Of Shadows and Destruction
Chapter 1 - A World Lost to Time
Nothing. There was absolutely nothing but ash. A pair of violet eyes scanned the charred landscape, unable to believe that mere moments before, Ponyville had been in this very spot. Tears began spilling out of the eyes, which belonged to a light purple unicorn pony, Twilight Sparkle. She couldn't believe such destruction could possibly happen over the course of only a few seconds. Not even during the whole ordeal with Nightmare Moon had she thought that. And she had only managed to save 8 of them
She let the barrier formed by the protection spell she'd cast fall. The 8 ponies behind her, 5 grown, but not quite adults, and the other 3 still fillies, looked around in disbelief. Never in a million years had they imagined such a catastrophe. One of them, a light blue Pegasus pony with a rainbow mane and tail, spoke. "This
This can't have been Ponyville. There's no way this happened in the course of 14 seconds."
"Rainbow, you saw what happened. That wall of fire
" spoke another pony. This one was orange with a pale yellow mane and a cowboy hat.
"Don't remind me, Applejack. It might've been easy for you, but I had a hard time tuning out the others
" The blue pony, Rainbow Dash, lowered her head in sadness. "You okay, Twilight?"
"N-no, Rainbow. I'm not. Everything
They're all gone. And I only saved you guys. I could've saved so many more if only I
"If only you'd what? It's not as if you knew this was gonna happen you know. At least you saved us, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo."
Twilight looked up at Rainbow Dash. She was looking at her with a look of sympathy. She knew Twilight was an emotional wreck right now. She was trying to make her feel better. Bless her soul
she's such a nice pony
"B-but the others
"Look, Twilight, there was nothing you could've done. You barely had time to gather US up. Be grateful you saved SOME of us! Come on!"
I know you're trying to make me feel better, but
There came a meek voice from the yellow Pegasus pony with a pink mane. "Umm, Twilight? What
what exactly are we going to do now
Twilight looked to the owner of the voice. It was Fluttershy. She looked so upset
Twilight forced a small smile on her tear-stained face. "I don't know, Fluttershy
Find a safe place for shelter until we can figure out what to do, I guess
There has to have been some place in Equestria that wasn't destroyed by that fire."
The fillies looked at her. "But what if we can't find anywhere
"We'll look as long as we have to. I promise you guys. All of you. It's going to be okay. It
it's still sad. I can hardly bear to leave. But
we have to. We have to go somewhere. B-but wherever we go, it's going
" She sniffed. "It's going to be okay. I promise." The others all came together and shared a sad group hug.
"So this is where we leave. Our time spent here is over?" A pony of almost pure pink, the exception being her mane and tail, which were actually only a few shades darker, being magenta instead, asked, clearly disappointed.
"I'm afraid so, Pinkie. We should get going. We'll want to find somewhere to stay in case bad weather rolls in, or something survived and is looking for
I don't even want to think about that
" They all took one last look around. Truly, it was a sad sight. The once bright and happy village of Ponyville was gone from Equestria forever. Nothing but a memory carried on the wind and by the 9 ponies now leaving the site of the disaster, in search of a place they could call home.
Meanwhile, in the wasteland that was once Equestria, a lone black stallion walked about, eyes sharp, looking for anything that might have survived. His cutie mark, a shadowy cloud. Even he wasn't sure exactly how he had survived the disaster, but he had made a promise to himself that if anything else had, he would protect it on whatever journey it was currently making. He cursed his actions prior to the disaster. He wasn't aware what that crazy stallion had been up to until it was too late. When the fire began spreading, he closed his eyes, waiting for the end. But it never came. He could feel the heat from the fire, but he was not being burned. Not even singed. When it had died down, he opened his eyes. He stood in the remnants of the mad pony's lair, alive. He guessed that the other pony had died in the flare. He also saw the robotic remnants of some of his inventions and robotic slaves. Pinkietron, Rainbot, Fluttertron
all smoldering piles of metal and wire. Even though he'd done the impossible, as the maniacal pony had called it, and bonded with the robotic replicas of the Ponies of Harmony, he was glad they were gone now. They could no longer harm anypony. If there was still anypony left to be harmed. He slowed to a stop near a pile of half burnt trees. Not sure how they hadn't completely burned away, he began concentrating on the shadows cast by their remains. Soon, he dissipated into a shadowy cloud, and dove into the shadows. Sparkles traced the lines of shadow cast by the branches, until the other side of the pile was reached, and they rose back out, forming another cloud, that soon became the black stallion once again.
