• Published 9th Mar 2014
  • 1,366 Views, 135 Comments

Valley Of Rainbows: Seeking Solutions - Sparx



Rainbow Dash must seek out the lost Elements of harmony to aid in the potential threat of coming war, with the aid of some strange allies

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Rats Are Following

Rats Are Following

Spitfire zipped up her uniform and exhaled. “Where the hell are Shining Armor and the paladins? They should have been here days ago,” she grumbled to herself. “Is he thinking about letting us go against Gallows alone?” With the absence of the captain of the guard, Spitfire had to pull double duty.

While initially she took the role with confidence and flattery when Princess Twilight assigned it to her, it had begun to make her weary. Even with the aid of Soarin’ and the other Wonderbolts, she found her toil brought more exhaustion than she thought she deserved.

Spitfire walked down the hall of the castle, lost in her thoughts. Perhaps we should send for other allies. Then again, if we can’t take care of ourselves at this point, can we really expect others to join us? She could only shake her head in confusion. She was worrying too much; the griffons hadn’t shown any signs of making their invasion yet. Shining Armor still had time to show up.

She tried to rub the tension out of her neck with a hoof. Soarin’ wasn’t kidding. Gonna spend a whole week in that spa when I get the chance.

“Miss Spitfire!” A call from one of the guards broke the peaceful silence of the hall, bringing Spitfire’s hoof from her neck to her face. Of course…

She turned around to see a guard approaching. He seemed taken aback by Spitfire’s frown. “Uh, is this a bad time?”

“It’s always a bad time now, just be out with it,” Spitfire said, feeling her patience slip.

The guard nodded in understanding. “The sand rat we picked up in Appleloosa has arrived and been inspected. We are ready to hold him for an audience with you and the princess, a representative from the town would wish to sit in as well. He claims to have spoken with the rat and offers to comfort him and make things go smoother.”

Spitfire shrugged. “I don’t see anything wrong with it, but I’d like to speak with him first.”

With a nod, the guard led the way.

At least I can get some answers. Spitfire felt her mood lighten the slightest bit. As they approached the doors to the throne room, Spitfire took note of an earth pony with a similar color of coat to her own.

The guard stopped and swung out a foreleg to let Spitfire pass. She walked on up to the earth pony and swung her own hoof to get him walking by her side.

“What’s your story?” she asked.

“Name is Braeburn ma’am. Ah come from Appleloosa, an’ spoke with the critter we brought in. He calls himself Nickel, an’ he’s a right clever fella,” Braeburn spoke quickly as he walked along, trying to fill Spitfire in. “Nopony knows how ta speak sand rat, so ah figured ah’d give it a shot, helped negotiate with the buffalo once.”

“And this... Nickel? What’s he told you?” Spitfire pressed.

Braeburn frowned. “Not much to be honest. Keeps speakin’ about madness an’ his master an’ all that. When we ask fer more, he starts sayin’ some strange word that none of us can decipher. Most ponies think that he’s givin’ some word of ‘is own language.”

“Anything we should avoid?”

“Ah wouldn’t recommend starting with questions ‘bout his master. Freezes the poor feller up and forces him to repeat that funny word over an’ over.”

“We’re gonna have to bring it up at some point I feel,” Spitfire sighed. “Gonna need to figure out how to calm him at that.”

The two of them entered the large doors to see the rat standing in the middle of the room, shackled at the wrists and accompanied by two unicorn guards. Princess Twilight Sparkle sat in her throne alone.

“You are relieved,” Twilight said to the guards. They nodded and took position behind the doors, ready to come back in if called.

As Spitfire passed by the sand rat, she looked at him, and he looked back. The intelligence, worry, and wisdom in his eyes took her by surprise. He gave her a respectful bow as she passed him.

She and Braeburn took position on either side of the throne. The rat remained in his position, looking up at the three of them in silence.

“Go ahead and tell us why you came here,” Twilight spoke calmly and invitingly.

Nickel dipped his head in thanks. “I am Nickel, a scholar by trade,” he spoke his words slowly and carefully.

“A fellow intellectual,” Twilight smiled. “We could learn much from each other, Nickel.”

“Your words are kind, Princess,” Nickel returned. “I have come to bring warning, and seek shelter in your lands.”

Spitfire took her turn to speak, letting the rat know that he was still under suspicion. “Your shelter is something we will discuss when you have proven yourself to not be our foe. Our land has suffered infiltration before, and we aren’t willing to repeat the tragedy,” her voice was stern, but fair.

