• 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.

  • ...


A sound, distant and muffled, tickled Twilight’s ears, stirring her from her already fitful and restless slumber. She winced, trying in vain to shut the noise out and return to the void. It came again a moment later, louder and clearer. It was a voice… Fluttershy’s voice. She was calling out for something.

The third time, Twilight sighed and opened her eyes, resigning herself to the fact that, for now, sleep was beyond her. She lifted her head and looked around, finding that she was laying down on the mound of pillows that had been arranged in the Thrones. The rest of her friends, sans Fluttershy, were similarly scattered about on the mound, resting as well as could be expected, given the circumstances. Spike was slumbering against the far wall with his tail being used as a makeshift blanket by Flurry Heart.

It was a cute sight… though it was far more unsettling and upsetting, given the implication, and what Twilight knew about the lives those two had led since she had been sealed in the Lamp. Her eyes fell, as did her ears. Another cold shiver passed through her, and her heart clenched tightly in her chest. She screwed her eyes shut, fighting back another wave of tumultuous emotion.

When Scarlet, Lens, and Primrose had left them earlier, to say that Twilight and her friends had taken the news poorly would be an understatement. Rainbow Dash, in particular, had flown into what had to be the most volatile emotional meltdown any of them had ever seen from her. Twilight shuddered as she recalled Rainbow’s shouts and denials, how she had even gone so far as to slam her head into the wall in some delusional hope that it would wake her from a terrible nightmare.

Fluttershy’s whimpers had grown into full-on sobs, and even Rarity’s fragile but steady composure had shattered into a thousand brittle pieces. Applejack and Pinkie had been remarkably quiet, though the hollow, empty looks in their eyes made it clear that they, too, were struggling to fully accept the reality of their situation. Of the terrible fate that had been thrust on them…

Amid all of it, Twilight could only look on and watch. Watch as her friends, her best friends, the ponies she had saved Equestria beside so many times before, fell into despair and grief the likes of which she had not yet seen. Were she not in such a state of shock herself, she might have joined them…

She wasn’t sure what had happened after that. It was all just a blur… judging by where they were, though, she could only assume that their emotional turmoil had taken its toll, and eventually they had all driven themselves into an early slumber, with Spike and Flurry standing guard over them in silent vigil until they, too, drifted off to sleep.

Twilight stared at the large dragon, her mind’s eye replacing the image in front of her with that of a small, smiling, baby dragon with a scroll in one claw and a pen in the other. His large emerald eyes shining back at her with a desire to please and a warmth that could only belong to a child. She could even imagine Owlowycious perched upon his shoulder, staring at the scroll in his grasp with that ever-unreadable look.

Fluttershy’s voice cut through the silence of the chamber yet again, dispelling the image of better times. Twilight blinked as the grizzled, cynical dragon her Spike had turned into came back into focus. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself before following the echoing sound of Fluttershy’s voice. She was somewhere beyond the exit of the Thrones, which stood open.

Worried for her friend, Twilight dragged herself out of the pile of pillows and slumbering bodies. She stepped out into the hall, seeing Fluttershy a ways ahead. She was looking up, her ears drooping, and her posture sagging. As Twilight drew closer, she could see Fluttershy’s body shaking ever so slightly in the cold of the cave.

“Discoooord!” Fluttershy called out again, her voice echoing up and down the tunnel. Twilight’s eyes widened in surprise, and she held her breath, waiting for the infamous master of chaos himself to make his grand reappearance.

Several seconds passed.

“...Discord?” Fluttershy whispered again, her voice barely even a whisper. “Please… please answer. I know you’re out there… somewhere…”

Twilight looked down, repressing the urge to sigh. She closed her eyes, recalling with a heavy heart the last time she had seen him. He had gone off to find Fluttershy after she went missing. Then, a few hours later, he had returned, appearing out of nowhere in the middle of her castle in Ponyville...

“Discord?!” Twilight shouted in alarm, her heart spiking with fear at the sight on her castle’s floor. Discord lay there, his serpentine body curled protectively around Fluttershy. His eyes were wide and frantic, his chest rising and falling in heaving gasps. Both of them were covered in blood…

Discord’s blood.

“What happened to you?!”

