• Published 7th Feb 2012
  • 18,433 Views, 657 Comments

Displaced - Seven Fates

A unicorn colt has an accident, and nopony knows him. His wild claims go widely ignored until...

  • ...

Chapter 12

“Ow, ow!” Warren yelped. “Hey, are you doing that on purpose?” As if to accentuate his question, a sharp pain shot through his leg. “Yow! Hey! Stop sticking me with the pin, Rarity!”

“I'm sorry, dear, but you simply must hold still!” the fashionista apologized. With a flourish, she levitated the makeshift needle and thread towards his ankle. The human went ramrod stiff as the needle traced a path, completing the final hem in the outfit. “I wouldn't need to use so much force if you hadn't made this cloth so durable. Honestly, it's like punching a needle through Kevlar!”

Warren groaned at her criticism. “I get it; I overcompensated in hardening the petal-cloth to make it more durable.” He flinched as the needle nicked him. “So using the petals instead of the stems wasn't the best decision. I thought it'd be lighter!”

“All done!” Rarity chimed, ignoring his retorts. “Go on, take a look!”

Once the last of the pins had receded from the pant leg, he stepped off of the table that had served as a model-stand and walked towards a tall mirror Pinkie Pie had found. As he stared at his pants, he noted that Rarity was nothing if not relatively true to his design. Like the design, the pant-legs flared out the closer to the ankle one looked, however Rarity had taken some artistic license and embroidered a stylized fuchsia design upon one of the black rose-cloth pant-legs.

As his eyes traveled up his reflection, he couldn't help but feel a bit silly. Rarity hadn't botched the belt, but it wasn't quite right in the strictest sense. Made from forget-me-not cloth, the belt seemed to have been doubled in length and width. While it should have been simply cinched around his waist through loops he'd included in the design of the pants, it was instead tied neatly in a great big bow behind his back. All wrapped up in silky-smooth flower-clothes and topped with a bow, Warren felt more like a Christmas present than anything else.

Finally, Warren sized up his shirt. Without a doubt, he knew Rarity would choose the cloth made from the odd silver flower that was nestled in the bottom of Pinkie's flower booty. The sleeves were loose but not cumbersome, and, as with the rest of the outfit, it fit surprisingly well. He was pleased to note that instead of a collar, she had altered the design to be hooded. At least I can walk down the street without the sun in my eyes.

“Well, what do you think?” the indigo-maned seamstress implored. “Do you like it?”

“Aside from the way you made the belt look like a decorative bow on a present, I have to say I love it.” He smiled at her. “I'm still amazed you managed all of this in only a few hours. I doubt a human tailor would have the outfit finished in twice the time.”

“Really? I find the bow quite fetching!” she said cheerfully. “I'm sure if you weren't so insistent on having clothes as soon as possible, I could have made your outfit even more charming. Oooh! I just thought of something that would complete your handsome ensemble! I could make you the most dashing cloak!”

“No Rarity, that's quite alright.” he put his hands up in a warding gesture. “I couldn't intrude any more on your generosity! I—”

The opportunity to complete his statement never came, as he was interrupted by a sudden magical pop mere inches from him as Twilight Sparkle appeared in the room. While she frantically looked around the room, he saw that there was a frazzled look about her. Something clearly wasn't sitting right with her.

Locking her eyes on him, Twilight said, “Good! You're here, Goldenrod!” Warren couldn't help but cock an eyebrow at this comment, as though the idea of him being elsewhere had actually occurred to her. “Come with me; we don't have much time!”

Warren, dumbstruck, could only watch Twilight as she galloped towards the door. When she turned around to face him, her exasperated expression told him that whatever it was, it was serious. He looked to Rarity and gave her an apologetic nod. Without a second thought, he flipped up his hood and followed after the pale mulberry unicorn.

“Twilight... what... is going on?” he said, panting from the exertion of trying to match her pace. Her hooves beat a steady tattoo on the stone path, contrasting with the barely audible slaps of his own feet. “Where... are... we going?”

Slowing her pace, the unicorn mare cast a glance over her shoulder. “We're going to the castle,” she called back. “The Princesses wish to meet with you!”

His pace faltered as the gravity of her words struck him. Two regents are requesting my presence. Not only that, but the Princesses are most likely my best hope in finding out what Morrigan wants with me! It was so distracting that he very nearly forgot where he was.

