RESURGENCE OF HARMONY
Standard Disclaimer: I do not own My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That is the express property of Hasbro and Lauren Faust.
The hordes of unicorn guards and diamond dogs behind him ran too, their hooves and claws raising an awful scraping and clopping din as they galloped and scuttled after him. He didn’t look back. They would not show him mercy; in their eyes, he was just as guilty as the Archmage had been. The old unicorn had always sheltered him, after all; it would be logical to assume that he held the same views and harbored the same feelings of dissent as the old pony had.
Did he? Well, if he hadn’t before, he certainly did now. The young unicorn had watched the guards attack the Archmage, the only pony in this world that he could call family. He’d watched them overtake his teacher, the unicorns blasting him with magical onslaught, and the diamond dogs vaulting through the air to get to him. The Archmage had been powerful, yes, but the onslaught was too large, their forces too vast…
And finally, a dog had landed on top of him, and snapped his neck.
The young unicorn continued to gallop though the gilded halls.
“Keep running, Century!” a small black and gold dragon currently running alongside him yelled; Ember, his last real friend in Equestria. The dragon had been part of his initiation, his acceptance into the Canterlot Magical Academy, in the age old tradition of egg hatching.
“I wasn’t planning on stopping!” Century and Ember turned sharply, ducking into a smaller hallway; the dormitories. Several unicorn students gasped when they saw the hordes of guards swarm in after the two. Several of them ducked into rooms; those who didn’t were overtaken by the throng.
They came to the upper level balcony of a large cathedral-like room, with golden pillars and a large ceiling fresco showing the day-night cycle; the mythical progression of time from before the reign of chaos. Century had never seen for himself this twenty-four hour cycle; no pony had for almost a thousand years.
Century bucked away the balcony’s railing. “We’re going to have to cross this gap… Ember, how are your wings?”
The dragon spread them wide, a hint of pride in her golden eyes. “Spectacular. Although…” she gave a little smile, “…they probably won’t be able to carry us both. I have a little trouble just flying myself…”
“Yeah, the alchemy book said something about muscular atrophy with accelerated growth… We don’t have time for this! You fly over, I’ll follow.”
“How? It’s not like you can fly.”
Century surveyed the drop carefully. “I’ll think of something…” The horde was drawing closer, the ground rumbling under their feet. There was the clop of hooves, the pant of dogs… one of them let out a howl, a terrifying sound that reverberated off the walls and sent a chill down Century’s spine. “Crap! It’s now or never… I hope this works…” Even if his makeshift spell didn’t work, it was better than the alternative.
Century’s horn began to glow a fierce red, and magical runes began to circle around his hooves. Gingerly, the unicorn steeped a hoof off of the platform, letting his weight transfer to the abyss… His hoof was caught by a small platform of energy. Century smiled a small, triumphant smile, and resumed his gallop.
Ember burned away the railing surrounding the opposite balcony. Back on the other side, the troupe had reached the balcony. The unicorn guards simply turned around, presumably to find another way around, but the diamond dogs, well adapted for climbing around the caves in which they lived, grabbed the walls, and began to crawl, spiderlike, up their sides.
“Oh crap,” Century said. He and the dragon took off once more, as one of the diamond dogs tore through the painted moon.
The duo entered yet another hall. “Left!” said the unicorn, while the dragon said “Right!”
“Right? Are you out of your mind?”
“I was about to ask you a similar question.”
“Listen, we don’t have time for this. We go left.”
“Through the kitchens? You’re insane. Do you have any idea what could happen?” The dragon waved her arms around for effect. “Knives, everywhere! That’s why we should go right.”
“Through the pool? Hay, no.”
“We don’t have time for this! We go right!” The dragon started off in her preferred direction, before stopping only after taking a few steps. “What’s that noise…?”
Just then, a platoon of unicorn guards rounded the corner, snorting angrily, their horns ablaze. The dragon’s pupils contracted in fear.
“Ok, we go left…” she said in a small voice, and began backpedaling.
The two resumed their flight, as expensive vases and busts, thrown telekinetically by the pursuing unicorns, crashed and smashed around them. “Just fifty more yards to that door!” Century noted, readying his horn to blast the door from its frame.
Just then, a diamond dog burst out from a side corridor, a snarl on its face and with claws extended. “Look out!” yelled Ember as the dog let out a howl, but Century wasn’t about to stop. Leaping into the air, he pointed his horn and collided headfirst with the dog’s midsection. His horn broke through the dog’s sternum, puncturing a lung and cutting the dog’s howl short.
Well, hay, if they weren’t after my blood before, they are now, thought the unicorn, pulling out his horn with a sickening squelch.
