• Published 7th Feb 2012
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Displaced - Seven Fates



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

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Chapter 13

Twilight Sparkle watched as the two Alicorns paced back and forth before her. They began their bout of pacing shortly after Goldenrod hurriedly took his leave. Since then, the Princesses had been exchanging worried glances almost regularly.

“Sister, was it wise to let the hu—Goldenrod go?” Princess Celestia whispered anxiously to Luna. “His kind are hardly known to our world; you've seen the sealed documents in the forbidden archives. Only a few of his kind have ever reappeared since they vanished from Equestria, and none have ever lived long enough to shed light on what happened to them! He could cause a massive panic... and I worry about him...”

“I don't think he'll cause trouble,” the moon princess responded with a soft smile; there was a twinkle of admiration in her eye. “At least, he won't go out of his way to make trouble. You could see his concern just as well as I could. If he cares about those fillies a quarter of what he seems to, he's probably half-way to Ponyville by now.”

“While I worry about our beloved subjects, that isn't what has me truly worried.” The Sun Princess heaved a heavy sigh before stopping to gaze at the floor. “I sensed something more in him; something that I didn't have the heart to tell him.”

Twilight pricked her ears forward. “Princess Celestia...” she began, but quickly hesitated once the princesses locked their eyes on her. “I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but is something wrong with Goldenrod?”

Celestia refused to look her in the eye, instead returning her gaze to the floor. “Yes, my student, there is.” When Celestia looked up again, the gravity of what she had to say showed on her face; there was a sadness Twilight had never seen before on her mentor's face. “Never could I imagine such a terrible fate for any being; it is almost too terrible for words.”

“What is it, sister?” Luna beseeched. “What could be so horrible that it could trouble you to this degree?”

Celestia turned to face her sister, and seemed thoughtful for a moment. “Luna, my dear sister,” she began with a wistful smile. “Do you remember how our kind and the unicorns regenerate their magic?”

The lunar regent seemed to ponder this, as though reflecting fondly on a childhood memory. “Well,” her cheeks flushed and Twilight caught sight of the slightest upward twinge at the corner of the Princess's mouth. “Mother always told me that when we dream, we commune with the living planet, and through that we replenish our magic. It is much the same for unicorns, is it not?”

Caught off guard by the off-hand reference to Luna and Celestia's mother, Twilight momentarily forgot her concern for Goldenrod. The Princesses rarely ever spoke of family beyond her sister-in-law and former foalsitter, Princess Cadence. There were very few historical references at all to the origins of the Alicorns, and even fewer records as to known Alicorns. She listened raptly for any further tidbits of information.

“That's right,” Celestia said, her voice a soft whisper. “Even pegasi and earth ponies, with their respective affinities with the weather and nature, draw on the planet's energies to some degree.” Turning to her student, the white Alicorn said, “Your friend, however, doesn't have the same sort of bond with the planet. Even though he has a unicorn's horn and a massive store of magical energies deep within him, they are limited.”

“Princess Celestia,” Twilight said with some relief in her voice. “That doesn't sound all too bad, really. He'll just not be able to use magic once it's all gone. It'll be an inconvenience for him, but he said his kind doesn't use magic anyways. It's not like he'll-”

The Sun Princess returned her sad gaze to her faithful pupil. “Yes, Twilight, he will die.” Celestia's mane dimmed, losing its radiant lustre. “I sensed no life-energies within him. The only thing keeping his body alive is the draconequus's magic. Once the last bit of magic leaves his body, he will perish.”

- - -

Warren crashed through the doors of Twilight's residence on the Canterlot Academy grounds—‘Princess Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns', he reminded himself. He looked frantically around the main chamber from the doorway, heaving heavily from his non-stop run from the castle. Darting about the room at every imaginable angle, his eyes searched for some hint of life; nopony seemed to be around.

Fighting against his crying muscles, he strode farther into the room. Upon the very same table that he'd been playing mannequin mere hours prior, he found a bolt of rose-red petal-cloth, accompanied by a rolled up piece of parchment. With trembling hands, he picked up the parchment and unfurled it.

