• Published 7th Feb 2012
  • 18,459 Views, 657 Comments

Displaced - Seven Fates

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

  • ...

Chapter 17

“Look, Applejack! Their tracks lead straight into that grove o—” Rainbow Dash shouted from the front of the group.

“Now just ya’ll wait a moment! Zap apples can’t be in season!” shouted the stalwart earth pony. She trotted on ahead of the group to join the rainbow pegasus at the edge of a deep forest grove. Not wanting to be left behind, the remaining bearers of the Elements of Harmony and the lunar princess ran to catch up. “Y’all be careful now. Somethin’ don’t smell right about this here place.”

Princess Luna leaned down to Twilight Sparkle’s level. “What has fair Applejack so on edge about this place?” the Princess whispered. “Surely a stand of apple trees would be reassuring to her, if nothing else.”

The uninformed candor of Princess Luna surprised Twilight, until she realized that there was a high probability that the zap apple species hadn’t become common knowledge until after the Alicorn been exiled to the moon. Sparing the Princess the sad reminder of her exile, she whispered, “Zap apples are a magical apple cultivar unique to the Everfree area. They bear fruit only once a year, and not without any of the signs showing first.” She cast a wary glance at the rainbow fruit. “The zap apple season has already passed this year...”

“There ain’t been none of the signs, Princess, an’ that’s what worries me about this place.” Applejack had come up beside the two of them quietly. “Sorry, Ah didn’t mean to intrude. It’s just that’s my livelihood. I know them signs all too well, an’ there ain’t been none of them. No timber wolves howlin’...”

“Actually-” Fluttershy tried to interject.

“... no leaves, no crows...” Applejack continued.

“But we did see some crows, and heard a timber wolf howling, too!” Rainbow Dash said, catching on to what Fluttershy was trying to get at. “I even noticed a meteor shower when we had to flee!”

Applejack turned to face the competitive pegasus. “But that don’t make a lick of sense!” she muttered. “This here takes weeks, not hours!”

“Unless...” Twilight whispered, igniting her horn. Quietly, she approached one of the trees in the grove and pressed the tip of her horn against it. She winced, and then pulled her extinguished horn away. “It’s as I feared...” she said with a sigh.

“Oh Twilight, there’s nothing to fear!” Pinkie Pie said, bouncing on the spot, having misread the implication. Giggling, she added, “It’s just a bunch of trees. We’ve conquered scary trees before!”

“No, Pinkie, it’s not that.” Twilight looked down at the ground. “Everything in this grove is tainted with the energies of draconequus magic. Goldenrod was definitely here, and he’s bleeding magic at an incredible rate... It seems a foregone conclusion that these trees all fed on that magic and grew at an accelerated rate.”

Fluttershy looked downcast hearing this, but she threw on an optimistic smile. “At least we know he was here, right?”

Twilight looked up at the bearer of the Element of Kindness and smiled. “You’re right, of course, Fluttershy.” she said softly. “Alright everypony, let’s spread out and see what we can find-”

“Um... Twilight?” It was Rainbow Dash, calling from deeper in the orchard. She had already gone ahead, and found something already. “I think you’re gonna wanna see this.”

Everypony ran as fast as they could, anxious to find what Rainbow Dash could possibly have found. They found the rainbow pegasus mare hovering in front of a rather thick zap apple tree, hoof pointing at something that nopony could make out from their side of the tree. “Is that...”

As Twilight and the others came to stand beside Rainbow Dash, they saw what was so fascinating about the tree; half sunken into the solid bark of the tree was a skull—much like the one Twilight was still seeing in her sleep—and a skeletal forearm that had been broken off at the elbow. Fluttershy screamed upon seeing it, fearing the worst.

“It’s okay, sugar-cube.” Applejack calmly whispered, placing a reassuring hoof on the yellow mare’s shoulder. “‘Tain’t him.”

“I dunno about that Applejack.” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “There’s signs of a fight here, and somepony was with him, too. Look!” She pointed at a small set of hoof prints on the forest floor.