“Goldenrod, come on!” Twilight's shout jerked him back to the now, making him painfully aware that he'd stopped moving. A crowd of curious ponies stood at one side of the academy lane, watching him for some hint he might become threatening. Not wanting to be under public scrutiny for too long, he bolted after Twilight. This time, eager to meet with the Princesses, he even managed to come up beside her.

“We're almost there.” her voice was barely audible over the beating of her hooves. Truer words were never spoken. The packed avenue they had been running along gave way to a broad road leading up to a large wooden gate. At either side of the gate stood a mixed file of unicorn and pegasus guards.

“Twilie!” a masculine voice rang out. An armored white unicorn waved down to them from up on the ramparts above the gate. “The honor guard will escort you and our... guest to a private chamber for your meeting. I hope it won't cause any trouble.”

Warren couldn't help but notice the tone the unicorn used. He wanted to shout up to the unicorn, but then it hit him that it was probably exactly what he wanted. There was never an opportunity to retort either way; the gates glowed with a magical aura and parted, and soon after they were ushered inside by the honor guard. As Warren walked alongside Twilight, he turned to look at the unicorn atop the castle-wall.

“So... 'Twilie', who was that?” he said, muffling a snicker. They'd entered the castle proper and traversed the main hall into what seemed to be a relatively unused white marble corridor. To his surprise, the corridor angled downward at a moderate slope. There were no windows, which lead him to discern that the only source of light could be what seemed to be caricatures of the sun and moon etched into the arched ceiling.

With her head half turned, she gave him a cool look that spoke volumes. Clearly the pet name was something between her and that unicorn; he decided not to ever call her that again. “Sorry,” she said, suddenly blushing. “That was my brother, Shining Armor. He's captain of the Royal Guard.”

“That explains the escort.” Warren shrugged, relishing in the ease of a human shrug. It felt so natural to him. “But, why does he have such a bug up his butt—” He snapped his hands over his mouth. I can't believe I just said that. “Er... Why does he have such an issue with me.”

She eyed him suspiciously, but chose not to comment. “If he came off a bit untrusting, that's just because it's his job to lead the Royal Guard in protecting Canterlot. He's been particularly suspicious of strangers since his wedding.” She sighed, noting his curious expression, and looked away. “Don't ask; it's a very long story.”

As they marched further and further down the corridor, Warren couldn't help but notice through the columns of guards that there were alcoves in the walls spaced at regular intervals, with ornamental marble columns at either side of the openings. He would have thought there would be doors in the alcoves just by looking at the sizes, but they were completely empty.

The whole corridor felt odd to him. Even though he could see straight down in either direction for miles, he couldn't help but feel as though he was turning frequently, occasionally rising or dropping what felt like many levels. It was all too eerie. Just when he thought to ask though, the group came to a halt at a dead-end marked by one such alcove.

A unicorn guard broke off from the escort and approached the alcove wall. A bronze aura enveloped the guard's horn. A seam formed in the solid marble, and the wall slid apart, revealing a doorway to a moderate-sized chamber. The unicorn guard silently ushered Twilight and Warren inside with a flourish of his hoof. Once inside the room, the door slid closed, returning to its perfectly seamless state.

Confident that the door would probably remain exactly where it was, Warren lowered his hood while turning his attention to the room at large. It looked to be a guest chamber of sorts; decorative wall-hangings covered most of the walls, save for the entrance. In the center of the room sat a broad oak table; instead of chairs, cushions were spaced equally along the length of the table. In one far corner of the chamber sat what could have been a king-sized mattress, while in the other sat a kitchenette complete with stove, sink and cupboards.

“You might as well take a seat,” Twilight said, moving to one of the cushions on the side of the table opposite to the door. “Princess Celestia still needs time to finish up the day court.”

That explains why we hoofed it here, even if it was in plain sight of everypony, he thought dryly to himself. Ignoring the cushions at the table, he moved over to the small kitchen unit. After rattling around in the cupboards for a few moments, he found what he was looking for; a kettle and tea leaves. Without a word, he filled the kettle with water and put it on the stove to boil. When he caught her looking at him oddly, he only smiled and said, “What? Is tea with royalty out of the question?”

Content with the kettle on the stove, Warren returned his attention to rummaging through the cupboards in search of teacups and saucers. “So, Twilight, what is this place? There's something weird about it.” From one of the cabinets, he withdrew a large tray, and placed on it a quartet of teacups and matching saucers. Almost as an afterthought, he added a bowl of sugar-cubes. “It's not just this room, either. It's this whole part of the castle that's off.”