Dearest Twilight Sparkle,

I hope you can forgive our absence should you return before we do. With a lull in the day and nothing to do, I felt a bit of shopping was in order. As such, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie have accompanied me on this venture. Last I had seen, Rainbow Dash was loafing about in the clouds nearby.

Sincerely,
Rarity

P.S. For whatever reason, Pinkie Pie insisted that we leave this bolt of cloth for Goldenrod, claiming “He'd need it more than we do.” Please pass on Pinkie's compliments.

With a sigh of relief, he placed the parchment back down on the table and snatched up the bolt of cloth. “I hope this will be enough...” he mumbled to himself, unfurling the bolt of cloth on the table. He stared at it, trying to work out how to make it into a parachute. The blood pounding through his head wasn't making things easy.

After lining up a design inside his mind, Warren grabbed the bolt of cloth and folded it width-wise. With a bit of magic, he merged two adjoining edge on the cloth, making for a seamless cap of cloth. With a bit of luck, he managed to restructure the cloth without heavily altering the size, leaving the water in the air sufficient enough for his alterations.

Fighting a wave of vertigo, he stepped back and examined his makeshift parachute. It wasn't much to look at; it was just a conical piece of fabric with a shoddy looking harness. There was no deployment mechanism, either. He'd have to bunch it up against his chest and hold it tight until he was ready.

Until I'm ready... he thought numbly to himself. What was I even thinking? A parachute? There's no way I'd be able to parachute all the way to Ponyville from Canterlot! Defeated, Warren began idly banging the side of his head on the broad table. Damn, I'm such an idiot.

“What are you doing?” a familiar voice whispered into his ear. “That looks like it hurts.”

“R-Rainbow Dash!” he said at a near shout, facing the new-comer. Tears welled in his eyes as he threw his arms around her neck. “Oh thank God you're here!”

The rainbow mare reared back in surprise and broke his grasp, flapping her wings to gain distance between the two and then hover on the spot. “Whoa! Back up, chump!” she said, crossing her hooves in front of her chest. “What are you getting all touchy-feely about?”

“Right!” He clapped his hands together anxiously. “The girls—Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom—they're in terrible danger! The draconequus can't get to me, so she's going to try to get to me through them! We've got to get to Ponyville before it's too late!”

“What about Twilight and the others?” the rainbow pegasus said, landing in front of the door. “We can't just leave them!”

“Twilight still needs to grab the Elements of Harmony.” He smiled the awkward smile of a cornered man. “They all can catch up.”

Rainbow Dash seemed to mull this over for a moment. “How are we going to get you there?” She feigned an amused snort; a placatory gesture intended to cover for her own insurmountable anxiety. “It's not like you can fly.”

“Fly, no...” He pointed at her before wringing his hands. He picked up his makeshift parachute and waved it at her. “I can land though! If you can drop me over Ponyville, I can take care of the rest!”

“You're almost as tall as Celestia!” she scoffed. “There's no way I'll be able to haul you that far.”

“I'm lighter than I look,” he said with an anxious titter. “C'mon, let's get going, before I loose my nerves!”

- - -

“Hang onto your flank!” Rainbow Dash's voice broke through the wind.

Even with his hood over his head and part of his face, Warren's face was still being buffeted by the wind; a testament to how fast they were really moving. No sooner had her legs tightened around his chest did he feel their speed jump once again. Any blood that was still in his face rocketed back to his feet. Did we just break the sound barrier? He gripped his folded parachute closer to his chest at the thought.

If he hadn't screwed his eyes shut in concentration and looked back, he might have seen the sonic rainboom firsthand. Unfortunately, he was focusing all his might into using his magic to force his blood to keep flowing, as well as simultaneously keeping a telekinetic grip on his glasses. It was causing him a migraine, but he knew that he couldn't afford to black out. Warren could even feel a trickle of blood snaking from his nose.

“Get ready!” cried the rainbow-maned pegasus. “I'll see you on the ground!”

