• 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 23

Goldenrod smiled as he exited through the portal. It’s the third time he’s been in this castle since he woke up here two weeks ago, and unlike the first two times, he felt nothing but relief. Here in Equestria was where he belonged now. As long as he had Scootaloo, and so long as she needed him, he knew his place was right there with her.

Behind him, a bright flash of light burst through the portal before a crystalline tinkling echoed through the chamber. Everypony watched as the portal shattered into millions of shards. As the portal’s shards tinkled to the ground, they disintegrated into diamond dust. The glimmering cloud washed away in a stray breeze passing through the restored atrium.

“Who’d have thought that something so pretty could be the result of so much bad?” he offered idly to the regal Alicorn beside him, not taking his eyes off the spectacle. “At least it’s all over.”

A gasp from the Princess jerked everypony back to the matter at hand. Radiating from the center of the crater, a sort of grayness slowly began spreading outward. As it passed over the ground, the interlocked stone became ancient and weathered, as it had been when he had first arrived, and with each passing second, the rate of approach increased.

“I would suggest we leave with great haste.” Luna commanded. “The sudden reversion of the castle is going to bring it down upon all of us.”

Everypony was backing away, not eager to find out if the effect was restricted to the castle. Even Goldenrod couldn’t help feel that the Princess was right. An icy chill crept down his spine as the wave of degradation passed beneath him. If Morrigan’s magic is being reversed upon the castle, why hasn’t the transformation spell on me reverted? Am I immune because of the bit of her magic still inside me?

A nudge at his side drew him back to the matter at hand. Twilight was now between him and the Princess, giving a worried look to their friends. Applejack and Rarity were struggling with Discord’s statue, while Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash were ushering the fillies out of the atrium. He caught one worried glance from Scootaloo before she crossed the threshold of the doorway. Smiling, Goldenrod flashed her a thumbs up.

“Leave Discord,” the Princess said calmly to the seamstress and the farm pony. “I shall remove him myself.”

“Can’t we just leave him here?” Goldenrod shouted back, running beside Twilight to join the others at the doorway. “It’d be a fitting tomb, judging by the history of the place.”

“No, the collapse won’t destroy him! Leaving him in the Everfree Forest would likely allow him to break free.” Luna sounded confident of herself. “I will join you once I have removed him to a secure location.”

“Take care of yourself, Princess Luna,” Warren whispered as the door slammed shut behind him as a result of Luna’s magic.

He ran behind Twilight as fast as he could. Even as they ran, he could feel a terrible shudder reverberate through the castle. A great crash resounded as the archway and the door crumbled behind them. It only served to spur him to move quicker. Even the stained glass windows began to shatter inwards around them.

Even through a hail of crumbling ceiling debris, he could see the rest of the group make it out through the doorway at the end of the entry hall. Everypony sat safely beyond the open doorway. The sudden drop of a gigantic slab of stone beside him showered him with a mountain of debris. One large stone landed in his path and tripped him up. He landed face-first on the floor.

Scootaloo shouted something from the doorway, causing him to look up in the direction of the doorway. It took Pinkie Pie and Applejack to hold the filly back. Twilight had also made it to the safety of the door and was staring back at him nervously, as though fighting against the idea of using her magic. The only one still in trouble here is me. Without another thought, he jumped to his feet and sprinted to the door.

His no-longer-borrowed combat boots batted smaller debris out of his way while he hopped over the larger pieces. Faster and faster, the place began coming down around his ears. More than once, Goldenrod narrowly avoided being crushed by a minotaur-sized stone slabs.

Not more than a yard or so away from the door, he saw a giant stone pillar slam into the wall opposite of the one it had come from, partially blocking the doorway. Even as he ran, he could see it becoming less and less stable, sliding further down the wall, leaving only a small window of escape. Throwing caution to the wind, he dove through the last vestige of escape.

Sprawling on his back, he landed in front of everypony. Goldenrod was panting heavily, and covered in scrapes, blood, and dust, but he was very much alive. Rolling onto his right side, he forced himself up and turned to face the group. After a few shaky breaths, he glanced at Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo and said, “Well, that was fun. Who’s up for round two?”

The Rainbow pegasus grinned at him. “You bet your flank, Goldenrod.”

