• 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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History

The journey to the Thrones was long and quiet. Though the activity of the changelings around them was the same as it had been since they arrived, Scarlet could not shake the crawling sense of uneasiness that had settled into her skin. It was a feeling not unlike when the air is filled with a rich, earthy smell just before the rain hits the ground. She just wasn’t sure if this was a downpour she wanted to be caught in.

Soon enough, with a changeling praetor opening the way to let them through, Scarlet, Lens, and Primrose emerged into the long, dark corridor that served as the antechamber to the Thrones. The signature blue glyphs that indicated the entrance stood ahead, faintly glowing as if in anticipation.

Scarlet took in a long, deep breath, trying to steady her quivering nerves. This was it. She was about to meet Princess Twilight Sparkle, the Goddess of Magic and Princess of Friendship. The member of The Five that she had always looked up to and revered the most, ever since she was a starry-eyed foal in Swanrun with unrealistic dreams of war and valiant heroes…

“I would have thought you’d be more excited,” Lens suddenly commented from the side, startling Scarlet out of her anxiety-induced silence. He was giving her an expression that sat somewhere between amused and concerned. “I mean, it’s Twilight Sparkle. I would have thought you’d be bursting at the seams to meet her. I mean, I am.”

Scarlet sighed and shook her head. “I know you are, Lens… I’m just worried,” she said, looking up at the glyphs. They were far larger than she was and loomed intimidatingly over her like a mighty dragon. Not unfitting, given that a dragon used it on a routine basis. “I do not doubt that Twilight and her friends will be setting off into the world soon to try and, as Spike put it, ‘make things right.’ I don’t want to get caught up in all of that…”

She turned to Lens, then glanced back at Primrose, who was still nestled comfortably on her back. “We’ve only just settled down and gotten comfortable… and that’s how I like it.”

Lens frowned, stepping forward. He gave Scarlet an affectionate nuzzle before whispering in her ear. “It’ll be fine, Scarlet. I’m sure it’s nothing too serious…”

Scarlet returned the gesture of affection before nodding, trying to take what comfort she could from Lens’ assurance. “I hope you are right, Lens… truly, I do,” she whispered back before turning to face the glyph. With that, she closed her eyes, lit her horn, and fired a small bolt of magic at it. The glyph pulsed with light as the glyph made contact, the sound reverberating up and down the corridor for several seconds.

Scarcely had the echo faded into silence before there was the grinding and scraping of stone as the glyph disappeared, a circular hole opening up in the wall, large enough for Scarlet and her company to step through without issue. Scarlet took another deep breath and stepped forward, staying close to Lens’ side all the way.

“Good, there you are,” Spike’s voice came from the left as they stepped inside, drawing Scarlet’s eye. The enormous purple dragon was presently laying against the wall, his head held high to keep an eye on the room. “Thank you for not making us wait.”

Scarlet nodded. “We are here by your allowance. It would be rude to ignore your summons,” she replied professionally before lowering her gaze. She spotted Flurry Heart sitting on Spike’s back, a solemn frown on her face. Turning her eyes further downward, she saw there, on the ground in front of him, were six mares Scarlet had never thought she would see save for in old religious scriptures.

Twilight Sparkle and her five friends stood before her, each one looking back with a different expression on their face. Scarlet recognized each of them, though she noted that they were all very different in many ways from how they had been depicted in the scriptures. Even Twilight was different, standing far shorter than Scalet had thought. She was shorter even than Flurry Heart.

Rainbow Dash wasn’t looking at her. Her eyes were glued onto the floor, face largely hidden by her absurdly colorful mane. Pinkie Pie sat by her side, mane resting flat while her bright cyan eyes stared back at Scarlet, hollow and solemn. Applejack tilted back her hat to meet Scarlet’s gaze, her emerald-colored eyes hardened and focused, though Scarlet did not doubt she was just as shaken as the others.

Rarity was looking particularly distraught, her mane disheveled and dark lines running down her face from where her mascara had followed her tears. Clutched in her hooves against her chest was a quivering, silently weeping bundle of yellow fur and pink hair that could only have been Fluttershy.

