huh… you know, when I decided I wanted to settle down somewhere with you and Prim and live a nice, quiet life, this isn’t exactly what I had been picturing,” she mused, leaning back slightly and soaking in the view.

Lens glanced at her from the side. “Heh. You think Prim and I thought any differently?” he asked, stifling a small laugh. “I was imagining we’d be planting our roots in a small village, like Twinwood Canopy, or New Lapiz, or even Hoofrest Shire. Never in a million years would I have thought we’d even see a city of Free Changelings, much less settle down with them and live with them.”

Scarlet nodded, her eyes continuing to follow the scampering nymphs. “...Me either. Even now, I labor to believe it…”

How much had she once hated these creatures? It hadn’t been long ago that she had seen changelings as a whole as the worst monsters on the face of the world, little more than savage demons to be slaughtered on sight. She had loathed them with every fiber of her being...

Then she met Primrose, and everything she had learned from that filly served to liberate her of her ignorance.

Scarlet’s smile grew as her eyes drifted from the playing foals, landing on one in particular. Primrose, in her pony form, curiously, was presently sitting on a piece of rubble not far away. There was another nymph sitting next to her, in his true form. His chitin was a neon green, while his eyes were a deep and vibrant shade of crimson.

Larynx was his name if Scarlet remembered correctly. The colt had taken a remarkable shine to Primrose the day they had met a few weeks ago and had apparently become something of a friend to her while Scarlet was unconscious.

“Hmm. What do you think they’re talking about?” Scarlet asked, nodding toward the duo curiously. Lens followed her gaze, then offered a noncommittal shrug.

“I don’t know. Probably something silly,” he said casually. “They are foals.”

“So they are,” Scarlet acknowledged with a slow nod, though she doubted that such a sentiment would truly apply to Primrose after everything she had gone through over the last five years, especially these last few weeks.

Though the filly hid it very well, it was plain as day that the sting of losing Sclera had not yet passed.

Scarlet watched as Larynx spoke, leaning forward slightly as if to get a better look at Primrose’s face. He opened his mouth and said something to her, while one of his hooves wandered up to lightly touch her long purple mane.

Primrose leaned back and shook her head, saying something in return. Several red flags went up in Scarlet’s mind immediately when she saw Primrose’s body language. She was retreating into herself, unable to meet Larynx’s gaze. Something was bothering her. Maternal instincts flared into life, and in spite of the soreness in her muscles, Scarlet pushed herself to her hooves.

Larynx spoke again, more insistently. Primrose withdrew even more, pulling her tail up to her chest as if it were a protective blanket. Larynx raised an eyebrow, seemingly confused by Primrose’s behavior. Scarlet was about to start cantering over when, to her surprise, Primrose suddenly leaped down from the rock she was sitting on and broke into a sprint away from Larynx.

“What the?” Lens asked, also rising to his hooves with a groan of effort. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Scarlet said quietly, her eyes narrowing in disapproval. Her gaze remained locked firmly on Primrose as she ran across the room and soon vanished through the gaping hole in the wall that led to the outside world. Scarlet grimaced and glanced over at Lens. “But I mean to find out. Come.”

“Right behind you,” Lens nodded without hesitation, falling into step behind Scarlet.

The duo set off at a brisk trot after the nymph, ignoring the confused and concerned glances sent their way by the changelings that remained in the room. As they went, Scarlet’s mind raced, trying to decipher what she had just seen. What could Larynx have said that would send Primrose running? Some small part of her wanted to approach the colt and get the answers from him by any means necessary, but she was quick to burn that desire down. They were only allowed to stay here at the sufferance of Spike and Flurry, and she had no intention of jeopardizing her place here by acting inappropriately against their subjects.

Besides, she knew just how vicious Spike could be in defending this place. Inciting his wrath was the last thing she wanted to do.

They passed through the long, wide passage that connected Sanctuary to the outside world. The soft, emerald green glow of the changeling’s resin lamps faded into darkness, allowing the first bit of sunlight Scarlet had seen in days to guide their path. She could already feel the cool mountain air brushing against her face and coat through the cave mouth up ahead, soothing her senses.

It wasn’t long before they emerged. Scarlet stopped briefly to admire the view, her muscles relaxing at the sight. The mountain valley that Sanctuary resided in was just as breathtaking as ever in its natural beauty. While the damage from Silent’s incursion was still visible, that did not detract from the rest of the view: the sweeping plains, the rolling foothills, and the majestic, snow-capped mountain peaks that encased the valley, shielding it from prying eyes. What might as well have been a million flowers occupied the fertile grasslands, stray petals blown free by the wind dancing freely across the picturesque environment.

