• Published 29th Aug 2012
  • 1,633 Views, 44 Comments

Eclipse: House of Frostmane's Few - Spectre_Crystaleye



Bellatores Sub Velum. We are the Unknown. We are the Unseen. We are the Warriors beneath the Veil.

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2.1 "Gray Horizons"

CHAPTER 2.1

"Gray Horizons"

"Thanks for the rope, Mrs. Twine!" Spike called back to the shopkeep as he raced out the door and into the bright afternoon sunlight.

Hours before Celestia's solemn order struck death into the depths of the Everfree, the true dragon of Ponyville raced towards the arboreal library under a different set of commands. His little red wagon bounced and skipped after him, nearly spilling the small stack of supplies he had been gathering.

"Excuse me! Pardon me! Coming through!" He shouted as he raced through the market street, narrowly dodging many a pony's tail or hoof in his blur of movement. "Boy... I really need... to take the... back way... next time," He panted to himself, as he wiped yet another advancing wave of perspiration from his brow, and powered onward. Only with the library's crimson door finally in sight did he allow himself to relax.

"Hey, Twilight! I'm back with the..." He trailed off when a purple blur blasted past him in a wake of frayed mane and scattered books. "Uh, Twi?"

"Spike!" Twilight yelled, while she screeched to a halt and spun to face him, a half-crazed panic in her eyes. "Where in Equestria has my small notebook gone? Have you seen it?"

"Uh, you mean that one right there?" He retorted, with confusion painted across his face as he pointed to a spiral bound book on her desk.

His answer came in the form of a nervous tick in her left eye as she fought to suppress her frustration. Grumbling all the way, she stomped over to the desk and ripped the book from its resting place. Wrapped in her sparkling lavender mana, she waved it before him. "This is my medium-small notebook. It is five cubic centimeters and two-point-three ounces larger than my small notebook!"

"You know how much your note..." He immediately shook his head in realization and moved his wagon over to the saddlebags she was preparing. "... Of course you know how much your notebooks weigh."

"I have searched everywhere for it," She sighed in defeat, as she replaced the medium-small book and trotted over to inspect his bounty. "Did you find the hay braids I asked for?"

"Got 'em," He called back as he set to search for the elusive travel pad. "I got everything on the list; the hay braids, the rope, travel stationary kit, canteen, bed roll and bag, and I even got everything for the first aid kit you wanted. Nurse Redheart insisted I include sutures and more iodine than you asked for, but everything else is there."

"Good job, Spike," She replied, as she began organizing the materials to be meticulously packed away, stopping frequently to compare an open reference tome placed nearby to the checklist in front of her . While The Savvy Saddlepacker's Guide didn't mention the sutures in its basic supplies section, she could understand the wise nurse's logic for including such a handy and lightweight addition. With a silent appreciation, she stowed the packets away in the aid bag, hoping she would not have to call on them during her short excursion.

"I could have sworn that I put it over here," Spike grumbled, as he milled about in a crate of supplies in a futile hunt for her elusive notepad.

"That's ok, Spike," Twilight said at length. She cringed to the sound of a stack of books toppling under the dragon's relentless search. "I'll just use this one. Do me a favor and read me the letter again?"

His head popped forth from the pile of literature strewn about the floor with a shine of relief in his eyes. He set quickly across the library to her main desk to fetch the scroll that had come several days before. With practiced ease he slipped it from its binding and read aloud as he paced back into the common room.

"My Dear Twilight,

Due to the escalating nature of the recent events around Equestria, and your frequent involvement in them; I am extending an invitation to the next Royal Guard Combat Casting course, to be held in one week's time. This course, I hope, shall give you new skills not found in regular study. Thereby, enabling you to protect yourself and your friends in the very likely event that I must call on you to serve the nation once again.

The instructor of this course is rather eccentric, but his experience should not be taken lightly. Learn what he has to teach, but don't be afraid to add your own knowledge if it warrants... you are both students of the Eternal Lesson, and he is a good listener.

The class will meet at the Canterlot Sculpture Gardens, Friday at sunset, and shall take you to the wilds for a three-day excursion . Pack light but thoroughly in preparation for saddlepacking woodland trails at a Royal Guard pony's pace. The invitation is extended to Rarity as well, assuming she hasn't business to attend otherwise.

This is a Royal Guard function, and beyond the Wielders of Harmony (and Spike, of course), none are to know the nature of your trip. You may tell curious ears that you are coming to Canterlot to oversee repairs to the school.

Sincerely,

Princess Celestia

P.S.- Pack a sharp mind and rested legs, and adventure will surely find us well. -Frostmane"

Twilight looked to be seconds away from boiling over with excitement. She listened intently, while meticulously rechecking the gear arraigned before her waiting bags. Like a commander before her loyal troops, she issued orders to load with her deft magics and the packs began to fill as she beamed with anticipation.