Without warning, the pair decelerated and Rainbow Dash released her hold on him. His stomach didn't have time to lurch forward, however, as gravity soon took over. Despite every instinct that cried for him to keep his eyes shut, he pried open his eyes and stared down at the ground below him. He needed to get an idea of where he was so he knew how to adjust his descent.

Warren found himself dead center over the Ponyville market square, on a trajectory for the largest barn on Sweet Apple Acres. It wasn't until he passed over the town hall that it occurred to him that the girls were probably not in the barn, or even on the main grounds. The few times he'd seen Big Macintosh, the presence of three fillies and a colt underfoot seemed to be more of an impediment to his work than anything else; not that they were likely to listen if he told them to stay by him. They would be at the clubhouse for sure.

It was a place he'd only been a few times—especially after the accident—but he still remembered where it was. It was on the north end of the orchard, near the river. Now... What was it they say about free-fall? 'You can change your orientation by altering the profile your body presents to the wind' or something like that.

Experimentally, he withdrew his right hand from the bundled parachute and extended his arm to his side. He saw an immediate result; as soon as he shifted his body weight, he veered off to the side and began to spiral out of control. Panicking, he threw his other arm out to counteract the spin before realizing that without his other hand holding the parachute, the parachute was free to deploy.

With the parachute flapping free in the wind, it was only a matter of time before it caught. Expecting this, he swung his feet groundward to right himself. The harness jerked him hard, crushing the breath out of him. He could see the clubhouse coming up, but he could tell that he was going to come up short. If he was right, he'd be landing in or near the river.

Skimming the treetops, he knew he was in for a rough landing. It seemed like such a great plan at the time. I was lucky I didn't succumb to my fear of heights at all! Tree branches tugged at his clothes and slashed at his skin as he fell through the forest canopy. If he hadn't increased the durability of the cloth in making it, he could only imagine the tatters his fine garb would be in.

Just as he jerked to a halt over the river – his parachute had snagged in some branches – he heard a familiar shout. “Hey, did you see that?” His heart leapt, in his throat; it was Scootaloo’s voice! “It looked like it came down over here!”

“Do you think it's an alien?” Sweetie Belle's off yet decidedly accurate manner of thinking brought a smile to his face; he couldn't mistake the tone of voice for anypony else. “Do you think it's friendly?”

“C'mon!” He could hear Apple Bloom's protests now. “Big Macintosh said to stay on the farm! He was very strict about it an' Ah don't want him to get cross with us.”

Warren watched, amused and grateful, as the three fillies appeared on the riverbank. Unsurprisingly, Scootaloo was the first to emerge from the tree-line with Sweetie Belle close behind. Apple Bloom brought up the rear, looking increasingly anxious. They seemed completely unharmed. If Morrigan is targeting them, at least I know she hasn't struck yet.

“Scootaloo!” he cried out, drawing the group's wary attention immediately. “Thank God you're okay!”

The three fillies backed cautiously towards the treeline. His knowledge of Scootaloo's name had unsettled the group, not that he blamed them; he'd been uneasy when Morrigan approached him in the Everfree, and rightly so. Exchanging hesitant glances, the Crusaders clustered closer together, seemingly to discuss whether or not they should make a run for it.

While he couldn't make out the entire conversation, he thought he heard his pony name mentioned more than once, as well as the word trap. Finally, he heard Apple Bloom speak in a louder tone, “Ah think we should get Big Macintosh an' see what he thinks.”

Struggling against his harness, which was now tangled in the tree's branches, he flipped back his hood. “Girls, if I might interject...” he said loudly to get their attention. “It's me!”

“Me who?” Sweetie Belle shot back. “We don't know any mes!”

Just as he slapped a palm over his face to hide his grimace, he heard Scootaloo speak up. “Wait! Look at its mane!”

The Cutie Mark Crusaders did a double take, and then entered another discussion. They glanced repeatedly back at him, and whispered. Finally, they seemed to reach a consensus. In unison, the filly trio cried out, “Goldenrod! What happened to you?”