Finally, at the front of the group, Twilight Sparkle faced Scarlet directly, her expression solemn yet resolved. She took a step forward and cleared her throat. “Um… hello,” she said, her voice shaking slightly.

Scarlet blinked. Somehow, that had not been what she had been expecting the legendary alicorn to sound like…

Twilight went on a moment later, shaking herself as if to send away her doubts. “My name is Twilight Sparkle. I am- ...I was the Princess of Friendship in O-Old Equestria. These are my friends, um-”

“I know who you are,” Scarlet softly interrupted her, bowing her head respectfully. “I grew up on the legends and stories about you and your accomplishments. You were one of my greatest inspirations when I was little, Your Majesty. It is an honor to meet you.”

“O-oh! Eheh, well,” Twilight chuckled nervously, one of her eyes twitching slightly. “I guess that saves me a bit of time. So… You’re Scarlet Frost, right?”

Scarlet nodded. “That I am. This here is Sharp Lens, and this,” she gently removed Primrose from her back with magic and set the filly down by her side. “Is Primrose.”

Twilight nodded at each of them in turn, her crooked smile becoming slightly more genuine. “It’s nice to meet all of you… Spike and Flurry told us that you are historians. Is that correct?”

Scarlet blinked, taken by surprise by the request. She hadn’t known what she was expecting Twilight to ask, but that certainly wasn’t it. Before the silence could drag on, she cleared her throat and nodded. “Uh, ahem. Yes, in a sense. I received no formal education in history, but I studied it for around eight or nine years.”

“And I’m a trained archeologist,” Lens added with a nod of his own. “I did a lot of delving into long-abandoned ruins and piecing together bits of the past based on what I found, from the Fall and before.”

“Why do you ask?” Scarlet added curiously.

Twilight bit her lip for a moment. She glanced back at her friends before she spoke. “Well… it’s just that we’ve all been gone for a… a really long time, and Spike and Flurry Heart don’t know a whole lot about what’s happened in our absence.”

Primrose raised an eyebrow. “Huh? That doesn’t make any sense. You guys have been watching New Equestria for four hundred years, haven’t you?”

“That’s what I said!” Rainbow Dash suddenly exclaimed with indignation, making Scarlet wince from the grating rasp of her voice along with the sheer volume. The pegasus shot the towering dragon an irritated glare, though he did not seem fazed in the slightest.

“And as I said to you, Rainbow, we’ve hidden from the world for four hundred years,” Spike clarified with a snort. “Barring Flurry’s occasional expeditions to find new residents for Sanctuary—all of which were made during only the first century of Sanctuary’s existence, I might add—we have had little to no contact with the outside world.”

Flurry nodded, leaning forward a little. “Everything we know has come from those changelings who managed to find our clues and make it here. But most of them moved around a lot, never staying in one place for long. They led nomadic lifestyles for their own safety, so their knowledge of the world’s history was, typically, less than up-to-date.”

“Like mine…” Primrose uttered, her eyes widening somewhat. “My family wandered all over the country while mom and dad looked for clues about Sanctuary… we never stayed anywhere for long.”

“Exactly,” Spike said with a slow nod. He returned his gaze to Scarlet, glaring into her eyes. “Scarlet, Lens, you two are the most knowledgeable on modern history in all of Sanctuary. That is a simple fact. By your own admission, you have both studied it, and I don’t plan on letting Twilight or any of my friends leave this city until they know exactly what sort of hell they are walking into.” Spike stated plainly after a moment.

“Spike,” Rarity quietly spoke up, lifting her eyes from Fluttershy. “Language.”

Spike snorted but otherwise did not speak in protest.

Twilight winced from the harsh sound before refocusing on Scarlet and Lens. “The point is, we… we don’t know anything about what’s happened while we’ve been in the lamp. But I heard about you three, and I wanted to not only thank you for helping set us free but also ask you some questions about the history of New Equestria.”

Scarlet blinked a few times, processing this request. It didn’t take her long to put on a small smile and give a nod. “Very well… What do you want to know?”

Twilight paused, her expression going blank. “Um… uh…”

“Everything?” Applejack asked for her, dryly.

Twilight managed a stiff nod at that. “Er, yes, that. Everything, please.”