“I should hope you two aren’t itching for any more trouble!” Rarity interjected. “Don’t forget that you are both wounded, and the fillies are still in every bit as much trouble out here in the Everfree.”

“When the lady’s right, the lady’s right,” Goldenrod said with a laugh. “Let’s get everyone home and rested, and then we can deal with getting ourselves killed for fun some other day.”

The cool winds near the cliff were sending chills down his spine again. Glancing down, he grabbed his tattered shirt and untied it from his waist. With a grunt of pain, his arm came out of the sling easy enough, allowing him to remove the restraint and don his shirt.

With the chill taken care of and his arm returned to the sling, he glanced to Twilight. “What’s our next move?”

“We’ll make for Ponyville by way of the path that passes Zecora’s hut. We can get some healing salves and-” She stopped suddenly, her ears flicking about. Everypony else had done the same.

“What?” he asked, worried.

“I don’t know... It sounds almost like something crumbling but...” she replied. Before she could finish, the ground beneath them started rumbling viciously. “The cliff is coming down! Quick, to the other side of the bridge.”

“You all go first,” he commanded. “I’m the heaviest, so if it collapses beneath me, nobody else is stranded here.”

“But-” Scootaloo began to object.


Fluttershy and the bonded fillies were the first two across. Applejack helped Rainbow Dash across, and they were quickly followed by Rarity and Pinkie Pie. The scholarly Twilight gave him an appraising glance before bolting after her friends. Finally, it was just him and Scootaloo.

“Promise me! Promise you’ll be right behind me, not just now, but forever!” the pegasus filly cried. “You’re my big brother and I need you!”

“Of course I will.” He tried to sound reassuring, but didn’t feel it. He wanted her across the bridge now. “Just go!”

Goldenrod watched transfixed as Scootaloo turned and ran across the bridge. It was undoubtedly hard for the filly knowing that if the bridge collapsed before he could cross, he’d be unable to keep his promise. That was probably why she was so reluctant to leave him behind. In spite of it all, there were no regrets visible in her gait.

A movement in the corner of his eye turned his blood to ice. One of the ropes on his side of the bridge was disintegrating from age. His heart stopped when the line finally snapped, jerking the bridge and slanting it to one side. The pegasus filly tumbled sideways, only just managing to catch hold of one of the ropes. The fear in her eyes was immense.

“Damn it, no!” he shouted.

Not even thinking, he grabbed hold of the unbroken top rope. Using it to keep his footing, he made his way towards Scootaloo. Even now, he could see her slipping. Finally he was right above the filly. Again, he wrested his left arm out of his sling. Offering his hand, he reached for the filly.

He wasn’t fast enough. The filly lost the last of her grip, and tumbled the rest of the way off of the bridge into the chasm below.

- - -

Scootaloo felt his arms wrap around her. Without a doubt, it had to be Goldenrod. Even though it seemed like a predetermined outcome, he'd still come for her. Surely he knew that they were doomed.

His body felt insanely warm against her back. In spite of the falling sensation, she peeled open her eyes. At this point in the fall, the ground below was still obscured by the ever-persistent fog of the Everfree forest. Wrenching her attention away from the grim fate that waited below, she squirmed against his grasp to turn to face him.

She found herself muzzle against the tattered flower fabric of his tunic, bindings, and sling. Even through the cloth, his body-heat almost burned her. Forcing her chin upward, against his chest, she looked at his face. Despite the situation, he smiled down at her weakly. There was a look in his eye that she couldn't explain. It was a look of defeat, but wasn't at all one of sadness; on the contrary, he looked like he couldn't be happier. Then she saw it; his horn was alight, pulsating furiously with a glittering green aura.

She knew he didn't have much magic left in him, yet here he was burning it all away for her. Tears spilled from the corners of her eyes uncontrollably. “Why?” she sobbed weakly. “Why?”

Goldenrod didn't respond. Instead, he blinked away his own tears before screwing his face up in pain. There was a loud tearing sound, and he hugged her closer. From over his shoulder, she was astonished to see two large golden wings sprout forth from his back. Immediately, the wings caught the wind, slowing the pair's descent.