Discord’s eyes turned to Twilight, his lips twitching into something that could charitably be called a rueful smile. “Ah, Twilight. There you are. Don’t worry about me. Just a few little dings- Gh!”

Discord’s attempts at reassurance ground to a halt as he struggled to contain a hiss of agony. Twilight’s heart skipped a beat, and she quickly galloped forward to make sure Fluttershy wasn’t injured. “Oh my gosh, you’re hurt! How?!”

Discord grimaced again, slowly uncurling from around Fluttershy. The pegasus was pale and shaking like a leaf, her eyes distant. She slumped forward, Twilight barely catching her in time. Discord winced, placing a talon against a large gaping wound that had been cut into his side. “Ugh… I got careless,” he admitted despondently. “But, on the bright side, I found out who took Fluttershy. Fifty bits if you can guess who.”

Twilight blinked. Oh, she knew who it was. There was only one it could have been. “...What did she do?”

“Chrysalis found a way to counter my magic. Some piece of her stupid throne thingie,” Discord explained, screwing his eyes shut. “I was so focused on helping Fluttershy that I didn’t realize… until she’d rammed a spear tipped with the cheap stuff into my chest.”

Twilight’s eyes widened, the color draining from her face. Her eyes fell on the wound, and she had to force herself to not shudder in revulsion. Discord was the Spirit of Chaos for a reason, and his internal organs and shocking lack of bones made that plainly clear. She didn’t even want to attempt to describe what she was seeing in there.

Why did his intestines have smiley faces stickered onto them?!

Discord chuckled weakly, shaking his head. “Heh… I guess I had it coming,” he said, slumping onto the ground. “Too much time spent egging you all on to be the best you can be. Didn’t realize I was neglecting myself… I was barely able to get far enough away to regain my powers to teleport...”

“Please, stop talking like that,” Fluttershy suddenly spoke up, turning her eyes back to Discord. She wiped the blood from her face, only succeeding in smearing it, and moved forward, placing her own hooves over the wound. “Save your energy… We need to… need to… oh my goodness…”

Discord groaned, looking down at the wound again. “Oh, Fluttershy… somehow, I doubt this is an injury you’re equipped to treat…”

“You’re the Spirit of Chaos, though!” Fluttershy protested, moving her hooves up to his chest and shaking him. “Can’t you just magic the wound away?!”

“Normally, yes. It would be as simple as snapping my talons and twerking my hips, and I’d be good to go,” Discord replied with a small smile. “But… contrary to popular belief, I do have my limits. When my injuries are this severe and caused by something that cancels out my magic, matters become irritatingly complicated… and time-consuming.”

A lump formed in Twilight’s throat. She stepped closer, placing a hoof on Fluttershy’s back. She didn’t want to ask this next question, but she felt she had no choice. “...Are you going to die?”

“NO!” Fluttershy exclaimed, turning to Twilight in abject disbelief. “Of course he isn’t! He’s Discord! The only thing that can… d-do that to him is if he acts normal for too long!”

“Oh, please, don’t remind me of that,” Discord grumbled while rolling his eyes. “Loolaroo still won’t let me live that down.”

“Loola… huh?” Twilight asked.

“Talking lampshade,” Fluttershy replied automatically.

“Yeah, that makes about as much sense as I was expecting…” Twilight admitted, able to put on a small smile for a moment. She quickly sobered up and focused. “But Discord… are you-”

“Ugh, no, Twilight, I’m not going to die,” Discord interrupted her with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “It will take a lot more than this to keep me down. But… I am going to be out of the picture for a little while.”

Fluttershy blinked, turning back to Discord in confusion. “What…?”

Discord slowly sat up, groaning as he did so. “Oof, youch that burns… Okay, look, just like a pony whose hurt needs rest to recover, when it comes to problems like this, so do I. No big deal, I’ll just jump into my realm for a few weeks and let the chaos there stitch me back together. Shouldn’t take very long.”

“Oh, thank goodness…” Fluttershy sighed in relief, stepping forward and throwing her forelegs around Discord in a warm hug; one he immediately returned. Twilight similarly relaxed. Discord would live. Good. They needed him if they were going to keep Chrysalis at bay until they could find the Elements. Hell, it had been the plan for them to go and pick them up as soon as Discord got Fluttershy back.