All of it was bathed in the warm glow of the late-morning sun. Scarlet took a deep breath through her nose, allowing the fresh, sweet-smelling air to fill her lungs and chase away her soreness. If she could have, she would have stayed in this spot for an eternity to just enjoy the scenery, but alas, that sort of time was not a luxury she and Lens had at the moment.

Refocusing on the task at hoof, she looked around for any sign of Primrose. To her dismay, there was no sign of the filly. A small pearl of anxiety began to grow in her chest, and the phantom of a memory best left in the past threatened to creep up on her. She turned to one of the sentries stationed outside of the cave mouth and cleared her throat. “Excuse me, but did you happen to see a little foal running through here?” she asked hopefully. “Pony form. Teal fur, purple mane?”

The changeling turned to face her and nodded. “Aye, I saw,” he said before pointing with his horn at something behind Scarlet. “Went scampering up the path back there. Looked pretty upset. Is something wrong?”

Scarlet followed his eyes. She wilted when she caught sight of a path farther down along the base of the mountainside that wound up through the crags, disappearing around a bend. Her eyes drifted up along the stones until they landed on a natural balcony that jutted out from the mountainside some distance up.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Lens answered for her. “Just a personal thing. Thank you.”

Scarlet nodded and set off at a slower trot for the path. It had been a while since she’d last ascended, and the fact that she was doing so now did not inspire confidence in her. She could feel Lens pressing up against her side as they went, either to offer her his support or ask for hers.

They made the climb in silence. The path was surrounded on either side by natural walls of jagged rock. Every so often, a mountain flower or growth of moss disrupted the grey, lending some much-needed softness to the climb. Scarlet’s ears swiveled on her head as the sound of the mountain valley was dulled by the walls, leaving only the gentle howling of the mountain wind.

The silence was suddenly broken when Lens spoke up. “Say, Scarlet… is it just me, or has Prim been quieter than usual?”

Scarlet came to a stop and glanced back at him over her shoulder. “...What do you mean?”

Lens paused as well, taking the chance to lean against the wall and rest his legs. “Well, ever since the fight against Silent, she’s just been really… I dunno. Distant, I guess? She definitely isn’t as talkative as she used to be.”

Scarlet sighed, looking up the path again. “...It comes as no surprise,” she said regretfully. “That attack was an unmitigated disaster. A tragedy she was not ready to face. She lost her mother that day, mere days after getting her back. And she almost lost both of us. Not to mention she took a life for the first time.”

“More than one,” Lens noted with a grim frown. “There were a couple of griffons she killed during all of that, too…”

“And the first lives you take will always weigh on you,” Scarlet added with a soft nod. “I am not surprised that she’s been this way…”

“Well… what can we do about it? I mean, there has to be some way we can make her better,” Lens pointed out, reaching up to adjust his glasses, only to be reminded that they had been destroyed in the battle.

Scarlet hummed. “The only thing we can… We’ll be there for her for as long as she needs us. We’ll support her, and we’ll help her work through it. It’s what parents do,” she said plainly before resuming her ascent. Lens opened his mouth to reply, but the words did not come, and so he resigned himself to following her up.

When they reached the top of the path, they stepped out onto the natural balcony she had seen earlier. It overlooked the entirety of the valley from an elevated position, affording an even more breathtaking view, making all of it seem so much smaller. At the edge of the balcony, staring over this sheltered land for the rest of eternity, was a lone gravestone: Sclera’s gravestone. As the pair expected, curled up on the ground in front of her mother’s grave, was Primrose.

Scarlet and Lens shared an uneasy look. They gave each other a soft nod, then began to approach, Scarlet taking the lead.

“Hey, Prim,” she called out gently, causing the foal’s ears to swivel towards them. “Are you okay?”

Primrose shifted on the ground for a moment before turning around to look at Scarlet. “Scarlet… hey,” she mumbled. She returned her eyes to the grave and heaved a quiet sigh. “I’m okay. Just… I needed to get away for a little bit.”

“From Larynx?” Lens deduced.

Primrose winced. “Er… yeah… you, uh… you saw that?” she asked, her voice growing quiet and timid.

“We did,” Scarlet replied, sitting down by Primrose’s side and draping a foreleg over her shoulders. “Though we don’t know what happened. What did he say to you?”

Primrose was quiet for a few moments, her ears drooping. “Uh… h-he… um… n-nothing,” she finally said, shaking her head.

Scarlet frowned. “Nothing?” she asked slowly.

