• Published 21st Mar 2024
  • 1,282 Views, 29 Comments

Saved!!! - ArchoPony



A human fell through one of Midnight's portals; and now he's in a 7,000 foot free fall while slowing transforming into a horse.

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11 - Gaunlet of Espionage - Part 3

Doing nothing didn't work.
Doing everything didn't work.

He was hyperventilating.

Luna's past words of seeking help echoed from the back of his mind, but he completely shut them down.
Ah, yes. Stopping to talk about your feelings in the middle of a death race where doing so would get you found out.
A lot of help these friendship lessons were.

He barreled through other dragons as he went, slamming into them at speeds so fast he knocked some of them out cold.

He got to a housing area- maze like section.
The red dragon from before bumped into him while he was landed.

“ Hey watch where you- “

Garble realized the difference in size.
“ Uh. I'll be going... That way. “ He pointed to the opposite direction of where he was headed.

Ponder recognized him.
The ringleader bully dragon.

' Oh no you don't. '

Twilight had said to finish the race but not win.

Slowing down the other dragons while making it seem like something he would do SOUNDED like something she said, and she did LITTERALLY not say it was forbidden, but at this point flashbacks of his time dealing with
' authority '
in the human world was getting the better of him.

Does he do it? Bad. Wrong. Punishment. Failure.

Does he not do it? Horrid. Incorrect. Corrective actions need to be Implemented.

...



Destroyed Equestria.



Screw it.

' If he's wrong no matter what he does, he might as well do what he wants to do. ' He thought.

He slammed a claw down on the little red dragon.
“ Oh? I think you and me are gunna have a little' chat. ' “ He said while grinning.

“ Oh. Ugh- “ The red one was at a loss for words.

“ The race is still going. Someone like you could actually win if they- “
Ponder cut him off.
“ I have time to spare. I can win whether or not I get in some “

quality time
“ with a lowlife bully like you. “

The red dragon was shaking in his non-existent boots.

“ Lets chat. “ He said in monotone.

=== Ember, Spike and Ponies ===

Ember and Spike's unlikely team grew brittle. She was already wary of him, or more likely so, his companions.
She broke it off when entering the maze, as they had already fallen far behind due to Ponder's shenanigans.
She sneered at Ponder shrugging off the crystal spikes, most shattering on impact with his hide.

Rarity, now a pony again, stumbled due to how off balance her costume was.
She almost fell into a lava pool when Spike pulled her back from the brink.

After a short thanks from Rarity Spike spoke up:
“ Oh it was nothing. “ He said, almost clownishly.

“ Nothing? You just risked- I mean- You lost time saving her. And she's putting herself In danger, just to cheer you on! “ Ember interjected.

She looked back at the many destroyed crystal pokers, questioning the authenticity of any pony-related event.



“ I think. “ She said after a pause.

“ That's just what friends do. Don't you have anyone that looks out for you? “ Spike had asked.
“ Not really. “ She found herself admitting.

“ Which, I mean to say, I don't. “ She said with confidence, thinking back to the scandal from earlier.
“ We were only helping each other get through that tunnel. And now were through. “

“ So “

“ That's it. “
“ Our business is concluded. “

“ There's only one Scepter, after all. “
She said nonchalantly as she flew off.

“ Oh. “
Spike had replied, to an ever deaf ear of Ember, who was too far away to hear him anyway.

After a long walk of the maze, and a conversation with Twilight and Rarity about if Ember was actually his friend, he used his wits and deduction skills to find a cave with a long winding path, with a red crystal growth at the end.



This was it.

Almost as soon as he walked through, Garble showed up from behind.
But this time he was different. Angry. Unhinged. And walking oddly.
Slightly off balance.
He's obviously jostled around at least a bit, and he's not doing a very good job at hiding it.

Scared?

He immediately went to attack Spike. To no avail, invincibility and whatnot, but he did prevent him from reaching the Scepter.

=== PonderBright ===

He had long since released Garble, now basically bullying the other dragons.
Nothing they couldn't handle, of course.