“These are much too small to have been made by any of us.” Rarity agreed. “They’re definitely a pony’s tracks... a young filly judging by the daintiness of them...” She paused, noticing a fuchsia lock of hair on the ground not far from the tracks. “Oh no... Scootaloo... you didn’t...”

“I found a clue!” Pinkie Pie shouted, hanging upside-down from the tree. “Look! It’s a trail of flowers!”

- - -

“Wake up, you pitiful fool!” a cold, vicious voice commanded. Warren could hear the crying of foals start anew at the sound of the voice. “Your time has come-”

“Oh, spare me your prattling, devil witch!” he spat, not bothering to open his eyes. The human tugged against his bonds, trying to find comfort, but his entire body ached. “You can have your damn magic back on just two conditions.”

A large paw grabbed hold of his face, wrenching his head to one side. “You are hardly in a position to make demands, you spineless worm.” Morrigan snarled. “Give me one good reason why I should even bother hearing your demands.”

“Easy.” he replied smugly, his voice dripping venom. “My life is tied to the magic. All I need to do to ruin your plans is die; it wouldn’t take too much effort to set off a telekinetic blast inside my own brain, you know.”

The hairy paw—a lions paw, he knew—left his face and slammed down on the surface he was laying on. “Very well,” the Draconequus said, with a hint of amusement edging her voice. “What are these... terms of yours?”

“Firstly, let the foals go. You have no further use for them, so holding them here is of no benefit for you.” he said loudly, hoping the foals could hear him. “If any harm comes to any of them, our deal is off and you can kiss your magic goodbye.”

He heard throaty laughter from the Draconequus, which caused him to open his eyes. She was hovering horizontally above him, grinning like a madwoman. “That can be arranged.” she purred. “... and your second request?”

Warren smiled, stealing a peak towards the large cage the foals of Ponyville were locked up. Scootaloo was looking at him with a look of betrayal. She has every right to be mad at me. I told her I’ll be there for her and protect her, and now I’m using my life as a bargaining chip for her safety. He turned his head to face the filly. “Don’t be mad, Scootaloo. If it means you’ll live, I’d gladly give myself up as payment to the Ferryman of the River Styx himself.”

“Charming,” Morrigan moaned, sounding bored. Warren turned his head back to face her just in time to catch her lowering a raised brow. “Your second request: you’ve yet to make it.”

“Oh yes, my second request.” he said with a hollow laugh. “Tell me three things. Why did you bring me here? Why did you make me a pony? What is it you need all this magic within me for?”

“Is that all you wish to know?” She sounded almost amused again. “There are are many questions you could; were those were all your puny mind could come up with?” Morrigan snorted derisively. “Fine, I can answer your questions, if you’ll indulge me as I tell my tail’s tale.

“Long ago, your ancestors lived here in Equestria. They were just barbaric tribes, scattered across the land, fighting to survive. Without the affinity for nature, weather, or magic that ponies had, they relied entirely on their ability to adapt and invent. Unfortunately, they were easy prey for dragons, manticores, and creatures that have long since ceased to be. With each passing year there were less and less of them in the world.

“Discord and I, in our boredom, came across one such tribe purely by chance. Despite their chaotic nature—for even in their dwindling numbers, they often fought one another—Discord took no interest in them, citing how ‘boring’ and ‘predictable’ they were. I, on the other hand, recognized their propensity for violence. I felt it a shame to see such delightful creatures die off.

“I thought to myself, ‘How can I keep such darling beings from being wiped out?’ I knew that nowhere on this planet would be safe. Using my innate magics, I peered through many realities, searching for a place where they could thrive. Again and again, I saw unsuitable worlds—full of ponies, dragons and worse—much like this Equestria, yet markedly different each time.

“It was when I had almost given up on the prospect that I found a world outside the normal flow of time, at the very edge of my reach. For every second, I saw a minute pass, and for every minute an hour, so-on and so-forth. In just a week, I watched a year worth of time pass. In that time, I saw no hint of ponies developing society, no dragons, and no manticores. Better yet, there were humans already there were at roughly the same developmental stage! It was the perfect place for Equestria’s humans to thrive.

