• Published 19th Oct 2012
  • 9,085 Views, 9,536 Comments

Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon

Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Site Beta

Belle tripped, stumbling to her knees with a feeble gasp.

"Watch your step!" Phoenix called back from where he scouted out the thick of Foxtaur ahead of them.

Wincing, she struggled to her hooves. A gentle figure trotted over and gave her a helpful nudge. Leaning against Pilate's weight, Bellesmith stood up on all fours.

"Thank you, Beloved," she murmured, catching her breath. Hobbling alongside him, worn out from hours of galloping, she exclaimed, "I don't mean to sound impatient, Mr. Phoenix, but how long until we reach the ruins, do you think?"

"We're there," the voice of the mercenary shouted back. "What else do you think we tripped on?"

Belle blinked. Glancing down, she saw that the leaves and grass of Foxtaur had cleared away to reveal a shallow series of worn-out granite steps. Segmented columns stuck out of the underbrush as a wide plateau of pale stone stretched out before her and her mate. Through the dim haze of afternoon light squinting through the treetops, she became aware of several tall structures. Granite slabs rested on innumerable weathered pillars overrun with vines and algae. In the distance, atop a higher cluster of rocks, a pair of cylindrical towers rested, formed out of gray masonry that had only just begun crumbling after countless centuries of neglect.

"I hear an echo, Belle," Pilate murmured. "How large is this place?"

"I feel as though I'm only seeing the top of it, like an iceberg," Belle remarked. As she guided Pilate up the steps, she glanced aside to see sinkholes in the limestone bordering the granite slabs. With thin eyes, she made out a labyrinthine series of chambers lingering below the forested surface. "I think it's a sepulcher. There appear to be tombs beneath us..."

"And they're all empty," Phoenix said from over his shoulder. "Trust me, we checked as soon as we came here."

"Is grave robbing an extracurricular activity of Franzington Blades Guild members?" Pilate asked.

"Pilate..." Belle muttered.

"What?" He smirked slightly. "I was merely curious."

"We should be thankful that he's brought us this far." She bit her lip and gazed beyond the tree branches blocking out the sky above. "All this trotting, and still no sign of Rainbow Dash."

"I'm still wondering exactly how she's going to find us even after she manages to shake off those managliders," Pilate said. "All she knows about Site Beta is that it's in a big blog of forest just east of the other big blog of forest where we split up."

"Yes, well..." Belle sighed and hung her head as they continued scaling the steps. "So long as she's safe, I don't mind waiting."

"Perhaps there is something indicative of her race," Pilate said. "Maybe pegasi—like common birds—are gifted with a natural, innate compass that can help them locate any geographical locatin."

Belle was silent for a few seconds. Frowning, she turned her scowling face towards the zebra. "Even you wouldn't stoop to reaching so much."

"Right." He nuzzled her with a pleasant tone to his voice. "That's why this blind stallion has you to be the legs for him."

She chuckled slightly, but that utterance was ever so swiftly devoured by a worrisome sigh.

Pilate's ears twitched. He leaned towards her once more and said, "Don't worry, Beloved. Rainbow Dash has proven to be more tenacious than the common pony. She's just learning to take her time with things, that's why we haven't seen her yet."

"Yeah, I guess..."

"Besides, if she truly wants to throw off the Enforcers who are persuing us, she will have to do more than a mere—" Pilate froze. His head leaned to the side as his ears pivoted towards the forest ceiling.

Belle gasped. "What is it? What do you hear?"

With a scrape of his hooves, Phoenix was suddenly sliding to a stop beside them, levitating his mace by his side. "You two hide behind the pillars!" He sneered, his teeth gritting as he stared venomously into the forest's edge below. "Somepony's coming!"

"Who?!" Belle stammered. She blinked a few times. "Rainbow Dash?!"

"I've no clue. Now friggin' hide!"

"But—what if it's—"

"Too late!" Pilate grunted. "They're already here."

The trees and bushes parted ways.

Phoenix raised his mace.

Belle and Pilate flinched.

After a spurt of silence, Phoenix lowered his weapon, exhaling heavily. "Yeesh, make enough noise, will you?"

"Blame princess here," Zenith grunted, marching out ahead of Eagle Eye and Crimson. "With a mane that long, he brushes up against every branch from here to Xona."

"I do not!" Eagle Eye hissed. "Ugh—If you all stopped complaining about every little thing, then maybe we'll be as silent as mercenaries need to be!"

"Stop being a wuss and we won't have to."


"Enough!" Crimson barked. "All of you! We're here and we're safe." He brushed past Zenith and Eagle Eye, approaching Phoenix. "Run into any trouble along the way here?"

"Zippo, boss," Phoenix replied, sheathing his mace. "We got here before you guys, didn't we? How about you?"

"Aside from a wayward cougar or two, we made the hike with no difficulty." Sighing, Crimson stared off towards the western sky above the trees. "Seems as though the pegasus' diversion worked. If we keep low here, we should be safe... for the time being."

"Have you seen her?" Belle asked. "Have you seen Rainbow Dash?"

"Belle—" Pilate softly began.

She stepped forward towards the group. "Any sign? Any sign at all?"

Crimson stared at her. He glanced at the others, to which Zenith replied with a rolling of his eyes. Eagle Eye, however, fidgeted and muttered forth, "We haven't seen a single feather of her since she took off to get the managliders off our flanks."

Belle stood frozen in place, her golden coat paling. Pilate rested a hoove on her shoulder. Sniffling, she leaned against him, gazing fixedly into the stone below.

Crimson eyed the two Ledomaritans, then the rest of the party. With a deep breath, the muscular stallion turned about and scaled the last rows of steps. "Well, we're here. Eagle Eye, start setting up camp. Phoenix, go and fetch the storage supplies where we last left them down below. Zenith? You've got first watch..."

As the soldiers marched obediently towards their various stations, the young couple stood alone—like shadows—slumped against the cold steps bridging the gap between the depths of Foxtaur and the ruins of the past.

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