However, as as it was, they weren’t going to have him, were they? Not for a few weeks, at least. Twilight’s relief peeled away to reveal the underlying dread, and it soon made itself apparent on her face. She cleared her throat and stepped forward. “Discord… you’re going to be gone for weeks?

Discord hesitated, actually looking reluctant. He nodded a second later. “Well… yes, of course. I know it’s not exactly the best outcome, but, well…” he pointed his lion claw at his wound, and around six different neon light arrows appeared to draw attention to it as well. “This isn’t gonna go away overnight, as much as we may want it to.”

Twilight swallowed heavily. “But… but-”

“Look, you’ll just have to hold out until I get back,” Discord cut her off matter of factly. “Which, considering who I’m talking to, should be child’s play. You’re more than capable of holding the line for a few weeks, Your Highness. I doubt Celestia would have chosen you to be her and Luna’s successor if you weren’t.”

Twilight closed her eyes, looking down at the floor. Discord had been wrong. He had been totally wrong. Not even a few days after he had returned to his realm to recover, the swarm swept over Ponyville. Every effort to slow and stop them ended in failure and the village had been all but turned to dust. Even her castle had been desecrated. They had barely escaped the village with their lives, and by the time they arrived in the Empire…

She shook her head, forcing herself to not think about it. Twilight lifted her head a moment later, just as Fluttershy took in a deep breath.

“Discord! Answer me!” she called out, louder than before. She hunched forward slightly from the force of the shout, even if it was still quieter than most pony shouts.

“Fluttershy…” Twilight called gingerly, snapping Fluttershy from her increasingly desperate calls. Fluttershy spun to face her, tears clearly visible in her puffy, bloodshot eyes. That look killed Twilight a little on the inside, forcing her to glance away. If they had just held out a little longer, then maybe…

Fluttershy took in a shaky breath. She looked up and away. “I… I’m sorry. I didn’t wake you up, did I?” she asked quietly.

Twilight put on a small smile. “It’s fine… I wasn’t really resting anyway,” she said as she drew up to the mare’s side. She looked up where Fluttershy was, searching for any sign that Discord had heard Fluttershy’s shouted plea.

There was nothing.

“...He isn’t answering,” Fluttershy whispered, her voice laced with sorrow and longing. “He should be answering. He said it would only take him a few weeks…”

Twilight looked down, her ears drooping. She wracked her brain for an explanation. Maybe he couldn’t hear her from where he was? No, that didn’t make any sense. Discord had always known when someone he liked was calling out to him in the past. He routinely ignored them, most of the time. But not Fluttershy.

Not Fluttershy.

Another possibility entered her mind, this one far grimmer. Discord had been exceptionally wounded when he left, and the amount of blood he had left behind had been staggering. Almost comical. Maybe his wounds were worse than he had been expecting? Maybe the cancelation of his magic extended to his realm as well when he went there.

Maybe, Discord was just… gone.

Twilight turned to Fluttershy. There was still a tiny spark of hope in that mare’s eyes. If Discord were still around, he could probably put everything right with a snap of his claws. One moment and this horrible nightmare would end, and they could all go back to the life they were all missing so dearly… But if Discord was gone, then…

Could Twilight really bring herself to say it? To even breathe the idea in front of Fluttershy? Could she willingly put forth the notion that her hope was doomed to end in disappointment?

“...No,” Twilight finally decided, looking away. “I’ve failed everypony enough… I can tell her later. When things are better…”

Before the two could speak again, the silence was suddenly and violently broken. Twilight jumped in her skin and spun to the side as a large hole opened in the wall to her left. A praetor drone stood there, with Scarlet Frost, Sharp Lens, and Primrose all trailing along behind him, all of them looking tired, but with an air of seriousness about them.

“Scarlet?” Twilight asked in surprise, stepping back to give the suddenly arriving group some room. “What’s going on? Is something wrong?”

Scarlet glanced at her, and it was only then that Twilight noticed her horn glowing with magic and a tightly bound scroll of parchment floating in the air next to her. “...That’s up to Hraesvalgr,” she said after a moment.

“What’s going on?” Fluttershy asked, stepping behind Twilight to watch the proceedings with fearful eyes.

The Praetor nodded respectfully at them. “There is a letter for Lord Hraesvalgr. We need to deliver it at once.”

