• Published 8th Sep 2012
  • 4,007 Views, 412 Comments

One Mare's Worth - Equestria Buck Yeah



When Rainbow Dash's speed during a new trick turns out to be too much for her own good, she comes to realize how important she really is when she finds herself in a war-torn version of her old home.

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Chapter 29

"Rainbow? Is that you?! What are you doing here? Oh dear, where are my manners? Spike, go put some tea on or something," Rarity instructed from the darkness.

A large body, obviously her dragon lover, headed into the kitchen and manually activated their generator. He flicked the light on and dove into the fridge, grabbing a small jug of water. From the pantry, he found their favorite flavor of herbal tea and found a small pot in the cabinets by his feet.

"So, darling, how have you been? Has Command.. wait a second," she said, stopping halfway to the still-open door. "We just shot at you a dozen times. How are you still standing?"

The door glowed faintly and closed on its own. A voice she hadn't heard in ages spoke up.

"That'd be because of me."

Rarity's mouth fell open and silent shock came forth. She galloped to the wall by the door and turned on the lights. A purple wall of magic faded away from in front of Rainbow and a welcome lavender sight greeted her.

"The door, too," Twilight said with a giggle. "Hi, Rarity."

The posh unicorn tried to speak but stared blankly for a moment. Her lips slowly formed a smile and she laughed with joy.

"Twilight!" Rarity happily yelled. She took two quick steps and practically tackled her fellow unicorn off Rainbow's back. They embraced tightly for the first time in over four and a half years, nuzzling their cheeks together. She tried and failed to hold back her sobbing. "You're awake! Oh Luna, you're awake, I don't believe it!"

Spike overheard the commotion and peeked out from the door to the kitchen. His surprise was as overwhelming as Rarity's. In a flash, he found himself in front of his adopted mother. His eyes were watering and a lump was in his throat.

"Tw-Twilight! Oh my goddess! It really is you!"

She let Rarity go and smiled sweetly at the large reptile. He effortlessly yanked her off Rainbow's back and squeezed her against his chest. In a heartbeat, he melted from a battle-hardened dominator of the skies into Twilight's baby dragon.

"Hey Spike. Still need my lungs to breathe, big guy!" she struggled to say as Spike hugged her.

"Oh! Heh, sorry," he mumbled, embarrassed. He set her down gently on all fours next to Rainbow. Her limbs wobbled slightly but she steadied herself and plopped her rump onto the floor, deciding against straining herself.

"It's wonderful to see you both again," she said softly, pausing and clearing her throat the way she used to before giving a speech. "But, I am a little disappointed in you. I would have thought you'd be there not just for me, but for Derpy and the rest of her army! They needed you! There was simply no good reason to abandon them."

Spike and Rarity looked away dejectedly like two foals who had been caught with their hooves in the cookie jar. While they were used to Twilight's windy rants, it didn't make her chewing out sting any less.

"But Twilight," Rarity interrupted, "we tried to lead like you did. It.. it went horribly! It seems we were always more cut out to follow than to lead. Do you have any idea how many ponies we led to their deaths? It was awful! We.. w-we just felt that we were holding them back, like there wasn't any place for us after you were gone."

"How could you think such a thing? You're smarter than that. We're in the middle of a war against a cunning, vicious enemy. Of course ponies are going to die! That's what happens in a war. Yes, it a terrible thing to have to deal with, but you still have to deal with it!

"Not only that, if you remember, I wasn't the one who asked you to come follow me into battle. You came to me asking to help once everything went crazy. Of course I was going to say 'yes'! Plus, are you forgetting, Rarity, that it was thanks to you that we even had a chance from the get go since you played the part of a traitor just to get your hooves on whatever you could to stop Celestia?"

Twilight turned to face the dragon, not missing a beat. "Spike, how many lives have you saved by getting so good at taking down Celestia's biggest advantage over us, flying around over our heads with all their firepower? Not only that, you brought Rainbow Dash to the command center safely, allowing her to get her wings fixed up, reconcile with Loo – and I know you know Loo was not very fond of her for a long time – plus, she helped me get back on my hooves, both magically as well as physically. Otherwise, I wouldn't be standing here to begin with. I've only been awake for about three weeks, but it was Rainbow's nonstop training that allowed me to make as so much progress in so little time!

