• Published 15th Apr 2021
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The Fall of the Anoian - bookhorse125

Equestria is not the only land full of magical creatures. Welcome to Anoia.

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Chapter Sixteen - Twilight

The sunlight filtered through the large pink bubble in the center of what once had been and what hopefully would soon, once again, be Equestria. The force field was similar to the one Shining Armor had placed around Canterlot during his and Cadance’s wedding. Except for this one was created by four alicorns and covered a larger area.

Twilight paced inside her castle. Her saddlebag was slung across her back, filled with supplies. Spike was hovering in the corner, his backpack also stuffed with any necessities that they might need for a rescue mission. Her friends would be there soon with their own supplies, and Twilight was anxious to get going.

Since Red’s reports had failed, Twilight had thought more and more about the missing ponies. If what Red had told her was true, those ponies and other creatures were being held captive in a dank, damp prison-house, being fed kitchen scraps. It was all Twilight could do to not go running into the prison house, horn blazing, setting free every single creature being held there, killing anypony who tried to stop them. Then Starlight talked some sense into her and convinced Twilight that doing that would be a suicide mission. And so Twilight agreed (grudgingly) to take her friends along and do a more quiet approach.

The doors creaked open and Twilight’s best friends in the world trotted in, followed by Shining Armor, Cadance, Celestia, and Luna. Twilight exhaled and stopped pacing.

“All ready, Twiligh’?” Applejack asked, grinning.

“I’ve been ready since the first pony went missing!” Twilight exclaimed. Then she took some deep breaths and calmed down. “Sorry. I’m just a bit… stressed.”

“A bit?” Rainbow Dash teased, although her eyes danced with worry. Spike snorted.

“You’re lucky you didn’t see her reaction when she first found out,” he said. “She gave ‘twilighting’ a whole new level.” Twilight rolled her eyes.

“Whatever. You ready?” she asked the princesses. They nodded and stepped forward. The four alicorns stood in a circle and lit their horns in unison. The tips of the horns met and a glow surrounded the ends. This orb shot a beam of light up through the ceiling. Everypony followed its progress as it passed through the roof. They all knew that it reinforced the protection shield.

“Do you think you can maintain it while I’m gone?” Twilight asked nervously when they finished.

“Of course, Twilight,” said Celestia kindly.

“I’ll help,” Starlight Glimmer volunteered, stepping forward.

“You’re not coming?”

Starlight shook her head. “I’m staying with the school. Now, more than ever, it’s very important that every creature knows the power of friendship and staying strong.”

Nodding, Twilight blinked back tears.

“Okay. Come on, girls.”

“Twilight, wait.”

Twilight’s head whipped around to face Cadance. For the first time, Twilight noticed that Cadance also had a saddlebag strapped across her back.

“I’m coming.” Cadance’s eyes were red and puffy, with black circles under them, like they had been for the past few months, but determined.

“Cadance, no,” was Twilight’s immediate response. “We need you here.” Cadance shook her head briefly.

“I’m coming,” she repeated. Twilight looked at Shining Armor, hoping for support. His eyes were sad, but he looked like he accepted this. Stunned, Twilight looked at Celestia and Luna, who looked shocked but not like they were going to interfere.

“Cadance…” started Twilight. Cadance put her hoof on Twilight’s shoulder and met her eyes.

“Twilight, I’m coming. I have to. My daughter’s over there, held by those…” Cadance broke off, tears welling up in her violet eyes. “Please, Twilight,” she whispered.

Twilight couldn’t bring Cadance. But… Twilight looked at Cadance and sighed in defeat.

“All right. Just… if something happens here because you were gone, don’t look at me.” Twilight turned and faced her friends.

“Ready, girls?”

Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie nodded determinedly. Cadance trotted over to stand next to Fluttershy. Twilight exhaled and lit her horn. Her magenta magical aura glowed brighter and brighter as Twilight focused on what Red had told her about Anoia. She formed a picture in her head and she and her friends disappeared from the room.