Plus; it was justice. Their culture is to be big and bully, so they should be bullied by someone bigger.
Tit for tat, having your intentions done upon yourself, everything was right in the world.

It was almost becoming cathartic when he realized he wasn't guarding the end of the maze.

Discord had been helpful enough to provide them with a map of it upon request, and he should be placing his big, fat, intimidating dragon butt around around there to shoo the competition away.

He took off, much to the relief of the other dragons.

He was thinking as he was flying:
' With the map, shouldn't someone have won by now? '
He turned his thoughts inward to ask Discord.

The telecommunications room was in disrepair.

All but one Discord was shouting at each other in the meeting room.
The Discord that answered his ' call ' was disheveled. Speaking meekling, without any of that classic Discord enthusiasm.

“ Discord what happened? “ He had to ask.

“ Oh. Hi PonderBright. “ Discord managed to squeak out with a sigh.
“ Discord, are you ok? “

Ponder, at this point, had no filter.
Or, in other words,
no ' guard '. No ' walls '.

“ Oh quite alright. “ He said with another sigh.
Discord looked back to the meeting, which now was now more of an argument then anything else.

Discord got angry as he looked.
“ I'm just a little bit DISTRACTED is all. “

He said with accusation in his voice.
The other Discords didn't like that.

Signaled by them shouting back at him, giving Ponder a full blast of Discord-themed loud.
It hurt his brain's ears; if that's even a word.

“ Ah- “ Ponder flinched.

All the Discords took notice of this.

They all seemed to agree on one thing now.

“ Yup. Alright. Shut it down. “ As the Discord he was talking too took a chainsaw from slightly outside of his view. The other Discords nodded.

PonderBright never would guessed his next feeling: He felt sorry for Discord.



Something happened in PonderBright. Something he knew not. His pupils grew big, and it was almost as if a single sparkle, or a star, shinned bright in it. There were more lines attempting to from to complete the constellation, but those were not for now.

Pink.

He had come to a realization. If he deserved to be forgiven for his mistakes, and he thought he did, thanks to Fluttershy and friends. A ' crime ' forgiven which he didn't intend to happen; neither the cause or any of the consequences. Then... Discord, ever deserving to be in a state of panic right now, might actually not.


Even someone with the worst of intentions could be forgiven, if they know not what they do, to quote a popular religious book from his world.

His notion of ' Justice ' was starting to seem a bit too wobbly, even for him.
“ Discord. I forgive you. It's ok. It's fine. I'm fine. “ He said, not wanting to waste a second more.

“ Oh? “ Discord seemed confused.

“ I'm sorry I didn't say so earlier, but I should have realized you were hurting. “,
“ An important member of our team was floundering, and I was too busy coming up with stupid things like code names to do anything about it. “

Discord, still shocked, tried to save face.
“ Well, I don't know about floundering. “ He rebuked.

His clones seemed to be in sync with him again.
Ponder smiled.

“ But I do feel like giving this whole... communication thing another shot. “ A background Discord said.
Ponder was unsure what type of communication he was referring to.

Discord put down the chainsaw somewhere ' offscreen '.

“ Let's get back to work, shall we? “ The main Discord said to the others.
The others saluted him, and the transmission was cut.

He then flew head first into a wall.

Not paying attention.

Psychic telepathic communications and flying – Don't do it kids.

After a short period of radio silence, Discord was the one to call him this time.
“ Twilight and the others are approaching the end. I- forgot to send them the map. They didn't need it. “

Good. He was heading there now.

“ Rogger. Over and out! “ Discord said while sticking out his tongue.
PonderBright was genuinely happy that Discord was happy.

=== Spike and Ponies ===

Spike was scarred of Garble. Not half-and-half scared, not kinda scared,
Scared.


It's like something in him was broken. He was going for the kill with every swipe.

This was not the bully he knew.

The glances and blows slid off him. He was still invincible, after all.
Garble was almost feral. He was snarling, and just kept going at it. Even as he started running out of breath.

Twilight in her stalagmite costume watched with minor concern while Rarity used Discord's private com lines to cheer Spike on like a spectator to a fun sporting event.