With that, the group of four moved for the Thrones. Twilight was quick to fall into stride next to them, her eyes fixated to the scroll. The red ribbon that bound it was reminiscent of the ones Celestia would use to bind hers, and there was even a gold seal, although the insignia was very different from the one she knew.

“Lord Hraesvalgr!” The Praetor called out as he entered the room, drawing an agitated snort from the slumbering dragon.

“Mmph. What do you want?” he asked in annoyance, opening one reptilian eye to glare at the new arrivals. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we have ponies sleeping in here.”

“A thousand pardons, My Lord,” The Praetor apologized while dipping his head low. “But the ponies behind me insisted that this matter could not wait, and in light of recent events, I felt it would be unwise to ignore them.”

“Ugh, could you all shut up?” Rainbow asked, clearly roused from the sudden accumulation of noise. “Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“Manners, Dash,” Rarity half-heartedly chastised.

While the slumbering ponies were pulled back to wakefulness, Spike lifted his head and snorted. “Ugh. Fine. This had better be really important, Scarlet,” he snarled before lifting his head. “What is it?”

Scarlet stepped forward, holding the scroll in the air so he could see it. “We received a visitor tonight,” she said plainly. “Outside, near Sclera’s grave, we met the Spymaster from Newcanter.”

Twilight blinked. The Spymaster? Newcanter? She recognized the name of the city as the capital of New Equestria, but had yet to hear anything about the "Spymaster." She had also been under the impression that Sanctuary was completely unknown. That had been what Spike and Flurry discussed, at any rate.

To say that this revelation angered Spike would be an understatement. He lifted his head up higher, his nostrils flaring. “What?!” he asked in a bellowing shout, causing Twilight to wince and fold her ears down over her head. Well, if the others hadn’t been awake yet, they sure were now.

“He spoke with us at length under the Blue Banner,” Scarlet went on, lowering her head so as to not look the angered dragon in the eye. “When he departed, he requested we deliver this to you.”

Spike snorted angrily before snatching the scroll out of the air. It was tiny in his claws. He carefully unrolled it, seemingly trying not to accidentally rip the paper. He squinted at the words for several seconds. Slowly, his lips began to curl into an ugly, almost embarrassed grimace.

“What is it, Uncle Spike?” Flurry asked drowsily as she woke up, oblivious to the presence of not just Scarlet’s entourage, but also the Praetor.

Spike’s purple scales flushed slightly at the use of his name. He pointed at the Praetor in question. “You. Leave us.”

The Praetor nodded his head and quickly excused himself, the wall sealing up shut behind him. Once Spike was satisfied, he glanced down at Flurry and lowered the scroll in front of her face. “Uh… you read it.”

“Huh? Why?”

“Flurry, I’m a four-hundred-year-old, thirty-foot dragon,” Spike pointed out with a frown. “I can’t read it. The letters are too small for me now.”

That drew a small giggle out of the sleepy alicorn. Twilight watched as Flurry plucked the scroll with her magic, gave a big yawn, and began to read.

“Okay, okay, let’s see what we have here… uh… hm… oh my…”

“What? What is it?” Twilight asked, a sense of unease filling her stomach the longer Flurry read the message.

“It’s… an invitation,” Flurry eventually said, leaning back with an uneasy frown. “It says that the Solar and Lunar Councils, having learned about Sanctuary’s existence from their Spymaster, want to invite Spike and me down to Newcanter to meet with them and open diplomatic relations. They say that they ‘want to make amends for the damage they have caused’…”

Twilight blinked. That didn’t sound all that bad, actually. It would be a good first step in making the lives of free changelings happier. If they were being genuine, then they wanted to make up for their mistakes.

Spike, however, did not seem to share that sentiment. His pupils dilated, and a guttural growl emanated from deep in his throat. Twilight’s eyes widened as, in the darkness of the chamber, she could see his chest glowing a soft shade of green as flames swelled within. He lifted a fist and drove it into the nearest wall with considerable force. A deafening boom echoed throughout the chamber, making Fluttershy squeak in fear.

“Oh, that is rich, coming from them!” Spike bellowed, smoke billowing from his nostrils. “Four hundred years of bigotry, four hundred years of putting innocent creatures to death, forcing them to live lives of seclusion and isolation just so they can avoid having their heads taken away, four hundred years of willful ignorance! And now they think they can make up for it?!”