Nickel nodded in understanding. “Your caution is wise, and not undeserved for my kind’s reputation. I hope that you will see that my words are true.” He took a moment to collect his thoughts. “I can see that, in order for you to trust my words, I must first trust you. If I may, perhaps there is some form of ritual or task in which I might prove myself?”

Spitfire and Braeburn looked to the princess to answer. Twilight thought for a moment, then spoke. “I have the ability to cast a circle of truth around you. Should you attempt to lie to us, magical energy will force pain and illness to overtake you. I do not wish for such consequences to befall you, Nickel, so please tell us only the truth, and if we should find your motives questionable, you will be punished accordingly.”

Nickel bowed in understanding, pressing his hands together. “Thank you, kind princess. I shall answer to the best of my capability the truths of your questions.”

Princess Twilight let her horn glow, a bright light forming in front of Nickel. The light traced a perfect circle around the rat.

Twilight cleared her throat and asked, “What is your name?”

“Nickel,” Nickel answered, aware that the question was merely to test if the spell worked.

No pain seemed to befall the rat, so Twilight continued. “Do you consider yourself an ally, or a foe to us? Please answer why as well.”

“Neither, kind princess.” Questioning looks befell the ponies at this answer, but Nickel continued. “I merely consider myself a messenger at this moment.”

“Fair enough,” Twilight returned. “Do you have a plan to attack, or otherwise harm us or ponies in general?”

“No.”

Still no signs of sickness or pain washed over him.

“Are you alone?” Twilight pressed.

“I am,” Nickel’s answer came out as a sigh. His thoughts returned to his family and friends.

“Do you have anyone aware that you are here?”

Nickel paused. “I am… unsure.”

Braeburn whispered to the princess. “Ah’d be careful about how you phrase the next bit. He may be referrin’ to his master, an’ he’ll clam up tight if’n we press on that bit.”

Twilight nodded as she took this into consideration. “Do you have any allies aware that you are here?”

Nickel’s thoughts swirled with the faces of those he once referred to as allies. “No. I believe them dead.” His voice cracked as he said the words.

Twilight was ready to speak her next question before Nickel interrupted. “I saw many of them die. Unub… was the first. His blood splashed onto me, and I heard his final cry. I ran alone, and saw our home collapse onto the skulls of my kin. If any survived, they know not where I am… though from what I saw, I hold no hope that any, other than myself, survive.”

The room went quiet for a few minutes, the three ponies extending their silent sympathies to the lost rat. Spitfire believed she saw a tear fall from the rat’s eye.

“What killed them?” Spitfire asked. Her voice was soft and consoling. Twilight and Braeburn looked to the pegasus nervously, thinking that he’d stop talking.

Nickel looked back up to Spitfire. His face showed bafflement at the kindness in her tone. “My… former master.”

“How?” she pressed, against the disapproval in Braeburn’s eyes.

“I did not wait to see, though many were crushed from his awakening,” Nickel answered, much to Braeburn’s surprise. “My dear friend, Unub, was consumed…”

“Before your own eyes,” Spitfire finished. Nickel’s eyes quivered in horror at the memory. “Your master was a cruel sort, and I can see that your service was wasted upon him.” She could feel her passion flaring up as she stood, demanding the attention of everyone in the room. “Please tell us what you can! We will protect you from your former master!”

“Ma’am, please don’t pressure the fella, he isn’t comfortable speakin’ about this,” Braeburn insisted, looking to the princess for aid.

Twilight said nothing and watched Spitfire speak with a blank expression.

“Tell us his name!” Spitfire called down.

Nickel shook. He knew that this pony had no idea of the true horror his master could bring, of his power. Somehow though, she was inspiring to him, blowing his fear away, if only for a moment.

“Owayix!” he called back.

Braeburn shook his head. “See? That’s all he’ll tell us, an’ it’s all he’ll say fer hours now; just some unknown Sand Rat word.”

Twilight’s eyes narrowed. “No… not Sand Rat. This tells us more than you know, Braeburn. It is a name.”

Spitfire’s eyes went ablaze. “Owayix won’t hurt you anymore, Nickel! You’re one of us! Is this acceptable, Princess?”

“We can’t just do that!” Braeburn shot back. “‘Tain’t something’ you should just declare! We still don’t know if we can trust ‘im!”

“Calm down, Braeburn.” Twilight held a hoof in front of him. “He hasn’t lied to us once, or denied to answer any question we asked. He has willingly put himself in this position and surrendered any control in the matter to warn us of something that has destroyed his former life. This information he brings may protect all of Equestria, and I see no reason to doubt him. The very least we can do is offer him a new life to replace what was lost.”