A pink flash lit up the night sky in the middle of Anianio. Twilight blinked and looked around. The dirt street was lined with shops, most of which had apartments on top. The full moon glowed brightly in the sky, illuminating the deserted street perfectly. Small carts stood parked next to doors and on sidewalks. A mouse skittered across the street, clutching a rotten apple like it was pure gold.

“Oh, poor thing,” Fluttershy whispered. Her quiet voice echoed against the silent storefronts.

“Well,” Rainbow Dash said slowly, “this… isn’t what I was expecting.”

“Let me guess.” Twilight rolled her eyes and gave Rainbow an exasperated look. “You were expecting a large forest with a creepy landscape and wolves howling in the distance and a full moon and a cloudy sky 24/7 and monsters everywhere.”

Rainbow Dash blushed and mumbled, “Maybe.”

Twilight sighed and glanced at Cadance. The Princess of Love was slowly taking in their surroundings as she pivoted on the spot.

“It’s very… similar. To Equestria,” Cadance decided. Her sights fell on the form of the palace in the distance. Her eyes narrowed until they were slits of violet. “That’s where she is.”

“Um,” Twilight said quickly. She knew instantly who Cadance was talking about, and she also knew that if Cadance charged into the palace now, she would be stopped. Even if the emperor had left, he would leave guards behind to guard his home. “We don’t actually know if she’s in there. We need to have a plan. First, we need to find shelter. Then we need to find Red. I know she’ll help us. And maybe she knows where Flurry is.” Cadance flinched, hearing her daughter’s name. Twilight hurried on. “Red can probably convince the guards on the palace to relax, take a day off or something. Then we can sneak inside and look for Flurry. Red should come with us, and act like she’s taking us prisoner or something so we have a good cover story. Once we free Flurry, we’ll free everyone else and be back to Canterlot before you know it.” Glancing around at everypony’s faces, Twilight tried to smile so that she sounded confident in her plan. And she was. There were just a bunch of variables that all depended on a balance. If one thing went wrong…

Twilight shook her head and started down the path to the castle.

“This way, guys.”

“Um, aren’t we supposed to wait before we go that way?” Applejack asked, she and the rest of the ponies not moving.

“It’s more likely that we’ll find shelter this way than the middle of town,” Twilight retorted. She whirled around again and trotted off that way. Her friends glanced at each other before following. They knew better than to disagree with Twilight’s plans. Because they were often successful.

In the end, they found a rock shelf hanging over a sheltered area that was hopefully shielded from the prying eyes of the Anoians. Twilight immediately left to go search for Red to try and find out where she was so that she could meet her in the morning. Her friends protested until Cadance sided with Twilight.

A pair of guards were standing in front of the main doors to the palace. Twilight soared overhead and landed a few yards from the pair. Hopefully, in the dark, it would look like her wings were regular pegasi wings from that distance. She folded her wings close to her side and trotted up to the guards with her head held high, hoping that they wouldn’t see how nervous she was.

“Halt!” one of the guards said, he and the other crossing spears, forming an x. Twilight stopped and looked them defiantly in the eyes.

“State your name and business,” the other guard growled.

“Lyra Heartstrings,” lied Twilight, thinking of the first pony that came to her mind. She felt a pang of guilt as she thought of the green unicorn back in Ponyville, probably sick to her stomach with worry about Sweetie Drops, who was being held somewhere nearby. “I live here.”

The guards glanced at her wings and horn, then at each other.

“Fine.” the first guard scowled. They uncrossed their spears and allowed Twilight to pass through.

“By the way,” Twilight said with a sudden burst of inspiration, “I’m looking for somepony. Emperor Lupines himself told me to check in on her and report back to him. I don’t suppose such… strong, handsome guards such as yourselves could tell me where she is?” Twilight batted her eyes and smiled flirtatiously at the two pegasi guards. But inside, she knew she was probably doing a horrible job. Flattery was more Rarity’s thing. Sure enough, the two of them exchanged a puzzling and suspicious look.