"I mean, look at you now. You've both gotten along just fine in the middle of a war zone without any outside help. Granted, there hasn't been anything going on in Ponyville for a long time, but you've survived nonetheless."

"Twilight," Spike interrupted, "uh.. you didn't come here just to chew us out, I hope."

"No, but from how you're acting, it just seemed like you both needed to be reminded of who you are."

"What would that be?" the former fashionista asked. "Traitors? Cowards?"

"Stop that!" Twilight said angrily. "You're both fighters. Whether you'll admit it or not, you both care about Equestria and your friends. You both want to see that despicable Princess put in her place once and for all, and.. that's why I'm here."

Her ears hung heavily and her gaze fell to the floor. After hearing all the self-depreciation, Twilight started to wonder if she hadn't made a mistake in paying them a surprise visit. The couple's curiosity was piqued and they exchanged a inquisitive glance.

"What are you getting at, darling?"

The lavender mare sighed quietly under her breath. She begged the heavens that her pleas wouldn't go unanswered for what she needed to ask of them.

"Derpy's army is on their way. At least, I hope," Twilight grimaced. The thought of her big brother laying dead on a field only a few weeks after seeing his face again for the first time in years shook her to the bone. "I'm sure you overheard a bunch of planes flying by not long ago. We ran into them on the way here. I don't know where they were called in from, and I don't know if the rest of our troops ran into them.

"Anyway, if they didn't run into any trouble, Commander Derpy, my brother and his army should be here in about a day or so. They're marching on Canterlot and.. I was hoping you'd come with us."

"What made her decide to attack Canterlot?" Spike asked.

"The base was discovered. Standard procedure requires us to abandon it. About a month and a half ago, some scouts found a huge manufacturing plant behind Neighagra Falls. The Party Crashers were sent to take it out. They were followed, and we were ambushed. The enemies were all captured or killed, fortunately. General Tiara was one of their fatalities."

The large dragon sniggered and grinned in delight at the news. "Diamond Tiara? Good! I hated her, even when I was a baby. She was always such a snot."

"I'm inclined to agree," Rarity added. "I remember Sweetie Belle always told me when she was young how Diamond Tiara would torment her endlessly. I am glad that Silver Spoon was able to see how ridiculous all their teasing was after a while. But yes, Diamond Tiara was absolutely incorrigible. Good riddance."

"Well, it almost cost the life of Lieutenant Spoon's son," Twilight mentioned, "but he's OK. Pip was shot in the process too, but he'll pull through just fine."

Not wanting to get too sidetracked, Twilight returned to her original question. "But, like I said, you came to me the first time. Now, I'm coming to you. I-I need you more than ever."

A quiet sadness washed over the unicorn's features. Rarity and Spike noticed it easily, their lavender friend making no effort to hide her despair. A hint of regret started to grow in their hearts. They listened intently as Twilight continued to plead her case.

"After we became the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, I knew that I'd never have to worry about doing something on my own if I didn't have to. This is one of those times. It's possibly the biggest thing we've ever had to do, maybe even our last if things turn out that way, and despite the fact that Derpy's army would be there, it.. it just wouldn't feel right if we weren't fighting side by side."

"But Twilight," Spike said, grabbing hold of his tail the way he used to as a baby, "do you really think Derpy and the others would even take us back? They hate us after leaving like we did."

"I think once they saw how much flank we were kicking, they'd forget about what happened pretty quick. Besides, they're going to need all the help they can get." Twilight sighed and bit her lip. "Derpy's going for broke. One way or another, she intends to end this war once we invade. If we're ultimately destined to lose, wouldn't you want to be with ponies who care about you? Like us?"

Rainbow took a step forward and smiled warmly at the couple, unconsciously adding fuel to Twilight's fire. Rarity frowned and looked away from her old friends, doing her best to hide the tears beginning to form in her eyes. "After every selfish thing we did, why would you want us to go with you?"

With what little strength she had in her, Twilight lifted herself from the floor and hobbled over to the ivory unicorn. Wrapping her legs around Rarity's neck, she pulled her in gently, surprising her for a moment, and nuzzled their cheeks together.

"Because you're my friends. What other reason do I need?"