Twilight shrank back with every infuriated word Spike spoke. She glanced toward Scarlet, who had taken several steps back, keeping her head down low. The rest of the mares in the room were similarly shocked by Spike’s ongoing outburst, shrinking back into the mound of pillows in fear.

Suddenly, Spike’s tirade came to an end when Flurry shot up into the air and floated in front of him. “Uncle Spike! Stop it! That’s enough!”

At once, Spike’s words died in his throat. He watched Flurry for several seconds. Flurry smiled gently back at him, placing her hooves on the tip of his muzzle. She didn’t say anything else, though. She just leaned in and gave him an affectionate nuzzle.

Twilight’s eyes widened as Spike began to visibly calm down. Her eyes fell on Flurry, and she found herself wondering how long it had been like this. She had never seen that sort of rage from Spike before. She would have struggled for words against such an intimidating rant. But Flurry had been utterly fearless, and with her mere presence alone had quelled Spike’s rage.

“Well… at least he had someone,” She thought regretfully, her ears drooping. “I just wish I could have been there, too…”

“...For what it’s worth,” Lens chimed in carefully. “As a pony who only learned the truth a few weeks ago, there is a reason ponies have been acting the way they do.”

“I… I know that,” Spike relented, gently brushing Flurry aside with a claw. “I’m sorry for yelling, everyone. But… well, you haven’t had to hear the same stories I have, nor seen the same horrors Flurry has…”

Scarlet looked up at him, her ears drooping. “...When we first met you in the mountains, Spike, you told us that your faith in our kind was spent… is that true?”

Spike hesitated. A moment later, he nodded. “...In a sense, yes. I have long given up on New Equestria as it is right now. What little I have seen and heard has made it painfully clear that it is a far cry from the land I once called home. They have propagated more evils than I care to count…”

“Spike…” Twilight breathed, taken aback. A few moments later, she cleared her throat and spoke louder. “Well… if the letter is anything to go by, it sounds like they’ve figured out that they were wrong. And if they’re willing to make amends for their mistakes, I don’t see why you should deny them that.”

Spike sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Twilight… you don’t understand…”

“Maybe I don’t,” Twilight conceded a moment later. “But I do understand friendship. And I know that hatred and fear won’t do anything to make this world better.”

“That’s right,” Flurry agreed with a nod.

“Maybe… but what if it’s a trap?” Spike asked slowly. “It could very well be that they’re luring us into Newcanter just to get rid of us, leaving Sanctuary vulnerable.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Scarlet’s voice suddenly cut in. All eyes turned to her. She stepped forward, a more intense frown on her face.

Spike raised an eyebrow. “Is it, though?”

“Yes, it is,” Scarlet confirmed. “Though I agree with you that the ponies of New Equestria have perpetuated countless evils against the changelings who evaded the curse, I must point out that they themselves are not evil. Until only recently, as Lens pointed out, we did not even know that there was a difference between Free Changelings and Ferals. Most ponies have been raised on the belief that changelings are demons to be killed on sight, and with good reason, considering the events of the Fall, and the feral packs that still roam the wilderness, terrorizing small villages wherever they can. And while Silent Edge was a monster and a murderer, I can claim with certainty that the leaders of the Solar and Lunar Councils are good ponies. Stubborn and self-absorbed, perhaps, but far from evil. And besides…”

She turned to Flurry next, her expression softening. “What reason would New Equestria have to kill you two… when both of you hold such high places in the New Equestrian pantheon?”

Twilight blinked in confusion. She turned to scarlet. “Pantheon?”

“You guys are worshipped like gods,” Primrose piped up quietly from Lens’ back, lifting her eyes to meet Twilight’s. “When Scarlet and I were traveling, we stopped in a small village with a church devoted to you. We went in, and there were these colorful windows showing off all the alicorns. Even Spike and your brother were in them.”

“Right. We call you The Five,” Lens clarified, stepping forward somewhat. “For a long time, the dominant religion in New Equestria has been centered around, well… Like Primrose said, the Five Alicorns of your time. In the scriptures, your friends are considered saints. Spike is the First Dragon Sentinel, a prominent figure in the scriptures, as well.”

Twilight stared at them for several seconds, her mind reeling. She lifted a hoof up to the side of her head. “We’re… Ponies worship us?”