"Truly a useful ability, in this post-apocalyptic landscape. And my friends scoffed at it, claiming it useless." He sighed. "If they were around now, they would regret ever saying such things." He continued galloping, heading towards where Ponyville had once been.
Coincidentally, the others were heading in a direction almost perpendicular to his path. Thus far, they had found nothing interesting. They had found the remnants of an apple tree, however, with just enough un-burnt apples to feed all of them. Upon finding that tree, their hope that somepony had survived rose. But as Rainbow Dash had pointed out, it was equally plausible that something dangerous was out there, waiting for a possible meal to cross its path. That statement had earned cries of fright from the fillies and Fluttershy. Leave it to Rarity to teach Rainbow Dash a lesson for making her sister cry. She tossed several heaps of ash at Rainbow, dulling her mane, as well as a few stones, and then convinced Twilight to cast a spell, immobilizing her wings, forcing her to walk with the rest of them as opposed to flying as she was used to. While not as big of a lesson as Applejack would have supplied, it was one nonetheless.
"Twilight, do you think we'll really find a safe place to stay in this wasteland?" Fluttershy looked around for any potentially safe overhang, structure, or even pile of burnt wood. "I mean, with the fact that it was a fire that did this, not much would've survived
Twilight sighed. She was holding up hope still, but she knew there was the possibility of turning up empty handed. If that happened, she had a back-up plan: If Canterlot had survived, they would head there. She wanted to head there anyway, though. She was concerned for her parents, for Celestia, for Luna. Had Celestia and Luna protected the city with their magic? She didn't doubt it, but she wanted to be sure. "I don't know, Fluttershy, but we're going to keep looking anyway. We can't stay out here at night. Besides, that tree was fine. Something else could've survived this destruction."
Rainbow Dash mumbled, "Yeah, something that might think of us as food
"Rainbow, stop it. It seems like you're focusing more on what could happen to us than finding shelter." Twilight cast her gaze to Rainbow Dash. She still looked miffed about having her wings immobilized. "Can you at least PRETEND to be interested in helping?"
"It's not that I'm not interested, Twilight, it's that I know what could happen to us. I'm looking, I really am, Twilight. I just haven't seen anything, like you guys." Rainbow Dash looked around once more, looking for shelter of some sort. She was also keeping an eye out for anypony else that might have survived, or for something that might attack them. She tried fluttering her wings again. Nothing. Why did Rarity have to convince Twilight to cast that spell?
"Honestly, Rainbow, could you focus more on helping us find-"
"Shhh. Wait." Rainbow Dash's ears perked up. She seemed to be listening for something.
Rainbow, what are you-"
"I said shush! I thought I heard something!" The others became silent, listening. They, too, heard a sound. Just as quickly as they had heard it, it vanished, as if nothing had happened. "
I guess it was nothing. Let's go." The ponies continued walking, looking around for whatever made the sound. Soon, they heard it again. It sounded like something was digging its way through the fallen, burnt trees. It soon stopped again, and the ponies continued walking. When a loud crack was heard ahead in the piles of charred wood, every pony's head snapped forward. From the burnt wood pile came a mid-sized dragon. It clearly wasn't fully grown yet, but it certainly wasn't a baby, either. It cast its gaze in their direction, not looking pleased with their presence.