The last bit of resistance withered away and Rarity returned the sentiment, squeezing Twilight close to her again. Not wanting to feel left out, Spike not so subtly tiptoed to the pair of unicorns and wrapped his arms around them. He rested his chin atop their heads, his natural body heat adding to the warmth burning in their chests. Rainbow rolled her eyes and shook her head. Even though she never cared much for sappy things, she managed to crack a soft smile.

"So I take it you'll go?" Twilight asked, giggling.

They released each other and Rarity looked at Spike quizzically. "I'm not sure. Dear, what do you think?"

"Hm. She is kind of making it hard to say 'no'," he said playfully.

"That she is. Tell you what, Twilight. We'll only go if we're allowed to give Celestia a good, hard buck in the face for all the grief she's given us all over the years. Deal?" Rarity joked.

"Deal," Twilight said, smiling.

"Wonderful! I'm.. I'm glad you can forgive us, Twilight. For all of this. I just wish none of this had ever happened in the first place," Rarity said, barely above a whisper. Even though her transgressions were forgotten to Twilight, they still lingered in Rarity's mind, if only a little. She desperately wanted to change the subject.

"Me too, Rarity. Me too."

There was a moment of awkward silence before the white unicorn cleared her throat, having found a new topic of conversation to jump to. "O-Oh yes, about that tea. I did promise you some. I'm nothing if not a gracious host, even in these dark times. Um, Spike, did you manage to put the water on?"

"Oh, um.. I heard you mentioning Twilight from the kitchen and came out to check, so I never got a chance to get the water boiling. Let me go take care of that," the dragon said, his cheeks turning red.

The posh unicorn smirked coyly and shook her head. "Males. What can you do?"

As the girls laughed at Spike's expense, he quipped right back as he headed to the kitchen, sarcastically clutching at his chest. "Oooo! Babe, that cuts deep!"

-----

Princess Celestia marched out of the castle and met the fleet of pilots half way. Colonel Trixie took the lead and bowed graciously at Her Majesty's hooves. The rest of her brigade followed suit. The alicorn bowed and greeted one of the few of her top officers still alive.

"Colonel Trixie. A pleasure to see you again."

"Likewise, Your Highness. The Great and Powerful Trixie is happy to serve in whatever way she is needed," she said, rising to her hooves.

"Excellent. It is good to know that there are still some subjects loyal to the throne, and I'm glad you made it here in a timely manner. Did you run into any trouble on your way here?" the Princess inquired.

"Only a slight bit, Your Majesty. We happened to bump into Twilight Sparkle a little west of the Everfree Forest. She was– "

"Twilight Sparkle?!" Celestia interrupted. Her eyes widened in surprise. She hadn't heard about her being anywhere on the field in at least a few years. However, the Princess knew Trixie was one of the last to see her standing. According to reports, the late Prince Blueblood shot her in the back. It was long believed that Twilight had been killed, as Rarity and Spike had taken her place as leader of their division, much to the delight of the royal mare. They had seen a few great victories without Twilight around. "She's alive? Tell me you took her out for good this time!"

Trixie cringed and shrunk away, as ready as she could be for any incoming assault. "I-I'm sorry, Your Grace. She escaped into the Everfree. She managed to take a pair of my planes out as well. She was being carried by a pegasus, but I didn't get a good look at them."

"Ugh! Did you at least eliminate any of the other traitors that were with her?" Celestia fumed.

"That's just it, Princess. It was just the two of them. Trixie didn't see anypony else anywhere."

Curious and confused, Celestia raised an eyebrow and cocked her head. Trying to formulate a logic response, she shifted her eyes around, the wheels in her head turning. "I don't understand. Why would she be traveling with a single companion? Where would she be going?"

Squinting in anger, she failed to come up with any ideas. She returned her thoughts to the upcoming invasion and glanced at Trixie's armada, many of which held their breath or swallowed their fear. They knew she was still stewing over their failure to destroy Twilight and didn't so much as want to breathe the wrong way. She issued her orders to the troops.

"Commander Derpy's forces are on their way here. They should be here within a day, two at the most. I want you two," Celestia pointed to a pair of stallions, one with a teal coat and white and dark gray streaked mane and the other cream colored with dark brown hair, "to find a cloud and park yourselves over Ponyville near the edge of the Everfree Forest. Take some supplies with you like food and water. You will not use your planes. Make sure you're high enough that you aren't seen. Once you've spotted them, return here immediately."