Scarlet and Lens shared an uneasy glance. The stallion reached up to adjust his glasses, yet again discovering that they were absent. “...Oh boy,” he muttered.

Scarlet turned back to Twilight. “Well… that is an exceptionally broad question, Twilight. It’s been four hundred years. A lot has happened…”

Twilight’s smile became strained, one of her eyes twitching. “I… see… then, uh…”

“How about you just give us the short version?” Rainbow spat, once again making Scarlet wince, though this time it was from the venom in her voice rather than its roughness. “Bullet points or whatever. I don’t wanna be sitting here forever, we’ve got stuff to do!”

“Rainbow Dash!” Rarity chastised, glaring sideways at the pegasus. “Control your tone!”

Rainbow bristled at that, but a second later took a deep breath and looked away.

Scarlet swallowed heavily. It was becoming painfully evident that the mares in front of her had not yet fully grasped the full gravity of their situation: how much time had passed, how much the world had changed… The fact that everypony they knew and loved, save for those that now stood in this room, were all but certainly dead. How could she expect them to truly fathom with such a tremendous loss, especially when it had all happened in one unceremonious instant?

The weight would hit them soon enough.

She licked her lips a moment later and nodded her head. “Right… Of course. Lens and I can give you an abbreviated history of New Equestria. It took me years to gain the in-depth understanding I have now, and to think we could tell you everything in one sitting is nothing short of lunacy.”

“Right. Which just leaves the question of where to start,” Lens pointed out, frowning.

Applejack tilted her hat back some more to focus on the discussion some more. “Well, Ah say ya start by talkin’ bout what happened to the rest of Equestria after this ‘Fall’ thingie.”

“Seeing as that’s where we… left the stage,” Rarity added, her ears drooping. Fluttershy convulsed in her hooves, and she pulled the pegasus closer. “...It would be the most logical place to begin, I should think.”

Scarlet nodded her head. “Alright, I think I can manage that… Although keep in mind, I was not around during that time,” she said. She then nodded her head at Spike and Flurry. “They were. I can give only vague information on that day and age.”

“I’ll share stories about what it was like later,” Spike added slowly. “Flurry was a little too young at the time… she was still afraid of the dark back then.”

Twilight smiled back at him. “Thank you, Spike,” she said before turning to face Scarlet and the others again. “We’re listening…”

Scarlet nodded. She looked around for a second until she caught sight of the mound of pillows against the wall. With a quick flick of her magic, she pulled a few of the pillows over so everypony had a seat. They were going to be here for a while.

“Well, following the battle in the Crystal Empire, to my knowledge, there was no formal government, nor any traces of it left to unify ponykind. Equestria was reduced to a battle-scarred wasteland, almost, with many ponies struggling just to survive day by day. Slowly, small communities began to come together, and they oft bickered among themselves over territory and resources.”

“We saw a lot of that,” Flurry commented, frowning. “I was young, but I still remember some of what I saw…”

“Ponies driven to desperation can do terrible things,” Spike confirmed with a slow, grave nod.

Scarlet paused, wondering just what exactly the two venerable figures had endured in those early days. She knew of their constant attacks from the Ferals, of course, and their fruitless hunt for Ocellus, but other than that…?

She shook her head, chasing the thought away. It was a question for later. For now, she had stories of her own to tell. “Well, eventually, the sundered remains of the old kingdom of Griffontstone managed to unify under a new ruler. A conqueror king, in essence, who began an invasion of what used to be Equestria, seeing as the old mountains the griffons lived in was far from hospitable.”

“And with Equestria more or less gone,” Lens continued, briefly glancing down. “There wasn’t a whole lot the scattered ponies could do. Those small communities that sprang up were quickly overrun and subjugated. And so it was that Talonreach first took root…”

Scarlet nodded. “They did not stop there, unfortunately. Over time, Talonreach spread far and wide, and before long, all of Old Equestria was taken into their control. The last bastion of ponies trying to cling to their independence, a settlement called Gallant’s Hope on the western border of Old Equestria, was unable to hold the invading griffons for long.”

“Oh my goodness,” Twilight breathed, lifting a hoof to her mouth in shock. “What happened after that?”