“Hurry up, Century! I doubt they’ll give you a fair trial after that!”
“Would they ever have done so?”
Century blew the door off of its hinges and he and Ember entered the kitchens at full speed. They were about halfway through when the pursuing platoon burst through the hole, flinging aside plates, pots, pans, the occasional stove… They began to fling these items at Century and Ember.
“I told you the kitchens were a bad idea!” Ember yelled, narrowly avoiding several articles of magically propelled kitchenware.
“And running headfirst into a platoon of unicorns wasn’t?” retorted Century, as a pot very narrowly missed his head.
The two burst out the other side of the kitchen and continued their mad rush through the halls. They didn’t notice as the platoon of pursuers broke into three separate groups, one heading down a corridor to the right, one down the left, and one staying on their tail.
Ember did however look back for just a split second, “Hey, I think we lost some of them!”
“Yeah, there’s quite a bit less of them following us now! Maybe about ten!”
“I still don’t like those odds.” The unicorn continued to gallop, but he was running out of steam. I haven’t run this fast so far in… well… my entire life! Man, I wish I could teleport… Stupid magical inhibitor... Ember had given up running and was now riding Century’s wake, the displaced air buffeting, but keeping her up.
The two came to yet another split. “We go right this time!” the little dragon asserted, and Century nodded. The two skidded right, and were immediately confronted by one of the splintered groups of the platoon. “Uhhh… Left!” Ember said, as the two turned around to go the other way. However, again, they were confronted by the other splintered group. “Uh oh.”
The groups backed the two against the wall, their claws unsheathed and their horns aglow. There was fire in their eyes; for the diamond dogs, it was the thrill of the kill; for the unicorns, it was a different fire: cold, unyielding rage, the only emotion that the mind control spell they were under allowed them to feel.
Century expected Ember to say something along the lines of, “It was wonderful knowing you.” What he didn’t expect was for the dragon to tell him to run.
Dragons are strange beings. They grow not of age, like other animals, but rather through acquiring objects. As the dragon’s greed grows, so do they. A dragon could reach adulthood within the span of a day if it was greedy enough.
Or angry enough.
Ember was extremely angry. The Archmage was dead, the academy was in a wreck, and she and Century were being pursued for no real reason. Until now, she had been holding her rage, her hate, back. But now, when it was most needed, she could let it out, let it fill her mind.
It was going to hurt, undoubtedly. But if it would save her friend, that was all that mattered.
Century noticed the fire filling his friend’s eyes. No, she can’t be… He had read up on dragons several times, and realized what his friend was about to put herself through. “Ember? You don’t have to do this…”
“Yes I do!” said the dragon. “You can’t teleport out of here as long as they’re blocking it, and plus, this is my purpose; the reason that I was hatched. To protect you.”
“No!” The dragon was shaking slightly with the anger now coursing through her. “I will not hear it! I’ll hold them off, and while I’m doing so, I want you to run. Run as fast as you can, and get out of this place!” The anger subsided a little. “Don’t let me go in vain.”
Century was stunned by the little dragon’s sacrifice, her loyalty. “It’s… it’s been an honor being your friend, Ember.”
The dragon smiled a little. “An honor knowing you too, Centurion.”
Some diamond dog piped up at his moment. “Well, what are we waiting for!?” he said in his gruff voice. “Let’s get ‘em!”
The hordes jumped forward, and Century prepared to run yet again.
The floodgates of Ember’s mind burst in a flow of anger and sorrow, filling her mind, overriding her lucid thoughts and replacing them with one word; revenge. Her body swelled, elongated; her snout followed suit, and her arms and legs grew to accommodate their new body. Her wings burst forth, crashing through the walls, and horns burst from her forehead, curving in the same fashion as a ram’s. Her forelegs crashed down on the advancing troops, and she unleashed a golden pyre of fire into their midst. Her tail swung around, crashing through the wall.
Century charged his horn and leapt though the hole, falling three stories before hitting the ground, cushioning his impact with a quick spell.
He kept running.
Ponies walking the streets of Canterlot were shocked by the sight before them: A brown unicorn, bruised, with a sanguine fluid covering his horn and coating his mane. There shock wasn’t over there, however, when a dragon the size of a house smashed through the roof of the Canterlot Magical Academy.
Around that time was when all hell broke loose.
Ponies were panicking. They dropped everything and ran to and fro, screaming. Century used the commotion to his advantage, disappearing into the crowds. Behind him, the sound of Ember’s roars and a rushing flame told him that his friend was still fighting, still holding the guards off. Century wasn’t sure how long she could keep it up.