"Didn't your brother take the Commandant's course last spring?" Spike asked, while he watched the ranks of items file into their tight places.

"Yes!" She blurted with joy. "And, when he came back, his shield spells were more powerful and efficient by tenfold! I can't wait to learn the technique!"

"Shining never showed you?"

"He wasn't allowed to. Royal Guard orders and all that."

"But you're the Most Awesomest Master of Awesome Harmonious Magics!" Spike flourished, as he rolled the scroll up and slipped it into one of the bags. "I'm just surprised he kept it from you, being so open and all."

"He failed to tell me about his own wedding until it was almost happening," She retorted curtly.

"... Oh yeah." He replied at length with a chuckle, suddenly remembering a certain letter being tossed into a pool of molten lava during his wild migration. "To be fair, I think Queen Chrysalis probably had a lot to do with that..."

"I suppose," Twilight mused with a sigh, while her marching items finished their embarkment, still somewhat unconvinced of her big brother's tardiness.

"I-Urk!" Spike's next words were cut off in a gout of emerald flame and a belch that could have emanated from his toes. He quickly fumbled about to catch the letter before it clattered to the floor, and chuckled with amusement as he unrolled it from its seal. "Speak of the devil."

"Shining?" Twilight asked in confusion, while she secured the final straps of her bags and checked her list for perhaps the fourteenth time.

"Yeah," He replied, blinking, and flipped the parchment over a few times, as though trying to conjure some hidden script. "It just reads:

Twilie, Meet me at the northwest guard tower before you go to the gardens.

-Shining"

"That's it?"

"Uh huh." Was his only reply. He checked it once more for good measure.

"He probably just wants to have me brush up on Guard etiquette before I go embarrass myself in front of the other students," Twilight mused with a shared shrug, testing the weight of her packs on her back.

" As if you haven't read Pie Card's Proper Placements and Protocols twenty times this week. The way you went on about him, he must have been an amazing captain,"Spike shot back, though his voice was tinged with concern.

Twilight shared a brief chuckle and a fond smile with him as she steeled herself for the experience awaiting her, "Are you going to be alright here for four days by yourself?"

"Don't you worry about a thing, Twi!" He saluted with a wink, "Rarity gave me a pile of gems to cook with over the weekend, and I'm gonna try a few new recipes!" He seemed to drift off into a daydream as he stared through the wall and hungrily licked his lips. "Emerald and charcoal scones, a jewel cake, ruby fritters..."

"Maybe Applejack can come by and help with the baking," Twilight chuckled, as she finally surrendered her checklist to the desk in satisfaction.

"Oh!" Spike blurted as he snapped out of his delirium, "That reminds me, Applejack said that she would meet you at the cafe by the train station for lunch before you leave."

"I know," Twilight replied, as she made for the doorway, "Fluttershy told me over afternoon tea yesterday at her cottage." She paused at the threshold as a strange chill raced up her spine. Some intangible worry still nagged at her as she looked over her shoulder at the loyal young dragon, already preparing to tidy up after her final packing mess. She shook it off at length, assuming it was just false concern for her very capable assistant. "If you need anything, she will be in the area tending to a family pet up the lane."

"I'll be fine, Twi," He grumbled, shoving at her flank to get her trotting out the doorway, "Now go! You still have to go get Rarity!"

As though the thought had only just then struck her mind, she cringed at her folly and bolted off towards the Carousel Boutique, calling her farewells to Spike over her shoulder. Rarity's business was one of the few structures that competed with the town hall and her majestic tree-hewn library for mastery of the quaint skyline of Ponyville. The warm cloudless afternoon quickly rid her mind of any lingering ill will as a gentle breeze danced through her well-kept mane and tail, bouncing on her quickened gate.

She had to dodge more than a few curious stares and questions as she made her way across town. While she didn't like deceiving her neighbors, she knew how to keep a secret. One didn't become an apprentice to a Princess and not learn how to keep a few secrets, after all. She did however, make note to stop by the school after her training to help with any remaining repairs, just so it wasn't a total lie.

"Hey Rarity! Are you ready to..." Twilight's voice trailed off, to be drowned out by the door chime and her own shock as she set hoof inside the shop, "Rarity... what... is all this?!"

The blue diamond eyes of the shop owner blinked indignantly at Twilight. Rarity gazed back and forth, from her new guest to the mountain of luggage neatly stacked behind her snow white form. She flicked her perfectly groomed purple mane in a disarming guffaw, "Just the bare essentials for our weekend in Canterlot, darling."

"I did tell you that this was a saddlepacking trip, right?" Twilight replied, in exasperation.