You're kidding me. You have GOT to be kidding me. Twilight sighed, annoyed. She had thought something might be out there to give them some trouble, but she hadn't expected a dragon. Which reminded her: Spike had vanished. She vaguely remembered him being inside the barrier with them, but when they left Ponyville's remains, he was nowhere in sight. She assumed he'd be okay, but she was still rather concerned for his safety. Bad time to be thinking on that subject, however, as a piece of wood stuck her front left leg. Ah! Stupid, splintery, burnt wood
She regained her composure, and while Fluttershy fled to a nearby overhang with the fillies, the others prepared to scare this dragon off with a little roughhousing. Rainbow Dash, ever the quickest pony in the group, dashed forward, still speedy despite not having use of her wings, and kicked the dragon square in the jaw. It looked hurt for a moment, but returned the strike with a blow of his own. Rainbow was flung back a bit, skidding through the ever present ash coating the ground. She stood back up, intent on getting rid of this thing. Twilight lifted several large chunks of the burnt wood and threw them at the dragon. Some hit it, others were smashed to splintery pieces by its claws. Rarity, in a similar manner, lifted Rainbow Dash.
"Hey, hey! RARITY! PUT ME DOWN!" Rarity glanced at Rainbow Dash. "Put me down!" She continued to look at her. "RARITY!"
"Kick it." Rainbow Dash's expression turned to one of realization. Rarity spun Rainbow Dash around, and flung her towards the dragon with as much power as she could muster. Rainbow Dash kicked at the dragon when she came close to it. She felt herself stumble and fall to the ground after making contact with its arm. She would have to get back at Rarity for that later, but she had to admit, it looked like its intended effect was achieved. Anticipating the dragon's next move, she dashed out of the way as it brought down its injured arm to strike at her. Applejack dashed forward, and kicked at its arm, as did Rainbow. The dragon roared in agony, then brought down its other arm. Pinkie, trying to figure out a way to be useful, piled some nearby stones up and kicked them towards the dragon as hard as she could. Surprisingly enough, she kicked them with an incredible amount of force, striking the dragon in the leg repeatedly. It seemed to be doing some damage, as the dragon showed increasing signs of injury with every stone that struck its leg. After dodging another blow from the dragon, Rainbow gathered up some of the stones and returned them to Pinkie Pie before returning to kick at the dragon in the spot Pinkie was apparently injuring it. The dragon lifted its leg in an attempt to squish Rainbow Dash, but she rolled out of the way, and kicked it again in the spot it was injured. Further chunks of wood were tossed at it by both Twilight and Rarity. Faced with 2 ponies hurling wood at it, many more were striking than were being reduced to toothpicks by the dragon's claws. The dragon was becoming quite angry. Pinkie continued kicking the stones, Rainbow returning them with every attack she made. Applejack kicked at one of its injuries every chance she got. Twilight and Rarity continued throwing the burnt wood. Then, the dragon lashed out and struck Rainbow Dash. She was flung over to where Fluttershy and the fillies were hiding. Applejack was too shocked to notice the same thing was about to happen to her. After flinging Applejack over to the others, the dragon dashed forward, grabbed Twilight and Rarity with its claws, and slammed them both into the ground, before lifting them once more and throwing them over to the others. Pinkie was merely kicked with an incredible amount of force.
The black stallion heard noise. Had somepony survived after all? He headed towards the direction it was coming from. It had sounded like roars of agony, shouts of anger, and groans of pain, all mixed into one. As he got closer to the origin of the sounds, he could see the dragon heading towards a nearby overhang. Straining his eyes, he could make out 5 ponies, laying in agony, along with another one, as well as 3 fillies, and the dragon looked about ready to kill them all. "Not if I can help it
" The stallion burst forward, behind the dragon, and concentrated on its shadow. He became a shadowy cloud once again, which dissipated into the dragon's shadow. He maneuvered towards the front of it, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Twilight, Rainbow, Pinkie, Applejack, Rarity, and Fluttershy all looked at the dragon, terrified. They knew what was about to happen to all of them. This was it, this was the end. The disaster hadn't claimed their lives as it had the rest of Ponyville, but this dragon would resolve that. The dragon raised both of its arms. The fillies shut their eyes tight. But just as the dragon brought its claws down, something rather peculiar happened. A cloud rose out of the dragon's shadow, which quickly became a black stallion, whom none of them had seen before. The stallion immediately leaped into action, striking each of its injuries, quickly and with incredible force, rivaling the speed and power of both Rainbow Dash and Applejack. The dragon stumbled backwards, glaring at the black pony. "Get out of here. I could end you right now. And I will if you don't leave." The dragon continued glaring at the pony. Then it turned around and walked away. The 6 ponies on the ground stared in awe. The black pony turned to them and asked, "Are all of you okay?"