With a single beat of his new wings, Goldenrod forced himself upright. Before he set his gaze skyward, she could see his face contorted in sheer agony. The heat of his body once again increased, but still, it did not hurt her. Was he using his magic to protect her as well as fly?

His wings began to beat faster and faster, slowing their descent with each beat until finally they had stopped falling entirely. “I know this will probably kill me, but I'd rather it be me than you,” his voice seemed to say, even though his mouth never opened. “You've got so much to live for.”

The glow from his horn became even brighter, lining the chasm walls in a brilliant emerald green. In response, his wings beat faster and harder each time, forcing the pair steadily upward. His face no longer showed pain, instead he was beaming at her. Even against the brilliant light produced by his horn, his skin seemed to be glowing.

Finally, they rose above the cliff edge. Scootaloo's back was to everypony as Goldenrod flew them over solid ground, but she could hear them all gasping or crying out in alarm. She turned her head to see Twilight Sparkle and Applejack tending to Rainbow Dash's bruised and battered wing, attempting to force Rainbow Dash to sit still long enough for them to re-splint it, fighting back a flood of tears all the while. Pinkie Pie was right behind them, holding Rarity as she fussed over her dirty mane in feeble denial over what had just occurred. Then there was Fluttershy, holding Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom close, the only one able to comfort the melded fillies.

Unceremoniously, he lowered her to the ground in front of the others before heaving a heavy sigh. With her hooves on solid ground, Scootaloo was finally able to get a real look at her big brother. She nearly screamed at what she saw.

His face was almost completely transparent, the occasional flake peeling off and disintegrating as it fell. Even the clothes that Rarity had crafted from the flower cloth were in various states of disintegration, revealing more transparent flesh. Everything below his stomach looked almost completely dispersed into a vague mist. The only part of him that wasn't transparent like a ghost was his horn.

Twilight Sparkle broke from the group to stand by Scootaloo. “Goldenrod, you used the last of your magic...to save her,” the unicorn mare spoke in a shock-ridden tone. “But...what happened to your body?”

Scootaloo looked from Goldenrod to Twilight, and made to speak, but it was Princess Luna who spoke up first, stepping forth from the shadows. “I think I understand what he has done,” the Lunar Princess's tone was bleak, but there was a hint of an appreciative smile at the corner of her mouth. “Goldenrod knew that he didn't have enough energy to save her and live long enough to get her to safety, so he made more using the only thing he had available to him; his own body.”

The group looked to him for some sort of confirmation. Instead of speaking, he simply nodded and smiled at the princess. It occurred to Scootaloo that this was why his body had become so hot, as well as why his voice had been so clear in her ears but she never actually saw his mouth move at all. Once again she had to blink tears out of her eyes.

“You promised you were going to be there for me! You were going to be my big brother!” Scootaloo shouted, before turning to bury her face in Twilight's shoulder to cry. “How can you be here for me if you're dead, y-you big dummy!”

His ghostly visage flinched at her scathing accusation, and to everypony watching, it almost seemed as though shimmering motes of energy were floating away from the corners of his eyes. Goldenrod's ethereal shape moved closer to Scootaloo and Twilight, smiling all the while.

“I know I promised you I'd be there for you, and to never let anything bad happen to you,” his solemn voice entered the minds of everypony on the cliff-top. “...but I guess in order to keep my promise, I had no other choice but to break it.” The sound of heartfelt laughter echoed inside their heads. “While I may not be able to ensure your safety any longer, I think I can still keep at least half of my promise.”

Scootaloo withdrew her face from Twilight's shoulder and looked up at him. He reached out one transparent hand and brushed away her tears, causing his hand to break down at an even faster rate. His touch was no longer blisteringly hot; it felt like a cool blanket gliding across her cheek. “What do you mean?” she asked, uncertainly.

“So long as you keep me here,” he motioned his ghostly hand over his own chest. “...in your heart, I will always be there for you. So long as you keep someone's memory alive, they'll be there for you, your parents included.”

Goldenrod reached out once more with his intact hand. Gently, he tousled her mane. More shimmering motes of energy floated freely from his eyes. His form dispersed into a mere mist-like state, and began to glow bright-white. His words echoed again one last time in Scootaloo's mind. “Stay safe, my little pony.”