Twilight was glad Ponder had that idea. Making Spike invincible.
He was also the reason she could even summon Discord without all the elements, too.

He should have known better. He should not have gone that far with Ember.

Her attention was drawn by Spike letting out a scream of fear, followed by Garble hurting himself on some gagged rocks in order to peruse Spike.
Seems to be the only thing on his mind now. Whatever got him this way must have been pretty bad.

Oh boy did she recognize this.

And thankful she didn't ' get into it ' while under the pressure of this entire ordeal.
Twilighting? Freaking out? She recognized the thought process, even if no one had a valid word for it yet.
… Though... This isn't exactly like one of her ' moments '.

' Garble is too hyper focused on one goal to notice anything else '
She kept thinking to herself.


Oh.


Maybe...
Maybe Ponder wasn't to blame.
At least, not entirely.


Her focus was drawn back to Spike, who had a little blue dragon helper swooping in to body slam Garble out of the way ; ' saving ' Spike.

“ EMBER! “ Spike shouted
“ I thought it was every dragon for themselves! “ He continued.

“ Why did you help me? “ He responded with glee.
“ Because- “ She was openly conflicted.

“ Your not like them Spike. You refused to cheat, You enjoy helping, and you've never broken one of our deals. Your a real stand-up creature. “

“ Not like the ponies. “

Um- “ Spike wanted to rebuke so many claims she just made, but he felt he was short on time.
“ Go get the scepter. You've more then earned it.“ Spike offered, hand outstretched.
Spike put on a knowing smile.
“ Friend. “

“ Um, not friend. “ She sheepishly replied, almost embarrassed.
“ I am not talking about my feelings. “

“ Just – acquaintance. “



“ And regarding the scepter... “
“ Waaay ahead of you. I just didn't want to see you die. “ She said with care.
Spike still was optimistic.

“ It's a great start. “ He said, stepping aside.
Ember started to walk towards the crystal holding the scepter, when Garble flew in from behind.

“ I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOU PONY WORSHIPERS “

H E L P I N G E A C H O T H E R !

He screamed some more in mania:

“ DRAGONS “
“ DON'T “
“ HELP “

He snarled as he grappled with Ember.

Spike was thinking about getting the Scepter himself, looking over to it.
He decided against, as that would betray her trust, and focused on proving emotional support.

They were in the air, and he couldn't annoy Garble off of her as he hoped to do.
The cheering and words of encouragement did about as much as one might think they would do in a fight; almost nothing.


Garble seemed like she was getting the upper hand. He readied a sharp foot talon.
He slashed. It connected; causing minor damage to her leg. She winced.

Twilight was ready to throw off her rock costume, right here, right now; consequences be dammed.
She agreed with what Ember said. No casualties.

Ember leaned back to respond to Grable's earlier assertion:

“ These dragons - “

“ D- “

A blur of faded gold with green undertones swept through the area, disturbing the air with such speed and power it even blew Twilight and Rarity over.
Passing so close to Ember, it knocked her out of her flying stance, unintentionally causing a tipple back flip; her barely catching herself before hitting the rock bridge.

Their ears rung for a bit as the sonic boom faded.

' A ½ foot closer and it would have got me. ' Ember thought to herself.
' Killing me. '

Garble was gone.

Every creature else in the room wasn't sure what happened either.
Until Twilight, and soon the others, were found staring at the back corner of the room.

PonderBright.
With Garble, slammed against the now cracked stone wall under his claw.
“ YOU STILL WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME? “ Ponder bellowed.

“ THE GAME OF DEATH, PAIN, AND ENSLAVEMENT?! “ The cave wall carried his deep voice too well, and with his massive dragon vocal cords, making it all too intimidating.

“ THE GAME WITH ONLY ONE WINNER? “
“ WHERE THAT WINNER HAS TO ENDLESSLY FIGHT, JUST TO STAY ON TOP ?! “

Ponder sighed a deep sigh

WELL, YOU MADE YOUR CHOICE.

He looked back at Garble.
Garble was objectively horrified. A look anycreature in the room never expected to see from him.