“So you noticed, then.” Twilight said, in a rather thoughtful tone. “I wasn't sure you would. I assume you realized that although the way the hall leading to this chamber seemed straight, you could feel the turns and inclines. Am I mistaken?”

Warren shook his head. Placing the tray on the table, he made to sit by the mare. “Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Is this some sort of lavish prison or something?”

The assessment seemed to amuse her; he caught the faintest upward twitch at the corner of her mouth. “In a way, you could say that. Long ago, this wing of the castle was dedicated to housing diplomats or foreign dignitaries.” As though expecting his inevitable response. “You must understand, even here in peaceful Equestria, there are ponies who bear issue with dignitaries of certain nations. In times long past, there have even been assassination attempts and spies.”

“So then this is a labyrinth designed to protect high-ranking guests as well as keep them out of trouble.” He ran his hand against the stubble on his chin, and then sighed. “But, what good is a labyrinth that shows you exactly where to go?”

“That's just it, though.” She clapped her hooves together and grinned. “The labyrinth will only take you where Princess Celestia wants you to be. If she wants you in your room, you'll always find yourself back at your own chamber. If she wants you elsewhere, the labyrinth will always lead you to the main hall. On the other hoof, if she's not even thinking about you in relationship to the labyrinth...”

“You get lost until someone notices you're gone?” Warren offered, noting her change in mood. “Had some experience with that aspect of it have we?”

“I was just a filly!” she rebuked.

“Come on, Twilight. I wasn't judging you!” He waved his hands defensively in front of his chest.

Warren was grateful to hear the chamber-door parting a moment later. In marched four pegasus guards. The first pair of guards to enter were both clad in gold-trimmed armor, the tufted crests on both helmets were a regal blue. The second pair looked far more intimidating than the first pair, clad in a purple-tinged steel armor, sporting a webbed crest on their helms instead of a plume of hair. The wings of the second pair looked as though they'd come off of a large bat. Each pair took position on either side of the door.

When the Princesses entered, Warren was awestruck. The depictions of the Princess Celestia and Princess Luna in a history book he'd skimmed through did neither Princess justice. Princess Celestia's mane had been depicted accurately enough as an amorphous cloud; the depiction did not, however, convey the animated way that her mane matched a daytime aurora. Princess Luna's mane had been less accurately depicted by the book; instead of the amorphous cloud in which the night sky could be seen, her mane was depicted as an ordinary shade of light blue. There was also the issue of size; in the book, Luna had been depicted roughly the same size as a regular mare, when in reality she was maybe an inch shorter than her sister. The pair of them were both just too regal for words.

Realizing that he was staring, Warren averted his eyes and made to bow. If he'd realized he was still sitting at the table, he wouldn't have so quickly bowed, smashing his face on the table. Quickly regaining his composure, he caught Princess Luna smothering a smile behind a bejeweled hoof. Princess Celestia's face, on the other hand, was much more composed; only a raised eyebrow betrayed her amusement.

“Twilight Sparkle, it is so good that we could see each other again,” the Moon Princess began. “I only wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Quite so,” the Sun Princess continued. “Please, Twilight, introduce your friend.”

Twilight sparkle made to speak, but Warren interjected, “Your majesties, if you'll excuse my interjection, it would be impolite of me as a gentleman to not introduce myself.” He folded his hands on his lap and inclined his head respectfully. “My name is Warren Ashland. During the two weeks I spent among your subjects as a unicorn, I went by the name Goldenrod.”

The whistling of the kettle on the stove behind him caught his attention. “May I offer either of you a cup of tea?” he proposed.

“Tea would be lovely, Mister Ashland,” Luna smiled. “I've only just awoken.”

“Please, Princess Luna, just call me Goldenrod; everypony does,” he replied softly, returning her smile. “Princess Celestia? Twilight?”

“It is kind of you to offer, Goldenrod,” Celestia responded in a warm tone. “I cannot accept, however.”

Turning to Twilight, Warren just caught her shaking her head in a 'no'. He just managed to hear the moon princess whisper a 'spoilsport' to the sun princess as he closed his eyes. With a practiced breath, he ignited his horn with a brilliant green aura, and levitated the teakettle by the handle off of the stove. As the kettle drew near, he casually reached a hand behind him, and let the handle come to rest in his palm.