“But, yer majesty—” Braeburn began.

And! Friendship is what saved us many times before, and something we should all strive for.” Twilight shot down any potential objections Braeburn may have still had with an unyielding glare. “I trust in Spitfire’s judgment, and I trust in Nickel. We have been given no reason not to, and if we want to hear his words, it would only be fair we earn his trust as well.”

Twilight’s horn glowed once again and the shackles on Nickel’s wrists clacked, unlocking, and fell to the floor. “Spike!” she called. The dragon made his entrance with a large puff of jade fire in front of Twilight, bowing before her.

Nickel looked upon the young dragon with wide eyes of respect and fear for the beast.

“Take a note, that today, Nickel is a scholar of Equestria. He is to reside within the castle, under supervision, both for his protection and assessment. He is to be clothed, fed, and given access to the rooms as a guest to start. In time, if he proves himself of worth and trust, he will be treated as any pony scholar would,” Twilight spoke loudly so that Nickel could hear her as well.

Spike gave no objections, only wrote.

Nickel fell to the ground, placing his hands on the floor and bowing his head. “You do me too much honor, kind Princess. I am unworthy of such kindness.” He felt his tears drip off his nose, coming fast.

“I won’t hear it,” Twilight replied. “You have gone through much to give us warning. For now, I must retire to the library and confirm suspicions. My teacher would want it this way as well.” She turned back to Spitfire. “We’ll ask further questions later. Thank you for your presence and aid.”

Spitfire bowed in thanks, and flew off towards the door. She stopped though, and turned back, landing next to the rat. “Hey.” She nudged him, bringing him back up to his knees, his face slightly wet from crying. “You’re safe here. I’m gonna make sure of it.” The rat gave a nod, not fully convinced, but comforted.

“You may go home now Braeburn, thank you for your aid,” Twilight spoke, the last words Spitfire heard before heading out of the throne room.

She let out a sigh of content. From her first eye contact with the creature, she had a feeling that Nickel held no wicked intentions. This was an unfortunate being, who sought only safety from a world that abandoned him, and tried to destroy him. Whatever he had come to warn them of, he was lucky to have evaded it.

As she walked through the halls, she began to remember her original reason for being in the castle, and let out a groan. Now we have the malevolent lord of rats to add to our list of worries. Where the fuck is—

“Yo! Spitfire!”

Right on cue. Spitfire spun to meet Soarin’. “Was just about to go looking for you.”

“Flattering,” Soarin’ chuckled. “What were ya needing?”

“An update, unfortunately, also to give out new orders,” she returned. “Any news on that storm we saw a few nights ago?”

“Still going,” Soarin’ frowned. “Last we heard it was heading out over Vanhoover. Fleetfoot’s assuming it’s heading towards Minos, but we’re not gonna go any further than our borders. That thing isn’t our problem anymore.”

“Not yet anyway.” Spitfire scratched at her head. “If that thing ever shows up near us again, I wanna know about it as soon as fucking possible. Understood?”

Soarin’ nodded. “Understood! But do you think maybe you’re fretting a bit too much over that thing?”

A glare from his captain instantly made Soarin’ regret his words. “I don’t think you’re worried enough about it. You were there, the thing isn’t natural, it’s a potential threat, and I’m thinking a very dangerous one.” Quite possibly tied back to this whole Owayix dilemma…

“Hey, where is Fleetfoot anyway?” Spitfire asked.

“She said she wanted to take up post in Ponyville.” Soarin’ rolled his eyes.

“Dammit, Fleet!” Spitfire placed her face into her hoof. “Believe me, I’d like to go off and spend some time there too, but we can’t just… ugh… never mind, let her be,” she groaned in defeat. “How are things looking griffon-wise?”

Soarin’ gave a shrug. “Nothing different really. They all seem to be waiting on something, damned if we know what though. Some tried to get them to remove their outposts, but the stubborn bastards refuse to budge.”

“Of course they refuse; they’d sooner pluck their wings clean of feathers than give way to what we’d want. Only one Gallows ever heard out was Celestia,” Spitfire hissed. Her distaste for the king soured her disposition further.

“Just keep an eye on them. If they look like they might make a move, get word back here instantly.”

“A lot of ifs lately,” Soarin’ stated.

“Well nothing is fucking happening!” Spitfire bit back. “Bastards only wanna build the tension, let us know that they’re there and watching! I don’t really know what else to do; our reinforcements are taking forever after all! This shouldn’t be my job!” She shook her head. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be short. I’m just… worried is all.”