“Two thousand years ago, I appeared before the chieftains of each human tribe and directed them towards one location. To them, I promised the opportunity to compete in a tournament for leadership of the combined tribes, and from there more tribes that they could conquer, if only the victor swore his tribe’s fealty to me. Through a gloriously bloody battle, the supreme chieftain rose to power. Craving more combat, he implored me where the promised tribes were.

“Using most of my energies, I created a link between this world and the one I had found in my scrying. I told him to lead his tribe through the gateway that lay before us, and he would find vast lands unspoilt by ponies and dragons, one where his tribe could thrive and conquer. Eagerly, he lead the thousands of his horde through unto your world, Earth. Thus, humans were all but written out of the annals of pony history.”

Warren gaped at her, surprised by the pride she exhibited while speaking of this act. It wasn’t just that, though. In the back of his mind, he’d been tallying up the time differential as she spoke. “That was... one hundred twenty thousand years ago!” he whispered. “... but that means I’ve been gone for almost two and a half years!”

“That’s right, Mister Ashland.” Morrigan replied sweetly. “I was just getting to that part of the story.” The Draconequus cleared her throat. “Not wanting to miss out on the fun of manipulating my new subjects, I too entered the portal. Upon exiting, I found the tribes in disarray. Dozens of the tribesmen hadn’t appeared on the other side—”

“Which, accounting for the time differential, would explain the random humans cropping up and—” Warren stopped himself. “God, I sound like Twilight. Sorry, carry on.”

“In addition, the combined tribes suddenly felt that the supreme chieftain’s rule was illegitimate. This, of course, was my own doing; I wanted them to spread and proliferate themselves as much as possible. Because of this, the Equestrian tribes merged with, conquered, or formed alliances with the Earth tribes.

“Through them, I was able to spread my influence, becoming worshipped as a deity by many names. Even in my weakened state, planting whispers in the backs of their minds was no trouble. I would squirrel away my true power for the next hundred thousand years, so that once again I could create the portal on a more powerful scale. In times when my interference was not needed, I slept.

“They socially developed as I wanted them to. Technologically, they were more than I could ever have hoped for. Nations formed and toppled around their religions. Men on both sides of battles fought in my name. It was absolutely delectable. Soon humanity would become the ultimate weapon of chaos to exact carnage upon Equestria.

“It was around fifty or sixty Earth years ago, with the advent of the blasted United Nations, that all my hard work began to unravel. Too quickly did your kind became interested in peace and security instead of strife and chaos. I knew, then, that the only way your people were likely to go to war with Equestria was if something from the other side struck first.

“I knew that I needed my brother in order to create the hostile ‘first contact’ scenario that would send your kind into a rage, but I couldn’t waste a portal. It was quite a bind. The only way to cross the Divide was with the portal, or to die and let your soul get caught in the currents, to be carried on to its next life, in the next universe. I couldn’t just die either; all the magic I had stored over the last hundred thousand years would go to waste if I did.

“So I waited and watched. I began to notice patterns in my scrying. Human souls, when crossing the Divide, would often snare other, more magical entities as they surged through the currents. I could even predict what soul would go to which realm. I surmised that I might be able to catch a ride on one such soul, if it were destined to my Equestria.

“Imagine how frustrated I was when I found out that out of the six billion souls on that rock, only a few dozen were destined for this Equestria, and none of them seemed ready to die. So, I found a mind that was significantly... weakened by alcohol, and planted a suggestion. Thus, you walked out in front of a bus.”

“You what!?” Warren screamed, thrashing against his bindings. “You killed me just so you could get here at your own convenience!? I’ll tear your goddamn heart out!”

“Oh, that’s enough of that,” Discord said, appearing from nowhere. “Let the old girl talk!” With a snap of Discord’s avian fingers, Warren’s mouth fused shut. Discord took delight in the human’s muffled shouting. “Now, you were saying, dear sister?”