Luna cooed enthusiastically. “Can all humans use magic?” She seemed eager to learn about his kind. “Or are you the only one?”

“As far as I know, I'm the only human to actually use magic.” he said, pouring tea into a teacup. When he held the saucer towards Princess Luna, he noticed the bat-winged guards visibly flinched. “The only reason I really still use magic is because of this. At least, I think so...” He traced a finger along the length of his horn for emphasis. “I'm pretty sure we ran for the hills before Morrigan's spell could run its course.”

“This draconequus,” Celestia began, suddenly. “You call her Morrigan. We have no written records of such a draconequus, nor do we have any clue as to her motive. The only things we know for certain are that she has freed Discord, and that she is apparently pursuant of you. Can you shed any light on her motives?”

“Well,” he said, pausing for a sip of tea. “Morrigan is a vexing being. The name itself is that of a goddess of battle or strife among one of the cultures in my world. I can only surmise that her goal is war, but it seems to me at this point she's more interested in me. In our last encounter, she claimed that I stole something of hers, but for the life of me I can't think of what I could possibly have taken.”

Luna looked at him blankly, before turning to her sister. “Sister, might it be that this Morrigan is behind the recent uprisings?”

Celestia seemed to mull this over, as though none of it surprised her. “You mentioned that name belongs to a goddess of battle in your world. How is it that she has knowledge of things from your world?”

“When she last attacked,” he replied, not missing a beat. “She said something that kind of bothers me. Morrigan stated that my people owed her a debt of fealty, and mentioned something about giving them a place to develop free from ‘predation by creatures of this world’. It may very well be that my people, or at least a portion of them, are from this world.”

“Twilight, my student, you have remained awfully quiet.” Celestia's voice was soothing like silk. “I can see that this is all troubling you. Please speak your mind.”

Warren turned to Twilight, his cheeks flushed. He'd become so engrossed in the discussion that he hadn't even noticed his friend had been completely silent. She was staring down at the polished surface of the table. “Twi-”

“It isn't this Morrigan that bothers me; not exactly,” the purple unicorn said, not breaking her gaze from the table. “When Discord made his appearance yesterday, he wasn't the same as he was when he escaped last year. There was something more... malignant about him. In all his chaos, even in tricking us, he was never overtly cruel. There was a method to his madness. When he teleported us into the room and forced us to watch the horrible transformation Goldenrod underwent, there was nothing to be gained from it; it was just malicious.”

“Are you saying, then, that Morrigan has somehow fundamentally changed Discord?” Celestia's concern was as clear as day. “Could she really be that powerful?”

“I don't know, Princess.” Twilight looked up, her face clearly rife with worry. “But, I think it would be foolish not to consider the possibility.”

“I suppose that leaves us right where we began then,” Warren scoffed. “All we've really managed to do is collate a bunch of circumstantial facts. If only we had some clue as to what she wanted...” He trailed off, not bothering to complete his thought. Everybody present in the chamber knew what he meant, even the guards, who had been trying to act like they weren't eavesdropping. If only we had some clue as to what she wanted, we might be able to predict her next move.

- - -

Nobody spoke for what seemed like ages. Warren nursed his now-cold tea anxiously, waiting for someone else to speak up, but nobody did. There were frequent glances between Princess Celestia and Twilight, with the odd jerk in his direction. As for Princess Luna, she was a complete enigma; she simply sat there with her eyes closed sipping at her tea, contradicting the feeling that she was watching him like a hawk.

“I beg your forgiveness, Princesses, but I suppose if there's nothing else to discuss, I'd like to return to Ponyville.” he said with a yawn. As he rose to his feet to stretch, he once again caught sight of the guards visibly flinching. Making a visible show of keeping well away from the Princesses, he walked around the table and towards the door. “Would one of you sirs be so kind as to show me the way out?”

“Before you go, there's something I wish to check.” the white Alicorn said, rising to her hooves in a manner he could only describe as regal. “In one of Twilight Sparkle's first reports regarding the ruins of the ancient stronghold, she mentioned finding a strange magical residue coating you. While I have no reason to believe that this residue might still cover you, I feel it worth an examination myself.”

“I don't see how it could do any harm, I suppose...” He couldn't help but shrug as he spoke. “What do you need me to do? I'm a bit fuzzy on what protocol might be for getting probed by royalty.”

“All you need to do is come closer,” Princess Luna prodded. “Sister's magic will do the rest.”