“Yeah… Scarlet and Lens bowed pretty deeply when they first met me,” Flurry added, lowering herself back down to the ground.

“To kill you two would be to kill two of the gods that the ponies look up to and worship,” Scarlet picked with a slow nod, looking between Spike and Flurry. “And believe me… the Councils would never be able to try something like that. Even if there are agnostics like myself on the council, the population at large is devoted significantly to that faith. Killing you would throw everything into absolute pandemonium… And, for better or for worse, the councils desire order above all else. So your lives are in no danger from them.”

A heavy silence fell over the room. Rarity spoke up a short time later, clearing her throat. “Er, well, then… While I am not sure how I feel about being idolized as a saint in a new religion, if they are inviting you, then I don’t see why you should say no. After all, what better opportunity could you ask for to start setting things right?”

Spike frowned, looking to Rarity with uncertain eyes. “Rarity…”

“If nothin’ else, it’d be a good chance to get the truth out there,” Applejack agreed.

“Yeah, and maybe they’d even throw a big party to welcome us back?” Pinkie suggested, though her voice was uncharacteristically weak.

Rainbow snorted. “...Whatever.”

Several seconds passed in silence. Spike looked down at his claws, his brow furrowing in thought. Eventually, he sighed and closed his eyes. “...I always knew that, someday, Sanctuary would have to be revealed to the world…” he grumbled dejectedly. “I guess I was just hoping it wouldn’t be so soon… On the heels of the biggest tragedy this city has ever faced.”

Twilight looked away. She had heard about the attack from the griffons. From all accounts, it had been a horribly bloody affair, with many changeling lives lost. With that in mind, it made perfect sense for Spike to be so on edge and protective. He had devoted himself in his entirety to defending this place while it was still a secret.

If they accepted this invitation, then Sanctuary and its inhabitants were bound to quickly become common knowledge. And if that happened, and undesirable individuals caught wind of it… if the Ferals caught wind of it…

She shuddered at the memory of Thorax’s hive. She hadn’t been there, but she had heard the story from Pharynx and Ocellus. So many changelings, turned into mindless savage beasts overnight… she didn’t want to imagine that happening here.

Of course, without a queen, that was very unlikely to happen. But even so, it would only take one…

Eventually, Spike lifted his head. “Fine. I’ll accept this invitation and go to Newcanter to speak with the Councils. You, Flurry, will stay here to keep tabs on Sanctuary and make sure nobody tries anything stupid.”

“I’m coming, too!’ Rainbow suddenly shouted, standing up and rising from the mount of pillows.

Spike blinked. “Dash?”

“I’m not hiding or running anymore,” The pegasus insisted aggressively, her nostrils flaring. “We ran and we hid from Chrysalis, but I’m not running or hiding from ponies. I’m coming with you, and that’s that.”

“I, too, must insist I accompany you,” Rarity agreed, stepping daintily down from the mound with a nod. “If nothing else, to see how the world has changed, and do my part in making things right.”

Applejack sighed and stepped down from the mound as well. “Ah, shoot. What the hay could it hurt?” she asked with a shake of her head. “Count me in.”

“Me, too,” Pinkie agreed, hopping up beside her. “I wanna go wherever you girls do and try and make ponies smile again. Sounds like they could use it!”

“Heh… Well, you’re not wrong about that,” Lens acknowledged.

Twilight turned to him, having frankly forgotten he was there for a moment. As she did, she made eye contact with Primrose. There was something odd in those teal orbs. Twilight couldn’t quite place her hoof on what, though, and before she had a chance to ponder it, Spike turned to her. “Well, what about you?” he asked bluntly. “I mean, I’m assuming you’re coming.”

Twilight jumped in surprise. She looked up to him, her brain stalling for a moment. The revelation that she was, apparently, worshipped as a literal goddess in Newcanter had left a terrible taste in her mouth, and she was still struggling to even comprehend the scope of the changes the world had undergone. For a moment, she was afraid she’d have to decline if only to get her thoughts in order.

After a moment, though, she steeled herself. She had been keeping the world waiting long enough. It was well past time she set forward and did her part to set things right. She nodded up at Spike. “Yes. I’m coming.”