"You said that it was three days outdoors," Rarity said coolly, still not seeing a problem, "See, I even packed extra sun hats."

"I said three days in the wilds!" Twilight barked, "This is a military class, Rarity! You have to be able to carry everything yourself!"

"The... wilds?"

"Yes."

"The... muddy wilds?"

"Uh-huh."

"The mane-ruining, hoof-chipping, dirt-caking, bug-infested, bathless, wild Wilds?"

"Yes!"

"Oh, nununununo!" Rarity quivered, as she violently shook her head to clear the thoughts from her mind.

"What do you mean 'no'?" Twilight huffed. She checked the clock on the wall of the shop, "We have to meet AJ in ten minutes to make our train!"

"I'm sorry, darling," Rarity sighed, "It would take hours to sort this down. Besides, you are a great student! I'm sure you can teach me the whole lesson in your sleep when you return."

"So... you're not going?" Twilight asked, somewhat disappointed, but not overly surprised at the news.

"Chin up, Twilight," Rarity said, in a sweet tenor as she wrapped a foreleg around her friend in apologetic hug, "I would just be a distraction to us both if I went and you know it."

"Just us?" Twilight smirked, with a returning light in her voice as she noticed a case clearly containing various articles of male attire over Rarity's shoulder in the pile.

"I thought the boys coming along, whoever they would be, would lend a hoof trying some new styles for me to finish while we were out," She chuckled guiltily.

"Don't you have volunteer models lined up across town square already?"

"They are ever so hard to size for! Every new, generous stallion in town is drastically different in measure," Rarity huffed with a longing pout, to no one in particular, "All of the Guard unicorns are so uniform in build and hue, I simply had to try and seize the golden opportunity, dear."

Twilight blinked for a moment, only just then realizing, that with the exception of her brother's mane, all of the Royal Guard's soldiers were either white or grey stallions of very similar stature, "Huh. I can't believe I never noticed that before."

"Perfect neutral modeling candidates, if you ask me," Rarity replied with a giggle.

"I think they prefer platemail and spears to silks and top hats," Twilight mused, as she made for the entrance.

"There are other hats, too," rarity shot back.

Twilight could only join her friend in a hearty laugh as they stepped back out into the sunlight together. They shared a farewell hug before Twilight turned her gaze on the train station across town.

"We shall go to the spa as soon as you return, darling," Rarity said, "My treat. Then you can show me all the wonderful tricks you learned."

"Deal," Twilight smiled, "See you then."

"Take care!" Rarity called out to her, as she galloped off out of sight. Just as she turned to head back inside and begin the arduous unpacking, an unexpected chill raced up her spine. She gasped as her heart skipped a beat and she looked back to the empty bit of road where her dear friend had gone. "Twilight..." She whispered, to the gentle breeze dancing past. It was a fleeting feeling, swift to arrive and swifter to depart. But it was dark, and deeply forlorn, "Please take care."

* * *

"I was startin' ta think you weren't gonna make it!" Applejack called out to Twilight, from a table set outside the train depot cafe. The farm pony placed her sturdy, old, trademark Stetson she had used to wave her friend down with, back atop her head with a freckled grin, "Where in Equestria is Rarity?"

"I mentioned dirt again," Twilight snickered.

"Well, that'll do it," Applejack shot back, with a matching chortle, "I ordered you a daisy and daffodil, if that's alright?"

"That sounds perfect!" Twilight replied, while she slipped from her overstuffed saddlebags and sat across the table, diving into a glass of cider that Applejack slid to her, "Thanks for coming all the way out to see me off."

"It ain't nothin' Twi," Applejack replied, "Big Macintosh an' Apple Bloom both lent a hoof to gimme the afternoon off."

"Aww," Twilight smiled, "Tell them thanks for me, ok?"

"Well, it ain't all tea times an' sun bathin'. I do have some errands t' run after y'all are on your way," She explained, as the server brought them each a sandwich and topped off their cider glasses.

"Try and give Spike a little room on his own," Twilight smirked, reading the dutiful pony's hidden intentions, "He really wants a chance to prove himself alone."

"Oh alright, Sugar cube," Applejack replied, caught in her farce, "I'll only swing by if I see smoke. Pinkie Promise."

"Speaking of Pinkie Pie," Twilight wondered aloud, "Where is she? I haven't seen her or Rainbow at all today."

"Beats me," AJ answered flatly, "I told 'em we were meetin' ya at the station round this time."

They both scanned the sky briefly, while they sipped at their drinks, before returning to their meal. The rest of their lunch was filled with talk of the happenings around Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack also shared a number of camping tips, which Twilight wasted no time or dignity in jotting down in her, regrettably, medium-small notebook. She was sure that the Guard ponies and Commandant Frostmane knew all the ins and outs of roughing it in the wilds. Nevertheless, AJ's wisdom was as valuable as it was encouraging to hear.

