• Published 26th Jan 2012
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Sunshine Forever - Nug TWH

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Part V: Cinder & Smoke

Sunshine Forever

Part V: Cinder & Smoke

Even in the fog and stench of the smoke that permeated every inch of space around her, Derpy saw the colorful mane and heard the whimpering voice which belonged to her friend. The gray mare dove swiftly into the dense hot air of the raging inferno to approach the clearing where she laid below. Derpy fanned away smoke to catch her breath while coughing hard.

"Rainbow! Is that you!?"she shouted roughly at the unmoving figure ahead as she continued to draw closer. She neared close enough to the flame-surrounded clearing to see that Rainbow Dash was looking towards her direction - though she didn't seem entirely awake. Her mouth was moving, but silent. Her eyes were wincing with pain. But more significant was the maple tree that fell upon Rainbow's leg; fire was spreading from the trunk. It would quickly burn up Rainbow if Derpy didn't take action.

She approached the middle of the tree where the blue pegasus's leg was pinned. It was easy to tell up close that the leg was severely twisted, if not broken. The rest of her body was bruised and lacerated from the great fall she must have endured. Most distressing was her right wing, which had been concealed from afar by the tree. It was charred black and partially destroyed, either by one of the sun's rays or from the consequential fire. The mail mare's nerves were already shot, and seeing Rainbow's condition now sent her into incoherent screams and blubbering. But she made her body work, even if her mind didn't want to cooperate.

She began to flutter upwards while tugging on the heavy wood that had been crushing the blue pegasus. Rainbow looked up at her groggily and groaned in agony with every motion. When Derpy saw that her friend was at least partly aware of what was happening, she forced herself to turn her fretful screams into actual words.

"Rainbow, you can't sleep now!" Derpy shouted hurriedly in her ragged voice. "Wake up! Please! This --" She stopped speaking to grunt with the exertion of another tug. "--Is not nap time!"

Rainbow's head nodded back and she began whimpering while her body rippled with spasms of pain as her rescuer tried to pry the fallen tree off of her mangled leg. The fire climbed upwards on the trunk, ever closer towards the injured pegasus. Derpy looked back at the approaching fire as she hooked the thinner part of the tree under a foreleg. She lifted again while fanning the fire back with her free hoof, which only made the fire persist even stronger. It licked up onto a branch, where leaves were consumed instantly by flames.

"Rainbow!" Derpy shrieked. " No, no, no, no, no!"

Unsure if the fire had yet reached her friend, Derpy sucked in as much air as she could and gave the tree one final tug. Already reduced halfway to cinders, the tree didn't move as much as it buckled and fell to the side. It sent a shower of embers backwards as it broke.

Immediately, Derpy felt an incredible heat on the right side of her own body. Her left wing flared with pain and reflexively retracted, causing her to plummet towards the ground several yards below.

Fire! I'm going to die! her mind screamed, though what came out of her mouth was a wordless yowling. Her panic returned tenfold, but she willed her body to begin rolling out the fire that had started on her wing. The mail mare squirmed on the parched dirt for a few frantic seconds. After she felt the heat was gone, she scrambled off of the damaged wing. She stood up and took a cursory glance at the charred feathers at her side.

She paused for a split second, feeling queasy and weak at her knees. Only a little crispy. It's okay. I'm okay, she thought to herself. The burns were only slight. But Derpy grew faint when she realized that she was smelling the stench of her own burnt wing. Focus, she reminded herself. Concentrate. Derpy snapped her crossed gaze to Rainbow Dash.

The gray mare galloped the short distance to her fallen squad mate. She was limply curled over on her side and clutching her wounded leg with her front hooves. Her whimper had now been reduced to near silence.

"You'll be fine. I promise. I won't let you burn up," Derpy muttered breathlessly as she wondered how to lift her. "Tell me if this hurts, okay?" She placed one front hoof under Rainbow's shoulder and tried to lift her up straight to avoid pinching her bad leg. Rainbow's head slumped limply forward, splaying her mane across her shoulders and exposing her damaged wing. The injury was even worse that Derpy first realized; the wing was almost entirely blackened and brittle. Derpy consciously avoided eye contact with the wound and gently scooped up her up with her other front leg. She was much too large to hold like a filly, but Derpy struggled to hold her like one to avoid worsening her injuries. She was slightly relieved that her own wing was still usable, although very sore from the burn.