Ponder clamped down.
It looked like it hurt.

“ AND YOU LOST.

He moved his head down towards where Garble is.
Twilight didn't like the looks of this. She threw off her rock costume, and flew towards them.
Would she make it? She wasn't going to make it.

May you regret your choice for the rest of your life. “ Ponder snarled.
All 12 seconds of it. “ His mouth filled with fire.



You wanted to play that game so bad, didn't you?



Well.

“ GAME OVER. “

Garble haphazardly covered his face.
PonderBright reared back, inhaling.



Well.



What was he waiting for?



Garble looked confused too; his hands now no longer blocking his general face area.

He was staring at Ponder.
Like he had something in his eye.

Ponder thought in that moment: He was about to kill some creature.

No by accident.
Not to save more lives.

Just for Justice.
Or perhaps to make an example.

It would work.
The other dragons would tell stories for generations of a phantom hulking beast who came out of nowhere,
killed one of them because he didn't like their aggressive ways,
and then returned to nowhere as fast as he had come.

It would strike terror into the hearts of every dragon, especially in those who would have followed in Garble's footsteps; but would be too scarred to after hearing that tale.
Even more so after it gets exaggerated with time.

So, why?
Why the hesitation?



Many emotions flooded his head and banged around, causing the once infinitely intimidating dragon to now seem quite unsure of himself. His posture softened.

He loosened his grip.

He let go.

He sneered at Garble as he turned around, scoffed at him, and seemed ready to go back to the entrance of the room.

“ N O ! “ Cried Twilight, arriving with a blast of magic aimed at Ponder.
He was now frozen in place.

Garble slowly flew past, still heavily damaged, but still conscious.
Twilight looked at him to Ponder's side, straining under the magical load she was under.

' Huh? ' She thought to herself.
' He was frozen, so... He couldn't move anything... not even his claw. '
' He let him go ? '

Her magic slowly stopped.
He just flew there, looking down apologetically at Twilight,
No signs of his earlier rage.

Twilight looked to be in disbelief, from Ponder's vantage point of immense difference in height and size.
She slowly turned away from him; sadly. She flew back to the stone bridge.

=== Ember ===

Ember looked to Twilight in shock:
“ I- “
“ Go get the scepter. “
Twilight interrupted.

She pointed a hoof at the big crystal at the end of the bridge.
She looked over to Ponder with a dead, cold stare.
He looked back; likewise.

Almost as if they were talking somehow, Ponder suddenly nodded and took almost a full second to ramp up his fire breath, and took some more time to aim at a very specific point in the wall.

The wall was instantly obliterated.
The new hole was lined with, presumably radioactive, super-heated plasma.
He flew out of the hole.
Twilight too burdened to say anything.

Everyone else too shocked to stop her, even Garble;
Ember walked, slowly, to the scepter.
She picked it up.

She wore a tired look on her face as the power in the rod shot out into the sky; alerting all other dragons of her success.
She looked back to the crowd.

Same looks as hers.
Minus Garble, who was as scared as a newborn dragon witnessing his first Phoenix attack.

She walked away.
An empty victory.



Her father, of course, congratulated her, after his usual anger and outrage at her disobedience.

He even complimented her.
Even admitting to one of her philosophies.

She inadvertently tuned it out.

' How much of that was actually me? '



She met up with the ponies in secret, after a short party from the dragons.
It all felt empty.

“ Well. “
She said.

All of them were there, except for PonderBright being replaced with a dragon-horse-bird... thing.
They all stared at her.

Things had gotten this tense.


She sighed.



“ Thank you for your help. “ She said, very professionally.

“ Without you, I likely would not have won the gauntlet. “
“ And when you next see Ponder, I thank him too, for defending me. “
She looked to her damaged leg.

The chimera snapped.
All better? How? Was it him?

“ Uh- Um- Thanks. Chimera? “ She guessed.
It did not respond. Too serious a situation?
It crossed it's arms and nodded.

“ That. “ Twilight was struggling for words.

“ Wasn't defense. “ She admitted.



“ Well. “ She corrected her slouched posture.