“Thank you, Discy; that’s so sweet!” Morrigan said with a girlish laugh. “Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I was getting to the part where you stole all my magic.

“As you were dying, I disposed of my physical form and followed your spirit through, using your body as a conduit. I had hoped to speed ahead and get to Equestria sooner, but my attempt yielded only a collision in the current. At that instant, our essences merged, but still you tore away, faster than I could follow. You tore through the divide sooner than the universe had planned; there was no body for you.

“Why did you become a unicorn colt? Who can say? Perhaps you were always destined to be one when you got here. Equestria works in mysterious ways. I’ve seen things happen that even a draconequus can’t explain.” The draconequus shrugged. “But enough of that now. I’ve grown bored of this. I will give you one hour to ponder your life.”

Discord snapped his clawed fingers. Warren glared at the draconequus, but didn’t speak when his mouth unsealed. He wasn’t sure he could do anything but scream obscenities and death threats at this point. With one final glare at Morrigan, he shut his eyes, and tried slowly to breathe away the rage he felt.

“Know this, though,” the draconequus said, with the hint of amusement in her voice. She leaned in to whisper into his ear so that only he would hear. “I can most certainly spare enough energy to let you live long enough to watch both worlds burn. Whether I do so is up to you.”

- - -

“Goldenrod?” Sweetie Belle called out through the bars. She was looking out at the human who, despite having his eyes shut tight, had a steady stream of tears coming from the corner of his eye. He’d been that way since the draconequi left not half an hour ago. “Are you really already dead?”

“Don’t bother, he doesn’t really care,” Scootaloo mumbled, not looking at the human. The unicorn daughter of the Cake family, Pumpkin Cake, had cuddled herself against Scootaloo for warmth. “He just wants a clean conscience before she kills him. If we get out of this alright, he couldn’t care less.”

“Ah don’t think that’s true,” Apple Bloom replied softly. “Before she passed on, Momma always said ‘It takes a lot of love to take care of another pony, but it takes even more love to die for them.’ Ah always wondered what she meant by it, but now, Ah know what she meant. It’s not that he don’t care ‘bout you; it’s that he cares too much ‘bout you to let this happen.”

Scootaloo looked up at her friend appreciatively. “Sometimes I forget you lost your parents too.” She ushered her friend close and pulled her in for a hug. “I used to be jealous of you, y’know. You had Big Macintosh, Applejack, and Granny Smith. Who did I have? You two... and nopony else! ...and then Goldenrod came along and he was something special! I thought I finally started to understand what Big Macintosh was to you. Now that he’s gonna die again, I don’t wanna lose him.”

Nuzzling her friend, Apple Bloom smiled. “Ah know, sugar-cube, Ah know.”

“But look, you guys!” Sweetie Belle said, pointing at the stairs again.

Scootaloo looked at her friend crossly. “You keep saying that, but won’t tell us! What is up with the stairs?”

“The flower trail!” she said, beaming at them before staring back out at Goldenrod. “If that trail came all the way from where you were taken, our sisters and everypony could follow it straight here!”

“By Celestia, she’s right, Scootaloo!” Apple Bloom hugged her tightly. “It’ll all be okay now! Applejack will come save us, an’ then Goldenrod doesn’t have to—” She cut herself short, her eyes wide, staring up at the ceiling.

“Oh, do continue, little pony.” Discord said, floating down to the filly’s eye level. “They’ll follow flower-boy’s path and... ? No answer? Oh well.” He sighed before shouting, “Sister, oh sister! You might want to expedite your little plan! We’re going to have company!”

With a loud crack, Morrigan appeared beside the dais. She stared at the stairs and then back to Goldenrod. Shaking her head, she muttered, “Oh well. I wanted to be generous, but I guess half an hour is enough for you.”

“If you’re going to do it, send the foals away first. Send them back home!” He all but spat in her face.

“Fine, fine, you insistent pest!” Discord said from within the cell. “All the fillies and colts who aren’t of use to us can go free.” With a snap of those clawed digits, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo watched as all the other fillies and colts vanished from the cell.