Apparently it wasn’t very long at all. The roar of the flame stopped, and Century heard Ember let out a gurgling noise, which was followed by a large crash. Century couldn’t bring himself to look.
“Don’t let me go in vain.”
Century wouldn’t let his friend’s last wish go unfulfilled.
The unicorn grabbed a Stetson hat from a merchant’s wagon; in all the commotion, no pony noticed him. Shoving it on his head to cover up the drying blood on his mane and horn, he quickly cut a swathe through the panicking ponies. Where can I go to get out of here? Suddenly, several shadows passed overhead; pegasi were scanning the streets below, probably looking for him. Wherever it is, I better get there fast. He adjusted the wide brim to shadow his eyes and ducked down an alleyway.
Crap. A pegasus guard had landed at the far end of the alleyway. Century decided to act like he hadn’t heard him, and instead focused on disguising himself. Angling his head a bit, he altered his cutie mark (an encircled pentagram) to a simple star, and quickly thought through a range of accents. Stetson hat and a star… southern Equestrian farmer it is. Century attempted to brush past the guard, but the pegasus blocked his way, staring down at him with blank, but clearly angry, eyes.
“I’m talkin’ to you, farmer.”
Century looked up a bit. “Ah’m sorry, officer, ah’m a bit deaf.”
The pegasus raised an eyebrow. “How?” he asked. “You’re what, fifteen?”
“Seventeen, fer yer information. And ah’m a bit deaf ‘cuz ah am.” Century looked at the pegasus angrily. “Is that a crime, officer?”
“Listen, kid,” growled the pegasus. “I don’t know who you think you are, but I am a direct servant of Discord, your lord and ruler, and I am searching for a dangerous fugitive.” The pegasus’s eyes narrowed as he shoved his face into Century’s. “And you are looking very suspicious right now. So, either you can tell me one, who you are, two, why you are deaf, and three, why you aren’t running around like every other pony right now; or I can take you in for some questioning.” Century had no doubt in his mind that, in this case, “questioning” was synonymous with “torture”.
Century kept his act up. “Well, ya don’t have to get all high-an’-mighty ‘bout nothin’,” he said, with just a hint of grumpiness, as he thought up a believable alibi. “If ya must know, the name’s Alistair Buck, ah’m deaf ‘cuz of a mishap a week ago with some grain, an’ ah ain’t runnin’ around ‘cuz ah’m no pansy Canterlotian that screams bloody murder when they find a lil’ spider in their sink drain!”
“Okay then, Alistair, let’s see your mark.”
Century turned to show the mark on his flank, currently disguised as “A star. Ah’m trainin’ t’be a deputy.”
“In your hometown of…?”
“Uh… Ponyville! Yeah, that’s the one…” This interrogation was getting too detailed for Century, and the pegasus didn’t seem to be buying it.
“Ponyville has its own police system now?”
“Ah, yeah. We started it up cuz’ of all the… the crime?” Century winced internally. His story wasn’t just falling apart at the seams; it was disintegrating all over the place.
“Uh huh.” If the pegasus’s eyes got any narrower, they’d be closed. “Okay kid, I’ve had enough. You’re not telling me something, and I’m intent on finding out what it is. You’re comin’ with me.”
Uh oh. Century began to cycle through alternatives. Either he could incapacitate this guard and blow his cover, or he could go with him and probably be killed. Painfully. Century chose the first option, and was mentally shuffling through available spells when a cheery voice piped up from behind him.
“Alistair! There you are!”
Oh, hay, no.
The guard peeked over Century. “You know this kid?” he asked the approaching figure. Century stole a backwards glance, and his fears were confirmed.
A golden yellow earth pony with an orange mane was trotting down the alleyway, a smile on her face, apparently oblivious to the commotion still existent in the streets. “Well, yeah I know him!” she said in answer to the pegasus. “We’ve only been cousins for the last forever!” The pony sauntered up beside Century and nudged his side. “So what’d you do this time, Al? Caught bootlegging some moonshine?”
Perfect, I’m being rescued by Liberty Bell. The loopy hat-making daughter of Clockwork Bell. “Liberty, y’all know I don’t drink,” Century replied with a slight glare.
“Oh right. That’s the other Buck…”
The pegasus guard seemed slightly confused. “Wha- but… I…”
Liberty ignored the guard. “So, Al, why didn’t you notice me earlier?” She nudged Century’s side again. “Were you scared of the dragon?”
“I ain’t scared of no dragons,” Century replied truthfully. “Fer yer information, it was a slight case of explosive grain; damaged mah hearing, y’see.”