- - -

A rustling in the bushes jerked Warren awake. A beady-eyed chipmunk stared up at him from under the treeline, its eyes glinting like rubies in the last evening rays. From his perch up on the clubhouse porch, the small rodent looked like just one more piece in a portrait of peace. Absentmindedly waving a hand to shoo the critter, he tried to come to grips with the time.

It'd been close to dinnertime when he'd finished regaling the Crusaders with the events of the last twenty-four hours from his perspective. Sweetie Belle had almost shrieked in terror when he described Morrigan's attack, even though he didn't go into the gory details. All of them cheered in wonderment when he told them of his royal audience. When he finally got to the point where he dropped in via parachute, Scootaloo let out a loud whoop!

When he explained to them all why he went against his fear of heights, some of the gravity of the situation seemed to cut into their exuberance. Soon after finishing, Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh burst onto the scene, raring to fight. When the adult ponies saw the fillies were safe, they were relieved and perplexed. Warren had been insistent that the girls were in mortal danger, so Rainbow Dash was quite put off that he had seemingly misled her. Big Macintosh, meanwhile, still seemed a bit wary of Warren, having never seen anything like him before in his life.

He'd spent the rest of the afternoon watching over the group of fillies, right up until he'd fallen asleep on the porch. It had to be well into the evening now. He turned his head, letting his ear press up against the wall, and listened. The girls were still inside, playing cards by the sound of it; they were still safe.

With a stretch, Warren laboriously rose to his feet, causing him to bump his head into the roof overhang. Rubbing the back of his head and muttering a silent curse, he noticed the girls were staring at him through the window and giggling. He smiled weakly back at the fillies. While making his way around to the door to join them, the call of nature struck him.

Crouching, he peeked his head in the doorway and rapped his knuckles on the wall. Once he was satisfied that he had their attention, Warren said, “I've gotta leave the you three for just a few minutes. I need to take care of something real quickly.” Almost as an afterthought, he added. “Don't go anywhere. I mean it.”

Before the fillies could get a word in edgewise, he ducked his head back out of the doorway. Making his way down the ramp to the clubhouse, he gazed up at the horizon through the treeline. The last gleam of daylight was quickly vanishing. He jogged away for some privacy in the bushes before taking care of the issue.

It was at the very moment that he began contemplating his relief at not having soiled himself during the flight that he heard, or rather noticed, the lack of ambient noise. The evening crickets had gone deathly silent, and not a bird was to be heard. A chill went down his back when a deafening crash split the night, followed by the screaming of the Crusaders.

His stomach plummeted, and before long he found himself running back to the clubhouse as fast as his legs would carry him. A cold fear bubbled within him when he heard a most bestial bellowing, followed by more screaming. What sort of monstrosity had Morrigan set upon the girls?

Warren could see a bright light up ahead on the other side of the trees. Bursting through the underbrush, he found the clubhouse torn asunder and fully engulfed in flames. Clearly whatever had attacked sent their candle rolling into one of the many paper-covered walls; the months of crusade planning had gone up in an instant.

A bestial grunt to his right brought his attention to three massive shapes. Adjusting his glasses, each of the creatures clarified into an ebony bull-man. Their large ivory horns were made all the more menacing by the red glint their eyes took on in the firelight. They stood upright on two cloven hooves, their scrawny legs a stark contrast to their well-toned arms. With a groan, he realized that he was looking at gigantic minotaur thralls in the service of Morrigan.

“What have you done with my friends, you rank bastards?” he shouted, pointing accusingly at the minotaur trio.

The one nearest to him grinned savagely. Malice glinted in its eye, but there was something more; it was the look of an intelligent being trapped inside its own body, helpless to watch as the world moved around it. It raised a massive clenched fist threateningly. A purple mane could be seen poking out through the top of its fist, and an orange feather dropped. It flicked its wrist ever so slightly, and a pained groan could be heard. It tilted its head left and then right, indicating its comrades using its horns. Its savage grin revealed a row of jagged broken teeth.

The threat was clear; the minotaurs held the lives of the fillies in their bulky hands. The cowardice of their tactic made his blood boil. He'd already left the capital; surely a powerful being like Morrigan would know that. It would serve no purpose to take the girls now, unless...