Celestia addressed the rest of the pilots, "Once they've gotten back, you will all fly out in your planes and attack their forces with everything you have. Return to Canterlot as victors or not at all. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Princess Celestia," they said as a unit. They tried their best to conceal their nervousness around the madmare, but a slight hint of their fear still managed to be heard. It didn't go unheard, either. The Princess sneered at their implied cowardice and looked at the pair assigned to watch out for their enemy, nodding them away to their assigned duty. In a flash, the two were away while the rest were dismissed.

"Princess," Trixie said, "what makes you so sure they're on their way?"

"I have no idea why Twilight Sparkle was flying toward Ponyville. But, in the past, where she would go, the rest of the army would be. She was one of their strongest leaders. She could be scouting ahead, or she could be looking for something in that she feels may help them in battle. The fact that you saw her heading this way means they are coming. Of this, I have no doubt," Celestia explained.

"What shall you have Trixie do?"

"If those planes fail at their job, little one, I'll need you to oversee the defense of the front gate. The only way Derpy can even get to Canterlot is by following the train tracks. But, I have something else planned for their trip up here, just in case. In the meantime, go get some sleep or something. Whatever you feel you must do in order to prepare."

"Yes, Princess," Trixie said, bowing.

The showpony parted ways with Celestia, heading to the barracks to get some rest. It was still rather early in the morning. Once she was out of sight, the Princess blinked away and reappeared in the weapons depot, stationed in the bowels of the castle. Four stallions, two unicorns, a pegasus and an earth pony, were working diligently by the production equipment, sweat covering their brows. They bowed the moment they realized she was before them.

"Your Majesty," the larger, amber unicorn, who was the leader of the group, addressed her, "what can we do for you this morning?"

"I need you all to temporarily cease production," Celestia decreed. "There's a possibility we will be under attack at the gates within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. I'm sending a fleet of planes to intercept Commander Derpy's troops once they enter Ponyville. I'll be monitoring their progress from my tower through my telescope. If they should fail to stop them, we'll need to quickly prepare the next line of defense.

"Shell Shock, you and your friends here know the weapons you make better than anypony, including, and especially, the explosives. If you receive word that our first line has failed, I'll need you to initiate Defense Plan: Delta."

"Yes, Princess," Shell Shock saluted. "What do you want us to do in the meantime?"

"It's still early, but I want you rested and ready to go should the time come. Take off for now. There's simply no longer any time to continue creating down here. Not with Derpy coming. Hopefully, I will not see you later."

"Understood, Your Highness."

With a final nod, Celestia vanished in a flash of golden magic. The four stallions shut down their machines and put away their tools. Shell Shock let the others file out the door that led toward the heart of the castle and unlit the torch behind him before closing the door to the facility.

-----

Even with the sun blotted out overhead, the Everfree forest was disgusting and humid. Derpy and her army had come to a halt in the middle of the woods several hours ago to rest, but the Commander herself had trouble sleeping. It was getting late in the evening according to the time on her watch. Tiara's little ambush had played havoc on their usual sleep cycles, but from time to time, it was simply a luxury they had make do without.

The upcoming fight was playing itself out before it began in Derpy's mind, various results coming and going. Some were victorious, others disastrous. She recounted every possible variable she could think of and plugged them back into the equation, hoping that her positive predictions would come true.

There was one thing she knew, however. They were in for a difficult fight. She had no doubt in her mind that a fair number of jets had flown overhead the day before as they took their first steps out of the base. She considered them all extremely lucky that they hadn't been spotted along the way to the Everfree, but Derpy also realized what all those planes meant: Celestia was aware of what they were doing.

Diamond Tiara made the mistake of charging in head first into a base she was unequipped to deal with. Even though she and General Shining Armor and Twilight were very aware of Canterlot and what pitfalls it brought, Derpy couldn't help but admit to herself that they were very realistically walking into a trap. Still, she had to be prepared for whatever the Princess could throw at them. They were a resilient bunch, after all.