“Um… me, too,” Fluttershy agreed from behind her. “I don’t wanna be alone, here…”

“Hmph. Quite the delegation,” Scarlet mused absently. “The First Dragon Sentinel, one of the Five, and the five saints. To say that your arrival will shake Newcanter to its core would be, I think, a grotesque understatement.”

Twilight turned to Scarlet, meeting her gaze. If she could help it, there were two more ponies that would be coming with her on this trip. “On that note, Scarlet… why don’t you come, too?”

Primrose’s eyes widened. “W-what?!”

Scarlet frowned. “...Go with you?” she asked slowly and dubiously.

Suddenly, Twilight’s confidence shattered. She shrank back somewhat, an uneasy frown on her face. “Well, I mean… It’s just that we’re still strangers here, you know? We could really use your and Lens’ help to fill in the blanks of what we know. I mean… we don’t want to make total fools of ourselves and blow the whole thing because of our ignorance, right?”

“But…” Primrose whimpered, glancing over at Scarlet. “We… we just got comfortable…”

Scarlet was quiet for several seconds. Lens turned to her with an expectant look, as if there were no other answer she could give but ‘yes.’ However, after a moment, she shook her head. “No, Twilight. I’m not going with you.”

“Wha… but-”

“I just got done with an adventure of my own,” she went on, interrupting Twilight before she could protest. “One that took me from one edge of this country to the other. All the while, I was relentlessly hunted by a bloodthirsty assassin. I all but gave my life to see that journey end… all so we could enjoy a quiet, peaceful life here…”

Scarlet turned to Primrose, a gentle smile appearing on her face. “And now that we have it, I won’t give it up. Not for you, Twilight… not for anything.”

A heavy silence fell over the room. Twilight looked down, quietly cursing her own stupidity. She should have figured that Scarlet wouldn’t want to come. A few moments later, she nodded and stepped back. “Alright… We could really use your help, but I understand.”

Scarlet hesitated for a few seconds as if she weren’t actually sure of what she had just said. She gave a stiff nod a moment later before turning back to Lens. “Come. We should be getting back. It’s late, and we’ve been up rather longer than I had intended when we set out,” she said plainly.

Lens looked back to her, opening his mouth as if to protest her decision. The words did not come, though, and a few moments later, he gave a reluctant nod of his own. “Alright… If you’re sure.”

Scarlet tilted her head. “...What is that supposed to mean?”

Lens shook his head. “Nevermind,” he dismissed, not at all elegantly. He shifted his shoulders slightly, drawing attention to Primrose, who was still laying on his back. “What do you think, Prim? Wanna head home?”

Primrose was quiet for a few seconds. She lifted her eyes to look at Twilight and her friends. There was something in her gaze that gave Twilight pause. She knew at least some of Primrose’s story. She knew that she was Ocellus’ distant granddaughter and that she had spent the last several years protecting the lamp with her life against a dangerous assassin.

Eventually, Primrose’s eyes fell on Twilight in particular. She lifted her head, making direct eye contact. “...Um, Miss Twilight?” she suddenly called out.

Twilight jumped a little, having not expected her to speak. She nodded and put on a warm smile. “Yes?”

Primrose hesitated, her ears drooping. After a few moments, she gave a weak smile of her own. “...Good luck.”

Flurry took that as the right time to see Scarlet and Lens out. With a quick flicker of magic from her horn, the wall beside Scarlet’s entourage peeled open with the scraping of stone. Scarlet glanced back at Twilight, gave her a reassuring look, and then stepped out with Lens close behind her.

“So, when are we leaving?” Applejack asked. “‘Cause Ah dunno bout all of y’all, but Ah’m mighty eager to get down to business.”

“A couple of days, I say,” Spike said, lowering his head back down as if to get some more rest. “We can discuss it more in the morning. But, in case you all forgot, it is the middle of the night. Too early for us to be making any serious plans.”

As if to punctuate that remark, a loud and frankly unattractive yawn escaped from Rainbow Dash. “Ugh, yeah, I guess we can wait a little longer,” she grumbled, hauling herself back onto the mound of pillows. “I mean, the world’s waited four hundred years already. What’s another night?”

Twilight grimaced at that before shaking her head. “Fair enough. Let’s get some sleep, girls,” she said, though her eyes did not leave the hole in the wall.

A moment later, with another grind of stone, it sealed shut.