“I mean,” added Twilight quickly, “clearly you are so good at what you do, your commander saw it fit to have you guard the entrance to the palace itself! Truly, you must be amazing at what you do. I am so sorry to bother you. I was just hoping that you could help me, but it’s absolutely okay if you can’t, I’m sure you have many other things to do. I’ll just be on my way…” Twilight hung her head and tried to look sad and defeated, which wasn’t hard to do. It was all she’d been feeling for the past half-year.

“Wait!” said the first guard hastily. His companion glared at him, but he plowed on. “Um, who was it you were looking for?”

Twilight’s ears pricked up and she turned to look at the guards with a hopeful expression that was 100% genuine.

“You would help me?” she said, tears wavering in her eyes. “That’s so sweet of you!”

The first guard blushed and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Well, you know, just curious… who was it again?”

“Red. Red Berry?” Twilight tilted her head, studying the guards’ expressions for any hints. The second guard snorted.

“Obviously we know her. She’s our commander.” Twilight blinked, shocked.

“She is? I mean, of course she is! It’s just been so long since I was here, you know, helping His Majesty with the war and all that…” Twilight chuckled nervously before clearing her throat. “Could you take me to her? I must speak with her.”

The guards exchanged another glance, but they finally relented. The first guard escorted Twilight to the guardhouse while his companion stayed at their post to cover their shift. Goodness, Twilight thought to herself, Red must be doing a fantastic job with these guys.

The guardhouse was close to town. The two-story brick building was rectangular and solid-looking. Behind it was a five-story tall building made of solid gray stone. Twilight knew without a doubt that the stone building was the prison house. All the missing ponies were right there…

A light was on on the ground floor, and the guard raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Looks like you’re lucky. Lieutenant Berry’s still awake. Guess that new battle report that came in must be puzzling her quite a bit.”

“New battle report?” Twilight asked. The guard gave her another strange glance.

“Oh, right. Of course. Just… been so long.” Twilight smiled.

The guard escorted her down a long hallway that they entered the moment they stepped inside the door. Doors lined the drab walls, most of which were the offices of other commanders and generals who were away, fighting Equestria. The thought made Twilight’s blood boil. The first office on the left was Red’s. Twilight suspected that she was there because of her low position and newbie status. The door was dark brown wood like all the others, and a shiny bronze plaque on the door read Lieutenant Berry. Twilight glanced around. She noticed that all the doors had plaques on them, some shiny and new like Red’s, some rusted and barely readable, probably for the older generals who had been serving for a while. The guard knocked three times on the door, the sounds thundering through the silent guardhouse.

“Come in,” said a voice. Twilight’s heart leapt and almost grew wings and flew away. Hearing Red’s voice made her hopeful. But she noticed changes in the tone. Red’s voice was firmer, stronger. She sounded more in control, like she could lead a huge army into battle and guide them to victory. The changes were slight, but Twilight noticed them nonetheless.

The door creaked open and gentle, golden lamplight flooded the hallway. Twilight stepped forward as her guard said, “Somepony’s here to see you, Lieutenant.” He closed the door and Twilight could hear his footsteps trotting out the door. Twilight glanced around the office.

It was small but cozy. A map of Anoia took up a whole wall, while a small window dominated the wall next to the map. A file cabinet was tucked away in the corner by the door. A simple wooden desk was in the middle of the room with a lamp in the corner and several papers and files scattered around on the scratched and worn desktop. A light purple pegacorn stood in the back corner against the map. Her turquoise mane was tucked into a tight bun, and her light pink eyes looked tired but alert. Red was sitting behind the desk, reading a report that had presumably come in that day. Her dark curls were pushed back, but a few strands slipped out of their hold and brushed against the table. Red looked up when the guard left the room. Her eyes were the same forest green that they were when Twilight last saw her, but they seemed more intense while wearier and tireder at the same time. Now they widened in surprise and blinked once, as if not believing what they were seeing.

Twilight?” Red whispered incredulously.

Author's Note:

Constructive criticism is appreciated.