The Commander hoped Twilight and Rainbow Dash made it to Ponyville in one piece. Derpy hadn't been terribly thrilled at first that one of her biggest weapons was going on ahead with only a lone pegasus to protect her, but she knew the unicorn could take care of herself. Unfortunately, a single pegasus with false wings who hadn't flown much yet and a physically weak unicorn against a few dozen jets was a tough situation to get out of. She looked up through the branches at the faint sunlight above and closed her eyes, praying to whatever gods who may have been listening that Twilight and Rainbow were OK.

After a quick glance at her watch, Derpy rose to her hooves and cried out for the troops to wake. Groggily, they stretched and scratched themselves without a hint of grace. Considering they had spent half a day trudging through a dank, sticky forest, it was easily overlooked by their superiors. After being allowed to use the bathroom and get a few quick bites of food in their stomachs, they formed rank, ready to move again. Derpy and Shining Armor took the lead with Sergeant Applejack and the Party Crashers right behind them.

A few hours had passed before they reached a set of ruins familiar to two particular officers in the group. As they marched, Applejack and Pinkie slowly came to a stop and looked over the forgotten castle. Derpy noticed the lack of hoofsteps directly behind her and glanced over her shoulder, finding them frozen in place. She noted their gaze and curiously eyed the ruins herself. The advancing troops saw the pair of ponies standing still in front of them and halted for a moment. Similarly, several of the stallions and mares looked over the broken walls and cracked pillars, questioning their significance.

Derpy slowly approached the mares, none of them averting their eyes. Before she could ask the earth ponies what was going on, Applejack told her. "It's where we found the Elements of Harmony all them years ago. Ah still remember it like it was yesterday."

The events that gave her friends the powers of a god flashed through Applejack's mind quickly. She breathed deeply, putting the memories to rest. "We're almost there," she continued. "About another hour or two at the most 'n we'll be comin' up on my ol' farm."

The old gray mare nodded and waved her army forward, returning to where Shining Armor was waiting patiently for them.

"I'm sorry," Derpy said with a heavy heart.

"Don't be. You're not the one with debts ta be paid."

-----

It was just as she remembered the last time she saw Sweet Apple Acres. Even after years of disuse, the air still carried a very faint smell of sanded wood and bundled hay. Applejack gritted her teeth behind her lips and sneered upon seeing the wilted trees and the decaying barn and house. Even the dirt had a dead look to it. Snorting in anger, she pointed her eyes forward. Reminding her of the tragedy that had befallen her farm and her family made Applejack want to see Celestia suffer more than ever.

Little did Derpy and the others know that high overhead, a thin, wispy cloud was spying on them. The two pegasi Celestia had ordered to keep watch for the enemy had spotted them. They waited until the last of the lines had spilled from the Everfree Forest and nodded at each other. With a flap of their wings, they climbed into the sky quickly until the soldiers below were like ants in the distance, heading toward Canterlot and the Princess.

-----

Pinkie and the rest of the Party Crashers stared at the large hole in the roof of Sugarcube Corner as they approached it. As Applejack did when they came across her old farm, Pinkie let her anger slip momentarily and bared her teeth at the sight of the destruction. She wanted to scream loud enough for the Princess to hear her curse the day she was born, but knew she needed to conserve her energy. It hadn't been as seemingly limitless as it used to be in quite some time.

Most of the walls on the buildings they passed were cracked or splintered, covered with dust and cobwebs. Some of the homes and stores had collapsed into themselves, either due to time or old battles long gone. Despite a complete lack of any air flow, the scents of dust was thick and the eyes of many troops began to tear up. It was something they would have to deal with until they got to the far end of town where the train tracks were.

"Commander," Belle said, trotting over to the pegasus, "did Twilight say where we were going to meet up with her?"

"No, but she'll likely be at your sister's old boutique, whether she finds Spike and Rarity there or not. That's where she was going to begin with. I just hope she made it here alright. We can't afford to lose her or Rainbow Dash. Should only be a few more blocks and we'll know for sure, if I remember correctly."

Derpy suddenly stopped mid-stride and raised her hoof to the sky, silently ordering her army to freeze. Her ears spun slightly to the left and she held her breath. It almost sounded like there was a strange whir to the north of them, and it was quickly getting exponentially louder. In a heartbeat, she took to the sky and looked into the distance. Her eyes burst wide.

"Incoming!"

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