“Uh huh,” Liberty said with a wink. She then turned back to the guard. “If you don’t mind, mister pegasus guard, Alistair and I were going to go back to my house. He’s staying with his uncle and me.”
The guard stammered incoherently for a second, then seemed to snap back to his senses. His eyes narrowed again. “Fine,” he said sinisterly. “But know this, Liberty and Alistair. You make one wrong move, step one foot out of line, and I will be there. Because I will be watching your every move.” The guard spread his wings and burst into the sky, circling the ponies once to make his point, and then sped off in the direction of the castle.
“I wonder what’s got his feathers in a ruff… Oh well! Come on, let’s go, Alistair!” Liberty began to trot back down the alleyway.
Century started off after the eccentric mare. “Liberty, why are you doing this?”
“Saving your life?” Liberty questioned, looking back over her shoulder. “Well, that’s a silly thing to ask. Why wouldn’t I save your life? I mean, maybe taking one of my hats and using it to cover up all the blood on your head was a bit mean, but--“
“Wait, this is your hat? I’m sorry… do you want it back, because…”
“--I mean it was probably necessary. Any pony that walks around Canterlot with bodily fluids on their forehead isn’t going to go unnoticed, and clearly you wanted to stay under the radar. That jump was awesome, by the way, the way you jumped and like sorta stopped before you hit the ground… It was so cool!”
“Plus, you’ve been very helpful in the past, like when my doll ended up on the roof and you got it down… Still not quite sure why I threw it up there in the first place… Or that time when my stand was on fire and you conjured up that water to put it out… or that time when the clock broke and my dad was sick so he couldn’t fix it and you and Ember went up there and got rid of the diamond dogs and even replaced the gears they ate… Ooh! And there was the time that I dropped my ice cream and you gave me yours even though I never asked and wasn’t sad or anything… And what about the—OMIGOSH! The academy!” The huge gold and marble building had come into sight; there was a large smoldering hole in the roof and tons of evacuated unicorn students out in front of it. Strangely, though, Ember was nowhere to be seen. “Wow! That’s a lot of damage! You and Ember really caused a commotion, Century!”
“Shh-shh-shh!” shushed Century, remembering the pegasus guard’s warning.
“Oh right sorry. But wow, that’s a lot of damage! What will the Archmage think—“
“The Archmage is dead.” Century had said this very matter-of-factly; his even tone betrayed none of his emotion.
Liberty looked at him with concern. “Oh… I’m sorry to hear that… Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” replied Century in the same matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh wow… If they killed the Archmage, and you were his apprentice, then won’t they try to kill you to?”
“That’s what they tried. You know, I’d think you’d know all of this.”
“No! If I’d known that the guard was going to kill you, I’d’ve bucked him in the face instead of playing along with your little Alistair Buck thing…” The two arrived at a blue house. “Whoops! Looks like we’re here.” Liberty looked back at Century, who was still staring at the ruined academy. “Century, do you have anywhere to stay?”
The question caught Century off guard. “Wh… what?” he asked, confused.
Liberty smiled. “We have an extra bedroom if you’d like it! It isn’t very large, but it’s better than the streets… I’m sure Dad wouldn’t mind, you and Ember have been quite helpful in the past.”
Truthfully, Century didn’t have anywhere to go; in fact, he hadn’t really thought through his escape at all. He berated himself for his idiocy. “I wouldn’t want to impose…”
“It’s no problem at all! After all…” She winked. “…You are family, Cousin Alistair.”
Century sighed. Here was a chance to live a life not too far from normalcy. Was he about to just throw it away?
“Oh! One other thing…” Liberty motioned for Century to come closer. Whispering into his ear, she told him, “Plus, my dad has ties with the Nightshade Council. Feeling at all vengeful?”
The Nightshade Council. The one rebel group in Equestria that really did anything to try to stop Discord’s reign. The selfsame group that the Archmage had been accused of joining; and the same group, if memory served, that Century’s own father had headed before his death. Not to mention, Century’s best chance at revenge.
“Don’t let me go in vain.”
Century returned the earth pony’s smile. “I would be honored to accept your hospitality.”
So, here’s my second shot at a meaningful prologue. The first one failed horribly… but oh well. I’m really hoping this one’ll be quite a bit better.
This time around, I’ve actually planned out a story, to try and preempt me getting backed into a corner.
Would it be weird if I compared the writing to a color? Yes? Well, I don’t care. The last iteration of this prologue seemed sort of dark indigo to me, in my mind. This time around, the prologue seems more like a carrot orange.
So then, thoughts in the comments, please! Too fast, too slow, too confusing, general feedback… you name it! It’s appreciated!
And here's a sketch, because why not.