“That’s right. Nothing,” Primrose insisted. She leaned into Scarlet’s embrace and heaved a quiet sigh. “I just… I just wanted some fresh air. And I wanted to visit mom…”

Scarlet frowned. It was pretty evident that Primrose was lying. Larynx had said something to upset her. What could it have been that she would want to stay quiet about it, though?

“Well, whatever happened,” Scarlet whispered, leaning down to give the foal a gentle kiss on the top of her head. “You know you can always tell us if something is wrong. We’re here for you, no matter what.”

“That’s right,” Lens joined them a moment later, sitting down on Prim’s other side and adding his foreleg to the mix, enveloping the filly in warmth and love. “No matter what.”

Primrose hummed at that, and Scarlet could feel the filly starting to relax in their embrace. A few seconds passed before she gave a whispered reply. “Thank you, you guys…”

“It’s our pleasure, Primrose,” Scarlet whispered back to her, giving her a gentle, loving squeeze.

The trio fell silent after that, basking in the peace and the quiet, and the warmth of each other. A gentle breeze washed over them, whistling faintly in Scarlet’s ears. She opened her eyes and looked out over the valley again, losing herself in the sky. Her eyes caught a stray cloud as it slowly drifted by overhead.

After what felt like an eternity of peace, however, their solitude had to be interrupted. A distorted voice cleared its throat behind them. Scarlet turned to see a changeling drone dressed in the armor of a Praetor—one of the most elite soldiers in the colony—standing before her. His helmet was held under one of his forelegs, and his eyes stared at her with a mixture of severity and solemn hesitation.

Scarlet was quick to compose herself. “What is it, sir?” she asked, being sure to show proper respect to who was, in every respect, her superior.

The soldier nodded at her. “I’m sorry for interrupting, I truly am, but I have a message for you from Lord Hraesvalgr,” he said simply.

Scarlet frowned, glancing at Lens and Prim. They stared back at her for a moment, clearly disappointed by the interruption to their moment, but offered no protest. Scarlet took the lead, turning back to the drone. “I see… what does he want from us?” she asked carefully.

The drone paused for a moment as if he were unsure how to say it. A few seconds passed before he found his words and spoke up. “...He wants all three of you to report to the Thrones at your earliest convenience. Princess Twilight Sparkle has personally requested to speak with you.”

Primrose’s eyes flew wide. “What?! Twilight wants to talk to us?!

Lens blinked in confusion before his face lit up with a giant, glowing grin of excitement. “Wow, she’s finally awake! What does she want to talk to us about?! Do you think she’d be okay with me asking her some questions about what life was like before the Fall?!”

Scarlet meanwhile merely stared at the guard in wide-eyed shock, her brain taking its sweet time to process this revelation.

The Praetor fastened his helmet back to his head before backing away. “I am afraid she is likely to be the one with the questions, you three…” he said before turning away. “I have other duties to which I must attend. You may wrap up your business here, but I would encourage you to not delay for very long. Lord Hraesvalgr did not seem keen on keeping her waiting.”

With that, the changeling’s shell sprang open, and his wings carried him into the air. Scarlet watched as he flew over their heads, vanishing over the edge of the overlook and fading from view. A heavy silence hung over them, leaving them with nothing but their thoughts.

“...What do you think she wants with us?” Primrose asked a few seconds later, her voice quiet and timid. “It isn’t anything bad, is it?”

“I don’t think so,” Lens said softly, giving her a reassuring smile. “She’s the Princess of Friendship, remember?”

Scarlet looked down at the ground, her ears folding back as the duo began to chat amongst each other. She had been hoping to avoid interacting with Twilight, if at all possible. As much as she looked up to and even revered the once-thought-to-be goddess, she didn’t want to get dragged into her business. Scarlet just wanted to live her quiet life with her newfound family…

All the same, there was no refusing a summon from an alicorn princess, goddess, or not. So, with a resigned sigh, Scarlet pushed herself up to her hooves. “Well, I say we get this over with sooner rather than later,” she said, dusting herself off with a few quick flicks of her tail. “It’s not polite to keep royalty waiting, and it’s plain stupid to keep a dragon waiting.”

“Right, right,” Lens said, rising to his hooves as well. He did an admirable job of containing his scholarly excitement at the prospect of meeting Twilight, finally, though the way his mouth twitched and wriggled like a caffeinated earthworm in the rain did wonders to give away the game.

Scarlet rolled her eyes at the stallion before gently lifting Primrose in her magic. She deposited the filly on her back, savoring the familiar sensation of Primrose’s hooves curling into her mane as her warmth seeped into Scarlet’s fur. Once her passenger was settled and secure, Scarlet nodded to herself and set off at a brisk trot back down the path, Lens sticking close by her side.

They had a goddess to meet.