"Aw shoot!" Applejack blurted, after finishing a tirade about the importance of cleaning mud from one's hooves before bedding down for the night, "Is that your train?"

"Gahh!" Twilight yelped, as she caught the sound of a chugging steam engine in her twitching ear. "Oh no! I hope it's just arriving!" She hastily threw her saddlebags over her back, and without the support of a swift Applejack, would have launched herself into a sidelong tumble through the cafe window.

"Whoa there, girl!" Applejack laughed, as she helped steady her admittedly less stout unicorn friend. "Now, Hustle up! We got us a train ta catch!"

The pair galloped together into the train station, barreling through the gates like a loose Cloudsdale supply tornado. They were both relieved to find the train idle, though it was set to depart in a moments time. Ponyville was never a long stop for the Canterlot Express. Even now, on a relatively bustling afternoon for the town, the platform was nearly devoid of life. Twilight rushed onto the train to deposit her bags in her car before racing back out to wrap Applejack up in a warm hug.

"Thank you for lunch, AJ," She said, panting a bit for air.

"Anytime, Twi," Applejack said. She returned the hug with the firmness only a working earth pony could muster. Twilight would have to continue to want for air for a moment more.

"All aboard!" The conductor called out over the steam pistons of the locomotive snarling and hissing against the strain of their filling pressure chambers.

"Tell the others I'm sorry I missed them, and I'll see you all when I get back!" Twilight called, hopping onto the steps of the car just as the train began to slowly roll into motion.

"Have fun, and be safe!" Applejack shouted back, straining to be heard over the blasts from the engine, finally catching traction and rumbling off towards the royal city. She watched as her lavender friend disappeared into the car, and at that same moment, an icy claw caressed her neck. She shivered as the chill bristled the fur on her back. She could not have known that she was not the only one to be visited by this subtle wave of dread and foreboding, but she knew it was not a trick of the wind.

"Wait!" Came a shrill cry from behind her, jolting her from her shadowy thoughts. She turned to see a curly pink mane galloping at full tilt towards her, nearly bowling her over as she skidded past. Hot on her heals, though gliding above on wing rather than pounding against the ground on hoof, was a familiar blue and rainbow streak of fur and feathered lightning. Rainbow Dash did a much more impressive job of halting her momentum, and avoided slamming into the pillar that Pinkie Pie was staggering away from.

"I had to finish up a Weather Pony meeting in Town Hall!" Rainbow blurted out regretfully, "Maybe I can catch up to the train before it reaches..."

"She'll be back in four little ol' days, Dash," Applejack tried to chime in, with a soothing voice.

"Yeah! but..." Rainbow Dash trailed off, as her wings drooped down to sweep against the worn wooden planks of the platform. She shot Applejack a glance that brought back the unearthly chill from moments before. The illustrious daredevil was always one for hiding emotions and brushing issues away like unwanted dust on her shoulder, but if she was trying to mask it now, Applejack could have lied better.

"Y'all got a bad feeling about this too, don't cha?" Applejack asked, in a hushed tone.

"I keep having this messed up dream," Dash explained, "I can't make heads or tails of it, but it's bad. And Twilight's always the star."

"Ouch!" Pinkie yelped, pulling them both from their conversation as her front leg buckled, sending her face into another hard embrace with the pillar. "There it is again!" She groaned as she shook away the second hit.

"There what is, Pink?" Applejack asked with eyebrow furrowed.

"My knee got stabby again."

"Stabby?"

"Yeah! it's not like when something scary is gonna happen," Pinkie said, "My knee gets pinchy when that happens. This is different. It hurts. But, it's not burny, bitey, blistery, sore, stiff or sapped... It's just stabby."

"So what does stabby mean?" Rainbow asked, as all three of their gazes went to the train, disappearing around the hillside in the distance. Even Pinkie Pie, the fount of limitless joy and optimism, wore a mask of solemn concern. She Looked back at her two friends and spoke in a voice so heavy, it threatened to deflate her mane.

"I don't know."

<==========})===0 ~~*~~~*~~~~*~~~*~~ 0===({=========>

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Comments ( 5 )

2951774
I dunno if blogs still tag stories... I didn't see an option this time. But if you don't see it...

Thank you.

O_O This story was updated?! :yay:

Good God. It's been a bit over a year. I'd truly thought you'd dropped off the face of the Earth :L
Although I can't say much, I've had my only story on Hiatus for just as long, if not longer x_x

3410004

Blogs don't tag stories anymore. Knighty removed the feature because it was vestigial and nonfunctional.

Nice to see a new chapter! Keep it up. I had to reread the entire thing to understand this chapter though.

Are you ever going to come back to this story? Or this site, for that matter?

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