Casting a wary glance back over his shoulder at the guards, he walked cautiously towards Princess Celestia. At her nod, he stopped, and sank to his knees. As a glittering golden aura surrounded the white regent's horn, he recalled the incident on his second day in Equestria, and steeled himself for any pain that might radiate from his forehead.

The energy field that enveloped him was gentle and warm, like a summer breeze, or a mother's embrace. Like Twilight's scanning spell had, so many days prior, the shimmering aura surrounding him caused all the fine hairs on his body to stand on end. Every so often, a sensation of pins and needles would wash over a part of him, seemingly in tune with the occasional pulsation in the magic surrounding the Princess's horn. It even seemed to be probing within him, as though his very being was being spread out on an operating table.

When the supernatural examination finally ceased, Celestia furrowed her brow. A look of grim realization spread across her face. “I now understand what it is that you felt, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia spoke in a dead neutral tone he'd only ever heard from a doctor bearing bad news. “There was no way you could have known that the residue you felt was in fact magical energy seeping from his very being.”

Warren and Twilight stared at the Princess and practically shouted a 'What?' in unison.

“Within Mister Ashland, there is an immense store of power that no being should hold. It is largely the power of a draconequus, but also something more.” She exchanged a concerned look with her sister before continuing. The very fact that she’d used his human name after so casually calling him Goldenrod told him that she was dead serious. “It is a sampling of the very essence of another reality, parallel to our own.”

“But, Princess... If it is a draconequus' power, why didn't I recognize it for what it was?” Twilight was incredulous, yet her tone betrayed the anxiety and curiosity burning within her. “How did it come to be inside him? Would the essence of this other real-”

The realization hit Warren like Scootaloo's hooves had on his first day in Equestria. “Wait! If this power within me is a Draconequus' power, then this is what Morrigan thinks I've stolen from her,” he croaked. “This is something that she'll want back at any cost then! But, if she can't get me here... She'll go after something else...”

He vaulted over the table to Twilight, and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Twilight!” he gasped, as his feverish mind reeled. Panic was preventing his brain from adequately communicating with his mouth, causing what he said next to come out in a jumble. “The Scootaloo! Where are girls and the Scootaloo?”

Twilight stared at him, terrified by his panicked behavior. “What? Scootaloo and the girls should be at Sweet Apple Acres,” she spoke, trying to be calm, but his unease was contagious. “They all met up when Fluttershy and Scootaloo came to get us while Morrigan was attacking. Applejack told them to go to the farm and to stay by Big Macintosh's side until we sent word. They should still be there!”

He vaulted over the table again, dashing between the Princesses, and began pounding frantically on the door-slab. “You've gotta let me out of here. She's going to go after the girls!” he shouted, almost on the point of crying. “I just know it!”

“Warren! I can't do such a long-distance teleportation again so soon, and we still need the Elements of Harmony!” cried Twilight, glancing warily at the Princesses. “I promise we'll get back as fast as possible.”

“That might be too late!” Warren was almost sobbing, now. He smashed his fists feebly against the solid marble slab. “Please, somebody have a heart! These children are already too involved. If something happened to them because of me, I can't bear to think of what I'd become.”

There was a brief moment where Warren almost believed the Princesses might have the guards subdue him. Instead, Princess Luna spoke, “Escort him from the castle grounds and let him go.” No sooner had she finished speaking did the door open with a dark-blue aura. The pair of bat-winged guards nodded to him, as if to imply they'd be his escort.

Hastily uttering his thanks, he bolted down the corridor, his hood flapping uselessly behind him as he ran. His escorts easily kept pace with him through the labyrinth, and out through the main hall. Out in the courtyard, a few attendant ponies scrambled out of the way, the sight of the strange creature being chased by two night-guards confusing and scaring them. When he reached the main gate, his night-guard escorts flew up to the ramparts, issuing Luna's order that he was to be let free.

The gate had barely begun to part when he dove through the narrow opening. His lungs and muscles ached, but he didn't dare slow down. If he was right, the closest friends he had in this world - and more importantly, the closest he had to family in this world – were in grave danger. As he tore through the streets, a trail of dust kicking up behind him, panicked ponies of all kinds shouted and screamed, running for cover.

I really hope there's still a bolt of that flower cloth left... I'm going to need it, he thought to himself as he closed in on Twilight's Canterlot residence. Otherwise, my plan to get back home to Ponyville is shot to hell.

Author's Note:

As always, the author’s comments notes and comments can be found here.