Goldenrod stared into the cell in disbelief. “We had a deal! Why are they still here?” he shouted with incredulous rage.

“Oh, I don’t recall making any deals,” the snide voice of Morrigan cooed. “I only recall listening to your requests.” She laughed deviously.

“Besides, I said the ponies who were of no use to us,” Discord said with a cruel laugh. “These three are here to ensure you don’t cause any trouble.”

“Now, time for me to claim what is rightfully mine!” she shrilled gleefully. “Maybe you’ll even live to see the my work in full.”

Scootaloo stared in horror as Morrigan’s eagle claw plunged through Goldenrod’s shirt into his chest. She didn’t flinch as she watched him scream in agony. It was absolutely ear-splitting, but she didn’t dare look away. He was doing this for her. His sacrifice would not be forgotten.

After minutes of rooting around as though his torso were a toy-chest, the draconequus withdrew a glowing silver egg-like object. It pulsated with magic as she held it above her head. Goldenrod’s voice had failed completely. With a maniacal laugh, Morrigan dropped the egg into her fanged maw.

“Come now, fillies. We must go up to the atrium.” Morrigan laughed. “You’re about to have a one of a kind trip.”

As Discord opened the cell from within, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle cast their eyes away from Goldenrod. When Scootaloo passed by the dais up the stairs, she didn’t avert her eyes. She took in the sight of her friend, the blood pooling beneath him on the altar, and the sacrifice he made, and swore the draconequus would regret it.

“Goodbye, big brother.” she whispered, letting a single tear roll down her cheek.

- - -

Princess Luna looked pensive as they walked through the ancient castle. Twilight knew that Luna was probably marveling at the way the castle had been restored from a crumbling ruin, as well as reflecting on the last time she had been there. All those years ago, she and her friends had fought Nightmare Moon in an atrium not far from the entrance corridor—even longer so, she'd fought Celestia herself here. It hadn’t been the Princess’s proudest time, being possessed by the Nightmare. Still, Twilight marveled at the resolve the Princess showed as they marched down the corridor.

The same could not be said about the rest. Fluttershy cringed at the candle-bearing skulls mounted on the walls as they walked past, and flinched at every shadow. Rainbow Dash and Rarity had fallen into a frivolous argument as to whether the decorations were macabre or awesome. Pinkie had it insisted it was ‘Macabrawsome.’ Applejack simply stated the place was giving her the heebie-jeebies.

“Everypony, was this stairway here when we were last here?” Pinkie asked suddenly. “Goldenrod’s flower trail goes down these stairs, but I don’t remember them being here.”

Twilight stared down the flight of stairs with apprehension. She thought she’d seen something in this spot when they’d first visited, but when she’d been by again shortly before meeting Goldenrod, it had just been another collapsed corridor, inaccessible from age. She looked to Princess Luna, who seemed even more apprehensive.

“This leads to the dungeon.” the Lunar Princess whispered grimly. “It seems odd that they would restore and use this part of the castle when they could just as easily have made any one place a prison.”

Applejack looked pale. “Do y’all smell that?” her voice was a hoarse croak. “Something’s bleeding down there...”

“Oh no!” Fluttershy said in a worried tone. “Somepony could be hurt!”

Throwing caution to the wind, Fluttershy bolted down into the dungeon, Applejack and Rarity hot on her hooves. A resounding scream duet quickly brought the rest of the rescue party storming down into the dungeon. When Twilight saw what the screaming was about, she felt suddenly faint, and had to fight to keep the contents of her stomach firmly in place.

In the center of the chamber was a large stone altar. Goldenrod laid bound and unmoving on the massive stone slab, a massive hole punched in his chest. His blood had pooled beneath him, and begun trickling down the sides of the altar. Whatever plans Morrigan had for Goldenrod, she’d clearly already followed through.

A strange magical presence had begun to fill the chamber, radiating in from elsewhere in the the castle. It was so strong—so tangible—that even the pegasi and earth ponies in the group could feel it. “Ah reckon there’s nothin’ more we can do for him ‘til all this is done,” Applejack said softly. “C’mon, lets find the girls an’ stop this madness.”