“ At any rate, while you have my thanks, I must ask you all to stay away from the Dragonlands. “ She asserted, knocking the ground slightly with her Scepter.

“ You are all too much trouble. I can't have you here.“ She said with minor regret.
“ I'll make sure no dragon causes Equ- Eqaa- your homeland, or any other land, any trouble. “ She outstretched a claw.

“ Deal? “



“ Deal. “ Replied Twilight, depression visibly and auditorily showing.

Their shake was about as mechanical and by-the-book as one could imagine.

They walked away.

“ w a i t wait “ Ember heard form afar.
A familiar voice.

Garble?



He was running.
Weird. He usually liked to fly.

“ HOLD ON “ He said in a pant.
She raised an eyebrow.

“ I'm not here to fight! “ He said while shaking his open palms at her.

Not the best peace offering.
She subtly gripped her staff.

“ I – Uh- wanted to say... “ He was straining to get the last word out.
“ Sor- y. “

“ There. I said it. Do you forgive me? “
She raise the other eyebrow.
“ No. “ She said

“ Rea- Oh. oh. “ He replied, starting to get sad.
“ Well, thanks anyways for- “ He awkwardly spat out; starting to walk away. He seemed like he was in the middle of remembering something important.

He quickly turned back around quickly to face her.

“ Are the other ones gone? The ponies? “
She was confused.
“ I need to apologize to them too. “ He said with urgency.
He looked sheepishly at Ember.

Ember was impressed.
' Such improvement ' She thought.

Oh.

His experience in the race.
At least one good thing came out of this.



“ Yes. They already left. “
She pointed to a direction not them with her Scepter.

“ Oh good, maybe I can still catch- “
Garble was interrupted.
“ No. By order as dragon lord, I order you to not seek out any species other then dragons. “
' Can't have another incident so close to the first one ' she was thinking.

“ Aww man... “ He seemed genuinely sad.
“ Can you... At least – Let them all know? When you next talk? “ He said with repentance.

“ I'll see what I can do when I open a line of communication. “ Her tough girl facade was failing.
She was starting to feel sorry for him. And proud?
“ Thanks. “ He quickly said, and flew off.

=== Twilight's crew ===

The trip back to the airship that brought them there was long. The stones under their hoofs were heated by the sun all day; hot.

“ Um- “ Discord was trying to ask something.
“ Go on. “ Twilight was still depressed.
“ Regards to PonderBright “,
“ You don't think he'll get into serious trouble for this one, will he? “

Twilight looked at Discord longingly.
“ He let him go! That's got to count for- “
“ I don't know, Discord. “
She said as she looked back ahead, slightly more towards the ground.

There was a pause in the conversation.

Discord looked conflicted.
Him being him, he was obviously mulling something around in his head. As per the many gestures and grunting noises.

He then confidently stated:
“ If you gave me a second chance when I sided with Tirek, ”, “ Then you should keep that pattern going. “ He said half - confidently half – pleadingly.



Twilight looked back up at Discord, now even more somber.
Discord elaborated on his previous statement -
“ Just because he failed you once, doesn't mean he'll do it again! “ He almost said that like he was in an argument.

Twilight looked back down to the path they were walking, hurt.
“ Maybe so... “ ; said with loads of doubt.
“ But I fear It's not up to me and me alone. “ She meekly said, eyes narrowing.



“ And he didn't fail me. “
“ I failed him. “ She said with eyes closed, blinking away sorrow but not tears.

They all were shocked by that last one.
Everyone but Twilight shared stares of confusion, and some of disbelief.



Spike to went to comfort her.
“ Oh come on! “ He was very good at forcing a cheerful tone.
“ It's not your fault! “



He continued to reassure her as they walked to the airship.


Author's Note:

I am open to PM. No discord or email. Do not use email. Please.
I am open to work, even collaborations. I can't draw. Muscle condition.

Want to test my writing with this one. Will try to write more and more challenging subjects as time goes on.
All criticism minus something that can only be seen as a nitpick will be appreciated.


What do you think of heavy handed stuff?

And what do you think of court trials with our favorite ponies?