“I can tell,” Soarin’ replied. “Kinda impressed you’re cussing as little as you are. You usually unload more curses than a desperate unicorn witch when you get like this.”

“Got a problem?”

“Yeah, why are you holding back? Get it out there! Keeping that frustration in won’t do any of us any good.”

Spitfire gave a sigh. “Fair enough.”

“So, I know this isn’t all about the griffons and the storm. What else is agitating the great captain?” Soarin’ inquired.

Spitfire frowned and continued walking towards the exit. “The storm is a part of it. I’ve had some ponies check in on where Rainbow was going. Apparently she made way to Minos. I feel like I might be going crazy and that maybe I’m being paranoid, but I can’t help but think that whatever that thing is, it’s following her… looking for her. I’m afraid for her.”

Soarin’ looked at his friend, letting her worries come forth. He had always known her as a very emotional pony, letting even small troubles get under her skin. The thought of an unknown mass of power searching for her beloved, quite possibly the reason for the gruesome death of an entire tribe of Sand Rats, it tore at her.

“You’re worried about Rainbow Dash?” he started, attempting to lessen her stress. “The pony that performed a Sonic Rainboom? Who faced Nightmare Moon, Discord, an army of changelings twice… Spits, I’m only getting started with her list of achievements and you know it. And she’s not alone.” He pulled at his collar to remind Spitfire of the Diamond Dogs. “Hell, by now she’s probably gotten most of the elements with her already,” he spoke with fervor and zeal, actually causing a smile to appear on Spitfire’s face.

“You know… I’ll bet you anything that, when she comes back, you’ll see her with the sun at her back, radiating like a halo on an angel, holding you in both arms, begging you to stay with her forever.” Soarin’ then gave a telling grin. “And maybe I can watch what happens after?”

Spitfire laughed loudly. “Dammit man, do you ever take anything seriously?” She gave him a solid punch to the shoulder, causing him to flinch and rub at it. He had managed to make her smile again, probably making her day. She enjoyed the mental image that Soarin’ had painted for her though, bringing her to a giggle. “You know what? I’ll actually place a bet that it happens just like that too.”

“Oooh, a wager? What makes you so confident?” Soarin’ asked, intrigued.

“What makes me ‘confident’ is that you have no luck on things like this,” Spitfire retorted, her voice returning to its usual, powerful sound. “But seriously, I think I’ll just throw you a freebie. If that situation doesn’t happen, as you’ve described it, with no help from me… why not, I’ll throw you about a day’s worth of my pay.”

Soarin’ grinned wide. “Seems the odds are in my favor, but what happens if you win?”

Spitfire shrugged. She was only really using the bet to keep the description around and cheer her up when she needed it. Plus, there was no need to spill the small detail that the day she was planning on giving Soarin’ was a non-work day. If she had less control she’d be snickering at the thought.

“Tell ya what, if it happens that way, I’ll get my family to agree to pay for the wedding!” Soarin’ smiled, sure that the fantasy he described would remain just that.

“Why not?” Spitfire agreed. They shook hooves in agreement. “But you don’t get to watch.”

“Dammit!”


In the Frozen North, blizzard winds bit and howled more fearsome than before. Shining Armor, bundled from head to hoof, trekked through the snow, searching.

He had been summoned back to Canterlot to aid his younger sister. He knew of the reason and the urgency, but something in this wintery land had to be taken along. He didn’t know why, he only knew that he felt as if he were being pulled.

The gale tried to topple the proud unicorn, but he stood firm, and walked against the resistance. Even aided by his magic, though, the cold still stung at him.

“Not far now… come, come, closer…” The voice that pulled him forward continued to whisper within his mind. It was a deep hissing sound. “That’s a good champion, you listen well for a stallion that will be king. But there is still much you need to know.”

“I’m not here for advice on leadership,” Shining snapped, feeling a little foolish that he was the only body around. “You said something was needed… from both of us. The call has come; you’ve been right about that much.”

“But of course. I have never lied, I was simply seen as wrong before… but you must trust me now if we’re to prevail… just a few more steps… there. Good to see you again.”

Shining Armor looked down upon a blackened unicorn horn, touched with red.

Author's Note:

Questions after questions only add up as the rat pleads for aide, but he seems to mean well.
I'm going to go ahead and ask a question this chapter, what do you think brings the storm? Forces the rats to hide and scurry? And what of our Shining Armor? What angle shall he play in this tale?