Everypony began to filter away from the dais, solemnly casting a glance back at the figure resting upon it. The only one remaining near it was Princess Luna, leaning down close to him, her horn glowing brightly. “Everypony, don’t be so quick to assume he is gone,” the Princess said, almost relieved. “It is true that he has only a tiny sliver of magical energy left in him, but this one has some fight left in him yet.”

Fluttershy gasped and quickly returned to the Princess’s side. “Are you certain Princess? Can you heal him?” she pleaded.

The royal Alicorn furrowed her brow, deep in thought. “Yes, I do know some restoration magic, but for the amount of damage and blood loss he has sustained...” She turned to face Twilight Sparkle and Rarity. “I will need you to lend your strength.”

- - -

Warren eased his eyes open slowly, dazed. As his memories flooded back to him, sat up with a shout, bringing his hands up to his chest. They came away bloody, but it didn’t hurt. Staring down at his chest, he saw whole, undamaged flesh. This doesn’t make any sense... I felt her claw enter my chest... I felt it...

“Goldenrod!” a voice called in his ear. There was a gentle prod at his shoulder. He turned to look for the source of the voice. Fluttershy was hovering beside him, a look of worry on her face. “Are you alright?” she asked.

He shook his head, trying to clear it. His mind felt so drained—so groggy—and he just wanted to do... what? Without even realizing it, he was onto his feet, shakily making his way to the stairs. “We’ve got to go after them,” he mumbled.

“What do you mean, where are the girls?” Twilight inquired, trotting to keep up. “Where are Morrigan and Discord?”

Warren turned to face Twilight and the rest of the group. “You’ll see soon enough. I’m pretty sure I know where the portal is.”

“Portal? What portal?” Princess Luna inquired, alarm in her voice.

He didn’t listen. Instead, he just crept up the stairs slowly, leaning against the wall for support. “You’ll see soon enough.”

The ponies followed close behind him. Fluttershy attempted to provide support, but he simply shrugged it off. They were all concerned by the daze he was seemingly in. It was as though he wasn’t completely there, and that he wanted to be elsewhere.

After what felt like forever, he finally reached the doorway to the atrium that he’d crossed through on his first day in Equestria. With a strenuous shove, he parted the doors, and ushered them inside. What they all saw inside was beyond anything they could have imagined.

Sitting there, jutting from a glassy crater, was what resembled a massive shard of glass. Instead of the other side of the room, however, the shard showed the group a strange sight. The ponies saw an alien place: a concrete jungle. To Warren, it was the tavern he had died outside.

Warren approached the portal, and then turned to face the ponies. Spreading his arms, he smiled weakly and said, “Girls, now you get to see my world. Hold onto your hooves!”

Author's Note:

If you've gotten to this point in the story, you are probably aware of some glaring similarities to JasonTheHuman's wonderful piece of fan-fiction, Anthropology. With the turn of events leading to ponies going to earth, you are probably thinking that my work is in purposely derivative, that I stole the idea from Jason. I felt that I should nip this in the bud sooner than later, and explain.

Displaced began production in late December of 2011. During the early chapters, I'd always had a vague idea of where I was going with it, and believe me when I say that the visit to Earth was always in my plans. At the behest of DarkxRedemption, I finalized the main plot-points in an actual document so that I could remind myself of what I needed to write.

At that point in time, I'd only heard of Anthropology. I'd never given consideration to reading it at the time because I was too absorbed in figuring out what I had planned on doing with the story. I never stopped to ask myself questions pertaining to the works of others. My only plan at the time had been to focus on my own work, and make it meet the image I had built up for it.

So if you must compare the story to Anthropology, please know this: I neither stole the idea from JasonTheHuman, nor do I claim that Jason stole the idea from myself. It is simply coincidental that our stories ended up having similar plots. Remember this before bashing or accusing me of plagiarism.

~Seven Fates