“Well, some ponies, several hundred of them, as I recall, fled far to the west,” Lens answered with a slow nod of his own. “Into what was then called the Undiscovered West. There, they discovered long-abandoned ruins from the three tribes era and soon stumbled across a great lake surrounded by lush, fertile fields. On the shores of that lake, they began a new settlement.”

“And they called it Newcanter,” Scarlet said simply. “The beginning of New Equestria. Little more than a refugee camp for ponies who did not wish to be dominated by foreign invaders.”

“Ah’m guessin’ it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbow after that, though, was it?” Applejack deduced after a moment, her brow furrowing.

Scarlet shook her head. “Alas, no. Talonreach was ever covetous of more land and power, but it would be several decades yet before they would venture to the west. This was in part due to the sudden death of their first king, and also due to an act of open, violent rebellion from many of the ponies the griffons had subjugated. They were led by a mare named Violet Storm, whose beauty and charms are legendary to this day.”

“With her magic and clever mind, she was able to effectively seduce victories right out of griffon claws,” Lens stated, glancing sideways at Scarlet, no doubt pondering her own half Violstan nature. “And they managed to keep Talonreach guessing for a long time before, finally, the new griffon king eventually agreed to a treaty that afforded Violet Storm and her followers the northwestern corner of Talonreach. They would be granted their independence, although as protectorates under Talonreach.”

“And so it was that Violsta came to be, and their leader founded the city of Lover’s Shade, where my mother is from,” Scarlet finished off that part of the story with a nod. “It wasn’t long after that, however, before the griffons’ greed returned in force, and they set their sights to the west.”

“Newcanter had grown a lot in that time,” Lens picked up. “And many more ponies had come there in the form of a mass exodus from Gallant’s Hope and other scattered pony villages, using the chaos of Violet’s rebellion as cover to hide their escape. Their population swelled, their city grew—its influence with it—and the newly formed Solar and Lunar councils were quite pleased with their progress.”

“Solar and Lunar Councils?” Rarity asked, perking up.

“Makes sense,” Rainbow grumbled. “With Celestia and Luna gone, they had to think of some way to fill in the gap.”

“Precisely,” Scarlet confirmed. “As it stands, Talonreach came into contact with New Equestria, and soon, a new conflict broke out. Talonreach did not recognize New Equestria as its own sovereign nation. Merely as a band of open rebels to be brought to heel.”

“And so another war broke out,” Lens stated, a grim frown coming over his face.

“Another one?” Twilight breathed, her ears drooping all the way. “They couldn’t find a peaceful solution…?”

Scarlet winced, looking down. “...I believe that they tried,” she said after a moment of hesitation, only a partial lie. The truth was, she was choosing to believe that they had tried, although there was no evidence one way or the other. But Twilight didn’t need to know that just now.

A heavy silence fell over the room. Twilight eventually cleared her throat and lifted her head. “Well… I’m assuming the New Equestria won?” she asked hopefully, though there was no missing the strain and tension in her voice.

“At great cost, but yes,” Scarlet replied slowly. “They were able to defend themselves long enough to exhaust Talonreach’s strength. The griffons were still worn out from their battle against the last open rebellion with Violsta, and so eventually had to concede defeat. As a result, New Equestria was officially recognized as its own nation.”

A wave of relief washed over the six mares in front of Scarlet, and a small smile crept onto her face at the sight. Twilight, in particular, seemed glad to hear this. “So… was that it, then?” she asked carefully, taking a step forward. “There weren’t any other wars, right?”

Scarlet winced, looking away. It was Lens who answered. “Well… not for a long time, at least.”

“I’m sensing a very loud ‘but’ in there,” Rainbow grumbled tiredly as if she wasn’t surprised.

Scarlet sighed and nodded her head. “You’re not wrong. There was another war… relatively recently. New Equestria, Talonreach, and Violsta all enjoyed a prolonged period of relative peace for a few centuries before things began to deteriorate once again. New Equestria spread its borders, trade was reestablished with the hippogriffs down south in Eris, and Violsta grew and prospered in its own right. There was something of a technological revolution with the advent of Arcane Engineering, thanks to the magical crystals that were found growing all across the world.”