Twilight stood up, aching from the dragon throwing her and slamming her at the hard ground. "Yeah
we're fine. A little beat up, but otherwise great."
"Then I wasn't too late?" The stallion breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I was worried that dragon might have already nearly killed you. What exactly happened?"
"I'm not sure. We were just walking, looking for someplace safe to stay, when all of a sudden that dragon came out of the pile of burnt wood over there. Are there a lot of them around?" Twilight looked around, not wanting to run into anything else. With them already injured, something dangerous could make quick work of them.
"Not really. Most things died in that fire. I'm assuming most dragons made it out generally unscathed, but I'm not completely sure. It would certainly explain how that one was still around. So, you say you're looking for shelter then."
"That's right. Ponyville was completely destroyed by that flaming wall. There's nothing left."
"Well then, let me help you."
Rainbow Dash looked at him. "Really? You'll help us?"
"Of course. I promised myself that I'd help anypony that survived this disaster."
rather not say. Anyway, my name is Shadow Night. But you can just call me Shadow."
The others stood up, all of them but Fluttershy groaning in pain. Twilight smiled and replied, "Nice to meet you. My name is Twilight Sparkle. These are my friends."
Rainbow said "Name's Rainbow Dash." Once again trying to flutter her wings, she found them to be regaining mobility, but not to the point of flight.
Fluttershy gave a shy, "Umm
"Applejack. And this here's Applebloom." Applejack motioned to Applebloom, who was positively beaming at Shadow.
"Thank you for savin' us, Shadow!"
Shadow smiled. "You're quite welcome, Applebloom."
"Hiya! My name's Pinkie Pie, and if this hadn't happened and we weren't in this situation, you know, with the fire, and the ash, and the dragon trying to kill us and everything, I'd probably be planning a party just for you right now!"
Okay? I think?"
"My name is Rarity. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Shadow. And this is my sister, Sweetie Belle."
"A pleasure to meet you."
"The same to both of you, ladies."
"And my name is Scootaloo. Nice to meet you."
"And you. I must say, you 6 remind me of my old friends. You're the ponies that found the Elements of Harmony and defeated Nightmare Moon, correct?"
Twilight nodded. "That's right."
"I thought so. So, I'll stick with you guys for a while. I mean, if that's okay."
"Of course it's okay. You saved our lives, Shadow. But we should really go find some shelter."
Shadow nodded. "Agreed. So is there any particular kind of shelter you had in mind?"
The ponies, Shadow included, began walking in the direction they had been heading in before. Rainbow Dash responded, "Nah. We were just looking for a place to stay, a place to call home."
Shadow thought for a moment. "How about a cave? Sure, ponies don't usually live in caves, but think about it. It's safe, it's dry, it's cool
What do you think?"
The others all exchanged glances. Twilight looked back and said, "That could work. Let's get going then." They continued on with newfound hope, having met Shadow. Meeting him helped them realize that not everything was gone as they had once thought. Hours later, the sun was beginning to set, and thus far they had not found a single cave. They weren't sure where exactly they were, since the world was coated in ash as most vegetation and cities had been burned during the destruction.
"Is anypony else tired of walking? My legs are KILLING me," Scootaloo complained. "What I wouldn't give to be able to fly right about now."
"Scootaloo, you can rest all you want when we find a cave to stay in," Twilight said. She scanned the horizon, and though there were hills about, there were no caves in any of them.
"You mean IF we find a cave to stay in
" Scootaloo lowered her head. Her hope wasn't fading, she knew they would find a cave eventually
but she wasn't as strong as the others, and was slowing down. She felt a burden to them; Rarity and Applejack were carrying their sisters. She didn't have a real sister here, only Rainbow Dash, who she wouldn't ask to carry her.
Rainbow herself was flying again, the spell immobilizing her wings finally having worn off. She glanced down, noticing Scootaloo trudging along, slowly, but surely, falling behind the group. She flew down low and landed next to Scootaloo. "Hey, Scoots. Need a lift?"