She's playing games with me! Warren's fury was bubbling up inside his stomach, almost dyspeptic with rage in the most literal sense. Never had he felt hate with such an intensity in all the time he'd lived. “Give them here, you overgrown cow-patty!” he spat, and bared his teeth at the beast. “You can tell your master she can come and take me herself, and leave the children out of it!”

For one brief moment, it actually seemed like Morrigan's thralls were considering his offer. The one holding Scootaloo instead stepped forth and shoved him to the ground, laughing a strange braying laugh. The beast kicked him in the stomach, sending him tumbling closer to the burning wreckage of the Cutie Mark Crusader clubhouse, and then turned away.

The other two had already started running off in the direction of the Everfree by the time he rose to his hands and knees, tears streaming from his eyes. Impotently, he pounded his fists into the ground. Scootaloo's captor was now thundering away, faster than he could possibly run. How could he possibly hope to best a faster opponent?

An image flashed into his mind; it was the race-track, and Rainbow Dash was right there beside him. It's almost the same, he realized. He could use his magic to slow them down just as he did with Dash. Reaching out with his magic, he willed the tree roots ahead to shoot out and snare the minotaurs. He didn't even wait for an effect; he rose to his feet and sprinted after them.

A pair of inhuman screams echoed through the forest. Drawing up on the first minotaur, Warren saw in horror that his spell had gone horribly wrong. Instead of snaring the minotaur by the ankles and tripping it up, the tree roots had shot out like spears, impaling the minotaur many times through the chest and stomach. Even as it heaved its last breaths, the beast fought to deprive him of his friend; it had been holding Scootaloo at its head level before a tree root had impaled its forearm, coming dangerously close to skewering the filly instead.

He scaled the hulking monstrosity, perching himself on its shoulder. With all the force he could muster, both physically and with magic, he forced the enormous fingers apart. Scootaloo fell from the hand, bruised and unconscious, but otherwise unharmed. Wrapping his legs around the monstrous fore-arm to keep purchase, he swung out to grab the orange filly. As the unconscious child tumbled into his hands, he heard a most sickening crunching sound up ahead.

When he returned to the ground with the injured pegasus filly, he continued using the stolen magic to augment his strength; his physical reserves were dangerously low, and he didn't have much muscle density either. Clutching his beloved friend close to his belly, he made his way to the other minotaur. The moon was out now, making the beast easy to find.

This beast had fared slightly better than the first; one root had pierced the base of the skull, severing the brain stem and killing it instantly. Whether this had been the first blow or the final, he couldn't bring himself to care. The overgrown cow-man had been impaled repeatedly like its comrade and had met a similar fate. Like its friend, the only thing holding it up was the mess of roots meshed through the thing's torso.

Did these minotaurs have families too? Were they simply pulled into Morrigan's games as well? The panicked voice of his mind was trying to rationalize everything before he'd even finished looking. Of course they were. I could see it in its eyes. It was scared and couldn't do a thing to stop itself... and I killed it!

Warren did a double-take, looking for any sign of the captive filly the minotaur might have had. To his horror, he found the source of the sickening crunch he'd heard while retrieving Scootaloo. One of the minotaur's arms had been wrenched clean from its socket, leaving only a gaping hole at the shoulder. A fresh trail of blood, still damp, dotted the ground in the direction of the Everfree; the arm and its captive were nowhere to be found.

His mind quavered as multiple tangents fought for control. Instinct dictated that he should be tracking down the last minotaur and retrieving his friends. Common sense insisted that he bring Scootaloo to safety and then go after the others. His conscience and body, however, decided that being ill was the best course of action.

After a short battle for control, his body won out; in an instant he was leaning one shoulder against a tree, heaving for all he was worth. Even if he'd been saving his friends, he'd still taken sentient lives! It just wasn't something he could just compartmentalize and cry about when he was alone. He began to sob uncontrollably over his own ineptitude and his crime against life. Once his stomach's fits had ceased, he shakily made south for the farmhouse; Scootaloo's safety was his priority now.