“Which we now know are the roots of the Tree of Harmony,” Lens pointed out with a small bounce. “Which, might I add, is immensely fascinating.”

Applejack’s eyes flew wide. “Say what, now?! The roots of the Tree of Harmony spread all the way out here?!”

“They spread everywhere,” Spike clarified with a slow nod. “I’ve seen several growths over the centuries. The largest one is in a New Equestrian city called Shimmervale. It’s enormous, larger than the Tree itself.”

“Those crystals serve as the batteries for a wide range of technological inventions and innovations, including lamps to light the streets and homes of big cities at night and construction equipment for assembling larger, more intricate buildings that would otherwise be impossible,” Scarlet furthered with a slow nod. “And it’s seeing innovations all the time.”

“It’s still a long way behind what we used to have, though,” Flurry lamented with a grim frown. “Haven’t seen a train in years.”

Scarlet blinked. Somehow, she had totally forgotten about that. “Oh. Uh, well, there is actually an arcane train. It connects a few of the cities in the northwestern corner of New Equestria, including my home city of Swanrun. The tracks haven’t quite made it to the capital yet, though, unfortunately. Progress is slow due to how expensive it all is to maintain. It’s mostly used to shepherd important ponies from one point to the other, though. Civilians seldom get to use them.”

“They’re noisy,” Primrose grimaced.

Twilight blinked a few times. “Okay… That’s fascinating, and I would love to hear more sometime,” she said, clearly nudging the conversation back on track. “But this newer war?”

Scarlet frowned again, her mood dropping. “...Right. The War of Retribution, it’s come to be known as in pony circles.”

“Sounds charmin’,” Applejack muttered.

“It sounds dreadful,” Rarity corrected grimly.

Scarlet nodded, shaking her head to try and dispel the haunting phantoms of her time in that conflict. “It was dreadful, Lens and I can both attest to that firsthoof. Bloodiest war since the Fall.”

“What happened?” Twilight asked, her eyes boring into Scarlet intensely.

Scarlet hesitated. Her mind wandered back to her time in that bloody conflict, and the scars it had left her with. For a moment, the memory of a young griffon with his throat slit on the ground in front of her flashed before her eyes. She screwed them shut and shook her head sharply to banish the memory, ignoring the sounds of screams and rending flesh as well as she could.

“Scarlet…?” Primrose’s voice suddenly spoke up from her side, the foal’s hoof nudging Scarlet’s leg. She blinked and looked down to see the filly looking back up at her with a concerned frown. “Are you remembering, again?”

Scarlet swallowed heavily. “Y-yes. Forgive me,” she apologized weakly before returning her attention to Twilight, who now appeared to be confused. “My apologies, princess. But… I fought in that war myself. It was a harrowing experience at the best of times, and… it is difficult for me to speak of it without getting lost in the memories.”

Twilight’s eyes flew wide as saucers, her jaw hanging open. “It was that recent?!” she asked in disbelief.

Scarlet sighed. “It was, yes. It all began with the newest king in Talonreach, Glorion. He was a lunatic, absolutely insane. But as the king, he was rarely questioned, and when he was, those that dared speak up typically did not live long.”

“He was paranoid,” Lens added, placing a hoof on Scarlet’s back to comfort her as he took over the discussion. “He saw plots and threats against him wherever he looked. Especially in non-griffons. Ponies, in particular, received abhorrent treatment under his regime. The list of atrocities he had committed against his own subjects grew by the year, especially in Violsta. He felt slighted by Violet Storm’s victory, even though it was centuries ago, and spread propaganda that the ponies there and in New Equestria were just, and I quote, ‘witches and warlocks, one and all’.”

“...Huh,” Pinkie mused, her ears drooping. “So that’s what that feels like… Neighsay really was a big meanie.”

Scarlet blinked. “...What?”

“Nothing,” Twilight dismissed with a shake of her head. “Just… something from our time. You were saying Lens?”

“Right,” Lens nodded and continued a second later. “Well, eventually, he was persuaded to let the Violstans try to convince him otherwise. Some level-headed griffons in his court managed to talk him down from his radicalization, and so he sent a contingent of griffon nobles to Lover’s Shade to talk to the Countess there and see what she had to say. Unfortunately… it didn’t go well.”