Scootaloo looked up at Rainbow Dash. "A lift? But you're not my sister."
"No, I'm not, but I can tell you're tired. Besides, we wouldn't want you falling behind. C'mon, hop up on my back, kid."
"Are you sure it's okay? I don't wanna slow you down."
"Scoots, I'm the fastest pony left in Equestria. Even if you slow me down, I could still easily out fly the entire group. C'mon, climb up on my back."
Scootaloo thought for a moment, then decided to do as she was told. She climbed onto Rainbow Dash's back, and held on as Rainbow returned to the skies. She looked down, thrilled with her new perspective of the world. She would have been even more thrilled were the world still alive, but flying still had its charm. "Heh, look at the others. They look tiny from up here. Almost like I could squish them if I wasn't careful."
"Yup. Being up in the air gives you a whole new look at the world. But remember, we're looking for a cave, alright?" Rainbow Dash returned to scanning the landscape for any kind of cave. Being in the air, she could see higher on the hills and mountains than the others. Granted, she wasn't as high as before because of her new passenger, but she doubted that would change things much.
After about 20 more minutes of searching, Scootaloo noticed something. "Hey, Rainbow Dash?"
"Isn't that a cave over there?" Scootaloo pointed behind them.
"Wha?" Rainbow Dash turned her head. She looked to where Scootaloo was pointing, and indeed there was a cave there. How could she have forgotten to look on the backs of the hills? They were only looking on the front and sides! They had probably passed several caves by now, but they hadn't bothered to look on the faces of the hills and mountains that weren't facing their path! "Y-yeah! It is! HEY! GUYS! SCOOTS FOUND A CAVE!"
Everyone looked up at her, then followed Scootaloo's hoof to a mountain behind them. A little bit up the mountain, there was a cave in the mountain's face. They all turned around and raced towards the mountain, while Rainbow Dash flew there with Scootaloo. She landed on the ledge in front of the mouth of the cave and took a look inside. By the looks of it, it was quite spacious, enough for all of them to have their own little spot to sleep if they desired it to be so. It also looked uninhabited, which was good for them. Rainbow Dash still ached from fighting the dragon earlier that day, and didn't want to deal with anything getting angry at them for sleeping in its cave. As the others finished the short climb to the cave, they also looked inside. Twilight cast a light spell, giving them a little light to see inside. It was indeed spacious, and also uninhabited.
"Alright, Everypony. I guess this is our new home. For now at least. So, Shadow, are you going to stay here with us or
Shadow looked out over the landscape. "I might as well. The sun's gonna be setting soon, and besides, you guys are still in rough shape."
"That's true. Alright then." She stepped into the cave and cast her light spell once again. The cave grew brighter, and though the spell would only last a short time, it gave them light they needed to set up with the few supplies they'd gathered. A hand full of blankets that had survived the flames they'd found were put to use as sleeping mats, some wood that had only been mildly burnt was piled near the mouth of the cave and set alight, while the ponies laid down to relax after the long day of walking. The sun finally set on the post-apocalyptic scene, and the fillies quickly fell asleep. Twilight gazed out over the land, in the direction of Canterlot. It was night, and she couldn't tell whether she could see it.
"Are you alright, Twilight?" Twilight turned her head to Shadow, who had laid down next to her. "Is something bothering you?"
Twilight closed her eyes, then opened them, facing Shadow. "I
I was just thinking. About my old home."
She shook her head. "No, Canterlot. I used to live there before I moved to Ponyville to study friendship. I'm a bit concerned for them. I know Celestia and Luna would probably have used their magic to protect the city, but I need to know for sure. I want to head there some time soon. I need to know that Celestia and Luna
that my parents
"Well, perhaps once your injuries are healed. If you like, I can escort you there."
Twilight smiled. This unicorn truly was a good friend, despite only meeting the group today. "Thank you, Shadow." Twilight yawned, then lowered her head and closed her eyes. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Twilight." Shadow also lowered his head, falling asleep as well. The others followed suit, getting their first hours of rest since Equestria ended.
To be continued