Derpy rose carefully, high above the inferno. Both of them were thickly covered in soot. "You'll be okay. I promise," Derpy spoke as she looked down into Rainbow Dash's face. The sky blue pony's eyes were concealed by her mane. If she still breathed, her breath was shallow. "You'll be okay," Derpy repeated again, partially to herself. "You'll be fine." She repeated those words like a jumbled chant as she began her slow journey across the woods which were blanketed in smoke.
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The dark vacant halls were illuminated only by the light coming through the thick stained-glass windows. Luna sprinted down the familiar corridors of the castle as quickly as her hooves could take her. Her mind was set. She needed to unite the Elements of Harmony. She had just seen her sister fall victim to a spirit - one with enough power to break the will of the Sun Princess. But it did not simply possess her sister as Nightmare Moon possessed herself; this spirit was subversive. It spoke to Celestia. The spirit was trying to turn her mind as well as her soul. Celestia's few audible words repeated themselves in Luna's head; she sounded resentful at first, and eventually pleading as it broke her resistance. That spirit wanted more than mere control of Celestia's form. But what does the spirit seek in corrupting her mind? Luna silently questioned the fresh memory, mostly to maintain control of her anxiety through reason and determination while her legs carried her further towards the entrance.

Her thoughts were broken when she saw two guards gallop back from the direction of the entrance towards the armory and guard quarters, one lacking a helmet. They scarcely noticed Luna approaching from the opposite hall. She continued past them with her gait undisturbed. Soon after, as she approached the entrance, she slowed her step and cautiously peered around the corner to discover the result of what spurred the guards' retreat.

Luna's eyes darted straight towards the distance above the long set of marble steps. Only then did the magnitude of the spirit's attack sink in; long trails of smoke spiraled countlessly across the cloudless blue horizon for as far as the eye could see.

The spirit was indiscriminate in its assault. Not even our own Canterlot was spared from the firestorm. Oh, sister... Luna thought in astonishment. Luna furrowed her brow. All the more reason that there is no time to waste. She leveled her eyes and took a step forward - when she heard a gasp.

The Mayor of Ponyville stood before her, along with a familiar unicorn who seemed to be unconscious. A small dragonling who looked to be near tears sat close at the unicorn's side and turned his head towards Luna. "Ni-- Nightma--," the baby dragon stuttered with a fatigued look of bewilderment. The Mayor interrupted him with an incredulous tone. "Princess? Princess Luna?"

Luna ignored their trepidation and trotted quickly towards the unconscious unicorn. The Mayor resisted the instinct to back away from the alicorn's quick approach. Luna's appearance was a startling mystery for her. The mayor was among many to have speculated about Luna's role in this strange nightless order. Some thought she had disappeared; some thought that the prolonged daytime was due to some disagreement between the sisters. And now, here she was right before them. Between the supernatural assault that they had just seen and Luna's sudden appearance, the Mayor nearly began to question her sanity.

"How is she injured?" The Night Princess demanded sharply without removing her eyes from Twilight Sparkle.

The dragon remained unmoving next to his master while he cautiously watched Luna. His arms gripped one of Twilight's forelegs. "She's, uh -- fainted. I can't wake her up," the dragon said hesitantly without moving his wide eyes from Luna's direction.

Luna gauged their reactions for a brief moment. She stared at them intensely. "You have nothing to fear from me," she authoritatively began to speak to the two. She looked down upon the unicorn.

"I know this to be the Element of Magic, Twilight Sparkle," Luna continued. "If she has indeed only fainted, a recovery is cause for hope. We have no time to waste upon explanations of what has transpired, or on why I should be trusted. We must reunite the Elements of Harmony."

Twilight rose off of the ground in a haze of magical energy and hovered onto Luna's back. The princess walked forward, now shouldering the unconscious unicorn. "We must depart immediately," her voice said, determined and detached. "Follow me. We may discuss more when there aren't lives at stake."
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"Come out, please! You can't stay there!" Fluttershy cried out in a soft shout that only she could manage. She gripped a large pot filled with murky pond water and hovered near a bush where several rabbits were huddled for shelter. "Move, please!"

"You're going to have to focus on the fires if you want your nursery to survive this, darling," Rarity shouted towards her direction. The fires were spreading into the woods surrounding the nursery. The white unicorn was intently focused on the heavy cauldron she took from Fluttershy's fireplace. It was surrounded in a purple mist as it flew through the air.

Fluttershy spotted Angel scurrying to and fro with the kettle, extinguishing fires among the shrubs and saplings. "Angel," Fluttershy called. "Mama will take care of the fires! You worry about getting the little animals to safety, okay?"

Angel looked up at her, kicked the kettle away, and silently saluted her in acknowledgement. With Angel helping the more helpless critters, Fluttershy felt a little more relaxed about her task. Alright, Fluttershy, she told herself. No more dawdling. She gripped her pot and floated upwards.