Scarlet sighed, her ears drooping. “My mother told me the story herself, as my grandmother was in the city when it happened. Apparently, one of Glorion’s closest advisors and friends, who had been part of the delegation, was found dead in an alley, his throat sliced open by a sharpened blade. The remaining members of the delegation cried assassination, and peace became little more than a pleasant yet unachievable dream.”

“Someone killed him?!” Rarity asked, horrified. “Who?! Why?!”

“Nopony knows. The assassin—if 'assassin' is the right word—was never found, and the Violstans have claimed at every turn to have no knowledge of who the murderer was,” Lens admitted regretfully. “All we know for sure is that Glorion was beyond enraged, and soon enough, he sent his forces marching into Violsta to raze it all to the ground, intent on getting revenge for his fallen friend while also claiming he was stamping out the ‘threat of the witches.’”

“Violsta was able to hold them, for a time,” Scarlet went on. “And in that time, many things changed: several Talonreach cities in the northeast of the kingdom broke away in open rebellion of their own, becoming what is now known as Freewind, while New Equestria and Eris, both sick of Talonreach’s evils, declared war on the griffon nation with the intent of aiding their kind within its borders. Talonreach was assaulted on all sides, but it nevertheless fought with a ferocity unmatched.”

Her eyes went distant as the memories once again began to creep into her mind. She felt Lens’ hoof on her back, and Primrose’s curling around her own, and she used their touch to ground herself in reality. When she spoke next, her voice was quiet. “...The war lasted for several years. There were countless losses and atrocities on all sides… but in the end, the war was ended when a pony… a Nightblade named Silent Edge, who had been undercover in Talonreach’s capital, snuck into the castle and assassinated king Glorion.”

“That was around eight or nine years ago,” Lens finished with a slow nod. “Since then, Talonreach has struggled to recover from the damages they suffered in the war. Their new king is struggling to hold it all together, while Violsta and Freewind have both enjoyed their newfound complete independence.”

“And veterans who fought in that damned war are still trying to leave it behind them,” Scarlet concluded the recount with a deep sigh. “Some have been more successful than others.”

A heavy silence fell over the room. Scarlet kept her head down and her eyes closed, waiting for the princess to speak to her again. Eventually, she heard Twilight give off a long, quiet sigh.

“...I see… T-Thank you, Scarlet Frost, Lens. You’ve been a big help,” Twilight said quietly before turning back to her friends. “B-but, um… I think we need a little bit of time to process what you’ve told us.”

“Of course,” Scarlet said quietly, grateful for the chance to leave. She gently took Lens’ hoof in her and began to retreat for the exit.

“B-but,” Lens protested weakly, looking between Scarlet and Twilight in disappointment. “I had some…”

“Lens,” Scarlet cut him off, gently placing Primrose on his back with her magic. “We’ve been dismissed. Let it go.”

Lens mouthed like a fish for several seconds before, eventually, he clamped his jaw shut. “...Right, okay,” he muttered in defeat, allowing Scarlet to guide him for the exit. A pulse of magic came from Flurry’s horn, and the wall peeled open to let them pass through.

“Thank you again,” Twilight called after them, making Scarlet pause briefly. She looked back to see Twilight giving her a weak, broken smile. “For all of your help… We wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you three…”

Scarlet hesitated at that. Eventually, she put on a smile of her own and gave a small bow of her head. “You are welcome, Your Highness… I wish you luck in the days to come,” she said.

“Me, too!” Primrose chirped from Lens’ back, lifting her head. “I carried the lamp around for a long time! Make it worth it!”

Scarlet did not wait for Twilight to speak again. She saw herself out, being sure to pull Lens along with her before the alicorn could say anything. The moment they were passed the threshold, the hole in the wall snapped shut with an echoing crack.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the delay, folks. Not just on this, but on my other stories of mine, too. One of my editors has a lot of irl stuff going on right now, it seems, so getting him around to edit for my stuff is taking longer than usual. This is, in turn, slowing down my entire rotation, as I tend to want to go in order, and if something blocks one chapter, the others grind to a halt behind it.