Rarity's cauldron careened back towards the small pond that ran under the bridge at the entrance of the nursery. It ran very thinly due to the drought - perhaps half of what it once contained. The cauldron dunked noisily in the shallow water, rose high into the air, and locked onto a tree that was entirely covered in flames.

Fluttershy looked over as the cauldron dashed through the air towards its target. With a grimace, the pegasus shouted worriedly, "Please, just try to use as much water as you must! The animals need it!" She paused thoughtfully for a second and continued. "And, ah, be careful not to catch any fish!" She clenched her teeth as Rarity seemed to ignore her and dumped the full cauldron haphazardly on the blazing tree.

"Priorities, dear! Focus on the fires! The animals will have to fend for themselves for now! If we don't extinguish them quickly, you won't have any --," Rarity stopped herself before finishing the harsh sentence. "Just keep filling your pot, okay!?"

"Uh, okay, Rarity," Fluttershy replied breathless and panicky, too low to be audible. But Rarity knew Fluttershy well enough to know she had responded, even if her voice was too quiet to be heard.

Fluttershy struggled with the heavy pot in her hooves. She rose up towards a maple tree that had begun to crackle in the spreading flames. The yellow mare grunted lightly as she tipped the pot forward. The water hit the flames below with a hiss. As she tipped the pot further, she began to cough from the smoke which was beginning to overwhelm her lungs. She dropped the pot as a coughing fit took hold of her. It fell with a heavy thud and began to roll down a slope on its side.

This is no time for clumsiness, Fluttershy, the pegasus silently scolded herself. She darted after the rolling pot, which was just now turning over onto its top. Fluttershy swooped down next to the pot hurriedly. She gripped it to turn the pot upright - when something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye.

On the road leading towards her house, she could see indistinct figures approaching through a haze of smoke. The pegasus strained her sore eyes. She was uncertain if it was a trick of the light or if perhaps they were shapes that she imagined in the formless smoke. After a moment of studying the shapes, she grew certain that there were indeed visitors.

"Rarity, somepony is coming!" Fluttershy called without breaking her gaze at whatever approached. Rarity was emptying another cauldron full of water.

"Unless they brought buckets, they are hardly relevant to our current situation! Keep putting out the fires, Fluttershy!" Rarity shouted back with an edge of impatience.

But Fluttershy couldn't focus back on the task. She abandoned the pot and took several steps towards the shapes. They approached closer, now taking distinct forms and colors. She recognized them.

"Rainbow Dash?" Fluttershy murmured in shock. Limp and lifeless, Rainbow Dash lay cradled unevenly in the arms of an approaching gray pegasus who fluttered slowly. But the pegasus seemed to notice Fluttershy then, because she sped up towards the nursery. As she flew closer, Fluttershy could see how injured Rainbow appeared. She was covered in soot, burns, and blood. Her leg was clearly broken and a wing been reduced to ash.

Derpy approached close and set Rainbow as gently as she could before her. Fluttershy only then recognized the mail mare, though her eyes remained on Rainbow Dash. Derpy was also in a bad condition. She was burned and shook uncontrollably from exhaustion, likely both mental and physical.

"Help her, please!" the gray pony pleaded in a torn voice, ravaged by smoke and sobs. "I know this is the nursery and not the hospital, but can't you fix her anyways? I've never doctored a pony before. I don't know how to fix ponies." Tears ran carelessly down her cheeks.

Fluttershy felt sick with sorrow as she approached Rainbow wordlessly. She began to sob openly as she nuzzled her lifeless friend on the ground.

Rarity heard the sound of her friend weeping as she filled the cauldron once more. She approached the entrance where Fluttershy was nudging something below her. "Fluttershy, what's wrong!? We don't have the time to --" she began before once again clipping her sentence short.

Rarity approached the two mares gathered around Rainbow Dash. She placed a hoof over her mouth and her eyes began to water. The fire continued to spread around the nursery. All that could be heard was the sound of Fluttershy's sobs and the relentless ambiance created by the flames.

-- To Be Continued --

Written by Nug TWH, published on FiMFiction.net on February 18th, 2012. Please give credit or link if you copy.

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Comments ( 3 )

Okay, this is gonna sound heartless and cruel, but I'm really glad it was fire that mangled Rainbow's wing. Not because I want her to be flightless, but because if she has to be flightless then it might as well be caused by something DIFFERENT for once. I'm totally fed-up with stories that rely on Dash losing her ability to fly in order to generate drama, so it's nice that this one has some originality there.

:ajsleepy: I did feel like it may have been cliche, but the dramatic potential of a one-winged creature is a siren call too sweet for authors of tragedy to resist. At least she's beyond the point of being able to fly otherwise... Sort of makes it less cliche.

man this is pretty intense

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